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.
July has been brimming with quality content on screens big and small, which is why it was so hard to narrow down this month’s list to just 18. Cinema provided us with a variety of offering this month, ranging from complex surveys of outcasts in the margins, to a thrilling summer blockbuster that reinvigorates the action genre. Over in television, dark prestige dramas and sophisticated miniseries tangle with openhearted cartoons and emotionally devastating comedies for our attention.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Mission: Impossible – Fallout isn’t just a franchise best, it’s one of the greatest action movies ever made. The team-up of Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise continues to be a winning formula, and this blockbuster is just chock full of heart-stopping, jaw-dropping sequences that will leave you with sweaty palms and white knuckles. But besides the death-defying practical stunt work and sophisticated set-pieces, this fleet footed and quick witted sixth installment still the retains the heart and tension that makes Ethan Hunt’s kinetic feats so compelling.
By combining documentary techniques into his stylish true-crime caper, Bart Layton has crafted one of the most unique heist films in history. American Animals creatively shapeshifts fictionalized re-enactments of the real-life “Transy Book Heist” according to conflicting accounts by the actual criminals. But beyond that clever storytelling device, the film’s greatest triumph is that it romanticizes the subjects’ Oceans fantasy only to a point. What starts out as the playful pipedream of bored boys, ends up being a sobering critique of young male entitlement.
Ai Weiwei’s documentary on the current refugee crisis, is an exhausting but urgent watch. It’s monumental breadth offers a macro survey of a humanitarian catastrophe that’s almost too vast and too full of despair to fully comprehend. But Human Flow is at its most effective when it’s on the ground, simply talking to the migrants fleeing war, famine or persecution at home, only to be driven to unimaginable hardships in uncaring or indifferent new countries. The film offers no easy answers, but it does convey that empathy is a first step that many aren’t willing to take.
Artful, immersive and absolutely wrenching, Chile’s first Oscar-winning film is a stirring tale of grief, bigotry and the trans experience. Anchored by a powerhouse performance from Daniela Vega (drawing upon her real-life experiences to express subtle layers of vulnerability, boldness, warmth and concealed fury), A Fantastic Woman eschews caricatures of grief or heavy-handed depictions of prejudice, in favour of a more nuanced character study of loss and defiance in the face of indignity. Read our full review of Sebastián Lelio’s sublime magic-realist film here.
Coincidentally, another great Sebastián Lelio film is also in cinemas right now, and it’s also highly recommended. Disobedience is a sensual, slow-burning tale of repressed lesbian romance, set in London’s Jewish Orthodox community. Rachel Wiesz and Rachel McAdams deliver the performances of their career, losing themselves in this richly drawn material. Lelio’s naturalism absorbs you into grounded portraits of humanity, in another moving exploration of lost souls trapped between the lives they’re born into, and the lives they want for themselves.
HBO’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s (author of Gone Girl) debut novel is a vivid, raw-nerved and haunting tone poem. Marti Noxon’s beautiful writing and Jean-Marc Vallée’s atmospheric eye grips you despite it’s slow burn. The miniseries is brimming with great acting but the real highlight is Amy Adams, who is at the peak of her powers here. She’s an intoxicated and intoxicating open wound, and it’s her internalized descent that drives this disturbing Southern Gothic murder mystery. Sharp Objects might be unrelentingly dark but you’ll be riveted.
Kenneth Lonergan’s (writer of Manchester by the Sea) four-part miniseries adaptation of E.M. Forster’s classic novel is sublime. A visually sumptuous Edwardian period piece, with the pace and cadence of modern prestige dramas, Howards End is incredibly engrossing and a surprisingly relevant portrait of cultural division. Commanding acting, led by an indelible performance from Hayley Atwell (she gives Emma Thompson’s Oscar-winning turn a run for her money), and crackling dialogue elevates this progressive update above James Ivory’s 1992 film.
GLOW remains the easiest and most satisfying binge on Netflix in it’s superior second season. It’s everything anybody could ever want, and you don’t have to be a pro wrestling fan to enjoy it either (although it certainly does enhance the appreciation). It can be sharply topical (#MeToo and immigration figure into key subplots) and embrace fun, silly comedy at the same time. It’s amazing storytelling and excellent ensemble so easily disables your sense of irony, that you’ll be invested in it’s moments of vaudevillian camp and heartbreaking poignance in equal measure.
Hannah Gadsby’s special isn’t just unflinching and extraordinary – it’s represents a watershed moment for stand-up. More than just a series of jokes, she subverts everything about how the comedy formula is supposed to work, and bravely confronts her own intense personal trauma in a scorching hour-long that’s as purposefully uncomfortable as it is uproarious. Until now, Gadsby has been relatively unsung outside of Australia, but this intense melding of stand-up and cathartic storytelling has instantly made her one of stand-up’s most necessary voices.
Hank Azaria’s tragicomic series about a disgraced baseball announcer is a brilliantly hilarious, elegantly crude, and delightfully acerbic redemption story – fueled by drugs, drink and depression. Brockmire’s phenomenal second season finds its titular character going down an even darker path, even as he reclaims a measure of success in podcasting and broadcasting. This sophomore rise movingly chronicles what happens when a comeback turns into a self-fueled nightmare, and how losing everything once again might be his only hope.
Megan Amram (writer for The Good Place, Silicon Valley, Parks and Recreation, and more) wants to win a best actress Emmy – so she shamelessly created an online series (starring herself) that’s entirely about her wanting to win an Emmy for acting. What follows is a hilariously metafictional exercise in minimal effort and blissful hubris. Citing the low bar for entry in the short-form series category, Amram bluntly states “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I could win that.’” And best of all, it might actually work, because she actually did end up getting nominated!
Over the last five years, Rebecca Sugar’s wondrous animated series Steven Universe has become a cultural phenomenon, appealing to kids and adults alike. Though acclaimed for its loveable aesthetic, gorgeous animation and beautiful music – the real reason it’s become so resonant is it’s empathetic exploration of themes like intimacy, love, gender, sexuality and family. Now in season five, the series has evolved from a goofy show about a boy and his magical family, into one of the most emotionally engaging and narratively daring series on TV today.
Based on the Australian novel by Joan Lindsay and inspired by Peter Weir’s 1975 film, this latest version of Picnic at Hanging Rock is a lush, sapphic, Lynchian treat. The disappearance of three girls and a teacher from the Appleyard Ladies College in 1900 is still the crux, but this miniseries is less about how the girls went missing than why. Whether mystical or mundane there’s a sense that their vanishing might be a willful rejection prescribed futures.
After 45 episodes, Voltron: Legendary Defender has been so impressive that it should be difficult for new episodes to surpass the stellar stories delivered so far. But amazingly enough, season six has managed to broaden the show’s universe in ways that neither this series nor its progenitor have attempted. By introducing new realities and characters, showrunners Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery have made this seven-episode arc the show’s best yet.
The Comedy Lineup introduces us to eight emerging comics through a series of 15-minute sets, like the speed dating version of stand-up comedy specials. Michelle Buteau, Tim Dillon, Sabrina Jalees, Sam Jay, Ian Karmel, Jak Knight, Taylor Tomlinson, and Phil Wang are all extremely funny stand-ups, but the beauty of this compilation format is that it offers viewers a diverse array of comedy styles – which means that there’s something for every sense of humour in here.
Created by Ian Jones-Quartey (Adventure Time, Steven Universe), this is a charming story about a sweet little boy who yearns to become the best superhero there ever was. Now in it’s second season, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes has becoming a drastically more compelling show by introducing darker and more complex narratives, without ever losing the heart and fun that made it so captivating initially. This is a Saturday morning cartoon with surprising emotional depth.
HBO’s documentary about the life and work of the late comedian Robin Williams is a poignant portrait of his genius and vulnerabilities. Told largely through Robin’s own voice, and using a wealth of never-before-seen archival footage and rare backstage outtakes, the biographical film faithfully captures the spirit of an extraordinary talent, taking us through the sparks of mania and magic that made him so special. Come Inside My Mind will almost certainly bring you to tears.
Now in its third and final season, Guillermo del Toro’s imaginative animated series keeps a breakneck pace in the home stretch. Jim Lake (Emile Hirsch replaces the late Anton Yelchin midway) and his team of both human and troll allies face the ultimate evil of Gunmar, and the final confrontation brings about a very satisfying conclusion to the Trollhunters’ story so far. The show ties up a variety of plot threads, with some twists that are sure to have fans debating.