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.
The Parks and Recreation Special
The full special is linked above and it’s really worth it if you were ever a fan of the citizens of Pawnee. It might have gotten a little dusty over here when the end rolled around. I love these characters a lot and was really happy to see them back, even if it was for just a short amount of time.
Sonic The Hedgehog
The Lady™ and I were bored the other night (as most of us are) and were looking for something inoffensive. Thus, we watched a children’s movie based on a videogame from our childhood. It’s actually not half bad. We like James Marsden when he’s in these roles (see also Enchanted) and Ben Schwartz is a fun Sonic. If you have pretweens it might be a good choice for a family movie night.
Ever see a Luc Besson movie? Did you see Atomic Blonde or Red Sparrow? That’s what this is. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, it just is what it is. I enjoyed this on that type of level and sometimes that’s what you want from your movie viewing experience. I will say that I was surprised that model turned actress Sasha Luss was actually pretty good in the role. It’s worth a watch if you want a classic Luc Besson movie with an attractive lead and lots of double/triple/quintuple agenting.
This is an amazing docuseries on Youtube put together by one guy that does an incredible amount of research. Mostly focusing on Disney but with a few other theme parks thrown in (Universal, Six Flags, Cedar Pointe, Busch Gardens) Kevin Perjurer goes in depth on what went wrong with some of the biggest rides at these parks. It’s fascinating stuff, especially if you are a theme park buff like I am. Also, as most shows do, the later episodes get bigger budgets and a bit flashier. Don’t count out the earlier episodes though, the information is still there. Also I’d like to point out that this is a great companion series to Disney’s own The Imagineering Story over on Disney+.
Airplane! (Revisiting the classics via The Whitsett Theater Online)
We’ve talked about it a bunch but we can’t give enough thanks to Rick for putting together so much great programming throughout these quarantimes. Last week he put out one of my all time favorites: Airplane!. Not only does this movie hold up and is just as funny as it ever was, I have a personal connection to it. Back in early August of 1980 my mother was pregnant with me. She went into labor and headed off to 1st and 16th to get me out into the world. Unfortunately for all parties involved we were a bit early. Maybe I was stubborn, who knows. So the doctors suggested that she take some time to relax and maybe go see a movie (there was a theater down the street). So that’s what her and my dad did. They went and saw Airplane! while my mom was in labor with me. Shortly thereafter back to the hospital they went and at around 6am on 8/8/80 I had arrived. But I still think that the humor from that movie made its way into my newly developed brain and that’s why I am the way that I am.
I recently discovered this show after a friend recommended it. Created by Greg Carcia, the man behind My Name Is Earl, it follows a single father raising his daughter with the help of his own parents and, usually topless, grandmother. Sitting somewhere between Malcolm in the Middle and the aforementioned Earl tonally, it’s got some real heart to it and is hilarious af*. And the cast is phenomenal. The whole series is streaming on Hulu.
Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian
A behind the scenes look at the Disney+ phenomenon, Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian may not fill that “baby Yoda” shaped hole in your heart, but it’s still absolutely worth watching. Ok, cards on the table, I’m only one episode in, but still that episode, the first, was great. A round-table discussion between creator/showrunner/co-writer Jon Favreau and season 1 directors Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, Deborah Chow, Bryce Dallas Howard and Taika Waititi, they offer up a lot of insight into this new/old part of the Star Wars universe.
Starring the cousins Amell (Robbie and Stephen), Code 8 tells the tale of a world where people have special abilities. Oh, you’ve heard this one before? Well, yeah, it’s nothing new. But I’ll give them credit for trying something different with it. Slapping a not so subtle immigrant skin on it, this film follows Connor Reed (the Robbie of the Amells), an electric powered skilled laborer trying to provide for his (way too young looking) sick mother and he gets caught up with “the wrong crowd” as lead by Garrett (no last, or maybe first, name, and played by the Stephen of the Amells). It’s cliched. It’s heavy handed. It’s Indiegogo financed. So, it should be terrible. But it’s not. It’s not great either. It’s watchable. **shrugs**
So, I gotta tell you, I love to watch people dance! Step Up (specifically 2: The Streets – Moose 4 life!) is my jam. So, even as a 43-year-old white dude with little-to-no rhythm, when I found TikTok I was intrigued. But what got me hooked is how much else is on there. The creativity, and sheer hilarity, of some of these people is amazing. It’s really not just dancing. There’s standup, sketch comedy, cooking tutorials, dancing tutorials, trivia, science facts, and so much more. If you’re around my age, you’re going to feel creepy when you first sign up. But just start browsing around, like stuff and let the algorithm take it from there. It’s truly a pretty good time suck.
Here are a few of my recommends:
That Dude Can Cook (it’s true, he can!)
Jeff Wright (just a really funny dude that makes sketches mostly with himself)
Adam Rose (a “hey, it’s that guy” in a blue cardigan. Seems cool. Friends with Jessica Alba, who is also a delight on TikTok.)
Charli D’Amelio (yes, I’m 43 and I follow a 16-year-old on TikTok but she’s the #1 most-followed account and is a really good dancer. She was also once at the Dunkin’ by me and has apparently, with her sister Dixie, left The Hype House. I’m a sad, sad man.)
Anthony Hopkins (yes, that Anthony Hopkins. He only has one video up but I am here for it.)
Washington Post (yes, the newspaper, but it is really well done and funny af.)
ChunkysDead (aka Melissa. I don’t always get her comedy, and she’s stoned, a lot, but there’s something interesting and funny about her TikTok.)
Oh and there’s some weird comedy cult competition thing going on between some of the TikTokkers. I don’t quite get it. **shrugs**
What to say about Flesh Eating Mothers…It was not what I was expecting. Well, most of it was. The very east coast ‘80s look and feel, the terrible performances, the over the top gore. That was all on hand and did not disappoint. What I didn’t expect was the impetus for said mothers to get on with their flesh-eating. It’s far and away the smartest thing about the movie. Not that the bar was high, mind you. But still, points for cleverness. It’s a silly, so bad it’s good horror-comedy and definitely a strong contender for a future HorrorFest. I watched this on Vinegar Syndrome’s newly released blu-ray, but you can find it on Amazon Prime Video.
Watching anime has quickly become my happy place over these last few weeks, but I kind of hit a wall. I suddenly needed something outside the usual slice-of-life comedies I tend to watch. Knowing there’s pretty much an anime for everything (seriously, I found one about long distance running that I kinda want to watch), so I got to browsing. I felt myself missing sports a bit and landed on Haikyu!!; a long-running, well regarded series about high school volleyball. Man, I did not think I was going to like this as much as I do, but this show does everything right; not just in the sports genre, but overall. Great characters, compelling writing, fully realized stakes, and an amazing attention to detail. You don’t need to watch all six minutes, but this video compares professional volleyball to what the animators accomplished in the show. Hats off to Production I.G. I’m only half way through the first season, but apparently the entire third season focuses on a single championship game and I can’t wait for it. The first two seasons are available on Netflix and Hulu, but the entire series run up to the currently airing fourth season is on Crunchyroll and VRV.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged
Since the first entry in this series had a more serious tone and was, overall, pretty decent, I initially turned my nose up at this “sequel” when it came out in theaters. But I needed something mindless to watch, and I really do love me a sharksploitation movie. Was it predictable? Mostly, yes, but it actually had a couple of clever moments and the shark effects are overall really solid. It does start to tread into unbelievable/hilariously over the top territory near the end of the third act, but it was still fun and a step or three above most movies of its ilk. If you need a killer shark movie in your life that co-stars John Corbett this is available on Amazon Prime.
Liz and the Blue Bird
This movie hit me with all the emotions. So much so, that when I double checked the trailer I linked above, I got hit with them all over again the moment the music began. As for the story: The quiet, reserved Mizore and the boisterous Nozomi find their friendship tested while they prepare their solo for a concert band performance. While that plays out we watch, in parallel, the eponymous fairy tale unfold that inspired the suite they’re tasked to play. Both stories are about discovery, understanding, and about learning to let go, even the things you treasure most.
This is another directorial effort from Nayoko Yamada, who hit me with all the feelings a couple of weeks ago with A Silent Voice. Here she employs two distinct art styles; a realistic and highly detailed one for the high school segments, and bold storybook-style watercolors for the fairy tale, right down to utilizing a subtle paper texture in the backgrounds. There are also two composers; one for the modern day background score, and a second for the fairy tale and the suite the concert band performs. The point when all of these elements finally coalesce is, without a doubt, one of the most moving sequences I’ve encountered in a movie. Period. And it really begs to be experienced with full surround audio. When the soundstage opens up it’s like you’re being lifted up carried along by the music. This is a special piece of filmmaking and I can’t recommend it enough. I had this one in my library, but it’s available on-demand on several streaming services as cheaply as $3 for a rental. It’s worth substantially more.
Dead to Me
The second season was just released but I’ve only included the link to the first season lest the second season trailer give away anything from the wonderful first season. Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini are like peanut butter and chocolate – two great tastes that taste great together. James Marsden is also fantastically sleazy. The plot is windy and twisty but also an emotional roller coaster. Somehow they keep even the craziest twists grounded. Well worth your time.
I know, I know, hear me out on this… I have a kid. She loves princesses and we watch Disney+ the 50% of the time we’re not watching “My Little Pony.” Mixing up the animated classics with some live action was fun. I would not have paid money for the Will Smith take on Robin Williams (although he does a decent enough job of making the role his own) I was not as put off by it as “The Internet” was. It was fun, action packed, and the music was, of course, great. For a family movie night you could do far worse.
I can thank the podcast “Unspooled” for inspiring me to re-watch this film, which i hadn’t seen since high school. At the time I was watching it purely for the music and dancing and a lot of the subtlety of the story was lost on me. Watching it again, it really is magnificent. If you like musicals it is a MUST. If you DON’T like musicals, you’re in luck – this is one where all the musical numbers are set in a theater and thus “logical.” This movie created the Liza Minelli we know in pop culture but there’s so much more to it, well worth the watch.
Watching Cabaret led me to dig up this old gem on Amazon. Ostensibly a documentary on the history of dance in the movies, hosted by Gene Kelly, Sammy Davis Jr, a young Mikhail Barishnikov, and others, this movie is really more of an extended excuse to string together some of the best musical numbers in Hollywood history. It was a perfect Saturday afternoon pick-me-up that my entire family enjoyed watching, as well as being an excellent gateway into some fantastic movie musicals.
How do you summarize Amazon’s series, “Upload?” Essentially, in the future, you are able to upload your consciousness to a cloud of sorts, and choose your afterlife. But mysteries abound and obstacles ensue. I am only halfway through Season One but it is just delightful viewing. The writing is witty, the premise is original, the cast is great… It’s a fun, quirky hodgepodge made with care by Greg Daniels. Would highly recommend.
Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened
Not all Stephen Sondheim musicals were smashing successes. Sondheim, Harold Prince, and George Furth’s odd, reverse chronology musical “Merrily We Roll Along” closed after just 16 performances in 1981 but went onto iconic status because of its failure. This doc (on Netflix) by Lonny Price, original “Merrily” cast member (and even more famous as “Neil Kellerman” in Dirty Dancing), focuses on the original cast members, various ensembles that followed, then and now, and the special place this experience holds in everyone’s memories. If you are not familiar with the show, it may not be for you, but if you are, or you enjoy musicals, this is a great watch.
Power of Greyskull
Confession: I grew up loving He-Man and She-Ra. I had all the action figures and castles and accessories. I am pretty sure I was She-Ra for Halloween once in one of those plastic-bag and corny full-mask type costumes we all wore in the 80s. So needless to say, I devoured this documentary (I found it on Netflix but I think it’s also available to rent on YouTube). It’s a very deep dive into the series, the merchandise, the fandom, the remakes — it’s an entire culture and so much fun to relive here.
I read Michelle Obama’s autobiography of the same name so there weren’t any earth-shattering revelations in the Netflix doc — the biographical information is the same, of course. But watching her with her staff, on her tour, and with her family and community is pretty wonderful. I already stanned Michelle and this only fueled that fandom further.
The Happy Days of Garry Marshall
I set my DVR for this a little while back and forgot about it so it was a fun surprise Wednesday morning to turn it on. So enjoyable! We all know how accomplished Marshall was in a broad sense but this two-hour special reminds us of so much groundbreaking specificity and it was lovely to see members of his “squad” from varying levels of fame sit down for this. You have everyone from Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Cindy Williams to Julie Andrews, Julia Roberts, Richard Gere and Ashton Kutcher. It is really a joyous little TV special and if you did not catch it when it aired like I did, I believe you can stream it online.
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