Twelve Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in December

Spend your couch time watching a meditative animated gem about the end of the world, medical nightmares, a hilarious new British sitcom and a documentary about Alfred Hitchcock.
Sarah Ward
December 22, 2023

Not all that long ago, the idea of getting cosy on your couch, clicking a few buttons, and having thousands of films and television shows at your fingertips seemed like something out of science fiction. Now, it's just an ordinary night — whether you're virtually gathering the gang to text along, cuddling up to your significant other or shutting the world out for some much needed me-time.

Of course, given the wealth of options to choose from, there's nothing ordinary about making a date with your chosen streaming platform. The question isn't "should I watch something?" — it's "what on earth should I choose?".

Hundreds of titles are added to Australia's online viewing services each and every month, all vying for a spot on your must-see list. And, so you don't spend 45 minutes scrolling and then being too tired to actually commit to anything, we're here to help. We've spent plenty of couch time watching our way through this month's latest batch — and, from the latest and greatest through to old and recent favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue from December's haul.

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BRAND NEW STUFF YOU CAN WATCH FROM START TO FINISH NOW

CAROL & THE END OF THE WORLD

Mental health professionals counsel against catastrophising; however, that advice clearly doesn't apply to the film and TV industry. Assuming that the worst is on its way is such a go-to that it's always doomsday somewhere on-screen. In 2023 alone, The Last of Us, Good Omens, Silo, No One Will Save You, Leave the World Behind and animated series Carol & the End of the World are among the examples, but that doesn't mean that every instance — and the list goes on — serves up more of the same. Grappling with the fact that life is finite inspires a wide array of responses, which is one of the ideas at the heart of The Onion writer and Rick and Morty producer Dan Guterman's dance with the apocalypse. Few musings on existence being snuffed out are as meditative, surreal and thoughtful as his ten-part effort, though, which finds beauty in the mundanity and monotony of being human while facing mortality head on. If your days and the entire planet's were numbered, how would you react? What would you spend your final months, weeks, hours, minutes and seconds doing? Who would you want to be with? What would matter? So also asks Carol & the End of the World, while embracing routine — so, embracing everyday reality.

The eponymous 42-year-old (Martha Kelly, Sitting in Bars with Cake) is well-aware that everything she's ever known, herself included, will soon be extinct when Carol & the End of the World kicks off. There's only seven months and 13 days left until a planet called Keppler crashes into earth — an event that cannot be avoided, nor is anyone trying to thwart it (this isn't Armageddon, Deep Impact or Don't Look Up). Most folks attempt to cope by indulging their wildest dreams. Carol's daredevil sister Elena (Bridget Everett, Somebody Somewhere) sends videos from her adventurous travels around the globe. Their parents Pauline (Beth Grant, Amsterdam) and Bernard (Lawrence Pressman, Reboot) have ditched clothes and become a throuple with the latter's carer Michael (Delbert Hunt, Monster High). But Carol isn't sure what to do until she discovers The Distraction, aka an accounting office where others — such as mum-of-five Donna (Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Craig of the Creek) and first-time employee Luis (Mel Rodriguez, Made for Love) — find solace in the patterns and repetitions of the nine-to-five grind. As anyone who saw Melancholia and These Final Hours will understand, it's the connections between people that linger when the end is tangible. And as anyone who watched Baskets will instantly recognise, Kelly is perfectly cast as the woman facing the apocalypse with matter-of-fact malaise.

Carol & the End of the World streams via Netflix.

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EVERYONE ELSE BURNS

End Times are here again in Everyone Else Burns — except to David Lewis' (Simon Bird, Sandylands) disappointment, they haven't quite arrived just yet. The dutiful Order of the Divine Rod member starts this British sitcom's six-episode first season by ushering his wife Fiona (Kate O'Flynn, Landscapers), high-schooler daughter Rachel (Amy James-Kelly, Gentleman Jack) and pre-teen son Aaron (debutant  Harry Connor) out of bed in the middle of the night, grabbing their go bags, and hightailing it to high ground as he shouts about the apocalypse descending and the rapture beginning. It's just a drill, however, with Aaron devastated but Fiona and Rachel relieved. David is certain that being prepared for doomsday will help him become one his cult-like church's elders. A parcel-sorting courier company worker by day and dedicated to his family's piety always, he's desperate for the approval of their chapter's leader Samson (Arsher Ali, Funny Woman), plus the congregation as a whole. Such strict devotion isn't quite the path to family harmony that he thinks it is, though — especially when Fiona is struggling with being the compliant homemaker, as aided by newly divorced neighbour Melissa (Morgana Robinson, Stuck), while Rachel wants to study medicine at university and finds a new friend in expelled Order member Joshua (Ali Khan, A Haunting in Venice).

It's been almost a decade since Bird was last The Inbetweeners' stuffy suburban teenager Will McKenzie (the fellow TV comedy ran from 2008–10, with movies in 2011 and 2014). Now, he's the stodgy dad in another comic quartet — and, sporting a bowl cut made with an actual bowl, he's equally suited to the part. Bird's casting is just one stroke of mastery by Everyone Else Burns creators and writers Dillon Mapletoft (BBC3 Quickies) and Oliver Taylor (a small-screen first-timer). Skewering patriarchal religion's extremes, evangelical sects, power dynamics, mindless obedience in the name of faith and the conflicts of all of the above with 21st-century existence within a family sitcom is a divine concept, as it keeps proving across the show's initial run. The series' witty scripts deliver a flurry of jokes and pitch-perfect one-liners in every episode, but this is also a sitcom with heart and excellent performances across the board. See: Fiona's quest for fulfilment, Rachel's yearning to be herself, plus the portrayals — with O'Flynn a deadpan delight and James-Kelly expertly relatable — that bring both to life.

Everyone Else Burns streams via SBS On Demand.

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SQUARING THE CIRCLE (THE STORY OF HIPGNOSIS)

Art design can change the world, and Hipgnosis has the story to prove it. Five decades back, the English studio created the most-famous album cover ever — an image that is still as well-known now as it was then, becoming shorthand for the psychedelic and experimental both in music and life in general in the process. Everyone knows The Dark Side of the Moon's artwork. When it comes to triangular prisms, only the Great Pyramids of Giza top the black-hued illustration with a three-sided shape at its centre, a single beam of light hitting its left side and a rainbow of disbursed hues filtering out its right surface. How it came to be, and Hipgnosis' tale as well, is the focus of the Colin Firth (Empire of Light)-produced Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis). While that's a fascinating tale anyway, with Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Paul McCartney and Noel Gallagher among the talking-head interviewees — plus Hipgnosis' Aubrey Powell chatting to camera, and his fellow co-founder Storm Thorgerson featured via archival discussions — it benefits from having Anton Corbijn as the documentary's director.

In two of Corbijn's best features, music and imagery receive his attention. The Dutch director made the leap from music videos for Depeche Mode, Nirvana, U2, Nick Cave, Roxette, Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers to cinema with the Joy Division-centric Control, one of the finest music biopics there is. After thrillers The American and A Most Wanted Man, he then honed in on the friendship between James Dean and American photographer Dennis Stock in Life. Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) is his first doco and, as well as proving an outstanding fit for his career and interests, it's as rich and detailed as the filmmaker's work always is. Come for some of the foremost examples of album art — Wings' Band on the Run, Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy and 10cc's Look Hear? are also featured, on a lengthy list — and stay for the insider accounts behind capturing those visuals, and the folks who made them happen, as well as a reminder that masterpieces don't just hang on gallery walls, and of the importance of album art to begin with.

Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) streams via Docplay.

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DR DEATH

Late in the second season of Dr Death, the concept of trust in healthcare fuels a rousing speech. In a plea for a hospital to make the right choice about the titular practitioner, the importance of doctors doing their utmost to earn, deserve and uphold the faith that patients put in them — and that the entire medical industry is based on — is stressed like it's the most important aspect of being in the healing business. It is, of course. That anyone with an ailment or illness can have confidence that they're being given the best advice and treatment, and that whether they live or die matters to the doc caring for them, is the most fundamental tenet of medicine. It's also why this anthology series keeps proving shiver-inducing nightmare fuel, initially in its debut season in 2021 and now in its Édgar Ramírez (Florida Man)- and Mandy Moore (This Is Us)-starring eight-episode follow-up. Season two of Dr Death again explores the actions of a surgeon who threatens to shatter humanity's shared belief in doctors. The first time around, Texas neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch was sparking terror. Now, the series tells of Paolo Macchiarini, whose tale hops across the 2010s, and between Sweden, the US and Russia.

Where Duntsch specialised in operating on spinal and neck injuries, often with heartbreakingly grim results, Macchiarini was dubbed 'Miracle Man' for his pioneering research into synthetic organs and regenerative medicine. In 2008, he was among the team that undertook the world's first-ever windpipe transplant aided by using the patient's own stem cells — a procedure that he hailed as a ground-breaking step forward, then kept building upon. Even without knowing the specifics of Macchiarini's life and career when sitting down to binge Dr Death's can't-look-away second season, it's obvious that everything that the Swiss surgeon claims can't be true. If it was, he wouldn't have been the subject of the third season of the Wondery podcast that originated the Dr Death moniker, or of this TV adaptation. Hospital horrors are one strand of true-crime's trusty go-tos. Another: romantic scandals. So, when the audio network that's also behind Dirty John learned of Macchiarini, it must've felt like it had hit the jackpot. With devastating results that are chilling to watch, his patients did when he offered them hope, too, as did investigative journalist Benita Alexander when she made him the focus of a gushing report, then fell in love.

Dr Death streams via Stan. Read our full review.

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NYAD

When most sports films bring real-life exploits to the screen, they piece together the steps it took for a person or a team to achieve the ultimate in their field, or come as close as possible while trying their hardest. Nyad is no different, but it's also a deeply absorbing character study of two people: its namesake Diana Nyad and her best friend Bonnie Stoll. The first is the long-distance swimmer whose feats the movie tracks, especially her quest to swim from Cuba to Florida in the 2010s. The second is the former professional racquetball player who became Nyad's coach when she set her sights on making history as a sexagenarian — and reattempting a gruelling leg she'd tried and failed when she was in her late 20s. It helps that Annette Bening (Death on the Nile) plays the swimmer and Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) her offsider, with both giving exceptional performances that unpack not only the demands of chasing such a dream, but of complicated friendships. Also assisting: that Nyad is helmed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, directors making their feature debut beyond documentaries after The Rescue, Meru and winning an Oscar for charting Alex Honnold's El Capitan climb in Free Solo.

Extraordinary efforts are this filmmaking pair's wheelhouse, clearly. Nyad and Stoll fit that description easily, as do Bening and Foster. With the latter, who brings shades of Michael J Fox (Still: A Michael J Fox Movie) to her portrayal, Nyad also provides a reminder of how phenomenal the Taxi Driver, The Silence of the Lambs and Panic Room star is on-screen, how charismatic as well, and how missed she's been while featuring in just four films in the past decade (from January 2024, the fourth season of True Detective thankfully places Foster at its centre). Understandably, the movie's main actors have been earning awards attention. The picture around them never stops plunging into what makes both Nyad and Stoll tick — and keep shooting for such an immense goal, even as setback after setback comes their way — with Chin and Vasarhelyi experts in conveying minutiae. Whether or not you know the outcome, Nyad is rousing and compelling viewing, floating on excellent work by its four key creative talents.

Nyad streams via Netflix.

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MY NAME IS ALFRED HITCHCOCK

Documentarian Mark Cousins knows how to delight cinephiles: turn his attention to a chapter of movie history, or the whole subject itself, then talk his way through it over a deftly spliced-together compilation of clips. So unspooled the mammoth 915-minute The Story of Film: An Odyssey in 2011, plus 2013's A Story of Children and Film and 2021's The Story of Film: A New Generation since. With 2018's Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema, he took the same path but with the likes of Jane Fonda (Book Club: The Next Chapter), Thandiwe Newton (Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget) and Tilda Swinton (The Killer) on narration duties. His current focus is one of the greatest filmmakers to ever tell tales using a camera — who, 43 years after dying, chats through his life's work. That said, My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock obviously hasn't enlisted the real Master of Suspense from beyond the grave. Rather, it gets mimic Alistair McGowan (Creation Stories) pretending. That approach is a gimmick; however, after it worked well-enough for Cousins' also-2018 effort The Eyes of Orson Welles (with The English's Jack Klaff doing the voicing), it does again in the latest in a long line of his informative and passionate filmic explorations.

If you've ever wanted a Hitchcock director's commentary track spanning his entire career, My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock is as close as you're ever going to get. Cousins has his faux Hitch dig into his work via six themes, examining how escape, desire, loneliness, time, fulfilment and height ripple through everything from silents such as The Pleasure Garden and The Ring, plus his British talkies like The 39 Steps and Young and Innocent, through to Rebecca, Spellbound, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain and Family Plot. Finishing the two-hour doco with a massive Hitchcock to-watch or to-revisit list goes with the territory. So does taking a close, shrewd and playful look at recurring ideas, motifs and obsessions in the famed filmmaker's fare, with meticulously examples and evidence to illustrate every point. Accordingly, it's classic Cousins, then — as once again filled with snippets of classic cinema. Indeed, My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock is so engrossing in its clips and insights that it didn't need to cheekily pretend that Hitchcock is voicing them.

My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock streams via Binge.

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RICK AND MORTY

Long before Rick and Morty's seventh season arrived — 11 months before it wrapped up its ten-instalment run in mid-December, in fact — the beloved animated series with one of pop culture's most-intense fandoms had everyone talking about its latest instalments. When Adult Swim dropped co-creator Justin Roiland due to domestic violence charges in January 2023, it cut ties with the voice of Rick Sanchez and his grandson Morty Smith. New vocals would be deployed, of course. Still, how the necessary change would impact the sci-fi sitcom lingered over the show's return. Solar Opposites, which Roiland was also behind and loaned his tones to, opted to work the swap into its storyline — and enlisted Dan Stevens (The Boy and the Heron) to do the new honours. The answer for Rick and Morty? With the largely unknown Ian Cardoni (Dead of Night) and Harry Belden (Christmas… Again?) providing sound-alike replacements as Rick and Morty's titular madcap scientist and high-schooler offsider, the switch in actors couldn't be more inconsequential. 

That's exactly how it should be; the series might've made Roiland a household name, and not only for his on-screen efforts, but blending the gleefully silly with the astutely insightful — and finding endless riffs on its Back to the Future-esque premise on the time-, universe- and galaxy-hopping journey — has always been its biggest drawcard. New voices, same tune: that's Rick and Morty season seven, then. Now 71 episodes in, the show isn't non-stop perfection, but that isn't a new development. Also, its best instalments remain must-see gems. So, while an entire 20-minute stretch based around warring factions of letters and numbers falls flat, even with Ice-T (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) as a T-shaped letter called Water-T, that underwhelming effort is surrounded by anarchic, absurd, creative and contemplative delights. Rick's ongoing search for the source of his misery fuels two of Rick and Morty's finest-ever episodes, in fact — and hilarious surprises still abound second by second, scene by scene, in the whip-smart dialogue and hidden in almost every pixel of every frame. 

Rick and Morty streams via Netflix.

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BUMP

Four festive seasons, four Bump seasons: whenever the end of one year and beginning of the next has rolled around since 2020 became 2021, this Australian dramedy has arrived with it. Not just starring Aussie national treasure Claudia Karvan, but co-created by the Love My Way, The Secret Life of Us and The Clearing actor (with Scrublands writer Kelsey Munro), it has now become a December-January tradition. Also a constant: within its frames, the Davis-Chalmers-Hernández family remains its focus. Everyday ups and downs both big and small keeps fuelling its storylines, too. And, no matter which bumps are faced by matriarch Angie (Karvan), her ex-husband Dom (Angus Sampson, Insidious: The Red Door), their daughter Oly (Nathalie Morris, Petrol), the latter's partner Santi (Carlos Sanson Jr, Sweet As), and Oly and Santi's own daughter Jacinda (TV first-timer Ava Cannon) — back when the show began, an unexpected teen pregnancy that only announced its existence when Oly went into labour at school was the first — this is one of the best-cast and most-heartfelt local productions in recent years.

Bump's fourth go-around has a favourite recurring theme in its sights: the constant struggle for balance. Never one to back away from her ambitions, Oly has a dream job in politics, but for demanding boss Shauna (Steph Tisdell, Total Control), who thinks nothing of expecting her to front up to a meeting on a Saturday mere hours after getting off the plane from a week-long conference overseas. At work, Oly is even lying about Jacinda's existence. At home, Santi is frustrated with the changed status quo's impact on the couple's relationship and his attempts to chase his artistic dreams. As for Angie, she's decamped to a protest site to save trees that Shauna wants to bulldoze to build social housing, which helps distract her from her own romantic situation. In its first ten-episode season and its returns since, Bump has always felt like a sibling to Heartbreak High. Initially debuting before that beloved favourite made a 2022 comeback, it explores the out-of-hours chaos surrounding a teacher's family — with Karvan as an educator again after The Heartbreak Kid, the movie that sparked the OG Heartbreak High in the first place. That isn't a fresh insight but it keeps proving true, including in a new run of Bump that adds Dylan Alcott (Scarygirl) to the mix.

Bump streams via Stan.

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CHICKEN RUN: DAWN OF THE NUGGET

In 2023, the factory that made the modelling clay that film and television viewers have seen shaped into inventors, dogs, chickens, sheep, pirates and more closed down. With it came reports that Britain's Aardman Animation might not be able to keep fashioning its beloved claymation movies after 2024, when its next Wallace and Gromit feature is due. The studio nixed those claims, thankfully, amid delivering its first flick in four years: Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. A return to the clucking world of its first-ever full-length release, this 23-years-later sequel still boasts much of Aardman's usual magic. It's a caper with cute creatures, contraptions, heists and puns, and it has clearly — and literally — been crafted with the utmost care. The one unavoidable struggle if you've also seen the big screen's Migration, with both films arriving in the same month: demonstrating how formula has become far too prevalent among family-friendly animation, given that that duck-focused picture from Minions creators Illumination and Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget follow almost the exact same storyline.

This chook version reteams with the poultry that escaped from Mr and Mrs Tweedy's farm back in 2000's Chicken Run, albeit with changed voices. Instead of Julia Sawalha (Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie), Thandiwe Newton (Westworld) now lends her vocals to Ginger, the British bird that masterminds the flock's breakouts — and, in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, break-ins — while Zachary Levi (Shazam! Fury of the Gods) does the same for her American husband Rocky, not Mel Gibson (The Continental: From the World of John Wick). The pair are now parents to Molly (Bella Ramsey, The Last of Us), who they've brought up on an island away from humans, but the 11-year-old wants to know more about the world. Enter a chicken processing factory on the mainland, with ads that pique Molly's curiosity because she knows nothing of the food chain's horrors. Even when the writing isn't as smart as previous Aardman movies — or the sight gags up to Shaun the Sheep Movie and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon's standards — this is a likeable escapade from one of the best in the animation business.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget streams via Netflix.

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A NEW TV SHOW TO START

THE FAMOUS FIVE

What do Enid Blyton and the filmmaker behind the Pusher trilogy, Bronson, Drive, Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon have in common? The answer is one of the wildest swings in pop-culture history, plus a move on Nicolas Winding Refn's part that absolutely no one could've anticipated. At home making small-screen fare in the seven years since his last film, the Danish director hops from the overtly Winding Refn-esque Too Old to Die Young and Copenhagen Cowboy to a new TV adaptation of The Famous Five. Yes, that The Famous Five. Yes, he's created a series based on the children's novels about four kids and their dog Timmy, which rank alongside Noddy and The Secret Seven franchise as one of English author Blyton's best-known creations. Yes, it instantly seems an unlikely fit, and makes getting nostalgic with the first of three movie-length episodes set to result across 2023–24 a must-watch. In debut instalment The Curse of Kirrin Island — with chapters two and three due in 2024 — Game of Thrones' Jack Gleeson also adds another rare post-Joffrey role to his resume after season four of Sex Education.

Still present, as readers will remember from the page: a 1940s time period, spirited tomboy George (Diaana Babnicova, Don't Breathe 2) at the centre of the action, plus her cousins Julian (Elliott Rose, The Northman) Dick (Kit Rakusen, Foundation) and Anne (newcomer Flora Jacoby Richardson) helping her solve mysteries. Among the thoroughly Winding Refn touches, even though he isn't doing the helming (The Pentaverate, Brockmire and Fleabag alum Tim Kirkby directs The Curse of Kirrin Island): neon and candy-coloured hues over both the opening and closing credits, plus a synth-heavy score any show or movie would love to have. This is no bloody reimagining, however. The man behind The Famous Five's new guise isn't killing anyone's darlings — or, not that he's ever belonged in such company or ever will, going all Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey on a childhood staple. Rather, as co-created with Matthew Read (The Pursuit of Love), co-starring Ted Lasso's James Lance and Moon Knight's Ann Akinjirin as George's parents, he's crafted a lushly shot new take on a favourite that starts with an Indiana Jones-style caper involving a dusty goblet and the Knights Templar.

The Famous Five streams via Stan.

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STANDOUT MOVIES FROM THE LAST FEW YEARS THAT YOU NEED TO CATCH UP WITH ASAP

SOMETHING IN THE DIRT

The pandemic's stay-at-home era gave rise to Bo Burnham's Inside, Zoom horror effort Host and Steven Soderbergh thriller Kimi, three ace examples of creatively adapting to and exploring unexpected circumstances. Add Something in the Dirt to the list, which Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead direct, star in and produce — as well as co-edit with their regular collaborator Michael Felker, while Benson wrote the script and Moorhead lensed the entire picture. Made during lockdown, it was also shot in Benson's own Los Angeles apartment. In their latest mind-twister, there's no missing the Resolution, Spring, The Endless and Synchronic filmmakers' fingerprints all over every millimetre of this movie. It's another unnerving sci-fi-tinged puzzle, too, as they've also pursued via the small screen's Archive 81, The Twilight Zone, Moon Knight and Loki. In other words, Something in the Dirt is exactly what Benson and Moorhead fans should expect from two of the most-interesting cinematic forces today riffing on being stuck in one location, virtually in isolation, while everything feels eerie, unsettling and otherworldly.

Moorhead's John Daniels and Benson's Levi Danube both live in the same Hollywood Hills apartment complex, but bond over a series of unusual and seemingly linked paranormal occurrences. Their swift response to strange symbols, crystals, lights and levitating objects is to team up on a documentary, hoping that Netflix might snap it up — and down the rabbit hole the duo eagerly tumble. Paranoia, alienation, coincidences and conspiracy theories all swirl, plus uncertainty about how much they can actually trust each other. As the feature flits between interviews and experts, proving a film within a film, whether Something in the Dirt's viewers can trust what they're being told also swells. Benson and Moorhead dedicate the picture "to making movies with your friends", but could've also shouted out humanity's easy willingness to clutch onto anything and everything to attempt to make sense of chaos. This is a movie about where the brain spirals and, as it parodies and puzzles, it's another standout from its inventive filmmaking pair. It'd also slip nicely into two stellar triple bills, either with Under the Silver Lake and Mulholland Drive, or Pi and Eraserhead.

Something in the Dirt streams via Shudder and AMC+.

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ANNETTE

Dreamy and dazzling from its first moments, rock opera Annette bursts onto the screen with a question: "so may we start?". "Please do", fans of Holy Motors director Leos Carax should think to themselves, and devotees of Ron and Russell Mael as well — and yes the later, aka art-pop duo Sparks, have clearly been having a moment since 2021 (see: documentary The Sparks Brothers, their 2023 album The Girl Is Crying in Her Latte and their first tour Down Under in two decades). Carax and the Maels all appear on-screen in Annette's opening, joined by Adam Driver (65), Marion Cotillard (We'll End Up Together) and Simon Helberg (Poker Face). In a glorious, song-fuelled, sing-and-walk scene, no one is playing a character yet, but they're all still playing a part. They're setting the vibe in a sensational way, and the tune is pure Sparks, with the pair both composing the movie's music and writing the feature itself with Carax. The tone bubbles with the duo's avant-garde sensibilities, too, and the whole song echoes with the promise of remarkable things to come.

In 2012, Carax gave the world a once-in-a-lifetime gem. Annette is a different film to Holy Motors, obviously, but it gleams just as brightly and with the same beguiling, inimitable, all-encompassing allure. There's an ethereal, otherworldly quality to Carax's work — of heightening reality to truly understand how people feel and act, and of experimenting with artforms to interrogate them — and that sensation seeps through every second of his gleefully melodramatic musical, which deservedly won him the Cannes Film Festival's Best Director award. Everything about Annette has been turned up several notches on every setting, from its lush and lavish imagery to its cascade of toe-tapping, sung-through tunes that keep propelling the narrative forward. Every detail of that story has been amplified, too, as this tragic fairy tale follows standup comedian Henry McHenry (Driver), opera star Ann Defrasnoux (Cotillard), their mismatched but passionate and all-consuming love, and their titular daughter — with the latter played by a marionette.

Annette streams via SBS On Demand. Read our full review and our interview with Sparks.

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Need a few more streaming recommendations? Check out our picks from January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October and November this year.

You can also check out our running list of standout must-stream shows from this year as well — and our best 15 new shows of 2023, 15 newcomers you might've missed, top 15 returning shows of the year, 15 best films, 15 top movies you likely didn't see, 15 best straight-to-streaming flicks and 30 movies worth catching up on over the summer.

Published on December 22, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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