Categories
Sports Strength

What is the Best Season Of ‘The Ultimate Fighter?’

The 29th season of The Ultimate Fighter wrapped itself up at UFC on ESPN 30 and it saw Bryan Battle and Ricky Turcios go home with the UFC contracts in the middleweight and bantamweight divisions, respectively.

The coaches for the season were current featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega. That choice was met with some criticism initially, with other choices like Masvidal and Covington seemingly being the preference from fans. In the end it worked out well enough, with the featherweights developing a rivalry that wouldn’t have been there had it not been for the show.

After UFC on ESPN 30, Dana confirmed that the show will return next year and will always be around. What better time to look back on the seasons than now? We did just that, ranking them from worst to best.

29. Season 6 (2007)
Winner: Mac Danzig
Tapology

The coaches for this season were former TUF winner Matt Serra and Matt Hughes. On paper, perhaps it should have been one of the better seasons with two Mt. Rushmore welterweights, but it just didn’t come to fruition, largely due to a lack of talent.

28. Season 26 (2017)
Winner: Nicco Montaño
MMA Junkie

The only reason this season doesn’t fall to last place is the fact that there was a new champion crowned. Although, many felt the women’s flyweight division was created purely for Valentina to get a title and Nicco Montaño ended up having a lacklustre UFC career, never defending the belt and missing weight multiple times.

27. Season 16 (2012)
Winner: Colton Smith
Sherdog

This season’s fighters lacked star power, with the fighter that most would know being Neil Magny, who got finished in the semi-finals. Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin as coaches was disappointing too, not to mention the fact that they never ended up fighting each other.

26. Season 19 (2014)
Winners: Eddie Gordon & Corey Anderson
Fight Booth

On paper, this one sounded like it was special because it boasted lightweight greats Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn as coaches. However, by this point, Frankie had already beaten B.J. twice before. In hindsight, B.J. was already into his 7-fight losing streak here.

25. Season 25 (2017)
Winner: Jesse Taylor
MMA Weekly

This season featured the drama between T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt which was entertaining but felt monotonous by the end. The premise of this season was former contestants getting redemption and just felt like the UFC banking on nostalgia.

24. Season 28 (2018)
Winners: Juan Espino & Macy Chiasson
MMA Junkie

Had former champion Robert Whittaker and former TUF winner Kelvin Gastelum not been the coaches for this season, it would be even lower on the list. The coaches’ challenges were the main source of entertainment here. Whittaker even criticised his own team for being lazy after the show.

23. Season 29 (2021)
Winners: Ricky Turcios & Bryan Battle
Fanbyte

It was a pleasant surprise to see some back and forth jawing from Volkanovski and Ortega on the show, but even then, some of the pranks felt a little childish. Ricky Turcios came out of the show with the most memorable moments, with Dana comparing him to TUF 1 winner Diego Sanchez.

22. Season 8 (2008)
Winners: Efrain Escudero & Ryan Bader
MMA Full Contact

The show deserves credit for producing pro-wrestling star Tom Lawlor and of course, current Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader. It also had some funny coaching moments from Mir and Nogueira, the former knocking out the latter to win the interim UFC title.

21. Season 7 (2008)
Winner: Amir Sadollah
FiebreSeries

This season is perhaps most well-known today for being the one where Rampage smashed a door to pieces, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. It produced big names like Matt Brown and WWE superstar Matt Riddle.

20. Season 22 (2015)
Winner: Ryan Hall
Amazon

With the line-up of coaches, TUF 22 was always going to be one of its most popular. It featured Conor McGregor, fresh off of his win over Chad Mendes, going up against Urijah Faber. Ryan Hall was undefeated until his last fight in July.

19. Season 14 (2011)
Winners: John Dodson & Diego Brandão
MMA Mania

Looking back, this season was a gem and has aged very well. Bisping and Mayhem Miller were coaches and some of the fighters included T.J. Dillashaw, Jimmie Rivera, Dennis Burmedez and John Dodson. Miller also brought in current champ Kamaru Usman as a wrestling coach, before he even had his first professional MMA fight.

18. Season 13 (2011)
Winner: Tony Ferguson
SB Nation

Funnily enough, this season wasn’t as well received by fans as you’d think after it aired, but it has aged well, producing a top 5 lightweight of all time in Tony Ferguson. That could have had it higher, but there weren’t enough memorable moments despite the coaches beig Lesnar and JDS.

17. Season 11 (2010)
Winner: Court McGee
Bleacher Report

While it was airing weekly, the show was on pace to become one of the better seasons ever, but it drops slightly on our list because of a string of bad luck. Tito Ortiz was forced into neck surgery meaning he couldn’t finish the show and Ortiz’s first pick Nick Ring also got injured.

16. Season 3 (2006)
Winners: Kendall Grove & Michael Bisping
ESPN

Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock being on the show was a real treat for MMA fans and some hilarity ensued. The third season of TUF also produced legend and UFC hall of famer Michael Bisping.

15. Season 9 (2009)
Winners: Ross Pearson & James Wilks
FighterXFashion

Just a few years after winning TUF, Bisping found himself back on the show as a coach, going up against Dan Henderson in the United States vs. United Kingdom version of the show. The fighters were mostly unmemorable, with Team U.K. winning in both weight divisions, but Henderson ultimately KOing Bisping at UFC 100.

14. Season 2 (2005)
Winners: Joe Stevenson & Rashad Evans
EDGE MMA

The second season of TUF was coached by Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin, who were the welterweight and middleweight champions respectively. Today, there’d be no doubt that they’d be in a super fight, but unfortunately they didn’t fight each other at all. The show gave us Rashad Evans and the late great Keith Jardine.

13. Season 23 (2016)
Winners: Andrew Sanchez & Tatiana Suarez
UFC

This season’s highlights were undoubtedly the tension between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Cláudia Gadelha, which led to some famous moments. It felt like a fight could break out between the pair at any moment.

12. Season 21 (2015)
Winner: Kamaru Usman
MMA Junkie

TUF 21 was interesting because it pitted American Top Team against the Blackzillians, specifically Dan Lambert and the late Greg Robinson. The two gyms have had so many great rivalries over the years. Usman ended up winning the show and is arguably the best fighter in the world right now.

11. Season 27 (2018)
Winners: Brad Katona & Michael Trizano
MMA Junkie

The catch for this season was that every prospect on the show was undefeated. It’s an interesting one to look back on now because of how turbulent Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic’s relationship got and how cool they were at this point.

10. Season 24 (2016)
Winner: Tim Elliott
MMA Junkie

Although the concept for this season was cool – bringing together regional champions to compete for a UFC contract – I’m sure fans would have preferred it to happen in a different division.

9. Season 12 (2010)
Winner: Jonathan Brookins
ESPN

TUF 12 created some of the best moments in the history of the show, namely GSP bringing in the unique Jean-Charles Skarbowsky to beat up the fighters and GSP baiting Josh Koscheck to pick Marc Stevens so that he could pick Michael Johnson.

8. Season 15 (2012)
Winner: Michael Chiesa
MMA Mania

TUF 15 was the first and only live edition of the show and fans enjoyed it. It saw rivals Cruz and Faber going back and forth for some fun drama, but the fights were very entertaining. It also brought us Raging Al and Michael Chiesa.

7. Season 17 (2013)
Winner: Kelvin Gastelum
MMA Mania

This show was made for someone like Chael Sonnen and he stepped up for his moment. He went head-to-head against Jon Jones, who of course ended up winning their fight. This was the season that featured that classic Uriah Hall KO.

6. Season 10 (2009)
Winner: Roy Nelson
Amazon

This season had it all. Rampage and Rashad had a bitter feud going on which got extremely heated and nearly came to blows once. It also featured the surprising inclusion of the late legend Kimbo Slice.

5. Season 4 (2006)
Winners: Matt Serra & Travis Lutter
Bleacher Report

The concept for this season was that the fighters were made up of UFC fighters that had not had the career they wanted. It’s famous for producing Matt Serra who ended up with the biggest upset in MMA history when he beat GSP, an advisor on the show.

4. Season 20 (2014)
Winner: Carla Esparza
MMA Freak

TUF 20 produced arguably the most big names in one division in a single year. On the show were Rose Namajunas, Joanne Calderwod, Felice Herrig, Tecia Torres, Carlpa Esparza, Angela Hill and Bec Rawlings, amongst others. Pettis and Melendez coached.

3. Season 18 (2013)
Winners: Chris Holdsworth & Julianna Peña
Hulu

This season was set to be coached by Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano, but Zingano got injured late into the process, which gave us the great moment of seeing Rousey realise her rival Miesha Tate was going to coach alongside her.

2. Season 5 (2007)
Winner: Nate Diaz
MMA Mania

The appeal of this season was initially B.J. Penn and Jens Pulver finally fighting but looking back in 2021, it’s impossible not to notice the early days of Nate Diaz, back when he was mostly known for being Nick’s young brother.

1. Season 1 (2005)
Winners: Diego Sanchez & Forrest Griffin
The Athletic

Coached by Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, TUF 1 introduced us to superstars like Forrest Griffin, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, Nate Quarry, Chris Leben and Mike Swick. It ended with the classic fight between Griffin and Bonnar which saw both getting the contract because of the performance they put on.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

15 Shows Like ‘Rick and Morty’

Adult cartoons are a dime a dozen these days, but there’s something unique about the way Rick and Morty took hold of the cultural zeitgeist. Created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, the Adult Swim original series is an outrageous and hyperbolic twist on the relationship between mad scientist Doc Brown and his teenage companion Marty McFly in the Back to the Future movies. The episodic series follows the adventures of the titular grandfather-grandson duo of Rick Sanchez and Morty Smith, both voiced by series co-creator Roiland, that sees Morty constantly being pulled into intergalactic danger thanks to his genius, alcoholic grandpa. 

People who are unfamiliar with Rick and Morty may know that it’s full of vulgar catchphrases and flatulence, but underneath that crass layer is a show that is actually incredibly complex and bold in its storytelling decisions.

Every new dimension explored and character introduced becomes an opportunity for the show’s creative team to either poke fun at something or introduce a bit of unexpected sorrow or trauma to an otherwise silly moment. Even though there’s something wholly original about Rick and Morty’s comedic sensibilities and a cast of characters, a lot of other shows out there are similarly bold in the way they deliver their humor or look at the world. So put down the portal gun and check out these 15 Shows like Rick and Morty! 

15. ‘Community’

If the overwhelming amount of pop culture references and meta-humor in Rick and Morty is your cup of tea, then you should definitely check out Community. Created by Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon, the NBC sitcom follows a group of misfits at the Greendale Community College as they bond and “study” together in a study group. The show is so much more than this simple premise, though, as each episode gives the quirky ensemble- featuring hilarious performers like Donald Glover and Alison Brie- ample room to get into shenanigans and bond both inside and outside of the classroom.  

Watch Now On Netflix
https://www.netflix.com/watch/70155589?source=35
14. ‘The Orville’

Clearly, Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show weren’t enough for Seth MacFarlane, as the prolific show creator also turned his attention to the final frontier in The Orville. A live-action series that plays as a Star Trek parody, The Orville follows the crew of the USS Orville as they explore the galaxy in the 25th century. The ensemble show is led by MacFarlane as officer Ed Mercer and, despite its comedic undertones, it sometimes feels like a more genuine Star Trek series than some of Viacom’s recent attempts.

Watch Now On Hulu
https://www.hulu.com/series/the-orville-21e70fbf-6a51-41b3-88e9-f111830b046c
13. ‘The Venture Bros.’

Adult Swim has evolved a lot since it first launched in 2001, but throughout most of its existence Jackson Publick’s The Venture Bros. has been a staple on that “channel.” A satirical spin on old cartoons like Johnny Quest, the show follows the exploits and adventures of the Venture Family as they interact in a mad scientist and superhero-filled world. The phenomenally voiced show lasted for seven seasons and evolved into a hilarious parody of modern nerd culture rather than just fixating on old Hanna-Barbera tropes. 

Watch Now On Hulu
https://www.hulu.com/series/be66b3ea-da59-4a3c-9fe1-960b386327de
12. ‘Loki’

One surefire way for a series to feel like Rick and Morty is for it to be written by a Rick and Morty alum. The newest Marvel show streaming on Disney+, Loki, is a time-travel-filled adventure series created by Michael Waldron, a former producer and writer on the Adult Swim hit. Tom Hiddleston once again plays the Norse God of Mischief, but this time he finds himself supervised by the Time Variance Authority, a seemingly all-knowing organization that wants to defend the sacred timeline. The show definitely rewards long-term fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it is accessible and entertaining for people who just want to check it out due to its connection with Rick and Morty.  

Watch Now On Disney+
https://www.disneyplus.com/series/loki/6pARMvILBGzF?distributionPartner=google
11. ‘Archer’

Premiering in 2009, Archer is an animated parody show set inside a dysfunctional intelligence agency. The series is witty and has a unique structure- certain seasons ditch the intelligence agency setting all together to see the characters become Miami drug dealers or Noir detectives- but what really sets this show apart from other adult cartoons is its exemplary ensemble cast, led by H. Jon Benjamin as the womanizing Sterling Archer. For all the hardcore Jerry Smith fans out there, Chris Parnell also lends his voice to Archer as Cyril Figgis, a straight-laced agent who is often the butt of many of Archer’s jokes.

Watch Now On Hulu
https://www.hulu.com/series/22b4b3c8-0827-42d2-a841-50e8f3464dc2
10. ‘Doctor Who’

The tagline “A moody genius and their companion travel around space and time going on adventures” perfectly describes both Doctor Who and Rick and Morty. The BBC series follows The Doctor, an alien from the planet Gallifrey who uses his brain and handy sonic screwdriver to solve problems and help people across the galaxy. A sometimes silly, sometimes extremely serious show, Doctor Who remains fresh after 50+ years thanks to the Doctor’s natural ability to reincarnate and keep exploring the cosmos with a new personality and new face. 

Watch Now On HBO Max
https://play.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GXnzXWA8PcFSpjQEAAATH?camp=googleHBOMAX&action=play
9. ‘Avenue 5’

Thanks to eccentric billionaires like Virgil Bronson and Jeff Bezos, rich people doing whatever they want in space doesn’t sound as absurd as it should anymore, but Avenue 5 injects some delightful chaos back into the subject. From the satirical mind of Veep and The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci, Avenue 5 follows what happens after an artificial gravity accident causes an interplanetary cruise ship (the Avenue 5) to veer off course. With only eight weeks of supplies onboard to sustain everyone, panic sets in when it is revealed it could take up to three years to return to Earth. The ensemble show was renewed for a second season in early 2020, but no official premiere date has been set due to pandemic-related delays.  

Watch Now On HBO Max
https://play.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GXfGGmgzDUsJ_LwEAAAIz?camp=googleHBOMAX&action=play
8. ‘Disenchantment’

Matt Groening swapped suburban America for the medieval castles of Dreamland in the Netflix original Disenchantment. The series follows Princess Bean (Abbi Jacobsen), a notorious and happy alcoholic, who is unhappily set to marry a Prince. While peaking at her wedding gifts, Bean discovers a little demon named Luci (Eric Andre), who despite being sent there to curse Bean, ends up empathizing with her and discouraging her from getting married. With Luci and her new friend Elfo (Nat Faxon) by her side, the three of them embark on a series of adventures as the elites of Dreamland jostle for power thanks to the abandoned wedding, and the alliance could have solidified.

Watch Now On Netflix
https://www.netflix.com/watch/80095697?source=35
7. ‘BoJack Horseman’

Rick and Morty is often praised for the way it handles complex emotions and addictive personalities, but the Netflix original BoJack Horseman tackles these ideas in a much more direct manner. Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, BoJack Horseman follows former television actor Bojack (Will Arnett) as he struggles to revamp his Hollywood career and come to terms with his depression and narcissistic tendencies. Set in a world where talking animals and people interact with each other and work side-by-side, the whimsical and silly nature of the show obscures a tragic engine that constantly picks at and explores the insecurities of each of its lead characters.  

Watch Now On Netflix
https://www.netflix.com/watch/70300800?source=35
6. ‘Reaper’

Sam Oliver’s (Bret Harrison) life flipped upside down on his 21st birthday when his parents explained that they had actually promised his soul to Satan (Ray Wise) before he was born. Now, the college dropout and hardware store employee must accept his new destiny as a “reaper,” a bounty hunter who tracks down souls that have escaped from hell, or his mother will be banished to hell. The show only lasted for two seasons, but its unique blend of supernatural elements and “stoner comedy” tropes makes it the perfect binge for anyone looking for a show similar to Rick and Morty. 

Watch Now On ABC
https://abc.com/shows/reaper
5. ‘Adventure Time’

Adventure Time may have been marketed primarily to children because it was on Cartoon Network rather than the after-hours adult swim, but watch just one episode, and it’s clear the creators were aiming to please and entertain viewers of all ages. Created by Pendleton Ward, Adventure Time is a fantastic and consistently silly show that follows a boy named Finn (Jeremy Shada) and his talking, transforming dog Jake (John DiMaggio) as they go on adventures in the psychedelic and post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo. Finn and Rick themselves don’t have a lot in common, but they are the anchors for two of the most absurd, hilarious shows to come out in the last 25 years.

Watch Now On HBO Max
https://play.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GXmAuwAxxXp4_wwEAACh0?camp=googleHBOMAX&action=play
4. ‘South Park’

The townsfolk of South Park and the space-traveling Rick and Morty may not appear to have a lot in common on the surface, but take a deeper look at both shows and the main characters are all deeply raunchy individuals who are not afraid to speak their minds about what is unfair about life and the world.

For those who are somehow unaware, South Park is a deeply satirical show that follows the lives of four elementary school children, the most notorious among them being the extremely crass Eric Cartman, as they constantly find themselves being swept up into ridiculous and dangerous situations. It’s fair to say that the longevity of South Park has paved the way for shows like Rick and Morty to succeed and even earn a whopping 70 episode renewal back in 2018.

Watch Now On HBO MAX
https://play.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GXr7SEgRi2sLCAAEAAAQu?camp=googleHBOMAX&action=play
3. ‘Futurama’

Similar to how Disenchantment let Simpsons creator Matt Groening dabble in fantastical storytelling, Futurama allowed him to tell silly science fiction stories. Futurama follows Fry (Billy West), a man from 2000 who is accidentally cryogenically frozen and subsequently thawed out in the year 2999. Despite its futuristic sheen, Futurama can really be boiled down to a hilarious workplace comedy as Fry quickly finds himself working alongside the crew of the Planet Express delivery company.  Each episode finds the ensemble on a new adventure as they dart across the galaxy, but it’s really the quirky personalities and relationships between the three core characters, Fry, Bender (John DiMaggio), and Leela (Katey Sagal), that makes the show so addictive.

Watch Now On Hulu
https://www.hulu.com/series/85bf4cc1-cd8b-4469-ad87-7289217a0b74
2. ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’

Similar to Rick Sanchez, no topic is off-limits for the gang over at Paddy’s Pub. In It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, recently renewed for four more seasons, a group of self-centered, angry friends operate a bar and argue about the state of the world. Whether it’s critiquing Escape Rooms or solving the Gas Crisis, this group of drunks has opinions on just about everything. The gang has never been to another planet or entered a spaceship, but they have the same narcissistic, self-destructive tendencies that both Rick and Morty do.

Watch Now On Hulu
https://www.hulu.com/series/2171423f-3326-4dfa-b193-b40494e60109
1. ‘Solar Opposites’

Due to Rick and Morty‘s overwhelming success, Hulu ordered another space-themed comedy from co-creator Justin Roiland: Solar Opposites. The animated sitcom follows a family of literal aliens as they try to adjust to life as refugees in the middle of the United States after their home planet of Shlorp was destroyed.  A fun twist on the fish out of water trope, Solar Opposites is full of Roiland’s signature outrageous and sometimes heady humor, but it also does a good job at making the audience empathize with its central characters as they enter difficult situations in a new environment. 

Watch Now On Hulu
https://www.hulu.com/series/f089664b-1a87-433b-86a5-24e7da5a246a
Categories
Culture Movies/TV

The Enduring Legacy of Anthony Bourdain

It’s been three years since the world lost an icon. On June 8th, 2018, Anthony Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room in Kaysersberg, France, as a result of a suicide by hanging. Thought to be an impulsive act, it was not a secret that Bourdain struggled with his fair share of demons throughout his life and, as a result, that has felt all too common; it was those demons that eventually took a giant from us. 

Bourdain was truly a larger-than-life person, one who had a past that most people would try to keep hidden, but he was not most people. Rather than running from his past, Bourdain faced it head-on, and it bled into his work and drove it forward in many ways.

He was more than just a chef, TV show host, writer, and journalist; he was a documentarian of the human condition; a reporter on how people connect, what unites us, divides us; and more. 

Though Bourdain is gone, his legacy will stand the test of time simply because of the impact he had during his 61 years on this earth.

Perhaps one of my personal favorite things about Bourdain was that even though he was a man that ate practically anything (except maybe Chicken McNuggets), he also loved just regular food as well. On the Charleston, South Carolina episode of his show Parts Unknown, Bourdain sits down with chef Sean Brock to enjoy a late-night meal at the Waffle House. A place that, if you’re from the southern part of the United States, you’ve likely been to in an inebriated state.

“It is indeed marvelous; an irony-free zone where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. Where everybody, regardless of race, creed, color, or degree of inebriation, is welcome.”

Only Bourdain could describe the Waffle House in such a way.

It’s simple moments like these that helped Bourdain connect with the audience in ways the many other chefs and hosts could not because, hey, the Waffle House was a place that many of us could actually go to. 

While many other “foodies” (something Bourdain would never call himself, I’d imagine) thumbed their noses at joints like the Waffle House and Popeyes, he understood that just because something is cheap or doesn’t come in a Michelin star restaurant, doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious. For Bourdain, it was all about context.

He once said about Popeyes: “it’s not particularly healthy chicken or organic chicken, or conscientiously raised chicken — or even good chicken. They do it because it’s three fucking pieces for a dollar ninety-nine.”

Eating food was as much about the political and cultural implications as it was the taste. Food was, in many ways, a reflection of society at large.

Getty Images

Bourdain was never one to mince words. I mean, hell, he (jokingly, I think) once said that he’d poison both Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump if given the opportunity. You might disagree with what he had to say, but you can be damn sure that he was going to say it. Take, for example, what he had to say about Henry Kissinger in his book A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines.

“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević.”

Can you imagine another chef saying something like that? Like close your eyes and try to picture Bobby Flay or even Gordon Ramsay saying that. He was raw, unflinching, and simply didn’t give a shit if you liked what came out of his mouth.

He traveled to war zones such as Libya in 2013 when the country was still embroiled in Civil War because he knew that was a place that had stories that needed to be told. He may have been stopped once or twice by militia groups, but that didn’t prevent him from attempting to get to know the people better. Whether it was Paris or Benghazi, Bourdain was there.

Bourdain seemed to live in the gray and in the episode of Parts Unknown where he travels to Jerusalem, he was at his very best. 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is seemingly always a powder keg, with someone standing over it with a match just waiting to set it off again. Rather than paint simply just to understand what both sides wanted, something that many documentaries, reports, books, etc. had already done, Bourdain simply wanted to showcase people. 

He visits the homes of Israelis and Palestinians and shares meals with them, and in the case of the Palestinians, it serves as an exceptional way to shatter the visage of “the Palestinians are evil terrorists” that has been created by so many.

Getty Images

Bourdain was often at his best when he was self-reflective, especially when discussing his struggles with drug addiction and mental illness. He’d talk about how when he was a chef in a New York City restaurant in the 80s, that he was often high while at work and would also frequently send busboys down to Alphabet City to get him cannabis, cocaine, LSD, amphetamine, codeine, and heroin, among other drugs. 

His willingness to talk about his past and doing what he could to end the stigma around addiction and mental illness helped to make him a beacon of inspiration for so many around him. Here he was, this TV star and celebrity chef talking about doing lines of cocaine off the bar and getting on the train to go and do more drugs on the beach. It was uniquely personal in a way that certainly set him apart.

Getty Images

Bourdain was not perfect, and he’d be the first to admit that, but he was human. The man became a monolith, something he probably could have never imagined becoming when he was just a guy trying to become a chef. 

So, on the third anniversary of his passing, I’d like to say thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for the laughs, the tears, and the stories. We’ll never forget them.

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

The 25 Best Shows Like ‘The Sopranos’

Tony Soprano and the rest of the ensemble in The Sopranos changed television forever. Not only does the series sit on countless “Best Television Series Of All Time” lists for its dramatic stories, intelligent dialogue, and intense action, but thanks to leads James Gandolfini and Edie Falco it includes some of the best acting ever seen on the silver screen. In short, The Sopranos is a miracle of television, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t numerous shows that scratch a similar itch.
The success of The Sopranos didn’t necessarily lead to a massive number of mafia television shows being greenlit, but it did kickstart a new era for prestige television that put more emphasis on long-term storytelling and complex character arcs. Next time you’re ready to binge a prestige television series, grab some gabagool, and dive into one of these 25 Shows like The Sopranos!

25. ‘Magic City’

Set in Miami, Florida right after the Cuban Revolution, Magic City follows Ike Evans (Jefferey Dean Morgan), the owner of the city’s most luxury hotels, as he is forced to enter a deal with a local mob boss. As Ike does whatever he can to keep his business and family life afloat during a chaotic time, he suddenly becomes intertwined with a number of gangsters with a lot of sway in the slowly changing city and falls ever deeper out of control. The show tragically only lasted for two seasons and has a potential movie tie-in on the horizon, but that means it’s an incredibly quick and easy binge right now!

WATCH NOW ON AMAZON PRIME
https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/amzn1.dv.gti.0ca9f794-52e0-f5ac-6c00-6360780a817b?autoplay=1&ref_=atv_cf_strg_wb
24. ‘Oz’

Long before Tony and the gang were brutalizing wise guys or chilling in explicit strip clubs on TV, HBO cut their teeth in premium, mature television with Oz. Set inside the fictional Oswald State Correctional Facility for men, Oz explores the lives of different people inside the dangerous prison and explores how the traumatic surrounding impacts their mental and emotional health. Show creator Tom Fontana actually wrote or co-wrote all 56 episodes of this intense series, giving it a cohesive voice and approach throughout the whole show. 

watch now on hbo max
https://play.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GVU2cPwY101FvjSoJATyo?camp=googleHBOMAX&action=play
23. ‘Breaking Bad’

Just like Tony Soprano, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a bad man motivated, at least to a degree, to ensure his family is supported and comfortable in case he ever suddenly dies. Breaking Bad follows Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who is suddenly diagnosed with cancer, as he transforms himself into a meth-creating and selling Kingpin known as Heisenburg who turns the Albuquerque, New Mexico drug world upside down. The five-season-long show went on to win numerous Emmys, including accolades for all three members of the core cast (Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Anna Gunn) and back-to-back wins for the Outstanding Drama series in 2013 and 2014.

WATCH NOW ON NETFLIX
https://www.netflix.com/watch/70143836?source=35
22. ‘Peaky Blinders’

Set in the chaotic aftermath of World War 1 in Birmingham, Endlang, Peaky Blinders follows the exploits of the Peaky Blinder gang and its ambitious and ruthless leader Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). The ensemble show features an incredibly talented cast and is a must-watch for anyone who appreciates 20th-century history and learning about how the slow creep of modernity impacts working-class individuals and organized crime. While many of the characters in the series themselves are fictitious, the Peaky Blinders actually existed and the show does a wonderful job at showing just how cut-throat and violent the gang-filled era was.  

WATCH NOW ON NETFLIX
https://www.netflix.com/watch/80002479?source=35
21. ‘Ozark’

Forget the Bluth Family, in Ozark Jason Bateman plays Martin Byrde, a financial advisor whose mistake laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel leads him to relocate his entire family to the Ozark region in Missouri to start an even bigger laundering operation. In the intense Netflix original, Martin and his wife Wendy  Laura Linney) have to keep their kids safe and outmaneuver local criminals as they slowly become embedded inside a dangerous organization.  

WATCH NOW ON NETFLIX
https://www.netflix.com/watch/80117552?source=35
20. ‘The Deuce’

Co-created by David Simon and George Pelecanos, The Deuce is an ensemble series that follows the evolution of New York City in the 1970s and 1980s. A story filled with gangsters, pimps, and people just trying their best to make it to the next day, The Deuce doesn’t pull any punches in the way it shows how crime and sexual violence can impact people. For any ONE37pm readers who enjoy learning about porn—and hey, we’re not judging—The Deuce will be especially enjoyable as one of its sub-plots follows the birth of the burgeoning industry and how it intertwined with the pre-existing world of sex workers.

19. ‘Fargo’

Taking place inside the world created by the Coen brothers in the 1996 movie Fargo, this FX original series is an anthology, black comedy series that always revolves around crime and eccentric characters. Similar to how The Sopranos jumps forward a few years in between seasons to change things up a bit, Fargo shifts eras and locations—and even follows a brand new ensemble—every season to keep the tone and feel slightly different despite all of the season’s connective tissues. 

WATCH NOW ON HULU
https://www.hulu.com/series/203cda1b-7919-40fb-ab36-1e45b3ed2a50
18. ‘Ray Donovan’

When you have a problem, you go to Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber), a professional fixer who will go to extreme lengths- everything from threatening someone to cleaning up a crime scene- for his PR-sensitive clients in Los Angeles. Unfortunately for Ray, even though he may be adept at making other people’s problems disappear, he has to deal with a stressful family, mainly his recently incarcerated father Mickey (Jon Voight), which seemingly only makes things more complicated for him. For any fans of the now-canceled show, Showtime announced that a feature-length film will be released sometime in 2022 to wrap up the story of Ray Donovan.

WATCH NOW ON AMAZON PRIME
https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/amzn1.dv.gti.26b7d9af-fd18-6e5e-87ec-e72cf024adfd?autoplay=1&ref_=atv_cf_strg_wb
17. ‘Mad Men’

Tony Soprano and Don Draper (Jon Hamm) may be in completely different industries and live in different eras, but the two of them would likely get along pretty well. Don Draper is the main character in Mad Men, a 1960s set series that follows a group of advertising executives who work on the luxurious and patriarchal Madison Avenue. As the years progress and the ensemble of characters all grow and change, Don seems to be stuck in his self-destructive, womanizing ways and can’t escape his past traumas no matter how badly he wants to or his kids need him.  

WATCH NOW ON HULU
https://www.hulu.com/series/4094ad25-76a0-4ebc-a577-106c22737dbc
15. ‘Barry’

The HBO comedy Barry and The Sopranos may not have a lot in common on the surface, but the gangster-filled series can be just as dark and dramatic as The Sopranos. Co-created by and starring Bill Hader as Barry Berkman, a former marine turned hitman who is trying to put that life behind him in favor of acting classes, Barry is a hilarious and occasionally heartbreaking series that also has some of the best-choreographed action on TV.

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX
https://play.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GWmKDEwGrA8JInwEAAAL6?camp=googleHBOMAX&action=play
14. ‘Better Call Saul’

A prequel (and sometimes sequel) to Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul follows Jimmy McGill, a.k.a. Saul Goodman, (Bob Odenkirk), as he transforms from a financially struggling public defender to a criminally-connected dirty lawyer. Conceived and run by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, the same team behind Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul is just as entertaining and tragic as its predecessor and stands as an incredible, must-watch show all on its own. Kim Wexler, one of Saul’s best friends who doesn’t appear in Breaking Bad, is one of the most interesting characters on TV and played wonderfully by the Emmy-snubbed Rhea Seehorn.

WATCH NOW ON NETFLIX
https://www.netflix.com/watch/80021955?source=35
13. ‘Succession’

If you thought squabbling for power was dangerous inside the world of organized crime, clearly you haven’t seen how far the members of the Roy family are willing to go in Succession. A dark satire show created by Jesse Armstrong, Succession is an ensemble story that focuses on the scheming and maneuvering of the Roy family after they learn that the family patriarch Logan (Brian Cox) is declining in health and may step away from the global media empire he created. Rather than rush to their father’s side, everyone in the family starts slyly competing for prominence as they fight for control of the family company. 

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX
https://play.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GWukCJAq-nIuHwwEAAAB4?camp=googleHBOMAX&action=play
12. ‘Billions’

If you thought Succession was the only petty billionaire drama on TV, clearly you haven’t heard of Showtime’s extremely entertaining Billions. Set inside the dramatic and competitive world of high finance, Billions focuses on the rivalry between hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and a U.S. Attorney in New York named Charles Rhoades, Jr. (Paul Giamatti) who is trying to pin the wealth-seeking magnate down for his financial crimes. While the show itself is fictional, many of the plot threads in the five-season long show are based on real-world financial prosecutions, making it a great show for anyone interested in the high-dealing world of Wall Street.  

WATCH NOW ON AMAZON PRIME
https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/amzn1.dv.gti.b2b9537c-487b-684d-ec65-44ba44db7116?autoplay=1&ref_=atv_cf_strg_wb
11. ‘Dexter’

If Tony Soprano made it easier to love twisted protagonists, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) surely owes him a debt of gratitude. Originally based on Jeff Lindsay’s book Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dexter follows Morgan, a forensic specialist for the Miami police, who moonlights as a serial killer that targets murders who have somehow escaped judicial justice. The series is incredibly dramatic and follows how Morgan’s job impacts his relationships with people around him, but it deserves a lot of praise specifically for constantly making the twisted protagonist so likable despite everything audiences see him do. 

WATCH NOW ON AMAZON PRIME
https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/amzn1.dv.gti.d4a9f74d-83f8-2355-b82d-dcad1a42ed7b?autoplay=1&ref_=atv_cf_strg_wb
10. ‘Boardwalk Empire’

The gangsters in the prohibition era set the stage for people like Tony Soprano. In the HBO original series Boardwalk Empire, audiences get to see how gangsters interacted with political machines and bootlegged their way around the rules. Starring Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, a fictionalized version of a real-life official who served as the Treasurer of Atlantic County as well as an organized gangster himself, Boardwalk Empire is an entertaining and at-times brutal show that doesn’t shy away from just how corrupt the often romanticized world of mafia crime can be. 

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX
https://play.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GVU2c9QptjVFvjSoJAT2f?camp=googleHBOMAX&action=play
9. ‘Narcos’

A Netflix original series based on the notorious ascent and life of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura), Narcos is an action-packed and incredibly dramatic series. With DEA agents Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) and Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal)  on his trail, Pablo has to outmaneuver the law, and other gangs, while constantly growing his global cocaine empire. The show is incredibly acted, emotionally tender at times, and does a wonderful job telling certain aspects of the real but very crazy story of Escobar’s life. 

WATCH NOW ON NETFLIX
https://www.netflix.com/title/80025172
8. ‘Sons of Anarchy’

Rather than follow groups of Italian-American gangsters on the East Coast, Sons of Anarchy focuses on motorcycle crews in California’s Central Valley. Created by Kurt Sutter, Sons of Anarchy explores themes of vigilantism and loyalty as Jackson “Jax’ Teller (Charlie Hunnam) slowly starts to question his position in the motorcycle organization and his relationships with those around him. The FX original lasted for seven seasons and was so successful it even spawned a 2018 spin-off called Mayans M.C. that is also extremely entertaining. 

WATCH NOW ON HULU
https://www.hulu.com/series/c66560e6-ce38-4100-9c62-0d7ff4981912
7. ‘Lilyhammer’

In Lilyhammer, a Norwegian-American co-production that lives on Netflix in the U.S., a former New York gangster named Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano (Steven Van Zandt) suddenly has to create a new life for himself in the small town of Lillehammer, Norway. Van Zandt actually auditioned for the role of Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, but the producers felt like he wasn’t quite experienced enough at the time to carry a show and cast him as the charismatic consigliere, Silvio Dante, instead. Years later though, after The Sopranos wrapped, Van Zandt was more than prepared to lead the gangster-filled show in the entertaining Lilyhammer.

WATCH NOW ON NETFLIX
https://www.netflix.com/title/70221438
6. ‘Hannibal’

Forget Italian mobsters, if you want to see a polite murderer, watch Hannibal. Developed by Bryan Fuller for NBC, Hannibal is based on iconic characters featured in Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon novel and follows the early days of forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and FBI investigator Jack Crawford’s (Hugh Dancy) relationship. Mikkelsen excels as the iconic serial killer and gives the character a different sense of depth as he assists the FBI to investigate a string of murderers and slowly probes Graham’s overly empathetic mind.  

WATCH NOW ON NETFLIX
https://www.netflix.com/watch/70241956?source=35
5. ‘The Americans’

Despite current tensions between the U.S. and Russia, for all intents and purposes, the Cold War is done. In the FX original The Americans, set between 1981 and 1987, the Cold War is still raging, though and its potentially dire implications weigh heavily on the minds of most Americans. Following Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys), two Soviet agents placed deep undercover in a Washington D.C. suburb as a married couple, The Americans is an intense story that sees the two characters do everything they can to support mother Russia- think targeting American spies in the states or collecting valuable intelligence- while ensuring that their cover is never blown. 

WATCH NOW ON AMAZON PRIME
https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/amzn1.dv.gti.60b1d675-7f9b-4443-732e-82b732ce3520?autoplay=1&ref_=atv_cf_strg_wb
4. ‘Get Shorty’

Loosely based on Elmore Leonard’s novel of the same name, the Epix series Get Shorty follows mafia muscle man Miles Daly (Chris O’Dowd) as he tries to exit Las Vegas’ world of organized crime to become a Hollywood producer. Alongside the washed-up and somewhat crazy Rick Moreweather (Ray Romano), the two of them have to maneuver Hollywood politics while making sure they can avoid any criminal prosecution as they attempt to launder money through their productions. 

WATCH NOW ON AMAZON PRIME
https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/amzn1.dv.gti.10b7368e-2fc2-a816-fa98-1be6a977788c?autoplay=1&ref_=atv_cf_strg_wb
3. ‘Justified’

Based on a series of stories by Elmore Leonard, Justified stars Timothy Olyphant as the no-nonsense, independent-minded U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. Primarily set in the Appalachian region, the show follows Raylan as he goes about defending the region with his own twisted sense of “Old West” justice. Even though the two protagonists are on opposite ends of the law, Raylan and Tony Soprano are both charismatic individuals who do what they want when they feel it’s right no matter what the consequences could be.

WATCH NOW ON HULU
https://www.hulu.com/series/2faf68df-e153-4e47-b117-a048427b250f
2. ‘The Wire’

The Wire and The Sopranos stand at the top of a lot of hardcore HBO fan-favorite lists. While the two shows have very different story-telling styles, both shows are largely ensemble-based and show how crime impacts people throughout a community. Influenced by years worth of Baltimore reporting from showrunner David Simon, The Wire is an intricate, character-driven story about the city of Baltimore and how different institutions in the city, whether it’s organized crime, the city council, or police department, impact people’s lives and interact with corruption on a daily basis.  

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX
https://play.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GVU2gkAgT4oNJjhsJAUDk?camp=googleHBOMAX&action=play
1. ‘Gomorrah’

The Sopranos shows the grip Italian mobsters have on certain areas in the United States, but Gomorrah examines just how intense mafia rule is in Naples. Created by and based on the investigative reporting of Roberto Saviano, Gomorrah follows Ciro Di Marzio (Marco D’Amore), a member of the Savastano clan, as he maneuvers a leadership upheaval inside the organization and tries to navigate the dangerous Naples underworld. Brutal and engaging in all the best ways, the show is incredibly well acted and is a must-watch for anyone who considers themselves a fan of crime dramas.

WATCH NOW ON HBO MAX
https://play.hbomax.com/series/urn:hbo:series:GX24uiQjwE7TDLwEAAAAC?camp=googleHBOMAX&action=play
Categories
Culture Movies/TV

‘Mare of Easttown’ Is the Best Show on TV That You Might Not Be Watching

At first glance, Mare of Easttown might strike you as a cliche “whodunit” cop drama, where the main character is a detective with an emotionally traumatic past, a heavy drinker, and someone that is dragged into a case that does nothing but remind them of their past failures.

While the show most certainly contains that character trope, Mare of Easttown is much more than that, thanks in small part to the incredible performance by Kate Winslet as Mare Sheehan, the detective tasked with solving the murders.

SPOILERS FOR MARE OF EASTTOWN FOLLOW

“In the suburbs of Philadelphia, a detective named Mare Sheehan investigates the recent murder of a teenage mother while trying to keep her own life from falling apart. Mare is a local hero, having been the star of a high-school basketball championship game 25 years ago. She has also been trying to solve another murder case for a year, leading many in the community to doubt her detective skills. Her personal troubles include a divorce, a son lost to suicide, and a heroin-addicted daughter-in-law battling for custody of Mare’s grandson” describes HBO, and while Mare of Easttown follows that closely, it quickly spirals into something deeper and more sinister.

The case at the heart of the story is incredibly dark, the murder of a young girl who is inexplicably left out in public to be discovered by a random citizen out for a morning run. Naturally, the community jumps and connects the murder to the case of a missing girl, Katie Bailey, from a year prior that remains unsolved.

Despite that possible connection, there are numerous men in Erin McMenamin’s life that could have committed the heinous crime of her murder. It’s entirely possible that Erin’s murder is not connected to Katie’s disappearance. Still, it is only later on, after a third woman, Missy Sager, is kidnapped, that we discover there is most definitely a pattern.

Sager is kidnapped by an unknown man and thrown into a makeshift prison of sorts, where she finds Katie Bailey, who has been held captive for a year.

HBO

Running parallel to the investigation is the examination and dissection of Mare’s personal life, a roller coaster of sorts. Mare is still reeling from her son’s suicide and battling with her daughter-in-law for custody of her grandchild. A potential new love interest, a writer and college professor named Richard Ryan (played by Guy Pearce), has rolled into town, and her daughter Siobhan is, well, a teenager.

Mare has been forced to begin working with a county detective, Colin Zabel (played by Evan Peters), who has experience working on this sort of case. They have clashing personalities, with Zabel being the more optimistic of the two, but one that fully grasps the seriousness of the situation.

And through all of this chaos and darkness, one of the most rewarding things about Mare of Easttown is that it is also incredibly humorous and humanizing. One such moment that sticks out is when Mare attends a party that has been thrown by Ryan, and the crowd is much more high-brow than what she is used to. In previous scenes that almost mirror what COVID quarantine life has been like, Mare crushes cheese whiz, talks about cheesesteaks, and drinks Rolling Rocks.

However, at the party, Mare grabs a free appetizer of Duck Liver Pâté, and needless to say, she disagrees with it, immediately spitting it out and shoving a napkin into the couch she’s sitting on. It’s a nice step back and humanizing moment for the show, which is more than welcome given the subject matter.

Mare of Easttown airs on Sundays on HBO and all episodes are available to stream now on HBO Max, so grab yourself a Yuengling and hoagie and check this one out.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

The 26 Best Shows on HBO Max to Stream Right Now

HBO Max’s same-day theatrical release plan dominates a lot of conversation about the young streaming platform, but that just obstructs the fact that HBO Max is full of fantastic TV shows waiting to be discovered. As the notorious streaming wars continue to heat up, the platform has been doing its best to bring new series and additional seasons of old favorites straight to their subscribers. If anyone ever gets tired of the streamer’s massive library of movies, they can hit a button and dive into everything from classic sitcoms like Friends to recent animated programs for kids like Adventure Time.

Whether you’re looking for an HBO original, something that falls under WarnerMedia’s massive umbrella, or a licensed show, HBO Max truly has you covered. The HBO brand may be transforming, but it’s important to remember that it started as a premium channel with higher quality shows- and that sentiment hasn’t changed all these years later. Next time you’re searching for a binge-able show or an intricate world to explore on TV, consider choosing from one of the 26 best shows on HBO Max!

26. ‘Harley Quinn’

Put it this way: Harley Quinn ain’t a normal superhero show.

Set in Gotham City, where Harley Quinn and her long-time boyfriend, The Joker, have recently broken up, the supervillain—and sometimes anti-hero—has set out on her own in order to become one of the city’s leading crime bosses.

Voiced by Kaley Cuoco, who also serves as executive producer, Harley teams up with her crew of misfits, including Poison Ivy, King Shark, Clayface, and Dr. Psycho, to cause chaos in Gotham. She frequently battles other supervillains like Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, and, of course, The Joker, as well as Batman, and the results are often hilarious and, at times, incredibly touching.

25. ‘Warrior’

If intense action and character-driven stories sound appealing, Warrior is definitely the show for you. Executive produced by Justin Lin and Shanon Lee, Warrior, is based on an old story idea by Bruce Lee himself. Starring Andrew Koji as the fresh-off-the-boat Ah Sahm, Warrior is set in San Francisco during the late 1870s and tells a complex story about an interesting ensemble of characters, belonging to rival tongs, the city’s police squad, and the city’s political elites, trying to carve out space for themselves in the chaotic city. What started as a two-season long Cinemax original was recently renewed for a third season directly on HBO Max.

24. ‘Doom Patrol’

Based on DC Comics’ version of the X-Men, Doom Patrol is a quirky, thoroughly entertaining series. While the show revels in its comic book charm, Doom Patrol isn’t the traditional superhero story as it follows a group of societal outlaws who all receive their powers under chaotic circumstances and are both physically and mentally scarred as a result. A show that isn’t afraid to delve deep into the mental states of its ensemble, Doom Patrol manages to maintain a silly quality throughout no matter how extreme or dark the situation may be.

23. ‘Flight of the Concords’

Flight of the Concords stars the musical comedy duo Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie as fictionalized versions of themselves as they attempt to make it as musicians in New York City. As the two struggle to get gigs or get women to notice them at parties, the show weaves in some of the duo’s hilarious songs as a way to give the audience more insight into how they are feeling at that moment. Even if you’ve never heard of the band before this, Flight of the Concords is a must-watch for anyone who appreciates low-key comedy and fantastic wordplay. 

22.’Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’

A weekly series that dives into various topics, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver has been airing on HBO since 2014. After cutting his teeth exploring political topics on The Daily Show under Jon Stewart, John Oliver has grown into the new gold standard of comedic news. The weekly format allows him to quickly go over certain events from the week, but the bulk of the episode is dedicated to relatively evergreen deep dives into various structural and cultural topics that allow Oliver to stretch his comedic chops and slowly get to the bottom of a complex subject. Whether you consider yourself a news buff or someone who is relatively unaware of what’s happening, Last Week Tonight is both extremely enjoyable and educational. 

21. ‘Rick and Morty’

What is essentially an outrageous, over-the-top spin on the dynamic between Marty McFly and Doc Brown in Back to the Future, Rick and Morty follows the titular grandpa-grandson duo as they go on chaotic missions in space and other dimensions. Created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, who voices both of the main characters, the show relishes in its childlike crudeness as Rick drinks and farts his way across the galaxy, but it is also capable of telling complex stories that leave the viewers with heavy hearts in addition to tears of laughter.

20. ‘Chernobyl’

A miniseries about the horrific events at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, Craig Mazin’s Chernobyl is difficult to watch in all the best ways. A five-part series that focuses on the brutal cleanup efforts and the bureaucratic mismanagement that defined that moment in Soviet society, Chernobyl features some incredible performances and terrifying makeup work as it tells a deeply researched but dramatized story about one of the most brutal moments in human history.

19. ‘Doctor Who’

Since Russel T Davies relaunched the classic British sci-fi series in 2005, Doctor Who has become a global cultural phenomenon. A series that stars a mysterious alien known as The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet of Gallifrey, Doctor Who follows the character as he travels around time and space to go on adventures and help those in need. This most recent iteration of the show, broken up into various eras with different showrunners and performers playing the self-regenerating genius that give each season a distinct feel, feels like the ultimate Saturday morning viewing experience and is cheesy in all the best ways as The Doctor and his companions do everything they can to always save the day against seemingly insurmountable odds.

18. ‘John Adams’

A star-studded miniseries set before, during, and after the American Revolution, John Adams is a thorough examination of the earliest days in American history as seen through the eyes of one of the men who helped shape the nation. Starring Paul Giamatti as the titular historical figure, the miniseries follows Adams and his wife Abigail (Laura Linney) as they navigate the tumultuous times and assume their now iconic roles in history. Based on historian David McCullough’s biography of the 2nd American President, the series is full of historical detail and doesn’t shy away from displaying some of the brutal realities of war and disease at that time. 

17. ‘Sex and the City’

Adapted from Candace Bushnell’s book of New York Observer essays with the same name, Sex and the City is a New York City-based romantic comedy that follows a group of female friends as they try to advance their careers and go about their love lives in different fashions. The show has a fantastic ensemble, led by Sarah Jessica Parker as a fictionalized version of Bushnell named Carrie Bradshaw, and excels whenever the four lead characters are all on stage interacting with one another. A steamy and silly show, Sex and the City feels oddly relevant as people prepare for “Hot Vax Summer.”

16. ‘Watchmen’

Rather than directly adapting Alan Moore and David Gibbon’s iconic comic series, David Lindeloff decided to tell a wholly original sequel that asks viewers what it means to be a hero. Starring Regina King as former-cop-turned-costumed-vigilante Sister Knight, a.k.a. Angela Abar, Watchmen recontextualizes the entire history of American superheroes in the battle against white supremacy as the supremacist Seventh Kavalry organization makes its presence felt in a new plot to destroy the world. Obviously reading the original graphic novel or even seeing the film adaptation will provide additional context for viewers, but the 11-Emmy winning Watchmen is a complex, unique series that can still be enjoyed by people who are not familiar with the source material.

15. ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

If the dry and observational humor of Seinfeld is up your alley, then Curb Your Enthusiasm, starring and created by Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, is a must-watch. Following a fictionalized version of Larry’s own life as he goes about his business in Los Angeles and later New York City, Curb puts its curmudgeonly star in a lot of awkward or silly situations that allow his unique perspective to shine through. It’s hard to describe the unique humor and sharp dialogue of the series without simply saying it’s “pretty, pretty, pretty good.” 

14. ‘Succession’

Succession is essentially a darker, more dramatic Arrested Development. Ron Howard may not be narrating scenes, but this HBO original follows the dysfunctional Roy family as they vie for power over Waystar RoyCo, a powerful media conglomerate, once the patriarch of the family, Logan Roy (Brian Cox), starts having some health issues.  The satirical and comedic show has won two Emmys for outstanding writing in a drama series and has a fantastic, award-winning ensemble that knows how to bring all of the bickering and in-fighting to the silver screen perfectly.

13. ‘Insecure’

After the success of Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl web series, she took her storytelling skills to HBO with Insecure. Co-created by and starring Rae as Issa Dee, Insecure is a hilarious show that follows the late-20s protagonist as she tries to thrive in her work and personal lives. Both hilarious and personally heart-wrenching at moments, the show effectively explores societal and racial issues that define the experience of Black men and women in the United States. 

12. ‘Euphoria’

Skins for the (even more) modern age, Sam Levinson’s Euphoria is an ensemble story about a group of high school students as they experiment with sex and drugs and start learning about love and identity for the first time. An emotionally brutal show that examines trauma and doesn’t shy away from showing how dangerous drugs can be, Euphoria enabled Zendaya to become the youngest ever-winner for the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the Emmys. 

11. ‘Barry’

A dark comedy series unlike anything I’ve ever seen, Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s Barry follows a former Marine turned hitman named Barry Berkman (Hader) as he tries to give up his old life and become an actor. Despite Barry’s best efforts, he keeps getting pulled back into the dangerous world and he is forced to balance his new ambitions and dangerous obligations. The show has a fantastic ensemble and Henry Winkler even won an Emmy award for his performance as the self-obsessed drama teacher Gene Cousineau.

10. ‘Game of Thrones’

Thanks to HBO, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series and the medieval world of Westeros is now just as popular as the iconic Lord of the Rings. Game of Thrones is a world-spanning adventure series that sees numerous families vie for power in a feudal, Medieval society as magical forces slowly gather in the dark. Don’t let the widespread (and fair) criticisms of the final season fool you from trying it for the first time, the show is the most awarded series in Emmy history for a reason, and I can’t recommend diving into this dark and complex world enough.

9. ‘I May Destroy You’

Created by, written, starring, and co-directed by Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You is an emotionally challenging and occasionally comedic show about the emotional traumas people experience after being sexually assaulted or raped. Arabella Essiedu (Coel) is a young writer who finds herself in the spotlight thanks to the success of her first book, but her life suddenly takes a turn after she struggles to remember a night out with friends and discovers that she was raped. A show that touches on everything from the impacts of social media influence to how society views male assault victims differently, I May Destroy You is one of the most unique originals to hit HBO Max. 

8. ‘True Detective’

Created by Nic Pizzolatto, True Detective is an anthology crime series that follows different investigative teams as they dive into complex and disturbing cases. With fantastic ensembles featuring everyone from Mathew McConaughey to Rachel McAdams and Mahershala Ali, each season of True Detective pushes all of its characters to their physical, emotional, and occasionally spiritual limits as they proceed with their case. Admittedly, the second season isn’t as entertaining as the other two, in my opinion, but even that middle season is better than most things on basic cable.

7. ‘Batman: The Animated Series’

Right after Tim Burton’s Batman captivated the general public, Warner Brothers let animators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski develop their own take on the Caped Crusader and Gotham City. The result, Batman: The Animated Series, is one of the most lusciously illustrated shows of all time. Not only is the art fantastic, but its Emmy-winning writing gives viewers complex, emotional stories that challenge the central hero and his rogues. The voice cast, featuring Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker, is borderline iconic and defines these characters for a generation of fans.

6. ‘Gomorrah’

Based on the novel of the same name by Robert Saviano, Gomorrah is a violent and riveting look at organized crime and the ramifications that it has on people in Naples. The show focuses on Ciro Di Marzio (Marco D’Amore), a member of the Savastano gang, as he tries to move up in the ranks of his organization and survive a bubbling war between various crime families. While the show is fictional, it is often praised for its realistic representation of the crime families as Saviano spent much of his career as a journalist who investigated the iconic Camorra crime syndicate.

5. ‘Oz’

The show that first took full advantage of HBO’s position as a premium provider with fewer restrictions, Oz is a dark and dramatic look at life inside the fictional Oswald State Correctional Facility for men. A creative and twisted show that details the harrowing experiences of various individuals behind bars, Oz follows each prisoner as they adapt to their new surroundings and struggle for power with rival gangs. The sometimes disturbing show is held together by its fantastic ensemble, featuring everyone from J.K. Simmons as an Aryan gang leader who terrorizes his new roommate to future Sopranos star Edie Falco as an officer at the facility. 

4. ‘Veep’

From the mind of political satirist Armando Iannucci, Veep is a hilarious, no-holds-barred look at Washington D.C. and the goons that run it. Following the political movements and career of Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her team, Veep is both crudely silly and deeply insightful into some of the motivations and personalities of people running our government. Some of the most ludicrous storylines and jokes of the show almost seem quaint now in light of the Trump years, but Veep is a must-watch series stacked with a fantastically funny ensemble.

3. ‘The Leftovers’

Forget Thanos’ infamous snap, in Damon Lindelof’s The Leftovers, based on Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, everyone suddenly discovers that two percent of the world’s population has suddenly disappeared. Following the chaotic and sometimes dangerous years that follow the sudden departure, The Leftovers is set in a traumatized and emotionally scarred world that sees everyone struggle to move on from the unexplainable event. Starring Justin Theroux as Kevin Garvey, a police officer with a unique connection to a larger spiritual conspiracy sweeping the world, The Leftovers manages to both touch and disturb its viewers as it slowly unwinds.

2. ‘The Wire’

Most police dramas focus on the officers as they jump from case to case, but David Simon’s The Wire takes a different approach to the cop show format altogether. Taking a larger, more structural view of the city of Baltimore, The Wire spends time with members of the police department, various gangs, and dock workers to paint a full picture of the corruption and pressures bearing down on the city. Each season focuses on a different institution in the city, like unions or schools, to help the ensemble show feel a bit different from year to year as the city’s corruption slowly compounds no matter how hard people like Detective James McNulty (Dominic West) or Detective Bunk Moreland (Wendell Pierce) work.

1. ‘The Sopranos’

Without a doubt, David Chase’s The Sopranos is one of the best television shows of all time. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is the leader of a New Jersey crime family, but the difficulties of balancing his work and family life have driven him to start seeing a therapist. The six-season show is amusingly violent and wonderfully paced as the mafia world slowly expands and the problems Tony and his crew face become more complex, but it’s really the wonderful ensemble, with the Emmy winning duo of Gandolfini and Edie Falco at the heart of everything as Tony and Carmela Soprano, that makes the show so gripping and addictive. Sit down with some gabagool and start watching!

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

The 16 Best Sci-Fi Shows and Movies on Hulu

Robot police dogs, a global pandemic, a hentai addict covertly controlling an international cult from his home in Japan, social media networks for children, and helicopters on Mars: 2021 is already a bunch of different sci-fi movies smashed into one. It’s an odd time to want to engage in fictional dystopias considering the world we live in is … pretty dystopian.

Whether you look towards sci-fi for space-opera escapism or incisive questions about identity, there’s an appropriately overwhelming amount of media currently available for streaming. Hulu’s selection in particular is impressively expansive. Ranging from anime classics to original spins on important literature to trashy reboots of beloved franchises, we’ve picked out the 16 best TV shows and movies we could find — all currently available to be beamed directly into your brain!

16. ‘Aniara’

After the Earth becomes uninhabitable, an ark of survivors travelling to Mars is thrown off course, causing them to drift through space for eternity. A device used to calm the anxiety of the passengers begins malfunctioning, causing the ship’s passengers to hallucinate. This existential space drama’s vision of humanity is pretty ghastly, but its visual styling and shockingly dark ending are impressive, especially for a relatively under-the-radar release. 

15. ‘Possessor’

It’s a shame Possessor never got a proper theatrical release and thus flew under the radar in 2020, as it’s easily one of the best films released in that accursed year. In this hallucinatory, cyberpunk noir by Brandon Cronenberg — yes, he’s the son of legendary auteur David Cronenberg, and yes his filmmaking style is quite similar to his father’s — a shadowy agency invents a way to implant an undercover agent’s consciousness into a human vessel. But traversing various identities takes its toll on the agents, and some begin to lose their minds. Fleshy, dispassionate psychedelia abounds. 

14. ‘Tetsuo: The Bullet Man’

The third movie in the Tetsuo series, Bullet Man continues the nightmarish and absurdist non-narrative sequences of the previous films. In each movie, men’s sexual problems are metaphorized through complicated animation sequences in which tortured bodies become cyborg monstrosities without warning or explanation. Rife with psychoanalytic symbolism, these deeply strange movies have been shockingly influential on contemporary cinema and anime.

13. ‘Cowboy Bebop’

Netflix’s choice to reboot Cowboy Bebop is almost insulting considering the beloved anime series is actually perfect in every way. Why bother trying to improve on something with no flaws? This legendary 90’s anime uses a rousing jazz score to set the mood for various space-age, neo-noir adventures. The handsome but curmudgeonly Spike Spiegel leads a crew of misfit bounty hunters including a non-binary super hacker, a buxom femme fatale, and an adorable Welsh corgi on a series of ill-fated raids while slowly confronting his haunted past. Despite its seemingly shallow, action-oriented premise, the story is emotionally compelling and plays with both typical sci-fi themes about the ramifications of technology and more complicated questions about existential meaning and the ephemerality of identity and love.

12. ‘Dollhouse’

From the production company that created Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Dollhouse is a precursor to the near-future sci-fi of Black Mirror. When a rogue scientist discovers a way to temporarily wipe peoples’ memories and replace them with modular personality traits, a nefarious entertainment company begins renting out living humans as dolls to be used as sex workers and assassins. Although the first few episodes are a standard monster of the week sci-fi, the story unravels quite quickly into a post-apocalyptic nightmare when the technology of this agency is used as a weapon. Eliza Dushku plays the protagonist and is ultimately quite overworked — she essentially has an entirely new personality every episode — but a talented supporting cast rounds out this shockingly intelligent cyberpunk hellscape.

11. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

When Margaret Atwood looked around at the growing Christian fundamentalism of the 1980s, she worried that the wild fanaticism of conservatism could result in widespread violence. She wrote The Handmaid’s Tale as a warning about the inherent misogyny of the American right — and frighteningly, many of her predictions came true. The first season of this Hulu original series sticks pretty close to the novel, but subsequent seasons veer in a different direction as the show moves through a handful of genres including torture porn and espionage thriller. It’s sci-fi in the sense that it takes place in some dark near-future, but don’t expect robots or space aliens.

10. ‘Gurren Lagann’

From the makers of FLCL and Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann is another giant robot anime with stunning hand-drawn animation. The story plays out like Gundam on methamphetamines as the protagonist frees himself from an oppressive underground society to find himself involved in intergalactic warfare. What it lacks in intellectual sophistication it makes up for in heart and excess: the fight scenes are beyond over-the-top and the characters’ iconic outfits are often totally absurd. 

9. ‘Futurama’

Originally debuting in 1999, Futurama is a long-running sci-fi comedy cartoon series created by Simpsons mastermind Matt Groening. When a pizza delivery guy wakes up 1000 years in the future after accidentally cryogenically freezing himself, he discovers how different the world he once knew has become. Hijinks ensue when he joins a motley crew of misfit space travelers including an alcoholic robot and an aging mad scientist. Don’t expect too much incisive social criticism — the show is mostly politically anodyne — but a few episodes are absolutely heart-wrenching and the cast is totally lovable. 

8. ‘Shape of Water’

Guillermo Del Toro’s Academy award-winning sci-fi film is a postmodern pastiche of creature feature tropes. In Shape of Water, a cleaning lady at a shadowy government facility discovers a captured aquatic monster — and begins to fall in love. Del Toro uses monstrosity as a metaphor for otherness so as to critique the emotional impact of racial discrimination and segregation. The anachronistic art direction is magically creative and stunningly executed using old-school special effects and makeup design. 

7. ‘All That We Destroy’

Hulu and the legendary horror studio Blumhouse (the production company behind contemporary horror classics like Get Out, Paranormal Activity, The Purge, Sinister, and many more) have partnered for an ongoing series of feature-length “installments” titled Into The Dark — basically, every episode is a stand-alone movie. Although the series is mostly more traditional horror, All That We Destroy You mixes in some elements: in it, a mother clones the same woman repeatedly to see if she can finally help her son conquer his murderous urges. All That We Destroy is one of a few sci-fi movies in that franchise along with I’m Just F*cking With You, Culture Shock, and a few others, but the other mini-movies in the franchise are worth investigating if you enjoy horror.

6. ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’

Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger reunite for this 2019 continuation of the Terminator franchise. It’s far from the best in the series, but the campy pleasures of this dynamic duo’s return are worth the price of entry. Schwarzenegger in particular hams it up — there’s a bizarre running gag that the T-800 has been reprogrammed to be an interior decorator? — and Linda Hamilton remains a butch icon. The special effects and action are all decadently cheesy and the plot is totally incoherent, but it’s a mindless, fun watch nonetheless.

5. ‘Mobile Suit Gundam Wing’

Although Mobile Suit Gundam Wing was not the first series in the sprawling Gundam franchise to be translated into English, it was the first to be aired on television in the United States — thus garnering it immense popularity. Wing is technically the sixth installment in this idiosyncratic universe, but no knowledge of the previous characters or continuity is necessary. The characters and design in Wing are all multidimensional and the animation — although sometimes a little cheap looking — is often stunningly dynamic and graphically impressive. The story is also far more politically complex and adult than what you’d expect from a show that was ostensibly geared for children — in fact, the series is essentially an ongoing depiction of the psychological trauma caused by neverending war. 

4. ’12 Monkeys’

Terry Gilliam’s surrealist sci-fi masterpiece from 1995 is the main inspiration for this psychological, future thriller. Gilliam’s cult classic, which starred a young Bruce Willis, was a sort of steampunk-inflected nightmare world. The show is a bit less dreamlike than its source material but won multiple awards for cinematography nonetheless. Although its first season was not exactly warmly received, critics realized what a fully imagined universe it contained by the time they got to later episodes. 

12 Monkeys is set in a post-viral, post-apocalypse: following the spread of a deadly disease that wipes out most of humanity, clandestine networks begin experimenting with time travel in the hopes of averting widespread destruction. It all sounds a bit nauseating — especially in the age of Corona! — but the multiple timelines of the show make it a fascinating and visually stimulating puzzle box of a series. 

3. ‘Roswell’

For a certain group of millennials, Roswell formed a holy TV trinity alongside Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. These easily bingeable young-adult shows combined romance, horror, and science fiction in equal measures to create thoroughly enjoyable episodes featuring deliciously 90’s retro fashions. As Buffy and Angel, Roswell also featured surprisingly complicated characters engaging in teenage romances both emotionally touching and totally corny. Taking place in the infamous New Mexico town, Roswell follows a series of aliens attempting to fit in amongst normal high school students. They battle shadowy government agencies while navigating budding erotic feelings. It might all seem very silly at first, but it’ll be impossible to stop watching once you’re hooked.

2. ‘Akira’

Katsuhiro Otomo’s legendary 4000+ page manga was adapted into an astoundingly epic film in 1988 — with the help of every animation studio that had existed in Japan at the time. The story, an extensive exploration of the unwieldiness of youth and the atrocities of atomic weaponry, is hard to digest on a first watch-through, but subsequent viewings make the brutally ultra-violent scenes more legible. The stunningly crisp HD version currently available on Hulu makes every hand-drawn frame look impossibly beautiful and often gorgeously grotesque. 

1. ‘Melancholia’

Lars Von Trier, a pioneer in the cinema of evil, infamously suffered a nervous breakdown through the making of this movie. Upon its release, the director offered strange and controversial statements about artistry that caused the star of the film, Kirstin Dunst, to hesitantly disaffiliate from the auteur. It’s obvious this movie came from a place of immense suffering and sadness, but it’s truly a work of terrible beauty.

In Melancholia, a massive planet is hurtling towards the Earth and destined to destroy all life. With absolutely no hope for survival, humans totally give up and wonder if their lives are even worth grieving. An extended metaphor about the deep hopelessness caused by major depression, this masterpiece is far more emotionally complicated than your average big-budget sci-fi.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

The 20 Best Thrillers on Hulu To Watch

Few genres are as slippery as thrillers: what exactly differentiates thrillers from horror, or noir, or espionage? Boiled down to the most obvious motifs, thrillers are about crime, suspense, and psychological terror — but it’s more than that. Thrillers have a feel, a tone, and a mood that are distinct, but it’s hard to say where the genre begins and ends. 

Hulu’s selection of thrillers ranges vastly in quality and sub-genre: they’ve got original TV series based on beloved sci-fi — mingled in with brutal and avant-garde interpretations of true crime stories and campy erotic classics. We’ve gone through the whole thriller section and sorted out what’s actually worth watching. Check out our list of the best 20 thriller TV shows and movies currently available to stream.

20. ‘The Act’

True crime fanatics became obsessed with the case of Dee Dee Blanchard, a woman in Missouri who was murdered under mysterious circumstances. The real-life story that unraveled was deeply unsettling: it turns out Dee Dee had been keeping her daughter captive by convincing her she was debilitatingly ill and severely brain-damaged. Hulu’s original series, The Act, is a dramatization of this true-crime nightmare. Impressive acting from Patricia Arquette and Joey King helped garner the show a handful of Emmy nominees.

19. ‘Antebellum’

Janelle Monae stars in this Jordan Peele-esque social thriller, written and directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz. Dealing with the legacy and brutality of slavery in the United States, the movie is a horror-inflected tale of a woman trapped in a plantation, desperate to escape. Critics were divided about the movie’s implicit morality and emotional impact, but it’s a politically complex film that takes Black identity and trauma as a subject of serious inquiry. 

18. ‘Die Hard’

Often considered the greatest action movie ever made, Die Hard is quite obviously Bruce Willis’s crowning cinematic achievement (other than Fifth Element). The plot is somehow totally irrelevant, as the movie is a series of high-octane chase sequences with quippy and memorable catchphrases in between. Even if the plot is incoherent, the suspense builds into a hypnotic crescendo. The movie wound up spawning numerous sequels, at least one of which is also available on Hulu, but it’s best to stick with the original.

17. ‘Fargo’

Based on the iconic dark comedy of the same name by the Coen brothers, Fargo is a bleak and morbidly humorous thriller about crime in the midwest. The show’s got an absurdly star-studded cast and features an anthology story structure, meaning that each season is a self-contained narrative. Although each episode claims to be based on true events, the plot is in reality totally fabricated. Despite its cynical tone, the show snagged an astounding amount of accolades: out of 226 nominations, it snatched a total of 51 awards. 

16. ‘Free Fall’

Free Fall is a German, erotic thriller with a broodingly serious tone. A meditation on repressed desire, the movie contemplates a gay affair between two police officers and the ramifications of their illicit love. With the protagonist’s fragile masculinity at stake, violence threatens to erupt at every moment. Don’t expect laughs: even the film’s most playful and sexy moments are filled with desperate angst.

15. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Based on the terrifying speculative sci-fi novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale considers America’s penchant for evangelical fascism by contemplating what a conservative revolt and subsequent coup would actually look like in action. In Atwood’s hideous future, women are enslaved and used as receptacles for breeding while being fed a brainwashing regiment of hyper-religious extremism. In the TV show Elisabeth Moss plays Offred, a woman captured and tortured by the Gilead regime. But can she organize an underground movement to overthrow her fanatical overseers? As American conservatism’s fervency reaches new insane heights in reality, the predictions of this show have seemed more accurate by the second.

The show deserves a bit of a content warning: while the first season sticks pretty close to the original novel, the second and subsequent seasons diverge significantly. Also, because forced breeding is a central plot point of the story, the whole series contains a nauseating amount of sexual violence that many people have found to be simply unwatchable. The second season in particular sometimes resembles torture-porn more than melodrama, but the third season tones down the violence just a bit.

14. ‘The Purge’

Based on the movie franchise of the same name, the concept of The Purge is simple: One day a year, all crime is legal. The backstory behind the strange concept is actually somewhat politically sophisticated: in this imagined near-future, the American government devised a way to reduce widespread violence by allowing Americans one day a year to release the anger and rage that boils inside them. What began as an extended contemplation on the USA’s obsession with violence has turned into a sanguine thriller about corruption and class resentment and the fanaticism of the Second Amendment. The first season focuses on a single Purge night in the year 2027 and follows several intersecting stories. In our current political climate, what seems like an absurd concept becomes more prescient by the second.

13. ‘Only God Forgives’

Nicholas Winding Refn’s film Drive made waves in 2011 for its hyper-stylized, neon-drenched aesthetic. His follow-up film, Only God Forgives, continues the auteur’s ultra-violent thesis in a gorgeously shot and moodily scored thriller about criminal organizations in Thailand. Also starring Ryan Gosling, Only God Forgives is both mesmerizingly dreamy and stunningly bloody. It’s probably one of the most visually pleasing thrillers ever made, but it’s not for the squeamish or sensitive. 

12. ‘Vanilla Sky’

Based on the deliriously strange Spanish film Abre Los Ojos, Vanilla Sky is a philosophical exploration of the limits of reality. What the movie has in smarts, it lacks in aesthetic (and Tom Cruise’s terrible acting certainly doesn’t help) — but the existential questions it raises about the nature of dreams and our understanding of consciousness makes it an interesting film nonetheless. Loosely inspired by the hallucinatory novels of Phillip K. Dick, there’s a lot in here for people who love mindfucks.  

11. ‘Angel’

It would be easy to dismiss Angel as a cheaply made spinoff of the more popular Buffy The Vampire Slayer — but the show is just as lovable and sophisticated as the series that introduced its protagonist. After the eponymous demonic hero departs from Sunnydale, a strange series of events leads him to found Angel Investigations, a supernatural detective agency that winds up accidentally averting the apocalypse several times. Angel struggles with his own vampiric bloodlust while saving humanity from destruction. The show’s Lovecraftian fifth season, in particular, is astoundingly emotionally complex and well written.

10. ‘Hannibal’

ShowrunnerBryan Fuller takes a lot of creative liberties with novelist Thomas Harris’s Hannibal tetralogy in this mind-bending crime thriller about a super-genius psychologist with a taste for human flesh. The cannibal doctor and a detective investigating a bizarre series of murders engage in a terribly erotic dance of death over the course of several psychedelic seasons which at some points seem more like short art films than traditional TV. Excellent acting from Mads Mikkelson and Gillian Anderson elevates the drama and suspense to unparalleled excess. 

9. ‘Parasite’

Bong Joon-Ho’s widely celebrated social thriller about the cruelty of capitalism is an undisputed masterpiece. A family of con artists attempts to infiltrate a wealthy household, but discover deep, dark secrets hidden in the basement. We won’t say much more than that — there’s a lot of twists that aren’t worth spoiling — but the movie is an effective excoriation of how brutal and unrelenting South Korea’s enormous wealth gap has become.

8. ‘Hounds of Love’

Comparable to deeply vicious horror-thrillers like Snowtown Murders or Martyrs, Hounds of Love is a terribly nihilistic story, loosely based on the crimes of David and Catherine Birnie, a serial-killing couple in Australia. Although the movie is visually impressive and emotionally complex — especially in its portrayal of the dysfunctional relationship between the two murderous protagonists — the sexual violence throughout the film is hard to stomach, even for the most callous of audiences. It’s astounding that given the movie’s bleakness and graphic depictions of torture, it still managed to receive largely positive reviews and score several international awards nominations.

7. ‘Body of Evidence’

Few thrillers are as reviled as Body of Evidence, a movie which Roger Ebert frequently described as one of his most hated films. It’s tawdry, cheaply made, and stupidly written. But there are pleasures to be found in absurdly bad movies — especially ones starring Madonna! Often described as a ripoff of both Basic Instinct, this movie is an oft-ignored camp classic. 

6. ‘Twilight Zone’

Originally running from 1959 to 1964, The Twilight Zone set the standard for serialized sci-fi. The show’s episodes range from paranoiac thrillers to space-age psychosis — all in bite-sized 30 minute short stories. Rod Sterling drew from several authors for inspiration, and each mysterious tale usually came with a totally unexpected twist or moral warning. Although they’ve been endlessly spoofed and reinterpreted, the original episodes still make a strong impact.

5. ‘X Files’

Scully and Mulder can’t stop getting abducted by aliens in this 11 season sci-fi thriller investigating every conspiracy theory imaginable. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny remain charismatic protagonists throughout the show’s expansive run, and their travels into the supernatural have had a lasting impact on almost every show that came after. The quality throughout is extremely inconsistent, so if you’re looking to skip a lot of filler, consider following a guide.

4. ‘Lords of Chaos’

Jonas Åkerlund, the drummer of the notorious metal band Bathory, directs this crime thriller based on the real-life murders associated with a shadowy cult of black metal enthusiasts. How accurate the movie is in its depictions of these killings has been hotly debated, but it’s an interesting insider look into the social isolation and extremism that compels such heinous actions. 

3. ‘Ingrid Goes West’

In a similar vein as this year’s Promising Young Woman, Ingrid Goes West is a feminist thriller commenting on expressions of womanhood in the digital age. After release from a psychiatric hospital, the eponymous protagonist becomes fixated on a social media influencer’s perfect life. Her courting of the young celebrity becomes dangerously close to stalking as her obsession takes a pathological turn. Although the movie is technically a black comedy, the humor throughout is notably dark.

2. ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’

A suburban mother (played by Tilda Swinton) had always suspected there was something wrong with her son, but she couldn’t ever figure out what. Then, one day, he commits mass murder at his high school. This heartbreaking movie is a descent into every parent’s worst nightmare, rendered with extreme emotional sensitivity and artistic complexity. Based on the novel of the same name by Lynne Ramsey, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a powerful and disturbing exploration of sociopathy and identity.

1. ‘Twin Peaks’

TV critics often cite Twin Peaks as the greatest show ever made, and with good reason. Romantic, surreal, emotional, erotic, melodramatic, and endlessly alluring, David Lynch’s deeply avant-garde series about the dark underbelly of an American lumber town spans several genres. What begins with an FBI investigation into the death of a homecoming queen winds up having apocalyptic ramifications: Special Agent Dale Cooper (played by the impossibly charming Kyle McLaughlin) slowly solves this unfathomable mystery through his dreams and travels to other dimensions. It sounds zany — and it is! — but the characters all have real hearts, and the visual styling throughout is devastatingly beautiful.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

The 10 Best ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ Episodes, According To A Childhood Fanatic

In the past year or so, just like Pokémon cards have seen a surge in pricing, Yu-Gi-Oh! cards have also continued to become more and more valuable. Part of it was always going to happen with time, but the process definitely sped up due to people spending more time indoors, perhaps wanting to get a bit of nostalgia and getting into an old hobby. Worldwide, people are trying to find their old decks and grabbing cards they couldn’t get when they were younger. I myself have started to get back into Yu-Gi-Oh! too, tapping back into what I loved about it as a kid and enjoying what’s new about it as an adult.

When it comes to general discussions about anime, you probably won’t hear Yu-Gi-Oh! mentioned amongst the likes of Hunter x Hunter or many people’s favorite at the moment, Attack on Titan. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve a place as one of the better anime series of all time. It’s widely considered to be the best card-based anime of all time and in the show, Duel Monsters is the base for some incredible moments.

We’ve compiled a list of the ten best episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! of all time, with a short paragraph on why we think so. If you’ve already seen the show, you won’t mind there being some information ahead, but otherwise, spoiler alert.

1. Best of Friends, Best of Duelists Part 2 (Season 1, Episode 34)
Yugipedia

When watching the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh!, you’re constantly aware of the fact that if they both keep winning duels and star chips, Yugi and Joey will eventually have to battle each other, but it’s sort of kept quiet the entire time. By this episode, they’re deep into their honorable battle and it’s much more of a back and forth than previous episodes would suggest. As close as they are and as much as one cares about what the other is fighting for, only one can come out on top.

Watch
https://www.yugioh.com/yu-gi-oh/best-of-friends-best-of-duelists-part-2/183
2. Champion vs. Creator Part 2 (Season 1, Episode 27)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Wiki

Just as Yugi and Joey have a lot to fight for, Kaiba does too, except he doesn’t have anyone friends to fight for. At this point, his younger brother Mokuba’s soul has already been taken by Pegasus and Kaiba has put his life on the line in the duel against Yugi. This battle is the final step. The show does a great job of pitting Kaiba and Pegasus as perhaps the #1 and #2 duelists in the world and the battle lives up to those expectations.

Watch
https://www.yugioh.com/yu-gi-oh/champion-vs-creator-part-2/182
3. Mime Control Part 3 (Season 2, Episode 18)
Yu-Gi-Oh! World

The battle between Yugi and Malik is one of the best in the entire series. Here in the third and final part, things really heat up. Yugi finds himself against one of the three Egyptian God cards, Slifer The Sky Dragon. It’s so powerful that Yugi ends up feeling defeated and even Kaiba, a frenemy of the group, does his best to motivate him through the battle.

Watch
https://www.yugioh.com/yu-gi-oh/mime-control-part-3/211
4. The Dark One Cometh Part 1 (Season 5, Episode 43)
Yu-Gi-Oh!

In many ways, though he isn’t mentioned as much in discussions about the anime, Zorc Necrophades is the main villain from Yu-Gi-Oh! We find out that he is the one who has been controlling Yami Bakura throughout the series and that he has larger plans to destroy the entire history of the world. Yuga engages in a battle where losing your life points means losing your life entirely.

Watch
https://www.yugioh.com/yu-gi-oh/the-dark-one-cometh-part-1/31
5. The Final Duel Part 1 (Season 5, Episode 49)
Yu-Gi-Oh!

The name of this episode really sums it all up. Zorc has been defeated, and now all that’s left is for Yugi and Yami to battle it out. This is a real test for Yugi, of course, who has had Yami by his side through duels almost the entire time that we’ve known him, even before he knew it himself. Yami doesn’t go easy on him either, as in this episode, right at the start of the battle, all three Egyptian God cards are summoned.

Watch
https://www.yugioh.com/yu-gi-oh/the-final-duel-part-1/38
6. The Final Duel Part 2 (Season 5, Episode 50)
Yu-Gi-Oh!

In the second part of the duel, Yugi must continue to deal with the strength of Slifer The Sky Dragon, Obelisk The Tormentor, and The Winged Dragon Of Ra, all of whose attack points add up to over 10,000. Yugi is on the defensive but by the end of this episode comes to an intelligent attack, with a trap card too.

Watch
https://www.yugioh.com/yu-gi-oh/the-final-duel-part-2/219
7. The Final Duel Part 3 (Season 5, Episode 51)
Yu-Gi-Oh!

There’s a lot of fan service in this episode which comes in the form of callbacks to other cards being played in the series by Yugi and other moves that have worked in big battles. Yugi really pulls out all the stops here and starts putting in some work on Yami’s life points. The only way to really describe this episode and the battle as a whole is an epic finale.

Watch
https://www.yugioh.com/yu-gi-oh/the-final-duel-part-3/39
8. The Final Face Off Part 1 (Season 3, Episode 41)
IMDb

In this battle between Yami Yugi and Yami Marik, a lot is on the line. Yugi and Mai Valentine have been taken captive and will go to the shadow realm if Yami Yugi loses. Here, early on in the duel, the power difference between The Winged Dragon Of Ra and the other two Egyptian Gods is well and truly on display.

Watch
https://www.yugioh.com/yu-gi-oh/the-final-face-off-part-1/115
9. The Final Face Off Part 5 (Season 3, Episode 45)
Yu-Gi-Oh!

A lot happens in the duel, so without ruining the entirety of it, we’ll just say that this is the fifth and final part of this duel, and things end with a bang. Odion and Ishizu both come into play, and the end of the Battle City tournament is the climax worth building up to. There’s a lot more on the line than a card game, and the show does a great job of conveying it.

Watch
https://www.yugioh.com/yu-gi-oh/the-final-face-off-part-5/6
10. Yugi vs. Pegasus: Match of the Millennium Part 5 (Season 1, Episode 39)
Yu-Gi-Oh! World

The battle between Yugi and Pegasus has been back and forth, despite the power of Pegasus’ Millenium Eye. With the soul of his granddad, Kaiba, and Mokuba all on the line, Yugi is feeling the pressure but stepping up to the plate as he always does. By part five, Yugi needs the help of the spirit of the puzzle, Téa, Joey, and Tristan, to help him fend off some of Pegasus’ attacks.

Watch
https://www.yugioh.com/yu-gi-oh/yugi-vs-pegasus-match-of-the-millennium-part-5/176
Categories
Culture Movies/TV

Everything You Need to Know About ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’

As Marvel Studios continues their quest towards world domination (only kind of kidding here), they are set to drop the next installment of the MCU, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, on March 19th. Arriving on Disney+, the series will follow Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) as they attempt to stop the evil machinations of Baron Zemo and the Flag Smashers.

The new series follows the first entry in Marvel’s new slate of TV shows, Wandavision, and looks to emulate that show’s immense success. While it took a few episodes for viewers to gravitate towards that particular series due to its absurdity, Marvel hopes that The Falcon and Winter Soldier will have fans hooked from the jump.

With all that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about The Falcon and Winter Soldier so that you’re fully caught up before March 19th.

Premise

Per Disney+, the official synopsis for the show is:

“After being handed the mantle of Captain America at the end of Avengers: Endgame, Sam Wilson teams up with Bucky Barnes in a worldwide adventure that puts their abilities to the test as they fight the anti-patriotism group the Flag-Smashers.”

Sam Wilson, The Falcon
Disney+

A former Air Force rescue operative, Sam Wilson, aka ‘The Falcon,’ first appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where he fought alongside Steve Rogers, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Maria Hill, and Sharon Carter to prevent Hydra from killing millions of people.

Following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Sam became a full-fledged member of the Avengers, eventually siding with Captain America when the team fell apart during Captain America: Civil War.

He would continue to stick by Steve Rogers while the two were on the run along with Black Widow and helped fight Thanos’ army in Wakanda during Avengers: Infinity War. Unfortunately, he was amongst those who were “snapped” by Thanos, being erased from existence for five years.

Thankfully the superheroes that survived “The Snap” were able to reverse it, and Wilson helped defeat Thanos’ massive army at the end of Avengers: Endgame.

At the end of that film, an elder Steve Rogers (who had chosen to live in the past with Peggy Carter) gave his shield to Sam, entrusting him to carry on the legacy of Captain America.

Bucky Barnes, The Winter Soldier
Disney+

Like his best friend Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes aka ‘The Winter Soldier,’ is a man out of time. First appearing in Captain America: The First Avenger, where he was seemingly killed, but actually was captured by Hydra and brainwashed to become their most lethal assassin.

Over the decades, he was repeatedly cryogenically frozen and awakened in order to carry out the evil organization’s most dangerous missions. Barnes was, in fact, responsible for the assassination of Tony Stark’s parents, a revelation that led to the fracturing of The Avengers.

Barnes reemerged in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where he was assisting Hydra. He would eventually be thwarted by Steve Rogers and reminded of who he was in the past, leading to his path of redemption.

He was framed for an attack on the United Nations by Baron Zemo (which resulted in the death of King T’Chaka, the father of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther.) He was cleared of wrongdoing thanks to the help of Captain America, but following the aforementioned revelation that he murdered Tony Stark’s parents, Iron Man sought revenge against him and Steve Rogers.

Stark was defeated by the duo, but the Avengers were fractured thanks to the arrest of Ant-Man, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye, forcing Rogers to break them out and go on the run.

Barnes sought the help of Black Panther and the Wakandans, who cured him of the Hydra brainwashing and he would join the fight against Thanos. Like Wilson, he too was vaporized by Thanos at the end of Infinity War but would reemerge in Endgame and help to defeat the Mad Titan.

Supporting Cast
Disney+

Rounding out the show’s cast will be Daniel Brühl’s Helmut Zemo, who was the main antagonist in Captain America: Civil War, who seems to be continuing his quest to purge the world of superheroes. A man with allegiance to no one and no country, Zemo is one of Captain America’s most recurring villains in the comics and will be donning his signature purple mask in this show.

Also returning will be Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, one-time SHIELD agent, who helped Captain America in both Winter Soldier and Civil War. According to VanCamp, her character has been on the run since Civil War, and the show plans to explore what she has been doing since then.

Also making appearances in the show will be UFC legend Georges St-Pierre, who played Georges Batroc in Winter Soldier; Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/ War Machine; and Erin Kellyman as Karli Morgenthau, a member of the anti-patriotism group the Flag-Smashers.

Finally, Wyatt Russell will portray John Walker, aka U.S. Agent, a pseudo-successor to Captain America, who is much more jingoistic and nationalistic than Rogers ever was.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is set to premiere on Disney+ on March 19th, and will run for six episodes. You’re not going to want to miss this one.