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.
Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe (Prime Video)
One word of advice before watching this new documentary on the legendary Canadian children’s entertainer Ernie Coombs: stock up on tissues. After reducing audiences to tears during its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month (where it won the People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary, beating a host of higher-profile U.S. productions), director Robert McCallum’s doc is here to stream in the privacy of your own home, where you can let the sobs flow freely without embarrassment.
Not that you should feel too ashamed – McCallum really knows how to wring the tears here, especially as the doc winds toward the end. A cynical view would be that the director just piles on the cultural nostalgia for Mr. Dressup to such a crushing heap that only the most cold-hearted soul could sit stone-faced. But Coombs had no room or patience for cynicism, and neither does this film, which is as traditional (lots of talking heads going on about Mr. Dressup’s warmth and kindness) as it is effective.
If there are any surprises – aside from a few well-deserved sideswipes at the CBC’s funding model for children’s programming – I didn’t catch them. This is exactly the heartwarming, lovingly constructed paean to a Canadian hero that is advertised. But don’t even dare think about programming it alongside a double bill of the 2018 doc on Coombs’s friend and colleague Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – you might not ever recover the use of your tear ducts.
After a too-brief run in theatres last month, Chloe Domont’s fiery directorial debut is now streaming – and bound to get lost in the algorithmic ether unless audiences latch on to it fast. The film opens showing Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) as a young, sexy couple madly in love with one another. Perhaps their passions are fuelled by the taboo of secrecy, though, as the film quickly reveals that the two are co-workers at the same high-end New York hedge-fund firm, their relationship unknown to their cutthroat co-workers or supervisors. This stress is soon exacerbated by Emily’s promotion, which puts her in a position of managerial power over Luke. A few errors in Luke’s judgment later, and the lines between office and domestic lives begin to blur, forcing the couple to reveal their true loyalties.
Dynevor, familiar to most for her work on Bridgerton, holds her own as a 21st-century student of Gordon Gekko, even as Emily pushes herself into some particularly ugly corners of the market. And Ehrenreich, fresh off some seriously impressive scene-stealing work in Oppenheimer, makes Luke’s slip into sliminess seem more gradual than mere flip-switch. Watching the two performers go from tearing off each other’s clothes to tearing into each other’s weaknesses is both a pleasure and a terror. But Fair Play is not a film to fall in love with – it wants you to feel dirty. And for all the wrong reasons. Read review.
Detroiters, Seasons 1 and 2 (Paramount+)
For those who have already mainlined Tim Robinson’s sketch-comedy series I Think You Should Leave on Netflix, it’s time to go back to the origins of Robinson’s surreal television work with the short-lived Comedy Central series Detroiters. Co-starring and co-created by I Think You Should Leave mainstay Sam Richardson, the sitcom follows two woefully inept ad men in Motor City who have no idea what to do with either their professional or personal lives. Staying just an inch more inside reality than Robinson’s other series, each episode of Detroiters still packs several deadpan punches in the span of a mere 23 minutes.
A Glitch in the Matrix (MUBI)
In 1977, sci-fi author Philip K. Dick delivered a speech to his fans that neatly reorganized their brains: “We are living in a computer-programmed reality.” Dick’s theory had its roots in everything from the Hindu concept of Maya to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to the 17th-century writings of philosopher René Descartes, and would be rocket-fuelled a half-decade later by the Wachowski siblings’ landmark 1999 film/existentialist tract, The Matrix. (Oh, and Elon Musk likes to go on about it, too.) Opening with grainy footage of Dick’s 1977 speech and then slowly building evidence in favour of simulation theory, Rodney Ascher’s fascinating 2021 documentary A Glitch in the Matrix is jammed with curious ideas and wild hypotheses. In addition to dissecting clips from The Matrix (and other Dick-ensian cinema such as The Thirteenth Floor and Dark City), Ascher explores everything from the hypnotic video-game world of Minecraft to the chilling legalese known as the Matrix Defense to the Mandela Effect phenomenon.
Train to Busan (Hoopla)
Might as well get the spooky season started now, and lord (devil?) knows there are an overwhelming number of horror-movie options available to stream. But here’s a great place to start, and on the free-for-library-card-users service Hoopla, to boot: the 2016 Korean apocalyptic film Train to Busan. Not only is director Yeon Sang-ho’s film one of the best zombie movies ever made, it is also one of the best tick-tock-thriller-taking-place-on-a-speeding-train movies ever made (of which there are a surprising number of competitors). The film follows the standard zombie end-of-world narrative – mysterious sickness breaks out suddenly, city descends into chaos, survivors gather forces – but moves ridiculously fast, and with enough technical skill and emotional awareness to match.