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: a new HBO murder mystery, a surreal psychological thriller, and a frightening peek into the financial industry.
The Big Short
The Big Short is based on a nonfiction book by Michael Lewis, and the journalistic origins shine through. The film, which follows a group of men who foresaw the 2008 financial crisis and — bet on it — is not content to merely entertain; it’s a furious jeremiad, trying to educate audiences on the corruption and stupidity that have taken root in America’s financial sector. The film opens with Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a neurologist-turned-investor who realizes that the U.S. housing market is built on risky sub-prime loans, an unsustainable model. Burry essentially decides to bet against the housing market. Confident the market will be eternally stable, the big banks are all too happy to take his bet. Soon, other investors notice Burry’s plan and decide to get in on the action. If a film about the absurd mechanics of finance seems dull or esoteric, don’t worry; directed by Will Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay, The Big Short uses narration from charmingly smug trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) alongside brief, humorous interludes to explain obscure concepts for an engaging ride.
Hannibal season 3
Bryan Fuller’s surreal adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon didn’t last long, but in its short life it was one of the brightest shows on television. The show follows Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a brilliant FBI profiler whose ability to get inside killers’ minds drives him to a nervous breakdown. Graham is brought out of early retirement by Jack Crawford to help with the agency’s most extreme cases, and recruits the brilliant psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) to supervise Graham’s recovery. Unbeknownst to Graham and Crawford, Lecter is a prolific serial killer, and he has disturbing plans for the fragile investigator. The human mind is at the center of Hannibal, and the show employs a psychedelic aesthetic that reflects its protagonist’s fractured spirit. The show turns gruesome acts of violence into sensuous art; no show on network TV, and perhaps beyond, has been as striking.
Ridley Scott’s Roman drama centers on one of humanity’s most timeless plots: revenge. The film opens as Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) wins a key victory over the Germanic tribes threatening Rome, ending the Marcomannic Wars. Maximus is eager to retire to his estate in Spain, but when Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) appoints Maximus as his successor, Aurelius’ son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) stages a coup. Fleeing for his life, Maximus is captured by slavers and forced to fight as a gladiator. The iconic film is a straightforward historical drama, anchored by Crowe’s gravitas and Scott’s direction. In many ways the film is a throwback to the epics of early Hollywood, a massive spectacle without a hint of cynicism.
Another Period season 2 premiere
The prim aristocrats of historical melodramas like Downton Abbey provide an interesting contrast to the aristocrats of today. Where the gentry of the past are portrayed as sophisticated and buttoned-up, today’s nobility (your Kardashians, Hiltons, et al) are famous for their debauchery and complete lack of sophistication. Another Period explores this disconnect by smashing the two eras together. Filmed as a parody of reality shows, the series follows Lillian and Beatrice Bellacourt (Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome, respectively), a pair of Rhode Island socialites in the early 20th century whose only desire is to be famous. The raucous show mines its humor from the issues of class and celebrity, and its two leads both prove to be adept performers.
The Night Of series premiere
Season 6 of Game of Thrones has barely ended, yet HBO has a new show ready to occupy its Sunday night throne. The Night Of, an 8 episode miniseries, has all the makings of the next great television event. The series opens with a crime: A woman has been murdered, and Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed), a young man who picked her up on the way to a party, is the prime suspect. The justice system is eager to swallow Nasir up, and the only person keeping him from its jaws is Jack Stone (John Turturro), a cranky public defender. The Night Of has a level of polish that is rare in television, slowly unpacking and examining every aspect of the case.