Crime thrillers and cannabis cooking competition among April streaming picks

With Canadians spending most of their time indoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it's fortunate that streaming services were already ramping up a busy month of programming for April.

Netflix is set to feed reality-series buffs another conversation starter on April 17 with "Too Hot to Handle," which gathers a group of beautiful people at a resort before revealing they could win a pot of $100,000 by holding off on sex for the duration of their stay. Spoiler: things get complicated very quickly.

And on Disney Plus, two wildlife docs debut on April 3: "Elephant," narrated by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and "Dolphin Reef" with Natalie Portman.

Meanwhile, newcomer streaming service Quibi gets off the ground on April 6 with a selection of 50 short-form programs that can only be watched on mobile devices. Among the highlights are a refresh on prank series "Punk'd" with Chance the Rapper, home renovation show "Murder House Flip" and Reese Witherspoon's animal doc series "Fierce Queens." The platform offers a 90-day free trial for viewers who sign up before the launch date.

Here's a roundup of what's worth streaming in April:

 

"Defending Jacob"

An assistant district attorney, played by Chris Evans, confronts the ultimate moral and ethical dilemma when his son is accused of murdering one of his schoolmates and leaving his body in a forest. First assigned to investigate the case, he's pulled off it when details emerge of his son's potential involvement. But that only pushes his resolve to prove his son's innocence. Based on the 2012 novel, this eight-episode limited series gives Evans the sort of meaty role that could land him in contention at the Emmy Awards. He's backed up by a stellar supporting cast that includes Michelle Dockery as his shell-shocked wife. (Apple TV Plus, April 24)

 

"Run"

Scene-stealing Merritt Wever, who played Scarlett Johansson's kooky sister in last year's Oscar-nominated "Marriage Story," has the spotlight in this eight-episode dramedy on HBO. Wever plays Ruby, a suburban mother who drops her comfortable life the instant she gets a text from her old college flame that simply reads: "Run." She meets up with Billy (played by Domhnall Gleeson from "Ex Machina") at Grand Central Station and together they embark on a cross-country train ride that spirals fast. Co-created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge ("Fleabag") and Vicky Jones ("Killing Eve"), the series takes a few episodes to really find its footing, but once it does, the twists are delicious. (Crave/HBO, April 12, weekly episodes)

 

"Cooked with Cannabis"

R&B singer Kelis brought all the boys to the yard with her hit "Milkshake," but these days she's doubling as a professional chef serving up cannabis dishes. This new competition series pairs her with Portland chef Leather Storrs as they oversee experienced culinary artists who are racing against the clock to make the best tasting cannabis-infused dishes. A rotating lineup of celebrity judges stop by, including Ricki Lake, Elle King and NBA player John Salley. But what makes "Cooked with Cannabis" stand out from other cannabis cooking shows is its spirited effort to explain the intricacies of cooking with marijuana to newcomers. (Netflix, April 17)

 

"Outer Banks"

After a hurricane sweeps through their town, a group of mischievous teenagers discover a sunken ship filled with a boatload of secrets — one of which could answer what happened to the ringleader's missing father. Set against the backdrop of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, this modern pulp mystery is packed with chiselled bodies and steamy locales, and should find a strong following with fans of "Riverdale" who like their drama with a side of youthful angst. (Netflix, April 15)

 

"Bad Education"

High school can be so dramatic, and especially so within the upper ranks of the Roslyn School District where Long Island superintendent Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) is doubling as mentor and embezzler alongside his colleague Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney). But when he encourages a young student reporter to start looking deeper into a story, he winds up sending her on a path that winds all the way back to his own shady dealings. Acquired by HBO at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, this sharp-witted comedy is based on a real scandal that rocked a New York school district. (Crave/HBO, April 25)

 

In Case You Missed It (titles already streaming):

 

"The Other Two"

When their little brother rockets to fame as a teenage pop star on social media, two adult siblings ride his coattails in hopes of reigniting their own failed showbiz aspirations. That's the starting point for this sometimes cringeworthy — but often hilarious — take on the power struggle of a family hypnotized by celebrity culture. Molly Shannon plays the single mom who's turned her son's popularity into her own road to success, one she's dubbed her "Year of Yes." Created by "Saturday Night Live" writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, this underappreciated episodic series sets a fire underneath the YouTube era. (Crave)

 

Scores by Quincy Jones

Unmistakable in his singularity, 28-time Grammy winner Quincy Jones is often described as a purveyor of popular music production — but he's an influential film composer in his own right, too. Criterion Channel has brought together many of his best works in this collection that pays tribute to his unique cinematic sound, a blend of blues, funk, bossa nova and pop. Start with a Sidney Poitier double bill of "In the Heat of the Night" and "They Call Me Mister Tibbs!" before moving along to Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," and then round it out with the decidedly lighter psychedelic flair of "Cactus Flower" and 1970 comedy-adventure "The Out-of-Towners." (Criterion Channel)

 

"Unorthodox"

A young Brooklyn woman flees the world she's known in a strict Hasidic community to start anew in Berlin, splitting from an arranged marriage with the help of a friend. But her disappearance doesn't go unnoticed, with her husband trailing closely behind her as she attempts to escape a past of limitations and find her own identity. Inspired by Deborah Feldman's memoir of the same name, this four-part series could position Israeli actress Shira Haas as one to watch for her nuanced turn as the lead character. (Netflix)

 

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David Friend, The Canadian Press