What’s Streaming: April 17 – 23

Stay at home with Dr. Seuss, Reefer Madness, a very tall Russian, hungry lions, and an Irish ghost whisperer. And while you’re doing it, you’re helping to save Bay Area movie theaters.

Helping a theater

Like so many other art house cinemas in the area, the New Mission sells “tickets” to streaming films, but they’re doing it their own way. The Alamo Drafthouse theater still offers Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday, but you can watch the movie any day of the week. And most of their movies are not like what everyone else is streaming; they’re considerably weirder.

If you want to help the New Mission, and its parent company, Alamo Drafthouse, you can buy gift cards, take advantage of their food delivery service, or buy strange things in their online store.

Special online events

Science on Screen: The Lorax (2012), helping the Rafael

The Rafael will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a special online event built around Dr. Seuss’ environmental plea disguised as a children’s book. First, you watch the animated feature (not the 25-minute TV special), which you can stream from iTunesAmazon Prime or YouTube for $4. Then, this Wednesday at 7:00, you can take part in a conversation, hosted by David Templeton, with Illustrator Paige Braddock. The conversation is free, but you must register.

Strange streams I haven’t seen

Roar (1981), helping the New Mission

I never saw Roar, and I don’t really want to see it, but it has a cult following. It’s a people vs. animals adventure that got out of control during the shooting. The claim is that no animals were hurt in the movie, but a whole lot of the cast and crew were. Along with the movie, you get to stream a video Q&A featuring co-star John Marshall.

Reefer Madness (1936), helping the New Mission

When I was in college, this unintentional comedy was extremely popular amongst stoned moviegoers. According to the movie, one puff of this deadly drug (“worse than heroin”) turns you into a hopeless addict with no morals or inhibitions. I saw it several times before a friend pointed out that no money was being exchanged and that the evil pushers were just giving their pot away for free.

Newly-reviewed streams

A- Beanpole (2019), helping the Balboa or Lark

Within minutes after this Russian film starts, the extremely tall title character (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) commits something horrifically evil. We’re never really sure why she did this unspeakable act, but director and co-writer Kantemir Balagov clearly wants us to figure things out on our own. Set in Stalingrad only months after the war, life is still difficult, and Beanpole’s work in the hospital is a daily reminder of victory’s cost. Her best friend Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina) wants a baby but can’t conceive one, so she insists that Beanpole do it for her. On the whole, everyone is miserable in Stalingrad, but small acts of kindness help. Cinematographer Kseniya Sereda finds unusual ways to look into the Russian soul.

B Extra Ordinary (2019), helping the Balboa, the Lark, or the the New Mission

This low-budget, Irish version of Ghostbusters starts slow with only occasional giggles, but builds up to something hilarious. A lonely driving teacher (Maeve Higgins) has a knack for seeing and connecting with ghosts. A widower (Barry Ward) must deal with his jealous, domineering, and very much dead wife. A once famous rock musician (Will Forte) plans to sacrifice a virgin to Satan so he can be successful again – but it’s not easy to find a virgin in modern Ireland. In the first half, Extra Ordinary is a mildly funny comedy–enjoyable but not exceptional. But as it moves towards the climax, the movie becomes hysterically funny.

Recommended streams

A- Sorry We Missed You (2019), helping the Lark or the Roxie

Imagine a food that you absolutely hate, but you eat it anyway because it’s good for you. That’s the experience of seeing Ken Loach’s grim but necessary attack on the gig economy. A man struggles to make money delivering packages. In theory, he’s an independent contractor, but he’s much worse off than an employee. His wife, a nurse, is also in the gig economy. Neither of them has time to take care of their children. With almost no happy moments, Sorry We Missed You is like an empathy bomb, forcing you to care for the working poor. Read my full review.

B+ Thousand Pieces of Gold (1991), helping the Rafael

This low-budget Chinese western succeeds in making you feel good, while reminding you how badly Asians were treated in 19th-century America. A young woman (Rosalind Chao) is sold by her father and shipped to America. She lands in a small mining town in Oregon, where she’s essentially a slave. Slowly she gets on her feet and becomes her own person, thanks to her willpower and the help of a few new friends, the main one played by Chris Cooper. The low budget is easily visible, but it doesn’t really hurt the movie much. Based on a true story.

B+ Bacurau (2019), helping the Rafael or Roxie

The Brazilian town of Bacurau is so small and unimportant that it’s not even on Google Maps. But something evil is coming its way. We know there’s something evil when an overturned truck is filled with empty, now-broken coffins. And yet, for a large part of the picture, we get to sit back and enjoy the people and the atmosphere. I’m not telling you where the evil comes from, but the final act feels like a Sam Peckinpah western, and a good one. Sônia Braga plays the no-nonsense doctor.

Other streaming films I’ve reviewed