Stream On Vol.3

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.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood (2019 – SkyGo/NOW – 109 mins)

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.

While You Were Sleeping (1995 – Disney+ – 103 min )

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.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005 – Amazon Prime – 103 mins)

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!

This Is Where I Leave You (2014 – Amazon Prime – 103 mins)

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard and Ben Schwartz star in this immensely underseen indie drama about four children returning home as adults when their father dies. This one is such a gem!

Tucked (2018 – Netflix – 80 mins)

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.

Arrival (2016 – Netflix – 116 mins)

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.

Tina (2021 – Sky/NOW – 118 mins)

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.

Palm Springs (2021 – Amazon Prime – 90 mins)

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…

Stardust (2007 – Netflix – 107 mins)

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.

Rules Don’t Apply (2016 – ALL4 – 127 mins)

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.

Stream On Vol.2

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.

Saint Frances (2019 – Netflix – 101 mins)

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.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016 – Netflix – 104 mins)

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.

Bumblebee (2018 – Film4 – 114 mins)

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.

The Mauritanian (2021 – Amazon Prime – 129 mins)

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.

Stream On Vol.1

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…

Blinded By The Light (2019 – 118 minutes – Netflix)

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.

The Sisters Brothers (2018 – 122 minutes – Netflix)

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.

Love & Mercy (2014 – 113 minutes – BBC iplayer)

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.

One Night In Miami… (2020 – 114 minutes – Amazon Prime)

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.

Dreams Of A Life (2011 – 95 minutes – All4)

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.

Pick of the Week #6

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.

Pick of the Week #5

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.

Pick of the Week #4

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…

Pick of the Week #3

TV: Married at First Sight Australia Season Six (All4)

In all honesty, I think this show is the only thing getting me through Lockdown 3.0. My daily routine is watching an episode at 7.30pm on E4 and I’m not sure how I’d cope without it. The show follows 12 couples who literally met for the first time at the alter – after being paired up by ‘experts using ‘science’. There’s no way I can do what follows any justice by describing it to you, the dramas that occur are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This is total must-see television.

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

When Graham runs into Elspeth, his first wife, after leaving her over a decade ago for Audra, his now-second wife, he finds his already overloaded life of day-to-day difficulties and delights of marriage and raising a child with Asperger’s is given another layer to worry about – How can anyone love two such different women? Did he make the right choice? Is there a right choice? Funny, feelgood and addictive reading.

End of Watch (BBC)

There are countless buddy-cop action movies, but this one really is a bit different. Longtime LAPD partners and friends, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) patrol one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Los Angeles. When they run afoul of a vicious Mexican cartel, their lives and those of their loved ones are under threat like never before. The really impressive thing about this one is how it’s shot, placing you firmly in the action.

Mitski – Your Best American Girl

In July 2019 I was in a pretty grim place mentally. On one walk home I had Spotify on shuffle and this track, from the soundtrack of I film I love – Hearts Beat Loud – came on. I’d not really listened to it before, but it was everything I needed to listen to in that precise moment – a song about identity, self-expectation and self-acceptance.  It builds and soars, as jagged as it is graceful, starting off indie and going into punk with synths. Musical catharsis at it’s most pure.

Pick of the Week #2

Recap: Every Monday, as part of my school’s radio show, I make picks of the week in the four categories of book, film, tv show and book. For your delectation here’s the picks from Monday 18th January…

Book (tie between The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman and After the Silence by Louise O’Neill)

I’m cheating this week and I’ve gone for two – both crime but very, very different with one light and one dark. For the light pick, Osman’s book follows four unlikely friends in a peaceful retirement village who meet up once a week to solve unsolved murders. It’s wickedly funny and so warm, playing on societal expectations, cosy yet gripping. O’Neill’s book counters this, by being brutal and scathing. I’d recommend for fans of real-life murder crime podcasts – on the ten year anniversary of a young woman on a small Irish island, a documentary team travel there to find out what really happened that day. Devastating, dark and so powerful – it’ll haunt you long after reading. 

TV (Race Across The World on BBC iPlayer)

A group of travellers are dropped off in a city, in pairs they have to race across the world to their destination using any route they like – but they’re not allowed to use their smartphones, they’re not allowed to catch a flight and their budget is only whatever the cost of a flight would be. At a time when travelling applies moving from the bedroom to living room to kitchen, this show is a wonderful escape seeing such beauty of the world. It’s also wonderful to follow the travellers as they grow in confidence and make so many discoveries about the world, and themselves.

Film (Hotel Artemis on Amazon Prime)

In a dystopian Los Angeles, a nurse (Jodie Foster) runs a secret hotel/hospital for criminals. However, the arrival of a new group of patients is about to wreck all kinds of havoc…. A blend of science fiction, action and thriller, it’s fast paced (only 93 mins) with some fantastic world building.

Song (Under Pressure by David Bowie and Queen)

This week the artist was the easy bit, as last week saw what would have been his birthday and the anniversary of his death – but the big question was the song. My favourite is The Prettiest Star, Modern Love is the one that gets me on the dancefloor. But I’ve gone for the one that should result in some cathartic sing-yelling along.

Pick of the Week #1

I’ve decided I’m going to rebrand some of my regular features here. This one will replace TV Tuesdays. I’ve started a stint on our school radio station doing weekly recommendations, so I thought I’d share them here too. Here’s the back catalogue of TV Tuesdays: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 , #6 and #7.

Tv: Pandemonium 

Shown over the Festive period, and currently a one-off sitcom at only 29 minutes long, this is a bit of gem. It’s one of the few shows so far to have been filed, set in pandemic and is about the effect it has on families – told in a darkly comic way. We see the family on their October holiday – determined to have a family break even if won’t be as good as that trip-of-a-lifetime to the states they had planned. The editing, cutting between October and earlier in the year, is just so superb. Bitterly funny and with some winning lines from Alison Steadman.

Film: Wild Rose

There’s this tradition in British cinema for underdog stories – of those with unlikely talents in unlikely positions dreaming of more. This is up there with the best of them, with Glaswegian Rose (played by Jessie Buckley) dreaming of being a country singing sensation and a life beyond on the estate she lives on. Sad yet hopeful, and so feelgood.

Book: This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

As a unabashed and unashamed fan of the romcom, I end up reading a lot of them. This top tier, needs to be adapted into a tv series asap. Minnie ends up spending New Year’s Eve locked in a toilet cubicle, rescued hours into the New Year by Quinn. It turns out it’s not their first meeting, and it certainly won’t be their last. Hoping between povs and different time periods – this book beautifully balances very romantic romance with hysterical comedy.

Song: “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” by Sylvester

Released in 1978, in a time where there was so much turmoil in lots of communities across the world, this disco anthem incredible for how it’s a joyous celebration of love and life, finding hope and happiness within the dark times -which feels apt for these times we currently find ourselves in.