Five shows to stream this week: Unfortunate events, con men, Iranian horror

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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.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events season 1

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People have tried to adapt Lemony Snicket’s book series to the screen before — a 2004 film starred Jim Carrey — but Netflix’s serialized adaptation seems like a better way to go about things, with each season stretching the events of the books across multiple episodes. For those unfamiliar, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series of children’s novels chronicling the adventures of the Baudelaire children: Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and infant Sunny (Presley Smith). After their parents are killed in a fire, the children are delivered to the custody of their distant relative, Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), a sinister actor with his eye on their inheritance.

The first season adapts the events of the first four books, with each book accounting for two episodes. The novels are famous for their macabre humor, and that is on display throughout the show, but the series is not overly dark; despite dealing with death, nihilism, and conspiracies, this is still a series aimed at kids. The witty prose of the novels finds its way into the show through the presence of narrator Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton), who observes the Baudelaires on their journey and occasionally steps into the action.

Watch now on:

Netflix

Dallas Buyer’s Club

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Based on actual events, Dallas Buyer’s Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a hard-partying rodeo cowboy who is diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980s. Told he only has 30 days to live, he turns to unapproved drugs to fight his condition. When the drugs work, he gets an idea — smuggle the drugs into America, and sell them to those in need — that becomes the titular Dallas Buyer’s Club. While the drugs are merely “not approved” by the FDA, rather than illegal, Woodroof soon finds himself at odds with the government.

As with any biographical film, Dallas Buyer’s Club lives or dies on the strength of its central performance. McConaughey delivers a tremendous portrayal, imbuing his normal Southern slacker persona with a desperate hunger. Stripped of muscle and fat, McConaughey’s Woodroof nevertheless moves with a ferocious verve. Like many biopics, Dallas Buyer’s Club veers into melodrama, but despite the subject matter, it is a surprisingly upbeat, comedic film.

Watch now on:

HBO Amazon

Stardust

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Witches, sky pirates, and feuding princes are just a few of the concepts Stardust throws against the wall, and while not all of them stick, the ultimate result is a fantasy film that shoots for the moon. Stardust begins when a star falls from the sky, taking the form of a woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes). A young man, Tristan (Charlie Cox), sets out to recover the star as a token of love for a woman in his village, but his plan is thrown off when other forces come after Yvaine: a trio of witches who want to eat her heart, and a pair of princes who seek the gemstone she carries. Tristan and Yvaine flee to a variety of locales, meeting colorful characters and learning a bit about each other along the way.

Adapted from a novel by Neil Gaiman, Stardust pays heavy tribute to fairy tales and folklore, depicting a world where magic is commonplace and everything is governed by a certain moralistic logic. Those weary of epic battles and apocalyptic quests may find the lighthearted adventure of the film refreshing. Stardust sands a off a bit too much of the book’s edge to be a truly great work of fantasy, but it is an enjoyable piece of entertainment.

Watch now on:

Amazon

Sneaky Pete season 1

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After three years in prison, forced every day to listen to the reveries of his cellmate, Pete, con man Marius Josipovic (Giovanni Ribisi) is ready to get back to his old life. His plans change when he learns that crime boss Vince (Bryan Cranston), to whom he owes $100,000, wants him dead. A natural liar, Marius uses his extensive knowledge of Pete’s childhood to assume his identity, even going as far as seeking out his estranged family. Pete’s grandparents, Audrey (Margo Martindale) and Otto Bernhardt (Peter Gerety), have not seen him since he was a kid, and they welcome him without a second glance.

Unfortunately for Marius, Vince quickly discovers he is out of prison, and starts looking for him. The con man must juggle both his new life — keeping Pete’s family from discovering his identity — and the old. Marius’ new life is one big con, and the show generates constant tension through all the little challenges he faces. Ribisi plays the character with a great mix of charm and skittishness — he’s a guy who worms his way into another’s confidence and tries hard not to shake things up.

Watch now on:

Amazon

Under the Shadow

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In Tehran, in the waning days of the Iran-Iraq War, medical student Shideh (Narges Rashidi) finds only woes. She is barred from medical school due to her political leanings, her husband is sent off to the war, and a missile has crashed through her roof. As if her earthly troubles were not enough, she has a supernatural one: a malevolent spirit knowns as a “Djinn” has become fixated on her family. As her friends and neighbors flee the city, Shideh must protect her daughter while maintaining her own sanity.

Like many great horror movies, Under the Shadow uses an otherworldly terror to examine terrestrial fears. Shideh and her daughter are haunted by an evil spirit, yes, but she is also boxed in by cultural restrictions, by her government, by the war on her doorstep. Like The Babadook and It Follows, Under the Shadow is part of an ongoing horror renaissance — it blends the thrills of the genre with the emotional depth of art house cinema.

Watch now on:

Netflix

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