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
I’m a huge fan of Jessie Buckley, one of the most intriguing young actresses working today, which is why I’m so very disappointed in her latest film, Men. She’s terrific in it, of course, but this mess of a movie isn’t worthy of her. So I’ll be rewatching 2019’s Scottish indie Wild Rose, one of my favorite movies of recent vintage. Buckley — who got her start in musical theater — portrays a woman from Glasgow who wants to be a country singer (country music is popular in the UK!) and fights many uphill battles as she pursues her passion. This is no rags-to-riches fantasy but a grounded tale of hard work, recalibrated expectations, and finding your unique voice even if that means you’re swimming against a commercialized tide. It is bittersweet perfection.
leaving Netflix soon
Craving a gentler dystopia than the one we’re living in? The brilliant 2013 film Her is here for you. Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his new AI assistant — voiced by Scarlett Johansson — in near-future Los Angeles, and writer-director Spike Jonze presents this as the rise of the machines turned into a romantic dramedy, and the Singularity (the oft-speculated-upon future moment when computer intelligence bypasses humanity’s) as romantic tragedy. It’s soothing science-fiction horror, The Terminator writ nice. (Read my review.)
new on HBO Max
If you need more Oscar Isaac after his fun dual turn in Disney+ and Marvel’s Moon Knight, check his intense and astonishingly minimalist work in last year’s The Card Counter. As a former military interrogator turned professional blackjack and poker player, he barely moves his body or his face but lets us see the roiling inside him anyway, and how it threatens to explode from him at any moment. This is a film mysterious and unsettling, as our antihero struggles to come to terms with trauma he’s been sitting with for many years. Brutality lurks below its calm, slick surface. (Read my review.)
leaving BBC iPlayer soon
With Europe in the grip of multiple refugee crises as people flee Ukraine, Syria, and Afghanistan — not to mention several countries in Africa as well — it is perhaps worth a reminder that leaving the place you know and love to make a new life elsewhere is difficult and heartbreaking even in peacetime, even when you choose to emigrate. The lovely Brooklyn, from 2015, bursts with the poignancy of being torn between two places and torn between competing desires — particularly the impossible conflict between wanting your life to change for the better while also not wanting other things to change at all. Saoirse Ronan’s elegantly nuanced performance as a young Irish woman who moves to New York in the 1950s is a marvel. Have Kleenex handy. (Read my review.)
new to Netflix
If you’re watching Boris Johnson’s premiership implode and wonder how it’s come to this, check out 2014’s scathing not-at-all satire The Riot Club. Inspired by the Bullingdon Club, the notorious secret society at Oxford University, this is the tale of cruel, narcissistic young men of outrageous wealth and privilege who engage in consequence-free debauchery and abuse of everyone they see as lesser (which is almost everyone). They do not come across well at all: this is a good old-fashioned rich-bastard bashing. But the last laugh is on us, because one of the horrible Riot Clubbers here is likely a future PM… as former Bullingdon Johnson is. (Read my review.)