The Plot Against AmericaPhoto by Michele K. Short / HBO
So, you ran out of stuff to stream during the first week of quarantine. It's almost impressive how much TV you inhaled instead of using the time to do something constructive. And now you need more media to consume. We're not shaming — in fact, we're in the same boat. So let's break down the latest and greatest shows and movies available on-demand as well as from streaming services.
The Invisible Man, available on-demand
Thanks to the virus closing movie theaters, Hollywood studios have decided to basically cut their losses and throw some of their new films online. One of these is horror experts Blumhouse's modern-day take on the classic Universal monster characterThe Invisible Man. Director Leigh Whannell, who wrote the original Saw, turns the premise into a tense, claustrophobic slasher where Elizabeth Moss' heroine must evade the title character, her abusive, mad-scientist ex who has turned invisible to torment her. Moss is best known for her role as Peggy Olson on Mad Men, but her leading role in the little-seen indie psychodrama Queen of Earthproves she's very capable of playing up paranoia. The Invisible Man is available to rent on Amazon and iTunes for $20.
The Plot Against America on HBO
Inspired by the 2004 novel of the same name by Philip Roth, HBO’s latest marquee miniseries follows a very simple alternate-history premise: What if the U.S. government became explicitly fascist? Roth’s story takes us back to his suburban New Jersey in 1940, with one crucial change: Charles Lindbergh, the man who flew the first transatlantic flight, has defeated Franklin D. Roosevelt for the presidency by campaigning on a far-right platform of isolationism and anti-Semitism, casting the young Roth and his family into a world of fear and uncertainty. Much of this fictional story is based in fact, as Lindbergh really was part of the, ahem, “America First” movement. There’s a small chance the show could lose sight of Jewish-American Roth’s vision and stray into the same Trump-era, liberal-baiting Nazisploitation of, say, Amazon’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Man in the High Castle, but HBO has recruited an all-star cast — Winona Ryder, John Turturro, and Zoe Kazan are among the featured players — led by none other than David Simon of The Wire and The Deuce fame. New episodes premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO, HBO Go, and HBO Now.
Onward, available on-demand
Pixar's latest movie release was also curtailed by the coronavirus crisis, so Disney threw it up online after just two weeks in theaters. Featuring the voice talents of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland — gotta get that Marvel Studios synergy going — as well as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the heralded animation studio's latest uses a high fantasy-meets-modern society setting to tell a story about elven brothers trying to reunite with their father. Pixar has certainly seen better days — it's coming off a string of so-so sequels including Finding Dory and Incredibles 2 — but this film and the upcoming Soul will hopefully see the CG pioneer return to the high quality and creativity of its 2000s height. Onward is available to rent on Amazon and iTunes for $20.
Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu
Celeste Ng's novel is one of those books that seems to pop up everywhere — book clubs, bookstore recommendation walls, your mom's nightstand — so it's natural that Hulu has decided to turn it into a TV miniseries. Set during the '90s in suburban Shaker Heights, Ohio, the story follows the wealthy, white Richardson family, led by matriarch Elena (Reese Witherspoon), who rents an apartment to itinerant artist Mia (Kerry Washington) and her daughter, who are black. As the two families interact, the racial and class boundaries between them come into sharper focus, and viewers learn how a crime committed early in the show came to happen. The first three episodes are available now, with new episodes released on Wednesdays, on Hulu.
Lu Over the Wall on Netflix
If you've never experienced the incredible animated worlds of director Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, Ping Pong the Animation), here's your perfect entry point. This musical adventure follows lonely middle-school musician Kai, who lives in a small fishing village in rural Japan. When he befriends a mermaid-like creature called Lu whose fish fins turn to human legs when she hears music, the two decide to form a band and teach the prejudiced townsfolk to better understand the little mermaid's kind. A perfect fit for kids and parents looking for a fun diversion and animation aficionados who can appreciate Yuasa's unique style, Lu Over the Wall, now streaming on Netflix, blends folklore and fun. We'll also include a rec for his studio Science Saru's current project, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken, a TV series about a group of animation students that's streaming on Crunchyroll — it's probably the best anime of the year.
Safe on Criterion Channel
Criterion couldn't have put up this seminal '90s arthouse drama at a better time. Directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, Dark Waters), the 1987-set Safe follows Carol White (Julianne Moore), a bored L.A. housewife who suddenly starts to become deathly ill. The cause? Anything and everything, it seems. Anytime she steps outside, whether to get her hair done or drive on smoggy highways, she coughs, bleeds from her nose, and eventually goes into shock. Doctors and psychologists can't help her; family and friends have no idea how to interact with her. Finally, she learns from a New Age pamphlet that she has "environmental illness" — the chemicals all around her are what's making her sick. She moves to a remote desert community for sick people like her and withdraws from nearly all human interaction. If you think you're having trouble with self-isolation, wait until you see this.
Love Island Australia on Hulu
If all you know about Australia is what you learned from nature documentaries (The Crocodile Hunter) and historical dramas (Mad Max), here's an opportunity to study a unique, parallel society on the other side of the globe. Just kidding: Love Island is the dumbest, horniest reality show format ever conceived, originally broadcast in the U.K. and subsequently exported to a handful of countries. The premise: A group of extremely hot 20-somethings are isolated at a luxury villa ("quarantined," if you will) and must couple up to avoid elimination and win a grand prize of thousands of dollars. Singles are banished; most of the contestants are trying to become Instagram influencers. This is shameless, trash TV: It has supplied British tabloids with reliably scandalous headlines for years, and now the Australian version's second season is being released on Hulu for Americans' viewing pleasure. Seeing as Australians, on a societal scale, are basically raunchier, hotter Brits, this Love Island should be even better than the original or the inferior American version. Shut your mind off and get ready to revel in the madness.
Goodfellas on Netflix
If there's one film you have to watch in its entirety every time it's on cable, it's Goodfellas. And now, since it's on Netflix, you can watch it all the way through with swears intact. What makes Martin Scorcese's masterful mob movie so unmissable, even after a dozen views? Maybe it's the undeniable charisma of its cast: DeNiro! Pesci! Ray Liotta! Maybe it's the skill of the filmmaking, from the gripping sequence surrounding Henry Hill's helicopter-caused unraveling to the famous "Copacabana shot." Maybe it's the iconic music selections ripped from Scorsese's own record collection. Really, it's all that and more: Pound for pound, this may just be the most entertaining movie ever made. Now stay home and get your fuckin' streaming box.
German expressionism on Criterion Channel
One of the strengths of the Criterion Collection's streaming service is its curatorial approach, recommending films in thematic groups like "Pioneers of African American Cinema" or "Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky." For the latest, they've collected every major work of the German expressionism movement. Spanning most of the 1920s, the movement was groundbreaking in global cinema for the way it illustrated its characters' mental states through set design and creative cinematography. There's something for everyone here: Horror fans will dig Nosferatu, while sci-fi fans will get a kick out of Metropolis. There are also early thrillers from Fritz Lang like M and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. It should be said that most of these films are silent. Soundtracks have been added, but it may be an opportunity to get creative: What does The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari sound like with your favorite techno album playing in the background?
Space Jam on Netflix
Since all sports are canceled, now's a perfect time to watch the greatest sports movie of all time. No, not Field of Dreams — Space Jam, obviously! A sequel with LeBron James in the lead role is supposedly in development, but for now, you can settle in and watch the original featuring the second-greatest basketballer of all time. Michael Jordan and Looney Tunes characters team up to defeat the Monstars, a team of buff space aliens, in a basketball game to determine the fate of the Earth! Cartoon chaos meets actual athleticism! It's got Bill Murray and Newman from Seinfeld! What more do you need? It's on Netflix.
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Douglas Markowitz is a former music and arts editorial intern for Miami New Times. Born and raised in South Florida, he studied at Sophia University in Tokyo before earning a bachelor's in communications from University of North Florida. He writes freelance about music, art, film, and other subjects.