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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Luke Buckmaster

American Fiction, Three Women and Curb: what’s new to streaming in Australia in February

Curb Your Enthusiasm’s last season, American Fiction, You Hurt My Feelings and The Tree of Life are among the films and TV shows streaming in Australia this month.
Curb Your Enthusiasm’s last season, American Fiction, You Hurt My Feelings and The Tree of Life are among the films and TV shows streaming in Australia this month. Composite: HBO/AP/Claire Folger


Orion and the Dark

Film, US, 2024 – out 2 February

This children’s animation is a departure from Kaufman’s usual off-piste oeuvre.

The squirrelly scribe Charlie Kaufman has written some amazing, weird, angsty film scripts – among them Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York – and now, in his latest film, he adapts the 40-page children’s book Orion and the Dark.

The film revolves around Orion (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), a shy boy who’s afraid of many things, from girls to bullies to giving the wrong answers in class. But most of all he is scared of the dark. And so, on one fateful evening, the dark becomes … the Dark: a literal embodiment of Orion’s fear who arrives in his bedroom, determined to help the boy overcome his anxieties. The Dark is also partial to a good ol’ fashioned adventure. The trailer suggests a genuine kids film rather than a mind-melting head trip, which makes Kaufman’s involvement even stranger.

The Vince Staples Show

TV, US, 2024 – out 15 February

Rapper, actor, Renaissance man … no, Vince Staples just wants you to get a bit more culture.

There’s a very low-key energy in this gentle series starring the titular Long Beach rapper as a fictionalised version of himself. The first two episodes (all I’ve seen so far) mostly take place in single settings – a prison and a bank mid-robbery – where the action unfolds in an oddly unhurried way. The camera, the protagonist, even the show itself seem to loiter.

There’s references to Staples’ fame: the police enjoy his music and recommend, to protect himself, he gets an entourage like Tupac. (“How’d that work out for him?” Staples deadpans). But the show is too casual to feel like the star is big-noting himself. It’s hardly appointment television, but I breezed through the opening couple of episodes and could happily watch more.

Honourable mentions: Home Alone (film, 2 February), Home Alone: Lost in New York (film, 2 February), The Devil Wears Prada (film, 7 February) One Day (TV, 8 February), Einstein and the Bomb (film, 16 February), The Abyss (film, 16 February), Avatar: The Last Airbender (TV, 22 February).


Three Women

TV, US, 2024 – out 16 February

Love, sex, freedom … Three Woman explores whether you can have them all.

Shailene Woodley headlines this adaptation of Lisa Taddeo’s bestselling novel about, in the words of the Guardian’s Emily Witt, “the female struggle to achieve sexual choice and bodily autonomy, and to find physical and emotional connection”. Woodley plays Gia, a writer who encourages three women to share their stories with her. They’re Lina (Betty Gilpin), who’s in an unsatisfying marriage; Sloane (DeWanda Wise), who’s in an open marriage with Richard (Blair Underwood); and Maggie (Gabrielle Creevy), who alleges a high school teacher began a sexual relationship with her when she was 17.

The official synopsis stresses that Gia’s relationship with the trio will “change the course of her life forever”. The trailer suggests a heady mixture of wistful looks, heart-rending emotions, and saucy encounters.

The Tree of Life

Film, US, 2011 – out 17 February

The Tree of Life – it’s nothing if not ambitious.

It speaks to the daring qualities of Terrence Malick’s intensely ruminative art film that, though I didn’t love it at the time of its release, I’m curious about revisiting it. Brad Pitt plays the very stern Mr O’Brien, father of three boys, one of whom tragically dies at 19. The Tree of Life works as a kitchen sink-ish drama, steeped in melancholia and loss, but Malick aspires for much more – cutting to the dinosaurs and visions of aurora borealis, and illustrating the beginning of the universe – because why not? I respect the sheer ambition of it.

Alvin Purple

Film, Australia, 1973 – out 6 February

Alvin Purple, a man of many parts, all of them in full working order!

Tim Burstall’s raunchy Australian classic about an average Joe (Graeme Blundell) women inexplicably lust after is – as they say – of its time. And during that time it was tremendously popular, pocketing more than $4m at the cinemas and smashing box office records. As I wrote 10 years ago, Alvin Purple’s legacy is protected by, dare I say it, some intellectual substance present in its commentary on the censorship debate. Which, admittedly, most people have forgotten, amid all the nudity and wobbly bits.

Honourable mentions: Jules (film, 6 February), The Descent (film, 10 February), The Descent: Part 2 (film, 10 February), Million Dollar Baby (film, 15 February), Good Night, and Good Luck (film, 16 February), The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live (TV, 26 February).

Amazon Prime Video

American Fiction

Film, US, 2023 – out 27 February

Cord Jefferson’s debut is an entertaining comedy about race, class and envy.

American Fiction – debut feature writer and director Cord Jefferson’s adaptation of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure – premiered to great acclaim at last year’s Toronto international film festival and has had a dream run since, recently collecting five Oscar nominations – including best picture and best actor (for Jeffrey Wright).

The Guardian described it as an “hilarious and withering satire about an African American novelist chafing against an industry that limits Black storytelling to trauma and poverty narratives”. American Fiction will skip cinemas in Australia and go straight to Prime Video.

You Hurt My Feelings

Film, US, 2023 – out 13 February

If you don’t always tell your loved ones the truth, watch this film.

What if your spouse wrote a novel, and you didn’t like it? You lie, right? That’s what the husband of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s protagonist does in this smart, chatty dramedy from Nicole Holofcener. Trouble is, she overhears him saying the opposite and is devastated, drawing all sorts of feelings to the surface. Louis-Dreyfus is in fine form in a modest but relatable film.

Honourable mentions: Mr. & Mrs. Smith season 1 (TV, 2 February), Bottoms (film, 6 February), The New Boy (film, 6 February), This Is Me … Now: A Love Story (film, 16 February).


Curb Your Enthusiasm season 12

TV, US, 2024 – out 5 February

End of a comedic era – Curb Your Enthusiasm takes a bow.

Larry David’s sitcom launched way back in 2000 and it’s been pretty, pretty, pretty good. David stars as a fictionalised version of himself, living in a palatial home in an affluent Los Angeles neighbourhood with his Kramer-ish housemate Leon (JB Smoove). The plot revolves around David’s various idiosyncrasies, and his ability to embroil himself in all kinds of prickly scenarios.

David doesn’t pretend for a moment that he represents – or even understands – the hoi polloi. What he does understand is how to push the envelope and create comedy that teeters on the edge of social acceptance, but comes out morally OK. The 12th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm will be its last. Vale!


Film, 2022, Finland/US – out 4 February

Stab ‘em, shoot ‘em, blow ‘em up … Finnish style.

Continuing a long tradition of reticent action heroes, the protagonist of this hardcore revenge-a-palooza, Jorma Tommila’s Aatami Korpi, says nary a word for almost the entire film. After finding a tonne of gold deep in the Finnish wilderness during the final stages of the second world war, Korpi is, unwisely, targeted by the Nazis, prompting him to go on an epic killing spree. Sisu has “cult classic” written all over it.

Mercy Road

Film, Australia, 2023 – out 28 February

This strangely surreal film set mostly in a truck will likely divide audiences.

This intensely moody Australian thriller from John Curran, which takes place almost entirely inside a truck, didn’t make much noise when it arrived last year, and is likely to divide audiences. But I was a big fan, finding it a no-holds-barred, foot-to-the-pedal film that seems to take place in a hypnagogic state.

Luke Bracey brings furiously flustered intensity to the lead role as a man given roughly one hour to save his kidnapped daughter by following the instructions of a shady man. One of his demands is good for the film’s pace: he must keep driving no matter what.

Honourable mentions: Feud: Capote vs The Swans (TV, 1 February), Sanctuary (film, 4 February), The New Boy (film, 6 February), Mission: Impossible – Fallout (film, 7 February), Allegiance (TV, 8 February), Grand Turismo: Based on a True Story (film, 8 February), Grimsburg (TV, 12 February), Joy Ride (film, 13 February), Trading Places (film, 15 February), In Trouble with Jessica (film, 18 February).

ABC iView

This is Going to Hurt

TV, UK, 2022 – out 7 February

Funnier than ER, darker than Grey’s Anatomy … this acclaimed UK series stars Ben Whishaw.

Created by former doctor Adam Kay and based on his memoir of the same name, this acclaimed British series stars Ben Whishaw as an overworked junior doctor struggling through a career as an obstetrician in the UK’s underfunded hospital system. Rolling Stone described the show as “a darkly comic ER” and Time Magazine called it “the best medical drama in years”, because “it observes how broken systems force real doctors to attempt superhuman feats”.

Honourable mentions: Martin Clunes: Islands of America (TV, 1 February), Hard Quiz season 9 premiere (TV, 7 February), The Weekly with Charlie Pickering season 10 premiere (TV, 7 February), Whale with Steve Backshall (TV, 27 February).

SBS on Demand


TV, US – out 8 February

From the executive producers of The Handmaid’s Tale comes this modern-day drug dystopia.

America’s opioids crisis – and big pharma more generally – have been the focus of several productions in recent years. This eight-part series (co-directed by Hollywood veteran Barry Levinson) is headlined by Michael Keaton as a kindly doctor in a small mining town who’s talked into prescribing OxyContin, which was sold falsely to him as a “non-addictive” drug. The series follows a now-familiar format, oscillating between victims, perpetrators, and those – such as Rosario Dawson’s DEA agent –determined to clamp down on big pharma’s reach and influence.

Those Who Stayed

TV, Ukraine, 2023 – out 24 February

The trailer alone brings a lump to your throat.

Reportedly, the first international TV series greenlit in Ukraine since the war, this anthology series was inspired by true events described as “moving, funny, sad, stark, unsettling, and uplifting”. Production, as Deadline reported, adhered to “strict safety protocols” while “dealing with the daily challenges of filming amidst the war”.

Honourable mentions: Bullshit (TV, 1 February), Australia Uncovered: Hitler’s Jewish Soldier (TV, 8 February), The Farewell (film, 11 February), Estonia (TV, 15 February), Australia Uncovered: Last Chance to Save a Life (TV, 15 February), Catch Me a Killer (TV, 22 February), Benedetta (film, 29 February), Psychedelics: Stepping Into the Unknown (TV, 29 February).



TV, 2024, UK/US – out 27 February

Slashing swords, swashbuckling Samurai … this is Shōgun on an epic scale.

This visually impressive and addictively plotted series, set in Japan circa 1600, revolves around two men who become political prisoners, albeit for very different reasons. John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) is a self-professed “Protestant scoundrel,” who washes up on Japanese shores and is immediately taken captive. The other is Lord Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada), whose fate will soon be decided by a council comprised of his enemies.

There’s a sense of empires colliding in Shōgun: not just the British and the Japanese, but British Protestants and Portuguese Catholics, the latter having set up lucrative trade with Japan. There’s a lot going on, but the show never gets bogged down with backstory – at least in the three episodes I’ve seen so far.


TV, 2024, US – out 28 February

Set in a futuristic version of Lagos, Nigeria, Disney’s coming-of-age series follows two young girls: Tola, who’s from an affluent island off the mainland, and her best friend, Kole. According to the Big Mouse’s vague official synopsis, the pair “discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds.” Disney revealed the first look at the series way back in 2021; it experienced several delays and will finally arrive in February.

Honourable mentions: The Marvels (film, 7 February), Suncoast (film, 9 February), The Mission (film, 9 February), Everything is Fine (TV, 28 February).

Apple TV+


TV, US, 2024 – out 21 February

Do the expensive production values of this psychological space thriller pay off?

In the first episode of creator Peter Harness’s psychological thriller, a big accident aboard an international space station triggers the kinds of things an astronaut like Jo (Noomi Rapace) really, really doesn’t want to have to deal with up there – explosions, fires and serious losses of oxygen supply.

The show jumps around quite a bit, beginning in regional Sweden during a beautifully shot snow storm. It also features Jonathan Banks (AKA Mike from Breaking Bad) dropping phrases like “double quantum signal” and proclaiming humans have “found another state of matter that can only exist in zero gravity”. Constellation continues Apple’s reputation for polished, expansive shows that scream “this cost a tonne of cash!”

Honourable mentions: The New Look (TV, 14 February), The Dynasty: New England Patriots (TV, 16 February).

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