The Crown, season 3
(UK, 2019) – 17 November
A new era calls for fresh blood in Buckingham Palace. In the latest season of Netflix’s lavish Emmy and Golden Globe-winning monarchy drama, Olivia Colman takes up the mantle from Claire Foy as steely Queen Elizabeth II. This season, the narrative moves away from exploring marital tension between Elizabeth and Prince Philip, and instead focuses on the now middle-aged royals as they face a rapidly modernising Britain under Harold Wilson’s prime ministership. Colman’s reign is joined by Tobias Menzies as her mellowed-out husband, and the Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret.
Season three spans the years from 1964–76, covering events such as Prince Charles’s investiture as the Prince of Wales (Josh O’Connor) and the Apollo 11 moon landing. Netflix’s review embargo prevents us from saying more, but all signs point to a dramatic ride.
By Paul Thomas Anderson (US, 2017) – 9 November
Paul Thomas Anderson’s dizzying, quietly beguiling romance – of sorts – is imbued with visual restraint and elegant beauty. In Daniel Day Lewis’s apparently final acting role, he finds charismatic rigour in Reynolds Woodcock, a famous dressmaker of London’s 1950s couture world. On the surface, it’s the story of a capricious perfectionist, finding his muse in Alma, a young, shy waitress, with whom he begins a love affair. But when the tables turn, underneath lies a domestic power struggle that develops into something disturbing – and wickedly funny. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood composes a classical-style score that’s lush, swoony and increasingly eerie, adding enigmatic layers to the film’s perverse undertones.
By Kay Cannon (US, 2018) – 11 November
The three girls at the centre of the raunchy Blockers make a pact through emoji-coded texts to lose their virginity on prom night. Upon discovery of this thread, their overprotective parents (a hilarious Lesley Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena) band together to put a stop to their daughters’ plans. It’s silly, riotous fun, with ridiculous obstacles standing in the way between parents and kids. Director Kay Cannon instils what could be an outdated concept with surprising maturity, entrusting her trio of teens with a self-aware confidence around their sexuality. Here, the unhinged adults have more to learn from the intelligent adolescents. It’s this level of depth that makes this overlooked comedy stick out from the crowd – proving the experiences of a coming-of-age story aren’t just limited to youngsters, it can be for grownups too.
Honourable mentions: Bojack Horseman season 6, part one (TV, out now), Dolemite is My Name (film, out now), Outlander season 4 (TV, 5 November), The King (film, 1 November), Seven (film, 15 November), The Irishman (film, 27 November), Atlantics (film, 29 November)
By John Carney (US, 2019) – out now
Nothing quite beats the feeling of turning on a comforting rom-com and embracing all of its gooey predictability. In John Carney’s (Once, Sing Street) anthology series, each episode brings to life stories inspired by the popular New York Times column on “relationships, feelings, betrayals, and revelations”. While it may prove frustratingly mawkish for some, there are a few gems tucked in between all the cheese. The episode titled When Cupid Is a Prying Journalist, with Dev Patel as an app founder and Catherine Keener as the journalist interviewing him for a story, particularly shines. With a stacked cast including Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey and Andrew Scott, the show’s lightness and warmth should be enough to tickle the fancy of those who want to snuggle up in bed with a cup of tea and lose themselves in some breezy escapism.
One Child Nation
By Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang (US, 2019) – 8 November
This Grand Jury prize-winning documentary from Sundance takes a deep dive into the harrowing consequences of China’s 35-year one-child policy. Told through the perspective of co-director Nanfu Wang, the film paints a shocking picture of the ways this social experiment – scrapped at the end of 2015 – affected more than 1 billion people, and continues to have a devastating impact on its citizens’ lives to this day. The film’s eye-opening revelations are simultaneously up close and personal: mothers forced into abortions, foetuses discarded in garbage dumps, abandoned babies on the streets. Among the interviewees are Wang’s own family members, village chiefs and former family planning officials – and the spectrum of emotions on display, which range from grief, guilt to remorse, is heart-wrenching. A vital, enthralling watch.
Honourable mentions: Brittany Runs a Marathon (film, 15 November), The Report (film, 29 November)
(Australia, 2019) – out now
This horror anthology, which made the rounds of the Australian film festivals earlier this year, consists of bite-sized stories from five emerging Indigenous Australian filmmakers. Full of blood and guts (at times literally), each narrative varies in style and tone, all the while leaning into and shaking up familiar horror conventions. Featuring mythical creatures from other worlds such as bush ghouls and fanged water creatures, to the murky, more realistic horrors of sex slavery, these films are united by their confrontation of Australia’s ugly colonial past and how this manifests in the present. Collectively, a telemovie that goes beyond mere spooky popcorn entertainment.
By Rachel Perkins (Australia, 2019) – new episodes every Sunday
Deborah Mailman is Alex Irving: a gutsy Indigenous activist appointed as a senator in federal parliament by prime minister Rachel Anderson (Rachel Griffiths) after a video of her role in a horrific domestic violence incident in her hometown of Winton goes viral. Directed by Rachel Perkins, Total Control features all the walking and talking, back-stabbing and moral conflict you’d expect of a political drama – but it’s made especially timely by its refreshing manoeuvring of the obvious gender and racial imbalance in Canberra, and its protagonist’s ambition to create change through the system. With puncturing, snappy dialogue, the show shines a damning spotlight on the drastically high rates of young Indigenous deaths in custody, entrenched racism, and the shortfalls in the recognition of Indigenous land rights. Mailman’s performance is magnetic, commanding, and at times gleefully unpredictable.
Honourable mentions: Frayed (TV, new episodes every Wednesday), The Strange Chores (TV, every day from 31 October), Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery (TV, 13 November), Carpark Clubbing (web series, out now)
SBS On Demand
Years and Years
By Russell T Davies (UK, 2019) – 6 November
Set in the not so distant future, this brilliant six-part BBC One series from Russell T Davies (Doctor Who, A Very English Scandal) envisions a post-2019 world that has only become “hotter and faster and madder”. It’s terrifyingly realistic, though miraculously still maintains moments of light-hearted optimism. The show is grounded in the day-to-day life of three generations of the Lyons family based in Manchester, leaping through time between 2019 and 2034. It imagines a planet where Donald Trump is elected for a second term, the north pole has melted, and China and US trade wars have escalated to the point of nuclear explosive. It’s not all doom and gloom though: energetic family dynamics and giddy technological forecasts (think Snapchat dog filters as actual masks) infuse the show with playful wit. The show is ultimately a blaring alarm bell: a glimpse of what could so easily lie ahead. It’ll be hard completely suspending your disbelief for this one.
By Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (UK, 1947) – 6 November
Eye-popping technicolour and staggering extreme close-ups come to mind when one thinks of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s psychological melodrama. Often heralded as one of the first true erotic dramas, Black Narcissus is a feast for the eyes. Amid the remarkable, lofty landscape of the Himalayas (it won the Oscar at the time for best cinematography and art direction), a group of nuns struggle to set up a convent in the high altitude of the mountains. Howling winds and geographic isolation stir up repressed memories and carnal passions, festering and eventually exploding with a hyperbolic sensuousness. In particular, the film is brought to delicious, electric heights by Kathleen Byron as Sister Ruth, driven to the brink of madness by lustful jealousy. A special collection of films by the writing, directing and producing duo Powell and Pressburger will be playing on SBS World Movies this month, later dropping into SBS On Demand.
Honourable Mentions: Sink or Swim (film, 2 November), Broadchurch box set (TV, 14 November), Blue Murder (TV, 20 November), On Becoming God in Central Florida (TV, 21 November), Wellington Paranormal Season 2 (TV, 28 November)
School of Rock
By Richard Linklater (US, 2003) – out now
The premise of a rock music enthusiast posing as a substitute teacher at a private elementary school is made irresistibly fun by the genius pairing of celebrated indie director Richard Linklater and actor Jack Black, whose sprightly comedic performance here bursts with infectious energy. A class of young gifted musicians are handed down lessons in rock‘n’roll and life, defying parental and teacher expectations with rebellious joy and humour, to compete in the Battle of the Bands. The film has since been turned into a stage musical (showing at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre from November), but it still holds up magnificently as the feel-good, rocking delight it was upon its cinematic release.
Honourable Mentions: Hairspray, Dreamgirls (films, out now), Wayne’s World (film, 2 November), Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (film, 6 November), Tom Cruise collection (films, 15 November), Grease, Saturday Night Fever (films, 16 November),
His Dark Materials
UK, 2019 – 5 November
Philip Pullman’s esteemed fantasy novel trilogy is finally given the proper treatment it deserves with this new adventure-packed TV series from HBO and the BBC. Erasing the ill-judged 2007 film The Golden Compass from memory, this adaptation stars newcomer Dafne Keen as Lyra: a young orphan living in an alternative world, where the human soul takes the form of a physical animal companion, and the north pole is the only place to escape the oppressive rule of the Magisterium. Featuring Ruth Wilson as the alluring Mrs Coulter and James McAvoy as Lyra’s adventurer uncle, the show follows Lyra in her search for her kidnapped best friend, taking her on an epic quest from Oxford up to the north pole, to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. The world-building is rich and technically impressive, capturing the complexities of the universe – peculiar and wondrous – through a child’s eyes.
Honourable Mentions: Watchmen (TV, out now), Catherine the Great (TV, 3 November), The Favourite, The Hate U Give (films, 1 November), Love Simon (film, 29 November)
From 2 November
It’s a huge month for streaming, with Apple adding their own platform into the increasingly crowded arena. At the top of their line-up is Morning Wars, the high-stakes TV drama budgeted at a gobsmacking $15m per episode (that’s as much as Game of Thrones). The A-list cast is led by Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell, and the show pulls back the curtain on the razing ambitions and tussles for power behind an early morning newscast.
Other highlights include Dickinson, a modern comedic twist on the coming-of-age story of rebellious young poet Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld); See, a dystopian future where humans have been either wiped out or blinded (with Jason Momoa as a father of twin girls gifted with vision); and The Elephant Queen, a character-driven wildlife documentary centred on a species on the verge of extinction.
While there’ll be only a small selection of originals available upon launch, the catalogue will expand in the months ahead, to include M Night Shyamalan’s thriller Servant, Oprah (an in-conversation between Winfrey and authors around the world), and Sundance award-winning film Hala, starring Australian Geraldine Viswanathan.
From 19 November
Disney’s new dedicated streaming service will house their own library of original TV shows and films, and the plentiful entertainment that falls under their subsidiaries Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, National Geographic and 20th Century Fox. Offering access to its back catalogue of nostalgia trips (Australia’s suite is yet to be announced, though this US tweet thread might clue us in on a few, including all 30 seasons of The Simpsons), it will also exclusively hold Disney’s 2019 cinema releases and beyond, including Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and The Lion King.
Most notably, the much-anticipated live-action Star Wars TV series spin-off The Mandalorian headlines Disney+’s launch. Created by Jon Favreau, this original series is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, following a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the Star Wars galaxy.
Other Disney+ originals to keep an eye out in their continual roll-out include The World According to Jeff Goldblum, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, the holiday comedy Noelle (all available on launch), as well as Diary of a Female President (available January 2020) and a new Lizzie McGuire series with its original cast members.