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.
On the list this week: An unfairly maligned Oscar winner, a returning Netflix series, and a brilliant documentary.
Orange is the New Black season 5
The fifth season of Orange is the New Black picks up where the season 4 finale left off — following the death of a major character, the women of Litchfield Prison stage a riot, taking prison guards hostage and issuing demands to the world outside. The chaos in the prison means shifting alliances and the potential for major shake-ups. The show has long been an ensemble-focused dramedy, and that seems unlikely to change for season 5. After season 4, some viewers may have felt that Orange is the New Black was just going through familiar motions, so hopefully this new direction sticks.
The Zodiac killer, who terrorized San Francisco in the 1960s and ’70s, remains one of the most notorious uncaught criminals in history. David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac doesn’t attempt to solve the crime; instead, it uses the case as the impetus for a character study, focusing on the obsessions of three men trying to catch the killer. The main protagonist is Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), a puzzle-obsessed cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle, who jumps at the chance to decode a message the killer sends to the paper’s editors. Together with crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.) and homicide detective David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), Graysmith tries to piece together the clues the killer leaves behind. Despite its significant length, Zodiac is a tense, gripping thriller, with superb direction from Fincher.
Although he’s known for extreme violence and bouts of comedy, director Takashi Miike approaches his remake of 13 Assassins with a restrained touch, crafting a superb historical drama with well-sketched characters and choreographed action. The film begins in the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate, where the lord of Akashi rules his land with a cruel hand. His ties to the shogun make him impervious to legal action, so a government official takes extra-legal action, recruiting veteran samurai Shimada Shinzaemon (Kōji Yakusho) to assemble a team and assassinate the vile lord. The result is a familiar story — assembling a band of aces to achieve a goal — told exceptionally well.
Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare in Love may be one of the most controversial Best Picture winners of all time, having beaten out the more well-remembered Saving Private Ryan, but those who can look past the controversy will find a witty, inventive romantic comedy. The film follows a young William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes), who is still struggling to make his name as a playwright. He falls in love with the beautiful, intelligent Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is engaged to the noble Lord Wessex (Colin Firth). Their illicit affair spurs Shakespeare to write Romeo and Juliet, as he attempts to save the Rose Theatre from creditors and himself from Wessex’s wrath. Shakespeare in Love’s script is sharp, with plenty of jokes both witty and slapstick, and Fiennes and Paltrow have intense chemistry together.
I Am Not Your Negro
Based on an unfinished manuscript by writer and public intellectual James Baldwin, Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary examining the history of racism in America, using Baldwin’s own words to give insight into historical events. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, Baldwin’s words have a weary heft, and are made all the more powerful by the incorporation of recent events such as the Black Lives Matter movement. I Am Not Your Negro is an incisive work, one of the great documentaries of recent years.