With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit the interwebs. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.
Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)
In lauding Miguel Gomes‘ three-part, six-and-a-half hour behemoth, it’s perhaps important to consider his background as a critic. Not just in terms of the trilogy’s cinephilic engagement with Rossellini, Alonso, Oliveira, etc.; also in its defiant nature. While it’s easy to assign the trilogy certain humanist and satirical labels from the get-go and just praise these films for following through on them, Gomes continually seeks to mutate and complicate his of age-of-austerity saga. Far from perfect, and so much more exciting for that very reason. – Ethan V.
Where to Stream: Netflix
The Club (Pablo Larraín)
With his exceptional trilogy on the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship – Tony Manero (2008), Post Mortem (2010) and No (2012) –Chilean director Pablo Larraín proved himself a trenchant commentator on his country’s problematic past. He turns his attention to the problematic present in The Club, a scathing j’accuse directed at the institution of the Catholic Church that represents his most uncompromising and vociferous film to date. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)
The Family Fang (Jason Bateman)
The Family Fang provides fuel for a future auteur study of its director Jason Bateman: haunted by his past as a child actor, his work in front of and behind the camera frequently explores the effects of childhood on adults as they struggle to move through life. Explored in Arrested Development, his directorial debut Bad Words, this summer’s The Gift, and even Juno, this theme has never been sharper than in The Family Fang. In a refreshing take on material that in another hands might have seemed pedestrian or cheap, Bateman has crafted an effective portrait of a dysfunctional family that’s not entirely unlike the Bluth Family. Rabbit Hole playwright and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire adapts David Wilson’s novel with a rich emotional precision and as funny as it is, the material takes the absurdity seriously. – John F. (full review)
Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (Stephen Cone)
With a relatively small theatrical roll-out earlier this year, it’s likely you haven’t heard of Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party, but Stephen Cone‘s drama is one of the best films of the year thus far. Authentically capturing a conservative upbringing and the repression therein, it takes place over one day as we follow Henry (Cole Doman, in a wonderful break-out performance) and his group of friends — as well as adults from the local church — as they skirt around past trauma, burgeoning sexuality, and more. Directed with a level of intimacy and emotional truth by Cone simply not present in most dramas — regardless of budget — it’s an essential watch. – Jordan R.
In the Shadow of Women (Philippe Garrel)
While fitting snugly in the overall cohesiveness of Philippe Garrel’s filmography, In the Shadow of Women nevertheless feels like a companion piece to its predecessor, the 2013 critical hit Jealousy. Garrel’s latest is also shot in black-and-white, kept within a similarly svelte running time (73 minutes), and its pared-down story of marital infidelity again takes the jealousy intrinsic to adult relationships as its primary theme. In the Shadow of Women revolves around Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) and Manon (Clotilde Courau), a married couple living in a run-down Parisian apartment and struggling along as documentary filmmakers. The strain in their relationship is apparent from the outset and both soon embark on individual affairs. The contrast in their respective motivations – Pierre’s is physical; Manon’s is emotional – and reactions upon learning of the other’s unfaithfulness – Manon is understanding; Pierre is seething – lays bare the asymmetries in their marriage, forcing a confrontation with truths hitherto swept under the carpet. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)
Where to Stream: iTunes
The Keeping Room (Daniel Barber)
Simply stated in the title cards of Daniel Barber‘s bleak and understated narrative, “War is cruelty.” And at the start of his film, Barber spends little time getting to the needless and hateful violence of people all but removed from morals and the gravity of their actions. While the talented cast is small and the pace is anything but cinematic, The Keeping Room is a stunning film for what it sets out to do. Barber, from a once-Black-Listed script penned by Julia Hart, tells a female-led story where three women, left nearly defenseless, survive the first in a series of marauding attacks at the end of the Civil War. Hardships and loneliness for women abound, and The Keeping Room is but a small sampling of how vulnerable wives, daughters and the like can be with a war on. Yet these women are hard and driven when their lives are at stake. There is always pain and misery on the battlefield, but the same hardships spill out and affect those left to fend for themselves in uncertain times. The Keeping Room floats in and out of conventional editing and exposition, but, while laconic in delivery — and not to be confused or associated with a Terrence Malick style of filmmaking — the message comes across clear and powerful. – Marc C.
Where to Stream: Netflix
Lost River (Ryan Gosling)
A lot of fires burn in Ryan Gosling’s Lost River, consuming the wreckage of houses left standing in America After The Recession. Those images can certainly be striking — houses covered in fire will always look interesting — but that doesn’t mean Gosling is creating images that are potent or which speak to his film’s themes, characters, or really anything. Lost River is little more than “cool shots, bro.” – Peter L. (full review)
Where to Stream: HBO Go
The Man From U.N.CL.E. (Guy Ritchie)
The freewheeling, frothy tone of Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. fits in perfectly with what has, so far, been a year full of light-as-air spy films. James Bond’s latest, Spectre, looks to buck that trend come the fall, but right now silly hit-and-run action antics are the name of the game. From watching Tom Cruise once more prove a one man army in the slap-dash Rogue Nation, to Colin Firth dispatching baddies with a smirk and a bespoken suit in Kingsman, there’s been a most welcome return to the breezier, more stylish concerns of older spy fare. Eventually Ritchie was going to get in on the game, and the result is just about what we’d expect. Moreso than the other recent entries, U.N.C.L.E. is positively in love with the deep-down roots of the genre and the era that spawned them. – Nathan B. (full review)
Where to Stream: HBO Go
Mistress America (Noah Baumbach)
Something happened to Noah Baumbach. The writer-director behind Greenberg, Margot at the Wedding, and The Squid in the Whale never once pulled a punch as a storyteller, telling honest and emotional stories. What’s great about his more cringe-inducing work is that, underneath all the pain, there’s still a sense of optimism; Baumbach truly roots for his characters to pull their lives together. Now, after Frances Ha, While We’re Young, and Mistress America, the director has a new demeanor; he’s making genuinely happy movies. “Warm” and “fuzzy” aren’t exactly labels associated with Baumbach’s past work, but apparently he does the two exceedingly well. If this new Baumbach is here to stay, he’s more than welcome to stick around. – Jack G. (full review)
Where to Stream: HBO Go
The Witch (Robert Eggers)
“We will conquer this wilderness. It will not consume us,” foreshadows our patriarch in the first act of The Witch, a delightfully insane bit of 17th century devilish fun. As if Ingmar Bergman and Ken Russell co-directed Kill List, Robert Eggers’ directorial debut follows a God-fearing Puritan family banished from their settlement in a colonial New England, only to have their deep sense of faith uprooted when our title character has her way with their fate. – Jordan R. (full review)
Also New to Streaming