Culture

Heartbreak High, Rings of Power, Blonde: what’s new to streaming in Australia this September

Netflix

Heartbreak High

TV, Australia, 2022 – out 14 September

‘This is sex jail!’ Heartbreak High full trailer: Netflix releases preview of series reboot – video

I’ll have more to say about Netflix’s remake of this beloved Australian series soon (after the review embargo lifts). Suffice to say it’s clear – even from just the trailer – that the tone is very different this time around. Gone is the thrillingly streetside, near-vérité aesthetic that gave the original production an edge over other high school dramas, and in its place is a cleaner and more polished look, rounding the rough pointy edges.

Created by Hannah Carroll Chapman, the new series unfolds from the perspective of Amerie (Ayesha Madon), who sets out to rebuild her relationships with her schoolmates after a wild stunt at Hartley High turns her into a pariah. While you wait for the remake, why not binge-watch the original series, also on Netflix? I returned to the first season last year – it remains dynamite television.

Blonde

Film, US, 2022 – out 28 September

The great New Zealand-Australian director Andrew Dominik is attracted to morally complex subjects. “I find the virtuous to be dull,” he told me last year. Dominik’s also attracted to subjects (such as Chopper Read and Jesse James) that allow him the space to both debunk legends and, in some ways, further embellish them. That makes him a fascinating choice to helm this Marilyn Monroe project, adapting Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel of the same name with Ana de Armas as Monroe.

The divisive source material was nominated for a Pulitzer prize but sledged by several reviewers, Guardian critics for instance calling it “an exercise in exploitation” and psychologically “puerile”. Dominik recently described Blonde as “demanding”, and added: “If the audience doesn’t like it, that’s the fucking audience’s problem.”

Cobra Kai: season five

TV, US, 2022 – out 9 September

(L to R) Oona O’Brien as Devon and Peyton List as Tory Nichols in Cobra Kai.
(L to R) Oona O’Brien as Devon and Peyton List as Tory Nichols in Cobra Kai. Photograph: Netflix

Netflix’s karate-themed drama began as a clever exercise in rearranging audience expectations, revisiting The Karate Kid’s narrative by reframing the original movie’s villain, Johnny (William Zabka), as an Buttermaker-esque antihero. Five seasons in, it’s become a bit of guilty pleasure, though the writing remains disciplined and pacey, and it hasn’t outstayed its welcome.

Rick and Morty: season six

TV, US, 2022 – out 5 September

The behavior of toxic fans has given Rick and Morty a bad name, but the series itself is vibrant and witty, with a distinctly idiosyncratic (and yes, sometimes dudebro-ish) sense of humour. The new season sees the titular characters, inspired by Dr Emmett Brown and Marty McFly from Back to the Future, return for more tripped-out intergalactic adventures.

Honourable mentions: Playing Beatie Bow (film, 1 September), Dune (film, 2 September), Devil in Ohio (TV, 2 September), Untold: The Race of the Century (TV, 6 September), End of the Road (film, 9 September), Do Revenge (film, 16 September), The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone (film, 22 September), Thai Cave Rescue (TV, 22 September), A Jazzman’s Blues (film, 23 September), Human Playground (TV, 30 September), Rainbox (film, 30 September), The Dry (film, 30 September).

Stan

Flee

Film, 2021, Denmark/France/Sweden/Norway – out 15 September

This moving and humane Oscar-nominated animated documentary follows a refugee, who is assigned the alias Amin Nawabi, who has lived a traumatic life, including escaping from Afghanistan and relocating to Denmark. Imaginative animation attempts to convey the emotional truth of the story, which is told through interviews between Amin and the film’s writer-director Jonas Poher Rasmussen.

Rasmussen’s gentle probing creates a safe space for the subject to open up about aspects of his life, such as his sexuality (Nawabi realised he was gay at a young age) and his persecution-filled upbringing. Particularly dramatic moments are depicted in charcoal-like monochrome drawings, adding an additional layer of visual ingenuity.

Bali 2002

TV, Australia, 2022 – out 25 September

Based during and after the 2002 Bali terrorist attacks, which killed more than 200 people, Stan’s new original series pledges to tell the “true story of how everyday heroes from Bali, Australia and beyond defied the odds to bring order from chaos and hope from despair”.

Hopefully the tone-jumping trailer, which includes title cards proclaiming “when terror came to paradise” and “an inspiring story of hope”, is no indication of the quality of the series. The cast includes Rachel Griffiths as burns specialist Dr Fiona Wood, Richard Roxburgh as Australian federal police commander Graham Ashton and Claudia Jessie as British tourist Polly Miller.

Honourable mentions: My Girl (fllm, 2 September), Snatch (film, 3 September), Last Light (TV, 9 September), American Gigolo (TV, 10 September), The Serpent Queen (TV, 11 September), Quo Vadis, Aida? (film, 12 September), Layer Cake (film, 13 September), Lethal Weapon 1-3 (film, 15 September), Zodiac (film, 19 September), Bad Santa (film, 22 September), Machete (film, 27 September).

ABC iView

Savage River

TV, 2022, Australia – out 4 September

Protagonist with a complicated past? Tick. A small-town setting? Tick. A couple of mysterious deaths in this picturesque location? Tick. An additional disappearance, because why not, more mystery? Tick.

ABC TV’s new six-part drama directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse ticks a lot of boxes, following protagonist Miki (13 Reasons Why star Katherine Langford) who returns to her picturesque home town after spending 10 years in the slammer. Shortly after her arrival a mysterious death occurs, making her the prime suspect. It’s all very formulaic, albeit presented elegantly by Moorhouse and veteran cinematographer Don McApline.

Honourable mentions: Marriage (TV, 3 September), Home: The Story of Earth (TV, 13 September), Louis Theroux: Return To The Most Hated Family In America (TV, 25 September), Misbehaviour (film 30 September).

SBS on Demand

Atlanta: season four

TV, US, 2022 – out 16 September

Atlanta co-creator and star Donald Glover wasn’t being modest when he took to Twitter in 2020 to claim that “Atlanta s3+s4 are going to be some of the best television ever made. Sopranos only ones who can touch us.” The highly ambitious absurdist comedy series, involving the rapper Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and his cousin Earn (Glover), has been devoted to upending expectations – and, in the process, collecting rave reviews and a loyal fanbase.

After relocating to Europe for season three, the fourth season will reportedly return the characters to the titular city – with the caveat that the writers view the location as a state of mind. “Atlanta is everywhere and nowhere,” says Donald’s brother Stephen Glover, one of the writers and producers. The previous seasons are also available on SBS on Demand.

The Handmaid’s Tale: season five

TV, US, 2022 – out 15 September

Elisabeth Moss in a scene from The Handmaid’s Tale.
Elisabeth Moss in a scene from The Handmaid’s Tale. Photograph: AP

A horrifically dystopian country, oppressive and corrupt, crumbling before our eyes. But enough about the present state of the US: following on from a shocking season finale involving brutal, bloody revenge, season five of The Handmaid’s Tale returns to Gilead and protagonist June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss). Showrunner Bruce Miller has described the new season as “Sophie’s Choice: The Series, in that you’re moving on with someone who’s made these terrible choices.”

Honourable mentions: Once Upon a Time in America (film, 2 September), Tom at the Farm (film, 2 September), Operation Black Tide: The Suicidal Mission (TV, 8 September), Philadelphia (film, 8 September), Call Me By Your Name (film, 9 September), The Collapse (TV, 15 September), Panic Room (film, 17 September), The Australian Wars (TV, 21 September), Gone Girl (film, 24 September), Whiplash (film, 26 September), King Johan: The Last King Of Norway (TV, 29 September), The Untouchables (film, 30 September).

Amazon Prime Video

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

TV, US, 2022 – out 2 September

Much expectation has been placed on Amazon’s mega-budget Lord of the Rings series, set thousands of years before Bilbo Baggins went on his quest. So much expectation, in fact, that some insiders claim the very viability of Amazon Prime depends on it. Told with energy and vitality, the first two episodes fare much better than the dull and waffle-filled House of the Dragon, conveying a sense that the creators are working hard to capture our attention with something other than seductive images (of which there are many).

A key plotline follows Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and her quest to find mean ol‘ Sauron, who has become her white whale as most believe he no longer exists. “World building” is the name of the game, with the creators jumping between races and places but retaining a degree of narrative consistency. The eye-watering cinematography implies vastness, with background-filled shots aplenty, and the dialogue is stately, sanctifying the drama. The key word is “grand”.

Honourable mentions: Goodnight Mommy (film, 16 September), Swimming with Sharks (TV, 16 September), My Best Friend’s Exorcism (film, 30 September), Jungle (TV, 30 September).

Binge

This England

TV, UK, 2022 – out 22 September

Kenneth Branagh as Boris Johnson in This England.
Kenneth Branagh as Boris Johnson in This England. Photograph: Phil Fisk/Sky UK Ltd

An on-set photograph of Kenneth Branagh as Boris Johnston went viral when the teaser for This England arrived a few months ago. In terms of dramatic material this series is hot off the press, officially described as a production that “takes us inside the halls of power as Johnson grapples with Covid-19, Brexit and a controversial personal and political life”. Certain events – including the end of Johnson’s reign as prime minister – only became apparent well after production commenced. Will this new development be explained via a title card at the end (boring!) or hastily written additional scenes? It remains to be seen.

Red Rocket

Film, US, 2021 – out 10 September

Simon Rex (L) as Mikey in Red Rocket.
Simon Rex (L) as Mikey in Red Rocket. Photograph: A24

Sean Baker has a great knack for making idiosyncratic films that feel both deeply realistic and intensely stylised – such as Tangerine, The Florida Project and now the dark and quirky Red Rocket. More funny weird than funny ha ha, Red Rocket follows a porn star named Mikey (Simon Rex) who returns from LA to his hometown in Texas, his career suffering from playing the Paul Walker equivalent in a spoof adult film called The Fast and Fury Ass.

Failing to get a job, Mikey starts dealing weed and romancing a 17-year-old doughnut shop employee named Strawberry (Suzanna Son). On paper the film sounds flat-out gross, though Baker certainly doesn’t champion bad behaviour. The people in his films always feel genuine – at times, uncomfortably so.

Honourable mentions: The Last Movie Stars (TV, 1 September), Dune (film, 2 September), Scream (film, 2 September), The Matrix 1-3 (film, 9 September), Zodiac (film, 22 September).

Apple TV+

Sidney

Film, US, 2022 – out 23 September

Sidney Poitier appears at the Cannes Film Festival, for the showing of his film A Raisin in the Sun, alongside Jean Seberg in 1961.
Sidney Poitier and Jean Seberg at the Cannes film festival for the screening of A Raisin in the Sun in 1961. Photograph: AP

No actor has radiated dignity quite like the late, great Sidney Poitier, best-known for his unforgettable performances in classics Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night. This new documentary, directed by Reginald Hudlin and produced by Oprah Winfrey, honours the career of Poitier (who passed away in January, aged 94) and explores his role in the civil rights movement. The sweet and tender trailer includes his most famous line: “They call me Mr Tibbs!

Honourable mentions: Life by Ella (TV, 2 September), Gutsy (TV, 9 September), Central Park (TV, 9 September), The Greatest Beer Run Ever (film, 30 September).

Paramount+

Out of Office

Film, US, 2022 – out 9 September

From the producers of The Office comes a new comedy about … not working in the office? The pandemic has made even people previously bound to their office cubicles get a taste of what life is like when you don’t have to leave your home to go to work. The blurred line between professional and private life is mined for laughs in this ensemble comedy, with a cast including Ken Jeong, Leslie Jones, Jason Alexander and Oscar Nuñez.

Honourable mentions: C’mon, C’mon (film, 1 September), Scream 5 (film, 2 September), Comedy Central Roasts (TV, 7 September), Monarch (TV, 13 September), Speak no Evil (film, 16 September).

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