An intellectual romance with a twist, a life-affirming drama and three standout documentaries — one a series set around Oakland’s Laney College football program, another on a galvanizing mayor in Stockton and the other a Ron Howard film on the devastating Camp Fire — top our streaming picks this week.
• “Last Chance U”: Netflix continues its winning streak with a fifth season of this popular series; this time turning their cameras on Oakland’s Laney College football team right after their exemplary 2018 season, which saw them win home state and national titles. The eight-episode series chronicles coach John Beam and others helping players overcome obstacles — from injuries to their emotional and mental well-being. (Kickoff is July 28.)
• “Stockton On My Mind”: Being the mayor of Stockton requires an innovative thinker, a caring but tough individual who is more of a community advocate than politician. Fortunately, the community got that in the form of Michael Tubbs, the city’s first Black mayor whose election coincided with Donald Trump becoming president. In Marc Levin’s hopeful documentary, Tubbs is an inspiration, a refreshing civic leader who overcame the odds and is willing to overhaul a broken-down system in order to make his city better. His novel programs involve members of the community and encourage education and a better life. It’s a must-see. (Available July 28 on HBO and HBO Max.)
• “Lion Rock”: Another inspirational feature is director Nick Leung’s life-affirmer. Alex Lam plays David Kei, an outdoor climber who loses the use of his legs after an accident. The indefatigable adventurer refuses to be sidelined and trains to climb Lion Rock in a wheelchair. The 2019 film is based on a true story and part of SFFilm’s Hong Kong Cinema 2020 program. Leung, Lam and real-life subject Lai Chi-wai will participate in an online Q&A and screening at 7 p.m. July 29. (https://sffilm.org/event/online-screening-and-qa-lion-rock-with-director-nick-leung-special-guests)
• “Around the Sun”: Speaking of must-sees, prepare to swoon over the dialogue and acting — not to mention cinematography — of this poetic time-shifter. It’s a polished and heady dance of words that pirouettes around a flirtatious attraction that blossoms among the grounds of a gorgeous French chateau. Cara Theobold of “Downton Abbey” and Gethin Anthony of “Game of Thrones” make the literary screenplay from Alameda’s Jonathan Kiefer soar while Oliver Krimpas directs with grace. Prepare to be surprised. (Available July 31: https://www.roxie.com/around-the-sun/ and at https://rafaelfilm.cafilm.org/around-the-sun/. I’ll be moderating a Q&A with Krimpas, Theobold, Anthony and Kiefer at noon, Aug. 6, via the Roxie virtual platform.)
• “Rebuilding Paradise”: The devastating 2018 Camp Fire obliterated the tight-knit community of Paradise. Ron Howard’s moving documentary shares the stories of survivors as they struggle to pick up from the ashes, be it in their town or elsewhere. Howard is a great storyteller and he hones in on a few intimate but telling stories. He also illustrates how man’s notion that it can control the wrath of nature is a foolish one. (Available to stream July 31 via https://www.roxie.com/rebuilding-paradise/ and https://www.roxie.com/rebuilding-paradise/)