New to stream or buy on DVD/Blu-ray: Songbird, For The Sake of Vicious, Mare Of Easttown, Big Shot and more...
FILM OF THE WEEK
SONGBIRD (Cert 15, 85 mins, STX International, Thriller/Sci-Fi/Romance/Action, available now on Amazon Prime Video, available from April 19 on BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services)
Starring: KJ Apa, Sofia Carson, Peter Stormare, Bradley Whitford, Demi Moore, Craig Robinson, Paul Walter Hauser.
IN 2024, the deadliest strain of Covid has accounted for more than 110 million deaths worldwide. Citizens are ordered to stay indoors permanently.
A morning temperature check on mobile devices identifies anyone with a fever, who is dragged unceremoniously from their home by Hazmat-suited agents.
Former paralegal Nico (KJ Apa) is immune to the virus and is allowed outside during daylight hours to work as a bicycle courier for company boss Lester (Craig Robinson).
Nico dreams of running away to the coast with girlfriend Sara (Sofia Carson), who he has never been able to touch.
When a daily temperature check puts Sara in jeopardy, Nico races against the clock to engineer their escape. His daredevil actions ensnare him in the tangled webs of sadistic Department of Sanitation boss Harland (Peter Stormare) and wealthy couple William and Piper Griffin (Bradley Whitford, Demi Moore).
Songbird is a dystopian thriller set in near-future Los Angeles under martial law, which cranks up dramatic tension once gun-toting marshals arrive outside Sara's apartment.
Apa is a likeable and sympathetic hero, showcasing an impressively ripped physique to give him a fighting chance against competing dark forces in a fallen metropolis where "disobedience is spreading like a tornado".
The central premise isn't too far removed from chilling reality but director Adam Mason's script, co-written by Simon Boyes, neglects to answer fundamental questions about the logistics of survival against an airborne strain of coronavirus.
Power, water supplies and broadband are seemingly uninterrupted and everyone appears to be well stocked with provisions even though roads and skies are deserted of flotillas of home delivery vehicles.
Out of sight but not out of mind.
FOR THE SAKE OF VICIOUS (Cert 18, 80 mins, Signature Entertainment, Horror/Thriller, available from April 19 on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services)
Starring: Lora Burke, Nick Smyth, Colin Paradine, James Fler.
HARD-working nurse Romina (Lora Burke) arrives home after a long shift, carrying a Halloween costume for her seven-year-old son, who is at her mother's house. The family will go trick or treating once Romina has changed out of her uniform.
No sooner has the nurse walked through the front door than she discovers the incapacitated and bloody form of her landlord Alan (Colin Paradine) on her kitchen floor next to Chris (Nick Smyth), the father of a patient.
After a brief struggle, Chris begs Romina to revive Alan so he can extract a confession, proving that the unconscious man raped his little girl. Against her better judgment, Romina becomes an accessory to a kangaroo court, where Alan repeatedly pleads his innocence and re-iterates evidence which saw a jury acquit him.
Set almost entirely within the four walls of Romina's home, For The Sake Of Vicious is a brutal and increasingly gory home invasion thriller with impressively gruesome effects on a limited budget.
Co-directors Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen allow suspense to build gradually in the opening 45 minutes, keeping us guessing about Alan's guilt as the balance of power see-saws violently between accused and captor.
A seemingly innocuous telephone call lights the fuse on a giddily gory second half that requires a strong stomach as household objects are wielded with deadly force.
Characterisation takes a back seat to the carnage, which keeps us at an emotional distance from the central trio as events spiral sickening out of their control.
SERIES / BOX SETS
MARE OF EASTTOWN (7 episodes, starts streaming from April 19 exclusively on NOW TV, Thriller/Romance)
OSCAR-winner Kate Winslet returns to the small screen for the first time in a decade since her Golden Globe-winning performance in the title role of Mildred Pierce to play a small-town Pennsylvania detective in this seven-part mystery, which begins this week on Sky Atlantic and streams exclusively on NOW TV.
Mare Sheehan (Winslet) keeps the peace in the close-knit community of Easttown, where secrets are passed down from one generation to the next.
She is at loggerheads with her rebellious daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) and tensions are exacerbated when a murder on Mare's patch turns friends and neighbours against one another.
Detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) is called in to assist with the investigation as Mare's family life implodes.
She turns to childhood best friend Lori (Julianne Nicholson), her mother Helen (Jean Smart) and local writer Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce) for emotional buoyancy.
BIG SHOT (10 episodes, starts streaming from April 16 exclusively on Disney+, Drama)
AFTER an outburst on the sidelines of a National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball game, coach Marvyn Korn (John Stamos) seeks redemption at Westbrook School for Girls.
He is hired to inspire the student basketball team, the Sirens, to greatness and prove he can control his volcanic temper.
Principal Sherilyn Thomas (Yvette Nicole Brown) doesn't believe that hot-head Marvyn has what it takes to succeed in illustrious and refined surroundings.
He vows to prove her wrong, flanked by assistant coach Holly Barrett (Jessalyn Gilsig).
Marvyn faces an uphill battle to impress players Carolyn Smith (Tisha Custodio) aka Mouse, Destiny Winters (Tiana Le), Louise Gruzinsky (Nell Verlaque), Olive Cooper (Monique Green) and Samantha Finkman (Cricket Wampler) aka Giggles.
If he is to galvanise the girls on and off the court, Maryvn must find a way to connect with them on a deeper emotional level.
LEONARDO (8 episodes, streaming from April 16 exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, Drama/Romance)
POLDARK star Aidan Turner swaggers through Renaissance Italy as inventor, painter and thinker Leonardo da Vinci in a lavish period drama created by Frank Spotnitz and Steve Thompson.
Across the eight episodes, the series charts the rise of Leonardo under the aegis of his master, Andrea del Verrocchio (Giancarlo Giannini), and his close relationship with his dear friend and muse Caterina da Cremona (Matilda De Angelis).
When a tantalising mystery threatens to taint Leonardo's reputation, young investigator Stefano Giraldi (Freddie Highmore) works alongside the 15th-century genius to establish the facts.
In a time of intrigue and superstition, Stefano must crack the case to the satisfaction of everyone involved including the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza (James D'Arcy).
TINY WORLD – SEASON 2 (6 episodes, streaming from April 16 exclusively on Apple TV+, Documentary)
IN OCTOBER 2020, Apple TV+ unveiled the first six instalments of the natural history series Tiny World, narrated by Paul Rudd, aka Ant-Man from the Marvel Comics cinematic universe.
The show celebrates the smallest creatures on the planet and their ingenious survival techniques in treacherous conditions.
This second salvo of episodes, succinctly entitled Meadow, Desert, Pond, Rainforest, Reef and Dune, employs ground-breaking video technology to follow the hazardous journeys of new species including a bumblebee, dragonfly, duckling, harvest mouse and ground squirrel.