Twelve Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream This Month
Make a couch date with a new true-crime must-see starring Taron Egerton, an ace mystery-thriller about a chaotic tropical getaway and a stunning queer drama.
July 29, 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 July's haul of newbies.
BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL RIGHT NOW
MYSTERY ROAD: ORIGIN
Origin stories: everyone's getting them. Caped crusaders like Batman and Spider-Man have several; Hercule Poirot's moustache even has its own. Originally played by Aaron Pedersen on both the big and small screens, Mystery Road's Jay Swan doesn't particularly need one, given that plenty about why he's the man and detective he is, and the balancing act he's forced to undertake as an Indigenous cop as well, has already been teased out. But Mystery Road: Origin isn't jumping on a trend, repeating itself or prolonging a long-running saga. It isn't trying to justify having someone else play Swan, either. Rather, this latest entry in Australia's best crime saga leaps backwards because this franchise has always danced with history anyway. It has to; you can't explore the reality of life in Australia today, the racial and cultural divides that've long festered across this sunburnt country, and all that Swan encounters and tussles with, otherwise.
In Mystery Road: Origin, it's 1999 — and, when its six episodes begin, Swan isn't quite a detective yet. He's already a man of weighty thoughts and few words, though, and he's played by Mark Coles Smith (Occupation: Rainfall), who couldn't do a more impressive job of stepping into Pedersen's (High Ground) shoes. The series spies Swan as he's driving along sweeping salt plains. His destination: Jardine, his Western Australian home town, population 1000. Resident sergeant Peter Lovric (Steve Bisley, Doctor Doctor) welcomes Swan back eagerly, but his return isn't all cheers, especially when he stumbles across a robbery en route and gets cuffed by senior constable Max Armine (Hayley McElhinney, How to Please a Woman). Tensions also linger with Swan's estranged dad Jack (Kelton Pell, another The Circuit alum), the town's old rodeo hero, and with his hard-drinking elder brother Sputty (Clarence Ryan, Moon Rock for Monday). Indeed, that initial stickup, the crimewave waged by culprits in Ned Kelly masks that it's soon a part of, and those persistent family struggles will all define the detective's homecoming.
Great Freedom begins with 60s-style video footage captured in public bathrooms, showing Hans Hoffmann (Franz Rogowski, Undine) with other men, and with court proceedings that condemn him to prison purely for being gay. That was the reality in West Germany at the time due to Paragraph 175, which criminalised homosexuality — and, when he's incarcerated at the start of this equally tender and brutal Austrian film, Hans isn't surprised. He's been there before, as writer/director Sebastian Meise (Still Life) conveys almost like he's chronicling time travel. It's a canny touch, as relayed in the movie's cinematography, editing and overall mood. The minutes, days, hours, weeks and more surely move differently when you've been locked up for being who you are, and when being in jail is the better alternative to being in a concentration camp.
Meise jumps between Hans' different stretches, exploring the imprint all that time behind bars leaves, the yearning for love and freedom that never dissipates, and his friendship with initially repulsed fellow inmate Viktor (Georg Friedrich, Freud). In the process, Great Freedom resounds with intimate moments and revealing performances, as anchored by another stellar turn by Rogowski. The German talent has had an outstanding few years thanks to Victoria, Happy End, Transit, In the Aisles and Undine. He's as absorbing as he's ever been here, too, in a movie that stares his way so intently — and with such a striking sense of light and shade — that it could be painting his portrait. Friedrich is just as impressive, in an outwardly thorny part.
Great Freedom streams via SBS On Demand.
THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH
Who'd want to try to step into the one and only David Bowie's shoes? Only the brave and the bold. Two people earn that description in The Man Who Fell to Earth, the new TV sequel to the iconic 1976 movie that starred the music legend in the role he was clearly born to play: an alien who descends upon earth and ch-ch-changes history. Bill Nighy (Buckley's Chance) is charged with taking over the character of Thomas Jerome Newton and, thankfully and with style, he's up to the task. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) slides into the same kind of part that Bowie owned in the original, however, as fellow extra-terrestrial interloper Faraday. He's this follow-up's newcomer to the planet, and he's just as destined to do big things. That's not a spoiler — early in the first episode, Faraday addresses a massive crowd like he's Steve Jobs announcing Apple's latest product, and The Man Who Fell to Earth's tech success uses the occasion to spin his origin story.
Who'd want to try to pick up where one of the best sci-fi films ever made left off? That'd also be the brave and the bold, aka Clarice creators Jenny Lumet and Alex Kurtzman. Drawing inspiration from silver screen gems is obviously the pair's niche of late, but it's worth remembering with this new effort — which takes its cues from Walter Tevis' 1963 novel of the same name, too — that Kurtzman was also behind exceptional 2008–13 sci-fi series Fringe. Indeed, The Man Who Fell to Earth 2.0 feels like the perfect use of his talents, with the series thinking big and brimming with urgency in its vision of a world that might only be able to be saved by a spaceboy who truly cares about stopping climate change's damage. To follow through with his mission, though, Faraday also needs the help of former MIT physics whiz Justin Falls (Naomie Harris, No Time to Die).
The Man Who Fell to Earth is available to stream via Paramount+.
For the second time in about as many months, Stranger Things has dictated everyone's playlists. While Kate Bush's 'Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)' is still getting a workout, so is Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' thanks to the big two-episode end to the 80s-set hit's fourth season — two bumper movie-length instalments which clocked in at 85 minutes and 150 minutes each. Yes, it likely would've worked better if those two episodes had been split up, rather than going for length. Based on episode durations from earlier seasons, the Duffer brothers could've dropped five parts instead. The psychology behind the move was effective and ingenious, though; who didn't make a date to binge their way through as soon as they hit, because diving into two huge instalments in one night felt different than committing to five shorter chapters? Everyone did, and Netflix even momentarily crashed as a result.
This season across both volumes certainly had a theme: going big in as many ways as possible. Season four gave the horror/slasher vibe a massive workout, thanks to new big bad Vecna — and ramped up the confrontations, showdowns, killings, flashbacks, drama and globe-trotting in the process. Clearly, the soundtrack budget was hefty. So was the performance given by season four MVP Sadie Sink (Fear Street) as Max Mayfield bore the brunt of Vecna's murderous and mind-bending games, and the place that Joseph Quinn (Small Axe) will always have in the show's fans' hearts thanks to his turn as Eddie Munson. And, the list of questions about what comes next in Stranger Things' upcoming fifth and final season, and where Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown, Godzilla vs Kong), Mike (Finn Wolfhard, Ghostbusters: Afterlife), Will (Noah Schnapp, Waiting for Anya), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo, The Angry Birds Movie 2), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin, Concrete Cowboy), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton, The Souvenir Part II), Steve (Joe Keery, Free Guy), Robin (Maya Hawke, Fear Street), Nancy (Natalia Dyer, Things Seen & Heard), Joyce (Winona Ryder, The Plot Against America) and Hopper's (David Harbour, Black Widow) stories will end, is sizeable.
Stranger Things streams via Netflix. Read our full review of volume one of Stranger Things' fourth season.
I LOVE THAT FOR YOU
It works for television networks greenlighting new comedies, and it works for viewers picking what to watch, too: take one of Saturday Night Live's extremely amusing ladies, give them their own show, see laughs and smarts follow, profit. I Love That For You actually boasts two such talented women, although they didn't crossover during their SNL stints: Molly Shannon and Vanessa Bayer. The latter plays Joanna Gold, who has always dreamed of being on SVN — Special Value Network, that is. When she was a kid (Sophie Pollono, Small Engine Repair), she was diagnosed with childhood leukaemia, and obsessing over her idol Jackie Stilton (Shannon, The Other Two) as she sold anything and everything helped as a distraction. Now an adult, Joanna still wants to do exactly the same, and leave her job alongside her dad (Matt Malloy, The Sex Lives of College Girls) at Costco behind. But when she gets the chance, she pulls an unimpressed face during her first on-air stint that kills sales, so she says her cancer has returned to avoid getting fired.
On paper, that's an extremely tricky premise. In lesser hands, it'd be downright horrible. As well as being a comic gem here, in SNL, and in everything from I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson to Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, Bayer had childhood leukaemia herself — and if she didn't, and wasn't also one of I Love That For You's creators and writers, it's highly likely that this series wouldn't work. Thankfully, instead, it takes the same approach that Bayer has clearly always taken since her teenage experience, using humour in clever, sensitive, sincere, amusing, savvy and sometimes surreal ways. The show keeps demonstrating why its setup is worth tackling, too, asking questions about trying to live a normal life and work out who you are after surviving such a diagnosis; how and when sympathy is genuine, earned and milked; and guilt on several levels. It's also an entertaining workplace comedy and a takedown of consumerism, greed and the fact that anything, including sob stories, are for sale if there's something to be sold. And, of course, Bayer and Shannon are dynamite in their shared scenes.
I Love That For You streams via Paramount+.
NEW AND RETURNING SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK
If the last couple of years in pop culture are to be believed, it mightn't be a great idea to go away with a character played by Cristin Milioti. In three of the always-excellent actor's most recent high-profile roles, she has decamped to idyllic surroundings, only to find anything but bliss awaiting. Palm Springs threw a Groundhog Day-style time loop her way in its titular setting. Made for Love saw her trapped by sinister futuristic possibilities. In The Resort, which hails from Palm Springs screenwriter Andy Siara, she now has the ten-year itch — and a getaway to Mexico that's meant to soothe it slides swiftly into a wild mystery. In this instantly twisty comedy-thriller Miloti plays Emma, spouse to William Jackson Harper's (The Good Place) Noah. After a decade of marriage, they're celebrating at the Bahía del Paraíso in the Yucatán, but they're really trying to reignite their spark. At this stage in their relationship, he recoils at her bad breath, she makes fun of him falling asleep on the couch, and they're rarely in sync; even when they're floating along the resort's lazy river, cocktails in hand, they want different things.
Bringing them together: a missing-persons case from 15 years ago, after Emma goes tumbling off a quad-biking trail, bumps her head and spies an old mobile phone. It belongs to Sam (Skyler Gisondo, Licorice Pizza), a guest at the nearby but now-shuttered Oceana Vista Resort, who was on holidays over Christmas 1997 with his parents (IRL couple Dylan Baker, Hunters, and Becky Ann Baker, Big Little Lies), as well as his girlfriend Hannah (Debby Ryan, Insatiable). As Emma learns via Sam's photos and text messages, all wasn't rosy in his romantic life. After running into fellow guest Violet (Nina Bloomgarden, Good Girl Jane), who was travelling with her dad Murray (Nick Offerman, Pam & Tommy), his SMS history skews in her direction. But the pair promptly disappeared, and any potential clues were lost when a hurricane struck and destroyed their getaway spot. If The White Lotus joined forces with Only Murders in the Building, it'd look a whole lot like this entertaining series, which also includes an ace performance by Luis Gerardo Méndez (Narcos: Mexico) as Baltasar, Oceana Vista Resort's head of security.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Live life long enough and anything can happen. Enjoy an undead existence for hundreds of years and that feeling only multiplies, or so the wealth of movies and TV shows that've let vampires stalk through their frames frequently remind viewers. A sharehouse-set mockumentary focused on bloodsucking roommates who've seen more than a few centuries between them, What We Do in the Shadows embraces that idea like little else, though — as a Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi-starring movie, aka one of the funniest New Zealand comedies of this century, and then as a hilarious American TV spinoff. The premise has always been ridiculously straightforward, and always reliably entertaining. A camera crew captures the lives of the fanged and not-at-all furious, squabbles about chores, a rising body count and avoiding sunlight all included. Their domesticity may involve sinking their teeth into necks, blood splatters aplenty, sleeping in coffins and shapeshifting into bats, but it also covers arguing about paying bills, keeping the house clean and dealing with the neighbours.
The TV version's stellar fourth season picks up after a climactic end to the show's prior batch of episodes, which only finished airing back in October 2021. Its bloodsucking roommates were all set for their own adventures, but a year has passed in the show, bringing them back together. Nandor (Kayvan Novak, Cruella) returns from exploring his ancestral homeland, and he's more determined than ever to find a wife. He also thinks that one of his many from the Middle Ages could be the one again; bringing back a Djinn (Anoop Desai, Russian Doll) to grant his wishes helps. After a stint in London with the Supreme Vampiric Council, Nadja has big ambitions, too, setting her sights on opening a vampire nightclub. As for her beloved Laszlo (Matt Berry, Toast of London and Toast of Tinseltown), he's still taking care of the baby-turned-boy that burst its way out of energy vampire Colin Robinson's (Mark Proksch, The Office) body. For the fourth time around, nothing about this delight sucks, not for a second, with season four as wonderful as ever.
BETTER CALL SAUL
When the middle of August arrives, the best show on television for the past seven years — other than the one-season return of Twin Peaks — will come to an end. That isn't new news, but it's still monumental, especially given that Better Call Saul is the spinoff to an also-phenomenal series. Unlike when Breaking Bad wrapped up, though, there's no future immediately in sight. Perhaps that's fitting. Better Call Saul is TV's great tragedy precisely because we always knew what its prequel segments, which comprise the overwhelming bulk of the show, will lead to. We know who Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk, Nobody) is when he's a shady Albuquerque criminal defence attorney aiding Walter White (Bryan Cranston, Your Honor) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul, Westworld). We know what all his choices then lead to, because we've already seen it. But every single moment that's been brought to the screen in sunny colour in Better Call Saul so far, including in the now-airing second half of the series' sixth and final season, desperately makes you wish that everything you know is destined to occur won't.
That said, this latest and last batch of episodes has already overflowed with surprises as it works towards that big farewell. And, it's been delighting and astonishing as only Better Call Saul can — with meticulous precision in everything that it slips across the screen, including in its tightly plotted and never-predictable narrative, its cinematic imagery and its many, many marvellous performances. That includes continuing to unfurl Lalo Salamanca's (Tony Dalton, Hawkeye) part in this long-running crime saga, as the first half of the season did with Nacho Varga (Michael Mando, Spider-Man: Homecoming). It spans seeing where being Saul's wife, as well as his happy co-conspirator in getting revenge against their old boss Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian, Gordita Chronicles), leads Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn, Veep). TV won't be the same without Saul Goodman. It certainly won't be s'all good, man. Still, what a swan song this extraordinary show is treating viewers to — even with three episodes left to go.
2022 marks a decade since Taron Egerton's first on-screen credit as a then-23 year old. Thanks to the Kingsman movies, Eddie the Eagle, Robin Hood and Rocketman, he's rarely been out of the cinematic spotlight since — but miniseries Black Bird feels like his most mature performance yet. The latest based-on-a-true-crime tale to get the twisty TV treatment, it adapts autobiographical novel In with the Devil: a Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption. It also has Dennis Lehane, author of Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and Shutter Island, bringing it to streaming. The focus: Jimmy Keene, a former star high-school footballer turned drug dealer, who finds his narcotics-financed life crumbling when he's arrested in a sting, offered a plea bargain with the promise of a five-year sentence (four with parole), but ends up getting ten. Seven months afterwards, he's given the chance to go free, but only if he agrees to transfer to a different prison to befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser, Cruella), and get him to reveal where he's buried his victims' bodies.
Even with new shows based on various IRL crimes hitting queues every week, or thereabouts — 2022 has already seen Inventing Anna, The Dropout, The Girl From Plainville and The Staircase, to name a mere few — Black Bird boasts an immediately compelling premise. The first instalment in its six-episode run is instantly gripping, too, charting Keene's downfall, the out-of-ordinary situation posed by Agent Lauren McCauley (Sepideh Moafi, The Killing of Two Lovers), and the police investigation by Brian Miller (Greg Kinnear, Crisis) to net Hall. It keeps up the intrigue and tension from there; in fact, the wild and riveting details just keep on coming. Fantastic performances all round prove pivotal as well. Again, Egerton is excellent, while Hauser's menace-dripping efforts rank among the great on-screen serial killer portrayals. And, although bittersweet to watch after his sudden passing in May, Ray Liotta (The Many Saints of Newark) makes a firm imprint as Keene's father.
Black Bird streams via Apple TV+.
Early in the first episode of The Rehearsal, Nathan Fielder meets Kor Skeete, a Jeopardy!-watching, trivia-loving New Yorker with a problem that he's seeking help with. Skeete has been lying to his bar trivia team about his educational history, claiming that he has a master's degree instead of a bachelor's degree, and he's hoping for assistance in coming clean. His biggest worry: how his pal Tricia might react, and if it'll end their friendship. First, however, in their initial meeting in Skeete's apartment, Fielder asks Skeete if he's ever seen any of Fielder's past work. Skeete says no, despite claiming a particular interest in television as his favourite trivia subject — and his response to what Fielder explains next will likely mirror anyone watching who comes to this with the same fresh eyes. Until now, Fielder was best known for Nathan for You, in which he helped companies and people by using his business school studies. Fielder played a version of himself, and the result is best described as a reality comedy. It's the kind of thing that has to be seen to be truly believed and understood, and it's both genius and absurd.
In The Rehearsal, Fielder is back as himself. He also wants to use his skills to help others again. His tactic this time is right there in the name, letting his subjects rehearse their big moments — bearing all to a friend in that first episode, and exploring parenthood in the second, for instance. The show's crew even build elaborate sets, recreating the spots where these pivotal incidents will take place, such as the bar where Skeete will meet Tricia. Fielder hires actors to assist, too. And, adding yet another layer, Fielder also steps through the same process himself, rehearsing his first encounter with Skeete, with thanks to an actor, before they cross paths. If you've ever thought that life was a big performance, and that every single thing about interacting with others — and even just being yourself — involves playing a role, you'll find much to think about in this fascinating, funny, often unsettling, quickly addictive series. There's reality TV and then there's the way that the deadpan Fielder plays with and probes reality, and while both can induce cringing, nothing compares to this.
The Rehearsal streams via Binge.
A RECENT CINEMA RELEASE TO CATCH UP WITH
Some actors possess voices that could narrate almost anything, and Willem Dafoe (The Northman) is one of them. He's tasked with uttering quite the elegiac prose in River, but he gives all that musing about waterways — the planet's arteries, he calls them at one point — a particularly resonant and enthralling tone. Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa) knew he would, of course. She enlisted his vocal talents on her last documentary, Mountain, as well. Both films pick one of the earth's crucial natural features, capture them in all their glory at multiple spots around the globe, and wax lyrical about their importance, and both make for quite the beguiling viewing experience.
Thanks to writer Robert Macfarlane, Dafoe has been given much to opine in River, covering the history of these snaking streams from the planet's creation up until today. He hones in on their importance to human civilisation — in making much in our evolution possible, in fact, and also the devastation we've wrought in response since we learned to harness all that water for our own purposes. That said, River could've simply paired its dazzling sights with its Australian Chamber Orchestra score and it still would've proven majestic and moving. The footage is that remarkable as it soars high and wide across 39 countries, and peers down with the utmost appreciation. Here, a picture truly is worth a thousand of those Dafoe-uttered words, but the combination of both — plus a score that includes everything from Bach to Radiohead — is something particularly special.
A STONE-COLD CLASSIC TO BINGE IN FULL
THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW
TV shows about TV are like movies about movies: someone somewhere is usually making one. But every television series that's told a tale about making a television show since the early 90s has owed an enormous debt to The Larry Sanders Show — and everything that's still to come always will. One of HBO's earliest examples of original programming, it parodies the late-night talk show world. (Yes, 30 Rock's satire of Saturday Night Live took more than a few cues from it.) The show within the show is also called The Larry Sanders Show, as hosted by its namesake (the late, great Garry Shandling), and its day-to-day production is always hectic. There's Larry's ego to deal with, the distinctive management style of producer Artie (the also late, great Rip Torn), the parade of staffers and assistants (including a pre-Entourage Jeremy Piven and Reality Bites-era Janeane Garofalo), and a constant array of demanding guests. And, Larry's personal life always bleeds into the chaos, including the spoils and trappings of fame, and his romantic relationships.
Curb Your Enthusiasm, another series set within showbiz that's also about someone called Larry, similarly wouldn't be what it is if The Larry Sanders Show had never existed. Tonally, they share plenty — the acerbic humour, the willingness to be both blunt and brutal, and the well-known names skewering themselves, too. Thanks to its fondness for walk-and-talk scenes, The Larry Sanders Show has left its imprint as far and wide as ER and The West Wing as well. It isn't just phenomenal because it helped shape so much great television that followed, however. Perhaps the best sitcom ever made, it's as smart as it is savage, surreal and hilarious, and the combination of Sanders and Torn, both at their absolute best, is what TV dreams are made of. Making your way through the 90 episodes, which originally aired across six seasons between 1992–98, is a breeze. Wanting to binge them again immediately afterwards comes just as easily.
The Larry Sanders Show streams via Binge.
You can also check out our running list of standout must-stream 2022 shows so far as well — and our best 15 new shows from the first half of this year, top 15 returning shows and best 15 straight-to-streaming movies.