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.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Master screenwriter Aaron Sorkin returns with a tremendous new courtroom film starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and more. The Trial of the Chicago 7 follows the peaceful protests outside the 1968 U.S. Democratic Convention as they unravel into a fatal clash with police, and the trial that ensues. Featuring potent themes of civil disobedience, this timely political drama crackles with the eloquent wit of Sorkin’s renowned dialogue, as well as a sensational ensemble. Riveting, chilling and inspiring – this film is a sure Oscar contender.
Saint Frances is a small-scale, low-key masterpiece – and a breakout feature debut for writer / star Kelly O’Sullivan. Following the inept and floundering 34-year-old Bridget, who becomes a nanny to precocious 6-year-old girl named Frances, this indie family comedy is imbued with a quietly tender and refreshingly nonjudgmental sense of humanity. Through Bridget’s growing bond with Frances, the former’s messy insecurities and arrested development, and the latter’s struggling lesbian parents – Saint Frances offers a funny and frank portrait of modern women.
American Utopia brings David Byrne’s critically acclaimed Broadway show to the screen in a unique musical film directed by Spike Lee. Recorded during its run at Hudson Theatre in New York City, Bryne is joined by an ensemble of 11 musicians, singers, and dancers, inviting us into a joyous dreamworld where human connection, self-evolution, and social justice are paramount. Magical, whimsical and electrifying – this theatrical 21st century rock concert is studded with breathtaking numbers, ranging from Bryne’s eponymous album to classics from Talking Heads.
Miranda July returns with her best film to date! Kajillionaire focuses on a family of con artists, made up of eccentric parents Robert and Theresa, and their emotionally stunted daughter Old Dolio. Their grifts are small-time, and they’re barely able to eke out a living. However their lives are upended when a deeply curious woman who gets roped into their latest scheme decides to stick around and join their crew. Often hilarious yet gradually heartbreaking, July’s empathy for these weird, desperate characters offers a sly exploration of broken people flailing for meaning.
Documentarian Kirsten Johnson’s latest film finds her staging various inventive and fantastical ways for her 86-year-old father to die. This is all done in the hopes that cinema might help her bend time, laugh at pain, and keep her ailing dad alive forever. Dick Johnson is Dead is both a poetic act of defiance and a portrait of love at the end of a life, straddling a cheeky line between humor and grief. Johnson and her father seem to share a love of transgressive jokes, and an innate interest in humanity that gives this film bittersweet, celebratory air – despite its morbidity.
The feature directorial debut of acclaimed writer Radha Blank, this film approaches an artist’s crisis with charm, humor and honesty. Starring as a fictionalized version of herself, this dramedy follows Radha, a down-on-her-luck New York playwright, who is desperate for a breakthrough before turning 40. Thus she reinvents herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime, vacillating between the worlds of hip-hop and theater in order to find her true voice. Shot in black and white with a documentary framing device, The Forty-Year-Old Version shines with Blank’s wit and charisma.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 isn’t the only movie Sacha Baron Cohen stars in this month! The prankster performance artist resurrects his most confrontational character for this Borat sequel, aimed as the ultimate indictment of the lunacy that is America in 2020. Through outrageous stunts and ingenious undercover tricks (Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pence are the most high profile marks), this mockumentary hilariously roots out ignorance of racists, sexists and pro-lifers in the alt-right – all while also exposing the hysteria of online disinformation during a global pandemic.
Sofia Coppola reunites with her Lost In Translation star Bill Murray for this in this boozy caper comedy. On The Rocks follows an author named Laura (Rashida Jones) plagued by writer’s block and marital troubles, as she teams up with her playboy dad (Murray) to investigate if her husband is having an affair. As the pair prowl New York at night, the crux of their journey turns towards their own difficult father-daughter relationship. This loose, low-key hangout movie may be lightweight, but it succeeds because of its leads’ winsome rapport and effortless chemistry.
In this gonzo, genre-bending film from directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, a Brazilian village disappears from the map. Part psychedelic Western, part political allegory, and part gore-soaked freakout – Bacurau is a wildly sprawling tale about the destruction of the titular rural Brazilian town, and the fight its citizens put up for their survival. From the peril of corruption and rampant modernization to the arrival of UFOs and ghosts, this film is a grotesquely creative, wondrously weird and narratively daring anti-capitalist thriller that’s equally savage and satirical.
A couple of Brooklyn hipster millennials decide to “detox” from phones, Wi-Fi and technology by going an off the grid getaway. Unfortunately for them, their time away has caused them to miss an apocalyptic alien invasion! This lo-fi, sci-fi comedy is a delight – lampooning the high-minded ideals and practical ineptitude of the current generation for huge laughs. Buoyed by the comic charm and great chemistry of its two leads (Sunita Mani and John Reynolds), Save Yourselves! coasts with gags about poor survival skills and authentic insights into 21st century romance.
This new Italian live-action retelling of Pinocchio is a beautifully nightmarish vision that stays faithful to Carlo Collodi’s dark fairytale. Director and co-writer Matteo Garrone embraces the grotesqueness and sentimentality of the 1883 story, ensuring it stands apart from previous adaptations of the story familiar to English-language audiences. The result is moving, tender and sumptuous film – that’s also macabre and bizarre. Buoyed by rich atmosphere and practical effects, Pinocchio is a sweet yet baroque tableaux of a marionnette who yearns to be a boy.
Anya Taylor-Joy delivers a stunning performance as Beth Harmon, an orphan in the 1950s who grows up to earn accolades as a chess prodigy. Adapted from Walter Tevis’ novel, this Scott Frank miniseries takes a poignant story of identity, trauma, and competition – and elevates it into something incredibly captivating. Equal parts sports narrative, period piece, coming of age story, and a character study of the line between genius and psychosis – The Queen’s Gambit tracks the troubled grandmaster’s highs and lows through striking visuals and sensitive storytelling.
Created by Genndry Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack), Primal is a compelling look at the harsh cost of survival and the cruelty of nature, set during prehistoric times. Now back for the second half of its first season, this animated series tells the story of a caveman and a dinosaur after a shared tragedy unites them. Devoid of dialogue, gorgeously scored and hand-drawn, this is an elemental tale that finds emotional depth in its protagonists through expressive body language, wordless compassion and unsparing savagery. Beautiful and brutal, Primal is a roaring triumph.
Based on James McBride’s acclaimed novel, this series stars Ethan Hawke as John Brown, a militant abolitionist who murdered slavery supporters, burned down plantations, and raided a federal armory in an attempt to arm slaves and instigate a revolt. Told from the point of view of Onion, a formerly enslaved boy who is part of Brown’s militia, The Good Lord Bird is a rollicking and darkly comic tale that’s as blustery as its subject. Led by Hawkes’ crazy-eyed, spittle-flying, scenery-chewing turn, this miniseries explores Brown’s righteous hubris alongside his heroism.
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 third 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.
Star Trek: Discovery returns to boldly go where no Star Trek show has gone before – the 32nd century! This 930 year time jump is the furthest into Trek’s prime universe canon we’ve ever seen, opening up tons of fresh possibilities. After the events of season two, the crew are now stuck in the far future where they find that the Federation has been wiped due to an event called The Burn. Season three is a soft reboot for the show, allowing Discovery to return to Trek’s hopeful ethos of diplomacy and anthropology, as they learn about what the galaxy has become.
Set 15 years in the future, Soulmates surrounds the consequences of a new scientific test that could accurately identify the person you’d love most in your life. Through its six episodes, this new anthology series imagines what the arrival of a foolproof soulmate test would do to shift people’s perspectives on what “true love” means, and challenge those already in relationships. Its best episodes (“Watershed”, “Little Adventures” and “Layover”) use this heightened conceit to explore the relationship dynamics in surprising ways that typical romantic stories cannot broach.
Mike Flanagan follows up the fantastic Hill House with the second season of his The Haunting anthology series. This time, the scary story is based on the works of novelist Henry James, in particular, Turn of the Screw. While not the artistic triumph of its predecessor, Bly Manor is still excellent in its own right. Following an American nanny who moves to the English countryside to care for orphaned siblings whose last au pair suffered a mysterious death – Bly Manor proves to be a chilling gothic romance that explores grief and trauma through ghosts. Read our full review.
After a protracted wait, creator/writer Noah Hawley resumes his excellent, ever-expanding saga about crime syndicates of the American Midwest with a fourth season of Fargo that’s set in Kansas City in 1950, where successive immigrant gangs (European Jews, the Irish, the Italians) fought to control their shady business interests for decades, rivaled now by a black gang led by Loy Cannon (Chris Rock’s best dramatic performance to date). As always, Hawley’s twisty plots and inventive visual flourish energize this season’s bleak parable of capitalism’s racist origins.
German spy thriller Deutschland 89 is the third and concluding season of the successful series (following Deutschland 83 and Deutschland 86) from co-creators Anna Winger and Jörg Winger. The new season opens with the fall of the Berlin Wall, following East German spy Martin Rauch as he and his fellow agents scramble to cope with the end of the communist regime. Exploring the theme of reinvention and how a country saw its way of life come crashing down overnight, Deutschland 89 is a smart and satisfying climax, featuring riveting storytelling and pop nostalgia.