What to stream: a sweeping ‘Britannia’ on Amazon and a ‘Futile and Stupid’ biography on Netflix

Kelly Reilly in the historical drama co-starring Zoë Wanamaker, Mackenzie Crook, and David Morrissey

Here’s what’s new and ready to stream now on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now, Showtime Anytime, FilmStruck, video-on-demand, and other streaming services …

Amazon Prime reaches for Game of Thrones spectacle in Britannia, a sprawling, violent historical epic featuring Druid mages, Celtic warrior queens, warring tribes, bloody battles, and David Morrissey as a Roman general leading the invasion of Britain in 43 AD. Kelly Reilly, Zoë Wanamaker, and Mackenzie Crook star in the 10-part mix of myth and history from playwright and screenwriter Jez Butterworth (Spectre).

Guardian TV critic Lucy Mangan likes what she sees in the first few episodes: “Swords (Roman); sorcery (druidic); decapitations (two), plus blindings and flayings. Treacheries are uncountable, blood feuds, political manoeuvring, people shouting: “Fetch me my torque!”, wolves (non-dire), burned villages, cauterised limbs, captured peasants and a wandering seer who can sort out any tricky plot points by taking over enemies’ minds and making them spill enemy beans.” Charlotte Higgins (also in The Guardian) is even more ecstatic (“Is Britannia Jez Butterworth’s mad masterpiece?,” she asks), though other reviews are a little more mixed.

It launched on Sky TV in Britain earlier this week and is comes stateside as an Amazon Prime original. Add to your Amazon watchlist.

Will Forte plays Doug Kenney, co-creator of National Lampoon and co-writer of Animal House and Caddyshack, in A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018, not rated), a comic biopic of the subversive humorist from filmmaker David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer). Kenney launched the careers of a number of comic greats and helped pave the way for Saturday Night Live.

“Wain and screenwriters John Aboud and Michael Colton have decided to make a Doug Kenney movie that Kenney could have written — or at least co-written,” observes David Edelstein in his review for Vulture. “For the most part, they bring that notion off. Working from an evocative biography by Josh Karp, they’ve created an impishly meta cartoon that manages to squeeze in some serious themes — although I’m not sure it leaves you with more than a desire to read (or reread) Kenney’s most famous Lampoon works.”

Domhnall Gleeson, Emmy Rossum, Matt Walsh, Martin Mull, and Joel McHale (who portrays Chevy Chase) are among the co-stars.

It debuts on Netflix direct from its world premiere at Sundance 2018. Queue it up!

Pair it with the Netflix documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon (2015, not rated) for a double feature.

Timothy Olyphant is a U.S. Marshall with a frontier approach to justice in Justified, a crime drama as modern western based on an Elmore Leonard short story that preserves Leonard’s sensibility throughout the show’s six season run as it evolves and expands into a small epic of the crime underworld of Kentucky’s coal country.

It’s an exceedingly smart piece of pulp fiction with the rough edges of fascinating characters and storylines with dramatic blowback. Olyphant’s Raylon Givens may be equal parts pulp cowboy and maverick TV cop, but he’s the real deal with lived in flaws that tell us as much about the past he’s trying to outrun as the man it turned him into, and the measured performance and controlled intensity of Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder makes him the most dangerous character in a series filled with colorful criminals and cold-blooded killers.

All six seasons and 78 episodes now streaming on Amazon Prime. Add to your watchlist.

Pay-Per-View / Video-On-Demand

Jane (2017, PG) profiles primatologist Jane Goodall and her groundbreaking work studying chimpanzees in Tanzania in the 1960s with rare, never-before-seen film footage of her early expeditions. The film was honored with a number of awards but was surprisingly shut out of the Oscar nominations.

BPM (Beats Per Minute) (France, 2017, not rated, with subtitles), a drama of the lives of ACT UP activists in Paris during the AIDS epidemic early 1990s, is social history with a heartbeat.

Also new: biopic Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017, PG) with Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie, service drama Thank You for Your Service (2017, R) with Miles Teller, disaster movie Geostorm (2017, PG-13) with Gerard Butler, and horror film Jigsaw (2017, R),

Available same day as select theaters nationwide is road movie comedy Please Stand By (2017, PG-13) with Dakota Fanning as an autistic Trekkie.

Netflix

Megalyn Echikunwoke takes on a crew of rhythmically-challenged recruits in the college step dancing comedy Step Sisters (2017, PG-13).

Return to the wondrous world of J.R.R. Tolkein in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, PG-13), the first film in Peter Jackson’s dazzling fantasy epic.

Foreign affairs: a heartsick man tries to win back his superhero-loving girlfriend in the romantic comedy Blockbuster (France, 2017, not rated, with subtitles).

Streaming TV: the non-fiction series Dirty Money: Season 1 from Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney digs up the untold stories of scandal and corruption in the world of business. Also new:

Stand-up: Todd Glass: Act Happy toplines an international line-up of comedians this week that includes:

Amazon Prime

Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard are Oregon eco-terrorists in Night Moves (2013, R), a drama about the collision of social action and personal responsibility.

Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson shines in the tender and touching drama Short Term 12 (2013, R) as a counselor at a facility for homeless teens (reviewed on Stream On Demand here) and Jolene (2008, R), adapted from the E.L. Doctorow short story, presents Jessica Chastain in her film debut.

Classics: Lawrence of Arabia (1962, PG-13) is better served as a big-screen experience but Amazon Prime is now streaming the gorgeous 50th anniversary restoration. Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn both won Oscars for On Golden Pond (1982, PG).

True stories: the Oscar-nominated Cartel Land (2015, R) looks at Mexican vigilante groups fighting back against the drug cartels.

Streaming TV: From Russia comes the 8-part miniseries Night Swallows (Russia, 2013, with subtitles) about a real-life all-female air force squadron in World War II.

Foreign affairs: the democratic process is tested in the satire Newton (India, 2017, not rated, with subtitles) and a hitman looks for redemption after killing an innocent child in No Tears for the Dead (South Korea, 2014, not rated, with subtitles)

Spaghetti cinema: Dario Argento’s Deep Red (Italy, 1976, R) and Short Night of Glass Dolls (Italy, 1971, not rated) add to Amazon’s expanding collection of giallo (Italy’s distinctive stylish and violent horror genre). And three standout spaghetti westerns also arrive: Run Man Run (Italy, 1968) from Sergio Sollima; Four of the Apocalypse (Italy, 1975, not rated) from Lucio Fulci; and Mannaja: A Man Called Blade (Italy, 1977, not rated) from Sergio Martino.

Hulu

Aubrey Plaza is a quirky but troubled stalker in the social media satire Ingrid Goes West (2017, R), a timely comedy about confusing “likes” for human connection. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.

Streaming TV: Eliza Dushku is the super spy of Joss Whedon’s high concept Dollhouse: Complete Series, a deep cover espionage show with a conspiracy twist that ran two short seasons, while The Glades: Complete Series stars Matt Passmore as a Chicago cop in Florida. Also new: the third season of the Emmy-winning comedy Baskets from Zach Galifianakis.

True stories: School Life (2017, not rated) follows a year in the life of two passionate teachers in an Irish primary boarding school while Barista (2015, not rated) goes behind the scenes at the National Barista Championship.

HBO Now

Steven Soderbergh’s Mosaic (2018), a murder mystery starring Garrett Hedlund and Sharon Stone, reworks his interactive storytelling experiment as a six-part limited series.

Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn are Snatched (2017, R) in the comedy of a South American vacation gone horribly wrong.

Available Saturday night is All Eyez on Me (2017, R) starring Demetrius Shipp Jr. as Tupac Shakur and documentary short The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm (2018, not rated).

FilmStruck / Criterion Channel

Jules Dassin, the American filmmaker who fled the Blacklist and reinvented his career in Europe, is FilmStruck’s Director of the Week and their line-up of films includes the documentary-influenced film noir The Naked City (1948), the London-set Night and the City (1950) with Richard Widmark, and the heist classic Rififi (France, 1955, with subtitles).

The films of Vanessa Redgrave also get a spotlight with collection that includes the Oscar-winning A Man for All Seasons (1966, G) with Paul Scofield, David Hare’s Wetherby (1985, R), and James Ivory’s The White Countess (2005, PG-13), where she co-stars with daughter Natasha Richardson and sister Lynn Redgrave.

Acorn TV

From New Zealand comes the five-part miniseries Dear Murderer (2017), based on the notorious life and times of the colourful defence attorney Mike Bungay.

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears in Vulture, Turner Classic Movies online, Keyframe, and Parallax View.

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