At What Hi-Fi? we watch plenty of films when testing the latest in home cinema, but we're always keen to find new films or use old favourites that we know inside-out.
So whether it's the latest Hollywood film, a series on a streaming service, or perhaps a demo disc that pushes your home cinema to the max, we've got you covered…
The TV show we've rediscovered
Band of Brothers - Jonathan Evans, editor
A visit to the pub with an old friend brought with it the revelation that he had never seen Band of Brothers. Not, perhaps, as shocking an admission as a failure to have encountered Star Wars, but heinous enough for me to offer my Blu-ray box-set on loan.
But that discussion also led to my desire (need?) to see it all again myself – before I handed the tin box over. (That’s one of the series’ plusses, by the way: at 10 episodes long, it was refreshingly short by the standards of 2001, when a TV series could quite easily run to an episode count in the mid-20s – or precisely 24 as it happens…)
Band of Brothers is the story of Easy Company of the 506th regiment of the US 101st Airborne Division. The series follows the company from initial training in 1942 through to the end of the war in 1945.
To give you an idea of what to expect, it was produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who a few years earlier had collaborated on Saving Private Ryan. And, rest assured, some of the battle scenes in the mini series live up to the intensity of those in the movie.
And the story of Easy Company is remarkable. Involved in many of the most famous clashes on the Western front – from D-day, through the disastrous Market Garden campaign in Holland, to Hitler’s last roll of the dice in the Battle of the Bulge - they were even the first allies in to Hitler’s mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden.
That each episode is salted with interviews of real veterans talking about the battles and situations you are about to watch, or have just watched, only adds to the drama and immediacy of the action – and, of course, brings home just how ‘real’ it all is.
Band of Brothers is a compelling watch, well worth a revisit.
The TV show we're watching
Bloodline - Joe Cox, brand development editor
I don’t think I was meant to idly move Miami to the top my travel wishlist as I watched another body getting chopped up in Dexter.
Just like watching whack after whack in The Sopranos shouldn’t have had me pondering a visit to New Jersey. And I’m probably not meant to be Googling flights to Florida as I enjoy the noirish Bloodline, but it’s another show that makes a location - the stunning Islamorada in the Florida Keys - central to the action.
The fact that you can watch it in 4K HDR on Netflix is a bonus. The show is about the dark secrets of a well-to-do Florida family, and the siblings’ struggles to hold things together - and keep their secrets safe - for the sake of the family business. Sporadic flashbacks hint at murky goings-on without revealing the full story, leaving us to play favourites, fill in the gaps and inevitably jump to the wrong conclusions.
The uncertainty leaves the viewer unsure who to trust and keeps the tension levels high, while Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, Wolf of Wall Street), Linda Cardellini (E.R.) and relative newcomer Owen Teague all put in strong performances.
The third and final series goes live next month, so there’s plenty of time to get up to speed. And to find an Airbnb in Key West.
The TV show we wish we'd seen earlier
Stranger Things – Kashfia Kabir, first tests editor
I missed out on the Stranger Things phenomenon when it came out in the summer of 2016. But it doesn’t matter if you watch the show now or in a decades’ time, as the endearing 80s homage that runs through the show’s veins surpasses nostalgia into timelessness.
The Duffer brothers (Matt and Ross - writers, producers and directors of the show) delved deep into their love of 80s sci-fi and horror films to create a show that is more reminiscent of Spielberg than JJ Abrams’ Super 8.
There are also nods to Stephen King, John Carpenter, The Clash - it’s so stuffed with 80s pop culture that you’ll have endless fun spotting all the references.
An eight-episode run means there’s no time to dally or slow down. Thankfully, the show keeps everything – plot, action, characters, suspense, dialogue – so tightly woven that you’re immediately caught up in the events unfurling in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana.
A missing kid, a secret government lab, a grumpy town sheriff, supernatural powers, bikes and walkie-talkies – there are so many familiar tropes here, but the show manages to keep it fresh and exciting instead of well-trodden and predictable. But what really gets you truly invested in the show are the characters.
From the core cast of extremely likeable kids to Winona Ryder’s worried mother – they’re established so quickly you know them, like them, and are invested in their lives right from episode one.
Despite the short run, the show manages to tie up the plot satisfyingly by the eighth episode. But there’s so much more material to be mined we can’t wait for series two.
Funny, endearing, tense, scary, heartfelt – it’s simply damn good storytelling.
The guilty pleasure
Space Jam - Adam Smith, staff writer
Think of the greatest sports movie you’ve ever seen and then tell me why it’s not Space Jam.
The heartfelt tale of Michael Jordan donning his basketball shorts once again to save the Looney Tunes from a lifetime of alien servitude is a concept I’m amazed ever got made, let alone so well.
It’s a film that’s appealing on the sports level – for the adults – and as a children’s cartoon. Jordan’s lack of fulfilment as a baseball player is obvious in itself, exacerbated only by the undue adoration of his fans who still see him as something he isn’t any more.
While on the loony side, there’s a generous amount of slapstick comedy to revel in. The NBA players being unable to perform even the simplest moves after the alien ‘Monstars’ steal their talent is innocently entertaining, as is the Monstars crushing Jordan into a basketball as a demonstration of strength.
But where this film sparkles is that it knows exactly what it’s going for. It doesn’t pitch Jordan as a ‘proper’ actor in the same way that Dwayne Johnson or Arnold Schwarzenegger were, and as such doesn’t overstep its mark with unintentionally cringeworthy scenes.
It’s also got a great soundtrack – the juxtaposition of R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly, Seal’s Fly Like an Eagle and 2 Unlimited’s Get Ready with the ludicrous, cartoonified basketball scenes is sure to get a chuckle.
Also, the touch of having Marvin the Martian act as referee - since theoretically as both a cartoon and an alien he would be fair – is a stroke of genius.
The film we're looking forward to
Alien: Covenant - Pete Brown, video editor
Anticipation has been high for this prequel-sequel to Prometheus, the Alien prequel that disappointed upon its release.
With Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5 seemingly in limbo, Ridley Scott’s continuation of his own classic has to deliver. Scott has addressed Prometheus’s main issue - that of brainy scientists making dumb choices - by introducing regular civilian couples who will, no doubt, make equally appalling decisions (don’t look into the eggs you fools!).
These ill-fated couples are travelling on the titular spaceship to the far reaches of the known galaxy to colonise a new world. The paradise they find is short-lived, and they become entangled in the gory life-cycle of our favourite deadly and evolving cinematic organism.
The trailers have already show plenty of nasty body-horror, and an exciting face-off between the xenomorph and Danny McBride’s Covenant pilot.
Away from the horror, though, the dramatic chops of this film should be in good hands, with Katherine Waterston playing crew member Daniels, Michael Fassbender as androids Walter and David, and Guy Pearce reprising his role as "The Company" mastermind Peter Weyland.
Honestly, if anyone survives this film, I’ll be surprised. Visually it already looks to be a winner, and with some reservation, I can’t wait to see what Alien: Covenant brings to the overall story.