After the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic, there were a series of border closures and restrictions on outdoor activities, with many predicting there would be fewer movies releasing from 2020 onwards.
But, on the contrary, a number of movies have been released in the last year and the first two months of 2021, which people can enjoy using their smartphones, smart TVs, or laptops, from the comfort of their home.
Before the pandemic, many people had switched from cinemas to subscription-based streaming apps as the latter offered a wide range of movies from different genres at a more affordable price. With the pandemic forcing people to stay at home, streaming apps are thriving as many people are now relying on their services.
Streaming apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Viu, HBO Go, and Disney HotStar are offering thousands of movie titles, TV series, or documentaries, leaving viewers spoilt for choice.
Having trouble deciding which film to choose for your day at home? Here are our top three movies and series to watch on streaming apps:
The new French series, Lupin or Lupin: Dans l'Ombre d'Arsne, created by British showrunner George Kay, was recently listed as one of the top 10 most-streamed non-English shows on Netflix. Inspired by a classic fictional character Arsne Lupin, the show combines stories of heist, deception, and vengeance of a con man, Assane Diop, a refugee from Senegal living in contemporary France, played by Omar Sy (Jurassic World, Inferno).
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The five-episode series follows Assane's plan to steal a diamond necklace, a national treasure once owned by Queen Marie Antoinette of France, during an auction at Muse du Louvre. The heist may remind us of a popular Spanish show Money Heist or Hollywood's Ocean's Eleven, but Lupin gives audiences a more "noble" reason to steal a diamond, and that is to reveal the corruption in France's law enforcement, which led to the wrongful imprisonment of his late father for burglary.
A week after its release on January 8 this year, Lupin became the most popular show in France and the series has attracted millions of viewers from countries across the world, including in Europe and North America, according to a report from Forbes.
2. The White Tiger
One of Netflix's must-watch offerings, The White Tiger is an American drama film directed by Iranian-American director, Ramin Bahrami (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo, Fahrenheit 451). The film is an adaptation of a 2008 novel of the same name authored by Aravind Adiga. The movie stars Adarsh Gourav, in his first leading role, as well as Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao.
The White Tiger tells the life story of a fictional character Balram Halwai, a chauffeur for a wealthy family turned into a start-up owner in Bangalore. The story is far from an inspirational success narrative as it portrays Balram's dark past of living under systemic poverty and an unjust caste system in a rural village called Laxmangarh.
The older Balram, in a neat suit and well-styled hair, is seen writing an email to the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao upon his visit to India. In his letter, Balram writes his life story, but it's more of a revealing narrative about inequality as well as a critique on an ineffective and corrupt democratic government in India.
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Balram tells the Chinese premiere: "India is two countries in one. India of light and India of darkness", a metaphor for the impoverished and uneducated poor and low-caste communities in India.
He says the poorest in India are doomed to die in abject poverty as they believe servitude is part of their duty to their masters. According to Balram, they choose to live in a "rooster coop".
"The greatest thing to come out of this country in its 10,000-year history: the rooster coop. They can see and smell the blood. They know they are next, yet they don't rebel. They don't try and get out of the coop. Servants here have been raised to behave the same. Why? [...] It's because 99.9 percent of us are caught in a rooster coop. The trustworthiness of servants is so strong that you can put the key of emancipation in a man's hand and he will throw it back at you with a curse," Balram writes in his letter.
Despite being born in a rooster coop, Balram decides on a different route and takes the key to liberation right away, even thought that means he has to murder his master.
3. Mr. Queen
Mr. Queen is a South Korean series which first aired on TvN and is now available for streaming on Viu. The movie stars Shin Hye-sun (Stranger, Still 17, Oh My Ghost) and Kim Jung-hyun (Crash Landing on You). The story was adapted from the Chinese web drama Go Princess Go.
The series, which is now airing weekly, follows the story of a Blue House chef Jang Bong-hwan from the modern age who ends up in the body of Queen Cheorin, played by Shin Hye-sun, from the Joseon era.
The two are connected by water as the Queen drowned herself in a lake, while Jang Bong-hwan accidentally falls into a swimming pool. Instead of ending up dead, Bong-hwan's soul gets trapped in the queen's body and he is forced to learn how to act like a wife to King Cheoljong, while dealing with the palace's political intrigue in a race to power.
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The series has become one of the most-watched TV series broadcast both on TV cable and streaming apps over the past few months, outstripping Uncanny Counter (2020) and Hospital Playlist, news agency Yonhap reported citing a Nielson Korea report. (INE)
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