Top streams for the week
Inspired by the work of artist Keith Knight, "Woke: Season 1" (not rated) stars Lamorne Morris as a cartoonist on the verge of mainstream success, in part for steering clear of politics and race in his work. Then after he's wrongfully (and violently) detained by the police, inanimate objects start speaking to him in frank (and funny) terms about confronting the realities of being Black in America. (Hulu)
"Noughts + Crosses: Season 1" (2020), based on the young adult fantasy novels by Malorie Blackman, is a Romeo and Juliet romance in a world where race relationship are flipped. It confronts issues of race, power, and privilege in a reality where Africa invaded and colonized Europe centuries ago. Jack Rowan and Masali Baduza star as the young lovers crossing racial and class boundaries. Originally broadcast earlier in 2020 on BBC, it streams in the U.S. on Peacock.
The raunchy, acerbic British comedy "The Duchess: Season 1" (not rated) stars Katherine Ryan as a single mother in London who decides to give her preteen daughter a sibling by getting pregnant by her ex. Perhaps not her best idea, since they hate each other. (Netflix)
The documentary "The Social Dilemma" (2020, PG-13) is a sobering look at the impact of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms on individual lives and the culture at large by nurturing a society addicted to likes and updates. (Netflix)
International pick: The zombie thriller "#Alive" (South Korea, 2020, not rated, with subtitles) is a horror movie for the COVID era; it focuses on the loneliness of a survivor isolated in his apartment as an epidemic rages outside. (Netflix)
Classic pick: David Lean's "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957), starring Alec Guinness as a British officer blinded by pride and William Holden as a pragmatic American POW, won seven Academy Awards, including best picture, director, and actor and remains one of the greatest war epics. It's a handsome film and a literate drama with modern anti-war sentiment by way of a bitter satire of British honor and enterprise. (Amazon Prime, also streaming in 4K UHD)
Pay-Per-View / Video on Demand
Tilda Cobham-Hervey plays the Australian-born singer Helen Reddy in "I Am Woman" (2020, not rated), a biographical drama named after her iconic hit song, which became an anthem for seventies feminists. Danielle Macdonald and Evan Peters costar.
The documentary "Robin's Wish" (2020, not rated) recounts the final days of comedian and actor Robin Williams, who took his own life in 2014.
"Midnight Special" (2016, PG-13), starring Michael Shannon as a devoted father determined to save a son with inexplicable powers from those who would exploit him, is an intimate and moving alternative to superhero spectacles. Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, and Adam Driver co-star.
The ghosts of a boy band from the 90s reinvigorate the musical passions of a high school girl in "Julie and the Phantoms: Season 1" (2020, TV-PG), a family friendly musical series from director and choreographer Kenny Ortega.
"The Babysitter: Killer Queen" (2020, TV-MA), a sequel to the 2017 horror comedy, sends the now teenage survivor (Judah Lewis) of a satanic cult into another nightmare: high school.
Streaming TV: As long we're still stuck at home, the makeover reality series "Get Organized with The Home Edit: Season 1" (not rated) may come in handy. Also new:
- OWN cable drama "Greenleaf: Season 5" (TV-14);
- sitcom "Girlfriends: Complete Series" (2000-2008, TV-PG) with Tracee Ellis Ross.
International passport: a preteen dance group mimics the hyper-sexual dance moves of adult stars in "Cuties" (France, 2020, TV-MA, with subtitles), a coming of age drama that looks at the collision of adolescence and the sexualized imagery of women in contemporary culture.
True stories: the limited series "La Línea: Shadow of Narco" (Spain, with subtitles) follows the efforts of a southern town in Spain to combat drug smuggling. Also new:
- "My Octopus Teacher" (South Africa, 2020, TV-G) about the unusual friendship between a filmmaker and an octopus living in a kelp forest;
- "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" (2019, not rated), based on the book by Thomas Piketty.
Kid stuff: "The Idhun Chronicles: Season 1 (Spain, not rated) is an animated fantasy based on an epic trilogy by Spanish author Laura Gallego.
Amazon Prime Video
"The Cotton Club Encore" (1984/2019, R), Francis Ford Coppola director's cut of his troubled jazz era musical, restores musical numbers and the stories of the Black characters cut from the original theatrical release.
Kirsten Dunst is "Marie Antoinette" (2006, PG-13) in Sophia Coppola's unconventional historical drama.
Kid stuff: David Bowie is the Goblin King in Jim Henson's musical fantasy "Labyrinth" (1986, PG) featuring Jennifer Connelly as a teenager who enters his wonderland to save her baby brother. Also streams in 4K UHD.
HBO Max / HBO Now
A young college-bound woman (Haley Lu Richardson) hits the road in "Unpregnant" (2020, PG-13), a road movie based on the young adult novel by the same name that uses humor to address the issue of abortion. Barbie Ferreira, Giancarlo Esposito, Mary McCormack, and Breckin Meyer costar. (HBO Max)
Available Saturday night is "Coastal Elites" (2020, TV-MA), an original satire from playwright Paul Rudnik about disconnected characters venting their frustrations, set and shot in the Covid era. Jay Roach directs and Dan Levy, Sarah Paulson, Kaitlyn Dever, Bette Midler, and Issa Rae star. (All HBO platforms)
A pair of documentaries debut on Peacock: "The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts 'The Tonight Show'" (2020, not rated) casts a spotlight on an almost forgotten landmark of American television that brought Dr. Martin Luther King, Lena Horne, Aretha Franklin, and Robert Kennedy to late night TV and "Black Boys" (2020, not rated) explores the Black experience and Black identity through the stories of athletes, journalists, activists, and others. (Peacock)
An American in Sweden digs into a 50-year-old murder in the crime comedy "We Got This: Season 1" (Sweden, not rated, with subtitles). New episodes every Thursday. (Sundance Now)
Rachelle Lefevre is a Canadian woman in New Zealand searching for her missing husband in the psychological thriller "The Sounds" (Canada/New Zealand). New episodes each Monday. (Acorn TV)
The British crime drama "McDonald & Dodds: Season 1" (2020, not rated) stars Jason Watkins and Tala Gouveia as opposites solving mysteries in Bath. (BritBox)
Birgitte Hjort Sørensen ("Borgen") stars in "Greyzone: Season 1" (Denmark, TV-14, with subtitles), a Scandinavian thriller about a terrorist attack. New episodes each Tuesday. (MHz)
Chadwick Boseman stars in one of his final screen performances in "21 Bridges" (2019, R), playing an NYPD detective who stumbles across a conspiracy during a manhunt for a pair of cop killers. (Showtime Anytime)
Lily James is "Cinderella" (2015, PG) in Disney's live-action remake of its animated classic, directed by Kenneth Branagh and featuring Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, and Helena Bonham Carter. (Disney+)
"Pre-Code Joan Blondell," 13 films from the racy, rapid fire era of the early 1930s during the depths of the depression, is the classic movie highlight of the month. The vibrant and vivacious Blondell stars opposite James Cagney in three movies (including "Blonde Crazy," 1931), plays best friend to Barbara Stanwyck in the knock-out "Night Nurse" (1931), takes the lead in snappy urban dramas "Big City Blues" (1932) and "Blondie Johnson" (1933), and steals the show in the great show-biz musical "Gold Diggers of 1933" (1933). (Criterion Channel)
Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. His reviews of streaming movies and TV can be found at http://streamondemandathome.com.