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.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
The age of TV revivals continues, as Gilmore Girls returns for a four-episode miniseries on Netflix. For those unfamiliar, Gilmore Girls follows the lives of Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel). Living in the small New England town of Stars Hollow, the two women deal with personal and professional angst, surrounded by a cast of eccentric characters.
A Year in the Life accounts for the years that have passed between the series finale and the revival. Gilmore Girls has always been a character-driven show, and the impact of time on the protagonists is crucial. Rory returns to Stars Hollow nine years after leaving to work for the Obama campaign. Despite having some notable success as a journalist, she is adrift. Lorelai, meanwhile, faces the gnawing sense that her career and relationship have stalled. The new episodes are not a funeral march, although the death of Edward Herrmann, who played elderly patriarch Richard Gilmore, casts a shroud over the proceedings. The show’s oddball charm is still there, with plenty of jokes and callbacks that should make longtime fans giddy.
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a remarkable film, both for its bold production schedule — it was filmed over the course of twelve years, with the characters aging as the film progresses — and for the emotional havoc it wreaks on the viewer. Watching protagonist Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grow from lively child to moody teenager and beyond, the weight of time settles on you. The film opens on Mason as a six-year old, tracing his development through the various small moments that color a person’s life: camping trips, baseballs games, the first day of school. Much like Linklater’s other films, Boyhood is about the beauty and the drama of ordinary life.
Although Coltrane is the lead, the surrounding cast members shine. Ethan Hawke plays his father, Mason Sr., a freewheeling drifter who acts as the fun parent during his occasional visits. Mason’s mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette), spends more time raising Mason and his sister, and her struggles as a single-mother looking for love and a sense of purpose comprise a stunning subplot. Linklater keeps the visuals restrained; his camera is an impartial observer, letting the characters drive the film.
Lovesick season 2
Lovesick — formally known by the abysmal name Scrotal Recall — returns for a new season, but while the name has changed, the show’s wit and piercing observations on romance remain. The show follows Dylan (Johnny Flynn), who, after being diagnosed with chlamydia, must track down all of his former lovers to inform them to get tested. Structurally, each episode examines a different relationship, forcing Dylan to confront his personal issues from various points in time.
As part of his journey, Dylan brings along his friends Luke (Daniel Ings) and Evie (Antonia Thomas), who each have their own relationship woes. The show blends sweet and witty buddy comedy with moments of poignancy, and its subtle, sophisticated approach to relationships sets it above the typical romantic comedy.
A Woman Under the Influence
John Cassavetes is often held up as the father of independent American cinema, and watching A Woman Under the Influence, it is not hard to see why. Cassavetes eschewed the story structures and grandiose staging of Hollywood films, crafting an experience that is intimate and troubling. The film is about a working-class couple, Nick (Peter Falk) and Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands), who are deeply in love. Despite their affection, the two have problems: Mabel is socially awkward, prone to embarrassing outbursts as she tries to impress people. Nick has her committed to a mental institution, but while she is away he proves no more normal or competent as a parent than she is.
There is not much of a plot to the film. Cassavetes is interested more in exploring these highly defined characters, delving into their neuroses as well as the way society treats them. The gender dynamics are front and center; society deems Gena manic, while Nick is merely “lively,” and this socially imposed distinction is crucial. Falk and Rowlands give captivating performances. Rowlands is shameless in her portrayal of Gena, willing to throw all her energy into every mannerism. Falk is spectacular as well, his warm exterior periodically collapsing in eruptions of rage.
The Grand Tour premiere
Fans of the long-running British car show Top Gear may have been distressed to see hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May depart following various behind-the-scenes controversies. Those disappointed with the new hosts should be happy to know that the old triumvirate is back in Amazon’s The Grand Tour, a show which is essentially Top Gear in all but name. As in the previous series, The Grand Tour follows the hosts as they test cars, travel the world, and verbally stab each other.
Top Gear reveled in the beauty and power of high-end cars, and The Grand Tour commits to the same sensibilities from the starting line, with the hosts testing a McLaren P1, a Porsche 918, and a Ferrari LaFerrari on a racing circuit in Portugal. For those who appreciate the aesthetics of cars, the camera wanders longingly over every inch of chrome and paint. The three hosts have always had explosive chemistry together, and their time apart has not mellowed their acidic wit.