NOW critics review new TV shows and movies available to watch on VOD and streaming platforms
Literally three seconds after they decide to end their four-year relationship, New Orleans couple Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) find themselves unwittingly involved in a murder – and go on the run together to find the killer and prove their innocence. Cheerfully mashing up the Steve Carell/Tina Fey misfire Date Night with the absurd Jason Bateman/Rachel McAdams treasure Game Night, screenwriters Aaron Abrams and Brendan Gall (The Go-Getters) provide an emotional intelligence the former was lacking and a slightly more realistic environment the latter didn’t require. Nanjiani and Rae are a great pair, showing us that Jibran and Leilani’s squabbling is grounded in exasperation and hurt while still finding little ways to suggest their mutual spark hasn’t died out entirely. The plotting is elaborate but credible – a Black woman and a Pakistani man would have good reason not to trust the police to hear their side of the story, after all – and if director Showalter seems a little uncomfortable with the film’s more action-y beats, that sort of works in The Lovebirds’ favour: Jibran and Leilani are uncomfortable with them too. 87 minutes. Premieres May 22 on Netflix. NNNN Full review here.
Andy Hall/IFC Films
Rob Brydon (left) and Steve Coogan hit the road again in The Trip to Greece, which hits VOD and digital platforms on May 22.
A decade on, Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and director Winterbottom’s appetite for culinary tourism, knowing self-parody and celebrity impressions hasn’t diminished, though the returns on their Trip movies are starting to. Not that The Trip To Greece, which finds our heroes retracing the journey of Odysseus (and eating at some very nice restaurants) for an Observer piece, doesn’t have its share of engaging riffs and charming one-upmanship between its gently fictionalized travel buddies… but there’s very little here that feels fresh. Picking up three years after The Trip To Spain – and dismissing its weird, ambiguous ending with a couple of lines of dialogue – this fourth chapter finds Coogan, Brydon and Winterbottom very consciously repeating themselves in both form and content. It’s all watchable enough, but individual elements feel like they should be landing harder. (Perhaps they do in the six-episode BBC series from which the feature has been distilled.) That said, if you just want the vicarious experience of watching two friends go out for meals together in splendid locations, this movie delivers plenty of that – and it looks absolutely lovely. 110 minutes. Available on digital and on demand. NNN Full review here.
Courtesy of Apple TV+
In the opening scene of Trying, Jason (Rafe Spall) and Nikki (Esther Smith) have sex in the middle of a public bus so as not to miss her ovulation window. Starting off with a literal bang, the series follows this charming couple as they learn they cannot have a baby on their own and decide to go through the adoption process and all that entails. Casually hilarious and slightly melancholy, it’s the latest in a string of great British sitcoms that manage to dissect difficult subjects through blunt humour. Consider it a well-timed cousin to the brilliant Catastrophe, which wrapped a year ago. What the two series share, and what works especially well, is how real the relationships feel, from bittersweet moments the pair spend with friends who all seem to have kids, to the unspeakable fear of what it might be like to take on “someone else’s child,” to the worry their own relationship might become stagnant without children. Spall, who is always the best part of whatever he’s in, is as natural as ever, while Smith proves endlessly endearing. Eight episodes streaming on Apple+. NNNN
Andrew D. Bernstein
Hold outs: now’s the time to dive in on ESPN’s wildly popular new series about Michael Jordan. The final episodes in the 10-part-series dropped on Netflix this week, capping off an electric and riveting nostalgia trip that chips away at the aura surrounding the NBA legend before building him back up again with more mythmaking. The show starts off awestruck at Jordan’s dedication to the game, then head-fakes some concern over his tyrannical and often abusive behaviour toward other players before making it all seem worth it. I mean, just look at the glory: six championship rings and a culture forever changed. Chief to The Last Dance’s thrilling construction is how elegantly it slides back and forth in time, setting up little subplots and cliffhangers, spreading out profiles on invaluable supporting players from Scottie Pippen to Steve Kerr, going in depth on almost every triumphant season the Chicago Bulls played in the 90s. Even if you never watched a game, this level of storytelling cannot be ignored. All 10 episodes streaming on Netflix Canada. NNNN Read more about the series here.
The Montreal writer/director’s drama marks a solid rebound in the wake of the obnoxious The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan. Dolan has spent a decade putting queer rage and repression on screen with a polarizing fury, and Matthias & Maxime is full of his usual concerns and playful style. But there’s a twist: it’s about (ostensibly) straight guys. During a cottage weekend, best buds Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Frietas) and Maxime (Dolan) are roped into making out in an experimental short film. Over the first 90 minutes, the action unfolds as if liberated from narrative: characters drift through life, the focus is on the intensity of feeling and the raucous group dynamic among bro-y friends. Dolan, working again with DP André Turpin, fluidly shifts perspective, giving us intense subjectivity in quiet moments, and then fast-paced ensemble scenes full of banter and bravado. Matthias & Maxime’s primary concern is the way heteronormativity limits how men think about friendship, a theme that comes to a head in an arresting and satisfying climactic shot before the film slips into predictable paces in the final stretch. Men who struggle to be vulnerable is a big theme in cinema, but this film goes deeper than most even if it fumbles (albeit fittingly) toward its conclusion. 119 minutes. Subtitled. Available on digital and on demand on May 25. NNNN
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