Everything new to VOD and streaming for the weekend of April 2, including reviews of Concrete Cowboy, No Ordinary Man and Godzilla Vs. Kong
Warner Bros. / Legacy Pictures
NOW critics pick what’s new to streaming and VOD for the weekend of April 2 Plus: Everything new to VOD and streaming platforms.
The title says it all: the culmination of Warner’s “Monsterverse” series is a battle royale between two of cinema’s greatest battle beasts, scaling things up in every way from 1962’s pleasantly cheesy King Kong Vs. Godzilla. Men in rubber suits are fun, sure, but CG creatures don’t have the same limitations. The plot plays like a buffet of Toho’s greatest hits, juggling a journey to the centre of the Earth to find a mysterious power source – and maybe discover the origins of all the Titans – and the investigation of a sinister cybernetics company that may be humanity’s salvation but probably isn’t. As is tradition, some spirited kids (Millie Bobby Brown, Julian Dennison, Kaylee Hottle) run around solving problems while the grown-ups (Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Kyle Chandler, Brian Tyree Henry) look worried. It’s all played on the razor’s edge of straight and silly, with action sequences that are beautifully lit, convincingly choreographed and genuinely spectacular. As in all of these films, the monsters are allowed to fight strategically, displaying some level of intelligence and even character. And Wingard works the same trick he pulled with You’re Next, The Guest and even his Blair Witch sequel, taking a genre apart to remind us what we love about it. Turns out the thing we love most about kaiju movies is giant monsters punching each other. Go figure. 113 min. Some subtitles. Now playing at drive-in theatres and available as a premium rental on digital platforms. NNNN (Norman Wilner)
(Aisling Chin-Yee, Chase Joynt)
There’s a lot of talk about the importance of representation on screen, but No Ordinary Man sets out to vividly capture the emotional impact of recognizing aspects of one’s own story in the life of another. The documentary profiles Billy Tipton, an American jazz musician active from the 30s to the 70s who was outed as a trans man upon his death in 1989. Tipton’s story quickly became a prurient tabloid fixture. His widow and adopted children, previously unaware their loved one was trans, were grilled about intimate family details on daytime TV. He also became a cult figure among trans and queer people. No Ordinary Man covers the main biographical points of his life (though his music gets short shrift) with help from archival footage, but mainly trans historians and Tipton admirers including Marquise Vilsón, Susan Stryker, C.Riley Snorton and Thomas Page McBee. Although Tipton’s life has been documented – thoroughly at times, but often insensitively – his voice has been largely absent.
To suggest what it might have been like to be closeted and trans in decades past, writer Amos Mac and the directors hold auditions with trans actors for re-enactments. Not unlike Kitty Green’s Casting JonBenet or Robert Greene’s Bisbee ‘17, the filmmakers chronicle the recreation process in order to tease out greater emotional truths, but also material realities that persist. The scenes of the actors discussing what resonated are poignant and telling. It’s an increasingly familiar yet effective documentary conceit that makes No Ordinary Man as much about the present as the past. 81 min. Opens Friday (April 2) at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox. NNNN (Kevin Ritchie)
Courtesy of Netflix
There are at least four different movies rattling around inside Concrete Cowboy, and it never gets a handle on any of them. Sometimes writer/director Staub’s first feature is a coming-of-age tale about a troubled teenager (Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin) who gets a chance to turn his life around working with horses at a stable in a struggling Philadelphia neighbourhood; sometimes it’s a melancholy look at people trying to maintain a specific way of life as the world moves on around them. Sometimes it’s a generational drama about a father and son learning to understand one another, and sometimes it’s a slick urban drama about the poisonous influence of drugs on Black lives. Staub fishtails through all of these different modes, never finding a way to integrate his competing ideas into one coherent work. He doesn’t lack for talent: Idris Elba is almost ridiculously suited to the role of a modern horseman (and our hero’s distant father), and when Concrete Cowboy engages with the ideas of legacy and identity through him, it’s powerful and considered. But when it tries to serve its other narrative goals, it’s not nearly as successful. 111 min. Now streaming on Netflix Canada. NN (NW)
Set over 24 hours in Denver on the day the news of the Smiths’ breakup reaches the band’s American fans in August 1987, Shoplifters Of The World is a loose, fun ensemble picture about fandom, heartbreak, coming of age and storming a radio station to get the metal DJ to play your epic new-wave misery music. (It’s based on the same urban legend that inspired Airheads.) And if you’re cringing at the thought of a movie that worships the now-unworthy Morrissey, don’t: the film isn’t about the Smiths, it’s about the electric moment when you first discover art that tells you who you are and helps you find your people. Writer/director Kijak comes from music documentaries (Scott Walker: 30th Century Man, Stones In Exile, We Are X), and he gets every detail right, from the characters’ DIY wardrobes to the textures of the dingy record shop and radio station: you can practically smell the mildew in that broadcast studio. But it’s the cast that really makes the movie sing: The Wilds’ Helena Howard and Boyhood’s Ellar Coltrane are among the teens sent reeling by the announcement, and Joe Manganiello (who also produced the film) is pitch-perfect as Full Metal Mickey, the beefy, cynical counterweight to their fervour. He knows angry young men can grow into cranky old bastards. 90 min. Now available on digital and on demand. NNNN (NW)
(Tom Shankland, Richard Warlow)
Produced for the BBC, this eight-part series dramatizes the crimes of Charles Sobhraj, a French gem dealer who preyed on Western travellers passing through Asia on what was known as the Hippie Trail in the 70s. Sobhraj (played here by The Mauritanian’s Tahar Rahim) and his partner/accomplice Marie-Andrée Leclerc (Victoria’s Jenna Coleman) would lure people back to their home, poison and rob them and dispose of their bodies. The show is shot in lurid colours, presenting Sobhraj as temptation incarnate – handsome, beckoning, eeeeevil. The narrative flashes back and forth between Sobhraj’s activities and the efforts of a Dutch consular official (Billy Howle) to find a pair of missing backpackers. And it quickly becomes clear that there’s maybe three hours of narrative in eight hours of overheated television. Worse, what’s merely dull becomes actively awful once you realize the scripts aren’t going to stop shuffling the story’s chronology, jumping backward and forward in time – with on-screen supers unhelpfully telling us this is “five months ago” or “three years later” so often it becomes impossible to know when the show’s present is supposed to be – in order to revisit key moments from different perspectives… but never managing to show us anything we couldn’t intuit the first time through. A creep, from many angles, is still a creep. All eight episodes now streaming on Netflix Canada. N (NW)
Documentary directed by Evgeny Afineevsky
Raymond J. Barry, Randy Nazarian, Shondrella Avery; directed by Tony Vidal
Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobbie Brown, Rebecca Hall; directed by Adam Wingard
Documentary directed by Tonje Hessen Schei
Ke-Xi Wu, Vivian Sung, Li-Ang Chang; directed by Midi Z
Documentary directed by Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt
Documentary directed by Oliver Murray
Helena Howard, Ellar Coltrane, Joe Manganiello; directed by Stephen Kijak
Ashley Bell, Jordan Ladd, Leslie Easterbrook; directed by Nathaniel Nuon
Rob Belushi, Jill-Michele Melean, Carlos Alazraqui; directed by Andy Palmer
Everything coming to streaming platforms this month:
The annual festival of (you guessed it) Canadian features, documentaries and shorts is back for a second year on Super Channel Fuse, screening films Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 9 pm ET, with selections of short films each Saturday at noon ET. (Each program repeats three hours later for West Coast viewers.) This weekend’s offerings include Andrew C’s White Elephant (April 2), a teen drama about racial divides in 1996 Scarborough and Vanya Rose’s Woman In Car (April 3), a psychological thriller about a woman (Helene Joy) who becomes obsessed with her son’s new fiancée (Liane Balaban).
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through April 17 on Super Channel Fuse. Complete schedule here.
With Godzilla Vs. Kong stomping all over popular culture this week, Warner Home Entertainment has rolled out an Ultra High Definition disc of the film that made the franchise possible: Gareth Edwards’s moody, eerily beautiful 2014 meditation on giant monsters as an unknowable force. (Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla, King Of The Monsters are already available in 4K.)
Seven years later, Godzilla feels like the best kaiju movie we’ll ever get, a masterwork that owes as much to Close Encounters Of The Third Kind as it does to Jurassic Park, regarding its rampaging beasts with a Spielbergian mix of wonder and terror and using its human characters more as witnesses to the outsized action than as participants. (People complained that Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Bryan Cranston didn’t feel fully fleshed out, but their relative insignificance is sort of the point.)
The new 4K master is a stunner, using the expanded colour range and deeper blacks to give additional texture to Seamus McGarvey’s dark, moody cinematography and make its carefully applied bursts of light – like, say, the flickers of blue energy that run up Godzilla’s tail before he breathes fire – that much more more vivid. The Dolby Atmos track is an improvement as well, expanding the film’s sound field so that the MUTOs can crash into it with greater presence. The lack of new supplements is a little disappointing; I’d have loved a look back at the film’s reception, and Warner’s decision to take the sequels in a more mainstream direction rather than embracing Edwards’s awe-inspiring vision. But I can also understand why that didn’t happen. (NW)