STORY WRITTEN BY AMY LONGSDORF
For Digital First Media
It looks like Netflix has another hit on its hands thanks to “Stranger Things,” an eight-episode series which is being billed as “a love letter to ‘80s classics.”
Winona Ryder stars as a mother living in small-town Indiana whose son vanishes into thin air. As friends, family and local police search for answers, they are drawn into a mystery involving top-secret government experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one very strange little girl. Think “E.T.” crossed with “Poltergeist,” with echoes of “Firestarter” thrown in for good measure. On Netflix.
Also New to Streaming
Elvis & Nixon: On a December morning in 1970, Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) showed up at the White House uninvited for a meeting with President Nixon (Kevin Spacey). Liza Johnson’s slight but entertaining comedy tracks the events leading up to the confab between this pair of world-class eccentrics who, apparently, hit it off thanks to a shared distaste for Communists and the Beatles. Subplots involving members of the Memphis Mafia (Alex Pettyer) and Nixon’s underlings (Colin Hanks) feel like padding but when Tricky Dick and the King finally huddle, this film becomes an utter delight. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu
Miracles From Heaven: The rare Christian film that attempts to preach beyond the choir, this highly effective, fact-based drama centers on a Texas mother named Christy Beam (Jennifer Garner) who will do anything to try to find a cure for her sick daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers). Christy loses her faith but gets it back by the movie’s end thanks to a very strange turn of events. Director Patricia Riggen doesn’t shy away from the harrowing realities of Anna’s illness or the disruption it causes “the Beam team.” Sincere and well-acted, “Miracles” earns every one of its tears. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu
Quitters: Noah Pritzker: remember his name. He’s the co-writer and director of this brave indie about kids — and their parents — behaving badly. Newcomer Ben Konigsberg stars as Clark, a needy teenager whose life implodes after his mother (Mira Sorvino) heads for rehab. Even though Clark is occasionally unlikeable, taking advantage of just about everyone who crosses his path, he’s never less than achingly human. There’s great supporting turns by Saffron Burrows, Kara Hayward, Kieran Culkin and West Chester’s Morgan Turner too. On VOD.
The Preppie Connection: Based on a true story, this involving drama, set in the 1980s, revolves around a working-class townie named Toby (Thomas Mann) who struggles to fit in with the rich kids at his prep school. In an effort to woo his posh crush (Lucy Fry), he becomes a cocaine dealer. Writer/director Joseph Castello fails to evoke the ‘80s and settles too easily for clichés. Still, the film draws you in with both its class-consciousness themes and its suspense. It also boasts a sharp performance by Mann who makes you believe that Toby would risk his life in the name of romance. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu
A Perfect Day: The Balkins conflict gets its very own “M.A.S.H.”-esque black comedy courtesy of this witty outing about a day in the life of badass rescue workers (Benecio Del Toro, Tim Robbins, Olga Kurylenko, Melanie Thierry). The plot pivots, believe it or not, on members of the fearless company trying to haul a corpse out of a well. Along the way, they must navigate war-zone red tape, dodge land mines and sidestep their own romantic dilemmas. Director Fernando Leon De Aranda keeps the screen filled to the brim with the hilarity and terror of life on the front lines. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu
Straight Outta Compton: HBO Now debuts 2015’s hard-hitting look at pioneering gangsta rappers N.W.A. Rising from the streets of South Central Los Angeles, pals Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) concocted “Straight Outta Compton,” an album that captured the times better than just about any rap recording before or since. While the movie goes on to chronicle the fights that drove the band apart, it is at its best focusing on the creation of the incendiary landmark. “Straight” soft-pedals the band’s misogyny but it’s an explosive reminder of why music — or, for that matter, art — matters. On HBO Now.
Justice League: Gotham City Breakout: What happens when Batman takes a vacation, leaving the Justice League to watch over Gotham City? Mayhem, of course. After the Joker unleashes his usual brand of chaos, it’s up to Robin, Cyborg and Wonder Woman to save the day. This feature-length cartoon from Lego DC Comics is sure to keep your superhero-obsessed kids glued to the screen. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
Boy & The World: An Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Feature Film, this Brazilian cartoon is an explosion of music and color that depicts a clash between village and city, nature and industry and rich and poor. The action pivots on a youngster named Cuca whose world is upended when his father leaves for the big city. Determined to reunite his brood, Cuca embarks on a journey that winds up changing his life. It’s a dazzler. On Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.
Degrassi: Next Class: Netflix’s reboot of the “Degrassi” series promises to be a pull-no-punches drama that tackles the real-life issues of high school students. Telling the stories of “Generation Z,” the series focuses on a group of teens as they begin their journey into adulthood. On Netflix.