Online streaming is bigger than ever, and with so many streaming services adding new shows and movies every week, it can be nearly impossible to sort through the good and the bad. If you need something to watch and don’t want to wade through the digital muck that washes up on the internet’s shores, follow our picks below for the best new shows and movies worth a watch.
This week: two historical dramas, a return to form for Johnny Depp, and one of the best heist films of the last twenty years.
The Last Kingdom season 1
Game of Thrones may be taking an extra-long break between seasons 6 and 7, but there is no shortage of swords and sorcery on television in the meantime. One of the better medieval shows on TV right now is The Last Kingdom. Set in the British Isles during the Danish invasions of the ninth century, the show follows Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), a young noble who is captured by Danes after they kill his father and conquer his people. Raised by the Danish Earl Ragnar (Peter Gantzler), Uhtred eventually falls in with King Alfred of Wessex (David Dawson), who dreams of beating back the viking invaders and uniting the Saxon kingdoms. Based on a series of historical fiction novels, The Last Kingdom maintains an earthy tone (no dragons or wizards here), one that should appeal to those who like their fantasy bloody and free of magic or melodrama.
The Italian Job
F. Gary Gray’s remake of The Italian Job shares a few similarities with the original: some names, locations, and a love of cars. Gray’s film is no mere copy, however, standing out thanks to a witty script, a slick cast, and Gray’s kinetic direction. The film opens with a crew of thieves including Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), and leader Jeff Bridger (Donald Sutherland) pulling off a gold heist in Europe. Before they can get the gold back to the United States, one of the gang, Steve Frazelli (Edward Norton) betrays the others, killing Bridger and leaving the rest for dead. A year later, Croker, Rob, and Bridger’s daughter Stella (Charlize Theron) are out for revenge, planning to steal the gold from Steve’s heavily guarded mansion in Los Angeles. In addition to the usual assortment of lovable rogues, The Italian Job stands out among heist films for its realism; the heists and car chases were filmed with minimal CGI, giving the action a visceral quality.
The once acclaimed Johnny Depp has become something of a punchline in recent years, giving performances more notable for the make-up involved than emotional complexity, which makes his role in Black Mass all the more refreshing. Yes, Depp’s portrayal of Whitey Bulger involves some make-up — pale skin drawn tight, he could pass better as a vampire here than he did in Dark Shadows — but he brings an energy to the role that has been absent from most of his recent outings. Black Mass is based on the true story of Whitey Bulger’s alliance with the FBI, wherein he informed on the Italian mob in exchange for carte blanche over Boston’s criminal underworld. As Bulger’s acts grow increasingly bold and violent, his allies in the FBI find themselves under increasing pressure to go after him. Black Mass hews a bit too closely to the conventions of gangster films, but Depp’s seething performance keeps things exciting.
Vikings season 4
Vikings often get pegged in popular culture as mere pirates, doing little more than pillage and drink. While Vikings isn’t the most historically accurate show possible, it does capture some of the complexities of the vikings — accomplished sailors, traders and craftsmen as much as warriors. The show focuses on Ragnar Lothbrok, a raider who, together with his crew, rises up the ladder of his medieval society. Although Vikings lacks the complicated, shifting alliances of Game of Thrones, its characters are memorable, and the bloody, muddy approach to storytelling is certain to entertain.
Directed by Sian Heder, one of the writers for Orange Is the New Black, Tallulah blends comedy and drama, turning what would normally be a terrifying crime (the kidnapping of a toddler) into a catalyst for personal growth. The film follows Lu (Ellen Page), a drifter abandoned by her boyfriend Nico (Evan Jonigkeit), scavenging for food at a hotel when one of the guests mistakes her for housekeeping and asks her to babysit. Lu ends up kidnapping the child and pretends it is hers and Nico’s, turning to Nico’s mother, Margo (Allison Janney), for help. Margo is going through a divorce, and Lu’s presences gives both women a chance to connect with someone at their lowest point. A low-key affair despite the kidnapping, Tallulah is largely a character study, examining motherhood and the search for a meaningful life.