Stream On Vol. 7

Ladies, gentlemen and those of us who know better – there are 9 days till cinemas reopen in the UK. 9 DAYS till we can return to that dark palace where we can disappear into other worlds and universes. I, for one, cannot wait – so much so I just booked my ticket for a screening of Sound Of Metal on Monday 17th May. It’ll be a first watch, I’ve saved it so I can see it with the best soundscape possible. Here’s some more small screen suggestions to help you get through the final stretch… Not enough for you here? Try volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Nomadland (2020 : Disney+ : 107 mins)

Speaking of cinemas reopening, the other big, big screen release is this gem. Directed by Chloé Zhao, for which she won the 2020 Oscar for Best Director (the second woman in the awards 93-year history…) and Best Picture, a woman in her sixties (Frances McDormand) lives out her days travelling America whilst living in a van, having lost everything in the Great Recession of 2007/09. McDormand produced the film too, and won the Oscar for Best Actress – her performance really is extraordinary. Watch it now on Disney+ or wait for the big screen, either way you’re in for an epic watch.

Bill (2015 – 94 mins – BBC iPlayer)

Thanks to TikTok, I have discovered I was not alone in being a teenage girl who adored the tv series Horrible Histories for the comedy, the education and the men-folk. If you’ve not seen it, it’s all on Netflix if you wish to rectify matters. The central team have since gone on to make two fantastic other series, Yonderland (all 3 series on SkyGo) and Ghosts (all 2 series and counting on BBC iPlayer). And, in between all that fantastic telly – they even made a film! Bill explores what may have happened during William Shakespeare’s lost years upon arriving in London to hilarious effect.

The Favourite (2018 – Disney+ – 119 mins)

Directed by the incredible Yorgos Lanthimos, we’re in early 18th-century England, where the status quo at the court is upset when a new servant (Emma Stone) arrives and endears herself to a frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). But leaves long-standing favourite Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) won’t give up her status without a fight… Just sublime.

School of Rock (2003 – Netflix – 109 mins)

It feels futile to really tell you why you should watch this one. Either you’ve seen it already and this is a reminder of its brilliance and how you should go rewatch it immediately. Or you’ve never seen it and you’ve realised from my tone here that you need to fix that immediately. Now go and STEP OFF!

The Descent (2005 – ALL4 – 109 mins)

I rarely recommend horror movies as I am a scaredy cat and avoid watching them as much as possible… But, I’m making an exception here when I spotted this one, it’s available on ALL4 for 16 days and it’s very worth a watch if you’re horror-inclined. A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators. It’s terrifying and I’ll never watch it again as nerves couldn’t handle it, but it is bloody brilliant.

Bill

William Shakespeare: The Lost Years

Suffice to say, this is not another Bad Education Movie-style television to big screen disappointment of an adaptation. The team behind Horrible Histories have succeeded in translating their unique combination of historical-informed humour and slapstick. In fact Bill, along with Horrible Histories and their fantastical series Yonderland, has secured their place as natural successors to Monty Python and Blackadder.

Bill Shakespeare (Matthew Baynton) is a family man. He lives with his wife, Anne Hathaway (Martha Howe-Douglas), and their three children. Bill plays lute in a band called ‘Mortal Coil’, but after one concert where he tries to steal the spotlight he is told to ‘shuffle on’. It’s not us it’s you, they tell him. So Bill moves onto his next dream, being a playwright. As Stratford-Upon-Avon doesn’t actually have any theatres, he leaves his family to go and achieve his dream. In the process he befriends Christopher Marlowe and becomes embroiled in King Phillip II of Spain’s devious plot to murder Queen Elizabeth at a theatre production she is hosting.

The results are properly hilarious. The gag rate is so high, with most of it landing, that whilst laughing at one joke you may end up missing the next.  Of all the genres it is arguably comedy that is the hardest to do well. Aim too broad and you please no-one, aim too niche and you end up pleasing a minimal market. This irreverent biopic carefully, and to great effect, utilises modern references and a panto-esque tone to keep the audience tittering from start to finish. There are a few that are groan-worthy gags, a couple which are smirk-creating, many that are chuckle-inducing and a good handful of proper belly laughs. The team are not limited by their obligation to educate, as they were with the excellent Horrible Histories, and use that freedom to great effect. Considering we do not know what actually happened to Bill during the years between his abandoning his family in Stratford and emerging as royal playwright William Shakespeare, the events of this film are entirely plausible… well unlikely but possible.

One can only hope that situations such as Shakespeare educating Christopher Marlowe in ‘your mum’ jokes did in fact occur. If only because it leads to an immensely funny recurring gag within the film, that is seconded only by a henchman’s inability to understand the concept of a Trojan Horse. Other highlights include Helen McCory’s toothy and worn portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, some lovely throwaways about funding of the arts and a hilarious reference to ‘clunky exposition’. Baynton is excellent and rather endearing as an idealist and optimistic Shakespeare, as is Howe-Douglas as his under-appreciated wife.

Bill has a relatively taunt and witty script that has a joke for everyone. As expected the chemistry between the cast is electric, the gags reliably brilliant and the timing of them is spot-on. Well worth a watch.