In case you’re wondering how much this dizzying array of programming (Pixar, Marvel Studios, National Geographic, 20th Century Fox, Star Wars and Muppets) might set ya back, you have some options. You can try a week free before committing; after that it costs $6.99/month or $69.99/year ($5.83/month). You can also get the service as part of a new bundle with an ad-free version of Hulu along with ESPN+, and new Verizon or Fios customers can also get a free year. Currently, Disney+ and its smaller lineup of original shows is cheaper than the more established competition, Netflix ($8.99/$12.99/$15.99 a month) and Amazon ($119 annually/$12.99 a month).
The World According to Jeff Goldblum | Disney+
Silver fox and internet sensation Jeff Goldblum is unleashed in a new Disney+ show. And just to be clear, this is your gift for being so good this year. Like Keanu Reeves, Bob Ross and Mister Rogers, Goldblum has become the internet’s personification of wholesomeness, and this series explores/exploits that as much as it does the actual subjects of the show. Previously constrained to the guest seats of late night talk shows or YouTube videos, the lanky jazz enthusiast takes on modern pop culture in this Vice-style docuseries that sets the Jurassic Park actor amok as he explores the who, why, what and how of pop culture.
Tackling family-friendly subjects such as sneakers and frozen desserts, the series is filled with Jeff’s darling wide-eyed naivete as he learns new tidbits about his subjects. In essence, we experience the joy of discovery because he experiences the joy of discovery. His unbridled delight and complete lack of cynicism is a refreshing take on the docuseries genre, which is often led by cynicism.
We are not only viewers, we are J-Gold’s confidants and co-conspirators, learning about vulcanized rubber and sneaker culture embellished by gentle jabs and that signature stammer. Despite the amount of juju Goldblum brings to the show, this isn’t must see TV. It’s more like entertaining-when-it’s-on TV or background-to-wash-the-dishes TV. It won’t be sparking any heated debates around the water cooler or Facebook feeds. It’s just interesting information wrapped around a soft Jeffy center.
The Mandalorian | Disney+
It’s no secret that Disney has had a bit of an issue with their ability to maintain the Star Wars franchise. After a strong start with The Force Awakens, worshipers of Walt almost managed the kill the fun of the franchise by running it into the ground. Luckily, Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian is the wonderful, throwback savior that Star Wars needed to renew interest in the space saga.
Set after the fall of the Empire, the series follows the mysterious Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) as he rounds up his latest bounty, visiting one wretched hive after another. Masterfully dipping into Star Wars lore just enough to give us a sense sentimental longing, Favreau flawlessly ties the series to the iconic trilogy with dozens of references to characters, events and well-placed Easter eggs. Even that woefully camp holiday special gets a shoutout.
More importantly, The Mandalorian isn’t a complicated sweeping adventure crammed with too many characters or themes. Its premise takes place within a small crevice of the vast Star Wars universe where scum and villainy fester. There is none of the bloated political stories or unnecessary secondary characters that have weighed heavily on other franchise entries. It remembers what fans love about the original movies, bringing a sense of wonder that was lacking in recent endeavors.
Pascal does a magnificent job as the titular character, emoting more from under a mask than whatever the cast of Attack of the Clones thought they were doing. Also, it is also worth mentioning that Nick Nolte plays the Ugnaught named Kuiil because holy druk (that’s a Star Wars curse word), he’s good.
It’s not all perfect. There are moments when the CGI momentarily drags the series to Phantom Menace levels of cheese. But once that bounty hunter droid starts firing with expert precision, all is forgiven. The series is the streaming version of Mickey appearing to fans with a sign that reads, “So sorry about Solo.” Disney has had a few misfires these days, but The Mandalorian is not one of them. This is a delightful treat that will stick to the ribs, like a roasted Kowakian monkey-lizard.
Lady and the Tramp | Disney+
We’re dead inside. Or perhaps we’ve grown so cynical that even adorable computer-enhanced puppies and promises of cuddly canine dinners can’t reach our blackened heart. Or perhaps we’re all just so burned out on live-action adaptations that we can no longer process or get pleasure from the formula.
The 1955 animated feature Lady and the Tramp is the latest classic to get a live-action do-over as director Charlie Bean does his best with the material he’s given. The House of Mouse has been updating their entire vault with CG-versions of their tales over the last decade and for the most part, it is a sound investment: cash in on a built-in audience by giving beloved classics a makeover. Apparently, they tried to use real animals for this one, but after the monkey kept chucking baby lion cubs over the cliff during The Lion King, they turned to CGI.
This one is not great. The CGI makes the dogs look weird and watching ’em brings to mind Robert Shaw’s infamous Jaws monologue: “Them dogs…they got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes…”
Clearly, money was spent. The turn-of-the-century small town the pups inhabit looks rich and endless. Disney probably pulled out the wallet to pay for the likes of Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, Janelle Monae and Sam Elliot. But too much time is spent with characters that were previously just off-screen voices.Truth is, we don’t need to know or like Jim Dear and Darling, who, by the way, are shitty pet owners. Which is ironic because this feature tries so hard to be culturally responsible, it hurts the story. Aside from outdated stereotypes featuring felines, most of the changes to the story seem unnecessary, highlighting non-issues from the classic toon. And these problems here wouldn’t need to be “fixed” if the story stayed centered on the pooches.