Well, we still can’t go to the movies—it may be the least of our problems, but it still really sucks. So instead of my typical roundup of new theatrical releases, I’m using this space to write about what’s going on in the world of streaming, where approximately 98.87% of our entertainment now exists. This list will be updated each week with talked-about new film and TV releases, surprise hits, things to avoid at all costs, free stuff to catch while you can, and gems from back when movies and TV shows actually got made.
THE TIGER KING AND I I know I went on and on in a previous column about how terrible Tiger King is, but perhaps I just needed a little perspective—something to show me how much worse it could have been. Well, I now have it, thanks to Tiger King and I, a barrel-bottom-scraping assault on the brain and eyes that makes the original Netflix documentary about Joe Exotic look like Blackfish. Packaged as a “bonus episode” to cash in on the somewhat depressing popularity of the Tiger King docuseries, it feels more like a cheap after-show that has nothing to offer but shallow, mostly pointless interviews with the minor players and bad jokes from slumming-it host Joel McHale, who keeps claiming for no discernible reason that Tiger King is the most popular documentary of all time. Whether or not it was, I can’t help but wonder if Tiger King filmmakers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin are thinking “What have we done?” about now. (Netflix)
EXTRACTION Netflix’s other surprise hit of the lockdown era so far is this hyper-ass action film starring Once and Future Thor Chris Hemsworth. (Or Official Thor’s Brother Liam Hemsworth? I can barely tell the difference anymore. No, it’s definitely Chris.) It’s easy to see Extraction’s appeal—some of the action sequences in this story of a black-ops dude who has to rescue an Indian drug lord’s son from kidnappers are straight-up bananas, and really fun. It’s also adorbs how director Sam Hargrave wants to recreate the bare-knuckles feel of the John Wick movies, but Extraction can’t muster up the operatic atmospherics that make that series feel larger-than-life. It’s more like the video-game-movie version—less polished, but just as ridiculous, with nonstop energy pumping through its entire runtime. (Netflix)
TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG If you’re missing violent-but-smart Westerns right now, this just-digitally-dropped movie might be for you. A lot of actors have played Ned Kelly, perhaps the most famous Australian outlaw of all time, but George MacKay (from 1917) brings a raw brutality to the role that seems totally on point. Director Justin Kurzel milked the bleakest landscapes of his Australian homeland for all they were worth in his previous film The Snowtown Murders, and he does so again here on a much bigger budget. Russell Crowe’s insane beard in this movie instantly tells you he’s either the perfect wizened mentor for Ned or a self-quarantining hipster barista. (VOD)
TO THE STARS Also getting its official release digitally rather than theatrically thanks to coronavirus is this gentle piece of arthouse nostalgia about two teenage girls coming of age in the 1960s in a small, dusty Midwestern town they can barely stand. Awwww! (VOD)
DARKNET Since shelter-in-place is also a time to scroll through the catalogs of your favorite streaming services and say, “There’s got to be something on here I haven’t seen yet,” horror fans should check out this unjustly overlooked Canadian anthology that’s free in the archives of Amazon Prime. It only had one season, but each episode features several intimate vignettes that often connect in surprising ways. Rather than anything supernatural or high-concept, it continually focuses on the terror of everyday life sabotaged by unexpected madness—which fits our current times way better than its creators could have expected. (Amazon Prime)