Baby, it’s cold outside – so you’re probably going to spend most of January sitting on your couch and streaming to your heart’s content. Maybe you want an anarchic look at the life of the sad clown behind National Lampoon, or a stand-up special making light of the darkness in life. Perhaps you need yet another TV anthology planting its flag on the horror TV canon. Or you might just want to catch up on a handful of 2017’s theatrical releases. Here’s your best streaming options for the next month. (You can find our recommendations for good ol’ fashioned TV releases in January here.)
Beside Bowie (Hulu, Jan. 29th)
As David Bowie ascended to stardom in the Seventies, Mick Ronson was right there b y his side, lending his fleet-fingered solos to such albums as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Hunky Dory, and Aladdin Sane. The guitarist was a veritable classic-rock Forrest Gump, tagging along on Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, joining Lou Reed’s session band for Transformer and providing accompaniment for John Cougar Mellencamp’s”Jack and Diane.” This portrait of an artist gives Ronson his due and then some; Bowie himself contributed adulatory voiceovers just for the film shortly before passing away in 2016, so the praise doesn’t get much higher.
Dirty Money (Netflix, Jan. 26th)
Each episode in this new documentary series from nonfiction workhorse Alex Gibney focuses on a specific instance of scandal and/orcorruption in the world of business. Predatory payday money lenders, Volkswagen’s reprehensible government interests, the soulless ghouls of Big Pharma, one shockingly ruthless maple syrup cartel – all of them get the full wagging-finger Gibney treatment. (Even Trump Industries all get put under the microscope.) The game’s rigged, and they’re not even being subtle about it anymore.
A Futile and Stupid Gesture (Netflix, Jan. 26th)
In 1970, a couple of smartass Harvard grads named Henry Beard and Doug Kenney decided to spin their college humor mag off into an independent satire publication. The National Lampoon gave American comedy a full chorus of new voices, a radio show and a raunchcom renaissance – it also ultimately caused a rift between the two friends and unlaced Kenney from his sanity. Come for the surprisingly heartfelt lead performance from Will Forte as the comic genius; stay for the rare comedic turn from Domhnall Gleeson as the pipe-smoking Beard.
A Ghost Story (Amazon, Jan. 7th)
Once upon a time, a director convinced an award-winning actor to remain hidden under a dimestore bedsheet with a pair of eyeholes; he also got a twice–Oscar-nominated actress to eat pie (for the very first time!) onscreen until she vomited. And then things got really weird. Words can’t accurately describe David Lowery’s heady, heartfelt story of a couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) who can’t even be separated by death. What starts as a haunting meditation on grief and mourning then takes a one-way trip into the cosmic unknown – and ends up as one of the best movies of 2017. There’s no better time to catch up with this gem.
One Day at a Time, Season 2 (Netflix, Jan. 26th)
Single mom Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado) is back, still struggling to acclimate to civilian life after returning home from Army service. She once again getting a helping hand from her brassy mother Lydia (Rita Moreno, still a treasure) and her kids and their landlord Dwayne (Todd Grinnell). This contemporary take on a Seventies sitcom classic tackled themes of Cuban-American identity, lesbian sexuality and the slippery nature of PTSD via the multi-camera sitcom format in its debut season, and turned into one of Netflix’s biggest breakout successes last year. Expect more of the wonderfully rendered same for Round Two, one binged episode at a time.
The Open House (Netflix, Jan. 19th)
It’s been a minute since Hollywood has cranked out a decent home-invasion thriller — maybe Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote’s feature will take up the mantle. 13 Reasons Why star Dylan Minnette is Logan, a withdrawn teen who only grows more reserved when he and his mother move to a secluded mountain town. Quicker than you can say “the call is coming from inside the house!”, the duo are forced endure a long night of hell when an unknown attacker breaks into their new digs. Just try to sleep alone after watching it.
Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (Amazon, Jan. 12th)
Netflix has Black Mirror; not to be outdone, Amazon has now fixed its gaze on a new nightmare anthology series coming in from across the Atlantic. These 10 episodes all adapt the cerebral, disturbing and often uproarious tone of spec-fiction godhead Phillip K. Dick’s short stories – from Anna Paquin and Terrence Howard tracking killers via their shared hive-mind to track to factory worker Steve Buscemi receiving dark offers from a sentient android (Westworld‘s Sidse Babett Knudsen). See, there’s plenty of futuristic Twilight Zone-style chinscratchers to go around!
The Polka King (Netflix, Jan. 12th)
From the weird little footnote of history that begs to be made into a movie dept.: Jan Lewan was a charismatic polka musician and entrepreneur. He also bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from unwitting Pennsylvanian oldsters in a massive Ponzi scheme. This Sundance-approved comedy lays out this IRL all-American scam from end to end, with Jack Black having a ball as the Polish-American con artist and Jenny Slate inhabiting another planet entirely as his spacey wife Marla.
Todd Glass: Act Happy (Netflix, Jan. 23rd)
When a comedian lives through a heart attack, they’ll respond with some laugh-laden insights about the new perspective it’s given them on life. For Todd Glass, it mostly changed the way he saw House Hunters. The caustic comedian and mastermind behind The Todd Glass Show podcast has plenty to discuss in his new stand-up special, from his brush with the grim reaper to coming out as a gay man in 2012. There’s nothing so serious that he’d take it totally seriously.
Wonderstruck (Amazon, Jan. 19th)
Some 50 years apart, two deaf children flee to New York in search of an adult: in 1927, Rose (Millicent Simmonds) sets out to find her pre-talkie movie star mother (Julianne Moore); and in 1977, young Ben (Oakes Fegley) leaves his Minnesota home to track down his wayward father. Master of atmosphere Todd Haynes links their parallel journeys with poetic strokes, conjuring magic from the grain of silent film and the astonishing intricacy of a citywide scale model. It’s not for nothing that the film’s most moving sequence is set in the American Museum of Natural History.