Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation won the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film in 2012, making him the first Iranian filmmaker to win an Oscar. He won his second Oscar for The Salesman (2016), a provocative story of violence, trauma, and vengeance would around a stage production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”
Shahab Hosseini stars as Emad Enesami, a literature professor who is also starring in the play opposite his wife Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), a tough enough challenge before they are suddenly upended with a major move when their apartment literally falls apart around them. The stresses of it all are pushed over the edge when Rana is assaulted in their new apartment by a stranger and found on the floor, bleeding and unconscious, by Emad. While she shrinks from the world, terrified to be left alone, he becomes obsessed with tracking down her attacker, out of vengeance as much as justice. Along the way, Farhadi explores life in modern Tehran, a city in the midst of rapid development, where modern life collides with traditional values, even in the mind of a progressive professor intent in bridging the divide between western culture and Iranian life.
It won the Oscar for foreign language feature and Farhadi, in solidarity with immigrants from Muslim majority countries targeted by President Trump’s travel ban, refused to travel to the U.S. to attend the ceremony.
PG-13, in Farsi with English subtitles.
Martin Scorsese is an executive producer of the four-hour, six-part documentary Long Strange Trip: The Untold Story of the Grateful Dead (2017), directed by award-winning filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story, Happy Valley) and featuring plenty of archival footage of the band in performance and off stage.
This rock-doc is “one of the best of its kind,” writes Bruce Handy in Vanity Fair. “Quite deliberately, Long Strange Trip has the feel of an actual Dead concert: generous, baggy, its occasional longueurs more than made up for by extended passages of revelation. For four more hours, the music never stops.”
It premiered at Sundance and arrives on Amazon Prime direct from a week-long run in New York and Los Angeles theaters.
Pay-Per-View / Video-On-Demand
Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, a scathing social drama and a touching portrait of compassion, won the top prize at Cannes in 2016 (R). It debuts on Cable and Streaming VOD the same day it opens in select theaters nationwide. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
The comedy Fist Fight puts one high school teacher (Ice Cube) against another (Charlie Day) for a fight after school (R) and a teenage girl (Zoey Deutch) relives the same day over and over again in Before I Fall, a young adult drama twist on Groundhog Day (PG-13). Both also on DVD and Blu-ray.
Also new: action thriller Collide with Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones (PG-13), indie drama The Drowning with Josh Charles and Julia Stiles (not rated), and horror film Be Afraid with Brian Krause (not rated).
Available same day as select theaters nationwide new: thriller The Exception with Christopher Plummer and Lily James (R), crime drama Vincent N Roxxy with Emile Hirsch and Zoe Kravitz (R), action comedy All About the Money with Eddie Griffin and Blake Freeman (not rated), and LGBT coming of age drama Handsome Devil with Fionn O’Shea and Andrew Scott (not rated).
Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange (2016), the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Comics universe, in the colorful mix of superhero film, magical spectacle, spiritual odyssey, and psychedelic journey (PG-13). This is one trippy hero’s journey. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
More streaming superheroes: the colorful, time-traveling Flash: Season 3, dark urban Arrow: Season 5, and sunny, big city Supergirl: Season 3 offer three takes on the DC Comics universe less than two weeks after ending their respective runs on the CW.
House of Cards: Season 5 attempts to answer the question: can the writers find anything for fictional President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) to do that is more surprising or dramatically jaw-dropping than what is happening in real life? 13 episodes now available.
Foreign affairs: from France comes Staying Vertical (2016), a surreal odyssey with flourishes of fantasy and dark humor from director Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake), and from South Korea comes Lucid Dream (2017), a mystery thriller about a man using dreams to find his missing son (both not rated, with subtitles).
- caper comedy Masterminds (2016) with Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon (PG-13)
- Catfight (2016) with Sandra Oh and Anne Heche (R)
- romantic comedy Playing It Cool (2014) with Chris Evans and Michelle Monaghan (R)
- David Fincher’s sharp thriller Zodiac (2007) with Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo (R)
- Mel Brooks’ hilarious Young Frankenstein (1974) with Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle puttin’ on the Ritz in Transylvania (PG)
More streaming TV:
- the telenovela-inspired comedy Jane the Virgin: Season 3
- young adult sci-fi drama The 100: Season 4
- demon hunter road show Supernatural: Season 12
- American Crime: Season 3, the final season of ABC’s provocative crime anthology series.
- Comedy Central series Comedy Bang! Bang!: Season 5, Part 2
- Netflix original comedies Flaked: Season 2 and F is for Family: Season 2
Kid stuff: the Netflix original animated series Inspector Gadget: Season 3.
Stand-up: Sarah Silverman: A Speck of Dust.
Helen Mirren won an Oscar playing The Queen (2006) in the excellent drama written by Peter Morgan (creator of the Netflix series The Crown) (PG-13) and Ben Affleck made his directorial debut with the superb private eye drama Gone Baby Gone (2007) with future Oscar-winner Casey Affleck (R).
Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole star in Becket (1964), which was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won one Oscar for its screenplay (PG-13).
Foreign affairs: director Grigori Kozintsev brings Shakespeare to Russia with his adaptations of Hamlet (Russia, 1964) and King Lear (Russia, 1971) (both PG) and from France comes the horror film Them (2006). All with subtitles.
Streaming TV: Aidan Turner returns as the darkly romantic Poldark in the second season of the British period drama (10 episodes)
Amazon Prime / Hulu
Also new: David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), which anticipates his TV masterwork Twin Peaks (R) (Amazon Prime and Hulu) (reviewed on Stream On Demand here), Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (1981) with John Travolta in one of his finest performances (R) (Amazon Prime and Hulu), Ridley Scott’s Black Rain (1989) with Michael Douglas as an American cop in Japan (R) (Amazon Prime and Hulu), and The Mechanic (1972) with Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent (PG) (Amazon Prime and Hulu).
Robin Williams may not be World’s Greatest Dad (2009) but he’s trying his best in the dark comedy from director/writer Bobcat Goldthwait (R).
Rutger Hauer is a Hobo With a Shotgun (2011) in the blood-spattered love letter to grindhouse vengeance movies (R) and Compliance (2012), inspired by real events, pushes blind obedience to authority to extremes in a fast food restaurant (R).
Foreign affairs: A Royal Affair (Denmark, 2012) introduced the world to future Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander and Timecrimes (Spain, 2008) is the feature debut of Colossal director Nacho Vigalondo (both R, with subtitles).
Kid stuff: Muppet Treasure Island (1996), with human guest star Michael Caine, The Muppets Take Manhattan (1994), and Muppets from Space (1999) are not the best Muppet movies but they are a family-friendly fun for all ages (all rated G).
True stories: the Oscar-winning Man On Wire (2008) is a veritable caper drama as artistic stunt: the illegal tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 (PG-13). Also new: The Queen of Versailles (2012), about the excess and hubris humbled by the market crash (PG), and Venus and Serena (2013), a profile of the professional tennis sister act (R).
Returning to HBO this month are Christopher Nolan’s sun-bright crime thriller Insomnia (2002) with Al Pacino (R) and the inspirational British film Bend It Like Beckham (2003) that introduced Keira Knightley to American audiences (PG-13).
FilmStruck / Criterion Channel
Three classics released on the Criterion Collection now streaming: Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men (1957) with Henry Fonda (not rated) and Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980, R), both with supplements from the special edition disc releases, and Jacques Tourneur’s original dreamy horror masterpiece Cat People (1942, not rated).
Michael Cera introduces Mike Leigh’s Another Year (2010), an Oscar-nominated British comic drama with Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville (PG-13).
Foreign affairs: Wooden Crosses (France, 1932) a World War I drama from Raymond Bernard, and Les dames du Bois de Boulogne (France, 1945), the feature debut of the great Robert Bresson (not rated, with subtitles).
The second half of 800 Words: Series 2, the quirky Australian comedy about a widower newspaperman who packs his family off to New Zealand, rolls out with new episodes each Monday.
The family-friendly animated feature A Stork’s Journey (2017) will stream for free on Google Play for a limited time before it comes to theater and VOD. The English language version of the German-produced feature will with stream through June 28 (PG).