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what to watch

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.

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Saving the Animals of Ukraine, streaming on CBC Gem.CBC GEM

Saving the Animals of Ukraine (CBC Gem)

With everything going on with humanity right now, and all the crimes against it, is a documentary about animals during war really worth your time? It didn’t take long for this film by Anton Ptushkin – a Ukrainian influencer turn war correspondent – to open up a part of me I’d closed off as self-protection. I was soon choking back tears with his stories about a zoo lion suffering from PTSD and a Jack Russell terrier who has segued from show dog to land mine sniffer-outer. Wayne Jordash, a human-rights lawyer, says the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 led to “the biggest pet evacuation in history,” as the country’s railways waived no-animal policies for families fleeing the front. Still, some were left behind in the rush to safety. A group called Zoopatrul, formed a week after the fighting started, has liberated or fed many dogs and cats stuck in abandoned or bombed-out apartment buildings. The founder of the group says he was just trying to think of something he could do that would have an effect. As one woman in this doc says: “To save an animal is to remain human.”

A Gentleman in Moscow (Paramount+)

Meanwhile, in Russia a hundred years ago, Count Alexander Rostov (Ewan McGregor) escapes execution after the Russia Revolution but is forced to spend the rest of his days confined to an attic room in the Hotel Metropol. This new eight-part limited series is based on American author Amor Towles’s best-selling novel of the same name. Its showrunner is Ben Vanstone, whose previous productions have been very British, including Merlin and the All Creatures Great and Small reboot. The trailer suggests whimsical escapism with high production values and plenty of snow falling on the onion domes of Russian cathedrals. There’s a cute kid, too, and McGregor sports an outrageous mustache.

Ramy Youssef: More Feelings (Crave); Saturday Night Live (NBC/Global)

You can star in an Oscar-winning movie opposite Emma Stone, you can be an official friend of Taylor Swift, but if you’re Muslim in the United States, some will still view you with suspicion and fear when conflict erupts on the other side of the planet. In his second comedy special, filmed late last year and fresh as a wound, Youssef talks about a seeming friend calling him on October 10 and asking: “Yo bro, where you at with Hamas?” The Egyptian-American comedian has also been getting it from Arab brothers around the world, who slip into his Instagram DMs to castigate him for posting about one tragedy but not another. “I’ve got to be the mayor of Muslim disaster?” he asks. More Feelings has many such bits you might call painfully funny, but Youssef knows how to pace them out with great jokes about past Jewish girlfriends, his Saudi wife and the difficulties of rebranding Arab representation. “Arabs are like, we invented math,” he says. “Read the room: Everybody hates math! We need a car, a fast Muslim car.” Here’s hoping Youssef is even a smidge as fearless in his hosting gig on Saturday Night Live this weekend.

Steve! (Martin): A Documentary in 2 Pieces (Apple TV+)

Everybody is fond of Steve Martin again these days: He’s 78, a certified national treasure (category: American), and is currently in a solid gig letting Martin Short, another national treasure (category: Canadian), bounce off him on Only Murders in the Building. This Apple TV+ documentary will let his newer fans learn about his past as a “wild and crazy guy” and all the hats he wore before becoming a porkpie guy. Says Martin of his rise in the 1970s: “All comedy was political and I felt it was time to change that.” Older fans, meanwhile, will enjoy a yuk down memory lane with Tina Fey and Jerry Seinfeld among famous funny folks singing his praises, the latter calling him “the most idolized comedian, ever.” From the trailer, it looks like the best bits, as always, will come from him interacting with Short.

Dream Scenario (Paramount +)

A Globe and Mail Critic’s Pick from the fall, this 2023 dark comedy sees Nicolas Cage playing a bland biology professor named Paul Matthews who suddenly starts appearing in the dreams of people all over the world. Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli takes this premise of a man going subconsciously viral to both imaginatively surreal and gutsy satirical places, though film critic Barry Hertz wrote the movie can also be seen as a metaphor for Cage “reckoning with his own career’s meme-ification.” He called Dream Scenario the actor’s best film in years: “As Paul cycles through the toxic stages of fame, his journey feels acutely real – almost circadian in its hilarious and crushing rhythms – because Cage is offering what seems like the entirety of himself over to the character.”

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