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.
Rye Lane (Disney+)
The year may be young, but so far 2023 has been disproportionately unkind to the rom-com genre. Already, audiences have had to suffer the heartbreak of watching the likes of Your Place or Mine, Shotgun Wedding and Somebody I Used to Know (and if none of those streaming-only titles ring a wedding bell, well, that’s the larger problem, isn’t it?). Thankfully, the new British rom-com Rye Lane arrives this week on Disney+ like a breath of South London air.
The feature debut of Raine Allen-Miller, the highly stylized, zippy and bright Sundance hit follows one momentous day in the lives of a sad-sack mamma’s boy named Dom (David Jonsson) and the free-spirited Yas (Vivian Oparah) as they seek to mend their broken hearts in and around the multicultural neighbourhoods of Peckham and Brixton.
The easy comparison would be Before Sunset meets Lovers Rock (and in fact Steve McQueen gets a mid-film shout-out), but Rye Lane is a cut above a mere cinematic mixtape. With charming performances, sparkling dialogue and the kind of vibrant and consistently inventive vision of a filmmaker with epic ambitions, Rye Lane is a genuine delight. And take note, aspiring rom-com directors: You can do the entirety of a boy-meets/loses/wins back-girl arc in less than 83 minutes.
Rabbit Hole (Paramount+)
Jack is back, baby. Well, not Jack Bauer himself, but Kiefer Sutherland is basically playing another version of his classic cutthroat hero in Rabbit Hole, a new thriller series from Paramount+ that is like the espionage action of 24 mixed with the high-tech paranoia of Mr. Robot. Playing a kind of corporate-espionage Robin Hood who is paid by rich jerks to divest far richer jerks of their ill-gotten gains, Sutherland is firmly in his cocksure wheelhouse as a slick hero of many resources and raspy-voiced orders.
Mostly, this shot-in-Toronto series plays like a comforting CBS procedural, just with a few more F-bombs tossed around and a slightly higher budget. Even though the pilot ends on a slightly predictable twist – the show falls prey to the old Law & Order rule of thumb that if you recognize the character actor flitting around in the background, they are bound to pop up more in the plot than initially telegraphed – there is a comforting kind of promise here, mostly owing to Sutherland’s ease in issuing threats and dodging bullets. Read more.
Family First (CBC Gem)
Set in the Montreal borough of Verdun, Sophie Dupuis’s criminally underseen 2019 French-language drama focuses on a tightly knit clan of sociopaths and ne’er-do-wells who run a small-scale drug cartel. There’s the deeply disturbed enforcer Vincent (Théodore Pellerin), his see-no-evil mother Joe (Maude Guérin), her violent brother Dany (Paul Ahmarani) and the burgeoning conscience of the family, Vincent’s older brother JP (Jean-Simon Leduc), who is trying to make a clean break from his suffocating relatives. As JP outgrows his small world – the tired streets of Verdun, the beer-soaked bar of Uncle Dany, the crammed family home that Dupuis shoots with such a sense of claustrophobic intimacy that it feels as if her camera is constantly butting against the apartment walls – the film begins to tell a larger tragedy. Its obsession with blood ties and compromised morality recalls the work of a young James Gray or Derek Cianfrance.
The Suicide Squad (Netflix)
Just as James Gunn is prepared to exit the Marvel Cinematic Universe (with this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) and take over the DC movie-verse (with his recently announced Superman movie), it’s as good a time as any to look back at 2021′s The Suicide Squad, probably the best movie to emerge from the big-budget superhero era. This is a big-hearted, big-body-count thrill ride that knows exactly what its corporate mission is while at the same time fulfilling the I’m-a-bad-widdle-boy whims of its director and ensuring that audiences actually enjoy the full-throated spectacle. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll barf. And you’ll wonder why it took this long for someone to convince Sylvester Stallone to voice an CGI shark. Read review.
American Made (on-demand, including Apple TV and Google Play)
My year-long Tom Cruise-a-thon continues with this 2017 curiosity that was almost completely overlooked upon its initial release. A wild bit of drug-trafficking fabulism courtesy of regular Cruise collaborator Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow), American Made purports to follow the real-life adventures of Barry Seal, a cocky pilot who got mixed up in running guns for the CIA at the same time that he was shipping cocaine for Pablo Escobar in the 1980s. Excitable and self-deprecating, Liman’s action-comedy is more focused on having fun than sticking to the facts, which is perfectly fine. Especially as it gives Cruise the opportunity to play a man who is all smiles, sweat and sex, with no moral centre. Read review.