From Jungle Cruise to The Tomorrow War: what’s new to streaming in Australia in July

Plus Indigenous superheroes, inventive 60s cinema and the TV version of Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill

Netflix

The Fear Street Trilogy: Part 1, 2 and 3

Films, USA, 2021 – out 2, 9 and 16 July

In these days of constant content, true watercooler-worthy “event” productions seem rarer than ever. One way that platforms attempt to remedy this is through the creation of themed films with staggered release dates – such as Steve McQueen’s five-part Small Axe series, and now Fear Street, a trilogy of slashers adapted from the books by horror stalwart and Goosebumps creator RL Stine.

Advertised with the tagline “three movies, three weeks, one killer story”, the films focus on the terrorised residents of Shadyside, Ohio, and their very stabby-stabby oppressor. Each take place in a different period: the first in the 90s (expect wall-mounted home phones), the second in the 70s (cassette tapes and oversized glasses) and the third is set way back in the 15th century (burning torches and witch hunts).

Eighth Grade

Film, 2018, USA – out now

Following a 13-year-old girl through her final days in middle school, Bo Burnham’s debut feature is a tender and naturalistic coming-of-age movie buoyed by a faultless central performance from Elsie Fisher. Burnham and Fisher do a wonderful job of transporting us into the world of a young person slowly finding themselves, riddled with doubt, uncertainty and other things part and parcel with the turbulence of adolescence. Eighth Grade is moving, warming and affectionate.

Honourable mentions: LA’s Finest season one (TV); Yolngu Boy (film, 1 July); In My Blood it Runs (film, 4 July); Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness (TV, 8 July); The Farewell (film, 14 July); Harry Potter 1-8 (film, 15 July); Masters of the Universe: Revelation (TV, 23 July).

Mission: Impossible 1, 2 and 3

Films, USA – out now

Tom Cruise in the original Mission: Impossible
Tom Cruise creating tension in the original Mission: Impossible. Photograph: Allstar/PARAMOUNT PICTURES

The biggest blockbuster franchises – such as the Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek and James Bond films – tend to recruit directors to follow the script, as it were, preferring productions to fit neatly within a template rather than embracing individual styles.

But the Mission: Impossible series takes a more auteur-centric approach, encouraging big-name directors to bring their own stamp to narratives that inevitably involve self-destructing messages and the international exploits of IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). The first movie comes from Brian De Palma, a shadowy thriller with sweat-inducing set pieces; the second has John Woo directing, with operatic violence and lots of doves; and the third is from JJ Abrams, with more emphasis on characterisation and those damn lens flares.

Stan

Dr Death

TV, USA, 2021 – out 16 July

No, this is not about Australian euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke, who in the past has been crudely referred to using the titular nickname. It concerns Christopher Duntsch (Joshua Jackson – remember him?), a former spinal surgeon in Dallas whose shocking career was the subject of the smash-hit podcast of the same name. At one point in the new show, in response to a comment that the doctor’s work ethic is “second to none”, Christian Slater – playing vascular surgeon Randall Kirby – shoots back: “Ted Bundy was a good worker too.” Yowch.

Cleverman seasons 1 & 2

TV, Australia, 2016 and 2017 – out 8 July

Hunter Page-Lochard as Koen West in Cleverman
Hunter Page-Lochard as Koen West in Cleverman. Photograph: Lisa Tomasetti/ABC TV

Here’s something you don’t see very often: a superhero story with a genuinely fresh perspective. In the case of Cleverman, from Australian creator Ryan Griffen, that perspective is dystopian in essence and steeped in narratives passed down through generations of Indigenous Australians.

In Griffen’s version of the future, people called Hairies live in third-world conditions in a District 9 style shanty town called the Zone. Koen West (Hunter Page-Lochard) was raised there but goes on to bigger and better things – running a swanky bar and, more importantly, transforming into the titular hero. The social allegories are unsubtle but this show detonates truth bombs left right and centre.

Honourable mentions: Beasts of the Southern Wild (film, 5 July); The Devil’s Rejects (film, 8 July); The Nest (film); Serangoon Road season 1 (TV, 9 July); Power Book III: Raising Kanan (TV, 18 July); Miracle Workers season three (TV, 14 July); Persepolis (film, 19 July); Mystery Road season two (TV, 20 July); Hacksaw Ridge (film, 23 July); High Ground, Attack the Block (films, 27 July).

Binge

Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes

TV, USA, 2021 – out 13 July

Hosted and narrated by Ronan Farrow, and based on the US journalist’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book and podcast of the same name, Catch and Kill captures the downfall and eventual conviction of Harvey Weinstein. It explores the stories of some of the film producer’s victims and offers revealing insights into how various power brokers attempted to protect him. The first episode sets a grimly compelling cloak-and-dagger atmosphere, focusing on Italian model Ambra Gutierrez, who was part of a NYPD police sting and wore a wire, recording a damning admission from Weinstein.

Mr Inbetween season 3

TV, Australia, 2021 – out 15 July

His trademark black comedy style might not be for all tastes, but director Nash Edgerton remains one of the most interesting Australian film-makers working today. His oeuvre includes an outstanding Aussie neo-noir feature (2008’s The Square), several excellent videos for Bob Dylan, and an offbeat, darkly funny TV spin-off of a film – the 2005 nano-budget Australian mockumentary The Magician – almost nobody remembers.

That TV spin-off is Mr Inbetween – a very sharp and sly series riffing on a Melbourne hitman character created by Scott Ryan. Ryan, who also wrote and created the show, reprises his role as the oddball assassin, pulling off the difficult job of imbuing his character with a degree of likeability. All three seasons are edgy and funny, packaged in moreish half-hour increments.

Honourable mentions: Midnight, Texas season 1-2 (TV, 1 July); Edge of Tomorrow (film, 2 July); Too Close (TV, 5 July); Gossip Girl (TV, 8 July); The Vampire Diaries (TV, 9 July); Selma, The Witches (film, 9 July); Time season 1 (TV, 11 July); The White Lotus (TV, 12 July); American Horror Stories (TV, 16 July).

SBS on Demand

Playtime

Film, France/Italy, 1967 - out 9 July

A man in a bow tie walks through a room full of people
Jacques Tati in Playtime, 1967. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

For decades I avoided the question of what my all-time favourite film was, before eventually settling on Jacques Tati 1967 masterpiece – because of what it isn’t as much as what it is. What it isn’t: a film with a single linear narrative and a protagonist defined by the usual means – ie a goal to obtain and a series of challenges to overcome. What it is: a one of a kind production with amazing spatiality, taking place on an enormous, legendary set that constructed a futuristic version of Paris.

Some have said the film has no story, though that’s not true: it’s up to the viewer to determine the extent of the narrative(s). Multiple plot lines unfold simultaneously in the same shots, sometimes involving the closest thing the film has to a lead character: Tati’s iconic alter ego, Monsieur Hulot. Playtime is much more than just visually inventive’; it proposes an entirely different form of cinema.

Faces Places

Film, France, 2017 – out 9 July

The final film from the great Agnès Varda – who co-directed it with French street artist JR – is an absolute delight: one of the most exquisite documentaries of the last decade, full of charm and joie de vivre. The legendary film-maker and JR travel across the French countryside in a van that doubles as a photo booth, which can print out pictures literally the size of buildings.

Plastering the countryside with these massive and stunning images, the pair transform towns and industrial areas while soaking up the stories of people they encounter along the way. This wonderful film ruminates on art, expression, creativity, mortality and two interesting people connecting at very different points in their lives. Sublime!

Honourable mentions: I Am Not Your Negro, The Red Turtle, Jedda, Police Story 1 and 2 (films, 1 July); Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown season 1-12 (TV, 1 July); Good Grief (TV, 8 July); Goldstone, Rust and Bone, My Life as a Zucchini, The Illusionist (films, 9 July); Hemingway (TV, 24 July); UFOs (TV, 22 July).

ABC iView

My Name is Gulpilil

Film, Australia, 2021 – out 11 July

Actor David Gulpilil
Actor David Gulpilil. Photograph: Miles Rowland

The best Australian film so far this year is a portrait of one of our greatest actors – the Yolŋu performer David Gulpilil, whose magnetism has charmed and fascinated audiences for half a century. Now in his 60s with lung cancer, terribly ill but still with a cheeky gleam in his eyes, Gulpilil and director Molly Reynolds tell “my story of my story”. That is: the actor’s life and his life in cinema. Those dual layers are explored in the spirit of a living wake, combining present-day footage with moments from throughout the subject’s career. This moving and deeply humane film does justice to a brilliantly talented artist.

Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra

Film, Australia, 2021 – out 6 July

This is another terrific homegrown documentary. Directors Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin chart the history of the renowned Bangarra Dance Theatre, which was founded in Sydney in 1989 and has staged more than two dozen productions over the years.

Understanding that you can never quite capture the magic of live performance on screen, even though glimpses of the various Bangarra shows are glorious to watch, Blair and Minchin pursue various narrative routes separate to the productions themselves, including the story of three brothers (Stephen, David and Russell Page) integral to Bangarra’s history.

Honourable mentions: I, Daniel Black, St Elmo’s Fire, Stand by Me, Roxanne (films, 1 July); In My Blood It Runs (film), Freeman (TV, 2 July); Bandarra’s World (TV, 7 July); Charlie’s Country (film, 9 July); The Kids Are All Right (film, 16 July).

Prime Video

The Tomorrow War

Film, USA – out 2 July

Chris Pratt, from second left, Edwin Hodge and Sam Richardson in a scene from The Tomorrow War.
Chris Pratt, second from left, Edwin Hodge and Sam Richardson in a scene from The Tomorrow War. Photograph: Frank Masi/AP

It ain’t great, but this big dumb spectacle does have time travel and aliens. And also a perplexed looking Chris Pratt, blundering through a preposterous narrative involving a war against aliens that hasn’t happened yet. Humans from the future time-travel to the present day, you see, in order to recruit people to fight said war, with the less than inspiring message that they’ll all die anyway and humans have little chance of survival.

A sharp, snappy, silly sci-fi might have hit the spot – but this film goes on and on and on, lurching between explosion-filled set pieces and maudlin moments more terrifying in their cheesiness and heavy-handedness than any of the freaky-deaky aliens.

The Pursuit of Love

TV, UK, 2021 – out 30 July

Written and directed by Emily Mortimer, based on Nancy Mitford’s best-selling novel of the same name, this three-part BBC period drama explores the friendship between two women, circa Europe between world wars one and two. Warning – it may not be an ideal adaptation for purists, but the Guardian’s Lucy Mangan nevertheless lavished praise on an “absolutely glorious” production that “moves at a pace” and has a “deft, intelligent and loving script”. Sold!

Honourable mentions: Luxe Listings Sydney (TV, 9 July); Call Me By Your Name, Men in Black 1-3, Hancock (films, 15 July); Making the Cut (TV, 16 July); Jolt (film, 23 July); Rams (film, 27 July).

Disney+

Black Widow

Film, USA, 2021 – out 9 July (Premier Access)

two women on a motorbike
Scarlett Johansson, left, and Florence Pugh in a scene from Black Widow. Photograph: Jay Maidment/AP

Watching the public and the media fawn over the latest asinine MCU spectacle is always depressing, but at least some aspects around the release of Marvel movie number seventeen million and twenty seven are interesting. Namely, its “premier access” distribution on Disney+. The platform has released several films (including Mulan and Cruella) using this strategy, making tent pole releases available to stream at the same time as they open in cinemas. A reminder that the times are a-changin’.

The cost is pretty exxy – $34.99 a pop – but then again, going to the cinema is pretty exxy too. Australian MCU fans may feel a twinge of patriotism, with Aussie Cate Shortland (Somersault, Berlin Syndrome) directing the titular character’s first standalone movie, which fleshes out her backstory and takes place between the events depicted in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

Jungle Cruise

Film, USA, 2021 – out 30 July (Premier Access)

Martin Scorsese famously described Marvel movies as “not cinema” and argued a more fitting way to think about them is as theme park rides. That applies even more so to Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt’s trip down the Amazon in a boat, given Jungle Cruise did in fact (like Pirates of the Caribbean) originate as a ride at Disneyland. The premise reheats the old “search for the tree of life” chestnut and loads with plenty of star power and CGI.

Honourable mentions: Monsters at Work (TV, 7 July); McCartney 3,2,1 (TV, 16 July); Confessions of a Shopaholic, Sharknado (films, 16 July); Turner & Hooch (TV, 21 July); Playing with Sharks (film, 23 July).

Contributor

Luke Buckmaster

The GuardianTramp

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