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: The long-awaited return of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Park Chan-wook’s new film, and more.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 season 11
Long before YouTube and podcasts gave every two-bit snark peddler a platform to pick apart bad movies, there was Mystery Science Theater 3000. The show — which began as an obscure program on a Minnesota TV station before becoming one of the great cult hits of the ’90s — followed a man named Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson), who is launched into space and forced to watch bad movies as part of an experiment. To cope, he builds some robot friends, Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo, and during each episode they watch a different terrible film, providing snide, witty commentary.
Although the show ran for 10 seasons, fans still longed for more, and crowdfunding helped it return on Netflix. The show will have a new cast, with Jonah Ray as the leading man, and Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt as a new pair of mad scientists. Despite the fresh faces, fans of the old series shouldn’t worry about the quality. Hodgson, who also created the show, will be overseeing the production, and has brought on a great creative team, including Elliott Kalan (The Daily Show), Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time), and Dan Harmon (Community).
Documentary Now! season 2
This series, created by Saturday Night Live alumni Bill Hader and Fred Armisen, parodies notable documentaries and styles of filmmaking, focusing on a different subject each episode. Perhaps “parody” is is a less apt description than “homage,” as the most impressive thing about the show is not its humor — although it is funny — but the meticulous detail it goes into when emulating films like Grey Gardens or The Thin Blue Line. Whether parodying the 1922 anthropological film Nanook of the North or the edgy antics of Vice reporters, Hader and Armisen have an astounding ability to capture the feel of those projects.
Season 2 continues the show’s run of excellence, drawing on a diverse collection of subjects. An early standout is Juan Likes Rice and Chicken, which pays homage to the highly aestheticized world of cooking documentaries, following a chef who only makes rice and chicken in a remote shack; the episode perfectly replicates the dreamy quality of Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Set in a vision of New York City that’s overrun by gangs in colorful, thematically linked costumes, The Warriors follows the titular group, a band of leather-vest-wearing fighters from Coney Island. In the opening scene, a gathering of all the gangs in New York is interrupted when Luther (David Patrick Kelley) shoots Cyrus (Roger Hill), leader of the most powerful gang in the city, and blames it on The Warriors. Now the enemies of every other gang, The Warriors must trek back to Coney Island, dealing with every threat that comes their way.
For a movie about gang violence, The Warriors is surprisingly vibrant. Every gang has their own theme — The Warriors adorn themselves with Native American accessories, the Baseball Furies dress like Major League Baseball players — and this makes the film feel almost like a work of fantasy, as the band of heroes wanders through numerous locales and clashed with an assortment of foes. Although the costumes and dialogue may seem corny today — the film came out in 1979 — they give the film a unique charm.
The Love Witch
Watching Anna Biller’s The Love Witch for the first time, you may understandably mistake it for a film from the ’60s. The costume design, formal dialogue, and pastel colors all evoke an older era of film, but as the film’s strange story unfolds, its modern sensibilities poke through. The film, released in 2016, opens on Elaine (Samantha Robinson), a beautiful woman moving to a small town in California following the death of her husband. A self-proclaimed love addict, Elaine gets to work finding a new man, and she doesn’t just rely on her stunning looks. She’s a witch, seducing men through spells, potions, and a supernatural gaze, but her lovers — each disappointing in a different way — soon become her victims.
The Love Witch is a difficult film to unpack, with feminist undercurrents and a distinctly un-feminist protagonist. As a tribute to classic horror films, the film is undoubtedly a success. It is campy, yet creepy, with a sumptuous visual style that is as enchanting as Elaine herself. Whatever its flaws, The Love Witch deserves applause for its ambition alone.
Korean director Park Chan-wook has garnered international acclaim for his dark, violent, occasionally funny thrillers, and his style may have reached a greater, more bizarre peak with The Handmaiden. Set in Korea during the Japanese occupation, the film opens as Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo), a conman disguised as a Japanese aristocrat, recruits pickpocket Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) for a job. He wants to marry the reclusive widow Lady Hiseko (Kim Min-hee), and he wants Sook-hee to go undercover as Hiseko’s handmaiden, so she can charm her into desiring him. Without revealing too much, the plan goes awry.
Despite his penchant for grotesque subject matter, Park has always shown a formal touch in his filmmaking. Even the most famous shot in his oeuvre — the long hallway fight in Oldboy — shows a remarkable restraint. His style is on full display in The Handmaiden, with every camera angle finely tuned for maximum impact. The Handmaiden is a beautiful period piece, but unlike typical historical romances, it has a few disturbing tricks up its sleeve.