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.
From Indonesia and Singapore to France and Germany, this month’s cherry-picked collection of the finest films and TV shows on offer presents an excellent assortment of globetrotting genre exercises that go beyond America. November’s best cinema is a diverse palette of martial arts action, arthouse horror, crime thrillers and Oscar-contending drama. Meanwhile, TV land serves up a pair of European espionage series, Southeast Asian scares, sci-fi and fantasy’s reinvented female heroes, suspenseful Hitchcokian mystery and a politically potent comedy show.
Ralph Breaks The Internet
This long-awaited sequel to Wreck-It Ralph is certainly a worthy successor to a modern animated classic. This time, our video-game protagonists Ralph and Vanellope leave the arcade for the vast world wide web, to experience the many joys and dangers the Internet can offer. Besides being a deliriously funny satire of online issues, and an imaginative showcase for beloved Disney IP (all the princesses in one place!), Ralph Breaks The Internet also tugs at your heart as the Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship is painfully changed due to mutual insecurities.
Following-up from the game-changing inventiveness of The Cabin in The Woods, writer-director Drew Goddard is back after six years (he’s been busy on TV with shows like The Good Place and Daredevil) for his sophomore feature film, Bad Times at the El Royale. This decadently stylish crime-thriller doesn’t just feature cleverly non-sequential interlocking mysteries (within its titular hotel) – it’s intriguing ensemble of shady characters continually upend expectations through gripping revelations. Gorgeous, patient and vibrant – this film’s artful pulp is engrossing.
If you consider extreme cinematic violence and expertly choreographed fight sequences to be an artform, The Night Comes For Us would be a masterpiece. Directed by Timo Tjahjanto and starring movie martial arts icons like Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais, this Indonesian action flick is the wildest, goriest and bloodiest thing you’ll see onscreen this year. Despite it’s throwaway plot about Triads and repentant gangsters, it’s brutally gonzo style and escalating carnage makes The Night Comes For Us a must watch. This is a The Raid successor that delivers on all fronts.
The Coen Brothers’ latest is a brilliant anthology film that weaves together six vastly different short Western stories about the fabled American frontier. Sometimes blackly comedic, sometimes profoundly tragic, and sometimes hauntingly somber – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an Old West storybook that crackles with the Coens’ sardonic vernacular, quirky characters, gorgeous cinematography, and astonishing narrative turns. This six-shooter fires no blanks.
Part Band of Brothers, part 28 Days Later and part Wolfenstein – JJ Abrams and Julius Avery’s hybrid of WWII and zombies is a satisfying marriage between the very grounded horrors of war and the schlocky thrills of fighting undead Nazis. Spectacular action, well-executed scares, gratuitous gore and compelling characters makes Overlord a very solid genre mash-up. This is an entertaining splatterfest brimming with old-fashioned style that offers A+ fun for B movie fans.
Director Felix Van Groeningen unflinchingly depicts the hopes and hopelessness of a family affected by drug addiction in an emotionally honest movie with gut-wrenching acting. Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff – Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet bring the characters’ true story to life with their raw performances. Beautiful Boy’s harrowing and heartbreaking journey of relapse and recovery is powerfully affecting.
As a zombie outbreak overruns an NS camp, malingering (chao keng) reservist soldier Tan Kayu and his tough commander Lee Siao On are forced to work together to survive. Written and directed by Jacen Tan, Singapore’s first-ever zombie feature film is a delightfully smart and cheeky horror-comedy. Like a cross between Shaun of the Dead and Army Daze – Zombiepura is a fun undead romp that’s elevated by it’s well-drawn characters and witty colloquialisms.
Gaspar Noé returns with a musical-horror freak out that’s sure to be seared into its audience’s collective psyche. Aptly entitled Climax, his latest effort finds the director at an artistic peak with a literal and metaphorical pain orgy that’s alternately orgasmic and sadistic. We follow a French dance troupe as their jubilant rehearsal after party descends into a hellishly hedonistic acid trip nightmare due to interpersonal conflict and LSD-spiked sangria. Read our full review here.
Watch on: Blu-ray or digital (screened at French Film Festival 2018)
After sleeping through a house party, the film’s protagonist Sam awakens to find that the world has been overrun by a zombie outbreak. Realizing that he is one of city’s last survivors, he barricades himself within the apartment complex. Written by Guillaume Lemans, this Parisian zombie movie has more on it’s mind than brain-eating. About more than surviving an undead horde, The Night Eats The World is a thoughtful character drama about the horrors of isolation.
Watch on: Blu-ray and digital (originally screened at French Film Festival 2018)
Oldboy director Park Chan-wook’s debut show is an elegant adaptation of a knotty John Le Carré spy novel entitled The Little Drummer Girl. Set in the late 1970s, a young London actress (Florence Pugh is magnetic in this role) is unwillingly drawn into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by shadowy Mossad agents (Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Shannon play to type perfectly) who seek to use her to capture an elusive PLO operative. It’s addictive espionage slow-burn is lushly hyperreal, slyly carnal, unexpected sardonic and gorgeously shot.
Like all of Jon Stewart’s proteges from The Daily Show who spun-off into their own shows (Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Samantha Bee), Hasan Minhaj prizes thorough research and in-depth commentary just as much joke-crafting. Combine that with with his specific Indian-Muslim-American perspective – and you get something sharper, smarter and funnier than most of the topical talk show comedy drivel out there. Patriot Act’s informative deep dives into urgent social and political topics makes this is a worthy companion to Last Week Tonight.
The second season of hit German spy series Deutschland 86 is set three years after Deutschland 83 – and it remains as smart, stylish and addictive as ever. While season one was a concentrated story about preventing nuclear war, this season is more sprawling and complex. From black market arms deals in Apartheid-era South Africa and Gaddafi-ruled Libya to horrific pharmaceutical experiments back home, Deutschland 86 is globetrotting spy yarn about how a bankrupt East Germany embraced the very worst of capitalism to finance their socialist ideals.
Narcos: Mexico is a smart reboot and an addictive new chapter for the series. Now set in 1985 Guadalajara, this prequel (of sorts) is an origin story of the rise of the country’s first cartel and the DEA. Diego Luna and Michael Peña star in gripping parallel stories, detailing the revolution of trafficking and law enforcement respectively.The reverse time jump introduces new faces and places, but it retains Narcos‘ intense and complex exploration of both sides of the drug game.
Much to our delight, Netflix’s TV adaptation of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stays very faithful to the horror tone and feminist themes of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s acclaimed comic-book. Though most fans would likely be more familiar with the 90s’ Sabrina the Teenage Witch sitcom, this version is much scarier, moodier and stylishly atmospheric. It’s mix of frightening occult Satanism, soapy teen drama and progressive gender politics will put a captivating spell on you.
Created by Mr. Robot writer-director Sam Esmail and starring Julia Roberts – Homecoming is such a gripping puzzle-box mystery about a capitalist dystopia. Based on a great podcast by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, Esmail has refashioned the audio narrative into a taut TV show that looks like a mix between Hitchcockian suspense and paranoid 1970s-era conspiracy thrillers. With it’s half-hour episodes and addictive story, this is an easy and enjoyable binge.
Created by Eisner Award-winner Noelle Stevenson, this new version of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is an utter delight! Emotionally complex, wonderfully diverse and beautifully drawn – this joyful pop fantasy about an all-female rebellion rejecting isolationism and oppression offers empowering representation for little girls. The series even wisely ditches any He-Man connections in order to let Adora and her friends stand strong in their own right.
HBO Asia’s Folklore is an outstanding horror anthology series featuring six one-hour episodes directed by some of the region’s best filmmakers, ranging from Indonesia’s Joko Anwar, to Singapore’s Eric Khoo to South Korea’s Lee Sang-woo, and more. Rooted deeply in Asia’s most prevalent supernatural myths – you can expect plenty of scary yet emotionally compelling, character-driven stories about pontianaks, phantasms and other ghouls that hit close to home.
Chris Chibnall takes over as showrunner from Steven Moffat as Doctor Who’s groundbreaking 11th season finds Jodie Whittaker beginning her journey as the 13th Doctor (and the series’ first female Doctor) alongside three new companions (Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and Bradley Walsh are excellent additions as well). And this fresh start has certainly proven to be a boon for the long-running sci-fi procedural, judging by the energy and joy of its wonderful first few episodes.