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
Probably most of us have dreamed of winning the lottery — even those of us who don’t play it (*raises hand*) — but retired small-town Michigan couple Jerry and Marge knew they were guaranteed to win. You see, Jerry, a recently retired math nerd, had discovered a mathematical loophole in first the Michigan and then the Massachusetts state lotteries, and he and Marge went to town with it. It was all legal, and then they brought a bunch of their neighbors into their lottery syndicate, and then they helped revitalize their flagging town with their enormous winnings.
Jerry & Marge Go Large is based on a true story, and Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening are beyond charming as a couple enjoying the injection of unexpected excitement into lives that have become humdrum. But behind the low-key all-American little-bit-larcenous dramedy is a sneaky critique of capitalism as it plays out today: a villain turns up who puts selfish profit above all, and it’s a stark contrast to the collectivism that Jerry and Marge have embraced. This is a delightful not-quite-fantasy — again, this really happened! — about finding a cheat code in the rigged game we are all forced to play.
essential topical streaming
No escapism here this weekend, I’m afraid. I’ve been seething with rage since the US Supreme Court decided that there was no Constitutional right for women to make their own decisions about abortion, and I must implore my fellow Americans to make sure they really and truly understand what has just happened.
One way to do that is to see the new French film Happening, set in the early 1960s in France but very very apropos to what huge swathes of America have returned to (and perhaps to which the entire nation could return, if Christian-theocrat Republicans have their way).
Happening is, without question, a horror movie. It is the tale of a young college student (Anamaria Vartolomei, in a performance of extraordinary tension and terror) who gets pregnant and is desperate to get an abortion, because having a baby will completely derail her life. (She wants to continue her studies. She does not want to be a mother so young.) But abortion is illegal, and the law will come for anyone who helps her. Some will chance it, though…
Things may be slightly better for American women today — we have the option, in many cases, of self-administered pills to end a pregnancy — but the nightmare of being pregnant when you don’t want to be or aren’t ready for it, and have few options for remedying the situation, remains the same. (Read my review.)
All that said, even before SCOTUS rescinded Roe v Wade, accessing abortion medical care has not always been easy for American women, as the 2020 drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always depicts. Here, a Pennsylvania teen must travel to New York City to get the abortion she needs, and along the way, she will be taken advantage of and abused, which is, we glean, also how she ended up pregnant.
This harrowing and enraging movie is only about abortion: it’s also about the constant low-level denigration that girls and women endure, a brutal heartbreaking aloneness that is only briefly alleviated by solidarity with (some) other girls and women. This movie is about the garbage that gets piled upon girls and women, utterly mundane but usually ignored, often covert. Men have no fricking idea about much of it. (Read my review.)
Happening: available for rent or purchase on Prime Video
new on streaming
If you like the now-classic comedy Hot Fuzz, you’re sure to love the new flick I like to call “cold fuzz”: Cop Secret, a buddy-cop sendup straight outta *checks notes* Reykjavik. There’s a bit of a smack at everything from Die Hard and Bad Boys to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in this hilarious movie. And delightfully — like Hot Fuzz — this is also a pretty good on-the-level example of the genre, too, filled with clever, well-choreographed fisticuffs, gun battles, and car chases, all dished out by a memorable pair of police partners destined to become iconic. (Read my review.)
leaving Netflix soon
The faux-real-time World War I adventure drama 1917 is a breathtaking cinematic experience of the sort that we don’t see a lot of these days: this isn’t about caped crusaders or mystical space monks but the most ordinary of grunts from a century ago. Young up-and-coming British actor George MacKay steals the show even from the incredible FX as a soldier determined to deliver a vital message in the midst of ongoing, grueling battle. We are immersed in nasty, cruel mundanity above which its weary protagonist rises only through bitter effort and random luck. This is an exhausting film, but one well worth your attention.