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 terrifyingly prescient dystopia, a gritty noir, and a celebration of popular music.
The Handmaid’s Tale season 1
An adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic speculative fiction novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a not-too-distant future where a group of religious extremists stage a coup, reshaping the United States into a theocratic dystopia called the Republic of Gilead. In this new society, women are not allowed to own money, or even learn to read, and exist only to manage domestic affairs. The main character, Offred (Elisabeth Moss), is a handmaid, a woman forced to bear children for powerful men. She serves at the behest of Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his barren wife, Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), trying to survive and hopefully, one day, escape. Adapting a great novel is always a daunting task, but Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale succeeds, tweaking the story to fit modern times. The show also takes advantage of the visual nature of television, rendering Offred’s world in beautiful, haunting tableaux.
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After serving six years for attempted murder, former cop Joe Denton (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is out and ready for redemption. Unfortunately, the new life waiting for him is hardly wonderful. His wife has left him, taking their kids with her, his parents think he is a loser, and a cop from his past, Lieutenant Pleasant (Gary Cole), is twisting his arm to get him to carry out a hit on a mob boss who knows too much. Small Crimes is a well-executed modern noir, a gritty, violent tale of redemption — or the impossibility of it — that nonetheless has moments of humor. At the center of it all is a familiar character, the criminal trying to turn his life around, but Coster-Waldau gives a tremendous performance that makes the story feel fresh.
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At first glance, American Honey may seem like a typical coming-of-age movie: The generic title, the sweeping shots of roads and fields, the jovial band of misfits at the center of the film. Road trip stories have shown this all before, but British director Andrea Arnold brings a fresh eye to this youthful pilgrimage. The film follows Star (Sasha Lane), a girl who leaves her home in Oklahoma to join a group of teens who roam the countryside, selling magazine subscriptions and partying hard. Star pairs up with Jake (Shia LeBeouf), the scraggly veteran of the group, striking up a strange romance as they wander. American Honey is a lovely film, presenting a grimy, yet dazzling vision of the American heartland.
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13 Reasons Why season 1
A controversial adaptation of a young adult novel, 13 Reasons Why opens on Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), a teenager mourning the suicide of his friend Hannah (Katherine Langford). Clay receives a box of audiotapes recorded by Hannah, in which she tells stories of 13 people whom she blames for her suicide. Listening to the tapes, Clay peers into the world of physical and social dangers that drove a teenage girl to take her own life. The show has drawn some criticism for its voyeuristic look at depression and sexual assault, but the story’s brutally frank presentation of its subject matter, and the unique story structure, make it a compelling drama.
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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Located in Cleveland, Ohio, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum is a monument to popular music. Every year, the Hall of Fame inducts a new list of iconic performers in a lavish ceremony. Despite the name, the Hall of Fame features artists from a variety of popular genres: Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Donna Summer, and N.W.A. are just some of the many diverse artists to join the roster. This year’s inductees include rock bands Pearl Jam, Yes, Journey, and Electric Light Orchestra; folk icon Joan Baez; and legendary rapper Tupac. The ceremony includes live performances from Lenny Kravitz, Alicia Keys, and Snoop Dogg, as well as from the inductees. Pearl Jam alone, whose heavy riffs and energetic performances have made the band one of the most popular acts of all time, should make it worth watching.