What to watch this weekend: August 6-8

Everything new to VOD, streaming and cinemas, including Annette and The Suicide Squad


Our picks for the best new movies coming out this week. Plus Everything new to VOD and streaming platforms for the weekend of August 6.

Annette

(Leos Carax)

Annette starts off with a glorious declaration of purpose, as stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, screenwriters Ron and Russell Mael, director/co-writer Carax and his daughter Nastya and a dozen backing vocalists burst out of a recording studio into downtown Los Angeles, singing the film’s overture directly to the camera. And it ends with a heartbreaking duet between a father and a daughter who will never see each other again. If two sequences are all it takes to make a great movie, those are Annette’s. It’s the two hours and change in the middle that’s the problem, a sung-through musical about comedian Henry (Driver) and soprano Anne (Cotillard) who fall madly in love, have a daughter and then experience a series of tragedies straight out of the operas that made Anne famous – and which, as the film goes on, come to represent a duel of incompatible artistic visions. The Maels’ playful formalism and Carax’s wild conceptual swings keep negating each other – Carax’s biggest flourish simply does not work at all, and it just sits there staring us in the face for the film’s entire second half – and the fact that all the songs are built on the same formula makes Annette feel monotonous despite all the frantic activity. It’s a fascinating misfire, but a misfire just the same. 140 minutes. In theatres now, and available to stream on Amazon Prime Video Canada August 20. NN (Norman Wilner)

L-R: Joel Kinnaman, John Cena, Margot Robbie, Peter Capaldi and Idris Elba take a walk in The Suicide Squad.

The Suicide Squad

(James Gunn) ­

Relax, everybody: The Suicide Squad does what its 2016 predecessor failed to do, which is find the fun in a movie about super-criminals forced to fight for the good guys. Writer/director Gunn keeps the one thing that worked from David Ayer’s grey, joyless 2016 film – Margot Robbie’s chaotic Harley Quinn – and cranks up the absurdity, the comedy and the splatter to levels fans of Slither and Super will immediately recognize. Revolving around a mission to destroy a Nazi science facility on the island of Corto Maltese, The Suicide Squad is overplotted and about half an hour longer than it needs to be, but you can say that about almost every Marvel or DC movie. What Gunn does is root everything in the character dynamics, finding dark comedy in Idris Elba’s Bloodsport and John Cena’s Peacemaker bickering over who’s the more perfect assassin, and surprising pathos in Daniela Melchior’s Ratcatcher 2 trying to help David Dastmalchian’s Polka-Dot Man through his parental issues. And though Robbie’s Harley spends the first half of the action on the sidelines, Gunn makes sure both the actor and the character get to be their best selves. 132 minutes. Some subtitles. Now in theatres. NNNN (NW)

Anthony Bourdain eats by the side of the road in Roadrunner
Courtesy of Focus Features

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

(Morgan Neville)

When Anthony Bourdain died, he left a lot of himself behind: his books and TV shows, of course, but also all the interviews he did about those projects, and hours and hours of unaired footage, and emails to friends and family. Neville’s documentary harvests it all, creating a master narrative of Bourdain’s life and career that celebrates his curious spirit and captures his eagerness to share those experiences with people he’d never meet. Neville constructs a lively (if formulaic) run through Bourdain’s career, interviewing his friends and partners to create­ a portrait of a voracious, loquacious man who wrestled his addictive tendencies away from substances and onto new interests, chasing the highs of discovery. It’s a fun ride right up until the film has to deal with the events that led to Bourdain’s death in June 2018. That’s when Roadrunner becomes an uncomfortable experience, and not in the way Neville intended: the filmmaker comes distressingly close to laying the blame for Bourdain’s suicide at the feet of then-girlfriend Asia Argento, and the fact that Argento gets no voice in this project feels like more of a betrayal than Neville’s use of an AI voice to “read” Bourdain’s final emails. Both the living and the dead deserve something more considered. 118 minutes. Some subtitles. In theatres and available as a premium VOD rental. NNN (NW)

A still from the animated movie Vivo
Courtesy of Netflix

Vivo

(Kirk DeMicco)

Raised as a busker in the streets of Havana, a singing, dancing kinkajou named Vivo (voiced by Lin-Manuel Miranda) must set off for Miami to deliver a love song to his owner’s former partner (Gloria Estefan), accompanied by said owner’s excitable great-niece Gabi (Ynairaly Simo). Following the highs of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and The Mitchells Vs. The Machines, the latest from Sony Pictures Animation is… eh, it’s fine. It’s an adventure! It’s an action movie! It’s the plot of Rio in reverse, I think? That won’t matter to kids, who’ll enjoy the constant frenetic motion and the energetic songs – all written by Miranda in his signature syncopated style – though their parents might notice that DeMicco, whose directorial credits include Space Chimps and The Croods, doesn’t have the firmest handle on the tiller. (He does offer some eccentric voice casting, however, with Brian Tyree Henry and Nicole Byer turning up as friendly flamingoes and Michael Rooker as a very irritable python.) Or maybe the fault is in the screenplay, which feels like it was written to get us from one musical number to the next as quickly as possible. Which I can understand, I suppose; you hire the Hamilton guy, you’re gonna want him to do as much as possible. 95 mins. Available to stream on Netflix Canada. NNN (NW)

Available on VOD

Pig

Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin; directed by Michael Sarnoski

Read NOW’s review

Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play

Rising Wolf

Charlotte Best, Jonny Pasvolsky, Susan Prior; directed by Antaine Furlong

Apple TV, Google Play

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Documentary directed by Morgan Neville

Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play

Streaming guides

Everything coming to streaming platforms this month:

Netflix 

Crave

Amazon Prime Video Canada

Disney+

CBC Gem

Film festival

Fantasia

Once again, the annual celebration of sci-fi, horror and fantasy festival is streaming online across Canada, meaning we get to gorge on gore (and whatever else the programmers have in store) with everybody else. Fantasia 25 opens with the world premiere of Julien Knafo’s Brain Freeze, a zombie comedy about a gated community near Montreal dealing with a plague of ravenous dead; also scheduled to screen are South African amnesia thriller Indemnity, Estonian monster comedy Kratt, Spanish vampire tale All The Moons and a pair of artful chillers from the East Coast: Seth A. Smith’s Tin Can, starring Anna Hopkins as a pandemic researcher trapped in one of her own experiments, and The Righteous, a Catholic creeper that marks the directorial debut of actor Mark O’Brien (Goalie, Ready Or Not). Read NOW’s preview here.

Through August 25 at fantasiafestival.com .

Disc of the week

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Arrow, 4K)

Dario Argento didn’t invent the subgenre of Italian thriller known as giallo, but it can be argued that he perfected it with his highly stylized films, which found a surrealistic, ultraviolent aesthetic that amped up the psychological disquiet of the plotlines. Released in 1970, his directorial debut The Bird With The Crystal Plumage stands as a declaration of artistic intent, its story about a writer (Tony Musante) who becomes obsessed with his failure to stop an attack on a woman (Eva Renzi) in an art gallery influenced as much by Antonioni’s Blow-Up as it is by the pulp thrillers that powered the grindhouses of the era.

Previously released on Blu-ray in 2017, Arrow’s Ultra High Definition edition of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a splendid upgrade, with a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative – presented with HDR10 and Dolby Vision– and both the Italian and English soundtracks similarly restored and preserved in the original mono. All the supplemental material from the earlier Blu-ray is here: an audio commentary from giallo historian Troy Howarth, an interview with critic Kat Ellinger that examines the source material, Fredric Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi, and how Argento reworked the text to his own interests, a visual essay on the cinema of Argento by Alexander Heller-Nicholas, interviews with Argento and actor Gildo Di Marco and an archival chat with Renzi. Trailers and image galleries round out the disc, which is packaged in an elegant sleeve with six lobby cards, a double-sided poster and a book of essays. Arrow may have missed the movie’s 50th anniversary by a few months, but this was worth the wait. (NW)

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