I really miss going to the movie theater and I hope that soon the studios will be back with major releases—like Wonder Woman 1984—and we can go safely to see them. In the meantime, I have found it helpful that with streaming, if I watch a terrible movie, at least I get to do so at home with my dog.
For example, I read great reviews of Hulu’s Palm Springs, so I thought I would enjoy the new romcom starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. I even saved it to watch with my rom-com loving mom. I hated it. She hated it. We hated it. In the movie, Nyles (Samberg) is a guest at Sarah’s (Milioti) sister’s wedding when he finds himself trapped in a Groundhog Day-like existence, repeating the horrible day over and over, and sometimes getting hunted by irate wedding guest, Roy (J.K. Simmons). When Sarah accidentally ends up trapped in the day too, they team up to find a way out and (surprise!) fall in love.
Palm Springs tries to put a fresh spin on the Groundhog Day premise, and it somewhat succeeds, mostly through raunchy humor and absurd elements, such as a magical cave and Roy hunting Nyles. Cristin Milioti is very charming, even as her character, Sarah is fairly odious. Meanwhile, Andy Samberg is funny, but incredibly unappealing. The main characters are so jaded and the secondary characters are so shallow that the nihilistic take on the plot gave us very little to invest in emotionally. There are definitely some funny moments, but I did not enjoy the film overall.
Palm Springs was written by Andy Siara and directed by Max Barbakow. It runs 90 minutes and is rated R for sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some violence.
I was surprised, however, that I did enjoy Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado, a new Netflix documentary about the world-famous astrologer. Somehow, I had never heard of Mercado before, and on paper this documentary did not sound all that interesting, but Mercado himself—a gender non-conforming, asexual, 900-number psychic—was captivating. The film follows his story from his youth in Puerto Rico through his rise as a television legend whose horoscopes reached 120 million viewers each day and then his subsequent disappearance after a business deal gone wrong. Mucho Mucho Amor treats its unconventional subject matter with great love and respect, and the story will appeal to fans of true crime and biography. In fact, it reminded me of the outstanding podcast Missing Richard Simmons, which is definitely worth a listen whether or not you like this documentary.
Mucho Mucho Amor was directed by Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch. It runs 96 minutes and is rated TV-14.
My favorite recent watch on Netflix, however, was The Stranger, a miniseries based on the novel by Harlan Coben. In the show, Adam Price (Richard Armitage) is out for coffee when a stranger (Hannah John-Kamen) approaches him with a shocking allegation about his wife, Corrine (Dervla Kirwan). When Adam confronts Corrine, he finds himself following an increasingly complicated web of lies and secrets. Meanwhile, Detective Johanna Griffin (Siobhan Finneran) is also unwittingly on The Stranger’s case as she investigates blackmail, murder, and other secrets around town.
The Stranger feels like a good British crime procedural crossed with an action movie. In fact, the part of Adam Price seems like it was written for Liam Neeson. For much of the show, I was very confused about what was going on, and the confusion helped build the suspense until the mystery started to come together. When it did, the result was an awful lot like a soap opera, but the ride was fun enough that I did not begrudge the writers some silly drama. The tangled story also required a lot more attention to track than many shows I have watched recently, and that was a good thing, as it kept me more engaged than I have been with a lot of streaming content. If you also enjoy mystery novels or detective shows, The Stranger might be a good fit for you.
The Stranger runs for 8 episodes and was written by Radio Times. It is rated TV-MA.