Got Sky Q but no 4K telly to plug your box into? Have you any idea how many pixels you’re missing out on?
Ultra HD comes as standard with your Sky Q multiroom subscription and while it doesn’t extend to everything available, the catalogue is steadily growing all the time. Here’s Stuff’s pick of Sky’s 4K menu...
There are many who consider Catch-22, Joseph Heller’s absurd, ironic, and contradictory anti-war novel of 1961, to be unfilmable. It’s somewhat appropriate, then, that this mini-series is the second time it’s been done (even if the 1970 film did turn out to be pretty ropey).
Originally screened in the UK on Channel 4 but now available on Sky in 4K, this highly polished six-part adaptation follows John ‘Yo-Yo’ Yossarian’s attempts to remove himself from the theatre of war – a quest that’s thwarted by an ever-increasing quota of bombing missions and the inescapable clause of the title.
There’s no denying that this Catch-22 can’t capture all of the subtleties, nuances and complexities of Heller’s book, but taken on its own it still manages to be both horrific and hilarious in almost equal measure.
This Is England 86-90
Vicky McLure might be back on our screens hunting bent coppers in Line of Duty, but for a lot of people she will always be Lol in Shane Meadows’ brilliant and bruising This Is England. First introduced in the 2007 film, Meadows went on to make three subsequent TV series of the same name, all set two years apart, and all now available in Ultra HD on Sky.
Those extra pixels don’t make any of them easier to watch, with more than their fair share of bleakness and brutal violence, but there’s almost always a much-needed injection of laugh-out-loud comic relief just around the corner.
With multiple series-stealing performances across all three eras and a slightly lighter tone in TIE ‘90 (rave culture will do that for you), bingeing this lot will give you a real craving for the much-discussed final feature-length installment, which is likely to be set a decade later. We can’t wait.
Drug cartels and the Mafia are hardly underrepresented when it comes to movies and TV, but both together in one? Now we’re talking. ZeroZeroZero links the two groups together via a multimillion-dollar transatlantic drug deal, with a family of American brokers caught up in the middle – and the result is one of the best new series in years.
From the mountains of Calabria to the sprawling slums of Moterrey, via the oceans and deserts in between, this globe-trotting, time-hopping eight-parter is bleak but often breathtaking. Among the Heat-esque gunfights and deadly power struggles there’s also a surprisingly human touch, largely thanks to the excellent Andrea Risborough, with a pulsing soundtrack by Mogwai to top things off.
Bad Boys for Life
Considering Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are both now in their fifties, the title of this third instalment in the wise-cracking, trigger-happy action series might seem disingenuous, but its stars don’t deny the truth – from dyed goatees to failing eyesight there are plenty of references to the duo’s advancing age.
Besides, it’s hardly Last of the Summer Wine: Miami Edition. A brush with death and a blast from the past force both to turn back the years in a war against a deadly Mexican drug cartel – except this time it’s particularly personal.
Of course, it’s not a patch on the original, and you’ll probably have a serious urge to watch that by the time the credits roll, so it’s a good job the first two are available on Sky in Ultra HD too.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
It’s fairly easy to imagine Tom Hanks as the nicest man in the world, but if you’ve ever had any doubts and suspect him of harbouring a hatred for baby animals, just watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood should be enough to set that straight.
Hanks plays Mister Rogers, a children’s television star who nobody this side of the pond has heard of, but is so famous in the US that whole train carriages of people break out into the theme tune from his much-loved show.
One person who still has his doubts is troubled journalist and professional cynic Lloyd Vogel, who is sent to profile Rogers for Esquire magazine. It’s pretty obvious where the film is going right from the start, but what could have been trite and unbearably twee is pleasingly warm and wholesome. And that’s largely thanks to lovely old Hanks.
It's a Wonderful Life
The story of a man driven to the brink of suicide by financial pressures might not sound like the kind of film to get you in the Christmas spirit, but Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life has been a festive fixture since it was rediscovered in the ‘70s – and it looks surprisingly good in 4K.
Nearly 75 years after it was first released, the themes at the centre of It’s a Wonderful Life feel more relevant than ever, particularly corporate greed and men’s mental health. With many of us unable to see our families this Christmas, it’s a timely reminder about the impact we can all have on the world around us and how powerful basic human kindness can be.
2020 has been a good year for conspiracy theorists, but none of them have managed to come up with anything as outrageous as The Hunt (yet).
Like a cross between Battle Royale and Saw with more gags, it all starts when 12 strangers wake up in the middle of the countryside with nothing but a crate full of weapons and a pig for company. Singled out for their views concerning the so-called ‘liberal elite’, the deplorable dozen are soon being picked off in increasingly gruesome ways by a bunch of billionaires.
The Hunt doesn’t pick sides and no target is off limits. And while the points it makes aren’t especially thought-provoking, it’s got a bit more about it than you might expect from the outset. Just don’t get too attached to any of the characters.
Making fun of Nazis is nothing new but few have done it with as much silliness as Jojo Rabbit. The titular 10-year-old is an enthusiastically useless Hitler Youth member and Adolf superfan – so much so that der Führer has appeared as his imaginary friend, played with aforementioned glee by the film’s Jewish-Māori director Taika Waititi.
But the fledgling fascist’s swastika-addled melon gets seriously twisted when he discovers his mother has been hiding a young Jewish girl in their house. While the film’s tone can also be a bit unsure of itself, there are moments of genuine emotional power and some gloriously goofy gags – plus it’s almost worth watching for Stephen Merchant’s hilariously evil Gestapo officer alone.
Most fans of The Shining would’ve been quite happy for Doctor Sleep not to exist – but this spiritual sequel to the 1980 adaptation is anything but a simple return to the Overlook hotel.
Doctor Sleep is a more supernatural story than Kubrick’s 40-year-old classic, focusing squarely on the telepathic abilities of those like the now grown-up Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), who finds himself tangled up with a murderous cult that preys on children that remind him of his younger self.
In fact, Doctor Sleep is different enough that it almost feels like fan fiction – but with Mike Flanagan (of Gerald's Game fame) at the helm, and an engrossing performance from Rebecca Ferguson as cult leader Rose the Hat, it’s a solid companion piece to one of the finest horror films of all time.
The Invisible Man
No, not another superhero movie, but a smart, sci-fi reimagining of HG Wells’ 1897 novel of the same name. Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecilia, the estranged girlfriend of a controlling and abusive tech guru – but her problems don’t end when he dies of an apparent suicide.
Cecilia’s increasingly desperate pleas that she’s being stalked from beyond the grave by an invisible force only make her look unhinged to those around her, and while the film plays with ideas such as gaslighting and domestic abuse it does so without actually saying all that much.
There are moments of genuine shock though, and some brilliant solo scenes of Moss battling with her unseen tormenter. It just feels like something's missing...
Released to mark the 50th anniversary of the human race's grandest day out, Apollo 11 doesn’t need any talking heads or a grand voiceover to make the events of July 1969 feel significant, just the occasional graphic among the never-before-seen footage to keep you abreast of the main stages of the astronauts’ journey to the moon.
From the pre-launch preparations and crowds of people watching from the Florida shores, to a bustling mission control and the wild post-landing celebrations, some of the 4K film looks like it was shot yesterday, which sometimes makes you feel like you’re watching an incredibly well-conceived dramatisation. But the otherworldly pictures shot from onboard the spacecraft will always be mesmerising, no matter the number of pixels.
The Third Day
From Summerisle to Royston Vasey, there are some places where it’s just not worth booking an Airbnb – and after watching The Third Day you’ll want to add Osea Island to the list. Jude Law’s Sam stumbles upon this seemingly idyllic community by accident, but the evasive residents, dismembered animals, and bright orange insects soon suggest all is not as it seems.
Unsurprisingly, The Third Day owes a significant debt to The Wicker Man (the original, not Nic Cage’s comedy remake) but the involvement of immersive theatre company Punchdrunk makes this six-parter a real assault on the senses. That’s particularly true of the first three episodes, which veer from dreamlike to nightmarish as Sam gradually loses his grip on reality.
Unfortunately, the 12-hour, single-take episode that was live-streamed at the start of October and sits between the two halves isn’t available on-demand, although based on what went before it, watching that might be enough to tip anyone over the edge into madness.
Le Mans '66
Imagine if straight-talking, sideburn-sporting petrolhead Guy Martin had been given a part in Mad Men and you’ve pretty much got Christian Bale’s portrayal of hotshot racing driver Ken Miles in Le Mans ‘66 (minus the mutton chops).
Focusing on Ford’s battle to beat Ferrari at France’s world-famous endurance race, just watching a GT40 do laps for 2.5 hours would be entertainment enough for some. For everyone else, Le Mans ‘66 has a cast of very watchable characters, although they do occasionally border on cartoonish. Even an overly Hollywoodised ending doesn’t spoil the oil-stained fun.
Terminator: Dark Fate
With every new Terminator film the killer robots that arrive from the future just keep getting better. Unfortunately, that’s not been the case for the movies themselves, but Dark Fate finally bucks the trend.
The key reason for that is the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Here the grizzled veteran of T2 teams up with a hybrid soldier to protect factory worker Dani from a brand new cyborg that’s so deadly even a whole transit van to the face can’t kill it.
Dark Fate makes plenty of references to the first two movies and even brazenly rips some bits off. But it’s the larger-than-life fight scenes, including one that starts in the sky and ends underwater, plus an offbeat appearance from Arnie, that set Dark Fate apart from its less ruthlessly efficient predecessors.
For fans of Neapolitan gangster series Gomorrah, anti-hero Ciro Di Marzio always felt like the main man – and not just because he’s never encountered a situation too gloomy to wear sunglasses. It’s no great surprise, then, that he’s the subject of this feature-length spin-off.
While not quite a straight origin story, L’Immortale shows how Ciro went from an orphan stealing car stereos on the streets of Naples to fighting for control of the Latvian drug scene. While it won’t make total sense unless you’ve seen up to the end of season three of Gomorrah, which is also available in 4K on Sky, L’Immortale very much shares the show’s DNA.
Download Joker expecting to see spandex-clad beefcakes knocking seven CGI bells out of each other and you’re going to be disappointed. This isn’t a superhero movie. It’s not really a supervillain movie either, although it does have its fair share of silly outfits.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck – a wannabe stand-up comic in 1980s Gotham who’s sick of being the butt of everyone's jokes. Of course, we already know what becomes of him, but that doesn’t make watching Arthur’s tortured transformation any less mesmerising.
Apocalypse Now in space. That’s pretty much what Ad Astra wants to be. And while it doesn’t reach the highs of Coppolla’s fevered masterpiece – what film does? – there are far worse things to aim for.
Brad Pitt plays astronaut Roy McBride, whose father disappeared 30 years earlier on a mission to Neptune. When devastating electrical surges start to wreak havoc on earth and NASA suspects they may be coming from the far side of the solar system, who do you think they send up there to investigate?
It’ll burn too slowly for some, but you could almost ignore the plot and just admire Ad Astra’s incredible scenery, which makes it a particularly fine choice for 4K.
Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men
If the Wu-Tang Clan’s live shows are anything to go by, just getting all of them in one room is a significant achievement in itself – but there’s a lot more to Of Mics and Men than just a nostalgic get-together.
With archive footage of the group’s raucous early shows, a visit to Method Man’s former workplace on Liberty Island, and talking heads from Jim Jarmusch, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and each surviving member and their entourage, this four-part documentary examines how the punk ethos that made the Clan such a formidable force in the early ‘90s gradually weakened under the strain of their individual egos. If anything, it’s amazing they managed to squeeze it all into four hours.
Gangs of London
Eastenders meets The Raid. That’s how we imagine Gareth Evans pitched this more-than-a-little-bit-ludicrous nine-parter to the big cheeses at Sky. Of course, comparisons to the latter should come as no surprise – Evans is the man behind that adrenaline-pumping bulletstorm too – but Albert Square has never seen a fight as brutal as anything in Gangs of London.
It’s a bit ‘Guy Ritchie by Waitrose’ at times, and it’s needlessly complicated at others, but when things kick off there’s not a hint of mercy. Bones are split, skulls are cracked and blood is spilled. A lot of it. Could’ve put a bit more effort into the name though.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
At a whopping 161 minutes long, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tends to elicit one of two reactions: unadulterated Tarantino worship or extreme boredom. As usual, a more considered response probably resides somewhere in the middle.
Yes, there are looooong scenes of seemingly inconsequential dialogue that feel needlessly indulgent, QT’s weird obsession with women’s feet is more in-your-face than ever, and you’ll need a strong constitution to stomach the violence when it comes, but when have any of these things put people off his films before?
If Tom Hanks can fight off COVID-19, do you think a bunch of Somali pirates are going to cause him any problems? To answer that would obviously spoil Captain Phillips, but when you get a film named after you it’s a good sign you’re going to be the hero – despite what the crew might say about you afterwards.
Directed by Paul Greengrass – he’s the geezer that made the good Bourne films – it’s no surprise that Captain Phillips is a genuinely nail-biting account of the hijacking of a US container ship in 2009, but it also manages to avoid the ‘America, eff yeah!’ vibe that so many of Hollywood’s tales of heroism often fall into.
The Trip to Greece
It’s been nearly 10 years since Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon first toured the Lake District in a Chelsea tractor, eating in fancy restaurants, doing impressions and trying to have the last word. Surely the format can’t still work for a fourth series?
This time the duo are retracing the steps of Odysseus, which means they start in Turkey, where Coogan sets the tone with a Partridge-style ‘A-ha!’ from within a Trojan horse. They spend the rest of this very British comedy odyssey comparing Greek relics to Legoland, espousing the advances in modern dentistry as Don Corleone, and considering a cockney Henry VIII.
You’d think the appeal would’ve worn off by now, but with its breathtaking scenery and the pair's often quite revealing banter, there remains something quite compelling about eavesdropping on their working holidays. Series 3, The Trip to Spain, is also now available in Ultra HD.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
If you’ve not seen Blade Runner it can be difficult to know which of its many versions to watch. Do you go for the original theatrical release with the voiceover? The so-called director’s cut from 1982? If you want the maximum number of pixels, though, 2007’s Final Cut is your only option.
It’s also closer to director Ridley Scott’s original vision, telling the story of downtrodden cop Rick Deckard’s hunt for a group of killer humanoid robots on the rain-soaked, neon-lit streets of dystopian LA. Widely considered as one of the best movies ever made (no matter which version you watch) Blade Runner’s grimey take on the future changed sci-fi forever.
Imagine writing a sitcom about an interplanetary cruise that goes wrong and discovering that, according to experts from NASA, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, one of the best things for protecting a spaceship against galactic radiation is human plops. With gags like that being dropped into your lap, who needs to write any others?
Fortunately, series creator Armando Iannucci isn’t that lazy, so Avenue 5 is full of the typically inventive dialogue, memorable characters and couldn’t-make-it-up scrapes familiar from his previous work on The Thick of It and Veep. The first episode isn’t the strongest but once it gets into its stride Avenue 5 is much more than just Red Dwarf for the Tesla generation.
Quentin Tarantino’s films are famous for their scenes of tense verbal sparring, with the threat of bloody violence always just around the corner – but perhaps the finest example of it is the beer cellar confrontation from Inglourious Basterds.
The deliberately misspelled Nazi western is worth watching for that scene alone, but it’s also packed with loads of other zingers, Brad Pitt’s hilarious attempt to speak Italian, and a healthy dollop of fascist-bashing.