WRITTEN BY AMY LONGSDORF
For Digital First Media
With “Moonlight,” writer/director Barry Jenkins stretches the coming-of-age drama into a hot-blooded and head-spinning thing of beauty.
Three very talented actors (Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes) play a Miami youth named Chiron when he’s 10, 16 and 26. Cursed with a crack-addict mother (Naomie Harris), Chiron winds up bonding with the local drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) and a schoolmate who alternately befriends and rejects him.
Sexuality also factors into the story as Chiron works out what it means to be gay. Intimate yet universal, “Moonlight” avoids clichés at every turn while also creating characters who feel ferociously alive. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Also New To VOD and streaming
Doctor Strange: In the latest Marvel adventure, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as neurosurgeon Stephen Strange who, after a nasty car accident damages his hands, travels to Nepal in search of a cure. Once there, he encounters the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who helps him unlock his inner spell-caster. In the early going, “Doctor Strange” is trippier and more fluid than the average Marvel superhero movie. And Cumberbatch knows how to deliver a quip without camping it up. It eventually becomes formulaic but “Doctor Strange” is original enough to satisfy the superhero fan looking for a fresh twist on an overdone genre. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Mountain: The beautiful Jewish cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives provides a compelling backdrop for this strange tale of a young Jewish woman’s (Shani Klein) sexual awakening. Unable to sleep, Zvia wanders into the cemetery at night, and spies prostitutes at work. What she sees seems to unlock her own dormant desires. But Zvia has no way of expressing her emotions thanks to her disinterested husband. A study of isolation and loneliness, “Mountain” winds up on a jarring note that is sure to provoke conversations long after the credits roll. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Girl Asleep: This coming-of-age chronicle from Australia’s Rosemary Myers begins on such a delightful note that you can almost forgive it a long, extended dream sequence which plays like an outtake from “Where The Wild Things Are.” At the center of the action is Greta Driscoll (Bethany Whitmore), a teenage wallflower who is thrown out of her comfort zone when her parents insist on inviting her entire class to her birthday party. So far, so good. Unfortunately, Myers decides to insert a long fantasy interlude which is more awkward than enlightening. Still, “Girl Asleep” recovers in time for an endearing finale. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Seasons: From “Winged Migration” helmers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud comes a stunning documentary which, in a very broad sense, unreels the history of civilization from the perspective of animals. Beginning with the end of the ice age, and the advent of seasons, the forest became home to scores of different beasts. Eventually man encroaches on the territory of wolves, bears and foxes. But Perrin and Cluzaud takes us back to the Golden Age when bobcats, deer and bison roamed. Without getting preachy, “Seasons” also makes a plea for humans to be more responsible about sharing our world with the planet’s other creatures. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
London Town: There’s a great movie to be made about Britain’s 1970s punk music scene and how it became a howl of protest against Margaret Thatcher’s conservative regime. But “London Town” is not that movie. The plot of this predictable domestic drama revolves around a 15-year-old named Shay (Daniel Huttlestone) who, after his dad (Dougray Scott) suffers an accident, is forced to become the man of the family, with a little bit of help from Clash frontman Joe Strummer (Jonathan Rhys Meyers.) A movie about the impact that punk rock had on people’s lives should be a lot more dangerous and feisty than this generic coming-of-age bauble. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Grace And Frankie: Season Two: The second season of the Netflix hit gets off to a hilarious start with the husbands (Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston) of Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) deciding to dash their wedding plans in order to get hitched in the least likely of places. After that, the season continues on a high note with both Grace and Frankie navigating attractions to new suitors (Sam Elliott, Ernie Hudson). Sure, too much is made of Frankie’s feud with Grace’s daughter but the show is at its best when it showcases the central friendship between the two women. And, this season, they have not only grown closer but they’re beginning to influence each other in surprising ways. On Netflix.
For The Kids
Singing With The Stars 2: There’s more songs, more stars and more fun on the latest “Sesame Street” collection. Michael Buble helps Elmo to “Believe In Yourself” while Gwen Stefani explains how to “Be a Good Friend.” Also on tap: Macklemore trilling about his love of trash and OK Go painting a picture of the “Three Primary Colors” in amazing stop-motion. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Pups Save The Bunnies: From the folks at “Paw Patrol” comes seven episodes that put an emphasis on springtime fun. There’s missions to save bunny rabbits, of course, as well as projects about Adventure Bay’s Easter Egg Hunt, Farmer Yumi’s vegetable garden and Mayor Goodway’s tulips. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu
Miss Hokusai: From the studio behind “Ghost In The Shell” comes an animated feature that the New York Times dubbed “extraordinary, enchanting and thought-provoking.” The action pivots on a young woman named O-Ei who creates artistic masterpieces which are sold under her father’s name. In hopes of coming into her own as an artist, O-Ei travels to the bustling city of Edo (present-day Tokyo) where she encounters plenty of obstacles, including spirits, dragons, and rival painters. On Amazon, Google, iTunes and Vudu