10 Films to watch on Now TV/Sky Cinema
This is the first of a series of recommendations of what to watch on the major streaming services, which I will publish on the 1st of every month so that you have plenty of film recommendations for the coming weeks, and know just where to find them. Now/Sky’s platform is lacking in many ways, with a poor user interface and the need to download a video app (Now TV Player) in order to watch anything on a laptop or tablet. It is also fairly pricey, and does that skin-crawling thing where they only offer you deals when you try and unsubscribe and make you press the “yes, I really do want to leave” button about 6 times before you can finally escape their clutches. Nevertheless, it is the platform which houses the most extensive cinematic range of films, with an excellent historical catalogue of movies that services like Netflix (by choice, I’m sure) just don’t compete with. Here are 10 of the best currently available on the platform…
Greed (Michael Winterbottom, 2019)
A recently uploaded British satire that reunites comedy superstars Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan (the two having previously worked together on 24 Hour Party People , A Cock and Bull Story  and The Trip , some of the greatest British comedy output of the 21st century). Greed has faced mixed reviews, perhaps because of its blunt, politicised content, but I think it is absolutely excellent – a lesson in the privileged lives of the super rich, and a scathing attack on the sheer greed of these people, all while sustaining a biting comic edge.
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
A film lauded by so many polls as the best of the last decade. Though it wouldn’t make my top 100, it is still well worth watching to make up your own mind. Be prepared for a rip-roaring ride in an imaginatively designed world, with plenty of action and stunts, but plenty of character and moral messaging regarding class and feminism too. Don’t be afraid if you haven’t seen the other Mad Max films; Fury Road stands alone as an excellent piece of work, a film that demonstrates that sometimes simplicity can be more compelling than the most intricate complexity.
Apollo 13 (Ron Howard, 1995)
The 90s was a great decade for cinema, but did it ever produce anything more iconic than Tom Hanks anxiously reporting “Houston, we have a problem”? The line kicks off a thrilling masterpiece that keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though you know how it ends. All the science and problem solving makes for a surprisingly great movie, enhanced further still by the fact that you know these are all real events. In 1970, real scientists down on Earth scrambled to save the lives of three brave men who were hurtling through space in a broken tin can, and today you can relive it, with all its shocking, astonishing-to-think-this-really-happened twists and turns.
Frozen II (Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, 2019)
I could go on for hours about how lucky we are to have all the animated films we have been blessed with in the 21st century. There is such variety and depth of imagination, wonders can literally come to life in front of your very eyes. This was never more true than in Frozen (Lee and Buck, 2013), and there was much trepidation as to whether they could back up their animated masterpiece with their second effort. Though some characters lose their purpose, and there is no song quite as good as “Let it Go”, while you are watching Frozen II you slowly begin to realise that, yes, it is just as good as the original. By its climax, with its twin heroines hitting all the right notes and rounding out their character arcs to perfection, it becomes a visual and aural cornucopia that sweeps you away in its wonderful flow.
Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
The movie that really put Spike Lee on the directorial map, Do The Right Thing is a masterful work that considers the relationships between different groups of young people in a New York neighbourhood, and the conflicts that can escalate therein. Often described as a comment on the treatment of black people in America, Do The Right Thing goes beyond that. It is a race relations drama that has many strings to its bow, and considers the way white people, black people, Italian Americans, and Asian Americans all contribute to America’s problem with racism. If nothing else, however, you should watch this movie for its quirky style that Lee has never quite matched since, and the plethora of young acting talent on show here: from John Torturro to Giancarlo Esposito to Samuel L. Jackson.
Blood Diamond (Edward Zwick, 2006)
A ruthless beast of a film that explores the diamond trafficking industry in Sierra Leone and doesn’t shirk on the horrors of civil war, the behaviour of lawless mercenaries, and the lengths that people will go to as they try to gain money and power, or in some cases, simply escape poverty. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers yet another incredible performance as a dangerous but good-hearted Rhodesian mercenary, nailing the accent and demonstrating his devastating range of acting ability. Blood Diamond is as gripping as it is heart-wrenching, but make sure you are mentally prepared for the brutality that awaits if you settle down on your sofa to watch this movie.
The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1998)
Is it just me, or are the Coen brothers’ comedies their best films? I adore Burn After Reading (2008), and I adore The Big Lebowski. We follow The Dude (Jeff Bridges) and his friends played by John Goodman and Steve Buscemi as they get into hijinks everywhere from the bowling alley to a covert exchange of far more money than these incompetent men should be handling. Let’s face it, with a trio this good heading the film, I’d be lapping it up no matter what they were doing, and as silly and inconsequential as the film is, you’ll have a hell of a lot of fun watching it and come out of the experience with plenty of quotable lines to annoy your friends with.
Zulu (Cy Endfield, 1964)
Ok, so it’s very obviously a British Empire film, with imperialism and conflict in foreign lands at its very core, but it’s hard to resist Zulu’s sheer entertainment factor. It is well-paced, with tense siege-style action broken up with moments of calm, and very solid performances all round, most notably by Michael Caine. Plus, a fascinating counter-narrative has developed within criticism on this movie, suggesting that Zulu is in fact an anti-imperialist movie, with its depictions of unnecessary bloodshed and loss of life a powerful anti-war sentiment that trumps the brave colonial heroism of the characters. Endfield’s film, then, is certainly worth a watch, if only to reconsider its message and morals.
The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955)
Probably the best of the Ealing comedies, The Ladykillers is such a straightforward yet endlessly entertaining treat. The simple story of a gang of incompetent criminals trying to pull off a heist while renting the rooms of a kind and lawful old woman has been adapted many times, with versions including a Coen brothers directed remake starring Tom Hanks, and a West-End theatrical production. None has topped the original, though, and Alec Guinness and his hapless band of crooks are guaranteed to make you laugh no matter how many times you re-watch this movie.
About a Boy (Chris and Paul Weitz, 2002)
I just love About a Boy – Hugh Grant playing the ultimate Hugh Grant character as a rich bachelor with no responsibilities until he meets a young, father-less Nicholas Hoult, who displays every inch of the talent that makes him one of the top actors working today. The chemistry between the two is what really makes this film work, and although it attempts to touch on serious social problems like single parenting and depression with only moderate success, About a Boy always carries itself with an air of fun and a lightness that keeps it eminently watchable, even if it is a little predictable and schmaltzy.