Streaming Must-Sees (and Must-Skips) in December 2021
This month's Tune In or Turn Off features 'Hawkeye,' 'Tiger King 2,' 'The Beatles: Get Back' and more
Published Dec 22, 2021Everyone has their own holiday traditions, but if there's one ritual that pretty much everyone shares at this time of year, it's taking plenty of time to hang out in front of the TV. Sure, some of it is holiday content — be sure to catch Marvel's Christmassy new series — but for the most part, these are non-festive offerings including some addictive reality TV and one of the best films of 2021.
Tune In: The Beatles: Get Back
Believe the hype: Peter Jackson's exploration of the Beatles' most notorious and damaging recording sessions is required viewing for anyone who wants a masterclass in documentary storytelling (and salvaging hours of previously unseen, significant footage) — but also anyone wondering what it might actually be like to work in any band, let alone the greatest rock band of all time. Jackson's vérité portrait and virtual realtime pacing turns gods and icons into humans, who each recognize that the end of a band and friendships is inevitable, but struggle to make it work for what feels like the last time (they would go on to follow these purposely scrappy Let It Be sessions with the more organized, polished ones that conjured Abbey Road). Nobody had ever done what the Beatles did, in virtually any regard — altering the world musically, artistically and culturally on a massive scale, creating a template that most musicians still follow to this day. But they were and are just people, and their willingness to let the cameras capture them as such is further testament to their generosity of spirit, and to what made them so relatable and lovable to the rest of humanity.
Tune In: Hawkeye
MCU now stands for Merry Christmas Universe thanks to the new Disney+ series, which gives the most forgettable Avenger his moment in the spotlight and is a fun, quick-moving superhero romp with a holiday twist. MCU newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is more compelling as a bow-slinging hero than Jeremy Renner ever was, making each episode of Hawkeye breeze past.
Turn Off: Physical
Rose Byrne's portrayal of a self-loathing aerobics enthusiast is masterful, but the characters are simply too dislikable to make this sepia-toned, spandex-clad dark comedy palatable. There are glimmers of promise thanks to Byrne, but Physical's first season simply isn't very fun to watch.
Tune In: The Power of the Dog
The gorgeous plains of New Zealand stand in for Montana in a moody Western featuring Benedict Cumberbatch's best performance ever. He perfectly embodies the roughneck ranger Phil, who cruelly torments his relatives before gradually opening up his sensitive side. Full of harsh nature and harsher personalities, Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog is as beautiful as Phil's behaviour is ugly. It's on Exclaim!'s list of the best films of 2021.
Tune In: Saturday Morning All-Star Hits
Having been Saturday Night Live's most beloved underdog weirdo since 2013, Kyle Mooney has a preternatural, laser-like eye for nuance in media of all kinds. For this homage and send-up of 1980s morning cartoon packages, Mooney worked with director (and fellow Good Neighbor sketch troupe member) Dave McCary and animator Ben Jones to create a surreal, dark-edged and enjoyable take on the moralistic yet vapid messages and characters we encounter as kids, with great voice acting by the likes of Mooney, Emma Stone, Chris Redd, Paul Rudd, Pamela Adlon, Beck Bennett and Fred Armisen, among others.
Tune In: School of Chocolate
Less a cooking competition than it is a sculpting challenge, chocolatiers create some truly amazing-looking sweet structures. That chocolate elephant probably tastes like shit, but it looks incredible, and teacher/judge Amaury Guichon is a wise and likeable guide.
Tune In: Succession
In the recently wrapped third season, the Roy family is fully at war, with Kendall trying to bring down his dad's empire. The sad parts are sadder and the funny parts are funnier — that birthday party! — making this a lot like Succession's prior seasons but more. It's on Exclaim!'s list of the best TV shows of 2021.
Turn Off: Tiger King 2
The first season was a fascinating, exploitative, pulpy look at the strange people involved in the shady world of big cats — but Tiger King 2 is just depressing. This sequel focuses on the ugly fallout from the first season, as the documentarians seemingly acknowledge the terrible impact of Tiger King and have nothing to add except to celebrate its success. If there's one silver lining, it's that the public seems to be wisely ignoring it.
Tune In: Welcome to Earth
Will Smith hosts a big-budget travel show, as this city-slicker scales mountains and dives down to the ocean floor. There's a little too much focus on the human interest angle — the nature shots are more than enough — but Welcome to Earth has enough beautiful footage to be worth the watch for fans of Planet Earth and After Earth.
Tune In: Yellowjackets
A Lord of the Flies-style survival thriller that takes the basic premise of Lost and mashes it up with salacious teen dramas (à la Riverdale) and witchy horrors (à la Hereditary). Yellowjackets follows a high school soccer team that gets stranded following a plane crash, combining '90s flashbacks with present-day glimpses at the characters' messy adult lives. Genuinely unnerving, it's grimly fascinating to watch the teenagers descend into depravity in the wilderness. Kudos to the casting director for finding teen actors who look so similar to their adult counterparts.