Netflix: 10 of the best new shows and films to watch in August
Including Immigration Nation, Project Power and a blast from the past with Cobra Kai
Latif Nasser (L) in his series Connected.
This pop-science documentary series sees ebullient reporter Latif Nasser travel around the world discovering the collective associations within our lives. How mathematical law can make sense of why you love a particular song, how the clouds above us relate to the data clouds we rely on and other intriguing head-scratchers. Nasser is on a mission to install a sense of wonder back into our cynical lives by corralling this vastness and disclosing the commonalities to be found. In a time when we feel further apart than ever, Connected reminds us that we are bound closer than we think.
Filmmakers Shaul Schwartz and Christina Clusiau (Trophy) deliver a hard-hitting, emotionally driven documentary about the nightmare state of immigration in modern America. Shot over three years they ride along with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and watch as families are torn apart ,children ripped from parents arms and tax-paying elderly citizens are marched on to planes to face an unknown future. They speak to law makers, activists, undocumented citizens to try to understand the process of immigration that has turned the land of the free into a place of fear and loathing.
The Rain season 3
If you haven’t had your fill of our glorious weather or pandemic panic, season three of this dour Danish drama has arrived just in time. The final season of this post-apocalyptic, climate-change thriller sees its young survivors still scrabbling around to find a cure for the raindrop virus as time seems to be running out. With Rasmus intent on infecting the chosen few with a strain of the virus that has turned him superhuman, creating an indestructible new world, he is challenged by his sister Simone who believes there is a cure yet to be discovered that can help save everyone. With metaphors as heavy as its storm clouds, The Rain is a brooding, philosophical pot-boiler that leans into the dystopian vision of the nightmarish Threads and Stephen King’s now scarily prophetic, The Stand.
Selling Sunset season 3
After a short break and a giant cliff-hanger we’re back with the Barbies of Real Estate. The soapy element of Selling Sunset has been its ‘wow factor’ to borrow realtor parlance. Viewers may have come for the scenic vistas and the ample square-footage but they’ve stayed for the show’s unique features such as Christine’s skin-stripping bitchiness, Mary’s dull-eyed fiance Romain (who could be replaced by a head of lettuce) and the bizarre presence of the Oppenheim brothers, the twins who control this ever-more ludicrous circus. With news of Chrishell’s surprise divorce having hit the headlines, the team rally round her before Christine worries that it will overshadow her maximalist, Gothic Disney princess wedding putting the two at loggerheads again and dividing the office. In between all this drama some giant mansions are sold and at one point an Oppenheim appears like a wizard in a cartoon and makes a speech about closing a $44 million dollar home whilst twirling his moustache. Business as usual.
This six-part documentary series takes a scalpel to the multi-million dollar wellness industry scrutinizing trends and fads such as extreme fasting, ayahuasca ceremonies, essential oils and tantric sex. The last time Netflix peered into this environment was with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lab which was a glimpse into the rarified world of power-women’s health. It was full of soft furnishings and low lighting, inhabited by top flight gurus and her dedicated staffers who cried ‘Wow!’ instead of asking ‘What?!’ when confronted with the latest assortment of unconventional treatments like exorcisms and vampire facials. (Un) Well is a little more grounded in realism as it looks at what happens when ordinary people get seduced by these fashionable alternatives. The show may be rigorous in its investigations but it is not entirely negative, instead it looks to show its audience what can work and what is best left to fantastical celebrity circles.
Netflix has been churning out summer season action films like a refreshed Don Simpson in his yacht-idling prime. The latest offering is Project Power, a highly stylised caper about a drug that can unlock the superhero in ordinary people. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays his familiar role of a dead-pan cop who trawls the streets of New Orleans witnessing the sometimes fatal effects of the alluring drug. He teams up with a teenage dealer (Dominique Fishback) and a disgruntled former-soldier (Jamie Foxx) who of course harbours a ‘dark secret’ in his past, to confront the shadowy group responsible for creating this modern scourge. Can the allure of Power be eliminated? Will the power within be the only drug necessary to survive? Will a character utter ‘With great power comes great responsibility’? - probably not as that’s a quote from Spiderman.
Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story
Dirty John transformed from a hit podcast series to an all-star Netflix adaptation to its latest incarnation as the ‘brand name’ for a true crime anthology series that focuses on dramatisations of real life tales of deception, deceit and scandal. This season sees Amanda Peet take on the role of Betty Broderick, the high-society all-American housewife who in a fit of rage shot her ex-husband and his new wife in the couples’ bedroom. The show follows Betty and Dan Broderick (Christian Slater) as they fall in love in the mid-60s right through to their acrimonious, bitter divorce proceedings in the late 80s, which spun out into years of obstructive legal drama that caused Oprah to dub it ‘One of America’s messiest divorces’. As with Dirty John, The Betty Broderick Story is a fast-paced look at the unspooling of the American Dream, the darkness that lurks beneath the pretty facade that threatens to erupt destroying everything in its wake.
High Score is a documentary series about how the creative minds and technical experts brought video game classics like Pac Man, Space Invaders, Mortal Kombat, Sonic and Street Fighter to life. It shows how these innovators conceived their own industry without a blueprint to follow and how this uncharted territory led to caustic rivalries and ruthlessness in a world where everyone was attempting to get to the next level.
Trinkets season 2
Based on screenwriter Kirsten Smith’s (Legally Blonde, Ten Things I Hate About You) YA novel, Trinkets is a charming but bittersweet look at the lives of three wildly different teenage girls who form an unlikely alliance at a Shoplifters Anonymous meeting. In its final season the series will further explore the intricate bond between Elodie, Tabitha and Moe who have dealt with their fair share of turbulent circumstances in season one, including Moe’s slide back into shoplifting, Elodie’s father’s concerns about her mental health and Tabitha’s overbearing, abusive boyfriend Brady’s attempts to control her life. Complicated, uncompromising and challenging, Trinkets, like all good coming-of-age dramas from My So Called Life to Buffy, tells the unvarnished story of the outsiders scrabbling for some agency, their eyes on a world beyond the claustrophobic existence of high-school.
After a bidding frenzy, Cobra Kai, The Karate Kid series has moved from Youtube to its forever home on Netflix which means the first two seasons will be available as well as the brand new third season. Cobra Kai takes place 30 years after the iconic 1984 showdown at the All Valley Karate Tournament. Daniel (Ralph Macchio) is a successful car salesman who is trying to adapt to life without Mr. Miyagi’s guidance, feeling distant from his children and dissatisfied with life. His arch nemesis Johnny (William Zabka) has fallen on hard times after losing his job and seems destined to circle the drain. The two reunite after Johnny defends his teenage neighbour from some bullies using karate and is inspired to re-open the Cobra Kai dojo, this time encouraging the less athletic school underdogs to master his macho-version of the sport. As Johnny assumes the role of a less civilised sensei, Daniel yearns for the past and to get back involved in karate. This resuscitated nostalgia trip is made sweeter by the full engagement of the old cast, as with the new Bill & Ted installment, it’s as fun, familiar and comforting as visiting old friends again.