New streaming releases to watch
June 17, 2020
With theaters still closed, most studios are opting to release their films using video-on-demand services like iTunes, Prime, and Netflix. Here are a few new releases worth checking out.
Da 5 Bloods
Director: Spike Lee
Lee, one of our national treasures, doesn’t always succeed. He makes a lot of films and he takes a lot of chances and he works in a lot of different ways. Sometimes he shoots his films with his NYU students, sometimes he has the studio support to hire all the best collaborators in the business. Sometimes he writes his own scripts, sometimes he shoots scripts written by other writers. His best work tends to be when he’s working on a story he’s passionate about with a brilliant director of photography and supportive producers. His 2018 masterpiece, BlacKkKlansman, for which he won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, is such a film. So is the just-released Da 5 Bloods. Beautifully photographed and starring Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Paul Walter Hauser, Jean Reno, and Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods tells the story of five black Vietnam-era soldiers who return to Vietnam many years later to recover a locker of gold bars they found while at war. It’s a war film. It’s a heist film. It’s a political film. It’s an art film. It’s a film I highly recommend, shot by Newton Thomas Sigel, best known for his work on Drive, Three Kings, The Usual Suspects, and the forever underrated Pump Up the Volume. This is perhaps the movie of 2020 so far. (Netflix)
The King of Staten Island
director: Judd Apatow
Apatow makes very watchable, sometimes funny, always flawed populist comedies that get a lot of attention. His muse for The King of Staten Island is the It Boy of two years ago, Pete Davidson. It’s another stab at modern hipster appeal from Apatow, who has never been as “cool” as he thinks he is, but has never been shy about trying. That being said, Davidson, who essentially plays himself, can be an undeniably electric screen presence. Supporting performances from Bill Burr, Steve Buscemi, the forever underrated Bel Powley, and ScreenTime Hall of Famer Marisa Tomei make Staten a film worth watching. Sure, it’s painfully hip and Davidson isn’t for everyone, but it’s a breezy, fun watch that announces, in my opinion, Bill Burr as a movie star. That’s right, Bill Burr is now a movie star. (iTunes)
director: Josh Trank
Rotten reviews. Pending Razzie nominations. Bad makeup. This one isn’t for everyone. But it stars one of the most interesting leading men in the movies today, Tom Hardy, who is known for taking weird chances that don’t always pay off. It’s directed by Josh Trank, who has yet to live up to his promising debut film, Chronicle. With music by El-P (Company Flow, Run the Jewels) and cinematography by Peter Deming (Lost Highway, Hollywood Shuffle, Mulholland Drive), Capone is worth seeing if you have an interest in the subject, in the mafia, or in oddball performances. Otherwise, I think it’s safe to skip this one. (iTunes)
directors: Nicole Newnham and James Lebrecht
Camp Jened, a summer camp in New York for crippled teens, is the focus of an excellent new documentary from Higher Ground Productions, the production company started by Barack and Michelle Obama. It’s a fun, moving, hippie-era story about a group of campers who become activists for the disability rights movement, and dang, it’s a good one. In what has been a dark year so far for all of us, Crip Camp is a small ray of light. Oh, and it won the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. (Netflix)
director: Matt Wolf
We humans sure do some crazy things, don’t we? The story of Spaceship Earth is being touted as “too crazy not to be true,” and I think that’s a spot-on illustration of the story this Matt Wolf (Wild Combination, The Town I Live In) film tells. In 1991 a group of eight scientists spent two years quarantined inside a self-engineered replica of Earth’s ecosystem. Why? Because humans are ruining Earth and might have to someday find another large rock to inhabit. And, to do that, we’ll have to engineer our own environment. Sounds wild, right? Well that’s just the nugget that gets the story going, I’ll leave the rest of the thrills a mystery for you to explore. The score by Owen Pallett is incredible, as is the film’s art direction. It’s a new sci-fi classic. (Hulu, iTunes)
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