This weekend, Netflix released a new original, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, and it’s one of the best movies on the platform. Our own Karen Han called the film an “an explosive, affecting masterpiece,” and for most folks on staff, it was the clear favorite thing we watched this weekend, as challenging as it was rewarding. Alissa Wilkinson at our sibling-site Vox.com wrote “So much of what happens in Da 5 Bloods is emblematic of how Lee insists you engage with the film as a mindful participant, not just as a passive observer.” That eloquently summarizes the experience of watching the lengthy film, which bounces between genres, splices in documentary footage, and drifts into direct-to-camera soliloquies to ensure the viewers always paying attention.
But that wasn’t the only thing we watched this weekend. Below, we’ve collected our other favorite selections, so that you can watch them alongside us. Be sure to let us know in the comments what you enjoyed over the weekend, too.
As protests against police violence continue nationwide, sparked by the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others, a variety of streaming services and studios have made relevant movies pertaining to black experience free to view. The Criterion Channel has gone farthest, putting a strong collection of features by black filmmakers or about black characters on the free-to-view pile. Among them: Ousmane Sembene’s 1966 Senegalese movie Black Girl, about a beautiful young Dakar woman who’s thrilled when her white employer invites her to move to France and work there. Then she arrives in France and discovers the job isn’t what she expected.
The film (which is just 60 minutes long) comes to a frustrating, illogical point at the end because it’s more steeped in symbolism than its own narrative reality. It’s a clear metaphor for colonialism, with the white woman (Anne-Marie Jelinek) exploiting and abusing her employee Diouana (Mbissine Thérèse Diop), limiting her movements, and constantly changing her job. But until that abrupt ending, the film is gorgeous and startling. In the French scenes, Diop is a haughty, regal presence whose voiceover (recorded later by a different actress) betrays the despair and anger she refuses to show on her face. But at home, she’s playful and joyous, scandalizing her boyfriend by dancing on a war memorial, or singing to her mother about her new job. It’s a window into a past world, made with a sense of play, but also with passion and righteous fury.—Tasha Robinson
Black Girl is temporarily streaming for free on the Criterion Channel website.
DC Universe’s hard-R, animated Harley Quinn series failed to grab me in its first few episodes, but I was recently convinced to give it another shake and now it’s my go-to “something to put on while I eat dinner” joy watch. I wish I’d figured out that it was “The Venture Bros. but about actual DC superheroes, not stand-ins for them” earlier. This weekend I finally got to the episode where Harley and Ivy smooch, and some of the fallout from that, including Michael Ironside returning to voice Darkseid, and a raging kegger on Paradise Island. —Susana Polo
Harley Quinn is streaming on DC Universe.
Into the Dark: Good Boy
Blumhouse’s Hulu anthology Into the Dark is known for its holiday-based horror movies, released monthly. This June, Into the Dark celebrated Pet Appreciation Week (yes, it’s a thing) with Good Boy, a delightful, little horror-comedy about an anxiety dog that destroys everything that stresses his owner out — or should I say everyone. Starring Judy Greer as Maggie, the anxious new pet owner, Good Boy is by far the best Into the Dark entry yet, thanks in large part to the double whammy of charisma that is Judy Greer and a cute dog.
Good Boy leans into the ridiculous premise just enough that it reads as more quirky comedy than straight horror (Steve Guttenberg co-stars as Maggie’s sleazy boss) but still finds time to bathe its leads (Greer and Chico the dog) in buckets of blood. If you’re looking for genuine scares, Into the Dark isn’t your best bet, but if you’re in the mood for something light-but-gory, Good Boy is a treat.
Into the Dark: Good Boy is streaming on Hulu.
I missed this series when it debuted on Crunchyroll in January, but was happily surprised to see it as a launch title for HBO Max. The latest production from director Masaaki Yuasa (Ping Pong: The Animation, Devilman Crybaby), Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is an anime about anime — its history, its creation, and its cultural value. For all its braininess, the premise is simple: Three high school girls bond over their mutual affection for creating anime (and making money) and produce original shorts, along the way teaching one another, and the audience, how animation works. I recognize that might sound dry, so please do me a favor and just watch the opening credit sequence, embedded above. How can anybody resist this finely distilled shot of joy?—Chris Plante
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
I watched all five Pirates of the Caribbean movies this weekend. If you don’t want to watch a 12-hour series about why people fear death, you can just stick to Curse of the Black Pearl, which remains the series’ high-water mark. Gore Verbinsky’s first Pirates movie, which originally came out in 2001, is still extremely entertaining. The mix of practical effects and CGI skeleton still holds up remarkably well and the movie’s as fun as anything on Disney Plus.
It’s also the only movie in the series that lets Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) take her natural place as the main character which means you get just enough of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow for it to be endearing, rather than overstaying his welcome as he does in later movies. Also Captain Hector Barbossa is one of the best blockbuster characters of the 21st century and we don’t give Geoffrey Rush enough credit for that. —Austen Goslin
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is streaming on Disney Plus.
Queer Eye (season 5)
This weekend I watched Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, which, as our intro notes, is a total banger. I won’t belabor the point other than to say I was glad to see Lee work in a kind of action, Quentin Tarantino mode (instead of Tarantino trying to write Black characters) and, my god, Delroy Lindo in this movie. It’s astonishing.
On the other end of the spectrum from Lee’s Vietnam War saga is the other thing I couldn’t wait to click on: new Queer Eye. The Fab Five return, this time to Philadelphia, to help not only makeover wardrobes and hairstyles, but uplift the spirits of the lives they enter. The show’s Netflix reboot has a reputation for bringing on the tears, and the fifth season doesn’t take that for granted. Whether they’re rejuvenating the passion of a gay pastor or reminding workhorses to self-care, these men are doing incredible, human work while feeling the fun and fulfillment of doing it. Each hour is a pleasure. Yes, I cried. C’mon. —Matt Patches
Queer Eye season 5 is streaming on Netflix
The internet loves Shrek 2, and for good reason: Dreamworks’ animated film is rife with iconic scenes and jokes that work both out of context and within the movie. There’s the ever-famous “Holding Out for a Hero” scene where the Fairy Godmother belts out the Bonnie Tyler song while Shrek and his pals raid the castle on the back of a gigantic gingerbread man. Later Shrek and Donkey make jokes about unions when they try to infiltrate Fairy Godmother’s factory. Shrek tries to fall asleep in Fiona’s childhood bedroom, but can’t stop looking at the poster of “Sir Justin” staring down at him from her ceiling (this hits a bit harder when you’re in your twenties and your fiance is staying with you in your parents house). If at one point you pondered “huh, should I rewatch Shrek 2 and will it live up to the great movie I’ve concocted in my head?”, I am pleased to inform you that the answer to both those questions is a resounding “yes.” (I keep thinking about this scene in particular.)
Not only does Shrek 2 reach the same emotional highs as the first Shrek, it dials up the making-fun-of-pop-culture schtick up to 11, and infuses a nuanced “meet the parents” plotline that dissects some of the lingering questions floating around at the end of the first movie. Yeah, Far Far Away is Hollywood satire, but Shrek also has to grapple with a culture clash between Fiona’s family and make sacrifices for her in the name of their love. The Shrek movies aren’t all funny gags and riffs — there’s heart there! (Well, at least in the first two).—Petrana Radulovic
Shrek 2 is streaming on Amazon Prime.