“Promised Land” (Netflix) — I expected a drama centered around a small town deciding whether to allow fracking to be pretty didactic and one-sided. But Gus Van Sant has something slyer and more nuanced under his sleeve, casting Matt Damon as a likable fracking rep who really thinks he has the town’s best interests at heart, and John Krasinski as a rather jerkface environmental activist fighting for the hearts and minds of the townspeople.
“The Forbidden Room” (Netflix) — My full review is here. Guy Maddin’s phantasmagorical mishmash of some 20 “lost” films is funny and clever, a rollercoaster ride of over-the-top melodrama that you never want to get off of.
“Peace Officer” (Hulu) — My full review is here. This documentary has both the urgency of a political documentary and the complexity of an Errol Morris documentary, following a charismatic Utah sheriff who begins a crusade against the militarization of police after his suicidal son-in-law is killed by a SWAT team in a standoff.
“Casino Jack” (Shout! Factory TV) — My full review is here. This black comedy could have served as Kevin Spacey’s audition tape for “House of Cards,” as he plays millionaire lobbyist Jack Abramoff, cheerfully making sure government kowtows to powerful corporate interests. He ended up going to prison, but good news! Most of the influence peddling he did has since been made legal.
“Pee Wee’s Big Holiday” (Netflix) — My full review is here. Gags are hit or miss, but this Netflix original captures the cheerful, slightly subversive spirit of Tim Burton’s “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” as Pee Wee ventures out of his Norman Rockwell-esque town. No Large Marge, sadly.