By Sean Axmaker
Top streams for the week
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017, PG-13), the middle chapter of the third trilogy of the interstellar saga, sends Rey (Daisy Ridley) in search of Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Writer/director Rian Johnson brings heart to the spectacle and impresses with some stunning imagery and he guides Hamill and Carrie Fisher (who died soon after completing her scenes) to performances weighted with gravitas. Johnson comes to the film as a fan as well as a filmmaker eager to bring his own vision to the series and he creates one of the best chapters in the science fiction epic to date. This may be your antidote to the disappointment over “Solo.” Now streaming on Netflix.
Hugh Grant is Jeremy Thorpe, the British political leader accused of conspiring to murder his gay ex-lover (Ben Wishaw), in “A Very English Scandal,” a BBC miniseries inspired by the salacious 1979 political scandal and courtroom trial. Stephen Frears directs the satirical drama, which debuts on Amazon Prime Video.
With the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” inspiring audiences in theaters, revisit original episodes of the gentle children’s show with “The Best of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” (1968-2000). Episodes spanning over three decades of the series are available on Amazon Prime Video.
There’s a world of TV out there and MHz Choice offers some of the best dramas, mysteries, comedies, and crime thrillers from Europe. Their offerings include the World War II drama “A French Village” from France, Scandinavian crime drama “Beck” from Sweden, and “Detective Montalbano” from Italy. Recently added to the service are “Agatha Christie’s Criminal Games” and nature documentary “Antarctica” from France. All shows presented with subtitles. There’s a 30-day free trial if you’d like to sample the international menu.
Pay-Per-View / Video on Demand
Tyler Perry directs Taraji P. Henson in “Acrimony” (2018, R), a thriller about a wronged woman who wants payback.
Also new are three thrillers: “Escape Plan 2: Hades” (2018, not rated) with Sylvester Stallone and Dave Bautista, “Gemini” (2018, R) with Lola Kirke and Zoe Kravitz, and sci-fi oriented “The Endless” (2017, not rated).
Available same day as select theaters nationwide are two films with “Ant-Man” star Paul Rudd: LGBT-themed comedy “Ideal Home” (2018, not rated) with Steve Coogan and real-life spy drama “The Catcher Was a Spy” (2018, R) with Sienna Miller and Mark Strong.
“GLOW: Season 2” brings Alison Brie and her crew of 1980s women wrestlers back for more comic melodrama in and out of the ring as the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” pilot gets shopped around to TV stations.
Disney’s animated “Tarzan” (1999, G) features the voices of Tony Goldwyn and Minnie Driver and an Oscar-winning theme song.
Cyber thriller “TAU” (2018, R), starring Maika Monroe as the prisoner of a malevolent AI (voiced by Gary Oldman), debuts direct to Netflix.
True stories: “Recovery Boys” (2018, not rated) follows the efforts of four men to recover from opioid addiction and reenter society. Also new:
- “The Last Laugh” (2016, not rated), with comedians and writers talking about confronting tragedy and evil with humor;
- epic miniseries “The Vietnam War” (2017) from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.
More streaming TV: Anna Torv is a journalist taking on government lies in “Secret City,” an Australian thriller co-starring Jacki Weaver, and Alan Dale. Also new:
- “Kiss Me First” (2018), a British teen drama of loneliness and escape in virtual world;
- CW superhero series “Supergirl: Season 3” with Melissa Benoist;
- “Life Sentence,” the CW dramedy starring Lucy Hale;
- reality competition shows “Churchill’s Secret Agents: The New Recruits” and “Nailed It! Season 2.”
Foreign affairs: in the romantic comedy “To Each, Her Own” (France, 2017, with subtitles, not rated), a lesbian woman (Sarah Stern) struggles with her attraction to a man just as she’s ready to come out to her conservative Jewish family. Also new:
- miniseries “The Forest” (France, with subtitles), a crime drama about a missing girl in a rural French town;
- comedy series “Paquita Salas: Season 2” (Spain, with subtitles)
Stand-up: “W. Kamau Bell: Private School Negro” (2018, not rated).
Amazon Prime Video
The sweetly offbeat “The Strange Little Cat” (Germany, 2014, with subtitles) celebrates the strange magic of everyday life and the odd dimensions of human behavior that arise in the close quarters of family apartment in Berlin.
A UN secretary (Ben Kingsley) gives lessons in “Backstabbing for Beginners” (2018, R) to a young diplomat (Theo James) in the drama about international corruption inspired by real events.
Streaming TV: “The Wire,” created by David Simon for HBO, is one of the most intelligent and complex shows ever made and Prime Video has the entire five-season series once again. Also new:
- more episodes of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” an animated series for young children based on the books by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond;
- “The Newsroom: The Complete Series” (2012-2014), created for HBO by Aaron Sorkin and starring Jeff Daniels;
- the first six seasons of HBO’s sexy vampire drama “True Blood” with Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse;
- eight seasons of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” from creator/star Larry David;
- pioneering sitcom “The Best of I Love Lucy: Seasons 1-5” with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz;
- 1980s hit sitcom “Family Ties: The Complete Series” with Michael J. Fox.
Amazon Prime and Hulu
Zoe Saldana and Imogen Poots star in “I Kill Giants” (2018, not rated), a drama about a teenage girl who escapes loneliness in a world of fantasy. Also new:
- “10×10” (2018, not rated), a thriller starring Luke Evans and Kelly Reilly;
- “Hesher” (2011, R) with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a headbanging blast of anarchy with a healing presence.
Streaming TV: “Rick & Morty: Season 3” offers more animated absurdity from the Adult swim hit on Cartoon Network.
True stories: “Ballet 422” (2014, PG) follows choreographer Justin Peck as he develops a new work at the New York City Ballet.
Foreign affairs: Hong Kong movie legends Tsui Hark and Yuen Woo-ping team up again for “The Thousand Faces of Dunjia” (China, 2017, not rated, with subtitles), a fantasy about warriors defending Earth from giant invaders.
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (2017, R) partners the elite British spy organization with its American counterpart and adds Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, and Channing Tatum to the cast.
The HBO Original documentary “Believer” (2018, TV-14) follows Mormon musician Dan Reynolds as he confronts his church’s treatment of LGBT members.
Available Saturday night is “IT” (2017, R), the hit horror film based on the Stephen King novel about adolescent best friends battling a demonic clown.
Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig star in the romantic drama “Cairo Time” (2009, PG).
John Ford’s western classic “The Searchers” (1956) with John Wayne is the TCM Select Pick of the Week. Streams through December 20, 2018. Co-star Natalie Wood is FilmStruck’s “Star of the Week” with a spotlight on 13 features starring the actress, from “The Star” (1953) with Bette Davis to final film “Brainstorm” (1983, PG) with Christopher Walken.
“The Marvelous Miss Marple” presents five films featuring Agatha Christie’s spinster detective, including “Murder She Said” (1961) and three sequels starring Margaret Rutherford, and FilmStruck celebrates Gay Pride Month with “Classics of Lesbian Cinema” from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” (Germany, 1972, not rated, with subtitles) through the landmark American indie “Desert Hearts” (1985, R) to the Cannes Palm d’Or winning “Blue is the Warmest Color” (France, 2013, NC-17, with subtitles).
The second season of the Facebook Watch original dramedy “Strangers” moves to New York City and a whole new culture of roommate situations to navigate.
New on disc this week:
“Acrimony,” “Gemini,” “Escape Plan 2,” “Terminal,” “Back to Burgundy”
Now available at Redbox:
“Acrimony,” “Gemini,” “Escape Plan/Escape Plan 2,” “Terminal,” “Hotel Transylvania”
Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. His reviews of streaming movies and TV can be found at http://streamondemandathome.com.