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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in June

Get stuck into a phenomenal comedy special about spending too much time at home, a savvy 80s-set comedy and Loki's leap to the small screen.
By Sarah Ward
June 30, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
June 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 June's haul of newbies.

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BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL RIGHT NOW

BO BURNHAM: INSIDE

Watching Bo Burnham: Inside, a stunning fact becomes evident. A life-changing realisation, really. During a period when most people tried to make sourdough, pieced together jigsaws and spent too much time on Zoom, Bo Burnham created a comedy masterpiece. How does he ever top a special this raw, insightful, funny, clever and of the moment? How did he make it to begin with? How does anyone ever manage to capture every emotion that we've all felt about lockdowns — and about the world's general chaos, spending too much time on the internet, capitalism's exploitation and just the general hellscape that is our modern lives, too — in one 90-minute musical-comedy whirlwind? Filmed in one room of his house over several months (and with his hair and beard growth helping mark the time), Inside unfurls via songs about being stuck indoors, video chats, today's performative society, sexting, ageing and mental health. Burnham sings and acts, and also wrote, directed, shot, edited and produced the whole thing, and there's not a moment, image or line that goes to waste. Being trapped in that room with the Promising Young Woman star and Eighth Grade filmmaker, and therefore being stuck inside the closest thing he can find to manifesting his mind outside his skull, becomes the best kind of rollercoaster ride. Just try getting Burnham's tunes out of your head afterwards, too, because this is an oh-so-relatable and insightful special that lingers. It's also the best thing that's been made about this pandemic yet, hands down.

Bo Burnham: Inside is available to stream via Netflix.

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THIS WAY UP

At the beginning of This Way Up, Áine (Aisling Bea, Living With Yourself) is being checked out of a London mental health facility by her older sister Shona (Sharon Horgan, Catastrophe). Her complaints about the lack of a spa are just jokes, but they're also one of her coping mechanisms. She wears that sense of humour like a shield as she steps back into her usual routine — teaching English to folks learning it as a second language, trying to avoid spending too much time at home and attempting not to think about her ex (Chris Geere, You're the Worst). There's shades of Catastrophe in This Way Up, unsurprisingly, and also echoes of Fleabag, Back to Life and Breeders, too. In other words, it has been a great few years for acerbic UK shows about people struggling with all the baggage, expectations and responsibilities that come with being adults — and this addition to the fold, which the always-charming Bea also wrote, continues the trend. Also evident in This Way Up's fellow comedies, as well as here, is a strong focus on women who don't have it all together, or even pretend otherwise. Áine's exploits involve everything from trying to hook up with a fellow rehab patient and getting a crush on Richard (Tobias Menzies, The Crown), the father of a French boy she tutors, to constantly being the third wheel in Shona's relationship with her boyfriend Vish (Aasif Mandvi, Evil), and she stumbles and puns her way through all of it. A second season of her antics is on the way, too, which this first batch of episodes will leave you hanging out for.

The first season of This Way Up is available to stream via Stan.

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STARSTRUCK

When Rose Matafeo last graced our screens, she took on pregnancy-centric rom-coms in 2020's Baby Done. Now, in Starstruck, she's still pairing the romantic and the comedic. In another thoughtful, plucky and relatable performance, she plays Jessie, a 28-year-old New Zealander in London who splits her time between working in a cinema and nannying, and isn't expecting much when her best friend and roommate Kate (Emma Sidi, Pls Like) drags her out to a bar on New Year's Eve. For most of the evening, her lack of enthusiasm proves astute. Then she meets Tom (Nikesh Patel, Four Weddings and a Funeral). He overhears her rambling drunkenly to herself in the men's bathroom, they chat at the bar and, when sparks fly, she ends up back at his sprawling flat. It isn't until the next morning, however — when she sees a poster adorned with his face leaning against his living room wall — that she realises that he's actually one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Yes, Starstruck takes Notting Hill's premise and gives it a 22-years-later update, and delivers a smart, sidesplittingly funny and all-round charming rom-com sitcom in the process. When a film or TV show is crafted with a deep-seated love for its chosen genre, it shows. When it wants to do more than just nod and wink at greats gone by like a big on-screen super fan — when its creators passionately hope that it might become a classic in its own right, rather than a mere imitation of better titles — that comes through, too. And that's definitely the case with this ridiculously easy-to-binge charmer.

The first season of Starstruck is available to stream via ABC iView. Read our full review.

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LUCA

Unlike Studio Ghibli, Pixar can make bad movies. The main culprit: the Cars franchise. They're a rarity among the Disney-owned animation studio's output, thankfully — because even when it makes a minor delight, like Luca, its usually swims well beyond most of the other family-friendly fare that gets pumped in front of young eyes. Set in Italy over a resplendent summer, this coming-of-age tale might be the closest that Pixar ever gets to making a Frankenstein movie. Forget the whole coming back from the dead part; instead, teenage sea monsters Luca  (Jacob Tremblay, Doctor Sleep) and Alberto  (Jack Dylan Grazer, We Are Who We Are) just want to belong. But, even though they can't help the fact that they're sea monsters, they'd be shunned by the village they decide to call home if anyone ever worked out that they aren't human. The pair cross paths in the water, but when Luca follows his new pal to the surface, he disobeys his parents' strict warnings. They bond over a Vespa, which they both want. Next, they befriend an ordinary girl, Giulia (first-timer  Emma Berman), in a quest to win a race to nab their very own moped. The story is straightforward, but the themes still float along meaningfully in this feature debut from director Enrico Casarosa (Pixar short La Luna) — and the sun-dappled seaside animation is a dazzling treat.

Luca is available to stream via Disney+.

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THE AMUSEMENT PARK

In 1968, George A Romero changed cinema forever. Night of the Living Dead, his first film, was famously made on a tiny budget — but it swiftly became the zombie movie that's influenced every single other zombie movie that's ever followed. His resume from there is filled with other highlights, including further Dead films and the astonishing Martin, but one of his intriguing features didn't actually see the light of day until recently. It was also commissioned by the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania to preach the evils of elder abuse, which isn't the type of thing that can be said about any other flick. The Amusement Park is incredibly effective in getting that message across, actually. As star Lincoln Maazel explains in the introduction, it aims to make its statement by putting the audience in its ageing characters' shoes, conveying their ill-treatment just for their advancing years and showing the chaos they feel as a result. That's the exact outcome as Maazel plays an older man who spends a day wandering around the titular setting, only to be constantly disregarded, denigrated, laughed at and pushed aside as hellishness greets him at every turn. Romero's film is grim, obvious and absurd all at once, and it's a powerful and winning combination in his hands.

The Amusement Park is available to stream via Shudder.

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NEW AND RETURNING SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK

PHYSICAL

On a typical early-80s day, San Diego housewife Sheila Rubin (Rose Byrne, Irresistible) will make breakfast for her professor husband Danny (Rory Scovel, I Feel Pretty), take their daughter to school, then run errands. She'll also buy three fast food meals, book into a motel, eat them all naked, then purge. Physical can be bleak — about the pain festering inside its bitterly unhappy protagonist, her constantly fraying mental health, the smile she's forced to plaster across her face as she soldiers on, and her excoriating options of herself — but it also finds a rich vein of dark comedy in Sheila's efforts to change her life through aerobics. Add the series to the list of 80s-set shows about women getting sick of being cast aside, breaking free of their societally enforced roles and jumping into something active. GLOW did it. On Becoming a God in Central Florida did, too. And now those two excellent series have a kindred spirit in this sharp, compelling and often brutally candid show. Byrne is a force to be reckoned with here, in one of her best performances in some time (and a reminder that in everything from Heartbreak High to Damages and Mrs America, she's always done well on TV). Also entrancing, engaging and difficult to forget: Physical's desperate-but-determined tone, and the way it seethes with tension beneath the spandex, sequins and sunny beach shots.

The first three episodes of Physical are available to stream via Apple TV+, with new episodes dropping weekly.

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LOKI

With WandaVision, Marvel gave the world a nodding, winking sitcom that morphed into an engaging but still quite standard entry in its ever-sprawling on-screen realm. With The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it opted for an odd couple action-thriller that hit every mark it needed to, but rarely more. Loki, the third Disney+ Marvel series to hit streaming this year — and the third to focus on characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe — stands out from the crowd instantly. Having Tom Hiddleston (Avengers: Endgame) step back into the God of Mischief's shoes will do that. Loki's charms don't solely radiate from its leading man, though. He's as charismatically wily as ever (as he's always been in his scene-stealing big-screen appearances in the Thor and Avengers films), but this series is helped immensely by its willingness to have fun with its premise, and also by the great cast surrounding its star. Teaming up duos is obviously currently Marvel's thing, but Loki pairs its eponymous trickster with a time cop played by Owen Wilson (Bliss), gets them palling around in buddy cop-meets-science fiction territory, and also throws in Sophia Di Martino (Yesterday) as a character that best discovered by watching. Here, come for the usual Hiddleston mischievousness, stay for everything this quickly involving series builds around him as Loki is forced to face the consequences of his past actions.

The first four episodes of Loki are available to stream via Disney+, with new episodes dropping weekly.

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RICK AND MORTY

Five seasons in, Rick and Morty has long passed the point where its premise is its main drawcard. That setup is stellar, of course, and always will be — as you'd expect of a series that takes it cues from Back to the Future, but swaps in a dimension-hopping, drunken, cantankerous grandfather and his nervous teenage grandson. What keeps viewers coming back, and also eagerly awaiting each new batch of episodes, is the show's constant ability to twist and morph in different directions in each and every new instalment. That, and its cynical-meets-absurdist sense of humour, its ability to weave in more pop culture references than should be possible while never feeling like the mere sum of its influences, and its deeply melancholic musings on life, happiness and connection. All these traits are on display in Rick and Morty season five so far, even just two episodes in. Co-creator Justin Roiland might now have another animated sitcom about an unconventional family demanding his attention — the also excellent Solar Opposites — but his first stab at the genre shows no signs of waning. Rare is the show that proclaims that existence is meaningless with such gusto, while also celebrating life's small wins and moments. Wubba lubba dub dub indeed.

The first two episodes of Rick and Morty's fifth season are available to stream via Netflix, with new episodes dropping weekly.

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LISEY'S STORY

The list of Stephen King books that've made the leap to screens big or small is hefty. The number of those on-screen projects that the author has had a hand in himself is far smaller. That alone gives Lisey's Story an air of intrigue, with every episode of this eight-part adaptation of King's 2006 novel penned by him. As the series follows Lisey Landon, the widow of a famous author, King isn't actually the MVP, though. His presence is felt — which, depending on how much of a fan you are, isn't always a good thing — but this show has plenty of other talent to assist. Firstly, the always-great Julianne Moore (The Woman in the Window) plays the titular character. Secondly, exceptional Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín (Ema) directs the whole show. When Moore dives deep into a role, as she's clearly given the room to here in one of her rare TV parts, she makes the figures she's playing feel as if they could walk right off the screen and into reality. When Larraín lets audiences see the world through his eyes, every frame he creates is utterly magnetic, and yet also probes and ponders everything it is peering at at the same time. It's these two traits that make Lisey's Story a must-see, although a cast that also includes Clive Owen (back on TV screens after the astounding The Knick), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Possessor), Dane DeHaan (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), Joan Allen (Room), Michael Pitt (The Last Days of American Crime) and Sung Kang (Fast and Furious 9) more than helps. 

The first five episodes of Lisey's Story are available to stream via Apple TV+, with new episodes dropping weekly.

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CLASSICS TO WATCH AND REWATCH

PLANET TERROR + DEATH PROOF

The year is 2007. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez team up on two films that pay tribute to 70s exploitation flicks — and they make their movies, dubbed Grindhouse, as two parts of a double feature. That's not always how audiences have been able to watch Planet Terror and Death Proof, either then or since, but this pair of memorable flicks is well worth viewing back to back exactly as the directors intended. In the first instalment, Rodriguez serves up an OTT zombie film that revolves around a go-go dancer named Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan, The Sound). In the second chapter, QT gives the world one of his best movies ever, all thanks to the psychopathic Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell, Fast and Furious 9) and the group of women (Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)'s Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zombieland: Double Tap's Rosario Dawson and seasoned stunt performer Zoë Bell) he tries to stalk with his supposedly indestructible car. Both directors play with familiar stories, and with narrative conventions, but that's a big part of the point. Watching them each deliver the most lurid features of their careers (which, in From Dusk Till Dawn director Rodriguez's case, is saying something) is a delight. And from its perfect casting to its nervy mood and tense car scenes, Death Proof is a flat-out wonder.

Planet Terror and Death Proof are available to stream via Stan.

Published on June 30, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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