As we prepare to bid 2016 a fond, middle-fingered farewell, colder days will compel viewers to hunker down for a catch-up session on all the streaming series and movies they’ve missed. And for those of us who don’t need to be snowed in to watch TV for eight uninterrupted hours, there will still be plenty to binge on in the next month. Two Amazon favorites debut new seasons, Barack Obama comes to Netflix, and Hulu hosts one of the Seventies’ finest horror flicks. Good streaming for all, and to all a good night:
Anomalisa (Amazon Prime and Hulu, Dec. 17th)
Filmmaker and absurdist screenwriter extraordinaire Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) leaves live-action reality behind for this a stop-motion marionette psychodrama about a malcontent businessman (David Thewlis) on a work trip to Cincinnati. Everyone he meets speaks in the same flat voice – except for the shy, insecure woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who catches his eye at the hotel bar. Kaufman, along with co-director Duke Johnson, challenges both the head and the heart yet again, setting up metaphysical thought experiments while telling a disarming, delicate story of fleeting love. And get ready for the most moving, melancholy puppet-sex scene ever.
Barry (Netflix, Dec. 16th)
The year is 1981, and an intelligent, motivated young man named Barack Obama has just transferred to Columbia University. Rocking a majestic Afro, newcomer Devon Terrell plays the President-to-be as a fish out of water, too black to blend in during his blindingly white college classes, and not black enough to fit in with the militant types demanding extreme action. He finds a couple of friends (Boyhood‘s Ellar Coltrane and The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy), and sets a course for a bright future as he does a little soul-searching. It’s a touch weightier than this summer’s Southside with You, a romantic reenactment of Barack and Michelle’s first date; consider this a real-life superhero origin story.
Captive (Netflix, Dec. 9th)
This series collects eight short chronicles of true crime scattered across the globe, all of which eventually devolved into a high-stakes hostage scenario. Producers Simon Chinn (Man on Wire) and Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity Edge of Tomorrow) tackle both headline-level cases and several abductions kept out of the public eye, with tension and drama are all but hardwired into the situation: itchy-trigger-fingered criminals, weepy family members, negotiators staying cool under pressure. The one thing the series won’t guarantee is a happy ending.
Lost in Oz (Amazon Prime, Dec. 2nd)
Digital animation studio Polygon (the technical wizards behind the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series) has whipped up a new computer-generated series based The Wizard of Oz. Yes, we know, but stifle that yawn — the show will adapt L. Frank Baum’s original stories as opposed to working directly from the beloved 1939 film, and hopefully their unorthodox treatment of the material will be more The Wiz than Oz the Great and Powerful. A modern-day Dorothy Gale ends up in Oz, depicted here as a futuristic metropolis peopled by fantastical creatures, while the Wicked Witch is less wicked than you may remember. In other words, this is not your grandfather’s over-the-rainbow.
The Man in the High Castle, Season 2 (Amazon Prime, Dec. 16th)
Let’s dispose of the nervous jokes about how we’re now effectively living inside this alternate-history series about an America overtaken by Nazis and simply call it “timely.” More chillingly plausible than ever, the Fuhrer tightens his grip on his empire in the breakout show’s sophomore season as the Axis powers prepare for a new war. Political resistance continues to percolate in the underground as well, though an early preview hints at a dismal fate for heroine Juliana, who may very well fall into the clutches of some especially sinister goose-steppers. As it rolls into Season 2, the show approaches the hurdle of outliving its source material, now telling its story independent of Phillip K. Dick’s 1962 novel, which provided the outline of the debut season. Only one way to find out if they’ve still got it.
Mozart in the Jungle, Season 3 (Amazon Prime, Dec. 9th)
With a couple Golden Globes and an Emmy to its credit, Amazon’s comedy-drama about the hustle and bustle surrounding a prestigious New York orchestra brings even more theatrics and drama befitting its operatic subject material with its third season. Genius maestro Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) takes off to Italy, where he tackles the challenge of working with a virtuoso soprano diva (Monica Bellucci). Meanwhile, oboist Hailey (Lola Kirke) goes on tour across Europe, and picks up a yen for conducting along the way. As ever, declining arts funding will throw the future of the ensemble into jeopardy; only the majesty of good classical music can salvage the day.
Reggie Watts: Spatial (Netflix, Dec. 6th)
A Reggie Watts routine is a stand-up special in the same respect that 2001: A Space Odyssey is a movie. The alt-comedian and Late, Late Show bandleader consistently pushes the boundaries of what comedy can be, occasionally eschewing jokes in favor of live turntable-remixing, beatboxing an accompaniment to the sound of tap-dancing, stripping in silhouette behind a canvas, or throwing a futuristic rave onstage. There will be more conventional humor as well, i.e. Watts offering to tell the audience “a quick story” and then speaks in a sped-up chipmunk voice. Strap in.
Shivers (Dec. 1st, Hulu)
When a film shoots under the working title Orgy of the Blood Parasites, you know you’re in for something special. Canadian godfather-of-body-horror David Cronenberg truly came into his own with his 1975 film, with his tale of a mad scientist successfully synthesizes a sluglike creature that acts as a combination aphrodisiac/STD when it latches onto a human host. After he sets it loose in a bourgeois Montreal high-rise apartment building, the inhabitants get worked into a violent, horny frenzy in record time. Even on a modest budget, Cronenberg was a master with the camera — the pool-set grand finale alone not justifies the film’s academia-meets-exploitation-cinema vibe but hints at the shape of things to come.
Shut Eye (Hulu, Dec. 7th)
His days on Burn Notice far behind him, Jeffrey Donovan returns as phony magician Charlie Haverford, who scams saps willing to believe his BS soothsaying. Then a strange accident leaves this fake psychic with real supernatural visions, and before you can say “abracadabra,” he’s embroiled in a centuries-old turf war between sorcerers, including a superpowered Isabella Rossellini (!!!). There will be spells, gypsies and lots of mob-style “family business” being settled with the sort of otherworldly evil that would make top-hatted birthday-party entertainers soil their drawers.
Trollhunters (Netflix, Dec. 23rd)
From beloved dreamweaver Guillermo del Toro comes a new animated kids’ series, adapted from his children’s book and suffused with his signature flair for all things earthy and macabre. Local teen Jim Lake Jr. (voiced by the late Anton Yelchin) and his adventure-ready buddies discover a hidden subterranean world beneath their sleepy hometown, where the struggle between good and evil trolls has raged since the dawn of time. A coproduction of DreamWorks Animation, the How To Train Your Dragon vibes are strong with this one.