Video on Demand
By Alex Sitaras
The start of the year brings the release of many original films to VOD, including Phyllida Lloyd’s Herself. The film centers around a mother, Sandra (Clare Dunne), who attempts to build a house for her and her kids. Similar to the lead in I, Daniel Blake, she experiences a number of bureaucratic hurdles that challenge her desire. Finally, with the help of her community, she is able to build her house; however, just as her accomplishment is realized her ex-husband takes her to court for custody of their children. While Herself likely bears much in common with other recent social dramas and melodramas, the film has received praise from critics such as our own Ian Floodgate and the role of Sandra has been called a breakout performance for Clare Dunne, co-writer of the film. It’s rare to see a screenwriter bring their vision to life on screen through an acting credit in addition to writing, and Dunne nonetheless seems to have succeeded in both regards. Herself will be available to stream on Amazon Prime starting January 8th.
Another original release coming later this month is Netflix’s The Dig. The film is directed by Simon Stone and boasts a cast including Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, and Lily James. Mulligan stars as Edith Pretty, a wealthy widow who enlists amateur archeologist Basil Brown (Fiennes) to conduct a dig on her property. This seemingly inconsequential dig becomes the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo, a burial ground consisting of two early medieval cemeteries. The Dig is an adaptation of the John Preston historical novel of the same name, and likewise we should expect some element of fiction in the portrayal of the film’s characters and livelihoods. Even so, the occurrence of the dig in 1939 places the event at the start of World War II, and the historical basis of the film should provide an informative portrayal of the sentiment of the British people and nation during this pivotal time. The Dig will be released in select theaters January 15th with a Netflix release on the 29th.
Also streaming on Netflix is David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. With Mank premiering on the streaming platform early last month, Fincher enthusiasts will no doubt look forward to revisiting Fincher’s take on the best-selling novel. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is also one of the first films that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provided the soundtrack to, their film compositions since growing in recognition following the duo’s compositions for Watchmen and Soul. When The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was originally released as a Swedish film, there was much discussion whether an American adaptation would service the story and be comparable in quality to the original film. Rest assured, Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, and Stellan Skarsgård delivered strong performances and helped to elevate the film to meet expectations. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be streaming January 5th on Netflix.
Coming to Hulu this month is Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society. In one of Robin Williams’s most praised performances, the late actor stars as John Keating, an English teacher who changes students’ lives through his teaching of poetry. For younger audiences less familiar with Robin Williams or this classic film, Hulu’s offering of the film will be welcomed with open arms. Dead Poets Society also stars Robert Sean Leonard (House fans might enjoy seeing the actor’s breakout performance) and Ethan Hawke, an arthouse-acting favorite. The film will be available to stream on Hulu beginning January 1st.
Last but not least, the Paul Thomas Anderson film Boogie Nights will also stream on Hulu this month. The bizarre rags-to-riches story of a nightclub dishwasher turned pornographic film star is regarded as one of the best of Anderson’s career and boasts an ensemble cast consisting of Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heather Graham. The film is set during the Golden Age of Porn in the 1970s and Boogie Nights’ exuberant costumes and characters make the film memorable and worthy of a second (or third… or fourth…) watch. Only his sophomore film, Boogie Nights was a bold rise to prominence for Paul Thomas Anderson and Anderson’s strength in crafting mise-en-scene for period films was also later demonstrated notably in films such as There Will Be Blood, Inherent Vice, and Phantom Thread. Anderson would later collaborate with actors Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, and William H. Macy in his following film Magnolia as well as recurrently with Philip Seymour Hoffman in five of Anderson’s first six films. Boogie Nights starts streaming on Hulu January 1st.
Continue to the next page to read about our most anticipated films coming to home media this month!