It's the start of a new month, which means it's time to take stock of what's new to everybody's favorite streaming services.
December 2015 brings true crime to Netflix, one of TV's best shows (back) to Amazon, and a slew of holiday favorites to all the major services. Read on for this month's five top additions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO Go.
New in December on Netflix
Tangerine (available December 2)
Netflix currently lags a bit in terms of big studio releases. Its upcoming deal with Disney (which kicks off in January) will easily fix that, but for right now it's loading up on indie films rather than blockbusters. Fortunately, Netflix has a good eye for indie films, and this tiny miracle — shot on an iPhone! — is one of 2015's best. It follows two trans women on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles as they try to hunt down a cheating boyfriend. It's the kind of obviously low-budget movie that still feels epic in scope.
A Very Murray Christmas (available December 4)
I'm cheating a little here, because I haven't seen this one. It could be terrible! But there's no way I'm not checking out a Bill Murray Christmas special directed by Sofia Coppola. With George Clooney! And Amy Poehler! And Chris Rock! And so many other people!
Phoenix (available December 8)
Hey, here's another one of the best movies of the year! This post–World War II thriller centers on a woman who's undergone facial reconstructive surgery after nearly being killed in the Holocaust. Her former husband — who now doesn't recognize her and may have betrayed her during the war — enlists her in a scam, and the film builds from that suspenseful premise to become both a knotty thriller and an involving character drama.
Making a Murderer (available December 18)
Netflix dives into the true-crime genre with this documentary miniseries about a man who went to prison for a crime he didn't commit. When he's exonerated based on DNA evidence after nearly two decades in jail, he promptly winds up the chief suspect in another criminal case. I've only seen two installments (out of 10 total), but it seems likely this one will keep viewers hooked.
Queen of Earth (available December 22)
If you're wondering why so many people (including me) think Elisabeth Moss is the best young American actress of her generation, this film should immediately convince you of her chops. Her second project with director Alex Ross Perry, Queen of Earth is a dark and twisty psychological thriller about a woman who loses her mind while on vacation with her best friend. Moss's performance deserves Oscar chatter but won't get it, because this film went underseen. Never mind that, though. You can watch it now! On Netflix!
New in December on Amazon Prime
Something's Gotta Give (Available December 1)
All four major streaming services have unleashed a number of choices appropriate for the point in the holiday season when you need to watch something with your parents or grandparents but aren't sure what. This Nancy Meyers film, starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in an unlikely romantic pairing, should do the trick.
Transparent, season two (available December 11)
A great year for television might have saved the best for last. I'll be writing much more about Transparent's second season when it launches, as I've screened the whole thing; for now just know that it's bolder, funnier, and more moving than the show's first — and that's saying something. It wraps up with some of the best TV you'll see in 2015, and the tremendous season two premiere (which assures that all will be well in just one shot) is available now.
Interstellar (available December 12)
This mad outer space opera has its problems — chief among them director Christopher Nolan's tendency to GO ALL THE WAY TO A 12 WHEN A 6 WOULD DO JUST FINE, THANKS — but it's undeniably affecting, and it boasts a killer performance by Matthew McConaughey as a man who sets out for interstellar space to find a new home for humankind, leaving behind children who will almost certainly age right past him, thanks to the vagaries of space travel. (Also available on Hulu.)
Selma (available December 19)
Director Ava DuVernay's terrific film about the march at Selma and a crucial moment in the civil rights movement is a wonderful example of how to best make movies about true stories. It takes a hugely famous American figure — Martin Luther King Jr. — and finds the humanity in him, right alongside the greatness that inspired others. A Best Picture nominee, it will have you rapt. (Also available on Hulu.)
Mozart in the Jungle (available December 30)
The first season of this kooky, orchestra-set comedy took some time to really find its footing, but by the end it was a fizzy delight. Season two looks to up the stakes considerably for all of the show's characters, and the entire all-star cast — including Gael García Bernal, Malcolm McDowell, and Bernadette Peters — is returning for more hijinks among types who are rich enough to support symphony orchestras.
New in December on Hulu
Apocalypse Now (available December 1)
Look! It's Apocalypse Now! Francis Ford Coppola's dark fantasia about the Vietnam War is one of the greatest films ever made — as well as the one that nearly sunk the director's career. Now, more than 35 years after its release, it's gone on to become a time-honored classic, and many of its best moments (like those helicopters firing away to "Ride of the Valkyries") are bits of cinematic legend.
Superstore (available December 1)
Few things are more enjoyable than a good workplace comedy, and NBC has cooked up a promising one in Superstore, which is set inside the sort of ultra-generic department store that crowds the American landscape. America Ferrera and Ben Feldman play two kids who will inevitably fall in love, and while the series is still figuring itself out, it actually has something to say about the way so many Americans live and work today. Only three episodes are available right now; more will appear in the new year.
Casual (available December 2)/The Mindy Project (available December 8)
Hulu was initially created by a bunch of TV networks, and even if it's grown well past that origin story, it still sometimes feels like a streaming service created by a bunch of TV networks. Chief among the reasons is Hulu's belief that viewers want to see episodes of their favorites on a weekly basis, instead of watching them all at once. Obviously, there are plenty of people who feel differently; if you're one of them, the first season of the gentle family dramedy Casual and the fourth season of the Mindy Kaling comedy The Mindy Project become available in their entirety on the days listed above. Go nuts.
Man Seeking Woman (available December 7)
This weirdo romantic comedy from FXX reimagines the dating landscape as a series of goofy sketches in which, say, an entire war room might convene to help a young man send a text to a woman he wants to take on a date. With Jay Baruchel as said young man and a bevy of talented comedians surrounding him, the show succeeds in expanding its thin premise in odd and compelling directions. It's not perfect, but it's good enough for a long weekend binge.
Deutschland 83 (available December 18)
This German spy drama was one of the summer's best shows, a surprisingly entertaining and humorous look at the divide between East and West Germany in the 1980s, complete with a killer soundtrack. A young East German man is sent into the West to spy, only to be overcome by the wonders of capitalism. (It's funnier than that logline sounds, I promise.) It's the kind of show where you might sit down to watch one episode and then realize your entire evening has disappeared.
New in December on HBO Go
Annie Hall (available December 1)
There's a new Star Wars movie out this month, so why not commemorate that fact with the movie that beat the original Star Wars at the Oscars, Annie Hall. (Okay, it's also one of the greatest comedies ever made.) Director Woody Allen's dissection of the life and death of a would-be great romance is funny, poignant, and perfectly observed, with a terrific performance by Diane Keaton in the title role.
Brokeback Mountain (available December 1)
Hey, this movie is 10 years old! Director Ang Lee's lovely, lyrical romance between two cowboys in 20th-century Wyoming was a major breakthrough for mainstream LGBT films when it came out in 2005, eventually grossing more than $175 million worldwide and winning three Oscars (though, famously, not Best Picture, in one of the awards' greatest upsets). Watching it now, you might be surprised by how subtle and small the film is, and how perfectly wrought. You'll also be reminded what a tremendous actor Heath Ledger was.
Home Alone (available December 1)
You know the drill: Kid's family goes on a trip and accidentally leaves him at home alone. Burglars start sniffing around his house. He sets up some booby traps to deal with them. A major box office haul — and beloved holiday favorite — ensues. This isn't the movie you thought it was when you were 10, but that doesn't really matter. Nostalgia will carry the day every time.
The Leftovers, season two (available December 6)
If you've been waiting for The Leftovers' entire second season to become available before digging in, set an alarm for 10 pm Eastern on December 6 and be prepared to watch it immediately. What turned out to be a frustrating watch for many in the show's first season grew bolder and took many more risks in a tremendous second go-round. If HBO doesn't renew The Leftovers because of its minuscule ratings, I'll be very sad, so do your part for good television by streaming it right away.
Getting On, season three (available December 13)
An elder-care facility wouldn't normally be the setting for a comedy, but here we are. The third and final season of this lovely little series will be available as of 10:30 pm Eastern on December 13, and if you haven't already, you should commit to the entire series, which comprises a very manageable 18 half-hour episodes. It's filled with humor, depth, and a surprisingly intense celebration of life and death, alongside wonderful performances from the likes of Laurie Metcalf and Niecy Nash. It's great, unsung TV.