(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The SeriesDoctor Who

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: A hyperintellectual alien travels through time and space (though more often than not, to 21st century Britain) in a spaceship shaped like a 1960s British police box, going on wacky misadventures with his/her spunky human companions.

Why It’s Essential ViewingDoctor Who is often described in reverent terms as the longest-running sci-fi TV series in history. But to categorize this wonderful, baffling, silly, stupendous show as science-fiction wouldn’t do it, or the genre, justice. Sci-fi is really just an umbrella for the famous BBC series to play with genre and structure — it can be a character drama one episode, a campy comedy the next, a mythic fairy tale, a Gothic horror tale. Sure, there’s a loose continuity that runs all the way back to the beginning of the show, but none of that matters. All that matters is that there’s a quirky alien who goes around battling monsters and saving the day with his big old brain and a whole lotta heart (two of them, in fact).

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(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The MovieStarship Troopers

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: 10 years after making his first blistering satire of American culture disguised as a silly action movie with RoboCop, director Paul Verhoeven topped himself. His big screen take on Robert Heinlein’s militaristic science fiction novel Starship Troopers is less of an adaptation and more of an evisceration, a shiny, big-budget middle finger to fascism disguised as a vapid blockbuster. Would you like to know more?

Why It’s Essential Viewing: I was too young too fully wrap my head around Starship Troopers when it first came out in 1997. As a youngster, it was clearly a big, bombastic action movie filled with violence and epic battles and dizzying visual effects. Watching armies of soldiers battle armies of giant bugs was a blast. But it was also lunkheaded, stupid, filled with wooden actors playing stock characters. It was all nonsense: lightweight fluff that was enjoyable enough as cinematic junk food. But Paul Verhoeven had proven himself ahead of the curve with RoboCop and he proved it again here, because Starship Troopers is the most damning, angry, brutal satire of authoritarianism ever made by a major studio. And it’s been smuggled inside of a different movie altogether. Would you like to know more?

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Movie: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: A London author (Lily James from Cinderella and Baby Driver) receives a letter from a quiet, hunky, mysterious man (Michiel Huisman, AKA Daario Naharis from Game of Thrones) who lives on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. He’s a part of a literary society with a fascinating origin story, and the writer eventually travels there to meet the group in person, only to realize their story is even more complex than she could have foreseen. Naturally, the writer and the hunk with the tragic backstory fall in love.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: Director Mike Newell helmed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but he’s probably best known for his romantic films: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mona Lisa Smile, Pushing Tin, and Love in the Time of Cholera. (He also directed the atrocious 2010 Disney movie Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but nobody’s perfect.) This movie puts him fully back in romance mode, and while writers Don Roos and Tom Bezucha do a lot of heavy lifting with the script, which can veer from swooning romance to, um, some Nazi stuff, Newell is responsible for making watching the film feel like the movie equivalent of curling up at a seaside cottage to read your favorite novel. With its sweeping countrysides, stunning vistas, and sublime lighting, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is among the most beautifully shot of Netflix’s original movies. Read More »

Hot Rod

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Hot Rod

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) is a self-proclaimed stuntman who spends his days trying to live up to the legacy of his father, who he believes used to test stunts for Evel Knievel before the famous daredevil made the jumps himself. But he also hopes to prove his manhood to his step-father Frank (Ian McShane) by beating the hell out of him in a fight. Unfortunately, a wrench gets thrown in his plans when Frank becomes deathly ill, leaving Rod with only one option: raise $50,000 to pay for life-saving surgery, all so he can finally defeat Frank.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Hot Rod was the first movie to come from the crew known as The Lonely Island on Saturday Night Live. After becoming famous for their SNL Digital Shorts, Akiva Shaffer, Jorma Taccone, and Andy Samberg made the jump to the big screen with an original comedy. With a script from writer Pam Brady (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Team America: World Police), Hot Rod has the feel of a 1980s extreme sports movie mixed with the absurd comedy that people came to love about SNL Digital Shorts, and it does so with a stellar ensemble cast of comedy heavy hitters. Read More »

robin hood prince of thieves quarantine

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: It’s Robin Hood – for the ’90s! The legendary outlaw gets an origin story full of grit and nasty details – Robin Hood literally rubs horse shit on himself at one point – but also understands how to have fun. That’s more than can be said for the many attempts to reboot Robin Hood since this film came out.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves feels like a relic from a long-ago time. There have been two big attempts to reboot the character – one directed by Ridley Scott in 2010, and a recent entry in 2018 that had Robin firing arrows in slow-motion while jumping off rooftops. Both of those films were a bust – Scott’s was dreadfully dour while the 2018 film was trying way too hard to emulate The Dark KnightPrince of Thieves has none of those problems. Sure, it attempts to be gritty at times, and it’s far darker than the classic 1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood. But this movie also understands that no one wants to watch an overly-serious Robin Hood movie. They want action, and adventure, and romance, and questionable accents! And they get all that, and more.

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(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The SeriesChopped

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: There are three rounds. Mandatory mystery ingredients for each course. If your dish doesn’t cut it, you will be chopped.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Until recently, food competition shows had a reputation for being cutthroat television, edited for maximum drama and intensity. They weren’t about the food as much as they were about the spectacle that could unfold in the pressure cooker environment like a professional kitchen — and occasionally a fun test for how many exotic ingredients you know. But more genial cooking shows have become all the rage recently, with the influx of nicecore shows like The Great British Baking Show or Nailed It! However, even those shows are less about the food and more about the bright personalities of its contestants or judges. But the Food Network’s insanely addicting Chopped offers the perfect median. A competition show that pits four chefs against each other over three courses, each of which are required to be made with a basket of mystery ingredients, Chopped sounds like it could represent the worst of cooking reality shows. But a panel of strict judges who never fall for the contestant sob story, and a competition that gives loving attention to the dishes and cooking technique, makes Chopped the rare cooking competition show that values the food first and foremost.

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The Black Cauldron

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The MovieThe Black Cauldron

Where You Can Stream It: Disney+

The Pitch: In a far-flung fantasy world, a young assistant pig keeper discovers that his pig has the power to see the future. Meanwhile, the evil Horned King is searching for the mythical Black Cauldron, which will help him raise an army of undead warriors and take over the world. As the two storylines converge, the young pig keeper’s mettle is tested, friendships are formed, and lessons are learned.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: The phrase “the night is darkest just before dawn” could apply to The Black Cauldron, which endangered the entire future of animation at Disney a few years before the Disney Renaissance brought the company to new creative and financial heights. Reportedly costing $44 million and only earning $21 million domestically, The Black Cauldron is a fascinating failure and a piece of Disney history that’s more interesting than its reputation gives it credit for. Read More »

Best in Show

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Best in Show

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: The tension is palpable, the excitement is mounting, and the heady scent of competition is in the air as hundreds of eager contestants from across America prepare to take part in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest events of their lives – the Mayflower Dog Show. The canine contestants and their owners are as wondrously diverse as the great country that has bred them.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Christopher Guest has been playing in the fake documentary format since the 1980s. Not only did he write and star in the rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (where he’s responsible for the famous scene where the amps go up to 11), but he brought some of the same comedic sensibilities to Synchronized Swimmers, one of the most famous pre-recorded Saturday Night Live sketches of all time. But for my money, Christopher Guest’s biggest laughs and finest characters come from Best in Show, a mockumentary that follows a variety of eclectic dog owners who are preparing to participate in the Mayflower Dog Show. Thanks to an outstanding ensemble cast and a penchant for improvisation, this movie is pure comedy gold, and there are some good dogs for you to enjoy too. Read More »

quarantine stream freddy vs. jason

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Freddy vs. Jason

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu and HBO Max

The Pitch: Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th series and A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger finally meet face-to-face, and when they’re not battling each other, they’re brutally murdering a bunch of dumb teens played by people in their mid-3os.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: There’s a trashy joy to be had when watching Freddy vs. Jason. Like watching a garbage fire out under a sky full of brilliant stars, this film is both beautiful and hideous. With a script so nonsensical that it might as well not exist, Freddy vs. Jason is worth your time for one reason, and one reason only: it brings together two iconic slashes and allows them to beat the shit out of each other.

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(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The MovieColumbus

Where You Can Stream It: Criterion Channel

The Pitch: John Cho stars as Jin, the estranged son of a renowned architect who finds himself stranded in Columbus, Indiana when his father suddenly falls ill during a speaking tour. While wandering the artfully designed Midwestern city, he strikes up an unusual friendship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), an architecture enthusiast who works at the local library and is trapped in her own situation, taking care of her recovering drug addict mom.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: I was transfixed by Columbus when I first saw the delicate feature debut by Kogonoda. There was nothing flashy or exciting about it — it was just about two lost souls who connect and bond while wandering through a pleasant environment. It’s a premise that’s been done plenty of times before and maybe more effectively by others (all of which are catnip to me), but still, Columbus struck a chord. But when the time came at the end of 2017 to choose our top films of the year, I foolishly left it off my list — a decision I would regret as Columbus continued to occupy a space in my head for months, years later. What was it about Columbus? Was it the oh so satisfying way that Kogonada framed his every shot, using the clean architecture of the town to draw the eye, in an almost mesmerizing fashion? Was it Cho and Richardson’s quiet, vulnerable performances? Was it an aesthetic that, for all intents and purposes, could be mistaken for a minimalist ASMR video? But there’s something soulful that stirs beneath the placid surface, about the rare kinship that can be found in melancholy.

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