Apple’s Black Bird, TVNZ’s Life After Life among big shows to stream
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BLACK BIRD (APPLE TV+)
Those who have followed Taron Egerton’s career on the big screen are going to be shocked.
The British actor most famous for playing Elton John, Eddie the Eagle and Kingsman’s Eggsy has stepped up considerably for his latest role in this six-part true crime drama. The 32-year-old looks chiseled and buff as he plays series protagonist – and author of the 2010 autobiographical novel on which it is based – James Keene.
Originally sentenced to 10 years in a minimum security prison for drug and firearms offences, he is offered “the choice of his life”. Either serve his entire sentence without the possibility of parole, or enter a maximum security prison for the criminally insane and befriend a suspected serial killer.
While directing is split between former directors of The Wire and The Drop, it’s veteran crime writer Dennis Lehane’s (Mystic River) screenplay that really shines. Memorable dialogue abounds, while the mystery and intrigue deepens with each scene and you find yourself drawn into both the investigation and Keene’s riddle, until you’re completely absorbed in it all. that and pushing yourself to watch “just one more episode”.
CHLOE (PREMIUM VIDEO)
Six-part British psychological thriller that follows the troubled Becky Green (Erin Doherty), a young woman who becomes increasingly obsessed with tracking down the perfectly organized presence of her childhood friend Chloe Fairbourne (Poppy Gilbert) on the social networks. Struggling to care for her mother, who suffers from dementia praecox, Becky spies on an opportunity to assume a new identity and social circle when Chloe suddenly dies under mysterious circumstances.
Best known for her work on Netflix’s Sex Education, writer-director Alice Seabright has crafted a supremely clever tale, one that will likely have you guessing – and on the edge of your seat – until the final images.
Much of its appeal comes from its complicated and unreliable protagonist. We first wonder what her motivations are, why she feels the need to fill the office whiskey with urine, and how much of what she perceives is actually on her mind.
Doherty, whose breakout role was Crown Princess Anne in seasons three and four, is a revelation here, twisting and morphing her various characters in order to get what she wants, while clearly being in a lot of psychological torment herself. It’s a stunning performance – a rare skill to make this villain potentially noteworthy, something much deeper, nuanced and potentially likable.
Eight great shows to stream this week.
* Neon’s First Lady, Amazon’s Outer Range, Apple’s Roar among April’s must-watch shows
* Downton 2, Fantastic Beasts 3, New Zealand-shot X among must-see movies in April
* Question team: Richard Ayoade and his friends “hilariously rewrite the panel show”
* The Chase USA: more money, more peril, but not as much fun
* Winning Time: Neon’s hugely entertaining look at a crazy decade
Irma Vep is now available to stream on Neon and Sky Go.
IRMA VEP (NEON)
Frenchman Olivier Assayas directs this eight-part remake of his 1996 film of the same name, itself based on the seven-hour, 10-part silent series Les Vampires, as well as 1973 Oscar winner Day For Night and from the legendary Beware of a Holy Whore by German director Rainer Fassbinder.
While its sometimes cynical (and sometimes excoriating) examination of modern filmmaking may not appeal to everyone, it does offer plenty of intrigue and a terrific turn of Alicia Vikander in the lead role. If you enjoyed Assayas’ polarizing collaboration with Kristen Stewart – 2016’s supernatural psychological thriller Personal Shopper – then you better clear your calendar for it.
At times sounding like the best French farce, at others the European equivalent of Robert Altman’s The Player or Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog, Irma Vep is definitely not short on humor, or bad manners.
THE LAZARUS PROJECT (NEON/SKY GO)
I May Destroy You’s Paapa Essiedu stars as George, a man who wakes up one day with a distinct sense of deja vu in this eight-episode sci-fi-inspired action thriller. He relives a day from his past, with a few exceptions – his success at work and his marriage to the love of his life seem never to have happened.
Though convinced he’s lost his mind, he instead finds himself recruited into a secret organization that claims to be able to turn back time whenever the world is threatened with extinction.
Viewers might be given to feel more than a little drained by the exposition and action of the first installment, but fans of sci-fi steeped dramas like Tenet, Station Eleven, Doctor Who, Timecop and The Adjustment Office should be well satisfied.
Screenwriter Joe Barton, who helped create a successful English-language adaptation of The Humans of Sweden and was behind last year’s underrated Riz Ahmed thriller Encounter, is once again demonstrating his ability to make the organic fantasy and my evocative, sometimes gritty personal drama from potential absurd concepts.
Thomasin McKenzie stars in the drama series Life After Life, which tells the story of a woman who has an infinite number of chances to live her life.
LIFE AFTER LIFE (TVNZ+)
Former Shortland Street Pixie Hannah’s return to the small screen for the first time in five years shows just how far she’s come.
Thomasin McKenzie is notable in the BBC’s four-part adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s award-winning 2013 novel. You’ll have to wait until episode two to see more than a fleeting glimpse, but once she takes center stage , you’ll be captivated, compelled, and rather concerned about the fate of his seemingly unfortunate Ursula Todd.
Yes, be warned, this is not feel-good TV, our heroine suffers many deprivations, indignities and outright criminal acts as she navigates the first half of the 20th century. The twist here is that if she dies, she is simply reborn.
Screenwriter Bathsheba Doran and director John Crowley have done an excellent job of distilling thought-provoking script, the costumes and production design are top-notch and it’s the TV drama that definitely leaves a mark.
LOOT (APPLE TV+)
The Bridesmaids’ Maya Rudolph stars in this 10-part comedy about a billionaire whose dream life crumbles when her husband betrays her for 20 years.
In a public spiral, she heads for the bottom when she learns that she actually has a charitable foundation that desperately wants her to stop making negative headlines. Embark on a journey of self-discovery as she discovers the benefits of giving back to others.
“Philanthropy as a whim? It’s pretty funny and gives Rudolph plenty of room to play grandiose while poking fun at the lives of filthy rich people,” wrote Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe.
Season 3 of The Umbrella Academy is now available to stream on Netflix.
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY (NETFLIX)
As the third season of this popular superhero series begins, the Umbrella siblings find themselves in an altered timeline after their “adventures” in Dallas. It is revealed that after they met in 1963, Sir Reginald chose not to adopt them, but 6 other children instead, turning them into a skilled and popular team of superheroes dubbed “The Sparrow Academy”.
However, as they reach an uneasy deal, a time anomaly caused by running out of time threatens them all.
“Think Wes Anderson meets Curb Your Enthusiasm – with a pinch of ‘biff pow!’ comic book excitement kicked in,” wrote Ed Power of The Daily Telegraph.
UNDER THE SKY BANNER (DISNEY+)
The latest adult drama to make its unlikely home on Disney+ is further proof that Andrew Garfield is in the actor form of his life.
Based on the 2003 investigation by Jon Krakauer (Into the Wild, Into Thin Air) into the 1984 murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty, Under the Banner of Heaven sees Garfield, 38, born in the United States and raised in England , playing East Rockwell, Utah detective Jeb Pyre.
Like 99 percent of the town, he is a God-fearing Latter-day Saint (LDS) member, using the teachings of Joseph Smith to guide his actions and lifestyle. But he is deeply shaken by the “house of horrors” he encounters one evening, a 24-year-old young woman and her 15-month-old daughter brutally murdered, their blood spattering over a wide area.
Cast off religious trappings and investigate the history of a particular faith and, at its heart, Under the Banner of Heaven is simply a tremendous dramatization of true crime. Gripping and dripping with dramatic tension, it feels like a lost True Detective series.