Another week comes another weekend to stay inside and binge everything imaginable. Here are some choice meals:
Station Eleven: Series Premiere
Station Eleven is the new premium, critical-darling miniseries of our dreams. And you tell yourself, “But Joey (that’s me), we’ve tried the pandemic-on-TV thing. It’s just not the vibe.” This time is different, we (read: the critics) promise you. For starters, this isn’t about COVID. Yes, it’ll certainly remind every viewer of our current situation as humans on planet Earth. But let’s briefly move past that and focus on the storytelling before us. The Hollywood Reporter states it’s “much more about contemplating the aftermath, delving into notions of healing and how much any ‘new normal’ should resemble the old.” It’s not Contagion, is what we’re saying. Like the gone-way-too-soon Y: The Last Man, this is about adaptation and the persistence of humanity. If you’re still not on board, the Station Eleven ensemble is led by the incredible Mackenizie Davis (Halt & Catch Fire, Black Mirror‘s “San Junipero,” that underrated Terminator movie). Also on the call sheet: Himesh Patel (Tenet, Yesterday), Gael García Bernal, Caitlin FitzGerald (Masters of Sex), and Lori Petty. The dystopian pilot is directed by Atlanta‘s Hiro Murai, giving the series his signature dreamlike aura. Stream the first three episodes on Thursday. 12/16 on HBO Max.
The Hand of God
Acclaimed director Paolo Sorrentino (The New Pope, The Great Beauty, Youth) brings his own story to Netflix this week with The Hand Of God. Inspired by his teenage years growing up in Naples, The Hand of God tells of a boy named Fabietto (Filippo Scotti), silent and sensitive, who must come of age when tragedy strikes him and his family. Sorrentino is known for his grandiose and colorful styling, but we find him holding back here. It’s grounded and, not surprisingly, beautifully personal. Sorrentino lays it all out in the emotion. Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri says, “It’s this feeling of melancholy liberation, of not just beauty but the crucial role that beauty plays in saving our broken lives, that Sorrentino captures in his captivating film.” Italy’s entry for Best International Feature Film this year is not to be missed. 12/15 on Netflix.
As a monumentally huge fan of Orphan, I am so elated to see Isabelle Fuhrman finally get the recognition she deserves. She may not have won any awards in 2009 for her role as Esther the killer Russian lady-child, but we’ll take all we can get in 2021. After winning Best U.S. Narrative Feature at Tribeca over the summer, The Novice now has 5 nominations at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards, the second most behind Zola‘s 7. In the vein of Aronofsky’s Black Swan, The Novice centers on Alex Dall, a college freshman who mercilessly feeds an obsession to make the university’s top varsity boat in rowing. “Fuhrman’s performance is so unhinged, and [Lauren] Hadaway’s direction is so merciless, that The Novice constantly dances on the edge of character drama and full-fledged horror movie,” claims Slash Film. This is definitely a film to remember. 12/17 on demand.
1883: Series Premiere
Two words: Sam Elliott. Fifteen more words: Tim McGraw and Faith Hill playing grandparents makes me want to lose my damn mind. The first spinoff in the YCU (Yellowstone Cinematic Universe) revolves around the Dutton family as they manifest destiny their way to Montana to establish what will eventually be known as the Yellowstone ranch. It’s screaming Oregon Trail: The Series for Adults. But it’s also screaming Dolores Abernathy‘s coded western story. Wow, actually, even just writing this, I’m convincing myself I need to watch this having never seen a single second of Yellowstone. If you like cowboy westerns and robots (just kidding, there are no robots…yet — watch out, Faith), this will surely hit your sweet spot. 12/19 on Paramount+.
Not to be confused with the Todd Stephens film Swan Song which also came out this year (watch it — it’s on Hulu), this Swan Song comes from the hands of writer/director Benjamin Clearly in his feature directorial debut. Starring an all-star cast of Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Awkwafina, and Glenn Close, Swan Song is set in the near future, when Cameron Turner (Ali) is diagnosed with a terminal illness and must decide whether he would like to replace himself with a clone, unbeknownst to his family. What instantly popped into my head was that (bad) weepy Netflix cancer rom/com Irreplaceable You mixed with Ex Machina. A jarring mixture, but with this blend of talent, I don’t see how it can’t work to some extent. Critics are raving that Ali (in his first leading role, by the way) is at the top of his game here, and sometimes you just want to see someone really act. The sci-fi elements may have to take a backseat this time. 12/17 on Apple TV+.
Hulu movies are very hit-or-miss, especially when it comes to genre. They got off to a great start with Little Monsters, immediately flopped after that with Wounds, and then bounced back 8 months later with Palm Springs and later with Run. Since then, nothing’s hit quite the same. Mother/Android comes from “a producer of The Batman” (which is actually Batman director Matt Reeves), telling the story of a pregnant Chloë Grace Moretz (that string of words still doesn’t feel right) as she survives the robopocalypse. Terminator meets Children of Men meets 28 Days Later. It’s a bit of a mishmash, since the trailer itself doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. Moretz stars alongside Algee Smith (Euphoria) and Raúl Castillo (Army of the Dead, Looking). 12/17 on Hulu.
With Love: Season 1
It’s hard to write up a description of a show that seems offensively inoffensive. The newest romantic comedy series to hit streaming is With Love, from the mind of One Day At a Time co-creator Gloria Calderón Kellett. The logline “Siblings Lily and Jorge Diaz are each on a mission to find love and purpose during the holidays” reads as a cozy Hallmark movie, and its brisk five-episode order should make it feel like one too. With Love Life, Love, Easy, Modern Love, Lovesick all out within the last five years, you have to do something new to stand out. Will this one? I’ll reserve my judgments for once it drops, but I have my suspicions. 12/17 on Prime Video.
I am already very worried about this movie. Its release has been shifted back three times. It was finally scheduled for theatrical release in February 2022; but then three weeks ago, Paramount canceled that altogether and decided to throw this movie straight to Paramount+. I’m not quite shocked. I did catch the trailer before Encanto, and it did in fact look like a Cocomelon version of Pacific Rim. It’s loosely (and I mean loooosely) based on Rob Harrell’s graphic novel Monster on the Hill, which tells of a town’s monster who needs a confidence boost. It being turned into a wrestling movie by Paramount and WWE is so funny in its own right, it might just get me to watch it. Probably not, but maybe it’s more for you, dear reader. I don’t have a child. 12/15 on Paramount+.
MacGruber: Season 1
Two words, again! Sam! Elliott! Will Forte’s SNL character from 11 years ago makes his television series debut (sure, why not) in Peacock’s newest series, MacGruber. The 2010 film has had a sort of comeuppance over the past couple years, and I understand that it’s basically become a good little bit between friends. Yours truly is not a part of that inside joke quite yet, but I do hope to be so one day. Maybe this weekend perhaps. The notoriously funny comedian Ryan Phillippe told Vanity Fair last year that the scripts were “uproariously funny.” I simply have to take his word for it! 12/16 on Peacock.
Summer Camp Island: Season 5
If there’s anything you must take away from this post, it is that you must be watching Summer Camp Island. The feeling you get watching Ted Lasso? This is that, ten fold. Children’s programming is oftentimes overlooked for its grounded storytelling, but you are never too old to be reminded how to treat others and yourself. There’s so much joy and love thrown into this little animated series, which just dropped its 15-episode fifth season. It’s overstuffed with the funniest asides and the most heartwarming characters. Don’t disregard this one just because it’s “made for kids.” It’s a perfect show, hands down. 12/9 on HBO Max.
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