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Friday, June 21, 2024

The Bear Makes You Taste the Tension | IGN Streaming Staff Picks

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It’s possible you may not have noticed but, uh… there are so many things to watch. Whether it’s streaming, on cable (dozens of us still have it. DOZENS!), or in theaters, there is an absolute waterfall of art being dropped on us all at any given second. It can feel pretty impossible to navigate that sometimes, but the IGN team is here to help make sense of it all.

…Ok, so the IGN team is here to talk about our favorite stuff! But maybe you like the same stuff we like. That’s helping, right?

This isn’t a roundup of the website’s top rated film and television, or any other kind of aggregate. We just love entertainment, and we want to chill out and chat about the art we loved this month. Some of it will be mainstream! Other times? Maybe you haven’t even heard of it! The world is our oyster. Also? Sometimes we get to shows and movies late, too! So you may even catch a couple older favorites on the list as you dig in!

The Rehearsal

Watch on HBO Max
Clint Gage, Managing Features Producer, CineFix & IGN.

Over-thinking movies and TV since 1982, endlessly fascinated by sad things made funny and vice versa.

Nathan Fielder’s undeniable knack for hyper dry and hilariously awkward reality television made his Nathan For You directly the smartest, cringiest series in years. Remarkably though, he never punched down, and most of the time Nathan cast himself as the butt of the jokes. With his new show on HBO Max, The Rehearsal, he’s in the middle of his own experiments once again.

Helping people “Rehearse” for trying, real life situations through elaborately staged simulations, The Rehearsal begins by plumbing the depths of the subjects life. Like a man ashamed to let his friends believe he has a master’s degree who finally wants to come clean. And while you may think a seemingly simple dilemma doesn’t deserve the absurd lengths Nathan goes to help (including building an exact replica of an entire bar on a soundstage) what it reveals is that nothing in actuality is THAT simple.

And by the time you think to be impressed by the respect and care he shows for The Reheasal’s willingly vulnerable participants you start to realize what ELSE the show can be. The true brilliance of it lies in Fielder’s willingness to put himself on equal footing with the people he’s Rehearsing. One second he’s deadpanning a joke about his bowel movements and the next, he’s questioning his own motives and insecurities about the process. It’s shaping up to be a long form treatise on empathy that’s all at once hilariously absurd and warmly genuine.

Check out our review of The Rehearsal.

Uncle From Another World

Watch on Netflix
Akeem, Host

Entertainment and pop culture enthusiast who geeks out on the weirdest things across the Internet.

Based on the manga of the same name, Uncle from Another World is a new Netflix Anime that airs new episodes weekly. I’ve never read the manga, but the overall premise of the anime was intriguing enough for me to give it a watch. The story focuses on a man who was in a coma for 17 years, where he awakens speaking an unworldly language and possessing magical powers. While comatose, he was apparently transported to another world where he served as a heroic guardian. His love of video games is apparent, as his first question to his nephew (Takafumi) is where does SEGA stand currently in the console wars.

We now follow the adventures of Takafumi and his magical uncle as he learns about the modern world and we find out more about his experiences in the fantasy world of Granbahamal. What makes this Isekai anime series so interesting and unique is the fact that it shrugs off the notion of taking place in a fantasy world, placing our hero back in their own reality. Most Isekai in this genre tend to have the hero within the fantasy world, with the goal of finding their way back home, but oftentimes that goal takes a back seat to the trials found in their current realm.

Uncle From Another World is refreshing in that it’s a new take on the tried and true Isekai formula, and one I’ll be following weekly on Netflix. And if you’re a fan of SEGA, Sonic, and RPGs, there’s a handful of references thrown into the mix thanks to Takafumi’s uncle’s video game obsession.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Watch on Paramount+
Tyler Robertson, Social Media Coordinator/Producer

Sci-Fi and Superhero addict with a penchant for getting hung up on the little details.

As the “movie guy” in many of my social circles, I love helping people find a new thing to watch. It’s really hard though, when something I’m trying to recommend is on Paramount+, just because I know it’s immediately going to be a hard sell. Paramount+ is one of the smaller services in today’s streaming-heavy world, but if I can get you past that barrier, I cannot recommend Star Trek: Strange New Worlds enough.

I didn’t necessarily grow up watching Star Trek, but it was more that Star Trek was on in the evenings while I was doing things. What I remember most about my time in the Final Frontier is that Star Trek stories are always supposed to be two things: hopeful and inspiring. It’s these two tenants of the series that make it different from other sci-fi, and it’s what Strange New Worlds captures perfectly. And not only is it a hopeful and inspiring show, but it also captures the charm, aesthetics, and overall vibe of the classic series.

Strange New Worlds really feels like a modern show with classic sensibilities. It looks amazing, has great CGI for what it is, and an incredible cast. At the same time, the story structure feels very reminiscent of the Original Series, with new problems to solve each week, and the crew of the Enterprise there to solve them. And it’s probably the only show on the air that will make you feel good about the future of humanity, rather than completely helpless, which is nice.

Check out our Season 1 review of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

In the Mouth of Madness

Watch on Shudder
Tom Jorgensen, Senior Video Producer

I make IGN videos a lot and I like horror a lot. I work on horror movies whenever I get the chance.

Maybe it’s the recent passing of one of its stars, David Warner, or the fact that I just got to see a prop from the movie on the show floor at SDCC, but dang, I’ve had In the Mouth of Madness on my mind. Directed by John Carpenter and arguably his last great theatrically-released movie, In the Mouth of Madness is a love letter to Lovecraft and sees the horror master taking huge swings in depicting the mental breakdown of its lead character, John Trent (played with enthusiasm by Sam Neill.)

Trent’s on the trail of Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow), a popular horror author who’s gone missing just before the release of his rabidly-anticipated new book. Trent tracks the author to Hobb’s End, New Hampshire, a Castle Rock-esque fictional town which Cane has somehow willed into existence, and there discovers that Cane may just be a puppet for powers far beyond anyone’s comprehension. Carpenter pulls out every trick in his bag to channel the abject unknowability of cosmic horror, and the result is a movie with a unique focus on toying with the viewer’s perception of reality, full of stark imagery and spooky sound design. In the Mouth of Madness also completes Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy” (it’s preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness): three films which deal with world-ending stakes using very different vehicles for that destruction.

And hey, being a born Granite Stater, I’ve gotta take the New Hampshire horror representation wherever I can get it.

The Old Man

Watch on Hulu
Scott Collura, Executive Editor, Entertainment Features

I used to watch Star Trek on a three-inch by three-inch black & white screen. Things haven’t changed that much.

At a glance, you might think you know what The Old Man is all about. A retired special-ops one-man-killing-machine is pulled back into the action to put his lethal skills to work once again, only this time it’s personal! And you’d be partially right. But the Jeff Bridges starrer is so much more than that.

What The Old Man is really about, and where it excels, is in its examination of parenthood and legacy. As Bridges’ Dan Chase is stalked by his former employer, the CIA, an old colleague/nemesis emerges in John Lithgow’s Harold Harper, who has reasons of his own for why he needs to find his former friend. Complementing this cat and mouse game are flashbacks to the pair’s younger days in Afghanistan, where the root of the present day’s problems are slowly revealed.

The twists and turns of what happened then, and how it will affect the now, engage throughout the seven-episode season, while players like Amy Brenneman, Alia Shawkat and Joel Grey all bring further (spoilery) complications. By the penultimate episode of the season, The Old Man even enters a globetrotting, James Bond-esque mindset for a stretch. The show has already been renewed for a second season, and there is plenty of intrigue left to explore.

The Bear

Watch on Hulu
Rebekah Valentine, Reporter

When I’m not geeking out over expertly-crafted plot twists, I am cooking food, thinking about cooking food, or reading about cooking food.

Watching The Bear, even from the comfort of a soft couch and a warm blanket on a weekend night, is a mental ordeal. Set in the kitchen of a fictional Chicago sandwich shop thrown into even more disarray than it was already in when its owner commits suicide and leaves the shop to his award-winning chef of a brother, The Bear’s frantic, fast-paced kitchen will immediately stress you the hell out; even moreso if you have kitchen experience yourself. It is not a calm show to wind-down to, nor is it one to dive into without checking on multiple content warnings for discussion of suicide, drug abuse, and abusive behaviors.

With those caveats, though, The Bear is beautifully done. It’s a very effective eight-episode examination of family, grief, and legacy, with multiple emotional character arcs that more than justify the almost-too-perfect resolution of its final episode. By keeping its cast and primary set – ‘The Beef’ – small, The Bear feels deeply intimate and almost ensemble, though the cast is expertly led by Jeremy Allen White as the lost and struggling business inheritor Carmy.

The Bear seems especially interested in being beloved to Chicagoans (which I am not, but the loving depiction of the city has made me want to visit immediately) and food lovers (which I definitely am). Chaotic as its episodes can feel, The Bear contrasts the wildness of its kitchen with slow, deliberate shots of beautiful dishes, interspersed with plot-relevant, thoughtful discussion of sauce making, donut frying, and image after image of delectably sloppy beef sandwiches. Come for the food imagery; stay to watch every character involved slowly become better versions of themselves.

One last note – Episode 7: Review is especially incredible. It’s shorter than any of the other episodes, and most of its action takes place over a very small handful of long, uncut shots in the restaurant that perfectly encapsulate the escalating chaos of the season’s dramatic climax.

The Way of the Househusband

Watch on Netflix
Jacob Kienlen, SEO Specialist

I spend too much time looking at search trends and even more time watching cartoons.

Although I do watch quite a bit of anime, one genre that I’ve always had trouble getting into is comedy anime. I love a good fight scene or giant robot, but when it comes to jokes, I think a lot of it gets lost in translation for me. So I was pleasantly surprised when I started watching The Way of the Househusband on Netflix and it immediately drew out the laughter buried inside of me. The story is centered primarily around Tatsu, an ex-Yakuza boss who has given up his crime gig to devote his life to the art of being a househusband. He brings the same level of intensity to food preparation and household chores as he did to a being the head of a drug trafficking organization, causing a number of comedic misunderstandings.

All-in-all, it’s a fun slice-of-life show with an interesting art style that I highly recommend watching. The episodes themselves are fairly short and broken up into 3 separate scenarios that are about 5 minutes apiece.

Doctor Who

Watch on HBO Max
Jonathon Dornbush, Senior Features Editor

Love movies and TV that try to tackle big questions with plenty of heart, especially if they make time for some silly and scary case-of-the-week episodes.

You ever start getting into a franchise long after it’s started and thought “How did I miss out on this thing all this time!?” Well, that’s exactly what I’ve felt while watching Doctor Who, starting with its first Modern Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), while working my way through David Tennant and Matt Smith’s tenures, and am currently on Peter Capaldi’s years. I have blazed through the series like I have very few shows because of how precisely tuned to what I look for in storytelling it is. Doctor Who wears its heart so earnestly on its sleeve, a show tackling big-picture questions about life, death, and the meaning of being human through some of the wackiest and scariest alien stories its creators can think up. It’s got plenty of cheesy effects, especially early on, and sure not every story lands. But it so brilliantly touches on the human condition, and runs through story with reckless abandon, that I’ve loved that blend of the unknown with the very, very human.

Not every Doctor may work for you, though, so don’t be afraid to jump ahead to the start of each iteration’s stories. I’m so grateful to have gone through it from the jump, for all the layers built into its story, but, no spoilers.

Dig into all of IGN's Doctor Who reviews.

Westworld

Watch on HBO Max
John Davison, Publisher

Has been thinking, writing, and talking about games and sci-fi for a very long time. Used to run the games magazines you grew up with, like EGM and the Official PlayStation Magazine.

It’s been two years since Westworld’s tightly-packed and confusing third season, and in the intervening time the way we all watch television has changed completely. HBO Max launched a couple of weeks after the season finale, and the ensuing change in behavior has had old-fashioned entertainment pundits squabbling about the apparent crash in the show’s ratings. Of course fewer people are watching it on cable, if there was every a show in HBO’s line-up designed for streaming and rewatching – Westworld is it.

While the first season stuck to the basic premise of the 1973 movie – robots in a futuristic Western-style theme park get pissed-off at being shot-at and (literally) fucked by puny humans, so decide to kill them all – subsequent storylines have had limited success with showing what comes next. While seasons two and three struggled with how to show hostile, sentient robots integrating with a future society, season four has a “you wanna get nuts? Let's get nuts” quality to it. You want angry androids and aloof, human-hating AI? Season four borrows familiar and sinister concepts from both Terminator and The Matrix, turns them inside out, and presents them in a manner that’s both cerebral and oddly beautiful.

This is not the kind of show you can half-watch while doom-scrolling on your phone. It demands your attention every moment. It’s so densely-loaded with interconnected ideas that each episode warrants a double-view, just to take it all in. Fortunately the performances from its key players are phenomenal. In season four Ed Harris’ increasingly complex Man-in-Black is a true standout, as is Tessa Thompson’s deliciously-menacing Charlotte Hale – but honestly, there’s not a dud in the mix.

If you like your sci-fi light and breezy, this is absolutely not for you. But if your taste runs to the weird, thinky stuff that was so prevalent in the 1970s, this is worth the time investment.

Check out our Season 4 premiere review of Westworld.

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