There’s no doubt the writers of That Shelf are passionate about what they’re watching and no better question to ask a film lover than “what’s the best thing you’ve seen recently?”
Whether new or old, something they’ve watched for the first time or the 50th time, we’re putting that question out to our staff on a monthly basis to find out what the best thing they’ve watch all month is and why it sticks out in a sea of viewings. And just like our team, it’s a diverse look at films across years and genres.
But it’s not just movies that have our attention: we managed to fit some great TV too. This month’s survey revealed we’re all pretty into The Outsider and Barry.
We’re hoping these answers might lead you to your new favourite movie or binge-worthy series. We want to know what you’ve loved this month too: Let us know what the best thing you watched in January in the comments or on Twitter.
Here’s what That Shelf’s writers were loving in January:
The performances from leads and supporting characters alike were solid and led to many earned moments of pathos. – Daniel Grant
Where to watch it: In theatres
God Told Me To (1976)
I’ve been going down a Larry Cohen rabbit hole since the filmmaker passed away last year. I’d always loved Q: The Winged Serpent and The Stuff, but did not realize he had such an interesting filmography (Phonebooth?!). God Told Me To has been high on my list since Retropath! played it at Toronto’s Royal Cinema a few years back, but I only just got around to watching it when the Criterion Channel added it to this month’s ’70s Sci-Fi programme.
A legitimately disquieting opening act gives way to a flawed but above average genre exercise. There’s really wild and weird moments sprinkled throughout – and I’m not sure it all added up in the end – but with mass murder, alien abduction, and sacrilege front and center, I can only assume this was pretty transgressive stuff even for a B picture in the late 1970s. Body horror fans should note that this would pair pretty well with Cronenberg’s early output. – Will Perkins
Where to watch it: Criterion Channel, Shudder, rent online, Blu-ray
People may have forgotten about Vin Diesel’s big break out, or they may have retroactively written the film off in the aftermath of its bloated franchise follow-up, but Pitch Black is a fun, scrappy monster movie that’s well shot and features a surprising amount of character development. Bonus points for Aussie star Radha Mitchell, who imbues lead protagonist Fry with depth and vulnerability. The film is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, so it’s overdue for a rewatch. – Joe Lipsett
Where to watch it: on DVD, Blu-ray, rent online
The Three Musketeers (1973)
I’d heard about this movie for years and was so thrilled to discover it was as good as I’d been told! A perfect blend of glamour, action, comedy and intrigue, beautifully directed and designed. – Bil Antoniou
Where to watch it: DVD, Blu-ray
Okay, it might not be a “great” movie, but It’s Complicated is one of the best Blu-rays for your shelf. This endlessly re-watchable 2009 Nancy Meyers rom-com is one of Meryl Streep’s better comedic outings. She gets to be so funny and sexy. This film and performance offer such great comfort food. It’s impossible not to get a pick-me-up from watching 60-year-old Meryl kick off her heels with nothing left to prove. This relationship status comedy sparks thanks to Streep’s vivacious chemistry with co-stars Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. There are ample guilty pleasures to indulge in thanks to a wine-guzzling, pot-smoking, pastry-baking Meryl. Best of all, It’s Complicated delivers the very best in Nancy Meyers kitchen porn. Meryl’s ludicrously extravagant cooking space is for adults only. – Pat Mullen
Where to watch it: DVD, Blu-ray, rent online
It is by no means a perfect film, but I’ll be damned if Underwater is a splashing good time. An aquatic thriller with a kiss of Lovecraftian creatures, this was the perfect antidote to a Midwestern winter night. Fun and escapist. – Deirdre Crimmins
Where to watch it: In theatres
Killer screenplay, kinetic pacing, and an editing style that keeps the film moving forward.- Kevin L. Lee
Where to watch it: DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix, Crave, rent online
A Confession (2019)
This 2019 British true-crime mini-series packs a seriously dark emotional punch, with writing and performances that set it capably apart from your average police procedural. While the first few episodes predictably focus in on the investigation surrounding the disappearance of two young Wiltshire women, the rest of the series focuses in on its the aftermath—particularly on the pain and loss experienced by the girls’ mothers. Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter, Pride) and Siobhan Finneran (Downton Abbey, Happy Valley) turn in exceptionally harrowing performances here, while the quietly riveting Martin Freeman (Fargo, The Hobbit) digs deep as real-life Detective Steve Fulcher, the man who put his entire career on the line to catch the killer. Solidly adapted from the detective’s book about the case, A Confession is a truly devastating look at those left to grieve and the system that let them all down. – Emma Badame
Where to watch it: DVD (or a British Airways flight)
I am the first person to admit they hate romantic-comedies so it’s always a surprise and delight when I find one I actually like enough to watch more than once and laugh out loud each time (thanks again, Judd Apatow). Amy Schumer and Bill Hader are the perfect duo in the comedy about a romance-hating writer who falls in love with her subject – a cliché, yes, but their chemistry and believability as a couple more than makes up for it. There’s an amazing supporting cast that includes Brie Larson, John Cena, Vanessa Bayer, Ezra Miller, Randall Park and Tilda Swinton who looks like she’s having a blast, but the real scene-stealer here is LeBron James. Turns out LeBron has great comedic timing and delivery. This also made a great segue to watch in-between a season 1 and 2 rewatch of Barry because there’s no such thing as too much Bill Hader. – Rachel West
Where to watch it: Amazon Prime, DVD, Blu-ray, rent online
Out of dozens of films at Sundance, where docs often reign, it’s the best of the lot. It’s an exciting, accessible, and profound look at the political process, equal parts uplifting and horrifying, and decodes like few other works the machinations of the process. – Jason Gorber
Watch it: Sure to be on a fest run (look for it at HotDocs in spring), the film was bought by A24 and Apple for an astonishing $12m, so we will hopefully be talking about this long last next Oscar season.
Best TV show you’re currently watching:
“Finally got on board with Succession”
Shrill season 2
The Hot Zone