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What to Watch: Sandra Bullock’s Netflix Thriller “Bird Box”

Plus, a pair of period pieces and a zany documentary about the Westminister Dog Show.

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Welcome to What to Watch, a series where we tell you the best shows, movies and series out right now, both on networks and streaming services. Only one week left of sludging though holiday specials. If you’re already tired of ’em, here are a few offbeat movies and miniseries to watch instead.

7 Days Out (Netflix)

For anyone who thinks event planning is a fairytale job of arranging backdrops and taste-testing hors d’oeuvres7 Days Out documents the final days of preparation for major events including the Kentucky Derby, a League of Legends Championship, the Westminster Dog Show, a NASA mission launch, the opening of Eleven Madison Park, and a Chanel fashion show. It’s goosebump-inducing viewing to watch professionals of extremely different industries all prepare for what is essentially their life’s work. More than that, the doc reminds you of how critical passion and drive are to the human spirit, no matter how trivial the events may seem to others.

Bird Box (Netflix)

I’m not really sure how to succinctly describe this movie except it looks exactly like John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place but with a focus on the sense of sight, not hearing. At least it stars Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, and Sarah Paulson. (A surprising budget for a Netflix horror movie). Bullock plays the central character who leaves a prenatal visit and finds herself in what looks like the apocalypse. People are seeing “an entity that takes on the form of your worst fears” and subsequently going suicidally insane. After civilization practically implodes. Sandra must get her now two young children to a safe haven, but they can’t risk taking their blindfolds off the entire journey.

Reviews so far are mixed. If you’re watching for the big scary monster reveal, you might be disappointed (amorphous beings representing your worst fears could manifest in literally any way). But if you’re a Bullock fan ready to watch a brilliant performance of motherhood after her disappointing Ocean’s 8 movie, watch it twice.

Watership Down (Netflix)

If you, like many people, are unsure of watching a live-action Lion King remake (The stampede scene! Have you seen how disgusting warthogs are in real life?) then maybe this four-part Watership Down miniseries is a better option. With graphics reminiscent of 2006-era animated movies, the miniseries may be darker than Africa’s circle of life, but it is ultimately a more pleasing and heartwarming story of finding your own home and family.

Vanity Fair (Amazon Prime)

Olivia Cooke stars as Becky Sharp, a feisty social climber who ends up traversing Europe in pursuit of a wealthier life than her childhood as an orphan. It’s latest of several adaptations of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel by the same name. Set in the early 1800s, Becky navigates English society during and after the Napoleonic wars, always fighting to maintain an elevated life. For comparison, think of Charles Dickens novels you read in school and replace the whimpering young male protagonists with a charming and cynical woman who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Reviews by critics and casual viewers alike have been positive, all applauding Cooke and insisting this adaptation by showrunner Gwyneth Hughes is the best one yet.