Are you still at home? I’m still at home, and thanks to several days of snow, I am starting to climb the walls. Around when the stay-at-home order was announced, I signed up for a trial of HBO Now so that I could watch the miniseries adapted from Stephen King’s The Outsider. By the time I finished watching all ten episodes, HBO had released a large selection of their content for free through their app or with a Hulu account. That meant that my husband and I finally had the time to watch The Sopranos and a documentary I’d been eager to see–McMillions.
The Outsider (which has not been released streaming for free), adapted for HBO by Richard Price, with several episodes directed by Jason Bateman, is just not as good as the book. I listened to the audiobook last summer and was gripped by how King takes a police procedural and runs it into the ground with shocking consequences until a supernatural explanation for the holes in the case no longer seems far-fetched. The series has all of these elements, but it fizzles out in a way that the novel does not. If, however, you are not going to invest the time in the book, the adaptation is still worth it.
In the story, Terry Maitland (Bateman), a teacher in a small Kansas town, is accused of a horrifying crime against a child. Emotions run high in the case, as detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) struggles with seemingly fool-proof evidence that Matiland committed the crime and that he was out of town when it was committed. As the case falls apart, he enlists help from Stephen King standby Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo), who believes a supernatural being may be to blame.
The Outsider requires you to turn the brightness and the volume all the way up because the photography is so dark and the dialogue is so muted. It also really loses steam at the end. I almost did not watch the last episode because I had read the book. The performances, however, are outstanding and the music and cinematography combine for a really eerie take on small town life.
McMillions is a six-part documentary series that looks at the elaborate scheme to fix the popular McDonalds Monopoly promotional game. It follows FBI agents, including very hammy Doug Mathews, as they investigate an anonymous tip that leads them to uncovering a criminal conspiracy to choose the winners of major cash prizes in the fast food game. The truth is as surprising as it is mundane and the characters behind the scheme look and sound like they are torn from—well, from The Sopranos, actually. Although the last episode is pretty weak and I often felt like I was missing key details as the story unfolded, the series is suspenseful, funny, and full of vibrant perspectives. I definitely recommend checking it out.
Other titles available for free that I think are worth watching include: The Case Against Adnan Syed, Arthur, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, Blinded by the Light, Big Little Lies (season one), and True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality. Isn’t It Romantic? is one of the dumber movies I have reviewed in the last year or so, but I would be lying if I said I did not also enjoy it.
Helping out a local theater:
Many people are looking for ways to boost local businesses during this difficult time. Our local Cinema Center has an easy way for you to help them from the comfort of your own home. Visit their webpage—cinemacenter.org—and click on the Programming tab. From there, you can rent one of four films and watch it from home. A portion of the box office price goes directly to Cinema Center. Their selection includes three foreign thrillers and two documentaries.