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KEEP AN EYE OUT

A vampire satire of Chilean fascism, a doccie on universal basic income, and more

A vampire satire of Chilean fascism, a doccie on universal basic income, and more
Composite image: Maverick Life

Our non-exhaustive list of films and series to look out for in September on Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and in cinemas.

True stories

Free Money: Streaming on Netflix

A documentary filmed over half a decade that examines in detail the largest-scale and longest-running experiment with universal basic income. With AI increasingly threatening human obsolescence, this socioeconomic narrative on global wealth distribution is particularly timely. Directors Lauren DeFilippo and Sam Soko tell the story of Kogutu, a village in Western Kenya where inhabitants were given free money every month by a non-profit organisation called GiveDirectly. Journalist Larry Madowo plays devil’s advocate, observing the experiment with a sceptical eye and questioning the efficacy and ethics of the complicated experiment itself.

Breaking: 21 September on Shomax

John Boyega (They Cloned TyroneThe Woman King, and Finn in the Star Wars movies) plays real-life US Marine Corps veteran Brian Brown-Easley. In 2017, Brown-Easly took a bank and several of its employees hostage with a bomb in his backpack. Based on an in-depth article about the incident, we meet a desperate man, on the brink of homelessness, denied the support he needs for his PTSD from Veterans Affairs. Boyega does well to play the balancing act that the film requires, embodying a man who truly didn’t want to hurt anyone but still put the lives of innocent people in danger to get what he felt he deserved.

Survival Thrillers

Inside: 12 September On Prime Video

Among Willem Dafoe’s acting accolades is his reputation for being able to empathetically portray psychotic and despicable characters. The best example of this might be his performance in The Lighthouse. Inside is a psychological suspense thriller every bit as claustrophobic and devilishly loony. He plays Nemo, a high-end art thief who is trapped in a New York penthouse after his heist doesn’t go as planned. Survival thrillers are often a test of endurance for the audience as well as the protagonist, but an attentive viewer will be rewarded with agonising details.

The Dive: 28 September in cinemas

A survival thriller about sisters on a deep-sea diving trip. A freak landslide traps one of them underwater, setting the clock for disaster. The tension is not as airtight as that of Gravity or 127 Hours, punctuated irritatingly by flashbacks to flesh out the characters’ relationship, but the underwater context taps into an even more primal human fear.

Satirical Horrors

The Other Black Girl: 13 September on Disney+

You won’t describe this series about a black woman’s work-life at a white publishing company as an office comedy once you’ve finished it. The social commentary on race and privilege that greets you at the outset is only one piece of the puzzle. Adapted for television by Zakiya Dalila Harris, who wrote the bestselling novel, the show follows an editorial assistant frustrated by the racial politics pervading her career. Initially, our focus is on Hazel, another black woman who is hired at the office, but the show soon spirals down creepier conspiratorial paths.

El Conde: 15 September on Netflix

El Conde, or The Count in English, is a gory, playfully macabre comedy-horror reimagining the recent history of Chile and satirising its ongoing agony. Marking the 50-year anniversary of the 1973 coup led by Augusto Pinochet, the film reimagines Pinochet, a symbol of global fascism who ruled the country for two decades … as a vampire. In this parallel universe, rather than dying in 2006, he continues to feed off of the nation, hidden in a ruined mansion at the southern tip of South America. Unable to bear being remembered as a parasite by his country, after 250 years he decides to forgo his bloodlust and eternal life in favour of counterrevolutionary politics.

Quirky Character Development:

Totally Completely Fine: 2 episodes every Wednesday from 6 September on Showmax

A quirky Aussie comedy starring Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo RabbitThe Power of the Dog) as a spunky, volatile twentysomething who thinks she’s hit the jackpot by inheriting a lavish cliffside property, until she realises it’s a suicide hotspot and is tasked with rescuing lost souls on the verge. The writing is not as edgy as it thinks it is, but McKenzie’s performance is to die for.

Past Lives: 21 September in cinemas

It’s an endearing quality of cinephiles that we can watch the same archetypal stories told over and over again and love them each time. Korean-Canadian director Celine Song’s feature debut is a simple story about a young love rekindled after years apart. Reflecting bittersweetly on regret and digital media’s brutal documentation of what could have been a nostalgic past, it has enough little intimate moments to make you feel like you’ve lived a love affair yourself in the course of its three hours.

Sci-fi and fantasy

Wheel of Time S2: Streaming on Prime Video

Adapted from Robert Jordan’s beloved book series, Amazon’s fantasy epic got off to a mixed start, but the second season has done well by settling into the darker, deeper lore of the second novel of the series, The Great Hunt, and some elements of the third, The Dragon Reborn. The new season introduces several fan-favourite characters from the books and promises even more action-packed battles than the first season, filmed against the backdrop of impressive sets in the Czech Republic, Morocco, and Italy.

The Creator: 28 September in cinemas

An ex-Special Forces operative is tasked with ending the war that rages on between man and machine in a futuristic world. Isaac Asimov’s science-fiction stories, groundbreaking and brilliant as they are, have inspired countless sensationalised conceptions of the threat of an Artificial Intelligence uprising. It may be more likely (and terrifying) that AI will take over by increasingly outperforming humans until we’re practically obsolete, rather than by mass-producing antagonistic androids that carry machine-guns. Still, this theme seems more pertinent now than ever before, and The Creator may be the first in a new wave of blockbuster films exploring the idea.

Gen V: September 29 on Prime Video

Amazon’s satirical superhero series The Boys has been one of the streamer’s biggest successes. Gen V expands the diabolical universe, turning our attention to the heroes-to-beat at the prestigious Godolkin University — a superhero-only college where students train to be the next generation of heroes, preferably with lucrative endorsements. It’s a pretty tired premise, but turning clichés on their head with sadistic cynicism is what creator Eric Kripke does so well. One day at Godolkin would have the students of Sky High or Xavier’s school in X-Men blushing, barfing … or dead.

Atmospheric slow burns

1883: 18 September on Showmax

A 2021 Western drama set in the aftermath of the American Civil War. The series is a prequel to the series Yellowstone, following the forebears of the Dutton family as they escape from poverty, journeying west through the Great Plains towards the last bastion of untamed America. It’s a deliberate, immersive watch, slow-cooking tension in vast open spaces (with occasional bursts of gunfire). The story is more primal than that of Yellowstone and set in a different era, and never feels like a spinoff.

Nightmare Alley: 20 September on Disney+

Bradley Cooper also stars in Nightmare Alley, which he co-produced with director Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro’s first feature since his acclaimed The Shape of Water, it was an early gem of 2022 — a detailed, stylised and technically exquisite period drama — a return to Del Toro’s practised neo-noir. It’s the second film adaption of the 1946 novel of the same name about a deceitful carny (Cooper) who teams up with a corrupt psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) in an attempt to dominate the dangerous underbelly of the carnival business. DM

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