Pass the Remote: Ron Howard’s ‘Rebuilding Paradise,’ ‘Last Chance U’ at Laney College, and more

Netflix’s popular docuseries “Last Chance U” journeys to Oakland’s Laney College for its fifth season, kicking off July 28. (Image courtesy of Netflix)

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. (Available on Netflix.)


Mayor Michael Tubbs makes encouraging high school students to strive for a higher education one of his goals. He’s the subject of the new documentary “Stockton on My Mind.” (Image courtesy of HBO)

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 on HBO and HBO Max.)


Cara Theobold and Gethin Anthony star in the head-trippin’ romance “Around the Sun.” (Image courtesy of Giant Pictures)

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.)


A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise in Ron Howard’s documentary “Rebuilding Paradise.” (Photo by Noah Berger)

“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/)

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