April 2022’s Best Streaming Titles: Rurouni Kenshin, Russian Doll, Looper, The Batman
As Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, et al. add more content, it can be difficult to know what to look for amidst all of the newly added titles. Every month, I compile a list of particularly noteworthy and interesting movies and TV shows to add to your streaming queues.
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Rurouni Kenshin: Origins (Apr 1)
Originally released in 2012, Rurouni Kenshin: Origins is the first of five films based on the classic Rurouni Kenshin manga about a samurai who travels Japan seeking to atone for his bloody past. Directed by Keishi Ōtomo and starring Takeru Satoh, Rurouni Kenshin has been widely praised for its faithful adaptation and jaw-dropping action scenes. The fourth and fifth Rurouni Kenshin are already streaming on Netflix; hopefully, the remaining two films be available soon, as well.
Return to Space (Apr 7)
Back in 2018, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin won an Oscar for the documentary Free Solo. While that documentary was firmly grounded on Earth, their latest, Return to Space, chronicles the efforts of Elon Musk’s SpaceX project to get American astronauts back into space. While Return to Space has been billed as inspirational — and certainly looks to be just that — it’ll be interesting to see if it also looks at Musk’s various publicity stunts, like putting a Tesla into orbit.
Metal Lords (Apr 8)
Hunter and Kevin love heavy metal. Unfortunately, they’re the only ones in their school who do. Which is going to make it hard to find a bassist to help them win the upcoming Battle of the Bands. But things get even more complicated when Kevin begins falling for the decidedly un-metal Emily. Metal Lords looks like it could be a fun coming-of-age teen drama, albeit with corpse paint, blast beats, and fiery riffs.
Ultraman, Season Two (Apr 14)
It only took three years, but Netflix’s anime adaptation of the iconic tokusatsu superhero manga returns for a second season with Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki in the directors’ chairs. This time, six Ultramen must join forces in order to battle an alien threat that demands half of planet Earth, or else they’ll kill half of the human race.
Russian Doll, Season Two (Apr 20)
The first season of Netflix’s Russian Doll found Nadia Vulvokov (series creator Natasha Lyonne) stuck in a time loop on her 36th birthday that always ends in her gruesome, ignominious death. Although the first season ended with some semblance of a resolution, season two finds Nadia diving even deeper into her past when she discovers a time portal in Manhattan. By the sounds of things, Russian Doll’s second season will venture more into sci-fi territory, but I still expect it to be plenty trippy and mind-bending.
Bubble (Apr 28)
This Netflix original anime movie is set in Tokyo after the city’s been cut off from the world by mysterious bubbles that change the law of gravity. As a member of one of the city’s parkour gangs, Hibiki spends his days racing around the city — until a chance encounter with a mysterious girl with strange powers threatens to change his world. Bubble was directed by Tetsurō Araki (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Attack on Titan) and written by Gen Urobuchi (Godzilla, Psycho-Pass).
Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles (Apr 28)
Inspired by Stan Sakai’s acclaimed Usagi Yojimbo comic, Samurai Rabbit follows the exploits of a young samurai-in-training named Yuichi Usagi — a descendant of the comic’s Miyamoto Usagi — who seeks to rid a futuristic version of Tokyo of evil forces with the aid of his anthropomorphic allies. The series will blend 3D animation with more traditional-looking 2D animation.
Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in April 2022.
Conspiracy Theory (Apr 1)
In this Richard Donner-directed political thriller, Mel Gibson plays mentally disturbed cab driver who’s obsessed with conspiracy theories — and a beautiful lawyer played by Julia Roberts. She initially dismisses his ideas as nonsense, only to discover that there might be some truth behind his rants after all. Conspiracy Theory also stars Patrick Stewart as a sinister psychiatrist with an interest in Gibson’s character. The movie’s script was written by Brian Helgeland, who won an Oscar for his L.A. Confidential screenplay.
John Carpenter’s Vampires (Apr 1)
In this horror film from the iconic John Carpenter, James Woods leads a group of Vatican-sponsored vampire hunters. After most of his team is wiped out by an older vampire, he teams up with an inexperienced priest to track down the vampire before an ancient relic renders the monster unstoppable. Vampires might not be top-tier Carpenter, but it’s still pretty entertaining nevertheless.
Looper (Apr 1)
Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star opposite each other in this thriller about a hitman who squares off against his future self as they both search for a powerful psychic who could alter the future. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Looper injects some clever new twists into the tried and true time travel formula. Johnson previously worked with Gordon-Levitt in 2005’s Brick.
Let the Right One In (Apr 8)
Constantly bullied at school, young Oskar is in desperate need of a friend. But when he strikes up a burgeoning friendship with his new neighbor, a strange girl named Eli, he soon discovers that she harbors a strange and deadly secret. Adapted from the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is one of the best vampire movies in recent years, thanks to its wintry atmosphere, restrained storytelling that avoids obvious horror movie clichés, and affecting performances.
Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in April 2022.
Amazon Prime Video
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Apr 1)
After watching this charming and elegant documentary, you’ll never look at your job the same way again. You’ll certainly never look at sushi the same way again. Jiro Ono is the world’s most celebrated sushi chef, and his constant drive to hone and perfect his craft is inspiring, just as his joy in producing sushi is infectious. And yet, the documentary doesn’t shy away from the personal cost of such devotion. Read my review over at Christ and Pop Culture.
Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior (Apr 1)
Ong Bak is one of those films that, while you watch it, you can’t help asking yourself: How did nobody die making this movie? Filled with breathtaking — and bone-crunching — fights, Ong Bak stars Tony Jaa as Ting, a naïve young country villager who travels to the big city of Bangkok in order to retrieve a stolen Buddha from a criminal gang. The gang is merciless, so it’s a good thing that Ting’s a master of Muay Thai kickboxing. Ong Bak was an action cinema sensation when it was released back in 2003 (read my review), and its stunts and fight choreography are still as thrilling today.
Rushmore (Apr 1)
Rushmore tells the story of one Max Fischer, a student at the titular private school. Despite being involved in countless extracurricular clubs, most notably the drama club, he’s a terrible student. Rushmore was one of Wes Anderson’s earliest films, but his aesthetic was fully realized even then. Rushmore is also one of his funniest films (read my review) from Fischer’s rivalry with Bill Murray’s character for the affections of a new teacher to the Vietnam War-inspired high school production that ends the film.
Shanghai Noon (Apr 1)
The unlikely pairing of Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson proves to be action comedy gold in 2000’s Shanghai Noon. Chan plays an Imperial Chinese soldier who arrives in the American Old West in order to retrieve a kidnapped princess. Shortly after arriving, he crosses paths with an infamous train robber played by Owen Wilson. One of Chan’s best Hollywood films, Shanghai Noon has all of the stunts, fights, and laughs that you expect from a Jackie Chan movie, with Owen Wilson’s own brand of comedy an added bonus.
The Sixth Sense (Apr 1)
With its story about a young boy who can see dead people, The Sixth Sense is the movie that put writer/director M. Night Shyamalan on the map. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the movie features Haley Joel Osment in one of the best child actor performances of all time, and a solid supporting cast that includes Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, and Olivia Williams. And of course, one heckuva twist ending that blew audiences’ minds back in 1999 — and is still pretty effective even after multiple viewings.
All the Old Knives (Apr 8)
This espionage thriller stars Chris Pine as a CIA operative who is tasked with finding a mole in the organization. His mission takes him into a shadowy world of lies and treachery, and is complicated by his reunion with a former partner and lover. Adapted from the Olen Steinhauer novel and directed by Janus Metz, All the Old Knives also stars Laurence Fishburne, Thandiwe Newton, and Jonathan Pryce.
Outer Range (Apr 15)
After his daughter-in-law mysteriously disappears, a Wyoming rancher and his family are drawn into a series of increasingly strange events in their close-knit community, culminating in the appearance of a bizarre dark void on their land. Outer Range stars Josh Brolin as the family patriarch trying to hold things together. The Amazon original series also stars Will Patton, Tom Pelphrey, Imogen Poots, and Lili Taylor.
Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime Video in April 2022.
The Batman (Apr 19)
The latest incarnation of Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader, arrives on HBO Max this month. Set during Batman’s early years, The Batman finds the young Dark Knight chasing down the Riddler, a dangerous serial killer who has it out for Gotham City’s elite — and might reveal some secrets of the Wayne family. Directed by Matt Reeves, the film has been praised for its darkly atmospheric style and Pattinson’s performance, while also criticized for being yet another gloomy affair.
The Blair Witch Project (Apr 30)
When three student filmmakers venture into a Maryland forest to investigate a local myth, they soon become hopelessly lost while assaulted by strange and frightening phenomena — all of which suggest that the myth is more than just a myth. Its legacy may be tarnished thanks to the countless films that have copied its “found footage” aesthetic, but when The Blair Witch Project debuted in 1999, it was unlike anything seen before. More importantly for a horror film, it was absolutely terrifying.
Here’s everything arriving on HBO Max in April 2022.