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: punks fight neo-nazis, cops look for love, and a comedian delivers a surprising dramatic performance.
A claustrophobic, hyper-violent rollercoaster from director Jeremy Saulnier, Green Room follows a punk rock band called The Ain’t Rights, comprised of bassist Pat (the late Anton Yelchin), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), drummer Reece (Joe Cole), and frontman Tiger (Callum Turner). Desperate for cash, the band takes on a gig in rural Oregon. As it turns out, the venue is a neo-nazi bar. To make things worse, the band stumbles on a murder scene backstage; when the bar’s management decides they cannot leave, the band must fight their way through a gang of murderous skinheads.
Green Room is a spectacular bloodbath, and it wastes no time, clocking in at a taut 95 minutes. Despite the schlocky premise, Saulnier brings an artist’s touch to the massacre, with tight cinematography and a fierce rhythm, the cinematic equivalent of a mosh pit. Of special note is Patrick Stewart’s performance as the neo-nazi leader, his normally genteel presence turned in a vile direction.
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Wong Kar-Wai’s 1994 film Chungking Express is set in Hong Kong, and the film’s opening sequence captures the cosmopolitan chaos of the city, crowds bustling in blurry still frames as a menacing synth score plays. Despite the ominous opening, this is not a dark film at all. Chungking Express tells two loosely connected stories of romance. In one, a cop named He Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), still reeling from a breakup, is drawn to a mysterious woman with a criminal past. In the other story, a depressed cop (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) known only by his badge number 663 stumbles into a relationship with a plucky waitress (Faye Wong).
Both stories maintain a narrow focus, yet they are presented against the backdrop of a city that is thrumming with life. Wong beautifully unites the visuals and the themes. His camera presents Hong Kong as a delirious stream of colors, people and lights blurring together in a celebration of modernity. The warm feelings are accentuated by a bubbly pop soundtrack.
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There are few pairings in cinema more surprising than Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam Sandler; one of modern America’s great auteurs teaming up with the face of mainstream, buffoonish comedy. Their one project together, 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love, shockingly turned out well. The film follows Barry Egan (Sandler), a meek business-owner who occasionally erupts in spasms of rage. Barry falls into a relationship with his sister’s friend Lena (Emily Watson), a romance threatened when Barry is blackmailed by a shady phone-sex operation.
Sandler has tried his hand at low-key dramas from time to time, but no film has used him quite as well as this one. Egan is similar in many ways to Sandler’s typical comedic roles — immature, quick-tempered, strangely sympathetic — but Punch-Drunk Love explores the troubled underbelly of his personality. Egan is a man desperate for affection and understanding, and Anderson’s direction empathizes: witness the opening scene, in which Egan sits at his desk in the corner of a dark room, pressed in by the dingy walls. Despite the somber beginning, Punch-Drunk Love is an optimistic film, much of it filmed in bright lights and vivid colors.
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Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy brought Batman back to life and respectability in cinema, washing away the noxious memory of fiascoes like Batman & Robin. The franchise pre-Nolan was not always a disaster, however. Tim Burton’s 1989 film, simply titled Batman, was not only quite good, but presented a strikingly unique vision of Gotham City. The film casts Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, a charming billionaire who moonlights as the masked vigilante called Batman. Wayne’s unique life is complicated, first by a budding romance with reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), and then by the rise of a psychotic supervillain known as the Joker (Jack Nicholson).
As a director, Burton has always had an eye for the fantastic, and in his hands Gotham is a city of imposing Art Deco buildings looming over the populace, a stylish homage to New York in the ‘30s. Against this backdrop, Batman and the Joker play out their iconic struggle, a black-clad enforcer of order versus a cartoonish madman. Keaton’s performance as Bruce Wayne is a bit odd — his rambling, socially awkward take on the character seems more befitting a romantic comedy — but Nicholson is in top form, channeling his signature intensity in comic ways.
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Red Oaks season 2
Heavily indebted to the youthful comedies of the ‘80s, Red Oaks is a coming-of-age story centered on David Myers (Craig Roberts), a student working a summer job as tennis instructor at the Red Oaks Country Club. Outside of work, David is wrestling with his future, what he wants to do with his life, and whether he really loves his current girlfriend, Karen (Gage Golightly). Although David is the focal point, Red Oaks has a deep roster of characters, including David’s drug-dealing friend Wheeler (Oliver Cooper) and Nash (Ennis Esmer), a smug-yet-loveable tennis pro also working at the club.
Although the general atmosphere of Red Oaks evokes The Breakfast Club and Caddyshack, the craftsmanship is more in line with recent independent films. The show deliberately lingers on the seemingly inconsequential moments that make up daily life. Often clever and occasionally poignant, Red Oaks is a breezy slice-of-life comedy.
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