It might be tempting, but don’t call Creed the seventh Rocky movie. Despite having Sylvester Stallone reprise his most famous role, the real star here is Michael B Jordan as the son of Rocky’s old ring rival and friend Apollo Creed.
Jordan’s outstanding in the role – all muscle-aching physicality in the boxing sequences, but no less impressive in the dramatic scenes as a man struggling with the idea of following in the footsteps of a father he never knew – while Stallone provides superb support as the ageing, lonely former champ.
American Gods (S2)
After a lengthy hiatus and an inordinate amount of behind-the-scenes strife – the studio replaced the original showrunners, and then replaced the showrunner brought in to replace them – this astonishing-looking, mind-expanding modern fantasy series based on Neil Gaiman’s novel is back for a long-anticipated second season.
Concerning the war brewing between the deities of the ancient and the modern worlds, American Gods is like a Technicolor fever dream – and hey, it’s even got Lovejoy playing Odin.
The Secret of Marrowbone
A well-crafted haunted house tale set in the 1960s, The Secret of Marrowbone ticks off a whole bunch of genre tropes: creepy mirrors, a huge decrepit house emitting weird noises, helpless children left to their own devices. Despite all that, it still manages to deliver some shocks and surprises by its final reel.
While it doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its first act, the cast of mostly young Brits, including Anya Taylor Joy (The Witch), George MacKay (Captain Fantastic), Mia Goth (Suspiria) and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things) does an admirable job of portraying a group of people plagued by dark secrets, troubled pasts and frighteningly present dangers.
The Usual Suspects
A bone fide 1990s indie classic, this twisting, turning thriller about a bunch of career criminals being forced into one last job is well worth rewatching if you haven’t had the pleasure recently (you’ll pick up a lot of stuff that’ll make you feel clever for paying attention) and certainly deserves a first viewers for anyone too young or too contrary to see it at some point during the 20-plus years since it was made.
Told almost entirely in flashback as Kevin Spacey’s conman “Verbal” Kint is interrogated by a US Customs agent in the wake of a bloody attempted heist, the movie winds towards its unforgettable conclusion in slick, gritty neo-noir fashion.
Las Vegas was pulled up out of the desert to feed partygoers everything they want… until all they want is darkness, sleep and a bucketload of Alka Seltzer. And The Hangover is the movie incarnation of that attitude of unbridled hedonism, a film in which a four-man stag party in Sin City careers outrageously off the rails. With, need it be said, hilarious consequences.
If you’re hungry for more, the two sequels are also available on Amazon Prime – but personally we feel like the first instalment is comfortably the best.
The Expanse (S1-3)
Amazon Prime recently acquired the first three seasons of this hit sci-fi series (previously available on Netflix here in the UK), and has also committed to producing a brand new fourth season in the near future – true balm for the millions of fans left devastated following its cancellation by original maker SyFy.
That news will be music to the ears of anyone who digs sprawling, critically-acclaimed and morally complex space operas, as The Expanse is all of those things. Set a couple of centuries in the future where humanity’s colonisation of the solar system has resulted in a cold war-like tension between three competing factions – Earth, Mars and the poor workers in the asteroid belt – it’s like Game of Thrones with rail guns instead of dragons. Better yet, it’s all available to stream in beautiful 4K UHD – provided you have a telly with the prerequisite number of pixels, natch.
By some stretch the most accomplished, most interesting and best made horror film of 2018, Hereditary starts out like a family drama with some piquant supernatural seasoning and ends as… well, that’d be spoiling things and telegraphing a ride filled with more tummy-wrenching twists than a runaway rollercoaster.
When her strangely secretive mother dies, it forces Annie (Toni Collette in absolutely killer form) to examine the ways in which her behaviour had affected and shaped her family – not just herself, but her son Peter and daughter Charlie, both of whom seem troubled by unspoken issues. When these troubles come to the fore, they result first in tragedy, then descend into full-on nightmare.
If you’re looking for an intelligent, thought-provoking film that retains the power to shock – a modern movie that’s very much in the same mould as the likes of The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby or Don’t Look Now – look no further.
If you thought Australian cinema began and ended with Crocodile Dundee, brace yourself for two hours with the Cody family – Melbourne’s answer to the Corleones. The Codys’ crime of choice is armed robbery (with a spot of drug dealing and murder on the side) but things get complicated when 17-year-old relative Josh comes to stay after his mother dies of a heroin overdose.
With towering Oscar-nominated performance by Jacki Weaver as the mob matriarch and Ben Mendelsohn creepily shining as eldest son Pope (has he ever played anyone who isn’t a total bastard?), Animal Kingdom is arguably the best organised crime movie since The Departed.
An attempt to cut past (pun absolutely intended) the salacious tabloid headlines and get to the root (again, intended) of the story, Lorena is a four-part documentary series about the 1993 incident in which a woman took a kitchen knife to her husband’s most treasured body part; the resulting two court cases became worldwide news – and perhaps served as a microcosm of the early years of the western world’s current run of culture wars surrounding marriage, sexism, gender, patriarchy and identity.
Executive produced by Get Out director and comedian Jordan Peele, Lorena could have easily been as tacky as the early coverage of the case – but instead it delves sensitively and masterfully into the story via interviews with both parties, their legal teams, the police, the press, friends and associates.
Once Upon a Time in America
Italian director Sergio Leone, known for spaghetti westerns like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, yearned to make a trilogy set in urban America – but ended up making one incredibly long movie instead. Clocking in at almost four hours, Once Upon a Time in America requires both a bladder of iron and an extremely comfy couch to get through in a single sitting, but trust us: it’s totally worth it.
Weaving a tale of Jewish New York gangsters that spans five decades, this movie is Leone’s final film and widely regarded as his masterpiece. Roger Ebert once called it the best film depicting the Prohibition era ever made, but it’s its touching representation of friendship, love and the passage of time that lingers longest in the memory. Just make sure you’re well stocked up on snacks before hitting “play”.