The Best Stuff on Hulu in April
Many Hulu viewers’ eyeballs will naturally be drawn to either the Oscar broadcast or the arrival of the new season of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But for those who feel the Elizabeth Moss-led series has devolved into revenge porn, there are things new and old that might be worth your attention instead. There’s a zombie film game-changer from Danny Boyle and an acclaimed tale of alien communication from Denis Villanueve. Going to school becomes more complicated with a rash of spontaneous combustion or the development of telekinetic abilities. A viewer can catch a much-loved tale of female friendship boasting a performance and a song by Whitney Houston or they can follow Greta Thunberg in her efforts to save the world. Whether you go for an investigation of possible murder by sasquatch or seeing Jennifer Aniston shine in a lesser known Elmore Leonard adaptation, you might find a few pleasant surprises in this April’s Hulu offerings.
28 Days Later–Director Danny Boyle revolutionized the zombie genre by introducing the concept of fast-running zombies. Well-meaning animal liberation activists accidentally release the Rage virus on an unsuspecting world. Bicycle messenger Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes from his coma into a world where the Rage virus has turned most of humanity into vicious and violent monsters. He eventually meets up with a small handful of survivors, but London soon becomes uninhabitable. The possibility of salvation comes from a small barricaded base set up by a group of soldiers in Manchester.
Bulworth–Incumbent U.S. Senator Bulworth (Warren Beatty) has decided to burn his career and life all down. He’s lost millions in the stock market and he finds no real difference between the two major political parties any more. After he arranges to be killed in three days, the Senator’s impending death allows him to publicly speak politically unpleasant truths. (Sadly, his comment on how insurance company payoffs prevent national health care from becoming a reality in America unfortunately holds true today.) But it’s the beautiful Nina (Halle Berry) who will introduce the Senator to a reality he hasn’t even envisioned.
Devil In A Blue Dress–Director Carl Franklin adapts for the screen the first of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels. Recently unemployed World War II veteran Rawlins (Denzel Washington) gets hired to find the missing Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals). Monet used to date a man who’s now running for mayor, and she was last seen hiding out in the world of black jazz clubs and bars. But when people start getting killed, Rawlins calls on his semi-homicidal friend Mouse (an unforgettable Don Cheadle) for help.
Hysterical–A lucky stand-up comedian will find their comic voice after about ten years of stage time. Female comedians may possess the same comic chops as men. But as Andrea Nevins’ documentary shows, women didn’t always get the stage time they needed to hone their craft. How female comedians went from competitors to mutual supporters of each other is the focus of Nevins’ film. Interviews with and performances from such names as Margaret Cho, Bonnie McFarlane, and Iliza Shlesinger pepper the film. A highlight of the documentary will undoubtedly be seeing comedian (and rape survivor) Kelly Bachman draw on her trauma to heckle Harvey Weinstein, who’s attending one of her performances.
Life Of Crime–This adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s The Switch boasts what’s said to be a great performance by Jennifer Aniston. It’s 1978 Detroit, and Ordell (Mos Def) talks his friend Louis (John Hawkes) into what sounds like a sure-fire kidnapping scheme. Snatch Mickey (Aniston), the wife of sleazoid local businessman Frank (Tim Robbins), stash her at the home of a Nazi gun nut friend, and demand as ransom the fortune Frank has been hiding at his Bahamas tax shelter bank. However, Frank’s not that interested in rescuing Mickey…and Frank’s mistress sees the wrong sort of opportunity in Mickey’s abduction. (Note: For those who’ve seen “Jackie Brown,” yes these are the same Louis and Ordell but younger.)
The Moodys–The series originally intended as a done in one holiday mini-series returns as an ongoing year-round comedy. The setup of elderly parents and adult children forced to live under one roof and try not to drive each other crazy still holds. But getting to this point doesn’t involve a holiday season. Sean Sr. (Dennis Leary) wants to retire and tour the country with wife Ann (Elizabeth Perkins). The family HVAC business would be left in the hands of Sean Jr. However, Ann’s definitely not ready to retire or give up her psychiatry practice. Sean Jr. isn’t as committed to fixing heaters and air conditioners as his father thought. Then children Dan and Bridget come by needing crash space while they figure out where they’re going with their lives. Needless to say, hijinks ensue.
Motel Hell–Think films in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” genre could use a little dark levity? Then try this horror satire. Friendly Farmer Vincent and his sister run the titular backwoods motel. But Vincent’s real specialty is burying unsuspecting travelers alive up to their neck, fattening them up, and then using them as the prime ingredient for the roadside sausages he sells. The stand’s motto is, after all, “It takes all types of critters…to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters.” Get set for such crazy moments as a chainsaw fighting duel or a heroic swing to the rescue on a meathook.
Waiting To Exhale–Forest Whitaker directed this much-loved adaptation of Terry McMillan’s novel. Savannah (Whitney Houston), Robin (Lela Rochon), Bernadine (Angela Bassett), and Gloria (Loretta Devine) are four friends who navigate life, love, and the bonds of sisterhood. The soundtrack includes hits from Houston, Toni Braxton, and Mary J. Blige. Viewers with long memories will remember this film as the one where Bassett’s pissed-off character torches her husband’s BMW (for good reason).
Home Economics–Is it possible to mix income inequality concerns with a family comedy? This series produced by and starring Topher Grace intends to make a try. It’s the story of three adult siblings. The eldest sibling is a financially rocky therapist for at-risk children. She’s also a lesbian married to a teacher. The middle class middle sibling is doing ok financially. The youngest sibling, though, happens to be part of the 1%. Love winds up contending with economic friction.
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay Season 2–Twenty-something gay Nicholas became his half-sisters’ guardian after his father’s sudden death. In the new season, half-sister Matilda blames her siblings for not doing more to keep her in Julliard. Half-sister Genevieve has started questioning Matilda’s sexuality in the most invasive way possible. The parents of Nicholas’ boyfriend are separating. And, oh yes, coronavirus stay-at-home orders have now kicked in.
Rebel–Annie “Rebel” Bello (Katey Sagal) would treat being called a social justice warrior as describing what she does for a living. She may not have a law degree, but that doesn’t stop this blue-collar legal advocate from fighting large corporations or law enforcement for causes she believes in. Executive produced by real-life social justice advocate Erin Brockovich, who very loosely based it on her life.
The Day I Became A God–High school student Yota Narukami expected his last summer before graduation to be an ordinary one where he played video games and studied to get into university. Then Hina Sato crosses Yota’s path. She may look like a child in nun’s clothes, but Sato claims to be the god Odin. The teen understandably doesn’t believe her at first…until she demonstrates her precognitive powers are very real. But what is Yota to do with Sato’s prophecy that the world will end in 30 days?
Spontaneous–Think high school life is tough with worries about drug addiction and school shootings? Now you can add spontaneous human combustion to the list. High school student Mara’s (Katherine Langford, “13 Reasons Why”) life takes a turn for the worse when her classmates suddenly start burning up and exploding. (The dead classmates’ clothes are in great shape, though.) Classmate Dylan (Charlie Plummer, “Lean On Pete”) takes these explosive reminders of life’s shortness to confess to Mara his crush on her. The two students begin a relationship. Yet their classmates are still suddenly burning up and exploding.
Fly Like A Girl–In the US, currently only 7.9% of pilots happen to be female. To encourage a turnaround of this sexist situation, this documentary introduces viewers to the girls and women passionately pursuing their passion for aviation. Interview subjects include U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, astronaut and The Mars Generation founder Abby Harrison, and Shaesta Waiz, who’s the youngest woman who’s flown around the world solo in a single-engine aircraft.
Thelma–Joachim Trier (“Louder Than Bombs”) directs this supernatural lesbian drama. Thelma has gone off to college in Oslo, much to the distress of her protective religious parents. When her sudden epileptic seizure coincides with dozens of birds suddenly slamming themselves against the library windows, she realizes Something Is Wrong. It eventually turns out Thelma is manifesting telekinetic powers, which play havoc with her budding relationship with Anja and her desire to fit in at college.
Sasquatch–Indie darlings The Duplass Brothers executive-produced this bizarre true crime docuseries. Were three men at a Northern California pot farm torn apart limb from limb by a Bigfoot? Investigative journalist David Holthouse heard this story back in 1993. Yet the story still haunts him to the point that he returns to Redwood Country 25 years later to find out the truth of what happened that night. But how prepared will he be for where the story will take him?
Cruel Summer–Jessica Biel produced this thriller series which takes place over three summers in the 1990s. Popular Kate Wallis one day goes missing. Chief suspect in her disappearance is nerdy wannabe Jeanette Turner. But did Kate really lead a charmed life? For that matter, is Kate really who people thought she is? Telling this story from different perspectives might hold the answers.
Greta Thunberg: A Year To Change The World–In this 3-part documentary series, teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg travels from Canada’s burning tar sands to Europe’s coal mines to explore the on the ground phenomena behind the science of climate change. The shutdowns sparked by the coronavirus pandemic gave a taste of how much changing human behavior can help the planet. But how can the complex task of addressing climate change be realized?
The Place Of No Words–In the real world, Mark (director Mark Webber) has a terminal illness which will kill him before his son Bodhi (Bodhi Webber) has his next birthday. Father tries to help the three-year-old boy come to terms with this reality via heartfelt discussions during adventures in the boy’s fantasy land. Bodhi certainly displays an incredible imagination as his land is filled with churning seas, imposing mountains, and a swamp that farts chocolate.
Arrival–Denis Villanueve’s adaptation of Ted Chiang’s “Story Of Your Life” was one of its release year’s best films. Linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) has been recruited by military intelligence to try communicating with alien visitors. Enormous pod-shaped extraterrestrial craft have arrived at 12 different locations around Earth, yet each craft silently hovers over the ground. Dr. Banks as well as quantum physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) seek to understand who’s in these crafts and what they want. Meanwhile, the aliens’ arrival have sparked everything from civil unrest to mass suicides as well as an increase of international tensions…