‘Night Catches Us,’ ‘Ida’ and More Offbeat Streaming Options
This month’s off-the-grid streaming service recommendations include several tracks that are a little wilder than previous months, as if the streamers are realizing we’re scratching the walls here, and appropriate audio and visual accompaniment want to offer. But don’t worry – we also have historical dramas, a charming indie rom-com and a moving organic documentary about a real legend.
Stream it on Hulu.
In this nerve-wracking stew of science fiction, psychological thriller and body horror by writer and director Brandon Cronenberg, Andrea Riseborough plays a hit man who makes her mark by taking over the body and mind of someone close to her. For her last job killing a bigwig, she “owns” his potential son-in-law (Christopher Abbott), but leaving his body is a challenge in itself. Riseborough and Abbott deliver first-class performances, play and swap distinctive personalities (and play several points in between), and Cronenberg proves to be masters at creating annoying, often disturbing imagery.
Maybe Brandon Cronenberg comes naturally through his skills. His father is the revered genre filmmaker David Cronenberg (“The Fly”, “Videodrome”), who has not made a feature film since this ruthless Hollywood satire. (Maybe he’ll let his son take over the family business.) It’s more of a comedy than the older Cronenberg expected, if not in the traditional sense; The jokes are pitch black and originated from a twisted comic book sensibility, but viewers who can get on their wavelength will be amply rewarded. The cast is stacked – Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams and Carrie Fisher all show up – but the star of the show is Julianne Moore with a deliciously exaggerated performance as a diva in decline.
“Dog eats dog” (2016)
Stream it on Hulu.
The glowing reviews that Paul Schrader had garnered for his Oscar nominee “First Reformed” for 2018 seemed to praise the modesty and restraint of this film. in retrospect, he may have had to get this film out of his system first. Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe – neither known for their screen reserve – star in this adaptation of the novel by criminal writer Eddie Bunker. They chew the scenery by the handful as a pair of ex con cheaters who get too deep in the way when a kidnapping job goes sideways. The tone is uneven and the characters are despicable, but the wild, irreverent energy of the cuckoo bananas of the picture is strangely irresistible.
The second remake of Bob Clark’s holiday horror classic takes considerable freedom from the source material – and is all the better for it. The co-writer and director Sophia Takal, who gave the De Palma-style psychological thriller a feminine touch with her 2016 film “Always Shine”, fully embraces the conventions (and even the clichés) of the slasher narrative , however, positions them within a larger, multilayered conversation about violence and misogyny. But she also delivers the genre goods, grabs the picture with tight suspense sequences and leads it to a rushing, deeply satisfying result.
“Only God Forgives” (2013)
Stream it on Hulu.
Ryan Gosling teamed up with “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn for this neon-soaked revenge thriller that pushes the mash-up of art house and exploitative sensitivity of the earlier film to its limits. The results turned out to be crucial – on purpose, as Refn seems determined to see how much extreme violence and arching style his audience can endure. But there’s something refreshing about the film’s commitment to its unique vision, and Kristin Scott Thomas (as Gosling’s mother and worst influence) opera performance is a huge gamble that pays off.
“Night catches us” (2010)
Stream it on Amazon.
Tanya Hamilton’s period drama would be an ideal dual feature with one of the latest HBO Max deals, “Judas and the Black Messiah,” anchored in the history of the Black Panthers, the civil rights movement, and the ethical dilemmas of police informants. Anthony Mackie – in a role well-suited to his simmering anger – plays a former panther who returns to his Philadelphia neighborhood after his father’s funeral, only to find his past returns to haunt him. Constructing the film like a great short story, where lives are connected and backstories are forced to reveal, Hamilton draws in top-notch performances from Mackie, Kerry Washington and The Wire alums Wendell Pierce and Jamie Hector.
“The One I Love” (2014)
Stream it on Netflix.
Who says mind-benders have to be big-budget sci-fi epics? Director Charlie McDowell and screenwriter Justin Lader didn’t think so. Here they construct a psychological thriller from just two people on a weekend retreat. Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass star as the couple in question, a married couple who, at the suggestion of their therapist (Ted Danson), try to isolate themselves from the world and solve their problems. But their surroundings lead to suspiciously atypical behavior in both of them, resulting in a series of bizarre twists and turns and unexpected revelations.
Stream it on Amazon.
Prime Video subscribers had a hard time missing out on Pawel Pawlikowski’s wonderful drama “Cold War,” which the service acquired in 2018 and promoted to three Academy Award nominations – but they might have missed Pawlikowski’s previous feature, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Motion Picture Three won years earlier. And like its successor, it’s a black and white drama whose stylistic rigor and calm control allow it to reveal heartbreaking emotions and a shrewd sense of humor.
‘Hello, my name is Doris’ (2016)
Stream it on Amazon and Hulu.
“Big Sick” director Michael Showalter warmed himself up for the laugh and heart of this film with this delicate adaptation of Laura Terruso’s short film “Doris & the Intern”. Sally Field, in an all too rare contemporary lead role on a big screen, is a marvel as the title character, a dotty, aging office eccentric who develops a painful attraction for a young hipster colleague (Max Greenfield of “New Girl”). ). The “Harold and Maude” vibes are no accident, and as in this film, “Doris” doesn’t mock his characters or wink too broadly at his premise. These are charming, personable people, and you draw on their (eventual) happiness.
“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” (2019)
Stream it on HBO Max.
The documentary filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (“The Celluloid Closet”) lead this biographical profile of the incomparable pop star and the career in which she has done almost everything: rock, pop, country, operetta, folk music, the works. It’s based on her memoir, and she tells a lot of her own story, in vivid detail and with good humor (and the occasional assists from all-star friends and coworkers like Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt and Don Henley). The archive footage is exciting – the film not only talks about the power of their singing, it shows it – but it’s more than your standard pop doc dealing with the difficulty of navigating Ronstadt’s male-dominated world, and with the pain of losing their ability to sing in public after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It’s a tragedy to be honest, but she doesn’t treat it that way, and neither does the filmmakers. She seems grateful for the fun she had, and her energy and good mood are contagious.