What To Watch Wednesday #8

I’m sure there’s theory for it, but when it gets darker and colder – I crave crime-related telly. If you’re the same, then this week’s 6 picks are for you….

Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7.

Slow Horses (Apple TV+: 2022: 6 x 50 mins)

River Cartwright (Jack Lowden) was an up-and-coming MI5 Agent until he made a serious mistake during a live training exercise, and found himself relegated to dead end work at Slough House. Ruled over by the curmudgeonly Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), it’s usually the home of dead end missions – until something dangerous comes headed quickly their way. The stacked cast also includes Olivia Cooke, Kristin Scott Thomas and Jonathon Pryce – to name but a few. An excellent addition to the espionage genre.

Inside Man (BBC iPlayer: 2022: 4 x 60 mins – two episodes shown so far)

Speaking of stacked cast, we turn here to David Tennant, Dolly Wells, Lydia West and Stanley Tucci fronting this intriguingly intricate crime drama. Tucci plays Jefferson Grieff – a law lecturer turned criminal on death row. His unique skillset has people turning to him to solve crimes. Lydia West plays Beth Davenport, a journalist who’s come to interview Jefferson and is also planning to use the opportunity to ask for his help with finding new friend Janice (Wells) who was last seen going to tutor the son of Rev Harry Watling (Tennant). Pulpy and properly compelling.

Am I Being Unreasonable? (BBC iPlayer: 2022: 6 x 30 mins)

The show’s title comes from the message board of the infamous Mumsnet, an online forum where mums around the world vent about their lives – which inspired Daisy May Cooper during her own unhappy marriage that she went on to co-write a show with her best friend Seline Hizli. Nic is depressed and mourning the secret lover her oblivious husband (Dustin Demri-Jones) knows nothing about. Lonely and isolated, Nic makes friends with a new school mum. Jen (Hizli) is unlike all the other mums in the village, and her friendship quickly becomes everything Nic has ever wanted – except it seems like Jen isn’t all that she appears… Savagely funny and dark as anything, a special mention has to go to young actor Lenny Rush who is incredible as Nic’s son.

Sicario (Netflix: 2015: 121 mins)

Taylor Sheridan has written some of the most underappreciated crime movies of the 21st Century, a run that kicked off with this film. Add in the iconic director Denis Villeneuve at the helm. Round it off with cast members Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benico Del Toro, Daniel Kaluuya and Jon Bernthal – I don’t think I need to say much more aside from the fact you need to be prepared for this dark and murky thriller.

Cruel Summer (Prime Video:2021: 10 x 45 mins)

In the summer of 1993 Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) was nerdy and invisible. In summer 1994 she was the most popular girl in school. By 1995, the loser outcast. Over the course of the ten episodes we hop between the three years as things begun to become more apparent. Whilst it clearly has something to do with the disappearance of beloved Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt), how exactly is Jeanette involved? Deviously twisty and turny.

Romcom of the week – While You Were Sleeping (Disney+: 1995: 103 mins)

The fun thing about this film is, it’s on the cusp of creepy and it’s down to the charm of the leads that it really isn’t and ends up being one of the finest romantic comedies of the 90s. A hopelessly romantic Chicago Transit Authority token collector (Sandra Bullock) has been lusting over commuter Peter (Peter Gallagher) for as long as she can remember. When an accident occurs, and Peter ends up in a coma, she finds herself being mistaken as his fiancée. Enamoured with his close-knit family, she decides to play the role – although a growing connection with his brother Jack (Bill Pullman) may just jeopardise everything. I know, just trust me with this one. If you’re not sure, Bill Pullman as a plaid lumberjack shirt wearing grumpy love interest should be reason enough.

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What-To-Watch #7

Autumn is in in air! So, this week, let’s adds some pumpkin spice to proceedings – here’s 5 autumnal (or autumnal adjacent!) treats for you.

Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6.

Ghosts (2019-: BBC: 24 x 30 mins)

With series 4 in its entirety having just dropped on BBC iPlayer, it’s the perfect time to get watching the finest British sitcom from this century so far. First Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) inherits a mansion in the countryside, then an accident results in her being able to see the ghosts who reside within it – except everyone else, including her husband Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) can’t see them. By the team behind Horrible Histories and Yonderland, this is British comedy at its finest – each episode is so well crafted and packed full of laughs.

If you like this, you might like: Yonderland (2013-2015), Inside No.9 (2014-)

Minx (2022-: Paramount+: 30 mins – 4 episodes aired currently)

This one is set in LA so it’s not traditionally autumnal, but there’s something about Jake Johnson in 70s get-up that feels autumn… somehow. Anyway, Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) is a proud and earnest feminist who wants to start a magazine. Low-rent publisher Doug (Jake Johnson) is the only person open to funding it, and thus the first erotic magazine for women is born! There’s so many reasons to watch this, from the crisp script to the incredible rapport between Lovibond & Johnson. Be warned – this isn’t nesscarily one to watch with under 18s or your parents. If you don’t believe me, there’s a dong-tage during episode one that will clear things up…

If you like this, you might like: Loot (2022-), Kevin Can Fuck Himself (2021-)

Industry (2020-: BBC: 16 x 50 mins)

We left season one on some massive cliffhangers in 2020, and now season two is here. There’s something about autumn that has us craving crime & melodrama – we can live vicariously through their self-sabotage and disaster – this show has that covered and then some as we follow young bankers and traders make their way in the financial world in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse. Delicious.

If you like this, you might like: The Dropout (2022), Succession (2018-)

Gilmore Girls (2000-07-: Netflix: 154 x 44 mins)

It would be amiss of me not to mention the most autumnal show that has and will ever exist. Loreali Gilmore (Lauren Graham) was 16 when she had her daughter Rory, leaving behind her well-off family and abandoning the plans they had for her. Now 16, Rory (Alexis Bledel) has been offered a place at the best school in the state – but Lorelai needs her parents help to make Rory’s dream happen. That’s the starting point for it all. No show does Autumn as well at this one, nor has set an impossible bar for men as high as Scott Patterson’s Luke Danes…

If you like this, you might like: Jane The Virgin (2014-19), Ugly Betty (2006-10)

Romcom of the week: About Time (2013: Netflix: 123 mins)

I’ve got quite a low-tolerance for Richard Curtis movies and am firmly in the anti-Love Actually camp. This one, however, is my kryptonite. Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) felt that he was failing at life, until aged 21 when he discovers an inherited ability to travel back in time – allowing him all manner of redoes. He thinks getting a girlfriend will change everything, and Mary (Rachel McAdams) does – but maybe not in the manner he expects… MVP has to be Bill Nighy as Tim’s father. Funny, heartfelt and profound.  

What To Watch Wednesday #2

Welcome back! Just like my Stream On feature from last year (all 19 editions available here), every Wednesday I’ll put up some suggestions of TV & Films you may be missing on your various streaming services. Here’s What To Watch Wednesday #1.

A League of Their Own (Amazon Prime: 8 X 60 mins)

Chicago, 1943. With so many men fighting in the war, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is formed by a confectionary tycoon. The intent is to make money and create entertainment. For the women who attend the try-out, this is their big moment. After spending their entire lives being told they cannot take part, this is finally their chance to spend their lives doing what they love. For Carson Shaw (Abbi Jacobson) it’s a chance to feel alive whilst also, literally, running away from home & her husband. For Greta Gil (D’Arcy Carden) it’s a chance for fame and adoration. But,  for Max Chapman (Chanté Adams), she quickly realises how little it changes as there may now be space for white female players – there isn’t for black women. Often funny, but rooted in carefully handled serious issues, along with the queerness, – the show hits home thanks to a roster filled with all-stars and a field rich with possibilities.

If you like this, you might like: A League of Their Own (1992), The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel (2017-)

A Secret Love (Netflix: 83 minutes)

Then, when you can’t get enough of a wonderful baseball drama that is about more than just sport, check out a true story from the time period. This understated and moving documentary is about two women who met while taking part in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, fell in love and then kept their love a secret for seven decades. A moving and profound love conquers all story.

If you like this, you might like: Circus of Books (2020), The Pass (2016)

Big Boys (All4: 6 x 30 mins)

Jack (Dylan Llewellyn) is finally starting university after a gap year. His dad died a year ago after a long illness, starting uni so soon after would not have been possible. He arrives to campus, driven by his doting mum Peggy (Camille Coduri) only to find that he’s not been given campus accommodation and his housemate is not only a mature student but a bit of a lad. However, there’s more to Danny (Jon Pointing) than first appears. When Jack inadvertently comes out to Danny, as unlikely friendship follows as Danny devotes himself to supporting Jack. Based on comedian Jack Rooke’s real life experiences, this show is funny, moving and a total joy.

If you like this, you might like: Dead Pixels (2019-), This Is Going to Hurt (2022)

Prey (Disney: 99 mins)

The Great Plains, 1719. Naru (Amber Midthunder) is a a young Comanche woman trained as a healer, yet dreams of becoming a great hunter like her brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers). When part of a search party for the mountain lion that attacked one of the tribe’s hunters, Naru quickly realises something far scarier is hunting them. A prequel to the Predator franchise, this taut and thrilling is atmospheric and exceptionally well-told.

If you like this, you might like: Edge of Tomorrow (2014), District 9 (2009)

Romcom of the week: Wedding Season (2022: Netflix: 98 mins)

Pressured by their parents to find spouses, Asha (Suraj Sharma) and Ravi (Pallavi Sharda) pretend to date during a summer of weddings, only to find themselves falling for each other. It may tick all the tropes of the romcom bingo card, but when it does it this charmingly – who are we to complain?!?

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.

STWS #15

Welcome back. Lovely to see you again, even if the circumstances (what with Lockdown 3.0 and the world on fire) are decidedly less than desirable. As always, what follows are 7 film recommendations to help you with your picking what to watch.

Here’s the back catalogue: – #1#2#3, #4#5#6#7#8#9 , #10#11#12 #13 and #14.

Dredd (2012 – 85 mins – Netflix)

It’s taken over 8 years and counting, but it feels like Dredd is finally getting some of the recognition it deserves. One of the most underseen comic book movies as well as being one of the finest of the genre. It’s a fantastic take on the 2000 AD comic strip Judge Dredd with Karl Urban (currently most recognisable for his leading role in Amazon’s The Boys) playing the eponymous law enforcer. It’s brutal (strong 18) with incredible special effects, a tau thriller of a narrative and packed full of dark humour.

Pepe the Frog: Feels Good Man (2020 – 92 mins – BBC iPlayer)

I’ve slowly but surely been working my way through the Storyville series on BBC iPlayer. It’s a documentary strand that currently comprises 35 contemporary and challenging documentaries from different filmmakers gathered from across the globe. Some are familiar titles, otten with titles slightly edited, and some are unknown gems – like this one was for me. Loosely aware of the Pepe the Frog meme but knowing nothing about the context in which it was created or how it has since been horrifically warbed and used in terrifying ways, I went in totally blind with this one. Wow. Seeing this just days before the events in Washington this week added a horrific timeliness and an answer of sorts to the question ‘How did we get to this point?’

Casablanca (1942 – 102 mins – BBC iPlayer)

I started to really get into film when I was twelve. For the next few years I’d have these phases we’re I’d discover a genre/theme/actor and obsessively get into it. My discovery of Casablanca, somewhat oddly, happened in my Summer of Film Noir (yep, I was one cool kid…) If you’re yet to see it and have dismissed it as everyone always talks about it, hear me out. Give it a try this week. Why? It’s funnier than you might think, exquisitely filmed and has some sublime performances just across the board. There’s just how brave and ahead of its time it was, whilst being truly of it’s time too. This was filmed and released in 1942 – WW2 had been raging for years with no end in sight. Watch this and dare tell me it’s not audacious and revolutionary. And, I hate to carry on referring to current events but – I think we all need some hope this week.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001 – 97 mins – Netflix)

This film celebrates its 20th anniversary this year – isn’t that MAD?!?! (Answer, yes. v.mad) After watching this fantastic documentary over the festive period, I was compelled to rewatch the film with fresh and informed eyes. It really does hold up (workplace sexual harassment aspects aside…). As I grow closer to Bridget’s age, having had far too many entanglements and experience that could be described as Bridget Jones moments, I appreciate all the more just how bold her character is – with Renée Zellweger capturing her and the single woman experience so beautifully. And I won’t get started on Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in this film. The former has ruined my romantic expectations for life and the latter would just ruin me.

Gone Girl (2014 – 159 mins – Amazon)

And this week’s underappreciated romcom slot goes to… Ha! There’s really not much I can say about this film because you’ve either seen it already (and seeing it here now you know you want to rewatch it) or you haven’t seen it yet (and therefore I don’t want to spoil things by telling you too much about it as you should now go and watch it). A top-tier thriller by David Fincher, dark and wonderfully twisted.

Hustlers (2019 – 110 mins – Amazon Prime)

I once saw this described as ‘Goodfellas but strippers’ – whilst I appreciate the sentiments, that buzzphrase sort of misses the point. Director and co-writer Lorene Scafaria has made a modern classic here, expertly and seemingly effortlessly utilizing the female gaze. The based-on-a-true-story about a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients is just magnificent.

Instant Family (2018 – 118 mins – Sky/NowTv and, from sunday, Netflix )

I reckon it’s a safe bet to say that you looked at the below still and formed a judgement about this film based on Mark Wahlberg and, to a much smaller extent because of her varied back catalogue, Rose Byrne. At least, that’s what I did. However, skip this one at your peril as you’ll be missing out. This is one of the finest and funniest family dramas in recent year, following a couple who find themselves in over their heads when they foster three children. Inspired by the personal experience of the film’s director, Sean Anders, this really is a feelgood delight.

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.