What to watch (and skip) in theaters and on Netflix or Amazon this weekend

February 21, 2020, 5:30 PM UTC
Aidan Monaghan—Bleecker Street; Christopher Saunders—Amazon; Laura T Magruder—Netflix

Whether you’re standing in the theater lobby or curled up in bed, deciding what to watch next is often the most difficult part of any pop-culture junkie’s day. And with dozens of films in theaters on any given weekend, plus virtually endless layers of streaming purgatory to sort through in search of your next binge-watch, there’s more out there—and tougher decisions to make—than ever.

Fortune‘s here to help you navigate the week’s latest offerings, boiling all the entertainment out there down into three distinct recommendations: should you see it, stream it, or skip it? Find out below.

SEE IT: ‘Ordinary Love’ (N.Y./L.A., expanding through next week)

An uncommonly elegant and intimate chamber piece about one couple in crisis, Ordinary Love accepts neither word in its title at face value, which is much to its point.

Put simply, there’s no such thing as “ordinary” when it comes to love, and tracing the ways in which two people can choose to share their lives, hearts, and rhythms only calls more attention to the presence of something extraordinary in any sustained act of intimacy.

Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are long-time marrieds, and their daily routines reflect that most practiced of domestic partnerships, a sense that these two have long since learned to love each other’s similarities and differences in equal measure. They banter constantly, sharing little smiles even as they trade playful barbs; on their regular jogs, Joan keeps her headphones in, knowing Tom will inevitably end up making her laugh.

It never is just love binding people together, and Joan and Tom carry as well a soul-deep grief over the death of their daughter, years prior. They have few friends to speak of, and one senses these two have gradually cloistered themselves away, with the hermetic anguish of two people already sharing a sadness nobody else can fathom.

When Joan discovers a lump in her breast, she and Tom are soon forced to navigate the cold, clinical world of diagnosis and treatment. In and out of hospital waiting rooms, loitering in cafes and stairways, the pair struggle to find their footing as tests and procedures grow more invasive. Joan forms a bond with a fellow patient, Peter (David Wilmot), who once taught their daughter; he and his younger husband (Amit Shah) are dealing with an even more serious form of cancer. When Joan and Peter speak, they do so with a matter-of-fact candor and warmth that will be familiar to anyone who’s endured a serious illness, or spent too much time at hospitals. Ordinary Love is light with touches of human kindness, even in the face of cavernous pain. It’s a lot like life, in that way.

It comes as little surprise that the screenwriter, Irish playwright Owen McCafferty, drew inspiration from his wife’s own experiences with breast cancer, or that the directors are married to each other. Ordinary Love is a film of small moments, beautifully observed and unsparingly presented. It feels honest to its core, particularly in the compassion it displays for this couple’s efforts to return some sense of normalcy to their lives amid Joan’s treatment.

Take the scene where Joan, once her hair begins falling out in clumps, gazes into a mirror. Tom tenderly cuts and shaves her head, as Joan stoically smiling through the ordeal, for Tom’s benefit more than her own. Once alone, she gradually lets her brave face crumble, quietly reckoning with the terror and confusion of her ordeal. It’s staggering, the range of emotions Manville makes visible in this moment, the amount of access she allows us to Joan’s pain.

Ordinary Love‘s main appeal lies in those two lead performances, both masterclasses in how to isolate notes of beauty and grace within the mundane and minute. Manville’s abject courage in playing Joan, her commitment to charting the fullest measure of this woman’s heartbreak and resilience, is the furthest thing from ordinary. And Neeson, so gifted at conveying great depths of sadness within that physically imposing frame, tugs at the tear ducts in the part of a man struggling to reconcile his senses of anger and powerlessness with the overriding desire to be of service to the one he loves. There’s nothing ordinary about their love, these performances, and any film that employs such gentle wisdom in capturing both.

STREAM IT: ‘Hunters’ (Amazon Prime)

Al Pacino is ready to kill some Nazis. That’s the logline of Hunters, a buzzy new 10-episode series streaming on Amazon, and the only one most viewers will need to tune in.

The legendary actor—who’s been on a dramatic tear of late, with a scene-stealing cameo in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and a much meatier, Oscar-nominated turn in The Irishman—makes his TV series regular debut as Meyer Offerman, an Auschwitz survivor who’s since accrued significant personal wealth and used it to finance a squad of working-class vigilantes in 1977 New York. Their mission: to take on hundreds of Nazi officials who evaded justice after the fall of the Third Reich and are hatching a fiendish plot from within seats of American governmental power.

To carry out his righteous mission of vengeance, Offerman brings together an eclectic cast of characters, from a sharp-tongued woman in full nun regalia (Kate Mulvaney) to a politically incensed street fighter (Tiffany Boone). The newest addition to their ranks is Jonah (Logan Lerman), a Jewish teenager drawn into the fray after his grandmother is killed in her living room by a mysterious assassin.

There’s an audacious balancing of tones at work in Hunters, one that will alienate about as many audience members as it attracts. On one hand, the series (from first-time showrunner David Weil) is punchy and propulsive, overrun with toothsome dialogue and framed like a comic-book action fantasia. Jordan Peele executive-produced through his Monkeypaw Productions, but it’s to Quentin Tarantino that Hunters is more openly indebted, with its retro fetishism and cartoonish ultraviolence. Inglourious Basterds is a clear influence, though its sillier narrative gimmicks (title cards, a cutaway fantasy in which the Hunters are introduced as attendees at a faux bar mitzvah) owe something to Kill Bill. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, with its glamorous edge-of-’70s setting, comes to mind for more reasons than just the presence of Pacino, relishing in camp mustiness as he chews on lines like “This is not murder—this is mitzvah.”

But on the other hand, Hunters appears deadly serious about the righteous fury driving its protagonists’ mission, and it feels caught between translating its crew of Holocaust survivors into Jewish superheroes and acknowledging the bitter truth of their traumas. Flashback sequences to concentration camps feature a shocking amount of violence against Jewish prisoners, much of it heightened in a way that fits Hunters‘ graphic-novel aesthetic but feels infinitely queasier given the real historical context. The existential weight of Jonah’s time with the Hunters builds inside him to the point of crisis; with this storyline, Hunters seems at least fleetingly interested in exploring revenge’s corrosive qualities, presenting the vigilantes’ actions as ethically questionable and apt to leave them more haunted than whole. But when it strains to meditate on inherited trauma and violence as catharsis, Hunters grows far less compelling; its scripts simply lack the depth and nuance to carry out any level of psychoanalysis. Better, then, to take it as the genre exercise promised on the tin. When Hunters sticks to its guns (and knives, and bowling balls), it’s pulpy good fun, not quite Tarantino-esque but rather a tier beneath, like one of the cheesy marquee attractions that tend to be screening at his in-movie roadhouses.

SKIP IT: ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’ (Netflix)

Sometimes, bad movies happen to good directors. Look at Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, or Oliver Stone’s Alexander; even the great Francis Ford Coppola made Jack. And bad movies won’t stop happening to the likes of Ang Lee and Gus Van Sant, despite their best intentions.

The Last Thing He Wanted—a Netflix original that premiered (to disastrous effect) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival—is almost impressively bad, and for such a fate to befall a director as unquestionably gifted as Dee Rees (Mudbound, Pariah) is certainly cause for dismay.

How could the project, a Joan Didion adaptation starring Oscar winner Anne Hathaway, have gone so terribly awry? Let’s start with the script (cowritten by Rees and Marcos Villalobos), which begins in a state of near-total incoherence and somehow meanders further from there, plunging into almost experimental territory with its choppily edited mess of ridiculous dialogue and hyper-dense plotting.

The opening scenes establish Hathaway as Elena McMahon, a hard-nosed reporter who walked out on a marriage and child to pursue her intrepid, globe-trotting career. A precarious assignment to cover the Reagan administration’s hush-hush gun-running to anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua quickly leads her and a colleague (Rosie Perez) to run for their lives. Once back in the United States, she meets up with her estranged father (Willem Dafoe), a dementia-afflicted arms dealer who enlists her to pull off one last job involving the Contras. Insanely, the professional ironies and contradictions this should stir up for Elena go more or less unaddressed.

Instead, The Last Thing He Wanted slathers on subplots and supporting characters, introducing a shady government type played by Ben Affleck, a menacing weapons dealer played by Edi Gathegi, and an expatriate played by Toby Jones. None of these characters make much of an impression, and their presence in the story only serves to further obfuscate its meaning, as Elena shoddily negotiates her way through a vast political conspiracy, albeit one that’s neither lucid or compelling. Eventually, the film so drifts as to tug the audience along with it, achieving a level of unaware self-parody by the end of its interminable two-hour length that’s about as impressive as what Tom Hooper accomplished in Cats for a different audience segment.

The essential paradox of Netflix is that, for all its expensive forays into prestige filmmaking, it still has next-to-no quality control over its original productions, focusing on upping its quantity of releases rather than taking pains to curate homegrown hits. This offers filmmakers a practically unparalleled amount of directorial control, conditions under which a veteran like Martin Scorsese might soar where a less seasoned but nevertheless talented filmmaker would struggle. The Last Thing He Wanted is a wholly embarrassing misfire—more for Netflix than any creatives involved, given the splashy debut they gave it at Sundance—and it is flagrant proof of the company’s enduring weaknesses as a content creator. Hacked to pieces in the editing room and waterlogged with first-draft screenwriting mistakes, The Last Thing He Wanted barely plays like a finished film; and that no one at Netflix sensed that in time to yank it off the festival circuit is altogether more alarming than anything Rees botched along the way.

This film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

The best of the rest:

On Amazon Prime, The Farewell is now streaming. One of last year’s best films, Lulu Wang’s film is a mournful, complicated, thought-provoking portrait of a young Asian-American woman navigating a widening chasm between herself, her more traditionally minded parents, and the family’s terminally ill grandmother. As Billi (Awkwafina) returns to China to take part in a family-wide scheme to say goodbye to her Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) without revealing the nature of the diagnosis to the matriarch herself, she feels increasingly conflicted, torn as to the morality of this decision despite it being fairly common practice in China.

What The Farewell isolates so incisively is a sense of cultural melancholia specific to the immigrant experience, a mourning for something lost in the process of existing between worlds. To Billi, a Chinese-born American immigrant, “home” is a foreign and disorienting concept. As a person of color, she is othered in New York and across an America that still constructs whiteness as normative. And as an immigrant not living in China, Chinese culture is out of reach as well, a distant land with traditions she was not raised in. Dislocation, a sense of not belonging, is a cornerstone of Asian-American identity for many, and Wang works it into the very fabric of her film, with touches of magical realism and a somber approach to the absurd.

Girl on the Third Floor hits Netflix this Saturday. A thoroughly gnarly directing debut by long-time indie horror producer Travis Stevens, it’s one of those gruesomely tactile frighteners, focusing on a flawed ex-lawyer (CM Punk) whose efforts to repair a decaying household are complicated by supernatural forces that make the house bleed, ooze, and in other ways groan with the weight of a haunted history. Ghosts of The Amityville Horror, mother!, and Eyes Wide Shut linger at the edges of the frame, but Stevens’s bold and luridly violent third act gives the movie a character all its own, while anchoring it firmly in a post-#MeToo moment of horror films charting the real monsters created by toxic masculinity.

Also streaming: Netflix comedy Gentefied, about a Mexican-American family living in the rapidly gentrifying area of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. And on Disney+, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is back for one more season of 12 episodes, aimed at providing the sense of an ending to fans of the truncated series, which abruptly went off the air six years ago.

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