What did the Polygon staff spend their weekend watching? Whether it’s the latest virally popular Netflix series, discovering an animated gem, or educating ourselves in older genre classics, most of us find something worth recommending before we head back to work.
And as usual, the answers range widely, as some people check out what’s new and popular on streaming services, and some return to past favorites. So here’s what we’re watching right now, and what you might enjoy watching as well. Head to the comments to drop in your own recommendations.
Great British Baking Show
The Great British Baking Show is back! A new season of Netflix’s baking competition series (known as The Great British Bake Off overseas) kicked off with Cake Week on Friday, a thoroughly polite dustup involving Battenbergs, pineapple upside-down cakes, and fondant-wrapped busts of famous people composed of cake sponge. The first episode of the new season was full of delicious drama to the point of being overbaked: cakes were hastily microwaved, accidentally knocked onto the floor, melted into puddles, and savaged by Paul Hollywood. One baker even combined bubble gum and soda flavors in a cake that makes one wonder if they’ve ever seen Prue and Paul give an opinion on taste. But the star of the show was baker Dave’s tribute to former Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge.
The show’s showstopper challenge demanded that bakers create a bust of one of their heroes from cake. Construction-based bakes are always stressful to watch, but this particular challenge was pure “you tried” comedy. Cribbing from Netflix’s own Nailed It!, almost every cake hero was a melted, blobby mess, but it was Three Flavours of Tom DeLonge that reached viral hit status on Twitter. I feel for the bakers; cake sponge does not have sculptural qualities of clay or marble, so everyone deserves an A for effort. The Great British Baking Show’s graphics department also deserves praise for the delightful interior shots of DeLonge’s head. If there’s one way to start a season, it’s with the fondant flesh of a pop punk legend (that no one on the show seems to know).
It was a momentous episode, not just for Three Flavours of Tom DeLonge. New co-host Matt Lucas joined the show, replacing Sandi Toksvig, and brought a fun, slightly creepy energy to the proceedings. It was also the first GBBO season filmed during lockdown — the show is being produced in a “bubble,” an extra layer of challenge for this season’s bakers. I’m delighted that appointment television is here again. —Michael McWhertor
The Great British Baking Show Collection 8 is streaming on Netflix.
And everything else we’re watching...
A handful of movies from my childhood blew my little brain: Gattaca, Tron, and Contact. I haven’t watched any of these films in two decades, so I figure what better way to pass quarantine than see how they hit my grown-up noggin.
I began my nostalgia tour this weekend with Contact, which I enjoyed, just not as much as I did as a kid. Jodie Foster plays an astronomer searching for intelligent life (and meaning) in the universe, while slowly falling in love with a journalist/political influencer/self-help icon played by Matthew McConaughey. As a grown-up, the central “man of science vs. woman of faith” debate feels more polemical — I’d forgotten that McConaughey plays a preacher-turned-spiritual guru to the President of the United States. The core message feels a little thinner (especially compared to the more recent Arrival) but the story is no less propulsive, particularly the final 40 minutes which play like an acid trip at the planetarium. Getting older can be a drag, but here’s a positive: we get to rewatch great films, discovering new things to love, seeing them, in a way, for the first time with a fresh perspective. Now to see if Tron holds up to my impossible childhood expectations! —Chris Plante
Contact is streaming on HBO Max.
I slept on Doctor Sleep. Reviews from last fall’s sequel to The Shining were mixed (and our critic’s take was dire!). But in the months after the movie bombed at the box office, I only heard good things about Hush and Gerald’s Game director Mike Flanagan’s take on the Stephen King novel — including praise for an extended cut that turned a two-and-a-half-hour movie into a three-hour-movie. Having respected a lot of Flanagan’s past work, and feeling high off his Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor (more on that after the embargo next month), I finally carved out time to witness what many saw as a misguided attempt to build on Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic legacy. [Note: I opted for the theatrical cut.]
Heeeeeeeeere’s Johnny with a take: Doctor Sleep is fantastic. Using traces of Kubrick’s movie as nightmarish memories, Flanagan ties the paths of recovering alcoholic Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), superpowered shiner Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), and Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), the psychic leader of a soul-sucking, immortal cult, together into a sprawling mythological epic. Similar to the two Haunting series, Flanagan has a sense for how to keep King’s literary flavor intact, and the characters grounded in reality. The violence is vicious — trigger warning: Rose and her gang feed on helpless kids like Jacob Tremblay! — the theme of self-destruction is as terrifying as the supernatural, and the eventual stretch of story that leads Dan back to the Overlook hotel feels earned. For me, the movie doesn’t feel like a Shining sequel at all, and more of what I’d always hoped we’d get out of a Dark Tower adaptation: A mesmerizing collision of fantasy and reality staged atop a bedrock of mythology. —Matt Patches
The Green Inferno
There is a scene in Eli Roth’s grueling cannibal exploitation horror film The Green Inferno that almost made my 100-minute investment in the film feel worth it: A group of protestors, held captive by native people after their plane crashes in the jungle, are fed a mysterious meal. Upon realizing that they are consuming their recently departed friend Samantha, the lone vegan in the group slashes her own throat. Immediately following her death by suicide, one of her fellow protestors concocts a plan to stuff her stomach with his weed stash, hoping that their captors will get so stoned when they cook her, that the prisoners will be able to escape amid the confusion. Yet another protestor decides this is an opportune moment to masturbate, which he justifies as a release to clear his mind. Disgusted, a third protestor starts to strangle the wanker, leading to the inspired closed captioning description “[tugging intensifies].”
It is an ugly, bewildering scene that skyrockets The Green Inferno into wild, text-your-friends “you seeing this shit?!” absurdist territory. I can’t necessarily recommend The Green Inferno, a brutally gory and smug reproach of “slacktivism,” but if you’re interested in watching this particular scene, it takes place approximately 69 minutes into the film. —MM
The Green Inferno is streaming on Netflix.
King of the Hill
As a kid, I only knew about King of the Hill from an online mini golf Flash game I would play with my siblings on the family computer. Recommended by my Texan buddy who said the show is an accurate depiction of Texas life, I’ve finally been watching the series and ... I am addicted. I found out Bobby Hill’s voice actress also voiced Pajama Sam, the star of one of Humongous Entertainment’s old computer games, and my life hasn’t been quite the same since. My friend said they were interested in using charcoal to grill some Korean BBQ, and I only half-ironically scolded them for not using propane. That’s where my life is at this moment. —Julia Lee
King of the Hill is streaming on Hulu.
Mystic Pop-up Bar
Having completed (and loved) Strong Girl Bong-soon, I dug around Netflix’s impressive catalogue of supernatural Korean shows to find something else lightheart. Mystic Pop-up Bar is mostly lighthearted but also occasionally complicated and sad, and I definitely found myself reaching for the tissues as I polished the show off over the weekend.
The no-nonsense bar owner Weol-ju (Hwang Jung-eum) is an afterlife reject, forced to settle the grudges of 100,000 souls or be destroyed. With only a few more conflicts to resolve and less than a month to do it, she’s feeling the pressure. If only she could harness the powers of sweet Han Kang-bae (Yook Sung-jae), who can make people confess their deepest truth with only a touch. Even with the help of gentle former-cop Chief Gwi (Choi Won-young), she’s going to have a hard time fighting off rogue demons and reincarnated menaces to get it done.
The show takes its time unraveling its backstory (there is 500 years worth!), constantly hinting at the truth and rarely pulling a “gotcha!” style twist. Plus the food — there’s no shortage of glamorous food shots that will remind you to stop and eat while you marathon this incredibly engaging, moving show. —Jenna Stoeber
Mystic Pop-up Bar is streaming on Netflix.
The thing about the Paddington movies is that they are perfect. I’ve seen them before, but rewatched them over the weekend with my partner, who had not seen them, with Paddington on Saturday night and Paddington 2 on Sunday night. I honestly had forgotten that they are actually kind of emotionally harrowing, and ended up crying a few times.
If you’re not familiar with Paddington Bear, the general gist of the story is that a polite little bear named Paddington is trying to make his way in the city of London after leaving his home in “darkest Peru.” It’s just a sweet time for everyone. Ben Whishaw provides Paddington’s voice in the films, and Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant star as the villains in the first and second film, respectively. A third Paddington is supposedly on the way, or at least it had better be. —Karen Han
Paddington/Paddington 2 are available to rent on Amazon.
If you watched The Mandalorian and thought “this Pedro Pascal guy sure does a good job playing a reticent mercenary, but I wonder what he’d be like as a chatty mercenary instead? And also wore a helmet where I could actually see his face?” then you’d have as good of a time as I did watching this low-budget sci-fi flick.
Centered around a financially struggling father and daughter who search alien moons and planets for valuable commodities, Prospect isn’t trying to tell an expansive or existential story. Instead it focuses on the relationships that people choose (or are forced into) when living on the ragged edge of society. The practical effects do an extraordinary job of making the world feel tactile and lived in and the Pacific Northwest location is made just alien enough to seem otherworldly. And despite some similarities to Pascal’s role as the Mandalorian, his roguish performance is quite different here, not the least because we can see that charismatic face. —Clayton Ashley
Prospect is streaming on Hulu
Trolls: World Tour
When the news gets inescapably heavy and depressing, as it did last week, it’s tempting to retreat into something completely undemanding and unchallenging, and also potentially fun and pretty. That’s why I finally watched Trolls: World Tour, which just arrived on Hulu after an early stint in the “premium rental” $20 trenches. The original Trolls movie is a surprisingly good time — it’s surreal and almost obscenely perky, with some lively original songs that bring a subversive edge to its feel-good kid-movie vibe. The whole thing is consciously designed like an acid trip, complete with DayGlo colors and warping landscapes full of unexpected singing flowers and talking objects. So I’d hoped for something similar from the sequel.
I didn’t get it — the sequel’s a pretty standard kids’ quest movie, with a villain (voiced by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom) out to steal everyone’s uniqueness, and heroes (Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake) using music to stop her. The frustrating thing about the film for an adult viewer: the whole point of the plot is that all music is equally valid and that pop may be fun, but it shouldn’t overshadow other music, and yet all the music in the film is fed through a pop filter anyway.
But the visual design! The Trolls films are built around the conceit that the stories are being told through scrapbooks after the fact, so the entire world is designed like a crafting party, with fabric buildings, yarn stages, and a felt balloon. My absolute favorite images included a gorgeous canyon made of piled-up quilts, a pond where the foamy edge of the water is the ragged, frayed edge of a piece of cloth, and a waterfall consisting of silver ribbons. The songs are kinda boring and the plot’s pretty rote, but this film is shockingly beautiful and thought-through in all the design elements. —Tasha Robinson