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.
Watching an indie movie about jazz drumming might not sound like the most riveting way to spend an evening, but trust us: Whiplash is no ordinary movie about jazz drumming.
Miles Teller plays a music college student determined to become one of the skin-bashing greats. The only problem? He’s never good enough to impress his insanely demanding band conductor, played in Oscar-winning form by J. K. Simmons. Simmons’ monster of an instructor dominates the film right through to the unforgettable final reel. We doubt you’ve ever seen a music movie with so much blood, sweat and tears.
This is Football (S1)
From a Liverpool supporters’ club in Rwanda to a profile of the greatest living player, Amazon’s original documentary series is a love letter to the beautiful game, told through six hour-long films.
An exploration of the football phenomenon and its power to transcend sport, This is Football’s stories will appeal to those who’ve never kicked a ball in their lives as well as die hard fans. Live many Amazon-made series, it’s also available in 4K with HDR for those with compatible TVs.
The Big Lebowski
Does anyone not like the Coen brothers? Maybe there’s a woman somewhere in Minnesota who refuses to watch their films because Joel didn’t ask her to the prom in 1971. Maybe there’s a man somewhere in Cheshire who’s never seen any of them because Ethan looks like the bloke who ran over his dog. But the rest of us are all on board, right?
1996’s Fargo was the breakthrough movie that made their reputation for somehow managing to be funny, warm, dark and grotesque all at the same time. The Big Lebowski came along two years later and it’s every bit as watchable, with John Goodman and Jeff Bridges in a rambling, daft story of money, revenge, kidnapping, “soiled” rugs and bowling.
Christopher Nolan’s recreation of the British and French armies’ evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 is an audiovisual masterpiece, richly served with moments of both quiet grandeur and epic spectacle.
With comparatively little dialogue, few CGI effects and an enemy that’s never directly seen, Nolan conjures up the hopelessness of the surrounded British Expeditionary Force, trapped between the sea and the German army and prey to horrifying attacks from the air, and the heroism of soldiers, sailors, pilots and civilians caught up in a desperate situation. Hans Zimmer’s score, meanwhile, remains a masterclass in understated power.
The Boys (S1)
What if superheroes were real? And also real jerks? That’s the premise behind this excellent comic book adaptation from the makers of Preacher (also back on Amazon for its final season), in which a bunch of superstar costumed crusaders are owned and controlled by Vought, a ruthless corporation that keeps their bad behaviour – which ranges from voyeurism, alcoholism and drug abuse to outright murderous psychopathy – under wraps to keep the money rolling in.
When one super-powered outrage leaves a young man bereaved and bent on revenge, he joins a group of like-minded vigilantes with the aim of bringing down Vought once and for all. Effortlessly blending humour, action and drama, The Boys manages to be Amazon’s best original series in ages.