What to stream: ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ on VOD, ‘Tales from the Loop’ on Amazon, ‘Onward’ on Disney+

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

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (2019, PG-13) brings the final trilogy in the odyssey begun by George Lucas in the original 1977 “Star Wars” to its conclusion with a rollercoaster ride of a science fiction adventure. JJ Abrams directs the finale, which brings Skywalker apostle Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Vader acolyte Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) together to save… well, the universe. No, it’s not the best of the series (not even close). Abrams is a talented technician and he loves constructing complicated plots, but the result has the depth of a picture puzzle and the tension of a wet tissue. His finale plays like a greatest hits remix of Chapters 4-8, with scenes and settings that echo past set pieces, but he drives it at a runaway pace and fills it with energy. So it is fun if not entirely satisfying. Cable On Demand and VOD, also on DVD.

The new Amazon Prime original series “Tales from the Loop” (2020, TV-Y), inspired by the work of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, is part science fiction anthology and part family drama set in a town where a secret experimental facility makes impossible is regular occurrence. What makes this show, starring Rebecca Hall and Jonathan Pryce, different from other anthologies is the way it weaves standalone stories and continuing narratives and the sense of mystery sense of mystery surrounding it all. The explanation less important than the reverberations of events through the lives of its characters. Eight episodes streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Chris Pratt and Tom Holland voice the elf brothers on a quest to resurrect their dead father in the Pixar animated fantasy “Onward” (2020, PG). Mere weeks after premiering in movie theaters, Disney+ makes its available to stream for members.

In the viciously funny “The Death of Stalin” (2018, R), savvy political satirist Armando Iannucci reimagines the scramble for power in the Soviet Union as a savage comedy of petty grudges, unstable alliances, and literal backstabbing. Steve Buscemi is master survivor Nikita Khrushchev and Jeffrey Tambor and Michael Palin co-star. Streaming on Netflix.

If you’ve exhausted “The Office,” “30 Rock,” or “The Good Place,” try “Community: Complete Series” (2009-2015, TV-14), a comedy starring Joel McHale as a suspended lawyer leading a dysfunctional study group on a community college campus from creator Dan Harmon (“Rick and Morty”). The show is rife with absurdist humor, movie and TV parodies, and social satire and helped launch the screen careers of Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, and Yvette Nicole Brown. Streaming on Netflix.

Classic pick: “Blazing Saddles” (1974, R), Mel Brooks’ wildly funny spoof of American westerns, spins movie parody, cartoon slapstick, and bathroom humor into comic gold. Watch it. You’d do it for Randolph Scott! Streaming on Netflix. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.

Free picks: A number of streaming services are offering extended 30-day free trials in this time of self-quarantine.

  • To catch the next generation of “Star Trek” shows in CBS All Access, sign up before April 23 and use the code “GIFT.”
  • British TV fans can explore the mysteries, comedies, and dramas on Acorn TV with the special code “FREE30.”
  • For Sundance Now, which presents independent cinema and international TV, use the code “SUNDANCENOW30.”
  • Shudder, the streaming service devoted to horror movies and TV shows, offers a month of scares and chills with the code “SHUTIN.”
  • And if you stream through a Roku device or have a Roku operating system on your TV, you have access to 30-day free trials from dozens of streaming services, including Showtime, EPIX, MHz Choice, and BFI. Access them through the “Home Together” section.

Pay-Per-View / Video-On-Demand

It’s Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) vs. George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) in the battle to determine the electrical future of America in “The Current War: Director’s Cut” (2019, PG-13). It costars Katherine Waterston, Tom Holland, Matthew MacFadyen, and Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla.

Premium VOD: the award-winning indie drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (2020, R), which debuted to great acclaim on March 13 before theaters were shuttered across the nation, is available for home rental at a premium rate.

Also rushed to streaming from theaters and available as a premium price is the cartoonish video game adaptation “Sonic the Hedgehog” (2020, PG) with James Marsden and Jim Carrey, and arriving direct to VOD is the prank comedy “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” (2020, PG-13).

Netflix

Ed Helms is a cop on the run from a drug lord with his girlfriend (Taraji P. Henson) and her young son in the action comedy “Coffee & Kareem” (2020, not rated).

Jessica Chastain stars as Molly Bloom, the Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game, in “Molly’s Game” (2017, R), the directorial debut of Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine star in the science fiction thriller “The Girl with All the Gifts” (2016, R), a clever twist on the zombie movie.

Streaming TV: “The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show” (2020, not rated) is all there in the title. Also new:

  • the fourth season of the Canadian sitcom “Kim’s Convenience” (2020, TV-MA);
  • Happy!: Season 2” (2019, TV-MA), an unhinged mix of violent crime show, fantasy, and extreme humor with Christopher Meloni and Patton Oswalt;
  • competition cooking show “Nailed It!: Season 4” (TV-PG).

International TV: the hit crime thriller “Money Heist: Part 4” (Spain, TV-MA, with subtitles) now streams along with the documentary “Money Heist: The Phenomenon” (Spain, 2020, with subtitles).

True stories: the limited series “How to Fix a Drug Scandal” (2020, not rated) investigates the crimes of two drug lab chemists.

Kid stuff: “Spirit Riding Free: Riding Academy” (TV-Y7) offers a new chapter in the animated series for adolescents. “StarBeam” (TV-Y) is an animated superhero adventure for young children.

Catch up with a couple of classics as Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” (1976, R) with Robert DeNiro and the iconic spaghetti western “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966, R) with Clint Eastwood return to Netflix.

Stand-up goes international: “Ladies Up: Season 1” (India, 2020, not rated, with subtitles) features four short sets with Indian women comedians and “David Batra: Elefanten I Rummet” (Sweden, 2020, not rated, with subtitles) arrives Scandinavian stand-up.

Also new this month: the Tom Sawyer-meets-rural noir drama “Mud” (2012, PG-13) with Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan;

  • fracking drama “Promised Land” (2012, R) written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski;
  • David Fincher’s “The Social Network” (2010, PG-13) with Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield;
  • rock biopic “The Runaways” (2010, R) with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning as Joan Jett and Cherie Currie;
  • action spy thriller “Salt” (2010, PG-13) with Angelina Jolie;
  • the bad behavior comedy hit “The Hangover” (2009, R) with Bradley Cooper;
  • Road to Perdition” (2002, R) with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman;
  • Steven Spielberg’s science fiction thriller “Minority Report” (2002, PG-13) with Tom Cruise;
  • The Matrix” (1999, R) with Keanu Reeves, Carrie Anne Moss, and Laurence Fishburne, along with the final films in the trilogy, “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003, R) and “The Matrix Revolutions” (2003, R);
  • Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in “Lethal Weapon” (1987, R) and three sequels: “Lethal Weapon 2” (1989, R), “Lethal Weapon 3” (1992, R), and “Lethal Weapon 4” (1998, R) with Jet Li.

Amazon Prime Video

21 James Bond films, from Sean Connery in “Dr. No” (1962, PG) to Pierce Brosnan in “Die Another Day” (2002, PG-13), are now streaming in 4K high definition format for the best viewing experience on your home theater system. That’s the entire official 007 series before Daniel Craig, plus Sean Connery’s unofficial return to the role in “Never Say Never Again” (1983, PG). Time for Bond festival?

Ben Foster is cycling champion Lance Armstrong in “The Program” (2015, R), costarring Chris O’Dowd as the Irish journalist who exposed the doping scandal behind his wins.

Two devoted sisters in 1950s Rio de Janeiro are separated by their authoritarian father but never stop hoping to reconnect in “Invisible Life” (Brazil, 2019, R, with subtitles), which a top award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Streaming TV: Amazon Prime offers subscribers the first season of a dozen shows available through other Amazon streaming channels. Fans of British mysteries and period dramas should check out “Foyle’s War” (2002), set on the English homefront in World War II, for kids there’s the animated PBS series “Molly of Denali” (2019, TV-Y), and the riveting espionage drama “The Bureau” (France, 2015, TV-MA, with subtitles) has been called the greatest French television series of all time.

Also new: crime thriller “Hotel Artemis” (2018, R) with Jodie Foster and Jeff Goldblum;

  • end-of-the-world thriller “I Am Legend” (2007, PG-13) with Will Smith;
  • romantic thriller “The Bodyguard” (1992, R) with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston.

Prime Video / Hulu

Gods and Monsters” (1999, R), starring Ian McKellan as filmmaker James Whale, won an Academy Award for director Bill Condon’s screenplay (Prime Video and Hulu) and the comedy “Shirley Valentine” (1989, R) earned an Oscar nomination for star Pauline Collins (Prime Video and Hulu).

Hulu

The third and final season of “Future Man” (2020, TV-MA) puts the future of the human race in the hands of an underachieving janitor (Josh Hutcherson) who is transported into the future because of his video gaming skills.

Idris Elba is a driven London detective with a penchant for dispensing his own justice in “Luther: Compete Series” (2010-2019, TV-MA), one of the darker crime dramas from England’s BBC.

Tobey Maguire is the high school science nerd who becomes the amazing “Spider-Man” (2002, PG-13) in the first big screen outing of the popular superhero, directed by Sam Raimi with energy and imagination.

Streaming TV: the animated spy show spoof “Archer: Season 10” (2019, TV-MA) reboots the series as a science fiction adventure. Also new:

Horror fans can enjoy “Let Me In” (2010, R), a superb American reworking of the Swedish adolescent vampire thriller, and “Misery” (1990, R), one of the best Stephen King big screen adaptations. Also new:

  • end-of-the-world adventure “The Book of Eli” (2010, R) with Denzel Washington
  • inspirational British sports drama film “Bend It Like Beckham” (2003, PG-13) which introduced Keira Knightley to American audiences;
  • Quentin Tarantino’s action diptych “Kill Bill: Volume 1” (2003, R) and “Kill Bill: Volume 2” (2004, R) with Uma Thurman;
  • coming of age social satire “Risky Business” (1983, R) with Tom Cruise;
  • Oscar-winning modern western “Hud” (1963) with Paul Newman.

HBO Now

Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss are mob wives who take over their husbands’ rackets while they serve time in prison in “The Kitchen” (2019, R).

Also new is the violent crime thriller “Dragged Across Concrete” (2018, R) with Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn.

Disney+

Disney+ adds a collection of natural history programs to its collection just in time for parents scrambling to find educational outlets for kids stuck at home. The selections range from Disneynature documentaries like “Chimpanzee” (2012, G), “Bears“(2014, G), and “Born in China” (2017, G) to the Emmy-winning National Geographic documentary “Jane” (2017, PG) about pioneering primatology scientist Jane Goodall and climate change documentary “Before the Flood” (2016, TV-14) from producer/narrator Leonardo DiCaprio. Also new:

  • the offbeat but gentle and sweet “The Straight Story” (1999, G) with Richard Farnsworth and Sissy Spacek, a family friendly odyssey from director David Lynch inspired by a true story;
  • Frankenweekie” (2012, PG), Tim Burton’s animated, feature-length remake of his live-action debut;
  • sweet high school romantic comedy “Prom” (2011, PG).

Apple TV+

Home Before Dark” (2019, not rated) dramatizes the real-life story of the nine-year-old investigative journalist Hilde Lysiak (played Brooklynn Prince) who dug into an unsolved murder case that her small town would prefer stay buried. Jim Sturgess stars as her father and Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”) produces and directs most of the episodes. New episodes each Friday.

BritBox

The Mallorca Files” (2019), a lighthearted British crime drama about a by-the-book British detective (Elen Rhys) and her from-the-gut German partner (Julian Looman) clashing as they solve crimes in the international community of the Spanish island, makes its U.S. debut.

The Criterion Channel

Criterion Channel presents sixteen films “Starring Catherine Deneuve,” including new-to-Criterion titles “Repulsion (1965), which marked the English language debut of both Deneuve and director Roman Polanski; vampire horror-chic “The Hunger” (1983, R) with Susan Sarandon and David Bowie; and André Téchiné’s “The Girl on the Train” (France, 2009, not rated, with subtitles) with Émilie Dequenne. Also new:

  • “Toshiro Mifune Turns 100” and Criterion spotlights two dozen films from its permanent collection plus the documentary “Mifune: The Last Samurai” (2015);
  • “Three by Yorgos Lanthimos” features the early films by the Greek director, including the streaming debut of his first solo feature”Kinetta” (Greece, 2005, not rated, with subtitles);
  • Oscar-winning classic “On the Waterfront” (1954) with Marlon Brando and Oscar-nominated wartime drama “Europa Europa” (Germany, 1990, R, with subtitles) are presented with bonus interviews and documentaries from the respective special edition disc releases;
  • Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” (1980, R) is presented with the archival commentary track with director Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker from the original laserdisc release from 1990: the very first audio commentary track ever recorded and released!

The weekly column is featured in The Seattle Times, The Spokesman-Review, and other newspapers.

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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 at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.