Certainly the best new film streaming at the moment is The Power of the Dog (https://film-prof.com/2021/12/07/the-power-of-the-dog/). But of course there are several others that are relatively new, and they’re of varying quality.
Note: I’m writing about them in the order I viewed them, not in ascending or descending order of quality.
Red Notice (Netflix)
Red Notice is a pretty bad film. But if you’re in the right mood and need to turn off your brain, it can be a diverting couple of hours. The cast sounds promising: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot. Johnson is Johnson, Reynolds is perhaps as snarky as he has ever been (with of course a soft center that keeps moving, and yes, I’m including Deadpool), and unfortunately, Gadot is only OK. There are some interesting turns that might be unexpected as well. But really, it’s just a high-gloss international spy/action/heist film with three glamorous and famous stars. When I saw it, that was enough.
Tick, Tick…BOOM! (Netflix)
Tick, Tick…BOOM! is easily the best of these three, and contains what I believe and hope will be an Oscar-nominated performance for lead actor Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man), who has already won some awards for this performance, and has garnered many more nominations for it. It’s also the first film by director (and actor/singer/songwriter/playwright/Pulitzer Prize winner) Lin-Manuel Miranda, still most known for Hamilton. If you’re waiting to see what limits this creative genius has, you won’t find it demonstrated here. It’s a great first film, and since it is about Jonathan Larson, the writer of Rent who died before that play became big, it features the issue of creativity by a director who knows something about the process. (Note: It’s not specifically about the creation of Rent, but about the play that shares the film’s title.) Miranda’s deep understanding of the creative process and Garfield’s performance are the gems here. Garfield learned to sing and play the piano for the role, and he has the perfect singing voice for this kind of artist. If you’re familiar with the actor, you’ll be surprised by the energy, cluelessness, vulnerability, and sheer kookiness he brings to the role.
Is there anything Miranda can’t do? Well, he’s only an OK actor, he’s a limited singer, and his dancing is pretty bad. But what does that matter when he does everything else so well? And now he is an accomplished film director. Folks were waiting to see what major work Miranda would do after Hamilton, looking to the stage for his next major offering. We have an answer to that, and it’s not on the stage. Try looking here at this film.
Encounter (Amazon Prime)
Actor Riz Ahmed, straight off his Oscar-nominated role in The Sound of Metal (2019), has the lead in Encounter. Ahmed plays a father working to save his sons from an alien invasion. (Please note: The aliens are like bugs, and if you don’t like bugs, you’ll hate the first 20 minutes of the film.) The film leans completely on his performance at the beginning, and then puts some of the weight of the film on the kids playing his sons as we go along—especially his older son, played by Lucien-River Chauhan
Ahmed is as good here as he was in The Sound of Metal. I hesitate to think what a weak film this would have been with a lesser actor. Ahmed holds the film together by himself, and gives multiple shades to his character. He is the main reason to see the film, but…there are a couple of great cinematic moments that are all the more powerful for being presented matter-of-factly. Let’s just say that the film doesn’t always go where you think it’s going, but you’ll be happy you went along for the ride.
Final note: There are also themes of family worth discussing with those viewing with you.