Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Pierce Brosnan – they’re all coming to Lightbox in May, y’all!
The Son (S2, Weekly from May 1)
I mean, it’s JAMES BOND AS A COWBOY. What more do you people WANT from your POPULAR CULTURE? A handsome (and I’m not just talking about Pierce) epic set in Texas at the turn of the 19th century, The Son follows the true story of “cattle barren” (cowboy, he’s a cowboy) Eli McCullough. Dancing between both his childhood on the wrong side of the railway tracks and his adulthood as a merciless, bearded patriarch, it’s one to watch for fans of Westworld, There Will Be Blood and that classic Western flick, Die Another Day. / Alex Casey
Abby’s (Episodes 1-3 drop May 3, weekly from then)
The art of the truly great three-camera sitcom seems to have been lost to us recently. And no, The Big Bang Theory doesn’t count. I mean the kind of show where you sat down, week after week, and got to hang out with a bunch of misfits and feel a little bit less of a misfit. As much as its become a punchline now, Friends was that show. Hell, for me, The New Adventures of Old Christine was that show.
Having seen a couple of episodes – review coming soon – of Michael Schur’s new sitcom Abby’s, it looks fully set to capture some of that three-camera artistry. There’s a chill character-driven energy to the jokes, and the cast lead by the incredibly winning Natalie Morales mesh together incredibly well very early on. Even when the supporting cast, including Neil Flynn (The Janitor from Scrubs) gets a little wacky, it’s Morales’ charisma that keeps everything grounded in reality. These are people you want to hang out with for 22 minutes a week, and thankfully the show is good enough to make that investment well worth it. / Sam Brooks
Marjorie Prime (Film from May 1)
Marjorie Prime is one of my favourite plays of the last few years. It’s a genuine interrogation of the relationship between technology and age, and what it means when one renders the other completely meaningless. The play translates into a thoughtful, beautiful film, with a towering performance from Lois Smith as Majorie, a woman on the brink of losing her mind, and barely clinging to the dignity of an intact memory. Geena Davis and Jon Hamm provide able support around the sides as Marjorie’s daughter and… well, Jon Hamm’s role is a bit of a spoiler, but it’s some genius casting. Give this one a watch, you won’t regret it. / SB
Papillon (Film from May 1)
Based on a completely true, completely bonkers story, Papillon is the perfect historical crime drama for fans of wrongly-accused realness. Charlie Hunman (Sons of Anarchy) stars as Henri “Papillon” Charrière, a humble safecracker (cool job) from the underbelly of Paris, who gets framed for murder. In jail he meets a bajillionaire counterfeiter Louis Dega, played by Oscar winner and Mr Robot star Rami Malek. This might be oversharing in this forum, but my absolute kink is Rami Malek, looking as tired as humanly possible, wearing glasses. Papillon delivers on that in droves, along with what the New York Times calls “sober, high-minded stories about the terrible things that men do to other men in the name of country and righteousness.”
But also: exhausted Rami. / AC
How To Talk To Girls At Parties (Film from May 8)
I will watch Elle Fanning do absolutely anything – even if it’s playing some kind of hapless sex alien sent to Earth to party with a group of high school larrikins. Also, attention Sam Brooks, Nicole Kidman is also there and she’s very much wearing a wig. How to Talk to Girls at Parties, from the mind of Neil Gaiman (author of American Gods and Coraline), spans universes and genres to create a rat king coming-of-age, punk, sci-fi romantic comedy. There’s a Simon Amstell cameo, there’s latex up the wazoo and there are dislocated alien jaws. “One for those who like oodles of odd,” wrote Empire. Sign me up. / AC
Ben is Back (Film from May 15)
Julia Roberts? A thriller where a mother has to fight, sort of, for her addict son’s life? Sign me up! But seriously, Julia Roberts is one of our most underrated stars, in that, when she actually gets the chance to do meaty, intelligent, heavy work, she absolutely goes for it. Remember how brittle and wounded she was in August: Osage County? Remember how brittle and angry she was in Closer? Remember how brittle and monstrous she was in My Best Friend’s Wedding, the best romantic comedy of the 90s? Maybe she just does brittle really well, but never fear, Ben is Back has her at her most brittle and compelling. And I signed up, and initialed. / SB
They Shall Not Grow Old (Film from May 15)
From this interview with Peter Jackson last year: “In 1914 being filmed was a novel experience for most of the men, says Jackson. Much of the footage then has soldiers staring directly down the lens, mugging and laughing and carrying themselves with a naive innocence, all the more haunting in light of the mud and death that awaits them. It feels like the men are looking back at you.
… The films painstaking colourisation is masterful, giving a sense of reality to the men in fatigues and field grey uniforms. The restoration brings solidity to the characters, along with a nauseating sense of almost piteous nostalgia. The eerie quality of the footage is punctuated with all too human expressions of terror and dread. The men feel alive, young, at breaking point and in very real and immediate danger.” / Don Rowe
The Big C (S1-4, Binge from May 22)
The Big C was one of those cable shows that were all the rage at the turn of the decade. Your Nurse Jackies, your Weeds, your Damages – all these shows had a critically-acclaimed, much-beloved actress at the helm, usually taking their first plunge into television. The Big C was the best of those, starring Laura Linney as a woman who finds out she has terminal cancer and has to deal with the pretty goddamned huge ramifications of finding that out. Not only is Linney equal parts strong and fragile in the lead role, but the show is incredibly smart about the effects of cancer on those around the victim, and it never gets too heavy about it either.
Plus, the guest cast is stacked to the rafters with names: Cynthia Nixon! Susan Sarandon! Idris Elba! Brian Cox! Alan Alda! Hugh Dancy! Parker Posey! Kathy Najimy! Isaac Mizrahi! Oh, what names cable television could wrangle in for even the smallest role a few years ago. / SB
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.