From Marriage Story to Die Hard (all of them): what's streaming in Australia in December

Plus Saoirse Ronan making a trip across the seas, Felicity Jones’ daredevil balloonist, and a post-apocalyptic Sydney

(From left) Saoirse Ronan, Adam Driver and Bruce Willis
(From left) Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, Adam Driver in Marriage Story and Bruce Willis in Die Hard are among the attractions on streaming services in Australia in December. Composite: Lionsgate/Alamy/20th Century Fox
(From left) Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, Adam Driver in Marriage Story and Bruce Willis in Die Hard are among the attractions on streaming services in Australia in December. Composite: Lionsgate/Alamy/20th Century Fox
Luke Buckmaster

Last modified on Fri 29 Nov 2019 00.05 EST


6 Underground

(US, 2019) – out 13 December

Explode-a-palooza director Michael Bay may not have the most philosophically complex approach to creating art, but he certainly makes event movies – particularly loud and dumb ones. The action-thriller 6 Underground – starring Ryan Reynolds as the leader of a group of vigilantes who fake their deaths in order to take down a brutal dictator – will be one of Netflix’s biggest productions, with a budget rumoured to be about US$150m. The official synopsis promises a “new kind of action hero” (I doubt it) and “totally off the grid” agents, which makes me envision heavily armed men running around in the wilderness.

Marriage Story

(US, 2019) – out 6 December

Ordinarily a synopsis that describes an “incisive and compassionate” drama about “a marriage coming apart and a family staying together” might solicit a big loud yawn. Not in this instance, purely because of the talent involved – namely the writer/director Noah Baumbach, who ranks among the most consistently impressive American dramatists working today. Baumbach’s oeuvre includes Frances Ha, Mistress America, Greenberg and (my favourite) The Squid and the Whale. Marriage Story stars Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta and Alan Alda.

Honourable mentions: The Two Popes (film, out 20 December); Tropic Thunder, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghost (film, out 1 December); I, Tonya (film, 21 December); Lady Bird (film, 8 December); Apache: La vida de Carlos Tevez, V Wars (TV, 5 December).


The Commons

(Australia, 2019) – out 25 December

A futuristic Sydney as seen in The Commons
A futuristic Sydney as seen in The Commons, a new apocalyptic TV series on Stan. Photograph: Stan

Remember when images such as the one above – a computer-enhanced picture of a climate-devastated future Sydney – used to belong only to apocalyptic movies? Not, you know, real life?

That still is from Stan’s futuristic, eight-part drama The Commons, which explores “the intersection of climate change and biotechnology.” Showrunner Shelley Birse (who created ABC’s The Code) will have to work hard to present a world substantially more terrifying than the one we currently live in. With a budget north of $20 million, the cast is led by Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt and Damon “he’s everywhere right now” Herriman.

The Truman Show

(USA, 1998) – out 28 December

The director Peter Weir’s 1998 masterpiece brilliantly fleshes out a simple, single premise: what if somebody was the star of a reality TV show and they didn’t know it? That person is the goofy and endearing insurance salesman Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey). Weir and screenwriter Andrew Niccol evoke many interesting discussions, including the exploitative consequences of voyeurism and the end of privacy. Lingering at the film’s heart is a near Kakfa-esque message: that reality isn’t just a state of mind but an environment created and manipulated by powerful vested interests.

Honourable mentions: The Wolf of Wall Street (film), Work in Progress (TV), Star Trek Collection, Steven Spielberg collection (Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Munich, Catch Me If You Can and all four Indiana Jones movies), The King’s Speech (film).

ABC iView

The Cry

(UK/Australia, 2018) – out now

Ewan Leslie and Jenna Coleman in The Cry
Ewan Leslie and Jenna Coleman play parents whose child goes missing in TV series The Cry. Photograph: Lachlan Moore

This gobsmacking ABC/BBC co-production is the standout Australian TV series of the year: a tense, twitchy, gasp-inducing drama that tinkers on an emotional knife edge for four enthralling episodes. Filmed in Australia and Glasglow with a majority Australian cast, Jenna Coleman and Ewan Leslie play parents dealing with the sudden loss of their baby boy, who disappears one night while they are shopping.

Who took him? What happened? The mystery is teased through brilliant non-linear writing and editing, oscillating between time and place in a way that makes the show feel like it is living, evolving, mutating. Not to be missed.

Rosehaven seasons 1-3

(Australia, 2016–2019) – out 1 December

Written by and starring comedians Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor, who play odd couple real estate agents living in an idyllic Tasmanian town, the delightful Rosehaven never gets old. It taps into something that feels increasingly rare: a sense of quietness and reprieve; of time spent away from the hustle bustle of city life.

Honourable mentions: Friday on My Mind, Killing Eve, Squinters, Rake, Get Krack!n (TV, out now).

SBS on Demand


(UK/Ireland/Canada, 2015) – 14 December

Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen in Brooklyn
Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen in Brooklyn. Photograph: Allstar/LIONSGATE

Director John Crowley’s 1950s period drama is steered by a deeply dignified performance from Saoirse Ronan. She plays Eilis Lacey, an Irish woman migrating to America in search of a better life, navigating her way through the titular location. This beautifully melancholic picture captures a state of mind difficult to represent in visual terms: the uncertainty of whether certain predicaments we experience in life constitute the beginning or end of a journey.

Yves Bélanger’s beautiful cinematography has a soft feel, with warm and temperate colours complementing a narrative that avoids the sorts of cliches that often terrorise tissue box dramas – such as wishy-washy voiceover tracks from wizened people reminiscing about times past. This is a drama told with class and style.

Honourable mentions: La Femme Nikita, Carol, Brisby Bear (films); The Bridge seasons 1-2, The Tunnel seasons 1-3, The Bisexual, American Soul (TV).

Amazon Plus

The Aeronauts

(USA, UK – 2019) – out 20 December

When was the last time you watched a movie about a daredevil balloon pilot? Exactly. Never. Inspired by real events, Amazon’s original film The Aeronauts promises to deliver head-in-the-clouds spectacle, in a very literal sort of way, with Felicity Jones leading the cast as the aforementioned daredevil and Eddie Redmayne co-starring as a hotshot meteorologist (they previously starred together in 2014’s The Theory of Everything). Set in 1862, the pair embark on an expedition to break the world record for the highest balloon flight.

The reviews so far have been generally positive. Lines of dialogue captured in the trailer, however, suggest a dangerous tendency to indulge in some, shall we say, hot air. There are cheesy declarations such as “you are the only person who could fly us higher than anyone has ever been” and “some reach for the stars, some push others towards them.”

Runners-up: Almost Famous, Footloose, The Aviator, Light of My Life, What Men Want (films).


Die Hard marathon

(US – 1988–2013) – out 26 December

Samuel L Jackson and Bruce Willis in Die Hard: With a Vengeance.
Samuel L Jackson and Bruce Willis in Die Hard: With a Vengeance. Photograph: Allstar/20TH CENTURY FOX

Yippee ki yay! The Die Hard movies are classics that stand up well over time – particularly the first and the third. The 1988 original, which of course stars Bruce Willis as well as a terrific Alan Rickman, is the perfect Christmas movie for people who prefer guns, death, destruction and explosions over all that stuff about being jolly and kind and loving your neighbour. Willis plays NYPD officer John McClane, who indulges in everyday sort of activities – such as combating terrorists and mercenaries, one of whom (in the third film) plays a deeply twisted version of Simon Says.

A Christmas Carol

(UK, 2019) – release date to be confirmed

Adaptations of Charles Dickens’ yuletide classic usually depict the famous miser Ebenezer Scrooge as an old, shrivelled up, dried prune of a man – not 50-something and hot, like Guy Pearce. The Australian actor will star in the key role, opposite Tom Hardy and the motion capture suit-addicted Andy Serkis, playing the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Runners-up: Upright, Mr Robot season four (TV), Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (film).

Apple TV+

Truth Be Told

(USA, 2019) – out 6 December

Building out its exclusively original catalogue, Apple TV+’s coming drama sounds vaguely Serial-esque: about a podcaster who reopens the murder case that shot her to stardom. She is played by gravitas-o-matic Octavia Spencer, who realises the man she put behind bars might not be guilty after all. Dang. He’s played by an actor well versed in grappling with down-and-out situations: Aaron Paul, aka Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad.


(USA, 2019) – out 6 December

Significant positive buzz surrounds this coming-of-age drama about a 17-year-old Pakistani-American woman, which screened at this year’s Sundance and Toronto film festivals. Many critics have praised the lead performance from Australian actor Geraldine Viswanathan, including Jeanette Catsoulis of the New York Times, who described her as “quite simply sublime”. The film follows her character, Hala, a skateboarder and talented writer, as she grapples with a range of dramas at home and at school.