Eleven Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream This Month
Make a couch date with David Attenborough's new dinosaur documentary, a Colin Firth-starring true-crime drama and all the 'Bond'.
May 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 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 May's haul of newbies.
NEW SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK
More Ewan McGregor in anything is always a good thing, including in returning to a galaxy far, far away (and long ago). But before Disney+'s new Star Wars series Obi-Wan Kenobi gives the space opera franchise's fans that gift as part of the platform's third live-action spinoff from the blockbuster movie saga (following The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett), it has another present to bestow. Across a few minutes in the show's "previously on" prelude prior to its opening episode, it recaps what viewers need to know about the Jedi and his time with Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, The Last Man) before now. That means that viewing the terrible prequel trilogy is no longer ever necessary, because the main point of the entire three films has been condensed down into this quick montage. Elated, you should be — and may the force be with the time you'll never waste rewatching them again.
There's obviously more to Obi-Wan Kenobi than that. Set ten years after Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, it finds Obi-Wan (McGregor, Halston) living as Ben Kenobi on Tatooine, all to keep an eye on a young Luke (Grant Feely, Creepshow) from afar. But the Empire is after the former Jedi master, and all Jedis — with a particularly determined Inquisitor, Third Sister (Moses Ingram, Ambulance), especially vicious in her efforts to hunt him down. That's all as expected; however, the storyline involving the kidnapping of young Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair, Waco), who is growing up with the Organas (In the Heights' Jimmy Smits and 11%'s Simon Kessell) as her adoptive parents, is far more of a surprise. Also boasting everyone from Joel Edgerton (The Green Knight) and Kumail Nanjiani (Eternals) to Sung Kang (Fast and Furious 9) and Benny Safdie (Licorice Pizza) among its cast, this six-part limited series slots easily into the ongoing sci-fi franchise at its big-screen best — including both looking and feeling the part.
Obi-Wan Kenobi streams via Disney+.
On December 9, 2021, novelist and aspiring politician Michael Peterson called the North Carolina police to report that his second wife Kathleen had fallen down the stairs. It was late, and he was distraught. She was unconscious but still breathing, he said, and he pleaded for medical help ASAP. While waiting for the ambulance, he rang back to say that Kathleen was no longer breathing. When the paramedics arrived, she was dead. But the scene they found was shockingly bloody, and questions about Michael's story were asked immediately. Protesting his innocence, and originally supported by all five of his biological, adopted and step children, he was arrested and charged with his wife's murder. And yes, if this all sounds familiar — and not just from news headlines two decades back — it's because it was originally chronicled by 2004 French-made true-crime documentary miniseries The Staircase.
Now, HBO's eight-part dramatised version — also called The Staircase — is relaying the same story. Whether or not you already know the full tale, the result is still gripping, tensely shot and edited, and also masterfully acted. Colin Firth (Operation Mincemeat) plays Michael, albeit with a far-from-convincing American accent. Aussie actors abound, too, with Toni Collette (Nightmare Alley) as Kathleen, plus Olivia DeJonge (Better Watch Out) and Odessa Young (Shirley) as two of the family's daughters. With Juliette Binoche (How to Be a Good Wife), Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name), Parker Posey (Lost in Space), Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones), Dane Dehaan (Lisey's Story) and Patrick Schwarzenegger (Moxie) all also popping up — and Rosemarie DeWitt as well, playing Collette's sister again after United States of Tara — getting absorbed in this retelling comes quickly and swiftly.
The Staircase streams via Neon.
BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL RIGHT NOW
CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS
Peeking into intimate connections and making audiences feeling as though they've been lifted from their own lives, or from emotions they've navigated and weathered, is one of Sally Rooney's key skills as an author. It's true of both Conversations with Friends and Normal People in print, and it's a knack that the same creative team — Rooney as an executive producer, co-screenwriter Alice Birch (Lady Macbeth) and co-director Lenny Abrahamson (Room, Frank) — have brought to TV adaptations of both. In text and flickering across the screen, the two tales step into complicated romances that simmer with intensity. They confront class clashes and the difficulties that spring from them as well. And, they force contemplative women to confront what they want, who they are, how they'll grow as people and the others they might give their hearts to.
In the instantly addictive Conversations with Friends, 21-year-old Frances (quietly magnetic newcomer Alison Oliver) is first poised as the other half in a couple that's not a couple, at least anymore; she went to school with and used to date the outspoken and outgoing Bobbi (Sasha Lane, American Honey), but now the two university students are best friends and spoken-word poetry partners. It's during one of their performances that successful writer Melissa (Jemima Kirke, Sex Education) spots the duo's act, compliments them afterwards and invites them over for a swim, then back to her well-appointed house for a drink. Enter Nick (Joe Alwyn, The Souvenir: Part II), Melissa's actor husband, who holds himself like he'd rather be anywhere but there but is too polite to upset the status quo. He's as reserved and introverted as Frances — and they catch each other's eyes, while Bobbi and Melissa gravitate towards each other.
Five episodes, one comforting voice, and a time-travelling trip back 66 million years: that's the setup behind Prehistoric Planet, an utterly remarkable feels-like-you're-there dive into natural history. Having none other than David Attenborough narrate the daily activities of dinosaurs seems like it should've happened already, of course; however, now that it finally is occurring, it's always both wonderful and stunning. Filled with astonishing footage on par with the visuals that usually accompany Attenborough's nature docos, all thanks to the special effects team behind The Jungle Book and The Lion King, it truly is a wonder to look at. It needs to be: if the Cretaceous-era dinosaurs rampaging across the screen didn't appear like they genuinely could be walking and stalking — and fighting, foraging for food, hunting, flying, swimming and running as well — the magic that typically comes with watching an Attenborough-narrated doco would instantly and disappointingly vanish.
Welcome to... your new insight into Tyrannosaurus rex foreplay, your latest reminder that velociraptors really don't look like they do in the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World flicks, an entertaining time spent with al kinds of animals, and your next favourite dinosaur project with an Attenborough attached. Each of Prehistoric Planet's five instalments focuses on a different type of terrain — coasts, deserts, freshwater, ice and forests — and chats through the creatures that call it home. Set to a spirited original score by Hans Zimmer, fresh from winning his latest Oscar for Dune, there's a formula at work. That said, it's no more blatant than in any David Attenborough-hosted show. Viewers watch as some dinos look after their young, others try to find a mate, plenty search for something to eat and others attempt not to be eaten. The same kinds of activities are covered in each episode, but the locations and dinosaurs involved all change.
Finally back for its fourth season after a three-year wait (yes, finally), Stranger Things ventures beyond its trusty small-town setting of Hawkins, Indiana, and in several directions. It keeps its nods and winks to flicks and shows gone by streaming steadily of course — but expanding is firmly on its mind. Once again overseen by series creators The Duffer Brothers, its latest batch of episodes is bigger and longer, with no instalment clocking in at less than an hour, one in the first drop running for a feature-length 98 minutes, and the final two not set to release until Friday, July 1. Its teenage stars are bigger and taller as well, ageing further and faster than their characters. The show has matured past riffing on early-80s action-adventure movies, too, such as The Goonies; now, it's onto slashers and other horror films, complete with new characters called Fred and Jason. And with that, Stranger Things also gets bloodier and eerier.
That said, it's still the show that viewers have loved since 2016, when not even Netflix likely realised what it had unleashed — and no, that doesn't just include the demogorgon escaping from the Upside Down. But everything is growing, as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown, Godzilla vs Kong), her boyfriend Mike (Finn Wolfhard, Ghostbusters: Afterlife), and their pals Will (Noah Schnapp, Waiting for Anya), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo, The Angry Birds Movie 2), Max (Sadie Sink, Fear Street) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin, Concrete Cowboy) all visibly have. Eleven, Will, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton, The Souvenir Part II) and Joyce (Winona Ryder, The Plot Against America) have branched out to California, and Mike comes to visit. Back in Hawkins, Dustin, Lucas, Max, Steve (Joe Keery, Free Guy), Robin (Maya Hawke, Fear Street) and Nancy (Natalia Dyer, Things Seen & Heard) have a new evil to face. And, as for Hopper (David Harbour, Black Widow), he's stuck in a Russian gulag.
The 'one wild night' genre isn't solely comprised of films about high school or college parties — Martin Scorsese's ace After Hours isn't, for example — but it's still filled with them. Emergency is the latest, but it's also a movie with something to say beyond the usual life lessons about valuing your real friends and working out who you genuinely are when you're at that awkward time learning about what being an adult means. It also takes a huge cue from a fairy tale that everyone knows, and adapts it to reflect an inescapable part of America today. How does being a person of colour change your options during a supposedly carefree night of partying? How does it influence your choices when something unexpected happens to someone else and you want to help? And what would happen if Goldilocks and the Three Bears was about a drunk white high schooler who passes out inside a house shared by one Latino and two Black college seniors? These are Emergency's questions.
The answers to the above queries come courtesy of filmmaker Carey Williams (R#J) and screenwriter KD Dávila (Salvation), who adapt their short film of the same name. Their focus: pals Sean (RJ Cyler, The Harder They Fall), Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins, The Underground Railroad) and Carlos (Sebastian Chacon, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels), on what's supposed to be a huge night hopping between seven different campus shindigs. Then, they find Emma (Maddie Nichols, The Outsider) passed out on their lounge room floor. The Princeton-bound Kunle wants to call 911, but Sean knows how it'll look to the authorities — even though they're trying to do the right thing, have never met the girl before and don't know how she ended up in their house. Savvier than it is funny, Emergency is an oh-so-topical satire first and foremost, and doesn't hold back for a second.
Emergency streams via Prime Video.
Returning for its second season three years after its first — which was one of the best shows of 2019 — the gorgeously and thoughtfully trippy multiverse series Undone is fixated on one idea: that life's flaws can be fixed. It always has been from the moment its eight-episode initial season appeared with its vivid rotoscoped animation and entrancing leaps into surreal territory; however, in season two it doubles down. Hailing from BoJack Horseman duo Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg, it also remains unsurprisingly concerned with mental illness, and still sees its protagonist caught in an existential crisis. (The pair have a type, but Undone isn't BoJack Horseman 2.0). And, it deeply understands that it's spinning a "what if?" story, and also one about deep-seated unhappiness. Indeed, learning to cope with being stuck in an imperfect life, being unable to wish it away and accepting that fate beams brightly away at the heart of the show.
During its debut outing, Undone introduced viewers to 28-year-old Alma Winograd-Diaz (Rosa Salazar, Alita: Battle Angel), who found everything she thought she knew pushed askew after a near-fatal car accident. Suddenly, she started experiencing time and her memories differently — including those of her father, Jacob Winograd (Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul), who died over 20 years earlier. In a vision, he tasked her with investigating his death, which became a quest to patch up the past to stop tragedy from striking. Undone didn't necessarily need a second season, but this repeat dive into Alma's story ponders what happens in a timeline where everything seems to glimmer with all that its protagonist has ever wanted, and yet sorrow still lingers. Once again, the end result is deeply rich and resonant, as intelligent and affecting as sci-fi and animation alike get, and dedicated to thinking and feeling big while confronting everyday truths.
RETURNING FAVES DROPPING EAGERLY AWAITED NEW EPISODES WEEKLY
Three seasons into the sitcom that bears his name, all that Barry Berkman (Bill Hader, Noelle) wants is to be an actor — and to also no longer kill people for a living. That's what he's yearned for across the bulk of this HBO gem, which has given Saturday Night Live alum Hader his best-ever role; however, segueing from being an assassin to treading the boards or standing in front of the camera is unsurprisingly complicated. One of the smartest elements of the always-fantastic Barry is how determined it is to weather all the chaos, darkness, rough edges and heart-wrenching consequences of its central figure's choices, though. That's true of his actions not only in the past, but in the show's present. Hader and series co-creator Alec Berg (Silicon Valley) know that viewers like Barry. You're meant to. But that doesn't mean ignoring that he's a hitman, or that his time murdering people — and his military career before that — has repercussions, including for those around him.
One of the most layered and complex comedies currently airing, Barry's third season is as intricate, thorny, textured and hilarious as the first two. Indeed, it's ridiculously easy to see how cartoonish its premise would be in lesser hands, or how it might've leaned on a simple odd-couple setup given that Anthony Carrigan (Bill & Ted Face the Music) plays Chechen gangster Noho Hank with such delightful flair. But Barry keeps digging into what makes its namesake tick, why, and the ripples he causes. It does the same with his beloved acting teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler, The French Dispatch) as well. With visual precision on par with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, it's also as phenomenal at staging action scenes as it is at diving deep into its characters — and, as every smartly penned episode just keeps proving, it's downright stellar at that.
Barry streams via Neon.
In 2021, Hacks' first season quickly cemented itself as one of 2021's best new TV shows — one of two knockout newbies starring Jean Smart last year, thanks to Mare of Easttown as well — and it's just as ace the second time around. It's still searingly funny, nailing that often-elusive blend of insight, intelligence and hilarity. It retains its observational, wry tone, and remains devastatingly relatable even if you've never been a woman trying to make it in comedy. And it's happy to linger where it needs to to truly understand its characters, but never simply dwells in the same place as its last batch of episodes. Season two is literally about hitting the road, so covering fresh territory is baked into the story; however, Hacks' trio of key behind-the-scenes creatives — writer Jen Statsky (The Good Place), writer/director Lucia Aniello (Rough Night) and writer/director/co-star Paul W Downs (The Other Two) — aren't content to merely repeat themselves with a different backdrop.
Those guiding hands started Hacks after helping to make Broad City a hit. Clearly, they all know a thing or two about moving on from the past. That's the decision both veteran comedian Deborah Vance (Smart) and her twentysomething writer-turned-assistant Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder, North Hollywood) had to make themselves in season one, with the show's second season now charting the fallout. So, Deborah has farewelled her residency and the dependable gags that kept pulling in crowds, opting to test out new and far-more-personal material on a cross-country tour instead. Ava has accepted her role by Deborah's side, and is willing to see it as a valid career move rather than an embarrassing stopgap. But that journey comes a few narrative bumps. Of course, Hacks has always been willing to see that actions have consequences, not only for an industry that repeatedly marginalises women, but for its imperfect leading ladies.
When it first hit streaming in 2021 with an avalanche of quickfire jokes — as all Tina Fey-executive produced sitcoms do, such as 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Great News and Mr Mayor — Girls5eva introduced viewers to its eponymous band. One-hit wonders in the late 90s and early 00s, their fame had fizzled. Indeed, reclaiming their stardom wasn't even a blip on their radars — until, unexpectedly, it was. Dawn Solano (Sara Bareilles, Broadway's Waitress), Wickie Roy (Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton), Summer Dutkowsky (Busy Philipps, I Feel Pretty) and Gloria McManus (Paula Pell, AP Bio) had left their days as America's answer to the Spice Girls behind, barely staying in contact since the group split and their fifth member, Ashley Gold (Ashley Park, Emily in Paris), later died in an infinity pool accident. But then rapper Lil Stinker (Jeremiah Craft, Bill & Ted Face the Music) sampled their single 'Famous 5eva', and they were asked to perform backing vocals during his Tonight Show gig.
Jumping back into the spotlight reignited dreams that the surviving Girls5eva members thought they'd extinguished long ago — well, other than walking attention-magnet Wickie, who crashed and burned in her attempts to go solo, and was happy to fake it till she made it again. That's the tale the show charts again in its second season, which is back with more rapid-fire pop-culture references and digs; the same knowing, light but still sincere tone; and a new parade of delightful tunes composed by Jeff Richmond, Fey's husband and source of music across every sitcom she's produced. One of the joys of Girls5eva — one of many — is how gleefully absurd it skews, all while fleshing out its central quartet, their hopes and desires, and their experiences navigating an industry that treats them as commodities at best. The show's sophomore run finds much to satirise, of course, but also dives deeper and pushing Wickie, Dawn, Summer and Gloria to grow. Obviously, it's another gem.
RECENT AND CLASSIC FLICKS TO CATCH UP ON — OR REVISIT
EVERY JAMES BOND MOVIE
Break out the martinis and prepare for a shaken but not stirred couch session: Bond, James Bond, is coming to your lounge room. Just in time for wintry binge-viewing marathons, the famed espionage franchise has hit Prime Video, spanning every flick in the series from the now 60-year-old Dr No through to 2021's No Time to Die. Sean Connery smouldering his way through everything from that first-ever Bond instalment through to Diamonds Are Forever, Roger Moore stepping into 007's shoes between Live and Let Die and A View to A Kill, Timothy Dalton's two-film run in The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill — they're all included. So is Pierce Brosnan's stint as the secret agent between GoldenEye and Die Another Day, and Daniel Craig's five contributions from Casino Royale onwards, wrapping up with what might be the best Bond film yet.
Aussie actor George Lazenby's one-movie appearance as Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service is also on the bill. That's all 25 official movies in total covered, but there is also a 26th movie, Never Say Never Again, that you might want to watch. Made in 1983, it stars Connery as the suave spy. But, because it was made by a different company from the rest of the Bond movies, it's not considered part of the franchise itself — however, it is also on Prime Video now. Exceptional Bond flicks, terrible ones, everything in-between: if 007 is involved, it's now in this one spot. For everything other than No Time to Die, this isn't the first time the franchise has all sat on one streaming platform, and we've all seen various flicks hop between different services over the years. That said, the Bond movies aren't likely to move from Prime Video moving forward given that Amazon recently purchased MGM, the nearly century-old film studio that's behind all things 007.
The entire Bond franchise streams via Prime Video.