Newflix is our weekly look at notable new titles available on online streaming sites.
Beyond The Lights (2014)
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
$3.99 to rent on Amazon
I missed Beyond The Lights during its all-too-brief theatrical run, but suffice to say that “Beyond The Lights is on VOD” has been written on my calendar for a solid month now, and the movie completely lived up to the pressure I placed on it. Genevieve described the romance perfectly in her review: “It might be easy to wave off this film as little more than cinematic candy, but if all candy were this nutritious and filling, the much-maligned genre of the big-screen romance might be in a healthier state.” It does have, on its face, a sugary, melodramatic premise—beautiful, damaged pop star Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) falls in love with sexy, smart cop Kaz (Nate Parker) after he rescues her from a suicide attempt—but both leads (who, it must be said, have incredible chemistry and are ridiculously attractive) find the emotional root of the material, turning the film into a moving, charming, believable, and, above all, deeply romantic drama. It helps, too, that beneath the gauzy surface (...beyond the lights, you might say), writer and director Gina Prince-Bythewood weaves in thoughtful commentary feminism, racism, and what it means to “follow your dreams.”
Directed by Damien Chazelle
$4.99 to rent on Amazon
Big week for VOD, guys! Whew. What’s left to say about Whiplash? It’s now an Official Oscar Winner (for Best Supporting Actor, Film Editing, and Sound Mixing), which means we’re legally required to recommend it to you. If you missed it when it was in theaters, it’s more than worth 1-10 views. As a teacher who’ll stop at nothing—including physical violence—to make sure his students reach their potential, J.K. Simmons gives a performance full of sound and fury; as a young man who believes his worth lies in whether he can achieve his musical dreams (not unlike Noni), Miles Teller is vulnerable, raw, and frenetic. Watch Whiplash with a glass of wine (or three)—this movie will give you anxiety by proxy.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Directed by Charles Crichton
Free for HBO subscribers on HBO Go
A Fish Called Wanda is a straight-up farce, a throwback, 1950s-style screwball comedy (which is appropriate, considering it’s helmed by Charles Crichton, the veteran British director who made The Lavender Hill Mob in 1950), a caper gone wrong that lovingly puts all of its eccentric characters through the wringer. Many of its running jokes rely on amping up and playing off the sharp contrast between Brits and Americans—here, the Brits are sexually and emotionally repressed while the Americans are lawless and vulgar—but the humor never feels cruel or too easy. Though written and produced by John Cleese, who plays an uptight barrister, A Fish Called Wanda is all but stolen by a relentlessly luminous and charming Jamie Lee Curtis—a con artist who uses her sexual wiles to seduce all manner of men to get what she wants from them, whether it be money, jewels, or just information—and by an Academy Award-winning Kevin Kline, as Curtis’ off-the-wall lover and partner in crime who spends much of the movie pretending to be her gay brother and spouting Italian misnomers. There’s nothing groundbreaking or particularly meaningful here, but it’s diverting and fun as hell.
Up In The Air (2009)
Directed by Jason Reitman
Free for HBO subscribers on HBO Go
Remember Up In The Air, guys? The movie about George Clooney traveling all over the country and firing people that managed to be sharply funny and deeply sad at the same time? The movie that introduced us to the indefatigable Anna Kendrick? (Let’s just pretend her role in Twilight never happened.) Jason Reitman’s third film—sandwiched between Juno and Young Adult—was nominated for six Oscars, including Clooney for Best Actor and Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick for Actress and Supporting Actress, respectively, but won none of them; it did, however, capture the national zeitgeist by exploring the emotional repercussions of the economic recession. Though moored in a very particular time, Up In The Air has remained, er, aloft and relevant, as heartbreaking and trenchant as it was six years ago.
Also new to streaming:
Cronenberg and Julianne Moore skewer Hollywood in Maps To The Stars ($4.99 to rent on Amazon)…Lovingly hug Baymax in Big Hero 6 ($14.99 to buy on Amazon)…Er, watch Robocop? (Netflix)…Can Jennifer Lawrence rise from the ashes of Serena? ($9.99 to rent on Amazon)…Juliette Binoche has to decide between war and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in 1,000 Times Goodnight (Netflix)…Keira Knightley is unhappy in her own way in Anna Karenina (HBO Go)…Watch the original before Scarlett Johansson’s live-action version of Ghost In The Shell (Hulu Plus)…McQueen and McGraw star in The Getaway (Free on Hulu)…Jon Stewart directs Gael Garcia Bernal in Rose Water ($4.99 to rent on Amazon)…Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp get their whimsy on in Finding Neverland (Amazon Prime)…Beyond The Lights’ Gugu Mbatha-Raw goes in a slightly different direction in Belle (HBO Go)…Inhale Waiting to Exhale (HBO Go)…Exhale several deep breaths along with Ben Stiller in Meet The Parents (HBO Go)…Matchmake with Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly! (HBO Go)