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 endless sea of 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, ’90s films Jurassic Park and Independence Day find their way online, Bo Burnham returns with a new special, and a comedian with only a year to live gets his shot at the stage.
At the time of its release, Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park stunned audiences with its advanced CGI. Time hasn’t dulled it’s brilliance one bit. If you’re unfamiliar with this classic, the film begins with eccentric billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) showing off his dinosaur-themed park on a remote island. To certify to investors that the park is safe, Hammond invites paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and biologist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) to tour the island. To Grant and Sattler’s shock, the dinosaurs on the island are real, cloned from blood found in fossilized mosquitoes. Their wonder turns to fear, however, when a tropical storm hits and a saboteur knocks out the power. Although its dinosaurs may not shock modern audiences the way they did in the ’90s, Jurassic Park holds up as one of the great summer blockbusters, with a perfect blend of action, humor, and humanity.
Bo Burnham: Make Happy
Bo Burnham’s career is a Cinderella story for the internet age. After posting some musical performances online, Burnham became an overnight celebrity. Many internet sensations fizzle out after cashing in on their fame, but Burnham has built a solid career out of his distinct blend of music and comedy. His latest special, Make Happy, finds the performer a little older and a little more reflective, meditating on the nature of celebrity and performance. It’s not all dour; Burnham’s comedy veers often into the absurd, like a ballad about the problems of being a straight, white man in America. Music and comedy are tough to balance, but Burnham walks that tightrope deftly; his songs are funny, catchy, and even a little poignant from time to time.
Love & Mercy
Although Beatles vs. Stones is one of the most famous pop culture debates, it’s largely a creation of fans and observers; The Beatles’ real musical rivalry was with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, as the two groups consciously tried to one-up each other’s advances in production and songwriting. Wilson’s masterstroke was Pet Sounds, a baroque art rock album that changed the rules of pop music. The biopic Love & Mercy covers two periods of Wilson’s life: the recording of Pet Sounds in the ’60s, when a young Wilson (Paul Dano) was experimenting with production techniques and drugs, and the ’80s, when an older Wilson (John Cusack) is heavily medicated and under the care of his domineering psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti). Jumping back and forth between the two periods, the film chronicles Wilson’s brilliant creative process, his fall into mental illness, and his attempt to recover control of his life.
The ’90s was a great era for big-budget spectacle films, a trend that started with Jurassic Park and reached its cheesy-yet-brilliant apex in Independence Day. The film opens on July 2, 1996, as an alien mothership appears in Earth’s orbit. Before long, the aliens attack, devastating most of the world’s great cities and leaving the survivors — including an Air Force pilot (Will Smith), a computer scientist (Jeff Goldblum), and the President of the United states (Bill Pullman) — to fight back. There’s not much in the way of character development or great writing in Independence Day, but to be fair, that’s not what it aims for. It’s two hours of explosive and weirdly patriotic set pieces, a relic from a time before unique blockbusters gave way to the rise of shared universes and sequel after sequel. The film comes to HBO (not so coincidentally) right before its long awaited sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, hits theaters.
Quincy Jones: Burning the Light
The background story for Quincy Jones’s first (and probably only) comedy special is about as far from funny as possible. An aspiring comedian, Jones was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His friends started a Kickstarter to raise money for a stand-up special, and they got a boost when Ellen Degeneres picked up their story and promoted it. The finished product, Burning the Light, features an unsurprising amount of gallows humor, such as Jones joking that celiac disease would be a worse diagnosis because gluten-free pasta is awful. Jones’s delivery is confident, and the material varied enough that the special never gets bogged down in talk of death.