One of the films I’ve been most looking forward to is coming out on streaming. That’d be the campy “Please Baby Please”. I get that Andrea Riseborough’s a controversial topic right now due to her Oscar nomination (“To Leslie”) over Viola Davis (“The Woman King”). That’s a systemic issue with the nominating process and not exactly Riseborough’s fault. There’s no reason to avoid featuring her films here.
There are no new series this week, but new films by women come from Nigeria, Spain, and the U.S.
Please Baby Please (MUBI) directed by Amanda Kramer
A gang obsesses over Bohemian 1950s newlyweds, thrusting them into a musical exploration of sexual identity. Andrea Riseborough, Harry Melling, and Demi Moore star.
Amanda Kramer is an experimental filmmaker who also directed “Paris Window” and “Ladyworld”.
You can watch “Please Baby Please” on MUBI, or rent it.
Next Exit (Hulu) directed by Mali Elfman
Two strangers seek roles in a scientific experiment that would send them to the afterlife. They road trip across the U.S. to get there, one with a haunting past, the other literally haunted.
This is writer-director Mali Elfman’s feature debut.
You can watch “Next Exit” on Hulu.
Here Love Lies (Netflix) directed by Tope Oshin
Amanda is a travel blogger who’s wooed by an American tour guide over social media. She travels to the U.S. so they can meet up, but things quickly go sideways into thriller territory.
The Nigerian film is directed and co-written by Tope Oshin. An established director in Nigeria, Oshin helmed “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” in 2018. It was refused a theatrical release in Nigeria due to its queer characters, but was later picked up by Amazon and earned several wins at the Best of Nollywood Awards.
You can watch “Here Love Lies” on Netflix.
Love at First Kiss (Netflix) directed by Alauda Ruiz de Azua
(Netflix lacks an embeddable trailer, but there is one on their site.)
A 16 year-old boy discovers he can see the entire future of a romance whenever he kisses someone for the first time.
The Spanish film is directed by Alauda Ruiz de Azua, whose “Cinco Lobitos” earned her a Goya Award (Spain’s Academy Awards) as Best New Director last month.
A lot of what you’re seeing the first two months of the year is Netflix debuting work from outside the U.S. I’ve talked about this before, so the quick recap is that while services like HBO have shuttered various co-production offices (such as theirs in Eastern Europe), Netflix has doubled down on a blend of co-producing original films and series and licensing pre-existing ones.
Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are the big players in terms of producing or acquiring content from outside the U.S./Britain/Canada, and they each seem to have their areas of focus. Netflix has been building a serious industry relationship over the last several years with the South Korean film industry, licensing series while increasingly producing their own Korean originals. They also have a pretty successful anime arm, and have started bringing on board Japanese broadcast series. Beyond this, they have productive relationships with the Mexican, Polish, Indian, and Turkish film industries, including enabling a lot of feminist and inclusive work that might not otherwise get produced.
Hulu has some productive anime co-licensing and is trying to get more into South Korean series, doubtless after seeing Netflix’s success with it. They’re also pretty good bringing in Western European (French, Spanish) work.
Amazon’s reach means they bring a broad range of international work in, and they’ve produced a good amount of Indian work.
Obviously, other sites with more focused ranges fit this description, too. Crunchyroll is still the powerhouse in anime. Kanopy’s focus on film history means they’ve got work from around the world, accessible with student credentials or many public library cards. MUBI’s rolling film library based on limited licensing has quick turnover on newer work, but often gets some of the most interesting films. FilmDoo is a remarkable resource for many countries not featured elsewhere – I’m fond of its Mongolian section.
Part of why I bring this up is that not every country’s industry regularly funds and supports women filmmakers. The best (or worst) example of this is India, where fights over government censorship have targeted the work of women filmmakers. Netflix and Amazon have engaged in a game of brinksmanship with the Indian government over future production, and there is a lot of work out there that probably wouldn’t get made or would look completely different without these platforms. This doesn’t absolve these platforms or companies of other issues they have, but the branches fighting for artists in India aren’t the ones making top-down decisions either.
Most streaming services are experimenting with “erasing” their original content from access right now. According to Variety, Showtime has removed two 2022 series, “American Gigolo” and “Let the Right One In”, from streaming entirely. This includes episodes that only debuted three or four months prior. Other recent shows, such as “Kidding” and “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” have been removed entirely from the platform. Paramount+ removed several titles including Jordan Peele’s recent “The Twilight Zone”. Hollywood Reporter highlights that HBO has done the same to “Westworld”. This is often due to tax breaks, saving on licensing, and/or avoiding paying out residuals to cast and crew. Some will be shopped to other services (HBO is looking for an ad-based one for “Westworld”), while others will simply remain inaccessible.
I bring this up here because the work that’s most susceptible to being erased is the work that doesn’t get much support starting out – women get less funding and less platforming than men. When HBO killed off their Central and Eastern European production last year, they also cut access to many new shows by women, several of which were featured here. Their argument was that these were lesser searched and seen, as if the failure to platform work by women at the same level as men has nothing to do with this.
It’s not just a case of these shows being cut off, either. The women who produced these series had made licensing deals with HBO, foregoing other potential licensing deals with other services. HBO then cut access to their work as a cost-saving strategy. Not only did these women lose out on another deal that could have continued to show their work, but their revenue through licensing was also then cut off early after that opportunity had passed. That also means the revenue of cast and crew through residuals was cut off.
It’s an ugly and disgusting new strategy that most streaming services are now testing. If the value proposition of these platforms is their original content and ability to license new and interesting work, and they pull the rug out from under these, then what value remains? Which artists do you think will be the first on the chopping block? The work of women, international artists, and artists of color will be the most erased. Those artists will suffer the most financial loss. It’s something that should not be normalized.
Remember, nearly every streaming service has a comment section where you can request a title or lodge a criticism, and most still have a customer service number where a real person picks up pretty quickly. I’ve had reason to test that here and there. Stand up for the work you want to see. If you’re reading this, chances are good you want to see the work of women. So let’s get to it:
New series come from Mexico, South Korea, and the U.S., and new films from Catalonia in Spain.
The Consultant (Amazon) mostly directed by women
Christoph Waltz plays an abusive, sociopathic boss who pushes employees to absurd lengths to see how far they’ll go.
Five of the eight episodes are directed by women. Charlotte Brandstrom (“LOTR: The Rings of Power) and Alexis Ostrander (“Cruel Summer”) each direct two episodes. Horror director Karyn Kusama (“Halt and Catch Fire”) directs another.
You can watch “The Consultant” on Amazon Prime. All 8 episodes are out on Friday.
Summer Strike (Netflix) showrun/directed by Lee Yoon Jung
Despite professional success, Lee Yeo Reum is burned out and struggling with misfortune and loss. She quits her job and moves to the seaside, in pursuit of doing nothing. There she meets An Dae Beom, a librarian who was once a math prodigy but turned away from academic life. The pair both need to heal, and connect despite their caution.
“Summer Strike” is a South Korean show written and directed by Lee Yoon Jung. She’s known for similar dramas like “Coffee Prince” and “Heart to Heart”.
You can watch “Summer Strike” on Netflix. All 12 episodes are out immediately.
(Turn on the auto-translate option for subtitles.)
A forensics expert discovers a murder victim is identical to her. This sets her on a path of discovering sisters she never knew about.
The Mexican series is written and showrun by Leticia Lopez Margalli, who also created the popular “Dark Desire”. It’s gotten some “Orphan Black” comparisons, though the premises diverge pretty early.
You can watch “Triptych” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are out.
The Company You Keep (ABC, Hulu) co-showrunner Julia Cohen
Charlie is the son in a storied family of con artists. Emma is an undercover CIA agent. The pair fall in love without either realizing they’re professional enemies.
Julia Cohen showruns with Phil Klemmer. She’s written and produced on “A Million Little Things” and “Riverdale”.
You can watch “The Company You Keep” on ABC or Hulu. One episode is out now, and new episodes premiere Sunday night (Hulu usually gets them the next day).
Alcarras (MUBI) directed by Carla Simon
Peach farmers in Catalonia find their future is upended when the owner of their estate dies and sells the land out from under them.
Carla Simon directs the Catalan and Spanish film. “Alcarras” was nominated for 11 awards at Spain’s Goya Awards (similar to our Oscars). She’s also earned widespread recognition for many of her short films.
As someone viewing in the U.S., this is a time of year when streaming services bring in a lot of series and movies from other countries. Streaming platforms need to keep up the amount of content, so when major U.S. debuts slow down, you’ll see more arrive from elsewhere. It’s an amazing time of year to learn about work that would get otherwise get drowned out by our own media.
The countries with the most popular industries here debut work around the year – India, Japan, and South Korea, for instance. Any time of year is good to find new work arriving from them, but these are the months when you’ll see their less internationally-minded shows as well – there have been a number of Japanese broadcast series (like “MIU404”) arriving on Netflix over the past month.
Countries that have less regular audiences in the U.S. see their filmmakers push through this time of year. Two of my favorite shows from last year were Polish modern dark fantasy “Cracow Monsters” and Turkish time travel mystery “Midnight at the Pera Palace”. They may be different genres, but they represent something interesting about much of the work that gets picked up here. It tends to be rebellious, feminist, and anti-fascist, and represents a conflict between artists and autocratic governments.
Some streaming services are cutting this content. After Warner Bros. Discovery acquired HBO, they not only cut series from Eastern Europe and the Middle East that were already streaming, they closed down their production offices in these countries, eliminating any future co-productions. Both HBO Max and Showtime have adopted a growing trend of making new series disappear just months after they conclude, in the name of tax write-offs and not having to pay residuals.
For all of its other problems, Netflix does remain the best by far in terms of bringing content from outside the U.S. here, both in aggressive licensing of smaller shows that would otherwise never have a chance of being seen by U.S. audiences., and in an increasing number of co-productions in other countries. Hulu and Amazon have also been pretty good at this.
Some of these situations are tough – Amazon is genuinely horrific about labor rights. At the same time, through co-productions, Netflix and Amazon have essentially kept the window open on Indian women filmmakers’ freedom of speech in a brinksmanship situation over strict censorship by the Indian government.
Streaming services are at a dangerous fork in the road. Some are cutting new content if it underperforms expectations they made up because it lets them essentially run the plot of “The Producers” but successfully: making money off of a loss. Others see American viewers’ increasing appetite for series and movies from around the world, as well as the opportunity to create footholds with international audiences via co-productions.
Which way do things go? I don’t really know, but if you want the opportunity to see what the rest of the world is doing and saying, you’ve got to watch their storytelling. Without audiences for them, we will see the approach of HBO Max and Showtime grow, our perspective and what we have access to narrowing once more. But if audiences continue to demonstrate our interest and appetite for the world’s filmmaking, we’ll see what we have access to continue to increase. And we’ll find favorites. We’ll have more to talk about. New ways to enjoy. Seek out what you truly want to see, not just what gets the advertising money here.
New series by women come from Kuwait and the U.S., and new movies from Australia, Spain, and the U.S.
The Exchange (Netflix) showrunner Nadia Ahmad
Set in 1987, this Kuwaiti series tells the story of two women who became the first traders in the Kuwait Stock Exchange.
Nadia Ahmad writes and showruns the six-episode show.
You can watch “The Exchange” on Netflix. All 6 episodes are out immediately.
Freeridge (Netflix) showrunner Lauren Iungerich mostly directed by women
A disfunctional group of school friends accidentally release a curse. The sibling rivals at its center need to work together to undo it.
Lauren Iungerich showruns the standalone spin-off to “On My Block”. She previously wrote and directed on “Awkward.” and “Boo, Bitch”. Iungerich and Paula Garces direct 5 of the 8 episodes between them.
You can watch “Freeridge” on Netflix. All episodes released at the same time.
Not Dead Yet (ABC, Hulu) co-showrunner Casey Johnson
Gina Rodriguez stars as Nell, who’s trying to resume her career as a journalist. She gets stuck writing obituaries, but for better or worse finds the deceased are willing to help her out.
Casey Johnson showruns with David Windsor. Johnson’s produced and wrote on “This Is Us”, “Trophy Wife”, and cult hit “Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23”.
You can watch “Not Dead Yet” on ABC or Hulu. Two episodes just premiered, and a new one lands every Wednesday.
Your Place or Mine (Netflix) directed by Aline Brosh McKenna
Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher star in a romantic comedy aiming for a Valentine’s Day audience. They play best friends who live across the country, but they swap places for a week and he takes care of her son so she can take a break.
The supporting cast is notable – Shiri Appleby, Rachel Bloom, Zoe Chao, Tig Notaro, and Steve Zahn all co-star.
Writer-director Aline Brosh McKenna co-created “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” with Bloom, and wrote and directed on that series. She also wrote “The Devil Wears Prada”, “We Bought a Zoo”, “27 Dresses”, and “Morning Glory”. Chances are pretty solid you’ve seen something she’s written. She started out writing on 90s Margaret Cho sitcom “All-American Girl”.
It’s a light week, so let’s get into things quickly. Keep an eye out next week for a feature on new holiday movies by women, which I’ve split off as its own article.
New series by women this week come from Mexico, South Korea, and Spain, while new movies come from the U.S.
Dragon Age: Absolution (Netflix) showrunner Mairghread Scott
The RPG series “Dragon Age” gets its first film/TV production in a decade. The core video games are famous for consequential player choices, quality character writing, and a feast of in-universe history for lore hounds.
The animated series seems to be taking what was once the proposed plot for “Dragon Age 4” – an elf builds a heist crew to steal from a blood mage in the magic-steeped Tevinter Imperium.
Showrunner Mairghread Scott started off as an assistant and production coordinator on the “G.I. Joes” and “Transformers” animated universes. She eventually wrote for animated Marvel series like “Guardians of the Galaxy”, the film “Wonder Woman: Bloodlines”, and “Star Wars Resistance”.
The animation is by South Korean studio Red Dog Culture House, which also worked on “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf”, and “Love, Death + Robots”.
You can watch “Dragon Age: Absolution” on Netflix. There are six episodes, all out immediately.
The Most Beautiful Flower (Netflix) showrunner Michelle Rodriguez
(There’s no English trailer, but options are available for the series itself.)
This Mexican series follows Mich, whose confidence doesn’t match how her classmates treat her.
Comedian Michelle Rodriguez (not the action star) writes and showruns. She’s acted in a number of film and series, such as “I Carry You With Me” and “How to Break Up with Your Douchebag”.
You can watch “The Most Beautiful Flower” on Netflix. All 10 episodes are out.
Smiley (Netflix) half-directed by Marta Pahissa
(There’s no English trailer, but options are available for the series itself.)
Upset with his boyfriend, Alex leaves a voice message for the wrong person. Receiving it, Bruno meets up with him, wrapping the pair into each others’ complicated lives.
Four of the Spanish series’ eight episodes are directed by Marta Pahissa. She started out as an assistant director, also working as a post-production coordinator for a talk show. She’s increasingly gotten directing jobs on Spanish series.
You can watch “Smiley” on Netflix. There are 8 episodes.
Bed Rest (Tubi) directed by Lori Evans Taylor
A pregnant woman is on bed rest. She begins to think her house is haunted. Is it real, or simply her imagination running wild?
Writer-director Lori Evans Taylor started out as an extra, but shifted into writing and segment production on reality TV. “Bed Rest” is her first feature.
My Favorite Girlfriend (Hulu) directed by Amanda Raymond
Conrad has trouble telling whom he’s in love with when the woman he’s dating has multiple personalities. They each act differently and lead unique lives. I have no information as to how the film handles mental illness.
Writer-director Amanda Raymond started out as an actress before moving into production assistant work on animated series. This is her second feature as director.
Sometimes a new show or movie can be hard to locate. Let me explain: every once in a while, there’s something listed but that doesn’t come available when it should. This usually has to do with international releases – HBO Max is particularly terrible listing the right dates for the right countries. I constantly see their Spanish-language series listed for release in the U.S. on one date, but then land on another, unlisted date. If I were to tell you to go see a series that isn’t there yet, that’s not very useful to you.
This has only gotten worse with Warner Bros. Discovery’s acquisition of HBO. Many international series have been pulled early. HBO Max used to be one of the best places to find European series. With a focus on originals, this included less-frequently platformed work by women. After the acquisition, Warner Bros. Discovery culled HBO’s European content. This included not only stopping original productions east of France, but removing content from Central, Eastern European, and Nordic countries that was already bought and paid for.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the movie “Batgirl” being denied any release. That was so the entire production can be used as a tax write-off. Incomplete shows might also be used this way, but these finished shows aren’t succumbing to the same situation – this has more to do with Warner Bros. Discovery not wanting to pay residuals. Some of this content may end up getting licensed out to other streamers, but much of it will simply disappear and not be seen again. That’s a tragedy for the artists involved, especially since it covers so much work by women in Europe.
New series by women come from India, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S., with new films by women arriving from Belgium, Nunavut, South Korea, and the U.S.
Hush Hush (Amazon) showrunner Tanuja Chandra
(Turn Closed Captioning on for subtitles.) This horror series from India follows five women, four of whom are trying to cover up a crime in their apartment block.
Tanuja Chandra has been directing films since the 90s. This is her first series.
You can watch “Hush Hush” on Amazon. All 7 episodes are out.
From Scratch (Netflix) showrunner Attica Locke directed by Nzingha Stewart, Dennie Gordon
Zoe Saldana stars as Amy, who falls in love with a Sicilian man while studying in Italy. The story tracks their relationship through the years across countries.
Attica Locke showruns the series based off Tembi Locke’s memoir. Attica also wrote and produced on “Empire” and “Little Fires Everywhere”. Joining from the latter to direct 5 episodes is Nzingha Stewart, who’s also directed on “Maid” and “Scandal”. “Madam Secretary” director Dennie Gordon also directs 3 episodes.
Arknights: Prelude to Dawn (Crunchyroll) directed by Watanabe Yuki
Based on a tower defense puzzle game, “Arknights: Prelude to Dawn” follows a doctor’s team that’s racing to find a cure in a world beset by plague, disasters, and fascist governments. You can tell it’s not a documentary because some characters are part-animal.
Director Watanabe Yuki previously helmed episodes of “Warlords of Sigrdrifa” and “Visual Prison”.
You can watch “Arknights: Prelude to Dawn” on Crunchyroll. The series will be simulcast as episodes premiere in Japan every Friday.
Modern Love Tokyo (Amazon) showrunner Hirayanagi Atsuko mostly directed by women
(No English subtitles available on this one.) This Japanese adaptation of “Modern Love” is an anthology series. Each episode focuses on different characters and depicts a different form of expressing love.
Hirayanagi Atsuko showruns, as well as writing and directing two episodes. Ogigami Naoko and Yamada Naoko each direct another.
(No English subtitles available on this one.) Funeral director Baek Dong Ju can speak to the dead, who ask her to grant their last wishes. If she doesn’t, her bad luck accumulates. Kim Jib Sa runs odd errands for his uncle, but after a boycott is looking for new work. He might be able to help the funeral director with her odd requests.
Director Shim So Yeon has helmed a number of Korean series, including “Here’s My Plan”.
This Blumhouse horror stars Katey Sagal as a country music legend who hosts a young country music duo seeking out her advice. When they discover she may have murdered her singing partner, their stay turns into terror at their idol’s hands.
Brea Grant directs from a screenplay by Rachel Koller Croft. Grant might be best known for recurring roles on “Dexter” and “Heroes”, and her shift into directing includes Angela Bettis horror-comedy “12 Hour Shift”.
The intro was long last week, so we’ll dive in quick today. There’s a good range including horror, drama, comedy, and coming-of-age. Being October, horror gets half the entries. New series by women arrive from Canada, Germany, the U.S., and new films by women from Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.
The Midnight Club (Netflix) co-showrunner Leah Fong
“The Midnight Club” is about eight terminally ill patients at a hospice. They gather at midnight to share scary stories, but it may lead to some of them surviving. I missed this one last week.
Leah Fong showruns with Mike Flanagan. She was also a writer and producer on “The Haunting of Bly Manor”, which Flanagan showran, so the pair have experience on successful Netflix horror series.
High School (Amazon Freevee) showrun by Clea DuVall and Laura Kittrell directed by Clea DuVall and Rebecca Asher
Based on the autobiography of indie pop duo (and identical twins) Tegan and Sara, “High School” tells their coming-of-age stories as a testing of their bond. The pair are played by identical twins Railey and Seazynn Gilliland.
Co-showrunner Clea DuVall is best known for her roles in off-kilter late 90s satire like “The Faculty” and “But I’m a Cheerleader”, as well as more recent work in “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Better Caul Saul”. She’s also directed Hulu’s holiday hit “Happiest Season” and “The Intervention”. Co-showrunner Laura Kittrell has written and produced on “Insecure” and “Black Monday”.
You can watch “High School” on Amazon Freevee. The service is included with Amazon, and includes ads. The four episode premiere is followed by an episode every Friday for a total of 8.
Oh Hell (HBO Max) co-directed by Lisa Miller
Helene’s life is a mess, but through her cello teacher Oskar, she might be able to start living in the Instagram-perfect world she thinks is out there. There’s no English translation for this I can embed, but HBO will have options for the series itself.
Lisa Miller and Simon Ostermann direct the German dramedy together.
You can watch “Oh Hell” on HBO Max. There are 8 episodes.
She Will (AMC+, Shudder) directed by Charlotte Colbert
Alice Krige plays Veronica, who goes to a Scottish retreat with her nurse after a double mastectomy. She begins playing out revenge against past traumas in her dreams.
This is the first film from co-writer and director Charlotte Colbert.
Previously featured for rent, you can now watch “She Will” on AMC+ or Shudder.
Rosaline (Hulu) directed by Karen Maine
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is retold by Romeo’s jilted ex-girlfriend, Rosaline. The film is based on the novel “When You Were Mine” by Rebecca Serle.
Karen Maine wrote and directed “Yes, God, Yes” and wrote “Obvious Child”. All three may be comedies, but they’re each extremely different from the next.
We’re catching up on the last two weeks. The focus for this feature is still on what you can access digitally. Obviously, there are films in theaters like Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “The Woman King”, which came in #1 at the U.S. box office this past weekend, as well as Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling”, starting its platformed release in a limited number of theaters this week. These are two of the larger, most-talked about films by women this year.
You can judge whether it’s safe for you to go to the theater where you live. Check out your state’s and county’s COVID information to see where you stand. For the time being, I’m going to maintain the focus on what can be accessed from home.
This is for a few reasons. I have friends with autoimmune issues – the world where we tolerate COVID and accept it as part of life is still one that can easily kill them. The lesser risk I would take is a life-threatening one to them. Even if they remain bubbled and I don’t see them, I just can’t get on board with treating where we’re at as normal when that normal assumes a world where they can’t go outside again. To leave them behind is to treat them as lesser, to treat their humanity as fungible. If my normal is their daily terror, then why would that be my normal?
I also have family living in states that have scrapped COVID tracking and monitoring entirely. I may be comparatively safe going to the theater where I live, but they aren’t where they live. I don’t just write for the people where I live, and I don’t want to normalize going to the theater in states where COVID remains a larger risk. Beyond this, I have readers in other countries. I have no idea where some of them are at in terms of COVID, nor where their laws land.
Is this being too careful? I don’t think so, but if so, so what? I’ve done my fair share of nonsense that risked my health, safety, and even my life once or twice. If I’m too careful in a pandemic, good. We’ve seen what not being careful enough is like.
Please understand that I’ll cover films like “The Woman King” and “Don’t Worry Darling” just like I cover films by men – once they arrive on streaming and can be accessed from home.
It’s not the way I want to cover things; I miss going to the theater and certainly I take a hit by not covering some of the larger films that are currently in theaters. Only you can judge how safe and responsible it is to go to the theater where you live. I’m looking for a time when I can return to covering films in theaters and I hope that’s coming up soon. Until then, the focus on this site and in this feature will remain what can be watched from home. I hope you understand.
New series by women come from Australia, Brazil, Thailand, and the U.S. New films by women come from France, Spain, and the U.S.
Vampire Academy (Peacock) showrunners Marguerite MacIntyre, Julie Plec
After the death of her parents, Lissa returns to a private academy for vampires. Her best friend can sense all her thoughts, and the two try to keep their friendship intact amid the unpredictable political machinations of both vampires and boarding school.
Showrunners Marguerite MacIntyre and Julie Plec have worked together on various vampire shows, including “The Vampire Diaries”, “The Originals”, and “Legacies”, so this is their wheelhouse.
You can watch “Vampire Academy” on Peacock. The four-episode premiere happened on Sep. 15, with another coming yesterday, so five of the 10 episodes are out already. A new episode arrives every Thursday.
Thai Cave Rescue (Netflix) co-showrunner Dana Ledoux Miller
This Thai series tells the story of 12 boys and their soccer coach who are stranded within flooded caves in 2018. It’s based on the real rescue attempts.
Dana Ledoux Miller showruns with Michael Russell Gunn. She’s written on “Narcos” and “Kevin Can F**k Himself”.
Heartbreak High (Netflix) showrunner Hannah Carroll Chapman mostly directed by women
Rebooting a classic 90s Australian show, “Heartbreak High” follows the lives of students navigating the social pressures of high school. It’s gotten particular praise for its portrayal of autism, with an autistic role for once played by an autistic actress in Chloe Hayden.
Showrunner and writer Hannah Carroll Chapman has written on some major Australian shows of the past few years, including “Home and Away” and “The Heights”. Directors include Gracie Otto and Jessie Oldfield.
Do Revenge (Netflix) directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
A mash-up of “Strangers on a Train” and “Clueless”, “Do Revenge” finds two social outcasts at a private high school agreeing to commit each other’s revenge. As a dark comedy, it skillfully deals with issues of revenge porn, privilege, and performative allyship. I praised it as a big surprise in my review. If I’m honest, the trailer conveys the aesthetic but doesn’t necessarily do the story or its comedy justice.
Director and co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson ought to be a major name before too long. She co-wrote “Thor: Love and Thunder” with Taika Waititi, produced on “Hawkeye”, created and showran “Sweet/Vicious”, and wrote and directed “Someone Great”.
A girl is kidnapped as a storm rages. Her mother can only turn to the mysterious loner next door for help. Jurnee Smollett stars, with Allison Janney as the badass loner.
Anna Foerster has directed on “Westworld”, “Jessica Jones”, and “Outlander”. Her journey’s an interesting one. She started out as a director of photography for visual effects units in films like “Independence Day”, “Alien: Resurrection”, and “Pitch Black”. This led to jobs as a second unit director and aerial director of photography until she got her first directing break on “Criminal Minds” a decade ago.
“Mighty Flash”, or “Destello Bravio”, is a surreal Spanish drama that tells the story of a village stuck in time going back generations. Only older people remain, repeating traditions as the town dies.
This is the first film from Ainhoa Rodriguez after directing on Spanish TV series.
There’s a lot this week, but before we dive in, I want to highlight that Celine Sciamma’s “Petite Maman” has arrived on Hulu. If you asked me the best filmmaker working today, the “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and “Girlhood” director is the first name that comes to mind. I try to feature films when they hit VOD and then hit their first subscription platform. A subtle fantasy about a girl helping her parents after the death of her grandmother, “Petite Maman” has already been on MUBI most of the year. I know that is a niche platform to many. It’s worth mentioning now that it’s on Hulu, which a lot more folks have.
Series this week come from South Africa, South Korea, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. Films comes from Nigeria, the Philippines, Sweden, and the U.S.
Little Women (Netflix) directed by Kim Hee Won
Loosely based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, three sisters who grew up in poverty find themselves involved in the disappearance of a fortune and embattled with the wealthiest family in South Korea.
Director Kim Hee Won has helmed a growing list of South Korea’s most lauded series, including “Vincenzo”, “The Crowned Clown”, and “Money Flower”.
You can watch “Little Women” on Netflix. Two episodes are out now. A new one arrives every Saturday and Sunday (two a week), for a total of 12.
Wedding Season (Hulu) half-directed by Laura Scrivano
Not to be confused with last month’s Netflix film of the same title, Hulu series “Wedding Season” starts as a breezy wedding-themed romcom, only for the bride to find her husband’s entire family poisoned. The suspects include a cross-section of her romantic life, as well as herself. “Alita: Battle Angel” and “Undone” star Rosa Salazar is the lead.
“The Lazarus Project” director Laura Scrivano directs four of the series episodes.
In this Swedish film, a couple’s romance, marriage, and slow fragmentation are considered from a scientific perspective…of a sort. Can’t find an English trailer I can post here for it, but Netflix has options on the film itself.
Writer-director Tuva Novotny is an actress who made the jump to director on “Lilyhammer”.
A couple detox from all things digital in a remote town, but things quickly devolve into chaos.
This is the first film Debra Neil-Fisher directs, but you’ve almost surely seen her work before. A sought-after comedy editor, she edited the first two “Austin Powers” movies, all three “The Hangover” films, the 2020 “Sonic the Hedgehog”, and “Coming 2 America”.
The first series up this week is a pandemic-driven dark comedy from New Zealand. It brings up an interesting conversation when it comes to genre. Shows about pandemics are hardly new. Hits from “The Last Ship” and “12 Monkeys” to more procedural takes like “The Hot Zone” and “Helix” have dominated the last decade. Hell, even “The Strain” kept on straining for four seasons.
Yet during COVID, shows like “The Stand” and “Y: The Last Man” have not lived up to expectations in terms of either viewership or quality. Now, both were in substantial development before COVID hit, so it may not be a case of platforms thinking this is a topical moment. That’s reserved for tackling ill-advised pursuits like “Love in the Time of Corona”. What it does show us is that the fascination with pandemic-driven fare may have waned. After all, it’s no longer escapism for many.
Where does a dark comedy from New Zealand that features pretty explicit imagery of a pandemic and a similar premise to “Y: The Last Man” land? I couldn’t say, but it is one that I have some hope for – in part due to the involvement of Roseanne Liang, director of this year’s massively underrated “Shadow in the Cloud”. The film’s an ambitious period thriller that veers from tight “Twilight Zone” storytelling into absurd pulp action and makes astonishing use of a relatively small budget. If one person can fuse the starkness of a pandemic to a dark, gender-driven comedy, it’s Liang.
Ultimately, interest in pandemic-driven stories is going to be up to the viewer. Some may not want to be reminded in their escapism, while others will see making comedy out of it as a way of reclaiming a sense of control within their escapism. Neither takeaway is right or wrong; just be sure to respect your own reaction about whether watching pandemic-driven stories feels stressful or relieving.
CW: pandemic imagery
Creamerie (Hulu) directed by Roseanne Liang
A plague has killed nearly all men on the planet. The remaining 1% of men are sent to a facility in New Zealand. It’s thought that even they died, until three dairy farmers run over a seemingly impossible survivor.
“Creamerie” is created by actress-producers J.J. Fong and Perlina Lau, and producer-director Roseanne Liang. As mentioned, Liang delivered “Shadow in the Cloud”, which may not be for everybody but is one of my favorite films of the year.
You can watch all six half-hour episodes of “Creamerie” on Hulu.
Under the Vines (Acorn TV) showrunner Erin White
A man and woman who hate each other inherit a failing vineyard in rural New Zealand. Neither knows a thing about how to run or work a vineyard, so of course they make a go of it.
Erin White is a longtime director in New Zealand and Australian TV.
You can watch the first two of six episodes of “Under the Vines” on Acorn TV, with a new weekly episode dropping every Monday.
The Unforgivable (Netflix) directed by Nora Fingscheidt
Sandra Bullock plays Ruth. She’s being released from prison after a 20-year sentence for killing a cop. Very few people are willing to give her a chance or forget her past, even as she searches for the little sister she may have been protecting.
In addition to Bullock, Viola Davis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, and Rob Morgan also star.
Director Nora Fingscheidt helmed the incredible “System Crasher”, an unflinching yet sympathetic portrayal of a girl with rage issues. It was one of the best films of 2020.
Anonymously Yours (Netflix) directed by Maria Torres
In this Mexican romantic comedy, a mistaken text message between classmates leads to a real friendship. The pair fall for each other without realizing they’ve already met and can’t stand each other. I can’t find a trailer with English translation online, but the film will have one available.