By Scott Tobias
Every month, Netflix Canada adds a new batch of TV shows and movies to its library. Here are the titles we think are most interesting for April, broken down by release date. Netflix occasionally changes schedules without giving notice.
‘Boyz N the Hood’
Starts streaming: April 1
After Spike Lee kicked the studio door open with “Do the Right Thing,” the early ’90s saw a mini-wave of black filmmakers telling their own stories. None did so with more urgency than John Singleton, a recent University of Southern California grad whose debut feature, “Boyz N the Hood,” was a type of coming-of-age story that mainstream audiences had rarely seen before. A then-unknown Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as a teenager sent to live in the Crenshaw neighborhood of South-Central Los Angeles with his father (Laurence Fishburne), who teaches him the ins and outs of this difficult environment. Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut play his friends, one a Crips gang member on parole and the other a scholarship hopeful who runs afoul of the wrong crowd.
‘Pope Francis: A Man of His Word’
Starts streaming: April 4
The iconoclastic German director Wim Wenders is most noted for the 1987 art house sensation “Wings of Desire,” a black-and-white fantasy about angels in Berlin, observing the spiritual struggle of the mortals below. It’s fascinating to see Wenders bring that curiosity to “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word,” a documentary profile of a pontiff who’s responsible for tending the souls of millions. Wenders’s approach is perhaps too reverential, but he gets substantial interview time with Pope Francis and deftly underscores the modest, empathetic message he’s trying to send around the world.
Starts streaming: April 5
It took a while for Brie Larson’s directorial debut to find a home after premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in 2017, but Netflix has seized on her momentum post-“Captain Marvel,” as well as her buddy chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson, who co-stars in both films. Larson stars as a struggling artist who moves back home with her parents and takes a job at a P.R. firm as a grudging concession to adulthood. Her life changes, however, when a mystery man (Jackson) invites her to “The Store,” a place that allows her to sell whatever fantastical thing she wants. Given no restrictions, she turns to the whimsical creature she’s loved since childhood: the unicorn.
Starts streaming: April 12
The author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette may be best known for her 1944 novella “Gigi,” which was adapted into an Oscar-winning musical a few years after she died. But the film “Colette” takes place much earlier, at the turn of the century, before she had the freedom to step out as an author. After marrying Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West), a “literary entrepreneur” popularly known as Willy, Colette (Keira Knightley) takes up work as one of his team of uncredited ghostwriters. When stories from her schoolgirl days are assembled into a novel called “Claudine à l’école,” the book and its sequels become a cultural sensation, and she considers the difficult step of taking credit for it.
Starts streaming: April 12
The cinematographer-turned-director John R. Leonetti has worked exclusively in the horror and fantasy subgenres, turning out sequels to “Mortal Kombat” and “The Butterfly Effect” before graduating into the quickie horror hit “Annabelle” (a spinoff of “The Conjuring”) and gimmicky thriller “Wish Upon.” His Netflix movie “The Silence,” based on Tim Lebbon’s book, sounds a little like “A Quiet Place,” which places it squarely in the “Bird Box” zone for the streaming service, complete with respected stars like Stanley Tucci and Kiernan Shipka. Shipka stars as a deaf teenager whose family lives remotely to hide from lethal batlike creatures called Vesps, which are sensitive to sound.
Starts streaming: April 19
The romantic comedy may be all but dead in theaters, but Netflix has discovered a popular niche for bright, modestly budgeted productions and pickups like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” “Set It Up,” and “The Incredible Jessica James.” Produced by Paul Feig, among others, “Someone Great” is one of its most high-profile rom-coms to date, starring Gina Rodriguez as a music journalist from New York City who lands a big job in San Francisco, but can’t persuade her longtime boyfriend (Lakeith Stanfield) to come along. Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise are the best friends who attempt to nurse her through her breakup by giving her a night on the town.
Starts streaming: April 28
Kindly received in 1994, Gillian Armstrong’s adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic is notable today as a remarkable incubator for young talent, with a cast that includes Winona Ryder, Samantha Mathis, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes and Christian Bale. As their father goes off to fight in the Civil War, the March sisters grow up with their mother (Susan Sarandon) in Concord, Mass., biding their time by performing original plays in their attic. As the years pass and the girls grow older, however, “Little Women” takes on a more serious and emotional tone, with several transformative events redirecting the family’s future.
Starts streaming: April 29
It never seemed possible for Haruki Murakami’s delicate, whimsical storytelling style to translate to the screen, but Lee Chang-dong’s masterful “Burning,” based on a Murakami short story, coasts on those alluring qualities. Simply described, it sounds like a run-of-the-mill love triangle, with an attractive young woman (Jeon Jong-seo) courting interest from a taciturn former classmate (Yoo Ah-in) and a rich hipster (Steven Yeun) who’s hiding some dark secrets. But “Burning” unfolds like a mystery of human behavior, with Yeun a particular standout as a charming yet unmistakably sinister chaos agent with a Cheshire cat grin.
Starts streaming: April 29
After rolling out deeply flawed movies around label icons like Superman, Batman and Green Lantern, DC Comics finally connected with “Wonder Woman,” mostly because the film’s creators, the writer Allan Heinberg and the director Patty Jenkins, are so careful in sketching a character before diving into the CGI-heavy action. The first third of the film is the strongest, following the Amazon princess Diana (Gal Gadot) as she comes into her own among the women on the island of Themyscira. After finding her power, Diana gets whisked to World War I-era Europe, where she fights alongside an American pilot to put an end to the war — and the war god Ares, whom she holds responsible.
Starts streaming: April 5
David Attenborough’s nature series “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet” are visually lush yet sobering assessments of the natural world and the threats encroaching on it. “Our Planet” is another huge undertaking, an eight-episode series that was shot over four years in 50 countries, encompassing natural habitats from the rain forests to the seas. Picturesque nature documentaries tend to follow a certain formula — adorable or otherwise arresting animal footage, followed by a climate change update — but Attenborough has promised to make conservation a primary theme, urging viewers to act now to protect the environment.
‘You vs. Wild’
Starts streaming: April 10
On the heels of “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” Netflix continues its experiments in interactive television with a clickable choose-your-own-adventure around Bear Grylls, the cheery survivalist best known for the Discovery Channel series “Man vs. Wild.” Over eight episodes, viewers are invited to direct Grylls’s actions on a series of adventures, presumably to get him out of various wilderness-related scrapes. Grylls is still alive, so no harm can come from choosing the wrong option, but the show stands to be a fascinating hybrid of nature documentary and stunt showmanship.
Starts streaming: April 11
Despite mixed reviews, the action-horror series “Z Nation” aired for five seasons on Syfy, focusing on the few humans to survive a zombie apocalypse that had claimed most of the population over the course of three years. The eight-episode “Black Summer” is considered a “companion prequel” to “Z Nation,” starting in the chaotic and gruesome days immediately following the outbreak. Jaime King stars as a mother who searches relentlessly for her missing daughter, joining a cadre of American refugees as they fight through the monster hordes. In the chaos, it’s not always easy to tell friend from undead foe.
‘Huge in France’
Starts streaming: April 12
The French-Moroccan-Canadian comedian Gad Elmaleh has been called the Jerry Seinfeld of France for his stand-up act, which trades in a similar form of observational humor, and he’s been spending the last few years trying to break into Hollywood. “Huge in France” is Elmaleh’s television roman à clef, complete with a cameo from Seinfeld refuting the comparison. The series is about the humbling reality of a star who gets a constant “no” to the “Do you know who I am?” question, and who struggles to reconnect with his estranged son, a 16-year-old male model. Expect a fish-out-of-water comedy with loads of self-deprecation.
Starts streaming: April 24
After appearing in small but regular roles in critically beloved comedy shows like “Barry” and “You’re the Worst,” Rightor Doyle steps behind the camera for the irreverent comedy series “Bonding,” based on his life experiences. The show starts with the reunion of two former high school friends: Pete (Brendan Scannell), a recently out gay man with few job prospects, and Tiff (Zoe Levin), a graduate student who moonlights as one of New York City’s premier dominatrixes. Tiff hires the hapless Pete to be her assistant — part bodyguard, part cleanup man and all-around support system — but the job leads him on some humiliating misadventures.
Starts streaming: April 26
Netflix food series like “Chef’s Table” and “Salt Fat Acid Heat” have an irresistible eat-with-your-eyes sheen, along with substantive documentary footage of culinary wizards and the scenes they represent. With his new series “Street Food,” the “Chef’s Table” creator David Gelb brings that aesthetic to the food trucks, pop-up restaurants and other suppliers of on-the-go delicacies, focusing on nine Asian countries. Among the subjects is Jay Fai, whose street-side restaurant in Bangkok, specializing in wok-prepped seafood dishes, was the first of its kind to receive a Michelin star.
Also of interest: “Kevin Hart: Irresponsible” (April 2), “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” Part 2 (April 5), “Persona: Collection” (April 5), “The Oath” (April 8), “Special” (April 12), “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” (April 23), “Anthony Jeselnik: Fire in the Maternity Ward” (April 30).
Source: The New York Times, 29 March 2019.