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 Continental: From the World of John Wick (Prime Video)
Until the producers of the John Wick films figure out a way to (spoiler alert for a movie that opened six months ago!) resurrect its title character for an inevitable fifth movie, this small-screen franchise extension should satisfy fans’ insatiable bloodlust. A three-part prequel miniseries following a younger version of Ian McShane’s shifty Wick ally Winston Scott (manager of New York’s go-to hotel for contract killers), The Continental: From the World of John Wick is an oddly watchable beast. It is nowhere near as inspired or slick as its feature-film source material, but the fabulously expensive-looking series does give the people what they want: lots and lots of random goons getting shot in the head at close range.
In the first episode alone – which clocks in at a nearly feature-length 83 minutes – there are four standout action set-pieces, including an opening heist scene taking place inside the bowels of the Continental that you could imagine prompting an impressed “whoa” from Keanu Reeves himself. And the carnage is all sound-tracked to a fist-pumping range of seventies rock that could not have come cheap (Pink Floyd, Yes).
The story itself is a stretch of crass franchise ambitions, even when compared with the original film’s pitch of “What if a guy got really angry over the death of his puppy?” Besides the series’ producers, who in the Wick-verse was dying to know how Winston became middle management for the secret assassin organization known as the High Table? And if you’re especially curious about the history of those silver coins that everyone in the Wick films uses to barter, then do I have good (re: silly) news for you.
Meanwhile, the fight choreography and set design might be fit for the big-screen – director Albert Hughes does an impressively scuzzy job recreating the hellish streets of seventies New York on a backlot in Budapest – but the performances are strictly direct-to-video. This includes both Colin Woodell, who plays the young Winston, and a seriously hammy Mel Gibson as the villainous crime boss Cormac (the actor’s top-billed presence might keep even the hardest core Wick-ians away). Imagine what another down-and-out (but not especially repellent) actor like John Travolta could have done with the role? Shoot ‘em if you got ‘em, I suppose.
I Like Movies (Netflix)
The breakout Canadian hit of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival is now available to stream – surely to the delight of its central antihero Lawrence, a narcissistic teenage video clerk (Isaiah Lehtinen) in 2002-era Burlington, Ont., who dreams of making it big in New York. The feature debut of Chandler Levack, a contributor to The Globe’s arts pages, I Like Movies is hilarious, heartbreaking, genuine. With star-making performances from Lehtinen, Romina D’Ugo (as Lawrence’s jaded boss) and Krista Bridges (as Lawrence’s exhausted single mother). Made on a microbudget, Levack’s film is one of the funniest, sharpest and most perfectly cast films that I saw last year. Read review.
The more audiences slowly discover Tár, the better and messier the conversations have been. An engrossing and exacting work of cinema, Todd Field’s character study follows the career of brilliant composer Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett, precisely perfect). But something is seriously wrong with Lydia – a problem that Field teases with such ferocious artistic confidence that you will leave the theatre (or, I guess, your living room) with questions, arguments, demands, but most of all a supremely fulfilling sense of cinematic satisfaction.
Theater Camp (Disney+)
A mockumentary in the Christopher Guest mould, Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman’s film follows one summer at AdirondACTS, a theatre camp for kids in upstate New York that is facing a crisis. After its founder Joan (Amy Sedaris) slips into a coma, the camp’s operations are turned over to her crypto-bro son Troy (Jimmy Tatro), who is intent on either running the place into the ground or selling it to the highest bidder. Meanwhile, the camp’s two head counsellors, Rebecca-Diane (Gordon) and Amos Klobuchar (Ben Platt), are struggling to come up with an end-of-season production to honour Joan, while also reconciling their professional and personal ambitions. The interplay between the characters is largely fast and fresh – you can tell that almost every performer involved has actual theatre chops. And while the film played a little too loose in the environs of a big multiplex auditorium, it hits the rafters of your living room just right.
Talk to Me (on-demand, including Apple TV, Google Play, Cineplex Store)
The horror hit of the year, the Australian flick Talk to Me follows a group of high-schoolers who get their kicks out of conjuring spirits using a mysteriously embalmed hand. Talk to Me aims for an elevated kind of hipster-horror thrill ride, a round of high-shriek scares amplified by the cynical consumerism of the TikTok generation. And damned if the movie doesn’t pull its sick trick off, delivering a jolt to the genre. It is also the most explicitly Australian of Aussie movies to get a wide North American release in some time – note the presence of the dead kangaroo in the film’s first few minutes foreshadowing the dark Down Under high jinks to come.