TORONTO — Family power struggles are abundant on streaming services in August as the battle of the blood relatives plays out everywhere from the corporate boardrooms to megachurches.
Whether it’s the sibling rivalry in televangelist comedy “The Righteous Gemstones” or the more dramatic war against dad in Emmy-nominated “Succession,” there’s plenty of houses divided among this month’s breakout titles.
Here’s a look at several film and TV series worth adding to your must-see lists:
“The Righteous Gemstones”
After the passing of their matriarch, a dysfunctional family of religious zealots find themselves in some deep holy water when a compromising video surfaces of one of the brothers engaging in some very ungodly behaviour. That’s only the start of this wild TV series from Danny McBride, the creator of cult hits “Eastbound and Down” and “Vice Principals,” which explores the greed, petty squabbles and downright stupidity of an evangelical dynasty. The cast includes John Goodman as the stoic father, Adam DeVine as the youngest son, Edi Patterson as the only daughter, and McBride as the one desperately trying to get himself out of a tightening moral bind. (Crave/HBO Canada, Aug. 18)
Driven by attention from its five Emmy nods, the HBO series that quietly launched last summer is becoming one of this year’s hottest new hidden gems. “Succession” begins with media magnate Logan Roy dropping bombshell plans on his 80th birthday that leave his family jostling for positions in his reshaped empire. But their personalities begin to collide as power and strategy become a currency that only gains value when paired with manipulation. The series is nominated for outstanding drama series at next month’s Emmys, as well as nominations for its cast and direction. (Crave/HBO Canada, Season 1 now available, Season 2 begins Aug. 11)
Rapper Meek Mill grabbed headlines over his beef with Drake several years ago, but that drama pales in comparison to the criminal case that’s dogged the 32-year-old for his entire adult life. This five-part documentary series, produced in association with his record label, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, aims to shed light on why the rapper spent more than a decade caught in the U.S. criminal justice system over a 2008 conviction on drug and gun charges. His case eventually launched the #FreeMeek movement as his family and lawyers fought for his freedom, and while the charges were overturned in late July, he’s now awaiting a retrial date. “Free Meek” captures the many turns his case took, with allegations of police corruption and unbelievable requests he says were made by the judge presiding over his case. But it also looks beyond Meek Mill’s own case and considers what could be done to better the U.S. judicial system. (Amazon Prime Video, Aug. 9)
“On Becoming God in Central Florida”
Kirsten Dunst plays a young mother just trying to live comfortably in the suburbs outside Orlando in 1992 as her husband pursues outlandish dreams of climbing the ladder of a pyramid scheme company. But when an unexpected turn of events leaves her family in financial strife, she sidelines her minimum-wage job at a water park to mingle with the piranhas of a shady business world. Darkly funny, and full of outrageous twists, the 10-episode series gives Dunst one of the meatiest roles of her career. (Crave, Aug. 25)
A selection of films marking the 50th anniversary of the legendary Woodstock music festival land on CBC Gem this month. “Woodstock: Three Days That Changed A Generation,” due Aug. 16, is a new documentary that explores the social context around the event that helped define an era. There’s also director Ang Lee’s comedic fictionalization “Taking Woodstock,” which recounts the story of artist Elliot Tiber and his family, who inadvertently played a key role in bringing Woodstock to their town (Aug. 9).
A number of other films highlight career high points for artists who played the festival, including the biopic “Jimi: All Is By My Side,” starring Outkast’s Andre Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix, “Both Sides Now: Joni Mitchell Live at the Isle of Wight,” a reflection on Mitchell’s performance at another festival in 1970, and “Janis: Little Girl Blue,” the emotionally potent documentary that captures Janis Joplin’s short life, directed by Oscar-winner Amy Berg. All of those titles arrive on Aug. 9. (CBC Gem)
In case you missed it (titles already streaming):
“Jean of the Jonses”
Stella Meghie has landed gigs directing episodes of “Grown-ish” and the upcoming TV version of “The First Wives Club,” but it’s this witty indie comedy that gave the Toronto-raised filmmaker her start. Based loosely on her own life, “Jean of the Jonses” follows an ambitious young Brooklynite who winds up caught in the midst of her Jamaican-American family’s turmoil when an estranged patriarch of the family dies on their doorstep. (Netflix)
The death of Oscar-winning documentarian D.A. Pennebaker earlier this month gives cinemagoers ample reason to explore this pioneering filmmaker’s prolific works. Luckily, the Criterion Channel made it easier by lining up several films that showcase his most iconic moments. Start with Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Look Back,” an early work of American cinéma vérité style that opens with that much-imitated scene of the folk singer flipping through placards with lyrics to “Subterranean Homesick Blues” scrawled across them. Then jump over to “Monterey Pop,” Pennebaker’s time capsule of the 1967 music festival which includes iconic moments of Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar aflame and Mama Cass watching Janis Joplin sing with wonderment. His 1993 effort “The War Room” rounds out the feature-length films, wading into the lives of the political strategists who helped get Bill Clinton elected as U.S. president. (Criterion Channel)
— All release dates are subject to change.
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David Friend, The Canadian Press