5 shows to stream this week: ‘Comedy Bang! Bang!,’ ‘Captain America: Civil War,’ more

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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.

Comedy Bang! Bang! season 5

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There are plenty of mediums to adapt to television: books, movies, plays. But a podcast? Surely not! That is just what Scott Aukerman did, however, spinning off his hilarious podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! into a bizarre talk show/sketch comedy hybrid. On the surface, CBB is a late-night talk show hosted by Aukerman, complete with a bandleader and celebrity interviews. Aukerman has a gleeful charm that makes him an ideal host, but the show’s deep roster of guests is crucial. Comedians like Nick Kroll and Paul F. Tompkins are frequent and funny contributors, melting into a variety of roles.

Despite the talk-show facade, CBB defies the conventions of the format. Interspersed throughout the show are skits that showcase a surreal, witty sense of humor. The show’s defining trait has always been its willingness to experiment with radical ideas for sketches and even the format of the show. Those ideas do not always land, but the weak segments are few and far between. Although some might find CBB’s low-budget appearance and eccentric humor off-putting, it is one of the most creative sketch comedy shows around.

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Café Society

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If there is one thing that unites later-period Woody Allen films, it is a profound sense of melancholy. Even his most whimsical film in recent years, 2011’s Midnight in Paris, has a distinct undercurrent of sadness. One of the 20th century’s pioneering comedians has become one of today’s great dramatists, and Café Society is among his most cynical works. The film follows the latest Allen stand-in, Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), a young man from New York City who moves out to Hollywood. While there, he works for his uncle, well-connected agent Phil Stern (Steve Carell). He also falls for his uncle’s assistant, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), a savvy young woman who is very much unavailable.

Café Society has a very loose plot structure, playing out more as a collection of scenes linked by common characters and themes than a standard film. The love triangle between Bobby, Vonnie, and her boyfriend is the emotional core of the film, and it plays out through moments both sweet and somber. Allen’s wit is evident in the script, and Eisenberg and Stewart sell the complicated romance. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s visuals are superb, offering an alluring vision of a city that is seductive but ultimately soulless.


Hail, Caesar!

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The Coen Brothers offer their own take on the Golden Age of Hollywood in Hail, Caesar! Their perspective is one of farce, however, a lively mockery of the glitz of the old studio system. The film centers on Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a “fixer” whose job is to ensure productions go smoothly. The studio’s latest project, a religious epic titled Hail, Caesar!, goes off the rails when leading man Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped and held for ransom. It falls to Eddie to find Whitlock and save the film.

The kidnapping plot is the central thread, but the film often digresses into side stories, paying homage to various classic films and genres. The film features the Coens’ signature wit throughout the script; a focus group involving representatives of different religions is particularly sharp, turning a theological debate into a snappy Abbott and Costello routine. Despite the vapid setting, this is a smart comedy, touching on issues of faith, celebrity culture, and even Marxism. Fittingly for a film about Hollywood, the cast is stacked with talented actors including Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, and Ralph Fiennes, among others. Exuberant and colorful, Hail, Caesar! is as much an affectionate homage as a snide parody.

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HBO Amazon

They Live

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You see them wherever you go. Out on the street, on the sides of buildings, even in your own home. Advertisements are everywhere, put in places you cannot avoid, with the intention of persuading you to part with your money. John Carpenter’s cult hit They Live is a staunch critique of consumerism and the omnipresent reach of the ad industry, wrapped up in a campy alien invasion story. The film stars wrestler Roddy Piper as John Nada, a construction worker who stumbles upon a pair of sunglasses with a strange power. When he puts them on, he sees ads as subliminal messages, commanding readers to work, to reproduce, to obey. Even more disturbing, the glasses show him that the rich and powerful are aliens, cloaked in human skin.

As far as satire goes, They Live is incredibly blunt, but sometimes one must philosophize with a hammer. Carpenter leaves no room for ambiguity, the glasses literally showing the world as black and white. Despite the lack of nuance, the film shows the touch of a brilliant filmmaker; the scene where Nada first puts on the glasses plays out slowly and quietly. Social commentary aside, They Live is also an excellent action movie, with one of the most brutally long fight scenes in movie history and some classic lines of dialogue. Piper brings a macho charisma to his role, perfectly cast as a blue-collar ‘80s action hero.

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HBO Amazon

Captain America: Civil War

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Although it bears the Captain America name, Marvel’s Civil War is almost more of an Avengers film, boasting a large cast of superheroes brawling across the globe. Following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the governments of the world are looking a little more cynically at the fact that a team of superhumans with advanced weaponry is operating without any oversight. Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) are at odds as to whether government regulations would be a good thing, a disagreement that boils over into all-out war when Rogers’ former comrade, Bucky Barnes, assassinates a world leader.

The plot gets a bit more complicated, roping in other superheroes like Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), as well as the Nazi-esque organization, Hydra, but that is all just a means to get to the meat of the film — superhero slugfests, of which there are plenty. Civil War is not nearly as tightly plotted as the previous film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it should satisfy Marvel fans eager for well-choreographed battles between their favorite characters.

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