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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream This Month

Cancel your plans to get stuck into a thrilling new South Korean zombie movie, a dark take on superheroes and a blistering drama that's easily 2020's best new TV show.
By Sarah Ward
September 23, 2020
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Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream This Month

Cancel your plans to get stuck into a thrilling new South Korean zombie movie, a dark take on superheroes and a blistering drama that's easily 2020's best new TV show.
By Sarah Ward
September 23, 2020
  shares

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 New Zealand'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 watching anything, we're here to help. From the latest and greatest to old favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue for September.

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NEW STUFF TO WATCH NOW

I MAY DESTROY YOU

Newly returned from a working trip to Italy, struggling to write her second novel after her first struck a sizeable chord and pushing up against a draft deadline just hours away, Arabella (Michaela Coel) takes some time out from an all-nighter to procrastinate with friends over a few drinks in a couple of London bars. The next morning, the Twitter-famous scribe is shaky, hazy and feels far from her normal self — and across the next 11 episodes of this instantly blistering 12-part series, I May Destroy You delves into the aftermath, as Arabella realises that she was raped that evening. Not only created and written by the unflinching and captivating Coel, but inspired by her own real-life experience with sexual assault, the result is as bold, raw and frank as it is sensitive and affecting. It also feels personal at every single moment. An immensely powerful series that intimately interrogates power on multiple levels and features an unsurprisingly potent performance by Coel, I May Destroy You is easily this year's number-one must-see show — and its absolute best.

I May Destroy You's first season is available to stream via Neon.

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I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS

For much of I'm Thinking of Ending Things two-hour-plus running time, the film's characters sit and talk as discomfort fills the space around them. The movie's protagonist (Wild Rose's Jessie Buckley) and her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) awkwardly chat as they drive through the snow to the Oklahoma farm where the latter grew up. They both endure several seesawing conversations with Jake's erratic and eccentric mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis) once they arrive. And, steam-of-consciousness narration also provides a soundtrack. But given this feature is written and directed by Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, it was never going to be a straightforward flick about meeting the parents. Instead, it's a purposely ambiguous and complex exploration of identity, choice and the very nature of human existence — complete with sudden ballet dances, strange overnight stops at deserted dessert stands and flashes to an unhappy janitor (Guy Boyd) — and it's a fascinating, challenging, visually stunning trip the entire way.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things is available to stream via Netflix.

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THE BOYS

Suffers of superhero fatigue understandably rejoiced when The Boys first hit screens in 2019. Yes, it focuses on a group of caped crusaders just like seemingly every second blockbuster movie — but, in a world where viewers have been conditioned to lap up narratives about powerful folks who are supposedly better than most, this series both satirises and questions that very idea. Here, superheroes work for a corporation called Vought International. The top talent is known as The Seven; however when the public isn't looking, most — especially leader Homelander (Antony Starr) — are hardly role models. The show's second season picks up where its first left off, with determined, no-nonsense Brit Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) intent on bringing Vought and The Seven down with his own ragtag team, aka The Boys of the title. As well as once again following the complicated bond between The Boys' newcomer Hugh (Jack Quaid) and The Seven's Starlight (Erin Moriarty), the new season also throws Better Call Saul's Giancarlo Esposito into the mix as Vought's CEO, plus Aya Cash as social media star and new The Seven member Liberty.

The first five episodes of The Boys' second season are available to stream via Amazon Prime Video, with new episodes added every Friday.

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PEN15

When Maya Erskine (Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later) and Anna Konkle (Rosewood) decided that they were going to make a series about their 13-year-old selves — and, although they're now definitely and obviously adults, also play their younger selves — it was a decidedly risky move. It pays off, though. In fact, it's one of the savviest parts of PEN15, which is one of the most distinctive comedies on TV. There's nothing quite like reflecting upon that awkward adolescent phase by physically and literally revisiting it, as the two writers and actors do, all while their on-screen characters navigate the ups and downs of middle school at the turn of the 21st century. Returning for the first half of its second season, this comedy series steps back into the lives of Maya Ishii-Peters (Erskine) and Anna Kone (Konkle), deepens its exploration of being a teenage girl (and a teenager in general), and will have you cringing in recognition, laughing and recognising its insights simultaneously.

The first seven episodes of PEN15's second season are available to stream via Neon, with another seven episodes set to drop at a yet-to-be revealed date.

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SPIRAL

Not to be confused with the upcoming new Saw franchise film of the same name, Spiral gives a familiar premise a smart, topical and resonant twist. In the mid-90s, Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, UnREAL) and Aaron (Ari Cohen, IT: Chapter Two) move to a small town with the latter's teenage daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte, iZombie), seeking a quieter, happier life away from the city. They're initially greeted warmly by neighbours Marshall (Lochlyn Munro, Riverdale) and Tiffany (Chandra West, Played); however, in general territory traversed by many a horror film before this, things aren't quite what they seem. Indeed, when Malik comes home one day to find a homophobic slur graffitied on their living room wall, he starts to get suspicious about the cliquey community they're now calling home — fears that Aaron doesn't share. There is clearly much about Spiral that fits a template, but director Kurtis David Harder and writers Colin Minihan and John Poliquin do an astute job of moulding this unsettling movie into a timely statement. The result: an unnerving feature that's as much about spooky terrors as societal ones, and that possesses a considerable bite.

Spiral is available to stream via Shudder.

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#ALIVE

Train to Busan and Peninsula aren't the only films to wonder how South Korea might cope with a sudden zombie outbreak. The unrelated #Alive also explores the concept, focusing on a video game streamer as an unexplained disease turns most of Seoul's residents into the guts-munching undead. Even holed up in the seeming safety of his family's apartment, Oh Jun-u (Burning's Yoo Ah-in) doesn't initially take the situation well. As shuffling hordes lurk outside, his dismal food supply rapidly declines and he worries about the safety of his parents and sister, he attempts to survive — and to fight off the gnawing feeling that perhaps his struggle is futile. A box office hit when it released in South Korean cinemas, #Alive never feels as formulaic as its premise might suggest. In fact, this horror-thriller proves constantly tense, and not just because pandemic films have that effect at the moment. Making his first feature, writer/director Il Cho handles the zombie scenes with urgency and makes ample room for quiet moments; however his best decision is casting the ever-watchable Yoo.

#Alive is available to stream via Netflix.

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AP BIO

In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Glenn Howerton excels at playing arrogant, narcissistic, abrasive, selfish and misanthropic. He's been doing just that since 2005, and long may that continue. But, while before 2018, no one would've ever wondered what might happen if Howerton demonstrated the same traits in a high-school set sitcom, AP Bio answers that question in a consistently amusing way. Here, Howerton plays an ex-Harvard philosophy professor forced to return to his home town of Toledo after losing his dream job and reacting badly. He takes a gig as a biology teacher even though he has absolutely no interest in it, and he enlists his motley crew of students to help him enact his elaborate revenge plan. Three seasons in, this comedy happily veers in its own direction and keeps serving up offbeat laughs — including from Patton Oswalt as the school principal and the great Paula Pell (a Saturday Night Live writer for almost two decades) as his secretary. Also, the latest season dedicates an episode to an occasion known as 'Katie Holmes Day', which is as silly and yet still inspired as it sounds.

AP Bio's third season is available to stream via TVNZ OnDemand.

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THE SOCIAL DILEMMA

The idea that social media isn't all that great for humanity isn't new news. More than a decade after services such as Facebook and Twitter started taking over our daily lives, inundating us with notifications, fighting for our time, collecting our data and trying to monetise our attention to sell to advertisers, that fact shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. But just because The Social Dilemma stresses something that everyone should already know, that doesn't mean that it doesn't still pack a punch. This Sundance-premiering documentary proves more than a little clunky when it features dramatised segments showing both how social media can affect us all and visualising how algorithms work (the latter featuring multiple versions of Mad Men's Vincent Kartheiser). And, in its interview segments, it is hardly astonishing that an array of ex-tech company employees have unpleasant things to say about the industry. Still, this doco is both comprehensive and important — and, if you haven't spent much time thinking about the topic, accessible as well.

The Social Dilemma is available to stream via Netflix.

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CULT CLASSICS TO REVISIT AND REDISCOVER

FARGO

More than two decades since it first hit the big screen, Joel and Ethan Coen's Fargo still ranks among their best work. Given the other movies to the sibling filmmakers' names — Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men and Inside Llewyn Davis, to name just a few — that's quite the feat. So, when the Fargo TV series arrived in 2014, it followed in some considerable footsteps. Telling a different crime tale each season, with a different high-profile cast, it instantly became one of television's must-watch dramas. Featuring everyone from Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman (in season one), to Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons (season two) and Ewan McGregor playing brothers (in season three), every episode to-date has served up an entertaining treat — and those first three seasons have just hit SBS On Demand in the lead up to the Chris Rock and Jason Schwartzman-starring fourth season, which starts dropping in October.

The first three seasons of Fargo are available to stream via Netflix.

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ONE TO WATCH OUT FOR NEXT MONTH

THE VOW

Another month, another compelling true-crime documentary series. When it comes to delving into the minutiae of tales so wild that they can only be true, HBO has long been known for leading the charge — and, after McMillions and I'll Be Gone in the Dark already this year, The Vow is its latest addition to the fold. Its focus: self-improvement group NXIVM. If that name sounds familiar, that's probably because you remember the 2018 news headlines, when its founder Keith Raniere and member and actor Allison Mack (Smallville) were arrested and charged with a range of crimes that included sex trafficking. Featuring former NXIVM members sharing stories about their time in the cult-like group, The Vow details a rollercoaster ride of a story, not only unpacking the sinister and sordid aspects of the tale, but attempting to understand what appealed to people about the organisation in the first place. Filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer picked up an Oscar nomination for 2013's The Square, as well as Emmy awards and nods, and don't be surprised if they feature in the TV awards conversation in 2020.

The first season of The Vow will be available to stream via Neon from 21 October.

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Top images: I May Destroy You, Natalie Seery/HBO; The Vow, HBO; I'm Thinking of Ending Things, Mary Cybulski/Neflix.

Published on September 23, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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