That’s right, lockdown is lifting — and you know what that means. No more days spent lounging around your lounge watching television in your pyjamas, or shuffling to bed in the early hours after a good series binge. And, while we’re sure that these content-devouring days will soon be remembered fondly, we’ll still excited to see them pass.
Over the last few months, we’ve had our square eyes opened to the sheer volume of entertainment out there. And, while Netflix had our heads turned pre-lockdown, we’ve now found a favourite streaming service in Amazon Prime. So, with your window to mine its depths for quality content rapidly shrinking, here’s what you should be watching…
If you’ve been studiously avoiding Pandemic over on Netflix because it feels a little too close to home, Utopia might not be quite right for you either. However, if you think your constitution can handle it then it’s well worth a watch. Originally aired on Channel 4 in 2013/14, the black comedy centres on a graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments – which is believed to have predicted past global disasters – and its unpublished sequel which may contain vital information for the survival of the human race. As hitmen, mysterious organisations and shady groups join the hunt for the manuscript, it falls to a group of internet conspiracy theorists to win the race and save the British public.
A more light-hearted take on preventing the apocalypse, this recent adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimen’s novel stars David Tennant and Michael Sheen as the demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale respectively. Having settled into a friendly camaraderie as the representatives of heaven and hell on earth, the two join forces to prevent the coming of the Antichrist and, in turn, Armageddon, in this fun, slightly absurdist and very British examination of friendship and religion. Special mention goes to Jon Hamm for his scene-stealing turn as the Angel Gabriel.
If you’ve seen any of English filmmaker Ben Wheatley’s other films — High-Rise and Sightseers are particular standouts — you’ll be ready to have the carpet pulled out from under you. Free Fire is a Seventies-set hoot, bringing together Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor and Sharlto Copley in an all-guns-blazing short story of backstabbing, betrayal and lots and lots of bullets. There’s more one-liners, sniping and accents than you’ll know what to do with and, once you’ve tuned in, only one thing will keep you watching. Armie. Hammer. And. His. Huge. Beard.
It’s time to face it. Even with the pubs open, we’re in this social distancing thing for the long haul so if there was ever a time to crack on with a six season, 121 episode box set it’s now. If you’ve never seen it (in which case, where were you for most of the noughties?), Lost follows a group of survivors whose commercial jet plane crashes on an island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean. However, it soon becomes clear that not everything on the island – and not everyone who has landed there – is as straightforward as they seem. Created by J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, if you can’t commit to the whole series then at least give the pilot a rewatch. At $14 million, it still ranks as one of the most expensive ever made.
No-one really talks about Sneaky Pete, and we can’t fathom why. With an utterly compelling lead in Giovanni Ribisi, and guest stars including Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and Succession’s Rory Culkin, it’s a show that ticks all the boxes on the casting front. The story, too, is second-to-none; a twisted tale of a released convict who, upon release, adopts the identity of his cell mate to avoid the enemies and consequences of his past life. Spoiler: both find him pretty quickly.
The Night Manager
We know there’s not much that’s going to make up for the postponement of No Time To Die but re-visiting The Night Manager comes close. Roundly agreed to be Tom Hiddleston’s six-hour audition tape for the role of 007, this adaptation of John le Carre’s novel of the same name see sHiddleston take on the role of Pine – and ex-British army officer turned night manager of a luxury hotel. When notorious illegal arms dealer Richard Roper pitches up late one night, Pine is recruited by the British secret service to infiltrate his inner circle and much slick spy action ensues. Hugh Laurie, Tom Hollander, Olivia Colman, Elisabeth Debicki and David Harewood also star.
Now this is a weird one. Like really weird. And, rather than watching it for actually being good, you’d be better off flicking it on out of curiosity. The premise of the show is that it was a ‘lost’ Romanian buddy-cop series from the 1980s, initially created to promote a communist worldview. Now ‘found’, the actors have all been dubbed by famous English-speaking voices — listen for Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nick Offerman and more — and we watch the retro antics play out. Amazingly, it’s stranger than it sounds.
Another for those nursing No Time To Die withdrawal – catch soon-to-be Bond villain Remi Malek exercising his full acting repertoire as cybersecurity engineer turned vigilante super-hacker Elliot Alderson in Mr Robot. The fourth and final season aired at the end of 2019 meaning you can now binge the series in its full glory. If you’re put off by the seemingly impenetrable subject matter – don’t be. Creator Sam Esmail has done an incredible job of building a show that is not only one of the most accurate depictions of hacking, but also one of the most accessible thanks to Malek’s relatable performance and the recognisable evils he faces in the form of corrupt corporations.
Feeling a little disillusioned with the current political climate? This is the film for you. Starring Christian Bale as former Vice-President Dick Cheney, this comedic biopic largely focuses on his time during the Bush administration, with flashbacks to his rise through the ranks of American politics. But don’t expect anything overly reverential – this is very much a skewering of Cheney and those around him, including his wife Lynne (Amy Adams), Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) and Colin Powell (Tyler Perry). It divided critics when it was released in 2018 but went on to receive eight Oscar nominations so we think it’s worth your time.
Perry Mason may be coming to HBO, but this LA-set noir is well worth a watch in the meantime. Titus Welliver and his extraordinarily striking face star as the eponymous Detective Harry Bosch, and there are now six seasons of his renegade actions to get through. As a Special Forces veteran working in the Hollywood homicide division, he’s understandably world-weary, but astute enough to put a rough-and-ready spin on the sharply Sherlockian detectives we’ve all come to love. In a savvy move, Welliver’s real-life son plays a young Bosch in frequent flashbacks.
What We Do In The Shadows
You might have caught the spin off series of the same name which aired on BBC Two last year but, despite its 94% Rotten Tomatoes rating, we reckon the original 2014 feature film is even better (coincidentally, Rotten Tomatoes agrees – it wins by 2%). A cult hit for Australian director Taika Waititi – who has since gone on to direct Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and receive Oscar nominations for Jojo Rabbit – What We Do In The Shadows is a mockumentary following four vampires who live in a flatshare in Wellington. Sharp, clever and incredibly funny, Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s script is a masterclass in how to take a centuries old story and make it fresh again.
We know what you’re thinking – isn’t this a children’s film? – but hear us out here. If you haven’t seen Paddington yet, it’s exactly the kind of warm, cosy, feel good film you need right now. Yes, it is technically for children, and the plot is a little silly, but that’s really besides the point because Paddington is also so funny, heartwarming and quintessentially British that even the greatest cinema sophisticate couldn’t help but be charmed by it. Excellent performances by the who’s who of film – including Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Nicole Kidman and Julie Walters – don’t hurt either. (Plus, when you’re done, Paddington 2 is streaming on Amazon Prime as well.)
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