I’m certain I don’t need to remind you that things have been…a bit rough to say the least for all of us film fans. With any and all tent-pole theatrical releases being delayed for the foreseeable future, we’ve been starved for new material to talk about, as well as distraught that we now have to wait at least another year for our most anticipated projects! However, in these technology-driven times we all live in, there is plenty of good stuff out there, so as per usual my amazing readers, it’s time to cut through all the static and shine the spotlight on entertainment I feel is worth checking out on our favorite streaming/on-demand services.
While I’m sure most of us have been browsing the categories of Netflix binging show after show to no end, there’s much more out there deserving of your attention, so we’re here to talk about them today!
The Invisible Man (Amazon Prime/iTunes)
The first great genre release of 2020 is now available both digitally and physically, and if you were someone who missed it on the big screen, then there is no better time to remedy that than now. Leigh Whannell, the man behind the highly underrated sci-fi feature Upgrade, in addition to penning the scripts for many Saw and Insidious films, steps back into the directors chair with a highly tense and suspenseful update of a classic monster tale. It’s no secret that Elisabeth Moss delivers a powerful performance in The Handmaid’s Tale and her talents shine just as brightly here in a story where you can’t help but root for her to win against an unseen threat she knows is there but, unfortunately, not many others believe in. It’s a horror/sci-fi hybrid with all the best ingredients: thrills, scares, stakes, tension, and not to mention a remarkable sense of direction and subtle creepiness! In short, a monster flick that finally does its predecessors justice while molding its own identity for the modern age!
The Lodge (Hulu)
A completely different but nonetheless effective horror film which flew a bit under the radar this year but is absolutely worth the search, and thankfully, our friends at Hulu now have it available for instant streaming. Sure, the setup of a small group of people getting stuck in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere and running into supernatural elements is nothing new, but beware viewers, as all expectations of what’s to come will quickly be pulled out from under you and leave you at an utter loss for words by the time the credits roll! I don’t want to give too much away here as it’s really something that you need to see for yourself, but I will say that its twists and turns as well as genuinely amazing performances by its two child actors are nothing to miss, and it remains my favorite film I’ve seen in 2020 thus far! Plus, it takes place around Christmas, so if you’re a horror fan who loves your holiday fables with a good dose of dread and gloom, then this is definitely for you!
The latest effort from animation pioneers Pixar Studios is one I hate to admit I felt was a bit lackluster upon my first viewing of it. However, as time went on and the film was given ample time to bake in my brain, I found myself getting more and more into it. Now that it’s available on Disney’s wildly popular streaming service, I can’t help but take the time to recommend it. This charming tale of brotherly camaraderie, whimsical adventure, and the strength of familial bonds is a pure example of entertainment we should be showing our children. Even the most jaded adult will no doubt feel it pluck at the heartstrings. Also, if you’re a fantasy fan who was disappointed by Bright’s take on magic and mythical creatures in a modern setting, then this is something that will absolutely fill that void and then some, as well as give players of Dungeons and Dragons plenty of goodies to revel in! It may not exactly be one of Pixar’s best efforts, but it’s still a very good one, so if you have some kiddos stuck inside with you right now, take some time to show them this on Disney+ rather than…I don’t know, wasting twenty dollars to watch Trolls: World Tour once!
The Twilight Zone (CBS All Access)
A few have the opinion that this latest take on the cult classic TV anthology, now hosted by comedy/horror icon Jordan Peele pales in comparison to the original, and some of the reincarnations and imitators that followed. This…is something I wholeheartedly disagree with, and if you dismissed it at first you should give it a second chance. While I do have a bit of an issue with the blatantly obvious Easter eggs that pop up in many episodes calling back to the original Rod Serling series, that is not nearly enough for me to disregard this batch of cautionary tales which hold more than enough relevance in the modern age. Jordan Peele has proven over the past few years that he understands genre fiction to a T, and I couldn’t think of a better choice to host this new series as he oozes natural charisma and even an odd sense of swagger amidst the show’s eerie atmosphere! I, of course, recommend you watch the whole first season, but some really great entry-point episodes are The Comedian, A Traveler, Not All Men, Point of Origin, Blurryman, and my personal favorite: Replay. It’s weird, it’s chilling, it’s smart, it’s poignant, it’s The Twilight Zone, and it’s calling for you to be transported to that strange and fantastical dimension once more!
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Netflix)
This is one of the best shows that Netflix has to offer its younger audiences and I will hear no words to the contrary! I know that many people who grew up the 80s were taken aback by the main character’s new design as well as the complete makeover of the fantasy world she lives in, but I firmly believe in reviewing pieces of media on their own merits as opposed to being closed minded and condemning something due to a supposed “ruined childhood.” With that out of the way, I can say with absolute certainty that this is a sweet, emotional, bright, colorful, cheerful, and even action-packed animated series which stands as another example of top-tier children’s entertainment! In fact, I’d say this current incarnation of the fantastical heroine far surpasses the 80s version in several categories, from animation, writing, characters, action, and even heart-wrenching themes! So much so that the adults listening in while their kids watch may even find themselves wrapped up in the story! In short, this is an animated series right up there with Avatar: The Last Airbender and Gravity Falls in terms of quality and I can’t recommend it enough to both kids and adults alike! One more thing: words can’t describe how much I identify with Swift Wind in this! Seriously, I love that flying horse so much!
Harley Quinn (DC Universe)
And now for a completely different animated series, this one most certainly is aimed strictly at adults, though one that is much smarter and more emotionally resonant than most crass content aimed at an older audience these days. I’m always a bit skeptical whenever I see a new product from DC as their efforts appear to be much more hit or miss than Marvel, but from the first episode of this series I was instantly hooked by a story that finally does everyone’s favorite insane clown woman her due justice! Even amidst its frequent barrages of vulgarity and bloodshed, it somehow never manages to lose its heart and stands as a fittingly dramatic series about human relationships and, oddly enough, keeping love alive in times of turmoil. It sounds really weird when I say that, and I acknowledge that it definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly something that feels like it was simply made for someone like me! It’s only on its second season thus far and given this particular streaming service’s unpredictability in terms of keeping shows around for the long haul, I am a bit scared it won’t be renewed, but even if it isn’t, I’m glad for the amount of joy it’s given me and I highly recommend it for any fan of the truly insane, quick-witted, and surprisingly whimsical!
Thanks again everyone! Wishing you all health and happiness in these tough times, and I hope to see you again later!