Sometimes, the best way to explore thorny issues in art, is to broach it with humour. Which is why this month’s selection of recommended TV and movies is primarily made up of uproarious comedies and tonally deft dramedies. But while there are hearty laughs to be had, a lot of these shows examine divisive political and societal topics through a variety of unique perspectives. But beyond that, we also spotlight some exciting space adventures, insightful documentaries, riveting superhero series, grisly horror, and a kick-ass action spectacle.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
John Wick 3 doesn’t just live up to the legendary fight sequences it’s crafted in previous installments, it ramps up it’s wall-to-wall action to new levels. As the franchise’s world of assassins gets deeper and more complex, so does the gratuitous brutality and explosive physicality. Parabellum is a breathless buffet of gorgeously choreographed and brutally inventive violence. Chad Stahelski is a master at constructing fluid, coherent, and imaginative combat sequences, while Keanu Reeves’ stunt work continues to be impossibly badass.
Exuberant and inspiring, this political documentary follows the various “outsider” grassroots campaigns running for Congress in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Notably, the candidates featured are not career politicians – they are working class women (mostly women-of-colour) with no corporate financial backing. Dedicated to highlighting smart, industrious underdogs who care passionately upending the establishment through progressive. While not all succeed (except Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), the vigor of their Rocky stories is hopeful and infectious.
This James Gunn produced horror movie is a sly alternate take on the classic Superman origin story. In this film, an alien boy crashlands on Earth and is adopted by a wholesome all-American couple living on a farm. While the scenario clearly parallels the Kent family, this kid doesn’t share Clark’s values or morality one bit. As the boy struggles with his identity, puberty and the discovery of powers – he begins to lash out in terrifying ways. The result is gruesome and disturbing, as this petulant, unstoppable god begins to terrorize the residents of his small town.
Starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, Long Shot is probably the year’s best romantic comedy. This unlikely love story between a schlubby hipster journalist and the U.S. Secretary of State infuses globetrotting political theatre into an age-old formula. And while it doesn’t stray from the tropes, this film does them all splendidly. Effortlessly charming and smartly funny, Long Shot’s heartfelt romance fantasy offers rapid-fire laughs and giddy escapism for both men and women. Thisterrific gender-swapped Cinderella fairy tale is a raunchily hilarious crowd-pleaser.
Adapted from Joseph Heller’s subversively satirical World War II novel, Catch-22 translates complex, multi-layered literature into sumptuous television storytelling. Deftly balanced between buffoonish humour, idyllic beauty, paradoxical doublespeak, and inescapable terror – this miniseries does a great job depicting farce and fatalism as two sides of the same coin. Both profoundly funny and utterly disturbing, Catch-22’s darkly tragicomic look at the illogical absurdities of military bureaucracy and the hellish nightmare of war remains as relevant as ever.
Like the lovechild of BoJack Horseman and Broad City, this comedy about two birds named Tuca & Bertie (voiced by Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong respectively) mixes a surreal world of anthropomorphic animals with millennial misadventure. Buoyed by its wildly frenetic art style and a love of puns, this show’s focus on female friendship, existential anxieties, and complicated relationships is simultaneously relatable and absurdist. From whimsical non-sequiturs to serious issues (ranging from sexual harassment to sobriety), Tuca & Bertie handles it all splendidly.
RAMY is one of 2019’s most richly drawn, sharply observed and radically brave dramedies. Based loosely on the life of comedian Ramy Youssef and his family (immigrant parents from Palestine and Egypt), this A24 series is a artful and complex depiction of a young Muslim man struggling to reconcile Islam and his culture, with more contemporary millennial anxieties in Western society. RAMY’s thoughtful portrait of Muslim-Americans is nuanced, compassionate and bracingly specific – offering a depth and diversity of perspectives rarely seen on screen.
After the untimely cancellation of his brilliant sitcom Detroiters, comedian Tim Robinson has thankfully found a new home for his brand of outlandish and outrageous humour. His new sketch comedy show I Think You Should Leave is a refreshing riot – devoid of context, reason or social messaging. It exists solely to flesh some truly bizarre skits, and make you laugh hard. With only six 15-minute episodes, this series is an easy binge brimming with boundlessly creative concepts, and fast-paced sketches that take many dizzyingly hilarious hard left turns.
Loosely based on Lindy West’s memoir Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman, this tender and funny new dramedy is a beautiful slice-of-life story about a plus-sized woman struggling to find confidence in her body. SNL’s Aidy Bryant absolutely shines as Shrill’s effervescent lead, trying to fight off fat shamers, workplace drama, relationship disasters and familial resentment with a smile. Besides it’s sharp commentary on cruel beauty standards, Shrill evolves it’s drama to investigate the fine line between self-confidence and selfishness. Read our full review here.
Kim’s Convenience has been a success in Canada since it began (first as a play), but thanks to Netflix, the acclaimed Canadian sitcom has become a worldwide sensation. Now in its third season, this immensely funny show about an immigrant Korean family and their convenience store seems to have hit its stride. Breezily enjoyable for it’s comedy about generational gaps and tradition, and sneakily smart when it mines humour from social issues, Kim’s Convenience draws laughs through the family’s interactions with each other, and their diverse community.
This miniseries is a riveting account of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. But even beyond the unsparing terror of the initial reactor meltdown, and the stomach-churning effects radiation poisoning – the true horror lies in the Soviet cover-up. In it’s all-too believable depiction of government corruption and systemic incompetence, Chernobyl reminds us that no cataclysm can’t be made worse through bureaucratic pettiness. In contrast, this show takes care to capture the sacrifices made by selfless citizens in their efforts to clean-up a state-run tragedy.
While the rest of CW’s Arrowverse shows suffocate under the weight of self-seriousness, Legends of Tomorrow flies with self-aware silliness and a dedication to fun over all else. Always playful and frequently bonkers, this season augments the usual time-travel escapades with magic as monsters, demons and John Constantine join the show. Whether they’re hunting a rampaging unicorn at Woodstock, being turned into felt puppets in alternate timelines, or fighting spirits with lucha libre wrestlers in 1960s’ Mexico – the Legends’ adventures are joyous delights.
The terrific second season of Cobra Kai continues to be better than a Karate Kid revival has any right to be. With the return of John Kreese, the rivalry between Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso’s rival dojos is amped up and complicated by turbulent family dynamics. More than just mining nostalgia from 80s’ machismo, Cobra Kai shades compelling grey into old black and white archetypes with empathy for all sides. The result is an addictive and emotionally riveting family drama that explores generational disconnect, polar philosophies, and bitter resentment.
Star Trek: Discovery continues its upward trajectory in its fantastic second season, where the show managed to both exhilarates old-school Trekkies and entice new ones. With the addition of iconic characters like Captain Pike and Spock, alongside rich emotional development for it’s returning cast, Discovery elegantly weaves an exciting new story through established canon by blending big philosophical questions, heady sci-fi ideas, and spectacular space action. Not only does it return to Star Trek’s roots, it also boldly goes where no Star Trek show has gone before.
Last year, prolific comedy writer Megan Amram blessed us with an admirably shameless ploy to win an Emmy in the Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series category by just barely meeting all of the minimum requirements. The hilariously metafictional exercise returns for second season, dealing with Amram’s trauma from losing the award in real-life (and onscreen murder by D’Arcy Carden). This time, the webseries comes with aftershow hosted by Patton Oswalt, and even more funny cameos ranging from Nathan Fielder to Natasha Lyonne.
It bears repeating that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has grown into the best superhero show ever made, and it’s hot streak continues into its sixth season. Despite the finality of season five’s climax, S.H.I.E.L.D. impressively pivots into a new adventure driven by it’s fresh status quo. As the team splits it’s focus between recovering a cryogenically frozen Fitz in deep space, and new threats, S.H.I.E.L.D. is shaken an evil alt-version of their dearly departed leader Coulson. With great pacing, compelling emotional arcs, and amazing action, S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to impress.
Shinichiro Watanabe (creator of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) and Studio BONES’ 20th anniversary anime series Carole & Tuesday is such a lighthearted and laidback delight. Set on Mars, 50 years after colonization, the series follows two young musicians seeking to express themselves within a society where all art is designed by algorithms. While the main score is provided by Japanese label FlyingDog, there are also special compositions by Flying Lotus and Thundercat, among others. Visually and sonically sumptuous, this anime is utterly charming.
After discovering that his father wrote a series of terrible erotica novels, Jamie Morton turned his dad’s unintentionally funny books it into a podcast! Co-hosted by James Cooper and Alice Levine, who offer flabbergasted commentary, the podcast has since become an international phenomenon. Now with a lost chapter uncovered, the trio have brought their presentation of awful prose and cringe-filled laughs from audio to television. Aided by visuals and awkward re-enactments, this special somehow makes these X-rated misadventures exponentially funnier.
Cloak & Dagger has quietly overtaken Hulu’s Runaways as the MCU’s most compelling teen drama. Now back for a second season, our superpowered protagonists (still retaining their crackling chemistry) have now essentially swapped places, as Tandy finds herself back home with her mother, while Tyrone is a runaway fugitive. With the threat of the evil Roxxon corporation dealt with, the show brilliantly leans into smaller but no less urgent stories dealing with issues like domestic abuse, gang violence, human trafficking and forgotten minorities.