Here is an interesting new release available now from cable and digital providers as well as a title that has recently become available for streaming.
Video on Demand
“First Reformed”: Ethan Hawke gives one of the best performances of his career in this troubling drama from Paul Schrader (screenwriter of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull”). Hawke is the Rev. Ernst Toller, a minister at a small 250-year-old church in upstate New York that still exists mostly because it is a historical landmark and being funded by an area megachurch to keep the lights on. Ernst bides his time as a glorified tour guide but still manages to give a sermon each Sunday. There aren’t many regulars in his congregation, but one day a young parishioner named Mary (Amanda Seyfried) stops by and asks Ernst to speak to her husband, who has recently been released from jail. After learning that she was pregnant, Mary had discovered a suicide vest in the garage and began to fear that the man she loves had fallen back in line with a radical group of environmentalists who plot dangerous activities. Schrader utilizes a boxy 1.33:1 aspect ratio to illustrate (possibly more than one) crisis of faith, the hope for redemption and a sense of isolation, all inspired by the stark images of Paweł Pawlikowski’s 2013 “Ida.” All of the performances are noteworthy, but it’s especially surprising to see Cedric Kyles (better known as comedian Cedric the Entertainer) in a rare dramatic role that he excels in. This is a powerful story, but you may want to avoid if you dislike films that refuse to spell the plot out for you and let you know that everything has ended happily ever after. This movie’s ambiguous ending brought out a rare audience rebuke from a few members of the crowd I saw it with earlier this year. They shouted at the screen as the credits rolled, angry at Schrader’s choice to not take the easy way out. (Cable and digital VOD, 4K Ultra HD available)
Also on streaming services
“Unsane”: Claire Foy (“The Crown”) plays Sawyer, a woman who has been running away from her life in order to escape a stalker. A visit to a counselor to talk about her problems results in her being involuntarily committed to a mental institution. It’s a riveting thriller that potentially presents more questions than answers. “Saturday Night Live” alum Jay Pharoah and Juno Temple are both routinely excellent as two of Sawyer’s fellow patients, and it’s also remarkable to see Amy Irving resurface for her first role in nearly a decade as Sawyer’s mom. Director Steven Soderbergh shot the film entirely using an app and the iPhone 7 Plus, proving just how far technology has come. (Amazon Prime)