With Lockdown upon us once more many of us are taking solace in the screen and catching up on long put-off boxsets and movies. But with so much available to stream/rent/download it can be hard to know where to begin.
So let Screentime's John Fardy pick out some diamonds in the mine for you.
The Duchess – A hilarious comedy with a heart
Canadian Comedian Katherine Ryan plays an adoring mother who doesn’t care about much else in her life. The father of her child is a former boyband star now living ‘off-grid’ (played brilliantly by Irish actor Rory Keenan) on a canal boat and Katherine can’t stand him but bizarrely is considering having another baby with him so her daughter can have a sibling.
It’s really funny and occasionally very crude but also sweet and has some nice messages about parenting and family.
The Odd Couple - The Greatest Comedy Ever
Ok so claiming anything is ‘the greatest’ of anything is always a stretch but for my money this late 60’s Neil Simon scripted movie about an uptight neat freak who moves in with his slovenly best friend is the most consistently funny film from start to finish. Walter Matthau’s plays Oscar whose growing exasperation at Jack Lemmon’s Felix is one of the funniest things you will ever see.
Very few comedies keep you laughing the whole way through but the Odd Couple never lets up
The Virtues- Bruised and Magnificent Television
Nothing quite prepares you for the sheer rawness of this Shane Meadows Drama. Stephen Graham gives the performance of a lifetime playing a lost soul returning to his Irish birthplace to attempt to find some solace from the demons that plague him. There are also great performances from our own acting pool thanks to Niamh Algar and Helen Behan.
This is a haunting show that stays in your memory long after the credits roll.
Always Be My Maybe- A Jolly Sweet Romcom
Ali Wong and Randall Park wrote and star in this wonderfully sweet Romcom about two childhood friends who had a brief romance as teenagers and then reconnect in adult life with funny and heartfelt results.
This is a romcom that holds your attention the whole way through by avoiding enough genre clichés. The extended Cameo by Keane Reeves is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen and worth watching the movie for alone.
The Mandalorian- A New Hope for Star Wars Fans
Believe the hype; this really is great and any Star Wars worth their salt will love it. Star Wars has often been described as a Western set in Space and the Mandalorian runs with that theme. It centres on an Ethical Upstanding Bounty Hunter who is tasked with minding the much talked about ‘Baby Yoda’ and the adventures they encounter as they fly through the Galaxy.
The magic of it is that nearly episode can be watched and enjoyed by itself even if you haven’t seen the rest.
Girls- The show Sex and the City Could Have Been
Created by the deeply talented Lena Dunham this is Comedy Drama of the highest quality. Dunham plays Hannah , an aspiring writer who doubts her every move and navigates life with three of her friends who are equally as mixed up and often behave more like ‘frenimies’ with their constant snipes. The sex scenes are often very real and frank as are the emotional vulnerabilities of the leads. And it’s also very funny at times.
The Staircase – The Ultimate ‘Did he Do It?’
One of the complaints often levelled at true crime documentaries is that they are too long and only need half the episodes but the Staircase merits it’s 13. Centring on the trial of the writer Michael Peterson who is accused of murdering his wife there are so many twists and turns that you feel like you are a member of the Jury who can’t make up their mind about the guilt of the accused.
It’s an overused and slightly nonsensical word but this is ‘Binge-worthy’
Up in the Air- A movie about flying that might also be about Lockdown
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is happiest when he’s 20,000 feet in the air as he traverses America by plane for his job which is a corporate ‘downsizer’ where he fires people for a living. His mission in life is to rack up a million air miles. But life is starting to get in the way due to a young rookie (Anna Kendrick) coming on aboard and also Ryan’s no-strings Romantic life starting to take its toll. Clooney is suave but also struggling in this underrated classic about being stuck in a box.
The Secret Garden – Perennial Tale that speaks to every generation.
The Secret Garden has been made into a movie and TV show several times and something about a child overcoming life’s hardships seems to resonate down the ages. In this latest version Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx) is orphaned in India and sent to a stately home run by her laconic and heartbroken uncle play by Colin Firth. Mary’s sad life improves when she wanders into a garden that has wonders and will ultimately save her.
The power of nature to triumph over despair feels very apt for 2020.
The Sopranos- The Show that started it all.
In a way the current golden age of TV began with the HBO Classic that was more like a Mega movie than a traditional TV Show. Although on the surface a Mob drama it also contains Freudian Psychology and allusion to Proust.
It is, quite simply, one of the greatest televisions ever made and maybe the best. If you haven’t seen it treat yourself; it contains multitudes.
Main Image:Atmosphere at the Disney+'s THE MANDALORIAN Premiere held at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, CA on Sunday, ?November 10, 2019. (Photo By Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA)