Usually this weekly streaming column is either partially or entirely devoted to new titles on Netflix Instant. But with Netflix in a bit of a late-December funk (“I, Frankenstein,” anyone?), I thought I would turn my attention to Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Amazon Prime has been busy making exclusive streaming deals with independent film distributors like A24 (“The Bling Ring”) and, in October, Oscilloscope Laboratories. A whole bunch of excellent films from Oscilloscope and elsewhere just went up exclusively on Amazon Prime in the last couple of weeks, so this week’s column will focus on those.
Pick of the week: “Coherence“: My full review is here. I’m a sucker for indie sci-fi that prizes ideas over effects, so the low-budget mindbender “Coherence” is right in my wheelhouse. A yuppie dinner party is interrupted by a power outage, and when the friends go to a neighboring house to investigate, they find . . . well, I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice to say that if you’re into either “The Twilight Zone” or quantum physics, you’ll have a good time.
“Meek’s Cutoff“: My full review is here. “Old Joy” director Kelly Reichardt approach to the Western genre is like “Waiting for Sheriff Godot,” as a starving wagon train of pioneers (including Michelle Williams and Paul Dano) are lost in the prairie, their only hope an untrustworthy guide (Bruce Greenwood). When they capture an Indian who has been tracking them, the film becomes a somber meditation on paranoia and faith, and perhaps a sly allegory to “War on Terror” politics.
“Night Moves“: My full review is here. Reichardt’s latest movie also played with genre, a 2014 thriller about three environmentalists who plot to blow up a hydroelectric dam. The film gains its suspense from watching the trio patiently go about their preparations, with a minimum of fuss, and then deal with the consequences afterward.
“The Messenger“: My full review is here. Oren Moverman’s 2010 drama (here’s my interview with him) takes a different look at the Iraq War, following two soldiers (an excellent Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster) who are tasked with informing families that their loved ones have been killed overseas. While the film is quite sad at times, it’s never maudlin, and the humanity and even humor of the characters wins out.
“Howl“: My full review is here. I still don’t know how casting James Franco to play poet Allen Ginsberg worked, but it does in this unorthodox drama that mixes scenes of Ginsberg reading his seminal beat poem in a club with dramatized scenes of the obscenity trial that “Howl” sparked.