A wealth of high-profile films arrive on various streaming platforms this week, proving that a starry fall movie season is possible during these unprecedented times. So update those watch-lists and mark your calendars for this busy movie week.
Alex Gibney's documentary "Totally Under Control," shot and completed over the past seven months of lockdown, has arrived on Hulu (it's been on VOD for a week). This inspection of how the U.S. bungled its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is required watching for all.
On Wednesday, Netflix debuts Ben Wheatley's remake of the Alfred Hitchcock 1940 classic film "Rebecca," with Lily James taking on Joan Fontaine's role as "the new Mrs. de Winter" and Armie Hammer stepping into Laurence Olivier's shoes as the wealthy playboy aristocrat Maxim de Winter. Daphne du Maurier's 1938 novel is adapted by Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, and costars Kristin Scott Thomas in the role of the imposing housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, made famous by Judith Anderson 80 years ago.
Thursday brings another remake just in time for spooky season. "The Witches" swoops onto HBO Max, starring a pair of Oscar-winning actresses, Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer. It's a remake of the 1990 Nicolas Roeg film, based on a book by Roald Dahl, starring Anjelica Huston. The new version is directed by Robert Zemeckis, who also adapted the screenplay with the help of Kenya Barris and Guillermo del Toro. The original is on Netflix if you need to watch it before catching the new one.
Friday brings a couple of familiar filmmakers to streaming services. On Apple TV+, it's Sophia Coppola's latest venture, "On the Rocks," starring Rashida Jones and Coppola muse Bill Murray. This is her first foray into straightforward comedy, with this father-daughter buddy comedy about a jet-setting playboy dad connecting with his daughter over an extramarital affair they suspect her husband ( Marlon Wayans) is conducting. It's a pleasant and charming, if a bit unexciting, but a love letter to classic spots in New York City.
Also arriving Friday on Amazon Prime is "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," the full title of which is, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." Fresh off the streaming debut of "The Trial of the Chicago 7" on Netflix, actor/comedian/prankster Sasha Baron Cohen delivers a sequel 14 years after his "Borat" (or "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan") became a comedic cultural phenomenon. Once again, Kazakh TV journalist Borat ( Baron Cohen) makes his way to the United States to investigate our culture, this time encountering the COVID-19 shutdown and bringing along his daughter ( Irina Novak) to marry off. Directed by Jason Woliner, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" just might need the dose of silliness and absurdist cultural commentary we need in this dire year. Will Borat be able to top the reality of 2020? Only one way to find out.
Alexandra Pelosi's documentary "American Selfie: One Nation Shoots Itself," premiering on Showtime Friday, is another take on the events of 2020 in the United States but with a much more sobering point of view. While inspecting the events of the past year, filmmaker Pelosi "takes the pulse of the country while capturing the fervor of this precise moment," according to the Showtime synopsis. It may be triggering, but illuminating, for Americans trying to make sense of this moment.
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