The period between Christmas and New Year can be a kind of no man’s land, when there’s nothing to do but gorge on leftovers and think about returning some of those more unwanted gifts.
But it doesn’t have to be like that – after all, what better use of your downtime could there be than catching up on some of the year’s best movies and TV shows?
Enter NOW TV, which has a raft of new content that fits the bill perfectly. See below for some of the highlights streaming during ‘Crimbo limbo’ and beyond…
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Streaming 24 December)
After a couple of fun spin-offs, 2014’s superb LEGO Movie finally got its first direct sequel this year, packed with more of the zany laughs that the series has become known for. Superstar Chris Pratt pulls double duty here by voicing lead everyman Emmett Brickowski, as well as cosmic badass Rex Dangervest – a hilariously unsubtle amalgamation of Pratt’s recent fantasy roles.
With a screenplay from Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), it’s no surprise that The LEGO Movie 2 is brimming with heart and wit. This time, the wild adventure of Emmett, Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett) is cleverly set against the backdrop of a real-world brother and sister wrestling for control over an elaborate LEGO set.
Mary Poppins Returns (Streaming 25 December)
Christmas treats don’t come any sweeter than this: Mary Poppins Returns is a crowd-pleasing sequel to 1964’s original, which sees Emily Blunt perfectly cast in the role originated by Julie Andrews. Set 25 years after the events of the first movie, Poppins returns to the Banks family to find them in a dire state.
Shaken by tragedy and gripped by debt, siblings Michael and Jane are on the brink of losing all hope when their childhood nanny reappears to bring magic back to their life. It would be fair to say she delivers too, as the movie features whimsical sequences and ambitious musical numbers throughout that fully embrace the spirit of its classic predecessor.
Original star Dick Van Dyke is back for the sequel, although playing a different role to before, joining an all-star cast that includes Lin-Manuel Miranda (His Dark Materials), Ben Whishaw (Paddington), Emily Mortimer (Hugo), Julie Walters (Mamma Mia!), Colin Firth (Kingsman) and Meryl Streep (Into The Woods).
Avengers: Endgame (Streaming 26 December)
When it comes to event cinema it doesn’t get much bigger than this. The final instalment of the MCU’s Avengers saga broke all kinds of records when it was released earlier in the year, and attracted plaudits from fans and critics alike.
Frequently billed as the “most ambitious crossover event” in history, and bringing to a conclusion over ten years’ worth of movies, it’s now the highest grossing movie of all time and the ultimate treat for superhero fans.
Shazam! (Streaming 1 January)
Shazam! is the latest DC Comics character to make the leap to the silver screen and arguably the most successful addition yet to their burgeoning cinematic universe. When an ancient wizard grants troubled teen Billy Batson the ability to transform into an adult superhero, he must master his newfound powers to stop a rising evil threat.
It’s a unique spin on the superhero archetype executed remarkably well, with two endearing leads in Zachary Levi (Chuck) and Jack Dylan Grazer (Stephen King’s IT), who take on the roles of the powered-up Batson and his geeky friend, Freddy. Ditching the brooding intensity of Batman v Superman, Shazam! plays to their strengths by adopting a more light-hearted tone throughout.
Star Wars: The Original Saga (Streaming now)
JJ Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker marks the final movie in the ‘Skywalker’ Saga, and will undoubtedly be released to huge fanfare when it opens in December. But with news that Star Wars movies are set to go ‘into hiatus’ after this instalment in the franchise, some fans might be eager for another fix.
And what better way could there be of scratching that itch than returning to where it all began? George Lucas’ original trilogy remains a landmark moment in cinema history and all three movies – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – are available to stream on NOW TV, as well as the prequel trilogy.
Catherine The Great (Stream every episode)
This historical miniseries puts Helen Mirren centre stage as the Russian Empress Catherine II, charting her later life from the years 1764 to 1796. The season explores her scandalous reign, including her relationship with military leader Grigory Potemkin (Jason Clarke), using letters the real Catherine wrote as a basis for its plotting.
The four-episode season was a passion project for Mirren and showcases her incredible acting talent, exploring Catherine’s transformative reign as well as her complex personal relationships. As is the case with most biographical dramas, there are some liberties taken with the truth here and there which could frustrate history buffs, but fans of period drama will likely be swept off their feet by the incredible sets and costumes alone.
Chernobyl (Stream every episode)
This gripping miniseries from Sky Atlantic and HBO tells the story of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster that has left a city decimated and largely uninhabitable to this day. The season splits focus between the workers of the ill-fated power plant, the brave people who gave their lives to control the damage, and the scientists working frantically behind the scenes to prevent the situation from getting any worse.
Jarred Harris (The Crown), Stellan Skarsgård (Thor) and Emily Watson (The Theory of Everything) give powerful performances in the lead roles, but it’s the incredible direction and visuals that really make Chernobyl stand out.
It’s a truly horrifying recreation of the catastrophic incident and certainly not for the faint-hearted. While it’s only five episodes long, each instalment is harrowing. That said, it’s incredibly well-made television that raises awareness of the terrible suffering that so many workers put themselves through in the interest of the greater good.
Game of Thrones S1-8 (Streaming January)
This acclaimed adaptation of George RR Martin’s epic novels is arguably the biggest show of a generation, enrapturing millions with the dragons, battles and political machinations of Westeros.
If you’ve somehow managed to avoid it up to this point, NOW TV is giving you the perfect opportunity to see what you’ve been missing with all eight seasons streaming from January 2020. Just make sure you send the kids to bed before you stick it on, this is mature content in every imaginable way.
Modern Family (S1-10 streaming 27 December, S11 starts January)
This hit US sitcom has enjoyed an impressive decade-long run on television, finally wrapping up with its eleventh season next year which is joining the previous ten on NOW TV as it airs in the states.
Ed O’Neill (Married… with Children), Sofía Vergara (Hot Pursuit) and Ty Burrell (Muppets Most Wanted) are among the memorable cast assembled for this season, which serves perfectly as bitesize easy watching.
A Discovery of Witches (Stream every episode)
Adapted from the fantasy novel of the same name by Deborah Harkness, this show tells the story of historian and witch Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) who teams up with vampire and biochemist Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode) to reveal the secrets of a magical manuscript.
The first season premiered last year to positive reviews with critics praising its rich lore and strong casting. The story is set to continue in 2020 with both a second and third season in the works that will continue drawing from Harkness’s All Souls trilogy of books.
If you missed its initial run on Sky One, you can catch up with the first season on NOW TV which is sure to be a hit with fans of historical fantasy and all things magic.
A NOW TV pass costs £8.99 a month for the entertainment package and £11.99 a month for the cinema pass