The Playmaker
Let's play
PLAYMAKER
  • It's Friday
    What day is it?
  • Now
    What time is it?
  • Anywhere in Auckland
    Where are you?
  • What do you feel like?
    What do you feel like?
  • And what else?
    And what else?
  • LET'S PLAY
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream This Month

Get stuck into a movie about literally killer pants, the latest animated gem from the co-creator of 'Rick and Morty' and a twisty new thriller series.
By Sarah Ward
April 01, 2021
  shares
By Sarah Ward
April 01, 2021
  shares

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 March's haul of newbies.

cp-line

BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL RIGHT NOW

SLAXX

Ask any style guru for their opinion on denim, and they'll all likely give the same answer. Everyone needs a pair of killer jeans, after all — the type that fit perfectly, flatter every inch of your lower half, and that you just don't want to ever take off. In Slaxx, CCC is the store aiming to make all of the above happen. Already priding itself on its eco-friendly, sustainable, sweatshop-free threads, the chain is set to launch a new range of denim that moulds to the wearer's body, with the company's buzzword-spouting CEO (Stephen Bogaert, IT: Chapter Two) certain that they'll change the fashion industry. On the night before the jeans hit the shelves, employees at one store are tasked with making sure everything goes smoothly; however, as new hire Libby (Romane Denis, My Salinger Year), apathetic veteran employee Shruti (Sehar Bhojani, Sex & Ethnicity) and their over-eager boss Craig (Brett Donahue, Private Eyes) soon learn, these are killer jeans in a very literal sense. Quickly, the ravenous pants start stalking and slaying their way through the store. It's a concept that'd do Rubber's Quentin Dupieux proud and, in the hands of Canadian filmmaker Elza Kephart (Go in the Wilderness), the results are highly entertaining. Slaxx wears its equally silly and savage attitude like a second skin, smartly skewers consumerism and retail trends, and possesses stellar special effects that bring its denim to life — and, although never subtle (including in its performances), it's exactly as fun as a film about killer jeans should be.

Slaxx is available to stream via Shudder.

cp-line

MOXIE

When Amy Poehler made her feature directorial debut with 2019's Wine Country, movie magic wasn't splashed across the small screen. But thankfully Moxie is now here to wipe that underwhelming comedy out of viewers' minds — and to demonstrate Poehler's knack at helming a high school-set tale of blossoming feminist activism. Adapted from the 2015 novel of the same name, the film follows 16-year-old Vivian (Hadley Robinson, I'm Thinking of Ending Things). Quiet, studious and happy hanging out with her similarly introverted best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai, Legion), she has always known that her male classmates have an attitude problem, and that their teachers and the general status quo both enable it. But, until newcomer Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Pena, Saved by the Bell) arrives, she's never been willing to rock the boat and fight for change. Inspired by her mother's (Poehler) crusading teen years, she starts a zine that calls out the toxic behaviour around her. That's where the film gets its title, and her school is scandalised by the homemade publication's pages. Story-wise, Moxie isn't big on surprises, especially if you've seen more than a couple of teen flicks in your time, as everyone has. Nonetheless, it's always as impassioned about its tale and as angry about the way the world treats anyone who isn't a white male as it is engaging and hopeful. And, as it follows the quest for equality being passed from one generation to another, it boasts a stellar soundtrack — including Bikini KIll's 'Rebel Girl', of course.

Moxie is available to stream via Netflix.

cp-line

CALLS

Everyone has heard about the response that The War of the Worlds reportedly sparked back in 1938. That's when Orson Welles adapted HG Wells' novel into a radio play, and the result was so convincing that it reportedly incited panic among listeners. Watching Calls, it's easy to understand how. 'Watching' isn't exactly the right term for this mystery series, though. Like all those folks glued to their radios 83 years ago, Calls' audience is forced to listen intently. Indeed, in terms of visuals, the series only provides two types: words transcribing the conversations heard, and abstract visuals that move and shift with each sentence uttered and every suspenseful pause left lingering. Accordingly, focusing on the snippets of phone chats that tell the program's stories is what Calls is all about. Remaking the French show of the same name, and directed by Evil Dead and Don't Breathe's Fede Álvarez, something much more than a small-screen version of a story-fuelled podcast eventuates. A starry cast voices the chats — including everyone from Parks and Recreation duo Aubrey Plaza and Ben Schwartz to Wonder Woman 1984's Pedro Pascal and The Lodge's Riley Keough — but it's the tension and power of their words that leaves an impression. Each of the nine episodes tells a short story that eventually builds an overall picture, and getting caught up in them all is far easier than the underlying concept might initially make you think.

Calls is available to stream via Apple TV+.

cp-line

SOLAR OPPOSITES

For a significant portion of the past few years, TV fans have had a Rick and Morty-shaped hole in their hearts. After the anarchic animated series' third season came to an end late in 2017, it took more than two years for its fourth season to reach screens — and that wrapped up in the first half of last year. More Rick and Morty is coming, and more schwiftiness with it. But, in the interim, Solar Opposites is here to fill the gap. It too is created by Justin Roiland, and also features his voice work. And, it's a chaotic, raucous and very funny sci-fi sitcom that unleashes all manner of strangeness upon a suburban family as well. The immediate difference: the family here are aliens. Korvo (Roiland), his partner Terry (Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley), and the younger Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone, The Goldbergs) and Jesse (stand-up comedian Mary Mack) have crash-landed on Earth and are trying to make the best of it, but they're well aware that their new home pales in comparison to their old one. From that basic setup, anything and everything can and does happen, as seasoned R&M fans will easily expect. Going in, you can be forgiven for thinking that this'll come off as a clone of a beloved show, and there's no missing their shared DNA; however, Solar Opposites flies its own immensely funny, often flat-out ridiculous and always astute path.

The first season of Solar Opposites is available to stream via Disney+.

cp-line

SHIRLEY

In 2020, Elisabeth Moss had a great year. While the  Mad Men and The Handmaid's Tale star has enjoyed a fantastic past decade, she turned in two of her best performances over the past 12 months. First came The Invisible Man, which twisted the classic horror tale in modern directions, including exploring gaslighting and the lack of willingness to believe women. Then, in Shirley, she stepped into the shoes of horror and mystery novelist Shirley Jackson. This is a movie by Madeline's Madeline director Josephine Decker, though, so it as never going to be a standard biopic about the The Haunting of Hill House author. Indeed, Shirley is drawn from a fictional novel by Susan Scarf Merrell, focusing on Jackson's home life with her husband Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name) during a 1964 period when teaching aide Fred Nemser (Logan Lerman, Hunters) and his wife Rose (Australian The Daughter star Odessa Young) come to stay. An agoraphobic, Jackson's routine is unsettled by her new houseguests, although an unexpected connection springs with unlikely kindred spirit Rose. In telling this story, Decker is far more interested in capturing the essence of Jackson and her sensibilities than slavishly sticking to facts, and her film all the better for it. Indeed, this subjective and engaging character study is daring, disarming, dark and, unsurprisingly, anchored by a pitch-perfect lead performance.

Shirley is available to stream via Academy OnDemand. Read our full review.

cp-line

VIOLATION

The rape-revenge genre isn't new, but two of the most powerful films to reach Australian audiences this year step into it with unflinching confidence. They do more than that, though. They savagely dissect society's willingness to accept that sexual assault is part of our culture — and misogyny, too. They demand that their audience not only spend almost two hours thinking about a subject so many would rather avoid, but that they have a visceral reaction. The movies: Promising Young Woman and Violation. Both are the product of first-time feature directors. Both include women among their filmmakers, either solely or as half of a duo. Both are anchored by blistering lead performances as well, and neither fades quickly (or at all) from memory. They'd make a stellar double bill; however, tonally, they each march to their own beat. In Violation's case, co-writer and co-director Madeleine Sims-Fewer (Operation Avalanche) stars as Miriam. As she visits her sister Greta (Anna Maguire, The Hummingbird Project) and brother-in-law Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe, Murdoch Mysteries), it soon becomes obvious that more than just a happy reunion is on the cards. Playing a traumatised woman soon grappling the reality of vengeance in a primal and tangible way, Sims-Fewer puts in a performance that it's impossible to look away from, but that's just one of the savvy steps that the actor/filmmaker and her co-director Dusty Mancinelli take.

Violation is available to stream via Shudder.

cp-line

OPERATION VARSITY BLUES: THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL

'Eat the rich' isn't a Netflix category. But with Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal joining Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened in the streamer's catalogue, perhaps it should be. The former certainly makes the case for it, covering a criminal conspiracy that smacks of the wealthy abusing their cash and status in an egregious manner. No one could've avoided the headlines and reports when news broke about affluent, influential and/or famous Americans, including actors Lori Loughlin (Full House) and Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives), deciding that they needed to bribe college officials to send their already privileged children to prestigious schools. Operation Varsity Blues neither assumes any knowledge on the viewer's part nor needlessly repeats itself, but those acquainted with the details and folks with just a passing interest so far will both find themselves swept through the ups and downs. The film's dramatisations — starring Matthew Modine (Stranger Things, Wrong Turn) as Rick Singer, the scheme's central figure — can feel clunky at times, but director Chris Smith (Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton) knows how to step through this tale. It worked for him on Fyre, after all, which he also helmed, and it works again in a documentary that's as much about a broken system as it the people who cheated it.

Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is available to stream via Netflix.

cp-line

THE ASSISTANT

Charting an ordinary day in the life of a junior staff member at a film production office, The Assistant is as unsettling as anything else that has reached screens recently. Jane (Julia Garner, Ozark) has the titular position, working an entry-level job for a demanding head honcho who everyone in the office indulges — although viewers never get to meet him. She arrives at work before daylight, trudges through menial tasks and is treated poorly by her male colleagues. She's expect to anticipate everything that her boss could ever need or want, or face his wrath if she doesn't. And, as the day progresses, she realises just how toxic her workplace's culture is and how deep its inappropriate conduct burrows. Seeing how predatory the man she works for acts on a daily basis, and how his behaviour has a significant impact, she also learns how those who even try to speak out can still be powerless to effect change to stop it. If you've kept abreast of the #MeToo movement over the past few years, you'll know exactly what has inspired The Assistant, of course. However, Australian filmmaker Kitty Green wants her audience to experience this devastating scenario via Jane, rather than merely read about it. She doesn't just succeed; although she's working in fiction here, she directs a film as searing and perceptive as her last project, the excellent documentary Casting JonBenet.

The Assistant is available to stream via Neon.

cp-line

NEW SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK

INVINCIBLE

If you've ever shopped for a specific item on Amazon and found multiple similar versions of the same thing, then you already know what it can be like to dive into Amazon Prime Video's streaming catalogue. Many of its new additions instantly bring other shows in its catalogue to mind by sharing and mimicking elements, and Invincible follows that trend. At first, it'll have you thinking about The Boys. Next, you'll start recalling Undone. Those two series mightn't seem like a natural fit, but the combination of superheroes and existential malaise works well here. Animated like the latter, but willing to get bleak and dark with caped crusaders as the former does repeatedly, Invincible focuses on Mark Grayson (voiced by newly minted Oscar nominee Steven Yeun, Minari). The 17-year-old son of the well-known Omni-Man (J Simmons, Palm Springs), he's been waiting for his own powers to kick in — and, when they do, he's forced to grapple with exactly what that means. Among the star-studded cast, Sandra Oh (Killing Eve), Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Mahershala Ali (Green Book) all lend their vocal tones. Off-screen, The Walking Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman is responsible for not only doing the same with the Invincible comic book, but with the series. What lingers most here is the mood, though, with the show at its best when it's getting contemplative and introspective with its teen protagonist.

The first three episodes of Invincible are available to stream via Amazon Prime Video, with new episodes dropping weekly.

cp-line

THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER

First things first: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier isn't WandaVision. It's much more conventional, and it doesn't boast a fabulous performance by Parks and Recreation's Kathryn Hahn, either. But, it does explore the everyday existence of both Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie, Synchronic) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan, The Devil All the Time), who team up in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame — and it gives both characters space to be more than just supporting figures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As proved the case in its fellow 2021 Disney+ newcomer, that's a welcome change in a realm that usually pushes action to the fore. Seeing how these two function as people, and as folks who know they've never been the stars of the show, too, brings depth to a franchise that doesn't always have it. Wilson is recognised everywhere including when applying for a loan for his family business, for instance, but fame and getting by financially don't always go hand in hand. Barnes has his murky history to deal with, and it weighs upon him as he tries to get through every day. But, of course, pooling their talents to stop villainous forces is still the name of the game in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — as is is weaving in the returning Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl, The Alienist: Angel of Darkness) and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp, The Resident), and introducing Captain America replacement John Walker (Wyatt Russell, The Good Lord Bird).

The first two episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are available to stream via Disney+, with new episodes dropping weekly.

cp-line

Top images: Slaxx, Bertrand Calmeau/Shudder; The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2020. 

Published on April 01, 2021 by Sarah Ward

Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x
Counter Pixel