Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in February
Make a couch date with this smart new psychological thriller from ‘Contagion’ director Steven Soderbergh, season two of Rose Matafeo’s ‘Starstruck’ and a couple of wild Netflix options about con artists.
February 28, 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 February's haul of newbies.
BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL RIGHT NOW
For the second year in a row, Steven Soderbergh has made one of the year's standout movies — even if 2022 is still a mere two months in — and it has completely bypassed Australian cinemas. Unlike last year's No Sudden Move, however, Kimi was always destined for streaming. The latest in his series of paranoid thrillers that also includes Contagion, and once again female-fronted as Haywire, Side Effects and Unsane were too, this Zoë Kravitz-starring standout takes its cues from smart devices, humanity's increasing dependence upon technology, and the kinds of events that a virtual assistant like Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant might eavesdrop on. As a result, Soderbergh has crafted another movie that riffs on a growing area of real-life interest, then turns it into a tense, potent and devilishly smart feature. A bonus: focusing on a protagonist who doesn't feel safe leaving her house, Kimi couldn't better capture how the pandemic has felt without overtly needing to be a COVID-19 film.
Kravitz (Big Little Lies) plays Angela Childs, who works for Seattle-based tech corporation Amygdala from the comfort of her own sprawling loft — and from her own audiophile's dream of a computer setup — listening to snippets of conversation captured by smart speaker Kimi for quality assurance. In one clip, she hears what she believes to be a horrible crime and is compelled to follow up; however, her bosses aren't thrilled about her probing. Complicating matters: after being the victim of an assault a couple of years earlier, Angela suffers from anxiety and agoraphobia, making leaving the house to investigate a fraught task. As he did to particularly stellar effect in Unsane as well, Soderbergh styles his latest psychological thriller after its protagonist's mindset, making unease and suspense drop from every aesthetic choice — camera angles and placement, jittery frames and a voyeuristic perspective all included.
Kimi is available to stream via Binge.
It's official: after a dream of a first season, Rose Matafeo's rom-com sitcom Starstruck is back to make you fall head over heels for its 21st-century take on dating a famous actor all over again. It's also official for Matafeo's (Baby Done) Jessie, who is now dating Tom (Nikesh Patel, Four Weddings and a Funeral), the celebrity she had a one-night stand with on New Year's Eve, then navigated an awkward will-they-won't-they dance around every time they ran into each other in London. But this next batch of six episodes poses a key question: once you've enjoyed the wild meet-cute, ridden the courtship rollercoaster and been bowled over by a grand romantic gesture (see: Starstruck's The Graduate-style season-one finale), what comes next? It's the stuff that rom-com movie sequels might cover, except that for all of Hollywood's eagerness to rinse and repeat its most popular fare, this genre is sparse in the follow-up department.
Season two picks up exactly where its predecessor left off, with Jessie and Tom's bus ride segueing into a WTF realisation — as in "WTF do we do now?". That's a query that Jessie isn't ready to answer, even though she's made the big leap and missed her flight home. So, she avoids even tackling the situation at first, and then eschews fully committing even when she's meant to be in the throes of romantic bliss. Basically, it's messy, and the kind of chaos that rom-coms don't show when they end with a happily-ever-after moment. Like everyone, Jessie and Tom endure plenty. In the process, this gem of a show's second season is light but also deep, a screwball delight while also sharp and relatable, and still filled with fellow romantic-comedy references. And, as well as continuing to showcase Matafeo at her best, it remains a rom-com that's as aware of what relationships in 2022 are really alike as it is about how romance is typically portrayed in its genre.
Meet the Adams family — no, not the creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky characters that've featured on pages and screens for decades (including in two terrible recent animated flicks), but the filmmaking collective comprised of couple Toby Poser and John Adams, plus their daughters Zelda and Lulu Adams. The quartet might be missing a letter from their well-known counterparts' names, but they're just as fond of all things horror. Case in point: their second feature Hellbender, a self-financed gem that's both a spellbinding tale of witchcraft and a clever coming-of-age story. It starts in a house in the woods, and also spends most of its time there. It includes the arrival of an unexpected stranger, shattering the status quo. But formulaic and by-the-numbers, this must-see isn't. In making exceptional use of its setting, and of a cast that's primarily comprised of Adams family members, it's also a masterclass in lockdown filmmaking.
In the most expected aspect of Hellbender, the film's name does indeed refer to a punk-metal band, with 16-year-old Izzy (Zelda Adams, The Deeper You Dig) and her mother (Toby Poser) its sole members. No one else has ever heard them play, either, given that Izzy is both homeschooled and confined to the family's sprawling mountainside property, as she has been since she was five. Her mum tells her that she can't venture into town or around other people due to a contagious autoimmune disease; however, when a lost man (John Adams) wanders their way and mentions that his teenage niece Amber (Lulu Adams) lives nearby, Izzy gets the confidence to go exploring. As both written and directed by three out of four Adams family members — all except Lulu — Hellbender proves an impressive supernatural affair from its opening occult-heavy prologue through to its astute take on teen rebellion. Here's hoping this Adams family spirits up more DIY horror delights soon, too.
Hellbender is available to stream via Shudder.
From the very first frames of its debut episode back in June 2019, when just-out-of-rehab 17-year-old Rue Bennett (Zendaya, Spider-Man: No Way Home) gave viewers the lowdown on her life, mindset, baggage, friends, family and everyday chaos, Euphoria has courted attention — or, mirroring the tumultuous teens at the centre of its dramas, the Emmy-winning HBO series just knew that eyeballs would come its way no matter what it did. The brainchild of filmmaker Sam Levinson (Malcolm & Marie), adapted from an Israeli series by the same name, and featuring phenomenal work by its entire cast, it's flashy, gritty, tense, raw, stark and wild, and manages to be both hyper-stylised to visually striking degree and deeply empathetic. In other words, if teen dramas reflect the times they're made — and from Degrassi, Press Gang and Beverly Hills 90210 through to The OC, Friday Night Lights and Skins, they repeatedly have — Euphoria has always been a glittery eyeshadow-strewn sign of today's times.
That hasn't changed in the show's second season. Almost two and a half years might've elapsed between Euphoria's first and second batch of episodes — a pair of out-of-season instalments in late 2020 and early 2021 aside — but it's still as potent, intense and addictive as ever. And, as dark, as Rue's life and those of her pals (with the cast including Hunter Schafer, The King of Staten Island's Maude Apatow, The Kissing Booth franchise's Jacob Elordi, The White Lotus' Sydney Sweeney, The Afterparty's Barbie Ferreira, North Hollywood's Angus Cloud and Waves' Alexa Demie) bobs and weaves through everything from suicidal despair, Russian Roulette, bloody genitals, unforgettable school plays, raucous parties and just garden-variety 2022-era teen angst. The list always goes on; in fact, as once again relayed in Levinson's non-stop, hyper-pop style, the relentlessness that is being a teenager today, trying to work out who you are and navigating all that the world throws at you is Euphoria's point.
Euphoria is available to stream via Binge.
ALL OF US ARE DEAD
The zombie apocalypse has arrived in South Korea — again. Fans of the Train to Busan, Seoul Station and Peninsula film franchise, and of 2020 movie #Alive, will be well-accustomed to seeing the ravenous undead wreak havoc on the Asian nation, of course, which puts Netflix series All of Us Are Dead in particularly great company. The premise here: after a school science experiment gone wrong, Hyosan High School swiftly becomes the site of a zombie outbreak, as students and staff alike start munching on flesh and tearing their classmates and colleagues to shreds. Pick whichever high school-set teen movie or TV show you like, add brain-chewing, face-gnawing fiends, and that's the basic idea. Naturally, all that adolescent angst, teen bullying and unrequited love — and all those class clashes and schoolmate secrets, too — take on extra urgency and intensity when the stakes are literally life and death.
It might sound like The Walking Dead-meets-Squid Game but with teens, but All of Us Are Dead is never that formulaic — even though picking where the narrative is going, especially in its first few episodes, proves rather easy. Indeed, as the kids in Class 2-5 and their teachers deal with the zombie chaos, the 12-part series is as interested in what it means to fight and survive as it is in the blood-splattered action. That doesn't mean that it skimps on the latter, though. Hyperkinetic displays of thrashed limbs, gnashing teeth and strewn-about gore pop up often, and put plenty of the zombie genre's big-screen equivalents to shame. That said, exploring the complicated relationship between childhood pals Man On-jo and Lee Cheong-san (House of Hummingbird's Park Ji-hu and Nobody Knows' Yoon Chan-young), and also unpacking rich girl Lee Na-yeon's privilege (Squid Game's Lee Yoo-mi) — to pick just a few of the equally gruesome, entertaining and thoughtful show's lengthy list of characters — couldn't be more crucial.
All of Us Are Dead is available to stream via Netflix.
I WANT YOU BACK
If a rom-com isn't well cast, it might as well not even exist. If viewers can't buy the chemistry between whichever couple has just stumbled into each other's orbit, developed feelings for one another and started wading through all the messy matters of the heart that always follow in the on-screen path to true love, then nothing in the movie will ever make sense. Thankfully, that isn't a problem that the supremely likeable I Want You Back has, all thanks to its ace central duo: the always-welcome Jenny Slate (Parks and Recreation) and Charlie Day (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia). The pair play Emma and Peter, who work in the same building and first run into each other hiding out in the stairwell. They've both just been dumped, Emma by gym trainer Noah (Scott Eastwood, Wrath of Man) and Peter by school teacher Anne (Gina Rodriguez, Kajillionaire), and they're each distraught. As they become friends, stalk their exes via social media, and stumble further into sorrow when they see that Noah and Anne have moved on, they hatch a plan — and yes, getting their past loves back is the number-one aim, as the movie's moniker makes plain.
A romantic comedy needn't be surprising to be enjoyable, and I Want You Back was always going to nudge Emma and Peter together. When a rom-com does indeed manage to have two great stars at its centre, that's simply what the genre does best (and should do often). Falling in love while trying to woo back your ex? That's screenwriters Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger's (also co-scribes on Love, Simon) setup, and one that's both goofily and sweetly handled by director Jason Orley — who also showed his skill at tinkering with a seemingly standard formula with 2019's Big Time Adolescence, too. Of course, even with The Good Place's Manny Jacinto also among the cast, I Want You Back wouldn't be a fraction of the warmly enjoyable film it is without Slate and Day anchoring its leisurely stroll through heartbreak and new beginnings.
I Want You Back is available to stream via Prime Video.
THE TINDER SWINDLER
It must be scam month over at Netflix. Example one: The Tinder Swindler. The true-crime documentary tells the tale of Simon Leviev, an Israeli con man who posed as the jet-setting heir to a diamond fortune — among other gambits — on the titular dating app, romanced a series of women and fleeced them of sizeable sums of money. If that all sounds familiar, that's because his fraudulent scheme was exposed in a 2019 article by Norwegian publication Verdens Gang, but stepping through the details on-screen still makes for harrowing, yell-at-the-TV viewing. If your path to love has involved swiping right, the doco-thriller just might be nightmare fuel, too. It treats its interviews, all women who fell for Leviev's scam, with respect and without judgement, but the film also relays a compelling cautionary tale about our always-online lives and the internet as a tool for seduction.
When Cecilie Fjellhøy first saw Leviev's Tinder profile, she happily moved her finger in the appropriate direction. That very same day, she was meeting him in a hotel bar, then accompanying him overseas on a private jet. Their whirlwind courtship continued, including talk about starting a family and moving in together — largely via WhatsApp as he was frequently overseas — and then, after his bodyguard was supposedly attacked by one of his enemies, the requests for cash started rolling in. Pernilla Sjöholm has a similar story, although she only ever kept things platonic with Simon. Her time in his inner circle overlaps with Cecille's, in fact. Simon's list of victims doesn't end there, but the trio of Scandinavian women who share the details with first-time director Felicity Morris are candid, earnest and understandably angry as they lay out the facts. A dramatised version of this tale will undoubtedly follow, because of course it will.
The Tinder Swindler is available to stream via Netflix.
Inventing Anna, aka Netflix scam-month offering number two, doesn't just detail the kind of story that's so chaotic that it can only be true. And, as The Tinder Swindler also achieves (see above), it doesn't simply chronicle another wild case of scheming, conning, pretending, lying and gleefully splashing around fat stacks of cash, either. It's also home to an accent, courtesy of Ozark and The Assistant's Julia Garner as the eponymous Anna Delvey, that's a force of nature all by itself — one that speaks volumes, not just literally, about the woman at its centre as well. When fictionalised writer Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky, Veep) starts interviewing the imprisoned socialite's pals for a story, they all provide different descriptions. Little in their thoughts and observations about her gels from person to person, which Kent obviously notices. Evading being easily pinned down — whether in her personality traits, attitudes, clothes, friends, backstory and tastes, or in her voice — is a crucial part to her whole charade.
Fiercely spitting out those distinctive tones, which sound more than a touch like The Room's Tommy Wiseau, Garner is nothing less than riveting as Delvey — who, when Inventing Anna begins, has just been arrested for deceiving financial institutions, banks, hotels and acquaintances, charges she vehemently denies. Instead, Delvey claims she's a rich heiress who wouldn't need to do the things she's accused of, but also sports a ferocious lust for fame or even infamy. Kent has to fight to even look into the story thanks to her own complicated history, and the more time that she spends both with Delvey herself and furiously interrogating every aspect of her life, the more fascinated that she becomes. Viewers are swept along the same path in this slick, savvy, super-polished miniseries, which hails from Grey's Anatomy and Scandal's Shonda Rhimes, shares those two shows' loves of glossily packaged twists, and is compulsively watchable.
Inventing Anna is available to stream via Netflix.
NEW SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK
It's the ultimate in work-life balance, an antidote to non-stop after-hours emails and Slack messages, and a guaranteed way to ensure what happens at work stays at work. In mind-bending thriller series Severance — which plays like Black Mirror meets the Charlie Kaufman-penned Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, with Wes Anderson's aesthetic if he designed soulless office complexes, plus sprinklings of everything from George Orwell to also-excellent 2020 TV effort Devs — switching off when clocking off at Lumon Industries is easy. There's a brain implant for exactly that, and it's a condition of employment on "severed" floors. Accordingly, when quittin' time comes for Macrodata Refinement division employee Mark (Adam Scott, Big Little Lies), he physically steps into a tiny, shiny elevator to descend back into his after-hours life; however, the version of him that works for Lumon won't recall anything beyond the company's walls. The instant that the lift plummets, it goes back up for Mark's "innie", as his office-bound consciousness is dubbed. Voila, it's clocking-on time once more.
Severance's attention-grabbing premise springs from creator Dan Erickson, a TV first-timer, and understands how most folks feel about office life. The show is knowing in its lead casting, too, given that Scott is best recognised for two workplace comedies: the joyous hug that is Parks and Recreation, as well as the acerbic, astute and soon-to-return Party Down. But as savvily and evocatively directed by Ben Stiller in its first three season-one episodes (and again in its last three, with Kissing Candice filmmaker Aoife McArdle helming three in the middle), Scott's new series dwells in 'be careful what you wish for' territory. For the part of Mark's brain that blanks out work, Severance initially seems like heaven. For the half that only knows the office, it's hell. For everyone watching, soaking in its twisty mysteries — and enjoying Patricia Arquette (The Act), Christopher Walken (Percy vs Goliath) and John Turturro (The Plot Against America) as fellow Lumon employees, it's a surreal and gripping must-see.
PAM & TOMMY
When the first images of Lily James playing Pamela Anderson in Pam & Tommy dropped, they captured an astonishing transformation. The Pursuit of Love star didn't just look like herself dressed up as the famed Baywatch actor; thanks to the miniseries' hair, makeup and costuming teams, she appeared as if she'd leapt into Anderson's body Being John Malkovich-style. That feeling only grew as several trailers arrived and, in the finished product, her performance borders on uncanny. It needs to, and not merely to ensure that James never just seems like she's simply slipping into a red swimsuit for an easy impersonation. To genuinely lay bare the fact that Anderson's well-known tale with her now ex-husband Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan, The 355) isn't quite the narrative it's been immortalised as for the past quarter-century, the series keeps returning to the fallout for Anderson — and, in the process, it peers well beyond the way she's historically been seen by the world.
Focusing on Anderson's marriage to the Mötley Crüe drummer in the 90s, Pam & Tommy is all about the pair's sex tape, because that intimate recording was the pop-culture scandal of that decade. Also, it's impossible to step into Anderson and Lee's romance without it. Indeed, the show knows that it's spinning an out-there story, even by celebrity terms, and that everyone watching will has their own ideas already formed about the incident. Pam & Tommy leans into that exact certainty to begin with — talking penis and all — but, as James' performance demonstrates, it never sees the tale it's telling as a joke. Co-starring Seth Rogen (An American Pickle) as the carpenter who stole the footage after being treated unfairly by Lee, this rollicking ride of a show is also a thoughtful retelling and interrogation of a tabloid-fodder incident that changed multiple lives and wrongly cemented Anderson's reputation.
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 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.
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