The bevy of outstanding onscreen offerings this September made this month’s picks especially difficult to narrow down. Nevertheless, we strived to recommend on the very best – ranging from an exceptionally empathetic true-crime adaptation, revolutionary period pieces about sex workers, emotionally traumatic European horror, and gorgeously crafted allegories on climate change; to a dark satire of American capitalism, painfully honest relationship dramas, a creatively audacious anthology, and cosmically profound stories about absent fathers.
Created by the BoJack Horseman writing team, Undone is a transcendent experience and a magnificent artistic feat. This rotoscoped animation series (starring Rosa Salazar and Bob Odenkirk) is a genre-bending, time-breaking and mind-expanding visual marvel set in the celestial landscape of one damaged girl’s consciousness. The way Undone inventively blends and drifts from reality to memory to delusion is such a sensory trip – but it’s all emotionally grounded by a very powerful human story of mental illness, self-loathing and existential malaise.
Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning article (and a This American Life radio episode), this Netflix miniseries follows an 18-year-old girl named Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever) who reports that she was assaulted at knifepoint by a serial rapist. Sadly, she is discredited by investigators and her own foster mother, who deem her story “unbelievable.” Years later, female detectives (Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) notice similarities between two other rape cases, evenutually linking them to Adler’s case. This depiction of trauma and survivors fighting for self-worth is wrenching.
Set in the early-90s, this delectably weird and absurdly surreal series is a loopy black comedy satirizing egocentric scam artists, pyramid schemes and American capitalism. Part tropical noir and part Lynchian dream, this show’s savvy narrative maneuvering and superlative cast anchors us through dizzying left turns and hairpin tonal shifts. Kirsten Dunst is absolutely sensational in On Becoming A God In Central Florida, bringing a captivating vitality to her lead character of Krystal Stubbs – a woman tilting at windmills within the cultish nonsense of multi level marketing.
Like all David Simon shows, The Deuce has been immersive and transportive, delving deep into the sex trade ecosystem and capitalist decay of New York City between the 1970s to the 1980s. It’s a deft balance of fascinating anthropology and gripping character study that never loses sight of human disenfranchisement amidst sweeping socioeconomic changes. This magnificent third season concludes this urban saga by looking at how gentrification eliminated street prostitution in Times Square, the evolution of pornography, and the people caught up in it all.
Following the five decade long partnership between legendary choreographer/director Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and iconic Broadway dancer/actress Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams) – Fosse/Verdon is an exhilarating depiction of a dazzling artistic collaboration, but also a sobering exploration of their toxic domestic relationship (the pair were also married). Everything from the acting and directing to the music and writing in this biographical miniseries is phenomenal, but it’s the magnificent musical dance numbers that really embody the couple’s genius and anguish.
Age of Resistance is a sweeping production, a grand and gorgeous epic that doesn’t just stay faithful to the original’s practical look and complex lore – it enriches Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s vision with heart and wonder. This awe-inspiring Dark Crystal prequel makes spellbinding use of puppet artistry and masterful performers (voice actors and puppeteers) to render textured and tactile characters. By combining astounding technical wizardry with a profoundly emotional tale and urgent environmental themes, this fantasy series is a bold triumph. Read our full review.
Just months after Showtime’s terrific Of Mics and Men docuseries, The RZA is back with another telling of the Wu-Tang Clan origin story – this time in the form of a 10-part scripted drama. While it is produced by the group’s founders, this miniseries is far from glossy, sanitized biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody and Straight Outta Compton. Instead, An American Saga feels like a thoughtfully told memoir – clear-eyed about Wu-Tang’s pre-fame lives, and self-reflective about their difficult circumstances. A vibrant look into the realities that formed a hip-hop myth.
Room 104 continues to be the most experimental, and creatively audacious anthology on TV. Every episode is set inside the same titular room of a nondescript motel, but despite that limiting restriction, The Duplass Brothers keep finding interesting ways to tell increasingly unpredictable short stories within that confined location. From drama, comedy and horror to crime, action and sci-fi – season three pushes past its own boundaries by flitting across many genres. Featuring shocking twists, great dialogue and remarkable acting – each chapter is distinctly memorable.
Despite an embarrassingly bad start, Titans has actually found its footing as a very entertaining superhero show. This second season quickly does away with the world-ending demonic threat of Trigon to introduce a more human, but far more exciting villain – Esai Morales’ Deathstroke. As the new generation of Titans begins to take shape (replete with a new San Francisco-based Titans Tower funded by Iain Glen’s Batman), the show’s fresh status quo is greatly elevated by the team’s most iconic antagonist. Though still dark and violent, Titans is now much more fun.
This eight episode French production is about a young author named Emma who based her popular series of horror novels on nightmares she’s had since childhood. But once she decides to stop writing about them, she’s terrified to find that the evil witch from her books (and dreams), Marianne, has come to life to “punish” her. Beyond it’s great scares and creepy atmosphere, this show is also a great character-driven series, following a deeply flawed protagonist (alcoholic, selfish and self-destructive), confronting literal and figurative demons from her misspent youth.
While Ari Aster’s follow-up to Hereditary retains the filmmaker’s fascination with cults, it brightly pivots from darkness into the sunny and flowered open fields of a remote Swedish village. Part Scandanavian folk horror and part breakup fairy tale, Midsommar basks in daylit beauty while slowly enveloping you in a slow-burning hallucination filled with increasingly unnerving pagan rituals, languid dread and a dash of gallows humour. Florence Pugh is phenomenal as the film’s emotional center, nailing every beat as a gaslit girlfriend going through grief and terror.
Although set against an infinitely stunning interstellar canvas, James Gray’s space epic is an extraordinarily intimate and deeply profound drama. Ad Astra is an accessible sci-fi star vehicle featuring one of Brad Pitt’s finest performances, and a soul-baring work of bold artistic ambition. As we follow astronaut Roy McBride’s journey through the cosmos to discover the secrets of his long lost father, this hypnotic film backdrops futuristic perils and fascinating world-building with a gripping meditation about the loss of human connection in pursuit of ambition and exploration.
Kim Bora makes her feature directorial debut with this sensitive, compassionate and unhasty coming-of-age drama. House of Hummingbird follows a lonely 14-year-old girl named Eunhee as she flits around Seoul during the mid-90s, seeking intimacy and connection. Painfully honest and gently perceptive, Bora’s neo-realist depiction of adolescent insecurity and anxiety is captured with precision through a sympathetic feminine lens. Though leisurely paced, House of Hummingbird maximizes its space with an attentive eye to the affecting nuance of everyday life.
Set two years after Steven Universe’s climactic series finale, this animated feature finds Steven (now post-puberty!) and the Gems adjusting to a peaceful life in a world where Earth and Homeworld have become allies. But their “happily ever after” is cut short when a new threat arrives with a very understandable grudge. Although the show has always featured great music, The Movie is a full-fledged Old Hollywood musical epic – filled with beautiful, poignant songs that reconcile Rose Quartz’s ugly past with Steven’s growth through love, friendship and empathy.
Inspired by a viral New York Magazine article, Hustlers follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients. Both an energetic heist film on stilettos, and an empathetic look at exotic dancers as women trying to get by – this film is a rollicking mix of physical humour, impeccable plotting, amazing music and scantily-clad underdogs. Led by revelatory performances from Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu, Hustlers’ awesome cast also features Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, and Cardi B.
Makoto Shinkai follows-up his 2016 anime sensation, Your Name, with a magical tale of adolescent romance, complicated by environmental disaster. Set in an alternate version of Tokyo plagued by endless torrential rain, Weathering With You follows the stormy love story between a teenage runaway and a young orphan with the supernatural ability to conjure sunshine. It’s dazzling blend of magical fantasy (infused with Shinto elements), gushing emotion and gorgeous animation will grip your heart and sweep you off your feet. Read our full review.
Ever since Between Two Ferns came out on sketch comedy website Funny or Die back in 2008, it’s become a viral sensation. The simple premise of an dumb and deadpan Zach Galifianakis abrasively interviewing celebrities has been gold mine for hysterically awkward cringe humour. This movie simply upsizes that concept and brings the show on the road, taking the inept host on a trip across America as he tries to film 10 new episodes. While the story is superfluous, the interview segments are still hilarious, featuring a murderer’s row of uncomfortable A-list cameos.
Written, directed, and scored by A. T. White, Starfish is an avant-garde and introspective sci-fi meditation on isolation, grief and loss – set within a barren post-apocalypse. Gorgeously shot and quietly immersive, this arthouse film stars Virginia Gardner who mesmerizes by embodying Starfish’s elegiac tone, unifying the film’s impressionistic moods in one stellar performance. Ostensibly driven by a mysterious mixtape, Lovecraftian creatures, and cosmic horror – this film’s plot points are only flourishes to a slow-burning character study, framed in negative space.
This raunchy comedy surrounding a group of 12-year-old boys exploring their sexual curiosity and confusion manages to be both offensively risque and sweetly resonant. Good Boys is a raucous tweenage coming-of-age romp that dives into the surprisingly sordid and silly world of sex, drugs and vulgarity in middle school. Though much of the humour involves rapid-fire jokes that weaponize how kids use profanity (awkwardly and with bravado), this film endears through its emotional look into how adolescent friendships function within shifting identities and times.