Black Summer (S1)
Do we really need another playing-it-straight zombie drama? Netflix evidently thinks so, having furnished us with Black Summer, in which a mysterious virus causes the dead to instantly spring back up and start madly running after anyone with a pulse (yes, this particular series has gone down the “fast zombie” route).
Despite being richly served with clichés, Black Summer ticks all the right boxes for fans of zombie content (families being broken apart, people forced to be brutal to survive, the authorities turning into horrendous bullies), so if two different series of The Walking Dead aren’t sufficient to satisfy your undead cravings, give this a watch.
Rilakkuma and Kaoru (S1)
The perfect antidote to the 24-hour hell-scape of UK current events, this Japanese stop-motion series about a Tokyo woman who lives with an anthropomorphic teddy bear (just go with it) is designed to metaphorically dunk viewers into a relaxing bath of warm, fuzzy feelings. It’s a refreshing change to see Netflix put out an animation show that isn’t winkingly wry, intended to shock or too gritty for its own good.
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Being a Baz Luhrmann film, this big budget adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel is a glitzy, glamorous spectacle that assaults the senses – and doubtless assaults many viewers’ ideas of how such rarefied subject matter should be treated.
With its all-star cast, eye-popping CGI and anachronistic music, it certainly veers towards the brash side of the line in presentation, but those that can stomach Jay-Z soundtracking the Roaring Twenties will find the plot follows Fitzgerald’s book quite closely, and presents its themes quite clearly – even if all the spectacle can become a little distracting.
Jurassic Park’s masterful mixture of practical special effects and CGI means that its visuals hold up to this very day, more than 25 years after its release (and wow, does that make us feel old).
Steven Spielberg’s biggest 90s blockbuster, in which a billionaire clones dinosaurs to populate a safari park, has it all: razor sharp teeth, lumbering giants, devious velociraptors and just enough humour to lighten the mood in between scenes brimming with terrifying suspense. We still get the odd recurring T-rex nightmare even now and… wait, can you hear that thumping?
Harrison Ford stars as a doctor on the run after being falsely accused of murdering his wife in this enjoyably pacy, excellently written 1993 thriller. Hot on his heels is US Marshal Tommy Lee Jones, who nabbed a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and a Hollywood A-list spot due to his memorably gruff, verbose performance.
Very few 25 year-old movies have aged as well as this and Jurassic Park, so Netflix viewers have a bit of a vintage cinematic treat this month.
You vs Wild (S1)
Netflix made its first foray into interactive storytelling with dark sci-fi drama in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, but its second is a lot more wholesome and a lot less disturbing – unless perhaps you’re an agoraphobic terrified of potentially drinking your own pee to survive.
Yes, it’s a series about surviving in the wilderness presented by Bear Grylls, in which the disconcertingly exuberant outdoorsman role plays through various dangerous scenarios, asking you how he should proceed. If you think that sounds like too much responsibility, don’t worry – no Bears were harmed in the making of this series.
Brawl in Cell Block 99
“Brutal” doesn’t even come close to describing the bone-crunching fight scenes in this noirish b-movie thriller from Bone Tomahawk writer/director S Craig Zahler, in which Vince Vaughn plays against type as a laconic ex-boxer forced to start cracking heads, arms and other body parts when his pregnant wife is threatened by drug dealers.
Riotously revelling in its graphic ultra-violence and far more interested in entertaining viewers than with educating them, Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a gripping grindhouse schlockfest that’s hard to forget.
Our Planet (S1)
Assuming you’re not sick and tired of marvelling at the breathtaking beauty of the natural world by now, Netflix’s own Our Planet is here to pleasure your eyeballs with more utterly amazing footage of animals, plants and biomes narrated, naturally, by Sir David Attenborough.
With its necessarily strong eco-minded approach, Our Planet wants to further raise awareness of the fragility of the planet’s ecosystem and the effect human activity has had and is having on it. There’s an argument that viewers surely know all this already – polling evidence suggests that the vast majority of people accept that climate change is man-made, and want to arrest and reverse it – but perhaps people don’t quite understand the scale of damage and the alarming rate at which it’s occurring. Watch this if you want a clearer idea of what’s at stake if governments keep sitting on their hands.
Street Food (S1)
The new documentary series from the minds behind Netflix’s long-running culinary showcase Chef’s Table, Street Food focusses on an entirely different form of catering than fine dining. Well, it’s street food, obviously.
Each half-hour episode offers up a beautifully shot look at a different Asian city and the stalls, trucks and holes-in-the-wall responsible for the current wave of world-class street food. From Bangkok’s Michelin-starred crab omelettes to Taiwanese goat stew and Singaporean chicken rice, the simple dished portrayed are guaranteed to have your tummy rumbling by the time the credits roll.
Chris Lilley isn’t just an Australian national treasure, he’s a worldwide international treasure. It’s a position cemented, we think, by his first Netflix original series, which continues the grand tradition he forged with previous mockumentaries Summer Heights High and Angry Boys.
In Lunatics, he plays six typically Lilley-esque grotesques over ten episodes; from a South African pet psychic to a foul-mouthed, Instagram-obsessed Aussie tween visiting relatives in England, Lilley’s caricatures are keenly observed, disturbingly weird and utterly hilarious. To avoid spending too much time with a particular character, each episode spends a little with each of them, steadily building up each one’s full story over the course of the season.