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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in April

Get stuck into an unsettling true-crime drama, a warm and witty new sitcom and a must-see homegrown effort.
By Sarah Ward
April 30, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
April 30, 2021
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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. From the latest and greatest to old favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue from April's haul of newbies.

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BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL RIGHT NOW

RUTHERFORD FALLS

He co-wrote and produced The Office. He did the same on Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which he co-created as well. And, he gave the world The Good Place — which makes Michael Schur one of the best in the business when it comes to kind-hearted, smart and savvy small-screen laughs. His new show, Rutherford Falls, continues the streak. Co-created with star Ed Helms and showrunner Sierra Teller Ornelas (Superstore), it also boasts his usual charm and intelligence and, as with all of the above programs, it's exceptionally well-cast. Plus, it's immensely easy to binge in just one sitting, because each one of its ten first-season episodes leave you wanting more. The setup: in the place that gives the sitcom its name, Nathan Rutherford (Helms, Aunty Donna's Big Ol' House of Fun) runs the local history museum. One of his descendants founded the town, and he couldn't be more proud of that fact. He's also very protective of the towering statue of said ancestor, even though it sits in the middle of a road and causes accidents. So, when the mayor (Dana L.Wilson, Perry Mason) decides to move the traffic hazard, Nathan and his overzealous intern Bobbie (Jesse Leigh, Heathers) spring into action. Nathan's best friend Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding, Blast) helps; however, the Minishonka Nation woman begins to realise just how her pal's family have shaped the fate of her Native American community. Also featuring a scene-stealing Michael Greyeyes (I Know This Much Is True) as the enterprising head of the Minishonka Nation casino, Rutherford Falls pairs witty laughs with warmth and sincerity, especially when it comes to exploring the treatment of First Nations peoples in America today.

The first season of Rutherford Falls is available to stream via Stan.

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WAKEFIELD

Scroll through the list of Wakefield's cast members, and many a famous Australian name pops up. Ryan Corr (High Ground), Wayne Blair (Rams), Kim Gyngell (Brothers' Nest), Harriet Dyer (The Invisible Man), and comedians Felicity Ward and Sam Simmons are just some of them, but this ABC series belongs to phenomenal British talent Rudi Dharmalingam (The Split). With an Aussie accent so flawless that all other actors attempting the feat should study it in the future, he plays nurse Nik Katira. His workplace: the eponymous Wakefield, a mental health hospital in the Blue Mountains. Nik's days involve caring for his patients, navigating the usual workplace politics and grappling with his personal life, with all three often overlapping. That might sound like the usual medical drama, but Wakefield isn't ever as straightforward as it might appear. From its very first episode — one of five directed by The Dressmaker filmmaker Jocelyn Moorhouse, with the other three helmed by The Rocket's Kim Mordaunt  — the series purposefully throws its viewers off-kilter. With roving cinematography and looping stories, it keeps everyone watching guessing, just as the figures within its frames are doing about their daily existence (including and sometimes especially Nik). Already set to be one of Australian TV's most impressive new series of the year — and likely the best of the year, too — Wakefield is gripping, twisty, powerful and almost devastatingly empathetic about a topic that is rarely handled with as much care and understanding. In other words, it's a knockout.

The first season of Wakefield is available to stream via ABC iView.

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CONCRETE COWBOY

Like many titles that grace Netflix's catalogue, Concrete Cowboy sounds like the type of movie that the streaming platform's algorithm could've easily cooked up. It might've gleaned that its subscribers like Idris Elba, and that they're keen on horses. It already knows that viewers love Stranger Things, obviously, which is where Caleb McLaughlin comes in. Combine all of the above with a coming-of-age tale that also doubles as a story of redemption, and this movie could be the end result. That's not how Concrete Cowboy came about, though. It's based on Greg Neri's novel Ghetto Cowboy, and it has both a classic and a vibrant air — befitting a film about a teenager who finds his life forever changed by an animal, and a movie about an urban riding community in Detroit as well. As the trouble-prone 15-year-old at the centre of the story, McLaughlin puts in a stirring performance. As his initially estranged father, and the man that introduces him to the stables, Elba (Cats) is magnetic, but his work here doesn't coast by on charm alone. First-time feature writer/director Ricky Staub guides stellar portrayals out of both his stars, and also works with cinematographer Minka Farthing-Kohl (The Nowhere Inn) to ensure that every second of Concrete Cowboy looks and feels as if it's galloping thoughtfully and perceptively through an oft-seen subculture.

Concrete Cowboy is available to stream via Netflix.

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THE SERPENT

One day, Tahar Rahim will likely win an Oscar. He's that phenomenal an actor, as he has shown in everything from A Prophet, The Past and Daguerreotype to The Eddy and The Mauritanian. In The Serpent, however, he's never been more unsettling — but given that he's playing Charles Sobhraj, that comes with the territory. If the real-life French serial killer's name doesn't ring a bell, then this eight-part series will make sure you'll never forget it. The instantly riveting drama tells a grim true tale, and an unnerving one. With his girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc (Jenna Coleman, The Cry) and accomplice Ajay Chowdhury (TV first-timer Amesh Edireweera), Sobhraj targeted young travellers in Bangkok and south Asia in the 70s — usually luring them in with a scam first, or trying to flat-out steal their money, then drugging them, killing them and stealing their passports. Ripper Street writers Richard Warlow and Toby Finlay intertwine Sobhraj, Leclerc and Chowdhury's murderous exploits with the efforts of Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle, Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker) to find two missing tourists. After being tipped off about two bodies by a loud-mouthed Australian in Thailand (Damon Herriman, Judy & Punch), Knippenberg begins to piece together the broader story. It's easy to feel just as he does while watching The Serpent, actually, because getting swept up in its distressing details is simply inevitable.

The Serpent is available to stream via Netflix.

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I USED TO GO HERE

With I Used to Go Here, writer/director Kris Rey (Unexpected) tackles an experience that everyone goes through once they've spent a decade or so being an adult. You might've achieved everything you'd ever hoped for when you were in university — and you might be well-aware that your teenage self would be gobsmacked by what you've conquered — but few dreams are ever as glittering in reality. For Kate Conklin (Gillian Jacobs, Love), things should've been perfect. But while the 35-year-old's first novel is new on bookshelves, it isn't selling. Her book tour has been cancelled as a result. And, although a wedding was in her near future, she soon finds herself single, confused, angry, alone and hurting. So, Kate accepts an offer to step back into the past. Asked to speak at her alma mater by a professor (Jemaine Clement, Legion) she looked up to, she jumps at the chance to revisit her old haunts, to feel like a big deal in her old college town and to get nostalgic with familiar faces. But, she primarily ends up hanging out with the students who now live in her old house, and regressing emotionally. In in its narrative, I Used to Go Here delivers few surprises. And yet, this keenly observed film knows how it feels to walk in Kate's shoes, and how to make those emotions drip from the screen as well. It helps that both Rey and Jacobs invest depth and emotion into every frame; indeed, this would've been half the movie it is otherwise.

I Used to Go Here is available to stream via Stan.

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NEW SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK

MARE OF EASTTOWN

Kate Winslet doesn't make the leap to the small screen often, but when she does, it's a must-see event. 2011's Mildred Pierce was simply astonishing, a description that both Winslet and her co-star Guy Pearce also earned — alongside an Emmy each, plus three more for the HBO limited series itself. The two actors and the acclaimed US cable network all reteam for Mare of Easttown, and it too is excellent. Set on the outskirts of Philadelphia, it follows detective Mare Sheehan. As the 25th anniversary of her high-school basketball championship arrives, and after a year of trying to solve a missing person's case linked to one of her former teammates, a new murder upends her existence. Mare's life overflows with complications anyway, with her ex-husband (David Denman, Brightburn) getting remarried, and her mother (Jean Smart, Watchmen), teenage daughter (Angourie Rice, Spider-Man: Far From Home) and four-year-old grandson all under her roof. With town newcomer Richard Ryan (Pearce, The Last Vermeer), she snatches what boozy and physical solace she can. As compelling and textured as she always is, including in this year's Ammonite, Winslet turns Mare of Easttown into a commanding character study. That said, it's firmly an engrossing crime drama as well. Although yet again pondering the adult life of an ex-school sports star, The Way Back's Brad Ingelsby isn't just repeating himself by creating and writing this seven-part series, while The Leftovers and The Hunt's Craig Zobel takes to his directing gig with a probing eye.

The first two episodes of Mare of Easttown are available to stream via Binge, with new episodes available weekly.

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THE HANDMAID'S TALE

Fans of The Handmaid's Tale have had to wait longer than expected for its fourth season, with the dystopian series' next batch of episodes among the many things that were postponed due to the pandemic. But, now it's here — and yes, the word you're looking for is 'finally'. Basically, it's time to trade one source of anxiety and tension for another. Watching the series has never been a stress-free experience, and that continues this time around. Given that the show is all about toppling a totalitarian society that's taken over the former United States, tearing down its oppression of women under the guise of 'traditional values', and fighting for freedom and equality, sending your blood pressure soaring is to be expected (and reading Margaret Atwood's 1985 book wasn't a calm experience, either). After season three's cliffhanger, June (Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man) is still battling against Gilead. In fact, after everything that the oppressive regime has done to her and her loved ones — and the ways in which it has changed life for women in general — she's firmly out for justice and revenge. That involves taking new risks, but that's what a rebel leader has to do. And we all know that stress and tension is only going to keep building as The Handmaid's Tale drops its new episodes week by week.

The first three episodes of The Handmaid's Tale season four are available to stream via SBS On Demand, with new episodes available weekly.

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INSTANT AND OLD-SCHOOL CLASSICS TO WATCH AND REWATCH

ZAMA

Nine years is a rather long time to wait for a filmmaker to make a new movie. But, for fans of Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel, that's exactly the period that passed between her 2008 thriller The Headless Woman and 2017's exceptional Zama. Although there was never really any doubt that the latter would be something special when it finally surfaced, the acclaimed auteur well and truly made her comeback with an effort that matches her reputation: mythic. Here, Martel takes on Antonio di Benedetto's 1956 Argentinean novel Zama to explore the story of an 18th-century Spanish magistrate — the Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho, The Promise) of the movie's title. He's stuck in a small South American town, desperately hoping for a transfer and, as he waits and his patience slips, he's also quickly losing his grip on everything. Narrative-wise, Zama has plenty to say about colonialism and class, and uses drama, comedy and tragedy to do so; however, it's how Martel conveys the film's tale and dives into its themes that sears this inimitable movie into viewers' brains. As its protagonist's ideas of his own grandeur are chipped away moment by moment, Zama, the feature, charts the opposite trajectory with its exquisite imagery, hypnotic rhythm and distinctive logic.

Zama is available to screen via Binge.

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SNOWPIERCER

Whenever Bong Joon-ho makes a movie, the entire world should take notice. It did with Parasite, with the masterful thriller nabbing Cannes' Palme d'Or, Sydney Film Festival's prize and four Oscars to prove it (and a slew of other awards as well). But, arriving two titles and six years earlier on his filmography, Snowpiercer didn't initially get the same amount of attention. Yes, it sparked an immensely watchable TV remake; however, it didn't attract eyeballs en masse. It should've, but that's the thing about movies once they're out there in the world: if you've missed them, you can always hunt them down. When it premiered in Australia, also at SFF, more than a few folks in the audience walked out. They robbed themselves of a smart, savage and supremely entertaining dystopian action-thriller, all set on the perpetually moving train that gives the film its title. Adapted from the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Bong and co-screenwriter Kelly Masterson (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead), the film transports the world's class, social and economic struggles into the locomotive's stratified carriages, and charts the inevitable uprising that follows when those left at the back of the train decide to rebel. Bong's first English-language feature, it boasts a killer cast, too, including Chris Evans (Knives Out), Song Kang-ho (Parasite), Tilda Swinton (The Personal History of David Copperfield), Jamie Bell (Rocketman), Octavia Spencer (The Witches) and John Hurt (Jackie).

Snowpiercer is available to stream via Amazon Prime Video.

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FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. If those six words already mean something to you, you're clearly a fan of Friday Night Lights — which, although it only spanned five seasons and 76 episodes, is one of the very best dramas of the 00s. It wasn't guaranteed to be a hit, or to even be any good, though. Initially, Friday Night Lights was a 1990 non-fiction book about small-town high-school football. Then, it became a grim sports film, starring Billy Bob Thornton when he was fresh off of Bad Santa. Both the text and the movie still exist, of course, but it's the TV series that everyone now thinks of when the Friday Night Lights name comes up. It's the show that made everyone think of Kyle Chandler (Godzilla vs Kong) as their coach and their dad, too, because they're the roles he plays to absolute perfection here. The general premise remains the same, this time following the Dillon Panthers. Chandler's Eric Taylor steps into the head coach role just as the team's star quarterback is injured, which sets up the storyline for the first season. Not just centred on sport, the series also dives deep into the everyday lives of its players in its fictional Texas community, and their loved ones as well — which is where everyone from Connie Britton (Promising Young Woman), Taylor Kitsch (21 Bridges) and Jesse Plemons (Judas and the Black Messiah) to Michael B Jordan (Just Mercy) and Jurnee Smollet (Lovecraft Country) pop up.

All five seasons of Friday Night Lights are available to stream via Binge.

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Top images: The Serpent, Mammoth Screen Ltd, photographer: Roland Neveu.

Published on April 30, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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