The nonfiction limited series “Immigration Nation” (TV-MA) offers a detailed and dramatic portrait of America’s broken immigration system and the dehumanizing treatment of immigrants over six provocative episodes. The Trump administration gave filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau unprecedented access and then tried to stop the series from being shown. (Netflix)
The four-part docuseries “The Last Narc” (TV-MA) explores the 1985 kidnapping and murder of DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, the most notorious murder in the history of the DEA, and finds troubling connections between the Mexican drug cartels and the CIA. (Amazon Prime Video)
Seth Rogen plays two roles in the comedy “An American Pickle” (2020, TV-14), about a Jewish immigrant from 1920 New York who awakens in 2020 after a freak accident in a pickle factory. (HBO Max)
Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” (2019, PG-13), which takes on Nazi Germany and satirizes the cult of Hitler with a sense of childlike whimsy, won the Oscar for adapted screenplay. (HBO Max and all HBO platforms)
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” (2019, PG-13) is a mix of modern road movie and rural rafting adventure starring Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson with newcomer Zack Gottsagen, who plays a runaway teenage boy with Down syndrome. (Prime Video and Hulu)
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” (2019, PG) brings the animated kid series to the big screen for a family-friendly live-action adventure starring Isabela Moner as the intrepid teen explorer and on a mission to save her parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña). (Prime Video and Hulu)
The animated comedy “Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season 1” (not rated), created by “Rick and Morty” writer Mike McMahan, follows the misadventures of the support crew of one of Starfleet’s least important ships. (CBS All Access)
Classic pick: Burt Lancaster plays real-life convict Robert Stroud in “Birdman of Alcatraz” (1962), a smart, nuanced drama about a career criminal who turned himself into an internationally recognized authority on birds and their diseases while in solitary confinement. It earned four Oscar nominations. (Amazon Prime Video)
Pay-Per-View / Video on Demand
With theaters shuttered across the country for four months now, more movies than ever are debuting direct to VOD. Here are a few highlights from this week’s debuts:
Acclaimed Colombian filmmaker Ciro Guerra directs the Euro-American historical allegory “Waiting for the Barbarians” (2020, not rated) starring Mark Rylance as an ineffectual magistrate and Johnny Depp as a brutal, bigoted military Colonel in an unnamed colonial outpost. It comes to VOD from a robust film festival rotation.
A twist on the contagion thriller, the surreal “She Dies Tomorrow” (2020, R) looks at what happens when people wake up knowing that they are going to die in a day. Filmmaker Amy Seimitz directs Kate Lyn Sheil and Jane Adams.
David Ayer directs Shia LaBeouf, Bobby Soto, and George Lopez in the brutal Los Angeles crime thriller “The Tax Collector” (2020, not rated).
On the lighter side is “Made in Italy” (2019, R) a comic drama starring Liam Neeson and Micheal Richardson as a father and son reconnecting in Tuscany.
Coming to Premium VOD is a new version of “The Secret Garden” (2020, PG), adapted from the beloved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett about an orphaned girl who finds a magical garden hidden in her uncle’s estate. Colin Firth and Julie Walters star with Dixie Egerickx as the young girl.
“Pick of the Litter” (2018, not rated) is a warm and fuzzy documentary that follows five puppies training to become guide dogs for the blind.
“Connected: Season 1” (TV-14), subtitled “The Hidden Science of Everything,” combines science, history, and nature to see how seemingly unrelated events and phenomenon are connected. Hosted by science reporter and host Latif Nasser.
Natural history series “Tiny Creatures: Season 1” (TV-G) looks at the survival challenges faced by the smallest animals in nature. Narrated by Mike Colter
The kid-friendly animated fantasy “Wizards: Tales of Arcadia” (TV-Y7) concludes Guillermo del Toro’s “Tales of Arcadia” trilogy.
More streaming TV: “Moesha: Complete Series” (1996-2001, TV-PG) is a sitcom starring Brandy Norwood as a teenager growing up and facing life’s challenges.
International TV: “World’s Most Wanted: Season 1” (France, not rated, with subtitles) spotlights five of the most wanted international criminals.
True stories: “Anelka: Misunderstood” (France, not rated, with subtitles) profiles controversial French footballer Nicolas Anelka.
Kid stuff: animated specials “The Magic School Bus Rides Again: Kids in Space” (2020, TV-Y), “Super Monsters: The New Class” (2020, TV-Y), and “A Go! Go! Cory Carson Summer Camp” (2020, TV-Y) are here to tide kids over until the next seasons begin.
Stand-up: “Sam Jay: 3 in the Morning (2020, not rated)
Amazon Prime Video
Clark Duke directs and stars alongside Liam Hemsworth as low-level enforcers of a drug kingpin (Vince Vaughn) in the crime thriller “Arkansas” (2020, unrated).
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush star in “The King’s Speech” (2010, R), a feel-good true story that won four Oscars.
Leonard DiCaprio leads the team in Christopher Nolan’s high-concept heist thriller “Inception” (2010, PG-13).
Bruce Willis reunites a team of retired black-ops agents (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren) in “Red” (2010, PG-13), an action thriller with a streak of gallows humor.
Prime Video and Hulu
“Margin Call” (2011, R) explores the culture that spawned the 2008 financial collapse with cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, and Stanley Tucci. (Prime Video and Hulu)
Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville play a married couple facing a cancer crisis in “Ordinary Love” (2019, R).
True stories: “Slay the Dragon” (2020, PG-13) looks at the efforts to stop gerrymandering and “Dominic Fike, At First” is the second feature-length documentary in “The New York Times Presents” series.
Matthias Schoenaerts is a violent convict whose life is turned around when he trains a wild horse in an experimental rehabilitation program in “The Mustang” (2019, R), a drama inspired by a true story. (All HBO platforms)
True stories: “The Swamp” (2020, TV-14) digs into the inner workings of Washington politics during the Trump administration. (All HBO platforms)
Streaming TV: the animated “Harley Quinn: Seasons 1 & 2” (2019-2020, TV-MA), which follows the former sidekick of supervillain The Joker, comes to HBO Max from DC Universe.
International TV: “Invisible Stories” (Singapore, TV-MA, with subtitles) from HBO Asia presents stories connected by location: they all take place in the same housing estate. (All HBO platforms)
Eight classic musicals starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers join the HBO Max library this month. Start with “Top Hat” (1935), with its fabulous art deco sets, and “Swing Time” (1936), my vote for their finest collaboration.
The British crime comedy “Hitmen: Season 1” (not rated) stars comedians Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins as misfit best friends who happen to kill people for a living. (Peacock)
The documentary “Howard” (2018, not rated) presents a portrait of Oscar-winning lyricist Howard Ashman, who helped shape some of Disney’s greatest animated musicals before passing away of AIDS in 1991. It’s directed by his friend and collaborator Don Hahn. (Disney+)
“Upright: Season 1” (not rated) is a dramedy about a struggling musician (Tim Minchin) and a runaway teenager Meg (Milly Alcock) on a road trip across Australia. Two episodes available, new episodes each week. (Sundance Now)
The anthology series “Moving On: Seasons 1-9” (2009-2018) from award-winning writer Jimmy McGovern presents a series of stand-alone dramas about people facing major change in their lives. (BritBox)
“Australian New Wave” collects 21 films from the blossoming of homegrown Australian cinema between 1971 and 1982, from classics like Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975, PG) and “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1982, PG) to Fred Schepisi’s provocative “The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith” (1978, R) and Gillian Armstrong’s “My Brilliant Career” (1979, G) with Judy Davis. New on Criterion Channel this month. Also new:
- groundbreaking drama “Rafiki” (Kenya, 2018, not rated, with subtitles), a love story of two women that challenged Kenya’s anti-LGBTQ laws;
- post-revolutionary feminist drama “Lucía” (Cuba, 1968, not rated, with subtitles) from filmmaker Humberto Solás;
- Howard Hawks’ classic Hollywood adventure “Only Angels Have Wings” (1939) with Cary Grant and Jean Arthur;
- Orson Welles’ majestic “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942) starring Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead.
Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. His reviews of streaming movies and TV can be found at http://streamondemandathome.com.