Streaming Must-Sees (and Must-Skips) in November 2021
This month's Tune In or Turn Off features 'Cowboy Bebop,' 'Big Mouth,' 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and more
Published Nov 16, 2021November is that sweet, sweet window of time in between the horror movies of spooky season and the schmaltz of the holidays. In other words, it's important to take full advantage of this time by watching some actually good streaming content for a change.
We've got exactly that in this month's edition of Tune In or Turn Off, including some gun-slinging outlaws in the Old West and everyone's favourite villainous corporate dynasty. We've also got a disappointing Cast Away throwback and the return of a couple beloved comedies.
Tune In: Army of Thieves
The prequel to this year's zombie epic Army of the Dead can't quite find the sweet spot between conventional and boundary-pushing, as a predictable heist movie plays out against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. But even if the script doesn't have a clear focus, lead actor Matthias Schweighöfer (who also directs) has enough charm to carry the material to a satisfying conclusion.
Tune In: Big Mouth, Season 5
With its awe-inspiring joke density and gift of combining ace writing with any visual or physical comedy it desires, the fifth season of Big Mouth is breathlessly hilarious. Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg's exploration of puberty, sexuality, mental health, surreal urges and a young person's range of emotions is all heart and id, and there's so way it could be funnier. The remarkable voice actors — including cast members Kroll, John Mulaney, Jessi Klein, Jason Mantzoukas, Ayo Edebiri, Maya Rudolph, Pamela Adlon and Fred Armisen, among others, plus guest stars like Jordan Peele, Adam Scott, Jemaine Clement, Kristen Schaal, Kumail Nanjiani and Chloe Fineman — must have adored reciting such outlandishly brilliant material.
Turn Off: Cowboy Bebop
The original Cowboy Bebop is hailed as one of the greatest anime series ever, and while Netflix's new live-action remake tries desperately to establish itself as a standalone series unto itself, it sometimes feels like bad cosplay. There's no chemistry in the love triangle, and none of the ennui or existential loss that permeated the original.
Tune In: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 11
As the 11th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm revs up with Larry David pitching an autobiographical sitcom to various streaming services, one can see the mileage on the faces and in the gaits of its primary stars, David and Jeff Garlin (who plays his friend and manager, Jeff Greene). "I'm old!" David growls at his primary nemesis on the show, Greene's volatile wife Susie (Susie Essman), near the top of the fourth episode, "The Watermelon." Luckily, the characters acknowledge being a bit out of touch to tremendous comic effect, balking at the confidence of a young actor/wannabe rock star/dog obsessive, played by Dylan O'Brien and, most notably, at the entitled delusion exhibited by Keyla Monterroso Mejia's astonishing creation, Maria Sofia, who is blackmailed into Larry's work life. The elder guest stars like Richard Lewis, Ted Danson and Woody Harrelson do fine, but the show is really firing thanks to its generational, sociocultural tension and conflicts.
Turn Off: Finch
Tom Hanks's one-man show in Cast Away yielded a gorgeous, heart-wrenching look at existential despair and what motivates a person to survive in complete isolation. Finch grapples with similar questions — except the visuals, the score and the monologues aren't nearly as impactful. Instead of Wilson the volleyball, Hanks is stuck with a Borat-voiced android named Jeff, who is clearly supposed to bring humour to the hopeless situation but instead just makes the whole thing annoying.
Tune In: The Harder They Fall
With an all-Black cast, glitzy Old West sets and some modern accoutrements (including hip-hop song placements and contemporary lingo), The Harder They Fall is a classic Western with some extra pizzazz. With a timeless plot about cold-blooded revenge and several standout performances — particularly Idris Elba as the ruthless antagonist Rufus Buck — it's a fun update on the Western genre that finds the surprising middle ground between Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino and Baz Luhrmann.
Turn Off: Home Sweet Home Alone
As a reboot of a beloved '90s institution, Home Sweet Home Alone was never going to be amazing — but as the recent Ghostbusters: Afterlife shows, it's possible to enjoyably modernize a beloved story, even without any inventive new ideas. Home Sweet Home Alone fails to clear this low bar with clunky jokes, a cast that can't match Macaulay Culkin's charm, and the strange choice to have sympathetic villains (plus an inciting incident that makes the whole thing the kid's fault). There is simply no reason to watch this instead of simply revisiting the original.
Turn Off: Mr. Corman
As the writer, director and star of Mr. Corman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt unfortunately has no one else to blame for the shortcomings of this dour, depressing teacher comedy. For a film about the crushing disappointments of adulthood, Mr. Corman never feels particularly believable. Adults sit around saying things like, "What did we use to do for fun where we were younger?" — which is exactly the kind of thing that no one ever says, but an unimaginative screenwriter might invent to clumsily illustrate a point. Thankfully, the show has already been cancelled, so there won't be a second season.