Including The Mitchells Vs. The Machines, Tom Clancy's Without Remorse and Catching A Serial Killer: Bruce McArthur
Courtesy of TIFF
NOW critics pick what’s new to streaming and VOD for the weekend of April 30. Plus: Everything new to VOD and streaming platforms.
The arrival of a new Andersson movie every few years should be heralded as an event, even if the idiosyncratic Swedish auteur seems to be running out of things to say. Where 2014’s A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence and 2007’s You The Living seemed like decent companion pieces to 2000’s masterful Songs From The Second Floor, finding interesting new ways to work within the absurdist tableaux format that is Andersson’s preferred mode of expression – About Endlessness feels thinly sketched and not especially insightful.
Once again, Andersson tells stories through elaborate single-take vignettes in which an assortment of doughy Scandinavian everyfolk struggle with petty jealousies, class envy or some personal apocalypse – like a priest’s ongoing crisis of faith – until the scene ends in a blackout. But it’s hard to ignore that most of this film’s vignettes are all setup and no punchline, leaving us wondering how (or if) the various pieces are meant to fit together, and what statement is being made. 75 min. Subtitled. Available to stream on digital TIFF Bell Lightbox Friday (April 30). NN (Norman Wilner)
Equal parts road movie, buddy comedy and sports picture, Golden Arm stars Mary Holland and Betsy Sodaro as Melanie and Danny, college friends who reconnect when headstrong trucker Danny enlists anxious baker Melanie as her proxy in the National Ladies’ Arm Wrestling Championship – against some very steep odds. There’s just one problem: Melanie has never arm-wrestled anyone professionally.
Screenwriters Ann Marie Allison and Jenna Milly have clearly studied Bridesmaids for conflict and character dynamics, but they’ve written something that stands on its own. Ably steered by sketch and short-film director Bharoocha, Golden Arm is a fun, goofy comedy filled with engaging performers and unexpected laugh lines. Holland and Sodaro have a great time bouncing off one another, their riffing skills honed by years of scene-stealing in other people’s projects, and the supporting cast is loaded with talent: Eugene Cordero gets to play a romantic leading man, sort of, as a referee crushing on Melanie, while Ron Funches, Aparna Nancherla and Kate Flannery all turn up for a scene or two to work their respective skill sets and pull a couple of laughs. 91 min. Available on digital and on demand Friday (April 30). NNN (NW)
Courtesy of Bell Media
Created by The Little Hours director Jeff Baena and produced by the Duplass Brothers, this anthology series sees a host of American indie filmmakers re-editing, re-contextualizing and dubbing over public-domain footage – some of it from recognizable classics – to create something new. The results are mixed, but generally ridiculous and attuned to late-night smoke sessions. And given Baena conceived it as a COVID-safe film project, it’s pandemic-appropriate inside and out.
The best episodes tend to value the source material’s filmmaking prowess (or quirks) rather than simply filling every second with new dialogue. Often, overly complicated plots will progress into what feels like free association and that’s not always a bad thing when there is a compelling idea at the core. Baena kicks it off with the hilariously acerbic Familiesgiving, about a delusional son (Jimmy Stewart, voiced by John Reynolds) who invites his Pizzagate-believing mom (an unrelentingly funny Megan Mullaly) to dinner. Baena’s partner Aubrey Plaza goes further into psychodrama and suburban repression in Quiet Illness, about a woman (Loretta Young, voiced by Christina Ricci) who loses herself in a toxic relationship. Plaza keeps the story simple and gives the footage room to breathe, resulting in a savage and darkly funny surrealist noir.
David Lowery goes full minimalism, adding almost no dialogue to the full-on noir The Gunshot Heard ‘Round The World, while Alex Ross Perry is in retro-Red Scare gonzo mode, reanimating bizarre propaganda footage involving robotic dogs and talking cars. Marta Cunningham’s Attack Of The Karens foregrounds racial subtext in Night Of The Living Dead, playing out like a deconstruction of the cinema classic. Instagram comedy sensation Jordan Firstman’s One Gay Wedding And A Thousand Funerals is the worst of the bunch. Its obnoxiously verbose and tiresomely arch dialogue fails to compensate for flat-out incoherence. Ten episodes now streaming on Crave. NNN (Kevin Ritchie)
Sony Pictures Animation
Humanity’s last hope? Or just the last of humanity?
Can a bickering nuclear family (and their weird pug) put their conflicts aside and save the world from a machine apocalypse? What if their conflicts are the thing that gives them a fighting chance? That’s the ingenious engine that powers The Mitchells Vs. The Machines: Gravity Falls veterans Rianda and co-director/co-writer Jeff Rowe have delivered a delirious entertainment where the comedy and the dramatic stakes escalate in perfect harmony, each joke setting up an emotional payoff, and vice-versa.
Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson is Katie, our narrator and sort-of hero; Danny McBride is her distant dad Rick, whose decision to drive the whole family cross-country to drop Katie at school puts them one step ahead of the machine uprising. Supported by Maya Rudolph as Mitchell matriarch Linda and director Rianda as nervous kid brother Aaron, they make a convincing family of obsessive weirdos; they may be cartoon characters, but their individual tics and flaws fit together in an entirely believable way.
Rianda and his Sony Pictures Animation teams pack the digital frame with hand-drawn elements, even subtly referencing traditional animation in characters’ frown lines and wrinkles. The Mitchells Vs. The Machines is a pleasure to behold, but it’s so much more than its visuals. Read a full review here. 113 min. Available to stream on Netflix Canada Friday (April 30). NNNNN (NW)
Courtesy of Amazon Studios
On one hand, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse will give fans of the late author’s clenched, dour action thrillers exactly what they want: a clenched, dour action thriller where an uncomplicated good guy wreaks righteous vengeance upon a shadowy cabal trying to launch a global conflict. On the other hand, it’s kind of a grind.
Michael B. Jordan is John Kelly, a special-forces badass who finds himself the sole survivor of his unit – and a widower – when some bad guys demand payback for the death of a Russian national in Syria. There’s only one thing to do: hunt down everyone involved and Make Them Pay. Clancy fans will recognize this as the original story for the CIA operative John Clark, and that’s all it’ll take for them to sign on; I just wish director Sollima and screenwriters Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples had delivered more than a blandly mechanical spy thriller that sets Jordan up with an action franchise at the cost of his megawatt charisma. But maybe they’re saving that for the sequel. 110 min. Some subtitles. Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video Friday (April 30). NN (NW)
Facebook / Bruce McArthur
(James Buddy Day)
Produced for an American cable network, this talking-head account of the Toronto Police investigation into Church-Wellesley Village serial killer Bruce McArthur benefits from access to a handful of key players – including a survivor identified as John Doe – but is little more than a concise overview with the typical true-crime TV trappings. For Toronto audiences that followed the case, the subsequent outcry in the LGBTQ community over police inaction and the independent review that found systemic discrimination hindered the investigation, Catching A Serial Killer will offer nothing new. It’s a broad account, complete with Freudian analysis of McArthur’s potential motives, and bland visual filler like close-ups of coffee mugs, fingers typing on keyboards and black-and-white photos of the Village with rainbow flags left in colour. Police failings are glossed over, though John Doe, victims advocate Haran Vijayanathan and McArthur employer Karen Fraser add emotional dimension to this straight-forward cat-and-mouse story. 85 minutes. Premieres Friday (April 30) on SuperChannel. NN (KR)
Jan-Ehe Ferling, Martin Serner, Bengt Bergius; directed by Roy Andersson
Mary Holland, Betsy Sodaro, Olivia Stambouliah; directed by Maureen Bharoocha
Anya Taylor-Joy, Finn Cole, Travis Fimmel; directed by Eoin Macken
Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci, Zach Braff; directed by Clark Johnson
Emmanuelle Devos, Grégory Montel, Gustave Kervern; directed by Grégory Magne
Michael Vlamis, Brock O’Hurn, Bianca Haase; directed by Taylor Chien
Documentary directed by Kelly Wolfert
Everything coming to streaming platforms this month:
When people talk about Bill Murray’s greatest movies, they bring up the usual favourites: Stripes and Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day and Rushmore and Lost In Translation and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. And it’s true, those are some pretty great movies. But perhaps the best expression of Murray’s cranky/comedic sensibility is his 1990 heist comedy, which the actor co-directed with screenwriter Howard Franklin. A movie about a trio of bank robbers who pull off a flawless heist but find all of New York City conspiring to keep them from getting to the airport, it might be literally perfect: every laugh lands, every character detail advances the story while complicating things just a little bit further, and every roadblock to our heroes’ escape is weirdly credible.
It’s impossible to oversell the sheer pleasure of watching Murray, Geena Davis and Randy Quaid tripping over one another’s issues as they struggle to make it from Manhattan to Brooklyn to Queens in the hopes of leaving their misery behind; it’s also a delight to watch Jason Robards, as the exhausted cop on their tail, turn out to be as sharp as Murray’s master planner Grimm. The supporting cast is packed with ringers like Bob Elliott, Phil Hartman, Kathryn Grody, Kurtwood Smith, Philip Bosco, Victor Argo and future Big Night co-stars Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub, and veteran cinematographer Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) lights and frames the New York locations to play up the weird, crumbling beauty they had at the time.
A box-office dud that’s long been undervalued on home video formats, Quick Change finally gets a high-definition release from Warner Archive in a bare-bones Blu-ray that offers nothing beyond a new 1080p transfer and cleaned-up DTS-HD Master Audio sound. Given the way the movie’s been treated over the decades, that seems like the best we could have hoped for … but hey, at least it looks good. (NW)