Tag Archives: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

New Shows + Movies by Women — October 2, 2020

I’d like to highlight a favorite of mine that just came available. It’s not new, but it is becoming much more accessible this week. “Evil” is a series created and showrun by Michelle King and husband Robert King. The pair also created and showran “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight”. “Evil” goes a decidedly more supernatural route, featuring a forensic psychologist who helps a Catholic priest-in-training investigate potential possessions and hauntings.

The cast is incredibly charming, featuring Katja Herbers, Mike Colter (of “Luke Cage” fame), and Aasif Mandvi. The set-up of science and religion working together on the supernatural might smack of passive-aggressive relationships, but the show’s smart to quickly build them into a supportive team that is willing to put themselves in each others’ shoes. Neither is the show pandering or riding on the fence. The Kings rarely shy away from progressive views, and episodes deal with real-world topics such as immigration reform in a pro-active way. You can now watch “Evil” on Netflix.

I also want to mention a new short film available on HBO Max. “Harina (aka Flour)” is a 15-minute movie that follows a man taking care of his mother in the middle of Venezuela’s humanitarian disaster and food shortage. It’s directed by Joanna Cristina Nelson.

NEW SERIES

Monsterland (Hulu)
showrunner Mary Laws

“Monsterland” is an anthology of cosmic and cryptid horror based on a short story collection entitled “North American Lake Monsters: Stories” by Nathan Ballingrud. It will run eight episodes, with a number of stars rotating through. This includes Mike Colter (Luke Cage again), “Sleepy Hollow” star Nichole Beharie, “Orange is the New Black” star Taylor Schilling, and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” star Kelly Marie Tran, among others.

Creator and showrunner Mary Laws also co-wrote “The Neon Demon” and wrote and produced on “Preacher”.

You can watch “Monsterland” on Hulu with a subscription.

NEW MOVIES

The Glorias (Amazon)
directed by Julie Taymor

“The Glorias” is a biopic of women’s liberation leader Gloria Steinem, with Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, and Ryan Kiera Armstrong all playing Steinem at different points in her life. Joining her are Janelle Monae as Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Bette Midler as Rep. Bella Abzug, and Kimberly Guerrero as Cherokee activist Chief Wilma Mankiller.

Director Julie Taymor is…well she’s Julie Taymor. With films like “Titus”, “Frida”, and “Across the Universe”, she’s recognized as one of the boldest filmmakers of the last two decades. She’s never afraid of extended visual metaphors, kaleidoscopic montages, or biting monologues. No one else directs like her.

You can watch “The Glorias” on Amazon Prime with a subscription.

Lina from Lima (HBO)
directed by Maria Paz Gonzalez

“Lina from Lima” centers on a woman who left her home country of Peru to work in Chile as a housekeeper for a wealthy family. It’s been a decade, and while the job’s enabled her to provide for her son in Peru, she’s also missed out on seeing him grow up.

Magaly Solier plays Lina. The Peruvian actress is one of the best performers working, yet essentially unheard of in the U.S. She led “The Milk of Sorrow”, which was my pick for best film of the last decade.

Director Maria Paz Gonzalez has generally worked in the documentary field. This is her first narrative feature.

You can watch “Lina from Lima” on HBO Max with a subscription.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (HBO)
directed by Eliza Hittman

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” follows Autumn, a 17 year-old girl who discovers she has an unwanted pregnancy. Her own crisis pregnancy center is anti-choice, and she learns the nearest place to get an abortion without parental permission is in New York. Her cousin Skylar steals cash to help them get there, and the two set off. Unlike the similarly premised road comedy “Unpregnant”, which came out on HBO three weeks back, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is a realistic dramatic presentation of this situation.

I shared this film in April when it hit digital rental, but this is the first time “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” has come to a subscription streaming service. A director of episodes on “13 Reasons Why” and “High Maintenance”, this is Eliza Hittman’s second feature. Art pop musician Julia Holter composes the score.

You can watch “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” on HBO Max with a subscription. Or you can see the digital rental options right here.

Judy & Punch (Hulu)
directed by Mirrah Foulkes

“Judy & Punch” is the kind of off-kilter, macabre (vengeance?) film that’s right up my alley, particularly with an actor of Mia Wasikowska’s caliber leading it. Obviously, it’s tackling themes of domestic violence, but it’s hard to tell where it will take them. The world of the film seems to mix fairy tale, period, and anachronistic design together.

It also marks a leap in the career of Mirrah Foulkes from actor to director. She’s well known for roles in Australian television and BBC productions, particularly in the original “Animal Kingdom” and “Top of the Lake”. This is her first feature as director. I shared “Judy & Punch” back in June when it came to digital rental, but this is the first time the movie’s available on a subscription streaming service.

You can watch “Judy & Punch” on Hulu with a subscription. Or you can see the digital rental options right here.

Inez & Doug & Kira (VOD)
directed by Julia Kots

When a woman takes her own life, her sister and sister’s fiance try to find out why. The answer lies through a path of addiction and sabotage. What’s real is thrown into question by grief, insomnia, and stories that don’t always agree.

Director Julia Kots has worked as an editor while directing short films. This is her first feature.

You can see the digital rental options for “Inez & Doug & Kira” right here.

NEW DOCUMENTARIES

Whose Vote Counts, Explained (Netflix docu-series)
showrunner Claire Gordon

This limited docu-series produced by Vox Media examines how the right to vote is being eroded. Voter suppression is realized in many forms, from ballot denial to polling place closure, and from gerrymandering to lost and wiped voting machines. “Whose Vote Counts, Explained” looks at how our current moment ties into history and what can be done to fix this before it’s totally broken.

Showrunner Claire Gordon started out as an investigative journalist covering campus sexual assault. She later worked as a segment producer on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”. There, she produced segments covering church taxation, LGBT anti-discrimination law, and how primaries and caucuses work. She has since produced a number of documentary mini-series for Vox under their “Explained” moniker.

You can watch “Whose Vote Counts, Explained” on Netflix with a subscription.

Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire (Netflix)
co-directed by Elsa Flores Almaraz

Carlos Almaraz was a Mexican-American painter at the heart of the Chicano civil rights movement. As a member of artist collective Los Four, his art galvanized the Chicano movement while humanizing Latin-American people to the rest of the U.S. His dreamlike works drew from a range of painting styles. He helped spur the mural movement that reminds Americans just how much our rights and the health of our institutions rely on the success of immigrants. Almaraz passed away in 1989.

Elsa Flores Almaraz was his wife, and she directs “Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire”. She’s an activist and photographer who often collaborated with him on his murals.

You can watch “Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire” on Netflix with a subscription.

Dick Johnson is Dead (Netflix)
directed by Kirsten Johnson

“Dick Johnson is Dead” is a documentary about the making of this documentary itself. I think. Director Kirsten Johnson stages a variety of fictional ways her father might die while also examining how his grasp on reality is beginning to fade. It examines how movies and moviemaking allow us to keep people alive in our hearts forever.

This is the fifth feature-length documentary that Kirsten Johnson has directed. She’s filmed more than 50 as a cinematographer. Being the cinematographer for a documentary requires a number of rare skills in unpredictable situations, and Johnson is one of the most sought after in the industry.

You can watch “Dick Johnson is Dead” on Netflix with a subscription.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

Subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon if you enjoy what you read on this site. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

New Movies + Shows by Women — April 3, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has redirected some of what this feature covers. Originally, it was meant to highlight new movies by women in the theater and on streaming. As theaters are nearly entirely closed, I started covering new series as well.

The original scope was more limited, and it made sense to list recent titles that were a few weeks old as well. Since that scope has opened up, the list is ballooning. That’s good; it provides a great chance to cover more work by women. At the same time, it also means I’ve got to keep articles more concise.

I’ll focus on covering what’s new this week, of course. Unlike past weeks, I won’t be listing what’s been out for 2-3 weeks in a “recent releases” category. There’s a ton of great work that’s recent, and if you want to see what else is out there from past weeks, click on “New Films by Women” just above the title of this article, or click on “new movies and shows by women” at the end of the article. You can get to every single week’s new movies and shows by women from there.

Financial accessibility is also important. Is a new movie on streaming best featured when it’s $20 to rent, or when it’s $5? My approach is I’ll feature it both times as “new”, at least as long as the pandemic is collapsing those different release phases into each other.

I also want the list to be as practical as possible. The goal isn’t to just list work by women, it’s to get you to watch it. It’s easy enough to list what service a new show is on, but if it’s a movie you can rent in different places, I’ll make sure at the end of each film or show’s write-up that you know where you can rent it, and what the best rental price is.

Thanks for bearing with some notes. As a new feature, this will go through some evolution. That’s enough of that; let’s get to new movies and shows by women.

The Other Lamb (digital rental)
directed by Malgorzata Szumowska

IFC Midnight doesn’t have the cachet of an A24 or Bleecker Street. It has done solid work platforming horror and drama films by women lately. 2019 saw them acquire a range of independent films by women, including Jennifer Kent’s period revenge tale “The Nightingale”, Emma Tammi’s supernatural western “The Wind”, Claire McCarthy’s Hamlet-by-any-other-name “Ophelia”, Mary Harron’s examination of Charles Manson victims “Charlie Says”, and Jennifer Reeder’s surreal vaporwave thriller “Knives and Skin”, just to name a few.

There’s still ample room to improve (I look forward to the day when one of these indie darlings distributes more films by women than men), but it is one of the better places to look right now for horror films by women.

Director Malgorzata Szumowska has mostly worked in the Polish film industry, and often tackled issues of identity, the culturally taboo, and the viral spread of religious cults.

Writer C.S. McMullen has been widely regarded as an up-and-coming screenwriter, with placement on Hollywood’s “Black List” of best unproduced screenplays. “The Other Lamb” is her first full-length screenplay that’s been produced.

Currently, “The Other Lamb” can be rented through Amazon Prime for $6.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (digital rental)
directed by Eliza Hittman

When social distancing started, this was the film I was most disappointed I’d have to wait to see. The trailer doesn’t over-communicate and tell you the whole story. It just paints the premise: a teen gets pregnant and leaves her hometown with her cousin in order to get an abortion.

I don’t know that much about writer-director Eliza Hittman. This is the first time a film of hers has broken big. There are a few musical artists I enjoy involved – Sharon Van Etten has a role and Julia Holter composed the score. I can’t quite tell you what it is about this film that sits there as a landmark on the calendar for me. The trailer alone already stands as a poignant and overwhelming two minutes. It utterly strikes me as something I haven’t seen told this way before, and need to.

Films that would otherwise be in theaters right now are getting at least several weeks at a $20 rental (to watch within 48 hours) before going to a more reasonable price that’s closer to what you’d expect after a theatrical run. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is no exception to this, and I’ll share it again here when it hits an individual rental price point. You can currently rent it through Amazon or iTunes.

How to Fix a Drug Scandal (Netflix docuseries)
directed by Erin Lee Carr

34,000. That’s the number of criminal cases that were affected when chemist Annie Dookhan was found to have falsified drug lab results. She had tested just a fraction of the samples she said she did, a fraction of the samples about which she testified in court. Those cases impacted as many as 40,000 people. The state of Massachusetts ended up dropping more than 21,000 pending criminal charges, not to mention facing the innocent people who had already been convicted on Dookhan’s falsified evidence. It was a disturbing view into how innocent lives could be ruined by one person in a flawed justice system that’s more interested in filling jail cells than it is in fair justice.

Sonja Farak was arrested six months after Dookhan. She was another chemist serving the Massachusetts legal system, and she was getting high on the drugs she was supposed to be testing. The docuseries tells the story of both chemists, as well as the impact on the tens of thousands who faced wrongful arrests and convictions. It also investigates the possible cover-up by former state AG Martha Coakley’s office.

Director Erin Lee Carr digs into subjects of crime with a reporter’s tenacity, and has averaged a documentary a year over the last six years. Perhaps her most famous was last year’s “At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal” for HBO.

Vagrant Queen (SyFy)
showrunner Jem Garrard

I reviewed the premiere of “Vagrant Queen” earlier in the week. It’s a colorful, irreverent sci-fi romp that’s erratic on quality, but still fun. Based on the comic series by Magdalene Visaggio, it features a queer will-they/won’t-they relationship and Tim Rozon of “Wynonna Earp” fame. You can read my full review, and my takeaway is this:

“For those who enjoy cult movies, consciously B-grade sci-fi, cheese-fests, YouTube or community production sci-fi, it’s a messy refuge that’s at times bad, but that also celebrates and enjoys a lot of what we love.

“For those who are looking for something to scratch their ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, ‘The Fifth Element’, or perhaps even their ‘Jupiter Ascending’ itch, it gets the job done – but perhaps not satisfactorily.

“For others, I just don’t know. Part of watching something like this is the glee you get from it existing in the first place. That makes up for a lot of shortcomings. If you don’t have that starting interest and investment, the show might just be really, really bad.”

You can watch the full first episode for free on YouTube right here. You can also watch it on SyFy, after episodes air on cable and satellite services, with a YouTube TV or FuboTV subscription, or purchase it (at $2 an episode) to watch on Amazon, GooglePlay, or Vudu.

Home Before Dark (Apple TV+ series)
showrunners Dana Fox, Dara Resnik

The show about a child reporter who investigates a cold case is “inspired by” reality. The reality is that Hilde Kate Lysiak started a newspaper in Selinsgrove, PA in 2014. Its first story was about the birth of her sister, but soon she was covering stories about vandalism. In 2016, she broke a news story about a murder.

By 2019, her family had moved to Arizona. In stories investigating the Border Patrol, she was threatened with arrest for videoing a town marshal. She posted the story online anyway. I wouldn’t mind seeing a series about this kind of reporter handling stories that make an impact that way.

“Home Before Dark” looks like it follows very little of this, but that’s why it’s “inspired by” instead of “based on”. (I worked as a reporter, so I get a bit tense over those delineations and what they suggest.) Lysiak never investigated the disappearance of her father’s friend and wasn’t wrapped up in the kind of conspiratorial intrigue “Home Before Dark” suggests.

My grain of salt spoken, it’s fair to take “Home Before Dark” on its own merits. It seems like good family fare that can speak to and inspire a future generation of women reporters, as well as normalize the idea of women as reporters among young men. It looks interesting, and maybe it will inspire young women and men to support Lysiak and other women reporters as they speak truth to power.

Kabukichou Sherlock (Hulu series)
directed by Ai Yoshimura

It’s hard to dig up a ton of information on this, but I’m already hooked on the idea of an anime Sherlock Holmes digging into crime in a wild, neon-strewn Shinjuku, Japan. Also called “Case File no.221: Kabukicho”, the show finds Sherlock competing with other detectives over cases, including the pursuit of Jack the Ripper. It’s somewhere between a comedy and mystery series.

Ai Yoshimura has been directing anime episodes since 2010.

Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll (Netflix movie)
co-directed by Haruka Fujita

“Violet Evergarden” is an exceptionally well-reviewed anime series that follows an ex-child soldier who becomes a letter writer. The job is to assist and even ghostwrite for those who can’t write on their own, whether through disability or other circumstance. It’s been on my list to watch for a while, as it looks like a rare blend of atmospheric animation and philosophical storytelling. In particular, I keep an eye out for series and movies that suggest the melancholic patience and peacefulness that anime can at times accomplish better than any other art form.

“Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll” is the first movie in the franchise, and acts as a side story to the series. It finds Violet becoming a tutor at an all-women’s school. (A separate movie that continues the series will be coming later in the year.)

Haruka Fujita directs alongside Taichi Ishidate. The pair directed every episode of the first season of the series, often alongside other directors.

“Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll” is also the first production from Kyoto Animation since an arson attack in July 2019. The attack resulted in the deaths of 36 people, of the 71 who were in the building at that time.

Elephant (Disney+)
co-directed by Vanessa Berlowitz

Disney+ added a host of documentaries on April 1 to celebrate Earth Month. “Elephant” and “Dolphin Reef” are the new debuts. Their past Disney Nature documentaries will be joining them on the streaming service. This includes “African Cats”, “Chimpanzee”, “Born in China”, “The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos”, “Monkey Kingdom”, “Wings of Life”, and “Penguins”. Most are fairly self-descriptive.

A range of National Geographic documentaries will join these, so keep your eyes out. Don’t forget the calm and peace that nature documentaries can bring you. They can be a balm as you and your loved ones weather the anxiety and stress that social distancing can introduce. Disney’s tend to join remarkable documentary cinematography with stories that interest adults and children alike.

The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show (Netflix series)
directed by Laura Murphy

Iliza Shlesinger is a stand-up comedian who’s done five specials with Netflix. Considering the popularity of some of her shows, “The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show” seems to be coming in somewhat under the radar.

Director Laura Murphy has a long history on these kinds of shows, first as a segment director on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and more recently as a director on “Adam Ruins Everything”.

Take a look at new movies and shows by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.