Ever feel like there’s too much to watch, and you don’t know where to start? Well don’t worry. Our Film & TV editor Hidzir Junaini will be rounding up only the very best things to hit your screens at the end of every month! Skip the mediocre and delve right into the good stuff.
Beyond the Oscar contenders and great horror that typically dominate this season, our October movie picks also feature some fantastic true stories ranging from revealing documentaries to compelling docudramas. Meanwhile, Netflix’s assortment of monsters, ghouls and demons (some scary, some funny, some heroic) command our TV viewing habits, alongside other streaming standouts on Facebook Watch and Amazon Prime.
Written and directed by Sandi Tan, Shirkers’ stranger than fiction documentary is a love letter to the lost history of Singapore’s young renegade filmmakers and the country’s bygone charm, as well as an exorcism of the ghost of a narcissistic, cinephile grifter who sabotaged Tan’s film. The creative DIY highs of her avant-garde passion project’s production, is contrasted with the heartbreaking frustration and strained friendships of it’s unfinished aftermath. Funny and poignant, this inventive investigation is both a celebration of outsider art and a cautionary tale.
The entirety of Searching takes place on screens, following a father’s desperate search for his missing daughter through FaceTime, Skype, text chains, Instagram posts, YouTube, and a variety of other apps. Aneesh Chaganty’s feature debut isn’t just an innovative piece of storytelling made for this social media age, it evokes more effective emotional intimacy and suspenseful momentum than any thriller this year. This is an impressive technical marvel that layers its mystery with commentary about the prevalence of computers and phones in our lives.
Paul Greengrass’ latest docudrama (he previously directed Bloody Sunday, United 93 and Captain Phillips) is a tremendously visceral account of Norway’s deadliest terrorist attack. The film is masterful but incredibly difficult to watch, with the massacre on Utøya (where 69 people were killed, mostly kids) being one of the most harrowing and horrifying sequences you’ll ever see depicted onscreen. In dealing with the tragedy’s wake, Greengrass also offers a grounded account of the mass murderer’s trial, and the emotional toll of the survivors’ struggle to recover.
BlaKkKlansman is a righteous return to form for Spike Lee, offering blunt and biting condemnation of white supremacists, vibrantly wrapped-up in a pulpy fantasy based upon a real-life true story. Lee clearly pays homage to classic blaxploitation in terms of sound and style, whilst cleverly upending the genre’s tropes in sharply subversive ways. It’s a rare mix that can go from heroic and tragic to hilarious and absurd – resulting in blistering social commentary that’s exhilarating in its execution and distressing in its messaging. Read our full review here.
First Man is not the rah-rah astronaut movie most of us are accustomed to. Damien Chazelle’s film is the most grounded space movie ever – careful to consider the personal tragedies, upsetting catastrophes and painful cost of humanity’s stratospheric ambition. Technically dazzling, emotionally honest (Ryan Gosling’s restraint is perfect for Neil Armstrong’s famed stoicism) and frighteningly visceral (ingenuity and bravery are constantly fraught by technological fragility), First Man is an unvarnished account of the perilous road to Apollo 11.
John Carpenter and new director David Gordon Green have wisely erased all those other sub-par Halloween sequels from canon to deliver the franchise’s one, true continuation with this 2018 update. Set 40 years after the events of the 1978 classic, a traumatized but combat-ready Laurie Strode gets set for one final confrontation against asylum escapee Michael Myers. This entertaining and self-aware film is the Terminator 2 of slashers, serving as a tribute and evolution – with clever callbacks, gorier kills, grittier characterization, and rousing vengeance.
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga astonish in their feature film directorial and acting debuts respectively. Soaring, tragic and filled with goosebump-inducing moments, A Star Is Born wows and wallops you with grandiose emotions, evoking the magic of old-fashioned cinema. This modern update of a seminal musical fable is an absolute triumph that will make you sing, swoon and sob. Cooper’s terrific take manages to make an old showbiz melodrama feel electrifyingly fresh through grounded performances and a fantastic soundtrack. Read our full review here.
Green Room director Jeremy Saulnier’s latest is an oppressively brutal and disturbing horror set in the Alaskan wilderness. Hold The Dark‘s unrelenting white-knuckle tension is frequently jolted by moments of truly shocking violence (there’s a jaw-dropping action sequence in the middle that’s as thrilling as it is terrifying) that will leave you gasping for air. Whether you believe the film’s grisly happenings are due to demonic possession, or humanity’s descent into our basest primal instincts, this a bloody and bone-chilling meditation on the darkness within and without.
Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. is an intimate and eye-opening autobiographical documentary profiling M.I.A.’s journey from refugee to pop star. Most strikingly, Steven Loveridge’s film paints Maya Arulpragasam as an immigrant activist first and musician second, ensuring that her unique life story and renegade voice stand apart from your standard music biopic. From her family’s roots in the Sri Lankan civil war to M.I.A.’s outspoken attempts to shed light on the victims of oppression, this film is a passionate rebuttal to those who discredit her political perspective.
The Haunting of Hill House is the greatest horror series ever created for television. Mike Flanagan (director of the fantastic Gerald’s Game) has created a sophisticated and spooky slow-burn, while telling some very emotional stories about the fractured family that inhabits Hill House. Try to imagine This Is Us in a haunted house, and you’ll kind of get the series’ compelling, character-driven genius. Beyond ghosts, this show explores how we can be haunted in many other ways (grief, mistakes, addiction, regret, etc..) through lyrical character studies.
Sorry For Your Loss is a beautifully acted new Facebook Watch drama created by playwright Kit Steinkellner. This meticulously observed portrait of grief combines lo-fi intimacy with high-end acting. Elizabeth Olsen is a revelation in her meatiest and most challenging role to date, and she’s supported by wonderful performances from Kelly Marie Tran and Janet McTeer. It’s rare to see fiction so thoughtfully explore the many layers of bereavement (it’s often lazily boiled down to loud emotion), but Sorry For Your Loss resonates because of its sensitivity and nuance.
Since its first season, The Good Place has repeatedly rebooted its central premise and shifted our understanding of its setting and what its characters are capable of. That it’s still able to do this so often and skillfully in its third season, without becoming predictable, is an astonishing feat. This is television’s smartest comedy right now, operating on a whole other level. It’s complex emotional narratives are often laced with astute lessons on moral philosophy, offering plenty to think about while relentlessly plying you with whip-smart puns and pop culture zingers.
Based on Philip K. Dick’s acclaimed novel, The Man In The High Castle posits an alternate history where The Axis powers won World War II – specifically the United States which is now ruled by the Japanese Empire (in the west) and the Nazi Reich (in the east). Now back after a lengthy hiatus, this third season continues to explore fascinating socio-political dynamics through the lens of nuanced characters. However the show is now invigorated by new sci-fi elements as the fascist regimes and the Resistance reckon with the discovery of the multiverse.
While still about the evils of bigoted human religious fundamentalists, and the bloody righteous fury of a grieving Dracula – this second season of Castlevania is a more melancholic and measured ensemble piece interested in motivation and plot. Between the political intrigue of frustrated soldiers within Dracula’s court, to the dysfunctional dynamic of humanity’s heroes, the show’s new focus on character development is different, but equally compelling. Complemented by gorgeous animation and great action, Castlevania is still the gold standard for video game adaptations.
Netflix’s first MCU series proves itself to still be it’s best in this phenomenal third season. Daredevil is back in black, and back to basics as a broken Matt Murdock deals with a crisis of faith even as his greatest foe Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio remains magnificent) is released from prison. But beyond their dense and dark game of cat and mouse, the series is bolstered by breathtaking fight sequences and emotionally compelling arcs for it’s excellent supporting cast.
The farewell season of Parts Unknown features six episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s travels prior to his tragic suicide earlier this year. These last few culinary journeys are certainly emotional, but they’re also wonderful, life-affirming and full of candor. While his trip to Kenya with W. Kamau Bell is the last to feature Bourdain’s narration, other completed episodes in Indonesia, Texas, Spain and New York City also offer beautiful insights into his love for food and humanity.
Based on Luke Pearson’s beloved graphic novel series, Hilda is a charming little cartoon full of wonder and adventure. This adorable tale follows a free-spirited little girl (voiced by Bella Ramsey, aka Lyanna Mormont from Game of Thrones) as she is forced to move from her home in a vast magical forest full of elves and giants, to the bustling city of Trollberg, where she meets new friends and even stranger creatures. If you need a light and easy all-ages binge, this is it.
Netflix’s gross animated comedy about hormone monsters and the horrors of puberty is back for another whiff of pre-teen spirit! Big Mouth season two isn’t just filthier and funnier, it also does a great job at helping kids navigate the adolescent indignities of hormonal surges, complicated sexuality and the shame that comes with it. But beyond the educational and hilarious nature of this outrageous series, this season also manages to be much more emotionally resonant.