From intelligent adult animation and moving Asian cinema, to politically potent takes on comic-book staples and sharply observed prestige dramas – this month’s output of quality film and television was extraordinary. We highlight the best ones for you right here.
The Good Place
The fourth and final season of Mike Schur’s The Good Place continues to be television’s most divine comedy. While an exploration of moral philosophy doesn’t exactly sound hilarious – this show brilliantly tackles it’s heady existentialist questions with charm, wit, empathy, a multitude of inventive twists, and lots of pop culture zingers. This climactic chapter flips The Good Place dynamic as our crew are now in charge, tasked with carrying out a grand experiment to redefine the afterlife’s archaic judgements of good and bad – by proving humanity’s capacity for change.
Created by Genndry Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack), Primal is a compelling look at harsh cost of survival and the cruelty of nature, set during prehistoric times. This five-part animated miniseries tells the story of a caveman and his dinosaur companion after a shared tragedy unites them. Completely devoid of dialogue and gorgeously scored and hand-drawn, this is an elemental tale that finds real emotional depth in its protagonists through expressive body language, wordless compassion and unsparing savagery. Both beautiful and brutal, Primal is a roaring achievement.
Damon Lindelof’s sequel to Watchmen is audacious, dense, super weird and utterly exhilarating. This series extrapolates an alternate present from the graphic novel’s alternate history to deconstruct police accountability, racism, and superhero TV tropes – while exploring difficult questions about modern day America. It’s a world where a white supremacist group is inspired by Rorschach, and cops are allowed to hide their identities under masks. By taking inspired liberties, this show beautifully captures the comic’s disruptive spirit and bold sociological insight.
The first half of BoJack Horseman’s sixth and final season is a powerful journey of recovery that once again illustrates why this smart, funny, and devastating show about washed-up sitcom star is undoubtedly the greatest series of the streaming era. After hitting rock bottom last season, BoJack grapples with his past mistakes and self-destructive tendencies in rehab. Likewise, every major character is on a difficult path towards addressing their perennial anxieties and mental health issues. These maturing arcs are raw and sobering, but also silly and inspiring.
Now in its second season, Sorry For Your Loss remains the most truthful, nuanced and complex exploration of grief ever depicted on TV. Elizabeth Olsen’s performance as the recently widowed Leigh is profoundly moving, anchored by the keenly observant writing of creator Kit Steinkellner. While its debut season focused on Leigh’s messy emotional journey – this continuation offers the show’s supporting cast like Kelly Marie Tran (Leigh’s sister), Janet McTeer (Leigh’s mom), and Jovan Adepo (Leigh’s brother-in-law), plenty of beautifully raw and wrenching material as well.
Big Mouth is back for more gross self-discovery and obscenely hilarious coming-of-age humor in its third season. And if you thought the show has done all it can in capturing the awkward embarrassments of sexual awakening through anthropomorphic genitals and love triangles with pillows, think again. This season mines fresh territory by moving beyond it’s boy-centric puberty focus to explore queer romance, bisexuality, pansexuality, female masturbation, and the confusion of growing up online in the age of #MeToo, neo-Nazism and non-binary identities.
Brimming with acidic wit and wicked power plays, Succession centers around the dysfunctional Roy family, who control a multibillion dollar media conglomerate. This series about monstrous rich people back-stabbing each other returns in darkly funny form for a hugely entertaining second season. Blessed with sharp writing, grandiose plotting and an exceptional ensemble, the show’s dissection of the ultra wealthy is a delightful treat. But even amidst the despicable behaviour, Succession still manages to mine genuine pathos from its least likeable characters.
Seis Manos isn’t perfect, but this unique anime’s collection of throwback tropes is such pulpy fun! A combination of Chinese martial arts flicks, Mexican culture, 1970s Westerns, monster creature features and blaxploitation – Seis Manos is genre mash-up that wears its inspirations on its sleeves. From drug cartels and grizzled cops to kung-fu fights and demonic possessions, this show overflows with grindhouse style. It’s absurdly violent, charmingly cheesy, and thoroughly entertaining. If you’re a fan of Machete or Ninja Scroll, you will love Seis Manos.
Although What We Do In The Shadows has a more direct American sequel series on FX, it wasn’t the first TV spin-off of Taika Waititi’s horror-comedy universe. That title belongs to New Zealand’s Wellington Paranormal! Now back for season two, the police procedural parody continues to follow inept officers Minogue and O’Leary as they investigate the supernatural forces plaguing the Kiwi capital – ranging from sea monsters to satanic schoolgirls. Think Reno 911 meets The X-Files, and you’ll get why this lo-fi mockumentary has such a high laugh quota.
Paul Rudd pulls double duty in this breezy and charming sci-fi comedy. Rudd plays Miles, a depressed and underachieving schlub who walks away from a mysterious spa treatment feeling like a new man. Well, that’s because he is! The rejuvenated Miles is a clone with the same memories – just with a more energetic and more confident personality. When the original Miles awakes, he’s resentful to find that this better version has drastically improved his life. Buoyed by Rudd’s terrific dueling performance – Living With Yourself is a sharp, funny and addictive delight.
Carmen Sandiego continues to be such a stylish and enormously fun espionage romp for all ages. Following the titular master thief (and her sidekicks) as she foils the evil plans of criminal organization V.I.L.E. – this second season delivers an abundance of slick heists, daring capers and compelling character dynamics. But beyond the exciting action, this show admirably retains its educational roots by teaching its young audience about the cultures of various countries (history, geography, art, traditions) during every stop on Carmen’s globetrotting adventures.
Eddie Murphy is the best he’s been in decades in this rousing and hilarious biopic of a black culture icon. The film tells the underdog story of floundering comedian Rudy Ray Moore, who becomes a sensation in the 1970s once he becomes Dolemite – a caricature pimp with a cane and an arsenal of obscene fables. This new persona goes over huge in both his stand-up routine and a subsequent series of blaxploitation films. Dolemite Is My Name is an unrelentingly funny film that’s joyously profane, outrageously raunchy and overflowing with celebratory spirit.
With the outstanding Better Call Saul on hiatus, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has found time to return the tragic character of Jesse Pinkman in this riveting and ruminative epilogue to his beloved series. Aaron Paul is once again phenomenal in the role he was born to play, viscerally embodying Jesse’s vulnerability, decency and broken soul in this tense and thoughtful coda. Both a noir-Western about an outlaw on the run, and psychological drama about the trauma he can’t outrun, El Camino offers emotionally satisfying closure. Read our full review.
Written and directed by Lulu Wang, The Farewell is a beautifully subtle and bittersweet tale of filial duty and mortality that finds universal truths in a story about a culturally specific lie. Led by a powerful and poignant performance from Awkwafina, the film follows a Chinese family who decides to keep their grandmother in the dark about her terminal cancer diagnosis – in keeping with traditional beliefs. This secret forms the heart of this gentle, layered and mischievously funny dramedy about how culture shapes our sense of love and family. Read our full review.
This engaging documentary details one of the world’s biggest financial crimes known as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, as uncovered by dogged reporters. This investigation into the embezzlement of $3.5 billion from a Malaysian government fund follows the money trail to real estate, movie deals (ironically financing The Wolf of Wall Street), and top political leaders. The Kleptocrats stylishly captures the saga’s outrageous scope of greed and corruption, and contrasts with the lives of average citizens to tell the story of a national tragedy.
Wang Xiaoshuai’s sweeping So Long, My Son is an emotionally wrenching film that traces the lives of two families over three decades of social and political upheaval in China. Epic in scope but intimate in feeling, this film’s non-linear structure tangles us through pivotal moments in a generations-spanning saga – unfolding in accordance with emotional rhythms rather than chronology, like temporally intertwined memories. More than exploring the devastating human impact of China’s one-child policy, this novelistic story is a moving tale of guilt and forgiveness.
Directed by Asif Kapadia (Amy, Senna), this absorbing documentary about soccer legend Diego Maradona recounts the dizzying history of the Argentine’s rise and delves into his notorious fall from grace. This decades-spanning documentary eschews talking heads for a pure archival narrative (constructed from over 500 hours of footage), blending media coverage with home video, to transform Maradona’s story into a gripping opus about a modern day Icarus. More than just a sporting film, Diego Maradona unpacks the volatile relationship between fame and genius.
Joker is a daring and devastating piece of cinema. Joaquin Phoenix’s stupendous performance is indeed as magnificent as advertised. in this chilling and grotesque character study. It is unsettling and macabre (as it should be), turning the super-villain psychopathy of the Joker into something frighteningly real and politically incendiary. Todd Phillips’ provocative arthouse reimagining of DC’s iconic villain (borrowing tonal and thematic elements from Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy) will be debated for years, but what can’t be denied is his bravura vision.
Featuring an utterly winning performance from Lupita Nyong’o, this Australian horror comedy by Abe Forsythe is such a low-key delight. Nyong’o stars as a kindergarten teacher who must defend her class of children when a school field trip to the zoo turns into a nightmare scenario thanks to a sudden zombie outbreak. Little Monsters is a quick-witted and irreverent entry into a crowded genre, infusing the blood and gore with a child-cheerful spin. Not since Shaun of the Dead has there been such a consistently funny, charmingly rude and ultra-enjoyable zom-com.