Keen for a new on-the-screen series to binge-watch, or something to listen to on your phone during your daily commute? Here are some recommendations from EL editors and readers for TV shows, movie, podcast and Netflix Singapore.
Next in Fashion | Netflix Singapore
If you liked Project Runway, you’ll love Next in Fashion. While the first season was a flop, the competition has been revived on Netflix and all I can say is that I am totally here for season two!
In short, 12 no-name, up-and-coming designers and international professionals compete for a $250,000 prize fund. Plus, they get to launch a collection on e-commerce platform Rent the Runway. The show is hosted by Tan France from Queer Eye and model Gigi Hadid, so you can expect the commentary to be insightful, fresh and funny.
The designers are given unbelievably tight schedules – sometimes just eight hours. In this time, they must come up with a design based on a theme, find materials, create the look and tailor the outfit before sending it down the runway in front of a crowd – and, in one episode, Donatella Versace!
Some of the looks are very out there and follow a “fashion as art” mentality, rather than being something you might walk down the street in. However, the designs they create are phenomenal. If you’re a fashion lover, you cannot miss this! Besides, you may be seeing these designers’ names on Orchard Road in the near future.
Daisy Jones & The Six | Amazon Prime
I first came across this story in a book club a few years back so I was looking forward to seeing the TV series adaptation. It’s always a challenge seeing characters you’ve loved in books come to the screen but this was so refreshing.
It’s about a band in the 1970s who are at the peak of their fame until they play their last show to a sold-out arena in Chicago. The series is filmed like a documentary, in which the band members come together decades later to reveal the truth of what happened.
The story revolves around the two main characters, Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) and Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin), and their tumultuous relationship. I won’t reveal any more of the plot – just watch it for the amazing 70s outfits and the crazy rock and roll lifestyle!
Fun fact: Riley Keough is the granddaughter of Elvis Presley, which probably explains her outstanding stage presence.
A trio of thrillers | Various platforms
I think my blood pressure has been impacted over the past month, as I’ve been bingeing (just a little bit!) on intricate plots that have had me on the edge of my sofa. The first was a British series, Unforgotten, which has a fab cast including Nicole Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar. It delves into old crime cases that resurface, often through other newer crimes. It’s easy to become totally immersed in it.
Then I switched across to Netflix for some American intrigue in The Night Agent. The acting isn’t great, but the plot did hold me. You’re never quite sure who the baddies are until the end…
Next, after talking to myself sternly about not watching any more of these thrillers, I talked myself into watching Shetland on BBC. It’s set around a police team in the far north of Scotland and their personal lives – and, yes, a few murders (not sure how anyone is still alive up there!) and other unsavoury behaviour. The scenery is amazing and the cast is very relatable. Again, I like trying to figure out who done it, but I haven’t got many right – so far…
Alone (US), Season 8 | Various platforms
I was late to come to Alone. I’d mistaken it for Survivor – the one with the inane challenges and “tribal alliances”. But this is the real deal: individuals sent to a ridiculously inhospitable corner of the globe and left to survive with meagre equipment – and brutal minus temperatures and hungry grizzly bears to contend with.
I jumped in randomly at Season 8 of the US version (Season 9 recently aired), and I loved it. It’s set around Canada’s icy, wind-blown Chilko Lake. The ten contestants aren’t celebrities or city slickers; they’re hardened adventurers who all bring essential skills to the table, whether it’s hunting with a bow and arrow, or forging Stone Age-style tools. The winner is the one who can stay out in nature the longest. (Spoiler: it’s months and months!)
There are some real characters too. My favourite in Season 8 was Biko, a construction worker and singer in a heavy metal band whose strategy was to stack on 30kg before the show in an effort to stave off hunger. Chilko Lake is unforgiving, however, and those extra kilos didn’t last long.
The first season of the Australian version of Alone has just started screening, set on Tasmania’s rugged west coast. I can’t wait to see it. And while I’ll thankfully be surrounded by the comforts of an electricity-powered home, I will – very appropriately – be alone. (My wife hates this kind of show, so she’ll be off in another room watching Succession.)
Criminal Minds: Evolution | Disney Plus
I was a fan of Criminal Minds, so this new series came as a welcome surprise! In previous seasons, the Behavioural Analysis Unit (BAU) solved various crimes across one or two episodes; Evolution, on the other hand, follows one case across the whole series, as the team unravels a network of serial killers built during the pandemic, and tracks down the person that started it all.
I was quickly hooked as I watched the team discover conflicting psyches behind the crimes that had been committed and eventually realise that something bigger was at play. Best of all, you can watch this without catching up on prior seasons – you’ll just miss some of the characters’ growth and their changing relationships with one another.
The Evolution series is also unlike other crime dramas as it explores the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns on serial killers. A detective in the show, David Rossi, describes it best: “They couldn’t move. They couldn’t hunt. So they started communicating, helping each other to become better predators.”
Who Do You Think You Are | YouTube
An American actress with lineage to an English aristocrat, British royalty and even a world-famous conqueror; a decorated English actress descended from a vice commander of Copenhagen; and an English former professional footballer with an ancestor who repeatedly served time in prison.
The common thread between these three? They’re all looking for answers about their ancestry – and that’s the premise of this documentary series. As someone who has questions about her own ancestry and lineage, I find it fascinating to watch these stories unfold, as famous people discover that they’re not merely English, Australian or Greek.
While full episodes are available, I prefer the “shorts”; these aren’t more than 10 minutes each and they get straight to the juicy bits and reveals, making them perfect for a quick break from work.
The Banshees of Inisherin
I was very excited to see the duo of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson pairing up again for this movie. The last time I watched them together was in In Bruges, and their chemistry in that movie was just seamless. No less could be said about their performance in The Banshees of Inisherin.
Set in 1923, the film’s plot is about a friendship gone wrong on a rural island off the coast of Ireland (stunning scenery, of course!). The sudden rejection of one of the two friends leads to despair and revenge.
Despite the setting of a century ago, the dialogue, interactions and characters still make the film so relatable to modern day as it touches on issues like depression, violence, loneliness and finding one’s purpose in life.
It’s such a refreshing change to be able to watch a movie without any CGI manipulation to appreciate fine acting with a stunning backdrop. And the rhythmic sounds of the language were a definite bonus for me too.
Limitless | Disney Plus
This is a good six-part series to watch with the man in your life. Star of the show is Chris Hemsworth, the Aussie celeb best known for playing superhero Thor – and for being one super-fit human! He’s on a mission to improve longevity, and with the help of a team of scientists, he tests mind and body to the max with six epic challenges.
This National Geographic production is beautifully shot, well researched and might just teach you a thing or two about how to live a longer and happier life.
Enola Holmes 2 | Netflix Singapore
Millie Bobby Brown returns as the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, the title character of the book series, The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer. This second film is inspired by the 1888 “matchgirls’ strike”, a famous episode of industrial action in London.
Now a bonafide detective, Enola is enlisted by a matchgirl (a worker at a match factory) to find her missing sister. Of course, her investigations are hampered by Superintendent Grail (brilliantly acted by David Thewlis), a murder, and romantic interest from Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge). She finds help from her brother, Sherlock, who’s investigating a perplexing mystery of missing funds that may be linked to her case.
Henry Cavill reprises his role as the famous English detective and the chemistry he shares with Brown is fun to watch. Definitely one for fans of detective fiction, especially Sherlock Holmes.
You don’t need to have watched an episode of the famous British TV series Crossroads to appreciate this three episode series. As a bit of background, Crossroads was one of the longest-running soaps in the UK, behind Coronation Street and Emmerdale Farm, and at the centre of the show was Meg (Noele Gordon). Nolly is all about her, and she’s played brilliantly by Helena Bonham Carter; the rest of the cast is also good. It’s a bit of a walk down memory lane to the days of the 70s and 80s too – especially the fashion! Definitely worth a watch.
Clarkson’s Farm Season 2 | Amazon Prime
Jeremy Clarkson returns to his Lamborghini tractor seat in Clarkson’s Farm Season 2. This series continues the humorous hopelessness of Clarkson trying to make his large Cotswold acreage profitable whilst highlighting the more serious struggle, and red tape, faced by modern-day British farmers. A good giggle.
Vikings Valhalla: Season 2 | Netflix Singapore
It’s back! I was eagerly waiting for the new season of this show and, although the storyline went in a completely different way than I expected, it was still great. It was more bloody and gory than Season 1 but definitely more focused on the characters’ development. I can see big things coming from the main characters in the next series – Leif, Harald and the heroine of the story, Freydis – it felt like it was setting the stage for the main event!
In particular, it will be interesting to see how shieldmaiden Freydis continues to battle with her fate as “keeper of the faith” of the pagans, while pursuing her relationship with Harald, a Christian prince.
For those who don’t know what the show is about, Vikings Valhalla is set in the 11th century and covers the final years of the Viking Age – well, loosely. It’s interesting in that it covers territorial fighting including the Viking rule of England, but also the fight between Christianity and paganism.
Women at War (Les Combattantes) | Netflix Singapore
Set in 1914, this series sees German troops advancing across France and four women grappling with the devastating consequences of war at home. The women include Marguerite, a mysterious prostitute; Caroline, propelled to the head of the family factory; Agnes, Mother Superior of a requisitioned convent; and Suzanne, a nurse on the run.
There were more twists and turns in Women at War than I can remember; you’ll be constantly on the edge of your seat. If you want brilliant sets, history and undeniable drama (with a bit of spice), this is for you!
The series is in French so if you aren’t a French speaker you can watch it dubbed in English or with subtitles – either way, it’s well worth the watch. It’s also a reminder of what we are all capable of achieving in difficult times.
The Glory | Netflix Singapore
This South Korean drama series has a masterfully written plot, centring around a high school student, Moon Dong-Eun, who becomes a victim of violence perpetrated by her fellow students who have the money to get away with it. As the violence escalates, she is forced to drop out of school to save her life. From that moment, Dong-Eun’s life is a series of calculated steps towards getting revenge on her tormentors and the bystanders that allowed it to happen. The highlight is when she becomes the homeroom teacher of the main bully’s child.
Actress Song Hye-Kyo successfully brings out the cunningness yet vulnerability of Moon Dong-Eun, showcasing her determination, rage and loneliness that reverberate through every moment; from her deadly blank expressions to the hysterical applause she gives to the woman who once tortured her, she captures the spectrum of grief that comes with trauma.
Singles Inferno | Netflix Singapore
Season two of this Korean reality dating series dropped in January. As in the first season, a group of attractive and chiselled single males and females are placed on an isolated island dubbed “Inferno” to find their potential partner. Without revealing their age or occupation, they have to use their natural charms to pair up and leave the island for a night in “Paradise”, which is a stay at a luxury hotel.
You’d think that being attractive makes things easier. However, there are awkward silences and laboured conversations; I could hear the gears in their heads cranking doubly hard to find ways to keep the conversation going. My takeaway from this is that, regardless of your looks, the inability to express yourself eloquently or hold a conversation can only get you so far. Whether it’s a reality show or app, it’s just an introduction to a potential date. Anything more has to be nurtured through shared interests, values and belief systems.
Drive My Car | HBO Max
This Japanese film by renowned director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and inspired by Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women is not your usual “romance” film. In fact, it starts off on a pretty grim note, with a stage actor and director first discovering his wife is cheating on him, and later having to cope with her passing. Brace yourself, as it gets more complicated, when he receives an offer to produce a show his late wife had scripted, starring one of the young actors who was the very man she had the affair with.
Things do get better eventually, not through the finding of a new flame, but in the man’s unlikely friendship with his chauffeur, who is contending with the loss of her mother. Themes like art as a way to process trauma, and grappling with secrets and regret in relationships are handled with nuance and elegance. Essentially, this film is about love, though not in the way you may expect.
Wednesday | Netflix Singapore
Any scepticism buzzing over Tim Burton’s new cast playing the iconic Addams Family was silenced when Wednesday was finally released on Netflix. Jenna Ortega brings Wednesday Addams into a whole new light – from playing the cello to “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones to the kooky dance routine to “Goo Goo Muck” by The Cramps – all while maintaining Wednesday’s iconic stoic expression and deadpan demeanour.
The show sees Wednesday joining Nevermore Academy, a school for outcasts, where she investigates a murder mystery. While it was easy as a viewer to narrow down the culprits, the journey to their unveiling was still a rather satisfying one. The usually tired tropes of coming-of-age and high school cliques are seamlessly woven in, in a way that grips the interest. Oh, and did I mention that Christina Ricci (Wednesday in the original cast) stars too?
My Invisible Life | Gateway Arts (gatewayarts.sg)
When the lives of a high school student and migrant worker collide, there is no hiding from the longstanding societal prejudice and xenophobia surrounding them. This theatrical film made in Singapore builds towards a construction site chase scene with complications that pull at your heartstrings. Watch as Daniel must make the difficult choice to stand up and protect his new friend Sanjay.
My Invisible Life is perfectly targeted to young teens beginning to question the world. The storyline offers opportunities to discuss issues of xenophobia and social integration and, for older viewers, a reminder to always question your own privilege and prejudices.
Andor | Disney+
Yet another Star Wars offshoot, this time a prequel to the underrated movie Rogue One, this series follows Cassian Andor’s struggle to escape the clutches of the omnipresent evil Empire. This first season is a cleverly made, very watchable lead-in to the formative years of the rebels and their fight to restore freedom and justice to the galaxy. Highly recommended and suitable for all the family.
A Call to Spy | Netflix Movie
This thrilling historical film from 2019 is based on a real event. At the start of the war, Winston Churchill knew that a vital way to get information was to build a base of spies to link up with the resistance in France. This led to women being used as spies for the first time, as they were able to move under the radar more easily than men.
The main character is an American woman who was previously denied a diplomatic role on account of her gender and the fact she had an artificial leg. She is joined by the first Muslim spy used by British secret operations, a Sufi pacifist who risked her life along with the others. Without this infrastructure and the information the women were able to pass back to the Allied Forces, the outcome of the war may have been different.
It’s a great film to watch but pretty terrifying when you realise how easy it is for people to believe propaganda, and how others will do what they are told even though it’s not the right thing to do.
Operation Mincemeat | Netflix Movie
In the early years of WWII, a secret team was set up to pass false information to the Germans via various spies – and making it look like it was real information was the key. In order to make the Nazis think the Allied Forces were invading Greece rather than Sicily, an ingenious plan was concocted for a corpse carrying supposedly top secret information to wash ashore in Spain, in a location with known Nazi sympathisers.
As a viewer, you’re left with the question: if the information gets into the hands of the Nazis, would they believe it, or would they know that it’s a diversion? Like A Call to Spy, this is based on a true story, and it features a stellar cast including Colin Firth and Penelope Wilton.
Bald and Bankrupt | YouTube
Continuing my shout-outs for various travel-themed YouTube channels, this time I’m giving props to “Bald”, which is the nickname of British travel blogger Benjamin Rich. In his two channels (“Bald and Bankrupt” and “Daily Bald”), he ventures into the sketchier corners of countries that many would consider not particularly travel-friendly, and invariably manages to smash any preconceived notions by meeting and interacting with wonderful people at every turn.
Bald isn’t for everyone; he’s a quintessential “lad” – the videos where he’s travelling alone rather than with his rogue mates are easily the best. But it’s hard to deny the strength of his series of vlogs filmed in the post-Soviet states – and Ukraine, in particular (filmed shortly before the start of the war). You’ll have a laugh, shake a head at his courage, and perhaps even develop an appreciation for old Soviet mosaics!
The Capture (Series 1 & 2) | BBC
In this mystery-thriller series set in London, a young detective comes across a government strategy that can alter video footage, plant people as spies, as well as make them disappear – all in the name of justice… This was gripping and probably a bit too close to the truth for comfort, but cleverly done, and with a great cast. Highly recommended.
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