What-To-Watch Wednesday #6

What To Watch Wednesday #5

After a break last week – due to personal, not national, reasons – W2W is back. 5 recommendations of underseen gems on your favourite streaming services

Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5)

Hacks (2021-: Prime Video: 19 x 35 mins)

Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) is one of the most faces and names in comedy. Her long-running residency in Las Vegas is renowned, even if her material is no longer as fresh as it used to be. That’s where Ava (Hannah Einbinder) steps in, when a professional crisis has her fleeing LA in desperate search of a job. Their shared agent Jimmy (Paul W.Downs) thinks this could be the start of a mutually beneficial partnership, but he’s already got enough on his plate in the form of his chaotic assistant Kayla (Megan Statler). Darkly funny and totally must-see.

If you like this, you might like: Broad City (2014-2019), The Marvellous Mrs Maisel (2017-)

Abbott Elementary (2021-: Disney+: 13 x 23 mins)

The finest sitcom on tv currently, it feels sure to go down in TV history for all the best reasons. By and starring writer-creator Quinta Brunson, she plays Janine – one of a group of teachers who are brought together in one of the worst public schools in the country, simply because they love teaching. Grounded in the experiences by Brunson’s own teacher mother, this teacher-writer gives it the full double thumbs up here.

If you like this, you might like: Superstore (2015-2021), Great News (2017-2018)

We’re Here (2020-: Sky/Now: 14 x 50 mins)

Drag brings people together. It also has the ability to pull people out of their comfort zones and find their voices, as is encouraged here by Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka and Shangela as they travel the country visiting small-town residents and encouraging to own the stage in a lip sync extravaganza.

If you like this, you might like: Queer Eye (2018-), Glow Up (2019-)

Only Murders In The Building (2021-: Disney+: 20 x 35 mins)

Long-time friends Martin Short and Steve Martin have an incredible rapport, as showcased here in this murder mystery with a difference. They play Oliver Putman and Charles-Haden Savage, respectively. Both residents of an affluent Upper West Side apartment building, a shared love of true crime podcasts finds them teaming up with Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) to solve the murder of one of their neighbours. Funny and carefully crafted, there’s nothing like it on TV right now.

If you like this, you might like: The Flight Attendant (2020-), Barry (2018-)

Romcom of the week: Marry Me (2022: Sky/Now: 111 mins)

Global pop superstar Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) ends up married to a stranger, divorced maths teacher Charles (Owen Wilson), after finding out her actual fiancée has been cheating on her. Determined to not become a laughingstock in the press, Kat persuades Charles to carry on their fake-marriage until the attention is no longer upon them. Bet you can guess what happens next… CINEMA!

Stream On Vol. 16

After a four week break (July was rough, let’s just all agree to move on and leave it behind!) we’re back baby. Welcome to volume sixteen 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 1234567891011121314 and 15.

Summer Of Soul (2021: Disney+: 118 minutes)

1969 is viewed as the year of Woodstock, with Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African American music and culture, and promoted Black pride and unity being forgotten in the sands of time. A beautifully balanced documentary, favouring performance footage with the addition of talking heads and archive footage, we get to be in the room (park) where it happens. The music is out of this world, powerful and extraordinary.

I Capture The Castle (2003: BBC iPlayer: 107 minutes)

After William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, Dodie Smith’s (who also wrote The Hundred and One Dalmatians) I Capture The Castle is my second favourite book of all time. This is a solid adaptation of the book, but a great 1930s-set period drama in its own right. 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain (Romola Garai) lives in a decaying English castle with her eccentric family, they are running out of money as their author father (Bill Nighy) continues to struggle with writers block. When their new landlords arrive, Americans Simon (Henry Thomas) and Neil (Marc Blucas), the former looks set to catch the heart of Cassandra’s sister Rose (Rose Byrne) whilst Stephen (Henry Cavill) continues to wistfully long for Cassandra.

Beast (2017: All4: 107 mins)

A troubled woman (Jessie Buckley) living in an isolated community finds herself pulled between the control of her oppressive family and the allure of a secretive outsider (Johnny Flynn) suspected of a series of brutal murders. An intriguing and atmospheric gem.

The Founder (2016 :Amazon Prime: 115 mins)

The story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a salesman who turned two brothers’ (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch) innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into the biggest restaurant business in the world, with a combination of ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness. Pacey and well crafted.

Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar (2021: Sky/Now: 107 mins)

If you’re a fan of oddball comedy a la Step Brothers, there’s a good chance you’ll love this one as much as I do. Lifelong friends Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they decide to leave their small Midwestern town for the first time – ever. And then there’s Jamie Dornan in his best role ever. This song and performance will never not make me smile.

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.