Co-produced by Netflix and the BBC, this British crime drama series is real state-of-the-nation stuff, with its ensemble cast and twisting plot allowing writer David Hare to delve into a wide gamut of UK-centric themes – from the refugee crisis to zero hours contracts to PTSD in the military.
At its core, though, Collateral is a murder mystery thriller, and Hare’s examinations of the modern-day UK don’t get in the way of a good old-fashioned police yarn – one that doesn’t feel the need to outstay its welcome either, with everything being wrapped up tidily in a brisk four episodes.
If you haven't already seen this stupendously well directed, impeccably acted, perfectly soundtracked and unforgettably scripted gangster yarn, whattaya waiting for? Close this page now, fire up Netflix and get settled in for two hours and twenty-five minutes of filmmaking at its very finest.
Martin Scorsese may have bagged his first Best Director Oscar for the decent crime flick Departed, but Goodfellas, an epic, heady plunge into the realities of life as a New York mobster in the 50s, 60s and 70s, deserved the shiny gold chap so much more (the fact that it lost out on the 1991 Best Picture award to Kevin Costner's worthy, enjoyable but now all-but forgotten Dances with Wolves tells you all you need to know about the Academy's judgement); at least Joe Pesci picked up the Best Supporting Actor gong for his turn as pint-sized psychopath Tommy DeVito, one of the great characters of 90s cinema.
As for Goodfellas, is it one of the best movies ever made? Fuggedaboudit.
Isn’t It Romantic
Sick of cliche-ridden romantic comedies? So is Natalie (Rebel Wilson), an Aussie architect whose New York lifestyle bears absolutely no resemblance to the romcoms she grew up watching; now bitter and cynical, she takes every opportunity to rail against how unrealistic and vapid they are – until she bumps her head and finds herself waking up in a very different Big Apple.
As you might imagine, Isn’t It Romantic sets out to send up the likes of Maid in Manhattan, Pretty Woman and Notting Hill – but it also conforms, perhaps necessarily, to many of the same tired tropes it’s lampooning. Still, predictable as it may be, it’s a brisk, enjoyable comedy that raises plenty of chuckles, especially for aficionados of the genre.
This Oscar-winning genre-bender functions both as old-fashioned horror movie and wry satirical exploration of modern racism – and, as you’d expect from a film written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele, it’s not short on humour either. Add in Daniel Kaluuya’s eye-catching lead performance as a black man about to spend a weekend with his white girlfriend’s family and you can see why it attracted the Academy’s attention. But cares about Oscar’s seal of approval? You have Stuff’s!
Chef’s Table (S6)
This beautifully made documentary series has always been a foodie’s dream watch, with each episode focussing on a single chef and his or her history and personal philosophy. If you’re the sort of person who loves cooking up a storm in the kitchen (or simply paying someone else to do it in restaurants), you’re probably already familiar with the show, now in its sixth series – but even those who don’t know a spatula from a slotted spoon should be able to appreciate the craftsmanship on show – from both the programme makers and their subjects.
Oh, and it’s all presented in pristine 4K UHD for those with the necessary subscription and TV, meaning the food looks almost real enough to taste. Our advice: don’t stream this with an empty stomach.
Everybody Loves Raymond’s Ray Romano gives the performance of his life in this simple, effective and affecting indie comedy. Romano stars as the neighbour and friend of the equally impressive Mark Duplass – the duo’s quiet, enjoyably mundane routine of martial arts movies, jigsaw puzzles, pizza and their invented pastime of “paddleton” disrupted by one of them’s diagnosis with terminal cancer and subsequent decision to end his own life.
What might have been a depressing, overwrought kitchen sink drama instead serves as a beautifully understated, unsentimental and utterly convincing depiction of male friendship – and certainly one of the best Netflix-produced movies we’ve seen.
I Think We’re Alone Now
A post-apocalyptic drama with a difference, with Peter Dinklage playing Del, a man who’s making the most of a mass killer epidemic. Left in his small town, he spends the days clearing houses of bodies, collecting batteries and returning library books – diligently working to restore order to a world lost to chaos, one vacant home at a time. That all changes when a young woman (Elle Fanning) arrives on the scene, tossing a spanner in the carefully oiled machinery of Del’s routine – and reminding him of life before the collapse.
While this movie never delves deeply enough into the themes it so clearly wants to explore, its cinematography, score and cast all work towards generating a novel view of the end of the world.
The Umbrella Academy (S1)
Based on the award-winning comics written by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, this dark fantasy series about a dysfunctional family of superheroes – including Ellen Page and Robert Sheehan – comes off like a mash-up of The X-Men, Hellboy, Misfits and Skins. Fifteen years after drifting apart, six unconventional siblings must reunite to save their world (an alternate reality Earth in which JFK was never assassinated) from apocalypse – not to mention a sociopathic assassin played by Mary J. Blige.
Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy (S1)
Judging by his behind-the-camera involvement in the creation of such classic stuff as Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Borat, you might assume veteran comedy writer, producer and director Larry Charles knows everything there possibly is to know about making people laugh. But this documentary series proves otherwise, as he travels the globe to explore exactly what constitutes comedy in the likes of Russia, Iran, India and China – and how being a joker in certain countries can prove a perilous pastime.
Dirty John (S1)
If you needed proof about how culturally significant podcasts have become, here it is: they’re now making TV series based on them. Yes, the original Dirty John series was a 2017-released audio-only true crime tale, and a very popular one, but Netflix has adapted it into a slick television thriller starring Eric Bana and Connie Britton. Bana plays the eponymous John, an outwardly charming man with whom our heroine Debra engages in a whirlwind romance – but there are signs, even early in the relationship, that John isn’t all he seems.
If you haven’t already pumped this terrifying real-life tale into your ears during your commute, why not experience it in a glossier visual format?
Star Trek: Discovery (S2)
The most intriguing concept for a Star Trek offshoot in, like, forever, Discovery plunges the viewer directly into an all-out war, ditching the series' classic episodic format along the way. As befits a show being released on Netflix, what you get here is instead a single story played out in full. Set a decade before the original team of Kirk, Spock et al set out on the Enterprise, it stars The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green as a mercurial Starfleet officer with a dark history.
The refreshed format gives the show space to develop without the pressures of time. It's Star Trek, Jim, but not as we know it. Heck, it even has swearing in it! And now it’s back for a second season, with a new episode added to Netflix each week.