As usual, we started off the week by surveying the Polygon staff to see what people have been watching — whether they’re on top of the latest cultural controversy about a virally popular Netflix series, discovering an animated gem ahead of the latest season, or educating themselves in older genre classics.
And as usual, the answers range widely, as some people check out what’s new and popular on streaming services, and some return to past favorites. Here are some thoughts on what we’re enjoying watching right now, and what you might enjoy watching as well.
I finally got around to watching HBO’s Perry Mason. I’d heard many great things about the pseudo-prequel of the classic detective series, including our own positive review. I’d also heard the pilot had a habit of splicing in profoundly disturbing images of a dead baby, its lifeless eyes sewn open. No thanks.
I put off the show for the entire season until I finally had the stomach to watch the premiere. As expected, I enjoyed the show and hated the dead baby sequences, which were grotesque but in no way added to the experience. Call me old fashioned, but the suggestion of a dead child is horrific enough for me to feel compassion for its parents and the detective determined to crack the case of its death. I’m sure cinema purists will despise this fantasy, but I wish the show came with a “no images of the dead baby” option, similar to the new video game Grounded, which lets players remove spider imagery from the game to make the adventure more accessible. I’m not calling for censorship. I’m just asking for an option, one that brings more people into a show rather than giving them a reason to stay out.
Perry Mason has so many delicious ingredients: the 1930s Los Angeles setting, tawdry Hollywood drama, a compelling mystery, the faces of Matthew Rhys and Shea Whigham. I’m looking forward to watching more. Hopefully my enjoyment isn’t spoiled by chest-aching horror.
Perry Mason is streaming on HBOMax.
And everything else we’re watching…
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
In the wake of 9/11, Stephan Elliott’s 1994 road trip movie was reportedly one of the most programmed movies on TV networks around the world, which hoped to counter extreme grief with absolute joy. I can see why: Following two drag queens a transgender woman as they bus around the Australian outback, the movie is bursting with a love for life and the potential of our wildest dreams.
The movie stars a young Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce as two showgirls, and the legendary Terence Stamp as their elder matriarch Bernadette, as they drive cross-country for the biggest gig of their lives. Along the way, they sing, they dance, they drink way too much, they sit atop their tour bus to let flowing gowns soar across the empty desert, and they overcome the skeptical crowds of small town Australia, who see the trio as the embodiment of the AIDS crisis. Their razzle dazzle cannot be stopped.
A modern version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert would likely cast gay and trans actors to fill the main roles, but under the direction of Elliott, himself a gay man, Weaving, Pearce, and especially Stamp perform flamboyant routines and reflect on their turbulent lives with the utmost grace, never stumbling into caricature that so much of American film and TV struggled with in the ‘90s. The movie has its flaws — on a side quest, the girls encounter a young Asian woman whose performance amounts to some truly awful, stereotypical shtick — but for the 90 minutes when it isn’t stumbling, it’s flying high on glitter and glam. Years before Drag Race became an international phenomenon, this movie was celebrating and indulging in the spectacle of drag, and yes, doing it with the required amount of ABBA. —Matt Patches
Despite being a self-proclaimed Goth Queen and a lover of all things macabre, my big secret confession is that I can count the amount of horror movies I’ve watched on one hand. But after five months of quarantine, I finally decided it was time to venture into this unexplored genre. To start, I settled on Candyman, since scary stuff always comes easier to me if packaged in a metaphor for societal injustice (plus, I am intrigued by the sequel still set to come out later this year).
Candyman is creepy without relying heavily on the elements that have always turned me away from horror (ie, overly excessive gore and jump scares), building a sense of foreboding atmosphere with the help of an incredibly chilling score by Phillip Glass. Also, I never got why people were, like, in love with slashers from horror movies till I met Candyman. Yes, Candyman … I will be your victim. —Petrana Radulovic
Candyman is streaming on Netflix.
I’ve heard good things about Disney XD’s rebooted DuckTales, but I don’t have kids so it was never really on my radar. But after watching a delightful Variety interview with DuckTales stars Bobby Moynihan, Ben Schwartz, and Toks Olagundoye, my husband and I decided to give the show a try. Turns out, it’s a delight. Schwartz, Moynihan, and Community’s Danny Pudi voice the young duck triplets, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, who go on adventures with their great-uncle Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant).
Maybe it’s just Tennant’s voice, but DuckTales reminds me of Doctor Who at its best — an eccentric adventurer is accompanied by charming companions as they “might solve a mystery/or rewrite history” as the theme song promises. The triplets serve the same story purpose as they did in the original series — they’re mischievous and rambunctious and curious, causing trouble for Scrooge as often as they help him out — but the rebooted Huey, Dewey, and Louie each have distinct personalities and motivations, which gives the episodes a little more depth. —Emily Heller
DuckTales is streaming on Disney Plus.
I’d been eyeing Infinity Train for a while, but didn’t bite the bullet (train) until vacation this last week. In a nutshell: A young girl is trapped on an endless train, each car holds a different and strange world, she meets allies, overcomes baddies, grows as a person, tries to get home. This brief description undersells a relentlessly creative and stylish show that isn’t afraid to put big ideas and horror trappings in front of kids.
But what I might love most about Infinity Train is its format: Short seasons of brisk 10-minute episodes. You’ll never be able to predict what a new car contains, or where a new episode is going. The story moves, and so does the storytelling. The basic setup of Infinity Train could have gone on forever, Sliders or Quantum Leap style, but instead the creators buttoned up their main character’s arc in a single season. The second season delves deeper into the world of the Train with an almost entirely new set of characters and conflicts, and I’m enjoying it just as much as the first. If you catch up, a third season just premiered last week, and is waiting for you at the end of the tunnel. —Susana Polo
Infinity Train is streaming on HBO Max.
Lu Over the Wall
After rewatching Masaaki Yuasa’s weird, wild anime movie Ride Your Wave so I could write about it for its American release, I figured I should catch up on his other movies — he’s enough of a phenomenon that I could see I was missing out on something. Fortunately, Lu Over the Wall is easily available on Netflix. At first blush, I really thought this was just Yuasa’s reskinning of Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo. After all, it’s another anime film about a small, wide-eyed, shape-changing mermaid who falls for a human boy and obsesses over him, to the point where her weird, protective father gets involved, and to the point where the sea rises up and goes wild in response.
But Lu has a whole lot of strange, surprising texture that Ponyo doesn’t. The supposed protagonist, Kai, is a wet blanket of a teenager, a monosyllabic zombie from a family of dialed-down men who’ve seemingly given up on their lives. But as the story progresses into visually and conceptually bigger material, it turns out that Kai, his father, and his grandfather all had their own ambitions and emotional links that still operate inside them. Lu Over the Wall starts out as a teen-band fantasy about a magical creature, and opens up into a surprisingly sweet and passionate story about frustrated ambitions, lost loves, fear of failure, childhood trauma, living in sync with the environment, the fear of never escaping your hometown, and a whole lot more. Oh, and the animation starts out familiar and turns into an unpredictable kaleidoscope of expressively melty bodies and explosive action. —Tasha Robinson