The streaming game is getting strange this week with the “game” component getting literal. Do you want to know where you’ll find the best bang for your buck among the streaming services? One would assume that Warner Bros’ Space Jam sequel starring LeBron James and Zendaya (as Lola Bunny) would be the frontrunner offering, but HBO Max ended up with an inexplicably controversial game on their hands. Yes, the film will probably draw a lot of eyeballs; however, the competition from the other streaming services is so fierce that HBO Max doesn’t land in the top spot.
Instead, those honors go to Disney this week, due to Marvel and more Marvel. The Loki season premiere felt so intricately layered and emotional that it begs for a second (or third) viewing, while Black Widow and Monsters Inc. will keep you coming back for more. Also, Discovery takes a huge chomp to volley into second place with a whole boatload of Shark Week options to stream. Meanwhile, Netflix churned out a variety of quality options (action? horror? heists? humor?) that will have you covered. Apple TV dropped a hell of a cast into a musical show; Hulu’s got the latest Ryan Murphy offering and some Paul McCartney; Peacock has an evil doctor; and AMC brings you The Walking Dead: Origins and even more.
Here’s everything that you should consider putting in your queues this weekend.
Loki: Episode 6 (Disney series) — Season finale time has arrived, and don’t worry, the show’s already renewed for Season 2. Well, it’s a damn good thing, too, because Tom Hiddleston has an absolute blast playing the mercurial trickster of the MCU, and the timeline troubles shall continue. This week, there’s a crushing moment, and there’s also a new big bad cruising into Phase 4. This is the best Disney show so far, and Loki’s so beloved that you might binge the whole thing all over again.
Black Widow (Marvel Studios film on Disney ) — Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff finally gets a proper send-off in this actioner that aims to go back-to-basics but succeeds more on a personal level. The film follows the events of Captain America: Civil War, but more importantly, we receive butt-kicking ladies in well-choreographed fight scenes and an emotionally resonant story that introduces us to the inner Natasha, as witnessed by Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova. She’s perhaps the only person in the world who’s allowed to tease Natasha, and their dynamic (and the chemistry between Scarlett and Florence) rules. The film also allows David Harbour to perform grunt-filled face work with a wild accent while the ladies swirl around him in hand-to-hand combat.
Monsters at Work: Season 1 premiere (Disney series) — Twenty freaking years after Monsters Inc. arrived in theaters, this franchise has persisted with a prequel and a few shorts, and now, John Goodman and Billy Crystal return as James P. “Sulley” Sullivan and Mike Wazowski. They have both been promoted, and a new crop of monsters (voiced by Mindy Kaling, Henry Winkler, Ben Feldman, and Alana Ubach) are doing the harvesting. The twist here, of course, is that the franchise is trading scares for laughter.
Shark Week 2021 (Discovery event) — The annual shark-involved festivities bring several new offerings, including a Jackass special (which is predictably banal) and Eli Roth’s FIN. In his documentary, Roth and a group of scientists and activists travel the globe to shine a light on how mankind kills (many) millions of sharks every year, often through a vast criminal enterprise that could render these animals extinct within a decade. The movie’s co-produced by Leo DiCaprio, and here’s more select picks for the week: Great White Comeback, Stranger Sharks, Tiger Queen, Extinct or Alive: Jaws of Alaska, Rogue Tiger Shark: The Hunt for Lagertha, Envoy: Shark Cull, and The Great Hammerhead Stakeout.
Roswell: The Final Verdict (Discovery limited series) — The recently declassified UFO reports from the Pentagon didn’t exactly satisfy curious minds, so there’s no time like the present for revisiting the 1937 Roswell, New Mexico incident, in which a rancher claims to have witnessed strange debris gathering, which led to decades of denials by the U.S. government and endless conspiracy theories. This series will revisit eyewitness accounts in an attempt to uncover the whole truth.
Space Jam: A New Legacy (Warner Bros. film on HBO Max) — Somehow, this film’s the most controversial entry of the year, and all that fuss isn’t paying off because oh boy, the reviews are not fantastic. Even without Pepe Le Pew, this film sounds like a stinker, but at least it’s weird enough that those who can’t resist won’t be bored. LeBron James rallies Lola Bunny (Zendaya) and the rest of his animated pals against the “Goons,” a new gathering of pro basketball stars in order to get home after being trapped in digital space. There’s a rogue A.I. who’s the villain here? It sounds, uh, wild.
Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes (HBO series on HBO Max) — Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow’s podcast undergoes this miniseries treatment here while expanding upon existing interviews with whistleblowers, private investigators, and more. Since Ronan’s the son of Mia Farrow, who was married to Woody Allen (with the whole paternity issue looking awfully odd), the subject of alleged predatory behavior hits particularly hard. The minseries will dig into the powers that be, beginning with the Harvey Weinstein case, for which Ronan’s groundbreaking New Yorker investigative report got the #MeToo ball rolling.
Gossip Girl: Season 1 premiere (HBO Max series) — The original CW series helped to launch the careers of Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Sebastian Stan, and Penn Badgley (and the latter is now portraying an amped-up version of the same character on Netflix’s You). HBO Max is now ready to welcome another crop of mostly unknown faces playing wealthy, privileged teens who find themselves socially surveilled and at the mercy of the “Gossip Girl” narrator, who’s still voiced by Kristen Bell. Showrunner Josh Safran has promised that this reboot series will be much more socially conscious than the original, and that the teens will “take Ubers, not limos.”
Gunpowder Milkshake (Netflix film) — Look, Netflix original action films might seem like they’re in plentiful supply these days, but this one’s worth particular notice. Karen Gillan portrays the assassin-daughter of an elite assassin, portrayed by Lena Headey, and the pair come back together again to help protect a young girl from an organization known as The Firm. Nope, Tom Cruise does not make a cameo in this picture, but there’s a group called The Librarians, who are played by Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, and Carla Gugino. Essentially, we’ve got three generations of badass ladies here, doing their best to wipe out pesky henchmen and raise a lot of hell.
Heist: Season 1 (Netflix series) — Three of America’s greatest heists shall be examined in the finest of detail here by the people who did the heisting. These adventures include a Vegas casino heist, a Miami airport heist, and a a Kentucky bourbon heist. The shooting style here aims for Ocean’s Eleven and Catch Me If You Can, and the planning of these heists is flat-out meticulous, so it’s no wonder that the initial heisting went well. However, one must realize that these heisters were eventually busted, so there’s that part of the story, too. Crime doesn’t pay in the long-term, kids.
Fear Street Part 3: 1666 (Netflix film) — The trilogy’s final installment brings the franchise to a head when Sarah Fier’s curse finally gets its origin story. In the end, you’ll see how Shadyside’s residents all feel their lives changed on one fateful night, which will reverberate from many generations to come. R.L. Stein’s stories light up here with a a climactic hurrah. Naturally, you’ll wanna check out the 1978 and 1994 editions before hitting this one.
Never Have I Ever: Season 2 (Netflix series) — Mindy Kaling’s brainchild (one of them, at least… there are so many) returns with more coming-of-age comedy. Devi’s making more questionable decisions along the way (that’s obligatory) while fumbling around through the finer points within new relationships. She does, however, face an out-of-her-control dilemma at school when “another Indian girl who is prettier, cooler” arrives on the scene. Expect more drama at home, too, as this beloved series continues to celebrate the awkwardness of adolescence.
I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson: Season 2 (Netflix series) — Get ready for more insanely absurdist (and almost therapeutically refreshing) sketch comedy from creator and writer Tim Robinson. He’s back with partner Zach Kanin for more of turning the most mundane and bizarre life moments into shouty hilarity, and guest stars this season include Bob Odenkirk, Sam Richardson, Paul Walter Hauser, Tim Heidecker, and many more. If you haven’t had the pleasure of digging into Robinson’s work, and you love Adam Sandler and Chris Farley’s exaggerated humor, yet crowned with an especially self-aware twist, you must plop this show into your queue.
Schmigadoon!: Season 1 (Apple TV series) — If a musical comedy series starring Cecily Strong, Keegan-Michael Key, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, and Jane Krakowski sounds a little bit too frenetic to you, consider this: Apple TV has been crushing the comedy game these days with the likes of Mythic Quest and Ted Lasso under its still-young belt. So, one can bet that if a series called Schmigadoon! can succeed, the show found the correct streaming home. Strong and Key portray a backpacking couple who stumble into a 1940s musical, literally. The premise might sound a bit like a horror movie, but it’s intended to be (bizarrely) romantic with a bang-up cast that demands a streaming shot.
The Snoopy Show: Season 1 premiere (Apple TV series) — Don’t be a blockhead, Charlie Brown. Instead, tuck into this new animated series for all ages, as long as you’re into the almost universally beloved beagle, Snoopy (duh), and his best friend for life, Woodshock. Not only is Snoopy actually Joe Cool, but he’s also Masked Marvel and a World War I flying ace, and yes, do not try to resist this delight of a revisiting that’s based upon Charles M. Schultz’s “Peanuts” comic strip.
American Horror Stories: Season 1 (FX on Hulu series) — This spinoff of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s long-lived, anthology-based franchise will present a new iteration of horror. Viewers will receive a fresh set of terrors within every episode, after the flagship series already dove through an unsettling asylum, a freak shows, a haunted hotels, a witch coven, and the apocalypse. It’s not as scary as the real America, but close.
McCartney 3,2,1: Season 1 (Hulu series) — The legend himself (yes, Paul McCartney) sits down with Rick Rubin to get real about his work and legacy from The Beatles, along with his five decades as a solo artist. This is a six-part series the aims to be much more revelatory than your usual pop-culture documentary, which is fitting, given that we’re talking about an iconic musician.
Dr. Death (Peacock limited series) — This true-crime series tells the story of Dr. Christopher Duntch, whose homicidal ways left dozens of victims in his career’s wake. Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater play the medical colleagues who attempt to stop the mayhem and help bring him to justice. The story’s based upon the Dr. Death podcast, and the prosecutor on the case (portrayed by AnnaSophia Robb) will stop at nothing to indict the healthcare system that helped Duntch bury his misdeeds for years. The doc is so chillingly portrayed by Joshua Jackson that this show might freak Dawson’s Creek fans the hell out.
The Walking Dead: Origins (AMC limited series) — This batch of episodes will bridge the gap between zombie-apocalypse-laden seasons with the origin stories of Daryl, Carol, Maggie, and Negan. Expect a lot of interwoven clips (along with cast interviews and narration) to remind everyone of these characters’ most pivotal moments as their stories head into the final season.
The North Water (AMC limited series) — This adrenaline-filled series stars Jack O’Connell, Colin Farrell, and Stephen Graham with a story about a beleaguered and disgraced military surgeon who must contend with a terrifying Arctic mission. The elements are the worst enemy here, followed closely by the crew-mate violence at hand. Civilization is a long way away from this story.
The Beast Must Die: (AMC series on AMC ) — Jared Harris and Cush Jumbo star in this revenge-thriller series (which originally aired on BritBox UK and achieved a viewing record) that has already been renewed for a second season. The story’s based on Nicholas Blake’s 1938 novel and revolves around a mother who’s hell-bent upon avenging her son’s death, all while a detective’s working the case and hoping hoping to solve matters before mom takes justice into her own hands. It’s an enormously chaotic show, but it’s so crushingly executed that you’d be gripping your seat arms if you watched it in a theater.