There’s TV you can’t (and shouldn’t) escape, then there’s that indie flick you should see at the cinema while you still can. These are the eight films and small-screen blockbusters and addictive series we can’t stop thinking – and talking – about, including two yet to drop.
For the show everyone’s talking about: The Bear
“Yes, chef!” “Behind, behind, behind.” “Order up.” Prepare to be thrust out of the frying pan and into the fire of a fast-operating commercial kitchen when The Bear – one of the most talked about shows of the year – drops on Disney+. Its accurate portrayal of a tense, nonstop kitchen has been called “triggering” for those with hospo experience, and if you’ve never set foot in a restaurant kitchen The Bear’s eight 30-minute episodes are packed with so much drama you’ll be hooked on the sometimes soul-crushing, at times uplifting portrayal of a downtown Chicago sandwich shop. The show follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) as he leaves fine dining behind to take over his dead brother’s business, The Original Beef of Chicagoland. Created by Christopher Storer (Ramy, Eighth Grade), The Bear has already been given the green light for a second series in 2023.
Stream on Disney+ from August 31.
For an entirely fresh take on the Predator franchise: Prey
You don’t have to be a fan of the 1987 movie Predator to get into its 2022 prequel, but if you are you’re unlikely to be disappointed by the latest edition to the franchise. Taking us way back to 1719 – long before Schwarzenegger’s Dutch could yell “Get to the choppa!” – Comanche hunter Naru (Amber Midthunder) undertakes a rite of passage called kuhtaamia. Noticing tracks in the mud and strange blood on the trees, Naru realises her group is also being hunted. The all-new action-thriller, directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) is a lot less macho than the original films, and it makes a point of it with the alien predator not even seeing Naru as a threat because she’s … dun dun dun: female. But, it’s a prequel that kicks as much alien ass as it ever did, in a much more modern way. Its cast is almost entirely First Nations talent, too.
Stream on Disney+.
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For Succession, but with gore and orgies: House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon set a new viewing record with 1.235 million viewers watching the first episode so far. Its opening scenes are set 172 years before the birth of our fallen queen Daenerys Targaryen – but the familiar patriarchal systems and thirst for power feel like we’re entering the same Westeros we know and love. The story’s adapted from parts of George RR Martin’s Fire & Blood, and the first episode gets us right back into the action – including a gruesome birth scene, a bloody jousting tournament, plenty of dragons and one orgy. A platinum-wigged Matt Smith is perfectly cast as our first villain, the uncontainable Daemon, brother of reigning Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine). Australian Milly Alcock plays princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, who’d rather ride dragons than accept her fate as child-producing woman in Westeros. And, as the first 10 episodes play out, there’ll be time jumps and cast updates; Brit Emma D’Arcy takes over the role of Rhaenyra as the character ages, for example. Given the way GOT episode drops dominated conversation, if you’d rather wait to savour House of the Dragon in one go, be wary of where you travel online. The internet is dark and full of spoilers.
Stream on Binge and Foxtel.
For an homage to horror classics: Nope
Ominous clouds. Inflatable waving flags. Horses bolting in the middle of the night. Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) lingers in the horror-comedy genre once again with his third film, starring the brooding Daniel Kaluuya as horse trainer Otis “OJ” Haywood Jr, and Keke Palmer as his polar-opposite pepped-up sister Emerald. Following their father’s death, the siblings inherited a Califorian ranch where they train horses for film and TV shows, and, as The New Yorker notes, the set-up heavily references ’50s westerns and ’80s and ’90s science fiction and horror. Though the film has received mixed reviews – some calling it “indigestible” – others have marvelled at the cinematography of a popcorn movie about UFOs. Its slow-burn terror is peppered with Peele’s characteristic humour, and if you felt the endings of his first two films were too easily wrapped up in a bow, this one is a lot less spoonfed.
In cinemas now.
For a Gen Z spin on a ’90s trailblazer: Heartbreak High
Neighbours – one of our most successful overseas media exports – screened in 60 countries worldwide. But did you know Heartbreak High was broadcast in 70? The teen drama premiered in 1994 and ran for almost a decade, showing the good, bad and the ugly sides of high school relationships, pregnancy, drugs and other fun. It wasn’t exactly Euphoria, but it wasn’t rosy Dawson’s Creek either. Set in the fictional Hartley High – filmed in Maroubra, Sydney – it also gave us bad-boy heartthrob Drazic (Callan Mulvey). Three decades on, Gen Z gets to revel in the high-octane drama with a whole new cast of characters, including Amerie (Ayesha Madon), who’s on a mission to repair her reputation after a fall out with a friend. It looks more diverse than the original, and its cast is a sexy line-up of up-and-comers who’ll no doubt be everywhere when the series hits Netflix next month.
Stream on Netflix from September 14.
For eight interwoven stories: Here Out West
We’ve been singing the praises of Here Out West since it first screened at Sydney Film Festival in 2021. The anthology is a tapestry of interwoven stories, written by eight culturally and linguistically diverse screenwriters and directed by five equally diverse directors – Fadia Abboud, Lucy Gaffy, Julie Kalceff, Ana Kokkinos and Leah Purcell. It opens with a woman kidnapping her newborn granddaughter, but transitions into stories about dying parents, negotiating different selves at work and at home, working overtime in an understaffed hospital, and stepping in as a translator for a complete stranger. Actors Leah Vandenberg, Khoi Trinh and Arka Das are particularly captivating. Das also hosts a spin-off doco series called 8 Nights Out West, covering the food scene in Western Sydney, including episodes dedicated to Chinese, Kurdish and Indian cuisine.
Stream Here Out West and 8 Nights Out West on ABC iView.
For awkward interactions on a big budget: The Rehearsal
What exactly are we afraid of when we rehearse our conversations before we have them? Master of absurdist scenarios Nathan Fielder is writer, creator, director and star of docu-comedy The Rehearsal. Its first episode unfolds slowly to reveal the elaborate and seemingly never-ending efforts Fielder will go to in order to rehearse events before they happen – ostensibly to help others prepare for life’s big moments. Over six puzzling and sometimes touching episodes, Fielder uses HBO’s big budgets to create replica bars, dream homes and apartments to practice … life. There are actors, a roster of fake babies and flowcharts. But what’s at stake? Who’s in on the act? And what’s real? With every episode our questions get more philosophical and the comedy more deadpan. Already smashed it? HBO has a second season in the works.
Stream on Binge.
For blistering, daredevil romance: Fire of Love
Intrepid French scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft love each other, but possibly not as much as they love volcanoes. The couple met in 1966 and through their own Wes Anderson-style footage they take us on their geological adventures investigating violently erupting mounds of hot lava and blistering gases in Iceland, Colombia and Japan (to name a few). This 93-minute documentary by Sara Dosa is a spectacular and loving portrait of the Kraffts and their risk-taking relationship until its unfortunate end in 1991 – using the couple’s film footage and various television interviews over the years. Miranda July narrates the doco in a fittingly poetic, otherworldly way – and the images of Katia and Maurice in their space-explorer-like ’60s silver suits are as striking as the precious footage of gushing lava rivers captured by the Kraffts on 16-millimetre film. It’ll leave you awe-struck in many ways.
In select cinemas.