Considering the sheer volume of streaming services and their respective libraries, it can be hard to cut through the clutter and decide which content is actually worth your time. Introducing: WhatsOn, a new column that features what I think are some view-worthy movies, TV shows, and specials. You'll also find a list of highlighted shows on the top streaming services that might merit your attention.
Have you been finding yourself in a fugue-state this summer? Are you wandering around, nostalgic about summers past when you could actually sit at the beach or attend a concert (other than the Chainsmokers, of course) without fear of contracting a deadly disease? Wouldn't it be nice to just escape to, say, Cannes? If you share those sentiments, let me put you on to my lost-summer-woes cure: Rebecca Zlotowski's An Easy Girl, now streaming on Netflix.
Whether you watched Call Me By Your Name and loved it, hated it, or could have done without its effervescent flightiness, An Easy Girl seems to be a different twist on the classic coming-of-age trope, although the two bear a striking similarity. Set in Cannes, France, in the present day, we watch 16-year-old Naïma spend a summer with her older cousin, Sofia, who attempts to show Naïma how to live life to the fullest.
The film's theme is similar to the 2013 hit Blue Is the Warmest Color. Yet An Easy Girl remains in a category of its own, building on the unique richness that comes with French cinematography. It may not be an automatic film choice, but it certainly is an easy watch and one that, if nothing else, is visually appealing. A word of advice, however: Turn on English (or your preferred language) subtitles and keep the language in French if you can.
Looking for something a little more fast-paced and less, shall we say, introspective? This is a great option for you.
I remember sitting down in the theater for Birds Of Prey just a few weeks shy of the pandemic hitting, not expecting much. Margot Robbie, of course, hits it out of the park with every role she lands, but even so, the bar was low. A DC Film with a ridiculously confusing name-change and cloying marketing campaign? Not usually enticing to me.
But boy, was I wrong. Although extremely campy and sometimes a little overwhelming, Birds Of Prey is an enjoyable absurdity of a film. The best part is you do not have to have any prior knowledge of the Suicide Squad graphic novels -- this iteration of Harley Quinn first appeared in the first Suicide Squad film in 2016 -- or of the DC Universe in general to enjoy it. You can just sit back and watch the bright colors and high-flying kicks of a few women taking down Ewan McGregor's confusingly comical villain.
It may be occasionally corny, and at some point you might tire of Margot Robbie's caricature-like Brooklyn accent, but the film delivers on its centric theme: a female-led action film that is actually written for women and not just trying to sneak under the radar as another male-gaze flick. As an added bonus, the film's soundtrack is surprisingly diverse, its tunes ranging from Patsy Kline to indie darling K. Flay. If nothing else, it's worth streaming on HBO MAX to see if you want to buy the UHD Blu-ray.
My third recommendation is just as high-spirited as Birds of Prey, yet a totally different genre of film. It's a documentary about swing dancing.
As someone who has the same sense of rhythm as a concussed bear, I can accurately say I know next to nothing about dance. I enjoy watching people dance, but since I resemble a newborn calf when I'm doing it, I generally avoid stepping onto the dancefloor. Good news! Rhythm isn't required to enjoy Alive and Kicking, released in 2016. The documentary walks viewers through the history of swing dancing while depicting just how infectious swing music and dance can be.
Now, before you write off this recommendation assuming you won't like a documentary about dance, consider this: is now not the perfect time to sit in front of your TV, slack-jawed, watching talented human beings strut their stuff and execute high-flying kicks the likes of which most of us can only dream of? The energy in this documentary is, in a word, infectious. Yet all you need to do is enjoy the euphoria of the dancers, musicians, and even the audiences onscreen.
Directed by Susan Glatzer, this 88-minute flick is pure joy -- and how much of the past few months can truly be characterized as that? If you're not convinced by me, let its 100 percent critic's score on Rotten Tomatoes speak for itself. Who knows, by the end of it, you may be searching up beginner swing dance lessons on YouTube and ordering a pair of jazz shoes for yourself.
Lovecraft Country [HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1] -- HBO's latest hour-long dramatic thriller centers around Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) accompanied by his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), who travel across 1950s America encountering the real horrors of Jim Crowe America and the cosmic horror of Lovecraftian monsters. If you're looking for a more supernatural spin on a period-based drama similar to True Detective, you'll definitely enjoy this show.
Looney Tunes: Batch 3 [HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1] -- HBO Max continues to add the classic Looney Tunes cartoons to its library. A childhood staple, Looney Tunes is an easy-watch for children and adults alike.
An American Pickle [HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1] -- Seth Rogen stars as Herschel Greenbaum, an immigrant struggling to make ends meet in 1919 America when he is brined in a vat of pickles at work. The show revolves around him being rescued 100 years later and bonding with his only living descendant, also played by Rogen. Watching Rogen play two vastly different characters is fun enough, and this film ups the ante with a more endearing tone than his other films without sacrificing his signature comedy.
Jojo Rabbit [HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1] -- If you haven't yet seen Taika Waititi's brazen 2019 comedy-drama, just know it centers around Jojo Betzler, a member of the Hitler Youth in 1940s Germany whose imaginary friend is Hitler, and who discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl from the Nazis. This film, despite its subject matter, manages to toe the line between downright offensive and comedic genius. It's available in HDR on disc or Vudu, but if you're not sure if it's your type of film and subscribe to HBO, stream it for free on HBO Max first.
Safety Not Guaranteed [HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1] -- Released in 2012, this comedy centers around a man (Mark Duplass) who places an ad seeking a companion for time travel, and the team of journalists who travel across the country to investigate him. If you enjoy indie comedies like Juno or Life After Beth, be sure to give this a watch.
(Un)Well [UHD Dolby Vision, Dolby Digital+ 5.1] -- This new Netflix docuseries that takes a look at the booming wellness industry and all the controversy it has created. If you've ever been even a little curious whether or not essential oils actually do cure migraines or if the homeopathic remedies peddled by companies like GOOP are legit, this series is for you. From the most intense skeptic to the most fervent believer, this series is a must-watch.
The Greatest Showman [HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1] -- A 2017 musical filled with catchy tunes starring Hugh Jackman -- who does his own singing -- and Zendaya, based on P.T. Barnum and his circus. People of all ages will enjoy this not-quite historically correct biopic. The Greatest Showman is also available in 4K HDR on Vudu and other platforms, but if you already have Disney+, you can try it out here first before paying for it elsewhere.
Ant-Man and the Wasp [UHD Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos] -- This 2018 Marvel film follows Paul Rudd as Ant-Man and Evangeline Lilly as The Wasp as they rescue The Wasp's mother from the "quantum realm." Fans of Marvel, or action in general, won't be disappointed.
Dirty 30 [HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1] -- Released in 2016, this comedy follows Kate (Mamrie Hart), who reluctantly allows her friends (Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart) to throw her a 30th birthday party that quickly turns into a wild night. This is the sort of "one crazy night" comedy that Tina Fey or Amy Poehler fans will especially enjoy.
Bottle Shock [HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1] -- Although it was released in 2008, this comedy drama starring Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, and Bill Pullman focuses on the 1976 blind wine tasting that put California wines on the map. With fantastic 70s outfits and music, this film will not disappoint even the most refined sommelier.
Chemical Hearts (Amazon Original) [HD, Dolby Digital+ 5.1] -- A romantic drama that follows the love lives of two students who are chosen to edit their high school's newspaper. Very similar to teen dramas such as After and The Fault In Our Stars, this film will appeal to anyone who is a sucker for tear-jerker flicks.
Chopped: Seasons 40 & 41 (Food Network) [HD, Stereo] -- A competitive cooking show in which contestants have to make three meals from only the ingredients they're provided. This is a fun, high-stakes cooking show that shows just how much can be done with the random ingredients you can find in your kitchen.
Say Yes to the Dress: Season 17 (TLC) [HD, Stereo] -- Brides and their friends and families search for the perfect wedding dress in this entertaining (and oftentimes frustrating) reality show. If you enjoy all that reality shows have to offer by way of dramatic fights and confusingly ugly outfits, this show is definitely for you.
Naked and Afraid: Seasons 9 & 10 (Discovery) [HD, Stereo] -- This reality show follows contestants who are stripped of their clothes, partnered with a stranger, and tasked with finding their own food and water while surviving the wilderness for 21 days. Fans of Survivor looking for a bit more absurdity will definitely enjoy this one.
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