Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in July
Spend your couch time watching a savvy new star-studded science-fiction comedy, the delicious return of 'The Bear' and a modern-day take on 'Sweeney Todd'.
July 31, 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 from July's haul.
BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL NOW
The more time that anyone spends in the kitchen, the easier that whipping up their chosen dish gets. The Bear season two is that concept in TV form, even if the team at The Original Beef of Chicagoland don't always live it as they leap from running a beloved neighbourhood sandwich joint to opening a fine-diner, and fast. The hospitality crew that was first introduced in the best new show of 2022 isn't lacking in culinary skills or passion. But when chaos surrounds you constantly, as bubbled and boiled through The Bear's Golden Globe-winning, Emmy-nominated season-one frames, not everything always goes to plan. That was only accurate on-screen for Carmen 'Carmy' Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White, Shameless) and his colleagues — aka sous chef Sydney (Ayo Edebiri, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson), baker-turned-pastry chef Marcus (Lionel Boyce, Hap and Leonard), veteran line cooks Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas, In Treatment) and Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson, Fargo), resident Mr Fixit Neil Fak (IRL chef Matty Matheson), and family pal Richie aka Cousin (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, No Hard Feelings). For viewers, the series' debut run was as perfect a piece of television as anyone can hope for. Excellent news: season two is better.
The Bear serves up another sublime course of comedy, drama and "yes chef!"-exclaiming antics across its sizzling second season. Actually make that ten more courses, one per episode, with each new instalment its own more-ish meal. A menu, a loan, desperately needed additional help, oh-so-much restaurant mayhem: that's how this second visit begins, as Carmy and Sydney endeavour to make their dreams for their own patch of Chicago's food scene come true. So far, so familiar, but The Bear isn't just plating up the same dishes this time around. At every moment, this new feast feels richer, deeper and more seasoned, including when it's as intense as ever, when it's filling the screen with tastebud-tempting food shots that relish culinary artistry, and also when it gets meditative. Episodes that send Marcus to a Noma-esque venue in Copenhagen under the tutelage of Luca (Will Poulter, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), get Richie spending a week learning the upscale ropes at one of Chicago's best restaurants and jump back to the past, demonstrating how chaos would've been in Carmy's blood regardless of if he became a chef, are particularly stunning.
THEY CLONED TYRONE
Jordan Peele's Get Out and Us would already make a killer triple feature with Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You. For a smart and savvy marathon of science fiction-leaning films about race in America by Black filmmakers, now add Juel Taylor's They Cloned Tyrone. The Creed II screenwriter turns first-time feature director with this dystopian movie that slides in alongside Groundhog Day, Moon, The Cabin in the Woods, A Clockwork Orange, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and They Live, too — but is never derivative, not for a second, including in its 70s-style Blaxploitation-esque aesthetic that nods to Shaft and Superfly as well. Exactly what drug dealer Fontaine (John Boyega, The Woman King), pimp Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx, Spider-Man: No Way Home) and sex worker Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris, Candyman) find in their neighbourhood is right there in the film's name. The how, the why, the specifics around both, the sense of humour that goes with all of the above, the savage satire: Taylor and co-writer Tony Rettenmaier perfect the details. Ignore the fact that they both collaborated on the script for the awful Space Jam: A New Legacy, other than considering the excellent They Cloned Tyrone as a far smarter, darker and deeper exploration of exploitation when the powers that be see other people as merely a means to an end.
On an ordinary day — and amid vintage-looking threads and hairstyles, and also thoroughly modern shoutouts to SpongeBob SquarePants, Kevin Bacon, Barack Obama, Nancy Drew and bitcoin — Fontaine wakes up, has little cash and doesn't win on an instant scratch-it. He chats to his mother through her bedroom door, tries to collect a debt from Slick Charles and, as Yo-Yo witnesses, is shot. Then he's back in his bed, none the wiser about what just happened, zero wounds to be seen, and going through the same cycle again. When the trio realise that coming back from the dead isn't just a case of déjà vu, they team up to investigate, discovering one helluva conspiracy that helps Taylor's film make a powerful statement. They Cloned Tyrone's lead trio amply assists, too, especially the ever-ace Boyega. Like Sorry to Bother You especially, this is a comedy set within a nightmarish scenario, and the Attack the Block, Star Wars and Small Axe alum perfects both the humour and the horror. One plucky and persistent, the other oozing charm and rocking fur-heavy coats, Parris and Foxx lean into the hijinks as the central threesome go all Scooby-Doo. There isn't just a man in a mask here, however, in this astute and inventive standout.
They Cloned Tyrone streams via Netflix.
Since 2019, witnessing David Tennant utter the word "angel" has been one of the small screen's great delights. Playing the roguish demon Crowley in Good Omens, the Scottish Doctor Who and Broadchurch star sometimes says it as an insult, occasionally with weary apathy and even with exasperation. Usually simmering no matter his mood, however, is affection for the person that he's always talking about: book-loving and bookshop-owning heavenly messenger Aziraphale (Michael Sheen, Quiz). With just one term and two syllables, Tennant tells a story about the show's central odd-couple duo, who've each been assigned to oversee earth by their bosses — Crowley's from below, Aziraphale's from above — and also conveys their complicated camaraderie. So, also since 2019, watching Tennant and Sheen pair up on-screen has been supremely divine. Good Omens, which hails from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's award- and fan-winning 1990 novel Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, was always going to be about Aziraphale and Crowley. And yet, including in its second season, it's always been a better series because it's specifically about Sheen as the former and Tennant as the latter.
In this long-awaited return, neither Aziraphale nor Crowley are beloved by their higher-ups or lower-downs thanks to their thwarting-the-apocalypse actions. Season one saw them face their biggest test yet after they started observing humans since biblical times — the always-foretold birth of the antichrist and, 11 years later, cosmic forces rolling towards snuffing out the planet's people to start again — and saving the world wasn't what their leaders wanted. One fussing over his store and remaining reluctant to sell any of its tomes, the other continuing to swagger around like Bill Nighy as a rule-breaking rockstar, Aziraphale nor Crowley have each carved out a comfortable new status quo, though, until a naked man walking through London with nothing but a cardboard box comes trundling along. He can't recall it, but that birthday suit-wearing interloper is the archangel Gabriel (Jon Hamm, Confess, Fletch). He knows he's there for a reason and that it isn't good, but possesses zero memory otherwise. And, in the worst news for Aziraphale and Crowley, he has both heaven and hell desperate to find him — which is just the beginning of season two's delightful chaos.
Whether on screens big and small, when an audience watches a Steven Soderbergh project, they're watching one of America's great current directors ply his full range of filmmaking skills. Usually, he doesn't just helm. Going by Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard — aliases from his parents' names — he shoots and edits as well. And he's prolific: since advising that he'd retire from making features after Side Effects, he's directed, lensed and spliced nine more, plus three TV shows. Among those titles sit movies such as Logan Lucky, Unsane, Kimi and Magic Mike's Last Dance; the exceptional two seasons of turn-of-the-20th-century medical drama The Knick; and now New York-set kidnapping miniseries Full Circle. The filmmaker who won Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or at 26 for Sex, Lies and Videotape, earned two Best Director Oscars in one year for Traffic and Erin Brockovich, brought the Ocean's franchise back to cinemas in 2001, and eerily predicted the COVID-19 pandemic with 2011's Contagion is in his element with his latest work. Six-part noir-influenced thriller Full Circle reunites Soderbergh with Mosaic and No Sudden Move screenwriter Ed Solomon, boasts a starry cast, involves money and secrets and deception, and proves a twisty and layered crime tale from the get-go.
Full Circle starts with a murder, then a revenge plot, then a missing smartphone. These early inclusions all tie into an intricate narrative that will indeed demonstrate inevitability, cause and effect, the repercussions of our actions, and decisions looping back around. The pivotal death forms part of a turf war, sparking a campaign of retaliation by Queens-based Guyanese community leader and insurance scammer Savitri Mahabir (CCH Pounder, Avatar: The Way of Water). She enlists freshly arrived teens Xavier (Sheyi Cole, Atlanta) and Louis (Gerald Jones, Armageddon Time) to do the seizing under her nephew Aked's (Jharrel Jerome, I'm a Virgo) supervision; one of the newcomers is the brother of the latter's fiancée Natalia (Adia, The Midnight Club), who is also Savitri's masseuse. The target: Manhattan high-schooler Jared (Ethan Stoddard, Mysteries at the Museum), son of the wealthy and privileged Sam (Claire Danes, Fleishman Is in Trouble) and Derek Browne (Timothy Olyphant, Daisy Jones & The Six), and grandson through Sam to ponytailed celebrity chef Jeff McCusker (Dennis Quaid, Strange World). Savitri is convinced that this is the only way to stave off the curse she's certain is hanging over her business — a "broken circle", in fact. But, much to the frustration of the US Postal Inspection Service's Manny Broward (Jim Gaffigan, Peter Pan & Wendy), his go-for-broke agent Melody Harmony (Zazie Beetz, Black Mirror) is already investigating before the abduction.
"If you're gonna do it, do it right," sang Wham! on their 1985 single 'I'm Your Man'. When it comes to living the dream of becoming international pop sensations in your twenties, and with your childhood best friend by your side, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley took those lyrics to heart. Wham!'s rise wasn't perfect, as the documentary that shares the group's name surveys, but the group's brief existence in the 80s saw them make their mark on history — and release quite the array of earworms. The songs, the ska band that Michael and Ridgeley formed first, the doubts, the struggles: documentarian Chris Smith (Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal) steps through it all, including Michael's difficult decision to keep his sexuality closeted. The early club gigs to drum up a fandom, the big-break Top of the Pops appearance, catapulting to fame, becoming the first Western pop group to play China: that's all featured as well. And shorts — so, so, many shorts donned by both the man who'd become a massive solo star once Wham! split and the pal who volunteered to show him around on his first day at Bushey Meads School long before their Wham! success.
Smith crafts an affectionate and insightful film that's unashamedly a tribute, celebrates all things 80s from the hair and the outfits to the aura of excess, but makes clear that the band was never just Michael's launching pad — even if it did cement his talents not just as a singer, but also as a writer and producer. A fast-paced array of archival footage tells the tale visually, aided by scrapbooks kept by Ridgeley's mother that chart their careers; candid interviews with Michael before his death and Ridgeley now fill in the details. Also echoing: Wham!'s hits from 'Wham Rap!' and 'Young Guns' to 'Club Tropicana' and 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go'. Each gets their engaging origin story, although none more so than the still-astonishing 'Careless Whisper', which record executives dismissed when they ignored the group's very first demo four decades ago. The behind-the-scenes material is relaxed and intimate, the live clips electrifying, and the joy on Michael's face while playing Live Aid with the likes of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie is genuine (even as he talks of his fears that he didn't belong in their company). Watching means getting Wham!'s catalogue stuck in your head, of course — yes, 'Last Christmas' as well.
Wham! streams via Netflix.
THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH
It takes place in New York, not London. The era: modern times, not centuries back. Fleet Street gives way to Washington Heights, the demon barber to a masseuse nicknamed "Magic Hands", and pies to empanadas. There's still a body count, however, and people end up in pastries as well. Yes, The Horror of Dolores Roach namedrops Sweeney Todd early, as it needs to; there's no denying where this eight-part series takes inspiration, as did the one-woman off-Broadway play that it's based on, plus the podcast that followed before the TV version. On the stage, the airwaves and now via streaming, creator Aaron Mark asks a question: what if the fictional cannibalism-inciting character who first graced penny dreadfuls almost two centuries back, then leapt to theatres, films and, most famously, musicals, had a successor today? Viewers can watch the answer via a dramedy that also belongs on the same menu as Santa Clarita Diet, Yellowjackets and Bones and All. Amid this recent feast of on-screen dishes about humans munching on humans, The Horror of Dolores Roach is light yet grisly, but it's also a survivalist thriller in its own way — and laced with twisted attempts at romance, too.
That knowing callout to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street comes amid an early banquet of knowing callouts, as The Horror of Dolores Roach begins with a play based on a podcast that's wrapping up its opening night. Newspaper clippings in actor Flora Frias' (Jessica Pimentel, Orange is the New Black) dressing room establish that the show takes its cues from a woman who got murderous in the Big Apple four years prior, and helped get unwitting NYC residents taking a bite out of each other. Meet the series' framing device; before the stage production's star can head to the afterparty, she's face to face with a furious Dolores (Justina Machado, One Day at a Time) herself. The latter isn't there to slay, but to haunt the woman spilling her tale by sharing the real details. Two decades earlier, Dolores was a happy resident of Lin-Manuel Miranda's favourite slice of New York, a drug-dealer's girlfriend, and a fan of the local empanada shop. Then the cops busted in, The Horror of Dolores Roach's namesake refused to snitch and lost 16 years of her life. When she's released, gentrification has changed the neighbourhood and her other half is nowhere to be found. Only Luis Batista (Alejandro Hernandez, New Amsterdam) remains that remembers her, still in the empanada joint, and he couldn't be keener on letting her stay with him in his basement apartment below the store.
HUESERA: THE BONE WOMAN
The sound of cracking knuckles is one of humanity's most anxiety-inducing. The noise of clicking bones elsewhere? That's even worse. Both help provide Huesera: The Bone Woman's soundtrack — and set the mood for a deeply tense slow-burner that plunges into maternal paranoia like a Mexican riff on Rosemary's Baby, the horror subgenre's perennial all-timer, while also interrogating the reality that bringing children into the world isn't a dream for every woman no matter how much society expects otherwise. Valeria (Natalia Solián, Red Shoes) is thrilled to be pregnant, a state that hasn't come easily. After resorting to praying at a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in desperation, neither she nor partner Raúl (Alfonso Dosal, Narcos: Mexico) could be happier, even if her sister Vero (Sonia Couoh, 40 Years Young) caustically comments that she's never seemed that interested in motherhood before. Then, two things shake up her hard-fought situation: a surprise run-in with Octavia (Mayra Batalla, Everything Will Be Fine), the ex-girlfriend she once planned to live a completely different life with; and constant glimpses of a slithering woman whose unnatural body movements echo and unsettle.
Filmmaker Michelle Garza Cervera (TV series Marea alta) makes her fictional narrative debut with Huesera: The Bone Woman, directing and also writing with first-timer Abia Castillo — and she makes a powerfully chilling and haunting body-horror effort about hopes, dreams, regrets and the torment of being forced into a future that you don't truly foresee as your own. Every aspect of the film, especially Nur Rubio Sherwell's (Don't Blame Karma!) exacting cinematography, reinforces how trapped that Valeria feels even if she can't admit it to herself, and how much that attempting to be the woman Raúl and her family want is eating away at her soul. Solián is fantastic at navigating this journey, including whether the movie is leaning into drama or terror at any given moment. You don't need expressive eyes to be a horror heroine, but she boasts them; she possesses a scream queen's lungs, too. Unsurprisingly, Cervera won the Nora Ephron Award for best female filmmaker at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival for this instantly memorable nightmare.
Huesera: The Bone Woman streams via Shudder.
RETURNING FAVOURITES TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK
Good news, everyone: Futurama keeps getting thawed out. The small screen's powers that be love defrosting the animated sci-fi series, and viewers should love watching the always-funny results. Not once but twice in the past quarter-century, Matt Groening's other big sitcom has been cancelled then respawned years later. It was true back in 2007 when the show was first reanimated, and it's true again now: whenever Futurama flies across the screen after a stint in stasis, it feels like no time has passed. Groening first spread his talents beyond The Simpsons back in 1999, riffing on Y2K excitement and apprehension, and also leaping forward in time. Futurama's 20th-century pizza delivery guy Philip J Fry (voiced by Billy West, Spitting Image) didn't welcome the 21st century, however; he stumbled into a cryogenic chamber, then awoke to greet the 31st. After tracking down Professor Hubert J Farnsworth (also West), his only living relative, he was soon in the delivery game again — but for intergalactic cargo company Planet Express, in a show that that satirises every vision of the future previously committed to fiction, and with one-eyed ship captain Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal, Dead to Me) and shiny-metal-assed robot Bender Bending Rodríguez (John DiMaggio, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts) by his side.
Futurama's initial run lasted four seasons, four years and 78 episodes. Then, the show reappeared in 2007 as a direct-to-DVD movie, followed by three more, which were then turned into episodes for the show's fifth season. Alas, another trio of seasons later, Futurama said goodbye again. Thankfully, when a series not only peers at and parodies the next millennia, but takes an anything-goes approach that's brought everything from robot Santas and soap operas to human-hating alien news anchors and talking celebrity heads in jars, there's always room for a new spin. Still, getting the Planet Express soaring yet again does pose one difficulty: how do you undo a perfect finale? When the prior season ended in 2013, it wrapped up Fry and Leela's on-again, off-again romance in a smart, sweet and widely loved bow. The new instalments pick up exactly where that swansong left off, then unleash a "massive disruption in the flow of time" to move everyone to 3023, then restore the usual status quo. So, Fry, Leela, Bender, the Professor, Jamaican accountant Hermes Conrad (Phil LaMarr, Craig of the Creek), Martian intern Amy Wong (Lauren Tom, Dragons: The Nine Realms) and lobster-esque alien doctor Zoidberg (also West) resume their workplace sitcom antics — in vintage form.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Following in Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement's footsteps isn't easy, but someone had to do it when What We Do in the Shadows made the leap from the big screen to the small. New format, new location, new vampires, same setup: that's the formula behind this film-to-TV series, which is now in its fifth season. Thankfully for audiences, Matt Berry (Toast of London and Toast of Tinseltown), Natasia Demetriou (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga) and Kayvan Novak (Cruella) were enlisted as the show's three key bloodsuckers in this US spinoff from the New Zealand mockumentary, all in roles that they each seem born for. The trio play three-century-old British aristocrat Laszlo, his 500-year-old creator and partner Nadja, and early Ottoman Empire warrior Nandor, respectively, who share an abode and the afterlife in Staten Island. In cinemas, the film already proved that the concept works to sidesplitting effect. Vampire housemates, they're just like us — except when they're busting out their fangs, flying, avoiding daylight, sleeping in coffins, feuding with other supernatural creatures and leaving a body count, that is. On TV, What We Do in the Shadows has been illustrating that there's not only ample life left in palling around with the undead, but that there's no limit to the gloriously ridiculous hijinks that these no-longer-living creatures can get up to.
It was true as a movie and it's still true as a television show: What We Do in the Shadows sparkles not just due to its premise, but when its characters and cast are both as right as a luminous full moon on a cloudless night. This lineup of actors couldn't be more perfect or comedically gifted, as season five constantly demonstrates via everything from mall trips, political campaigns, pride parades and speed dating to trying to discover why Nandor's long-suffering and ever-dutiful familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén, Werewolves Within) hasn't quite started chomping on necks despite being bitten himself. Berry's over-enunciation alone is the best in the business, as is his ability to play confident and cocky. His line readings are exquisite, and also piercingly funny. While that was all a given thanks to his Toast franchise, Year of the Rabbit, The IT Crowd, Snuff Box, The Mighty Boosh and Garth Marenghi's Darkplace history, What We Do in the Shadows is a group effort. Demetriou and Novak keep finding new ways to twist Nadja and Nandor's eccentricities in fresh directions; their characters have felt lived-in since season one, but they're still capable of growth and change.
When The Afterparty arrived on Apple TV+ in 2022, riding a wave of revived murder-mystery comedy love that Knives Out and Only Murders in the Building had helped wash over screens big and small, it made one big risky move. Throwing a motley crew of characters together, then offing one? Tried, tested and a favourite for a reason. The ensemble cast attempting to sleuth its way through a shock death? Flawless. The genre-bending setup that saw each episode in the season parody a different style of filmmaking? Perfectly executed. Having the words "how great is this party?" uttered over and over again? That's what could've proven dicey if The Afterparty wasn't in fact great; thankfully, it very much was. There's a reason that phrase kept being uttered, because superfluous detail isn't this show's style: as in all great whodunnits, everything happens, is mentioned or can be spotted with cause. Creator Christopher Miller and his fellow executive producer Phil Lord, a duo with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street, and The Lego Movie on their resumes as co-directors, know the format they're working with. Crucially, they know how carefully their audience will scrutinise every clue and element. And, in the show's first season and now the second season — they also know how to equally honour and spoof.
Fittingly, The Afterparty feels like a murder-mystery comedy party as a result. Adoring, irreverent, willing to get loose and shake things up: that's the vibe and approach. In season one, the series' title was literal thanks to a high-school reunion with fateful post-soiree hijinks. In season two, a wedding brings a disparate group together — and, following the nuptials and reception, The Afterparty's moniker comes into play again. To the horror of the returning Aniq Adjaye (Sam Richardson, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson) and his ex-classmate, now-girlfriend Zoe Zhu (Zoe Chao, Party Down), another body then puts a dampener on the festivities; however, this second go-around doesn't get a-solving just in one night. Aniq and Zoe have recovered from their last confrontation with a killing at a celebration by diving into their romance, but it's the latter's younger sister Grace (Poppy Liu, Dead Ringers) who's getting hitched. Her groom Edgar (Zach Woods, Avenue 5) sports both family money and a cryptocurrency-aided bank-balance boost, he's an all-work-no-play socially awkward type as a result and, when he's alive, he's more fond of his pet lizard than most humans. Then he's found face down after the afterparty, déjà vu arrives and so does the also-returning Danner (Tiffany Haddish, The Card Counter) to sift through the suspects.
Need a few more streaming recommendations? You can also check out our best 15 new shows from 2023's first six months, top 15 returning shows over the same period and best 15 straight-to-streaming movies from January–June.
Top image: Parrish Lewis/Netflix.
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