Want to hunker down in front of a screen but stuck for something to watch?
Here are the films, TV shows and special streaming events on our cultural radar right now, plus some of our favourites from recent weeks that you can catch up on…
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The Sparks Brothers
It’s slightly too long and doesn’t touch quite enough on the life outside the band and the fraternal relationship of Ron and Russell Mael, but Edgar Wright’s film portrait of one of the world’s strangest pop bands will delight music fans, and Wright is the perfect director for this visually performative pair. Nice use too of trippy animations.
The Most Beautiful Boy in the World
This melancholy and rather disturbing documentary charts the fortunes of the beautiful young boy who played Tadzio in the Visconti’s Death in Venice. Bjorn Andresen, who anchors the film as a waif-like 66 year old, was exploited by the director and by his guardians, building on layers of personal tragedy to irreversibly damage an already fragile spirit. And yet, there is hope.
It’s hardly going to change the world but parents will view the release of this silly jungle adventure starring the always watchable Emily Blunt and Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson (and a foppish Jack Whitehall) with some relief, and though it’s predictable nonsense, a very funny turn from the wonderful Jesse Plemons as a villainous German aristocrat keeps it from walking the plank.
There’s something endlessly entertaining about terrible tattoos (unless you’ve got one, that is). This mega bingeable new show from Netflix offers cover-ups to people with questionable ink - with a twist. The new design is not chosen by them but by their friend, and they don’t get to see it until it’s finished. Painful in more ways than one.
Powerful personal testimonies are skillfully woven together with archive footage in this three-part documentary co-directed by Steve McQueen and Joe Rogan, now on iPlayer. A companion piece for McQueen’s film series Small Axe, it examines the New Cross Fire, which killed 13 black teenagers in 1981, the Black People’s Day of Action and the Brixton riots, events which have not been explored on primetime TV on such a scale.
Still sore about it not coming home? Here’s some extremely wholesome counter-programming. Fresh from picking up a massive 20 Emmy nominations, series two of Apple TV’s cheery comedy about a relentlessly positive American football coach (Jason Sudeikis) brought in to lead ailing team AFC Richmond kicks off today. Off pitch, Hannah Waddingham’s Rebecca and Juno Temple’s Keeley steal scenes with their double act.
A new BBC documentary about Amy Winehouse marks ten years since her tragic death, featuring interviews from family and friends who have never spoken publicly about her before. It’s very much presented as a corrective to Asif Kapadia’s 2015 Oscar-winning documentary, which the family distanced themselves from at the time. It may not tell us anything new, but it’s a moving portrait of Winehouse as beloved daughter and friend.
BBC Two, July 23 at 9pm
She may be only 23, but Naomi Osaka is already one of the most feared and respected stars of the tennis court. Her recent withdrawal from the French Open sparked an important conversation about mental health in the game, and this new three-part documentary series sheds more light on a thoughtful, focused and unassuming young athlete.
This Way Up
Aisling Bea and Sharon Horgan are the perfect double act as sisters Aine and Shona in this Channel 4 comedy, which has just returned for a second series. This time around, their dynamic has shifted slightly: Aine seems to have finally found some tentative stability, while her hyper-capable older sibling is floundering.
Channel 4, Wednesdays at 10pm; all episodes streaming on All4
Anyone fascinated by the weird and wonderful world of influencer culture will be gripped by this BBC Three documentary about Belle Gibson, a con artist masquerading as a wellness guru. She wooed millions of followers with her claims that natural therapies and a plant based diet had helped to cure her terminal cancer - until a journalist in her native Australia exposed the fact she’d never had cancer in the first place.
The Wedding of the Century
Here’s one for The Crown addicts (guilty): a new documentary by BritBox has restored footage from the wedding of Princess Charles and Princess Diana to modern 4k resolution. It promises to show us every crinkle in Lady Di’s gown, as well as including new interviews with the people who made the day happen, from the choir conductor to the cake baker.
Two of Us
70-somethings Nina and Madeleine seem to their friends and family to be the best of neighbours, but in truth, they have been a loving couple for decades, sharing their building’s top floor. When Madeleine is taken ill, their secret begins to unravel, to the consternation of her relatives. This touching but tense drama is a superb feature debut by Filippo Meneghetti.
In cinemas now
Now available to watch both in cinemas and on Disney+ Premier Access, this long-awaited solo outing for Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanov does not disappoint. More wry Bond than big dumb superhero, it’s an ass-kicking triumph anchored by the deadpan screwball chemistry between Natasha and her ‘sister’ Yelena, played magnificently by Florence Pugh.
In cinemas now and on Disney+ Premier Access
Some seriously thorny issues are considered in this thoughtful feature debut by Jeremy Hersch, in which a young African-American woman agrees to serve as a surrogate for a gay couple, but all parties find themselves at odds when a test reveals Downs Syndrome. It’s anchored by a brilliant central performance from Jasmine Batchelor.
A sensual, bleak and meticulously authentic western that has one of the best soundtracks of the year, this film, now exclusively on Mubi, is the story of two losers (Orion Lee and John Magaro) who dare to dream big in 19th century Oregon - but success depends on milk hustling from a local leader. Toby Jones is a joy as the small-minded, biscuit-loving bigwig.
High: Confessions of an Ibiza Drug Mule
This is a disquieting and fascinating delve into the motivations and mindset of Michaella McCollum, who narrates her story of what happened next when she was caught in 2013 smuggling 1.5 million of cocaine out of Peru. At the time she and her accomplice, Melissa Reid – known as the Peru 2 – attained an incredible level of tabloid notoriety. Hearing what happened to her emotionally during her terrifying stint in one of Peru’s most notorious jails, and how she has re-built her life since makes for highly compelling TV.
Sophie: A Murder In West Cork
The unsolved 1996 murder of French documentary filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork forms the focus of Netflix’s latest true crime documentary, streaming now. It has been made with the cooperation of her family (it’s the first series to receive their support) and manages to avoid many of the pitfalls and clichés of the genre, painting a rounded portrait of Toscan du Plantier as more than a victim while laying out the twists and turns of this notorious case.
This hilarious spin on Freaky Friday sees Vince Vaughn on zinging form as a serial killer who magically swaps bodies with his put-upon teenage victim Millie (Kathryn Newton of Big Little Lies). She must find a way to reverse the switch before he murderously empties her high school of awful, belittling men. It’s a clever, casually political hoot.
Four moderately miserable male high-school teachers embark on an experiment to study the effects of being a little bit drunk, all the time, in Thomas Vinterberg’s melancholic yet tender latest film. As you might expect, the results are mixed. A lovely cast led by Mads Mikkelsen elevates the premise above ‘white middle-class men having a sad time’ and makes you care.
Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story
Laura Fairrie’s documentary about the blazing life of bonkbuster queen Jackie Collins is like drinking a fizzing summer cocktail. First you’ll feel empowered; by the end you’ll be a weepy mess. It shows that behind the big hair and shoulder pads was a woman who used iron will and determination to overcome literary snobbery, sisterly rivalry and heartbreaking loss.
This Is Pop
Netflix’s eight-part documentary is a deep dive into some of pop music’s biggest, genre-defining moments, covering everything from the rise of autotune to boy bands and Britpop and featuring contributions from big names like Shania Twain, ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Public Enemy’s Chuck D.
Covering six decades of activism and struggle in the battle for LGBTQ+ rights, this Disney+ docu-series is as heartbreaking as it is invigorating. Starting in the 1950s and travelling through to the 21st century, it focuses on a handful of LGBTQ+ heroes — some well known, others less so — and takes a balanced view of all the many successes and setbacks that the movement has faced over the years.
After the pandemic put a stop to last year’s summer series, ITV2’s dating contest for really, really good looking people is finally back on our screens from June 28 at 9pm - and god, we’ve missed it. 11 new contestants are gearing up to enter the notorious villa in Majorca, hoping to find someone who’s their type on paper. Bring on two months of getting over-invested in dates, dumpings and drama. We deserve it.
ITV2 and ITV Hub
On Becoming A God In Central Florida
This unhinged 90s-set black comedy first aired on US channel Showtime in 2019, but has only just been made available to stream in the UK on Netflix. Kirsten Dunst is a riot as Crystal, an alligator-poaching water park worker who tries to scheme her way to the top of the cultish pyramid scheme that her husband (Alexander Skarsgard in an unforgivable mullet wig) is in thrall to.
The Return: Life After Isis
Spanish director Alba Sotorra Clua’s powerful film about the women who travelled to Syria to join Isis and now find themselves stateless after the collapse of the caliphate, disowned by their home nations, is eye-opening viewing. Filmed at the Kurdish-run Al Roj refugee camp, it features testimony from Shamima Begum, who left her home in Hackney aged 15 after being radicalised, and is available to stream on Now.
Kevin Hart’s new Netflix comedy drama is a surprisingly understated (and curse-free) tale of a comfortable, middle class man who must raise his daughter as a single dad (to the disapproval of both grandmothers) after his wife dies unexpectedly. It’s not gritty and you’re never quite convinced that the conflict could be anything but fleeting in such an evidently loving family but Hart is a winning presence and looks convincingly knackered.
The Reason I Jump
Riveting documentary about a group of non-verbal autistic teens who have found their own ways to communicate with us unimaginative neurotypicals. Anchored by the story of Naoki Higashida, whose book about his life written aged 13 using an alphabet grid became a huge if controversial bestseller, it’s an extraordinary insight into different kinds of minds that will make you want to jump - for joy.
In the Earth
Last August, Ben Wheatley decided to make a low-budget pandemic horror film in just 15 days, exploring the paranoia of a virus-ravaged nation. The result is a hypnotising but not for the faint-hearted combo of the Blair Witch Project and The Wicker Man, with a standout performance from Reece Shearsmith as a potty, shaman-like figure who makes anti-vaxxers seem like kittens.