Header image courtesy of Studio Ghibli
Coronavirus quarantine got you down? Luckily, Netflix is here with a fresh injection of great content to make working at home a little more bearable. Paul Hsiao, chart maker and film enthusiast at Movieconomist, lists his most-anticipated releases arriving on Netflix Hong Kong in April.
Localiiz has written about it earlier in what truly is a momentous event: Legendary Studio Ghibli, responsible for generations’ worth of dreams and nostalgia, has generally eschewed from releasing their catalogue for public consumption, making digital purchases—never mind streaming rights—for its legions of fans around the world very difficult to procure. Not anymore.
Netflix could not have picked a better time to release even more Studio Ghibli films, in addition to the ones released in February and March. While all of them are worth watching, we want to highlight two of them. The legend himself, Hayao Miyazaki, has said that Howl’s Moving Castle is his favourite creation. The 2004 film, based on the 1986 book penned by British author Diana Wynne Jones, follows Sophie, a young woman cursed to inhabit the body of a 90-year-old, and her quest to rid her curse. Finding work as a cleaning lady for the notorious wizard Howl and gets caught up in his resistance to fighting for the king.
Another standout is The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s most recent and potentially last film. Perhaps Miyazaki’s most personal film, The Wind Rises takes place over the years containing leading up to World War II, the film tracks the rise of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese engineer whose aviation creations get twisted into weapons of war. Available 1 April
Do you like laughing? Do you also like The Avengers? Then Community is for you. Produced by Dan Harmon—the dude behind Rick and Morty—Community is a legend in the comedy world for launching the careers of Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino), Allison Brie, and Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors of Avengers: Endgame. The sitcom that turned into a satire of sitcoms follows six students at a community college. If I could recommend one episode, it would be season 3’s Remedial Chaos Theory, which single-handedly introduced the phrase “darkest timeline” into the modern lexicon. Available 1 April
Perhaps more fantastical than any Studio Ghibli film is Coffee & Kareem, the Ed Helms-helmed comedy about a Detroit police officer partnering with a sassy African-American teenager. Twelve-year-old Kareem Manning hires a criminal to scare away his mom’s new boyfriend—police officer James Coffee—but it backfires, forcing Coffee and Kareem to team up in order to save themselves from Detroit’s most ruthless drug kingpin. Luckily for audiences, it’s supposed to be a comedy instead of a gritty drama; think The Hangover meets Superbad. Available 3 April
Perhaps the most meta Netflix production to date, Money Heist: The Phenomenon is a documentary that tracks the global rise of the Spanish crime show of the same name. Fortuitously, the latest season of Money Heist debuts on the same day on Netflix, so you can binge-watch criminal mastermind El Profesor and his ragtag band of thieves for days to come. 44 million households who streamed the third season of Netflix’s highest-rated non-English show in the first four weeks of its release can’t be wrong. Available 3 April
For those who looked forward to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a tiny consolation is Netflix’s Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020. For those who aren’t familiar with the hit Japanese reality show, Terrace House has been called the “anti-Bachelor” since it takes a slow pace to tease out small changes in character relationships rather than cringe-worthy high-stakes dates. Although watching young Japanese people hang out in a house all day may hit too close to home, considering much of the world’s quarantined state, Terrace House uses that time to explore the intricacies of a household in relative isolation. Available 7 April
One of the rare films to outdo even Disney when it comes to tearjerking animated features, The Land Before Time is a classic animation from the late 1980s that defined childhood for many Millenials. Directed by Disney veteran Don Bluth, the film follows Littlefoot, an orphaned brontosaurus who teams up with other young dinosaurs in order to survive and reunite with their families. Whether you’re watching it with your kids for the first time or revisiting a classic gem, it’s definitely worth catching up on next month. Available 10 April
As one of my favourite television shows of all time, Master of None garnered a ton of critical praise in its first season for featuring an episode solely dedicated to telling the immigrant stories of its protagonists’ parents. Directed by Alan Yang, one of the showrunners of Master of None, Tigertail takes that idea further with a multi-generational film about a Taiwanese immigrant’s life to America and the struggles he has with dealing with the complexities of new land and culture while maintaining his Asian identity. Available 10 April
Speaking of being trapped indoors, The Breakfast Club will debut on Netflix in April. The John Hughes classic follows five different teenagers—a jock, a nerd, a princess, an outcast, and a rebel—as they discover the many things they have in common while sharing a Saturday detention session. Known as the film that defined the 1980s for a generation of Americans, The Breakfast Club has been referenced in countless other pop culture features and television shows, including Stranger Things and Pitch Perfect. Available 10 April
This Netflix original film tells the real-life story of Sérgio Vieira de Mello, a UN diplomat stationed in Baghdad during the Iraq War who has to fight for his life when a bomb blast causes the walls around him to come crashing down. For fans of Narcos, the movie features a much slimmed-down and moustache-less Wagner Moura, the actor who played Pablo Escobar for two seasons. Available 17 April
What if Thor was in India rather than Asgard? Little is known about the film written by Avengers: Endgame director Joe Russo, except that it stars Chris Hemsworth and David Harbor—a.k.a. newly alive Chief Hopper from Stranger Things—playing two Americans tasked with rescuing a young boy from Indian crime lords. Definitely worth checking out for action fans. Available 24 April
The popular videogame series turned into brooding anime gets a third season on Netflix. The somewhat anachronistically-named protagonist Trevor, the lone survivor of monster-hunting Belmont clan, gains allies in his fight against Dracula and his army of zombies. That must have been a fun premise pitch. A spooktacular alternative to kick off your spring. Available now
For the cook in the household, Momofuku’s David Chang returns two years after its debut, which featured hot takes on pizza, tacos, shrimp, crawfish, BBQ, fried chicken, and fried rice. You can be sure that Chang will bring his trademark humour and irreverence while detailing a smorgasbord of comfort foods in his latest season. Available now
In a colourful animated feature that inspires comparisons to the best of Disney and Pixar, Academy Award-winning director Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy pulls the heartstrings with short film Sitara, a story about a 14-year-old girl whose dreams of a becoming pilot are challenged by the prospect of an arranged early marriage. Available now
Studies have shown that people are more likely to accept orders from people wearing white lab coats. What happens when you take 100 people from a diverse set of backgrounds and demographics, taking orders from white coats to do fun experiments? Netflix seeks to find the answer with another entry of “feel-good” reality TV. Available now
When I go drinking with my Korean friends, I always ask them the same question over soju: would South Korean dramas be more entertaining with a dash of zombies? Netflix, apparently, heard me and answered with season 2 of Kingdom, a South Korean historical zombie action series that may quench your Mulan fix before the release of the Disney remake later this year. Available now
Can’t get enough Altered Carbon? Netflix has got your back. Just a few weeks after the release of Altered Carbon (Season 2), the streaming service adds an anime-style companion piece helmed by Cowboy Bebop’s writer Dai Sato as the main creative force. Think a “re-sleeved” (Altered Carbies would get this joke) version of The Animatrix. Available now
The docu-series already got my attention since because of its correct usage of my beloved oxford comma, but now has my interest as it follows a man named Joe Exotic and his collection of exotic big cats. What is potentially more fascinating is his role in a complicated Cohen Brothers-esque web of crimes that only a true-crime documentary can unravel for your viewing pleasure. Available now
Starring Academy Award-winning Octavia Spencer, Tiffany Haddish, and Carmen Ejojoand, and produced by LeBron James, Self Made tells the true story of C.J. Walker, a mid-century American entrepreneur who built a haircare empire and became the first female self-made millionaire. Available now
Jason Bateman continues to break bad in arguably Netflix’s most underrated drama. The actor, more commonly known as his role as Arrested Development’s Michael Bluth, flexes his acting and directing chops to tell the story of an American family on the run after getting mixed up with Mexican drug cartels. Available now