Up Stream: The Best New Stuff On Demand for the Week of December 4

Mya Taylor (left) and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez star in "Tangerine." Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Up Stream is a weekly roundup at Newsweek where, in addition to cataloging all the newest additions to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Google Play, HBO Go and beyond, we've handpicked a few highlights for you to enjoy from the comfort of your own bed, couch or toilet.

The Best

The start of December brings two of the best, most criminally under-acknowledged films released in 2015 on Netflix.

First up is the Chinese crime procedural Black Coal, Thin Ice. It's as if director Diao Yinan had (much like this writer) spent incalculable hours rapt before syndicated reruns of Law & Order: SVU, then (unlike this writer) turned around and ditched the bad writing, clichéd characterizations and delectable sax theme to retain only the Gordian-knot plotting and nihilistic outlook on humanity. When done well, there are few things more pleasurable than a good cop movie, and they don't come much better than this. There's a serial killer on the loose spreading severed limbs in coal shipments across numerous provinces, and the cop obsessed with tracking the culprit down won't let professional decorum, personal life or basic sanity stop him. The film won the Golden Bear, the top prize at the über-prestigious Berlin International Film Festival, for its propulsive action and chilly depiction of how crime can consume a man. If David Fincher's Zodiac had flourished in a robust Far Eastern color palette, it'd look a lot like this film.

Also new to Netflix is Sean Baker's Tangerine, the single most defiantly different film of 2015. It's a toss-up as to which aspect of the production is more revolutionary: that Baker shot the entire feature using only an iPhone hooked up to an anamorphic lens, or that his film casts two transgender actresses as the leads of a film not about the whimpery, feel-bad tragedies of Life in the Mainstream. Baker's film plumbs an unseen Los Angeles underground on Christmas Eve as it follows short-tempered prostitute Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, full of fire and electricity) on her first day out of the clink. Along with her partner in crime—often literally—Alexandra (Mya Taylor, every bit as revelatory), she attempts to track down her good-for-nothing boyfriend, who may or may not have shacked up with another one of his charges while Sin-Dee was imprisoned. Crackling with live-wire volatility, the film locates pathos and hilarity in back-alley blow jobs, motel-room beatdowns and one sidesplittingly pathetic karaoke performance. To quote Sin-Dee Rella as she drags her man-stealing nemesis out of what looks like a crack den by the hair: "Merry Christmas, bitch."

It's a heartening week for trans-centric entertainment on multiple fronts: Jill Soloway put Amazon Prime on the map when her autobiographical dramedy about a family coming to terms with its patriarch's announcement that she'd like to be the family's matriarch cleaned up at the Emmys and earned Jeffrey Tambor the best actor prize. Amazon has just added the second-season premiere of Transparent for Prime subscribers ahead of the full-season rollout on December 11, and Tambor continues to shine in his sensitive, challenging performance as Maura (née Morton) Pfefferman. The second season sees the whole Pfefferman clan imperfectly dealing with new tsuris on all fronts, their Californian neuroses entertaining those of us without the money and tolerance for flowing clothing to live their lifestyle. But beyond being a proficient work of comedy and sneaky pathos, Transparent is chiefly a social document, and one of vital importance. The tides are beginning to shift, and those who don't fully support the transgender community have positioned themselves on the wrong side of history. Transparent alone might be worth the cost of a subscription to Prime. It's a well-observed indie tragicomedy and a work of history written with lightning, all for one price.

American remakes of films that have enjoyed popularity overseas seldom turn out well. (For Exhibit A, may I direct your attention to the remake of The Secret in Their Eyes, which is currently dying a painful, protracted death at the box office.) Such is not the case when the source material is something as transparently brilliant as Michelangelo Antonioni's paranoid art thriller Blow-Up. Additionally, such is not the case when the person doing the adapting is Brian De Palma, the biggest world-cinema fanboy in mainstream American movies.

For 1981's hypertense psychodrama Blow Out (available now to stream on Prime and Hulu), De Palma retained the basic premise—technician accidentally documents a murder and drives himself nuts trying to unravel it—but applied his own signature editing moves to the John Travolta–led film. The result was a mostly ignored marvel of style and substance that's gained a well-deserved second life in the years since its release, with new generations of fans obsessing over the film's split-screen trickery. This heady mixture of guilt, fear, suspicion and easily digested film theory is a treat for movie junkies and adrenaline junkies alike. (For bonus viewing, track down the Italian slasher flick Deep Red, another takeoff on Antonioni's Blow-Up, but one that brings the exploitative gore and hazy Italian atmospherics.)

The 13th day of the month doesn't land on a Friday in December, and it's not currently horror-friendly October, so why Hulu has added all of the Friday the 13th films (excepting Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Jason X and the 2009 remake of the 1980 original) isn't fully clear. But the last thing we'd want to do is bite the hand that feeds, so…thanks, Hulu?

Either way, it's a decidedly good thing that the seminal series of '80s slasher flicks has hacked its way on to the Web to terrify a new generation of teens. Machete-wielding, goalie-masked psychopath Jason Voorhees stands tall alongside Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Leatherface in the slasher hall of fame, and it's never too late for neophytes to learn why. A Nightmare on Elm Street shot for more fantastical territory, and Halloween had the benefit of John Carpenter's talent for building suspense, but the Friday the 13th series still feels like the most essential of the bunch. All of its building blocks have been assimilated into the genre it helped spawn: Horny kids camping down at the lake, homicidal maniac with a distinctive weapon—sit back and watch the spring-loaded squibs of blood fly.

The Rest

10 Things I Hate About You (HBO Go)
Æon Flux (Netflix)
American Beauty (Netflix)
Annie Hall (HBO Go)
Apocalypse Now (Hulu, Prime)
Bedazzled (Netflix, Prime)
Best of Enemies (Netflix)
The Best Offer (Netflix)
Blacula (Hulu, Prime)
Black Mama, White Mama (Hulu, Prime)
Black Rain (Hulu, Prime)
Bounce (Netflix)
Brokeback Mountain (HBO Go)
The Care Bears Movie (Hulu, Prime)
Carmen Jones (Netflix)
CBGB (Netflix)
Charlie Bartlett (Hulu, Prime)
The Chosen (Netflix)
Cradle 2 the Grave (Netflix)
Crossroads (Netflix)
The Cruise (Netflix)
Darkman (Netflix)
De-Lovely (Hulu, Prime)
Dealer (Netflix)
The Details (Prime)
Disturbia (HBO Go)
Divergent (HBO Go)
Don't Look in the Basement (Prime)
Dr. No (Hulu)
Escape From L.A. (Netflix)
Eyes Wide Shut (Netflix)
A Fistful of Dynamite (Hulu)
The Gambler (Netflix)
Girlfight (HBO Go)
Gone in 60 Seconds (Netflix)
Hammett (Hulu, Prime)
Happy Funeral (Prime)
The Harvest (Hulu)
Here on Earth (Netflix, Prime)
Hoffa (Netflix, Prime)
Home Alone (HBO Go)
Hook (Netflix)
In the House (Prime)
Intolerance (Prime)
Jenny's Wedding (Netflix)
Kiss the Bride (Hulu, Prime)
A League of Their Own (Netflix)
Leonie (Prime)
Less Than Zero (HBO Go)
Li'l Abner (Prime)
The Longest Yard (Hulu)
Love Is a Gun (Hulu, Prime)
Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (Prime)
Lulu on the Bridge (Hulu, Prime)
Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine (Netflix)
Mozart in the Jungle, season 2 (Prime)
Mr. Ace (Prime)
Mystic Pizza (HBO Go)
Neil Young: Heart of Gold (Netflix)
Night of the Living Dead (Prime)
Nobody's Fool (Hulu)
Northern Soul (Netflix)
One From the Heart (Hulu, Prime)
Over the Top (Netflix)
A Perfect Man (Netflix)
Phantom of Chinatown (Prime)
Pieces of April (Hulu, Prime)
Plush (Netflix)
Popeye (Hulu)
Practical Magic (Netflix)
Private Number (Netflix)
Private Parts (Netflix)
Ray (Netflix)
Real Rob (Netflix)
River of No Return (Netflix, Prime)
Road to Bali (Prime)
Robocop (HBO Go)
Robocop 2 (HBO Go)
Robocop 3 (HBO Go)
Scream, Blacula, Scream (Hulu, Prime)
See You in Valhalla (Netflix)
She's All That (HBO Go)
Some Kind of Hate (Netflix)
Soul Plane (HBO Go)
The Southerner (Prime)
Spaceballs (HBO Go)
Spy Hard (Netflix)
Stations of the Cross (Netflix)
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Prime)
Stir of Echoes (Netflix)
Stir of Echoes 2: The Homecoming (Netflix)
Stuck in Love (Netflix)
Super Size Me (Netflix)
Tap World (Netflix)
Tetro (Hulu, Prime)
That Touch of Mink (Netflix)
Tiger House (Netflix)
Tomorrow Never Dies (Hulu, Prime)
Two Step (Netflix, Prime)
Upside Down (Netflix)
Valley of the Dolls (Netflix)
Vampire in Brooklyn (Hulu, Prime)
A Very Murray Christmas (Netflix)
Waitress (HBO Go)
Way Down East (Prime)
What Maisie Knew (Netflix)
A Woman Like Me (Netflix)
Young Sherlock Holmes (Hulu, Prime)