Best Television Streaming Now

(Welcome to Small Screen Stream, a feature where we share the best television shows streaming and where you can watch them.)

Ahoy, streaming fiends. We’re here with a brand new column dedicated to ready-to-watch television. There’s a mountain of content out there, so I’m here to help you keep track of what’s new, what you’re missing, and what you should catch up on before new seasons hit.

There’s a little bit of all of that this week, so without further adieu, here’s a look at the best small-screen streaming options currently at your fingertips.

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(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: A Quiet Place is a good horror movie, even if it’s not a horror movie made for horror fans.)

A Quiet Place is an easy movie to love. It was directed and co-written by John Krasinski, star of The Office, who oozes the same sort of self-deprecating American charm that made Jennifer Lawrence a superstar. Krasinski acts in the film alongside his equally likable real-life wife Emily Blunt and a cadre of cute kid actors. It has a simple, air-tight conceit: a family is forced to live in silence after the world is occupied by alien creatures who are drawn to sound. The world-building is effective, the scares all earned, and the emotional core is well-developed. The ingredients are all there, and for the most part they gel.

A Quiet Place is a good movie – but is it a good horror movie? Spoilers follow.

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The Americans is one of the most quietly relevant shows on television, but not necessarily on purpose. The series took on a new meta-level importance with the election of Donald Trump, whose tenure has been marred by his ties to Russia, an ever-growing scandal that could eventually be his undoing. On The Americans, it’s the 1980s, our protagonists are KGB spies, and the Soviet Union is about to collapse. The relationship between Russia and America is the story’s central tête-à-tête; Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (played by the marvelously underrated Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, who should be bathing in Emmys by now) have spent five seasons deeply undercover, raising children and assimilating into suburban consumerism unchecked.

But in the season six premiere, which aired last night, there is a foundational change in the show’s status quo, and the mounting feeling that it will all soon come to a head.

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Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald Trailer Breakdown - Eddie Redmayne as New Scamander

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: why the new Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer made one writer so angry.)

When I was a kid, the image of Hogwarts conjured magical surreality; a cognitive awareness that this place wasn’t real in the technical sense, but alive somewhere in the crook of a collective imagination. The words of Dumbledore spring to mind: “Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

That’s how I’ve always seen stories. Real, because the words make them so. And, in the case of Hogwarts, real because the movies made them so, too. In the Harry Potter films, the castle took on an eerie actuality: towers like sharp teeth or open arms, depending on the slant of life. All great fantasy castles have that familial dichotomy. That’s how Hogwarts has always felt: like family, like home.

So, why did its appearance in the new Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer leave me completely cold? Actually, worse than cold – almost angry?

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why Ava DuVernay turned down Black Panther

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: why it’s a good thing that director Ava DuVernay says she’s not making a Star Wars movie.)

Star Wars fans are ready for change.

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe boldly enters its latest stage, handing its major franchise staples to black auteurs and New Zealand comedians, it’s become somewhat apparent that Lucasfilm is holding back. Their latest slate of behind-the-scenes announcements and rumors – that the Game of Thrones guys are writing a new series, that Stephen Daldry might direct an Obi Wan standalone – feel as by-the-numbers as you can get. After the production kerfuffles with Rogue One and the upcoming Solo, maybe it’s just insurance; a “let’s hire the industry guys with safe track records so we can stay on schedule” ideology. But that safety net approach has the fans concerned. By avoiding potential risks, are we in danger of a roster of bland lookalikes that keep the series chugging along but never grow it in new directions? This is a galaxy far, far away, let’s not forget. Isn’t it time to get weird?

For a lot of us, potential relief came in the form of director Ava DuVernay, who’s been long-rumored to be next in line for a Star Wars project. But DuVernay crushed hearts on Twitter today when she announced that she isn’t, in fact, doing a Star Wars film, telling fans that the series “is not for me.”

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

heathers tv show review

(This review was written before the Paramount Network made the decision to delay the premiere of Heathers until later this year. As the pilot episode is still available on the network’s site, we have made the decision to run the review.)

Michael Lehmann’s 1988 high school masterpiece Heathers, with a laser-sharp script by Daniel Waters, is ripe with poppy bon mots that still feel devilishly revolutionary, one of those rare late-decade gems that transcends its era while remaining appropriately of-the-time. The movie follows a clique of nasty high school girls – all named Heather – who terrorize their peers, challenging them to lunchroom dares, getting away with their own sort of mean girl terrorism. They’re flanked by a newbie to the group, Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder), who seems both appreciative of her newfound status, and cautiously cynical of its effect on her morality. The Heathers and Veronica speak in a referential pop culture code that modern imitators – from Diablo Cody to Ryan Murphy – have helped solidify as Hollywood “teen speak.” The lines drip with irony and humor, but remain unparalleled in originally. This is the film that first asked “what’s your damage?” That told us to “fuck me gently with a chainsaw.” It also popularized the descriptor “how very.”

Heathers has always seemed an untouchable entity in the pantheon of ‘80s classics. Post-Columbine, how do you remake a movie where teen-on-teen violence is funny? The original is, after all, all about Veronica and her sociopathic boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater) murdering their classmates then framing their deaths as suicide. In one early scene, J.D. pulls a gun on two students. Later, he and Veronica shoot and kill two jocks and write a suicide note that erroneously outs them as gay lovers. The finale of Heathers has Veronica trapping J.D. in the school and blowing up the gymnasium – and him – with a bomb. That content was ghoulishly appropriate in the ‘80s. But in an era where school gun violence is a weekly occurrence, it doesn’t have the same critical bite.

Which brings us to the Paramount Network’s new anthology adaptation of Heathers, a series hitting airwaves at the exact wrong time, just a few weeks after one of the deadliest school shootings in history.

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Making Sense of That ‘Annihilation’ Ending

Annihilation ending

Major spoilers for Annihilation await you below.

A woman stands on a deserted beach. Behind her, grey waves crash; ahead of her, crystal trees grow out of the sand, and a row of bones mark the entrance of a lighthouse, a structure containing the horror and beauty of the universe.

That’s the setup for the third of act of Alex Garland’s dazzling new sci-fi epic, Annihilation. Natalie Portman plays the woman, Lena, a retired Army veteran and a biology professor at Johns Hopkins University. She’s in a place called the Shimmer, a strange anomaly of land that started when something resembling a meteor crashed into the lighthouse and took up home there. The anomaly spread, and teams started going in to investigate. Lena’s husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), was a part of one expedition – he was the only survivor, and returned abruptly with no memory of what happened to him, and with multiple organ failure. Lena, hoping to find answers in the Shimmer, enters with an all-female crew to do what the other expeditions could not: uncover the nature of the anomaly and stop it from spreading.

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Natalie Portman in Annihilation

Natalie Portman is always proving herself.

It’s not a conscious effort, not some desperate act of retribution. There’s nothing cloying or even necessarily deliberate about her methods of reinvention, if you can even call it that. She’s been a professional actress since she was 11 years old. She’s a Harvard graduate, a wife and mother, an Oscar winner. Her career is peppered with both high-caliber performances and less sexy – but certainly more impressive – scientific accolades. She’s a woman who’s starred in three Star Wars films and penned an academic study called “Frontal lobe activation during object permeance: data from near-infrared spectroscopy.”

And yet, she still feels under-appreciated, occasionally disregarded. Her new film, Annihilation, is a reminder that she’s one of the finest, and most interesting, actresses working right now.

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The Best Superhero Movies You Can Stream Right Now

Movies Coming to Netflix

There’s never been anything quite like Black Panther before. The latest Marvel movie is one of the first major comic book adaptations with a black lead, and it’s already poised to be one of the franchise’s most successful entries, having sold more advance tickets than any other film in Marvel history. And as Candice Frederick put so eloquently in a piece for /Film, Black Panther is “specifically a black movie that celebrates the strength and beauty of black womanhood in an era in which both get tossed aside.” It may be one-of-a-kind for now, but it will surely usher in a new wave of superhero films that celebrate other races and cultures, and ones that emphasize the power and strength of women.

So yes, Black Panther is a singular film, one that comes at an interesting time in the surge of high-grossing – and occasionally prestigious – superhero flicks. If you’re looking to wade through the waters of what came before, there are a surprising number of excellent-quality superhero flicks currently available on major streaming services. Here are some you can mull over while you wait for your Black Panther screening this weekend.

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The True Story of the Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

In the annals of bizarro American history, there exists a house so notoriously elaborate and kookily constructed that – despite tales of hauntings, accidents, and disorientation – it remains a viable tourist trap to this day. Nestled in the heart of San Jose, California, the Winchester Mystery House has been the subject of intense fascination since its construction in 1884. And for good reason: the house is a literal maze, with staircases that lead nowhere, a custom-made Tiffany window designed to look like a spiderweb, and hidden messages meant to ward off spirits throughout its many tangled rooms.

The new horror movie Winchester, in theaters today, is a fantastical interpretation of the house’s history, with Helen Mirren as the famously offbeat Sarah Winchester. But this is a house so historic and strange, with a backstory full of twists and turns – like the house itself – that the Hollywood version trades in for ghostly apparitions and jump scares. The truth may not be scarier than fiction, but it’s certainly more interesting.

With that in mind, let’s dig into the true story of the Winchester Mystery House: why it was built, what it means, where you might have seen it before, and why it remains a fascinating artifact of American spiritualism.

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