History is revisited and reimagined in some of the film and TV highlights headed to streaming services in May.
Here’s a look at what to watch for this month:
“THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD”
Oscar-winning “Moonlight” filmmaker Barry Jenkins directs the unflinching story of a young woman who escapes slavery on a Georgia plantation through the Underground Railroad. But in this series, the railroad is no longer just a metaphor, but a literal track operated as a route to freedom outside the antebellum south. Based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Jenkins’ 10-part limited series is an unblinking portrayal of the atrocities committed against Black slaves that's balanced by the gentle sincerity the director has brought to his acclaimed films. (Amazon Prime Video, May 14)
“1971: THE YEAR THAT MUSIC CHANGED EVERYTHING”
Popular music helps define every era of modern history, but rarely so much as it did in 1971, a year when politics, culture and song collided. That’s the perspective of this eight-part docuseries that plunges deeper into a turbulent period in U.S. history than perhaps any other music documentary before it. Using the words of John Lennon, the songs of Joni Mitchell and the iconic vocals of Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, this time capsule relies on archival footage and interviews to capture a world on the brink of seismic change. (Apple TV Plus, May 21)
Ten years after its third season wrapped, HBO’s therapy drama returns for a fourth go-around against the backdrop of a society in tumult. This time, Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black”) is Dr. Brooke Taylor, stepping in for Gabriel Byrne, who previously led the series as Dr. Paul Weston. Each episode follows Taylor as she helps patients grapple with personal challenges, the global pandemic and recent social and cultural upheaval that’s left many of them searching for answers. The supporting cast includes Anthony Ramos (“Hamilton”) and Joel Kinnaman (“For All Mankind”). (Crave/HBO, May 23, new episodes Sundays and Mondays)
Ewan McGregor dons the guise of celebrity fashion designer Ray Halston Frowick in this five-part limited series about the man's life of success and excess. Starting in the 1960s, he raised the bar on how New York's high society dressed and by the 1970s he was offering looks to some of the biggest names while mingling at Studio 54. Created by Sharr White (“The Affair”) and executive produced by Ryan Murphy (“The Politician,” “Hollywood”), “Halston” is packed with a mesmerizing dose of energy and style. (Netflix, May 14)
Christopher Nolan’s time-inversion thriller probably captured more attention last summer for plowing into theatres in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic than it did for its perplexing storyline. But what left moviegoers puzzled at the cinemas could prove more enticing at home with the "rewind" button close at hand. John David Washington and Robert Pattinson star in the mindbender that's packed with explosive action and big twists. (Crave/HBO, May 7)
"THE DONUT KING" - The rise and fall of Ted Ngoy, a Cambodian refugee who built a doughnut empire in the United States, is captured in this feature-length documentary. (CBC Gem, Now streaming)
"RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE DOWN UNDER" - The ever-expanding universe of "RuPaul's Drag Race" heads to Australia and New Zealand where 10 queens face judges Michelle Visage and comedian Rhys Nicholson in hopes of becoming the next drag superstar. (Crave, May 1, episodes weekly)
"AMERICAN HORROR STORY" – The first three seasons of FX’s cult favourite anthology series, "Murder House," "Asylum" and "Coven," arrive on streaming in one fell swoop. (Disney Plus/Star, May 7)
"PSYCHO GOREMAN" – Two kids mistakenly resurrect an evil alien overlord, but come into the possession of a magic amulet that forces him to obey their every command. Toronto writer-director Steven Kostanski's absurd horror-comedy is a love-it-or-hate-it mashup of cult cinema favourites that meets at the crossroads of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," "Masters of the Universe" and 1980s flick "The Gate." (Shudder, May 20)
RETURNING SERIES – Netflix highlights include "Selena" (May 4), "Who Killed Sara?" (May 19), and "Special" (May 20) and "Master of None" (May 23). Then there's "Bad Banks" (May 14) on CBC Gem and "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" (May 14) on Disney Plus.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2021.
David Friend, The Canadian Press