STORY WRITTEN BY AMY LONGSDORF
For Digital First Media
Japan’s Suicide Forest — or Aokigahara, at the bottom of Mount Fuji — is the setting for “The Forest,” a dreary horror outing about an American woman (“Game of Thrones” star Natalie Dormer) in search of her missing twin sister (Dormer again).
Director Jason Zada barely scratches the surface of his characters and fails at capturing the inherent spookiness of the woods. Instead, the filmmaker seems more interested in serving up jump scares and playing peek-a-boo with a mystery man (Taylor Kinney) who might or might not have murdered the missing twin. It’s pointless and dull. On Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google, Vudu.
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Mojave: After his wife leaves him, a famous Hollywood filmmaker (Garrett Hedlund) retreats to the desert where he encounters a violent drifter (Oscar Isaac) with whom he debates “Moby Dick” and Shakespeare around the campfire. Improbable and pretentious? You bet, and it only gets more preposterous as it goes along. Writer/director William Monahan (“The Departed”) fails to make either character even remotely sympathetic. Only Walton Goggins and an uncredited Mark Wahlberg as Hollywood creeps provide any fun. On Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google, Vudu.
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Cherry Tree: For better or worse, the scariest scenes in this horror thriller are the close-ups of enormous centipedes slithering around. The bugs, it turns out, carry Satan’s blood derived from the fruit of a haunted tree — or something like that. Naomi Battrick stars as a teenager named Faith who enters into a pact with a witch (Anna Walton) who promises to cure Faith’s leukemia-stricken father if the high schooler will give birth to the Devil’s baby. Irish filmmaker David Keating (“Wake Wood”) stuffs the movie with so much plot, it’s never boring. Too bad he misjudges the gory, over-the-top finale by including too many bloody sacrifices and demon transformations. On Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google, Vudu.
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Doctor Who: Thanks to a new deal struck by Amazon and BBC Worldwide North America, Amazon Prime has made all eight seasons of “Doctor Who” available, along with assorted Christmas specials and standalone episodes. Cue it up, “Who” fanatics. On Amazon Prime.
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Donnie Brasco: It got whacked at the box-office because it’s light on mob action and heavy on the odd-couple friendship between aging hitman Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino) and undercover cop Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp). That’s not to say the film is without blood-letting or dark humor. (A lesson in how to use the word “fuhgeddabout” is a hoot.) But director Mike Newell is more interested in examining codes of masculinity than he is in watching bullets fly. Check this gem out and discover a tense drama that’s better than its reputation suggests. On Hulu.
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Louie: The Complete Fifth Season: While these episodes might not be as dark as the pitch-black fourth season, this series is still among the most surprising and weirdly wonderful on TV. As gut-bustingly funny now as it has always been, “Louie” is arguably at its best in its depiction of Louis’s always-awkward romance with commitment-shy Pamela (Pamela Adlon). Michael Rapaport, Matthew Broderick and Jimmy Fallon contribute guest spots but Louis C.K., the show’s writer, director, editor and star, is the reason this show soars while also cutting deep. On Amazon.
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The Path: “Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul toplines this new Hulu series as a man who joins a Scientology-esque cult overseen by a charismatic leader (Hugh Dancy) and then begins to have second thoughts. Co-starring is Michelle Monaghan as Paul’s wife. According to Slate TV critic Willa Paskin, “The Path” gets better as it goes along. She writes that the series “is not a rollicking Scientology takedown but a more measured, slow-building dismantling of the insidious accommodations required to maintain absolute religious certainty.” On Hulu.
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Sicko: Michael Moore’s essential doc from 2007 about America’s failing healthcare system, would be a bitter pill to swallow if not for the filmmaker’s savvy storytelling skills. Alternating personal testimonies with politicians, the movie makes its points with a mix of humor and hard facts. A sad-but-funny road trip to Cuba where a handful of 9/11 rescue workers receive the treatment denied them by their own HMOs might be a stunt, but it’s certainly an attention-getting one. In other segments, Moore visits a Cuban nun, surveys Norway’s universal healthcare and checks in with an uninsured South Texas man whose cancer treatments are halted when he can’t produce $130,000. On Showtime Anytime.