Netflix’s latest film is Happiness for Beginners, based on the novel of the same name and stars Ellie Kemper – best known for The Office and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – as Helen, a recent divorcée who decides to go on a wilderness trail to help jumpstart her life.
She’s joined by an eclectic group of fellow travellers including a wannabe actor (Nico Santos – Superstore, Crazy Rich Asians, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), a flighty young woman looking to overcome her fear of wood (Gus Birney – Dickinson, the podcast series Bloodthirsty Hearts), a baby-faced taskmaster wilderness guide (Ben Cook – Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story) and her brother’s friend, failed doctor and romantic interest (Luke Grimes – Fifty Shades of Grey, El Camino Christmas).
With its simple setting and concept, following our cast through their nature trek, the film allows itself to shift between dramatic revelations on its cast and humorous asides. The strongest part of Happiness for Beginners is its allowance for each of its characters to grow – Helen herself has a fairly typical rom-com arc of opening herself up to the world and to romance, but the movie allows each of its characters to progress. Lukes Grimes’s Jake reveals himself over the course of the movie, starting mildly antagonistic, and Ben Cook manages to steal a number of scenes with his curt and often cruel jabs at the people ostensibly in his care.
Happiness for Beginners may not break the rom-com mould, but it’s a good showcase of what a strong cast can do with solid material.
On the other hand, one of Stan’s latest additions is the series Twisted Metal based on the Playstation video game series. Twisted Metal was a series based on the concept of pitching cars in battle royales, including strange weapons and characters. The series picks up on the general setting – it’s a post-apocalyptic world, though it looks like the world ended in the early 2000s judging from flashbacks.
We follow John Doe, a ‘milkman’ – a courier who travels through the wastelands to deliver goods to the surviving cities in the United States, all sealed behind unscalable walls. When John is given a new job he’s offered a dream reward, sanctuary in a city, and his first real home. It’s too good to be true. As he sets out, he encounters Quiet, a bandit who had been hunted and branded by rogue ‘peace-keepers’ who style themselves as the return of the law – who is forced to join him even as she plans revenge on the man who killed her brother.
Twisted Metal has more than a little in common with the Mad Max series, though isn’t able to provide quite the same spectacle. It does however offer a strong cast – including Anthony Mackie (We Have a Ghost, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, The Banker) as John Doe, Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, In The Heights, Encanto) as Quiet, Will Arnett (Arrested Development, BoJack Horseman, Murderville, Muppets Haunted Mansion) as the voice of the murderous clown, and iconic part of the game Sweet Tooth and Thomas Haden Church (Spider-Man: No Way Home, Easy A, the 2019 Hellboy, Divorce) as lawman Agent Stone.
All episodes are now streaming.
Recently announced to return for a second season is the Logie-award winning Colin from Accounts. The series stars and is written and created by Patrick Brammall (Upper Middle Bogan, Offspring, both versions of No Activity) and Harriet Dyer (The Invisible Man, Love Child, the Australian No Activity, American Auto).
Brammall plays “Flash” Gordon Crappe, a micro-brewery owner in Sydney who gets distracted by Dyer’s Ashley – a young student doctor dealing with a bad break-up – and accidentally runs over a dog. The two take the dog to a vet and begin an uneasy relationship built on taking care of the dog – who they dub Colin.
Colin from Accounts excels at unexpected comedy, providing ridiculous scenarios that veer wildly between gross-out comedy to extremely relatable everyday occurrences. The show indulges in dramatic moments and builds much of its comedy on the inability of its two leads to communicate to one another.
Misunderstandings, accidents, and personality clashes make up much of Colin’s humour. The show also makes plenty of its relatively small cast, with only Brammall and Dyer appearing significantly in all episodes, with a handful of supporting characters who inform much of their decisions.
Dyer’s Ashley is surrounded by her best friend (Emma Harvie), her ex-boyfriend (Tai Hara), and her overbearing and hypercritical mother (Helen Thomson). Brammall’s Gordon has his micro-brewery’s co-owner (Genevieve Hegney) and their employee Brett (Michael Logo).
Colin from Accounts offers plenty of charm, along with plenty of laughs.