Instant Picks of the Week 3/4/2016
Gone are the days of scrolling mindlessly through your queue! No longer will you have to sift through the vastness of what’s coming to the instant viewing wastelands this month! Whether you’re looking for a stellar film or an exciting new show to binge, Instant Picks of the Week brings you the hottest releases in film and television on instant viewing platforms that we know you’ll love, or at the very least not despise.
JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY (HBO GO)
In a passionate love letter to the lives lost in the name of investigative reporting, JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY is in many ways HBO’s documentary version of this year’s best picture winner, SPOTLIGHT. However, instead of analyzing the red tape that reporters have to navigate, HBO’s latest documentary acquisition is focused on passion. There’s a lot to digest here, and when all’s said and done, the film plays out like two very different documentaries joined at the hip. The first half heavily leans on a vérité approach in order to deliver real footage that the titular subject captured during his tours documenting civil unrest in the Middle East, while the second half resorts to a plethora of talking head interviews and reenactments in order to best display what events unfolded leading up to the execution of Jim by ISIS. It’s horrifying and nail-bitingly frustrating in delivery, and the fact that Jim’s fate is made clear in the film’s opening text scroll is only a testament to how effectively it delivers its dramatic tension. But perhaps this documentary’s greatest accomplishment is that it never plays out as a vigil, but rather a celebration of the life of someone who loved the work he did. Although arguably too long for its own good, JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY is thoroughly compelling and dramatically gutting viewing. [Sergio Zaciu]
LAST WEEK TONIGHT (HBO GO)
Back for a new season, LAST WEEK TONIGHT loves to sarcastically advertise itself as the best news show on television, only to use pull quotes from celebrities that hate John Oliver. But the truth is, LAST WEEK TONIGHT is the best news source on television, far and wide. It was already leaps and bounds ahead of THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART ever since its impeccable Edward Snowden episode, and it has only gotten better since. In fact, its pristine writing and hilariously articulate allegories have only cemented it as the most effective news spectacle on television (perfectly co-existing with the investigative journalism of VICE). Ironically less biased than actual news networks, and giving itself more time than THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH to delve deep into serious global issues, LAST WEEK TONIGHT isn’t the best of its kind because it’s the funniest show around (although it certainly is), but because it’s the most intelligent. [Sergio Zaciu]