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Stream This: ‘Mud,’ Hugh Jackman In ‘The Fountain,’ Woody Allen’s ‘The Purple Rose Of Cairo’ & More on VOD This Week

Stream This: 'Mud,' Hugh Jackman In 'The Fountain,' Woody Allen's 'The Purple Rose Of Cairo' & More on VOD This Week

Hello streamers, and welcome back to our weekly search for the best of what’s available to watch on the World Wide Web. The home entertainment system reigns supreme for another day, as two late summer flicks appear on VOD before their big screen release and a well-received picture, fresh off its theatrical run, hits the streaming services in advance of its DVD debut. Of course, there’s plenty going on at the cinema too—this is blockbuster season, after all. Observing the premier of “The Wolverine,” we have a much better alternative: an early-ish Hugh Jackman film, you know, before all the singing and all the muscles. And with the newest Woody Allen movie in theaters, starring the inimitable Cate Blanchett, we have celebrations of both artists. It could be that two-for-one which put us over, but with so many good VOD choices, we decided to forgo a Criterion selection for this week. Hulu Plus remains, however, and that section will be back next time, we promise. Now, let’s get to the picks.

Mud” (2013)
What It’s About: While exploring an isolated island on the Mississippi River, Arkansas boys Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) encounter local fugitive Mud (Matthew McConaughey) and decide to help him reunite with his girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon) and skip town. Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, and Michael Shannon co-star.
Why You Should Stream It: Writer-director Jeff Nichols paints an impressive and stirring portrait of southern American life, much of it through the unique perspective of youthful protagonists. These heroes are grounded by notably realistic performances from Sheridan and Lofland, who prove, even alongside the film’s throng of screen veterans and McConaughey’s stand-out turn, that they’re worth a good deal of salt. And while this coming-of-age story cum crime drama proves intelligent in its showcasing of character development, it also plays to the beauty of its locations, with tremendous views of the Arkansas wilderness. Our review calls the film a “brilliantly constructed, emotionally satisfying genre deconstruction,” hailing the depth of the characters, the introspection and complexity of the narrative, and the universal strength of the cast. From its striking opening shot of an abandoned boat lodged high in a tree to its well-earned and emotionally satisfying conclusion, “Mud” is nothing short of magnificent.
Where It’s Available: Amazon Instant, iTunes, VUDU

Veronica Guerin” (2003)
What It’s About: In this biopic, Cate Blanchett plays the titular Irish crime reporter who, upon witnessing the deleterious effects of Dublin’s expanding drug trade, decides to expose those responsible. As Guerin edges closer to the truth, her investigation becomes increasingly risky, endangering her own life as well as those of the people closest to her. Co-stars include Ciarán Hinds, Gerard McSorley, and Brenda Fricker.
Why You Should Stream It: When it was released, “Veronica Guerin” received very mixed reviews, charged with simpleminded tedium and winning restraint in equal measure. We imagine the extreme divergence there should be enough to spark the curiosity of any film buff. Plus, the always fascinating and formidable Blanchett triumphs here, bringing sympathy and pathos to a sometimes anti-heroic character; she received Golden Globe and Empire Award nominations for her nuanced and compelling performance. And director Joel Schumacher, probably best known for his ‘Batman‘ installments in the ’90s, brings his talents for slick visuals and brisk action to this character-driven piece, creating a gripping thriller that never tumbles too far into soppy emotionality.
Where It’s Available: Amazon Instant, iTunes, VUDU

Drinking Buddies” (2013)
What It’s About:
Chicago brewery co-workers Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) have been beating around the flirting bush for weeks, their respective relationships (with Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick) hampering any further action. Oh wait, where do they work again? Yes, that’s right. And there’s nothing like a little (or a lot of) beer to blur the line between friendship and, er, more than friendship.
Why You Should Stream It:
Mumblecore personage Joe Swanberg—serving as the film’s writer, director, and editor—has become a key figure in that movement’s elevation and recognition. “Drinking Buddies” does much to continue his reputation, the dialogue and performances ringing both spontaneous and sincere, while encouraging the story’s comfortable progression. There’s also the honesty of the movie’s main conceit, as the friction that can be spawned by monogamy is explored (albeit drunkenly, though that plot point arguably increases the authenticity). Our review from this year’s SXSW Film Festival lauds the “crazy palpable chemistry” between the two leads, adding “Swanberg has by all accounts turned a corner with his latest, winning over even critics who had previously written him off.” “Drinking Buddies” hits theaters on August 23rd, so here’s your chance to catch it early!
Where It’s Available:
Amazon Instant, Cable On Demand, iTunes

The Fountain” (2006)
What It’s About:
Three nonlinear, intersecting narratives of a single couple across their existence in the past, present, and future. Modern day doctor Tom (Hugh Jackman) is hard pressed to find a cure for his wife Izzi’s (Rachel Weisz) cancer. While he works, she writes a novel that sees them as a 16th century Spanish queen and conquistador, then asks him to complete the tale after her death, when he’s a lone astronaut in the year 2500. The three stories, united by their visual motifs as well as the main characters, employ themes of metaphysics, religion, and unconditional love. So it’s like “Cloud Atlas,” sort of.
Why You Should Stream It:
For his ambitious, multilayered storytelling and painstaking execution
in this film, director Darren Aronofsky was compared with Stanley
—no small honor, that. Rich, saturated visuals and special
effects generated largely through lighting and trick photography create a
series of beautiful and daring worlds for Tom and Izzi to inhabit.
Moreover, the scattered narrative style is handled deftly, its
resolution a stunning meditation on human loss and mourning. Though it
experienced a critical divide at the time of its release and a
relatively poor showing at the box office, “The Fountain” has since
garnered a cult following, and definitely deserves your attention today.
Where It’s Available:
Amazon Instant, iTunes, VUDU

I Give It a Year” (2013)
What It’s About:
After a six-month whirlwind courtship, Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall) decide to get hitched… and then spend the next year struggling through married life, at home and in their therapist’s office. First they just get on each others nerves, then major differences in their professional aspirations appear and finally, both begin to cultivate romantic interests in other people (Simon Baker and Anna Faris). It seems that a quip from Nat’s sister (Minnie Driver) during the nuptials—”I Give It a Year“—was more than a little prescient. Jason Flemyng, Stephen Merchant, and Olivia Colman also co-star.
Why You Should Stream It: The directorial debut from writer Dan Mazur, known for co-penning “Borat” and “Bruno,” is at once fairly staid and fairly debauched: a
traditional romantic comedy punctuated by bawdy laughs and occasional
moments of naughty slapstick hilarity. Our review from the 2013 SXSW
Film Festival
credits the majority of laughs to Merchant and Flemyng,
and admits that while the film has the potential to be “something really
inventive and irreverent, sending up the romantic comedy genre in
energetic and profound new ways,” it ultimately falls short of
deconstruction. Still, rom-com cynics should find joy in the rampant
hedonism, while happy-ending-lovers won’t be disappointed either. Catch “I Give It a Year” before its theatrical release on August 9th!
Where It’s Available:
Amazon Instant, Cable On Demand, iTunes, VUDU, YouTube

The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985)
What It’s About:
New Jersey waitress Cecilia (Mia Farrow) finds an escape from her unhappy marriage at the movies. After viewing “The Purple Rose of Cairo” several times, Cecilia attracts notice from protagonist Tom (Jeff Daniels), who walks off the screen and into her life. The pair quickly falls in love, but concern from producers and the actor who plays Tom (Daniels again) over the character’s defection threatens to separate them forever and send Cecilia back to her humdrum life. Danny Aiello and Dianne Wiest co-star.
Why You Should Stream It:
This Depression-set comedy, which blends reality and fantasy with typical Woody Allen flair, is as much a wistful love letter to classic cinema—it shares its premise with Buster Keaton‘s 1924 silent film “Sherlock Jr.“—as it is a feminist parable and a satire of the modern Hollywood dream machine. The young Daniels is charming in his bashful jocularity, and like Allen’s latest production, “Blue Jasmine,” this picture offers up a very strong female lead, with Farrow showing off her best wide-eyed naif. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay and winning the BAFTA Award for Best Film, “The Purple Rose of Cairo” is a delightful artifact from the auteur’s enduring collection.
Where It’s Available:
Amazon Instant, iTunes, VUDU

Also Available to Stream
Despite not making our top six picks, the following films are certainly still worthy of your movie-loving attention, and are newly available via various streaming services. Links to our reviews are provided where available.

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
Charles Bradley: Soul of America
Day For Night
Enter the Dragon
The Expendables 2
Get Carter
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Ginger & Rosa
Hell Baby
The Human Resources Manager
Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp
Olympus Has Fallen
The Place Beyond the Pines
Red Flag
The Sapphires
Shallow Grave
Shaun of the Dead
The Silence
Trailer Park Boys: The Movie

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