What to stream: ‘The Willoughbys’ and ‘Midnight Gospel’ on Netflix, ‘Abominable’ on Hulu, ‘The Farewell’ free on Kanopy

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

A couple of new animated features debut on streaming platforms. The brightly-colored comedy “The Willoughbys” (2020, PG), based on the children’s book by Lois Lowry, takes a whimsical approach to the macabre as four neglected young siblings concoct a plan to orphan themselves. It features the voices of Will Forte, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, and Maya Rudolph and debuts directly to Netflix.

In the gentle adventure “Abominable” (2019, PG), three young teenagers help a lost Yeti get back home to Everest while a doctor and a rare animal collector follow in hot pursuit. Features the voices of Chloe Bennet, Eddie Izzard, and Sarah Paulson. Streaming on Hulu.

More adult oriented is “The Midnight Gospel: Season 1” (TV-MA), a psychedelic animated fantasy from “Adventure Time” creator Pendleton Ward and comedian/podcaster Duncan Trussell that combines offbeat humor with existential explorations of life, death, and happiness and an animation style that recalls “Rick and Morty.” Eight episodes streaming on Netflix.

Defending Jacob” (TV-MA), an eight-part limited series starring Chris Evans as an assistant D.A. whose teenage son (Jaeden Martell) is accused of murder, streams in its entirety on Apple TV+.

The superhero thriller “Code 8” (2019, TV-MA) starring Robbie Amell and Stephen Amell (who have both played small superheroes) was barely a blip at the box office but has become a hit on Netflix and may tide audiences over as big screen superhero films await the reopening of theaters.

Ip Man 4: The Finale” (China, 2019, not rated, with subtitles), with Donnie Yen back in the role of the legendary martial arts teacher, brings the hit series to a close with a trip to 1964 San Francisco and a visit with Ip Man’s student Bruce Lee (played by Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan). On Cable On Demand, VOD, and DVD, and at Redbox.

Classic pick: while you may cringe a little to see Peter Sellers don dark make-up to play an accident-prone East Indian actor, “The Party” (1968, PG) is a sweet film with a cascade of hilarious visual gags created by Sellers and his “Pink Panther” director Blake Edwards. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Free pick: indie drama “The Farewell” (2019, PG) follows the story of a Chinese-American woman (Awkwafina) who can’t understand why her family won’t tell her grandmother she has cancer. Filmmaker Lulu Wang, drawing from her own experience, uses humor and culture clash to explore death, grieving, and family relations. It’s poignant and funny and resists sliding into sentiment. Streams free on Kanopy, available through most library systems.

Pay-Per-View / Video-On-Demand

Action comedy “Bad Boys for Life“(2020, R), starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence back in the buddy cop roles they first played over 20 years ago, is the year’s biggest hit to date. Also on DVD and at Redbox. Also new:

  • buddy comedy “Like a Boss” (2020, R) with Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, and Salma Hayek;
  • based-on-a-true-story war drama “The Last Full Measure” (2020, R) with Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christopher Plummer.

Available direct to VOD is “True History of the Kelly Gang” (2019, not rated) with George MacKay as infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly and costarring Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult, and Charlie Hunnam. Also new:

  • dark-humored horror comedy “Why Don’t You Just Die!” (Russia, 2020, not rated, with subtitles);
  • American indie thriller “1BR” (2019, not rated).


Chris Hemsworth plays a mercenary on a mission to rescue a drug lord’s kidnapped son in Bangladesh in “Extraction” (2020, R), a thriller written and produced by Joe Russo (who guided Hemsworth through two “Avengers” movies). Action choreographer Sam Hargrave makes his feature directing debut on this Netflix original film and Golshifteh Farahani and David Harbour costar.

Middleditch & Schwartz” (2020, not rated) presents comedy duo Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz performing three completely improvised specials in front of a live audience.

The family-friendly natural history series “Absurd Planet: Season 1” (not rated) spotlights and explores the most unusual animals around the world.

Two new mystery movie thrillers arrive from Europe: “The Silence of the Marsh” (Spain, 2020, not rated, with subtitles) starring Pedro Alonso as crime novelist whose research gets mired in real-life crime and “The Plagues of Breslau” (Poland, 2018, not rated, with subtitles), where detective connects a serial killer’s crimes to an 18th century murder spree.

Streaming TV: Michael Shannon, Taylor Kitsch, and Rory Kulkin star in the Emmy-nominated limited series “Waco” (2018, TV-MA), about the disastrous 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound, originally produced for Paramount Network. Also new:

True stories: “Circus of Books” (2019, not rated) tells the strange but true story of a middle aged, conservative Jewish couple who turned their San Francisco bookstore into an adult emporium and a haven for the gay community. 

International TV: the third season of the melodramatic dark comedy “The House of Flowers” (Mexico, TV-MA, with subtitles) is now available.

Stand-up:  “Yours Sincerely, Kanan Gill” (not rated).

Amazon Prime Video

John Sayles directs “The Secret of Roan Inish” (1994, PG), a mix of family drama and modern fairy tale set in 1940s Ireland.

International cinema: Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book” (Netherlands, 2007, R, with subtitles) is a riveting World War II resistance thriller with a runaway pace, a gripping sense of peril, and cinematic flair.


Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel star in “A Kind of Murder” (2016, R), a crime drama that leans on more on character and psychology than mystery, adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel “The Blunderer.”

True stories: “Cunningham” (2019, PG) profiles the influential American choreographer Merce Cunningham.


The new non-fiction series “We’re Here” (TV-MA) follows Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara and Shangela Laquifa Wadley as they recruit and train small-town residents for a drag performance. New episodes each Thursday.

Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista star in the action comedy “Stuber” (2019, R).

The third season of the HBO Europe crime thriller “Shadows” (Romania, with subtitles) is exclusive to HBO On Demand and streaming platforms.

Available Saturday night is the HBO original movie “Bad Education (2020, TV-MA) with Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney.

Showtime Anytime

The documentary “The Longest War” (2020, TV-MA) exams America’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Apple TV+

Spike Jonze directs “Beastie Boys Story” (2020, TV-MA), a filmed record of the multimedia stage show starring Adam Horovitz and Mike Diamond reminiscing about the history of the iconic hip-hop group.

Sundance Now

Estranged identical twins swap places in “Sanctuary: Season 1” (Sweden, not rated, with subtitles), a thriller set in a remote clinic where psychopaths are studied. Matthew Modine costars. New episodes each Thursday.

The Criterion Channel

Criterion Channel presents a collection of films “Directed by Maurice Pialat,” from “L’enfance nue” (France, 1968, not rated, with subtitles), his drama of a foster child bounced from home to home, to his biographical drama “Van Gogh” (France, 1991, not rated, with subtitles) on the final days of the troubled impressionist painter. Also new:

  • a selection of four “Early Douglas Sirk” movies, including “A Scandal in Paris” (1946) with George Sanders and the witty mystery “Lured” (1947) with Lucille Ball as American showgirl in London;
  • special presentations of Elaine May’s “Mikey and Nicky” (1976, R), an underworld drama as character piece with John Cassavetes and Peter Falk, and the landmark documentary “Salesman” (1969, not rated), both featuring with bonus interviews and other supplements carried over from the special edition disc releases.


Beginning on Quibi this week is the offbeat comedy “Dummy” (not rated) with Anna Kendrick as an aspiring writer who befriends her boyfriend’s sex doll.

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.