The Devil’s Backbone
Set at an orphanage during the final few days of the Spanish Civil War, this superior gothic horror movie concerns an unexploded bomb and a missing child. Revealing any more might spoil the creepy allure of this spine-tingling film, whose historical time and place is integral to its message.
Only a filmmaker of Guillermo del Toro’s talents could pull off a cerebral foreign language horror movie that appeals to English-speaking audiences – and if there’s one movie on Amazon that the most ardent subtitle-hater should sit through, it’s this one.
The Grand Tour (S1-3)
Here’s a fact: either you adore the vehicular antics and laddish banter of Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, or you’d rather coat your eyes in bleach than play along with this trio of ageing, ill-dressed man-boys.
The third season of Amazon’s mega-budget Top Gear-killer has just landed on the streaming service, and while it won’t convert non-believers neither will it disappoint fans: it’s well made and looks lush (in super-sharp 4K, if you have a UHD telly). For those that like their petrolhead action fix served alongside a glut of gags, this third helping is likely to be the TV highlight of 2019.
Cowboys in space? The premise might sound sublimely daft, but Joss Whedon's short-lived sci-fi series is packed with character.
The rogueish Nathan Fillion leads a rag-tag crew of ne'er-do-wells as they struggle to stay one step ahead of the law and keep their spaceship flying. In its 14-episode run, it doesn't put a foot wrong: witty scripts, tension, memorable characters – Firefly's got them all. The Fox network didn't think so, though, and axed the series after a single season, making it another potential classic show that never really got going. Hey, at least a one-off followup movie, Serenity (sadly not streaming on Amazon Prime, although it can currently be rented on YouTube or Google Play, and streamed on Netflix) wraps up the dangling plot lines and provides a satisfying coda to the show.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Based on the bestselling novel of the same unwieldy name, Mike Newell’s 1946-set romantic drama, in which Lily James’ frustrated writer travels to Guernsey to cover a book club that flourished under the island’s German occupation, will appeal to those who prefer their filmed historical fare comforting, enjoyable, moderately funny and not too grim. If you love Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife and the like, but find the likes of Atonement a bit weighty, it’ll be right up your alley.
James’ winning performance suggests she’s a Kate Winslet-style superstar in the making, although the colourful supporting cast – which includes Tom Courtenay, Michiel Huisman and Matthew Goode – picks up more than their fair share of the slack. Part love story, part wartime drama, part detective yarn, it’s not the most original or memorable of movies but suits a lazy Sunday almost perfectly.
Rejoice, for “the show about nothing” has finally come to a UK streaming service; now Prime customers have the perfect excuse to plough through all nine seasons of Jerry Seinfeld’s beloved sitcom.
An inventive, absurd and hilarious examination of the trivialities of modern life, never relying on slapstick or coddling viewers with cheap sentimentality, Seinfeld is quite simply a must-watch for all fans of comedy. With each episode clocking in at a little over 20 minutes, it’s also great fare for binge watching. Be warned: your Sundays will be eaten right up.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (S1-2)
Hankering for a grown-up TV show in the vein of Mad Men? One also set in mid-century Manhatten? The Marvelous Mrs Maisel might be the new series for you.
Rachel Brosnahan stars as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a vivacious, quick-witted upper middle class housewife with what she thought was the perfect 1950s New York lifestyle: husband, kids, beautiful Upper West Side apartment; the works. When things take an unforeseen turn and flip that all upside down, she stumbles into trying out standup comedy – and discovers she has something of a talent for not only making people laugh, but for hitting upon life’s truths and enigmas while doing it.
The first season won three Golden Globes and five Emmys, suggesting this Amazon Original may have an even bigger future ahead than Transparent. Time to get on board now.
One for Stanley Kubrick nerds, cinephiles and conspiracy theorists only, the Amazon reviews of Room 237 are dominated by people who took it far too seriously.
It takes The Shining and analyses it to within an inch of its life, explaining how almost every part of the film signifies something else, from the treatment of the indigenous people of America to the Holocaust, ending on the most crackpot theory of them all: that the film is Kubrick’s way of admitting to faking the footage of the moon landings. It probably won't convince you, but even if you end up shouting at the screen, there’s no way you’ll be bored.
The Death of Stalin
Armando Iannucci brings his brand of political satire to one of modern history’s darkest chapters, as a host of self-serving Soviet grandees – Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs and Paul Whitehouse among them – farcically jostle for power in the wake of Joseph Stalin’s sudden demise.
While it doesn’t quite hit the breezy highs of Iannucci’s debut movie In The Loop or his two series Veep and The Thick Of It – being set in a time and place where political rivals were regularly exiled or killed, it’s much more bleak and cynical even than those – The Death of Stalin spotlights the absurdity of politics just as effectively, and will raise many a laugh while doing so.
A film about fairies, fauns and fantastical underground kingdoms might not seem like prime scary movie fodder, but Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro’s knack of infusing reality with the otherworldly has never been more captivating than in Pan’s Labyrinth.
Some of the beasts young Spanish girl Ofelia encounters as she attempts to complete the tasks set for her by the guardian of the labyrinth are the stuff of nightmares, but above ground, her homicidal army general stepfather is scarier than them all. Pan’s Labyrinth is like Narnia reimagined by Ernest Hemingway.
Exclusive to Amazon Prime’s and based on Michael Connelly’s crime novels, this show stars Titus Welliver as the eponymous Los Angeles detective. Bosch, it has to be said, is something of a clichéd telly cop (haunted by a troubled past; ex-military; bit of a loose cannon; distrustful of and distrusted by the top brass; damn fine at his job), but thanks to a twisty, turny plot, Welliver’s charismatic performance and a fine supporting cast, it's perfect binge-watch material, with five gripping seasons available to stream.