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Stream on Demand: Movies, shows put politics front and center

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 15, 2020

By Sean Axmaker For The Spokesman-Review

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

Top streams for the week

Courtroom drama meets political theater in “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (2020, not rated), Aaron Sorkin’s dramatization of the real-life trial of protest leaders at the 1968 Democratic National Convention charged with “conspiracy.” Sorkin takes on issues of free speech, protest and suppression within the clash between the counterculture and mainstream, and the conflict between defendants Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), bringing a timely relevance to the this chapter of American history. The high-powered cast also includes Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Carroll Lynch, and Frank Langella. (Netflix)

Writer and actress Heidi Schreck, a Washington state native, revisits her teenage years and her relationship with the nation’s founding document in her original play “What the Constitution Means to Me” (2020, not rated). Director Marielle Heller (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”) brings the live show to the small screen. (Amazon Prime)

“Clouds” (2020, PG-13) dramatizes the true story of high school musician Zach Sobiech (Fin Argus), whose original song went viral as he was dying of a rare bone cancer. Sabrina Carpenter, Tom Everett Scott and Neve Campbell also star. (Disney+)

Using video footage shot over the course of two decades, the documentary “Time” (2020, PG-13) chronicles the story of a woman raising her six sons while fighting for the release of her husband from the notorious Angola prison in Louisiana. It won awards at the Sundance and Full Frame Documentary film festivals. (Amazon Prime)

“Helstrom: Season 1” (TV-MA), based on Marvel Comics, is a supernatural thriller about the grown children (Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon), of a serial killer and a demonically possessed mother, who devote their lives to hunting down the worst of humanity. (Hulu)

Election season: “A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote” (TV-14) is a theatrical stage presentation of the “Hartsfield’s Landing” episode from the show’s third season featuring actors Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Rob Lowe, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, Martin Sheen and Jeff Mooring, formerly of Spokane, reprising their roles. Between acts, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Lin-Manuel Miranda offer commentary. (HBO Max)

“You Choose 2020” (not rated) is a free interactive guide to the voting process aimed at younger voters. (YouTube)

Pay-Per-View / Video on Demand

Dev Patel stars in “The Personal History of David Copperfield” (2019), PG), Armando Iannucci’s jaunty, energetic adaptation of the sprawling Charles Dickens classic about an orphan whose spirit helps him triumph over adversity.

Edward James Olmos directs and stars in “The Devil Has a Name” (2019, R), a whistleblower drama featuring David Strathairn as a California farmer battling a polluting oil company. Martin Sheen, Haley Joel Osment and Kate Bosworth costar.

”S#!%house” (2020, R), an indie college comedy with a vulnerable center, won to the Grand Jury Prize at the SXSW festival.

Alex Gibey’s documentary “Totally Under Control” (2020, not rated) investigates the failed American response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premium VOD: “Kajillionare” (2020, R), Miranda July’s offbeat crime comedy, stars Evan Rachel Wood as the daughter of grifters (Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins) who invite a new member (Gina Rodriguez) to their crew.

Netflix

A high school freshman (Tamara Smart) finds herself ushered into a secret society that guards their charges from monsters in “A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting” (2020, TV-PG), based on the popular scary book series by Joe Ballarini.

“La Révolution: Season 1” (France, not rated, with subtitles) reimagines French history with a horror movie twist. The decadent aristocracy turn into literal blue bloods plagued by a disease that turns them into bloodthirsty killers, and the inventor of the guillotine (Amir El Kacem) becomes the unlikely hero of the French Revolution.

Brad Pitt hits a home run in “Moneyball” (2011, PG-13), a drama about how the business of baseball was reinvented by Billy Beane in the era of multimillion-dollar payrolls.

Streaming TV: “Grand Army: Season 1” (not rated) follows five students at the largest public high school in Brooklyn struggling to survive and succeed. Also new:

“Social Distance” (not rated), an anthology series of tales shot in isolation;

• Reality series “Dream Home Makeover: Season 1” (not rated)

• Five-part reality comedy series “The Cabin with Bert Kreischer” (2020, not rated);

• Two more black cast sitcoms: “One on One: Seasons 1-5” (2001-2006) with Flex Alexander and Kyla Pratt and “Half & Half: Seasons 1-4” (2002-2006) with Essence Atkins and Rachel True.

International passport: “Someone Has to Die” (Spain, not rated, with subtitles) is three-part crime thriller about love and family honor in 1950s Spain. Also new:

“Start-Up: Season 1” (South Korea, with subtitles), a drama set on the cutthroat world of Korea’s high-tech industry;

“Alice Junior” (Brazil, 2019, not rated, with subtitles), an LGBTQ romantic comedy of a transgender teenager;

“A Choo” (Taiwan, not rated, with subtitles), a romantic fantasy of a boxer with superpowers.

True stories: “Rooting for Roona” (2020, not rated) chronicles the journey of a child with hydrocephalus who gets a chance at life-changing surgery after her photos go viral.

The animated “Batman: The Killing Joke” (2016, R) adapts and expands the landmark graphic novel written by Alan Moore.

Amazon Prime Video

More Halloween horrors in the “Welcome to the Blumhouse” anthology: “Evil Eye” (2020, not rated), based on the award-winning, bestselling Audible Original production from writer Madhuri Shekar, and “Nocturne” (2020, not rated), a thriller about competitive twin sisters at an elite arts academy.

Hulu

Two small-screen spinoffs of big-screen hits arrive: action thriller “Treadstone: Season 1” (TV-MA), set in the “Bourne Identity” universe of government assassins, and horror series “The Purge: Season 2” (TV-MA).

”The Painted Bird” (Czech Republic, 2019, not rated, with subtitles), a savage, grueling Holocaust drama featuring Harvey Keitel and Stellan Skarsgard, polarized audiences at the 2019 Venice Film Festival.

HBO Max / HBO Now

”Cats” (2019, PG), the big screen version of the hit Broadway musical featuring Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, and Judi Dench in digitally applied fur, was a notorious flop that became a cult film for heckling audiences. (All HBO platforms)

Based on the book by New York Times national security correspondent David E. Sanger, the documentary “The Perfect Weapon” (2020, TV-14) explores the rise of cyber conflict between nations. (All HBO platforms)

Other streams

Aaron Pedersen returns as Indigenous detective Jay Swan in the second series of “Mystery Road” (not rated) a murder mystery set in the remote Australian Outback. Two episodes available, new episodes each Monday. (Acorn TV)

The three-part British crime thriller “Des” (not rated), based on a true story, delves into the mind of Britain’s most prolific serial killer (played by David Tennant). New episodes on subsequent Thursdays through October. (Sundance Now)

The “Play for Today Collection” presents dozens of selections from the 14-year run of original and adapted TV plays written and directed by some of Britain’s greatest talents, among them Mike Leigh, Michael Apted and Alan Clarke. (Britbox)

”Mr. Mercedes: Seasons 1 & 2” (2017-2018, TV-MA) stars Brendan Gleeson as a retired detective who goes after a serial killer. Originally created for the Audience network by David E. Kelly, who adapted the “Bill Hodges” trilogy by Stephen King. (Peacock)

”The Spanish Princess: Part 2” (TV-MA) continues the story of Queen Catherine and Henry VIII (Charlotte Hope and Ruairi O’Connor. New episode each Sunday. (Starz)

The limited series “Meet the Chimps” takes cameras into the simian society that inhabits Chimp Haven, a wildlife sanctuary in Louisiana. Jane Lynch narrates. (Disney+)

Shudder, the horror streaming service, debuts the exclusive features “The Mortuary Collection” (2019) an anthology horror film hosted by Clancy Brown, and “The Cleansing Hour” (2019, not rated), a twist on the exorcism genre.

”Starring Joan Crawford” presents over two dozen features spanning five decades from the Hollywood superstar, from the wonderfully weird silent horror “The Unknown” (1927) to the Gothic thriller “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962) costarring Bette Davis in gargoyle mode, with some her most greatest and most glamorous films in between, among them the all-star classic “Grand Hotel” (1932), crime drama “A Woman’s Face” (1941), and film noir classics “Mildred Pierce” (1945), with Crawford in an Oscar-winning performance, and “Sudden Fear” (1952). New on Criterion Channel this month along with:

”Watching the Polls,” a collection of films that includes Hal Ashby’s “Shampoo” (1975, R), starring Warren Beatty and set on election night in 1968, and Alexander Payne’s satirical “Election” (1999, R) with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick;

• The sparkling romantic comedy “Trouble in Paradise” (1932) with Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins as jewel thieves in Europe (featuring supplements from the special edition disc release).

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

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