What’s new to VOD and streaming this weekend

Including Let Them All Talk, The Wilds, A Suitable Boy and Wolfwalkers


Courtesy of Bell Media

NOW critics pick what’s new to streaming and VOD for the weekend of December 11. Plus: Everything new to VOD and streaming platforms.

Let Them All Talk

(Steven Soderbergh)

Soderbergh and Meryl Streep follow 2019’s The Laundromat with a lighter and considerably less problematic project. Streep plays celebrated author Alice Hughes, who takes the Queen Mary II to pick up a literary prize in England, bringing along her nephew (Lucas Hedges) and two old friends (Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest) – and decades’ worth of baggage. Deborah Eisenberg’s script builds a farcical structure out of everyone’s resentments, jealousies and perceived betrayals, with the lofty Alice fussing at its centre and Bergen fuming at its outer points. Wiest coasts blithely through it all and Hedges fumblingly courts Alice’s agent (Gemma Chan), who’s using him to gain intel about Alice’s next book. All the while, Soderbergh amuses himself by shooting aboard the QMII during an actual crossing and treating the ship like one of his Ocean’s casinos, fixating on angles in the architecture and patterns in carpet design. As always, his technical choices are inventive and perfectly suited to the subject matter. But he’s also hiding the story’s real dramatic arc in plain sight, and it’s one that pays off surprisingly well. Full review here. 113 min. Now available to stream on Crave. NNNN (Norman Wilner)

A Suitable Boy

(Mira Nair)

Nair’s landmark BBC miniseries, which closed TIFF in September, is an expensive, elaborate adaptation of Vikram Seth’s 1993 novel, and the first such production to feature an almost entirely South Asian cast. Seth’s tale of people finding their way in a newly partitioned nation is told through the eyes and experiences of Indian characters, rather than from a colonial perspective that exoticizes or marginalizes the locals. Lata (Tanya Maniktala) is a student determined not to let her traditional mother (Mahira Kakkar) choose her husband and therefore her future, while Maan (Ishaan Khatter) – whose brother has just married Lata’s sister – is rebellious in a different way, embarrassing his politically connected family and courting public scandal by falling for a ghazal singer (Tabu) who’s considerably older than him.

Dramatically, A Suitable Boy sticks to the prestige-adaptation playbook, with a script by Andrew Davies – the go-to writer for literary ventures, with miniseries versions of Pride And Prejudice (the one with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth), Vanity Fair, Bleak House, Little Dorrit and most recently War & Peace on his resume – that lays out the novel for us in long, didactic stretches. Passion is sublimated; violence is abstracted as Davies flattens the drama out, the better to make it easily digestible over the course of several evenings. There’s nothing here that might make viewers change the channel, but neither is there anything that will have them counting the days until the next episode airs. First two episodes now streaming on Acorn TV, with new episodes every Monday through January 4. NNN (NW)

Courtesy of FilmsWeLike

Swimming Out Until The Sea Turns Blue

(Jia Zhangke) Chinese master Jia’s first documentary in over a decade – after a run of ambitious narrative features like A Touch Of Sin, Mountains May Depart and Ash Is Purest White – uses a literary festival in the filmmaker’s home province of Shanxi to explore the last few decades of Chinese history from the perspective of three writers from different generations: Jia Pingwa, and Yu Hua and Liang Hong. Mostly, they’re happy with the way things have improved for the Chinese people (and for themselves) since the chaos of the Cultural Revolution and the gradual abandonment of ritualistic patriotism as the nation became more focused on economic victories. Director Jia restrains himself from any overt commentary, which is surprising given the level of allegorical engagement in his recent features. Even his 2008 quasi-documentary 24 City offers artful contrast to its “real” content through fictional inserts. Maybe he’s mellowing with age, or maybe he’s just content to let these particular subjects tell their own stories as they see fit. Either way, they’re stories worth hearing. 112 min. Subtitled. Available to stream at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox Friday (December 11). NNN (NW)

Amazon Prime Video

Survival isnt easy in The Wilds.

The Wilds

(Sarah Streicher) Daredevil writer Streicher’s time-shuffling survival mystery sets itself up as a mean-girl riff on Lost, with a group of teenage girls from different backgrounds flying out to a self-help retreat in Hawaii, only to find themselves trying to survive on a desolate tropical island. Each episode covers a single day on the island, focusing on a different character’s experience before, during and after the ordeal, and Streicher and her writers do an excellent job of parceling out information to the audience about what we’ve seen and what’s yet to come. The mostly unknown cast is uniformly terrific, though Reign Edwards and Madeline’s Madeline breakout Helena Howard quickly define themselves as twin sisters with markedly different skill sets, while Sarah Pidgeon and Shannon Berry bring the gravitas as young women who’ve been through very different miseries. (Among the grownups glimpsed here and there, Rachel Griffiths invests her enigmatic personality guru with a fearsome confidence in her ability to bullshit her way through a crisis.) It’s addictive viewing – and the whole season is dropping all at once, so maybe don’t plan anything else this weekend. Full review here. All 10 episodes available to stream on Amazon Prime Video Canada Friday (December 11). NNNN (NW)

WolfWalkers

(Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart)

The latest feature from Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon – makers of the exquisite The Secret Of Kels and Song Of The Sea – is a lush and vivid medieval adventure focused on Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), a young English girl newly arrived in Kilkenny with her father (Sean Bean), who’s there to hunt the wolves that prowl beyond the walls. But when Robyn ventures out and meets the spirited Mebh (Eva Whittaker), she gains a new perspective on the wolves’ situation. With a visual aesthetic that evokes woodcuts and tapestries, WolfWalkers spins its beautiful story out slowly and carefully, the better to keep even the youngest viewers on board. The character design is delightful, the action suitably thrilling and the voice performances lively and memorable. And if Moore and Stewart are a little heavy-handed in the way they handle the personality conflict between Robyn and her father, who are perpetually disappointed in one another, they find a lovely way to resolve it. 102 min. Available to stream on Apple TV+ Friday (December 11). NNNN (NW)

Available on VOD

Archenemy

Joe Manganiello, Skylan Brooks, Zolee Griggs; directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer

Apple TV, Google Play

The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone 

Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire; directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Apple TV, Google Play

Honest Thief 

Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney; directed by Mark Williams

Apple TV, Google Play

Ip Man: Kung Fu Master

Yu-Hang To, Yuan Li Ruoxin, Tong Xiaohu; directed by Liming Li

Apple TV, Google Play

Koko-Di, Koko-Da

Peter Belli, Leif Edlund, Ylva Gallon; directed by Johannes Nyholm

Apple TV, Google Play

Nadia, Butterfly

Katerine Savard, Ariane Mainville, Pierre-Yves Cardinal; directed by Pascal Plante

Apple TV, Google Play

Queer Japan

Documentary directed by Graham Kolbeins

Apple TV

Songbird

K.J. Apa, Sofia Carson, Craig Robinson; directed by Adam Mason

Apple TV, Google Play

Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue

Documentary directed by Jia Zhang-ke

digital TIFF Bell Lightbox

Yes, God, Yes

Natalie Dyer, Alisha Boe, Timothy Simons; directed by Karen Maine

Apple TV, Google Play

Streaming Guides

Everything coming to streaming platforms this month:

Netflix Canada

Crave

Amazon Prime Video Canada

CBC Gem

Disney+

Disc of the week

Crash (Criterion, Blu-ray)

Criterion’s long-awaited special edition of David Cronenberg’s 1996 adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s apocalyptic novel brings the title back into circulation after far too long, once again putting Canadian distributors to shame when it comes to celebrating our own cinema. (It’s only available here as an import, but certain local retailers stocked up accordingly.) The new transfer, sourced from the same 4K restoration screened in Toronto earlier this summer, is a revelation, working wonders for the deep blacks of Peter Suschitzky’s visual scheme, and the DTS-HD master audio makes Howard Shore’s score feel almost predatory. Supplements are all archival – the typically thoughtful Cronenberg commentary was recorded for Criterion’s LaserDisc release in 1997! – but the film itself is the star, a brooding investigation of a Toronto couple (James Spader and Deborah Kara Unger, both drenched in ennui) who discover a subculture of people devoted to the fetishization of car crashes that now stands as one of Cronenberg’s greatest – and funniest – works. (Seriously, keep your eye on Rosanna Arquette. She’s having the best time.)

@normwilner

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