Every month, Netflix churns up its selection of offerings with new TV shows and movies—adding even more to what feels like a veritable ocean of material to watch, while adding deadlines to those things you’ve promised to yourself to watch later. So here, our critics make their recommendations about the best and most bingeable things that are coming out this month, and flag the series or film on the way out that you should see before it’s too late. For the full list of what’s coming and going, click here.
IN: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
It can be easy to make fun of pop music. After all, it all sounds the same, the criticism goes, or it’s simple and trite now—criticisms that can sometimes feel like thinly veiled policing of the fandom of teens, especially teen girls. In reality, though, the pop industry is as mechanized and impressive as ever—to think that it hasn’t been that way since at least Tin Pan Alley would be ahistorical—and the production of pop music has become an artful science. Enter Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island sketch-comedy gang to lampoon an industry that certainly has plenty of boils to lance. But where it would’ve been just easy to make Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping a simplistic, mean-spirited and ultimately condescending mockery of the air-headed vanities that modern pop music can seem on the outside, it meets its subject earnestly, becoming a eminently goofy yet loving critique of the industry as it’s currently constructed. It takes gleeful aim at its absurdities, like pop’s long tradition of co-opting Black music to its stars’ tendencies to envelop themselves with yes-men entourages as their teams work to turn a human into a brand, then into worldwide cultural saturation. It’s high-energy with non-stop joke rate, a familiar-feeling bubblegum pleasure that jolts your synapses over and over again for its duration—and in that way, it feels like pop music itself. It comes to Netflix on Aug. 1.
IN: Julie & Julia
The charming 2009 film—perhaps the first in a long line of blogs-turned-books-turned-movies—is at its best if you get past the ampersand in its title. Not that the story of a post-9/11 Manhattan real-estate claims adjustor (Amy Adams) finding love as she fastidiously works her way through the seminal Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook doesn’t have its own delightful, if shoehorned-in, moments. It’s just that the interspersed vignettes from Julia Child, working to get that cookbook published, are so much more gripping, with Meryl Streep inhabiting the role with fulsome glee. Indeed, if you enjoyed Streep hamming it up with Stanley Tucci in The Devil Wears Prada, you will enjoy her scenes with Tucci, playing her husband Paul here, in the most delicious parts of this film. But that shouldn’t stop you from checking this out when it arrives; after all, not letting perfect be the enemy of good would serve as a tribute to Child’s famously fun-loving attitude about cooking. After all, as she famously said, “Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up—who’s going to know?” Watch it on Aug. 1.
OUT: The Truman Show
In a way, The Truman Show is an analogue to what has already been written about Popstar; if that film takes only gentle aim at its subject with fluorescent, candy-coloured jokes, The Truman Show wraps its scathing message—of how popular entertainment can tango dangerously with the surveillance state, a terribly foresighted portent as Big Brother and Survivor debuted in America two years after its release—in something rather more artful. With Jim Carrey as a man who unknowingly lives in a carefully protected and curated dome, and whose curated and quotidian daily life there is mined for big TV ratings, it is an unnerving comment on what depths that audiences plumb for personal entertainment. It also features Carrey’s first major turn in a drama, playing something other than a rubber-faced jester for the first time in his career; it was arguably his best dramatic role since. It leaves Netflix on Aug. 3.
With files from James Hirsh