BURBS STAFF PICKS: Sunday Streaming Suggestions [Vol. 21]
Welcome to our twenty-first installment of Sunday Streaming Suggestions!
Writers Evan Northrup, Jack Martin, Evan Linden, Ralph James, and Sarah Smith have delivered a fresh slate of streaming suggestions for your Sunday.
Sex Education - Netflix
Sometimes we all need a TV show or movie that helps us escape our everyday problems and anxieties. If that’s the type of show you’re looking for this Sunday, check out Sex Education on Netflix.
Sex Education is centered around Otis Milburn, a socially inept high schooler whose mother is a sex therapist. Having a mother who specializes in sex can make life awkward for a 16-year-old kid, but Otis turns this to his advantage when he starts offering sex advice to kids at school. With this new profession, we are introduced to a whole cast of supporting characters (and their sex troubles) who make the world of Sex Education a creative, easily-watchable show. Sometimes their issues are serious, and sometimes they are ridiculous, but in the end, they always feel relatable.
The best part of Sex Education is that it never takes itself too seriously. The show seems to be aware that the premise of “a high schooler who offers sex advice” is completely ludicrous, and they play into the ridiculousness instead of shying away. That doesn't stop the show from dealing with some of the harsher parts of growing up, but when they do breach tough topics, they do it with sensitivity and poise. On top of the well-crafted plot and writing, the cast is surprisingly talented for a high school show, with rookie actors Asa Butterfield, Emma Mackey, and Ncuti Gatwa teaming up with veteran Gillian Anderson to deliver sincere and emotional moments along with the comedy. If you’re feeling something light and breezy to go along with this beautiful spring day, look no further than Sex Education.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - HBO Max
In 1990, Will Smith—then at the height of his rap career—went into The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with practically zero acting experience. But by simply being himself, his performance helped the show evolve into one of the most iconic sitcoms of all-time.
As the story goes, Will was “West Philadelphia born-and-raised” until he got into an altercation that led his mom to ship him off to live with his aunt and uncle in Bel-Air, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in LA. Presumably, Will experiences a great deal of culture shock in his abrupt transition—a theme that is recurrent throughout the show.
The Banks family brought us some of the most memorable TV characters of all-time. The family is headed by the legendary Uncle Phil (James Avery) and Aunt Vivian (Janet Hubert in seasons 1-3, Daphne Maxwell Reid in seasons 4-6). Uncle Phil is a successful lawyer, and Aunt Vivian is a professor. The couple has four children: Hilary (Karyn Parsons), Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), Ashley (Tatyana Ali), and Nicky (Ross Bagley). Hilary is shallow, obsessed with high fashion and all things luxury; Carlton is uptight, conservative, and preppy; Ashley is easygoing and easily impressionable; and Nicky is the youngest child, born in the middle of the show’s run. The family is rounded out by Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell), their deadpan butler who lives with the family. All of these distinct personalities mesh together to create one of the funniest and most loveable TV families to ever grace our screens.
As mentioned, much of the show surrounds the culture shock and subsequent mishaps that Will experiences while navigating a totally different world than the one he grew up in. Thanks to this unique angle, the show managed to succeed at discussing topics such as race and class in America while shifting paradigms. There are a handful of serious episodes throughout the show’s six seasons, but the vast majority of the 148 episodes are nothing short of goofy and lighthearted. Some episodes are simply corny at this point—more than 30 years since the show’s inception—but I don’t presume that many people out there watch The Fresh Prince for their fix of serious media; the show is perfect comfort television as well as a perfect dose of nostalgia.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) - Disney+
It's easy to grow fatigued with the Marvel Cinematic Universe; most of the stories follow a predictable formula: hero cracks half-assed jokes, hero runs into trouble, hero conquers, and then there's the notorious after-credits scene. So when something as refreshing and original as Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok blows the doors off of a casual MCU fan's head like my own, I rejoice.
Ragnarok's core strength should be its casting. The film features a plethora of movie stars and purely talented actors: Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as a down-bad Hulk, Tessa Thompson as a junkyard queen, Cate Blanchett as a God of death, Jeff Goldblum as a black-market galactic coliseum operator, and then there's the return of Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba in their reprised roles as Oden and Heimdall. The irony is that these wonderful casting decisions aren't the film's primary strength—the direction is.
Waititi is visionary in his pursuit of the ideological MCU movie. It's almost disturbingly funny, forcing the audience to ask themselves why it took Marvel so long to discover that Hemsworth is funny. Waititi doesn't refrain from inserting his own whacky humor into the already well-developed snakiness that Marvel has mastered. He lets his shine through the likes of the equally weird Goldblum and genuinely elevates the Marvel funny-formula to a level that only Guardians of the Galaxy knows.
I'd be lying if I said there was another MCU movie that even stands in the same stratosphere as Ragnarok, but it does serve as a wonderful precursor to Infinity War. I, however, am counting down the days to Thor: Love and Thunder, and I wouldn't be doing so if it weren't for the expertise demonstrated in Ragnarok.
The Dark Knight (2008) - HBO Max
There's never a bad time to revisit a classic. The Dark Knight, the second entry in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, is an all-time favorite for me and many others.
It's not just a superhero movie. In fact, it doesn't really feel like one at all. More than anything, The Dark Knight is a crime thriller, propelled by The Joker (Heath Ledger). Ledger's performance is captivating beyond words and one of the best antagonist performances ever. The Joker only has 25 minutes of screen time, but Ledger's presence is felt throughout the entire two-and-a-half hours. His nihilistic cynicism and hunger for pure destruction put him in a superhero villain league of his own.
Christopher Nolan's trilogy is the best collection of Batman movies to date, but even The Dark Knight stands a tier above the rest. Many of you have likely seen this, as it was a pivotal film in our upbringings. Why not watch it again? I don't think I've ever met someone who actively dislikes this movie. I don't think it's possible.
Barry - HBO Max
One of HBO’s lesser-known—but no less amazing—originals, Barry is the dark comedy that will prove to you just exactly how dark comedy can go. It stars Bill Hader as a hitman with only one problem: he doesn’t want to kill anymore.
Barry finds himself in Los Angeles with a mission to kill a man who he eventually discovers is a member of a small theater class, coached by the one and only Gene Cousineau (played by the DELIGHTFUL Henry Winkler). Barry quickly realizes that acting is his true path, and he begins the task of extracting himself from the life of an assassin-for-hire. His lifelong mentor, Fuches (who is extraordinarily adept for the role, as he constantly looks..... dirty), accidentally gets the two of them entangled with the Chechen mob, and Barry’s exit turns out to be significantly harder than anticipated.
The show features a lot of gems across the board—Sally Reed (played by Sarah Goldberg) is outstanding; the way Goldberg can separate pretending to act during class and actually portraying Sally is really underpraised, in my opinion. On the opposite end, mobster Noho Hank (played by Anthony Carrigan) is arguably one of the funniest side characters on television right now, and definitely one of the most memorable. Like its cast, Barry is sharp, truly funny, and unexpectedly deep. With only two seasons out so far, the show has paved the way to be one of the most unique and highly received of the decade, and rightfully so.