Merry War on Christmas season to us all! You have just another couple of weeks until you can shut your idiot anti-vax/Fox Snooze relatives out of your life for another year—hang in there.
In the meantime, should you need a distraction from the latest “muh freedums!” rant from Grandpa Truck Nutz, here are 10 stream-worthy new series and movies that premiered over the past month or so that you might have missed. Consider it my gift to you, even though you got me nothing. (It’s fine, whatever.)
The Freak Brothers (Tubi): The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers was a ’60s underground comic about hippies, counterculture and drugs—now it’s Fox-owned Tubi’s first original series, so it looks like The Man won. The Freak Brothers follows Freewheelin’ Franklin Freek (voiced by Woody Harrelson), Fat Freddy Freekotowski (John Goodman), Phineas T. Phreakers (Pete Davidson) and their cat, Kitty (Tiffany Haddish), as they wake up from a 50-year, magic weed-induced “nap” in 2021. This cartoon is even more of a ramshackle mess than the average Adult Swim show, as it absolutely should be.
Marvel’s Hit-Monkey (Hulu): Didn’t know there was a Marvel Comics character named Hit-Monkey? Hey, they can’t all be Avengers. The animated Hit-Monkey is the journey of a determined Japanese snow monkey (voiced … well, grunted and screeched by Fred Tatasciore) out for revenge against the Tokyo Yakuza for the slaughter of his family. Aiding his vengeance quest is Bryce (Jason Sudeikis), an American assassin-turned-ghost mentor. Hit-Monkey is a bloody, violent ride with the occasional emotional flourish, but it’s Sudeikis’ nonstop comic monologuing that puts it over the top.
Hawkeye (Disney+): Speaking of Avengers, Disney+ continues its impossible streak of turning the team’s dullest links into viable action-comedy stars: Scarlet Witch, Vision, The Falcon, The Winter Soldier, Loki, and now … Hawkeye? Believe it. Super-archer Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) mentors/teams up with aspiring super-archer Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) to take down a criminal conspiracy. Also, Clint has to wrap things up in time to get back to the fam for the holidays—like Die Hard, Hawkeye is a Christmas story (even though there are Easter eggs galore here).
Mayor of Kingstown (Paramount+): In Renner’s other current series, Mayor of Kingstown, the dude cannot shoot an arrow. (There’s an early scene during which he fumbles with a bow—nice Marvel zing.) “Mayor” Mike McLusky (Renner) is an old-school fixer who presides over Kingstown, a city where the only growth industries are crime, incarceration and more crime. Mike helps keep an uneasy peace between Russian mobsters, Aryans, and Crips … until he doesn’t. Mayor of Kingstown is a bleak, tough-guy drama full of unsympathetic characters and delusions of Scorsese, but it somehow still works.
The Wheel of Time (Prime Video): In a world where magic is controlled by a select organization of women, Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) embarks on a journey with five young people, one of which is “prophesied to be the one who could save or destroy the world.” Chosen One Saga alert! The Wheel of Time, adapted from the 14-novel series, sits between Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings on the mega-budget blood ’n’ boobs fantasy-epic scale, royally pissing off the pious book purists. So what? Source material is meant to be mutated, and The Wheel of Time is heckin’ flashy escapism.
Cowboy Bebop (Netflix): Another long-awaited adaptation that has fans mumbling, “Actually … ,” Cowboy Bebop has the added challenge of moving from anime to live-action (which is problematic—see 2017’s Ghost in the Shell). This Cowboy Bebop stars John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda as galaxy-tripping, snark-quipping bounty hunters trying to stay one step ahead of their pasts, set to an aggressively jazzy score (hence, the Bebop). There’s some serious drama at play underneath the hilarious dialogue and splashy visuals—pay no attention to the anime-allegiant haters.
Ragdoll (AMC+): If you’ve been looking for a new serial killer show—and I know you have been—here’s the delightfully gruesome Ragdoll from the producers of Killing Eve. After six people have been murdered, dismembered and had their various parts sewn together into a human “ragdoll” (told you, gruesome), a U.K. detective trio (Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Thalissa Teixeira, and Lucy Hale) is assigned to the case. Twist: One of them is on the killer’s list of next victims. Below the blood and brooding, Ragdoll also has a wickedly dark sense of humor (the Killing Eve influence).
The Shrink Next Door (Apple TV+): The miniseries The Shrink Next Door is “inspired by true events,” which is at least as scary as a serial killer with sewing skills. Psychiatrist Dr. Ike (Paul Rudd) slowly insinuates himself into the life of longtime patient Marty (Will Ferrell), to the point of moving into his home and taking over his family’s business. Beyond Rudd and Ferrell’s painfully normcore grooming and eyewear choices, this black, bizarre story also stars Casey Wilson (Black Monday) and Kathryn Hahn (WandaVision). But this ain’t Anchorman—and wackiness does not, in fact, ensue.
Army of Thieves (Netflix): Screw Red Notice—Army of Thieves is the Netflix heist movie of the year (and screw Red Notice again, for good measure). A pre-zombie-outbreak prequel to last spring’s Army of the Dead, Army of Thieves is a snappy safecracker caper that follows the origin story of Dead’s Ludwig (Matthias Schweighöfer), known here as Sebastian. When he’s recruited into an elite team of criminals, Seb asks: “Is it like a movie film, where each one of us has a different skill set, and it’s only working together that we can pull off that which needs the pulling off?” Exactly.
South Park: Post Covid (Paramount+): Movie special South Park: Post Covid goes somewhere the veteran animated series has never gone before: the future, where Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Cartman and the gang are 40-something adults muddling through … another wave of COVID (sigh). Loaded with wall-to-wall land-of-tomorrow gags (like mandatory cryptocurrency, woke comedy, and the hysterically stupid new-wave song “In the Future”), South Park: Post Covid is the It Chapter 2/Da Vinci Code conspiracy thriller that Stephen King and Dan Brown never hatched. Spoiler: They killed Kenny (the bastards).