New to stream: The Woman King and Shrinking

Damon Smith
The Woman King: Viola Davis as General Nanisca

THE WOMAN KING (Cert 15, 134 mins, Entertainment One, available from January 30 on Amazon/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from February 13 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £26.99/4K Ultra HD Blu-ray £34.99, Action/Drama/Romance)

Starring: Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, John Boyega, Jimmy Odukoya, Jordan Bolger, Jayme Lawson.

KING Ghezo (John Boyega) succeeds his brother on the throne of the West African kingdom of Dahomey, in direct opposition to the Oyo Empire.

To repel enemy troops under the command of General Oba Ade (Jimmy Odukoya), Ghezo entrusts the kingdom's fate to General Nanisca (Viola Davis) and an all-female group of warriors called the Agojie.

The ranks of the Agojie include Nanisca's confidante Amenza (Sheila Atim), strong-willed veteran Izogie (Lashana Lynch) and orphan Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), who has been disowned by her foster father for refusing to take a husband.

Nanisca's harrowing past becomes entwined with Dahomey's future as she moulds the next generation.

Meanwhile, spirited newbie Nawi gravitates towards occasionally shirtless and reluctant slave trader Malik (Jordan Bolger).

The Woman King is a thrillingly orchestrated drama, which canters roughshod over historical accuracy about the real-life military regiment of all-female African warriors, which inspired Wakanda's valiant Dora Milaje in the Black Panther comics.

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood's picture delivers a rousing, blood-pumping spectacle, emboldened by a terrific ensemble cast that personifies sisterly solidarity.

Dana Stevens' script sidesteps uncomfortable facts about the slave trade to simplify warring factions into good and evil, squarely positioning viewers behind the imperious title character portrayed by Oscar winner Davis.

Her fiercely committed performance, which required months of weightlifting, fight training and stunt coordination, fills every frame and crescendos with an obligatory inspirational speech on the eve of battle – "We are the spear of victory, we are the blade of freedom!"

Physicality of hand-to-hand combat contrasts with tender and moving scenes between Davis and sisters in arms, particularly South African rising star Mbedu.

Rating: 4/5

Shrinking: Jason Segel as Jimmy and Harrison Ford as Paul


SHRINKING (10 episodes, starts streaming from January 27 exclusively on Apple+, Comedy/Drama)

GRIEF forces a therapist to readjust his outlook on life in a comedy drama created by Brett Goldstein, Bill Lawrence and lead actor Jason Segel.

Jimmy Laird (Segel) is emotionally numb after the loss of his wife and unable to engage fully with work at a cognitive behavioural therapy centre alongside pioneer Dr Paul Rhodes (Harrison Ford) and colleague Gaby (Jessica Williams).

Suffocated by his loss, Jimmy ignores personal boundaries and professional ethics to tell his clients what they should do to remedy their woes, directly and profoundly impacting their futures.

By ignoring his training, Jimmy risks everything he has worked hard to achieve.

Miraculously, by making dramatic changes to his patients' lives, Jimmy initiates the healing process and rebuilds bridges to his teenage daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell).