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 Invisible Man
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from this but was pleasantly surprised. It’s not a gory horror movie but there’s a good amount of suspense. There are a few scenes where Elizabeth Moss is alone in the house and they frame the shot from out in the hallway. It’s super off putting to be put into the eyes of our invisible stalker. They also use some nice lingering shots that make you start inspecting every little thing to see if you see something amiss. I actually very much recommend this one.
Any of our listeners know that I’m a bit of a sucker for Post War Los Angeles. So The Lady and I sat down to watch this new show on Netflix. The cast is pretty great and once you get past the “Ryan Murphy” of it all, it’s a pretty fun show. We’ve made it through about half the episodes so far and will definitely finish it out.
I’d seen some clips of this show about Canadian hicks, skids, and hockey players online and they were pretty damn funny. Hulu has the whole series so I thought, “hey why not”. It’s a bit crass and the actual stories aren’t anything new but it makes me laugh and right now, that’s enough for me.
It’s time for Loren’s videogame corner. Cuphead is one of the most gorgeous and difficult games I’ve ever played. To be fair, I’ve always been bad at platformers (think Mario Bros. or Sonic) but this takes that to a whole new level. And while it can be frustrating it actually ends up being super rewarding when you complete a level. Plus as I mentioned already it’s gorgeous. The old style animation and soundtrack are a breath of fresh air in the gaming world.
The Man From Nowhere (The Whitsett Theater Online)
Another edition from Rick for the Whitsett Theater Online. This one wasn’t our typical action fare, and was a little more serious for a Friday night. But I really dug it. The story of a retired government assassin that gets roped into helping his 8 year old neighbor whose mother got them into some trouble by ripping off drug dealing black market organ dealers. It’s wild and the action is pretty fantastic. It’s available on multiple streaming services.
Picked up by Netflix after Covid-19 pushed it off Paramount’s slate, The Lovebirds stars Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae as a couple in a rut who end up in way over their heads. Four years into their relationship, Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Rae) are on the verge of a breakup. Then they hit a dude on a bicycle and shit goes nuts from there. Think Date Night/Game Night nuts. While the plot is pretty generic, these two have great chemistry. I almost wish this was more of a straightforward romcom so we could get more scenes of them just talking to each other. Is it the best movie in the world? No, but at a tight 87 minutes, you could do worse. So, have a seat, fold some laundry and enjoy.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Yup, I’m one of the legion setting up islands, building buildings and selling turnips. Like much of the internet, I have become addicted to this game. (Yesterday was Renee’s birthday! She’s a pink rhino. I got her wooden blocks that she really seemed to love.) While I got bored with The Sims pretty quickly, I’m coming up on a month at Ryland (that’s the name of my island) and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I need to visit other islands though. So, if you play, hit me up! My island has peaches, by the way, if you’re interested.
Dropping earlier this week, HBO Max is the latest combatant in the streaming wars. And, based on its library alone, I think it’s a viable competitor. I’ve already built out a hell of a watchlist. Will it dethrone Netflix? Likely not. But I could see it slotting in second or third, along with Disney+. Of course, not being available on Roku or Amazon FireTV is likely a big hindrance. But, from what I read, the apps are ready. They just need to finalize the deal.
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Currently streaming on Prime Video, Brittany Runs a Marathon is the story of one 28-year-old woman’s struggle with weight, how she sees herself and, perhaps most importantly, her own self worth. I am a 43-year-old man and, cards on the table, I straight up cried watching this. Despite our age and gender differences, as someone who has struggled (and continues to struggle) with much of the same issues, it was like a gut punch. It made me want to get back out there and run again. And maybe I will….. Anyway, regardless of whatever issues you may, or may not, have, it’s also a really good movie with a pretty good cast.
Kevin Smith: Silent But Deadly
Let’s get two things out there right up front. First, I am a Kevin Smith fan (and maybe even a bit of an apologist). And second, he is not a good filmmaker anymore. Whether he ever was is up for debate. But what he has become, at least part time, is a pretty good stand-up comic…? I guess, for lack of a better term. I mean, he stands up on stage, tells jokes/stories, and people laugh. So yeah, stand-up comic. He’s done a few specials like this before, but what makes this unique is it was recorded the night of his, near widow-making, heart attack and, I think, it’s pretty funny. You don’t necessarily have to be a fellow Smith fan to enjoy it, but it doesn’t hurt if you are. And, if you keep your eyes peeled, you may even see fellow HPN contributor AJ in the audience!
There have been plenty of Predator knock-offs over the years, but Robowar adheres so closely to the real thing that it qualifies as an unofficial remake. And my lord is it delightfully terrible. I can’t truly convey how hamfisted and ridiculous it is in print. It really needs to be experienced first hand; particularly with the drinking game I came up with while watching. You can count on this one being screened once I can officially reopen the Whitsett Theater to guests. I blind-purchased this on blu-ray because I’m a loon, but it’s available to stream for free on Amazon if you’re a Prime member.
I had to take a deep breath and put on some Mystery Science Theater after this one. An aging horror actor (Boris Karloff in his final film role) finds himself among the potential victims of a spree shooter who is terrorizing Los Angeles. Peter Bogdanovich wrote and directed this in response to the then rising tide of shootings around the country, and it’s just as relevant today as it was in 1968; perhaps moreso. It’s a masterclass in slow-burn tension (the final set piece is a true white-knuckler), and is made all the more harrowing by filming exclusively on location, its complete lack of music, and the grounded, natural performances. It’s a shame Karloff was typecast so early on. He’s a strong dramatic actor and likely would have had a very different career given the opportunity. It’s streaming on the Criterion Channel until the end of May and available as a digital rental on multiple services for about $3.
Now for some lighter fare. In the mood for a romantic comedy that’s about as charming as they come? Look no further than Cactus Flower. Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, and Goldie Hawn (in an Oscar-winning role) all shine in this farce set in New York City. While Hawn took home the award on this one, the real treat is seeing Ingrid Bergman show her comedic chops. It’s a shame she did so few comedies (her most notable one is probably Indiscreet with Cary Grant). She had a real knack for it. This was another Criterion Channel find but it’s also available to rent on the wider internets for around $3.
The Juniper Tree
Making her film debut, Bjork plays the younger of two sisters who venture into the Icelandic wilderness after their mother is accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Both daughters practice a bit of earth magic themselves, but each uses it for quite different means.
Based on the Grimm tale and beautifully shot on location in black and white, The Juniper Tree is a bit somber but always engaging. Bjork’s performance as the gentle and naive sibling is the real stand out. You can’t help but want a better life for her as the story progresses. If you’re in need of some quiet, dreamy art house fare you can’t go wrong here. This completes my Criterion Channel trifecta. It’s also available to stream on Kanopy.
Patton Oswalt: I Love Everything
I love me some Patton Oswalt, and I don’t think there’s been a time in our history better suited to the Netflix stand up special than right now. This one keeps to his standards, it’s not an instant classic like “Annihilation” or “Talking for Clapping,” but you can do far worse comedy-wise.
Homecoming: Season 2
I have a massive crush on Janelle Monae and I can’t resist a puzzle box show so this was a natural choice. And while I love the twists, the intrigue and the opening is great, I must admit that the first thing that brought me to this series was it’s run time! It feels like you can’t be a streaming show unless you’re at least 45 minutes long, which leads to a lot of padding. The tight run times on this series really make it a natural binge. While it is an extension of the first season, you can dive into this without knowing anything about The Geist Initiative or Julia Roberts involvement (although I would suggest watching that first season as well – it’s fantastic) Prepare for timeline twisty-ness, but not just obfuscation for the sake of itself, answers are doled out fairly to the audience and you know the whole thing will wrap up in a quick 7 episodes.
The Little Mermaid
Have I mentioned I have a daughter under 10? I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve watched this since we’ve been under safer-at-home orders. For those of you who are old enough to remember when this was released (1989) you’ll recall that it was, rightfully, the beginning of the Disney renaissance that would continue with Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, and, arguably, reach its apex with The Lion King. Being a kid then was like seeing something completely new. Watching it as an adult in 2020, you will, likely, spend the first few minutes thinking the animation looks so OLD, but that’s quickly forgotten. While the basic tenet of the film (girl gives up voice for man she doesn’t know) has been decried by feminists for ages, there’s more to it than that. Ariel is fighting against her father’s patriarchal system just as she longs to join Eric on land. Giving up her voice is an act of rebellion and her father’s dismissal of Eric (and all humans) as “less than” the mer-people teaches a valuable lesson about equality and loving who we want, even if they aren’t who we’re “supposed” to love. So some dated ideas for sure, but it’s given me and my daughter much to talk about good and bad. And the music… swoon. Worth a re-watch.
Seth Meyers: A Closer Look
I don’t have time for a lot of movies and/or TV shows (there’s a theme to my picks – easily digestible in the BG, watched with my kid, quickly binge-able after bedtime) I do spend a fair amount of time on my computer (shocking, I know) and something that fits into at least two of those categories are YouTube clips from Late Night Talk Shows. That being said, I’m bored by most of late night with one notable exception – A Closer Look from Late Night with Seth Meyers. Somehow he has a way of making me laugh at the most painful news items. I love his delivery, his wit, and his silliness. Doing the show from his attic has increased that silliness ten-fold. I love his attic wasps, his tiny, useless, chair, and the rotating sequels to The Thorn Birds that adorn the table behind him. If you can stomach political jokes, this is the place to see them.
SoCal Attractions 360
So this isn’t a show or movie, but it is ENTERTAINMENT. I’m a regular at the SoCal theme parks and have been missing Disneyland more than almost anything else since we’ve been stuck inside. These immersive experiences really can make you feel like you’re there. If you’re ambitious and have a smaller person in your house you can put them in a chair and move it around as if they were there, but even just watching from a close seat on my laptop was a good time. There are plenty of options out there and checking out some rides from far-flung places I am unlikely to visit like Shanghai Disneyland (their Pirates of the Caribbean ride is amazing!), for example, is a great afternoon diversion – and no waiting in line! Check out their whole channel here.
Always at the Carlyle
While not a documentary that will make anyone think deep thoughts, it was a charming film filled with A-list celebs, wealthy businessmen and debutantes. For those unaware, NYC hotel, The Carlyle, has been a calling card for Manhattan’s elegant Upper East Side for about 90 years. However it remains less known than other fancy establishments like The Waldorf or The Peninsula by design — they place a premium on the privacy of their guests and staff, seldom letting media in or talking to press. Until this doc. It’s running on Starz right now.
I Know That Voice
I found this by accident (on Amazon Prime) and be warned it’s a tiny bit dated (it was released in 2013) but just a lot of fun to watch. It’s a who’s who of voice acting like Kevin Conroy (the best Batman voice), Hank Azaria, Pamela Adlon, Maurice LaMarche (The Brain), Seth Green, Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh and Tigger!), and on and on and on…. It’s so much fun to peak into their world, what goes into casting a voice, crafting a voice; and it’s a trip to see what some of these voices actually look like in “real life.”
I am including this to spare anyone else the time and expense. It’s not bad, per se, but it is boring. And there aren’t any stakes. We’re really just watching Capone wilt away in the last year of his life. A prisoner in his home, suffering from Syphilis, which has turned his brain to cottage cheese, infamous mobster Al Capone now yells obscenities at random and shits his pants. (Doesn’t that sound like a fun movie?!) Even the moments of insanity don’t yield any tension because many know how he died so…. yeah. I think this film would have been more interesting intercut with a youthful Capone and his rise to power, as a contrast to his feeble state. Additionally, Linda Cardelini may be the right age for this role, but because she just looks so young, it was like watching a young lady take care of her gross dad for much of the film so that casting took me out of it a lot of the time.
The Normal Heart
I wish for everyone to go watch this HBO film from Larry Krammer, who passed away on Wednesday this week. This iconic drama tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s, taking an unflinching look at the nation’s sexual politics as gay activists and their allies in the medical community fight to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic to a city and nation in denial. It was nominated for and won a ton of awards, has a star-studded cast and most importantly, is just an important piece of work.
Josh Gad is having the time of his life reuniting casts and crews of beloved 80s films. Thus far he’s given us Back to the Future, Goonies, and Splash. Up next is a departure – a Lord of the Rings reunion, which I imagine came about by virtue of Gad’s friendship with Sean Astin and I am just as excited for that as I was for the 80s groupings. He smartly keeps the episodes short-ish and usually gets a surprise into the episodes. He also uploads bloopers and bonus content to his channel so keep an eye out for those as well. (Tom Wilson, Back to the Future’s BIFF, who is still eerily Trump-like, could not make the cast reunion so he taped a bonus piece that is cute.)
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