South African action series, hospital doc series among June streaming highlights
Any other year, audiences would be flocking to local multiplexes for the latest summer blockbuster, but this June all of the big entertainment is happening on the small screen.
Whether it’s Disney’s fantasy-adventure “Artemis Fowl,” which skips a planned theatrical release for a Disney Plus premiere on June 12, or the final seasons of Netflix’s “Fuller House” (June 2) and “13 Reasons Why” (June 5), the month is stacked with binge-worthy moments at home.
Viewers can also dive into a number of TV series slipped onto Crave in the final days of May. The platform struck a deal with U.S. streaming newcomer HBO Max to carry three of its original shows in Canada: Anna Kendrick’s romantic comedy “Love Life,” Canadian YouTuber Lauren Riihimaki’s craft competition series “Craftopia” and “Legendary,” a showdown of performers in the vouging and ballroom scene.
Here’s a selection of new films and TV series worth streaming in June:
Diamond smugglers, terrorists and a secret government agency formed to stop them are the centrepieces of this six-part action series set amid the gritty city streets and barren landscapes around Cape Town, South Africa. Told from various perspectives of law enforcement and the layers of underworld operatives they’re tracking, “Trackers” pulses with tension that unfolds in bursts of suspense. The show was an instant hit in the region, and will likely prove to be equally addictive halfway across the world. (Crave/HBO, June 5)
Health professionals are seen in a new light as they stand on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, but those daily acts of heroism have often gone unrecognized in the past. This five-part documentary aims to correct the course by capturing the tireless dedication of staff at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital. Filmed over several years, the series tracks four doctors — including two brain surgeons — as they open their professional and personal lives to the cameras. The tender portrayal offers a glimpse of the steadfast comradery it takes to embark on life-saving procedures, and the emotional toll it can leave behind. (Netflix, June 10)
Oscar nominee Jeff Pope didn’t hesitate to experiment with making a TV series during lockdown, abiding by physical distancing rules. The co-writer of 2013 comedy “Philomena,” and a group of British actors and directors, worked remotely to produce this collection of four short stories, filmed on mobile phones and often starring their own families. Each is a work of fiction that captures the collective experience of anxiety, confusion and sometimes hilarity that comes with living in isolation. Among the best is “Karen,” starring “Ray Donovan” actor Eddie Marsan and his real-life sons who are surprised when their grandfather begins making daily appearances at the backyard window to offer a laugh. (BritBox, June 23)
Iconic and Influential LGBTQ Filmmakers
Criterion Channel puts the spotlight on queer cinema for Pride Month with a collection of contemporary classics and hidden gems. The highlights include a collection of shorts and features by groundbreaking black filmmaker Cheryl Dunye whose rarely seen “The Watermelon Woman” helped set the tone for a generation of female indie directors that followed her. And the original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim’s acclaimed Broadway musical “Company” is the focus of the 1970 rarity “Original Cast Album: Company,” which captures some unforgettable moments, including Elaine Stritch’s iconic performance of “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Also hitting the service is a selection of director Gregg Araki’s work, including the Joseph Gordon-Levitt hustler drama “Mysterious Skin,” and Gus Van Sant’s prolific “My Own Private Idaho.” It’s rounded out by the latest edition of “Queersighted,” a conversation series from film historian Michael Koresky. (Criterion, June 1)
“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”
Europe’s massive pop singing competition Eurovision is nowhere near as popular in North America as it is overseas, but Will Ferrell’s latest comedy may expose a whole new audience to the spectacle of nations that introduced the world to ABBA. Ferrell plays Lars, an Icelandic musician who’s dreamed of competing on the Eurovision stage with Fire Saga, an electro-pop act he formed with lifelong friend Sigrit (Rachel McAdams). Those dreams seemed out of reach, much to the embarrassment of his disapproving father (Pierce Brosnan), until a dramatic turn of events hands the pair an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of the trophy. Overflowing with inside jokes for Eurovision fans, and celebrity cameos for everyone else, most of the jabs here are loving, and Ferrell and McAdams reveal themselves as a surprisingly charismatic comedy duo. (Netflix, June 26)
When Irish teenagers Marianne and Connell spark a secret relationship in senior year of high school, their wild passion is almost certain to derail in due time. Yet this episodic adaptation of Sally Rooney’s acclaimed novel goes far deeper than surface affection, exploring how deep-rooted issues in each of them affect their push-and-pull relationship that resurfaces in adulthood. Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal deliver star-making performances in the lead roles. (CBC Gem)
“The Big Flower Fight”
Few of us have aspired to build a giant floral sculpture of a dinosaur’s head, but the challenge almost makes sense within the confines of this perennial competition series. Pairs of amateur florists descend on an enormous greenhouse in the English countryside to compete for “Best in Bloom,” a prize that practically comes second to the wild and whimsical projects they design while under a strict deadline. Vic Reeves of “Coronation Street” and comedian Natasia Demetriou from “What We Do in the Shadows” host the showdown which is perfect light viewing. (Netflix)
David Friend, The Canadian Press