As we enter the last summer month before autumn arrives, Sky and Now TV will host a number of movies from the last 12 months which deal with hot button topics or have courted a measure of controversy.
The biggest movie opening on Sky Cinema is Joker, whose indie feel belied its eventual emergence as both an audience pleasing blockbuster and critically lauded film. Then there’s The Assistant which examines complicity in the toxic workplace and Blue Story, a look at two friends caught up in rival gangs, which led to some cinemas pulling shows due to perceived antisocial responses.
Movies which bring a lighter tone include two movie sequels that reunite a central foursome. First up is Jumanji: The Next Level which sees Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart doing passable Danny DeVito and Danny Glover impressions while Zombieland: Double Tap brings the zombie bashing Columbus, Tallahassee. Wichita and Little Rock back together as they hunker down in the Whitehouse 10 years after the zombie apocalypse.
There’s family friendly animated fun with Abominable and for real horror aficionados there’s the highly rated hide and seek shenanigans of Ready or Not.
Moving away from films, there’s a number of series to get excited about including Little Birds, an adaptation of Anaïs Nin’s short stories (how excited you get about this is probably a personal thing!). Billie Piper returns to our screens examining the damaging effect of leaking personal information in I Hate Suzie and Jordan Peele’s next big TV project after The Twilight Zone reboot is Lovecraft Country which remains in his current horror wheelhouse.
Let’s dive in.
(Requires Sky Cinema subscription or Now TV Sky Cinema Pass)
The Fanatic (2019, Psychological Thriller. John Travolta, Devon Sawa, Dir. Fred Durst)
Moose is autistic and an avid movie fan. His favourite movie star is Hunter Dunbar and Moose is obsessed with meeting him. However, at Dunbar’s house, in search of an autograph, he is rejected which sets Moose on a dark and dangerous path.
Cautionary tales of obsession are a Hollywood staple and the inward looking The Fanatic, directed and co-written by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, might have an earnest, committed performance from Travolta but was widely regarded as having missed the mark.
Joker (2019, Drama, Crime, Thriller. Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Dir. Todd Philips)
Arthur Fleck is just barely scraping by in a derelict and dangerous Gotham City. He’s a clown for hire during the day and an aspiring stand up comic at night and, in the gaps between, he takes care of his ailing mother. Every day turns the screws a little more and when he gets assaulted at work and his mental health counselor effectively gives up on him, his neuroses increase, his decision making becomes questionable and his obsessions start to consume him. Just what... or who, will be left standing in Arthur’s place when breaking point is reached?
Sky Cinema is kicking off August with its big gun - the multi award winning, Box Office titan, Joker. An origin story for DC’s most iconic villain which was always envisioned as a standalone, non-canon tale. And while Joaquin Phoenix gained the plaudits for his portrayal of a man collapsing under the crushing burden that society places on him, there are many other elements that contribute to the film’s success including Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Oscar winning score and the authentic early 80s feel to the production design and cinematography.
The non judgemental and nihilistic tone based around the central themes of unchecked mental health issues and graphic violence created courted plenty of controversy and Sky Cinema’s showing will let viewer’s make up their own minds in what is a tough, tense but rewarding experience.
The Assistant (2019, Drama. Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Dir. Kitty Green)
Jane is a college graduate and aspiring film producer and now she’s landed a springboard job as an office clerk for an entertainment mogul. Her day has a dogged routine; arrive early, leave late, make the coffee, get everyone’s lunch and arrange meetings with clients. As she performs these tasks she starts to notice the powerplays and abuse pervasive in the workplace and her worries really kick in when she suspects a new female worker will be taken advantage of. Should she turn a blind eye in order to keep her job safe or say something?
The name Harvey Weinstein hardly needs to be uttered but the ongoing fallout from the #MeToo movement has led to examinations of the toxic everyday environments some women find themselves caught up in. The Assistant casts an unblinking eye on how the predatory behaviour of powerful men is enabled by the systems they have built and the complicity of those around them.
Julia Garner’s acclaimed performance demonstrates Jane’s wide eyed yet crumbling naivety is itself a victim here as the scales fall from her eyes and she has to make her own difficult choices.
The Kill Team (2019, Action, Drama, Thriller, Alexander Skarsgård, Nat Wolff, Dir. Dan Krauss)
A young American soldier on a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2009 is disturbed by his commanding officer's behavior and is faced with a moral dilemma when a young Afghan farmer is killed under questionable circumstances. Now, wondering if he should expose the war crime, he realises the danger he could be putting himself in from his own comrades as they start to suspect his loyalties.
Based on his own 2013 documentary of the same name which examined the true-life events depicted in The Kill Team, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Dan Krauss’s movie is a stark and real portrayal of the horrors of war.
Jumanji:The Next Level (2019, Comedy, Adventure, Fantasy. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Dir. Jake Kasdan)
Three years after their first adventure in Jumanji, the original players reconvene, only to find one of their own, Spencer, has already been taken by the game. Determined to get him back, the remaining three friends activate Jumanji but a malfunction means that Spencer’s grandfather Eddie and his erstwhile pal Milo, who is visiting, end up in the game as well. Now the avatars of Dr Smolder Bravestone, ‘Mouse’ Finbar, Professor Shelly Oberon and Ruby Roundhouse are reactivated and their goal is to find Spencer. But can the bickering Eddie and Milo, who are hardly seasoned gamers, handle their new roles?
Continuing the comedic jeopardy and action packed fun of the 2017 reboot, The Next Level may suffer from a hint of diminishing return-itis but the cast are clearly having a blast and new members Akwafina and Rory McCann, as the villainous Jurgen The Brute, help spice things up
A decent Box Office hit (officially now just over $800 million) the film was still playing in a number of theatres in the US when Covid-19 hit in March. After the main cinema chains closed, Jumanji: The Next Level continued to play to audiences at drive-in theatres, earning over $180,000 in its 25th weekend. Unsurprisingly, a second sequel is now in development.
Ordinary Love (2019, Drama, Romance. Leslie Manville, Liam Neeson, Dir. Lisa Barros D'Sa, Glenn Leyburn)
Middle-aged Joan and Tom have a long, comfortable, almost mundane marriage that is suddenly thrown into emotional chaos when she is diagnosed with breast cancer. They are forced to reassess their relationship and confront the coming storm, something that might jeopardise their cosy bond.
Liam Neeson shakes off the action man image he’s cultivated for the last decade and returns to the sort of character roles he used to excel at in the likes of Lamb, The Mission and Schindler’s List. Striking a chord with the random bombshells that life throws in the path of us all, Ordinary Love is a story about love, survival and life’s big questions.
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019, Horror, Comedy, Action, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Dir. Reuben Fleischer, Scr. Rhett Reese, Paul Werrnick)
Ten years after the zombie apocalypse caused everyone to adopt a location-based nom de guerre, Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock have holed up in the Whitehouse. However, their family dynamic is a little too claustrophobic for some and the unit splits. Not only that but there are other groups of survivors to contend with and the zombies themselves seem to have started evolving into something altogether more challenging. Can the makeshift family sort out their differences and pull together in the face of continued adversity… and valley girl, Madison?
Whether the long gestation period proved a boon or bane for Zombieland: Double Tap is uncertain. On the one hand a 10 year anniversary gives everyone time to deliver a meaningful addition to the franchise, on the other hand, does anyone still remember or care? The ‘meh’ box office seemed to indicate that latter and the notices seemed to generally agree that it was a missed opportunity despite the returning chemistry, hardcore humour and inventive ‘zombie kills of the week’.
The Informer (2019, Crime, Drama,Thriller, Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Common, Clive Owen)
Pete Koslow is a ex Special Forces soldier whose life is turned upside down when he is jailed following a fight to protect his wife. While inside prison, he’s given an opportunity for early release if he cooperates with the authorities. He agrees but things go badly wrong and he finds himself back in the joint once again where he finds New York’s feared crime lord, the FBI and the NYPD are all pulling his strings in different directions. Koslow must now formulate a plan to save himself and his family.
Based on the Swedish crime thriller novel Three Seconds, The Informer features a screenplay co-written by Rowan Joffe (son of The Mission director Roland Joffe) who has previously penned Before I go to Sleep, the 2010 version of Brighton Rock and 28 Weeks Later. It was filmed at Pinewood Studios as well as on location at Gloucester Prison and Brooklyn, New York.
Swallow (2019, Drama, Thriller. Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Denis O’Hare)
A newly pregnant housewife, Hunter, appears to have it all; a husband with prospects, a lovely home and time on her hands. However, faced with controlling in-laws and the rigid expectations of married life, the cracks start to appear and let out a dark secret from her past - Hunter has a condition that compels her to swallow inedible, often dangerous or even life threatening objects. Is this the only way she can regain control of her life?
This critically acclaimed psychological thriller is based on a real condition called Pica which sees the patient develop the dangerous habit of swallowing non nutritive objects like hair, dirt, ice and stones. Maybe it’s best not to have just had tea before you watch this.
Abominable (2019, Animation, Adventure, Comedy. Voices: Chloe Bennet, Albert Tais, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, James Hong, Eddie Izzard)
Yi, a teenage girl, discovers a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building in Shanghai one night. She names him Everest and is determined to reunite him with his own kind at the highest point on Earth. She sets off accompanied by her two friends on this epic journey, all the while having to stay one step ahead of a wealthy collector and a zoologist who both want the magical Yeti for their own purposes.
Not to be confused with the rather similar Smallfoot, this animated Dreamworks movie found itself on the receiving end of bans in Vietnam, The Philippines and Malaysia due to a map scene that included the so called Nine-Dash Line, a contested demarcation line used by China to lay claim over a portion of the South China Sea.
Abominable saw co-directors Todd Wilderman and Tim Johnson bought on board part way through the production after original writer / director Jill Culton left. The pair have form in this family friendly CGI arena having helmed Trolls, The Croods, Antz and Sinbad: Legend of The Seven Seas between them.
Ready or Not (2019, Horror, Mystery, Comedy. Samantha Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Henry Czery, Andie MacDowell, Dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett)
Bride-to-be Grace is about to join a brand new family, that of her future husband, Alex. The rich, eccentric Le Domas clan has made its fortune through traditional board games and once Grace has said ‘I do’, all that’s left is one small tradition, a little game of their own. But this is no run of the mill version of hide and seek and the stakes are higher than Grace could possibly imagine as she realises she has to win to stand any chance of surviving the night.
Blending extreme gore with subversive humour, and casting a satirical eye on marriage and social standing, Ready or Not garnered favour with audiences as well as critics who praised Samantha (niece of Hugo) Weaving’s spirited performance. The likes of esteemed horror authors Stephen King and R.L. Stine, as well as Guillermo del Toro, expressed their enjoyment and approval too.
Blue Story (2019, Crime, Drama, Stephen Odubola, Micheal Ward, Dir. Rapman)
Best friends Timmy (Stephen Odubola) and Marco (BAFTA Rising Star winner, Micheal Ward) go to the same high school in Peckham, but live in neighboring London boroughs. When Marco is beaten up by one of Timmy’s school friends the two boys wind up on rival sides of a never-ending cycle of gang war in which there are no winners … only victims.
Initially starting life as a series of YouTube video shorts by musician Rapman, the tale of an insidious postcode war spiralling out of control shows the self perpetuating cycles of violence that tear communities apart.
The positive critical response was temporarily overshadowed by antisocial behaviour at a handful of multiplexes, which resulted in short lived bans by Showcase and Vue cinema chains.
Villains (3rd - 16th August)
You can’t have a movie hero Ying without a villainous Yang so Sky Cinema is celebrating some of movie’s stand out ‘baddies.’
It: Chapter Two (2019, Horror, Fantasy, Thriller. James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, Dir. Andy Muschietti)
Pennywise returns to Derry and the grown up Losers Club has to reunite to face It down once again.
Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil, (2019, Fantasy, Adventure, Family, Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer)
Maleficent and her goddaughter are forced to question their complex family arrangement as they are pulled in different directions by scheming Queen Ingrith.
Psycho (1960, Mystery, Thriller. Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
A Phoenix secretary embezzles forty thousand dollars from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.
Inglourious Basterds (2009, Adventure, Drama, War. Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Christoph Waltz, Dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Tarantino’s villains are a cut above cinema’s standard antagonists - charming, articulate, sadistic - and Christoph Waltz’s performance as Col Hans Landa in the opening 20 minute farmhouse scene demonstrates avuncular evil like few others.
Fatal Attraction (1987, Drama, Thriller. Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Dir. Adrian Lyne)
Glenn Glose’s Alex Forrest was responsible for the term Bunny Boiler and proved a memorable foil for Michael Douglas’s philandering husband.
Gladiator (2000, Action, Adventure, Historical. Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen)
Phoenix’s Commodus is a petulant, sulky baby with a nail gun.
Total Recall (1989 Action, Sci-fi Thriller. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Ronny Cox, Dir. Paul Verhoeven)
When you’re up against Arnie sometimes one villain just isn't enough, and here we have two doozies. Ronny Cox’s corporate puppet master Cohaagen and his henchman, Michael Ironside as Richter (who has his own henchman!)
Star Wars (3rd - 09th August)
There’s clearly still shared licencing between Sky and Disney for George Lucas’s generation spanning space opera so enjoy a journey through more than 40 years of cinema, featuring some of the biggest films of the Skywalker Saga, including final film The Rise of Skywalker.
Others: The Rise of Skywalker, The Clone Wars
Adventure (10th - 23rd August)
Perfect Sunday afternoon viewing for families. Funny but not bawdy, thrilling but not scary, morally upstanding but not preachy and maybe just a little sad in places. Actually scratch that, Banderas’s brother gets his head chopped off in Zorro and Harry Potter is even terrifying for adults in places! Sky, what are you trying to do to the wee ones!?!
Jumanji: The Next Level
Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Voice: Ryan Reynolds)
Aladdin (2019, Adventure, Fantasy, Family. Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Dir. Guy Ritchie)
E.T (1982, Family, Sci-Fi, Dir. Steven Spielberg)
The Goonies (1985, Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Dir. Richard Donner)
Labyrinth (1986, Adventure, Fantasy, Family. Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie, Dir. Jim Henson)
Chronicles Of Narnia: Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (2010, Adventure, Fantasy, Family. Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter, Dir. Michael Apted)
National Treasure (2004, Action, Adventure, Mystery. Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Dir. Jon Tuteltaub)
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010, Adventure, Fantasy, Family. Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina Dir. Jon Tuteltaub)
The Mask Of Zorro (1998, Action, Adventure, Comedy. Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dir. Martin Campbell)
Harry Potter: The Complete Series (2001 - 2011, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint)
(Requires Sky TV subscription, Now TV Entertainment Pass,)
Little Birds (S1) Sky Atlantic
Set in Tangier in 1955, in the infamous ‘international zone’ – one of the last outposts of colonial decadence - the exotic climes prove a culture shock in more ways than one for newly arrived but troubled New York socialite Lucy Savage (Juno Temple) as she attempts to burst forth butterfly-like from the cocoon she’s being suffocated by.
The parade of diverse and degenerate characters she encounters lead Lucy down a rabbithole of self discovery as she forges towards freedom and independence.
Inspired by Anais Nin’s erotic short stories, published posthumously in 1979 but believed written in the 1940s, the tales form a springboard for the six part series which is a subversive re-invention of melodrama taking the audience and characters on a witty, moving and provocative journey.
As well as Temple, Little Birds also stars Fleabag’s Hugh Skinner, his W1A co-star Nina Sosanya and Yumna Marwan.
This is actually the second project that Juno Temple has starred in called Little Birds following her participation in an identically named project back in 2011.
AP Bio (S2) Sky Comedy
Comedy about a disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton) who loses out on his dream job to his rival Miles Leonard (Tom Bennett), and is forced to return to Toledo, Ohio and work as a high-school Advanced Placement Biology teacher. Jack makes it clear to his class that he will not be teaching any biology but will instead be putting all his efforts (and their talents) in exacting revenge on Miles.
In this second season, Jack uses his students to find out how the people of Toledo find happiness in their daily routine, so as to mine information for what he believes will be a best-selling book.
Lovecraft Country S1 Sky Atlantic
Atticus Black joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father. This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.
Misha Green and Jordan Peele's new horror TV series also has J.J. Abrams aboard as a producer and stars Da 5 Bloods’ Jonathan Majors as well as Jurnee Smollett and Courtney B. Vance and is based on the 2016 dark fantasy horror novel by Matt Ruff.
I Hate Suzie (S1) Sky Atlantic
Suzie Pickles (Billie Piper), is a star on the wane, but when her phone is hacked and a photo of her emerges in an extremely compromising position she’s back in the news again for all the wrong reasons.
I Hate Suzie, created by Piper and writer Lucy Prebble who previously worked on Secret Diaries of a Call Girl, is a pitch black comedy-drama that themes each of its episodes around a different emotion such as shock, denial and fear that the violation stirs up.
A League of Their Own (S15) Sky One
Factual - Arts, Documentaries, History
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (Documentary Series, Sky Crime)
Based on Michelle McNamara’s account of her attempt to track down the Golden State Killer, this six part HBO documentary follows McNamara’s investigation into the dark world of a violent predator.
Her dogged investigation into the spate of rapes and killings in California between 1974 and 1986 was brought to a premature when she sadly passed away in 2016 - but, as documentarian Liz Garbus began filming in 2018, a new twist emerged when an arrest was finally made. Since then, things have moved quickly.
So that’s it for August. As new content is added, we’ll update the listing, so be sure to check back so you don’t miss out. In the meantime, why not leave a comment and let us know what you’re looking forward too, what you’ve enjoyed and maybe what you didn't!