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.
What to watch in 2023: The best movies (so far)
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)
Celebrity documentaries can so easily slip into insipid vanity projects – especially if they include the willing participation of the actual subject. But while Davis Guggenheim’s new doc on Michael J. Fox features the Canadian star front and centre – Fox even serves as narrator – this portrait is startlingly different. Intimate and tough, Guggenheim’s film offers Fox no excuses, diving deep into his alcoholism and unruly years as a teen heartthrob. It’s also constructed in an aggressively entertaining fashion, with only one “talking head” (Fox himself) and most of the footage constructed from clips of the actor’s filmography and sly re-enactments (including a scene in which Fox first realizes he might have Parkinson’s disease). Still will not only make you love the Back to the Future icon more than you already do, but understand him, too. Read interview with Michael J. Fox.
Air (Prime Video)
Like Jerry Maguire if Cuba Gooding Jr. was Michael Jordan and Renée Zellweger was a shoe, Ben Affleck’s new movie Air is a business-of-sports movie that is all about stock- and stats-obsessed guys’ guys who reveal themselves to be big ol’ sentimental softies once the shot clock hits zero. Which is not a knock in the slightest: Affleck’s film about Nike’s courting of Michael Jordan – half corporate comedy and half inspirational biopic – is a well-oiled machine of a movie, as slick and convincing as its obvious show-me-the-money inspiration. It had me at, “Just do it.” And after a five-week run in cinemas – part of distributor Prime Video’s lean toward using theatres to build word-of-mouth for its streaming arm – the film is now available to watch at home. In your sneakers, or slippers. Read review.
City on Fire (Apple TV+)
When Garth Risk Hallberg’s novel City on Fire was published in 2016, it arrived with a back story as impressive and intimating as its 944 pages: With only short stories and essays to his name, the first-time novelist secured an unprecedented US$2-million deal for a sprawling chronicle of 1970s New York, its prose laced with facsimiled ‘zines, medical reports, diary entries and magazine articles. A film deal arrived quickly, and reviewers were kind. But I couldn’t help but feel weighed down by the book’s ambitions, which appeared increasingly hollow as Hallberg got deeper into the weeds of a war between feuding New York siblings, Regan and William, scions of a Manhattan business empire.
Seven years later and that movie deal never materialized, but the novel has been adapted into a new eight-episode series for Apple TV+. And yet City on Fire still feels less than blazing. At least judging by debut episode, in which Hallberg’s story has been updated to 2003 for a post-9/11 flavour, and given the sheen of a Fox drama circa 2009. Perhaps show-runners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (Gossip Girl, The O.C.) will pick things up as the series goes on – and the novel’s central mystery surrounding a college student’s shooting is fleshed out – but right now this version of City on Fire feels less like the HBO-sized epic that Hallberg initially imagined and more like Gossip Girl 3.0: We Can Swear This Time.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (on-demand, including Google Play, Apple TV)
One day, quite soon perhaps, we’ll all feel terribly depressed that we let down the makers of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. I know that it is silly to feel bad for Hollywood producers, but this delightful would-be blockbuster deserved more attention than it got in theatres. With a charismatic lead performance from the best Chris of them all (that would be Pine), a zippy story that doesn’t require any deep-geek knowledge and a heel turn from Hugh Grant of all people, Honor Among Thieves achieves everything that audiences supposedly demand of a contemporary big-budget adventure. Yet we all went to see The Super Mario Bros. Movie instead. Now is our time to atone for our box-office sins. Read review.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline (digital TIFF Lightbox)
The breakout hit of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, director Daniel Goldhaber’s eco-thriller will make an awful lot of people awfully angry, and mostly for the right reasons. This is the kind of nervy, button-pushing cinema that is as much a fast and tight genre exercise as it is a gleeful provocation. It will quicken your pulse, raise your blood pressure and trigger your fight-or-flight response. And you’ll be a better, and a more entertained, person for it. Very loosely adapting Swedish academic Andreas Malm’s 2021 non-fiction book of the same name, How to Blow Up a Pipeline follows a group of wannabe saboteurs, each of whom have their own reasons for resorting to such a last-resort measure. The result is as much a heist movie as it is a manifesto. Read review.