Stream On Vol. 15

Hope you’re having a fab week and enjoying the beautiful weather! Welcome to volume fourteen of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 12345678910111213 and 14.

The Red Turtle (2016 – Sky/NOW – 77 mins)

Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year in 2017, a man is shipwrecked on a deserted island and encounters a red turtle, which changes his life. But, like how Jaws isn’t just about a shark, this isn’t just about about a turtle. Instead it’s a powerful reflection of life, it’s extraordinary ordinariness and the beauty that can be found within it all.

120 BPM (2017 – ALL4 – 143 mins)

Members of the advocacy group ACT UP Paris demand action by the government and pharmaceutical companies to combat the AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s. Perfection.

Gods of Egypt (2016 – Amazon Prime – 127 mins)

It’s not often I recommend a ‘bad movie’ here. I hate the term guilty pleasure, as I think it’s wrong to ever feel like you should feel guilty over a think that gives you pleasure. If a film sparks joy, there should be no reason to repent for it. Gods of Egypt is a bad movie. A very bad movie. It’s so bad it lead to this Kermodian rant. It’s for all of those reasons, combined with how much joy I had on the particular day I watched it at the cinema, that I’m spending one of my weekly allowance on recommending it to you. Mainly so I can find my fellow fans who will team up with me to demand Prince Charles Cinema show it and let me play the drinking game bingo card I came up with for it. You can thank me later.

Rosie (2018 – BBC iPlayer – 80 mins)

The story of a mother (Sarah Greene) trying to protect her family after their landlord sells their rented home and they become homeless. Devastating and utterly heart-breaking, Roddy Doyle‘s first original screenplay in 18 years echoes the realism of Ken Loach in this depiction of a horrifically increasing issue.

<a href="http://<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/F5pI2UPaT8g&quot; title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen>Anita and Me (2002 – BBC iPlayer – 89 mins)

Based on Meera Syal‘s 1996 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, Meena Kumar (Chandeep Uppal), a 11-year-old Sikh girl, lives with her family in the predominantly white, working-class, fictional mining village of Tollington in the Black Country in 1972. Meena meets Anita, a white, 14-year-old girl whom Meena comes to idolise. However, Meena finds it harder and harder to fit in as her Indian heritage keeps on resurfacing, and Anita’s new boyfriend proves to hold strong racist attitudes towards those he views as different. A sweet coming-of-age tale about finding your identity and your voice.

Stream On Vol. 14

Hope you’re having a fab week and enjoying the beautiful weather! Welcome to volume fourteen of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 1234567891011, 12 and 13.

Frances Ha (2012 – Film4 – 86 mins)

I revisited this film a few months back, for an article for the English Media Centre’s MediaMagazine and I can say with some certainty I love it even more as a result. Very, very few films examine platonic relationships with the intensity and potency as they do romantic relationships – this is one of them. Speaking from personal experience, friendship break-ups can in some ways feel even more cataclysmic than relationship breakups – and this film agrees. We follow Frances (Greta Gerwig) as her soulmate Sophie (Mickey Sumner) drifts away from her. Bittersweet and beautiful, with an iconic David Bowie needle drop of this banger. Oh, and this guy pops up called Adam Driver pops up in it. Whatever happened to that guy?

The Intern (2015 – Sky/Now – 121 mins)

The cinematic equivalent of a comfy chair, blanket and a mug of hot chocolate (obviously with whipped cream and marshmallows – I’m not a heathen). Seventy-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Just lovely stuff.

A Single Man (2009 – Amazon Prime – 99 mins)

Based on the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood (a fascinating writer, his semi-autobiographical novel inspired the musical Cabaret). An English professor (Colin Firth), one year after the sudden death of his boyfriend, is unable to cope with his typical days in 1960s Los Angeles. Firth is extraordinary, with an incredible supporting cast in the form of Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult and Matthew Goode. The fact this was the debut of writer-director Tom Ford (yes, the designer) continues to boogle the mind.

Atypical (2017-2021 – Netflix – 38 x 30 mins)

Having had the joyous discovery this week that this is coming back for season 4 on July 7th, I had to give this one the plug it deserves. Sam (Keir Gilchrist), an 18-year-old on the autism spectrum, decides it’s time to find a girlfriend, a journey that sets Sam’s mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on her own life-changing path as her son seeks more independence. Brigette Lundy-Paine plays Sam’s sibling so wonderfully, Michael Rapaport just heart-breaking as their dad. Gorgeous, funny and heartfelt.

Kinky Boots (2005 – BBC iPlayer – 107 mins)

In the near-future, if there was a way to download our brains into some software to find the filmic dna that makes us who we are – this one would undoubtedly feature on my list. A drag queen (Chiwetel Ejiofor) comes to the rescue of a man (Joel Edgerton) who, after inheriting his father’s shoe factory, needs to diversify his product if he wants to keep the business afloat. There’s so many reasons as to why it would feature, but the biggest one would have to be it’s opening sequence – the transcendently rapturous joy captured to my favourite song of all time. Yes, it’s by David Bowie – how’d you know?

Stream On Vol.12

Hope you’re having a fab week and enjoying the beautiful weather! Welcome to volume twelve of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 12345678910 and 11.

Adult Life Skills (2016 – Netflix – 96 mins)

Anna (Jodie Whittaker) is comfortable enough living in her mom’s garden shed making funny videos all day, but as she approaches 30, the reminders of her lost twin and the pressure from her mum to finally grow up begin to weigh heavily on her. Kindly awkward Brendan (Brett Goldstein) and a troubled 8 year old Western obsessive may be the perfect people to help.

24 Hour Party People (2002 – All4- 117 mins)

Directed by Michael Winterbottom and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, we follow the possibly-true story of Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) – the man who founded Factory Records and which bought us the music of  Joy Division and New OrderA Certain RatioThe Durutti Column and Happy Mondays. Packed full of British icons, this is a sharply written and performed must-see modern classic.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988 – BBC iPlayer – 108 mins)

I have a soft spot for this one for two reasons. 1) It’s a screwball classic starring John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline. 2) My dad (Nicholas Harrison) has a walk-on role in it. Here he is, 4/5 years B.C. (Before Charlotte)

The Party’s Just Beginning (2018 – Now/Sky – 91 mins )

Written, directed and starring (Karen Gillan), this is an achingly personal film following Liusaidh (Gillian) as she tries to pick up the pieces after her best friend loses his life to suicide. Her life has become a string of drinking, fast fod and meaningless sexual encounters. Dale (Lee Pace) is the stranger she meets who seems to be in as much pain as she is. (T.W for sexual assault and suicide)

Almost Famous ( 2000 – Prime – 122 mins)

Inspired by writer-director (Cameron Crowe)’s own adolescence, a 1970s high-school boy (Patrick Fugit) is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band (with it’s warring stars Billy Crudup and Jason Lee) as he accompanies them on their concert tour. Kate Hudson is groupie extraordinaire Penny Lane and Philip Seymour Hoffman is Lester Bangs, William’s writing mentor – both who guide William through the adventure that is to come. Extraordinary.

Stream On Vol. 10

Hope you’re having a great week. Welcome to volume ten of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 12345678 and 9.

Shrill (2019 – BBC iPlayer – 30mins x 22)

Aidy Bryant plays Annie Easton, a woman in her late twenties whose trying to change her life without changing her body. She’s in a 6 month long situationship with Ryan (Luka Jones), who is so ashamed of her that he forces her to leave out the backdoor of his home so his housemates don’t see her. Fran (Lolly Adefope), her best friend is desperate for her to realise she deserves better. The same also applies for her work, where her punk-rock editor Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell) has no idea how best to utilise Aidy’s writing. This wonderful show explores love, friendship, family and self-image so brilliantly. Full of fantastic moments, season 1 episode 4 features an iconic and empowering sequence sound tracked to Ariana Grande’s One Last Time.

Attack the Block (2011 – Now/SKY/Amazon Prime/ ALL4 – 88 mins)

This year marks ten years since Attack The Block burst onto our screens, with stars John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker becoming household names in the years since. With talk about a sequel, it’s the perfect time to return to this action-comedy about a teen gang defending their block from an Alien invasion.

Happy-Go-Lucky (2008 – Amazon Prime – 118 mins)

Written and directed by Mike Leigh, we follow a few chapters in the life of North London primary school teacher Poppy (Sally Hawkins) as she learns to drive. Possessing an irrefutable optimism that tends to exasperate those arounds her, Hawkins is a true joy to watch in this wonderful gem of a movie.

Tropic Thunder (2008 – Amazon Prime – 106 mins)

Remember the Frat Pack movies of the noughties? Comedies starring a recurring revolving door of actors who seemed to have as much fun filming as we had watching? This is top tier frat pack – when a group of actors (played by Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson and Ben Stiller) are forced to become the soldiers they are playing after a series of freak occurrences. Packed full of hilarious and infinitely quotable lines, it also features two scene-stealing performances by Matthew McConaughey and Tom Cruise.

Away (2019 – SKY/Now – 75 mins)

To say too much would spoilt it. A boy and a little bird are on a journey across a strange island trying to get back home- just spectacular.

Stream On Vol.8

Residents of England, we’re almost there – in two days time cinemas reopen! In about 53 hours I will be back in my happy place, sitting in the dark in front of a big screen watching a film I’ve waited ages to see, in the best setting possible. However, I know there are lots of reason why others may feel more reluctant to return to the cinemas just yet. That’s why I’ll carry Stream On for a while longer, recommending five fab films across various streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 123456 and 7.

The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020 – NOW/Sky – 108 mins)

Regular visitors to this blog will know that the Romcom is my favourite movie genre. With a real resurgence of the genre in recent years, with Netflix in particular releasing some bangers (like this and that and this), my fellow desperate romantics and I have been eating well. This is a wonderful addition to the genre, with the hilarious Geraldine Viswanathan as Lucy – a gallery assistant who, after a brutal break-up, decides to start a gallery where people can leave trinkets from past relationships. Nick (Dacre Montgomery) is the oblivious cynic who finds himself roped into helping her. A total joy, using the conventions and tropes we all love to wonderful effect.

Tamara Drewe (2010 – Netflix – 107 mins)

I recommend this one at every chance I get, witty and warm yet utterly scathing – I love it dearly! Based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, Gemma Arterton plays the eponymous Tamara – a journalist who returns to her childhood home in the countryside as she puts it on sale. She may have changed, but her intrusive neighbours really haven’t… Dominic Cooper plays her rockstar lover, Luke Evans her childhood boyfriend, Roger Allam her pretentious writer father-figure, Tamsin Greig his underappreciated wife and Bill Camp her adoring new admirer. Utterly delightful.

Ideal Home (2018 – Prime – 91 mins)

A comedy drama starring Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd as a bickering couple whose lavish life is thrown into turbulence with the arrival of their long-lost grandson. Poignant and very funny.

Tyrannosaur (2011 – ALL4 – 92 mins)

Paddy Considine‘s writer-directorial debut, Joseph (Peter Mullan), a man plagued by violence and a rage that is driving him to self-destruction, earns a chance of redemption that appears in the form of Hannah (Olivia Colman), a Christian charity shop worker. Brutal British realism, with two extraordinary lead performances. Total must-see.

Long Shot (2019 – BBC iPlayer – 113 mins)

Bookending this volume with another romcom, journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) reunites with his childhood crush, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), now one of the most influential women in the world. As she prepares to make a run for the Presidency, Charlotte hires Fred as her speechwriter and sparks fly. Hilarious and romantic in equal measure. Also starring an immensely creepy Alexander Skarsgård.

Stream On Vol.5

You lookin’ for fantastic films and where to find them? Then look no more! Nothing for you here? Then check out the past volumes: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Rocks (2019 – Netflix – 93 mins)

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.

Elle (2016 – Film4 – 130 mins)

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.

Animals (2019 – Film4 – 109 mins)

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.

Shazam! (2019 – Amazon Prime – 132 mins)

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.

Philomena (2013 – BBC iPlayer – 98 mins)

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.

20 from 2020: My favourite films of the year and where to find them

It’s the last day of the year, and I’ve put off doing this list for long enough. Instead of doing a top ten films of the year, I’ve decided to do a bumper addition. 2020 brought few joys with it but quality books (as demonstrated here) and films were not in short supply. So, in no particular order, here’s my 20 films of the year. (Two disclaimers: These are of the films I’ve seen, there’s a few I just haven’t been able to fit in yet so there are a few blindspots. I’ve gone for UK release date – either in cinema or VOD where applicable.)

FilmRunning TimeAvailable to watch Current priceMy review?
The Personal History Of David Copperfield119 minsAmazon Primeincl. in subscription Film Stories
A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood 109 mins Sky/NOWtv incl. in subscription Feature in FS #11
Parasite132 mins  Amazon Prime incl. in subscription 
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire122 mins  AmazonMUBI add-on (free 7 day trial, then £9.99 a month) 
Emma. 124 minsSky/NOWtv incl. in subscription  Film Stories
Ema 107 mins ALL4Free  
The Assistant87 mins Sky/NOWtv   incl. in subscription  
Clemency 112 mins Sky/NOWtv incl. in subscription   
Saint Frances101 mins  CurzonRent for £1.99  
Perfect 10 83 minsBBC iplayer Free  
Babyteeth118 mins  Netflix incl. in subscription   
Les Miserables 104 minsNetflix incl. in subscription    
The Broken Hearts Gallery 109 mins AmazonPre-order for Jan 4th, £9.99 to buy  
Rocks93 mins  Netflixincl. in subscription    Movies on Weekends
THE FORTY YEAR OLD VERSION123 mins  Netflixincl. in subscription   
Lovers Rock 70 minsBBC iplayer Free  
County Lines 90 mins BFI playerRent for £10  Feature in #21 of FS
Boys State 109 mins Apple Tv+incl. in subscription    
Wolfwalkers 103 minsApple Tv+ incl. in subscription     
The Invisible Man 123 minsSky/NOWtv incl. in subscription    

Something-To-Watch Saturday #13

It’s Saturday and you’ve come for some movie-watching ideas. Here’s 7 more and here’s the back catalogue if they’ve not scratched that itch – #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9 , #10, #11 and #12.

Official Secrets (2020 – 112 mins – Amazon Prime)

The true story of a British whistleblower (Keira Knightley) who leaked information to the press about an illegal NSA spy operation designed to push the UN Security Council into sanctioning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Along with a fantastic supporting cast (Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Rhys Ifans, Ralph Fiennes and Conleth Hill) this might be one of Knightley’s finest performances, understated yet powerful. A steely and tense thriller, made all the more haunting as it really did happen.

Boys State (2020- 109 mins – Apple TV+)

A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up – and the results need to be seen to be believed. A truly outstanding documentary that ends up revealing so much about present day politics and 21st masculinity.

Wolfwalkers (2020- 103 mins – Apple TV+)

Cartoon Saloon is an animation studio that has a truly enviable hit-rate, with Song of the Sea , The Secret of Kells and The Breadwinner each being examples of pure perfection. And now we have this addition, a young apprentice hunter (Honor Kneafsey) and her father (Sean Bean) journey to Ireland to help wipe out the last wolf pack. But everything changes when she befriends a free-spirited girl (Eva Whittaker) from a mysterious tribe rumored to transform into wolves by night. The animation is sumptuous, the story wonderfully told and the performances just magnificent. There’s also some of the finest animated hair we’ve ever seen. If there’s any justice in the world, this film will be recognised in awards season as the best animated film of 2020.

EMMA. (2020- 122 mins – Sky/Now TV)

This might just be the finest Austen adaptation we’ve ever had. At the very least there’s no point ever adapting Emma again, as it cannot beat this one. Anya Taylor-Joy plays Emma, a woman who is well-meaning but selfish, who decides to play matchmaker out of boredom but ends up playing havoc with the lives of those around her. Taylor-Joy plays Emma wonderfully, every expression being layered in meaning and revealing so much about exactly what she is thinking but is unable to say. Johnny Flynn as Mr Knightley has ruined me for men. A magnificent ensemble cast (Angus Imrie, Gemma Whelan, Bill Nighy, Rupert Graves, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Mia Goth, Oliver Chris and Callum Turner) all bring their A-game to deliver this superb screwball comedy.

120BPM (2017 – 143 mins – Film4)

This French film, following members of the advocacy group ACT UP Paris as they demand action by the government and pharmaceutical companies to combat the AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s, is sublime. At times funny, heart-shattering at others – it’s simply unmissable.

Wild Rose (2018- 101 mins – Netflix)

One of 2018’s best films, this story – Rose-Lynn(Jessie Buckley) is a troubled young Glaswegian who dreams of becoming a Nashville country star – is a total must-see. Buckley’s central performance is extraordinary, with an immeasurable amount of depth, balancing light and shade with ease. Julie Walters is simply fantastic in the supporting role as Rose’s mother. Click here to read my full review.

Set It Up (2018 – 118 mins – Amazon Prime)

In recent years, Netflix has been at the forefront of the resurgence of the romcom whilst also dropping some of the worst of the genre. This week’s underseen romcom is a gem, that uses the tropes we know & love yet plays around with them a little. Two corporate executive assistants (Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell) hatch a plan to match-make their two bosses (Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs). Deutch and Powell have fantastic chemistry, believable and easy to root for. The end result is a charming and sweet romcom.

Something-To-Watch Saturday #12

It’s Saturday and you’ve come for some movie-watching ideas. Here’s 7 more and here’s the back catalogue if they’ve not scratched that itch – #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9 , #10 and #11.

Uncle Frank (2020 – 95 mins – Amazon Prime)

One of the few joys to arise in 2020 has been the amount of fantastic indie movies, which arguably have had a little bit more space this year with blockbusters having been near-universally postponed till 2021 at the earliest. Uncle Frank is very much one of the cream of the crop with a lead performance by Paul Bettany, as the eponymous Uncle Frank, that deserves awards recognition. In 1973, when Frank Bledsoe and his 18-year-old niece Beth (Sophia Lillis) take a road trip from Manhattan to Creekville, South Carolina, for the family patriarch’s funeral, they’re unexpectedly joined by Frank’s lover, Walid (Peter Macdissi). The film’s focus is Frank aligning his past trauma with his present, and his fears over his family finding out about his sexuality. The end result is a film that is softly moving, immensely charming and bittersweetly emotive. Such a delight.

Monsoon (2019 – 85 mins – BBC iPlayer)

Kit (Henry Golding) a British Vietnamese man, returns to Saigon for the first time in over 30 years, after fleeing during the Vietnam-American War. A beautifully empathetic look at the immigrant experiences, of being of two places but feeling like you belong to neither. Thoughtful, delicate and graceful.

Crazy Rich Aisans (2018- 120 mins – Amazon Prime)

This week’s underseen romcom slot also serves as a Henry Golding double bill. Here he plays the heir to an immense fortune, not that his girlfriend Rachel (Constance Wu) has any idea just how rich he is as she finds out on the way to meet his family for the first time. All the romcom tropes we know and love are here, featuring a terrific and diverse cast and some spectacular riches. A really likeable and very sweet addition to the canon. Click here to read my full review.

Galaxy Quest (1999- 102 mins – Netflix)

‘Never give up, never surrender’ – that was the catchphrase of cult tv series Galaxy Quest. It’s a phrase the show’s cast Jason (Tim Allen), Gwen (Sigourney Weaver), Alexander (Alan Rickman), Fred (Tony Shalhoub) and co. know all to well. They’ve been churning out for years at various fan conventions and promo appearances. But when they’re visited by actual aliens who think the series is an accurate documentary they quickly become drawn in a very real intergalactic conflict with thousands of lives at risk. This is one of the finest comedy films, possibly ever. It’s fantastically written, parodying fandom with much love and affection, and so well performed by a cast of total icons.

Arthur Christmas (2011 – 97 mins – Netflix)

Another Christmas gem for you, this time we’re with Santa’s (Jim Broadbent) clumsy son Arthur (James McAvoy) as he sets out on a mission with Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) to give out a present they misplaced to a young girl before it’s too late and her Christmas is ruined. A sweet and heart-warming tale, with some inventive animation and charming voice cast.

Shame (2011- 101 mins – All4)

A sex addict’s (Michael Fassbender) carefully cultivated private life falls apart after his sister (Carey Mulligan) arrives for an indefinite stay. The directorial debut of Steve McQueen (who currently has a phenomenal miniseries airing on BBC every Sunday, Small Axe – five films that are love letters to Black London history) this is an astonishing and haunting film about addiction & it’s concealment under artifice. Wonderfully shot and performed, this is a total must-see.

Pan’s Labyrinth (206 – 118 mins – Amazon Prime)

Without a doubt, one of the greatest films of the 21st century, Guillermo del Toro‘s film is set in the Falangist Spain of 1944, where the bookish young stepdaughter (Ivana Baquero)of a sadistic army officer (Sergi López) escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world when a magical creature (Doug Jones) gives her the chance to save her pregnant mother’s life. Insert list of superlatives here – I just love this film so so so so much. (Also, any English teachers reading this, I have a great resource using the Pale Man scene to teach GCSE English Language Paper 1, Q3 – slide into my DMs if interested…)

Something-To-Watch Saturday #11

It’s Saturday and you’ve come for some movie-watching ideas. Here’s 7 more and here’s the back catalogue if they’ve not scratched that itch – #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9 and #10.

A Star Is Born (2018 – 136 mins – Amazon Prime)

Bradley Cooper‘s directorial debut happens to be the 4th version of the A Star Is Born story is perfectly adapted to the 21st Century. He plays country/rock megastar Jack, who drunkenly stumbles into a drag bar and meets the love of his life, an exceptionally talented singer called Ally (Lady Gaga). As she finds fame and glory, alcoholism and Jack’s own demons send him on a downward spiral. Beautiful, loving and intimate. (Click here to read my full review)

Searching For Sugar Man (2012 – 86 mins – Amazon Prime)

For a generation of South Africans, Rodriguez was their unlikely musical hero. Not knowing anything about him or why he stopped releasing music, two documentary makers go in search of him and answers. A story about the power of art, how music can soundtrack societal change and the unexpected twist of life. Stranger than fiction, this is an incredible story about a true talent.

Military Wives (2020 – 112 mins – Amazon Prime)

There’s a group of films released in March 2020 that had their release curtailed and didn’t get the release or audience they deserved. Military Wives is one of those. Inspired by the fourth series of the documentary series The Choir, where choirmaster Gareth Malone joins communities and inspired them to come together through singing. This is a lovely watch lead by two excellent performances by Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan.

Minding The Gap (2018 – 93 mins – BBC iPlayer)

One of the finest and most personal documentaries of recent years, three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust-Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship. Incredibly moving and profound.

The Wedding Singer (1998 – 87 mins – Amazon Prime)

This week’s underseen RomCom is the film that results in my taking any bad Adam Sandler performances personally, as he’s just so good here. He plays Robbie, a singer, who befriends new-in-town Julia (Drew Barrymore), a waitress. Both are engaged, but to the wrong people. Fortune intervenes to help them discover each other. So funny and charming, with some excellent cameos. (Side note: The film is set in 1985, so 13 years before release. If you were to make a film with the same time gap now, it would be set in 2007…)

Our Little Sister (2015 – 127 mins – BBC iPlayer)

Three sisters (Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa and Kaho) live together in the house of their Grandparents in Kamakura, Japan. The news of their estranged father’s death also results in their discovery of the existence of their half sister (Suzu Hirose). The trio invite their newly-found sister to come and live with them, leading to much change for all four young women. Exquisite filmmaking.

Nativity! (2009 – 105 mins – Netflix)

There’s a good chance I’ll end up compiling a list of Christmas movies and where to find them. For now, here’s something to start you off. An uptight but secretly heartbroken primary school teacher’s (Martin Freeman) little white lie about Hollywood coming to see his class’ nativity play grows like wildfire in his rag-tag school low on self-esteem. Maybe it’s the fact I work with young people that adds another level of funny onto this film for me, but I really think this is a underseen and endearing festive treat.