What to Stream This Weekend: November 29–December 1
It’s the start of the year-end sweepstakes on the streaming services, as several prestige film projects and Limited Series have dropped.
It’s that time of the year when streaming services such as Netflix and HBO Go unveil the prestige projects that run in theaters for a week or two to qualify for the Oscars and other film awards consideration—this was the established route taken by Netflix’s Roma last year. And we have the new kid on the block, Disney+, establishing its own territory.
The Irishman (Netflix)
This Netflix 2019, there’s Marriage Story and The Two Popes coming in December; and what dropped the other day, and is now available for streaming is Martin Scorsese’s sprawling crime saga The Irishman. At over three hours, it may seem like a challenge to watch, but thanks to the brisk storytelling that Scorsese has mastered over such more recent outings as The Wolf of Wall Street, you don’t really feel the running time.
It’s the Frank Sheehan story, a hitman for the mob (the Bufalino crime family) and glorified bodyguard to one Jimmy Hoffa, then heading the Teamsters. It’s recent American history seen through the prism of wise guys and goodfellas, and it boasts of some amazing performances from Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci—the unholy trinity of the iconic mafia films of the last 40 years.
With all the factual events crammed in to provide impressive granularity, it’s great to see how nuance, emotion and a sense of tragedy can still be created in this impressive Scorsese outing. And the much-publicized de-aging film technology works fine; keeping all the major actors firmly between the ages of 40 and 80. Easily, I would place this securely in the top 10 of my favorite Scorsese films listing.
The Mandalorian (Disney+)
I’ve watched three episodes of The Mandalorian, Disney’s effort to use their Star Wars IP to make an impressive start to their streaming service. Ostensibly, it’s about the adventure of one bounty hunter in this endangered tribe of bounty hunters. It’s merchandise-savvy in a really big way, so don’t be surprised if Baby Yoda becomes the most sought after plush toy this Christmas season.
Think of Tatooine, and the Mos Eisley cantina as your homebase, and you’ll have an idea of how The Mandalorian attacks your senses (in a good way). Throughout the first three episodes, The Mandalorian (Narcos’ Pedro Pascal) never takes off his headgear, and plays the stoic hunter with a conscience—it’s Shane in deep space. And it does work making the Star Wars faithful happy viewers. So happy, that Mandalorian has become one the most popular among streaming services.
But beyond the merch tie-ups, one may ask if The Mandalorian actually succeeds in continuing the Star Wars magic, and how it coincides with the December 20 film release of Star Wars IX. To be honest, I felt that Disney had diluted Star Wars DNA far too much, reaching for child-friendly, as it’s streaming on Disney+.
If you’re looking for truly adventurous storytelling, innovative and thought-provoking television, get immersed in the 9 episodes of Watchmen as provided by Damon Lindelof, best known as the creator of Lost. The master of the proverbial mindf**k, Damon is at it again with this series.
Merely inspired by the comic book series, this is Lindelof taking off on a tangent and gifting us with a series that uses superhero tropes, but by applying them to very contemporary socio-political issues, creates a whole new animal. Touching on racial injustice, police brutality, and racially-fueled violence, Watchmen is a searing indictment of today, while still keeping us fully entertained.
The more than impressive cast includes Angela King, Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart, Don Johnson, and Tim Blake Nelson. And the biggest surprise here would be Jeremy Irons (the voice of Scar in the original Lion King), playing one very eccentric, loopy, aristocratic “Master.” He’s obviously having tons of fun, and he’s a joy to watch.
So that’s three of the gems you can stream right now. Watchmen hits it out of the ballpark, while The Mandalorian is PG fun, and The Irishman is that dark voyage down the river of crime.