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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream This Month

Cancel your plans to get stuck into a fascinating documentary about eight people living in a biodome, a choose-your-own-adventure movie and a twisty, puzzle-like mystery.
By Sarah Ward
May 14, 2020
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Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream This Month

Cancel your plans to get stuck into a fascinating documentary about eight people living in a biodome, a choose-your-own-adventure movie and a twisty, puzzle-like mystery.
By Sarah Ward
May 14, 2020
  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 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 for May.

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NEW STUFF TO WATCH NOW

DISPATCHES FROM ELSEWHERE

It has been a few years since Jason Segel was seen on-screen with any frequency; however the Freaks and Geeks, How I Met Your Mother and The Muppets star returns in a big way with Dispatches from Elsewhere. As well as leading the cast, he created, co-wrote and co-directed the intriguing and enigmatic puzzle-like drama series, which is based on the documentary The Institute and tracks a group of strangers who find themselves drawn to a strange, game-like mystery. IT worker Peter (Segel), the lively Simone (Eve Lindley), the overly cautious and paranoid Fredwynn (Andre Benjamin), and the upbeat Janice (Sally Field) all don't know what they're getting themselves in for when they start spotting flyers around town about offbeat topics (communicating with dolphins and trialling human force fields, for example), then each individually call the number printed on them. And, for maximum immersion and enjoyment — and to go on the ten-part show's weird and wonderful ride with its characters — audiences should approach it with as little prior knowledge of any details other than the above as well.

All ten episodes of Dispatches from Elsewhere are available to stream via Amazon Prime Video.

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UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT: KIMMY VS THE REVEREND

She's perennially perky, has a penchant for wearing pink and red clothing that clashes with her flame-hued hair, and loves high-fives. And, she's back. Plus, now you can decide what happens to her thanks to Netflix's new interactive movie Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend. Although Kimmy Schmidt's (Ellie Kemper) episodic story wrapped up when the four-season sitcom ended in 2019, this choose-your-own-adventure film unravels a new chapter. As the title makes plain, the former kidnapping victim is forced to again face the man who kept her in a bunker for 15 years, aka self-styled reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm). The ever-extravagant Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) is once again by her side, her ex-boss Jacqueline White (Jane Krakowski) isn't far away either, and this time Daniel Radcliffe pops up as the man Kimmy is planning to marry. As well as the fun of picking which path the narrative takes, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch-style, Kimmy vs the Reverend delivers a non-stop onslaught of gags. It is co-written by Tina Fey, after all.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend is available to stream via Netflix.

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SPACESHIP EARTH

When it premiered at Sundance in January this year, Spaceship Earth wouldn't and couldn't have seemed as topical as it does at present. The documentary's subject: Biosphere 2, the biodome in the Arizona desert that played host to eight inhabitants for two years in the early 90s — all isolating themselves from the world by choice, in the name of science, to see if a closed-off, fully self-sustaining vivarium could work if/when humanity ever ventures beyond the earth. It sounds like pure sci-fi, but this is 100-percent reality. With the help of a treasure trove of archival material as well as present-day interviews from many of the folks involved at the time, filmmaker Matt Wolf takes viewers through the unusual and fascinating experiment. While it would've been very easy to play up the outlandishness of the whole project (indeed, as seen in media clips from the time, many an onlooker did), this doco approaches Biosphere 2 and the passionate people who made it happen with thoughtfulness and appreciation, in what proves a supremely mesmerising, engaging and intelligent film.

Spaceship Earth is available to stream via DocPlay.

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UPLOAD

Before June hits, The Office and Parks and Recreation writer and co-creator Greg Daniels will reteam with Steve Carell on a new sitcom called Space Force. That's not the scribe's only new series this month, though. Viewers can already check out Upload, an existential-leaning comedy that plays like The Good Place meets virtual reality. Basically, that's the premise. After a car accident at the age of 27, computer programmer Nathan (Robbie Amell) is uploaded to a luxurious digital afterlife called Lake View, which takes more than a little adjusting. Following his troubles with his still-breathing girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards), as well as his growing bond with the IT employee, Nora (Andy Allo), who works as his virtual handler or "angel", Upload finds plenty of ways to interrogate its concept. Indeed, while this is clearly a satire of capitalism, technology and their combination, it also inches towards unnerving Black Mirror territory — because, like that show, it's so easy to see how this reality could come true in a not-so-distant dystopian future.

The ten-episode first season of Upload is available to stream via Amazon Prime Video.

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THE EDDY

A fantastic cast, a Parisian setting and oh-so-much jazz. As executive produced and partly directed by Whiplash and La La Land filmmaker Damien Chazelle, that's what's on offer in eight-part drama The Eddy. The title refers to the French club run by former pianist Elliot (Andre Holland) and his business partner Farid (Tahar Rahim), with every episode following the daily life of a different person — including Elliot's rebellious teenage daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg), as well as Maja (Joanna Kulig), the lead singer of the venue's resident jazz band. Like almost everything that Chazelle touches, other than First Man, jazz features heavily. That's really just a given with his work by now. But whether you're as fond of the style of music as he clearly is, you could take or leave it, or you're just keen on virtually visiting Europe, The Eddy unfurls a moody and engrossing tale that benefits from its excellent on-screen talent.

All eight episodes of The Eddy are available to stream via Netflix.

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HIGH FIDELITY

When it comes to tales about record obsessives wading through heartbreaks old and new, High Fidelity ranks in the top five with a bullet — both on the page, thanks to Nick Hornby's bestselling 1995 novel, and on the big screen, courtesy of the John Cusack-starring 2000 movie of the same name. It's a highly relatable story, even if your home isn't filled with wall-to-wall vinyl, because everyone has used music as a coping mechanism to deal with romantic misfortune. Reimagined for 2020, the TV series that also shares the same moniker dives deep into the concept, this time focusing on a female protagonist. Rob Brooks (Zoe Kravitz) is just as depressed about her most recent breakup as her High Fidelity predecessors, though, and just as devoted to the record store she owns and spends most of her time in. And, in a series that definitely finds its own beat, Kravitz is charming in the lead role.

The ten-episode first season of High Fidelity is available to stream via ABC iView.

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ONES TO WATCH OUT FOR LATER IN THE MONTH

THE GREAT

It takes its title from its central figure, Russian empress Catherine the Great. It's filled with lavish period-appropriate costumes, wigs, sets and decor. And, it explores an immensely famous time during the 18th century that had a significant impact upon the world. Normally, that'd all smack of a certain kind of drama; however The Great is firmly a comedy as well. As starring Elle Fanning as the eponymous ruler, Nicholas Hoult as her husband Peter III and Bohemian Rhapsody's Gwilym Lee as a fellow member of the royal court, that means witty, laugh-out-loud lines, an irreverent and often cheeky mood, and having ample fun with real-life details  — much in the way that Oscar-winner The Favourite did with British royalty on the big screen. Of course, the comparison couldn't be more fitting, with that film's BAFTA-winning screenwriter, Australian Tony McNamara, using his savagely hilarious satirical skills to pen The Great as well.

The ten-episode first season of The Great will be available to stream via Stan from Saturday, May 16.

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BAD EDUCATION

Adapted from a 2004 New York magazine article, Bad Education unravels a wild tale of power, corruption and cash — all within the Long Island public school system. Yes, that means that the film's rollercoaster ride of a narrative is based on reality. At its centre sits Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman), the superintendent to a thriving school district. With assistant superintendent Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney), he has guided the region to academic success, which has had a flow-on effect throughout the local economy. But when conscientious high-schooler and aspiring journalist Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan) starts investigating the finances behind a new school building project, she uncovers an enormous scandal. In his second directorial stint, Thoroughbreds filmmaker Cory Finley helms this twisty, meticulously calculated movie with flair and energy, while its three main stars — a slick Jackman, excellent fellow Aussie Viswanathan (Miracle Workers) and the ever-reliable Janney all put in top-notch performances.

Bad Education will be available to stream via Foxtel Now from Sunday, May 17.

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CULT CLASSICS TO REVISIT AND REDISCOVER

HAPPY ENDINGS

Some sitcoms about a group of close-knit friends manage to run for a decade, influence hair styles, then inspire a reunion special more than 15 years later. Or, they find a narrative gimmick that helps them run for almost as long. Sadly, others only get a few seasons on the air — and much less attention in the process. But while Happy Endings can't boast the mass popularity of Friends or the longevity of both it and How I Met Your Mother, the comedy still has a huge and well-deserved cult following. Across its three seasons and 57 episodes, it was also one of the most consistently funny shows to hit screens during the early 2010s. The setup is familiar, focusing on six Chicago-residing pals and their antics; however the writing, storylines and performances (by a cast that includes New Girl's Damon Wayans Jr and Scrubs' Eliza Coupe as a married couple) all hit the mark again and again.

All three seasons of Happy Endings are available to stream via SBS On Demand.

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DEAD SET

At its worst, reality TV can feel like television's zombie genre. Too many shows simply gather the same kinds of people in a heightened scenario — locked in a huge house, renovating their dream home, battling each other for love, fighting for kitchen supremacy or getting lusty on an island, for example — then let the inevitable, thoroughly predictable conflict fly. But when five-part British comedy-horror series Dead Set adds the shuffling, brain-munching undead to Big Brother, it's an inventive, hilarious and often gory delight. Made back in 2008 and featuring cameos from actual UK Big Brother housemates, the result is both entertaining and smartly satirical, all thanks to Charlie Brooker. Yep, before he filled Black Mirror with dystopian nightmares, he combined hordes of zombies with televised quarantine. Of course he did.

Dead Set is is available to stream via SBS On Demand until Sunday, May 31.

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Top images: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend courtesy of Netflix. Bad Education courtesy of HBO.

Published on May 14, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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