L.A. Weekly’s (Streaming) Movie Guide is your look at the hottest films and shows available on your TV sets and electronic devices — from indie art house gems to popcorn-perfect blockbusters to new movies garnering buzz that moved from theaters (still closed in L.A.) to digital Video on Demand (VOD) and streaming subscription services. Check this guide regularly as you shelter at home during the pandemic for our top picks.
It’s been 25 years since the garish, glamorous tale of young Nomi Malone wrecking havoc in Vegas on a crazed quest for stardom captured the imaginations and ire of movie fans, and clearly the glitz & titz fantasy/tragedy still resonates. Admit it, if you’re flipping the channels and Showgirls is on, it is extremely hard not to watch it (again).
Directed by the perhaps overly-provocative but seemingly well-intentioned Paul Verhoeven and written by the decidedly less high-minded Joe Eszterhas, this trashy epic had a lot wrong with it. But (like most cult hits) its audacious alchemy helped it take on a so-wrong-it’s-right cult status. You Don’t Nomi is a critical deep dive into the history, motivations, and mistakes behind Showgirls that suggests its biggest sin wasn’t the (s)excess it depicted, but a lack of tone and maybe restraint that might have let the sparkly/sexy parts shine.
To say Elizabeth Hurley, Gina Gershon, and Kyle McLaughlin’s performances were over the top is an understatement, but were they in on the joke here? We’ll never know, but this documentary — which disappointingly lacks perspective from the main players involved, except via older archival interviews — seeks to answer this question and a million others only hardcore fans might care to ask about the film (Did the ladies really enjoy eating doggie chow?). If you’re a hardcore Showgirls nerd and want to hear like-minded dissect the heck out of it, this one’s a must-see, but if you’re not, maybe pass and just watch the fleshy flick itself one more time.
If you ever wondered if actress Tracee Ellis Ross is as good a singer as her mom Diana, this new feel-good drama seems to suggest the answer is yes. But make no mistake this is no Lady Sings the Blues or even Mahogany. And while it’s really not fair to compare, it’ll escape no one that Ross is clearly playing a Diana-like music legend here. Grace Davis is a revered singing star trying to stay relevant and Maggie (Dakota Johnson) is her assistant… who really wants to be a music producer. Though she comes off super timid, Mags makes some bold moves towards her dream in this fairly contrived but basically enjoyable look at the entertainment industry and the struggle females face on both ends of the spectrum.
There’s sort of a dumb twist and Ice Cube’s familiar tough guy producer will illicit eye rolls, but during quarantine you could do worse than streaming this movie, and that’s mostly thanks to Ross, who brings her usual warmth and likability to the proceedings.
We interviewed the legendary Spike Lee (for next week’s L.A. Weekly cover story) about his new movie and discussed how, obviously, he’s always been ahead of his time in terms of calling out racial disparity on film. But for those of you who’ll see this new “joint” in your Netflix cache this weekend and wonder if it’s worth a watch, the answer is yes — watching this one is the right thing to do! No surprise.
Lee has a way of enlightening viewers without preaching to us and that’s because his characters are always complex and undeniably real. His stories usually deal with the plights of people of color, but the narratives are never clearly cut or black and white/good versus evil, and Da 5 Bloods is no exception. This tale of former Vietnam vets who return to the land where they battled years ago to retrieve a fallen soldier’s body (and some stashed gold) is visually enticing and full of riveting performances. Mostly, its power lies in its truth — melding historical footage with a sort of jungle adventure/war movie set-up that’ll resonate not only with black folks, but with anyone who hasn’t had their head in the sand the past few months.
Elisabeth Moss is extremely comfortable playing unlikable characters (see Her Smell and Us) and her role in this wicked portrait of author Shirley Jackson is no exception. The literary figure’s life was explored in a novel by Susan Scarf Merrell, which makes for the basis of Shirley, adapted in all its droll, deviously dark glory by director Josephine Decker.
Be warned: this slow-burning psychological thriller is meant to reflect its subject’s work so if you’re not familiar with the writer, it might come off as needlessly predacious and ugly. It concerns a young couple who end up staying with the drug, drink and drama addicted literary figure and her husband, eventually forming an unhealthy bond driven by obsession, anxiety and ultimately, madness.
Gen-Xers (without kids, that is) should stay away from this digitally animated reboot unless they want to be bummed out. [Spoken in Shaggy speak:] “Like, it’s just not the show we grew up with, man!” Scooby Doo taught us that ghosts aren’t real and bad guys would get away with lots of really bad stuff if smart, do-gooder “meddling kids” didn’t get involved. Mostly it was a fun exercise in mystery-solving balanced by the comic chemistry of the bumbling Shagster and his snack-loving pooch.
This, like most remakes, simply lacks the subtle menace and nostalgic magic of the Saturday morning staple. OK, Scoob! is probably as enjoyable as the two big-screen live-action movies from a few years back, but that’s not saying much. As a parent we realize, all this will have absolutely no bearing on whether you’ll rent it for the kiddies, but don’t expect any groovy cartoon flashback moments if ya do this doo.