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Stream on Demand: ‘The Great’ has great fun satirizing Russian history

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult in “The Great.” (Hulu)
Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult in “The Great.” (Hulu)
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

Elle Fanning plays Russian Empress Catherine the Great in The Great (TV-MA), a satirical take on the rise of the legendary 18th century ruler. The series, reated by Tony McNamara (Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “The Favourite”), gleefully ignores period accuracy to create a raucous portrait of court intrigue and political machinations as the naive young bride to the childish and tyrannical Peter (Nicholas Hoult) becomes a savvy political animal. This is costume drama as bawdy slapstick satire, lavishly produced and “intentionally ahistorical,” giving the series permission to mix modern sensibilities with period detail. All 10 episodes streaming on Hulu.

The limited series I Know This Much Is True(TV-MA), based on the bestselling novel by Wally Lamb, stars Mark Ruffalo as twin brothers: troubled Dominic, who suffers from schizophrenia, and the protective, angry Thomas, who battles to free his brother from the prison Dominic has been sent to after inflicting serious self-harm. Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”) adapts the novel and directs all six episodes, and Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis, Kathryn Hahn, Archie Panjabi and Rosie O’Donnell also star. New episodes on HBO each Sunday.

Becoming (2020, PG), a documentary portrait of Michelle Obama, follows the former first lady across the country as she promotes her memoir. Along with exclusive interviews, remembrances and public appearances, the documentary also shows Obama in conversation with the folks she meets along the way, giving audiences a glimpse into her nature outside the glare of the national spotlight. Streaming on Netflix.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend (2020, TV-14) revives the Netflix comedy created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock for an interactive wedding special that gives audiences power to choose the journey of Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) as she goes up against her nemesis (Jon Hamm) while preparing for her wedding. Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski and Carol Kane are back in the reunion special with guest star Daniel Radcliffe. Streaming on Netflix.

The Last Narc(2020, TV-MA) investigates the 1985 kidnapping and murder of DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, the most notorious murder in the history of the DEA. All four parts of the nonfiction limited series are streaming in Amazon Prime Video.

Pay-Per-View / Video on Demand

Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville play a married couple facing a cancer crisis in Ordinary Love (2020, R), and Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield star in the romantic drama The Photograph(2020, PG-13).

A Sicilian mafia soldier (Pierfrancesco Favino) hiding in Brazil betrays the mob and helps take down the Cosa Nostra in Marco Bellocchio’s The Traitor (Italy, 2019, R, with subtitles), a drama based on a true story.

Available direct to VOD is Capone (2020, R) starring Tom Hardy as the aging Chicago crime boss as he loses his mind to dementia. Linda Cardellini and Kyle MacLachlan also star in the film directed by Josh Trank. Also new:

Proximity (2020, not rated), a science-fiction mystery about a NASA scientist determined to prove he was abducted by aliens;

Castle in the Ground (2020, not rated), a drama set in the opioid crisis starring Alex Wolff and Imogen Poots.

Premium VOD: The animated “Scoob!” (2020, PG) tells the origin story of Scooby Doo and Shaggy with a twist of mystery and global apocalypse. The voice case includes Will Forte, Gina Rodrigiez, Amanda Seyfried and Zac Efron.


A British woman (Laura Haddock) travels to Spain to solve the murder of her DJ brother in White Lines (not rated), a crime drama from “Money Heist” creator Alex Pina set in the drug-fueled 1990s party culture of Manchester and Ibiza.

The true crime documentary series Trial by Media (2020, TV-MA) looks at how key high-profile trials have been influence by TV and newspaper coverage. Six episodes available.

Dustin Hoffman directs Quartet (2012, PG-13) starring Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins as retired opera singers who clash in their annual reunion.

Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics (2020, TV-MA) is not so much a documentary as a collection of drug stories told by actors, musicians, comedians and writers and illustrated in comic skits and animated sequences.

A guy (David Spade) mistakenly invites The Wrong Missy (2020, TV-MA) to a corporated retreat in the raunchy Netflix Original comedy co-starring Lauren Lapkus.

Streaming TV: The gonzo teen soap opera Riverdale: Season 4 (TV-14) sends the Archie gang even deeper into murder and conspiracy. Also new:

CW series Charmed: Season 2 (TV-14), with the magical sisters learning the responsibilities of becoming the Elders;

Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy: Season 16 (TV-14) with Ellen Pompeo;

Reality-TV series Magic for Humans: Season 3 (TV-14).

International TV: An unemployed man (Eric Cantona) leaps at a chance at a corporate job, only to find himself a pawn in an insidious experiment, in Inhuman Resources: Season 1 (France, not rated, with subtitles). Also new:

Latin American comedy The Unremarkable Juanquini: Season 1 (Colombia, not rated, with subtitles);

Scandinavian crime drama “Bordertown: Season 3” (Finland, TV-MA, with subtitles).

Kid stuff: True - Terrific Tales: Season 1 (TV-Y) is a new incarnation of the animated series for young children. Also new is the fifth season of the animated adventure She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (TV-Y7).

Amazon Prime Video

The documentary series Regular Heroes (2020, 13+) profiles health care workers, first responders and other essential workers putting themselves on the line during the coronavirus crisis. New episodes each Friday.

Kristen Stewart delivers a superb performance as Jean Seberg, the American movie star who was targeted by the FBI for her Civil Rights activism and hounded into a breakdown, in the otherwise disappointing Seberg (2019, R). Jack O’Connell, Margaret Qualley and Anthony Mackie also star in the Amazon Original feature.

Jennifer Garner is an international spy in Alias: Complete Series (2001-2006, TV-14), the high-concept, action-packed espionage series created by J.J. Abrams that also launched the career of Bradley Cooper. All 105 episodes now available.  

Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan are divorcing parents in the touching drama What Maisie Knew (2013, R), which reimagines Henry James’ novel in the modern world of urban New York. Also newly arrived:

Action horror Dog Soldiers(2002, R), which pits peacetime soldiers against a pack of werewolves;

Oscar-nominated theater drama The Dresser(1983, PG) with Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay.


“Downton Abbey” (2019, PG), the big-screen sequel to the British TV series, was a surprise hit in the U.S. Think of it as the show’s grandest episode ever. 

Arriving Saturday night is Joker (2019, R), which earned Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar for his performance as a mentally troubled man who becomes a psychopathic supervillain. 

Other streams

The new crime drama “Hightown” (2020, TV-MA), set in the fishing and tourist culture of the Massachusetts coast, stars Monica Raymund as a reckless fishery agent who gets a shot at redemption when she investigates a murder tied to the local heroin epidemic. New episodes each Sunday on all Starz platforms. 

Martin Freeman is a police detective on the trail of a serial killer in A Confession (2019, not rated), a limited-series crime drama from England. All seven episodes debut on BritBox. 

The documentary Basketball County: In the Water (2020, TV-MA) looks at the culture of Prince George’s County, Maryland, that spawned dozens of NBA, WNBA and elite college basketball players. It debuts on all Showtime platforms. Also new on Showtime:

Ophelia (2019, PG-13), which offers a different take on “Hamlet” from the perspective of Ophelia (Daisy Ridley);

Science-fiction drama Speed of Life (2019, TV-14) with Allison Tolman and Ann Dowd.

Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning reunite for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019, PG), with Michelle Pfeiffer joining the cast as the film’s icy villain. Now streaming on Disney+. 

CBS All Access adds 100 classic and contemporary movies to its streaming service, including The Portrait of a Lady (1996, R) with Nicole Kidman, Funny Girl (1968, G) with Barbra Streisand, Oscar winners The Godfather (1972, R) and The Godfather Part II (1974, R), Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “To Catch a Thief” (1955), and modern indie comedy The Intervention (2016, R) from actor/director Clea DuVall. 

It Felt Like Love (2013, not rated), the debut feature by director Eliza Hittman (“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”), debuts on Criterion Channel along with two of her early short films. Also new:

Documentary “Langlois” (France, 1970, with subtitles) about the founder of the French Cinemateque;

A collection of films featuring title sequences created by the great graphic artist and filmmaker Saul Bass, from Otto Preminger’s The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) to Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993, PG), plus the cult science-fiction film Phase IV (1974, PG) directed by Bass;

A collection of short films by the Quay Brothers, including their animated masterpiece Street of Crocodiles (1986) and the documentary The Phantom Museum (2003, not rated).

New on disc and at Redbox

“Bird of Prey,” “Fantasy Island,” “The Call of the Wild,” “The Photograph,” “Vivarium” 

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

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