Download And DVD Reviews – January 23

Damon Smith, PA Film Critic

Damon Smith reviews the latest download, streaming, premium video on-demand and DVD/Blu-ray releases including The Woman King, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Shotgun Wedding and Confess, Fletch.



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: ****


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Cert 12, 161 mins, streaming from February 1 exclusively on Disney+, available from February 15 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £21.99/4K Ultra HD Blu-ray £26.99, Action/Fantasy/Adventure)

Starring: Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta, Danai Gurira, Dominique Thorne, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) leads her grief-stricken nation in remembering the life of its king and her beloved son, T'Challa.

Other nations mistakenly believe Wakandan defences will be weakened during this period of mourning and they intensify efforts to acquire the rare metallic ore vibranium.

Unwelcome incursions threaten to expose the ancient underwater civilisation of Talokan, which has been concealed from greedy eyes for centuries.

Talokan king Namor (Tenoch Huerta) vows to protect his people by forcefully demanding an alliance with Wakanda.

“I have more soldiers than this land has blades of grass,” he warns Ramonda.

To avert a catastrophic showdown, princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Dora Milaje captain Okoye (Danai Gurira) seek out gifted MIT student Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), who has built a machine that can detect vibranium.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever delicately shrouds the sequel to one of the highest grossing films of all time in grief and uncertainty.

Returning writer-director Ryan Coogler and an army of collaborators behind and in front of the camera pay rousing tribute to Chadwick Boseman in heartfelt and deeply moving sequences that bookend this muscular blockbuster.

Putting aside raw emotion, as difficult as that may be, the sequel falls noticeably short of its ground-breaking predecessor except for an unnecessarily bloated 161-minute running time that merits a few slashes of the title character's vibranium-enriched claws.

Bombastic action sequences never approach the turbo-charged exhilaration of the night-time car chase through the streets of Busan in the original film.

Despite Ramonda's assertion to the contrary, the emotional power behind the Wakandan throne has gone.

Rating: ***

Shotgun Wedding (Cert 15, 100 mins, streaming from January 27 exclusively on Prime Video, Comedy/Romance/Action)

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, Lenny Kravitz, Jennifer Coolidge, Sonia Braga, Cheech Marin, Steve Coulter, Desmin Borges, Selena Tan, Alberto Isaac.

Darcy Rivera (Jennifer Lopez) agrees to marry her baseball player beau Tom Fowler (Josh Duhamel) at a lavish tropical island ceremony to please his mother Carol (Jennifer Coolidge).

“I've been looking forward to this moment ever since baby Tommy was cut out of my abdomen,” gushes Carol as family and friends including her husband Larry (Steve Coulter), Darcy's estranged parents Robert (Cheech Marin) and Renata (Sonia Braga) and best man Ricky (Desmin Borges) descend on Mahal Island Resort in the Philippines managed by Margy (Selena Tan) and her husband Ace (Alberto Isaac).

Tom wants the ceremony to be perfect and he sacrifices precious time with his bride-to-be to finesse the seating plan and pineapple table arrangements.

Nerves are on edge when Darcy's charismatic old flame Sean (Lenny Kravitz), who she met in the peace corps, gate-crashes the party at the insistence of her father Robert.

Soon after, a gang of gun-toting pirates takes the wedding party hostage and a bickering bride and groom take evasive action to save their big day.

Shotgun Wedding is a sporadically hilarious romantic comedy directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect), which aims for the same zany energy as The Lost City and Ticket To Paradise but often falls short.

Scriptwriter Mark Hammer contrives deranged set pieces with a zip wire, live grenade and runaway golf cart that gloss over lukewarm screen chemistry between Lopez and Duhamel.

Co-stars, particularly Coolidge, scene-steal in underwritten roles as the plot careens at breakneck speed towards a resolution that is written in the wedding cards from sun-kissed opening frames.

Rating: ***

Confess, Fletch (Cert 15, 99 mins, Paramount Home Entertainment, available from February 1 on Amazon/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, Comedy/Thriller/Romance)

Starring: Jon Hamm, Kyle MacLachlan, Marcia Gay Harden, Annie Mumolo, Lucy Punch, John Slattery, Lorenza Izzo, John Behlmann, Roy Wood Jr, Ayden Mayeri.

Freelance journalist Fletch (Jon Hamm) arrives in Boston from Rome at the behest of his recent bedfellow Angela de Grassi (Lorenza Izzo).

Her father has been kidnapped by three thugs with guns and the ransom is the family's stolen Picasso painting worth around 20 million dollars, which is reportedly in the possession of germophobic art dealer Ronald Horan (Kyle MacLachlan).

Unfortunately, Fletch's base of operations in Boston, a rented townhouse belonging to Owen Tasserly (John Behlmann), contains a murdered woman.

Prime suspect Fletch assures investigating officers Sergeant Monroe (Roy Wood Jr) and rookie detective Griz (Ayden Mayeri) that he is above suspicion but they tail the journalist as he gathers evidence to unmask the killer.

Haphazard inquiries lead to Owen's ex-wife Tatiana (Lucy Punch), pothead neighbour Eve (Annie Mumolo) and Angela's half-Brazilian half-Italian half-French stepmother, the Countess (Marcia Gay Harden).

Adapted from the second book in Gregory Mcdonald's series of award-winning mystery novels, Confess, Fletch is a fizzing crime caper that skips between murder and ransom plots with the same carefree attitude as its leading man.

Hamm exudes an old-fashioned playfulness reminiscent of Cary Grant that is difficult to resist and the script gifts him a full arsenal of bone-dry wisecracks.

He frequently cedes the spotlight to co-stars, including MacLachlan gyrating manically to the metronomic beat of electronic dance music and Mumolo preparing an unsanitary chicken dinner as her pet pooch Mignon urinates on the kitchen floor

Mottola maintains a brisk, breezy pace that doesn't pause long enough to seriously scrutinise the plot or Oscar winner Gay Harden's outlandish cod-European accent.

Rating: ***


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).

Wolf Pack (8 episodes, starts streaming from January 27 exclusively on Paramount+, Fantasy/Drama/Thriller)

Sarah Michelle Gellar serves as an executive producer and lead actor of a supernatural teen drama based on the book series by Edo Van Belkom, which has been adapted for the screen by Jeff Davis.

A California wildfire traps a class of teenagers on a school bus.

In the midst of choking smoke and chaos, Everett Lang (Armani Jackson) and Blake Navarro (Bella Shepard) suffer bite wounds inflicted by a terrifying supernatural creature.

Everett and Blake are inextricably drawn to Harlan (Tyler Lawrence Gray) and Luna Briggs (Chloe Rose Robertson), adopted children of park ranger Garrett Briggs (Rodrigo Santoro).

The siblings harbour a secret that could mark them for death at the hands of arson investigator Kristin Ramsey (Gellar).

Garrett is fully aware of his wards' predatory nature and will do whatever it takes to protect them.

However, Harlan and Luna are part of a pack now and that invisible bond empowers the teenagers as a full moon rises over the terrified community.

Nolly (3 episodes, streaming from February 2 exclusively on ITVX, Drama/Romance)

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies turns back the clock more than four decades for a three-part drama dedicated to a flame-haired actress, who was affectionately crowned queen of the Midlands.

Directed by Peter Hoar, Nolly charts the rise and fall of London-born actress Noele Gordon (Helena Bonham Carter), who memorably portrayed motel owner Meg Richardson on the long-running soap opera Crossroads.

In 1981, she was sacked without warning or explanation, suffering a similar fate to other women of the era, who spoke their mind and refused to play by the rules.

Lockwood & Co. (8 episodes, streaming from February 2 exclusively on Netflix, Fantasy/Adventure/Action)

Joe Cornish, director of Attack The Block and The Kid Who Would Be King, trades alien invaders and Arthurian legend for a world plagued by ghosts in an eight-part fantasy adapted from Jonathan Stroud's novel.

In a dystopian alternate London, the capital is overrun by pernicious spectres and giant corporations fund agencies of teenagers to battle these destructive apparitions.

Adults control the niche industry except for Lockwood & Co. an independent, low-scale outfit run by rebellious young entrepreneur Anthony Lockwood (Cameron Chapman).

Accompanied by his eccentric best friend George Karim (Ali Hadji-Heshmati), Anthony undertakes unusual supernatural investigations in direct competition to financially buoyant rivals.

When a supremely gifted girl called Lucy Carlyle (Ruby Stokes) joins the squad, Lockwood & Co. finally possesses the skill set to unravel a terrifying mystery that could change the course of history.

You People (Cert 15, 118 mins, streaming from January 27 exclusively on Netflix, Comedy/Romance)

Love hurts in a contemporary reworking of the culture clash romantic comedy Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, directed by Kenya Barris and co-written by Jonah Hill and Barris.

Thirty-something brokerage firm underling Ezra (Hill) mistakes costume designer Amira (Lauren London) for the driver of his Uber ride.

He unwittingly sowing the seeds of a whirlwind romance that will set the young couple on course for a trip down the church aisle.

Before Ezra can say “I do”, he must court the favour of her parents Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long), who are openly dismissive of a Jewish man wooing their daughter.

The path to acceptance is littered with obstacles that Amira hurdles with infuriating grace when she meets Ezra's laidback and quirky parents, Arnold (David Duchovny) and Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

The Proud Family: Louder And Prouder – Season 2 (10 episodes, streaming from February 1 exclusively on Disney+, Animation/Comedy/Romance)

Teenager Penny Proud (voiced by Kyla Pratt) and her dysfunctional clan contend with questions of self-worth and interracial dating when the animated sitcom returns to Disney+ for a second salvo.

Tension was high at the end of the first series between Penny's paternal grandmother, Suga Mama Proud (Jo Marie Payton), and her sexist, elderly father (Glynn Turman).

Those wounds will take time to heal as Penny spars with her archnemesis LaCienega Boulevardez (Alisa Reyes), flanked by best friend Dijonay (Karen Malina White) and pals Zoey (Soleil Moon Frye), Michael Collins (EJ Johnson) and Maya (Keke Palmer).

Closer to home, Penny experiences highs and lows with her overly protective father Oscar (Tommy Davidson), mother Trudy Proud (Paula Jai Parker), twins siblings BeBe (Aiden Dodson) and CeCe (Bresha Webb) and pet poodle Puff.

Blood & Treasure – Season 2 (13 episodes, starts streaming from February 1 exclusively on Now, Action/Adventure)

Following the shocking end-of-season revelation about shady antiquities dealer Simon Hardwick (James Callis), justice must be served in the gung-ho action adventure, which glisters on Sky Sci-Fi and streams exclusively on Now.

Former FBI agent turned art expert Danny McNamara (Matt Barr) works closely with thief Lexi Vaziri (Sofia Pernas) to discover the whereabouts of an ancient artefact known as the Spirit Banner.

The duo's perilous globe-trotting quest ventures into corridors of power in the Vatican and shadowy corners of Russia, Hong Kong and Prague.

Fantasy Football League – Season 1B (8 episodes, starts streaming from January 27 exclusively on Now, Comedy)

Fresh from the triumphs and tears of the Fifa World Cup in Qatar, hosts Matt Lucas and Elis James return with comedian Andrew Mensah to referee eight more episodes of news headlines, clips and anecdotes about the beautiful game.

Each week, they are joined by celebrities, who hope to score big with teams of players plucked from the Premier League.

A famous moment from footballing history is lovingly recreated as part of the Phoenix From The Flames segment.

Teen Wolf: The Movie (Cert 15, 77 mins, streaming from January 27 exclusively on Paramount+, Fantasy/Horror/Romance)

Award-winning supernatural teen drama Teen Wolf ran for six series beginning in 2011 and turned stars Tyler Posey, Dylan O'Brien and Tyler Hoechlin into global pin-ups.

The TV show concluded in 2017 but the bloodthirsty exploits of Californian werewolf Scott McCall (Posey) continue exclusively on Paramount+ in a feature film written by Jeff Davis and directed by Russell Mulcahy.

A full moon rises over Beacon Hills, ushering forth a terrifying new evil alongside myriad shapeshifters and otherworldly creatures including banshees, werecoyotes, hellhounds and kitsunes.

Wolves are howling led by alpha Scott McCall (Posey), who unites trusted allies and old adversaries to overcome the most powerful and deadly enemy he has ever faced.

Pamela, A Love Story (Cert 15, 112 mins, streaming from January 27 exclusively on Netflix, Documentary/Romance)

Born and raised in British Columbia, Canada, Pamela Anderson is many things to many people: the slow-motion blonde bombshell from Baywatch, a Playboy model, fierce animal rights activist and star of an infamous sex tape with her first husband Tommy Lee.

Directed by Ryan White, this feature-length documentary allows Anderson to tell her story in her own words through exclusive interviews and previously unseen personal video and diaries.

The film traces the trajectory of her career from small town origins to the dizzy heights of international stardom, touching on romances that made headlines and some of the personal triumphs that may have gone unnoticed by the media.