Memorial Streaming Weekend: What to binge watch this holiday
It's Memorial Day Weekend, which gives Michiganians a chance to enjoy the weather outdoors, BBQ with friends, hit the water or dine outside. By all means, go do that, and have some fun!
But when those long days are over, you've gotta watch something on television, right? That's where we come in.
We've rounded up some of the year's best streaming titles to-date, and they include binge-worthy docs, addictive serialized TV series and hilarious comedy specials.
Here's a handy guide to make this a successful Memorial Streaming Weekend. (After you go play outside, that is.)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu): The first season of this adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s terrifyingly relevant modern dystopian classic was all about tone and attitude; Atwood had, after all, laid out the basics in terms of story. But that first season pretty much ended where the book did, and this year writers have had to expand on Atwood’s vision of a male-dominated world where fertile women are treated like breeding slaves. They’ve come through with horrific detail — an opening mass hanging scene is particularly brutal — and star Elisabeth Moss is more than living up to her Emmy-winning status. (Tom Long)
“John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City” (Netflix): Former “SNL” writer John Mulaney riffs on college tuition (“one hundred and twenty THOUSAND dollars!”), his “SNL” days (his Mick Jagger recollections are priceless), the superficiality of online security and more in this uproarious hour, his biggest stand-up special to-date. But it’s his extended riff on the Trump presidency — he never once mentions Trump’s name — where he compares the commander-in-chief to a horse running loose in a hospital that showcases Mulaney as one of today’s sharpest comedic talents. (Adam Graham)
“The Looming Tower” (Hulu): This 10-episode drama examines the tense relations between the FBI (which was craving more information) and the CIA (which didn’t want to share secrets) in the years and months leading up to 9/11. The focus is on an imperfect-but-driven FBI honcho (Jeff Daniels) who knows bad winds are coming but can’t nail down the specifics. A maddening study of bureaucracy, power struggles and the dire danger of competing agencies. (TL)
“Godless” (Netflix): Jeff Daniels again, winning the MVP award for early 2018 streaming. Here he’s playing an outlaw threatening to wipe out a small town in the west with his gang. It’s a classic “Magnificent Seven” Western setup, except this time there’s no seven coming to the rescue and the town is almost exclusively inhabited by females who lost their husbands in a mining accident. The seven episodes here are more like mini-movies and a superb cast is topped off by Emmy-winner Merritt Wever. Giddyap. (TL)
“The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale” (Netflix): Although he’s excelled in other roles — he was perfectly acidic on “Community” — Joel McHale is best known for his 12-season run on “The Soup,” the clip show he hosted that made fun of bottom-of-the-barrel reality TV. So why run from it? “The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale” revives “The Soup’s” format almost identically, with one added wrinkle: He can curse now. Still, nothing beats McHale’s resignation every time he introduces a clip from “Jersey Shore: Family Reunion.” (AG)
“Jessica Jones” (Netflix): Here’s a radical notion: Thirteen episodes of a superhero series, all written by women, all directed by women, with most of the tension revolving around a mother and daughter. Krysten Ritter stars as the super-strong, cynical private eye daughter, but the show really catches fire by bringing in Janet McTeer as her even stronger and quite likely mad mother. The feminist perspective is refreshing and energizing. (TL)
“Andre the Giant” (HBO Go): This 90-minute documentary is a tribute to the life of André Roussimoff, known to fans of professional wrestling (and “The Princess Bride”) as Andre the Giant. Of particular local interest are the recollections of Hulk Hogan pertaining to his bout with Andre at WrestleMania III, the Pontiac Silverdome extravaganza that ignited Hulkamania. Or maybe you just want to hear stories of his legendary flatulence? That’s here, too. (AG)
“Santa Clarita Diet” (Netflix): Drew Barrymore returns as a suburban Realtor with an unfortunate need to eat human flesh (it’s some sort of zombie disease she caught in the first season). There’s a giddy delight in watching the ever-innocent Barrymore chomp down on a human leg, of course, but there’s just as much fun in following her husband (Timothy Olyphant) and teen daughter (Liv Hewson) as they try to support Mom’s gastronomical adventures. She only eats bad people, obviously. (TL)
"The Carter Effect" (Netflix) -- Did former Toronto Raptors All-Star Vince Carter pave the way for Drake's success? That's the argument in this hourlong documentary about Carter, who brought a new brand of cool to Toronto when he debuted with the expansion NBA team in 1998. With his thunderous dunks and spirited style of play, Carter energized the city and made basketball popular in a traditional hockey town, and in turn opened a whole lot of eyes as to what Toronto had to offer the world. The rest, as they say, is history. (AG)
"Collateral" (Netflix) -- Carey Mulligan stars in this British four-parter as a pregnant police detective out to solve the murder of a Syrian pizza deliveryman. The victim is an immigrant, the only eyewitness is an immigrant and a fog of Brexit tension hangs over the series, which weaves around and offers few straight lines to follow. Was the murder political, an act of revenge, part of a criminal conspiracy or just an out and out mistake? (TL)
"Cobra Kai" (YouTube Red) -- In a world where everything that's old is rebooted again, "Cobra Kai" is a smart, surprisingly fun continuation of 1984's "The Karate Kid." We pick up on Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), the villain and bully in the original film, whose life hasn't gone according to plan. He's the underdog of this story, and his path crosses with Daniel (Ralph Macchio), now a successful car dealer and the bane of his existence. The first two installments of this 10-episode series are free on YouTube, the rest are on YouTube's subscription site. Be warned: After those first two, you'll be hooked. (AG)
"Wild Wild Country" (Netflix) -- This six-part documentary series from the Duplass brothers caused quite a stir when it came out a few months back. It follows the ascendance of the Indian guru Osho, whose followers built a would-be Utopian community in remote Oregon in the '80s. What initially seems like hippie-dippie indulgence becomes a story of cultures clashing, internecine power struggles, greed, mass delusion and attempted murder. You couldn't make this stuff up. (TL)
"Evil Genius" (Netflix) -- The Duplass brothers, again (where do they find this stuff?), executive produce this series about perhaps the most bizarre bank robbery in American history. A pizza delivery guy robs a bank with a bomb strapped around his neck that he quite possibly didn't know was real, and that's only the beginning of this twisted story about privilege, prostitution and mental illness in a small Pennsylvania town. Just when you think you've got the whole thing figured out, this four-part series throws another curve ball your way. (AG)
"Lost in Space" (Netflix) -- Hey, one you can watch with the kids! This surprising remake of a cheesy '60s sci-fi show finds a family stranded on an unknown planet after a space attack by robots -- with one of those robots now the family mascot/savior. High production values, a parade of danger-danger moments and some latent dysfunction within the family keep things interesting. Anchored by "Deadwood" star Molly Parker as the matriarch and Parker Posey as the conniving con woman Dr. Smith. (TL)
"The Kissing Booth" (Netflix) -- This Netflix original film isn't great, but its star is. Joey King, 18, has been on screen since she was a kiddo -- she was kid sister to Selena Gomez's Beezus in 2010's "Ramona and Beezus" -- and this goofy comedy marks her arrival as a romantic lead. As Elle Evans, who falls for her best friend's older brother, she's clumsy and uncool, but she finds herself, and her confidence is captivating and radiates off the screen. A star has arrived. (AG)
"The Love Witch" (Amazon Prime) -- Ever find yourself endlessly scrolling through the movie selections on Hulu, Netflix or Amazon and nothing sounds good? If you're feeling adventurous, conjure up "The Love Witch." This 2016 stunner is written and directed (and produced, edited, composed, set designed, art directed and costume designed) by Anna Biller and plays like a long lost feminist horror tale from 1971. If you're not bewitched, adjust your TV. (AG)