With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options—not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves–each week we highlight the noteworthy titles that have recently hit platforms. Check out this week’s selections below and past round-ups here.

Chained for Life (Aaron Schimberg)

“Do you feel like the story is exploitative?” a journalist asks actress Mabel (Jess Weixler) about the new film she’s starring in, early into Aaron Schimberg’s brilliant second feature Chained for Life. In a meta-melodrama that constantly seesaws between fiction and reality, sprawling across a labyrinthine and multi-layered narrative that seamlessly jumps from one textual plane to another, I found myself wondering whether the question was in fact leveled at Schimberg’s own work. – Leonardo G. (full review)

Where to Stream: MUBI (free for 30 days)

Education (Steve McQueen)

In Education, the fifth and final film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology, Kenyah Sandy’s young, bespectacled face commands the frame. His character, Kingsley Smith, experiences plenty of adolescent strife at the hands of a negligent education system that shunts him off to a “special” school for the “educationally sub-normal” (ESN) based on poor results from a culturally biased IQ test. He wears a vulnerable, frightened expression whenever he’s powerless to combat cruel, indifferent authority figures or mistaken for lazy when he just needs guidance. McQueen and photographer Shabier Kirchner focus on Sandy’s face partly because he represents an entire generation of Black British children who were in danger of being left behind by colonialist institutions. If it weren’t for a group of crusading West Indian women who actively sought out these children and their parents, they would have been doomed to a fate of perpetuating a cycle of poverty and ignorance. Sandy’s countenance embodies all of those who were swept up by the worst of history but ultimately saved by individuals who found a way to rewrite it. – Vikram M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime

Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Tsai Ming-liang)

Though far better known by its English title, the appropriately elegiac Goodbye, Dragon Inn, Tsai Ming-liang’s 2003 masterpiece bears a rather different name in Mandarin (rendered here via pinyin): Bú sàn, which roughly translates to “never leaving,” or—if one prefers the Sartre connotation—“no exit.” It forms the root of two distinctly contradictory Chinese idioms, which perfectly encapsulate the lamentation and beauty of Tsai’s film: Tiān xià méi yǒu bù sàn de yán xí, the infamous “all good things must come to an end,” and Bù jiàn bù sàn, which more or less means “even if we don’t see each other, don’t give up and leave,” or “I’m not leaving until I see you.” – Ryan S. (full review)

Where to Stream: Metrograph Digital

The Grandmaster: Hong Kong Version (Wong Kar Wai)

I was rather fond of The Grandmaster’s theatrical form, finding both majesty and irrepressible beauty throughout the supposedly “dumbed-down” iteration of a longer, knottier item. Memories of an American release fresh in mind, visiting Wong Kar-wai’s Hong Kong edition was startling—not as some exponential improvement, but as an entirely different narrative with a more resonant, true-to-the-auteur examination of time’s unstoppable force and tragic shaping of romantic fates. (These action sequences—the train-platform fight stands out, but Tony Leung‘s blank-faced “one more kick” is the stuff of dreams—do no harm.) Nearly eight years on, still ravishing, still formally radical, and finally free of confines. – Nick N.

Where to Stream: Film at Lincoln Center’s Virtual Cinema

Greenland (Ric Roman Waugh)

At first glance, Ric Roman Waugh’s Greenland appears to be a spiritual sequel to Geostorm. Also starring Gerard Butler, that 2017 film is a silly, diverting disaster-action epic. Greenland is decidedly more nuanced, cerebral, and, frankly, memorable. Butler plays John Garrity, a structural engineer determined to mend his fractured marriage. As he tries to make good with his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) ahead of a neighborhood barbecue, reports of incoming debris from a nearby comet get more serious. John, unexpectedly, gets a “Presidential Alert” on his phone, informing him, his wife, and their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) have been selected for government-sponsored shelter. It appears the important people know how bad this comet is going to be. – Dan M. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (George C. Wolfe)

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom director George C. Wolfe and screenwriter Ruben Santiago-Hudson may not bring the same cinematic eye that Denzel Washington infused in his 2016 adaptation Fences, but their take on August Wilson’s 1984 play, tackling the 1920s in Wilson’s decade-spanning “Pittsburgh Cycle,” is a faithful one. Featuring standout performances by both Wilson stalwart Viola Davis as the titular Ma and Chadwick Boseman as her trumpet player Levee, the transition from stage to screen is a compelling one A reliably stoic actor in his sadly truncated career, Boseman steals the film, showcasing a twitchy high-wire act rarely seen in his previous work. He’s not only the best thing in the film, which also features Davis at her most flamboyant, but it’s the best work he’s ever done, a towering achievement in his final film role. – Christian G. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Spree (Eugene Kotlyarenko)

If you go on Kurt Kunkle’s Instagram, you will find stories filled with “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” American happy talk. Kurt leans in, and mostly fails, at living social media meritocracy’s “fake it till you make it” ethos. Whereas social media elites show off their good fortune then go out and live their lives, poor, working-class guys like Kurt scrounge up good vibes, in every embarrassing form, to gain followers (he calls them “Kurties”)––all in hopes of climbing the social media ladder. What he finds at the top is the basis for Eugene Kotlyarenko’s Spree, an equal parts terrifying, thrilling, and satirical look at how social media can warp the mind. – Joshua E. (full review)

Where to Stream: Hulu

Tenet (Christopher Nolan)

While Tenet was officially released in areas where cinemas were open beginning in August, it feels like much of the world is just catching up with it now as it arrives digitally and on home video. The initial reaction was muted (including our review), but I found it to be Christopher Nolan’s most fascinating and entertaining movie in many years. Bereft of any humanity, it feels like he had a 5-hour cut then removed every other line of dialogue to intentionally obfuscate the plot, as if the script was written by an alien who has never experienced anything in life but Bond films. When Nolan has reached for dramatic profundity in the past, it often falls flat, so to seem him do something so programmatic and emotion-free feels perfectly in his wheelhouse. While it got too much attention to be considered a cult hit in the making, one imagines it could emerge as his Blackhat in the years to come. (Yes, that’s a high compliment.) – Jordan R.

Where to Stream: VOD

Also New to Streaming

Amazon Prime

Blackbird (review)
Evil Dead 2
Lessons of Darkness
My Best Fiend

The Criterion Channel

Three by Rick Alverson
Films by Marie Losier
Documentaries by Alan Berliner


Midnight Family

MUBI (free for 30 days)

Katalin Varga
Fando and Lis
Anhey Ghohrey Da Daan
The Wayward Girl
Wittgenstein Plays Chess With Marcel Duchamp, or How Not To Do Philosophy


Nocturnal Animals (review)

No more articles