Do you feel like you’re drowning … but you haven’t even left your couch? Welcome to the Great Content Overload Era. To help you navigate the choppy digital waves, here are The Globe’s best bets for weekend streaming.
Spirited (Apple TV+)
Was anyone beside Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell’s business managers aware that the two stars made a hugely expensive holiday musical for Apple TV+? There have been a lot of missteps and head-scratching decisions made in this brave new streaming era, but I can’t recall a bigger-budget movie than Spirited arriving with almost no fanfare or basic marketing. Yet here it is, a supremely energetic riff on A Christmas Carol (or maybe its inspiration is more Scrooged) that casts Reynolds as a soul in need of saving and Ferrell as the Ghost of Christmas Present here to teach him the true meaning of Christmas. The two stars do everything that you expect them to – Ferrell alternates between sweet and shouty, Reynolds is smarm personified – and the songs go down easy without inching close to ear-worm territory. Director Sean Anders keeps things moving and toe-tapping with more finesse than he displayed in his execrable Daddy’s Home movies, and Ferrell even manages to deliver a few lines that generate genuine, full-throated laughs. One horrifying late-film scene reveals that the filmmakers have no sense of tonal control, but hey, no one might ever see this movie anyway. Enjoy the Christmas bonuses, Reynolds and Ferrell!
The Wonder (Netflix)
Lost amidst the headlines for Florence Pugh’s other 2022 film, The Wonder deserves to have a prime place in the zeitgeist just as much as Don’t Worry Darling. Adapted from Canadian author Emma Donoghue’s novel, the film follows a young nurse played by Pugh who is sent to a rural village in 1860s Ireland to observe a young girl who has purportedly not eaten for months. Opening with a meta-contextual riff on storytelling and buoyed by a strong atmosphere that’s all raised eyebrows, director Sebastian Lelio’s drama is an example of confident, curious filmmaking that Netflix should be investing more toward. And Pugh, naturally, is excellent as a woman caught between science and the supernatural.
Tulsa King (Paramount+)
Next year, Arnold Schwarzenegger is set to headline his first television show, an action series for Netflix. But fellow Planet Hollywood heavyweight Sylvester Stallone has beat Arnie to the hard-hitting punch with Tulsa King, a slick new crime-comedy now streaming on Paramount+. What could be called The Sopranos Out West, the series from Yellowstone empire-builder Taylor Sheridan and Boardwalk Empire showrunner Terence Winter casts Stallone as a recently imprisoned mafioso exiled by his bosses to Oklahoma. Quickly, Stallone’s tough guy sets up a criminal empire based on the medicinal-marijuana market, as well as striking a romance with an ATF agent who is half his age (the delightful Andrea Savage). Funny and violent at the same time, Tulsa King proves that the 76-year-old Stallone is far from expendable.
Ticket to Paradise (on-demand, including Apple TV, Google Play, Cineplex Store)
Although this new rom-com is not a secret Ocean’s 11 sequel, George Clooney and Julia Roberts still make a perfect pair as divorced parents trying to thwart their daughter’s hasty wedding. There are absolutely no surprises in Ticket to Paradise, but that’s not what anyone is here for, are they? We want charm and plenty of it, which Clooney and Roberts deliver in perfectly outfitted spades.
Le Bureau (Sundance Now, AMC+)
For anyone maxed out on English-language spy series, it is time to embrace the French sensation that has revitalized the genre. Starring Mathieu Kassovitz as a legendary agent for France’s equivalent of the CIA, Le Bureau relies less on massive twists than it does the intricate details and complex politics of international espionage, with a healthy dose of sexual intrigue. Binge all five seasons before production on a rumoured sixth gets under way.