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.
Steve McQueen’s ambitious five film project Small Axe in an enthralling, multi-faceted look at the real-life struggles and triumphs of London’s Afro-Carribean and West Indian community in the 1960s – 1980s. From the powerful courtroom drama “Mangrove” about a group of nine black activists unjustly tried (for incitement to riot) after demonstrating against police discrimination – to the romantically joyous “Lovers Rock” which immerses into an intoxicating reggae house party – Small Axe is vivid storytelling and an impassioned portrait of Black British life and culture.
This remarkable documentary series directed by Steve James looks at the city of Chicago and its residents as 21 candidates run for mayor during the 2019 election. City So Real captures the sprawling tapestry of a city – diving deep into its bureaucracy, issues and people. James sits quietly in barbershops and bars, among protesters and policemen and polling officials, hovering at parties and press conferences and courtrooms – letting everyone he comes across have their say. The result is a heartfelt, humanist look at the strengths and divisions of American society.
One of the greatest sports anime ever made returns for an exhilarating and emotional fourth season. Haikyuu!! Is a volleyball series following the heartbreaks and triumphs of a former top school Karasuno High. And with the infusion of two talented freshmen in the short but athletic spiker Hinata and technical genius setter Kageyama, the team is poised for a comeback, if only those two bitter rivals can get along. After a stunning upset victory in the prefectural tournament, this fourth season follows the Nationals, and the dynamic match-ups they face here are riveting.
Like a spiritual successor to Nathan For You, this new docu-comedy series is a celebration of social awkwardness as seen through the lens of John Wilson. Shot in the first person, How To With follows Wilson as he films the lives of everyday people he meets, as he attempts to give advice on relatable but random life topics like small talk, putting up scaffolding, improving your memory, and making the perfect risotto. His seemingly random wanderings through the world are by turns hilarious and poignant, revealing profound humanity through strange interactions.
This sharp and darkly comic British series follows the unravelling of pop star and actress Suzie Pickles after her nudes are hacked and uploaded online. Star and co-creator Billie Piper dazzles with a raw, finely calibrated emotional journey through the dark side of celebrity. Each episode is structured around the eight phases of Suzie’s attempt to deal with her scandal and spiralling life (“Denial,” “Shame,” “Bargaining”, etc.) – and they’re heart wrenching, blackly funny and messily honest. This comedy-horror about friendship, fame, and the impossibility of privacy is a triumph.
The Mandalorian returns for its gunslinging second season, and gorgeously continues its gritty, fun and brisk approach to the space western genre. The series picks up with Mando on a quest to return Baby Yoda to its people. While that journey forms the throughline, The Mandalorian is still refreshingly committed to telling self-contained stories boltered by exciting action and tidy conclusions. Featuring tight narratives, stunning landscapes, and amazing guest stars – this consistently entertaining show remains, by far, the best live-action Star Wars of the modern era.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost team-up yet again for Truth Seekers, a supernatural comedy about a group of part-time paranormal investigators who team up to uncover and film ghost sightings across the UK. Although often hilarious and buoyed by small town British charm alongside a memorable ensemble, this series has some genuine scares and terrific horror set-pieces up its sleeve. Traveling to various haunted locales, Truth Seekers explores ghost stories that can be tragic, poignant and violent. Whether it cracks you up or creeps you out, this is a brisk delight.
Adventure Time is back for a miniseries of four hour-long specials entitled Distant Lands! After its delightful BMO-centric episode back in June, this second entry centers on fan favorite couple Marceline the Vampire Queen and Princess Bubblegum (or Bubbline for you shippers). This special finds the pair meditating on their tumultuous relationship as they team-up to defeat an old enemy from the Glass Kingdom. Featuring a new original song (sung by Olivia Olson) and a grand adventure that’s rollicking, funny and emotional – Obsidian is a welcome return to Ooo.
No Man’s Land dives into the depths of the Syrian civil war through the eyes of Antoine, a young French man, in search for his estranged, presumed to be dead sister. While unraveling the mystery, piece by piece, Antoine ends up joining forces with a unit of Kurdish female fighters, fierce women and ISIS’ biggest nightmare, and travels with them into enemy territory. Antoine’s journey crosses paths with adventurers and anarchists, spies and innocent victims – providing a raw, realistic, and tragic immersion into the daily fight against ISIS, and its global repercussions.
With the introductions of a beloved princess and a controversial conservative Prime Minister, this lavishly produced prestige drama enters into its fantastic fourth season with much personal and geopolitical meat to chew on. Aided by the tremendous performances of newcomers Emma Corrin as Princess Diana and Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher (joining the magnificent Oliva Colman as Queen Elizabeth II), The Crown remains irresistible. From the Falklands War to an IRA bombing to a sad royal marriage, season four is the series at its best. Read our review.
Back after four years, Eric Andre is more unpredictable, deranged, and genuinely hilarious than ever in the latest season of his parody of late night talk shows. Season five may feature a garish new look, but the show’s knack for confusing, shocking or outright horrifying its celebrity guests and hapless New Yorkers hasn’t dulled in the slightest. This season’s man on the street pranks are among series’ best – ranging from bringing a defecating rat onto the subway to a bike trick and construction job gone wrong. The Eric Andre Show remains a bizarre and outrageous kick.
Jujutsu Kaisen is easily the most hyped anime of the season, and for good reason! Following the story of high schooler Yuji Itadori who finds himself eating the severed finger of a demonic entity and gaining the power of a “curse” – this shonen is a spooky, action-packed, fast paced, funny and dazzlingly animated (Studio MAPPA firing on all cylinders) blast. As a protagonist, Yuji is instantly likeable as a slacker kid suddenly thrust into a world of sorcerers and monsters. From intriguing characters to fantastic fights, this is a contender for best new anime of the year.
Chloé Zhao’s lyrical road movie about one woman’s desire to resist settling down is 2020’s best film. After the economic collapse of a rural Nevada town, we follow Fern (Frances McDormand) as she packs her van and sets off to live a life outside conventional society. Backdropped by sweeping natural scenery and filled with a supporting cast of real-life nomads, this non-narrative character study immerses us into the ecosystem of these wanderer communities. Balancing romanticism with harsh struggle, Nomadland is a poignant panorama of forgotten America.
Screened at: Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF)
Between the World and Me is a dynamic, visual and powerful adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestseller. Written as a poetic letter to his 15-year-old son, Samori Coates, on coming of age as am African-American – this production includes readings and performances by Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey, Mahershala Ali, Angela Davis and more. Tracing the stories of Coates’ youth, path into manhood and personal trials – this mix of memoir, epistolary nonfiction, and political thesis is a layered missive on the durability and heartbreak of the Black experience in America.
Francis Lee’s Ammonite – starring Kate Winslet as real-life 19th-century paleontologist Mary Anning and Saoirse Ronan as the beauty who captures her heart – is a spare, stoic and subtle study of forbidden romance. Set on the coastlines of 1840s England, this film is ephemeral and austere, mesmerizing with its leads’ silent chemistry, alongside its fascinating excavation of Anning’s unheralded legacy. Relying on minimal dialogue and remarkable performances, this Victorian love story is an absorbing slow-burn that lingers in candlelit glances and crisp sea air.
Screened at: Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF)
Brandon Cronenberg lives up to his father’s body horror legacy with his gory and ghastly new sci-fi film. Possessor is a neon-soaked, ultra-violent head trip following Tasya Vos, an assassin who eliminates her targets by taking over other peoples’ bodies. Cronenberg brutally explores the permeability of flesh, the malleability of identity, and the psychological oppression of modern technology in gruesomely visceral ways – making this a provocative and shocking work. Buoyed by spectacular performances and make-up and practical effects, Possessor awes and disgusts.
Aneesh Chaganty’s (Searching) latest film is a nail-biter that follows a disabled and chronically ill teen as she tries to escape her desperately possessive mother. A delirious Hitchcockian thriller about the perils of maternal codependency, Run features excellent duelling performances from a deranged Sarah Paulson and breakout star Kiera Allen in her feature debut. Paced like a bullet train, this film about a trapped wheelchair-bound girl blends MacGyver-like ingenuity, ticking-clock tension and palpable physical peril into a bonkers, twisty, white-knuckled package.
This impressive debut feature from British writer-director Remi Weekes follows a refugee couple who make a harrowing escape from war-torn Sudan and find asylum in the United Kingdom. But as they struggle to settle into an English town, they find themselves plagued by a supernatural evil from back home. Seamlessly meshing classic scary movie tropes with the more profound horror of real-world conflict zones, His House rejuvenates the haunted house genre with a masterful blend of humor and magical realism to tell a story of the growing fears of the refugee.
This funny and subversive twist on Freaky Friday is a raucously entertaining horror comedy. Helmed by Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day), this bloody fun mash-up of the body swap and slasher genre follows a nice high school girl who switches bodies with a serial killer. Buoyed by go-for-broke performances from Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton, an ample body count, innovative kills, and hilariously dark humour, Freaky is a wild and winking good time. While this movie could’ve easily been a one-note joke, it instead smartly redefines its subgenres’ tropes.
Ekwa Msangi’s directorial debut tells the story of an Angolan immigrant who, after 17 years apart, is finally joined in America by his wife and daughter. Sadly, they’ve become strangers after all that time, and are struggling to reconnect. However, they soon discover a shared love of dance that might help them overcome that distance. Comprising three excellent performances, this quietly intimate tripartite character study is as delicate as it is moving. Examining the frictions, recriminations and regrets of a fractured family – Farewell Amor is empathetic triumph.
Screened at: Perspectives Film Festival (The Projector Plus)