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Including Sweet Tooth, Undine, Girls5Eva, a new season of Feel Good and a Saw movie starring Chris Rock
Here’s everything new to VOD and streaming for the weekend of June 4 plus our critics’ reviews of the buzziest new movies and TV shows.
Fantastical dystopia shows are a dime a dozen these days, but Sweet Tooth carves out its own space. Adapted by Jim Mickle (Stake Land, Cold In July) from the Vertigo comics series by Jeff Lemire, the new Netflix series takes place in a world depopulated by a virus that still circulates 10 years later, and might also be the reason “hybrid” babies are being born with animal characteristics. Our guide to this ruined America is Gus (Christian Convery), a deer boy raised in isolation by his father (Will Forte) who now joins a hulking stranger (Nonso Anozie) for a dangerous journey across what’s left of the western United States. Mickle positions the show as a fable, with gentle narration by James Brolin and a score by Jeff Grace that edges toward the lyrical. Like most new streaming series, Sweet Tooth takes its sweet time, drifting between multiple storylines that intersect just in time to set up a second season. But unlike a lot of other shows, this one understands pacing and structure; Mickle gives each episode an organic flow from start to finish, drawing us into his post-apocalyptic vision by revealing just a little more of it every time. All eight episodes available to stream Friday (June 4) on Netflix Canada. NNNN (Norman Wilner)
(Mae Martin, Joe Hampson)
The chaotic love story of recovering addict Mae (Martin, who writes the series with Hampson) and straight-identifying George (Charlotte Ritchie) returns for a second and final season, exploring the fallout from the couple’s breakup. Mae goes home to Canada and checks into rehab; back in London, George does her best to move on, throwing herself into activism and a new relationship. But it’s not long before the couple are back in one another’s lives, and dealing with each other’s issues all over again. Mae’s stint in rehab brings out a streak of PTSD that won’t be repressed any longer, and George’s complicated family dynamics lead her to realize she doesn’t even know what she wants her future to look like. Feel Good takes on quite a lot in this second season, expanding on topics teased in previous episodes and adding heavier questions of gender identity and internalized abuse. It’s heavier going this time, but that’s not a strike against it: the show has grown, and Martin and Hampson’s focus has shifted accordingly. And we can still enjoy Lisa Kudrow and Adrian Lukis as Mae’s flinty, fussy parents… even if the production’s COVID-necessitated version of Toronto won’t fool anyone who actually lives here. Read a longer review here. All six episodes available to stream Friday (June 4) on Netflix Canada. NNNN (NW)
(Darren Lynn Bousman)
Seven years after the last Saw -movie, Lionsgate reboots its profitable but creatively stagnant horror franchise as a police procedural starring Chris Rock as a detective trying to figure out why someone is using Jigsaw’s M.O. to punish dirty cops. It works well enough for a while: Rock’s energy makes every scene just a little unpredictable, and the presence of Samuel L. Jackson as his father – a retired, once-revered police captain who’s still around to needle son Zeke with unwanted advice – gives Spiral a looseness the series badly needs. But it soon becomes clear Bousman (who helmed Saws II through IV) and screenwriters Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger (who were behind the previous reboot attempt Jigsaw) are less interested in breaking new ground than in playing the hits, and giving fans of the franchise more of the convoluted plotting, chronological trickery and gotcha endings that ground the series down in the first place. Still, if you want to watch someone’s fingers get pulled off in extreme close-up, where else can you turn? Read a longer review here. 93 min. Now available as a premium VOD rental on all digital platforms. NN (NW)
Christian Petzold’s work typically explore Germany’s past through a Hollywood genre lens. His last two films – 2015’s haunting Vertigo adaptation Phoenix and 2018’s existential-riff on Casablanca, Transit – were two of the decade’s best. Petzold’s latest is an uncharacteristically playful lark – more puzzling than haunting. He adapts the European fairy tale Undine, which is about a water nymph rising to the surface in pursuit of romance. This eerie Little Mermaid tale stars Transit’s -Paula Beer, whose Undine is a modern-day historian giving lectures on Berlin’s buildings and museums. She explains to the droves how history and its intentions reassert themselves in art and architecture. During one romantic and melancholic moment, those lectures about German history become pillow talk between Undine and a lovestruck diver (fellow Transit star Franz Rogowski). In such scenes, Petzold reasserts his mastery over image, subtext, mood and feeling; and Beer’s intoxicating performance truly grips. 92 min. Available on digital TIFF Bell Lightbox Friday (June 4). NNN (Radheyan Simonpillai)
Produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock – for whom creator Scardino worked as a writer on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – this bright, silly sitcom about four surviving members of a bubblegum pop group trying to restart their careers in their 40s has some of the same giddy absurdity as that show, along with a good dose of the showbiz foolishness of its predecessor, 30 Rock. But Girls-5Eva has something neither of those series could offer, which is the spectacle of Broadway heavyweights like Sara Bareilles and Renée Elise Goldsberry belting out ridiculous synth-pop earworms left and right while still acknowledging the insecurities and fears that drive their middle-aging divas. (Bandmates Busy Philipps and Paula Pell get to play broader comic characters, but there’s still something going on inside.) Not every bit works: Stephen Colbert’s self-absorbed Scandinavian hitmaker falls a little flat, for example. But the strengths of Girls5Eva – a brilliant ensemble, pitch-perfect songcraft, and a supporting roster that includes Andrew Rannells, Ashley Park, Bowen Yang and 30 Rock’s Dean Winters in his sweet spot of “huffy, condescending moron” – make it perfect summertime comedy. And it puts Bareilles and Goldsberry one step closer to their respective EGOTs, so that’s nice too. Episodes air Thursdays at 9 and 9:30 pm ET on W Network, and are available to stream on the Global TV app and Amazon Prime Video’s StackTV channel. NNNN (NW)
Meadow Williams, Thomas Kretschmann, Al Pacino; directed by Michael Polish
Ben Caplan, Conor Dwane, Jonathan French; directed by Damian McCarthy
Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmigia, Ruairi O’Connor; directed by Michael Chaves
Ford Austin, Tom Fitzpatrick, Rachel Alig; directed by Michael P. Blevins
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Dominic Monaghan, Ralph Ineson; directed by Michael Haussman
Ice-T, Robert Clohessy, Jules Wilcox; directed by Taheim Bryan
Olivia Cooke, Jack O’Connell, Soko; directed by Chad Hartigan
Ry Barrett, Joanna Saul; directed by Greg A. Sager
Valene Kane, Shazad Latif, Christine Adams; directed by Timur Bekmambetov
Documentary directed by Hannah Berryman
Michelle Argyris, Emily Alatalo, Julian Richings; directed by Andrew T. Hunt
Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Samuel L.Jackson; directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
Milo Gibson, Abigail Hawk, Laurence FIshburne; directed by Todd Randall
Paula Beer, Franz Rogowski, Maryam Zaree; directed by Christian Petzold
Everything coming to streaming platforms this month:
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Venice prize-winner Wife Of A Spy screens at the Toronto Japanese Film Festival.
We’ve taken a look at the TJFF’s 2021 lineup elsewhere on the site, but the most important thing to know is that the festival is sticking to last year’s online model: the program of features, documentaries and shorts will be made available to stream anywhere in the province of Ontario for 48-hour viewing windows on specific days. But if you miss a movie on a given day, it’s gone.
Through June 14 at tjff.com
Back in its usual June slot after a 2020 diversion to the fall, this second streaming edition of the other TJFF will showcase 24 contemporary Japanese thrillers, dramas and comedies over the course of three weeks. (A 48-hour rental ticket costs $9.99; all films are available to rent as of 10 am this Saturday.) If you missed Naomi Kawase’s adoption drama True Mothers or Miwa Nishikawa’s Under The Open Sky when they played TIFF, you can catch up to them here… but perhaps the most eagerly anticipated film here is Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Venice prize-winner Wife Of A Spy, starring Yū Aoi as a Japanese woman who suspects her husband might be spying for the United States during World War II.
June 5-27 at jccc.on.ca