THE cinemas may be closed but there is no shortage of great films out there for the movie-buff. Here are some of the best available in your own home on streaming platforms and free-to-air services. All that’s missing is the popcorn!

  • Please send more of your suggestions for films - and also TV series and box sets (and let us know whether we can name you nest to your recommendation).​ 
  • Send to tim.hughes@oxfordmail.co.uk

Stay safe, healthy... and happy viewing!

A QUIET PLACE (15)

Netflix

Last week’s cinema release of A Quiet Place Part II was delayed until later in the year when all cinemas are open.

Netflix has cleverly added the first chapter, giving us another chance to cower on the sofa at John Krasinski’s nerve-shredding horror thriller about a family battling against sightless otherworldly creatures, which hunt by sound.

Krasinski’s real-life wife Emily Blunt delivers a powerhouse performance as a mother hen, who is dedicated to preparing her children for a bleak future. She gels magnificently with expressive young co-stars Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, who milk every tear and shudder of anguish from their characters’ nightmarish predicament.

Tense sequences in a grain silo and a water-logged nursery draw favourable comparisons with the Jurassic Park and Alien franchises.

Krasinski confidently tightens the screws with slickly engineered set pieces, which punctuate the heart-rending human drama. Silence is golden - and imperative for survival.

(Swearing and violence)

AND THEN WE DANCED (15)

Curzon Home Cinema, Vimeo on Demand, BFI Player

Levan Akin’s beautifully observed drama, which sparked violent protests in Georgia, barely had a chance to beguile UK and Irish audiences before cinemas were forced to close in response to Covid-19.

Thankfully, And Then We Danced is available on various streaming platforms, casting a heady spell with its unflinching yet sensitive depiction of forbidden love between two members of the National Georgian Ensemble.

Real-life dancer Levan Gelbakhiani delivers a haunting lead performance as Merab, who proudly upholds his country’s traditions by training alongside childhood partner Mary (Ana Javakhishvili). New arrival Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) immediately impresses the company’s director and usurps Merab’s role in a physically demanding duet.

Banbury Cake:

Jealousy and resentment light the fuse on a powder keg of raw emotions, which confirm the men’s unspoken attraction.

Writer-director Akin choreographs scenes with obvious affection for his conflicted and flawed characters.

(Swearing, sex and violence)

BOOKSMART (15)

Amazon Prime Video

Olivia Wilde’s raucous rites-of-passage comedy takes a leaf out of the school books of Clueless and Mean Girls to deliver life lessons about sisterly solidarity punctuated by a dizzying array of pithy one-liners.

Heartfelt hilarity is delivered with genuine warmth and grin-inducing sincerity by the dream team double-act of Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein.

They possess fizzing on-screen chemistry as best friends Amy and Molly, who have studiously forsaken fornication and partying in order to achieve their academic dreams. Potentially thorny issues of fat-shaming, sexual experimentation and peer pressure are cheerfully navigated by a sorority of four female scriptwriters.

Belly laughs are abundant between some deeply touching moments of self-reflection and realisation, trading in pop culture references and near-the-knuckle humour that never threatens to become crude or mean-spirited.

Banbury Cake:

These girls are sugar and spice and all things naughty but nice.

(Swearing, sex and violence)

FORCE MAJEURE (15)

All 4 On Demand

Ruben Ostlund’s compelling drama was recently remade as the English language comedy Downhill starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell but the 2014 original is far superior.

Force Majeure elegantly navigates the shifting balance of power in a close-knit family of four following an uncomfortably close encounter with the raw, unstoppable power of Mother Nature.

Banbury Cake:

Johannes Bah Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli are impeccably cast as businessman Tomas and his wife Ebba, who head to a luxury resort in the French Alps with their children Vera (Clara Wettergren) and Harry (Vincent Wettergren).

A controlled avalanche of fast-moving snow hits the family’s resort: Ebba instinctively protects the children while Tomas panics and runs for cover. His moment of cowardice, which he vehemently denies to old friend Mats (Kristofer Hivju), sets in motion the emotional devastation of the film’s discomfiting second half including a nail-biting set piece that will jangle the nerves of anyone who suffers from vertigo.

Don’t look down.

(Swearing, sex and violence)

THE INVISIBLE MAN (15)

Amazon Video, BT TV Store, iTunes, Sky Store

Leigh Whannell’s ingeniously executed horror thriller, inspired by the HG Wells novel was another victim of cinema closures.

This two-hour masterclass in sustained nerve-jangling tension materialised without warning last weekend on streaming platforms and is even more deliciously unsettling when watched at home.

An emotionally wrought central performance from Elisabeth Moss firmly tethers an outlandish dramatic conceit to gut-wrenching reality.

She expertly captures the painful fragility and vulnerability of an architect, who becomes convinced that her abusive ex-boyfriend (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) - “a world leader in the field of optics” - has developed the technology to become an invisible stalker.

Whannell’s lean script retains a cold, calculating logic during the most fantastical flourishes.

He holds us in a vice-like grip from the bravura opening sequence and refuses to let go, delivering moments of stomach-churning brutality in a breathless second act.

(Swearing and violence)

I, TONYA (15)

Amazon Prime Video, Netflix

Based on wildly contradictory, totally true interviews with US figure skating champion Tonya Harding and ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, I, Tonya is a barbed satire on the 1994 attack on skater Nancy Kerrigan.

Margot Robbie inhabits the title role with fearlessness and ferocity, tossing out expletives as if her life depended upon it.

Allison Janney won an Oscar as Tonya’s monstrous chain-smoking mother. Sebastian Stan oozes slippery charm as the man who walks Tonya down the aisle and exerts his marital “right” to lay his hands on her in anger.

Scenes of domestic abuse are extremely upsetting and director Craig Gillespie pulls no punches in his depiction of the couple’s volatile, self-destructive relationship.

Banbury Cake:

Sequences on the ice are breathlessly staged, employing slick digital effects to blend Robbie’s face with the bodies of skating doubles so we truly believe the Australian actress is recreating the intricate routines.

(Swearing, sex and violence)

I WISH (PG)

All 4 On Demand

Themes of childhood innocence and abandonment are explored in this poetic slice of life featuring real-life siblings.

Twelve-year-old Koichi (Koki Maeda) lives with his mother (Nene Ohtsuka). Far to the north, Koichi’s younger brother Ryunosuke (Ohshiro Maeda) lives with their father. They secretly embark on a cross-country odyssey to test out Koichi’s theory about the electrical field generated by passing trains.

At an unsettling time when we are all reflecting on the importance of family, I Wish is a perfect tonic.

(Swearing)

LATE NIGHT (15)

Amazon Prime Video

Emma Thompson relishes a plum role as a veteran talk show host, who has grown complacent and lost touch with her viewers, in director Nisha Ganatra’s spiky comedy of modern manners.

It’s a lip-smacking delight to see the two-time Oscar winner in full comic flow.

Scripted with a deft touch by co-star Mindy Kaling, Late Night takes aim at gender equality and diversity in the workplace and occasionally draws blood from well-placed barbs at the expense of the mainstream media’s obsession with youth and beauty.

Banbury Cake:

Some aspects of the writing are a tad undernourished - one romantic subplot blossoms with almost no on-screen propagation and the emotional fallout of marital betrayal is too neatly contained.

However, chemistry between the lead actors fizzes.

Laughter and heartwarming sentiment are keenly balanced, tipping slightly in favour of the latter as the film talks its way to a crowd-pleasing resolution.

All’s fair in love and the war for TV ratings.

(Swearing)

SPIRITED AWAY (PG)

Netflix

Hayao Miyazaki’s extraordinary magical adventure deservedly won the 2003 Academy Award as Best Animated Feature and was added to Netflix at the beginning of the month.

Spirited Away is a breathtaking variation on a theme of Alice In Wonderland, following young Chihiro as she encounters a menagerie of weird and wonderful characters, who both hinder and aid her quest.

The story constantly surprises with daring plot twists and unexpected flights of surreal imagination, interspersed with gentle humour like a comical sequence in which Chihiro holds her breath as she deals with a Stink Spirit.

Lively vocal performances full of emotion carry the story along at a brisk pace.

Rarely has two hours passed so quickly or as enjoyably.

Another seven Studio Ghibli titles will be added to Netflix on April 1. Highlights include Howl’s Moving Castle and the Little Mermaid-esque fantasy Ponyo.

(violence)

THE POST (12)

Netflix

Steven Spielberg’s dramatisation of the hard-fought battle for press freedom under the Nixon administration arrived on Netflix last week and feels uncomfortably relevant in a modern era of fake news and presidential Twitter outbursts.

The Post is a timely depiction of gender inequality in the workplace and lionises the achievements of Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, who risked losing the business her father bought in 1933 because she refused to be bullied into submission by a patriarchal establishment and sacrifice ideals enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Meryl Streep’s tour-de-force portrayal of Graham captures every facet of a working mother’s resolve, inner turmoil and defiance.

Tom Hanks provides robust support as Ben Bradlee, crusading executive editor of The Washington Post, who doesn’t appreciate meddling from the boardroom.

(swearing and violence)