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 new undead comedy, a classic sports film, and the bizarre true story of a business empire built on goat testicles.
Though most modern Americans may not recognize his name, John Romulus Brinkley was once one of the most infamous men in the country. Penny Lane’s documentary Nuts! tells the story of Brinkley’s astounding rise and fall using a blend of educational interviews and colorful animated reenactments. A doctor with a degree from a diploma mill, Brinkley’s ascent began when a patient asked him for a cure for impotence. Brinkley joked that the man would have no trouble performing if he had the testicles of a goat; at the patient’s insistence, Brinkley transplanted goat glands into him, and he soon had men lining up for the operation.
As if that weren’t preposterous enough, Brinkley soon amassed a fortune and became one of the early pioneers of radio, broadcasting his medical claims and quack cures to enthusiastic listeners across the country. His power grew — and so did his list of enemies, including a doctor determined to prove him a fraud. The tale of John Brinkley seems at times too absurd to be true, and Lane’s documentary retells it in all its sordid glory. Aside from being informative, Nuts! is a frightfully interesting story of cunning, greed, and the dangers of mass media.
Swiss Army Man
Stranded on a desert island, Hank (Paul Dano) is on the verge of killing himself when a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore. Hank quickly finds that the corpse has some practical uses — its flatulence is so powerful that Hank is able to ride the corpse to a more hospitable region, and the corpse vomits up a seemingly endless stream of drinkable water. Even more miraculously, the corpse (dubbed “Manny”) begins to show signs of life, and the two men strike up an odd friendship as they try to make their way back to civilization.
Needless to say, Swiss Army Man is a weird film. On its face, the film is a grotesque slapstick comedy, as Hank comes up with creative uses for Manny’s bodily functions. If the idea of a man riding a farting corpse like a jet ski sounds out there, the film only gets weirder. Beyond the bodily humor, however, Swiss Army Man is a strangely moving tale of friendship, as Hank and Manny get to know each other and piece together how Manny ended up dead. If nothing else, Swiss Army Man is one of the most original movies to come out in a long time.
Part of the pantheon of great sports movies, Hoosiers follows a high-school basketball team from a small town in Indiana, as the school’s new coach, Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), tries to build a championship contender out of a band of misfits. A former college coach whose career was derailed after he hit a player, the job is Dale’s last chance to save his career — not that it stops him from employing his unique approach to managing the team. If the team is to succeed, Dale must not only instill the fundamentals of basketball in his players, but also survive the impatience of the townsfolk who don’t understand his methods.
Anyone familiar with sports movies can likely guess how Hoosiers plays out. Despite the simple storyline, the film triumphs thanks to superb execution. Hackman delivers one of his greatest performances as the curmudgeonly yet charismatic coach. The rest of the cast is in top form, particularly Dennis Hopper as alcoholic former player Shooter Flatch. In sports movies, as in sports, a solid grasp of fundamentals makes all the difference.
This grim mystery from director Clint Eastwood tells a tragic story of three childhood friends whose lives are upended by a grisly crime. The men — gangster Jimmy (Sean Penn), detective Sean (Kevin Bacon), and working man Dave (Tim Robbins) — grew up together in Boston, where a terrible crime befell one of them. As adults, the three have grown apart, but their paths cross again when Jimmy’s daughter is murdered; Dave, stumbling home that same night with blood on his hands, becomes a suspect. Sean and Jimmy each race to find the killer, one using legal channels, one not. The investigation tests their friendship, and the boundaries of their morality.
Mystic River is a taut detective story, and like any great noir, it is as much an examination of the evils within men as it is a puzzle to solve. The three protagonists all carry their own demons, and their choices are often not the right ones. The performances are terrific, particularly Penn as the raging father out for revenge. Eastwood, long a master director by the time he made this film, composes the film with confident subtlety. He uses no flashy tricks, letting the actors do their work and the scenes breathe.
Santa Clarita Diet season 1
Following a married couple — Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Drew Hammond (Timothy Olyphant) — and their problems, both personal and professional, Santa Clarita Diet in many ways resembles the typical family comedy. There is one big twist on the formula, however — after a bout of illness, Sheila develops a hunger for human flesh. Deciding that the couple that slays together will avoid divorce proceedings together, Drew helps his wife satisfy her cravings, picking out victims whom they consider “deserving” of being eaten.
Suffice it to say, Santa Clarita Diet doesn’t take itself too seriously. The show is a lighthearted (but intensely gory) satire on yuppie lifestyles. Sheila’s transformation gives her a new lease on life, encouraging her to take risks and pursue her desires, like taking a self-help course for the damned. Barrymore and Olyphant bring plenty of charm, and the show’s writing is often witty. Santa Clarita Diet may not be the most incisive comedy, but it is good fun.