TORONTO — Extraordinary times call for exemplary television and the April slate of new streaming options comes loaded with everything from sci-fi adventures to historic documentaries.
Here’s a roundup of streaming highlights for the month:
“SHADOW AND BONE”
Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) is just another soldier fighting in the war-torn land of Ravka, until leaders discover her uncanny ability to manipulate the elements and use them as weapons. Pulled from her ranks and tossed into an elite brigade of soldiers called the Grisha, her powers could be a valuable tool in the battle against dark forces — unless they fall into the wrong hands. Based on Leigh Bardugo’s popular fantasy book series, “Shadow and Bone” is a lavish puzzle with enough monsters and magic to satisfy fans of “Game of Thrones” and “The Witcher.” (Netflix, April 23)
“EXTERMINATE ALL THE BRUTES”
Slavery, genocide and the foundation of the Americas are recontextualized in “I Am Not Your Negro” filmmaker Raoul Peck’s rattling four-part series that challenges the stories we were told in history class. Using reenactments starring Josh Hartnett in various roles, clips of Hollywood films, and jaw-dropping data and maps, Peck keeps viewers on their toes by constantly shifting perspectives, reframing historic images and challenging viewers to confront the damage European colonialism affected on the world. (Crave/HBO, April 7)
“DAD STOP EMBARRASSING ME!”
Jamie Foxx steals the show as Brian Dixon, a single dad and entrepreneur who faces off with Generation Z when his teenage daughter unexpectedly moves into his home for the long haul. Leaning on advice from his sister, his weed-smoking dad (played by David Alan Grier), and a community of other characters (many of them Foxx in thinly-veiled disguises), this sitcom is heavy on positive energy and family values. (Netflix, April 14)
THE ACADEMY AWARDS
The pandemic edition of the Oscars happens on April 25, and the compromises of COVID-19 have given viewers unprecedented online access to the nominated films, as movie theatres remained closed for much of the past year. All eight best picture contenders will be available to rent at home for Canadians this month through video-on-demand platforms, while a few are available on subscription services. “Nomadland,” Chloe Zhao’s awards frontrunner starring Frances McDormand, debuts April 9 on Disney Plus’ Star platform. Meanwhile, David Fincher’s movie business tale “Mank” and Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom drama “Trial of the Chicago 7” are already on Netflix. The streaming giant is also home to animated short contender “If Anything Happens I Love You” and live action short nominees “The Present” and “Two Distant Strangers,” which lands on April 9.
“BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL”
Construction workers in a quaint Irish town accidentally rattle the supposed grave of a legendary vampire, awakening a fury that threatens to devour the locals. Jack Rowan of “Peaky Blinders” and Louisa Harland from “Derry Girls” fight for their lives in this darkly comedic horror film that trades pints of beer and blood in equal measure. (Shudder, April 22)
“CONCRETE COWBOY” — A troubled teenager sent to live with his estranged father (Idris Elba) in Philadelphia discovers an enduring cowboy subculture in the inner city. (Netflix, April 2)
“GHOSTS” — After inheriting a rundown mansion, a British couple run against a group of eccentric spirits intent on sabotaging plans to renovate their haunt into a hotel in this six-episode comedy. (CBC Gem, April 9)
“I AM SYD STONE” — A closeted Hollywood star stumbles into a fling with a man he doesn’t know while shooting a movie. The six-episode series was written and directed by Fredericton-born Denis Theriault. (OutTV Go, April 22)
“Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” — Michael B. Jordan plays John Clark, a Navy SEAL who is plunged into a U.S.-Russia war plot while seeking vengeance for the murder of his pregnant wife.
David Friend, The Canadian Press