Summer’s hottest days are still a month or two away, but streaming services are stockpiling material to keep us entertained indoors when it’s scorching and sticky outside. May sees an influx of excellent Nineties movies, from the face-melting thrillers (literally) to political satires that seem more pertinent than ever. There’ll be plenty of TV series to plow through, too, including the return of Netflix’s addictive drama Bloodline and the long-awaited HBO Go debut of the channel’s cult favorite Mr. Show. Here are our picks for the 10 best things to stream this month.
Angie Tribeca Season 1 (Hulu, 5/7)
TBS did its best impression of Hulu back in January, spending 25 straight hours running and re-running all 10 first-season episodes of this cop-show spoof (created by husband-and-wife comedians Steve Carell and Nancy Walls). Fans of Airplane! and The Naked Gun will dig the rapid-fire sight-gags and puns; those who miss The Office and Parks and Recreation will be happy to see Rashida Jones as a hilariously clichéd tough-as-nails police detective, who goes undercover as everything from a prostitute to a chimney sweep. It’s parody at its most binge-able.
Bloodline Season 2 (Netflix, 5/27)
The creators of this slow-burn melodrama sometimes described their first 13 episodes as one long pilot for the series they planned to make. So Season Two should be a doozy then, as it deals with all the repercussions from the family secrets and bloody crimes that were exposed by the end of last year. Regardless, it’ll be a treat to watch Kyle Chandler play the morally conflicted Florida cop John Rayburn once again, and to see how the show plans to bring back the magnificent Ben Mendelssohn as his crooked brother Danny (a character who as of the most recent episode is … well, let’s just say “not around so much”).
Creative Control (Amazon Prime, 5/12)
One of the more original American indie films to come out in recent years, writer-director Benjamin Dickinson’s semi-sci-fi drama follows a cocky young New York advertising executive (played by the filmmaker) whose life gets derailed when he starts working on a campaign for a new virtual reality company. With its clean, sterile, Stanley Kubrick-like imagery and undisguised disgust for pretentious artists, crunchy slacktivists and corporate lackeys, it’s a witty and stylish depiction of a near future where all our cool new technology will only be making us into even bigger materialistic egomaniacs.
Election (Amazon Prime, Hulu, 5/1)
During this most ridiculous of presidential campaign seasons, what better time to revisit one the most savagely funny movies ever made about U.S. politics? In writer-director Alexander Payne’s adaptation of a Tom Perrotta novel, a simple high school student body election takes a vicious turn, as one schlubby teacher (played by Matthew Broderick) tries to manipulate the process to spite perky, soulless, overachieving student Tracy Flick (a brilliant Reese Witherspoon). The whole endeavor becomes a referendum on democracy itself, with the entire future of our country resting on which shallow teenage candidate this country’s future voters half-heartedly support. No pressure, America.
Face/Off (HBO Go, 5/1)
Hong Kong action director John Woo had a hard time translating his God-like genius into enduring Hollywood hits back in the Clinton era, but for one sublime moment in the summer of 1997, the man’s love for balletic gunfights and macho brooding connected with a mass audience. Face/Off is one of the most wonderfully weird major studio movies of its era, with John Travolta as an FBI agent who literally switch faces with master criminal Nicolas Cage, thanks to an advanced surgical technique. The actors take advantage of the ridiculous premise to chew the scenery with gusto. Woo though plays the material straight, resulting in a film that’s at once twisted, lurid, and genuinely philosophical.
Ghost World (Amazon Prime, Hulu, 5/1)
A decade before Broad City, a teenaged Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch played the ultimate jaded urban hipsters, in director Terry Zwigoff’s colorful take on a graphic novel by underground cartoonist Daniel Clowes. These two young women roam the city searching for uncool people, places, and art to mock, until they meet a middle-aged misfit named Seymour (played by Steve Buscemi) who tries to warn them that being above everything corrodes the soul over time. A cautionary tale that nevertheless has a lot of fun skewering the popular culture of 2001, this movie is both a time capsule and a still-relevant coming-of-age piece.
The Insider (HBO Go, 5/1)
If reigning Best Picture winner Spotlight has you itching for more movies about intrepid reporters and the economics of journalism, then jump back to 1999 and director Michael Mann’s Oscar-nominated drama, a riveting ripped-from-yesterday’s-headlines potboiler about a 60 Minutes segment gone awry. Al Pacino stars as producer Lowell Bregman, who persuades a tobacco company whistleblower (played by Russell Crowe) to go on camera with some scandalous information, and then watches as his network lawyers get cold feet about the piece. Well-written by Eric Roth and brimming with livewire performances from the entire cast, the film is a pointed inquiry into what TV news is for, asking if a business that generates big profits from corporate advertisers can ever truly be a reliable independent source of information.
Lady Dynamite Season 1 (Netflix, 5/20)
Maria Bamford’s spacey comedy has always been best-represented on screen when she’s written her own material, which makes her new Netflix mockumentary series particularly promising. Here she’ll be playing “herself” — an anxious actress-comedienne trying to make it show business while dealing with a dysfunctional family and her own dodgy mental health. As always with the upbeat, bizarre Bamford, she’s bound to find an unexpectedly amusing angle within situations that anyone else would describe as a nightmare. At the least, she can lean on guest appearances by her famous friends, including Sarah Silverman, Bridget Everett, and Jenny Slate.
Mr. Show Seasons 1-4 (HBO Go, 5/21)
When Netflix debuted its four episodes of W/Bob & David last year, longtime fans of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross wondered why we couldn’t keep the party going by streaming the duo’s classic HBO sketch series. Now, at long last, whatever crazy rights issues that had been keeping routines like “24 is the Highest Number” and “I’ll Marry Your Stupid Ass” off of HBO Go have been resolved, and we can once again watch the future Better Call Saul and Arrested Development stars do some of their earliest and best TV work. Because you don’t mess around … with God’s America.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream (Netflix 5/1)
It’s hard to say what possessed shaggy rock legend Tom Petty to hire old-school Hollywood dandy Peter Bogdanovich to direct a four-hour documentary about his career, but damned if this 2007 film isn’t as thorough and heartfelt as it is tuneful. From the Heartbreakers’ hardscrabble early days in Florida to their late Seventies rise up the charts — and then to the bickering that almost broke up the band, many times — Runnin’ Down a Dream is a good introduction to a great American singer-songwriter, and even a source of revelations for longtime fans. Are you a Netflix subscriber? Then you just got lucky, babe.