Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in June
Start with a surreal and stunning instant gem about a 13-foot-tall Oakland teenager battling a tech billionaire — and capitalism.
June 30, 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 June's haul.
BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH IN FULL NOW
I'M A VIRGO
No one makes social satires like Boots Riley. Late in I'm a Virgo, when a character proclaims that "all art is propaganda", these words may as well be coming from The Coup frontman-turned-filmmaker's very own lips. In only his second screen project after the equally impassioned, intelligent, energetic, anarchic and exceptional 2018 film Sorry to Bother You, Riley doesn't have his latest struggling and striving hero utter this sentiment, however. Rather, it springs from the billionaire technology mogul also known as The Hero (Walton Goggins, George & Tammy), who's gleefully made himself the nemesis of 13-foot-tall series protagonist Cootie (Jharrel Jerome, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse). Knowing that all stories make a statement isn't just the domain of activists fighting for better futures for the masses, as Riley is, and he wants to ensure that his audience knows it. Indeed, I'm a Virgo is a show with something to say, and forcefully. Its creator is angry again, too, and wants everyone giving him their time to be bothered — and he still isn't sorry for a second.
With Jerome as well-cast a lead as Atlanta's Lakeith Stanfield was, I'm a Virgo also hinges upon a surreal central detail: instead of a Black telemarketer discovering the impact of his "white voice", it hones in on the oversized Cootie. When it comes to assimilation, consider this series Sorry to Bother You's flipside, because there's no way that a young Black man that's more than double the tallest average height is passing for anyone but himself. Riley knows that Black men are too often seen as threats and targets regardless of their stature anyway. He's read the research showing that white folks can perceive Black boys as older and less innocent. As Cootie wades through these experiences himself, there isn't a single aspect of I'm a Virgo that doesn't convey Riley's ire at the state of the world — that doesn't virtually scream about it, actually — with this series going big and bold over and over.
When Ron Swanson discovered digital music, the tech-phobic Parks and Recreation favourite was uncharacteristically full of praise. Played by Nick Offerman (The Last of Us) at his most giddily exuberant, he badged the iPod filled with his favourite records an "excellent rectangle". In Black Mirror, the same shape is everywhere. The Netflix series' moniker even stems from the screens and gadgets that we all now filter life through daily and unthinkingly. In Charlie Brooker's (Cunk on Earth) eyes since 2011, however, those ever-present boxes and the technology behind them are far from ace. Instead, befitting a dystopian anthology show that has dripped with existential dread from episode one, and continues to do so in its long-awaited sixth season, those rectangles keep reflecting humanity at its bleakest.
Black Mirror as a title has always been devastatingly astute: when we stare at a TV, smartphone, computer or tablet, we access the world yet also reveal ourselves. It might've taken four years to return after 2019's season five, but Brooker's hit still smartly and sharply focuses on the same concern. Indeed, this new must-binge batch of nightmares begins with exactly the satirical hellscape that today's times were bound to inspire. Opening chapter Joan Is Awful, with its AI- and deepfake-fuelled mining of everyday existence for content, almost feels too prescient — a charge a show that's dived into digital resurrections, social scoring systems, killer VR and constant surveillance knows well. Brooker isn't afraid to think bigger and probe deeper in season six, though; to eschew obvious targets like ChatGPT and the pandemic; and to see clearly and unflinchingly that our worst impulses aren't tied to the latest widgets.
ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED
With photographer Nan Goldin at its centre, the latest documentary by Citizenfour Oscar-winner Laura Poitras is a film about many things, to deeply stunning and moving effect. In this Oscar-nominated movie's compilation of Goldin's acclaimed snaps, archival footage, current interviews, and past and present activism, a world of stories flicker — all linked to Goldin, but all also linking universally. The artist's bold work, especially chronicling LGBTQIA+ subcultures and the 80s HIV/AIDS crisis, frequently and naturally gets the spotlight. Her complicated family history, which spans heartbreaking loss, haunts the doco as it haunts its subject. The rollercoaster ride that Goldin's life has taken, including in forging her career, supporting her photos, understanding who she is and navigating an array of personal relationships, cascades through, too. And, so do her efforts to counter the opioid epidemic by bringing one of the forces behind it to public justice.
Revealing state secrets doesn't sit at the core of the tale here, unlike Citizenfour and Poitras' 2016 film Risk — one about Edward Snowden, the other Julian Assange — but everything leads to the documentary's titular six words: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed. They gain meaning in a report spied late about the mental health of Goldin's older sister Barbara, who committed suicide at the age of 18 when Goldin was 11, and who Goldin contends was just an "angry and sexual" young woman in the 60s with repressed parents. A psychiatrist uses the eponymous phrase to describe what Barbara sees and, tellingly, it could be used to do the same with anyone. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is, in part, a rebuke of the idea that a teenager with desires and emotions is a problem, and also a statement that that's who we all are, just to varying levels of societal acceptance. The film is also a testament that, for better and for worse, all the beauty and the bloodshed we all witness and endure is what shapes us.
GUY RITCHIE'S THE COVENANT
Announcing his cinematic arrival with a pair of slick, witty, twisty and fast-paced British heist flicks, Guy Ritchie achieved at the beginning of his career something that many filmmakers strive for their whole lives: he cemented exactly what his features are in the minds of audiences. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch made "Guy Ritchie movie" an instantly understood term, in fact, as the writer/director has attempted to capitalise on since with differing results (see: Revolver, RocknRolla, The Gentlemen and Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre). Ritchie's third film, the Madonna-starring Swept Away, has also proven just as emblematic of his career, however. He loves pumping out stereotypical Guy Ritchie movies — he even adores making them Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur flicks, with mixed fortunes — but he also likes leaving his own conventions behind in The Man From UNCLE, Aladdin, Wrath of Man and now Guy Ritchie's The Covenant.
Perhaps Ritchie's name is in the title of this Afghanistan-set action-thriller to remind viewers that the film does indeed boast him behind the lens, and as a cowriter; unlike with fellow 2023 release Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, they wouldn't guess otherwise. Clunky moniker aside, Guy Ritchie's The Covenant is pared down, gripping and intense, and home to two excellent performances by Jake Gyllenhaal (Strange World) as Master Sergeant John Kinley and Dar Salim (Tatort) as his interpreter Ahmed. As the former leads a team that's looking for IED factories, the pair's collaboration is tentative at first. Then a raid goes wrong, Ahmed saves Kinley's life, but the recognition and support that'd be afforded an American solider in the same situation doesn't go the local's way. Where Afghan interpreters who aid US troops are left after their task is complete is a weighty subject, and treated as such in this grounded and moving film.
Guy Ritchie's The Covenant streams via Prime Video.
How? In pop culture's current true-crime and murder-mystery trends, that's a key question, with audiences keen to discover how killers are caught — or sometimes aren't. It's also the query at the heart of another on-screen obsession of late: product films. These aren't the movies that turn every favourite character and premise possible into never-ending franchises, as seen in the many various caped-crusader universes. Rather, they're origin stories behind everything from games (Tetris) to shoes (Air) and mobile phones (BlackBerry), and they just keep arriving in 2023. Marking the feature directorial debut of Desperate Housewives actor Eva Longoria, Flamin' Hot is firmly a product film, as Cheetos fans will instantly know. If you've ever wondered how the Frito-Lay-owned brand's spiciest variety came about in the 90s — and became so popular — this likeable, energetically made movie provides the answer while itself rolling out a crowd-pleasing formula. Eating the titular snack while you watch is optional, but expect the hankering to arise either way.
This story belongs to Richard Montañez — and it's also an underdog tale, and an account of chasing the American dream, especially when it seems out of reach. Flamin' Hot's pivotal figure (Jesse Garcia, Ambulance) started working at Frito-Lay to support his family, after living the gang life since high school to rebel against his dad, but he wants to be more than a janitor. His attempts to work his way up the company ladder falter not through his lack of trying or willingness to learn everything there is about making junk food, but due to a stratified hierarchy that doesn't reward his efforts. But, as he takes cues about the factory's operation from engineer Clarence (Dennis Haysbert, Lucifer), who also struggles to get promoted, he realises that chilli-flavoured Cheetos would be a smash within the Latino community. His ever-supportive wife Judy (Annie Gonzalez, Vida) is committed to helping, as are his family and friends in general — but if getting Frito-Lay CEO Roger Enrico (Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel) onboard was easy or straightforward, there wouldn't be a film.
Flamin' Hot streams via Disney+.
BASED ON A TRUE STORY
Murder-mystery comedies: everyone's making them, and on screens big (Knives Out and its sequel, See How They Run) and small (Only Murders in the Building, The Afterparty, Dead to Me). In fact, Based on a True Story star Kaley Cuoco has been in one lately thanks to two seasons of dark comedy-slash-whodunnit thriller The Flight Attendant. But the difference with the genre's latest streaming example is befriending a serial killer, which is the choice that Cuoco's pregnant real-estate agent Ava Bartlett and her just-fired tennis-coach husband Nathan (Chris Messina, The Boogeyman) make to chase a lucrative payday. How does palling around with the Westside Ripper, who has been terrorising Los Angeles, benefit the financially struggling couple? By making a podcast with them, as Australian-born creator and writer Craig Rosenberg (The Boys) finds his own way to riff on the Serial-sparked true-crime audio obsession.
Ava is a devotee of folks talking about grisly deeds; if Only Murders in the Building existed in the Based on a True Story universe, she'd be its number-one fan. And, after working out that she and Nathan know the killer, it's her idea to hustle that information into what she hopes will be the next big podcast, all by enlisting said criminal to natter on with them. Based on a True Story clearly skews more darkly satirical than the fellow streaming series it most closely resembles — well, that and The Flight Attendant and also country-club comedy Red Oaks. It's messier as well, sometimes feeling like it's throwing in everything it can, and Cuoco could've easily walked out of her last series and straight into this. Still, with its love of twists, willingness to call out how the world's murder fixation is so rarely about the victims, and a well-cast lineup of talent that also includes Tom Bateman (Death on the Nile) and Liana Liberato (Scream VI), it's quickly addictive — yes, like the podcasts it's parodying.
Based on a True Story streams via TVNZ+.
NEW SHOWS TO CHECK OUT WEEK BY WEEK
Trust Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan, Australia's favourite Kates and funniest double act, to make a killer TV show about chasing a killer that's the perfect sum of two excellent halves. Given their individual and shared backgrounds, including creating and starring in cooking show sendup The Katering Show and morning television spoof Get Krack!n, the pair unsurprisingly add another reason to get chuckling to their resumes; however, with Deadloch, they also turn their attention to crime procedurals. The Kates already know how to make viewers laugh. They've established their talents as brilliant satirists and lovers of the absurd in the process. Now, splashing around those skills in Deadloch's exceptional eight-episode first season lead by Kate Box (Stateless) and Madeleine Sami (The Breaker Upperers), they've also crafted a dead-set stellar murder-mystery series.
Taking place in a sleepy small town, commencing with a body on a beach, and following both the local cop trying to solve the case and the gung-ho blow-in from a big city leading the enquiries, Deadloch has all the crime genre basics covered from the get-go. The spot scandalised by the death is a sitcom-esque quirky community, another television staple that McCartney and McLennan nail. Parody requires deep knowledge and understanding; you can't comically rip into and riff on something if you aren't familiar with its every in and out. That said, Deadloch isn't in the business of simply mining well-worn TV setups and their myriad of conventions for giggles, although it does that expertly. With whip-smart writing, the Australian series is intelligent, hilarious, and all-round cracking as a whodunnit-style noir drama and as a comedy alike — and one of the streaming highlights of the year.
Whether Idris Elba will ever get to play James Bond is still yet to be seen, but he resourcefully endeavours to save lives and bring down nefarious folks in Hijack, and adds another prime example of why he'd be excellent as 007 to his resume. This new series is also basically Idris Elba on a Plane, sans slithering snakes — or Idris Elba Cancels the London-Bound Apocalypse. Die Hard with Idris Elba, 24: Idris Elba: they fit as well. Fresh from battling lions in Beast, the Luther star plays Sam Nelson, a seasoned negotiator on his way home to the UK from Dubai, and a man who just wants to try to patch things up with his estranged wife Marsha (Christine Adams, The Mandalorian) and spend time with his teenage son Kai (Jude Cudjoe, Halo). Then fellow Brit Stuart (Neil Maskell, Small Axe) and his gun-toting team take over the aircraft before the first of the journey's seven hours is out, forcing Sam to play hero to try to keep himself and his fellow passengers alive.
Unfurling in seven episodes, Hijack gets its audience experiencing the tension, chaos and life-or-death stakes in tandem with Sam, the rest of the flight's hostages, and the people on the ground across several countries that are attempting to work out what's going on. Creators George Kay (Lupin) and Jim Field Smith (Litvinenko) prove masterful with suspense, and at keeping viewers hooked — and, pivotally, at knowing exactly the kind of series this wants to be, the conventions and cliches it's leaning into, what's soared there before, and how to do it well. It can't be underestimated how crucial Elba is, though. Cast the wrong person as Sam, and the ability to get everyone from pilots and crew to agitated flyers, wannabe saviours and air traffic control on his wide would seem ludicrous — and, at times, the hijackers as well.
Hijack streams via Apple TV+.
"I've had it with these Marvel tales without Nick Fury as the lead" isn't something that Samuel L Jackson has publicly uttered, with or without expletives — yes, more than a few things have Snakes on a Plane vibes this month (see also: Hijack above) — but viewers might've thought it over the past 15 years. The character that masterminded the Avengers Initiative initially appeared in 2008's very-first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. When Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 reached cinemas earlier in 2023, the franchise hit 32 cinema outings to-date, many with Fury playing a part. And yet, none have had his name in their moniker. That remains the case now, and on the small screen as well, where the MCU has also been spreading its exploits. Secret Invasion is still exactly what Marvel has needed for over a decade, however: a Fury-centric story.
Perhaps Disney realises that, too; as well as bringing back Talos (Ben Mendelsohn, Cyrano), and introducing MI6's Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman, Empire of Light), insurrectionist leader Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami) and fellow revolutionary G'iah (Emilia Clarke, Last Christmas), Secret Invasion's first two episodes feature laments aplenty about Fury's absence. Within the ever-sprawling MCU's interconnected narrative, he's been AWOL lately for two reasons: The Blip, aka Avengers: Infinity War's consequential finger-snapping; and a stint since working in space, which'll get more attention when The Marvels drops on the silver screen in November 2023. Extraterrestrial race the Skrulls has noticed Fury's departure keenly, after he promised to help them find their own planet in Captain Marvel but hasn't followed through so far. Cue two factions of the shapeshifting refugees in Secret Invasion: those still waiting and others now willing to fight to take earth as their own instead. Cue far more Skrulls on Marvel's main base than humans, including Fury, know about as well.
THE CROWDED ROOM
Since 2016, Tom Holland has been so busy doing whatever a spider can that stints away from his Marvel Cinematic Universe web-slinging have been few and far between. And varied, including the long-delayed (and terrible) Chaos Walking and the entertaining-enough Uncharted movie adaptation, plus straight-to-streaming flicks The Devil All the Time and Cherry. The Crowded Room boasts his best performance yet in his Spider-Man era, and provides a reminder that the star of The Impossible and The Lost City of Z, plus lover of dancing to Rihanna's 'Umbrella', will be absolutely fine when he stops pondering how great power begets great responsibility. His new ten-part series doesn't always meet its hefty ambitions, but it's always thoughtful in its attempts as it heads back to the 70s, spends time with a young man being interrogated about his past, explores mental health and, like most things of late, revels in being a mystery.
Holland plays Danny Sullivan, who starts the serious jittering with nerves at New York City's Rockefeller Center. He's with Ariana (Sasha Lane, Conversations with Friends), they have a gun, and opening fire is their aim — but, although Danny doesn't want to shoot, he's swiftly in police custody. Lead cop Matty (Thomas Sadoski, Devotion) thinks that the public incident might just be the latest in a series of incidents. Enter Rya (Amanda Seyfried, The Dropout), who spends lengthy sessions interrogating Danny about his past as he awaits trial. The Crowded Room always remains a crime drama but, as it pieces together its protagonist's complicated story complete with glimpses of his doting mother Candy (Emmy Rossum, Angelyne) and abusive stepfather Marlin (Will Chase, Dopesick), it has much more on its mind. The twist in the premise is teased out, hardly difficult to guess, yet gives Holland ample room to turn in a compellingly pliable performance — in a series the brings 1981 non-fiction novel The Minds of Billy Milligan to the screen, albeit using it as inspiration rather than straight-out adapting it, a task that's been attempted since the 90s.
The Crowded Room streams via AppleTV+.
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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