What to watch at home this week? Which is the best series to watch? What about the movies to watch this weekend? Which are the best TV shows to binge? NOW STREAMING makes your search simpler.
Where: Amazon Prime
Who: The latest jigsaw puzzle of a thriller web series is headlined by Julia Roberts in her first small screen outing, starring as counsellor Heidi Bergman, who works at a facility called Homecoming, helping young military veterans transition back to civilian life. Adapted from a podcast (which had Catherine Keener as Heidi), all 10 episodes of the first season of the series have been directed by Sam Ismail who had earlier created the award-winning TV series Mr Robot. Other important players include Bobby Cannavale, who plays Heidi’s boss Colin; Stephan James, who plays Heidi’s client Walter; Shea Whigham, who plays Thomas Carassco, a low-level Department of Defense (DoD) clerk investigating the Homecoming facility. Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek plays Heidi’s mother.
Why: In the way the screenplay has been constructed, revealing the show’s premise one bite at a time, Homecoming is pure binge material. It’s only by the seventh and eighth episodes do you fully understand how the past (events that happened in 2018, shot in widescreen format) and the present (the DoD investigation happening in 2022, shot in a square box format) come together. And when it does, it’s deeply satisfying not only plot wise but emotionally. While the script and Ismail’s treatment – besides the meticulously framed shot-taking, the tortuous score elevates the tautness – are the clear winners, Julia Roberts is in great form, perfectly projecting Heidi’s vulnerability and her relentless quest to make things right.
Why Not: In those initial three or four episodes, Homecoming can get a little frustrating. Because you often don’t understand a lot of it and it can take time to get used to the slow pace. But if you are able to see them through, the rest of the journey is totally worth your while.
Whee: The last few minutes of the last episode are tantalisingly beautiful and the final moment unforgettable. Telling anything more will spoil the entire series for you but it’s got that Inception spin to its closing shot which will keep you guessing long after you are done with Homecoming.
What: The Other Side of the Wind
Who: Now who would have thought that you’d have “an Orson Welles picture” releasing worldwide in November 2018 as “a Netflix film”?! Come to think of it, it’s quite a fitting finale for the man who revolutionised cinema with all the new techniques he used – and how – in Citizen Kane back in 1941. Almost like a parallel mockumentary of his own life, The Other Side of the Wind zooms in on the 70th birthday party of legendary film director Jake Hannaford (played by John Huston) where he invites the world to take a first look of his unfinished film. Touted as his big return to Hollywood, the film was shot by Welles – he was one of the camera operators himself – between 1970 and 1976 but it ran into several legal and financial problems and Welles couldn’t finish it before he died in 1985. It’s only recently that Hurt Locker’s Oscar-winning editor Bob Murawski, under the supervision of actor-director Peter Bogdanovich who plays Hannaford’s protege Brooks Otterlake in the film, that The Other Side of the Wind has been put together from “nearly 100 hours of footage” as “an attempt to honour and complete Welles’s vision”.
Why: For decades there has been so much speculation about what Welles was actually making, just to get a chance to see his final film – in whatever form or format it has been made available – is a blessing for every cinephile. It’s actually a window into Welles’s mind at that time. While the film itself is a satire on contemporary Hollywood – as new directors were snatching the baton from the old guard – the film within the film is almost like a parody of pretentious European avant-garde cinema, full of sex and nudity – the car sex sequence is seen to be believed – but lacking any hint of plot or coherence. You can almost see Welles standing behind the camera with a constant wry grin on his face. Also, there’s an inimitable energy to the film created by the frenetic slapping of black-and-white images on coloured ones… chaotic yet hypnotic… jarring yet stirring… as if Welles was on to formulating yet another cinematic language.
Why Not: Not a lot of the film makes sense. And whatever does has no emotional resonance. If you are not a movie geek or a film student, chances are you’ll give up on The Other Side of the Wind early into its 122-minute running time. You can argue that a glorious mess is essentially a mess.
Whee: There are lots of cameos in the film but the ones to watch out for are French New Wave pioneer Claude Chabrol and American actor-director Dennis Hopper as party guests. I’m told, there’s a very young Cameron Crowe in there as an extra but I couldn’t spot him.
What: Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father
Who: Young British stand-up comedian Jack Whitehall hits the road with his crusty old father Michael in this travel documentary with a twist. Having missed his gap year, 28-year-old Jack wants to do a backpacking trip through South East Asia in the first season but also wants it to be a getting-to-know-each-other-better trip with his father. But 76-year-old Michael is the cantankerous sort and loves to live life on his own terms. That would be suits and ties, five-star hotels, steaks and wine! The shorter second season, released earlier this year, has the Whitehalls visiting Europe for what Michael wants to be a cultural trip but ends up being something altogether different thanks to Jack’s antics.
Why: Watching the father and son cope up with crazy pit stops in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in their own inimitable styles is straight out uproarious. You can’t miss the episode where they visit a face-slapping therapist for relaxation! Besides the jokes and the quips, like a true travelogue, you get to see unseen attractions and unknown activities in what are popular tourist nations. Whether it’s the shadow puppetry in Siem Reap or the stick jumping in Hanoi or the beer biking in Budapest or clowning around at the Humorina festival in Odessa, there are loads of new experiences that can go straight into your bucket list.
Why Not: This is no Dharma production. The father-son relationship can be bewildering at times, when things becomes so sour that they can’t even be in the vicinity of each other for entire days. A mild culture shock, perhaps. Also, while the locations in Germany, Romania and Turkey definitely are more picturesque, the second season is not as funny as the first.
Whee: While Michael comes across as the saner Whitehall, he buys a Luk Thep doll in the second episode in Thailand and actually believes that the doll is his second son, guarding him with his life. He names him Winston and much like Bagwati from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Winston travels everywhere and experiences everything with Jack and Michael including the European trip in the second season.
What: Coupling (2000-2004)
Where: Amazon Prime
Why: Through the 236 episodes of Friends, haven’t you often thought that wish these guys didn’t hold themselves back and the show was a touch raunchy? Well, that’s what Steven Moffat (before he wrote Doctor Who and Sherlock) achieved with this BBC show. Six guys here too, with Susan and Steve being the couple, Sally and Patrick always on and off, and Jeff and Jane being the absolute weird ones. All of 28 episodes across the four seasons with howlarious British humour, mostly about sex or the lack of it, you’ll have one fun weekend binge.
DID YOU KNOW
The Great Beauty director Paolo Sorrentino’s English language 2015 film Youth, starring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, is now streaming on Hotstar.
Wong Kar-Wai’s first English film My Blueberry Nights (2007), starring Norah Jones in the lead, is now streaming on Mubi.
Last year’s much-acclaimed science fiction thriller series Counterpart, with J. K. Simmons in a dual role, is now streaming on SonyLIV.
All 10 episodes of The Young Pope, starring Jude Law as the first American Pope, are now streaming on Zee5.