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THE BEST IN STREAMING December 22: Our critic picks the top shows you can't miss this week

Check out this week's most buzz-worthy programs from top streaming services like Netflix Canada, Crave, Amazon Prime, and beyond.
Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in Barbie (2023)

Looking for your next binge-worthy series or film to add to your streaming queue? Check back with Village Life every Friday for Jordan Parker's comprehensive insights on the week's most buzz-worthy programs from top streaming services like Netflix, Crave, Amazon Prime, and beyond. 

On Netflix – May December

This disquieting drama happens to be one of the best-acted movies of 2023, and is a surefire hit for streamer Netflix.

The film follows Gracie – former pet shop worker – who is caught sleeping with her middle-school part-time hire Joe. She went to prison, but subsequently married Joe, with the latter expressing his profound love for the woman, despite their huge age gap. They welcomed children, and then May December drops in almost two decades after their illicit affair.

As a movie is being prepped about their life, young actress Elizabeth begins shadowing Gracie – with her permission – to get a better idea of how to portray her. But there is an uneasy feeling Elizabeth’s intentions may not be pure.

As she infiltrates the family, her research unearths past issues and Elizabeth finds herself in deeper than she expected.

Julianne Moore gives a disquieting performance as Gracie, and Natalie Portman is her best since Black Swan as Elizabeth, an ambitious actress who is consumed by her method acting. But the lynch-pin of this one is former Riverdale star Charles Melton, who gives a tender, conflicted turn as husband and family man Joe.

Director Todd Haynes is known for his incredible dramas – including personal favourites Far From Heaven and Carol – but this is as emotional and uncomfortable a film as he’s ever made. Seek it out – It’s an awards season favourite. 

On Amazon Prime Video – Hypnotic

Sometimes you just need a good, old-fashioned actioner. I’m not going to sit here and say everything in the sci-fi mechanics of Hypnotic’s plot is seamless, but it is a heck of a lot of fun.

Playing out like a lower-budget Inception, this one revolves around a detective who is reeling from the kidnapping of his young daughter.

When a bank heist unveils a villain who uses hypnotics (mind control) to get what he wants, Detective Danny Rourke realizes his daughter is somehow wrapped up in a government conspiracy.

Along with Diana Cruz – a hypnotic who uses their power for good – he attempts to find his daughter and figure out her connection.

Ben Affleck seems to be enjoying himself here, taking a break from high-brow work to just let loose. He’s joined by Alice Braga, Mayans M.C. star JD Pardo, Jackie Earle Haley, and the always-welcome William Fichtner. 

Co-writer and director Robert Rodriguez is best known for the Spy Kids movies, Desperado, and Grindhouse, but he makes an honest-to-goodness, no frills genre picture I actually enjoyed.

Dumped on VOD and not given a theatrical release, I think Hypnotic was a just-fine film that crumbled under the weight of sky-high expectations. It’s not incredible, but if you want to just turn your brain off for a while, you’ll enjoy this one.

On Paramount+ -- Swallowed

I went into Swallowed with zero expectations, and what I got was a Cronenberg-esque queer horror film of the highest order.

Benjamin and Dom are best friends, and on their final night before Benji heads to L.A. to make it big, they decide to have an epic party night together.

They head to Dom’s cousin’s house to do a drug delivery for cash, not realizing the party favours are dangerous insects with psychedelic properties. They’re forced at gunpoint to ingest strange bugs for transport. When things go awry, the two end up in a situation fighting for their lives.

Writer-director Carter Smith makes a weird, squeamish and grotesque film you need to see to believe.

The cast – including Cooper Koch, Jena Malone, Jose Colon, and Nightmare On Elm Street 2 star Mark Patton – really sell this one. A less confident group may have let this one slip into ridiculous territory.

I really loved this one, and it was a great genre pictures. It’s not for everyone though, so bear that in mind.

On Crave – Barbie

The box-office hit of the year is finally on Crave!

When I heard there was going to be a Barbie movie, I let out a huge sigh and shrugged mightily. Who cares about a live-action film about a doll?

And yet, as news about the cast and director involved came out, my opinions shifted. It became my most-anticipated film of the year, and it didn’t disappoint.

It’s a dramatic, existential film with feminist ideals, and it’s so whip-smart I could hardly believe it. Both an examination of toxic masculinity and gender roles and a hilarious satire, Barbie is an absolute triumph.

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are so good here that they’re in the Oscars running, and Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp, Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa, America Ferrera, and Will Ferrell are all fabulous.

Co-written and directed by Greta Gerwig (Little Women, Lady Bird), it’s the rare blockbuster that doubles as a quality awards contender.

On Disney+ -- Abbott Elementary

One of the funniest shows on television right now, Abbott Elementary is a workplace comedy that follows teachers in a poor public school district.

This one is about the love of teaching – under any and all circumstances – and how teachers bond together to make things the best they can for students.

It’s an ensemble effort, and performances from Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams, Janelle James, and Lisa Ann Walter propel this one. It’s a wonderful, awkward little comedy.

Previous winner of three Emmys for its writing, casting, and supporting work from Sheryl Lee Rudolph, it finds itself up for eight more this year.

The show comes back for its third season in February 2024, which leaves you a great amount of time to binge this over the winter season.

About The Author:


Jordan Parker is a freelance journalist and runs entertainment firm Parker PR. A huge lover and supporter of the local arts scene, he’s an avid filmgoer and lover of all genres.

A 2SLGBTQIA+ professional, he also works doing Events & Fundraising for the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia and has a passion for giving a platform to queer events and artists.

His writing often skews toward local businesses, productions, events, and covering arts & entertainment. He’s also an avid sports fan and spends every May getting let down by the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs.

Jordan believes in an open-door policy and welcomes story pitches and questions from readers.

Email[email protected]