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.
Palm Springs is easily the year’s biggest laugh-out-loud comedy! This hilarious sci-fi rom-com follows the carefree and nihilistic Nyles (Andy Samberg), a guest at a destination wedding who has been reliving the same day over and over again for a very long time. When the bride’s cynical sister Sarah (Cristin Milioti) is somehow pulled into the same time loop, the pair get closer as they have way too much fun living a meaningless existence free of consequence. But amidst the laughs Palm Springs is also a surprisingly profound adventure in love and growth.
Set in 1820s Oregon, First Cow is a tranquil and tender yarn of camaraderie, capitalism and crime. Following the unlikely friendship between a Bostonian cook and a Chinese immigrant who plot to steal a landowner’s cow to start a baking business, this film plays like a gentle poetic dream in untamed natural splendour. Thoughtful and texturally rich, Kelly Reichardt’ vivid frontier film mesmerizes with its own rhythms, iconography and ideas of entrepreneurship. First Cow is an indie masterwork that’s charming and unsparing – suffused with wonder and dread.
If you weren’t fortunate enough to catch Lin-Manual Miranda’s Broadway sensation on stage, well good news, because the beloved hip-hop musical is now available to stream! A recipient of endless praise, Hamilton has won 11 Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama – and this filmed version (taped in 2016 at New York’s Richard Rodgers Theatre) captures the original production and cast at its best. Telling the story of America’s founding father Alexander Hamilton through non-white actors, using rap, soul and R&B – Hamilton is musical theatre at its most exhilarating.
This disturbing and illuminating documentary about the sexual abuse scandal that struck the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team is centered around Dr. Larry Nassar. In a 2016 investigation by the Indianapolis Star, it was revealed that the physician, who served the USAG for 29 years, had violated dozens of young women athletes during the course of “routine” examinations. This terrific journalism film reveals the shocking extent of the cover-up, the toxic culture in elite gymnastics, and highlights the brave whistleblowers who refuse to be silenced.
Yeon Sang-ho ups the ante and moves the action forward from hit 2016 blockbuster Train to Busan to a post-apocalyptic and quarantined Korean peninsula which has been ravaged by the zombie outbreak. Riveting from start to finish and brimming with jaw-dropping set-pieces, this enthralling sequel follows Jung-seok, a soldier who is forced to return to the undead wasteland for a dangerous operation. When his team unexpectedly stumbles upon survivors, their lives depend on whether the best or worst of human nature prevails in the direst of circumstances.
Blurring the line between fiction and documentary, Werner Herzog’s latest film is a surreal, tragicomic take on the ethical conundrums of Japan’s rent-a-family industry. Featuring the real-life heads of a company called Family Romance LLC (where customers can hire actors to pose as family members) playing fictionalized versions of themselves, this film is a metatextual experience that seems to be capturing reality more than filmed storytelling. While the scenarios are scripted, Herzog’s hybrid style lends realism and emotional weight to the dilemmas it poses.
Written by Greg Rucka and based on his comic book of the same name, The Old Guard is a kickass kickstart to a potential new superhero franchise. Following a tight-knit group of immortal warriors who have covertly been protecting the world for centuries, this film features a rather grounded approach to superpowered action. While its expertly choreographed fight sequences are the adrenaline-pumping highlights, director Gina Prince-Bythewood is just as interested in exploring the emotional toll of immortality and building a rich mythology worthy of investment.
Following four teens from low-income families in one of Florida’s poorest towns, this sensitive fly-on-the-wall documentary is an immersive and moving look at hopeful youths heading into harder adulthood. The filmmakers’ decision to stay out of the way and shape the story largely in the editing room bears brilliant returns in it’s unvarnished depiction of Pahokee’s educational system, and how it impacts its students. This perceptive and unobtrusive documentary is a worthwhile portrait of a quartet of charismatic kids reckoning with their own sense of self-worth.
Shannon Murphy’s freshman feature is a dynamic and devastatingly curtailed coming-of-age dramedy. Babyteeth follows a cancer-stricken Australian teenager named Milla (a revelatory performance by Eliza Scanlen), who falls for a small-time drug to her parents’ chagrin. Despite tackling addiction, age-inappropriate romance, mental illness, and terminal disease – this soft-hearted and sensually electric portrait does everything in its power wring beauty from one girl’s battle to resolve childhood and adulthood, first love and last, in whatever time she has left.
Originally titled in Japanese as Wanting to Cry, I Pretend to Be a Cat – A Whisker Away is a sweet and vibrant anime film from Satô Jun’ichi and Shibayama Tomotaka. The story follows Miyo, an outcast junior-high schooler with an overly exuberant spirit that some would find endearing, and others, obnoxious. In order to escape her social, romantic and parental troubles, the girl is gifted with a magical cat mask that changes her into a kitten. Contemplative and earnest, A Whisker Away tackles themes of abandonment with languid depth and visual beauty.
Originally released in its home country in 2018, this sensational South Korean sci-fi thriller is finally available for streaming worldwide on Netflix. The Witch Part 1 follows Ja-yoon, a little girl who escaped from a science facility, but lost all her memory. 10 years later, when she appears on a TV competition to win money for her struggling family, her life is upturned by black ops government agents, and the discovery that she has superpowers! Playing out like John Wick meets The Hunger Games, The Witch Part 1 is a very fun action film with a fantastic twist.
Natalie Erika James’ debut feature is a chillingly constructed slow-burner that combines the haunted house genre with a terrifying allegory for Alzheimers and aging. Approaching domestic horror from the perspective of an exhausted caretaker – Relic follows Kay who returns home when her elderly mother Edna goes missing. When Edna returns days later with no memory of where she’s been, the house eerily starts to transform into a physical manifestation of dementia and decay with forgotten rooms, claustrophobic spaces, and walls that close in on each other.
Based on a semi-autobiographical book, How To Build A Girl stars Beanie Feldstein as Caitlyn Moran – a 16-year-old prodigy growing up in Wolverhampton during the Britpop heyday of the early-90s! Desperate to break free from her working class upbringing and overcrowded flat, she uses her literary aspirations to become a writer for D&ME (aka NME). Although initially rebuffed by the magazine’s boys club, she rises to the top of the indie rock scene by reinventing herself as Dolly Wilde – a venerable and demanding music critic with a lust for fame, fortune and men.
The debut feature Selah and the Spades from Tayarisha Poe immerses us in the world of Selah Summers (played by the commanding Lovie Simone), the cunning yet charming senior head of the Spades, one of five underground factions that dominate at a prestigious boarding school. Selah runs the Spades, the campus HQ for illicit substances, like a ruthless mob boss, and this ultra-stylish film follows her as she searches for someone to replace her after she graduates. Buoyed by visual flourish and great music, this film injects new life into the teen drama genre.
Adapted by Katori Hall from her play Pussy Valley, this series explores the lives of those who work and visit the Mississippi Delta strip club, The Pynk. The world of its dancers and its owner instantly comes to life in a way so many dramas try and fail to do from the jump. While its plot is an intriguing stew made up of shady land deals and stolen identities – it’s the dreamy, neon vibe of P-Valley that’s engrossingly hypnotic. This is a lyrical, character-driven story about the beauty and scars of marginalized Black women that’s playfully obscene and heartbreakingly forlorn.
Search Party first began in 2016 as pitch-black satire about the vapidity of a quartet of millennial hipsters. Shockingly, its first season climaxed with the crew accidentally murdering a man, as season two transitioned into a panic-filled thriller dealing with cover-up and crippling guilt. After a three year hiatus, this fantastic series finally returns for its third season, focusing on the arrest of lead characters Dory and Drew, and the debacle of their trial. And in true Search Party style, their public infamy only fuels their self-obsession and narcissism in darker (and funnier) ways.
During its outstanding first season, we proclaimed Doom Patrol to be the weirdest, funniest, most inventive show of 2019. And thankfully the second season adaptation of Grant Morrison’s ultra bizarre comic continues to be a wild and wonderful ride. The madcap magic of Doom Patrol is its deft ability to transition from absurd ridiculousness to resonant heartbreak, and this season digs deeper into the tragedy of its oddball characters. Ultimately, season two is a worthy sophomore outing that balances silly humour and insane WTF-ery alongside poignant pathos.
This new half-hour family series not only captures exactly what made Ann M. Martin’s book series such a massive hit among Gen X and millennial kids, but it goes a step further. Under the graceful control of creator Rachel Shukert, this updated version imagines how Stoneybrook middle schoolers Kristy, Mary-Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and Dawn would tackle baby-sitting in the tumultuous world of 2020. The Baby-Sitters Club is an inspiring, hilarious and progressive show that isn’t simply pitch perfect for kids and tweens – it can be a feel-good balm for adults as well.
This exceptional docuseries isn’t just about the Golden State Killer’s repeated reigns of terror in the 70s and 80s – it’s equally focused on acclaimed true crime writer, Michelle McNamara, who died in 2016 while trying to complete the book on which this HBO show is based. As riveting and meticulous as McNamara’s investigation was, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is complemented by the toll it took on its obsessive investigator. Fluidly moving around between a serial murderer and McNamara , this is a compelling double-edged look at the costs of fixating on darkness.
The latest adaptation of Japanese science-fiction writer Sakyo Komatsu’s 1973 disaster novel Japan Sinks comes to us from visionary anime director Masaaki Yuasa (Devilman Crybaby). This series is a mature take on the disaster genre, painting a vivid picture of a nation in chaos due to a series of violent earthquakes. Japan Sinks: 2020 understands the reality of the human condition in the face of a calamity, narrowing in its focus on the mixed-race Muto family and the companions they pick up, as they struggle to survive and try to make sense of their new reality.