The Best Stuff On Hulu In January
With this preview, yours truly is shifting streaming coverage from two monthly pieces on Netflix highlights to one devoted to Netflix and one devoted to Hulu. This switch means offering only a belated brief suggestion to check out on Netflix in the coming weeks the anti-”Slumdog Millionaire” adaptation The White Tiger and a modern nod to classic teen adventure “The Goonies” with Finding Ohana.
Hulu’s programming may be heavy on the major broadcast network shows and old movies. But there are items premiering this January that still offers delights and surprises. How about a game show that’s “Jeopardy” with a touch of “Iron Chef?” Or a Kickstarted comedy about two former TV stars finally forced to grow up? Or a revisionist Western from a director who built his name in the genre? Even if a new show involving a cat cafe turned out to be a dog, here are some suggestions for good stuff to check out.
1900 (Extended Cut)–Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic masterpiece is best seen in this version as opposed to the shorter and more confusing theatrical version also screening this month. Alfredo Berlinghieri (Robert De Niro) and Olmo Dalco (Gerard Depardieu) were born on the same day in 1901. Despite their social differences (Alfredo’s a landowner’s son, Olmo’s a peasant’s son), the boys become friends. However, the passage of years and Alfredo’s being swayed by Italy’s rising tide of fascism will lead to a serious split between Alfredo and Olmo.
Bloody Sunday–On January 30, 1972, what began as a non-violent civil rights march in the Northern Ireland town of Derry would end with 13 marchers shot dead by British Army paratroopers and an additional 14 marchers being injured during the shooting. Director Paul Greengrass’ documentary-like recreation of this notorious Sunday event would earn him a shared Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. On one hand, MP and civil rights leader Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt) envisions the march as peaceful and nonviolent despite its being banned by the British government. On the other hand, the British Army wants to exact payback against the Provisional IRA hooligans who have killed two dozen British soldiers in recent months. Needless to say, Greengrass’ film argues the British Army fired first on unarmed civilians and tried to justify the massacre later.
A Certain Scientific Railgun T (aka Season 3)–In this anime series, Misaka Mikoto is a student at Academy City’s Tokiwadai Middle School. She’s also nicknamed Railgun because she’s a powerful natural esper who can command electricity. In the new season, life for Mikoto has gotten…interesting. Scientists have been secretly making clones of Mikoto, and she’s unhappy about it especially since the clones are esper cannon fodder for a plan to artificially create a next-level esper. The anti-esper group STUDY hasn’t gone away. And Academy City’s annual Daihasei sports festival has started looking like a cover for a conspiracy against Mikoto and her friends.
The Chase–What do you get when you mix “Jeopardy” with a touch of “Iron Chef?” The answer: this American adaptation of a popular U.K. game show. Three contestants answer trivia questions to win cash prizes. The wrinkle is that these contestants are competing against The Chaser, one of three chosen trivia masters determined to stop them from winning prizes. Also, The Chasers are Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer, and Brad Rutter aka players in the “Jeopardy! Greatest Of All Time” tournament.
Donnie Brasco–Director Mike Newell (“Four Weddings And A Funeral”) goes into Martin Scorsese territory with this tale of life in the Mafia. The title character (played by Johnny Depp) is a jewel thief who comes under the wing of aging hitman Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino). The hitman acts as Brasco’s guide to the ways of the mob family that Ruggiero belongs to. However, Brasco is actually a deep cover FBI agent named Joseph D. Pistone who’s gathering information on the Mafia. Yet for Brasco to complete his assignment, he’ll have to sign the death warrant for the man he’s come to regard as a friend. Based on a true story.
Face/Off–It’s not every day you see a film that offers both great action and great acting. But John Woo’s best America-made actioner is one of those films. To learn the location of a terrorist’s bomb, FBI agent Sean Archer undergoes an experimental surgical procedure which replaces his face with that of his nemesis, comatose terrorist Castor Troy. Trouble results after Troy awakens from his coma and steals Archer’s face (and life). Leads John Travolta and Nicolas Cage make the film work by copying each other’s mannerisms to literally play both hero and villain in the same film.
Hell Or High Water–Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are brothers who have been robbing a series of Texas Midlands banks. Their aim: to accumulate enough money to save their family ranch and provide a future for Toby‘s children. Discovering oil on the ranch land gives Toby another reason to keep the spread out of the reach of the forecloser, Texas Midlands Bank. However, hot on the brothers’ trail is aging Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges), whose understanding of criminals might foil the brothers’ plans.
Love & Basketball–If you only know of director Gina Prince-Bythewood from her recent ass-kicking action film “The Old Guard,” her directorial debut was in an entirely different genre altogether. This beloved semi-autobiographical tale follows the lives of Monica Wright (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy “Q” McCall (Omar Epps). Once childhood frenemies, the passage of years causes the two to develop both their basketball playing skills to possible pro levels and their growing love for each other. Check out one of the cinema’s great Black romances.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance–Famed Western director John Ford takes a humongous cinematic dump on the genre that made him famous. Successful Senator Ranse Stoddard (James Stewart) returns to the backwater town of Shinbone to pay his respects at the funeral of local rough-around-the-edges cowboy and frenemy Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). Stoddard’s relationship to Doniphon is tied to their joint history with unopposed town bully Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). But the nature of the history among these three men doesn’t necessarily match up with popular legend. This is the film that spawned the famous line “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
Save Yourselves!–In this indie dark comedy, young Millennial couple Su and Jack decide to take a wilderness vacation to temporarily disconnect from their electronic communication device cocoon. What the couple don’t realize is that Earth has been invaded by fluffy pouffe-like aliens which drain human brains. When the pennies finally drop for Su and Jack, can they somehow avoid becoming toast?
Super Dark Times–In a semi-impoverished upstate New York suburb, shy teens Zack and Josh are best friends who both have a crush on cool girl Allison. When Josh accidentally commits a horrible act of violence, Zack helps cover up the incident. However, keeping this terrible secret causes Zack to be tormented by nightmares and guilt as well as being unable to explain why to his loved ones. As this is ultimately a horror film, things don’t necessarily end well.
Wonder Boys–In this sprightly comic adaptation of the titular Michael Chabon novel, college English professor Grady Tripp (a fantastic Michael Douglas) has several really big problems come to a head over one crazed weekend. His affair with Sara (Frances McDormand), the school chancellor, has gone to the next level because she’s pregnant with his baby. Grady’s new manuscript has turned into an unfinished literary quagmire, but he can’t admit it to his impatient editor Terry Crabtree (Robert Downey, Jr.). And the professor (and once promising writer) is on increasingly thin ice with English department head (and his boss) Walter Gaskell (Richard Thomas). Gaskell doesn’t know yet that Grady’s best student James Leer (Tobey Maguire) has killed his beloved dog…or that Grady’s been having an affair with his wife Sara.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Season 2–In musicals, characters’ songs are used to express feelings they can’t express openly. Thanks to a freak accident, computer coder Zoey Clarke can hear other people’s thoughts and feelings in the form of pop song covers. Season 2 begins with Zoey returning to work at SPRQ Point six weeks after her father Mitch’s funeral. However, Zoey’s personal relationships are still a mess and making the best of some tough circumstances is now the new normal for Zoey and her friends.
A Little Late With Lilly Singh Season 2 Premiere–Comedian and YouTube star Lilly Singh has broken several barriers with her late night talk show. In the straight white male world of evening talk show hosts, Singh is an openly bisexual Indian woman. Now that the proverbial shakedown cruise of the first season is over, it’s time for Singh to try something new for her show’s second season.
Everyone Is Doing Great Season 1–Seth and Jeremy were once stars on the popular TV vampire drama “Eternal.” Five years after “Eternal” ended, both men now help each other in trying to figure out this coming-of-age thing…even though Jeremy’s now married to the talented and successful Andrea.
Prodigal Son Season 2–NYPD criminal profiler Dr. Malcolm Bright has a dark secret. His father Dr. Martin Whitly embarked on a serial killing spree as The Surgeon until the then-young Malcolm turned him in to the police. But as Dr. Bright uses his unique knowledge (and his father’s insights) to bring down other killers, he’s haunted by questions of whether homicidal bloodlust runs in his family. The new season doesn’t promise to make Dr. Bright’s questions any easier, as the profiler now also needs the insights of the captured serial killer known as Friar Pete.
Alone–Jessica has left Portland to start over in the wake of a personal tragedy. But her meetings with a nameless mustached wire-rims wearing stranger goes from “chance” encounters to something far more sinister. Soon, an injured and barefoot Jessica must flee through the Pacific Northwest backcountry to escape her potential killer. This film is a re-do of the Swedish thriller “Gone.”
The Ultimate Playlist Of Noise–What if you had just one month to squeeze in all the sounds you’d ever want to hear in life? That odd dilemma confronts high school teen audiophile Marcus. The cause: some necessary brain surgery which will have the side effect of leaving him permanently deaf. So Marcus decides to use his last month of hearing to record his bucket list of favorite sounds.
Puppy Bowl XIV & XV–Up for chilling with a TV show featuring adorkable puppies? Animal Planet produced this annual alternative to the Super Bowl. Two teams consisting of shelter puppies available for adoption, Team Fluff and Team Ruff, play football in a model stadium. Human commentators provide play-by-play action, but seeing the puppies at play can be entertainment enough.
Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself–Frank Oz captures this performance of the titular illusionist’s off-Broadway show. The card tricks and disappearing objects that DelGaudio presents along with the stories he tells are all in support of the theme of perception: your perception of yourself, others’ perception of you, and how each waxes and wanes compared to an ideal objective perception.
Grown-ish Season 3B–This spinoff from “Black-ish” follows Zoey Johnson navigating both college life and her first steps to adulthood along with some new friends. In the second half of Season 3, will Zoey regret her decision to drop out of college to focus on her stylist career? Will Zoey’s boyfriend Aaron regret spurring Zoey to make that decision? And how will Zoey’s friend Nomi deal with the ramifications of motherhood?
The Sister–”Luther” creator Neil Cross adapts his acclaimed suspense novel Burial. Nathan (Russell Tovey) has lived for years with the memory of the worst night of his life: a party that ended with a young woman’s shocking death. He’s tried to build a new life for himself. But old friend Bob, who also knows the truth about that death, shows up bringing really bad news that threatens to destroy everything Nathan’s built. Now Nathan will discover how far he’ll go to keep a secret.
Mixed-ish Season 2–This prequel to “Black-ish” follows the younger days of “Black-ish” matriarch Rainbow “Bow” Johnson. It’s 1985, and young Bow and her family are dealing with culture shock. They’ve moved from a hippie community to the suburbs. This season, how can Bow and her siblings embrace their biracialism in a time when such a concept isn’t recognized? And will Bow’s parents snap up the offers to work on Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign?