Burning slowly like a 1970s urban street thriller, “Luke Cage” feels more comfortable in its suits and shades and bullet-riddled sweatshirts than it did in its first season. Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) and his Jamaican cohorts – all of the actors doing a wonderful job with the dialect – are entertaining antagonists, but we slowly realize the uber-villain of Season 2 (2018, Netflix) is slick Harlem councilwoman Mariah Stokes Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Cheo Hodari Coker’s series – after many examples illustrating what powerful people can get away with – morphs into a smart meditation on the cost of holding on to power, and how a few bad decisions can see that power spiral away.
I don’t classify myself as a gamer, but video games are definitely still a part of my life. Having played through multiple “choose your own adventure”-style games, I was excited to give “Bandersnatch” (2018) a try. I have enjoyed nearly every episode of “Black Mirror,” so I was excited to dive in to this movie spinoff of the Netflix series.
These are the movies and TV shows I’m looking forward to in the new year:
“Bird Box” (Netflix) is the latest in the trend of apocalyptic thrillers where the end times arrive in a bizarre and sketchily explained fashion, following “It Comes at Night,” “A Quiet Place” and the “Cloverfield” trilogy. It’s easy to call this the visual answer to the audio-based “A Quiet Place.” There, creatures hunt by their sense of hearing; here, the malevolent force invades people’s brains through their visual cortex. It’s the childlike notion of hiding under the covers made into a motion picture: If you can’t see the monster, you’re fine.
It’s never before been so hard to pick the 10 best shows of the year, as streaming services deliver strong short series on a regular basis, and cable and network TV have mostly kept pace with the quality. Some staple entries have dropped out of my top 10 not because they got worse but simply because they were supplanted. Here are 10 shows worthy of special mention even in this age of Peak TV.
“iZombie’s” Rose McIver is doing pretty well, at least commercially, on her offseason hiatuses, starring in 2017’s “A Christmas Prince” and this year’s “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding.” In these Netflix hits, she plays Amber Moore (a long-lost twin sister of Liv?), an American journalist who falls for the prince of Aldovia while on assignment covering the royal succession.
“The Christmas Chronicles” (Netflix) makes a strong bid to join the pantheon of holiday classics. Despite being a straight-down-the-middle yarn in a lot of ways, the earnest performances – especially a game Kurt Russell as Santa Claus – and top-flight special effects should make this a winner for all but the most Grinchy of viewers.
“The Ranch” Part 6 (a.k.a. the second half of Season 3) has a big issue to address: the loss of Danny Masterson. Due to sexual harassment allegations, Masterson was fired from the Netflix comedy last year. This is the first portion of the series to not include his character, Rooster. That will be a hard sell to a lot of fans, being as he has been a big part of the series since its launch.
Christmas movies have become a booming subgenre on Lifetime, the Disney Channel and now Netflix, so much so that even someone who wraps themselves in tinsel and holly starting at Thanksgiving couldn’t hope to watch them all. Despite the high volume of product, very few of these films enter the canon alongside classics like “Christmas Vacation,” “A Christmas Story” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
A lot of movies could benefit from a viewer going in with no knowledge of what they’re about to see, but in the age of previews giving away everything, it’s hard to find an experience like that. Streaming services might be bringing it back though: A synopsis and a still image look intriguing, the service recommends it to you based on your viewing habits, it gets good ratings from others … so maybe you’ll give it a shot. Netflix’s “Cam” benefits from the Mystery Mine Ride approach.