The OA, a Netflix original series created by director Zal Batmanglij and actress Brit Marling (who collaborated on the indie films The Sound of My Voice and The East), practically came out of nowhere. Though it was not a secret, Netflix didn’t publicize the film until this week, when it dropped a trailer with the enigmatic tag line “Trust the unknown.”
It’s a psychological mystery starring Marling as a missing blind woman who returns after seven years with her sight restored and refuses to discuss what happened.
“The show’s surprise arrival also mirrors the show’s narrative approach, which is dazzling in its insistence on avoiding straight lines and favoring hairpin turns,” writes Vulture TV critic Jen Chaney. “The whole experience is so absorbing that I now regret having made my top TV shows of 2016 list so early in December. The OA belongs, if not in my top ten, then certainly highly ranked among the honorable mentions.”
Emory Cohen, Scott Wilson, Alice Krige, and Jason Isaacs co-star. Eight episodes.
Pay-Per-View / Video-On-Demand
The bad guys take the lead in Suicide Squad, a darker, nastier DC anti-superhero movie with Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto as The Joker (PG-13).
Meryl Streep is the worst singer who ever lived in Florence Foster Jenkins, a comedy with a tender compassion based on a true story. Hugh Grant and Simon Hedberg co-star (PG-13).
Parker Sawyers is young Barack Obama and Tika Sumpter is Michelle Robinson in the romantic drama Southside With You (R).
Also new: the fantasy Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children from Tim Burton with Eva Green and Samuel L. Jackson (PG-13), the Biblical epic remake Ben-Hur with Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell (PG-13), the comedy Bridget Jones’s Baby with Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth (R), the Wall Street drama Equity with Anna Gunn (R), and the thriller Morgan with Kate Mara, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Paul Giamatti (R).
Available same day as select theaters nationwide are the thriller A Kind Of Murder, based on the Patricia Highsmith novel “The Blunderer” and starring Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel, and the modern border western The Hollow Point with Patrick Wilson and Ian McShane (both R).
Plus you can turn your screen into a virtual fireplace with the Yule Log. This and other holiday videos are free on participating cable systems and streaming services.
The Netflix original movie Barry is the other drama about young Barack Obama (Devon Terrell), this one about his formative experiences as a student at Columbia University in the early 1980s (not rated).
Streaming TV: the debut season of the alien occupation drama Colony, starring Josh Holloway (Lost) and Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead), is available before the second season begins on USA in January. 10 episodes. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
Also new: the American debuts of shows from Britain (horror comedy Crazyhead), France (historical drama Versailles and crime dramas No Second Chance and Cannabis), Spain (Call Me Francis, about the making of a Pope), and Norway (crime thriller Nobel).
For kids there is The Adventures of Puss in Boots: Season 4.
True stories: Morgan Spurlock directs Rats (2016), a survey of rat infestation around the world (not rated). Also new: The Seventh Fire (2016), which explores gangs and drugs on a remote reservation in Minnesota; Breaking a Monster (2016), about a New York rock band of 13-year-old boys; and Asperger’s Are Us (2016), a portrait of a comedy troupe of members that suffer from Asperger’s. Not rated.
The Man in the High Castle: Season 2 continues the alternate history thriller of America under Nazi occupation.
More streaming TV: Originally made for the Sundance Channel, The A Word: Season 1 explores family life with an autistic child.
Jimmy Wang Yu stars in the cult martial arts movies The One-Armed Swordsman (1967) and Return of the One-Armed Swordsman (1969) from Hong Kong, both in English dubbed editions (not rated). David Chiang takes over the role for The New One-Armed Swordsman (1971) (R). All in restored editions from Celestial Pictures.
From France comes a couple of rarities from Jacques Rivette: Noroit (1976), a post-modern pirate movie with Geraldine Chaplin and Bernadette Lafont, and the offbeat fantasy Duelle (1976) with Juliet Berto and Bulle Ogier. Both with English subtitles (not rated).
Tetsuya Watari stars in a quartet of Japanese gangster films from the 1960s: Outlaw: Gangster VIP (1968), Outlaw: Gangster VIP 2 (1968), Outlaw: Heartless (1968), and Outlaw: Kill! (1969). All in black and white and in Japanese with English subtitles.
Amazon Prime / Hulu
Hulu offers the first hour of the two-hour premiere of the fifth season of Nashville three weeks before it premieres on CMT in January. Seasons one through four are currently available to stream.
The Romanian drama Beyond the Hills (2012) won two awards at Cannes (with subtitles, not rated).
Nia Vardalos and John Corbett are back for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016) (PB-13).
The British cop drama The Level, starring Karla Crome, Philip Glenister, and Noel Clarke, makes it American premiere on Acorn. The first two episodes now available, new episodes arrive each Monday.
Malcolm McDowell, Brenda Blethyn, and Clemence Poesy star in the 2007 mini-series adaptation of War and Peace.