Welcome to our fourteenth installment of Sunday Streaming Suggestions!
Writers Evan Linden, Jack Martin, Ralph James, Sarah Smith, and Evan Northrup have delivered another round of streaming suggestions for your lazy Sunday.
Soul (2020) - Disney+
Pixar is preposterously good at making movies. From the head of creativity at Pixar and the acclaimed director of Up and Inside Out comes Pete Docter’s new brainchild, Soul, the story of a middle school band teacher named Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) and his spiritual journey through the afterlife and beyond. Joe is charged with the task of appointing The Great Before’s number one rebel, Twenty-Two (Tina Fey), with a spark in order to fulfill her destiny as a human which she’s been refuting for the majority of time. While Soul follows these two characters for the mainstay of the film, the real standout characters are its settings: New York and The Great Before. Two equally intimidating yet hypnotizing backgrounds for a heartwarming anomaly of animation.
Big Hero 6 (2014) - Disney+
By now, we all know that Disney runs the game when it comes to quality animated features. If you’re interested in watching one that tugs at your heartstrings while redefining the sci-fi and superhero genres, consider Big Hero 6.
Set in the “hybrid” city of San Fransokyo (I’ll let you figure that one out), 14-year-old wizkid Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) graduates from high school early and puts his technical skills to robot fighting. After nearly everyone around him tries to convince him that he’s wasting his time and talent, he is recruited (and nearly forced) to attend his older brother Tadashi’s college—the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. Shortly following Hiro’s enrollment, Tadashi passes away after rescuing his professor from a suspicious fire at the school’s robotics showcase. However, Tadashi left behind his life’s work: a healthcare provider robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit). Despite a rocky start between the two, Baymax becomes Hiro’s best friend and strongest sidekick in his quest to avenge Tadashi’s death.
It might sound kind of dark and intense for a Disney movie, but for the most part, it is still as light and enjoyable as many others—it just tackles heavier topics and has emotional depth, similar to newer titles like Soul, Inside Out, and Coco. Like the aforementioned Disney films, Big Hero 6 delivers the most well-rounded cinematic experience you could ever anticipate from a PG-rated product.
What We Do in the Shadows - Hulu
What We Do in the Shadows is a docu-style series that follows a small cult of vampires in Staten Island who have lived together for hundreds of years while managing to remain incognito in the borough. It’s based off of a 2014 mockumentary of the same name, which is also worth a watch if you’ve got spare time. Both the show and film are written by the ever-hilarious Taika Waititi, who is best known (to me, at least) for directing blockbuster Jojo Rabbit and the crowning gem of the MCU, Thor: Ragnarok. WWDITS is an FX series that finds its second home on Hulu, where it can be binged in lengthy blocs like it deserves to be.
Over the two seasons currently in circulation, we get to know cult leader Nandor (Kayvan Novak), husband and wife duo Laszlo and Nadja (Matt Berry and Natasia Demetriou), and “energy vampire” Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), who feeds off of boredom instead of blood. The four are joined by Nandor’s human familiar, Guillermo, who essentially acts as his personal servant in exchange for one day hopefully being turned into a vampire as well. He is tasked with finding virgins for the vampires to feast on, as well as cleaning up the dead bodies and defending the house from intruders, including ghosts, zombies, and local werewolves.
The show is clearly written well, but shines especially bright because of the extreme commitment the actors give to being as ridiculous as possible. Natasia Demetriou is particularly excellent as Nadja, whose accent combined with the prosthetic vampire teeth alone is an absolute riot in every episode. There are also a number of guest stars who are just stupid funny—my personal favorite being Haley Joel Osment (Emily’s brother!!!), who doesn’t show up until the second season. Taika Waititi himself makes a cameo reprising his role from the movie version of WWDITS, along with Tilda Swinton, who can never seem to pass up a chance to look and act strange.
What We Do in the Shadows is great for a number of reasons, but it definitely helps that the episodes are only 30 minutes long and there is no real ongoing storyline that requires the episodes to be watched closely. That being said, you would benefit from doing so, as some of the jokes are easy to miss. I honestly just like it when they make hissing noises, so I think it is fair to argue that my comedic standards are quite low. But it’s worth it to spend an hour or so this weekend deciding if you’re into it or not.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) - Disney+
Watch something fun this weekend; you've earned it. Some may point out that The Curse of the Black Pearl, the first iteration in the franchise, is the exemplar for swashbuckling adventure. I'd point out that they're wrong.
The second Pirates film, Dead Man's Chest, follows Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he races to steal the heart of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and avoid being enslaved in Davy Jones' Locker for all of eternity. Accompanied by Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley), the crew of the Black Pearl sets out on an exciting escapade filled with undead sailors, cannibals, and a Kraken.
I'm not sure how else to put it—Dead Man's Chest kicks a lot of ass. The score is impeccable, the CG-effects hold up incredibly well, and the action set-pieces are the best the five-film franchise has to offer. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Jack Sparrow is one of my most memorable and beloved characters of all-time, as he delivers humorous charm even in the film's darkest moments. When the film starts taking itself too seriously, Depp pops up to remind you that Dead Man's Chest is essentially an alcoholic pirate and his friends versus an emo octopus man with an even bigger octopus as a pet.
Look, I know you probably weren't expecting to read about the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie today. You likely haven't thought about it in years. Smoke a bowl (or three) and watch it, or be damned to the Locker.
- Jack Martian
The Departed (2006) - Netflix
When people stack up their favorite Scorsese movies, you hear a lot about Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Maybe it’s my Irish heritage, love for Boston as a movie setting, or reverence for the genius of Jack Nicholson, but I don’t enjoy watching any of those films as much as Scorsese’s 2006 flick, The Departed.
At its core, The Departed is a gangster movie. It tells the story of Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio), an undercover cop infiltrating Costello's (Jack Nicholson) Irish crime organization, while Colin (Matt Damon), an undercover gangster, infiltrates the police. Unlike many films of the gangster genre, the plot is intricate and deep to the point where some scenes feel more like a psychological thriller than a crime drama. Part of the reason the movie is able to pull this off is the all-star cast, led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg, whose talents are all utilized to their full potential.
Another reason I love The Departed is the way it recaptures Scorsese’s aura in movies like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, where he depicts life in its grittiest, messiest reality. As much as I love Goodfellas, Casino, or The Wolf of Wall Street, they all glorify the protagonist's life of crime. In The Departed, Scorsese depicts the lifestyle of the Boston Irish gangsters and cops as less alluring than having a regular nine-to-five. The difference is that in most of Scorcese’s crime films, he depicts the rise and fall of the anti-hero; the glitz and glamour before they inevitably fly too close to the sun and fall. In The Departed, the characters start the movie in a downward spiral, and like watching a train crash, it’s impossible to tear your eyes away.