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 Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad is Oscar winner Barry Jenkins’ limited series adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2016 novel, which reimagines the 19th-century Underground Railroad as a literal railroad beneath Southern soil that Black people used to escape slavery. This sprawling and overwhelming epic follows Cora and Caesar escaping from a plantation and evading a bounty hunter named Ridgeway. Jenkins’ alt-history journey through America’s darkest past is a magic-realist masterpiece that balances brutal atrocity with a compassionate eye toward the re-humanization of its Black protagonists.
TV’s best workplace comedy returns! Following its outstanding pandemic specials, the video game studio behind the world’s most popular MMORPG is back in office to plan their next expansion. While season one dealt with the rampaging ego of company founder Ian, this time we focus on the meltdowns of recently promoted co-director Poppy as she struggles in her new leadership position. Although Mythic Quest remains a blackly hilarious satire of the toxicity within the video game industry, as we’ve gotten to know our messy protagonists better, season two offers a deeper emotional look at people who intertwine their passions with their careers.
Produced by the team behind Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock, this utterly hilarious series the best sitcom of 2021. Girls5Eva follows the surviving members of a C-list late-90s girl group who reunite in their 40s to mount a comeback. This show is a laugh-frenzy, packed to the brim with absurdist pop song parodies, delirious dialogue and densely-constructed jokes that mocks the music industry, millennial trends and celebrity culture from every angle imaginable. Elevated by a winsome cast that includes Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Paula Pell and Busy Philipps, Girls5Eva is a pure musical-comedy joy.
Hacks is already one of the best new shows of 2021. This excellent dramedy navigates the dark mentorship that forms between Deborah Vance, a legendary Las Vegas comedian, and an entitled 25-year-old writer. This plunge into the stand up comedy scene explores a world full of assholes, bullies, and martyrs – where trauma gets transmuted into belly laughs. Hacks is the rare comedy that not only nails its punchlines, but brutally deconstructs the pain, effort, and genius it takes to make jokes land. Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder are spectacular in this love letter to life in the comedy trenches.
For the past three seasons, Castlevania took the best parts of the Konami games it’s based on, and remixed them with its own vast mythology. The result was a gloriously violent, intricately plotted and philosophically complex series. In this fourth and final season, Castlevania remains the greatest video game adaptation ever made with a gory, cathartic and satisfying conclusion. The series does a great job early in setting up a myriad of plot points involving its labyrinthe cast of monsters and antiheroes, getting us to emotionally invest in all sides before wrapping up with a truly incredible action-packed climax.
Sigourney Weaver narrates this intimate, epic and breathtaking nature documentary series about five different whale species with footage filmed over three years in 24 different locations. Secrets of the Whales is an astonishingly well-photographed deep dive into the worlds of orcas, belugas, sperm whales, narwhals and humpbacks – essentially disparate species with their own unique communities, friend groups, languages, culture, family dynamics and special histories. Directors Brian Armstrong and Andy Mitchell crews take us to the far ends of the waters of the Earth to capture these beautiful and intelligent creatures.
Adventure Time is back for a miniseries of four hour-long specials entitled Distant Lands! After its delightful BMO and Marceline / Princess Bubblegum episodes, “Together Again” reunites Jake the Dog and Finn the Human after their split in the series finale for their “biggest adventure ever”! This time, the duo embark on a mysterious journey taking them far from home, where they face off against a monstrous evil and attempt to rediscover their brotherly bond. Buoyed by whimsical humour, fantastical landscapes and a complex emotional core – “Together Again” is an amazing return to the Adventure Time universe.
Legends of Tomorrow continues to be the wildest, funniest, and most gleefully bonkers show on TV. Our endearingly incompetent team of time travelling superheroes find themselves leaderless in the beginning of season six, after aliens abduct Sara Lance. This season follows the Legends as they plot her rescue, fend off a new big bad with a god complex named Bishop, and chase aliens scattered through time. As usual, the series revels in weird and wonderful irreverence, leading into a Disney-inspired animated episode, a singing competition show parody, and so much more.
If you’re looking for the perfect, comforting show to watch, then All Creatures Great and Small is for you. Set in the bucolic English countryside in the 1930s, this series follows the daily life at a Yorkshire veterinary practice that young James joins as he graduates from school. Run by a good-hearted but difficult taskmaster, Siegfried Farnon, James must prove himself not only to his new boss, but also to the local farmers suspicious of newcomers and modern treatment. All Creatures is a balm for the soul – featuring low-stakes plotting, lush scenery and an ensemble of nice people trying to do their best for each other and their animals.
Created by Patton Oswalt and the studio behind Robot Chicken, M.O.D.O.K. is an irreverently hilarious supervillain comedy. The stop-motion series follows the angry floating head after he’s been kicked out of his evil organization A.I.M. and struggles with family life in suburban New Jersey. This goofy parody of “slob husband sitcoms” (if the slob husband was a giant head in a floating chair trying to take over the world) is both absurdly weird and wonderful. From marital troubles to becoming an outcast in the villain community, M.O.D.O.K. is a silly treat that never takes itself seriously.
Master of None is finally back after a four year hiatus with creator Aziz Ansari relinquishing his starring role to direct all of season three. Moments in Love is co-written by Lena Waithe and focuses entirely on her character Denise – specifically her relationship with her wife Alicia. The result is a leisurely paced and patiently touching modern love story that intimately illustrates the ups and downs of marriage, struggles with fertility, and personal growth both together and apart. Fleeting romantic highs meet crushing personal losses in this Ingmar Bergman-esque season.
This groundbreaking series about a diverse group of LGBTQ outcasts who find acceptance, power and family in the drag ballroom scene of ’80s and ’90s New York City continues to be an inspiration. In its third and final season, Pose finds Blanca juggling her family, new relationships, and working as a nurse’s aide in 1994, while Pray Tell deals with health challenges and the House of Evangelista faces fresh competition. Even as the AIDS crisis continues to loom, Pose balances heartbreaking tragedy by celebrating the joys and glamour of a tight-knit community.
Loosely on Lindy West’s memoir of the same name, Shrill has presented nuanced commentary on the reality of existing as a fat person in a wildly fatphobic society. Now back for its third and final season, the series once again tackles deeply uncomfortable topics while simultaneously giving viewers plenty to love. This season finds Aidy Bryant’s Annie energized by her breakup with dud boyfriend Ryan and her newfound momentum at work. Shrill has always excelled at centering fat characters who are messy and complicated, and it continues to do so in its home stretch.
This animated comedy about an ordinary family trying to survive a robot uprising is a giddily thrilling all-ages adventure filled with a barrage of clever jokes that come at you a mile a minute. Directed by Mike Rianda and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, The Mitchells vs. The Machines lives up to the latter duo’s standards in Into The Spiderverse and LEGO Batman. Irreverent humour, genuine emotion and an inventive visual style bolster this uproarious and immensely fun film that focuses on a father-daughter relationship amidst a madcap sci-fi story.
Elizabeth Lo’s sharp-eyed study of Istanbul strays is both the ultimate love letter to dogs and a multifaceted moral inquiry into humanity. This near-wordless documentary follows the lives of three different dogs – fiercely independent Zeytin, friendly and nurturing Nazar, and shy puppy Karta. The strays’ disparate lives intersect when they each form intimate bonds with a group of young Syrian refugees with whom they share the streets. Through it all, Stray is an enchanting and artful film that shines a spotlight on what it means to be an outcast in a teeming metropolis.
Filmed in the starkly beautiful open spaces of rural Utah, The Killing of Two Lovers follows David, a man desperately trying to keep his family of six together during a separation from his wife, Nikki. Although they both agree to see other people, David struggles to grapple with his wife’s new relationship. Driven by a viscerally raw performance from Clayne Crawford, director Robert Machoian crafts a hauntingly personal portrait of masculinity, adulthood and a collapsing marriage. Small and sparse in scale yet painful in its emotional potency, this film is an intensely personal domestic drama.
Oxygen is a French survival thriller directed by Alexandre Aja (Crawl). This claustrophobic, lean and intense film follows a young woman, who wakes up in a cryogenic pod with no memory of who she is or how she ended up there. As she’s running out of oxygen, she must rebuild her memory to find a way out of her nightmare. This locked-in-a-box conceptual thriller is aided by propulsive momentum, a suffocating level of incremental panic, and mostly upon a terrific lead role from Melanie Laurent who invests everything into a performance that is by turns distraught, desperate and determined.
Mads Mikkelsen stars in this dark revenge comedy from Denmark that turns the stereotypical Taken-esque premise on its head. Mikkelsen plays a soldier forced to return home after his wife is killed in a train accident. SSuspecting his wife was murdered, he teams-up with a group of computer nerds to track down and kill those responsible. What at first seems like a standard revenge plot evolves turns into a thoughtful, funny and sad anti-revenge story about searching for meaning in a world of coincidences, and why looking for someone to punish isn’t a healthy way to cope with grief.
Chaitanya Tamhane’s sophomore drama follows Sharad Nerulkar, an idealistic young man who has devoted his life to becoming an Indian classical music vocalist, diligently following the traditions and discipline of old masters, his guru, and his father. But as years go by, Sharad starts to wonder whether it’s really possible to achieve the excellence he’s striving for. The Disciple is a profound and quiet exploration of a failed artist struggling to accept his limitations. Tamhane’s patient character study is a melancholy journey of self-discovery through the lens of a forgotten musical tradition.