Photo: Warner Bros

    What to watch on Amazon Prime this winter

    16 December 2020

    Looking for something new to watch on Amazon Prime this Christmas? Here’s our guide to the best shows and films arriving over the winter season:

    Tenet, 15 December (to rent or buy)

    Christopher Nolan’s time-bending venture – which revolves around the concept of bullets fired backwards in time – may have failed to reverse the decline of the cinema industry when it opened in theatres earlier this year. But now the would-be blockbuster gets a second chance to deliver on the hype when it arrives on Amazon Prime, as a rental offering, just in time for Christmas. Will the head-scratching plot make any more sense after a few helpings of seasonal mulled wine? You never know.

    Uncle Frank

    Johnny Depp’s best friend Paul Bettany delivers a stand-out performance in this slightly twee coming-of-age film about a precocious teenager who becomes enchanted by her urbane, semi-closeted college professor uncle. Revolving around the death of a fiery family patriarch in an old southern town, and with a suitably poetic script from American Beauty’s Alan Ball, the film has occasional flickers of Tennessee Williams – albeit with the sort of feel-good resolution that would have likely had the great playwright choking on his bourbon.

    Small Axe

    The hard-working Steve McQueen (as in the 12 Years A Slave director; not the late Hollywood giant) returns to Amazon Prime with five stand-alone films, released as a loosely thematic series a la Black Mirror. The first offering, The Mangrove, stars Shaun Parkes as the patron of the eponymous black-owned Notting Hill restaurant which became the subject of a vindictive campaign of hardline policing in the 60s. The second instalment, Lovers Rock, is a much softer offering in which Top Boy’s Michael Ward (one of the most promising young actors in Britain) woos his beau at a West London houseparty to an old-school reggae soundtrack handpicked by McQueen.

    Sound of Metal, 4 December

    Having dazzled the critics when it premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, debut effort Sound of Metal now gets the big release it deserves. British viewers should be doubly pleased that this gritty relationship drama film features two homegrown stars in its leading roles: Four Lions star Riz Ahmed and Hollywood export Olivia Cooke. Ahmed plays Ruben, a former heroin-using rock drummer who is devastated to learn he’s suffering from rapid hearing loss. Cooke, meanwhile, plays his longstanding lover determined to ensure Ruben’s life doesn’t fall apart entirely when he’s forced to give up his biggest passion.

    Grand Tour: Massive Hunt, 18 December

    The ‘Grand Tour lads’ (or as they’re known to anyone who doesn’t work for Amazon’s PR department ‘the Top Gear lads’) reunite for another big venture, heading to Madagascar in search of pirate gold. Described as their toughest challenge yet, the Massive Hunt sees the three petrolheads tasked with testing highly-modified sports cars across unsuitable terrains. Destinations apparently include the world’s most expensive piece of tarmac – a gravity-defying ring road which stretches out into the tropical sea.

    One Night in Miami, January 2021

    An adaptation of Kemp Powers’ acclaimed 2013 play (which garnered rave reviews when it arrived at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2016), One Night in Miami tells the story of the night that impressionable young boxing champion Cassius Clay chose to take on the name that would define him for life: Muhammad Ali. Exploring Ali’s relationships with the black separatist Malcolm X, as well as his two friends Sam Cooke and Jim Brown, the script asks powerful questions about integration, identity and the duties we owe to those around us.

    Black Bear, 18 December (to rent or buy)

    Aubrey Plaza, breakout star of Parks and Recreation, continues her transition to ‘thoroughly-serious actress’ as she stars in the Polanski-esque psychological thriller Black Bear. Plaza plays Allison – a prickly and slightly pretentious filmmaker who joins a couple in their rural mountain retreat seeking inspiration for her next project. When the film premiered at Sundance at the beginning of the year, critics raved about genre-defying twists which were apparently too good to spoil. Amazon, as you might expect, is keeping tight-lipped on that front. Expect the unexpected.

    The Wilds, 11 December

    The work of former Sex and the City producer Amy B Harris, The Wilds is a new ten-part original series described as sitting somewhere between a teen angst drama and a survivalist adventure. With echoes of Lost, the plot follows a group of teenage girls whose private plane crashes, leaving them entirely stranded on an unfamiliar island. As you might expect, things soon get strange, as it appears being stranded might have been part of a plan all along. But who is pulling the strings – and why?