Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream This Month
Make a couch date with a new true-crime must-see starring Taron Egerton, a sci-fi series based on a David Bowie movie and one of the best films of the past year.
July 29, 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 New Zealand'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. From the latest and greatest to old favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue from July's haul of newbies.
BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL RIGHT NOW
THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH
Who'd want to try to step into the one and only David Bowie's shoes? Only the brave and the bold. Two people earn that description in The Man Who Fell to Earth, the new TV sequel to the iconic 1976 movie that starred the music legend in the role he was clearly born to play: an alien who descends upon earth and ch-ch-changes history. Bill Nighy (Buckley's Chance) is charged with taking over the character of Thomas Jerome Newton and, thankfully and with style, he's up to the task. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) slides into the same kind of part that Bowie owned in the original, however, as fellow extra-terrestrial interloper Faraday. He's this follow-up's newcomer to the planet, and he's just as destined to do big things. That's not a spoiler — early in the first episode, Faraday addresses a massive crowd like he's Steve Jobs announcing Apple's latest product, and The Man Who Fell to Earth's tech success uses the occasion to spin his origin story.
Who'd want to try to pick up where one of the best sci-fi films ever made left off? That'd also be the brave and the bold, aka Clarice creators Jenny Lumet and Alex Kurtzman. Drawing inspiration from silver screen gems is obviously the pair's niche of late, but it's worth remembering with this new effort — which takes its cues from Walter Tevis' 1963 novel of the same name, too — that Kurtzman was also behind exceptional 2008–13 sci-fi series Fringe. Indeed, The Man Who Fell to Earth 2.0 feels like the perfect use of his talents, with the series thinking big and brimming with urgency in its vision of a world that might only be able to be saved by a spaceboy who truly cares about stopping climate change's damage. To follow through with his mission, though, Faraday also needs the help of former MIT physics whiz Justin Falls (Naomie Harris, No Time to Die).
The Man Who Fell to Earth is available to stream via Neon.
Mike Schur sure does have a type. If you're a fan of Parks and Recreation, The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Office, though, that won't be new news. And if you watched the television producer and writer's great first season of Rutherford Falls as well, you will have spotted all his usual touches at work — which doesn't change in season two. By no means is this a criticism. His various different series feel like siblings, not clones; they share similar traits, but there's so much about their individual personalities that remains distinctive. Here, the fact that Rutherford Falls is a show deeply steeped in a Native American community gives it a wealth of avenues to go down, as well as plenty that's purely the sitcom's alone. Also crucial: the influence of co-creator and showrunner Sierra Teller Ornelas (Superstore), and the strong commitment to exploring the treatment of First Nations peoples in America today.
Rutherford Falls' latest batch of episodes follows one of its characters running for local office, for instance, which is a scenario that Parks devotees will instantly recognise. And yet, what that means in a small town that's struggling to address the colonial impact upon its original inhabitants, the Minishonka Nation, is always its real focus. What everything means here is filtered through that lens — including teenage aspiring mayor Bobbie Yang (Jesse Leigh, Heathers), enterprising CEO of the Minishonka Nation casino Terry Thomas (Michael Greyeyes, Firestarter), cultural centre head Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding, Reservation Dogs) and her best friend Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms, Ron's Gone Wrong). It's noticeable that Helms is no longer the show's anchor, too. Indeed, the already smart, funny and warm series spends its excellent second season showing how Nathan wants to de-centre himself from hogging the town's limelight, and puts that idea in motion itself.
Rutherford Falls is available to stream via TVNZ On Demand.
In the perfect version of 2022, watching The Janes would resemble unpacking a time capsule. In this documentary's frames, remnants of life during 60s and 70s America flicker across the screen — visions of what the US was like for women before the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling. But, devastatingly, that's not how viewing this Tia Lessin (Citizen Koch)- and Emma Pildes-directed film feels like now thanks to recent developments with America's current conservative-skewed highest judicial body. Accordingly, this powerful doco might just offer a window into the possible future by cataloguing a dark and heartbreaking part of the past. Its focus: members of Chicago's The Jane Collective, who stepped in to provide safe, affordable but also highly illegal abortion services when terminating pregnancies, and therefore giving women agency over their choices and their very existence, was a crime across the nation.
Fellow 2022 highlight Happening has charted the same territory at around the same time, but in France and fictionalised. Back in 2020, the phenomenal Never Rarely Sometimes Always examined the situation in the US recently — well, before this year's Supreme Court ruling undoing Roe v Wade — as well. Each of the above, and The Janes as well, unsurprisingly makes for harrowing, infuriating, heart- and gut-wrenching viewing. In this instance, the film sticks with current-day talking heads and archival footage to step through why the service provided by Jane, aka the Abortion Counseling Service of Women's Liberation, was necessary and important. The brave and heroic women involved talked through the details with clarity and potency, as do some of the men who assisted, whether as husbands who were also lawyers, doctors, or construction workers-turned-abortionists. Of course, unlike in the times chronicled, women never come second to men in this gripping and resonant doco.
The Janes is available to stream via Neon.
For the second time in about as many months, Stranger Things has dictated everyone's playlists. While Kate Bush's 'Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)' is still getting a workout, so is Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' thanks to the big two-episode end to the 80s-set hit's fourth season — two bumper movie-length instalments which clocked in at 85 minutes and 150 minutes each. Yes, it likely would've worked better if those two episodes had been split up, rather than going for length. Based on episode durations from earlier seasons, the Duffer brothers could've dropped five parts instead. The psychology behind the move was effective and ingenious, though; who didn't make a date to binge their way through as soon as they hit, because diving into two huge instalments in one night felt different than committing to five shorter chapters? Everyone did, and Netflix even momentarily crashed as a result.
This season across both volumes certainly had a theme: going big in as many ways as possible. Season four gave the horror/slasher vibe a massive workout, thanks to new big bad Vecna — and ramped up the confrontations, showdowns, killings, flashbacks, drama and globe-trotting in the process. Clearly, the soundtrack budget was hefty. So was the performance given by season four MVP Sadie Sink (Fear Street) as Max Mayfield bore the brunt of Vecna's murderous and mind-bending games, and the place that Joseph Quinn (Small Axe) will always have in the show's fans' hearts thanks to his turn as Eddie Munson. And, the list of questions about what comes next in Stranger Things' upcoming fifth and final season, and where Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown, Godzilla vs Kong), Mike (Finn Wolfhard, Ghostbusters: Afterlife), Will (Noah Schnapp, Waiting for Anya), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo, The Angry Birds Movie 2), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin, Concrete Cowboy), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton, The Souvenir Part II), Steve (Joe Keery, Free Guy), Robin (Maya Hawke, Fear Street), Nancy (Natalia Dyer, Things Seen & Heard), Joyce (Winona Ryder, The Plot Against America) and Hopper's (David Harbour, Black Widow) stories will end, is sizeable.
Stranger Things streams via Netflix. Read our full review of volume one of Stranger Things' fourth season.
I LOVE THAT FOR YOU
It works for television networks greenlighting new comedies, and it works for viewers picking what to watch, too: take one of Saturday Night Live's extremely amusing ladies, give them their own show, see laughs and smarts follow, profit. I Love That For You actually boasts two such talented women, although they didn't crossover during their SNL stints: Molly Shannon and Vanessa Bayer. The latter plays Joanna Gold, who has always dreamed of being on SVN — Special Value Network, that is. When she was a kid (Sophie Pollono, Small Engine Repair), she was diagnosed with childhood leukaemia, and obsessing over her idol Jackie Stilton (Shannon, The Other Two) as she sold anything and everything helped as a distraction. Now an adult, Joanna still wants to do exactly the same, and leave her job alongside her dad (Matt Malloy, The Sex Lives of College Girls) at Costco behind. But when she gets the chance, she pulls an unimpressed face during her first on-air stint that kills sales, so she says her cancer has returned to avoid getting fired.
On paper, that's an extremely tricky premise. In lesser hands, it'd be downright horrible. As well as being a comic gem here, in SNL, and in everything from I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson to Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, Bayer had childhood leukaemia herself — and if she didn't, and wasn't also one of I Love That For You's creators and writers, it's highly likely that this series wouldn't work. Thankfully, instead, it takes the same approach that Bayer has clearly always taken since her teenage experience, using humour in clever, sensitive, sincere, amusing, savvy and sometimes surreal ways. The show keeps demonstrating why its setup is worth tackling, too, asking questions about trying to live a normal life and work out who you are after surviving such a diagnosis; how and when sympathy is genuine, earned and milked; and guilt on several levels. It's also an entertaining workplace comedy and a takedown of consumerism, greed and the fact that anything, including sob stories, are for sale if there's something to be sold. And, of course, Bayer and Shannon are dynamite in their shared scenes.
I Love That For You streams via Neon.
NEW AND RETURNING SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Live life long enough and anything can happen. Enjoy an undead existence for hundreds of years and that feeling only multiplies, or so the wealth of movies and TV shows that've let vampires stalk through their frames frequently remind viewers. A sharehouse-set mockumentary focused on bloodsucking roommates who've seen more than a few centuries between them, What We Do in the Shadows embraces that idea like little else, though — as a Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi-starring movie, aka one of the funniest New Zealand comedies of this century, and then as a hilarious American TV spinoff. The premise has always been ridiculously straightforward, and always reliably entertaining. A camera crew captures the lives of the fanged and not-at-all furious, squabbles about chores, a rising body count and avoiding sunlight all included. Their domesticity may involve sinking their teeth into necks, blood splatters aplenty, sleeping in coffins and shapeshifting into bats, but it also covers arguing about paying bills, keeping the house clean and dealing with the neighbours.
The TV version's stellar fourth season picks up after a climactic end to the show's prior batch of episodes, which only finished airing back in October 2021. Its bloodsucking roommates were all set for their own adventures, but a year has passed in the show, bringing them back together. Nandor (Kayvan Novak, Cruella) returns from exploring his ancestral homeland, and he's more determined than ever to find a wife. He also thinks that one of his many from the Middle Ages could be the one again; bringing back a Djinn (Anoop Desai, Russian Doll) to grant his wishes helps. After a stint in London with the Supreme Vampiric Council, Nadja has big ambitions, too, setting her sights on opening a vampire nightclub. As for her beloved Laszlo (Matt Berry, Toast of London and Toast of Tinseltown), he's still taking care of the baby-turned-boy that burst its way out of energy vampire Colin Robinson's (Mark Proksch, The Office) body. For the fourth time around, nothing about this delight sucks, not for a second, with season four as wonderful as ever.
BETTER CALL SAUL
When the middle of August arrives, the best show on television for the past seven years — other than the one-season return of Twin Peaks — will come to an end. That isn't new news, but it's still monumental, especially given that Better Call Saul is the spinoff to an also-phenomenal series. Unlike when Breaking Bad wrapped up, though, there's no future immediately in sight. Perhaps that's fitting. Better Call Saul is TV's great tragedy precisely because we always knew what its prequel segments, which comprise the overwhelming bulk of the show, will lead to. We know who Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk, Nobody) is when he's a shady Albuquerque criminal defence attorney aiding Walter White (Bryan Cranston, Your Honor) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul, Westworld). We know what all his choices then lead to, because we've already seen it. But every single moment that's been brought to the screen in sunny colour in Better Call Saul so far, including in the now-airing second half of the series' sixth and final season, desperately makes you wish that everything you know is destined to occur won't.
That said, this latest and last batch of episodes has already overflowed with surprises as it works towards that big farewell. And, it's been delighting and astonishing as only Better Call Saul can — with meticulous precision in everything that it slips across the screen, including in its tightly plotted and never-predictable narrative, its cinematic imagery and its many, many marvellous performances. That includes continuing to unfurl Lalo Salamanca's (Tony Dalton, Hawkeye) part in this long-running crime saga, as the first half of the season did with Nacho Varga (Michael Mando, Spider-Man: Homecoming). It spans seeing where being Saul's wife, as well as his happy co-conspirator in getting revenge against their old boss Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian, Gordita Chronicles), leads Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn, Veep). TV won't be the same without Saul Goodman. It certainly won't be s'all good, man. Still, what a swan song this extraordinary show is treating viewers to — even with three episodes left to go.
2022 marks a decade since Taron Egerton's first on-screen credit as a then-23 year old. Thanks to the Kingsman movies, Eddie the Eagle, Robin Hood and Rocketman, he's rarely been out of the cinematic spotlight since — but miniseries Black Bird feels like his most mature performance yet. The latest based-on-a-true-crime tale to get the twisty TV treatment, it adapts autobiographical novel In with the Devil: a Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption. It also has Dennis Lehane, author of Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and Shutter Island, bringing it to streaming. The focus: Jimmy Keene, a former star high-school footballer turned drug dealer, who finds his narcotics-financed life crumbling when he's arrested in a sting, offered a plea bargain with the promise of a five-year sentence (four with parole), but ends up getting ten. Seven months afterwards, he's given the chance to go free, but only if he agrees to transfer to a different prison to befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser, Cruella), and get him to reveal where he's buried his victims' bodies.
Even with new shows based on various IRL crimes hitting queues every week, or thereabouts — 2022 has already seen Inventing Anna, The Dropout, The Girl From Plainville and The Staircase, to name a mere few — Black Bird boasts an immediately compelling premise. The first instalment in its six-episode run is instantly gripping, too, charting Keene's downfall, the out-of-ordinary situation posed by Agent Lauren McCauley (Sepideh Moafi, The Killing of Two Lovers), and the police investigation by Brian Miller (Greg Kinnear, Crisis) to net Hall. It keeps up the intrigue and tension from there; in fact, the wild and riveting details just keep on coming. Fantastic performances all round prove pivotal as well. Again, Egerton is excellent, while Hauser's menace-dripping efforts rank among the great on-screen serial killer portrayals. And, although bittersweet to watch after his sudden passing in May, Ray Liotta (The Many Saints of Newark) makes a firm imprint as Keene's father.
Black Bird streams via Apple TV+.
RECENT CINEMA RELEASES TO CATCH UP WITH
A Star Is Born has already graced the titles of four different films, and Licorice Pizza isn't one of them. Paul Thomas Anderson's ninth feature, and his loosest since Boogie Nights — his lightest since ever, too — does boast a memorable Bradley Cooper performance, though. That said, this 70s- and San Fernando Valley-set delight isn't quite about seeking fame, then navigating its joys and pitfalls, although child actors and Hollywood's ups and downs all figure into the narrative. Licorice Pizza definitely births two new on-screen talents, however, both putting in two of the past year's best performances and two of the finest-ever movie debuts. That's evident from the film's very first sublimely grainy 35-millimetre-shot moments, as Alana Haim of Haim (who PTA has directed several music videos for) and Cooper Hoffman (son of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman, a PTA regular) do little more than chat, stroll and charm.
The radiant Haim plays Alana Kane, a Valley dweller of 25 or 28 (her story changes) working as a photographer's assistant, which brings her to a Tarzana high school on yearbook picture day. Enter the smoothly assured Hoffman as 15-year-old Gary Valentine, who is instantly smitten and tries to wrangle a date. From there, Licorice Pizza charts the pair's friendship as it circles and swirls, and as they often sprint towards each other — chronicling everything else going on in the San Fernando Valley, where PTA himself grew up, too. The result is a shaggy slice-of-life film that Anderson has penned partly based on stories shared by Gary Goetzman, an ex-child talent turned frequent producer of Tom Hanks movies. Spanning everything from waterbed sales to high-tension truck drives — and child-acting stardom, gasoline shortages and mayoral campaigns as well — Anderson lets Licorice Pizza saunter along leisurely like it's just stepped out of the 70s itself, and coats it in that anything-can-happen vibe that only comes with youth.
The latest film from Australian Insidious and The Conjuring director James Wan, Malignant takes plenty of time in its first half — and, when that's the case, the audience feels every drawn-out second. But after Wan shifts from slow setup mode to embracing quite the outrageous and entertainingly handled twist, his movie swiftly becomes a devilish delight. Heavily indebted to the 70s-era works of giallo master Dario Argento, David Cronenberg's body-horror greats and 80s scary movies in general, Malignant uses its influences as fuel for big-swinging, batshit-level outlandishness. Most flicks can't segue from a slog to a B-movie gem. Most films can't be saved by going so berserk, either. Wan's tenth stint behind the lens can and does, and leaves a limb-thrashing, blood-splattering, gleefully chaotic imprint.
Perhaps it's a case of like name, like approach; tumours can grow gradually, then make their havoc felt. Regardless, it doesn't take long within Malignant for Dr Florence Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears) to proclaim that "it's time to cut out the cancer" while treating a locked-up patient in the film's 1992-set prologue. This is a horror movie, so that whole event doesn't turn out well, naturally. Jump forward a few decades, and the feature's focus is now Seattle resident Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis, Boss Level), who is hoping to carry her latest pregnancy with her abusive husband to term. But then his violent temper erupts again, she receives a head injury, and childhood memories start mixing with visions of gruesome killings linked to Dr Weaver's eerie hospital — visions that Madison sees as the murders occur.