For some people, the first Sunday of the NFL season isn’t a national holiday. We at Burbs recognize this fact, and want to acknowledge that we see you. This is for you, non-football lovers. Those who want to just kick back on a Sunday, throw their phone across the room and be told a story. This is our first weekly contribution to a weekly series with five picks from our TV and film writers.
Devs - Hulu, FX
Alex Garland - film’s crown prince of the psychological thriller genre - has envisioned a rapport between technology and science fiction with Devs, his spectacular new series on FX. Despite being only a season in length (classified as a mini-series) Garland takes the “what-if” factor that looms over Silicon Valley and pushes it past it’s conceivable limit. Spearheaded by series leads Sonoya Mizuno (Ex Machina, La La Land) and Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation, Fargo), Garland combines elements from his big-screen triumphs (Ex Machina, Annhihilation, Dredd) and mashes them together inside an all-too-familiar modern world. Amongst other things, Devs will leaving you asking yourself, “Does everything happen for a reason?” over and over and over again.
The Town - Netflix
Ben Affleck and Boston go together like gin and tonic; they bring out the best in each other. In The Town, the story of a bank robbing crew from the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston, the city is more than a setting. It becomes an omnipresent aura that brings the heist movie together, binding the characters in this Jameson drinking, vowel contorting, bank robbing culture. The characters that The Town’s incredible depiction of Boston culture glue together are played by a stellar cast: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm and Blake Lively. For one reason or another, everyone is trying to keep Affleck’s razor-tough character in Boston while he aches to escape the violent culture he grew up in while his heart is still beating. The “criminal trying to leave the life behind” story may have been done before, but nobody has ever pulled it off as gut wrenching, heartbreaking, explosive, and bloody as The Town.
Inherent Vice - Amazon Prime Video
Inherent Vice, the seventh directorial outing for the masterful Paul Thomas Anderson, gives a new meaning to high thinking. PTA crafts yet another protagonist that commands viewers’ utmost attention in Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), an often-stoned private investigator searching for his missing ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay (Katherine Waterston). While the film’s story is frequently discombobulated, it puts viewers in Doc’s clouded brain, perfectly showcasing his interactions with the eccentric supporting cast headlined by Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon. The landscape of a 1970 California beach town is precisely painted, from the flip-flops to the use of “groovy.” Vice is PTA’s funniest film but doesn’t attempt to masquerade itself as an in-your-face comedy; one-liners and physical humor blend flawlessly with traditional crime-thriller and mystery tropes. You may leave your viewing confused, but it’s certain that you’ll have a damn good time.
The Sopranos - HBO
Out of the handful of shows that changed television forever, The Sopranos leads the pack. David Chase’s addictive crime drama saga has been regarded for decades as one of the best shows of all-time. Since its debut in 1999, the show has received universal praise for its gripping writing. Writers such as Terrence Winter, Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess, and Chase himself created such intricate characters, storylines, and dialogue that you often forget that the show is fictional. This phenomenon is most evident with protagonist Tony Soprano—the seemingly cold-blooded and greedy mob boss whose humanity is revealed through his weekly therapy sessions with Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). The late James Gandolfini’s performance as Tony Soprano is often considered one of the most influential television performances ever, inspiring a new archetype of antiheroes that have dominated our screens over the past two decades—Tommy Shelby (Peaky Blinders), Walter White (Breaking Bad), Stringer Bell (The Wire), and Marty Byrde (Ozark) are just a few examples. Of course, I would be remiss not to highlight other great performances throughout The Sopranos such as Tony’s wife Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco), consigliere Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt), soldier Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), and capo Paulie Gualtieri (Tony Sirico).
-Evan Linden In the coming weeks, we will be doing a deep dive into The Sopranos and providing you all with riveting mob-oriented content. We will be breaking down the show’s top ten episodes, ranking the best and worst characters, hosting brackets, and recapping it all through the fine art of podcasting. Stay tuned!
Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, and Ocean’s Thirteen - Netflix
Everybody has seen a heist movie. Everybody has seen a movie set in Las Vegas. And everybody has seen an ensemble cast, but nobody has pulled any of those things off better than Steven Sodebergh with the Ocean’s series. The trilogy’s lights are bright considering the settings are the gambling capital of the world and Amsterdam, but the stars are far brighter than their backdrops.
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is both the coldest criminal in the world and a character you can’t help but warm up to. Rusty is, somehow, twice as cool and constantly eating snacks (Brad Pitt). You truly haven’t seen cinematic expertise until you’ve watched Pitt scarf down nachos in a three-piece suit. The two A-listers are complimented by the greatest ensemble cast in modern history: Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, and Casey Affleck among others.
There are few streaming options that are as stimulating story wise, funny and charming. Even three movies isn’t enough, and you’ll surely be wanting more at the end of your good-looking-people in good-looking-clothes in the best-looking-cities binge.