Watching: The Best Things to Stream

On Netflix, Amazon and Disney+

By The Watching Team

The weekend is here. It’s here! Take a break from watching the news. Regardless of what streaming service you subscribe to, we want to help. We’ve gone through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ to find the best titles on each service.

Here’s one of the 50 best movies on Netflix

From left, Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Viola Davis, Michael Potts and Glynn Turman in «Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.»David Lee/Netflix, via Associated Press

‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’

The acclaimed stage director George C. Wolfe brings August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winner to the screen, quite faithfully — which is just fine, as a play this good requires little in the way of “opening up,” so rich are the characters and so loaded is the dialogue. The setting is a Chicago music studio in 1927, where the “Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and her band are meeting to record several of her hits, though that business is frequently disrupted by the tensions within the group over matters both personal and artistic. Davis is superb as Rainey, chewing up her lines and spitting them out with contempt at anyone who crosses her, and Chadwick Boseman, who died in 2020, is electrifying as the showy sideman Levee, a boiling pot of charisma, flash and barely concealed rage. A.O. Scott calls the film “a powerful and pungent reminder of the necessity of art.”

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Here is one of the best TV shows on Netflix

Sue Perkins, left, and Mel Giedroyc of “The Great British Baking Show.”Des Willie/Love Productions

‘The Great British Baking Show’

In this internationally beloved reality competition, a handful of home bakers gather in a tent in the English countryside, where they make baked goods in front of demanding judges and supportive comedians. The roster of hosts and commentators has changed during the show’s decade on the air, but the appeal has remained steady. There’s just something special about “The Great British Baking Show,” a life-affirming series in which contestants of various ages and socio-ethnic backgrounds hug one another, cry together, share tips and enjoy one another’s company. Writing for The Times, Tom Whyman called it “the key to understanding today’s Britain.”

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Have a Hulu subscription? It’s a lot to wade through. We can help!

Christopher Walken in “The Dead Zone.”Paramount Pictures

‘The Dead Zone’

The director David Cronenberg rarely made traditional horror films, and this 1983 adaptation of the best seller by Stephen King is no exception. It’s as much science-fiction as horror, focusing on a regular Joe (Christopher Walken, muted and effective) who comes out of a five-year coma with the ability to see the futures of those he touches. This thoughtful and tricky picture is as interested in moral dilemmas and historical ramifications as it is in thrills and chills; our critic found it “unsettling” and “quietly forceful.”

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Amazon Prime Video doesn’t make it easy to find stuff. Luckily, we have done the work for you.

A screengrab from «The Trials of Muhammad Ali.»Kino Lorber

‘The Trials of Muhammad Ali’

Few sports figures have been as thoroughly chronicled by documentary filmmakers as Muhammad Ali, but this 2013 profile from director Bill Siegel (“The Weather Underground”) is unique in its focus: It eschews boxing altogether, focusing instead on the period in which Ali was barred from the ring after his conversion to Islam and defiance of the Vietnam draft. To tell that story, Siegel calls upon a rich archive of remarkable television interviews, public speeches and private footage; taken together, the material serves as a valuable reminder that Ali was a provocateur and radical thinker who was altogether unwilling to coddle his public.

Disney+ is full of older classics. But there are a lot of newer things to watch as well.

From left, Michael Angarano, Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston as a superhero family in “Sky High.”Suzanne Tenner/Disney Enterprises

‘Sky High’

As the son of two powerful superheroes (Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston), Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is expected to be the star freshman at a school for kids with special powers. Instead, he lands with the nerdy sidekicks (called Hero Support). Will’s awkward development raises the stakes on the typical high school comedy and the loaded cast offers inspired supporting turns by Dave Foley, Bruce Campbell and Kevin McDonald as his instructors. Stephen Holden called it “a zippy Disney adventure-comedy.”

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