Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in April
Your latest true-crime obsession is here — alongside the return of ‘Barry’, a Thai culinary thriller, plus Rachel Weisz playing twins in a stunning remake of an 80s gem.
April 28, 2023
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 Aotearoa'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 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 through to old and recent favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue in April.
BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL NOW
Twin gynaecologists at the top of their game. Blood-red costuming and bodily fluids. The kind of perturbing mood that seeing flesh as a source of horror does and must bring. A stunning eye for stylish yet unsettling imagery. Utterly impeccable lead casting. When 1988's Dead Ringers hit cinemas, it was with this exact combination, all in the hands of David Cronenberg following Shivers, The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome and The Fly. He took inspiration from real-life siblings Stewart and Cyril Marcus, whose existence was fictionalised in 1977 novel Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland, and turned it into something spectacularly haunting. Attempting to stitch together those parts again, this time without the Crimes of the Future filmmaker at the helm — and as a miniseries, too — on paper seems as wild a feat as some of modern medicine's biggest advancements. This time starring a phenomenal Rachel Weisz as both Beverly and Elliot Mantle, and birthed by Lady Macbeth and The Wonder screenwriter Alice Birch, Dead Ringers 2.0 is indeed an achievement. It's also another masterpiece.
Playing the gender-swapped roles that Jeremy Irons (House of Gucci) inhabited so commandingly 35 years back, Weisz (Black Widow) is quiet, calm, dutiful, sensible and yearning as Beverly, then volatile, outspoken, blunt, reckless and rebellious as Elliot. Her performance as each is that distinct — that fleshed-out as well — that it leaves viewers thinking they're seeing double. Of course, technical trickery is also behind the duplicate portrayals, with directors Sean Durkin (The Nest), Karena Evans (Snowfall), Lauren Wolkstein (The Strange Ones) and Karyn Kusama's (Destroyer) behind the show's lens; however, Weisz is devastatingly convincing. Beverly is also the patient-facing doctor of the two, helping usher women into motherhood, while Elliot prefers tinkering in a state-of-the-art lab trying to push the boundaries of fertility. Still, the pair are forever together or, with unwitting patients and dates alike, swapping places and pretending to be each other. Most folks in their company don't know what hit them, which includes actor Genevieve (Britne Oldford, The Umbrella Academy), who segues from a patient to Beverly's girlfriend — and big-pharma billionaire Rebecca (Jennifer Ehle, She Said), who Dead Ringers' weird sisters court to fund their dream birthing centre.
Sometimes, dreams do come true. More often than not, they don't. The bulk of life is what dwells in-between, as we all cope with the inescapable truth that we won't get everything that we've ever fantasised about, and we mightn't even score more than just a few things we want. This is the space that Party Down has always made its own, asking "are we having fun yet?" about life's disappointments while focusing on Los Angeles-based hopefuls played by Adam Scott (Severance), Ken Marino (The Other Two), Ryan Hansen (A Million Little Things), Martin Starr (Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities) and more. They'd all rather be doing something other than being cater waiters at an array of California functions, and most have stars in their eyes. In the cult comedy's first two seasons back in 2009–10, the majority of its characters have their sights set on show business, slinging hors d'oeuvres while trying to make acting, screenwriting or comedy happen.
Bringing most of the original gang back together — Lizzy Caplan had scheduling issues making the also-excellent Fleishman Is in Trouble, but Jane Lynch (Only Murders in the Building) and Megan Mullally (Reservation Dogs) return — Party Down keeps its shindig-by-shindig setup in its 13-years-later third season. Across its first 20 instalments as well as its new six, each episode sends the titular crew to a different soirée. This time, setting the scene for what's still one of the all-time comedy greats in its latest go-around, the opening get-together is thrown by one of their own. Kyle Bradway (Hansen) has just scored the lead part in a massive superhero franchise, and he's celebrating. Ex-actor Henry Pollard (Scott) is among the attendees, as are now-heiress Constance Carmell (Lynch) and perennial stage mum Lydia Dunfree (Mullally). Hard sci-fi obsessive Roman DeBeers (Starr) and the eager-to-please Ron Donald (Marino) are present as well, in a catering capacity. By the time episode two hits, more of the above will be donning pastel pink bow ties, the series keeps unpacking what it means to dream but never succeed, and the cast — especially Scott and the ever-committed Marino — are in their element.
When Dom (David Jonsson, Industry) and Yas (Vivian Oparah, Then You Run) are asked how they met, they tell a tale about a karaoke performance getting an entire bar cheering. Gia (Karene Peter, Emmerdale Farm), Dom's ex, is both shocked and envious, even though she cheated on him with his primary-school best friend Eric (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni, The Secret). It's the kind of story a movie couple would love to spin — the type that tends to only happen in the movies, too. But even for Rye Lane's fictional characters, it's a piece of pure imagination. Instead, the pair meet in South London, in the toilet at an art show. He's crying in a stall, they chat awkwardly through the gender-neutral space's wall, then get introduced properly outside. It's clumsy, but they keep the conversation going even when they leave the exhibition, then find themselves doing the good ol' fashioned rom-com walk and talk, then slide in for that dinner rendezvous with the flabbergasted Gia.
It's easy to think of on-screen romances gone by during British filmmaker Raine Allen-Miller's feature debut — working with a script from Bloods duo Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia — which this charming Sundance-premiering flick overtly wants viewers to. There's a helluva sight gag about Love Actually, as well as a cameo to match, and the whole meandering-and-nattering setup helped make Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight an iconic trilogy. That said, as Rye Lane spends time with shy accountant Dom, who has barely left his parents' house since the breakup, and the outgoing costume designer Yas, who has her own recent relationship troubles casting a shadow, it isn't propelled by nods and winks. Rather, it's smart and savvy in a Starstruck way about paying tribute to what's come before while wandering down its own path. The lead casting is dynamic, with Jonsson and Oparah making a duo that audiences could spend hours with, and Allen-Miller's eye as a director is playful, lively, loving and probing. Rom-coms are always about watching people fall for each other, but this one plunges viewers into its swooning couple's mindset with every visual and sensory touch it can.
Rye Lane streams via Disney+.
As plenty does (see also: Rye Lane above), Beef starts with two strangers meeting, but there's absolutely nothing cute about it. Sparks don't fly and hearts don't flutter; instead, this pair grinds each other's gears. In a case of deep and passionate hate at first sight, Danny Cho (Steven Yeun, Nope) and Amy Lau (Ali Wong, Paper Girls) give their respective vehicles' gearboxes a workout, in fact, after he begins to pull out of a hardware store carpark, she honks behind him, and lewd hand signals and terse words are exchanged. Food is thrown, streets are angrily raced down, gardens are ruined, accidents are barely avoided, and the name of Vin Diesel's famous car franchise springs to mind, aptly describing how bitterly these two strangers feel about each other — and how quickly. Created by Lee Sung Jin, who has It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dave and Silicon Valley on his resume before this ten-part Netflix and A24 collaboration, Beef also commences with a simple, indisputable and deeply relatable fact. Whether you're a struggling contractor hardly making ends meet, as he is, or a store-owning entrepreneur trying to secure a big deal, as she is — or, if you're both, neither or anywhere in-between — pettiness reigning supreme is basic human nature.
Danny could've just let Amy beep as much as she liked, then waved, apologised and driven away. Amy could've been more courteous about sounding her horn, and afterwards. But each feels immediately slighted by the other, isn't willing to stand for such an indignity and becomes consumed by their trivial spat. Neither takes the high road, not once — and if you've ever gotten irrationally irate about a minor incident, this new standout understands. Episode by episode, it sees that annoyance fester and exasperation grow, too. Beef spends its run with two people who can't let go of their instant rage, keep trying to get the other back, get even more incensed in response, and just add more fuel to the fire again and again until their whole existence is a blaze of revenge. If you've ever taken a small thing and blown it wildly out of proportion, Beef is also on the same wavelength. And if any of the above has ever made you question your entire life — or just the daily grind of endeavouring to get by, having everything go wrong, feeling unappreciated and constantly working — Beef might just feel like it was made for you.
Let's call it the reality TV effect: after years of culinary contests carving up prime-time television, the savage on-screen steps into the food world just keep bubbling. The Bear turned the hospitality industry into not just a tension-dripping dramedy, but one of 2022's best new shows. In cinemas, British pressure-cooker Boiling Point and the sleek and sublimely cast The Menu have tasted from the same intense plate. Now Hunger sits down at the table, giving viewers another thriller of a meal — this time focusing on a Thai noodle cook who wants to be special. When Aoy's (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, One for the Road) street-food dishes based on her Nanna's recipes get the attention of fellow chef Tone (Gunn Svasti Na Ayudhya, Tootsies & the Fake), he tells her that she needs to be plying her talents elsewhere. In fact, he works for Chef Paul (Nopachai Jayanama, Hurts Like Hell), who specialises in the type of fine-dining dishes that only the wealthiest of the wealthy can afford, and is as exacting and demanding as the most monstrous kitchen genius that fiction has ever dreamed up.
There's more to making it in the restaurant trade than money, acclaim and status, just like there's more to life as well. As told with slickness and pace, even while clocking in at almost two-and-a-half hours, that's the lesson that director Sitisiri Mongkolsiri (Folklore) and screenwriter Kongdej Jaturanrasamee (Faces of Anne) serve Aoy. She's tempted by the glitz and recognition, and being steeped in a world far different from her own; however, all that gleams isn't always palatable. Plot-wise, Hunger uses familiar ingredients, but always ensures that they taste like their own dish — in no small part thanks to the excellent casting of Chuengcharoensukying as the film's conflicted but determined lead. A model also known as Aokbab, she proved a revelation in 2017's cheating heist thriller Bad Genius, and she's just as compelling here. The two movies would make a high-stakes pair for more than just their shared star, both sinking their teeth into class commentary as well. Yes, like The Menu before it, Hunger is also an eat-the-rich flick, and loves biting into social inequity as hard as it can.
Hunger streams via Netflix.
GEORGE & TAMMY
Stepping into a real-life Tammy's shoes is turning out well for Jessica Chastain, as two of her most recent roles have proven. In 2022, she won an Oscar and a Screen Actors Guild Award for playing televangelist Tammy Faye in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. In 2023, she has backed that up by scoring another Screen Actors Guild Award, this time for playing country icon Tammy Wynette in George & Tammy. Chastain might run out of IRL Tammys from here. If Parks and Recreation ever makes another comeback, perhaps she can add a fictional Tammy there. For now, she's made the most of Faye and Wynnette's stories — especially the latter. This time, the Scenes From a Marriage and The Good Nurse star is on the small screen, in a six-part series that focuses not only on the singer behind 'Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad', 'D.I.V.O.R.C.E.' and ;Stand By Your Man' (and, with The KLF in the 90s, 'Justified and Ancient'), but also on fellow musician George Jones (Michael Shannon, Amsterdam).
Always an on-screen powerhouse himself, Shannon hasn't been notching up accolades for his work on George & Tammy, but he deserves to — and any series that pairs these two acting titans was always going to be worth watching. The ups and downs of Jones and Wynnette's intertwined lives and careers are a matter of history, but it's all brought to the screen with fierce and committed performances that cut to the heart of the two famous figures, handsome staging and lensing, impressive supporting turns by Steve Zahn (The White Lotus) and Walton Goggins (The Righteous Gemstones), and genuine appreciation for the central pair's contribution to their chosen music genre. The soundtrack takes care of itself, and easily, and Australian filmmaker John Hillcoat ensures that this biographical affair is never a by-the-numbers effort. Indeed, the series is also worth seeing as the latest work by the Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, The Proposition and The Road director alone.
George & Tammy streams via Neon.
NEW AND RETURNING SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK
Since HBO first introduced the world to Barry Berkman, the contract killer played and co-created by Saturday Night Live great Bill Hader has wanted to be something other than a gun for hire. An ex-military sniper, he's always been skilled at his highly illicit post-service line of work; however, moving on from that past was a bubbling dream even before he found his way to a Los Angeles acting class while on a job. Barry laid bare its namesake's biggest wish in its 2018 premiere episode. Then, it kept unpacking his pursuit of a life less lethal across the show's Emmy-winning first and second seasons, plus its even-more-astounding third season in 2022. Season four, the series' final outing, is no anomaly, but it also realises that wanting to be someone different and genuinely overcoming your worst impulses aren't the same. Barry has been grappling with this fact since the beginning, of course, with the grim truth beating at the show's heart whether it's at its most darkly comedic, action-packed or dramatic — and, given that its namesake is surrounded by people who similarly yearn for an alternative to their current lot in life, yet also can't shake their most damaging behaviour, it's been doing so beyond its antihero protagonist.
Are Barry, his girlfriend Sally Reid (Sarah Goldberg, The Night House), acting teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler, Black Adam), handler Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root, Succession) and Chechen gangster NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan, Bill & Ted Face the Music) all that different from who they were when Barry started? Have they processed their troubles? Have they stopped taking out their struggles not just on themselves, but on those around them? Hader and his fellow Barry co-creator Alec Berg (Silicon Valley, Curb Your Enthusiasm) keep asking those questions in season four to marvellous results. Barry being Barry, posing such queries and seeing its central figures for who they are is an ambitious, thrilling and risk-taking ride. When season three ended, it was with Barry behind bars, which is where he is when the show's new go-around kicks off. He isn't coping, unsurprisingly, hallucinating Sally running lines in the prison yard and rejecting a guard's attempt to tell him that he's not a bad person. With the latter, there's a moment of clarity about what he's done and who he is, but Barry's key players have rarely been that honest with themselves for long.
LOVE & DEATH
In the late 70s, when Texas housewife, mother of two and popular church choir singer Candy Montgomery had an affair with fellow congregation member Allan Gore, commenting about her being a scarlet woman only had one meaning. If anyone other than Elizabeth Olsen was stepping into her shoes in true-crime miniseries Love & Death, it would've remained that way, too; indeed, Jessica Biel just gave the IRL figure an on-screen portrayal in 2022 series Candy. Of course, Olsen is widely known for playing the Wanda Maximoff aka the Scarlet Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as seen in WandaVision and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness most recently. So, mention 'scarlet' in a line of dialogue around her, and it calls attention to how far she is away from casting spells and breaking out superhero skills. And she is, given that Montgomery keeps fascinating Hollywood (see also: 1990 TV movie A Killing in a Small Town) due to the fact that she was accused, arrested and put on trial for being an axe murderer. The victim: Betty Gore, Allan's wife, who was struck with the blade 41 times.
It's with pluck and perkiness that Olsen brings Candy to the screen again, initially painting the picture of a perfect suburban wife and mum. She keeps exuding those traits when Candy decides that she'd quite fancy an extra-marital liaison with Allan (Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog) — slowly winning him over, but setting ground rules in the hope that her husband Pat (Patrick Fugit, Babylon) won't get hurt, nor Betty (Lily Rabe, Shrinking) as well. For viewers that don't know the outcome when first sitting down to the seven-episode series, that bloody end is referenced in the first instalment. With restraint, sensitivity and a suitably complicated lead performance, Love & Death then leads up to it amid local scandals over a beloved pastor (Elizabeth Marvel, Mrs Davis) leaving and being replaced (by Keir Gilchrist, Atypical). It also explores the legal proceedings that follow (with She Said's Tom Pelphrey as Candy's lawyer). Olsen is terrific whether she's in bubbly, dutiful, calculating or unsettling mode, and the show itself slides in convincingly alongside writer/producer David E Kelley's recent slate of twisty tales with Big Little Lies, The Undoing and Nine Perfect Strangers (Nicole Kidman is also an executive producer).
THE BIG DOOR PRIZE
Sometimes Apple TV+ dives into real-life crimes, as miniseries Black Bird did. Sometimes it mines the whodunnit setup for laughs, which The Afterparty winningly achieved. The family feuds of Bad Sisters, Servant's domestic horrors, Hello Tomorrow!'s retrofuturistic dream, the titular take on work-life balance in Severance — they've all presented streaming audiences with puzzles, too, because this platform's original programming loves a mystery. So, of course The Big Door Prize, the service's new dramedy, is all about asking questions from the outset. Here, no one is wondering who killed who, why a baby has been resurrected or if a situation that sounds too good to be true unsurprisingly is. Rather, in a premise isn't merely a metaphor for existential musings, they're pondering a magical machine and what it tells them about themselves. Everyone in The Big Door Prize does go down the "what does it all mean?" rabbit hole, naturally, but trying to work out why the Morpho has popped up in the small town of Deerfield, where it came from, whether it can be trusted, and if it's just a bit of fun or a modern-day clairvoyant game are pressing concerns.
When the machine arrives, it literally informs residents of their true potential. Crowds flock, but not everyone is initially fascinated with the mysterious gadget. Turning 40, and marking the occasion with that many gifts from his wife Cass (Gabrielle Dennis, A Black Lady Sketch Show) and teenage daughter Trina (Djouliet Amara, Devil in Ohio), high-school history teacher Dusty Hubbard (Chris O'Dowd, Slumberland) is nonplussed. Amid riding his new scooter and wondering why he's been given a theremin, he's baffled by all the talk about the Morpho, the new reason to head to Mr Johnson's (Patrick Kerr, Search Party) store. As school principal Pat (Cocoa Brown, Never Have I Ever) embraces her inner biker because the machine said so, and charisma-dripping restaurateur Giorgio (Josh Segarra, Scream VI) revels in being told he's a superstar, Dusty claims he's happy not joining in — until he does.
A RECENT MOVIE THAT YOU NEED TO CATCH UP WITH
THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING
No one should need to cleanse their palates between Mad Max movies — well, maybe after Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, depending on your mileage with it — but if anyone does, George Miller shouldn't be one of them. The Australian auteur gifted the world the hit dystopian franchise, has helmed and penned each and every chapter, and made Mad Max: Fury Road an astonishing piece of cinema that's one of the very best in every filmic category that applies. Still, between that kinetic, frenetic, rightly Oscar-winning movie and upcoming prequel Furiosa, Miller has opted to swish around romantic fantasy Three Thousand Years of Longing. He does love heightened drama and also myths, including in the series he's synonymous with. He adores chronicling yearnings and hearts' desires, too, whether surveying vengeance and survival, the motivations behind farm animals gone a-wandering in Babe: Pig in the City, the dreams of dancing penguins in Happy Feet, or love, happiness and connection here.
In other words, although adapted from AS Byatt's short story The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, Three Thousand Years of Longing is unshakeably and inescapably a Miller movie — and it's as alive with his flair for the fantastical as most of his resume. It's a wonder for a range of reasons, one of which is simple: the last time that the writer/director made a movie that didn't connect to the Mad Max, Babe or Happy Feet franchises was three decades back. With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that this tale about a narratologist (Tilda Swinton, Memoria) and the Djinn (Idris Elba, Beast) she uncorks from a bottle, and the chats they have about their histories as the latter tries to ensure the former makes her three wishes to truly set him free, is told with playfulness, inventiveness, flamboyance and a deep heart. Much of Miller's filmography is, but there's a sense with Three Thousand Years of Longing that he's been released, too — even if he loves his usual confines, as audiences do as well.
Need a few more streaming recommendations? You can also check out our list of standout must-stream 2022 shows as well — and our best 15 new shows of the year, top 15 returning shows over the same period, 15 shows you might've missed and best 15 straight-to-streaming movies of 2022.
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