The best-loved, boldest and baldest captain of the USS Enterprise makes a long overdue return to our screens in this Amazon exclusive 10-part series. That’s right: almost 20 years after last playing Jean-Luc Picard, the incomparable Patrick Stewart is heading back into space.
Picard is now retired, mourning lost friends and making wine rather than exploring the far reaches of the galaxy, but something is about to drag him back to the stars. A much more contemplative and slow-paced series than the action-packed Star Trek: Discovery, it features a number of old faces likely to delight Prime-subscribing Trekkies: Data, Troi, Riker and even Borg-turned-goodie Seven of Nine all return.
A spin-off from the Jason Bourne movie series, Treadstone delves into the murky world of CIA black ops, in particular the creation of a gaggle of elite sleeper agent assassins that don’t even know they’re elite sleeper agent assassins. Look out for bone-crunching bust-ups, shadowy spymasters and conflicted killers trotting across the globe like so many murderous Instagram influencers.
Dragged Across Concrete
S. Craig Zahler’s previous movies, Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, were not for the faint of heart – if you like your cinema gutsy and brainy (i.e. with plenty of both splattered around), these artfully made B movies are probably right up your street.
Dragged Across Concrete, which stars Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn as disgruntled cops seeking an off-the-books payday, is perhaps a little less gore-drenched, but boasts the same naturalistic neo-noir style – long takes, restrained acting and hard-boiled dialogue – punctuated by outbursts of extreme violence. It doesn’t always make for a pretty watch, but as dark, gritty thrillers go, you won’t find many better.
The Expanse (S4)
Having saved this superb space opera series from an untimely cancellation at the hands of original makers SyFy, Amazon appears to have inundated its showrunners with enough cash to up its production values as it “expands” (yeah, we went there) into uncharted parts of the cosmos in this fourth season.
The Expanse’s sobering vision of a near-future solar system colonised by rival factions is what’s known as “hard sci-fi”: mercilessly rooted in actual science and as eye-opening as it is narratively enthralling. If you like the idea of Game of Thrones in space, this show is crying out to be your next box-set binge.
The Disaster Artist
James Franco directs and stars in this retelling of the making of the best bad movie ever committed to film: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Franco’s turn as the enigmatic, vaguely vampiric Wiseau (Where is he really from? How old is he? Where does all his money come from?) is frightening accurate, while his real-life brother Dave plays Greg Sestero, the wide-eyed wannabe who somehow becomes embroiled in Wiseau’s opus of awful acting, bizarre plotlines and frankly distressing love scenes.
While Franco has wisely made The Disaster Artist accessible for everyone, those who have seen The Room will likely get much more of a kick out of it. It’s also an incredible piece of work in its own right, somehow transcending its all-round dreadfulness to become something almost magical. Seek it out if you can.
David Fincher’s cinematic deep dive on the Zodiac Killer and the men who tried to unmask and capture him is a quiet masterpiece buoyed along by its tone, acting, editing and camerawork.
Less showy than some of Fincher’s previous movies and entirely lacking in the sort of hysterical approach taken by many serial killer films, Zodiac will leave you with more questions than answers – a traditional whodunnit, this ain’t. Looking back years after its release, we think it’s one of the finest films of the noughties and a future classic: creepy, funny and thought-provoking, with impeccable performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo.
Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer-winning novel about a shattered world and the father and son trying to stay together in it is given an appropriately sombre and sobering screen adaptation by Australian director John Hillcoat.
While translating McCarthy’s remarkable prose directly to the screen would be impossible, Hillcoat manages to retain the book’s themes and oppressive tone, with Viggo Mortensen delivering a typically impressive performance in the lead role. Word of warning: even if you’ve had your fill of bleak post-apocalyptic movies, you might find the world as depicted in this film to be arrestingly dark and depressing – which makes its rare points of light all the more noticeable.
Look up the word ‘iconic’ in the dictionary and, if it’s not a very good one (for this is not really how dictionaries are supposed to work), you’ll find Anton Corbijn’s photos of Ian Curtis and Joy Division. This, the Dutch director’s biopic of the band’s late frontman, will probably never be as highly regarded as those stills, but thanks to a twitchy and intense performance from Sam Riley and the strength of the band’s music and the film’s source material (Touching from a Distance, written by Curtis’s widow Deborah), few music flicks capture the spirit of a musician with the artistic elegance of Control.
The Man in the High Castle (S4)
One of Amazon’s flagship original series – as well as a trailblazing showcase for TV visuals, thanks to being laden with HDR and UHD eye candy – is back with a long-awaited fourth and final season.
While The Man in the High Castle may have started out as a fairly straightforward “here’s what America might be like had the Nazis won World War II” alt-historical drama, by the end of the second season it had outwardly embraced its sci-fi underpinnings (it’s based on a book by Philip K Dick, after all), adding a bit of extra spice – and a few extra parallel universes – to what was in danger of becoming ponderous and formulaic. Bring on the weirdness, Amazon.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (S1-7)
The sorely missed Anthony Bourdain has never been more watchable than in this long-running CNN series – part travelogue, part culinary culture guide – in which he journeys to hitherto overlooked areas of the world in search of interesting things to munch on, but always finds much more than a few tasty tilapia tacos or deep-fried sea urchins.
If the format sounds a bit “Rick Stein on a gap year”, the actuality is far more enjoyable. Bourdain’s warmth, empathy, inquisitiveness and adventurous spirit shine through over the course of 64 episodes – now that’s a true feast of informative, eye-opening and mouth-watering television.