Escape ‘The Bear’! Stream ‘The Beast’ & Rock Legend Stevie Van Zandt Now!

Welcome to Screen Gabble, the digest for all you who are still rubbing your tired eyes from watching “The Bear” in a single night to dodge spoilers …

That’s because the third installment of the series was released three hours before its scheduled time this week, causing a frenzy among some fans. We have a plethora of coverage to satiate your cravings, including a chat with Liza Colón-Zayas. However, if you’re looking for different viewing suggestions, this week’s Screen Gabble features cinephile Mark Olsen discussing why French writer-director Bertrand Bonello’s narrative and genre-defying film “The Beast” is a splendid and profound reflection on solitude and desolation and deserves your attention.

Also in Screen Gabble No. 138, the creators of “Dark Matter” join us to talk about the cinematic influences behind their mind-twisting thriller and two series to take you on a journey this weekend.

Editor’s note: Screen Gabble will be taking a break next Friday, July 5, in observance of the holiday weekend. We’ll resume our regular programming on Friday, July 12.

ICYMI

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Turn on

Suggestions from the film and TV connoisseurs at The Times

“Stevie Van Zandt: Disciple” (HBO, Max)

Stevie Van Zandt, the loyal aide-de-camp of Bruce Springsteen in the E-Street Band and of James Gandolfini in “The Sopranos,” is the subject of this feature-length tribute. Known earlier as Miami Steve and now called Little Steven, he is also sometimes referred to as Silvio Dante. His many roles include that of a guitar player, songwriter, producer, arranger, actor, DJ, radio programmer, concert producer, Broadway director, scarf aficionado, and political activist. His anti-apartheid anthem “Sun City” is hailed as the most diverse and best of all 1980s supergroup sing-alongs. Like most rock documentaries, the most captivating material pertains to the early years when Van Zandt, Springsteen, and Southside Johnny Lyon, in their long-haired, sometimes shirtless youth, rocked the clubs and recreation halls of the Jersey Shore. However, “Disciple” — echoing the name of Van Zandt’s politically oriented solo band, the Disciples of Soul — is a delightful watch throughout, chronicling the highs and lows (and eventually, the highs) of a dynamic career while the music rolls on. — Robert Lloyd

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“Ren Faire” (HBO, Max)

“You should watch ‘Ren Faire,’” my friends suggested. “It’s like ‘Succession’ meets ‘Game of Thrones,’” people commented online. For those unaware, HBO’s latest trendy docuseries follows the middle management and owner of Texas’s largest Renaissance festival, detailing the behind-the-scenes conflict over who elderly owner George Coulam (who also happens to be the town’s mayor) wants to run his expansive operation. The years of strife are condensed into three highly engaging, hour-long episodes. Part of its appeal is that director Lance Oppenheim hasn’t just honed in on a rich vein of drama; he portrays life at the park in all its fantasy-inspired splendor. The documentary is often shot as if it were a narrative film and features moments of reenactment by some of the subjects featured in the project. It’s hard not to get caught up in the craziness, which is what happens to the series’ most tragic figure, general manager Jeff Baldwin. Some viewers were surely captivated by the behind-the-scenes drama: Will Coulam give his kingdom to Baldwin or will he finally accept kettle corn magnate Louie Migliaccio’s offer to purchase the festival? But what kept this viewer engrossed is the portrayal of the marriage between Baldwin and his wife Brandi, whom he hired as the park’s entertainment director. The couple, two theater enthusiasts who burst into showtunes in moments of joy or sorrow, are the lifeblood of the series. They offer us a glimpse of life outside of Coulam’s drama, even though it’s impossible for them to exist outside of his influence. — David Viramontes

Catch up

All you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s discussing

Not many filmmakers are delving into the solitude, desolation, and disorienting disconnection of contemporary life, particularly in the COVID-19 era, quite like French writer-director Bertrand Bonello. His recent film, “The Beast,” now available on digital platforms, transpires across three timelines — 1910 Paris, 2014 Los Angeles, and an AI-controlled world in 2044 — as two characters, Gabrielle and Louis, repeatedly fail to connect. As portrayed by Léa Seydoux and George MacKay, both performing in French and English, they are not star-crossed lovers destined to be together but thwarted by destiny; rather, they are two individuals who keep missing each other, each on their own journey, highlighting a sense of existential alienation. If this all seems a bit gloomy, that’s because it doesn’t consider the electrifying performances, particularly Seydoux, who delivers some of the finest work of her career here. Recently seen in “Dune: Part Two,” the French actress typically relies on the cool, enigmatic mystery of her on-screen character in her Hollywood roles, whereas in “The Beast,” she is a raw, exposed nerve, vulnerable and unprotected against what the world throws at her. In the section set in L.A., Bonello most directly explores the film’s central themes. MacKay’s character here is based on Isla Vista murderer Elliot Rodger, with some dialogue taken verbatim from Rodger’s delusional online videos, casting a disturbing shadow over the narrative. Each storyline reaches its own devastating conclusion, building up a sense of momentum fueled by Seydoux’s escalating sense of terrified dread, culminating in a shattering finale. The film’s end credits, presented as a QR code, drive home the fact that the future, whether we like it or not, is here. — Mark Olsen

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Guest spot

A weekly discussion with actors, writers, directors, and others about their current projects — and what they’re watching

Who hasn’t pondered about the path not taken and how it would reframe our personal history? That’s the attraction of “Dark Matter” (Apple TV+), the nine-episode, multi-dimensional sci-fi drama that follows a man as he is kidnapped into an alternate version of his own life and tracks his traumatic struggle to return to his real family. Based on the book by Blake Crouch, who also serves as the showrunner, the series stars Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Connelly and concluded its first season earlier this week. Crouch and executive producer Matt Tolmach joined Screen Gabble recently to talk about the films that helped inform the story’s adaptation to the screen, the shows they revisit time and again, and more. — Matt Brennan

What have you viewed recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?

Crouch: I’m completely hooked on “Welcome to Wrexham” [Hulu]. It’s odd to think that a docuseries about a pair of actors purchasing a Welsh football club has turned out to be the most emotional, thrilling, poignant, and beautifully edited show I’ve seen lately. It has truly become a portrait of a town and its inhabitants, and there’s something subtly profound about that.

Tolmach: I recently watched “The Wire” [Max] and then “The Sopranos” [Max]. Both are benchmarks for me. Exceptionally authentic characters. I actually wandered around in a sad haze after finishing “The Sopranos” a couple of weeks ago. When shows really work, you fall in love with the characters. And you deeply miss them, like family, when they’re gone. I miss that entire cast.

What’s your go-to “comfort watch,” the film or TV show you return to time and again?

Crouch: “The Office” [Peacock]. I think it’s “Cheers” [Paramount+, Hulu] for the older millennials/young Gen-Xers.

Tolmach: “Rick and Morty” [Hulu]. It’s my refuge when I need a laugh. Or perspective. Or to fantasize about escaping. And I watch it with my child, which makes it even better. Also … I spend an excessive amount of time on ESPN. On especially rainy days, the Catalina Wine Mixer [scene from] “Step Brothers” never, ever fails to amuse …

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Which film or TV series would you say has been most influential on you, either in your work shaping “Dark Matter” or more generally?

Crouch: “Twin Peaks” [Paramount+]. It didn’t shape “Dark Matter” so much, but that show aired when I was 12 and impressionable and is one of the reasons I love storytelling, especially long-form. There was never anything like it — before or since.

Tolmach: We discussed a few films throughout the making of this show. I frequently referenced [Richard] Linklater’s “Slacker” (for a particular scene). And “Frantic.” “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a reference point, obviously.

Over the past year, publication after publication has noted that Apple TV+ has become a hub for numerous high-quality sci-fi shows. What has the platform’s communication to you been about their interest in the genre and how “Dark Matter” fits into that?

Crouch: We honestly haven’t had any discussions about it. The general conversations I had with Apple regarding “Dark Matter” were primarily about wanting to create something of high quality … from the actors to the production design to the music. That’s why working with Apple on this show was such a delight. It sounds odd to say, but in this industry, quality isn’t always the top priority for the people holding the purse strings, and I have certainly been spoiled by Apple’s commitment to creating something as excellent as it can be.

Tolmach: “Severance” [Apple TV+] is a perfect show. In terms of tone and on every level. We always felt secure at Apple, because of their love of grounded sci-fi. It demands a commitment to character, and they’ve been hugely supportive of that mantra since day one.

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