Uncut Gems (New on Netflix)
Intense filmmakers the Safdie Brothers bring their potent brand of anxiety-inducing entertainment to this tale of jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a man living on the edge and constantly refusing to get off the thrill ride. Ratner owes big money to his brother-in-law, and the thugs his family member's hired to strong arm him.
Still, Ratner has a way out of his predicament via a precious uncut stone he's brought in from Ethiopia. But Ratner being Ratner, he's constantly spinning the stone and several scenarios up in the air, drifting between his wife and family and the girlfriend he has on the side, and hedging his ever-escalating bets to pull off a larger win. In the end, that's not necessarily a good thing for Ratner.
For audiences looking to de-escalate their own stress by walking alongside someone who remains exuberant while imminently worse off than most of us, this film, now on Netflix, is a triumph for the Safdies and Sandler, who won Best Actor at the 2020 Indie Spirit Awards.
I Still Believe (New on Hulu)
The real-life story of Christian singer Jeremy Camp makes its debut on Hulu, only a couple of months after its premiere in theaters right before the COVID-19 pandemic closed the box office. A hit on pay video on demand, the film should also do well on subscription video on demand, recounting a very personal tragedy for Camp and its final resolution.
Played here by "Riverdale" tv lead and budding movie star KJ Apa, Camp is a rising talent who meets and falls for fellow Christian Melissa Henning (Britt Robertson) when he sets off from Indiana to attend Calvary Chapel College in Murrieta, California.
The two don't initially pursue a relationship due to another friend who's also in love with her, but, when she's diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, Camp and Henning admit their love and become engaged. For a time, she's able to regain her strength, and the two are married. The cancer, though, returns. It's then that Camp's faith is truly tested.
Joker (New on HBO Max – Wed., 05/27)
Joaquin Phoenix won the Best Actor Oscar for his unforgettable take on the Joker in this origin tale set in a seedy early '80s-esque urban landscape. The tale is gritty and grim. No Batman is present to save the city. And day by day, failed comedian Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) roams this wasteland, is constantly made fun of and abused by his peers, and is a ticking time bomb.
When Dent finally decides to do something about his situation, and claim an identity as Joker, the results are sad and violent. Director Todd Phillips' film here, nominated also for Best Picture, is not pretty at all. But it's compelling and it's hard to keep from watching. The film is a reflection of a certain element of discontent that's very much a part of today's world – which is scary and needs to be addressed. Catch the film this week on the new streaming platform, HBO Max.
Available Wednesday on: HBO Max
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