ANGELYNE (TVNZ ONDEMAND)
Shameless’ Emmy Rossum plays the eponymous D-list celebrity in this five-part biopic which looks at how she inflitrated pop culture and rose to fame in the 1980s when she appeared in a series of provocative billboards throughout Los Angeles.
Based on an investigative article by The Hollywood Reporter, the cast also includes Martin Freeman, Alex Karpovsky and Hamish Linklater.
“This is a vibrant series that’s more interested in the stories that people tell themselves than it is in cold hard facts. And in its own way, that’s the most truthful way to look at someone’s life,” wrote New York Post’s Lauren Sarner.
CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS (AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)
Hoping to emulate the runaway success of 2020 lockdown hit Normal People, this is a 12-part adaptation of Sally Rooney’s 2017 debut novel.
Directed by Room’s Lenny Abrahamson and His Dark Materials’ Leanne Welham, it follows a 21-year-old Dublin college student as she navigates a series of relationships that forces her to confront her own vulnerabilities for the first time. The cast includes Alison Oliver, Sasha Lane, Joe Alwyn and Jemima Kirke.
While watching it, it was hard not to be reminded of Fifty Shades of Grey – successful bloke meets tertiary student who also has a job reading manuscripts – but without the glitz, glamour or fetishes – and all the more compelling for it.
For other viewers, this may feel like a less comedic version of Rose Matafeo’s Starstruck or Sophie Hyde’s brilliant feature Animals, with the cynicism and drunkenness dialled down, but, whatever your take, this might not quite have the shock value, or reach the searing heights of Normal People, but its drama should certainly spark a discussion or two.
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* Bridgerton: No Duke, no problem as Netflix’s hit romp’s season 2 just as saucy
The Fear Index is now available to stream on Neon.
THE FEAR INDEX (NEON)
Based on the 2011 novel by Robert Harris, Josh Hartnett headlines this dramatic four-part thriller about a scientist-turned-wall street tycoon who becomes the target of a plot to destroy the world’s financial markets.
“Risky money making! Creepy intruders! Josh Hartnett looking terrified! This financial thriller about a tech entrepreneur is an enjoyably tense, complex watch,” wrote The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan.
“It’s solid, satisfying stuff. And it is given a remarkable lift by Hartnett, who invests Hoffman with a palpable, credible and increasingly corrosive fearfulness from the off. It feels real. It looks as if he is truly suffering, and he is a notable number of steps up from the occasional moments of hyperventilation and darting eyes at crunch points in the plot, which is all that the leading man is usually allowed in these things. Fear not – you will enjoy.”
LOVE, DEATH & ROBOTS (NETFLIX)
This is the third collection of animated short stories that span several genres, including science-fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy.
Executive produced by Deadpool’s Tim Miller and Mindhunter’s David Fincher, terror, imagination and beauty combine in these new episodes, which stretch from uncovering an ancient evil to a comedic apocalypse, aiming to tell startling tales of fantasy, horror and science-fiction with wit and visual invention.
“Full of rich imagination, smart details, and a refreshing lack of restraint, in both its visuals and language,” wrote Decider’s Johnny Loftus.
Pistol is now available to stream on Disney+.
Based on the memoir of Steve Jones, the legendary Sex Pistols guitarist who helped usher in Britain’s punk revolution, this six-part biopic aims to tell the story of a band of spotty, noisy, working-class kids with “no future,” who shook the boring, corrupt Establishment to its core, threatened to bring down the government and changed music and culture forever.
Driven at sometimes breakneck speed by a combination of period montages (showcasing the juxtaposition between the upper and lower classes in Britain at the time) and a magnificently evocative soundtrack (that during the initial instalment includes everyone from The Who to T. Rex and Otis Redding), director Danny Boyle and Baz Luhrmann’s go-to screenwriter Craig Pearce’s narrative has a swagger, magnetism and irreverence that’s hard not to love.
THE STAIRCASE (NEON)
Crime novelist Michael Peterson is accused of bludgeoning his wife Kathleen to death after she is found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home in this eight-part drama based on a true story that included a 16-year court battle.
The impressive cast includes Toni Collette, Colin Firth, Sophie Turner, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Dane DeHaan, Olivia DeJonge and Michael Stuhlbarg.
“The linchpin of this delicate portrayal is Colin Firth’s performance as Michael. Best known for playing romantic leads and other charismatic types, he disappears, here, into a far murkier character,” wrote Time magazine’s Judy Berman.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is now available to stream on TVNZ OnDemand.
STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS (TVNZ ONDEMAND)
With an Enterprise captain suffering from PTSD and a sexy, shirtless Spock, long-time Trekkers may be wondering what on Earth they have encountered during the first few minutes of this latest series in the long-running sci-fi franchise.
But, if you can put such early tonal and canonical “tribbles” aside, then you’ll be rewarded with a rollicking adventure that successfully evokes the spirit of the original 1960s series.
Set in the decade before Captain James T. Kirk and company’s five-year mission “to seek out new life forms and new civilisations”, this opens with his predecessor Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) questioning his suitability for further command.
However, he’s reluctantly persuaded back into the saddle when informed that his No.1 (Rebecca Romijn) has disappeared when a first contact went bad.
As an opening instalment built around the idea that “the future is what you make it” and “the power of possibility”, this Trek whets the appetite exactly for that, as it delivers sci-fi action, emotion and intrigue in spades.
THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND THE CANOE (TVNZ ONDEMAND)
John Darwin (Eddie Marsan) was a man who would buy a Range Rover he couldn’t afford and then spend £3000 on a personalised number plate. One who wouldn’t just acquire No. 3, if he could kid the bank to let him purchase No. 4 as well.
Known for a succession of hare-brained get-rich-quick schemes, he’d always say he wasn’t “mad, just a bloke who thinks outside the box”.
These are all observations relayed to us by his long-suffering wife Anne (Monica Dolan), as part of her narration for this engrossing four-part series. Based on a memoir by journalist David Leigh (who co-wrote a book with Anne in 2016), this dramatises the real-life John’s elaborate attempt to fake his own death in order to avoid bankruptcy and obtain a life insurance payout.
This is a gripping and darkly comedic drama which lays bare the absurdity of his venture, the pitfalls in his plan and the machinations and the ongoing deception required to attempt to live a life – while supposedly legally dead.
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