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: a musical comedy, a Gothic romance, and more.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season 2
The unique musical rom-com Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is one of the more ambitious comedies on television, with lavishly produced musical numbers (many of which pay homage to classic musicals) and a complex outlook on relationships and mental health. The show stars Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, a high-strung lawyer who abandons her career in New York to move to the small town of West Covina, California, where her teenage crush, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), lives. Rebecca hopes to rekindle their romance, but things get complicated when she starts to develop feelings for his friend, Greg (Santino Fontana).
In many ways, the show is about people unhappy with their lives, and how they use sex and relationships to fill a void. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is far from gloomy, however. The show has a whimsical sense of humor, and the musical numbers are full of energy, skipping from genre to genre depending on the mood. The songs are not just funny, but well performed. For example, there’s a thrash metal bloodbath about how exciting it is to get married, featuring chunky riffs that would make Pantera proud.
An old-school Gothic ghost story, Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak follows a young writer from a wealthy family, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who falls in love with British aristocrat Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Despite the protests of Edith’s family and friends, she marries the gentleman and moves to his family estate, the ominously-named Crimson Peak. The mansion is a decaying wreck, and Thomas’ sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), is vicious toward her new sister-in-law. As Edith falls mysteriously ill, she is haunted by visions of ghosts, and tries to uncover the dark secrets of Crimson Peak and its owners.
True to its Gothic roots, Crimson Peak draws much of its creeping horror from its location. Sharpe’s mansion, with its darkened, gilded halls, is like the corpse of a once-beautiful aristocrat. Its twisting stairways and creaky elevators provide a claustrophobic atmosphere, made all the more creepy by the grotesque phantoms that roam at night. As expected from del Toro, his latest creations are strikingly bizarre. Although the ghosts are always lurking in the background, Crimson Peak is primarily about the darkness within humanity, the chilling story of a twisted family.
unREAL season 2
Blending drama and parody, unREAL follows the production of a popular dating show called Everlasting, which is essentially The Bachelor. Following a mental breakdown, the show’s producer, Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby), returns under the eye of her superior, the manipulative executive producer, Quinn (Constance Zimmer). Together, the two women cajole, coerce, and deceive the contestants, turning them against each other for maximum drama.
The show-within-a-show structure lets unREAL play on its format, as drama from the studio seeps into the production and vice versa. Goldberg, weary of her role as the fixer for a trashy enterprise, gets caught up in a storm of her own making, butting heads with Quinn as she tries to do the show her way. Although season 2 makes some questionable decisions — it follows Everlasting’s first black bachelor, and the show’s handling of race gets a bit dicey — it is nonetheless an adventurous breakdown of the culture of reality TV.
Like many teen comedies, Superbad follows a pair of teenagers who want nothing more than to get drunk and have sex. Unlike many raunchy comedies, though, it also has a strangely somber undercurrent, as two young men grapple with their impending transition to adulthood. The boys in question are Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), childhood friends set to drift apart, as Evan has been accepted to Dartmouth while Seth has not. Desperate to lose their virginity before the end of high school, they try to impress the girls they have crushes on by promising to bring alcohol to their party. Their plan to acquire some quickly goes off the rails.
Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Superbad is plenty funny, and the cast — including Rogen and comedian Bill Hader as a pair of reckless, fun-loving cops — is terrific. The film also has a surprising amount of heart, as the two leads face their divergent futures and the difficulties of growing up. If nothing else, Superbad is a primer on what not to do when getting a fake I.D.
Road to Perdition
Road to Perdition shares some noticeable themes with other mafia movies, in particular The Godfather: a focus on the relationships between fathers and sons, and on the way violence is inherited, with the sins of one generation seeding those of the next. Based on a graphic novel — itself inspired by a story about a rogue samurai and his son — Road to Perdition follows a man named Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks). Unbeknownst to his son, Michael is an enforcer for the mafia, and a surrogate son to the capo, John Rooney (Paul Newman). One night, Rooney’s actual son, Connor (Daniel Craig), and Michael kill a man, and Michael’s own son is a witness. Despite Michael’s assurances that his son will keep quiet, Connor decides to tie up loose ends, leaving Michael to fight for his son’s life.
Road to Perdition is a tragedy in the classical sense, with the characters moved by fate and foolishness toward their dooms. Director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall cast the world in heavy shadows to convey this omnipresent gloom. This is one of the most beautiful crime dramas ever made, and also one of the most deliberately paced. Mendes takes time to let his imagery set in, never opting for cheap thrills.