What’s new to VOD and streaming this weekend: April 16-18

Including Willy's Wonderland, The Courier, The Mole Agent, Mare of Easttown and Nobody


NOW critics pick what’s new to streaming and VOD for the weekend of April 9. Plus: Everything new to VOD and streaming platforms.

Willy’s Wonderland

(Kevin Lewis)

Willy’s Wonderland is the movie that pits Nicolas Cage against a horde of malevolent animatronic animals, sort of like if Evil Dead was set in a Chuck E. Cheese instead of a cabin in the woods. It doesn’t work as horror, which isn’t entirely surprising, but it doesn’t work as comedy, either. And that’s shocking. Stuck in a town in the middle of nowhere after a blowout, Cage’s nameless, silent character is offered a chance to earn the cash that’ll get his car fixed if he spends the night cleaning up the eponymous theme restaurant. But it’s a setup: every night, Willy the Weasel and his musical pals come to life, thirsting for blood. (Also, some local kids are trying to burn the place down.) With its episodic structure that pits Cage against one monster at a time between bouts of cleaning and the occasional pinball game, it’s clear that no one expects us to take Willy’s Wonderland entirely seriously. But neither did the filmmakers; it feels like no one put any effort into this thing at any point in its development or production, assuming that the very idea of Nicolas Cage battling children’s characters would be enough. And you know something? It should have been. 88 min. Now available on digital and on demand. NN (NW)

Bob Odenkirk is an action star in Nobody.

Nobody

(Ilya Naishuller)

Okay, so “Bob Odenkirk, action star” sounds like a stretch. But so did “Bob Odenkirk, dramatic heavyweight” a few years back, and after Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul we all know better. Nobody casts Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell, an unassuming family man whose failure to act during a robbery leads to spectacular violence… though not in the way you might be thinking. Screenwriter Derek Kolstad wrote the John Wick movies, and he’s much happier repurposing the straight-line narrative of that franchise’s first script, giving his characters clear goals and credible obstacles while director Naishuller, who made the ultraviolent first-person-shooter novelty Hardcore Henry, embraces the bloodshed while also adding little touches of humanity among supporting players. Odenkirk’s nuanced performance sets him completely apart from Keanu Reeves’s clenched assassin, which gives Nobody its real power and lets us enjoy the explosive retribution rained down on anyone who looks at our hero sideways. John Wick genuinely tried to put his violent past behind him, and was sorry it couldn’t stick. This guy? He’s spent years looking for a reason to get back to business, and he’s finally found it. 92 min. Some subtitles. Now available as a premium rental on digital and on demand. NNNN (Norman Wilner)

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The Courier

(Dominic Cooke)

There’s a slow-burning elegance to this British espionage drama, which tells the true story of the entirely unqualified entrepreneur recruited by MI-5 and the CIA to travel to Moscow and contact a Soviet general determined to avert Khrushchev’s rush to nuclear war; it’s all about protocol and subterfuge, and Englishmen making sure their hats are at the right angle after they’ve thrown up from terror. As the marvellously named Greville Wynne, whose meetings with Oleg Penkovsky in the early 60s may well have given the U.S. a strategic edge during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast, building an entire performance out of squirming discomfort and gradually coming into his own as a man of very careful action. Rachel Brosnahan gets to be snappy and stylish as his CIA handler and Jessie Buckley so thoroughly disappears into the role of Greville’s wife Sheila that I thought she was Sally Hawkins. If you’ve seen Steven Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies, The Courier might feel a bit familiar; it’s far less muscular in its storytelling, with a rather lumpy third act. But if you’re looking for a fleet, engaging Le Carré-adjacent spy tale, do give this a look. 112 min. Some subtitles. Now available as a premium rental on digital and on demand. NNN (NW)

Kate Winslet is marvellous in Mare Of Easttown.

Mare of Easttown

(Craig Zobel)

HBO’s gritty new murder mystery is a limited series consisting of seven episodes (five of which were available to critics), but its characters and setting are so entertaining I could easily watch another couple of seasons. Kate Winslet plays the eponymous detective in a small Pennsylvania town investigating the murder of a teenager. Because Mare failed to solve the disappearance of another teen the year before, a county cop (Evan Peters) has been brought in to help her out, and they have a prickly dynamic together. Meanwhile, she’s dealing with her ex-husband’s recent engagement – the town is so small his new home is practically in her backyard – her grandson and her meddling, hard-drinking mother (Jean Smart). Plus, she still hasn’t come to terms with the death of her son, the father of her grandchild. If this sounds like a rehash of HBO’s stylish Sharp Objects, the tone is much more interesting, mixing mystery with mordantly funny laughs. Zobel (The Hunt, Z For Zachariah) has an affection for all his characters, and he has fun planting red herrings at the end of each episode. Winslet, sporting an authentic-sounding accent, is utterly believable interacting with her family, friends, the case’s suspects and… oh yeah, there’s a romantic subplot involving a visiting novelist played by her Mildred Pierce co-star Guy Pearce. It’s first-rate entertainment. First of seven episodes begins streaming on Crave Sunday (April 18). NNNN (Glenn Sumi)

The Mole Agent

(Maite Alberdi)

Up for this year’s Oscar for best documentary feature, Alberdi’s look at the state of elder care in Chile comes packaged as a thriller – sort of – with private investigator Rómulo Aitken planting 83-year-old Sergio Chamy in a Santiago retirement home for three months and seeing how a client’s mother is being treated. Sergio is equipped with hidden cameras – which he doesn’t quite know how to use – but he’s also being shadowed by Alberdi’s crew, who have told the residence they want to follow its intake process. It all sounds like the stuff of a grim exposé, but that’s not what The Mole Agent turns out to be. Sergio’s fumbling investigation mostly just involves talking to the residents, who open up to him because no one’s giving them that kind of personal attention. (A moment in which the recently widowed Sergio elegantly declines a resident’s romantic advances – sparing her feelings by sharing his ongoing, unfathomable grief – is almost too much to bear.) And without shying away from the practical indignities of aging and senescence, Alberdi’s film makes a subtle case for bringing that level of compassion and dignity back into the eldercare debate – something our current circumstances make it all too easy to push even further from the collective conversation. 87 min. Subtitled. Now available to stream at Hot Docs At Home NNNN (NW)

Available on VOD

Brewmance

Documentary directed by Christo Brock

Apple TV, Google Play

The Good Traitor

Burn Gorman, Zoe Tapper, Ross McCall; directed by Christina Rosendahl

Apple TV, Google Play

Honeydew

Sawyer Spielberg, Malin Barr, Barbara Kinglsey; directed by Devereux Milburn

Apple TV, Google Play

Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide

Documentary directed by Max Basch and Malia Scharf

Hot Docs At Home

Jakob’s Wife

Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons; directed by Travis Stevens

Apple TV, Google Play

The Mole Agent

Documentary directed by Maite Alberdi

Hot Docs At Home

Monday

Sebastian Stan, Denise Gough, Yorgos Pirpassopoulos; directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos

Apple TV

Nobody

Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov, Connie Nielsen; directed by Ilya Naishuller

Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play

The Seventh Day

Guy Pearce, Keith David, Stephen Lang; directed by Justin P. Lange

Apple TV, Google Play

The Violent Heart

Jovan Adepo, Grace Van Patten, Lukas Haas; directed by Kerem Sanga

Apple TV, Google Play

Willy’s Wonderland

Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant; directed by Kevin Lewis

Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play

Streaming guides

Everything coming to streaming platforms this month:

Netflix Canada

Crave

Amazon Prime Video Canada

Disney+

CBC Gem

Disc of the week

The Ten Commandments (Paramount Home Entertainment, 4K)

Paramount’s ultra-high-def edition of the lavish 1956 Bible epic actually reached shelves a couple of weeks ago, but… well, the film is so massive that it took a while to get through it. Not because it’s difficult to watch, mind you: Cecil B. deMille’s VistaVision epic holds up remarkably well 55 years after it first rolled into movie houses across America. Despite its four-hour running time – and whether you take its story as gospel or as an excuse to watch a steady stream of overqualified actors offer wildly different interpretations on the stentorian gravitas supposedly demanded by a film “based upon the holy scriptures and other ancient and modern writings” – this is classical Hollywood pageantry, with deMille using every penny of his budget to outdo the accomplishments of his silent-era version. (Also, Charlton Heston’s Moses is not nearly as stiff as I remembered.) This 4K presentation, sourced from a 6K scan performed on the VistaVision in 2010 and further enhanced by HDR and Dolby Vision, makes it possible to just goggle at the splendour of the film’s production design, wardrobe and visual effects, which look absolutely glorious. It’s also awfully satisfying to watch an older picture that hasn’t been polished to meet contemporary expectations: for the first time in decades, The Ten Commandments looks like film. NW

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