From the team behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (also available on Netflix), this wonderful animation follows a strained family on their road trip to drop the eldest daughter off at college – a journey that gets intercepted by a robot apocalypse. Hilarious, tenderly and beautifully told. I can’t wait to see it on a big screen and with ‘my people’.
Director Dexter Fletcher continues his streak of full-of-heart jukebox musicals with this total gem. Taron Egerton is Elton John, opening at his lowest point in group therapy we go back to the beginning to chart the loves and trauma that made the man, the myth and the legendary songs.
One of the most talked about films from this year’s awards season, this one has to be seen and discussed at length. Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) is traumatised by an event in her past, so devotes her present to getting vengeance of sorts. A fantastically made, wonderfully performed and powerfully landing film – with the most perfect use of a Paris Hilton single that has ever happened.
Some day, this film will get the acclaim and attention it deserves. Until then, we must continue to spread the word of mouth. Directed by Steve McQueen, we follow Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) when the deaths of their criminal husbands leave behind a large debt and great danger. Recruiting Belle (Cynthia Erivo) as their getaway driver, they face grave danger in the form of brothers Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry) & Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) and politician Jack (Colin Farrell). Beautifully performed and shot, a proper must-see thriller.
This is the film and the eponymous role that won Bukky Bakray the 2021 EE Rising Star Award. Rarely, if ever, has an award been so deserved. Bakray is phenomenal as Rocks, a teen who should be thinking about her GCSEs but instead has to worry about keeping her and younger her brother (a scene-stealing D’angelou Osei Kissiedu) safe & well after their mother leaves them behind. It’s a heart wrenching story to follow – incredibly well directed by Sarah Gavron, written Theresa Ikoko & Claire Wilson and with some exceptional casting by Lucy Pardee. This is a love story to London, teen girls and friendship. Rocks is a total must-see.
Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is a powerhouse, a formidable businesswoman at the helm of a video games company. She gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her. What follows is a fantastically gripping psychological thriller, that needs to be seen to be believed. Wonderfully atmospheric and rather haunting.
I recently wrote a feature for MediaMagazine on Frances Ha about it’s depiction of female friendship, how rare it is to see it’s central platonic love stories treated with a depth usually reserved for romantic ones. The same statement is applicable to Animals, showing a friendship that burns brightly, chaotically and with underlying consequences. Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) are life partners, sharing everything with each other. But, when Laura gets engaged to Jim (Fra Fee), it’s clear the enabling dependency between both women will be placed under great strain. Funny, filthy and bitterly real.
All of DCs output is tarnished with the same damning brush; while mostly warranted, this has to be (the only?) one of the exceptions. A newly fostered young boy in search of his mother instead finds unexpected powers – the ability to transform into a superhero (Zachary Levi) when he calls out the word ‘Shazam!’ Levi is charm personified as the Big-esque lead, fully believable as a child in a (super)man’s body. Sweet, funny and wonderfully heartfelt.
Speaking of heartfelt, with a very different topic and tone, Judi Dench plays the eponymous Philomena. Having become pregnant as an unmarried teen, she was sent away into the charge of nuns who separated her from her child shortly after his birth. Decades having passed, with no idea where her son ended up, Steve Coogan is the world-wearly political journalist who reluctantly agrees to help with the search. A wonderful true story, gently and carefully told, lead by two extraordinary lead performances.
There’s been a lot of people finally discovering Daniel Brühl this week, especially because of these moves. If you’re looking for your next hit, this will do the job and then some. Chris Hemsworth is a charisma powerhouse playing Formula One racer James Hunt, Brühl is his rival Niki Lauda. What follows is a thrilling and finely crafted sports drama.
Jemaine Clement plays Will Henry, a newly single graphic artist is left parenting both his young twin daughters and a classroom of students after his longtime partner leaves him for someone else. A gently funny tale of a man forced to rediscover himself at a time when he thought he was settled and explore the world of relationships once more. Offbeat and very charming.
Being a young carer has forced Sarah (Liv Hill) to grow up far too soon and far too quickly. By chance her drama teacher spots her talent for stand-up comedy and encourages her to nurture it, but life continues to get in the way. An immensely compassionate and moving character study.
Eighth Grade (Netflix – 2018 – 93 mins)
Being a teenager is awful, a continuously mortifying nightmare of epic proportions. Writer-director Bo Burnham revils in that here, with a regularly funny often cringe-inducing drama that follows an introverted teen (Elsie Fisher) trying to survive her disastrous last week of middle school with high school on the horizon. A painfully wonderful and relatable movie.
After a happy childhood in the countryside with his foster family, Femi is brought back to London as a teenager by his birth mother. Samuel Adewunmi is fantastic as Femi in writer-director Shola Amoo‘s contemplative and moving drama. A stunning portrait full of ones to watch, in front of and behind the camera.
Sean (Matt Bomer) is a lonely weatherman yearning for his ex-partner, but finding distraction in a friendship of sorts with a middle-aged Latino migrant worker (Alejandro Patiño). Quiet, slow-moving and utterly charming.
Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is an immensely successful lawyer gearing up to defend his new client (Ryan Phillippe) when he stumbles upon evidence that suggests not only is his client guilty, but for far more than he’s currently on trial for. A tense and gripping thriller.
A charming British feelgood movie about an underdog trying to do the right thing – in this case the underdog in question is a lonely man looking for love (Brett Goldstein) who also happens to be the world’s only superhero. Heartfelt and very funny.
Adventureland (Sky/NOW – 2009 – 107 mins)
It’s the summer of 1987, James (Jesse Eisenberg) finds himself spending his first summer out of college working at an amusement park. It may not be the summer he ever planned or wished for, but it’s going to teach him a lot about himself and the world. An excellent supporting cast – Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds – help make this a really charming coming-of-age movie.
You’re probably here because you’ve been here before. For the first timers amongst you, once a week I recommend a bunch of films across various popular streaming platforms in the hope you helping you beat the ‘Well, what should we watch now?’ slump. Here’s volumes 1 and 2.
If I were to start a prescription service, offering films to cure various alignments, I’d suggest this one to the world-weary and jaded. This is an immensely cathartic watch restores my faith in humanity and the wonder of people, a partly-inspired by true story of a journalist’s (Matthew Rhys) encounter with children’s tv host Fred Rodgers (Tom Hanks). Make sure you’ve got your tissues, then dig out the companion documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbour? and the 1998 article that inspired it all. You can thank me later.
I call myself a romcom fan, but this was a first watch for me when I finally watched it 6 weeks ago – there’s few things better than finding a film that is very much your jam. This one is very much my jam, and then some. Sandra Bullock is a hopelessly romantic Chicago Transit Authority token collector who is mistaken for the fiancée of a coma patient (Peter Gallagher). Bill Pullman plays his plait-wearing, grumpy, carpenter cynic of a brother (aka my type in a nutshell…) Really sweet, romantic and very funny.
Without this movie, there’s a strong possibility the MCU as we know it may not exist – as it let to the return of Robert Downey Jr. and showcased his charismatic brilliance so wonderfully. A murder mystery brings together his thief-disguising-as-an-actor, Val Kilmer‘s Private Detective and Michelle Monaghan‘s struggling actress. Sublimely written and directed by Shane Black, this is a brilliantly dark comedy that needs to be seen!
A small indie that is so charming and darkly funny. Jackie(Derren Nesbitt) is an 80-year-old drag queen, Faith (Jordan Stephens) is just starting out – both desperately alone, an unlikely yet wonderful friendship forms as they support each other and in turn themselves.
One of the finest, if not the finest, science fiction movie of the 21st Century. An immensely profound and gripping look at what it really means to be human. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is the linguist called in to work with the military to communicate with alien lifeforms after twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world. Go in knowing nothing else and leave forever changed.
An honest and harrowing profile of one of the most iconic and recognizable voices in music. With a wealth of never-before seen footage, photos and accounts – this is an immensely personal and unvarnished account. Essential viewing.
This may just be the most perfect use of 90 minutes of screentime that we’ve seen in a long time, let alone the best use of a time loop/Groundhog Day narrative. Nyles (Andy Samberg) has been stuck at the same wedding for far too long, the sole guest who is trapped there, relieving the same day again and again and again. Until Sarah (Cristin Milioti) gets stuck there too…
Based on the 1999 fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman, this is a love story like no other. Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) is set the task by the object of his affections, Victoria (Sienna Miller), to go collect the star that has fallen nearby. But nearby, in this instance is on the other side of the wall which borders the magical land of Faerie. Crossing it is prohibited as it leads to a magical realm where nothing is to be believed and no-one is to be trusted. Such a charming fantasy love story with an incredible cast and this banger of a theme song.
Written, directed and starring Warren Beatty (playing Hollywood eccentric and legendary billionaire Howard Hughes) this is a love story of sorts to the era of Golden Hollywood. A romantic-comedy-drama, it follows new-in-town Lily Collins a devout Baptist beauty queen under contract with Hughes’ film studio RKO Pictures, receiving $400 a week and living in a beautiful home with her strict mother Lucy (Annette Bening). Frank (Alden Ehrenreich) becomes Marla’s primary driver, taking her to singing and dance classes – a prohibited friendship between the pair quickly follows.
Looking for some film recommendations to get you through the Bank Holiday Weekend? Well, look no further! Here’s five top picks for your delectation. Not enough for you? Check out last week’s edition here.
Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) is 34 and hugely adrift, in all aspects of her life. The opportunity arises to nanny a 6 year-old girl (a spectacular Ramona Edith Williams) whose parents are expecting their second child, which is forcing all manner of adjustments for all the family. An unlikely friendship forms between Bridget and Frances, and it’s such a joy to follow. An immensely likeable and utterly charming watch.
Nadine’s (Hailee Steinfeld) life sucks. It’s always been sucky, she’s never quite fitted in or been all that happy – but she had her beloved dad to support her and her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) always by her side. But since her dad’s death it seemed things couldn’t get any worse – until Krista starts dating Nadine’s horrifically popular brother (Blake Jenner). Steinfeld is fantastic as the embittered beyond her years teen, with fantastic supporting performances courtesy of Woody Harrelson as Nadine’s jaded teacher and Hayden Szeto as the would-be friend could-be more – if Nadine could finally pay attention to anyone but herself. A classic of the teen movie genre.
Speaking of Hailee Steinfeld, she’s also fantastic in this sci-fi gem which just happens to be the finest of the Transformers franchise. By a long, long, long shot. It feels like a throwback to vintage Spielberg, a lost teen finding solace and a sense of self in a new-found friendship with a being from another planet. The soundtrack is an 80s fest banger – if you’re looking for an action packed romp packed full of heart, this is the droid (Autobot) you’re looking for.
Based on a true story, Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) was detained and imprisoned by the US government for years without charge and without trial. Lawyers Nancy (Jodie Foster) and Teri (Shailene Woodley) are fighting for his freedom. Military prosecutor Stuart (Benedict Cumberbatch) is fighting for the death penalty. A riveting legal drama that is at times difficult to watch, packed full of excellent performances – Rahim is a charismatic powerhouse, able to convey harrowing depths with his extraordinary performance.
The Way, Way Back (2013 – Disney+ – 103 mins)
With summer on it’s way, why not watch this underseen gem which is one of the finest coming of age movies of the 21st Century? Duncan (Liam James) is being forced to spend his summer vacation with his mum Pam (Toni Collette) and her newish boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell). Whilst he’d much rather be spending the holidays with his dad, he’s forced into a strange role of not-quite child and not-quite adult attending hangouts with Trent’s friends (Allison Janney, Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet) and feeling fully isolated. A job offer from unexpected friend and water park manager Owen (Sam Rockwell) offers escape but the possibilities of so much more. I cannot sing the praises of this film often enough. Just wonderful.
After a longer than planned or intended break, it’s time for me to get back to my weekly film recommendations. Along the lines of my previous feature Something To Watch Saturdays (all available here), each week I’ll suggest 5 film recommendations from your favourite streaming sites to keep you entertained till UK cinemas reopen on May 17th (51 days folks). Now under a new name, that should be sung to the tune of this Aerosmith banger. If you decide to watch any of the below, let me know your thoughts by getting in touch via twitter or Instagram at @sometimesmovies. Now, time to Stream On…
In England in 1987, a teenager from an Asian family learns to live his life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of American rock star Bruce Springsteen. Partially based on a true story, that of writer Sarfraz Manzoor, the result is a film that is so charming and feelgood, and nigh-on impossible not to be charmed by.
John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed in a familiar yet often unexpected Western journey. Unique in tone – think buddy road trip, meets oddball humour and the brutality of the Wild West – this one that fully went under the radar upon release and really deserves a visit.
Quite possibly the finest music biopic from the past decade – at least – we follow Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson in both the 60s (when played by Paul Dano) and the 80s (John Cusack). In both eras he is a man on the edge, broken by mental health issues and addiction, to heartbreaking extents. An extraordinarily and inanimate look at the life of a musical pioneer, whose beach soundtracks belied much darkness.
Based on a play, covering a factional night where Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) got together, this film is packed full of powerhouse performances. Reflecting on the Civil Rights Movement and the cultural upheaval of the 1960s, particularly America but in turn around the world, Regina King has directed a sublimely reflective film about the notion of celebrity and influence. Something of a slow burn, loaded with one-two gut punches. Very moving.
Joyce Vincent’s died in a London bedsit in 2003. Her body wasn’t found for three years. With this part-documentary/part-drama, Carol Morley explores Vincent’s life, how a vivacious and much-loved woman could have been left for so long-unnoticed, through insights from her friends and family & recreation from Zawe Ashton as Vincent. A remarkable and essential watch.
Check out the back catalogue: #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5.
Book: I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson (99p on Kindle)
This novel is an excellent crime novel, suited for all ages 9+ – both adults and young people will get something from reading it. It’s the story of Jemma, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy. She can’t walk or talk or even move without assistance, which means most people seem to forget she can think and understand too. Which is why she feels utterly powerless when her carer’s boyfriend taunts her with the information that he committed a recent murder – an original and gripping thriller. The kind you’ll find yourself desperate to read in one go as you just *need* to know what happens next.
Film: The Personal History of David Copperfield (Amazon Prime)
Director Armando Lannuci is best known for darkly funny political comedies like The Thick Of It, Veep and The Death Of Stalin. For him to make a PG adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel felt something of a choice… Yet it really paid off, with this hilariously charming movie. Dev Patel is wonderful in the central role of David Copperfield, a man whose entire life has seen him constantly bouncing between rags and riches. A wholesome and riotously funny period drama – with a cast including Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie and Benedict Wong – to name but a few), this really is one for all the family.
TV: Soulmates (Amazon Prime)
Brett Goldstein is one of the current British stars-on-the-rise. Last year was especially good for him, with the Apple TV+ hit Ted Lasso (which he co wrote and starred in) receiving critical and commercial acclaim. Now we have this, which he co-wrote and created, an anthology series made up of six episodes. It’s 2023 and there is now technology which can read your DNA and reveal the identity of your soulmate. Each episode follows the impact the test has on a person or coupling. The most obvious point of comparison would be Black Mirror, but this one is slightly more of a character study – focusing on the micro in relationships and the consequences a test like this could or would have.
Song: World Shut Your Mouth by Julian Cope
I love listening to this show on a Monday morning when making my coffee. I also love sing-shouting along to music. So I’ve picked this tune, which my dad used to play in the car and my brother and I would yell along with.
Looking for some more pics? Check out the back catalogue: #1, #2, #3 and #4.
Film: Arrival (currently £1.99 to rent on Amazon)
Great science fiction manages to reflect on the now and say so much about the human experience. Arrival isn’t just a great science fiction movie, it’s one of the finest science fiction movies in the 21st Century. When gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations across the world, Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called in to lead an elite team of investigators. A slow-burn thriller that is profound and beautiful. To say any more would spoil it, so go watch it!
TV: Inside No.9
An anthology of dark and twisted tales – all 31 episodes are currently free to watch on BBC iPlayer. Each episode is stand-alone, you can pick and choose the premise that takes your fancy. Each features creators Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, but there’s a revolving door of incredible guests stars who need to be seen to be believed. This is a show so well written, you’ll start watching and can’t believe it took you so long…
Book: Andi Osho – Asking For A Friend (currently 99p on Amazon Kindle)
Andi Osho is a fantastic comedian I’ve loved for years, her humour is self-deprecating yet warm which works really well in his book – which is her writing debut. It’s the story of three friends (on is in her 40s, the other in her 30s and the third in her 20s). They met at a comedy improv class ten years ago and became the very best of friends – the ride or die kind) They decide to tackle their love life disasters head on by ditching the dating apps and actually ask people out in real life…but only for each other. What could possibly go wrong? A laugh-out-loud romcom that shows that friendship is just as important as romantic love.
Music: Lady Percy by King Charles
One of the things I love most about Spotify is how I used to create a playlist that summed up my favourite tracks of each month, more often than not those songs become entwined with what was going on and how I felt at the time. This track is from my May 2012 playlist, a summer I look back on with a lot of sepia-toned warmess and nostalgia – summed up by this track.
Looking for some more pics? Check out the back catalogue: #1, #2 and #3.
Book: When The World Was Ours by Liz Kessler
This was one of the most powerful novels I’ve read in a long time. Very much inspired by a real story, we follow three young friends in 1936 Vienna. They’re 9 years old and their friendship is the most important thing in their lives, they have no idea of the darkness spreading across Europe that will cause their lives to go in drastically different directions. A masterpiece.
TV: Dead Pixels (All4)
Channel 4 just dropped all of series 2 on All4, which means you’ve now got 12 episodes of this really charming show to watch. It’s a sitcom about three gamers that’s as addictive as the game they’re playing. Although there’s a lot of poking fun at their obsessive gaming, it really does come from a place of affection as opposed to laughing at fandoms. It’s so well performed and with a script that’s as sharp & quotable as The It Crowd.
Film: Three Identical Strangers (All4)
Aged 19, Bobby Sharfran arrived for his very first day at college. Every single person he came across greeted him like an old friend, calling him by the wrong name and showing immense surprise that ‘he’d changed his mind and decided to come back for the new academic year.’ And that’s how Bobby found out he had a twin brother – the first of many incredible, shocking, and dark discoveries. An incredible documentary that has to be seen to be believed.
Song: Don’t Leave Me This Way by The Communards
The past week, I’ve really gone down a rabbit hole of 80s’ music. There’s something about that time period where the music really captured the same mood of now – a desperation to find light within the darkness, how music can spark joy when it is most needed. That’s why I’ve gone for this banger, which I dream of once again booging away to on a dance floor – the aisles of my local Tesco really don’t count…