Butter the popcorn.
The sun is out, the birds are singing, and the cinemas… still aren’t open. But that doesn’t mean when it comes to things to watch there’s nothing new (or new to you) out there. Whether it’s streaming services or good-old physical media, the last month has delivered a flood of things worth your valuable screen time – here’s our top five picks covering all your options (including one you might have to sneak across the border to see).
On the Rocks (Apple TV)
Laura (Rashida Jones) is a mother of two who’s doing pretty well for herself, with a nice apartment in New York, two adorable daughters and Dean (Marlon Wayans) a hard-working husband who’s caring and attentive. Okay, her daily routine has hardened into a rut and she can’t find her way back into her writing, but things could always be worse. For example, she could start to suspect Dean of cheating on her just when her freewheeling father Felix (Bill Murray) lobs back into her life.
Having writer / director Sophia Coppola back working with Murray again on their first feature since Lost in Translation is the big hook here, but this never really recaptures the spark. Murray is still fun (though a big more smug this time around), but it’s Jones who carries this, really selling her character as adrift in a life that should be just what she wants. It’s hardly a classic, but the New York streets look fantastic.
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon)
The mere existence of a Borat movie in 2020 seems both completely reasonable and totally bizarre. Which is pretty much the experience you’ll have watching this. Sent back to the US of America to curry favour with strongman Trump by giving his near feral “female son” (name name) to Vice President Pence, incompetent good-hearted racist Borat (Sasha Baron Cohen) is now too famous to walk the streets and so has to don a series of dubious disguises to achieve his pranking of the American public.
This is a rare comedy that gets funnier as it goes along, and when the pranks don’t quite click there’s always the “are those people in on it?” question to keep you watching. The real surprise here is newcomer NAME, who more than holds her own with her own stunts and gradually becomes the heart of a surprisingly sweet tale of father-daughter bonding in between Holocaust denial and mobs chanting for journalists to be killed.
The Winslow Boy (blu-ray)
Over the last few months local DVD and blu-ray distributor ViaVision has been attracting a lot of attention and plaudits for their new [Imprint] line of limited edition blu-ray titles. October’s collection has a number of high profile titles that pretty much sell themselves, such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s first film Hard Eight, the uncut version of Sam Peckinpah’s first feature-length western Major Dundee, and Italian trash classic Danger: Diabolik.
While they’re grabbing all the attention, it’d be a shame to overlook David Mamet’s adaptation of iconic play The Winslow Boy, a turn of the century drama about a schoolboy accused of a crime his family can’t let go. Mamet takes his obsession with repression to extremes here, turning a moving morality tale about stiff-upper lip values into a film that seethes under its perfect Edwardian surface.
Happy s2 (DVD)
These days streaming shows are being cut off in their prime left and right, but it wasn’t all that long ago that just about everything was getting a second series and more. How else to explain the second series of Happy!, a series about a demented ex cop and imaginary flying unicorn that accompanies him on his vengeance-fuelled rampages?
Going too far was always the point with this series, which makes this completely superfluous second (and final) series probably the show’s purest form. Basically a showcase for Christopher Meloni to go completely nuts, that’s more reason to exist than most television series have; it’s the kind of wild ride you might not think you’re enjoying at the time, but afterwards you won’t regret a thing.
Honest Thief (if Victorian cinemas open in the next few weeks)
Tom Carter (Liam Neeson) is a break-and-enter thief who’s racked up a seven-figure haul from various banks over the last few years. Then he meets Annie (Kate Walsh) at the storage center she owns and runs, and he promptly falls head over heels in love. Time passes, he realises he can’t go on living a lie with her, and so it’s time for the so-called “In-and-Out Bandit” to give himself up. Fortunately everything goes wrong from there and soon it’s car chases and gun battles on the streets of Boston.
This isn’t exactly Neeson’s best action movie (so maybe don’t make a run for the border to find an interstate cinema showing it), but it does deliver pretty much everything you want from everyone’s favourite Angry Dad in arse-kicking mode. And after the winter we’ve all had, don’t we deserve the chance to sit back, relax, and watch a pissed-off Liam Neeson run around trying to save someone he loves?