We’re into May and we’re springing ahead with some great new programming to stream at home. HBO never disappoints, hitting us hard with Kate Winslet-starring MARE OF EASTOWN which just premiered at the end of April and we’re already hooked. If you love Reality Television, we’ve got some recommendations for you, among other eclectic options!
MARE OF EASTOWN (HBO/CRAVE)
Kate Winslet. Is there any other reason more to sell you on this new HBO Series? Set in a small town where Detective Mare (Winslet), our central character, is set on solving a murder, but also trying to save her life from falling in shambles. She’s divorced and everyone around her, including her Mom (Jean Smart) is celebrating her ex-husband’s new engagement. She meets Writer Richard (Guy Pearce), in-town on a teaching assignment and things develop quickly but things are complicated. Winslet once again shows her incredible versatility, truly disappearing here into Mare. We love that she is tough and a real boss, but not totally convinced of it. While not seen long, Cailee Spaeny as a teen mother Erin who is coping with bullying from the jealous girlfriend of the father of her child. A barely-recognizable Evan Peters as an eager-to-please detective who comes in to help Mare is quite a revelation. We can’t wait to see where this Series takes us over seven episodes. Don’t let the smalltown vibes fool you, this is something rich and complex. New episodes arrive 10 PM ET Sunday nights on HBO/Crave with HBO add-on.
THINGS HEARD & SEEN (NETFLIX)
An Artist-turned-Professor named George (James Norton) moves to a new town with his wife Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) and daughter. They purchase a new home, but sooner after, strange occurrences begin to happen. This leads Catherine to find out some dark, disturbing things about its history and its inhabitants, which George keeps from her. She then realizes there might be more about her husband that she wasn’t aware about as layers are unpeeled off George. Based on the Novel All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage, the Thriller goes a slightly different route than the norm where spirits are out to do sinister things. Our interest was held most of the way even when the Film lands on shaky footing late as George‘s world unravels. Seyfried as often, is great as the troubled wife who gives up her life to help her husband live his life. THINGS HEARD & SEEN arrives on Netflix Friday, April 30, 2021.
THE CIRCLE SEASON 2 (NETFLIX)
We admit we eye-rolled our way through Season 1 of this Reality Competition, but we’re back! The Series sequesters its contestants in their own apartments, having them communicate through a Social Media chat portal – the most popular contestant (who might not actually be who they claim to be) going on to win top prize as contestants get blocked on the weekly. We meet a whole new set of personalities, including one who impersonates Lance Bass, and Too Hot To Handle‘s Chloe also surfaces here as a contestant too. Four new episodes surface weekly till the end of April on Netflix and once again we find ourselves taking delight at the manipulation and deception!
EAT WHEATIES! (leveFILM)
After making its way around the Festival circuit, quirky Canadian Comedy EAT WHEATIES! arrives on-demand and digitally. Starring Tony Hale as Sid, the story follows a man with a decent job, whose world unravels after he’s accused of stalking college buddy Elizabeth Banks on Facebook. Is he just painfully unaware or was he legitimately friends with her and way too eager about proving it? Hale is absolutely charming as always and this really gives him an opportunity to shine. He manages to take Sid’s obsessive-compulsive mannerisms and make being a loser lovable. The Film is adapted from the Novel The Locklear Letters and updated. Hale is supported by great Cast including Danielle Brooks, Alan Tudyk, Robbie Amell, Paul Walter Hauser and Toronto’s Elisha Cuthbert. This was a pleasant surprise. This is available May 4, 2021.
WITHOUT REMORSE (AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)
Michael B. Jordan makes his foray into the Tom Clancy universe playing Sr. Chief John Kelly, a former Navy SEAL whose pregnant wife is murdered by a squad of Russian soldiers as revenge for an operation he led. He is supported by fellow SEAL (Jodie Turner-Smith) and CIA Agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell).Kelly struggles with honouring his country and personal ties as it is learned that a bigger forces are at work resulting possibly in a war between Russia and America. Directed by Sicaro 2: Soldado‘s Stefano Sollima, Jordan once again is fantastic here, as is Turner-Smith who shockingly was pregnant while filming this, requiring some demanding fight choreography. While this doesn’t offer anything particularly new to the Spy-Thriller genre, it definitely is worth a watch if this is your thing! WITHOUT REMORSE streams now on Amazon Prime Video.
So cool we got to attend a Virtual Premiere of the Film where its stars actually showed up to the Afterparty. There were games and a live DJ too!
We’re thrilled to hear Crave will be streaming this latest addition to the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise which takes us to Australia as we meet their pool of talent! We already have withdrawals from Season 13 of RuPaul’s Drag Race ending last week and can’t wait to meet these new Queens. We’re so intrigued by Karen from Finance whose self-proclaimed aesthetic is “Corporate Queen”! The name alone is everything. And Taika Waititi appears as a guest judge on episode one! I can’t even. Tune-in Saturday on Crave as new episodes arrive weekly and regular judge Michelle Visage appears on this Series, another win.
MYSTIC, based on the Novel Series Pony Club Secrets by Stacy Gregg, centers on 14-year-old Issie (Macey Chipping) whom with her mother Amanda (Laura Brown), relocates from London to Kauri Point in New Zealand. They leave behind the life they once knew, with her father having passed away a few years prior. In addition to coping with this, she is trying to adjust to her new surroundings. A horse keeps crossing paths with her and she sees both this horse which needs her help, and also a vision of a white horse which only she can see. She names the troubled horse Blaze and begins to find herself in the horse and also the horse she sees in her visions, Mystic, finding a true attachment to the new place she calls home. This, while the threat of industrial expansion threatens to ruin their way of life, land and resources. Issie forms friendships (and maybe a frenemy) with some local teens who like herself, bonded by their affection for horses and then try to save Kauri Point. While on the surface it is a Young Adult Series about a girl finding herself in spirit animals, it goes much deeper than that, examining grieving, sexuality and coming-of-age with a twist of suspense as Issie learns and continues to improve as a rider. The series is shot gorgeously, unfolding over 13 30-minute episodes. It premieres Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 8pm ET on Super Channel Heart & Home and surfaces on Super Channel On Demand the next day.
THE DISCIPLE (NETFLIX)
Premiering at TIFF ’20 and winning the Amplify Voices Award, this Drama written/directed/edited by Chaitanya Tamhane has received universal acclaim through its festival circuit run. Above this, Alfonso Cuarón produces. Not all stories of aspiring to achieve musical success result in sold-out arenas and private jets. This story told in Marathi, centers on Sharad (Aditya Modak) whom under the tutelage of a guru and his father, aspires to be a successful classical music vocalist. The Film is an honest journey and Modak plays Sharad with great sincerity, well aware he’ll never be on Indian Idol, gaining the adoration of millions. He sings in small venues and is concerned with authenticity and integrity and like any other struggling Artist, wonders if anyone even cares about his work and if he’s on the right path in life. Clocking-in at over two hours, this is a Movie you need to really put everything aside to absorb and be transported into these meditative scenes which are given room to breathe. THE DISCIPLE streams now on Netflix.
(Photo/video credit: Netflix/HBO/levelFILM/Crave/Super Channel/Amazon Prime Video)
We’re in lockdown and there has been no shortage of new releases to occupy our time with. See some of the Films, Series and Movies that we think you might be interested in February!
THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY (HULU)
Lee Daniels (Precious) directs and produces this compelling Montreal-filmed Biopic about legendary Jazz vocalist Billie Holiday, based on the Novel Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari. The story follows the FBI, led by Harry Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund), and their pursuit of Holiday (Andra Day) on drug charges in their war against drugs. This was seen as an attack on Holiday in preventing her from performing live one of her signature songs “Strange Fruit” which talks to the Black community being lynched, reflecting the American government in a poor light. The Film makes no mistake about its portrayal of Holiday and her demons, tracing back to her childhood where she was forced into prostitution, to her many failed relationships and also her dependency on drugs. Daniels offers us the sympathy that Holiday got posthumously and the Film’s greatest treat is Day who embodies Holiday‘s spirit whether she is singing or taking us down her troubled path. Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight) plays Jimmy Fletcher, America’s first black federal agent tasked with investigating Holiday, but also falling for her and her him. While the Film could have been told a bit more concisely exploring failed romances, ultimately its examination of the Black community being targeted unjustly by the justice system is where it leads us to and sadly something happening in the ’40s still rings true today. THE UNITED STATES vs. BILLIE HOLIDAY arrives on Hulu February 26, 2021 and it is no coincidence it was scheduled around Awards Season.
SOME KIND OF HEAVEN (MK2 | MILE END)
Lance Oppenheim debuted this first Feature at Sundance 2020 to acclaim and if Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) signing-on to produce this Documentary is any indication, he’s headed to bright places – pardon the pun. This Film is set in a sunny Florida retirement community called The Villages, dubbed a “Disneyland for Retirees”, or as one of its subjects calls it, “a waiting room to heaven”. The community is constructed to help remind its residents of a happier time in their lives and most of them appear happy on the surface, we do meet a few subjects in the Film who take us a layer deeper. We meet a couple dealing with the husband’s drug use, which lands him in legal trouble; and a widow looking for romance; and a man looking for a wealthy older women to take care of him. Oppenheim despite being a young, emerging Filmmaker is able to get his subjects to trust him and open-up a very personal level about some harsher realities these seniors are living through. Perhaps this shiny, happy community isn’t necessarily the nirvana it’s painted out to be. This is a fascinating meditation about life and love at a stage which often isn’t explored in Film. MK2 | MILE END release SOME KIND OF HEAVENFriday, February 12, 2021 in theatres and on virtual cinema.
RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE UK SEASON 2 (CRAVE)
Okay, while we admit we’re a bit spoiled by the production values and next-level costumes on the American version of this Series, the UK is now onto Season 2 of the fan favourite Series, calling BBC its home on the other side of the Atlantic. And to be honest, we are enjoying this spinoff! Among the challenges this season the Queens are tasked with, is a mock Musical called RATS – imagine a rodent-filled version of CATS – and while there is a bit of cattiness to be found among the contestants, they admittedly are a little less argumentative on this version of the Series. These Queens are quirky and campy and love some of the Celebrity Guest Judges they’ve brought on this season including Elizabeth Hurley and Graham Norton! New episodes arrives Thursday on Crave.
SELENA + CHEF SEASON 2 (CRAVE)
We initially were on the fence about this Series. I mean what could Selena Gomez teach us about cooking? But after giving this a chance, we actually loved it. Each week we follow this global Pop superstar as she learns under some of America’s top chefs. All this is recorded from her home and during the Pandemic. We share more of our thoughts on this Series here. New episodes arrive Thursdays on Crave with the HBO add-on.
FIREFLY LANE (NETFLIX)
Initially when I saw the Trailer for this I expected it maybe to be a bit safe, but this Vancouver-filmed Series starring Katherine Heigl as TV Personality Tully Hart and Sarah Chalke as Kate Mularkey, her best friend is actually great and has a bit of grit to it. Tully is the pretty, successful one who has no problem getting male attention, while Kate is recently-separated and looking to get back into the work force. Lacking confidence, Tully helps Kate land a job at work but as the Series progresses, we learn about their past through younger versions of themselves, played well by Ali Skovby (Tully) and Roan Curtis (Kate) .
Tully, though she appears to have everything, has a lot of underlying sadness and is holding some deep secrets. And gradually, we see Kate come out of her shell after heartbreak, while dealing with some challenges with her teen daughter. Love the nostalgic throwback Soundtrack and references to the ’80s, which adds to the mood. This is one-part BFF Comedy, one-part Drama (complete with love triangle) about how we are shaped by our pasts. FIREFLY LANE arrives on Netflix Wednesday, February 3, 2021.
THE DIG (NETFLIX)
Simon Stone (The Daughter) directs this Drama which takes place at the onset of World War II. Edith Perry (Carey Mulligan) is a widow who hires Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to excavate large burial mounds on her property. Much to Basil‘s surprise, he finds what is a ship of national importance. Catching wind of this, an Archaeologist from Cambridge, Charles Phillips (Ken Stott) takes over the dig by order of the government, leaving Edith in a battle to maintain her rights to decide the fate of the find since it is on her property. Her fears are that the find will be placed in the British Museum and with an impending war, it could fall into wrongful hands. While grappling with her declining health, Edith must ensure that Basil gets due credit for his discovery and that the treasure is given its due honour. Stone does a wonderful job drawing us into this story, a slow-burning but engaging look at the process and people involved in preserving and protecting what is now known as the most impressive medieval grave to be discovered in Europe. Carey is superb whether it be asserting Edith or as a mother protecting her son from hurt as she faces her own mortality, and Fiennes is easy to root of in his humble display of Basil. THE DIG streams now on Netflix.
FINDING ‘OHANA (NETFLIX)
Jude Weng makes her Feature directorial debut here and gets beautiful Hawaii to work with as a backdrop in telling this story of two siblings, Pili (Kea Peahu) and Ioane (Alex Aiono), brought from New York City to Oahu by their mother (Kelly Hu) to take care of their grandfather (Branscombe Richmond) who faces the risk of losing the home he built. While the kids resent being there, it isn’t long before they find things to love. Ioane falls for a local girl in Hana (Lindsay Watson), while Pili finds a journal which eludes to there being a valuable treasure hidden within the island’s dangerous caves. Buddy Casper (Owen Vaccaro) joins them on this adventure where they learn themselves just how beautiful Hawaii and its culture are, but most of all, Pili and Ioane learn the importance of family after having felt distant from their mother in their time in New York as she struggles to make ends meet. While the Film veers more to a younger audience, adults might find a bit of nostalgia as the Film feels a bit like a reimagination of The Goonies, further solidified by an appearance from Ke Huy Quan who starred in that classic. FINDING ‘OHANA streams now on Netflix.
WENDY WILLIAMS: THE MOVIE (LIFETIME)
TV and Radio Personality Wendy Williams has built a brand as an outspoken girl next door and Lifetime movie WENDY WILLIAMS: THE MOVIE documents her rise, struggles and betrayals. Darren Grant (Empire, Soundtrack) directs this chaotic recounting of some of the much-publicized drama Williams has gone through. The Movie doesn’t shy from matters like ex-husband Kevin Hunter (Morocco Omari) secretly having an affair and child with another woman; her battle with drug addiction; that time she collapsed live on air dressed as the Statue of Liberty; and also her difficulty conceiving a child. This is meant to illustrate Williams as someone strong, who has overcome adversity, but the chaotic energy that dominates the Film somehow detracts from this even despite star Ciera Payton‘s best efforts to channel Williams authentically. We were hoping for something that gave us more of Williams’ vulnerability and just how exactly she overcame adversity, but unfortunately we never quite get this as this Movie, which is executive produced by Williams, is more concerned with showing than telling. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining though! WENDY WILLIAMS: THE MOVIE airs on Lifetime. Check here for showtimes.
FLACK (AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)
While the UK already has known about this Series, we’re just getting around to discovering the juiciness that is FLACK. The idea is original in this Anna Paquin-produced series, which also has her int he starring role as Robyn, an American Publicist who relocated to London. We are a part of her world which never has a dull moment as she navigates her famous clients’ lives, cleaning-up their sometimes catastrophic messes. We also meet those around her, including her no-nonsense boss Caroline (the brilliant Sophie Okonedo), her icy best friend and co-worker Eve (Lydia Wilson) and an intern Melody (Rebecca Benson). The Series also explores her relationship with her sister Ruth (Genevieve Anderson) as they both grieve the loss of their mother. Robyn also is dealing with her own vices and we see her power over others and also some of the destruction she causes, all while professionally helping others maintain their images. At only six episodes, we only wish there were more for us to savour. There isn’t one weak link in this Cast, some phenomenal performances take these shocking storylines and make them believable and enthralling. Season One of FLACK is available now on Amazon Prime Video.
I’M YOUR WOMAN (Amazon Prime Video)
Julia Hart co-writers and directs this fantastic flick produced by and starring Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). The ’70s-set story centers on Jean (Brosnahan), a young woman who suddenly becomes a mother and is whisked away from the life she knows, to be on the run after her husband Eddie (Bill Heck) betrays his partners-in-crime. A mysterious man named Cal (Arinzé Kene) takes her away but we realize that those in search of her husband, also are in pursuit of her. Much of the Film’s first two acts are suspenseful and engrossing, with the final act taking a different turn as some long-burning questions are uncovered and Jean begins to find her own voice. Clocking-in at over two hours, I’M YOUR WOMAN takes us on a dangerous and dark ride and we’re glad we were aboard. Brosnahan as always is superb and luckily we can enjoy this at home at Amazon Prime Video now!
FRAMING BRITNEY SPEARS (Hulu/FX)
This Documentary answers at long last why Britney Spears still is stuck in a Conservatorship with her father Jamie controlling her finances still, despite being long over her meltdown. The New York Times explore in great detail the lead-up to Spears‘ need to have her father take control over her affairs, tracing the beginning of her celebrity up to her troubled past where she almost lost it all. She has been very cryptic on the matter with puzzling Social Media posts which read like a cry for help. In spite of this, we see her informed fans step-up with the #FreeBritney movement, demanding the Pop icon be able to decide her own fate, turning her finances over to Bessemer Trust according to Spears‘ wishes. And she refuses to work rightfully until the matter is resolved. The Film by Samantha Stark interviews subjects who were close to her and those who adore her, piecing together possibly how Spears might feel despite her not formally being involved with the project. This is a must-watch for fans of Spears and Pop Culture, giving us a layer of depth in a matter which has been trivialized far too often.
Some of our recent reviews including THE LITTLE THINGS, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, PALMER, JIU JITSU, PENGUIN BLOOM, MALCOLM & MARIE, THE WHITE TIGER, WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS and more here.
Coming later this month on Netflix is the highly-intriguing CRIME SCENE: THE VANISHING AT THE CECIL HOTEL which explores the Los Angeles Hotel’s history of horror, including the death of a Vancouver woman. We’re shaking.
Happy new year! We hope your Holidays were amazing! Although we’re all for new year, new me, we don’t want you to change if the old you involved being on your best behaviour spending time at home streaming and enjoying TV as we beat this Pandemic together.
We share some of our recommendations what to watch January 2021!
This latest from Shondaland is departure from their usual, but don’t be fooled by the period costumes and dialogue, there’s juicy scandal to be found, true to brand. Adapted from Julia Quinn‘s popular novels, this racy Romance centers on one of London’s most eligible bachelors,Duke Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page) who hooks-up with Duchess Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) for convenience at first but what ensues is some raging chemistry between the two as we weave between their love story and stories of those close around them and there are plenty of secrets, deception and betrayal to be had. Simon had a cold, distant relationship with his father who rejected him and wishes also not to be a father, which goes against everything Daphne wants and this is a driving force as the Plot thickens in a way which isn’t unlike Fifty Shades of Grey, but with greater character development and writing in its adaptation for the screen. BRIDGERTON is eight episodes and available now on Netflix. It’s fair to assume we’ll be hearing more from these characters in the future. Definitely not for the kids and if they do watch with you, you’ll have a bit of explaining to do.
DEATH TO 2020 (NETFLIX)
2020 was full of characters and this Mockumentary pokes fun at American and how it navigated the Pandemic and election through fictional characters in interviews played to deadpan perfection by the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Joe Keery, Cristin Milioti, Hugh Grant, Leslie Jones, Lisa Kudrow, Kumail Nanjiani, Diane Morgan and Tracey Ullman. Charlie Brooker produces and directs this brilliant Satire which recounts from January to December 2020 and how the year began perfectly unsuspecting but gradually unfolding – pardon the language – into a shitshow. Jackson is savage as a Reporter; Milioti as an ignorant “Karen” and Kudrow as a devout Republican, providing pure jokes. English Actress Morgan is a delight explaining how odd America and its voting system are, one of the best parts of all this. At 70 minutes, this definitely is worth a watch for giggles. DEATH TO 2020 streams now on Netflix.
BEST LEFTOVERS EVER! (NETFLIX)
Need some inspiration with your drab leftovers? This eight episode Series has got some creative ideas! Hosted by energetic Funnywoman Jackie Tohn (Glow) and judged by Food Influencer David So and Chef Rosemary Shrager, we witness a set of three contestants given a bag of leftovers with a task to transform them completely into new dishes – two challenges per episode. Some of the creations look amazing, taking things from the Holidays, a Children’s Party, Game Day appetizers and more and working their magic. We even see Apple Pie get transformed into a Sandwich in one episode. While its clear the the show is still finding its tone and energy, its heart is in the right place and it’s nice hearing some pro tips from Shrager as she guides and critiques some of these contestants along the way. BEST LEFTOVERS EVER! streams now on Netflix.
MIDNIGHT SKY (NETFLIX)
George Clooney not only directs, but stars in this Adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s Novel Good Morning, Midnight. The Film centers on Augustine (Clooney), a Scientist who seeks to find planets outside of earth which are habitable. He forms a relationship with Jean (Sophie Rundle) who leaves him after realizing he is obsessed with his work. Several years later, he is severely ill and one of the few survivors after most life forms are eliminated. Augustine tries to contact a space mission to warn them of the dire situation on earth. He is led to Iris (Felicity Jones) who also is one of the few left on the mission and together they form an unlikely bond as Augustine is forced to face his mortality and a pregnant Iris is left with the great task of rebuilding humanity with Commander Adewole (David Oyelowo). This $100-million budget spectacle admittedly is a bit of a slow-burner but if you are willing to invest your time in it, at its heart is something meaningful befitting of a Holiday release. MIDNIGHT SKY streams now on Netflix.
ariana grande: excuse me, i love you (NETFLIX)
Ariana Grande is one of those Pop Artists whom we really don’t know a lot about still in her personal life, no doubt intentional, and her Music truly just speaks for itself. While Documentary ariana grande: excuse me, i love you views more as a concert film with some backstage anecdotes from her Sweetener World Tour than an actual Documentary which goes deep into her mind, exploring her thoughts and views. Directed by Paul Dugdale who has captured productions for Shawn Mendes, Taylor Swift, Coldplay and more in recent years, captures the Tour beautifully and the dynamic Grande has with her Team and Dancers, although it truly is a missed opportunity that we don’t get more insight into the alluring Grande, who admits on-stage her disdain for talking. If like me you’re a fan and love Grande‘s Music, this is a great re-experiencing of her Tour, but that is what this Film is and no more, no less. ariana grande: excuse me, i love you streams now on Netflix.
SAVED BY THE BELL (STACKTV/AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)
We were wondering if we ever were going to get a chance to see this in Canada! Thanks to STACKTV and Amazon Prime Video, this ten-episode reboot of beloved ’90s Saturday morning staple of the same name is available now to stream. And we must say how impressed we are with how smartly-written this revival has turned out to be, exactly in-tune with conversations we are having today about inclusion, race, privilege. It is important when bringing something back that there is something new to say and there is plenty of that here in this latest incarnation of SAVED BY THE BELL.
We love meeting our new characters, the story centering on Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez) whom along with her best friend Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Peña) are forced to transfer over to upscale Bayside High after their school is closed down as a result of plans by California Governor Zack Morris‘ (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) administration. In addition to having to adapt to their new surroundings, they must adjust to the school’s overprivileged culture and students. Returning from the original Cast are Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) who now is a counsellor at the school; Slater (Mario Lopez) who now is a football coach and Phys Ed teacher; and Kelly (Tiffani Thiessen) who is married still to Zack and the mother of Mac. Among the characters we meet are Zack‘s self-absorbed son Mac (Mitchel Hoog); transgender Queen Bee Lexi (Josie Totah); football jock and son of Jessie, Jamie (Belmont Cameli); and Devante (Dexter Darden) who aspires to be in Bayside High‘s musical. 19-year-old Totah who also serves as a Producer is a real scene stealer who gives the show a sharp edge and also a bit of heart. A mix of screen time shared between Cast old and new delivers longtime fans and those now just discovering SAVED BY THE BELL both something to savour. You will need an Amazon Prime Video membership and the STACKTV add-on for this.
RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE SEASON 13 (CRAVE)
New year, new Queens! We’ve waited forever it seems for Season 13 of RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE after Season 12 wrapped at the beginning of the Pandemic with the final three filming their performances from their living rooms. The competition is fierce this round and RuPaul throws a twist this season making these finalists “lip sync for their lives” right off the bat and those who lose out are given the “pork chop”. What this means exactly, remains to be seen in the episodes ahead. Lots of antics are to be had as the Queens battle it out every Friday night on Crave for a shot at the crown and the competition is stiff with some seasoned Queens (a few from the New York circuit) battling it out against some with as little experience as a year and a half. Tamisha Iman made the cut season 12 but found out soon after she had cancer and had to undergo treatment right away. Gottmik also is the Series’ first ever transgender male to compete. Will be fasctinating to see how the Series is and will be navigating safety protocols in the episodes ahead.
I MAY DESTROY YOU (HBO/CRAVE)
We’re totally late on this one, but we’re delighted finally to have gotten around to seeing this phenomenal introduction to the brilliant Michaela Coel, who produced, wrote, directed and stars in this 12-episode Dramedy series. The Series centers on Arabella (Coel), a highly-buzzed young Author on the verge of writing her first book. She is left shaken trying to pick-up the pieces of her life trying to piece together the events leading-up to her rape after she is drugged at a party. Joining her on a journey of re-discovery are her best friends Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) and Terry (Weruche Opia). We love the questions that Coel ponders on consent, race, the spectrum of sexuality and cancel culture in the age of Social Media. The conversation is timely and daring and her characters really feel lived-in. I MAY DESTROY YOU is a triumph and is available on Crave with the HBO add-on.
For reviews on new releases like NEWS OF THE WORLD, THE WITCHES, SOUL, ANOTHER ROUND, MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM, WONDER WOMAN 1984 and WILD MOUNTAIN THYME and more, click here.
The excellent PIECES OF A WOMAN also arrives this week on Netflix. Our Review here.
It continues to be a hot month and what better way to stay cool than staying-in and streaming it till we make it out of this pandemic?
INDIAN MATCHMAKING (NETFLIX)
This eight-episode Series was a surprise delight! Often the term “arranged marriage” has a negative connotation. What INDIAN MATCHMAKING sets-out to do successfully is explaining the challenges that this generation of single people of Indian descent face in finding a life partner. In turning to their cultural traditions in finding romance, we see how this works in a modern framework in a world that is entirely different from that of their parents. Leading the way is world-renowned Matchmaker Sima Taparia who is tasked with finding fits for men and women in the U.S. and in India. Some individuals are a bit more challenging than others to pair, but we love joining them along the way in the process. If anything, you should walk away from this experience feeling more informed in understanding the nuances of how socioeconomic status, astrology, faith, age and even how despite being Indian how there are so many divisions which dictate one’s romantic fate. In one storyline, we see an effervescent Guyanese-American woman named Nadia struggles finding an Indian man as she often isn’t considered “Indian” despite sharing the same ancestry. While some storylines aren’t tied-up quite as well as others as new characters get introduced throughout the Series, this leaves potential for a forthcoming season and we’re totally in!
DOWN TO EARTH WITH ZAC EFRON (NETFLIX)
This eight-episode Series is something we didn’t realize we would enjoy so much. Idol Zac Efron pairs with buddy Darin Oilen to travel around different parts of the world to understand how they are consuming energy and food differently from the United States. The conscious Series blends many of the obvious reasons one would want to look at shirtless Zac Efron with an awareness that we can all grab takeaways from in how we look at consumption in our own lives. The duo visit Iceland, France, Costa Rica, Lima, Puerto Rico, Sardinia, London and Iquitos and have some fun along the way going outside their comfort zones. There’s even a famous face or two along the way who join them, like Anna Kendrick! The explanations are clear and simple and this was an innovative, entertaining way to speak to a younger audience about issues that are important to our future.
FATAL AFFAIR (NETFLIX)
We admit it – we love crazy, over-the-top “fatal attraction”-type flicks. They usually are packed with thrills, the right amount of juiciness and end with a feeling of catharsis, because the obsessed one usually never survives and we can go once again to our mundane lives. The Thriller centers on former flames Ellie (Nia Long) and David (Omar Epps) who reunite one day by chance (or not) at the former’s work place. They decide to catch-up over drinks and after Ellie confesses she feels distanced from her husband Michael (Stephen Bishop), things heat-up as their passions ignite. David still is not over Ellie clearly and keeps surfacing unwelcomed and Ellie learns some dark secrets about his past that had occurred in the years they were apart. Soon Ellie and her family find themselves in danger as he infiltrates their lives. Peter Sullivan (Secret Obsession) directs and co-writes this Film which is pegged where right it should be as an at-home release. While introducing nothing new to the genre, we still got a rush and wish it went even more over-the-top and gave us a bit more David as we wanted better to understand his obsession and the whys.
THE OLD GUARD (NETFLIX)
Charlize Theron is back and ready to kick some ass. This Superhero-Drama directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights) and based on Greg Rucka‘s Comic Book of the same name. The story is about a group of immortal mercenaries consisting of Andy (Theron), Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), who are sent to Sudan to rescue a group of kidnapped children, only to realize that they were set-up to be exposed by former CIA Operative James Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Joining them is Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne), a Marine whom after getting fatally-wounded in Afghanistan, realizes her own immortality and Andy is able to track her down and help protect her, assisting her in harnessing her new-found power. Enter the picture, greedy pharmaceutical empire CEO Steven Merrick (Harry Melling) who seeks to capture the group of mercenaries to find out their survival secrets. In a fight to protect their anonymity and avoid being captured for study, we wonder if they will be able to keep their secret guarded from the world. While from a pacing standpoint it feels a bit long at times, The Old Guard is loaded with adrenaline and high-octane action, giving Blockbuster fans a much-deserved thrill in the absence of cinemas this summer. Inclusive and unconventional casting gives the Film a fresh element, although all eyes go to its fierce star Theron who balances Andy‘s strength and vulnerability perfectly in what looks to be the start of a Franchise for her.
TED LASSO (APPLE TV+)
Jason Sudeikis reprises his role as Kansas College Football Coach sent overseas to oversee a soccer team in England. The funnyman developed this character prior and appeared on NBC Sports and has some fun with him in this fish-out-of-water Comedy which sees him adapting to language, personalities and cultural differences. Sudeikis is great, playing his character straight and well-intentioned yet fumbling, not exactly receiving the warmest reception. Sex Education‘s Hannah Waddingham is great as Rebeca, fearsome boss lady who inherited the said soccer team from her late husband. Why? She may have a reason or two why which you’ll find out. Under-appreciated Juno Temple also is delightfully-funny as a flirty minx who lands Lasso in a bit of trouble! We’ve previewed the first few episodes and are looking forward to the rest of the ten episodes which surface on Apple TV this August.
RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE SEASON 12 (CRAVE)
It’s RuPaul‘s world and we’re all just living in it. One of the greatest joys of this isolation period I’ve experienced is catching-up on RuPaul’s Drag Race and you’ll be pleased to know all seasons from the very start are available on Crave. This latest season sees 13 – and then 12 Drag Queens compete for fame, with one being disqualified after catfishing allegations surfaced after the season aired earlier this year. Compared to Season 11, these Queens may lack the sass their predecessors had, but more than make-up (pardon the pun) for with their showman – or should I say showwomanship?! Tons of celebrity guest judges surface including Nicki Minaj, Chaka Khan, Robyn, Jeff Goldblum, Olivia Munn and more. These Queens go through some positively-amazing and tough challenges including a Madonna “Rusical” and toughest of all, the final three compete for the throne from their own living rooms as the Finale had taken place amidst this pandemic. Truly the most heart-filled, entertaining hour on Television. We totally were rooting for Canadian Queen, Jackie Cox!
RUPAUL’S SECRET CELEBRITY DRAG RACE (CRAVE)
Our obsession with Drag Race continues even after season 12 with this limited-run, four-episode special Series which pits celebrities against one another with the winner of each episode getting a prize of $20,000 to a charity of their choice. We get some Canadian representation with Schitt’s Creek star Dustin Milligan appearing, plus some familiar faces like Hayley Kiyoko, Madison Beer, Loni Love, Vanessa Williams and more surfacing for a shot at drag glory. Most of all, it is fascinating seeing the cultural impact the Drag phenomenon has had on the world and a diverse set and we see that even celebrities are battling their own troubles which they overcome over the course of their time on this Show.
RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE ALL STARS SEASON 5 (CRAVE)
We honestly can’t get enough of this and RuPaul’s Drag Race has been our saviour amidst this Pandemic. Catching-up with all its branch-offs has been a thing of joy for me. This season pits returning stars of the past (some coming back a third time!) including Jujubee, Miz Cracker, Shea Couleé, Ongina, Alexis Mateo and Derrick Barry. While it is unable to avoid its drama, the bond of sisterhood among the contestants is stronger than ever and it truly is a nailbiter to the finish as the top three are evenly-matched. Celebrity guest judges include Jane Krakowski, Ricky Martin, Nicole Byer, Madison Beer, Tessa Thompson and more. RuPaul throws-in an added twist of a surprise Lip Sync Assassin each episode instead of the old format where the top two compete against one another. Instead, the contestant with the top score of the week competes against an unknown past star.
LITTLE VOICE (APPLE TV+)
We love Sara Bareilles and were so thrilled to hear she is responsible for the Music behind this Musical Young Adult Romance Series, joining forces with Mega-Producer J.J. Abrams. The Series centers on Bess (Brittany O’Grady) a talented younger Singer-Songwriter who is trying to find her voice. Part of the issue with the Series is that you really have to be invested in Bess to want to take this ride with her as the story takes a bit to progress and for a bit you have to sit through a phase of awkwardness. Some solid performances and nice Music on this Series, new episodes premiering weekly.
PALM SPRINGS (HULU)
Max Barbakow makes his directorial debut in charming Rom-ComPALM SPRINGS, which sold for a record $17.5 million after its Sundance Premiere earlier this year. While the pandemic has led to an altered course in its release, those in the U.S. already are able to enjoy this Groundhog Day-esque tale of a duo who cross paths and may be each other’s match. Nyles (Andy Samberg) already has a girlfriend in Misty (Meredith Hagner) and tags along for her best friend Tala‘s (Camila Mendes) wedding, in which Misty is a bridesmaid. Meet Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the older sister of Tala who’s made a few bad choices in her life. She and Nyles hit it off quite well, until an angry crossbow-wielding man named Roy (J.K. Simmons) shows up is in hot pursuit of Nyles. The odd thing is that the day keeps beginning over and over for the pair and they can’t quite understand why. Their storyline however keeps moving along in a linear motion despite the day lining-up differently each time and they realize that they aren’t going to be able to move ahead further until they confront some of the most toxic things that are holding them back in their lives. PALM SPRINGS uniquely combines raunchy Comedy, a bit of Physics and some heartfelt romance for a worthwhile watch that equally tugs a bit of the heartstrings as it does elicit the chuckles. The lead pair are perfect together, with Samberg delivering some of his best work yet.