What’s new to VOD and streaming this weekend

Including Dreamland, Collective, The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special and a doc about The Exorcist


NOW critics pick what’s new to streaming and VOD for the weekend of November 20. Plus: Everything new to VOD and streaming platforms.

Collective

(Alexander Nanau)

In October 2015, a fire at the Colectiv club in Bucharest killed 27 concert-goers and injured another 180, sparking a national protest that brought down the Romanian government. After the disaster, dozens of survivors died in hospital of easily preventable bacterial infections, leading journalists to uncover a larger scandal within the country’s health-care system. Collective is remarkable for the efficiency with which director/editor Nanau follows the various threads of his story, which plays out over a year as Catalin Tolontan and his squad of reporters expose deep bureaucratic corruption that’s left hospitals unable to provide the most basic levels of cleanliness and care. This leaves incoming health minister Vlad Voiculescu – a former patients’ rights advocate – scrambling to address each new crisis. It’s horrific, immediate, essential filmmaking, with Nanau building a moral indictment alongside the legal cases forming in front of us on screen. And in the hard-won recovery of Tedy Ursuleanu, who survived the Colectiv fire to become a very public symbol of its legacy, Collective even manages to find something inspirational in this whole awful story. Not to be missed. 120 min. Subtitled. Now available on digital and on demand. NNNNN (Norman Wilner)

Courtesy of CBC Gem

Death And Sickness

(Sook-Yin Lee, Dylan Gamble)

Written, produced, directed, edited and scored by its leads – broadcaster/filmmaker Lee and musician and first-time actor Gamble – Death And Sickness is a compelling experiment in filtering the experience of the pandemic through a very personal prism. Lee and Gamble play versions of themselves, two performers who decide to shelter in place together in Lee’s ramshackle Kensington Market home. In the initial weeks, they find ways to entertain each other – but as time wears on, their hold on reality starts to slip, and things get weird. It’s impressive to watch the pair spin restrictions and limitations into strengths, both in terms of the story and their own performances (Gamble’s not nearly as comfortable on camera as Lee is, which translates to an interesting hesitancy). But what’s most powerful about Death And Sickness is the way Lee uses it as a crucible for her own grief over the loss of her partner, Adam Litovitz, in 2019. In those moments, the plague is just a catalyst that traps her in their space with her memories of a happier, healthier time… and that’s something we can all understand on a visceral level. 80 min. Available to stream on CBC Gem Friday (November 20). NNN (NW)

Dreamland

(Miles Joris-Peyrafitte)

The tale of a Depression-era farm boy (Finn Cole) who falls for a wounded bank robber (Margot Robbie) and winds up going on the run with her rather than bringing her to justice, Dreamland plays like a mashup of Arthur Penn’s Bonnie And Clyde and Terrence Malick’s early, dreamy masterworks Badlands and Days Of Heaven… or rather, an imitation so pale you can see right through it. Joris-Peyrafitte’s follow-up to his 2016 Sundance hit As You Are is a beautifully produced but utterly hollow riff on outlaw narratives, with Robbie’s morally ambivalent Allison either luring Cole’s wide-eyed Eugene into a life of crime or trying to protect him from the nastiness she’s already experienced, depending on the moment; meanwhile Eugene’s lawman stepfather (Travis Fimmel) seethes impotently in pursuit. It’s all very pretty, and very predictable – except for the very last moment, which is momentarily clever in its subversion of the usual outlaw trajectory, but also renders the elegaic tone of Dreamland – which has been narrated in flashback by Cole’s grown-up sister (Lola Kirke) –kind of pointless in retrospect. 100 min. Now available on digital and on demand. NN (NW)

Leap Of Faith: William Friedkin On The Exorcist

(Alexandre O. Philippe)

Nearly half a century after its release, The Exorcist still repels and compels in equal measure with its verité cinematography, its ambiguous narrative and its weighty Catholicism – all orchestrated by director William Friedkin as an escalating nightmare of parental horror. Over the decades, Friedkin has spun the narrative of its creation into an aria of his own genius, to the point that author William Peter Blatty, who adapted the screenplay from his own novel, and stars Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Linda Blair and Jason Miller now seem like bit players in the thing. Leap Of Faith captures Friedkin’s version of the making of The Exorcist for posterity, with director Philippe illustrating his subject’s monologue with film clips and other archival footage, offering no other perspectives. Friedkin’s a fun raconteur, and anything that offers a deep dive into a landmark cultural work is worth watching. But I wish Philippe – who’s made intriguing, complex dissections of Psycho and Alien – had been willing to craft a more comprehensive investigation of either the movie or its maker. 104 min. Available to stream on Shudder Thursday (November 19). NNN (NW)

Lucasfilm/Disney+

It’s all your favourite Star Wars pals, now in licensed LEGO form!

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special

(Ken Cunningham)

First, the bad news: The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special does not re-create George Lucas’s stiff, misebgotten 1978 TV special in brick form, or even reference it beyond the acknowledgment of Life Day as a thing. Instead, it’s a goof on the entire Skywalker Saga, with Rey (voiced by Helen Sadler) using an ancient Jedi portal thingie to jump into key moments from the entire franchise – picking up Luke, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and the Emperor along the way – while her friends wait for her to show up for a party. It’s a pleasant enough diversion, offering silly jokes for kids and the grown-up nerdy joy of seeing LEGO versions of crucial scenes from the movies. But it’s also entirely insubstantial, not even trying to do anything with the holiday gimmick or the decades of investment we have in this galaxy. I couldn’t help wondering how much better this would have been with even the slightest input from Philip Lord and Christopher Miller, who perfected the template for this sort of thing with their LEGO Movie franchise. I guess Lucasfilm firing them from Solo: A Star Wars Story sort of made that impossible, huh. Full review here. 45 min. Now available to stream on Disney+. NNN (NW)

Sound of Metal

(Darius Marder)

Riz Ahmed gets the showcase he’s long deserved in this stunning first feature from The Place Beyond The Pines screenwriter Marder, a powerhouse character study about a noise-metal drummer trying to cope with a sudden, devastating hearing loss. Facing the end of his music career in the middle of a tour with his girlfriend and creative partner Lou (Olivia Cooke), Ahmed’s Ruben – who’s also a recovering addict – lands in a remote facility run by the committed but demanding Joe (Paul Raci). Ruben wants to get back to where he was; Joe wants him to understand where he is, and what it means to be there. That essential question takes up the bulk of the film, which Marder explores by pushing closer and closer into Ahmed’s face. The assaultive, near-experimental sound design goes a long way towards putting us in Ruben’s head, but Ahmed’s performance makes us understand his character with a clarity that eludes Ruben himself. It’s a hell of a thing to see – and to hear – and while it’s a shame viewers don’t have the option to be truly overwhelmed by Sound Of Metal in a big, dark theatre, the movie works just fine at home. (The entire film is presented with closed captions at Marder’s request.) 124 min. Available to stream at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox Friday (November 20). NNNNN (NW)

Film festivals

Cinefranco Festival International Du Film Francophone

The annual celebration of French-language cinema mixes Canadian debuts and international hits, rolling out new titles every day – most of which will then be available to stream for the entirety of the fest. Titles include the Belgian drama Lola Vers La Mer (premiering November 26), with Mya Bollaers as a trans teen reunited with her estranged father (Benoît Magimel) under terrible circumstances, and the French time-travel fantasy (sort of) La Belle Epoque, starring Daniel Auteuil, Fanny Ardant and Guillaume Canet, while the Canadian offerings include Louis Godbout’s psychological thriller Mont Foster (premiering November 20), starring Patrick Hivon and Transplant’s Laurence Leboeuf as a couple whose cottage retreat turns into a nightmare; Joshua Demers’s satirical Québexit (premiering November 25, and only available in Ontario), about two Indigenous sisters (Nicole Joy-Fraser, Trickster’s Gail Maurice) caught up in a border conflict between New Brunswick and an independent Quebec, and Pascal Plante’s Nadia, Butterfly (premieres November 28), which stars actual Olympian Katerine Savard as a swimmer facing the end of her career – at age 21. November 20-28, streaming at cinefranco.com  

What’s new to streaming

November 20

16 And Pregnant (seasons 1-6) (Crave)

Alien Xmas (Netflix Canada)

American Psycho (Crave)

Death And Sickness (CBC Gem)

Defending The Guilty (CBC Gem)

Diamond Tongues (CBC Gem)

Dolittle (Crave)

Double Your Dish (season 1) (Crave)

Empire Of The Sun (Crave)

Flavorful Origins: Gansu Cuisine (Netflix Canada)

How To With John Wilson (season 1, episode 5) (Crave)

If Anything Happens I Love You (Netflix Canada)

Into The Forest (CBC Gem)

Kenny & Spenny: Paldemic (CBC Gem)

Macho (Crave)

Made By Destruction (seasons 1-2) (Crave)

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (Crave)

Moka’s Fabulous Adventure (season 1b) (Crave)

The Pack (Amazon Prime Video Canada)

The Real World (seasons 28-30) (Crave)

Real Time With Bill Maher (season 18, episode 35) (Crave)

Rocknrolla (Crave)

Star Trek: Discovery (season 3, episode 6) (Crave)

Teen Mom 2 (seasons 6-9) (Crave)

Voices Of Fire (Netflix Canada)

W5 (season 55, episode 8) (Crave)

Wendy (Crave)

Warrior (season 2, episode 8) (Crave)

November 21

Between The World And Me (Crave)

The Hangover: Part III (Netflix Canada)

The Matrix Reloaded (Netflix Canada)

The Matrix Revolutions (Netflix Canada)

Monsterland (season 1, episodes 6-8) (Crave)

November 22

Belushi (Crave)

Dolly Parton’s Christmas On The Square (Netflix Canada)

Murder On Middle Beach (season 1, episode 2) (Crave)

The Reagans (season 1, episode 2) (Crave)

The Spanish Princess Part 2 (season 2, episode 7) (Crave)

The Undoing (season 1, episode 5) (Crave)

Available on VOD

Collective

Documentary directed by Alexander Nanau

Apple TV

The Donut King

Documentary directed by Alice Gu

Glory Hole Doughnuts Virtual Cinema

Dreamland

Margot Robbie, Finn Cole, Travis Fimmel; directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte

Apple TV, Google Play

First We Eat

Documentary directed by Suzanne Crocker

Hot Docs Ted Rogers Virtual Cinema

The New Mutants

Anya Taylor-Joy, Maisie Williams, Charlie Heaton; directed by Josh Cooke

Apple TV, Google Play

The Personal History Of David Copperfield

Dev Patel, Morfydd Clark, Tilda Swinton; directed by Armando Iannucci

Read NOW’s review

Apple TV, Google Play

Rustic Oracle

Carmen Moore, Lake Kahentawaks Delisle, McKenzie Deer Robinson; directed by Sonia Bonspille Boileau

Apple TV, Vimeo On Demand

Saint Frances

Kelly O’Sullivan, Ramona Edith-Williams, Jim True-Frost; directed by Alex Thompson

Apple TV, Google Play

Sound Of Metal

Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci; directed by Darius Marder

digital TIFF Bell Lightbox

Team Marco

Owen Vaccaro, Anthony Patellis, Anastasia Ganias-Gellin; directed by Julio Vincent Gambuto

Apple TV, Google Play

Unhinged

Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman; directed by Derrick Borte

Read NOW’s review

Apple TV, Google Play

Watson

Documentary directed by Lesley Chilcott

Read NOW’s review

Apple TV, Google Play

Disc of the week

Silent Running

(Arrow, Blu-ray)

Four years after he revolutionized visual effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Douglas Trumbull got his first directing gig – and delivered a moody, deeply sad sci-fi drama about an astronaut trying to save the last of Earth’s forests when his spacefaring greenhouse ship is deemed a waste of resources. You can tell it’s an early 70s project from the way it wears its eco-conscious heart on its sleeve (and from the Joan Baez songs on the soundtrack), but Silent Running still holds up almost half a century later, grounded emotionally in Bruce Dern’s eccentric and soulful performance – the actor spends most of the film in the company of three robot helpers, played by little people in boxy suits  – and Trumbull’s refusal to turn away from the grim trajectory of his story. Arrow’s new Blu-ray features a stellar 2K restoration of the feature – improving on the earlier high-def master in almost every way – and includes all the extras produced for previous U.S. and U.K. releases (including both the audio commentary by Trumbull and Dern and the isolated score option) while adding a new commentary track with critics Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw, an interview about the score with music historian Jeff Bond, a Jon Spira visual essay exploring the evolution of the script and a massive image gallery.

Update: Amazon Prime Video Canada has pushed the release date for Mangrove to 2021.

@nowtoronto

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