Our film and TV recommendations: What to watch, from The Sandman to Maisie

·16-min read
Our film and TV recommendations: What to watch, from The Sandman to Maisie

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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August 4, 2022

Maisie

David Raven, who turns 89 this month, is the UK’s oldest performing drag artist, shaking his sequins as Maisie Trollette. This heartfelt doc comes to BFI Player this week and is a funny, affectionate and affecting look at a truly colourful character who has spent 50 years in the business. It includes appearances from drag stars including Paul O’Grady, Miss Jason and Dave Lyn.

The Sandman

Fans, rejoice: Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic book is finally out on Netflix, and it looks sumptuous. Tom Kerridge plays the titular Sandman, the Lord of Dreams, as he escapes from a decades-long captivity and sets about trying to rebuild his shattered realm. It’s also packed to the hilt with acting talent – as if you needed any more excuses to watch.

Netflix

Irma Vep

HBO’s new show seeks to answer the question: just how meta can a TV show get? Irma Vep is a show about the remake of a (real) 1996 film of the same name, which is in itself based on a silent film of the 90s. Alicia Vikander stars as Mira Harberg, who is cast as the show’s protagonist, Irma, and gets to slink around Paris in a rather daring all-velvet black catsuit.

Sky/NOW

Code 404

The third series of this wacky buddy-cop drama has just launched on Sky Comedy and sees Stephen Graham playing the straight copper to Daniel Mays’ AI-human hybrid, DI John Major. Come for the slapstick humour, stay to watch them trying to catch a serial killer with a knack for staying one step ahead of the police.

Sky Comedy/NOW

July 29, 2022

Thirteen Lives

 (Vince Valitutti / Metro Goldwyn)
(Vince Valitutti / Metro Goldwyn)

Veteran director Ron Howard takes a shot at dramatising the admittedly Hollywood-worthy story of the Thailand cave rescue, in cinemas for a week before hitting Prime Video. Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen star; Elon Musk doesn’t get a mention, thank goodness.

In cinemas; Prime Video from August 5

Paper Girls

 (Anjali Pinto/Prime Video)
(Anjali Pinto/Prime Video)

This new series based on the popular comic book takes the idea of time travel and turns it into a story about female empowerment. Four newspaper delivery girls are transported from the Eighties to 2019, and must find their way back — with some help from their adult selves.

Prime Video

Surface

 (Apple TV+)
(Apple TV+)

This fast-paced thriller stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Sophie, a woman who loses her memory after a brain accident then slowly discovers that her life is not as it seems. There’s a lot of angst — and a very complicated love triangle.

Apple TV+

Uncoupled

 (Sarah Shatz/Netflix)
(Sarah Shatz/Netflix)

Neil Patrick Harris stars as a fortysomething New York City real-estate broker who is floored when his long-term boyfriend ups and leaves in this new series. Anyone faced with the prospect of dating again after a long marriage will sympathise.

Netflix

The Resort

 (Peacock)
(Peacock)

Therapy is so last year: in The Resort, couple Emma and Noah (Cristin Milioti and William Jackson Harper, left) revitalise their ailing marriage by solving a murder together. It’s funny, fast-paced and set in Mexico: in short, the perfect summer viewing.

Peacock/Sky

July 22, 2022

Prima Facie Live

If you didn’t get tickets for this blistering, brutal, brilliant play in the West End, here’s your chance (take it, seriously). Jodie Comer plays a cocky, charismatic barrister whose faith in the legal system is horribly shaken when she becomes the victim of the kind of assault whose perpetrators she’s defended in court. Enraging and galvanising, and a stunning performance.

Who Stole Tamara Ecclestone’s Diamonds?

It’s the question on everyone’s lips, surely and this brilliant documentary looks into the heist that filched £26m worth of jewellery and cash from the heiress’s home, how it was solved, and how the culture of aspiration Ecclestone promotes made it possible in the first place. She doesn’t come out of it looking especially sympathetic, truth be told.

The Great

Tony McNamara’s only very slightly true comedy drama following the fortunes of Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) as she attempts to rescue Russia from the grips of her idiot husband, the Tsar (Nicholas Hoult) returns this week, with the welcome addition of Gillian Anderson as Catherine’s mother. A sumptuous, silly joy that starts on Channel 4 on July 27.

Maryland

Lucy Kirkwood’s ‘howl’ of protest, written for the stage in response to the murder of Sabina Nessa in 2021, has been adapted into this grimly necessary 30 minute BBC drama, now on iPlayer. Zawe Ashton and Hayley Squires are two assault victims trying to report their experiences to wholly inadequate police. A painful but truly excellent watch.

July 15, 2022

The Good Boss

Javier Bardem is superb in this slightly silly satirical comedy, in which patriarchal factory boss Blanco’ life unravels as his casual sexism, racism and smug complacency begin to shift the scales (which is, inevitably, what his factory produces).

In cinemas, on Curzon Home Cinema

A Chiara

The third in Jonas Carpignano’s continues his ’Ndrangheta mafia series with this drama. Swamy Rotolo returns (after A Ciambra) as teenager Chiara Guerrasio as she realises that her father is in the mob and everything she thought she knew about her family was a lie. Utterly gripping.

In cinemas now, on Mubi on August 26

McEnroe

From his on-court rants to his use of “performance-detracting drugs” John McEnroe was the bad boy of tennis - in this uncritical but clear-eyed and engaging documentary he looks back over his youthful career with cheer and occasional ruefulness to entertaining effect.

In cinemas

Better Call Saul

After a hiatus (an irritating new trend from Netflix), the second half of season six started this week with a bang, with Saul and Kim hostages in their own house to Lalo Salamanca. Yikes. The first episode ties up so many loose ends it feels more like a finale than an opener, but it’s one hell of a ballsy start.

Streaming now

July 8, 2022

Black Bird

Taron Egerton stars alongside the late, great Ray Liotta in this prison thriller. In it, Egerton is Jimmy Keene, a convict who strikes a plea deal with authorities to reduce his sentence. In return, he must befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall to extract a confession before Hall’s appeal is filed.

Apple TV+, July 7

The Baby

One for the millennials. Newcomer Michelle de Swarte plays Natasha, a 38-year-old woman who is happily single and unattached, thank you very much. Unfortunately, she suddenly, mysteriously finds herself saddled with a baby – who has a habit of leaving bodies in its wake…

Sky Atlantic, July 7

The Sea Beast

Netflix’s cutest new animated film follows a young monster hunter enthusiast who stows away on the ship of legendary pirate captain Jacob Holland (Karl Urban). Together, they will embark on an epic journey into uncharted waters.

Streaming globally on Netflix from July 8

Boo, Bitch

If Booksmart had a baby with The Sixth Sense, you’d get something roughly like Boo, Bitch. In it, two high school seniors strike a pact to make their last year unforgettable – until one of them (Lana Condor) gets hit by a lorry and resurrects as a ghost.

Netflix, July 8

July 1, 2022

Stranger Things Season 4, Vol 2

The final installation of the much-hyped fourth series sees Eleven fighting to regain control of her powers as the villainous Vecna bears down on the town of Hawkins, Indiana. Expect tears, explosions and guitar solos as the gang prepare to fight him off.

Netflix, July 1

The Undeclared War

Simon Pegg stars in this thriller about a group of GCHQ boffins who are working to block cyber-attacks in a disturbingly realistic version of 2024. But when an intern is the only person to spot an imminent threat, alarm bells begin to ring…

Streaming on All4

Only Murders in the Building

This wacky, light-hearted sitcom features Selena Gomez, Steve Martin and Martin Short as oddball amateur detectives who have to solve murders happening in their own apartment block. Though season one ended on a high with a hit true-crime podcast, expect more whodunnits in season two.

Streaming on Disney+

Atlanta Series 3

Donald Glover’s visionary comedy-slash-horror is back and finally available to stream in the UK. Follow the ever-grifting rappers Earn and Paper Boi as they embark on a tour of Europe, in a radical series that is already being hailed as a masterpiece.

Streaming on Disney+

Suspect

Niamh Algar in Suspect (Channel 4)
Niamh Algar in Suspect (Channel 4)

James Nesbitt stars as a veteran cop attempting to piece together the circumstances surrounding his daughter’s death (spoiler alert: he’s breaking a lot of professional ethics) in this adaptation of a Scandi thriller. Each episode features a brilliant guest star, with the line-up including Richard E. Grant. Anne-Marie Duff and Niamh Algar.

Channel 4 and All4, Sunday at 9pm

The Lazarus Project

Written by Giri/Haji’s Joe Barton, this high-concept time-travelling thriller stars Paapa Essiedu as George, a man who wakes up to discover he’s reliving a day that happened months before. Soon he’s recruited as part of a secret group that turns back time every time the world is faced with an extinction event. Anjli Mohindra, Tom Burke and Caroline Quentin also star.

Sky Max and Now

Halftime

This film follows Jennifer Lopez as she turns 50 and prepares for her headline Super Bowl performance with Shakira. As with the majority of docs about musicians, it’s very much J. Lo’s version of J. Lo that we’re getting here, but there are some vulnerable moments too, not least when she gets snubbed for an Oscar for her staggering performance in Hustlers.

Netflix

Glastonbury: 50 Years and Counting

 (BBC)
(BBC)

This film tells the story of the iconic festival, now celebrating its half century, through interviews with founder Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily, as well as chats with some of the big names who have performed over the years. Director Francis Whately intersperses political history with music trends in clever ways to illuminate Glasto’s history.

BBC Two, Sunday at 9pm

Everything I Know About Love

This adaptation of Dolly Alderton’s wildly successful memoir follows best pals Maggie (Emma Appleton) and Birdy (Bel Powley) as they navigate the chaos of their first London flatshare - and the inevitable strain that occurs when friendship is disrupted by an interloping boyfriend. It’s fizzy, funny and - thanks to the constant 2012 references - nostalgic.

BBC iPlayer, BBC Two on Tuesdays

Ms Marvel

Kamala Khan, aka Marvel’s first ever Muslim superhero Ms. Marvel, feels like a genuinely exciting addition to the comic book giant’s sprawling cinematic universe, if the engaging, inventive opening episode of this spin-off series is anything to go by. Kamala’s a comic book fan who develops powers of her own when she wears an ancient bangle passed down through her family.

Disney+

Sherwood

 (BBC/House Productions/Matt Squire)
(BBC/House Productions/Matt Squire)

Tensions explode in a ‘Red wall’ Nottinghamshire community after a former miner (Alun Armstrong) is murdered in the latest from screenwriter and playwright James Graham, set in his hometown and partly inspired by real events. David Morrissey plays the local police chief, joined by Robert Glenister as a Met officer last in the area for the strikes in the Eighties.

BBC One, Mondays and Tuesdays

My Name Is Leon

Adapted from Kit de Waal’s moving novel and set against the backdrop of the Birmingham race riots in the Eighties, this 90-minute film hinges around a brilliant performance from newcomer Cole Martin. He plays Leon, a mixed-race 10-year-old boy whose life is turned upside down when he and his baby brother, who is white, are split up by the care system.

BBC Two, June 10 at 9pm

Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen

As part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the royal family have opened up their archives of family films to bring us this intriguing documentary. It will feature previously unseen footage of the Queen as a young girl, and will be narrated by the monarch herself, telling the story of her reign in her own words.

BBC iPlayer

Stranger Things

It’s time to head back to Hawkins, Indiana, with Eleven and the gang for one last time (sort of - this final season of Netflix’s sci-fi juggernaut has been divided up into two parts, the first of which comprises seven episodes and lands on the streamer today). The new eps are long (we’re talking almost feature length) and the formula hasn’t changed much, but they still make for addictive, nostalgic viewing.

Netflix

Pistol

Based on guitarist Steve Jones’ memoir, Danny Boyle’s take on the Sex Pistols’ tumultuous rise to fame and brief, chaotic stint in the spotlight fizzes with anarchic energy. The young ensemble cast is great across the board, with Sydney Chandler especially good as future Pretender Chrissie Hynde and Thomas Brodie-Sangster clearly having a great time as empresario Malcolm McLaren.

Disney+

Big Boys

This heart-warming comedy, based on Jack Rooke‘s stand-up shows, stars Derry Girls’ Dylan Llewellyn as a closeted teen coming to terms with the death of his dad. When he starts uni, he meets the laddy Danny (Jon Pointing) and an unlikely but lovely friendship develops.

All4

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ewan McGregor’s turn as the famous Jedi was one of the best things about the much-maligned Star Wars prequels. Almost two decades later, he’s reprising the role in this mini-series - and Hayden Christensen is back as his former protegé Darth Vader, too. Plot details are scarce, naturally, but expect to see Obi-Wan in exile, dodging Sith forces and attempting to protect a pint-sized Luke Skywalker from afar.

Disney+

Jungle Cry

If you adore stories of unlikely sports teams clawing their way out of adversity to triumph, this film based on a true story, now available on Lionsgate Play, of a group of Indian orphans who were coached from nothing into a team that won the U14 rugby world cup will be for you, despite the fact that the players all look about 25. A minor quibble.

Lionsgate Play

The Time Traveller’s Wife

Yes, this adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s novel suffers from About Time Syndrome ie. the fact that there’s something inherently a bit dodgy about time travelling romances. But Sherlock screenwriter Steven Moffat and stars Rose Leslie and Theo James do their utmost to make this a glossily enjoyable watch.

Sky Atlantic and Now

Floodlights

This powerful, harrowing one-off drama is based on the story of Andy Woodward, the former professional footballer who bravely spoke out about the coach who sexually abused him and other players as teenagers. His testimony was instrumental in encouraging other victims to come forward.

BBC iPlayer

The Essex Serpent

Clio Barnard’s atmospheric AppleTV+ adaptation of Sarah Perry’s bestselling novel, which stars Claire Danes as young widow Cora, who comes to Essex to investigate rumours of a dangerous serpent that she believes may be a living example of an ancient creature. She finds more than she bargained for, not least sexy vicar Will Ransome (Tom Hiddleston).

Apple TV+

Conversations With Friends

Even if the translation from page to screen has somewhat diminished the spark of Sally Rooney’s writing, this adaptation of her debut novel about two young women entangled in a tricky relationship with an older couple is worth watching for Jemima Kirke as Melissa Conway alone. Joe Alwyn less so, sadly, stretching a bit too far along the spectrum of strong and silent.

BBC iPlayer

Mother Teresa: For the Love of God?

Great title, and a damning indictment of what appears to have amounted more or less to a cult that wasn’t backed up by sufficient practical assistance (and sometimes was actively dangerous), despite all the trumpeting of ‘helping the needy’. A salutary lesson in the danger of idolising humans.

Sky Documentaries and Now

Here We Go

This sitcom from Tom Basden (who also stars as vaping, Jamiroquai-loving uncle Robin) is a delight, charting family life with the Jessops (Katherine Parkinson’s over-it mum Rachel, Jim Howick’s former Olympic archer dad Paul and Alison Steadman on top form as grandma Sue) through the lens of their teenage son’s handheld camera. It’s a familiar set-up, but the jokes are relentlessly sharp and the characters never feel like clichés.

BBC iPlayer

The Dry

This comedy-drama from the producers of Normal People, streaming on Britbox, has shades of Fleabag and This Way Up. Thirty-something Shiv (Roisin Gallagher) returns home to Dublin after years of trying to make it as an artist (and partying hard) in London. Now she’s sober - but being back in the family fold will stretch her good intentions to the limit.

Britbox

Heartstopper

Everyone’s talking about this heartwarming Netflix adaptation of Alice Oseman’s graphic novel series - and it’s notched up a rare 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a sweet coming-of-age romance (more Grange Hill than Euphoria in tone) about teenager Charlie (Joe Locke) falling for Nick, the star of the school’s rugby team. Plus there’s an Olivia Colman cameo.

Netflix

DI Ray

Parminder Nagra leads this four-part police thriller written by Maya Sondhi and exec produced by Jed ‘Line of Duty’ Mercurio (LoD fans will remember Sondhi as an AC-12 ally in earlier seasons). DI Rachita Ray’s colleagues are convinced that a murder case is a ‘culturally specific homicide’ - but she thinks they are jumping to conclusions, and the truth is more complicated.

ITV Hub

Shining Girls

The Handmaid’s Tale’s Elisabeth Moss gets her teeth into yet another gritty role in this genre-bending, time-twisting mystery, streaming on Apple TV+ from today. She plays a former journalist who is trying to piece her life back together after experiencing a horrific assault. When reports emerge of a murder case that might be linked to her attacker, she is determined to discover the truth.

Apple TV+

Ten Percent

The British version of Call My Agent!, the chic hit French comedy about a Parisian talent agency, has been one of the most eagerly anticipated shows of the year. It finally arrives on Prime Video this week, with Jack Davenport, Lydia Leonard and Prasanna Puwanarajah among the cast, and a whole host of celeb cameos. Perfect gentle viewing for the three day weekend.

Prime Video

Chivalry

A comedy about #MeToo? Noooo, I hear you cry. Fortunately, however, this is a smart, subtle show on Channel 4 from Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani, which makes hypocrisy the butt of the joke. Terrified of being cancelled, producer Cameron brings feminist filmmaker Bobby in to do reshoots of a movie that’s turned out a bit sexist. Sienna Miller and Lolly Adefope also star.

All4

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