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Sunday, April 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Stream on Demand: Sean Penn heads a crew of astronauts in new Hulu series ‘The First’

By Sean Axmaker For The Spokesman-Review

What’s new for home viewing on Video on Demand and Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other streaming services.

Top streams for the week

Sean Penn stars in the new Hulu Original drama “The First as a veteran astronaut battling family crisis while guiding the first manned mission to Mars through the politics and funding and technological hurdles necessary to get lift-off. It’s from “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon and costars Natascha McElhone and LisaGay Hamilton. All eight episodes now streaming on Hulu.

The new Prime Original comedy “Forever” stars Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen as a married couple whose comfortable, familiar suburban life gets a jolt when they shake things up with a simple ski trip. It’s created by “Parks and Recreation” veterans Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard. Eight episodes streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Breaking routines is also the theme of “The Land of Steady Habits” (2018, not rated), a comic drama of a newly retired man (Ben Mendelsohn) who leaves his wife (Edie Falco) for adventure. The film by Nicole Holofcener debuts on Netflix days after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

One of the great political thrillers of all time, “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962, PG-13) stars Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey as American G.I.s captured and brainwashed by North Koreans and returned stateside to play their parts in an elaborate conspiracy stage-managed by Harvey’s ruthlessly ambitious mother (Angela Lansbury in an icy, insidious performance that earned her an Oscar nomination). On Prime Video.

Pay-Per-View / Video on Demand

The women call the shots in “Ocean’s 8” (2018, PG-13), a comic caper spin-off starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, and Anne Hathaway.

More intimate are the dramas “The Children Act” (2017, R), starring Emma Thompson as a judge in family court faced with a difficult decision, and “Hearts Beat Loud” (2018, PG-13) with Nick Offerman as a single father who forms a band with his daughter before she goes off to college.

Also new: the remake of “Superfly” (2018, R) with Trevor Jackson, the Sundance award-winning drama “Nancy” (2018, not rated) starring Andrea Riseborough, and the Australian murder mystery “Goldstone” (2016, R).

Available same day as select theaters nationwide is “MDMA” (2018, not rated), a semi-autobiographical drama about a college party drug dealer, and action thriller “Mandy” (2018, not rated) with Nicolas Cage.


The Angel” (2018, not rated) dramatizes the true story of an Egyptian presidential advisor who was also working for Israeli intelligence. It debuts directly to Netflix along with “On My Skin” (Italy, 2018, not rated, with subtitles), a true crime drama that arrives direct from the Venice Film Festival. Other foreign films making their respective American debuts include:

The Resistance Banker” (Netherlands, 2018, not rated, with subtitles) set in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam;

Bleach” (Japan, 2018, not rated, with subtitles), a live action supernatural fantasy adapted from a hit manga;

Last Hope: Part 1” (Japan, 2018, not rated, with subtitles), an animated end-of-the-world sci-fi thriller.

Streaming TV:Norm Macdonald has a Show” is a new talk show with celebrity guests. Also new this week are returning shows “BoJack Horseman: Season 5” and “American Vandal: Season 2” and new reality series “Car Masters: Rust to Riches.”

Foreign TV: Life: Season 1” (South Korea, with subtitles) offers a different cultural take on the medical melodrama. Also new:

historical costume melodrama “The Rise of Phoenixes: Season 1” (China, with subtitles);

sexy political melodrama “Ingobernable: Season 2” (Mexico, with subtitles);

non-fiction sports show “Boca Juniors Confidential: Season 1” (Argentina, with subtitles).

Kid stuff: animated fantasy “The Dragon Prince: Season 1” for adolescents and music-oriented “Super Monsters Monster Party: Season 1” for younger kids.

Amazon Prime Video

The four-part documentary “Pistorius” (2018) charts the career and downfall of South African Paralympic and Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who was tried for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in a much-publicized trial.

Django” (France, 2017, PG-13, with subtitles) dramatizes the story of French jazz legend Django Reinhardt’s escape from Nazi-occupied Paris.

A young man alone in an Antarctica outpost faces deadly creatures “Cold Skin” (2017, not rated), a horror film set in 1914.

Streaming TV: the Prime Original series “Six Dreams: Season 1” (Spain, with subtitles) follows a season with the Betis football club in Spain. Also new is “Call the Midwife: Series 7” from UK and “Blacklist: Season 5” with James Spader.

More foreign affairs: teenage friends swap bodies in the family-oriented fantasy “High Fantasy” (South Africa, 2017, PG-13, with subtitles) is a about friends who swap bodies on a camping trip. Also new:

Tulpan” (Kazakhstan, 2008, not rated, with subtitles), a gentle drama of shepherds on the plains of Kazakhstan;

Adua and Her Friends” (Italy, 1960, with subtitles) with Simone Signoret and Marcello Mastroianni.

Stand-up:Daniel Sloss: Live Shows” features two comedy specials.

Prime Video and Hulu

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a civilian who lost both legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in “Stronger” (2017, R), based on a true story (Prime Video and Hulu).

Also new: action thriller “From Paris With Love” (2009, R) with John Travolta (Prime Video and Hulu) and Christian music drama “Grace Unplugged” (2014, PG) (Prime Video and Hulu).


Past seasons of four series created by Tyler Perry for the OWN channel are now available:

The Haves and the Have Nots,” “If Loving You is Wrong,” “The Paynes,” and “Love Thy Neighbor.”

True stories:Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami” (2017, not rated) profiles the distinctive entertainer onstage and off.

Foreign affairs: a vengeful ghost arises in “The Housemaid” (Vietnam, 2017, not rated, with subtitles), a horror film set in 1953 French Indochina.


Hugh Jackman is P.T. Barnum in “The Greatest Showman” (2017, PG), the surprise musical hit of 2017.

The Deuce: Season 2,” David Simon’s drama of the skin trade in New York City of the 1970s, is back with new episodes arriving Sunday nights.

The fundraising special “Stand Up to Cancer” (2018, TV-PG) celebrates its tenth anniversary.

Also new: HBO Original documentaries “Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age” (2018, TV-MA) and “The Oslo Diaries” (2018, TV-14) and the 1990s sports agency comedy “Arli$$: Seasons 1–7,” now streaming for the first time.

Available Saturday night is “Pitch Perfect 3” (2017, PG-13) with Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and the a cappella gang back for one more chorus.


TCM Select Pick of the Week is Ernst Lubitsch’s delightful romantic comedy “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940) starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as Budapest department store employees who bicker by day but unknowingly woo one another as pen pals at night. The master of dry wit plays his irony with a soft, sentimental touch here and creates a community of fellow employees with just as much sensitivity, especially Frank Morgan as their fatherly boss, who hides the pain of his private life with a generous and comforting exterior. There’s not a false note in this sweet and delicate film. Streams through Dec. 27

It’s one of 14 features in the “Director of the Week: Ernst Lubitsch” collection, which spans his career from his German silent movies through the romantic operetta “The Merry Widow” (1934) with Maurice Chevalier to “To Be or Not to Be” (1942) and “Cluny Brown” (1946).

Also new: “Star of the Week: Julie Christie” collects nine films, including her debut “Billy Liar” (1963), her breakthrough “Darling” (1965) and “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (1971, R) with Warren Beatty; and “Telluride Guest Director: Jonathan Lethem” picks six classic of world cinema, including Akira Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” (Japan, 1958, with subtitles) and Werner Herzog’s “Stroszek” (Germany, 1977, with subtitles).

Other streams

The second season of the Australian mystery series “Jack Irish” with Guy Pearce and Marta Dusseldorp is streaming in its entirety at Acorn TV.

Alison Steadman and John Cleese star in the British sitcom “Hold the Sunset,” which makes its stateside debut on Britbox.

New on disc: “Ocean’s 8,” “Superfly,” “Hearts Beat Loud,” “The Children Act,” “Goldstone”

At Redbox: “Ocean’s 8,” “Superfly,” “Distorted,” “The Watcher in the Woods”

Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. His reviews of streaming movies and TV can be found at

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