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.
The new three-part HBO docuseries Telemarketers is the cinematic equivalent of a visit from your favourite drunk uncle: wildly entertaining, irrepressibly scuzzy and almost too much to take in one sitting. Spanning decades and layered with some truly outrageous twists, Adam Bhala Lough and Sam Lipman-Stern’s production plays like an epic movie from the Safdie brothers (Uncut Gems) starring Danny McBride (The Righteous Gemstones) – which makes sense, given that the Safdies and McBride are producers here.
Things start off innocently-ish enough, with Lipman-Stern going through old camcorder footage that he shot during his days as a crooked teenage telemarketer, his workplace essentially a boiler room operation staffed with ex-convicts. But then Lipman-Stern and a coworker buddy – an expert salesman who is also a heroin addict – start to peel away the layers of their employers’ shady operations, and discover a jaw-dropping scandal that threatens to bring down not only a billion-dollar industry but also erode public trust in one of the most intimidating and feared of American institutions. While there is one faux cliffhanger inserted between Episodes 2 and 3, the series as a whole will make you shout and shiver. And perhaps throw away your phone forever. (The first episode premieres Aug. 13 at 10 p.m., with following episodes airing subsequent Sundays at the same time.)
How to with John Wilson Season 3 (HBO/Crave)
For all the millions of dollars poured into so-called event television – I dare anyone but the most skilled of Marvel auditors to figure out how Disney spent upward of $200-million on six measly episodes of Secret Invasion – the most beautiful, profound and entertaining series of the past few years looks like it cost approximately $43.50 to make. And now, HBO’s How to with John Wilson is sadly ending with its third season, the ultimate act of penny-pinching, even if it is on Wilson’s own terms. With a total of 18 episodes to its name, each of which takes months to assemble and edit, documentarian Wilson roams around New York attempting to answer seemingly simple queries that swerve into epic, surreal and gut-busting meditations on life. New questions/episodes this season include “How to Find a Public Restroom,” “How to Clean Your Ears” and the poetically deranged series finale, “How to Track Your Package,” which winds up in a profoundly uncomfortable place. I’ll miss you, John Wilson. Possibly just as much as HBO’s accounting department.
Hijack (Apple TV+)
Of all the non-HBO streamers, Apple TV+ has been pumping out the highest-quality, most under-noticed series as of late. This year alone, they have delivered the year’s best comedy (Platonic), best sci-fi puzzler (Silo) and now, with the season finale of Hijack having been released last week, the best thriller. A twisty and trashy spin on Kiefer Sutherland’s 24 heyday, Hijack stars Idris Elba as an expert corporate negotiator who has to close the biggest deal of his life: convincing a group of airplane hijackers to not bumble their mysterious mission and kill everyone onboard, including himself. The series is patently ridiculous, and features just a little too much time following characters on the ground (including Archie Panjabi’s anti-terrorism agent) instead of those in the sky, but Elba can sell the silliest of premises with ease.
The extraordinary, enchanting and totally bananas 2022 film Aline begins with a warning. Or maybe it is an enticement. A title card appears onscreen noting that the film is “freely inspired” by the life of Céline Dion. Meaning it is not strictly speaking a movie about Céline Dion. But, well, consider the evidence. The film follows a young Québécois singer named Aline, who comes from a family of 14 children. She becomes a world-famous pop star after becoming a client of her decades-older manager (Sylvain Marcel), whom she eventually marries. She sings several Céline Dion hits, including My Heart Will Go On. And at one point someone mistakenly calls her Céline.
But none of the above points matters in the grand scheme of Aline, because the most outrageous and ultimately wonderful thing about the film is how director-writer-star Valérie Lemercier chose to make it. In that: She plays Aline/Céline from the ages of 5 through 50. Using a deliberately (?) shoddy combination of makeup, digital effects and other postproduction tricks, Lemercier plays essentially a grown woman trapped in a little girl’s body, like a French-language spin on Martin Short in Clifford. Or, well, I honestly don’t know. But like the best-worst Dion ballad, I embraced the operatic madness of it all.
Joy Ride (on-demand, including Apple TV, Google Play, Cineplex Store)
A road-trip movie that’s universal in its comedic appeal but specific in its cultural touchstones, the feature directorial debut of Adele Lim (screenwriter of Crazy Rich Asians) follows two best friends, serious lawyer Audrey (Ashley Park) and her wannabe artist best friend Lolo (Sherry Cola) as they embark on a trip to Beijing that goes off the rails. Operating with as lewd a mind as it does a big, bursting heart, the film is a riot, though was sadly overlooked at the box office when it was released just more than a month ago. Perhaps audiences couldn’t click with the ridiculousness of the story, and the occasional sloppiness of the pacing. But it ultimately works because Lim and her two writers (Family Guy veterans Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao) ensure that the film is driven by warm, relatable characters who you actually care whether or not they get that last smuggled condom of cocaine out of their unmentionables.