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.
We’re a little light on the film side this month, but the ones we did pick out absolutely wowed us. From spectacular yet thoughtful summer blockbusters, to horrifying yet socially potent indies, there’s a handful of movies worth your time. On the flip side, the river never runs dry in the age of peak TV. From great comedy specials spotlighting minority voices and insightful documentaries, to programs celebrating empathy and shows celebrating LGBTQ culture – television has been a kind balm to the depressive darkness of the real world.
Brad Bird’s sequel to The Incredibles is utterly terrific, and more than worth the 14-year wait. This highly-anticipated follow-up retains the familial charm and character-driven beats of the original, while expertly expanding the stakes and action. Brimming with fantastic comedy, dazzling set-pieces, exhilarating adventure, sharp political themes, and beautiful human moments, Incredibles 2 is your must-watch for the month. And do remember to come to the cinema early, because Pixar’s sweet and surreal opening short film Bao is a delight as well.
Hereditary is an exquisitely crafted, deeply unsettling, painfully devastating and upsettingly grotesque story of the demons you inherit, both literal and figurative. Tonally reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby, Ari Aster’s film is a classically constructed, slow-burning fright fest that ranks up there among the best horror films of the 21st century. Cerebral yet visceral, you’ll find yourself returning to the film’s disturbing imagery to unpack it’s rich metaphors of mental illness and free will. Toni Collette’s tour de force performance here deserves an Oscar nomination.
Centering around a bitter family separation, Custody offers an intimate portrayal of domestic horror and all-too realistic insight into the pathology of abuse. Xavier Legrand’s potent debut feature is unbearably tense and yet understated in it’s naturalism, immersing us in it’s uneasy atmosphere. This wrenching and psychologically searing French film is a gripping portrait of a mother and son’s ever escalating fear, and the shocking volatility of jilted masculinity.
Documentarian Jennifer Fox digs into her own sexual assault to tell this wrenchingly cathartic autobiographical story about the malleability of memory and repressed trauma. Fox (played powerfully by Laura Dern) encounters a story she wrote as a child that forces her re-contextualize her first “relationship”. What she remembers as a tender love affair she had as a 13-year-old with 40-year-old man, is reshaped into something far uglier with adult perspective, framed by duelling flashbacks where one represents memory while other represents reality.
Fallen Kingdom is the best Jurassic Park sequel ever made, elevated by inventive action sequences and some surprisingly thoughtful things to say about humanity’s relationship with nature. From spectacular set-pieces during the volcanic catastrophe on Isla Nublar in the first half, to intimate house horror in the second, J.A. Bayona proves that he can deliver blockbuster thrills while still reframing tired rampaging dinosaur tropes in interesting new contexts. Likewise, his film’s finish is a game-changer that promises to take the franchise in bold new directions.
Anchored by the largest ensemble of transgender actors in TV history, Ryan Murphy’s new drag ball drama is a glamorous, uplifting and totally unmissable celebration of LGBTQ culture. Naturally, Pose also deals with the hardships facing an oppressed community during an especially difficult time (homelessness and the AIDS crisis was omnipresent in 1980s New York), but it never dwells. Instead, the show fiercely struts in a warmer, more earnest direction, focusing on the value of found families, where underprivileged outcasts can feel welcomed.
It’s really difficult to escape the bleakness of the world these days, so Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s dose of empathy and enthusiasm is always welcome when a new season comes around. The show has always been about an abuse survivor dealing PTSD and varieties of noxious masculinity, but this fourth and final season really leans into it. Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s brand of whip-smart, zany, cotton-candy humour (and Ellie Kemper’s aggressive upbeatness) is always underlined by dark truths, which is what makes this show so biting.
After being unceremoniously cancelled, Sense8’s devoted fans raised enough of a ruckus to convince Netflix revive the show for one last episode to tie up loose ends. Although slightly rushed, series creator Lana Wachowski certainly managed to deliver a gloriously action-packed 150-minute climax that was joyous, exhilarating and satisfying at the same time. Necessary plot conveniences aside, Sense8 aptly chose to bid farewell by celebrating it’s metaphysical message of radical empathy till to the end. Read our full review of the series finale here.
Explained is one of the most easily digestible and informative things on Netflix’s non-fiction library right now. Produced by Vox, it’s brand of vibrant and compact journalism effortlessly guides you through 15-minute deep dives on topics ranging from the rise of K-Pop to the racial wealth gap. Their weekly pieces are thoroughly researched, keeping you engaged with the visual style of viral social media posts, while still offering genuine reporting on serious issues.
Created by Taylor Sheridan (writer of Sicario, Hell or High Water, Wind River) – Yellowstone is a gritty neo-Western filled with lush landscapes, complicated politics, hard men and grey morality. Kevin Costner anchors this prestige-soap as John Dutton, a gruff amalgam of frontiersman and mob boss. From it’s visceral opening scene, this dynastic story of a Montanan empire fighting the modern world’s progress, brilliantly juxtaposes natural beauty with violent consequences.
Following-up to her debut comedy special, Baby Cobra, Ali Wong proves herself to be on of stand-up funniest voices on Hard Knock Wife. Very pregnant once again (and now so much more acclaimed in the comedy world), Wong mines raw-nerved jokes from frank truth-telling about all the parts of motherhood and marriage that women are not supposed to acknowledge. Bracing, honest and unusually inspirational, Hard Knock Wife is an easy must-see.
Set in New Orleans, this moody drama based on Marvel’s original superpowered runaway teens (not to be confused by Hulu’s Runaways), elevates a what could have been a cringeworthy origin with a clever twist.Pillared by two excellent young actors in Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph,Freeform’sCloak and Dagger offers a compelling mix of internal character struggle and smart explorations of prickly themes like discrimination, police brutality and homelessness.
The Toys That Made Us is a nostalgia-rich documentary series about the toy industry – taking us through some of the most iconic franchises in history, and telling the story of the successes and failures throughout their runs. But more than that, the show also sheds a deserving light on the companies and creatives behind the figurines that enamoured our childhoods. Season two’s focus includes fascinating looks at Star Trek, Transformers, LEGO and Hello Kitty.
Just four months after the first season of Queer Eye, Netflix has swiftly blessed us with a second season of inspirational makeovers with the Fab Five. Still as empowering and emotional as ever, the self-improvement show continues to illustrate that social divisions can be bridged by bringing humour and positivity to people from all walks of life. This season highlights include a powerful episode that finds the crew helping young trans man feel confident in his own skin.
Luke Cage season one was half a great show, and half a terrible one. Season two is still overlong, but far better paced and more consistently engaging overall. The parables of what a bulletproof black man can do in America is still potent, but season 2 offers even more nuance to it’s politics by considering what he shouldn’t do. The anger stemming from systemic injustice can sometimes be just as poisonous, which is a complicated idea that this season explores.
Long before The Jinx or Making a Murder came The Staircase – TV’s first true-crime documentary obsession. First aired in 2004, the saga involved the case of Kathleen Peterson, who was found dead at the bottom of a staircase, and the sensational trial of her husband Michael Peterson, who was suspected to have killed her. Besides revisiting the original eight part series, Netflix’s updated presentation offers two follow-up episodes that aired in 2013, and three more original episodes shot just last year when dramatic new developments arose.
Impulse succeeds because it’s so much smarter and darker than the terrible 2008 movie it spun-off from. Sure, Doug Liman’s series set in Jumper‘s world, and it’s protagonist Henrietta has the same teleportation powers, but this a grounded story about surviving sexual assault. Her abilities present an intriguing sci-fi flourish and a glimpse into a larger mythology, but at its core, this is a surprisingly complex character study about a girl dealing with serious trauma.
Most people probably know Hari Kondabolu as the guy behind “The Problem With Apu”, which received more backlash than it should have to be honest. But he’s so much more than that controversy, and this comedy special proves that. Hari’s social commentary is sharp, but he’s at his best with his offbeat brand of self-deprecation and Desi-specific humour. Uproarious but a little unfocused, Warn Your Relatives spotlights a left-field stand-up star in the making.