Top streams for the weekHBO tackles another epic fantasy series with “His Dark Materials” (TV-14), adapted from the young adult trilogy by Philip Pullman. Ruth Wilson and James McAvoy star with Dafne Keen (the young costar of “Logan”), who plays an orphan in a quasi-steampunk world of talking spirit animals and magic dust. This show is more family oriented than “Game of Thrones” but still has a twist of darkness to it, as well as a strain of religious skepticism. New episodes each Monday night. A second season is already in production.
“Green Eggs and Ham” (TV-G) turns the Dr. Seuss storybook into an animated series about two opposites on a road trip to save endangered species… and try new things, despite the resistance of Guy (Michael Douglas) to the enthusiasm of Sam I Am (Adam Devine). Also features the voices of Diane Keaton, Eddie Izzard, and Jillian Bell; Keegan-Michael Key narrates. 13 episodes on Netflix.
“Framing John Delorean” (2019, not rated), a mix of documentary and dramatic recreations, stars Alec Baldwin as the maverick automaker whose rise and fall became epitome of ambition, greed, and hubris in the 1980s. Streaming on Hulu.
Classic pick: in “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955), James Dean became the screen embodiment of the strangled cry of teen alienation in the 1950s. Director Nicholas Ray’s amazing use of widescreen and color create a visual dimension to the explosion of tempestuous emotions, and Dean’s wound up performances and stumbling delivery perfectly captures the flailing desperation of an adolescent searching for a role model. Streaming on Netflix.
Cult pick: Also new to Netflix is “Forbidden Planet” (1956), one of the most sophisticated and fantastical science fiction classics of the 1950s, thanks to a story inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” an imaginative alien planetscape in delirious Technicolor hues, and a wonderfully weird electronic soundscape of a score.
Pay-Per-View / Video on Demand
Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are “Hobbs & Shaw” (2019, PG-13), former enemies who team up to stop a bio-terrorist (Idris Elba), in the spin-off of the “Fast and Furious” action film franchise. Vanessa Kirby and Helen Mirren co-star. Also on DVD and at Redbox. Also new:
- “The Kitchen” (2019, R) with Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss as mob wives who take over their husbands’ rackets while they serve time in prison;
- “The Art of Racing in the Rain” (2019, PG), a family drama narrated by the dog (voiced by Kevin Costner);
- “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” (2019, PG-13), a horror movie for teens and tweens based on the bestselling stories by Alvin Schwartz;
- gritty action drama “Bloody Marie” (Netherlands, 2019, not rated, with subtitles), which is Netherlands’ official entry for the Oscars.
Available same day as select theaters nationwide is “Danger Close” (2019, not rated), a Vietnam War drama inspired by the true story of an inexperienced Australian platoon under fire.
The great Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (“Hero”) returns to costume drama and epic action with “Shadow” (China, 2018, no rated, with subtitles), a period thriller of warfare and palace intrigue.
The five-part documentary series “The Devil Next Door” (2019, TV-MA) delves into the story of John Demjanjuk, a Cleveland family man who was exposed in the 1980s as a brutal guard at a Nazi concentration camp and tried for his war crimes.
The nonfiction series “Greatest Events of WWII in HD Colour” (2019, not rated) uses digital colorization to archival footage. Also newly arrived is “Spitfire” (2018, TV-14), which celebrates the British fighter plane that helped with the air war.
“Let It Snow” (2019, not rated) adds a young adult romance to its line-up of Christmas movies.
“The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open” (2019, not rated), a Canadian drama about two indigenous women that won a prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, and “Burning Cane” (2019, not rated), an American indie drama set in rural Louisiana that won top prizes at the Tribeca Film Festival, make their respective streaming debuts.
Morgan Freeman earned an Oscar nomination playing Nelson Mandella in “Invictus” (2009, PG-13), directed by Clint Eastwood.
If “My Name Is Dolemite” has sparked your interest in black action cinema of the seventies, Netflix just added the original “Super Fly” (1972, R), starring Ron O’Neal as a cocaine dealer trying to make one big score, and “Cleopatra Jones” (1973, PG) with Tamara Dobson as a glamorous, globetrotting American agent.
Elizabeth Taylor gave one of her finest performances opposite Paul Newman in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958), a somewhat censored by still potent adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, but finally won her first Oscar for “Butterfield 8” (1960).
International affairs: actress Valeria Golina directs “Euphoria” (Italy, 2018, R, with subtitles), a drama of the tender of tense relationship between two brothers (Riccardo Scamarcio and Valerio Mastrandrea). Also new:
- romantic drama “Tune in for Love” (South Korea, 2019, not rated, with subtitles);
- crime drama “Paradise Beach” (France, 2019, with subtitles).
More streaming TV: the acerbic Tru TV series “Billy on the Street: Seasons 2-5” (2012-2016, TV-14) with comedian Billy Eichner is now on Netflix. Also new:
- British young adult dark comedy “The End of the F***ing World: Season 2“;
- “The Great British Baking Show: Holidays: Season 2.”
International TV: a young finance professional in need of fast cash turns to swindling retired folks in “Scams: Season 1” (Japan, not rated, with subtitles). Also new:
- “Midnight Diner – Tokyo Stories: Season 2” (Japan, 2019, TV-14, with subtitles);
- Crime drama “Wild District: Season 2” (Colombia, with subtitles);
- Comedy “Millennials: Season 2” (Argentina, with subtitles).
More true stories: “Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser” (1988, PG-13), from documentary great Charlotte Zwerin, profiles the maverick jazz pianist and composer. Also newly arrived are “Listen Up! The Lives of Quincy Jones” (1990, PG-13) and “Jimi Hendrix” (1973, R).
More classics: Netflix is (quite rightly) criticized for its paucity of classic film but this month they’ve added quite a few. In addition to those noted above, there’s Stanley Kubrick’s fascinating adaptation of “Lolita” (1962, R) with James Mason and Sue Lyon;
- David Lean’s Oscar-winning epic “Doctor Zhivago” (1965) with Omar Sharif and Julie Christie;
- Oscar-nominated “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962) with Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard;
- Oscar-winning musical “Gigi” (1958) with Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, and Maurice Chevalier.
Stand-up: “Seth Meyers: Lobby Baby” (2019, not rated)
Amazon Prime Video
If you’re fed up with sentiment in your holiday films, Billy Bob Thornton is one “Bad Santa” (2003, R) in the raunchy comedy with Bernie Mac and Lauren Graham.
Denzel Washington earned his second Oscar as a bad cop in the crime thriller “Training Day” (2001, R) with Ethan Hawke.
Prime Video and Hulu
Steve Carell and Paul Rudd are an odd couple buddy team in “Dinner for Schmucks” (2010, PG-13), a remake of the French farce costarring Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Lucy Punch and David Walliams as eccentrics on parade (Prime Video and Hulu).
Tom Cruise is a hot young lawyer who discovers his new clients are the mob in “The Firm” (1993, R), adapted from the John Grisham thriller. Jeanne Tripplehorn and Gene Hackman co-star and Holly Hunter earned an Oscar nomination for her supporting performance (Prime Video and Hulu).
Rachel Weisz plays American historian Deborah E. Lipstadt in “Denial” (2016, PG-13), based on the true story of her landmark legal battle against a Holocaust denier.
The documentary “The Biggest Little Farm” (2018, PG) follows a couple who leave the city to start a sustainable farm.
Also new: “Under the Tuscan Sun” (2003, PG-13), a romantic drama starring Diane Lane is an American divorcee who buys a dilapidated villa in Italy;
- “Interview with a Vampire” (1994, R) starring Tom Cruise as Anne Rice’s vampire Lestat and costarring Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, and Kirsten Dunst;
- “Shall We Dance?” (2004, PG-13), a remake of the Japanese romantic drama with Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon.
Kid stuff: Britain’s clay animation studio Aardman present “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” (2012, PG), a clever, goofy comedy of slapstick pirates on the high seas.
The documentary “The Apollo” (2019, not rated) celebrates the 85-year history and legacy of the landmark theater in New York City.
Stand-up: “Daniel Sloss: X” (2019, not rated)
Available Saturday are the adolescent Arthurian adventure “The Kid Who Would Be King” (2019, PG), featuring Patrick Stewart as Merlin trying to teach a group of high school kids, and the special “Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary Celebration” (2019, not rated).
The first season of “Slings & Arrows” (2003), a delightful Canadian comedy set at a prestigious theater festival, stars Paul Gross as the madman actor who reluctantly becomes the artistic director and Rachel McAdams in an early role as a young actress. Mark McKinney (of “Kids in the Hall”) co-created the series and costars as a conniving business manager. Now streaming on Acorn TV; the second and third seasons arrive in the coming weeks.
“Gåsmamman: Season 1” (Sweden, with subtitles), a crime drama starring Alexandra Rapaport as a suburban mother pulled into the underworld to pay off a debt, and “The Vertical Line” (Italy, with subtitles), a dramedy revolving around the patients and caregivers at a hospital cancer ward, are new to MHz. New episodes on Tuesdays.
Criterion Channel celebrates “MGM Musicals from the Golden Age” with 19 films, including “Cabin in the Sky” (1943) with Lena Horne, “On the Town” (1949) and “An American in Paris” (1951) with Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954), and seven films “Starring Judy Garland,” among them “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944) and “The Pirate” (1948) from director Vincente Minnelli.
Also on Criterion are three films that launched Jack Nicholson—”Five Easy Pieces” (1970, R) and “The King of Marvin Gardens” (1972, R), directed by Bob Rafelson, and “The Last Detail” (1973, R) from Hal Ashby—plus Ken Loach’s touching “Kes” (1969), about a boy who bonds while training a kestrel, and “The Arbor” (2010, not rated), an unconventional drama about the life of playwright Andrea Dunbar.
New on disc and at Redbox:
“Hobbs and Shaw,” “The Kitchen,” “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” “Prey”
Visit the paper’s website online for more options and recommendations.
Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. His reviews of streaming movies and TV can be found at http://streamondemandathome.com.