Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in July
Cancel your plans to get stuck into a spooky new Aussie horror movie, a compelling new true-crime docuseries and an ace Charlize Theron-led action flick.
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 July.
NEW STUFF TO WATCH NOW
If you haven't been lucky enough to catch Hamilton on the stage — and, let's face it, most of us haven't — a filmed "live capture" version of the popular hip hop musical here to fill the gap. The story, for those who aren't intimately acquainted with US revolutionary history, chronicles the Caribbean-born eponymous "bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman" from his arrival in New York in the early 1770s. As the informative opening number explains, Alexander Hamilton will go on to become "the ten-dollar Founding Father without a father", with the production charting how he "got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter and by being a self-starter". And, as shot on Broadway back in 2016, the results really are as phenomenal as we've all been hearing for the past five years. The entire cast, including not only creator, writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda but Tony-winners Daveed Diggs (Snowpiercer) and Leslie Odom Jr (Murder on the Orient Express), Mindhunter's Jonathan Groff and Waves' Renee Elise Goldsberry, is superb, as is every element of the production. Infectiously exuberant from its first moments, and not only lively but frequently funny, Miranda's rich, dense but always accessible words and songs interrogate US history with passion, intelligence and energy. They'll also become firmly lodged in your head, too, so don't say we didn't warn you.
Your next true-crime obsession is here and, as all these types of docuseries tend to, McMillions charts quite the case. The McDonald's Monopoly promotion isn't just confined to America, as anyone who has collected the chain's peel-off tokens and tried to win big prizes (or just score a few free burgers and fries) knows; however when it ran in the US between 1989 and 2001, it was the target of an enormous scam. If you don't know the rest of the details yet, let this in-depth six-part HBO show do the honours. Featuring interviews with those involved in the FBI investigation into the winners and chats with some of the latter as well, it makes for engrossing viewing — even though the series features a hefty amount of recreations and talking heads compared to archival footage. Writer/directors James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte are fond of teasing out revelations, but that just comes with the territory. And it's part and parcel of this tale, too, which definitely falls into the 'so wild it can only be true' category.
All six episodes of McMillions are available to stream via Binge.
THE OLD GUARD
If Charlize Theron starred in every action movie, the genre would vastly improve. That isn't a criticism of this very busy, very popular category of flicks, but recognition of how great the Mad Max: Fury Road, The Fate of the Furious and Atomic Blonde star is when she's in them. The latest movie to prove it: The Old Guard. Based on the comic book of the same name, it's a superhero film of sorts, following a group of immortal warriors (including Kursk's Matthias Schoenaerts, Aladdin's Marwan Kenzari and Trust's Luca Marinelli) led by Theron's Andromache of Scythia, or Andy. They use their skills to help those in need, and have done for centuries and centuries, although Andy's patience with humanity's pervasive cruelty is wearing thin. Then, just as a job set up by an ex-CIA operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) goes awry, the gang gets a new member in the form of US Marine Nile (If Beale Street Could Talk's KiKi Layne). Unlike most movies that aim to set up a franchise — which this clearly does — The Old Guard never feels like filler for the next chapter. It's far more focused on character to fall into that trap, all while still boasting lithe, energetic action sequences. Thank not only Theron and her co-stars, but also Beyond the Lights director Gina Prince-Bythewood.
The Old Guard is available to stream via Netflix.
First, an obvious truth: this year's latest American version of The Grudge, which marks the fourth US film adapted from the J-horror series, is downright awful. Thankfully, 2020 isn't a wash for Ju-On fans, with the six-part Ju-On: Origins getting suitably eerie on Netflix. In fact, it's the streaming platform's first original Japanese horror series. As the name suggests, Origins jumps back in time, starting in 1988. The cursed Tokyo house everyone knows but no one loves looms large over the show, obviously, with upsetting incidents happening not only within its walls, but to those who visit. When Tetsuya Fukazawa (Kai Inowaki), the boyfriend of TV host Haruka Honjo (Yuina Kuroshima), checks out the place, it comes with repercussions. When schoolgirl Kiyomi Kawai (Ririka) is lured there by her new classmates, her life will never be the same. Unfurled over 30-minute episodes, filled with dread-inducing horror filmmaking yet never leaning too heavily on the franchise's iconic imagery, and switching between restrained and brutal, this is exactly what the Ju-On series needed right now.
The first season of Ju-On: Origins is available to stream via Netflix.
It's a recognisable setup: a remote house, a family haunted by decades-old troubles, a murky history that's still leaving an imprint and tension levels rising when, naturally, strange things start to happen. But new Australian horror movie Relic has more than a few tricks up its sleeves as it follows three generations of women in a Victorian-based family. In fact, while the slow-burning affair is set in a nerve-shatteringly creepy house that's up there with many a horror great, and it serves up well-executed jumps, bumps and unnerving sensations, this smart, thoughtful and constantly disquieting film also uses its concept and plot to ponder the physical and emotional impact of ageing, including dementia. It all starts with the disappearances of the widowed and elderly Edna (Top of the Lake's Robyn Nevin). Her daughter Kay (Mary Poppins Returns,' Emily Mortimer) arrives from Melbourne to join the search, with her own offspring Sam (Bloom's Bella Heathcote) in tow, but then Edna reappears suddenly without any explanation for her absence. In the assured feature directorial debut of Japanese-Australian filmmaker Natalie Erika James, Kay and Sam still need to try to ascertain just what happened, though, and work out why Edna's house — and, increasingly, Edna too — seems so sinister.
Relic is available to stream via Stan.
When a young boy is kidnapped, murdered, then returned to his parents with his eyes stitched shut, private investigator Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys) is brought onto the case. The time: the early 1930s. The place: Los Angeles. The outcome: an instantly engaging new take on the famed detective, who is down on his luck, trying to navigate depression-era America, makes questionable personal decisions and often rubs those in his orbit the wrong way. Mason first popped up on the page in the 30s, actually, and in cinemas then, too — before a radio serial followed in the 40s and 50s, then TV shows in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and television movies in the 80s and 90s. But, while HBO's new eight-part noir mini-series is set almost 90 years ago, it confidently presents an alluringly murky, impeccably performed and grandly stylish version of Perry Mason that's firmly made for today. Casting the ever-reliable Rhys helps, of course, as fans of his work in The Americans, The Post and A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood already know. Also impressive: a number of episodes are directed by Mustang filmmaker Deniz Gamze Ergüven.
The first three episodes of Perry Mason are available to stream via Binge, with new episodes dropping weekly.
There's only one thing wrong with Netflix's thrilling, labyrinthine, time-travelling science-fiction series Dark — and that's the fact that, with its just-dropped third season, the German-language show has now come to an end. Like Stranger Things, it follows odd occurrences in an eerie small town, focuses on a group of teens and their families, and isn't afraid to jump into another realm; however this immensely intricate tale tumbles down its own rabbit hole. At the centre of a very complex narrative sits the depressed Jonas Kahnwald (Louis Hofmann), a spooky cave beneath a nuclear power plant and a spate of missing kids going back decades. When the third season begins, Jonas has just lost the girl he loves (Lisa Vicari) and met her almost-identical counterpart from an alternate reality, with things only getting more complicated from there. There's no quick way to summarise Dark's period- and world-hopping story, but no one does smart, philosophically minded, cliffhanger-heavy, constantly circling and looping sci-fi quite like this compelling, quickly addictive series. Visually, emotionally, thematically and in its alluring soundtrack, it lives up to its name, too.
The third season of Dark is available to stream via Netflix.
WAR OF THE WORLDS
HG Wells passed away more than seven decades ago but, when it comes to new adaptations of his work, the famous author is having a good year. Leigh Whannell's update of The Invisible Man is savvy, scary and excellent and, for those who prefer their Wells-penned stories with a dash of extra-terrestrial conflict, a new episodic version of War of the Worlds is now streaming. The alien-invasion tale has been brought to the screen many times, of course, including by Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise back in 2005. And yet, this eight-part international TV production never feels overly bogged down by familiarity. Starting with a strange transmission detected by astronomers, the show finds its own way to work with Wells' classic, enduring premise — with ample help from a first-rate cast that includes Gabriel Byrne (Hereditary), Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey), Lea Drucker (Custody), Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People), Adel Bencherif (The Little Drummer Girl) and Stephen Campbell Moore (also Downton Abbey).
The first three episodes of War of the Worlds are available to stream via SBS On Demand, with new episodes dropping weekly.
ONES TO WATCH OUT FOR LATER IN THE MONTH
In Waves, Kelvin Harrison Jr currently stars in one of the best movies to hit cinemas Down Under this year — and he puts in a powerful, unforgettable performance. But he's also stellar in Luce, a tightly wound drama that similarly casts him as a star high-school athlete whose life changes abruptly, but couldn't be more different in style and tone. Here, he plays the titular character. A refugee from Eritrea who was adopted by Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) ten years earlier, Luce has embraced his new life, and is considered a role model academically, too. Then he has a run-in with his history teacher (Octavia Spencer), who is concerned about one of his assignments, and everything shifts. Adapted from the play of the same name, this is a tense, taut affair that ponders the subject of assimilation deeply, also serves up a sociopolitical puzzle, and benefits from excellent on-screen work all-round. An assured and engaging piece of filmmaking, it's also worlds away from director Julius Onah's last film, aka the forgettable The Cloverfield Paradox.
Luce will be available to stream via Amazon Prime Video from Saturday, July 25.
CULT CLASSICS TO REVISIT AND REDISCOVER
A WHOLE HEAP OF CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN FILMS
Whether you like your Aussie films romantic and vibrant, as seen in Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom, or unsettling in the outback, as all-time great Wake in Fright achieved so well, the ABC's Australian Movie collection has you covered. This nation of ours has made many a feature over the years — and you can now stream plenty of them for free, including the Kylie Minogue-starring The Delinquents and the Michael Hutchence-starring Dogs in Space, if you have a think for local music icons on-screen as well. Also on offer: standout Indigenous stories such as Jedda, Satellite Boy, Samson & Delilah, Spear and Goldstone, plus the unnerving crime antics of Animal Kingdom, Snowtown and The Boys. Or, you can join Willem Dafoe on a search for the Tasmanian tiger in The Hunter, and witness the blistering work of Oscar Isaac in Balibo. Our must-revisit pick, if you're only going to choose one, is Two Hands. It'll always remain one of the best Aussie movies ever made, with both Heath Ledger and Rose Byrne excellent in early-career performances.
ABC's Australian Movie collection is available to stream via iView.
Top images: The Old Guard via Aimee Spinks/Netflix; Hamilton filmed version courtesy Disney+; Perry Mason courtesy of HBO and Merrick Morton; McMillions courtesy of HBO.
Published on July 17, 2020 by Sarah Ward