If you're seeking a streaming service focused primarily on movies, it's not Amazon Prime or Netflix that deserves your attention - it's Now. Which, yes, used to be called Now TV.
Sky's cord-cutter service is better served with newer, bigger-name films than either of its main rivals, with at least one new movie being added every day to an already bulging collection.
The sheer size of that library means it's not always easy to immediately find something to watch though (you know: the paralysis of choice and so on). Which is where we come in. The Stuff team has picked out a selection of must-see cinematic masterpieces both old and new, so the next time you're settling down for an evening on the sofa, you can conserve your brainpower for picking the right snacks rather than the right movie.
Christopher Nolan is sometimes derided as “a dumb person’s idea of a smart person” and watching Tenet, his big budget “it’s not about time travel, actually” movie it’s easy to see why. The tenor is Very Serious – but break it down to its core and this is a silly but enjoyable sci-fi film with some cracking set-pieces, a mind-bending plot and a solid cast headed up by John David Washington and Robert Pattinson. With scenes in which time flows both forwards and backwards at the same time, there’s some visually impressive stuff here – even if you might be wondering what it all means by the end of it.
Tenet is undoubtedly a film built for the big screen, but watching at home has one advantage over the cinema: you might actually be able to understand the words that are coming out of the characters’ mouths. The muffled dialogue issue left many cinemagoers miffed and confused about key plot points, but at home you’ll be able to rewind (no pun intended) at your leisure.
In the Loop
Before he was the twelfth Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi was the fantastically foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker, government spin-doctor extraordinaire. In this feature film – spun off from the BBC series The Thick of It – Tucker is part of a delegation sent to Washington to deal with rising tensions in the Middle East.
Writer Armando Iannucci's take on the build-up to the Iraq War is at once farcical and bleak, as backstabbing politicos massage the evidence to create a case for intervention, and scrabble to exclude each other from committees and action groups. Capaldi's baroque cursing is the undoubted highlight with the late James Gandolfini's turn as an army general a close second.
Mistake this as merely another so-called chick flick at your peril. Yes, at its core it's a romantic comedy focused on the awkward interactions between Kristen Wiig and Chris O'Dowd, but there’s so much more going on here. Masterfully executed toilet humour and offbeat distractions provided by the likes of Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson make for some genuinely hilarious moments, and the film’s gentle exploration of the themes of friendship, love and marriage are nicely handled by director Paul Feig.
Almost three decades after its release, Jurassic Park remains a near-perfect film. Steven Spielberg’s mastery of pacing, camera, editing and sound is on full display here, as the living attractions in a dinosaur theme park take advantage of chaos theory to turn on their captors. The dreary, uninspired sequels have shown that there’s much more to making a great movie than a great idea (what if dinosaurs and humans could interact?) and great special effects; this is a rare occasion when a mega-budgeted box office-breaking blockbuster feels full of heart.
The Torrance family take up residence in a remote hotel for the off-season, with dad Jack hoping the isolation will shift his writer’s block. But his son Danny is haunted by disturbing visions, and the hotel's old ghosts worry away at the author's unravelling sanity. Director Stanley Kubrick transforms Stephen King's haunted-house yarn into a study in ambiguity. Jack Nicholson's Torrance is a mean drunk with a short temper – but is the hotel exerting a malign influence over him, or is his potential for evil there from the outset?
Kubrick's only foray into the horror genre may feel safe and familiar at first, its iconic scenes blunted by a thousand parodies and college-dorm posters, but its unsettling qualities quickly become apparent. The Shining looks like no other horror film. Kubrick dwarfs the characters with his trademark wide, symmetrical shots of architecture, and chases them through a maze of corridors with lengthy Steadicam shots. The atmosphere is heightened by flashes of disturbing tableaux – a gore-drenched elevator, a beautiful woman who turns into a hag. The images linger long after the credits roll.
The buddy cop movie that spawned several sequels, dozens of imitators and propelled Mel Gibson into international superstardom (only for his off-camera behaviour to bring him back down to earth with a bump a couple of decades later), Lethal Weapon is a highly potent mix of snappy dialogue, slick action and extremely late 80s music and haircuts.
When Danny Glover’s curmudgeonly detective is forced to partner up with Gibson’s reckless live wire loose cannon, it’s clear that sparks are going to fly – but if one thing can keep the pair from each other’s throats, it’s the group of highly-trained drug smugglers currently turning Los Angeles into a war zone. The prickly dynamic between the two leads elevates Lethal Weapon beyond many of its imitators and means it’s still a diverting watch 30 years after its release.
Rian Johnson’s postmodern spin on the classic whodunnit is a killer yarn, with Daniel Craig clearly enjoying himself as a Southern gentleman sleuth hired to investigate the death of a wealthy octogenarian crime novelist.
While initial impressions suggest suicide, it quickly becomes clear that this case is far more complicated than it first seems. Several members of his sprawling family have a motive for murder, while his young nurse seems far more distraught about the death than any of his actual relative. Johnson cleverly flips the genre on its head (don’t worry, no spoilers here), delivering a fast-moving tale of love, hate, lies, subterfuge and blackmail. And the ensemble cast? It’s to die for!
As Good as It Gets
Offering all the hallmarks of a typical 90s romantic comedy (a New York setting, an odd-couple matchup, a gay best friend and a protagonist who writes romance novels for a living), As Good as It Gets immediately sets itself apart by making its main character a truly awful person. Jack Nicholson plays a reclusive, OCD-addled writer who goes beyond grouchy.
Racist, sexist, homophobic and unnecessarily rude to anyone he encounters, he finds himself drawn to Helen Hunt’s waitress, a struggling single mother and one of the few people who pushes back against his needling. When his artist neighbour (Greg Kinnear) is viciously beaten up, he also enters his orbit – and gradually these new forces start to influence our antihero’s selfish, misanthropic worldview.
Alien: The Director’s Cut
The best space-set horror movie ever made and the film that spawned a sprawling franchise based around its iconic titular “xenomorph”, Alien is a masterpiece of tension. When the crew of commercial spaceship the Nostromo (a fantastic cast of “normal”, highly relatable characters rather than exaggerated, OTT personalities) detect a transmission from a moon deep in uninhabited space, they land to investigate and discover a strange derelict craft full of large eggs. When one of these hatches, it sparks off a deadly sequence of events that we wouldn’t dream of spoiling here but, yes, involves a predatory alien stalking its prey through the corridors and vents of the ship.
It’s fantastic cat-and-mouse stuff, and – courtesy of Ridley Scott’s mastery of lighting and the stellar production design, looks so, so good for a 40 year-old movie.