STORY WRITTEN BY AMY LONGSDORF
For Digital First Media
If you’ve ever fantasized about “Chinatown” being remade as a cartoon, check out “Zootopia,” a wonderfully weird and wacky who-dun-it populated by animated animals of all sizes, shapes and species.
Front and center is feisty bunny Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a new graduate of the police academy who teams up with a snarky fox (Jason Bateman) to solve a tricky case involving the disappearance of a handful of predators. Everything works like a charm from the adventurous animation to the film’s smart take on race, gender and crime-solving. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
Also New To Streaming
Anomalisa: Charlie Kaufman (“Adaptation”) follows up his ambitious directorial debut “Synedoche, New York” with the simple yet lovely story of an unhappily married motivational speaker (David Thewlis) who, while on a business trip to Cincinnati, meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a woman unlike any other in his life. “Anomalisa” features strangely realistic puppets who, thanks to the actors voicing them, seem wholly human. When Lisa breaks into a chorus of “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” the film really takes flight, reminding you of the joys of falling in love. This unique take on love, loss and loneliness is a bittersweet delight. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
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Touched With Fire: So many filmmakers romanticize mental illness that this heartfelt indie about a pair of manic depressive poets scores points simply by being clear-eyed about its protagonists. After meeting at a treatment facility, Clara (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby) fall in love but their romance brings out both the beauty and horror of their bipolar disorder. Writer/director Paul Dalio does a terrific job capturing Clara and Marco’s connection without letting you forget how dangerous the pair are to themselves – and others – when they go off their meds. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
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One More Time: A pouty Amber Heard stars as a failed musician who holes up at the Hamptons mansion of her father (Christopher Walken), a former crooner hungry for a comeback. Heard doesn’t get along with her Pop, her stepmom (Ann Magnuson) or her straight-arrow sister (Kelli Garner) but writer/director Robert Edwards fails to find interesting ways to dramatize those conflicts. Walken tries hard, even singing a song or two. Too bad Heard’s character is the focus; you can’t wait for the movie to end just so you can escape her company. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
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Fever: Something of a riff on the infamous Leopold and Loeb case from the 1920s, this modern-day suspenser begins with the thrill-killing of a Parisian woman by two upper-crust high-schoolers (Martin Lozillon, Pierre Moure.) As they’re fleeing the scene of the crime, they bump into a witness (Julie-Marie Parmentier) who suspects something is amiss. After such a riveting beginning, the film more or less meanders for the next 80 minutes, with the exception of an exciting grocery store interlude which owes a debt to the museum sequence in “Dressed To Kill.” There’s some provocative questions raised about the banality of evil but “Fever” fails to deliver on its promise. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
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Tab Hunter Confidential: Voted one of the Top Ten LGBT documentaries of 2015 by The Advocate, this film spins the saga of the closeted ‘50s star. Director Jeffrey Schwarz has assembled dozens of past and present Hollywood stars, as well as Hunter himself, to talk frankly about being a survivor of the Hollywood roller coaster. On iTunes.
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Middle of Nowhere: Before she helmed “Selma,” Ava DuVernay wrote and directed this absorbing character study of a nurse named Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi), who puts her own life on hold for four years to help her incarcerated husband (Omari Hardwick) win an early release from prison. When he scuttles his parole by taking part in a riot, Ruby feels lost. But she begins to find herself with the help of a new suitor (David Oyelowo) and a fresh outlook on life. DuVernay takes a slow-burn approach to the story, patiently revealing the bruised humanity of all the characters. On Netflix.
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Seattle Road: In this digital-only release, a complicated romance, is put under the microscope. Eve (Julia Voth) is a wounded woman, the product of an affluent and sophisticated background. Adam (Maximillian Roeg) is a sheltered, vulnerable man raised in a cult-like commune with his mother and younger brother. Together this pair decide to squat in a home in the middle of the country. Exploring ideas of serendipity and predestination, Adam and Eve are on a romantic collision course that mirrors the archetypal story from Genesis. On Amazon.
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Love and Mercy: Stunningly directed by Bill Pohlad, this biopic of Brian Wilson follows the Beach Boys founder from the highs of “Pet Sounds” to the lows of the early ’80s, when he’d fallen under the spell of a Svengali-like psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti). The movie jumps back and forth between the different eras, with two different actors — Paul Dano and John Cusack — playing Wilson. It sounds like a gimmick but it works beautifully, especially the scenes of Wilson in the studio making magic and tentatively wooing his his-soon-to-be-second-wife (Elizabeth Banks). On Amazon.