Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in March
Make a couch date with a savage and sublime new horror-comedy about dating, a documentary directed by Amy Poehler and Marvel's new Oscar Isaac-starring series.
March 30, 2022
Not all that long ago, the idea of getting cosy on your couch, clicking a few buttons, and having thousands of films and television shows at your fingertips seemed like something out of science fiction. Now, it's just an ordinary night — whether you're virtually gathering the gang to text along, cuddling up to your significant other or shutting the world out for some much needed me-time.
Of course, given the wealth of options to choose from, there's nothing ordinary about making a date with your chosen streaming platform. The question isn't "should I watch something?" — it's "what on earth should I choose?".
Hundreds of titles are added to Australia's online viewing services each and every month, all vying for a spot on your must-see list. And, so you don't spend 45 minutes scrolling and then being too tired to actually commit to watching anything, we're here to help. We've spent plenty of couch time watching our way through this month's latest batch — and, from the latest and greatest to old favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue from March's haul of newbies. (Yes, we're assuming that you've already jumped on A Dog's World with Tony Armstrong already.)
BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL RIGHT NOW
Finally, a film about dating in the 21st century with real bite — and that's unafraid to sink its teeth into the topic. In this hit Sundance horror-comedy, Normal People's Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Noa, and once again gets entangled in a romance that'll leave a mark; here, however, the scars aren't merely emotional. Swiping right hasn't been doing it for Fresh's protagonist, as a comically terrible date with the appropriately named Chad (Brett Dier, Jane the Virgin) demonstrates early. Then sparks fly the old-fashioned way, in-person at the supermarket, with the curiously offline doctor Steve (Sebastian Stan, Pam & Tommy). Soon, he's whisking her away to a secluded spot for the weekend — a little too swiftly for Noa's protective best friend Mollie's (Jojo T Gibbs, Twenties) liking, especially given that no one can virtually stalk his socials to scope him out — and that getaway takes a savage and nightmare-fuelling twist.
If Raw met Ex Machina, then crossed paths with American Psycho and Hostel, and finally made the acquaintance of any old rom-com, Fresh still wouldn't be the end result — but its tone stems from those parts, as do some plot points and performances, and even a few scenes as well. First-time feature director Mimi Cave doesn't butcher these limbs, though, and screenwriter Lauryn Kahn (Ibiza) doesn't stitch them together like Frankenstein's monster. As anchored by the excellent Edgar-Jones and Stan, there's care, savvy, smarts and style in this splatter-filled, satirical, brutal, funny, empowered and sweet film. Its twists, and its cutting take on predatory dating, are best discovered by watching, but being turned off apps, men and meat in tandem is an instant gut reaction.
Fresh is available to stream via Disney+.
OUR FLAG FLAG MEANS DEATH
In the on-screen sea that is the never-ending list of films and television shows constantly vying for eyeballs, Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby have frequently proven gem-dappled treasure islands. When the immensely funny New Zealand talents have collided, their resumes have spanned four of the most endearing comic hits of the big and small screens in the 21st century so far, aka Flight of the Conchords, What We Do in the Shadows, Wellington Paranormal and Hunt for the Wilderpeople — and now, with pirate parody Our Flag Means Death, they've given viewers another gleaming jewel. This show was always going to swashbuckle its way into streaming must-see lists — and into comedy-lovers' hearts — based on its concept alone, but it more than lives up to its winning idea and winsome casting. Come for the buccaneering banter and seafaring satire, stay for a thoughtful and sincere comic caper that's also a rom-com.
The inimitable Darby stars as Stede Bonnet, a self-styled 'gentleman pirate' and a great approximation of Flight of the Conchords' Murray if he'd existed centuries earlier. Meanwhile, Waititi dons leather, dark hues aplenty, an air of bloodthirsty melancholy and an eye-catching head of greying hair as Edward Teach, the marauder better known to the world as Blackbeard. The two real-life figures eventually cross paths after Bonnet leaves his life of wealth, privilege and comfort to rove the oceans, captains a ship staffed by a motley crew to end all motley crews, and initially gets captured by Blackbeard — or Ed, as he calls him. As these two opposites bond, riding the waves from adversaries to co-captains to potentially something more, Our Flag Means Death truly and gloriously opens up its warm heart.
Ascension may not be an Oscar-winner, losing out to Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), but it'll always be one of 2022's nominees. More than that, this two-time Tribeca Film Festival winner will forever remain one of the most arresting documentaries of the past year as well. Helming her first feature-length doco, filmmaker Jessica Kingdon turns her gaze to the Chinese dream — and what she sees, while situated in a very specific cultural context by design, is a clear and easy sibling to its American counterpart. That's part of the statement her film makes, all just by watching on patiently but meticulously as people go about their lives.
Starting with factory recruitment on the streets, then stepping into mass production, then climbing the social hierarchy up to the rich and privileged, Ascension explores employment and consumerism — and what they mean in an everyday sense in modern-day and modernised China. It's a portrait of the needs that make working on assembly lines a necessity, and of the dreams that inspire every step up the societal ladder. Some folks build sex dolls, their uncanny valley-esque forms adding an eerie mood. Others take lessons on etiquette for service jobs, including about not letting your face betray your emotions, and the tone is also unsettling. Observational to a mesmerising degree, Kingdon's exceptional film lets its slices of life and the behaviour, attitudes and patterns they capture do the talking, and they all speak volumes. Indeed, what a clever, telling, incisive and surreal story they unfurl.
Ascension is available to stream via Paramount+.
What'd happen if the Hulk was a teenage girl, and turned into a giant, fuzzy, super-cute red panda instead of going green and getting ultra-muscular? Or, finding a different riff on the ol' werewolf situation, if emotions rather than full moons inspired a case of not-quite-lycanthropy? These aren't queries that most folks have thought of, but writer/director Domee Shi certainly has — and they're at the core of Pixar's Turning Red, her debut feature after winning an Oscar for 2018 short Bao. As many of the animation studio's movies do, the film takes its title literally. But, it also spins the usual Pixar question. Turning Red does indeed wonder what'd happen if red pandas sported human-style emotions; however, the Disney-owned company has been musing on people becoming other kinds of critters of late, with particularly astute and endearing results here.
The movie's focus: 13-year-old Chinese Canadian Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang, also making her film debut). The year is 2002, and she loves meeting her strict but doting mum Ming's (Sandra Oh, The Chair) expectations, hanging out with her pals and obsessing over boy band 4*Town. And while her mother doesn't approve of her friends or her taste in music, Mei has become accustomed to juggling everything that's important to her. But then, after a boy-related mishap, the red panda appears. Mei goes to bed feeling normal, albeit angsty and upset, only to wake up looking like a cuddly creature. Like werewolf tales about teenage boys tend to be, Turning Red is all about puberty and doesn't hide it — and whether it's tackling that head-on, pondering generational trauma or showing its rampant love for boy bands, it sports sweetness, soul and smarts.
In its first season in 2020, Upload gave The Office and Parks and Recreation writer/co-creator Greg Daniels his own existential-leaning comedy. Think: The Good Place meets virtual reality, which is basically the premise. After a car accident at the age of 27, computer programmer Nathan (Robbie Amell, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City) is uploaded to a luxurious digital afterlife called Lakeview, which takes more than a little adjusting. Following his troubles with his still-breathing girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards, Briarpatch), as well as his growing bond with the IT employee, Nora (Andy Allo, Pitch Perfect 3), who works as his virtual handler or "angel", the series found plenty of ways to interrogate its concept. Indeed, while clearly a satire of capitalism, technology and their combination, it also inched towards unnerving Black Mirror territory.
In season two, Upload dives deeper — and those Black Mirror comparisons only grow, too. Just like with that dystopian hit, it's plain to see how this reality could come true in a not-so-distant future, which no one watching this could ever want. Nathan now knows that all isn't well in Lakeview, or with the profit-hungry tech company behind it. Nora is well aware also, starting off the new batch of episodes by immersing herself with the anti-tech anarchists the Ludds. And Ingrid has spotted that Nathan isn't as enamoured with their relationship or his new virtual abode, so she decides to join him. Upload is still a comedy, but it knows that getting dark and being smart couldn't be more crucial given its concept. This season cleverly dives deeper, and only disappoints by being just seven half-hour episodes long. Consider your appetite whetted for season three, though.
Season two of Upload is is available to stream via Prime Video.
LUCY AND DESI
Icons celebrating icons: when Amy Poehler directs a documentary about Lucille Ball, as she does here, that's the end result. It's fitting that Lucy and Desi includes a letter read mere days after Desi Arnaz's death, about his ex-wife and longterm professional partner, that included a touching line: "I Love Lucy wasn't just the name of the show". Poehler loves Lucy, too, understandably. Watching the compilation of clips curated here — spanning Ball's movie career in the 30s and 40s, as well as her TV shows such as the pioneering I Love Lucy, follow-up The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, and later sitcoms The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy — it's impossible not to see Ball's influence upon the Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation star, and upon the generations of female comedians that've followed Ball. Lucy and Desi loves Arnaz as well, though, and truly adores the pair's tumultuous love story — one that changed the course of comedy history.
Forget Being the Ricardos, the average-at-best Aaron Sorkin film that inexplicably earned Oscar nominations — including for its one-note performances — and doesn't even dream of being funny. A deeper, meatier, far more interesting dance through Ball and Arnaz's life comes from Lucy and Desi, which benefits not just from Poehler's affection and her eagerness to ensure that her subjects' personalities shine through, but also from previously unreleased audio tapes of the pair talking about their ups and downs. Recent interviews pepper the film as well, including with daughter Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill, and both Bette Midler and Carol Burnett. Still, this doco's points of focus truly do speak best for themselves, whether chatting frankly or seen in all of those wonderful sitcom snippets.
Lucy and Desi is is available to stream via Prime Video.
Films can arrive at the perfect time, but usually they're actually products of their time. With Windfall, the former feels true, but this twisty thriller couldn't have been made at any other moment. It's an account of the haves and the have nots, and the widening gap between them — and it's told now, after years of that chasm growing visibly, the privileged largely lapping it up while hardening their disdain for anyone less fortunate, and the latter increasingly refusing to accept such inequality. The setting: a sprawling vacation home owned by a CEO worth billions and his wife. The setup: a break-in interrupted by said couple. The showdown: between two sides of the income divide (struggling versus obscenely comfortable), as brought to the screen by director Charlie McDowell (The One I Love, The Discovery).
In a story credited to the filmmaker, star Jason Segel, McDowell's regular screenwriter Justin Lader and Seven scribe Andrew Kevin Walker — and also earning all the above either producer or executive producer billing, and fellow on-screen talents Lilly Collins and Jesse Plemons as well as — talk is largely the name of the game. Nobody (Segel, Dispatches From Elsewhere), as the movie's burglar is dubbed, argues with the CEO (Plemons, The Power of the Dog) and his other half (Collins, Emily in Paris) after taking them hostage at gunpoint, and their conversation is constantly revealing. He's initially bought off by the small stack of cash secreted away in the well-appointed abode but, after leaving then returning when he spies security cameras, he wants more money for his mercy. What follows is a perceptively shot and compellingly performed dissection of having it all (the CEO), grasping for some of it (Nobody) and realising that riches can't buy happiness (the wife).
Windfall is available to stream via Netflix.
NEW SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK
Marvel's knack for casting is one of its superpowers, and it flexes those talents in Moon Knight. Enlisting Oscar Isaac fresh from the phenomenal 2021 trio that is Dune, Scenes From a Marriage and The Card Counter is as shrewd a casting move as the behemoth responsible for the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made, especially given that he plays two roles in one. The series starts with Isaac as Steven Grant, who works in the gift shop of a British museum, wishes he could lead tours instead, studies Egypt and sports a broad English accent. Oh, and chains himself to his bed every night, even though he has trouble sleeping. But as gaps in his days lead him to learn, Steven is also American mercenary Marc Spector — or, to be exact, vice versa. Complicating matters further, he's the on-earth conduit for the Egyptian moon god Khonshu as well.
Even within franchise confines, Isaac is mesmerising in Moon Knight, playing a man grappling with dissociative identity disorder — as complex a character as the MCU has delivered so far — who's also drawn into a continent-hopping mystery-adventure. Also complicating matters: shadowy cult-like figure Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke, The Good Lord Bird), who has unfinished business with Khonshu and big plans of his own. Welcomely, the Marvel formula feels fresher here. Also pivotal: that, because it branches off with a previously unseen protagonist rather than the sprawling saga's usual heroes, this is the first MCU Disney+ series that doesn't feel like homework. Having filmmakers Mohamed Diab (Clash) and Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Synchronic) also leaves an impression, in what's easily the most intriguing small-screen Marvel effort so far.
When home video, the internet and mobile phones with inbuilt cameras each arrived, six words could've been uttered: get ready to look at dicks. New HBO comedy Minx is set the early 70s, so before all three, but the same phrase also applies here. It's true of the show itself, which isn't shy about displaying the male member in various shapes and sizes. It also stands tall in the world that Minx depicts. When you're making the first porn magazine for women — and, when you're making an ambitious, entertaining and impeccably cast The Deuce meets Mrs America-style series about it, but lighter, sweeter and funnier (and all purely fictional) — penises are inescapable.
Also impossible to avoid in Minx: questions like "are erections consistent with our philosophy?", as asked by Vassar graduate and country club regular Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond, Trying). Idolising the magazine industry and unhappily working for the dispiritingly traditional Teen Queen, she has long dreamed of starting her own feminist publication — even penning a bundle of articles and making her own issues — but centrefolds splashed with male genitalia don't fit her ideal pitch. No one's buying what Joyce is selling, though; The Matriarchy Awakens, her dream mag, gets rejected repeatedly by the industry's gatekeepers. Only one is interested: Bottom Dollar Publications' Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson, Ride the Eagle), but he's in the pornography business.
Dramatising the Theranos scandal, eight-part miniseries The Dropout is the third high-profile release in the past two months to relive a wild true-crime tale — following not only the Anna Delvey-focused Inventing Anna, about the fake German heiress who conned her way through New York City's elite, but also documentary The Tinder Swindler, which steps through defrauding via dating app at the hands of Israeli imposter Simon Leviev. It also dives into the horror-inducing Dr Death-esque realm, because when a grift doesn't just mess with money and hearts, but with health and lives, it's pure nightmare fuel. And, it's the most gripping of the bunch, even though we're clearly living in peak scandal-to-screen times. Scam culture might be here to stay as Inventing Anna told us in a telling line of dialogue, but it isn't enough to just gawk its way — and The Dropout and its powerful take truly understands this.
To tell the story of Theranos, The Dropout has to tell the story of Elizabeth Holmes, the Silicon Valley biotech outfit's founder and CEO from the age of 19. Played by a captivating, career-best Amanda Seyfried — on par with her Oscar-nominated work in Mank, but clearly in a vastly dissimilar role — the Steve Jobs-worshipping Holmes is seen explaining her company's name early in its first episode. It's derived from the words "therapy" and "diagnosis", she stresses, although history already dictates that it offered little of either. Spawned from Holmes' idea to make taking blood simpler and easier, using just one drop from a small finger prick, it failed to deliver, lied about it copiously and still launched to everyday consumers, putting important medical test results in jeopardy.
Need a few more streaming recommendations? Check out our picks from January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December 2021, and January and February 2022 — and our top new TV shows of 2021, best new television series from this year that you might've missed and top straight-to-streaming films and specials as well.
Top image: Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.
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