Don’t spend hours scrolling the menus at Netflix, Prime Video, and other movie services. I point you to the best new films and hidden gems to stream.
Movies included here may be available on services other than those mentioned, and in other regions, too. JustWatch and Reelgood are great for finding which films are on what streamers; you can customize each site so that it shows you only those services you have access to.
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both sides of the pond
Just when I think I’m done with World War II movies, along comes Operation Mincemeat to change my mind. Based on audacious true events, this is spy stuff, mystery, bittersweet drama, and subtle black comedy all mashed up in a story that is as outrageous as it is delightful, as suspenseful as it is thoughtful.
When the Allies need to distract Hitler from a planned invasion of Sicily, a team of intelligence operatives in London come up with a plan that is completely preposterous, but it’s just about the best bad idea they have. If you don’t already know the gist of what they did, keep it that way. The less you know going in, the better.
The terrific cast exudes wonderful chemistry all around: Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Penelope Wilton, Jason Isaacs, and Johnny Flynn as — yes — Ian Fleming. The female characters are significant players in the scheme; it’s great to see women’s contributions to the war effort recognized.
This is a story about the stories we tell — to ourselves and to the world — the ones that shape our inner and outer lives. It got me right in all sorts of different feels.
US: streaming on Netflix
new to streaming
The dystopia is low-key in writer-director Riley Stearns’s unsettling Dual… which makes it all the more horrifying. Karen Gillan (Doctor Who’s Amy Pond) stars as a terminally ill woman who takes advantage of an ordinary consumer service: she clones herself so that her friends and family won’t be lonely after she dies. And then she discovers that she isn’t dying after all. But there can’t be two of her around: the law decrees a fight to the death, so that only one woman will continue with the original life. The film’s intentionally stilted gray vibe tells us that this isn’t a future but an alt-now, and the bland ordinariness of it all underscores how we normalize deeply unethical shit, how we dance around our justifications for it. This is low-budget science fiction that keeps true to a genre that is all about ideas that challenge unspoken cultural assumptions and force us to reconsider our own status quo.
leaving Netflix soon
If you haven’t seen the cult-favorite flick The Room, infamous for its awfulness, you might not believe it could be quite as terrible as The Disaster Artist depicts it. (In fact, it’s even worse.) James Franco directs this hilarious ode to talentless passion, and also stars as Room filmmaker and star Tommy Wiseau, who could well be an alien who came to Earth and, having heard about movies but never having actually seen any, decided he’d have a go at making one anyway. Franco gives one of the great performances of recent years; his Wiseau could easily have been nothing but cartoonish, but Franco somehow gives him depth without actually giving away any of his mystery (Read my review.)
new to streaming
Writer-director Clio Barnard’s latest treasure is the lovely, gentle romance Ali & Ava, set in the Yorkshire city of Bradford, about a couple that we don’t see the likes of often onscreen. It pains me to say that Ava is an “older woman,” because Claire Rushbrook, who plays her, is two years younger than me, yet here we are. But it’s great to see that Adeel Akhtar, as Ali, is nine years younger than her, an age gap we don’t typically see. But the real pleasure of their story is how easily their relationship develops, how realistically they navigate the expectations of their friends and families when they reveal their growing connection, and just how grounded their tale is. This is a love story that is genuinely grownup in a way that filmmakers don’t often bother with, with a passion that is subtle and underplayed.
BBC iPlayer hidden gem
I’m so tired of poor Liam Neeson dragging himself through awful action movies, so it’s a complete delight to see him in the beautiful drama Ordinary Love, which couldn’t be more down to earth. He plays husband to Lesley Manville, who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Yes, this is a Cancer Movie, but it’s not a horror story. It’s funny and moving and hopeful and buoyant. It’s the sort of story that’s all, Hey, if you have to get cancer, here’s how to get through it. (First step: Be married forever to your best friend.) This is an intimate portrait of a couple who know how to support each other and why that matters. Oh, and it’s also a love letter to the NHS. (Read my review.)