Black Mirror is new on Netflix
You know how new DVDs and Blu-rays always come out on a Monday? Netflix laughs in the face of such regimented scheduling and instead releases all of its new TV shows and movies whenever the heck it feels like it.
That can make keeping track of all of the new stuff a first-world nightmare of epic proportions.
But help is at hand: here we highlight all of the best new stuff on Netflix. And yes, that does mean we've left out all of the rubbish (I'm looking at you, The Ranch). So with no further ado, allow us to guide you, truffle pig-like, to the finest and freshest streaming fungus.
Note: the newest stuff is at the top of the list, with the shows and movies getting progressively less new as you scroll down
Black Mirror - Season 3
Black Mirror has made the move from Channel 4 to Netflix in sumptuous, unsettling style. Not only has the platform given Charlie Brooker and his team the freedom to tell more stories (this run has six episodes rather than the usual three) and let each one run without ad breaks for as long as it needs to, it's also given them a budget big enough to expand the scale, scope and special effects. The feature-length final episode, Hated in the Nation, is a perfect case in point.
What hasn't changed is the overall theme. Each episode may tell a standalone story, but they're all connected by the threads of modern humanity's relationship with technology, the internet and social media.
Make no mistake, this is unnerving stuff, enhanced by the fact that the stories are generally set in a very near future that's all too recognisable. But fear not, the trademark blacker than black humour has also been retained, so you'll guffaw almost as much as you'll squirm. This is must-see television for anyone who's obsessed with tech.
If you’re a fan of Christopher Guest you’ll know exactly what to expect here - a gentle mockumentary centred around the oddball enthusiasts of a marginal hobby. This time, as the title suggests, it’s sports mascots in the spotlight, with the annual Golden Fluffy Awards bringing together the finest mascots from across the globe.
It’s really formulaic stuff that generally delivers titters of amusement rather than belly laughs, but there are some stand-out performances. Chris O’Dowd as “the bad boy of mascotery”, Silicone Valley’s Zach Woods as the henpecked half of a husband and wife mascot team, and Jane Lynch as a snobby judge and ex-mascot all make it well worth sitting through the film’s flatter sections.
If there were a graph that showed the tension levels of the tensest moment in the tensest thrillers in history, Homeland’s producers would have taken it, twisted it into an infinitesimally thin rope and used it to whip Stressed Eric’s pulsing temple vein until it popped.
Homeland is tense. It begins as the story of the relationship between a CIA operative and a long-imprisoned ex-Marine, finally liberated from al-Qaeda and returned to America as a war hero – a hero with an abundance of devastating secrets. But moves beyond their relationship in later seasons, the fifth of which has now hit Netflix.
It’s packed with award-winning performances, believably flawed characters, just enough politics and more twists than a box of Curly-Wurlys. It loses its way in the middle seasons, occasionally skirting utter daftness, but it’s always compulsive and entertaining – and more recent stuff is back on form. To watch it is to learn to trust no-one, question everything and definitely not pursue a career as a spy. No fun at all, as it turns out.
Has there been a more high-profile murder case this millennium than that of ‘Foxy Knoxy’ – the American student arrested as a 20-year-old in Perugia for the murder of her British flatmate Meredith Kercher?
Nearly a decade later she’s back home in Seattle having been acquitted by an Italian court. But if she didn’t do it, who did?
Considering the amount of coverage the case received at the time – coverage that the film is keen to criticise for being OTT – it’s probably not surprising that it doesn’t reveal anything particularly new, although it does introduce us to tabloid journalist Nick Pisa, a man who makes Piers Morgan look like a shining example of his profession.
Knox’s one-to-one interviews are the most compelling part of the film, revealing a thoughtful, articulate woman who’s had plenty of time to think about what happened that day. It’s just a shame the film spends so long going over old ground, rather than examining what it’s like to live in the shadow of such a distressing crime.
Bulletproof widower Luke Cage was one of the best characters in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and while he struggles a little to carry his own series (it takes ages to get going), there's enough brooding and bad guy bruising here to keep Marvel TV fans plenty entertained. The occasions that Cage engages rampage mode are as enjoyable as you'd probably imagine.
If the show was as witty and clever as it thinks it is it would be an instant classic, but for now Daredevil remains the benchmark for superheroes on telly.
THE BIG SHORT
How the hell do you explain collateralised debt obligation to the 99% of the population that doesn’t work on Wall Street?
Stick Margot Robbie in a bathtub, of course.
Adam McKay’s scathing retelling of the 2007-2008 financial crisis is jam-packed with these little explainers. Just in case Ryan Gosling’s acerbic narrator hasn’t boiled it down enough for you already.
Don’t let the subject matter turn you off - The Big Short takes a complex money minefield and turns it into a devilishly funny and genuinely exciting tale. You’ll tune in for the incredible cast, but stay to the end for the dissection of adjustable-rate mortgages.
A big budget US series involving Kiefer Sutherland, international terrorism and the White House – but 24 this ain’t. Designated Survivor is a new Netflix-exclusive series in which Sutherland plays a nondescript, under-qualified cabinet member thrust into the presidency when most of the US government is wiped out in a bombing. With the country in chaos, he must step up into a role he never wanted and respond to the atrocity’s perpetrators – whoever they might be.
Unlike most Netflix originals, Designated Survivor is being released at a rate of just one episode each week – so if you’re looking for something to keep you occupied in the long term rather than a quick binge-watch, this could be your favourite new series.
People Just Do Nothing
An Office-like BBC mockumentary series following the daily lives of a West London pirate radio crew, People Just Do Nothing will strike a chord with anyone who appreciates the comedy of awkwardness – the cringes resulting from that David Brentian gulf that exists between reality and self-image.
You don’t need to have grown up in the late 1990s UK garage era to appreciate PJDN’s charms, but if you know your Todd Edwards from your Artful Dodger you’ll likely find yourself nodding along to the beats and rhymes, even as you’re chuckling at the idiocy of their progenitors.
Mads Mikkelsen is, quite franly, one of the most watchable actors of his generation, and never more so than when in the immaculate suits of this TV incarnation of cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter.
As per the original books, Lecter is a psychiatrist brought in to assist FBI profiler Will Graham, but it's not long before the doctor is taking advantage of his position and manipulating the fragile Graham.
This is pretty high-brow stuff, chock-full of startling imagery, Lynchian characters and dinner scenes that will make your stomach growl - a little unsettling once you know what's in most of them.
Netflix only has one of the three seasons, but that's more than enough to sink your teeth into (sorry).
Bojack Horseman Season 3
In season 2 our titular horse-man hit some astonishingly low lows, even by his rock-bottom standards, but it finished on an optimistic note - Bojack's movie has been finished (without him), he's opened an orphanage (accidentally) and is even *shudder* jogging. Clearly this isn't going to last into season 3.
Nope, this is still the same selfish, self-destructive, alcoholic Bojack that we all know and love, and the press tour for Secretariat (and subsequent, astonishing Oscar nomination) gives ample opportunity for his personality to peak and trough.
If you think all of that sounds a bit too serious for a cartoon, you've clearly not yet been exposed to the wonderful silly:serious ratio of Bojack Horseman. In which case, do not be tempted to start with season 3. Instead, head right to the start and allow the fabulous, flawed characters and setting to get under your skin.
For existing fans, season 3 is more of the same in the best possible way.
A grand melange of 80s pop culture references and cinematic stylings, Stranger Things blends Stand By Me, ET and the movies of John Carpenter to compelling effect. The plot is resoundingly formulaic: a boy is missing, mysterious creature is on the prowl and some mighty shady authority figures are making a bloody mess of the ‘clean-up’, but despite its use of these well-trodden tropes, Netflix’s latest original series remains a tantalising sci-fi mystery in its own right.
Winona Ryder puts in a fearsome turn as a mother trapped in the jaws of the supernatural, while directors Matt and Ross Duffer offer up some dazzling shots of rural Indiana and its many devious secrets.
At just 8 episodes in length, the whole series can be binge-watched on a rainy Sunday, too. We’re bound to get another one of those very soon.
Jim Jefferies: Freedumb
Russell Howard fans, be warned: this is not the bland, inoffensive ‘satire’ that you’re used to. Aussie-born adopted American stand-up Jim Jefferies isn’t known for holding back and he certainly doesn't do anything to change that in Freedumb, his new Netflix exclusive.
If you discovered him off the back of his gun control routine ‘going viral’ after every mass shooting in America (so every few weeks then) there might be more jokes about potty training here than you’d expect but his Bill Cosby bit and the Donald Trump material shows he can still channel his inner Bill Hicks when he’s got a point to make. Just don’t watch it with your mum.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Spending 15 years underground in an apocalyptic cult-leader’s bunker? Yeah, that’ll mess you up - but not nearly as much as living in New York will.
Adorably optimistic maniac Kimmy Schmidt returns for a second season this week, and it’s business as usual: hilarious misunderstandings, cringeworthy awkwardness, and doing drugs with scary dudes in Elmo costumes.
Ok, so maybe that last one isn’t exactly what you’d call “usual”.
The new season of this Tina Fey-produced comedy is as gleefully bombastic as the first. And if you haven’t seen the first series, now’s the perfect time to give it a go and get caught up.
Words by Tom Morgan
Yeah, we know you’ve already seen this. But you’ve eaten pizza before too, and it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy that large pepperoni tonight.
Come on, it’s one of the best action movies of all time. You’ll love it. Again.
Words by Marc Mclaren
If you reduced Arnold Schwarzenegger to a Platonian concept - a simple distillation of what constituted Peak Arnie - you’d get Predator. He chews on a big cigar; he kills people then makes corny wisecracks; he shoots guns; he has muscles; he gurns and grimaces and grunts; he acts like the goddamn American hero he is; he Arnies.
Predator’s not just an Arnie film though. It also stars Apollo Creed and a famous ’80s wrestler and a guy in a big monster suits with dreadlocks, and a load of other big guys with muscles who all die. It’s all a bit rubbish and schlocky, obviously, but it’s not like you watch an Arnie film expecting Cinema Paradiso. Accept it for what it is and enjoy it. You won’t be disappointed.
Words by Marc Mclaren
Looper is a superb, mind-bending, futuristic, time-travelling action-thriller that sees Joseph Gordon-Levitt assume the role of an assassin whose job consists of putting a bullet in the head of people teleported to his time by a future mob organisation (holy plot line, Batman).
But when the poor sap that appears before him is his future self (played by Bruce Willis), things get rather, well, complicated.
The intricate plot is strongly complimented by plenty of action and strong performances from all, although Gordon-Levitt’s Bruce Willis-like prosthetic nose is initially a little distracting.
Words by Esat Dedezade
Robot & Frank
The marketing for this film – “Friendship doesn’t have an off switch” – was slightly ill-judged. Yes, there is a significant amount of schmaltz to this story about increasingly dementia-doddered Frank accepting a robot helper from his exasperated son, but it’s also full of interesting ideas about the way humans interact with technology. Or, in this case, criminalise it.
Special effects and culture-aware zingers this is not, but the classy cast and relevant plot make it far more worthwhile than its focus-grouped poster quote would have you believe. Plus, there’s a jewel heist!
Words by Fraser MacDonald
Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle
The first series of Comedy Vehicle has been on Netflix for yonks but, while those episodes are eminently rewatchable, a whole 12 more have been added, meaning all that’s missing now is the recently aired fourth series.
Filmed at an old working men’s club in North London, Lee’s half-hour shows are a world away from the whooping, celeb-obsessed Live at the Apollo – as much about the craft of stand-up (helped by the addition of the one-on-one interview segments with Chris Morris in series three) as it's about entertaining the audience both at home and in the room.
Using the stage to tackle issues of language, offence, racism and whether Adrian Chiles can outrun a train, this is the closest you’ll get to going to an actual comedy show without leaving your lounge.
Words by Tom Wiggins
The Grand Budapest Hotel
I’m not someone who loves every Wes Anderson film - The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic can bugger off for starters - but I challenge anyone to not be taken in by the utterly delightful Grand Budapest Hotel.
It’s typically whimsical and gorgeously presented, with eye-popping colours and patterns, but this tale of a dapper, deliberate, disarmingly foul-mouthed and extremely accommodating hotel concierge who's framed for murder is also easily the most gripping and downright hilarious film he’s made, thanks in no small part to the superb Ralph Fiennes in the lead role.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
With the third Captain America movie Civil War about to hit cinemas, Netflix’s decision to add the second to its streaming roster seems eminently timely (and, if you haven't seen it, the first is already there, too).
The Winter Soldier features several of the MCU characters from Avengers Assemble, as well as introducing a couple of new ones, but is a valiant attempt to diverge somewhat from the standard superhero film formula. True, there are plenty of action scenes, but directors Anthony and Joe Russo have also made it a nod to conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s – even going so far as to cast Robert Redford in a key supporting role.
Look, this isn’t All The President’s Men or anything – it’s a Marvel film, after all – but if you’re a fan of the cinematic universe, it’s a worthy addition to the seemingly endlessly expanding lineup.
Words by Sam Kieldsen
Yep, blind lawyer Matt Murdock is back for a second season of Hell’s Kitchen-based vigilantism. The first season made an impact largely for its somewhat more mature (read: more sex, violence and bad language) examination of Marvel’s costumed heroes than we’ve been used to; while Daredevil is actually set in the same cinematic universe as The Winter Soldier, it’s far bloodier and more willing to paint its characters in shades of grey.
And with two new antagonists arriving in season two in the forms of the Punisher and Elektra, it seems this trend is likely to continue – the first episode features over a dozen mobsters gorily gunned down in a hail of the former’s bullets, for instance. Another winning Netflix Original, we reckon.
Words by Sam Kieldsen
Film-makers, like sportspeople and musicians, sometimes go through a purple patch where everything they touch turns to genius. Woody Allen had one such patch in the ’70s, starting around Sleeper (1973) and peaking with Manhattan in 1979.
Annie Hall sits firmly within this period, a stereotypically Allen film dealing with romance and relationships and neuroses and Jewishness and sex and New York.
It’s relentlessly brilliant: absolutely packed with one-liners and regularly hilarious but also incredibly poignant at times. Everything about it - script, acting, photography, location - is spot-on. If you watch just one Woody Allen film, make it this one.
Words by Marc Mclaren
House Of Cards (S4)
Expecting a political drama to really shock these days is a hard ask. After all, nobody could come up with a script quite so ridiculous as the one playing out for real in the United States right now.
Still, as far as we know, Donald Trump hasn’t stooped quite so let yet as Frank Underwood, the brilliantly realised protagonist in this Netflix Original.
Underwood, played with superb Machiavellian menace by Kevin Spacey, will do absolutely anything in his quest for power - although possibly even he would balk at banning all Muslims from the US - and if you’re unlucky enough to get in his way then you might want to check your life-insurance policy.
Possibly even better than Spacey is Robin Wright as his more rounded wife Claire. We say ‘more rounded’, but only in the sense that she’s capable of smiling occasionally as she stabs you in the back, rather than just glaring.
We don’t want to give anything away for those of you who haven’t seen the previous three seasons, but trust us: it remains must-watch television.
Words by Marc Mclaren
"Created, written and executive produced by Judd Apatow" is a phrase that's a lot more exciting to some people than to others, but if you're even slightly drawn to his particular brand of mumbly, honest, relationship-based humour, you'll almost certainly enjoy this new 10-part Netflix Original.
Love is a story of two useless, directionless, loveless people at opposite ends of the loser spectrum, who bumble into each other's lives and begin a relationship that at many times isn't particularly good for either of them. This isn't laugh-a-minute stuff, but spending time with the substance-abusing Mickey (Community's Gillian Jacobs) and pathetic pushover Gus (Paul Rust) is an occasionally painfully awkward, occasionally guffaw-inducing pleasure.
No one believes their own hype as much as Quentin Tarantino, which is why his films these days tend to be very over-indulgent and over-long. That's certainly the case with his Western, Django Unchained but, as with most Tarantino movies, those flaws only slightly temper the overall brilliance.
This is another masterclass of witty, meandering dialogue, artful scene construction and brutal, brilliant action, and it contains some of the finest acting from some of this generation's finest actors. Leonardo DiCaprio as a viper-like plantation owner is particularly nasty, evil perfection.
Better Call Saul
The show itself may not be new, but the second series certainly is, and it goes as far as to improve and already brilliantly enjoyable show.
Everyone's favourite sleazy-yet-likeable lawyer Saul Goodman (well, Jimmy McGill) features in this Breaking Bad prequel, with Bob Odenkirk slipping into his cheap suit with remarkable ease. His superb performance allows his character's desperation, tenacity and humour to seep through the screen and grab your attention with both hands.
It's always fun to root for the underdog, and from the very first episode you're right there alongside Goodman, wanting him to fight to the top - all while being aware of the dark things to come. Yet another belting Netflix Original.
Once Upon A Time In America
When people debate the greatest gangster movies of all time, this is the one they forget. That’s a crying shame, because Once Upon A Time… is every bit as epic as The Godfather parts I and II, every bit as human as Goodfellas, every bit as brilliant as any of its cultural cousins.
Director Sergio Leone’s final film stars Robert De Niro long before he demeaned himself in the likes of Dirty Grandpa and James Woods long before he demeaned himself regularly on Twitter, and follows a group of Jewish friends growing up in Noo Yoik.
It’s easy to see why it gets overlooked: it flits about the twentieth century, spending times in the ’20s, ’30s and ’60s but rarely doing so in chronological order; it’s nearly four hours long and has a cast of thousands; it’s horribly violent even by mob movie standards; and its original release was marred by a disastrous edit.
Forget all that though - restored to full length it’s a thing of wonder and beauty, with breathtaking cinematography, a moving score and some great actors at the top of their game combining to make it a true classic.
Words by Marc Mclaren
If you thought Ross Kemp on Gangs was hardcore, wait til you’ve seen Cartel Land. Embedded with anti-cartel vigilante groups on both sides of the Mexican border, director Matthew Haineman carries his camera into the midst of firefights on the gang-controlled streets of Michoacán, and goes on patrol with a self-appointed protection force across the border in the United States.
It’s beautifully shot, astonishingly brave filmmaking that doesn’t paint its story in simple black and white, and isn’t afraid to put its audience in uncomfortable positions. No wonder it’s been nominated for an Oscar.
Words by Tom Wiggins
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
This officially sanctioned documentary of the life of Nirvana's enigmatic and tragic frontman has made its way from cinema to Netflix in record time, and it's a must for fans of the band and the uninitiated alike.
The cooperation of Kurt's family (the documentary was apparently instigated by his widow, Courtney Love) is the usual mixed blessing. On the one hand the access to never-before-seen material sheds new light on the extent of Cobain's clear genius, but on the other it's still hard to believe that this retelling isn't skewed at least a little by the agendas of Kurt's parents and Love herself. The fact that Dave Grohl was interviewed but not included is also a big disappointment.
But if you're prepared to accept that every documentary innevitably has some kind of agenda, angle or compromise, Montage of Heck is superb. Even the most dedicated Nirvana fan will be blown away by Kurt's endless lyrical and artistic scribbles, and the animation of these as a storytelling tool is a stroke of minor genius. This almost certainly isn't the whole story of Kurt Cobain, but it's a mighty fine film in its own right.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese takes a deep dive into the excesses of crooked 1990s stockbroker Jordan Belfort – think Goodfellas with less violence but a lot more sex, drugs and swearing. So, so much of each.
The movie wastes little time inspecting the technicalities of Belfort’s financial chicanery, preferring instead to look at its effects on the man himself. It’s heady, outrageous stuff that in hands other than Scorsese’s might have become too trashy to stomach, but the editing, pacing (it’s three hours long but that flies by) and visual flair mark it out as a weighty cinematic achievement.
Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance manages to temper the wealth-induced mania with some measure of believable humanity (Hollywood… just give the man his Oscar already), and there’s fine supporting work from Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie.
Words by Sam Kieldsen
Making a Murderer
While the filming of this 10-part documentary clearly started a long, long time ago (it's been 10 years in development), one suspects that the success of the Serial podcast is what got Netflix to buy and promote it as much as it has.
The comparisons are almost too easy and obvious, but there are differences and - more importantly - Making a Murderer stands up on its own.
Steven Avery served 18 years in prison for a horrible crime that he didn't commit, and the revelations about the police handling of that case could be a 10-part series of their own, but here that's just the start. You see, just two years after his exoneration, he's charged with a new crime: the brutal murder of a young woman. Given the circumstances of the previous case, the local Sheriff's involvement is under serious scrutiny, and to say there are suspicious inconsistencies is a massive understatement.
It's a long, often slow series, but it's also fascinating, deeply troubling, and will send shivers down your spine.
F is for Family
Bill Burr might not be a household name over here, but in the States he's a Pretty Big Deal. One heck of an angry man (as can be seen in his various stand-up specials), F is for Family is a perfect vehicle for his furious comedy.
Comparisons to the likes of Family Guy, Bob's Burgers and The Simpsons are obvious - this is one of those animated families that's both typical and dysfunctional at the same time - but this is ruder than all of those and uses its 70s setting for some very on-the-nose humour. As is so often the case with new comedy shows it only starts to hit its stride after a few episodes, which is tricky as there are just six here, but if it was my money, I'd certainly commission a second series.
There’s a reason why this film is the 3rd highest grossing film in history (at least until the Star Wars tills stop ringing). Well, seven super powered reasons why - Earth’s mightiest heroes and their Asgardian foe.
As Loki leads a Chitauri invasion on an attack in the Big Apple, the heroes try to combine their powers, brains and witty banter to hold off the alien army.
It’s filled to the brim with the escapism regularly found in the Marvel Universe, action, laughs and plenty of jealousy about the fact your hair will never match up to that of Chris Hemsworth. Family fun at its finest.
Glasgow’s favourite son and New Master of Flash (2002 edition), Brian ‘Limmy’ Limmond, developed a cult following when his sketch show was picked up by BBC Scotland, but for reasons known only to the Beeb it was never widely shown south of the border.
And that’s a travesty because its collection of absurd yet strangely mundane characters, such as big-dreaming waster Dee Dee, one-man minor crime wave Mr Mulvaney, and Falconhoof, the despairing host of Knightmare-style TV phone-in show Adventure Call, make it one of the finest sketch shows since the ‘90s heyday of Big Train and The Fast Show.
Warning: you are entering a fun-free zone.
Winter's Bone is all about desperation. A pre-Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence is desperate to find her father who, out of desperation, has skipped bail, putting his already destitute family in danger of losing their home. What we learn next is that in this area of the US every house is miles from the next one, everyone's related, and everyone's involved in cooking meth. And that snitches get stitches... or worse.
Gritty, tough and uncompromising, Winter's Bone isn't cheery but it sure is gripping.
The trailer above may paint this as an action-packed thriller, but The Hunter is really a drama, and far more interesting as a result.
Willem Dafoe is predictably superb as a grizzled mercenary hired by a biotech company to hunt down, kill and collect samples from the last remaining Tasmanian tiger. At least that's the premise: the real story revolves around how Dafoe's character fits in with the struggling, fatherless family that's accomodating him. It's almost two films in one, and superbly tense throughout.
Californication is back on Netflix, now with all seven series. This is one to dip in and out of in order to avoid fatigue with the central relationship, but as long as you can avoid bingeing on all 84 episodes at once you'll find lots to love, not least of all the David Duchovny's loveably rogueish Hank Moody. Honestly, if that bloke could just keep it in his pants he'd be an almighty success, but then we wouldn't have a fun TV show to watch, would we?
I could go into some of the highlights but they're mostly too rude to describe. Let's just say this isn't one to watch with your parents.
A Very Murray Christmas
This. Is. Weird.
It’s basically a spoof of those old Christmas variety shows but is also itself an old school Christmas variety show. Some actors play themselves (Bill Murray, George Clooney, Miley Cyrus), while others play characters (Jason Schwartzman, Amy Poehler, the band Phoenix), all of them sing at least one Christmas song.
Some of it falls flat, some of it’s hilarious, and all of it is pretty mad. But one thing’s for sure: George Clooney sticking his head out from behind a Christmas tree and singing “Santa Claus wants some lovin’” is a Christmas gift for all of us.
A sort of Americanised version of Michael Haneke’s Amour, Still Alice sees a linguistics professor struggle dementia and the toll it takes on those around her.
Julianne Moore is especially brilliant as the titular Dr. Alice Howland, transforming from a brilliant mind contained within someone who's totally at ease with her place in the world to someone whose grip on reality is rapidly slipping away.
Avoiding the obvious temptation to slip into melodrama, this worldly film proves to be a reassuringly sensitive take on an all too familiar disease. And yes, it will make you cry at least twice.
Starter For 10
Smarter than your average rom-com, Starter For 10 tells the story of Brian Jackson and his amorous endeavours as he quests to win University Challenge. What might sound like a gnawingly pretentious affair, where one man attempts to rise above his middle class problems, turns out to be a welcome winter heart-warmer.
There are some classy turns from the assembled cast, including a fresh-faced Benedict Cumberbatch, and plenty of bawdy laughs at young Brian’s expense. What elevates this movie above similarly twee British fare is the fact you’ll actually end up rooting for its feckless protagonist. And how often does that happen?
Despite it being touted for every movie awards ceremony in existence six years ago, Precious is actually far more compelling than your average serving of Oscar bait.
Starring Gabourey Sidibe as the illiterate, 16-year-old Claireece Jones, who’s just been impregnated by her father for the second time, it flits between grim scenes of inner-city trauma and dazzling interludes of imagined escapism. You see, in her mind’s eye, ‘Precious’ is a superstar: someone adored by the public and paparazzi alike. In reality, she’s abused by even her closest family members. What follows is a gripping will-she-won’t-she story of one girl’s struggle against horrific adversity.
City of God
Based on real-life events in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and with a cast drawn largely from the same slums, City Of God deals with life on society's margins.
The film spans several decades and follows a diverse bunch of characters as they come of age in the city. Some attempt to deal with their dangerous surroundings by blending into the background (shy, wannabe-photographer Rocket), some through exerting fear on those around them (sadistic drug dealer Li'l Zé), some through natural charisma (ladies' man Ned).
It's often brutal and frequently heartbreaking but never less than a thrilling, compelling watch.
Picking up where Daredevil left off, Jessica Jones is Marvel’s dangerously bingeable new series. After a short stint as a superhero, private detective Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) moves to NYC and opens up Alias Investigations out of her own apartment.
Unfortunately, her escape from the clutches of obsessive, abusive and mind-controlling sadist Zebediah Kilgrave (David Tennant) is short lived. But Jessica's strife is our gain: you'll be hard pushed to find a better TV baddie from the last year.
Strong performances from a brilliant cast make this a dark thriller for comic book fans and the uninitiated alike.
What a wonderful film this is. Nominated for no less than six Academy Awards, Nebraska is a black and white indie film about an old man who receives a letter saying he’s won a million dollars, and that all he need do to obtain it is travel to Nebraska. Rather than dismiss it as the scam it clearly is, Woody Grant becomes obsessed with getting to Nebraska and getting his money.
What follows is a father-son road trip that’s melancholy but at times also extremely funny, and Bruce Dern puts in a truly incredible performance as the cantankerous protagonist.
The French Connection
He’s a renegade cop that gets results – where have we heard that before? That’s right, absolutely everywhere, but back in 1971, when Gene Hackman starred in The French Connection, the lengths Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle would go to to smash a transatlantic heroin smuggling ring shocked cinema audiences. And it’s still grittily thrilling today.
If nothing else, The French Connection has one of the best car chases ever filmed – and one of the cars is a train.
Master of None
Comedian Aziz Ansari plays jobbing actor Dev in this 10-part series about life, love and tacos. Actually, one suspects Ansari is really playing himself (his real-life parents even play his onscreen parents here) and a big part of the charm is watching him work through various subjects over the course of the series.
It’s very self-obsessed and some will find the whimsy hard to stomach, but it's also funny, charming and occasionally thought-provoking. Well worth five hours of your time.
Macaulay Culkin reveals himself to be a fan of good old ultraviolence in this ‘90s Christmas classic, which is so highly thought of Sam Mendes slotted a mini remake of it into the end of Skyfall.
Bungling burglars Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) sustain enough serious injuries to kill each of them 10 times over as young Kevin (Culkin) single-handedly defends his family home, having been accidentally left behind for the festive season. Just don’t go watching it outside of the month of December, ya filthy animal.
Aardman Animations' first feature-length film is regularly held up as a classic of the stop-motion genre, but that doesn't do it justice – it's a classic in any genre, with wit, imagination and ingenuity scored through its every second.
Riffing liberally on The Great Escape, the film sees Mel Gibson's Rocky attempting to escape certain death on a Colditz-style chicken farm. And so plans are hatched (pardon the pun), alliances are made and confidences are broken, just as they are in any WWII escape movie – only this time it's all with chickens. And the odd rat.
It's very, very funny, with some superb set pieces and terrific acting. Perfect fodder for family viewing.