ENTERTAINMENT

Seven Disney+ offerings that should be on your watchlist

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The Disney+ launch in the Philippines is happening, finally.

The platform launches with a boatload of content from across its various brands (from Disney to Marvel and Star Wars) rounding up a collection of 1,800 films and 32,000 episodes, which also includes shows and films from Hulu and Star. As with any new streaming service, it can be daunting to figure out what to watch.

Avid Netflix users are already familiar with “doomscrolling,” the time-consuming drag that is looking for something to watch amidst the overwhelming amount of choices in the catalog. To alleviate those concerns on launch day, I've assembled a list of quality films and television shows that’ll certainly make your ₱159 mobile subscription (it’s ₱369 a month for the Premium plan) immediately worth your while.

From blockbuster shows to heartwarming animated films and hidden gems that might pique your interest, here are some of the must-watch offerings available on Disney+:

"Andor"

Cast: Diego Luna, Adria Arjona, Stellan Skarsgård

“Andor” is a “Star Wars” prequel series featuring Diego Luna reprising his role as Cassian Andor from “Rogue One.” You’d think that this universe is already experiencing a severe case of “prequel-itis” after several bouts at recapturing (or remedying) the lost magic of the original films, but “Andor” proves that by altering the stakes and transforming the genre into a political spy thriller, “Star Wars” still has plenty new to uncover.

Considering it has virtually no characters from the main line films at all, the series shines when it concerns itself with the rebellion as a unifying idea rather than anchoring itself to a lone character as the eventual savior. You don't need to be a “Star Wars” expert to enjoy “Andor” since its grimy and gritty milieu feels like its own galaxy far, far away. Even then, it still has all the hallmarks of a familiar space opera, with tons of action, impressive cinematography, and stunning visual effects. If you enjoyed “Rogue One,” then this is definitely for you.

"Disenchanted"

Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Maya Rudolph

Disney created a fairy tale world as a magical place where dreams come true and the impossible can happen. But what happens when you take a princess and throw her into the real world (let alone in the heart of New York)? That’s what “Enchanted” successfully explored back in 2007 with comedic wit, emotional depth, and banger musical numbers. Now, 15 years later, we’re still LSS over that “So Close” ballroom scene.

In “Disenchanted,” Amy Adams returns as Giselle, but this time confronted with motherhood and suburban monotony. Disillusionment slowly settles in, and it isn’t long until things go off-kilter. Based on the trailer, “Disenchanted” promises a wicked turn from Giselle, a role that Adams will undoubtedly relish playing (give her an Oscar already, Academy). And if the previous film is any indicator, this one will take on familiar fairy tale tropes and turn them on their heads so that they're no longer just saccharine or sweet — instead, becoming more relatable and contemporary.

With the same cast, director, and songwriters returning for this sequel, there’s cause for excitement when “Disenchanted” drops on November 18.

"BTS: Permission to Dance on Stage - LA"

Cast: BTS

If you’re looking to get your BTS fix, look no further than the live concert of the worldwide phenomenon at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The documentary showcases a purple-colored night filled with mesmerizing music and exhilarating performances that Disney+ delivers straight to your home.

For context, the “Permission to Dance on Stage'' concert was one of the biggest in-person concerts after the pandemic began and broke records as one of the best-selling gigs of all time. Equally meaningful is the fact that the concert reunited the K-pop group with their cherished ARMY after a year apart. As a film, BTS offers an intimate look at their one-of-a-kind group camaraderie and devotion to their craft as a gift to those who couldn’t be physically present during their tour.

With an added attention to cinematic flare and gleeful energy, “BTS: Permission to Dance on Stage - LA” is definitely worth checking out if you want an immersive jamming session.

"Loki"

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Sophia Di Martino, Owen Wilson

Arguably the best Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) show that has graced Disney+ so far, “Loki” is an absurdist, time-hopping, existential journey that has less to do with “Thor” and “The Avengers” and more to do with “Doctor Who” and “Rick and Morty.” Tom Hiddleston reasserts the stranglehold he has on the entire Marvel universe (which, by now, is a multiverse) by simply being his charming self.

The series oozes a genuine sense of scope and creativity, buoyed by a script that rips Loki’s character out of the cookie-cutter MCU formula and violently casts him to a sea full of philosophical musings about determinism and free will. Each high-budget episode is garnished by stunning sets and alluring retro and futuristic designs, seen most prominently in the Time Variance Authority and various planets that Loki visits.

Taking into account that the MCU has now gone full multiverse in the recent “Spider-Man” and “Doctor Strange” films, coupled with Kang’s (the new big bad) upcoming appearance in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” Loki should absolutely be high up in your watchlist.

"Turning Red"

Cast: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh

Pixar's best offering of 2022 so far is about a red panda that functions as a metaphor for puberty. An unfailingly adorable film, “Turning Red” centers on a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl experiencing romantic crushes, rebellious impulses, and friendship problems for the first time. The film’s best accomplishment is refusing to concede that this deeply personal and intimate experience was insignificant.

It’s easy to look back and cringe at embarrassing moments of adolescence as mere growing pains, but director Domee Shi contends in her film that these memories aren’t weaknesses. For that reason alone, “Turning Red” stands out as a mature and nuanced look into the fallibility of “having it all worked out,” whether you’re a child, a mother, or a grandma. In typical Pixar fashion, everyone — not just the young ones — can find some laughs, lessons, and unexpected tears along the way.

"Barbarian"

Cast: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long

Moving on to a recommendation certainly not for kids, “Barbarian” is a horror film that works best the less you know about it before going in. An unexpected addition to the Disney+ catalog, it’s the indie darling that everyone’s been buzzing about the past few months. The reason for the buzz? It has an unexpected twist and an even more unexpected plot structure.

The sense of claustrophobia and grotesque sequences are prevalent, and like most modern horror, it points to more than just one malignant force as the true “monster.” The first half is infuriatingly good because of how it stretches out the reveal until the kettle reaches its most extreme boiling point. And, when it does erupt, the sweltering heat is suddenly replaced by a cold blanket that leads to some truly bizarre whiplashes that’ll make you laugh and then scared again in alternating succession.

The success of “Barbarian” reaffirms the adage that horror is the haven for small, low-budget films. The fact that this is now available for streaming on a significant platform like Disney+ says a lot about the variety of content the service provides — and might potentially provide in the future.

"Abbott Elementary"

Cast: Quinta Brunson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lisa Ann Walter, Tyler James Williams, Janelle James, Christ Perfetti

The breakout comedy show of 2021, “Abbott Elementary” chronicles the hilarious struggles of a ragtag bunch of teachers in an underfunded and under-managed public school in Philadelphia. The show is led by Janine Teagues (Brunson, also the show’s creator), a bright young second grade teacher who’s too optimistic about being a teacher in a public school, as she was a student of the public school system herself. In Willard R. Abbott Elementary School, new teachers hardly stay over two years and Janine is one of the newest teachers, along with Jacob (Perfetti), a queer white History teacher who’s the odd one out in a predominantly Black school.

The cast is rounded out by two veteran teachers who’s had to live with the system, Melissa (Walters) and Barbara (Ralph, who won an Emmy Award for her performance, giving one of the most memorable acceptance speeches in recent years), newbie teacher Gregory (Williams), who actually applied to be the principal of Willard R. Abbott Elementary School but was beat out by the incompetent Ava (Janelle James, in a standout performance), and the sneakily sly maintenance staff Mr. Johnson (William Stanford Davis), who is also an occasional substitute teacher. Together, they try to beat the system to work with what they have and give their students a good education.

Just in its second season, the show has already amassed a boatload of awards, including the aforementioned Supporting Actress for Comedy Emmy and a Writing for a Comedy Series Primetime Emmy for Brunson. “Abbott Elementary” is daring, warm, witty.” Definitely one of the best new shows around. — DON JAUCIAN

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The Disney+ monthly subscription price starts at ₱159.