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.
We Are Lady Parts
Following an all-female Muslim punk band in London, We Are Lady Parts is an extremely funny and utterly delightful coming-of-age story. This British comedy by Nida Manzoor comprises only six half-hour episodes, but manages to pack a punch with its authentically drawn characters, fast-paced storytelling, and comical writing – drawing upon the melting pot of the British Muslim experience. Anjana Vasan, who stars as a PhD student turned the band’s reluctant new member is a particular delight, with an innate understanding of how to get laughs just from small changes of expression, intonation and posture.
Created by and starring comedian Mae Martin, Feel Good accomplished so much in its first season, offering a layered and dynamic exploration of gender, sexuality, addiction, relationships, and self-discovery. Its second season is just as richly textured but even more ambitious in its storytelling. Martin’s comedic voice is original and sharp, and the show unflinchingly embraces discomfort and mess. Playing a loosely fictionalized version of herself, Martin’s performance as a stand-up comic dealing with her drug addiction, sexual identity and unresolved psychological issues remains complex, honest and empathetic.
2018’s Blindspotting was an underrated masterpiece – dealing with friendship, racial identity, police brutality and gentrification in Oakland. Now, Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs’ film has been expanded with an equally excellent sequel series. Picking up six months after the movie, the show details the aftermath of Miles getting arrested by following the struggles of his wife, mother and half-sister. Blindspotting continues to be a sharp and funny slice of socio-political commentary wrapped in livewire, spoken-word-fueled musical numbers. Equal parts dreamlike hip-hop fantasy and gritty, real-world drama, this series is a must-see.
After being unjustly cancelled by Netflix, Tuca & Bertie makes its triumphant return on Adult Swim with a splendid second season celebrating a neurotic, codependent avian friendship. Like the lovechild of BoJack Horseman and Broad City, this comedy about two lady birds (voiced by Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong respectively) mixes a surreal world of anthropomorphic animals with millennial misadventure. Buoyed by its wildly frenetic art style and a love of puns, this show’s focus on female friendship, existential anxieties, and complicated relationships remains simultaneously relatable and absurdist.
A follow-up to her 2018 indie film Skate Kitchen, Crystal Moselle’s half-hour series centers around the same crew of skater girls and their hazy misadventures. Fun, freewheeling, loose and lived-in – season one was a vibrant look at the New York City skateboarding scene. Season two, however, takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic where we find the crew dealing with quarantine, finances, and more, as they struggle to cope with a turbulent world. Betty has always felt like a faux-documentary where we’re just hanging out with these diverse young women, and that remains the show’s greatest pleasure.
Fruits Basket continues to be one of the most emotionally and dramatically rewarding anime going into its third and final season. The series follows Tohru Honda, an orphaned teenage girl who befriends Yuki, Kyo and Shigure, alongside others from the rich Sohma clan. She learns that the family’s members are possessed by animals of the Chinese zodiac and turn into beasts when they are weakened or hugged by anyone of the opposite sex. What at first seemed like a quirky romance anime has evolved into a deeply complex story exploring vicious cycles of abuse, trauma, grief and self-loathing.
Dave is a fantastic dramedy depicting a loosely fictionalized version of the life of rapper Lil Dicky. While the series began as a vehicle for (admittedly really funny) toilet humour, its first season grew to become a smart and sensitive meta deconstruction of the narcissism and delusions of an awkward Jewish man-child who thinks he’s the greatest rapper alive. Now back for season two, Dave picks up with Lil Dicky’s hip-hop career on the ascent. But his newfound success has only worsened his neuroses and anxiety, even as his selfishness continues to alienate his loved ones.
Odd Taxi feels like what if the Coen Brothers decided to make an anime about a walrus driver set in a world of anthropomorphic animals. The series follows Odokawa, a 40-something misanthropic cabbie who spends most of his time having conversations with his customers about their problems. However things get more complicated when he becomes a suspect in the disappearance of a teenage girl, and inadvertently gets tied to a mob rivalry, a shady idol group, and an alpaca nurse selling illegal drugs. Built upon wry observational humour, seedy character studies and surprisingly intertwining plots – Odd Taxi is easily the best anime of 2021 so far.
Adapted from Jeff Lemire’s acclaimed comic book, Sweet Tooth is a post-apocalyptic fairy tale of an adorable half human and half deer hybrid boy who leaves his isolated home to traverse a dystopian world ravaged by a killer virus. Part Mad Max and part Spielbergian coming of age tale, this series is a heartwarming adventure filled with charm and wonder. Its deft balance of light and darkness makes Sweet Tooth a children’s fable that’s fit for grown-ups. Buoyed by visual flourish and affecting chemistry between stars Christian Convery and Nonso Anozie, this show is the rare apocalypse brimming with beauty and love.
Inspired by Maurice Leblanc’s books about gentleman thief Arsène Lupin – this smart and surprising French series is a twist-filled, high energy heist caper. Omar Sy returns in season two Assane Diop, a Senegalese immigrant and charismatic gentleman burglar who grew up reading Lupin stories. After the kidnapping of his son Raoul in season one, Assane’s quest for revenge against nemesis Hubert Pellegrini has torn his family to pieces. In five stylish new episodes, the master thief finds an unlikely ally as he develops a risky grand plan to save his kid and avenge his father.
Rick and Morty is back for season five! Creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland prove to be an endless well of ingenuity, offering yet another batch of audaciously creative, outrageously hilarious and dizzyingly meta instalments. At its most ambitious, it continues to deconstruct genre tropes in brain-twisting ways, totally upending storytelling conventions at every turn. But despite its structural playfulness, Rick and Morty never fails to deliver its deranged brand of adventure and comedy as it continues to be the most inventive animated series of modern TV.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe keeps up its TV hot streak on Disney+ with Loki, a new series featuring the return of the God of Mischief after the events of Avengers: Endgame. The time displaced supervillain finds himself in the clutches of the Time Variance Authority, a bureaucratic force that policies time travel. Owen Wilson makes a wry foil for Tom Hiddleston as Mobius, a time cop who chips aways at layers of the cunning villain while using him to track down a mysterious time-hopping villain. Dense, funny and absurdist – Loki is a playfully retro-futuristic sci-fi romp.
Adapted from a comic book by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, this Filipino anime follows Alexandra Trese, a detective and demon hunter who investigates crimes of mystical origin. Much in the vein of Buffy or Hellblazer, this is a supernatural procedural dealing with mythical creatures who have found a home in Metro Manila’s underworld. Besides its refreshing twists on Filipino folklore, Trese is a propulsive and enthralling fantasy narrative that’s elevated by great world building, dynamic animation, intriguing mystery, and glorious amounts of violence and gore.
Quo Vadis, Aida? is the harrowing true story of United Nations translator frantically trying to save her family durin the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide. It is far and away the best film of 2021 so far, but it’s not an easy watch. This is an absolutely devastating first-person retelling of unimaginable atrocity, that (truthfully) depicts the indifference, incompetence and impotence of the U.N. as culpable in the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims. Writer-director Jasmila Zbanic frames Quo Vadis, Aida? like an intense thriller that unpacks the human cost of horrifying cruelty and tragedy.
Rocks is a gritty yet giddy coming-of-age story that follows Nigerian-British teen Shola Omotoso. One day she’s living a normal life, hanging out with friends in secondary school. And the next, she’s forced to become the sole breadwinner and caretaker of her younger brother after her mother abandons them. Faultlessly authentic and exuberantly naturalistic (thanks to improvised dialogue from its amazing cast of non-professional actors), Rocks is both a radiant celebration of youth and friendship, as well as a painful drama about what happens when deprivation forces kids to grow up before they’re ready.
Adapted from Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway hit, In The Heights is an absolutely euphoric and intoxicating musical that’s bound to be the crowd-pleasing sensation. Set during a sizzling summer in New York City’s Washington Heights, this rousing and joyful film tells the story of a block that’s on the brink of disappearing, and the hopes and dreams of its diverse Latinx community. Through a buoyant blend of Latin American pop, hip-hop, jazz, salsa and merengue, alongside traditional Broadway show tunes, In The Heights presents a jubilant, anti-gentrification love letter to the immigrant experience.
Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Pixar’s Luca is a heartwarming coming of age story about a young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, Alberto, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: they are sea monsters from another world just below the water’s surface! Buoyed by expressive cartooning, breezy pacing and lovely themes of friendship and individuality – Luca is vibrant, warm and so darned cute. An enjoyable all-ages treat!
Filmed in his home during the COVID-19 pandemic without a crew or audience, Bo Burnham’s latest comedy special captures with a frenzied clarity – the unmoored, wired, and listless feeling of being very online during quarantine. Inside is a virtuosic one-man musical extravaganza, and also an experimental film about cracking up via Wi-Fi while trying to make said one-man musical extravaganza. Despite its many levels of meta-jokes, Inside is one of the most sincere artistic responses to the 21st century so far – something that’s both claustrophobically intimate and sweepingly cinematic, a zeitgeist-chasing musical comedy made alone to an audience of no one.
Writer-director John Kransinki follows his breakout horror hit with a more than worthy sequel. A Quiet Place Part II is an unbearably tense experience, relying once again on precise sound design and terrifying suspense. We follow the Abbott family as they are forced to leave their home and face the dangers of the outside world in silence. By expanding its environment, Part II is able to craft more creative scares and fresh emotional dynamics. Also buoyed by phenomenal performances (Millicent Simmonds in particular), this sequel proves to be thrilling and inspired.