Welcome to the Weekend Watch, where we try to point you toward the best ways to spend your viewing time (or, at least, steer you clear of the garbage). In light of the global health crisis and the consequential movie theater closures, this week we wanted to each recommend some quality streaming content you might enjoy.
After hearing good things about it, I started watching The Witcher on Netflix. I was a little trepidatious because I’m not always a fan of sword and sorcery stuff, plus it’s based off a video game (which is based of a series of books). But I’ve actually really gotten into it. And hey if this lockdown lasts too much longer then maybe I’ll jump into the game after I’m done with the series.
Star Trek: Picard
Next on my list is Picard on CBS All Access. I never pegged myself as a Star Trek fan but here we are with two of my favorite Sci Fi shows on TV right now coming out of the world of Trek. Picard does a great job of mixing beats for fans of TNG and even TOS with content for modern audiences. Yeah, there are probably too many “fucks” but I feel like it’s done an excellent job of filling out the world that Rodenberry created all those years ago.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
If you are looking for a series that has more than one season out there, might I recommend Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The whole series is on Disney+ right now and if you can get past the animation (which gets much better as the series goes on) it is well worth your time. The series does such a better job at fleshing out the world from the prequels than the actual movies do. So much so, that I gained a whole new love for that era in Star Wars. And if you can get through all that I would suggest jumping on to Rebels afterward. That series is integral to tying the Prequel Era into the Orig Trig Era.
I’ve found a new youtube channel that does a great job of pointing out all of the things you may have missed in the aforementioned shows. ScreenCrush is a moderately large youtube channel that goes pretty in depth on mostly genre shows. I like that the main guy is honestly not all that funny but seems pretty knowledgeable to the source materials. Give them a like and a subscribe!
And then of course what I have been spending most of my time in this weird new world doing is playing Destiny 2. I play mostly on PC now but will jump over to my XBox while I’m at The Lady’s house. The game is free to try now with expansions costing actual money, but the free track will allow you to play most of the core activities. If you are looking for a game that has frankly too much to do I would suggest this. Also if you want to watch me play (and be mediocre at best) check me out over on twitch.tv/lorenelliott!
First for me is the Bon Appetit channel on YouTube. Even if you only have the slightest interest in cooking, it’s enjoyable as all get out to watch. The hosts are all super personable (Claire, call me!) and I feel like I’m learning when it’s on (except when I’m falling asleep to it, which is more of a commentary on my life and less on the channel itself). Have I made anything from their instructional videos? No. But I plan to! Eventually! Check it out! You won’t regret it.
The Chef Show
I promise my whole list won’t just be cooking shows. But The Chef Show, hosted by writer/director/producer Jon Favreau and Roy Choi, of the Kogi food truck fame, on Netflix is an absolute delight. Less instructional than Bon Appetit, but no less charming, this is a show made by people who love food, for people who love food, with people who love food. If you only check out one, make it the Sam Raimi episode. He is all things awkward and it’s kind of adorable.
Magic For Humans
Wanna see a trick? Ok, so, if we’re talking Netflix and we’re talking delight, it has to be Magic for Humans. Justin Willman, aka Justin Credible and fellow Emerson College alumnus, takes douchey street magic and imbues it with a sense of childlike wonder and amazement. Every episode has a theme (fair warning, tread lightly on the Love one when the kids are around) and runs about 25 minutes or so. You could easily binge the first two seasons (with a third on the way) in an afternoon.
Let’s talk comedy. Mike Birbiglia is my favorite comic, if not of all time, than easily of the last decade or more. But to call him a standup feels like a misnomer. Ranging from funny to hilarious, he tells stories, not just jokes, that go somewhere. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him live once, and have enjoyed his comedy specials many times over. He has three specials and a movie, Don’t Think Twice, that he wrote, directed and co-stars in, streaming on Netflix right now.
Lastly, I want to kick on over to Hulu (or The ‘lu, as the kids are calling it) and recommend Devs. Part of FX on Hulu and starring Nick Offerman in a part about as far away from Ron Swanson as you can get, this limited series was created by Alex Garland, writer/director of Ex Machina and Annihilation. Truthfully, only three episodes have been released. So it could go completely off the rails. But with just eight episodes total, is it really that much of a risk? I realize, at this point, I’ve said very little in terms of what the show is about. But this feels like one of those shows that the less you know about it going in, the better it is. At least for now.
Honestly, I’m going to be spending most of my social distancing time working through the endless pile of unwatched movies in my personal library, but that doesn’t mean that my streaming services go unused:
The Imagineering Story
I watched the first two episodes of The Imagineering Story when Disney+ launched, but it dropped off my radar shortly after. Not for lack of quality. It’s one of the best produced documentary series out there, but it’s one that warrants focus to enjoy all of the detail. Last week was the time to dive back in, and the last four episodes were just as rewarding as the first two. There’s so much technical wizardry on hand here it really feels like magic. And I can’t help but marvel at the depth of Disney’s archive. Every studio should have been this attentive to preserving its history. Highly recommended for any Disney or theme park fan.
I really enjoyed the first season of Netflix’s Altered Carbon. It’s a great mix of noir-style detective story and smart sci-fi. The addition of Anthony Mackie as the lead this season keeps the series fresh, and Simone Missick (Luke Cage/Iron Fist) feels more at home here than anything else I’ve seen her in. I’m only three episodes in, but it’s been solid so far. I’ll likely finish this in short order.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken
I never grew out of my cartoon-loving phase as a kid, so it’s not surprising that I still watch a lot of animation (The fact that I work in that genre now is just a happy accident).
Given its large influence on modern animation as a whole, I’ve taken to watching a lot more anime. There’s a deep catalogue to catch up on, but with the advent of simulcasting fans in the US can watch new series as they air in Japan. Of the few I’ve sampled, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken is far and away my favorite. It follows three high school girls who are pursuing their passion to make anime. I know, it sounds a bit on the nose, but this show is an outstanding testament to the spirit of creativity, ingenuity, and the value of art. From the way the characters fall in and out of their constructed fantasy worlds, to the morphing of home-spun sound effects into full blown immersive sound design, the show uses every advantage afforded by the genre. Its art style and execution feel like they were birthed from Liquid Television and not what anyone would consider atypical anime. Think Aeon Flux not Sailor Moon. From character, to design, to overall scope, Eizouken is simply a joy to watch. The final episode of the first season airs next week, but you can catch up for free via Crunchyroll (I’d recommend either using an ad blocker or signing up for their free trial to avoid their ads. They’re frequent and kind of annoying. :/ ). I’ll definitely re-watch the entire run while I wait for season two.
The trailers for the show aren’t strong. This quick scene is a much better example of what you’re in for.
A Colt is My Passport
I’ve been digging back into the Criterion Channel after neglecting it for a bit. It’s hard to pick just one thing to highlight since nearly everything I’ve watched lately is notable, but we’ll go with A Colt is My Passport from 1967.
Noir is largely seen as an American genre, but there are plenty of movies that fit the bill from all over the world. Since the American Cinemathque’s Noir Festival was cancelled I was looking for something to fill the void. This entry from Japan’s Nikkatsu Studios is a definite highlight. The story follows a hard-boiled assassin who winds up raising the ire of two rival gangs. Murderlarity and revenge ensue. Tightly paced with all the hallmarks of the genre (and a few unique spins, including a Spaghetti Western-style score), this one is worth a watch for any Noir or crime-thriller fan. Criterion Channel has a 14-day free trial if you’re game.
Now that FX on Hulu has arrived, I finally finished watching Fosse/Verdon. There are few viewing experiences like this. Endlessly engaging, brilliant production design and attention to detail, and a career best performance from Michelle Williams make this one to watch. Even if you have no interest in musical theater or the legacy of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, this is just great drama, period. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a need to rewatch Cabaret and All That Jazz.
As the mom of the group I’m giving a shout out to Frozen 2 on Disney+. Disney+ has been such a hit in our house overall – my daughter started adding the swoop and + sign to other Disney logos she found on toys and such. The early release of Frozen 2 was a godsend. We hadn’t seen it in the theater so now we’re caught up with the rest of the world. While the music was not as good as the first one there are still some songs that are stuck in my head and they managed to tell an interesting story and well up some tears in this mom at least. I feel like I don’t even need to recommend this since if you have a child in the age range you’ve probably already watched it at least once since schools closed, but it felt worth a mention.
Forky Asks a Question
While we’re on a Disney+ kick, the Forky Asks a Question series of shorts is also delightful. There are 10 I think and they are short and humorous. Some are funnier than others and there are jokes for grown ups as well as kids. We often watch them together as a family. Once you’ve watched them, ask me about my ‘Whaaaat? Noooo….” mug.
Pete The Cat
One more family suggestion, I swear, on Amazon Prime you can find Pete the Cat. Yes it’s just one of a million children’s programs out there, but how many of those have all of their music written (and often performed) by Elvis Costello and Diana Krall? How many of them feature Dave Matthews as the voice of a platypus single-father? How many of them have a squirrel with gay dads? Yes, Pete the Cat is one groovy dude and he WILL put you in a happy mood.
Switching gears (like from 1st to 5th with no stops in between, thus destroying your transmission), I loved the first season of Sex Education on Netflix (the second is on deck in my queue now that I have *ahem* more free time). Part of that love is, I’m sure, residual Scully love as Gillian Anderson is amazing in it, but the whole cast is bananas good. It’s better than the 80s style sex-comedy you think it’s going to be and has some genuinely warm, touching moments. Yes, I said warm touching.
Have you had a friend tell you to watch Schitt’s Creek yet? I started it on a whim and binged through all 5 full seasons on Netflix. The pilot (and premise in general) will make you think this is one thing and it just really turns around on you. Rather than making fun of the “rich one percent getting their comeuppance” or the “hick yokels in the small town” the show threads a needle allowing you to laugh at both sides, but never with malice. And the character depth and growth is wonderful. It is a show that makes me feel better about the world and everytime I watch it. I can’t say enough about how good this show makes me feel. It is a kind show. It is a hilarious show. Just watch it and soon you’ll be the friend telling people to watch it.
A friend got me into “The Rook” on Starz. We already know it isn’t getting a second season, so you can rest easy knowing it’s only an eight-episode commitment and I really enjoyed it. It’s a little X-Men meets British drama with a dash of sex appeal. Lots of recognizable faces and a lot of great new talent.
Visible: Out on Television
I’ve been going through the AppleTV+ series, “Visible: Out on Television” and it’s extremely well done. They touch on every single pivotal moment in LGBTQ TV history. I was floored how much they covered, in fact, in just five episodes. Highly recommend it if you have access to this platform.
Mr. Right is on Netflix! No one saw this movie but it stars Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell. They are totally mismatched as a couple, but I think that may be why it just worked for me. He’s a hitman and she’s an awkward, gullible single girl who falls for him. Hilarity ensues.
Stars In The House
If you are at all into Broadway, you want to make sure you watch “Stars in the House.” Twice a day (2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Time), daily, Seth Rudetsky and his husband/Producer James Wesley will live stream this concert series, featuring stars of stage and screen performing live (from home!) on The Actor’s Fund YouTube channel.
If you are into the horror genre, I did notice that in these trying times, Shudder and Fangoria are offering free subscriptions right now. 30 days and 60 days respectively. Get on that if that’s your thing – that’s a great (and generous) promotion! Other streamers offering freebies: Sundance Now and AcornTV.
So that’s your adapted, upcoming weekend in review. Let us know what you saw, liked and/or hated!
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–Loren, RDT, Rick, Jen, and AJ