Pay-Per-View / Video-On-Demand
“It Follows,” both the title and the premise of this simple but intelligent low-budget horror, was originally slated to debut on cable and web VOD a couple of weeks after its March theatrical release, but it’s instant success shifted release plans and the VOD was pushed off to this week. A tonic to the spate of “found footage” and shaky-cam horror films designed to look like they are home movies gone bad, this is an intelligently-directed film that turns a simple premise into an insidious ordeal. Reviewed here. Rated R for violence and sexual situations. Also on Blu-ray and DVD.
“Ex Machina” plays the man-vs.-machine story as a chamber drama with a socially naïve programmer (Domhnall Gleeson), a sophisticated artificial intelligence with a feminine appearance (Alicia Vikander), and a manipulative software genius (Oscar Isaac) pulling the strings. This is the science fiction of ideas rather than visual spectacle and it’s all about the mind-games and shifting dynamics. Reviewed here. Rated R for nudity, language, and brief violence. Also on Blu-ray and DVD.
“Clouds of Sils Maria” is director Olivier Assayas’s response to a challenge by actress Juliette Binoche to create a movie about women. The drama of a respected actress (Juliette Binoche) aging out of leading roles, her savvy younger assistant (Kristen Stewart), and a rising superstar and social media darling (Chloë Grace Moretz) has been compared to “All About Eve,” but it’s more introspective and ambivalent on the road to self-awareness. Reviewed here. R for language and brief nudity. Also on DVD.
Also new: the documentaries “The Salt of the Earth,” the Oscar-nominated a portrait of photographer Sebastião Salgado co-directed by Wim Wenders (a talented photographer in his own right) (rated PG-13), and “Dior and I,” about the famed fashion designer (rated R), and the doofus comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” (PG) with Kevin James and his mustache.
Available same day as select theaters nationwide is the revenge thriller “Lila & Eve” with Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez as mothers avenging the deaths of their children and the drama “Safelight“ with Evan Peters and Juno Temple (both rated R).
Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” (2008) is a handsome period piece and a righteously indignant drama of corruption and the abuse of power in Los Angeles. The dramatization of the true story of Christine Collins and her search for her missing son is a perfectly satisfying historical drama of one determined woman who stood up to the system. As it’s Angelina Jolie under all the period frocks and hats, she looks a million dollar babe even when she’s going through hell (a psychiatric ward, which in 1928 is the same thing, especially when the local cops use it as their secret prison for inconvenient women), and she earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the long-suffering but undaunted Collins. Clint Eastwood, who came aboard this drama as a director for hire, doesn’t seem emotionally invested in the project, but it’s a fascinating and shocking story and Eastwood’s meticulous recreation of twenties LA is its own kind of spectacle. The film also earned Oscar nominations for its Art Direction and Cinematography. Queue it up!
Parents with young kids looking for distraction this summer take note: the animated spin-off movie “Penguins of Madagascar” (2014) is now available. Just think of them as the minions of Madagascar. Queue it up.
Another animated offering this week is strictly for adults: “BoJack Horseman: Season 2,” the Netflix original skewering of showbiz and celebrity culture. Queue it up.
“Creep” (2014), a two-hander straddling comedy and horror from actors and filmmakers Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass, comes to Netflix mere weeks after its theatrical release. Queue it up.
“Tig” (2015), a documentary about comedienne Tig Notaro, is the latest Netflix original documentary to debut after a run on the film festival circuit. Queue it up.
Spike Lee’s Kickstarter-funded horror film “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” (2014) is his reworking of the cult vampire film “Ganja and Hess,” a black perspective on the vampire film that incorporates both the African-American experience and black African mythology. Queue it up.
And for cult movie fans, “Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau” (2014) is an unmaking-of documentary that looks at what happened to the film imagined by original director Richard Stanley that became the legendary disaster released in 1996 under the direction of John Frankenheimer and the whims of star Marlon Brando. Queue it up.
Amazon Instant Prime
More seasons of HBO shows roll out: “Boardwalk Empire: Season 3” takes us to the halfway point of the prohibition-era gangster drama (add to watchlist) and “True Blood: Season 5” dives into the ridiculousness of The Authority and the conspiracy to destroy vampirekind (add to watchlist).
In “Two Men in Town,” Forest Whitaker is an ex-con who found Allah in prison and is determined to stay straight upon release and Harvey Keitel is the New Mexico sheriff determined to send him back. Rated R for language. Add to watchlist.
“East Los High: Season 3” continues the Hulu original series about life in East Los Angeles from the American Latino perspective, and this season singer Christina Milian and Oscar-nominated actress Catalina Sandino Moreno join the cast. The first two episodes of the season free for everyone, the rest available by subscription. Watch it here.
Also new: “Agatha Christie’s Marple: Seasons 1-6,” the British mystery series with Geraldine McEwan (and later Julia McKenzie) as the spinster sleuth. All 23 episodes are also available to non-subscribers. Watch it here.
“Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser,” the sequel that nobody request, debuts exclusively on the free streaming service Crackle. David Spade fans can now rest easy and Crackle can take credit for the first direct-to-streaming sequel (taking over from direct-to-cable and direct-to-disc). You can see it here.