Download And DVD Reviews – January 30
Damon Smith reviews the latest download, streaming, premium video on-demand and DVD/Blu-ray releases including Aftersun, Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical, Bones And All, and Armageddon Time.
NEW FILMS TO STREAM, RENT ON-DEMAND OR BUY ON DVD/BLU-RAY
FILM OF THE WEEK
Aftersun (Cert 12, 101 mins, MUBI, available now exclusively on MUBI, available from February 3 on Amazon/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from February 20 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99, Drama/Romance)
Starring: Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall.
Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall) is a new parent, grappling with the responsibility of nurturing life as she draws lessons – sometimes painfully – from her childhood.
She is compelled to look back to a 1990s package holiday in Turkey with her idealistic divorced father Calum (Paul Mescal) when she was just 11 and blissfully carefree (now played by Frankie Corio).
The sun beats down on the pair as they laze by the pool, contend with noisy construction work at the resort and nervously prepare for a karaoke duet in front of other guests.
Young Sophie glimpses chinks in Calum's emotional armour in the aftermath of his marriage falling apart and tentatively takes her first steps towards adolescence in the company of older children.
Aftersun elegantly explores the unbreakable bond between parent and child, emboldened by excerpts of raw handheld footage captured during the holiday on Calum's video camera.
Mescal is deservedly Oscar-nominated for his understated yet powerful portrayal of a protective and emotionally bruised father, who cannot bear the thought of disappointing the one person in his life who still worships him.
On-screen chemistry with Corio feels authentic.
Conversations unfold organically including adorable scenes between Corio and a smitten boy at the same hotel.
Nothing is forced or manipulated in writer-director Charlotte Wells' mesmerising debut feature.
Some film-makers spend entire careers striving for something this delicate and wondrous.
Wells magnificently succeeds at the first attempt.
Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical (Cert PG, 117 mins, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, available from February 8 on Amazon/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from February 20 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99, Musical/Comedy/Fantasy)
Starring: Alisha Weir, Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough, Sindhu Vee, Winter Jarrett-Glasspool.
Bookish wunderkind Matilda (Alisha Weir) has the misfortune to be raised by garish used car salesman Mr Wormwood (Stephen Graham) and his monstrous wife (Andrea Riseborough).
The precocious youngster escapes into fantastical worlds on the shelves of a mobile library run by Mrs Phelps (Sindhu Vee).
Matilda harnesses dormant telekinetic powers when she enrols at Crunchem Hall under hulking headmistress Agatha Trunchbull (Emma Thompson), a former world champion athlete who performs an exemplary hammer throw over the school gates using one unfortunate girl's pigtails.
Thankfully, caring teacher Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch) recognises Matilda's genius and encourages her gifted ward to soar higher than the unfortunate and airborne Amanda Thripp (Winter Jarrett-Glasspool).
Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical is a swashboggling, phizz-whizzing screen adaptation of the award-winning stage production, which retains the acidic tang of Roald Dahl's beloved 1988 children's novel.
Dennis Kelly's script and Tim Minchin's lyrics elegantly express the loss and reclamation of childhood innocence in barn-storming song and dance numbers choreographed with breathless abandon by Ellen Kane.
Director Matthew Warchus confidently combines sweet, salty and sour flavours, juxtaposing the cuteness and steely determination of Weir's spirited heroine with the comic grotesquerie of Thompson's tyrant.
He overloads our senses in exuberant musical set-pieces, maintaining a rip-roaring pace until the film's new song, Still Holding My Hand, allows a curtain to gently fall over quietly contented characters.
The empowering anthem When I Grow Up loses some of its lump-in-the-throat emotional wallop with the addition of big screen digital trickery.
Bigger and shinier isn't always better.
Bones And All (Cert 18, 131 mins, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, available now via Premium Video On Demand rental, available from February 6 on Amazon/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, also available from February 6 on Blu-ray & DVD Combi-pack £24.99, Romance/Horror/Thriller)
Starring: Taylor Russell, Timothee Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Gordon Green, Andre Holland, Chloe Sevigny.
Introverted 18-year-old Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell) first displayed cannibalistic tendencies at the age of three, fatally injuring a babysitter.
Every night with her consent, father Frank (Andre Holland) locks Maren in her bedroom for his own protection but she sneaks out after dark to attend a sleepover.
The mood of giggling sisterly solidarity sours when Maren chews off a friend's freshly lacquered digit.
Faced with life on the run, Frank reluctantly abandons his daughter, leaving her an envelope of cash, her birth certificate and a cassette tape confessional.
Maren decides to track down her biological mother (Chloe Sevigny) in Minnesota to better understand her compulsion.
On the road, she encounters similarly afflicted souls including Sully (Mark Rylance) and drifter Lee (Timothee Chalamet).
“I don't want to hurt anybody,” Maren meekly professes. “Famous last words,” snorts Lee.
Bones And All is a curiously poetic and moving romance adapted by screenwriter David Kajganich from Camille DeAngelis's award-winning novel.
Director Luca Guadagnino's picture walks a tightrope between aching beauty and brutality, a high-wire act impeccably photographed by cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan that demands a cast-iron constitution.
The Italian film-maker eases us in gently with a close-up of teeth sinking into the knuckle of a finger.
Once Rylance's menacing predator slinks out of the shadows, the use of horrific special make-up effects becomes more pronounced in unsettling scenes that recall the frenzied feasting of a zombie apocalypse.
In the midst of carnage, lead actress Russell delivers a gut-wrenching performance as an afflicted teenager, who yearns for tenderness and meaningful human connections but cannot trust herself around other people.
Armageddon Time (Cert 15, 114 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, available from February 6 on Amazon/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from February 20 on DVD £19.99, Drama/Romance)
Starring: Banks Repeta, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong, Anne Hathaway, Jaylin Webb, Andrew Polk, Ryan Sell.
Jewish-American 11-year-old Paul Graff (Banks Repeta) attends Public School 173 in 1980 New York where sixth-grade dreams of Nasa and space rockets are a distraction from the teachings of ill-tempered educator Mr Turkeltaub (Andrew Polk).
Consequently, Paul becomes a target for humiliation in class alongside African-American student Johnny Davis (Jaylin Webb), who is repeating the year.
The boys forge a strong friendship but prejudices repeatedly test their bond and Paul's parents Irving (Jeremy Strong) and Esther (Anne Hathaway) elect to send him to Kew-Forest preparatory school instead, where older brother Ted (Ryan Sell) is making his mark.
The threat of change sends Paul into an emotional tailspin but his grandfather Aaron (Anthony Hopkins) has the right words to console and soothe.
Armageddon Time is a slow-paced coming-of-age drama, which explores complex family and racial dynamics against the backdrop of Ronald Reagan's bid to wrest the keys to the White House from incumbent president Jimmy Carter.
Writer-director James Gray rifles through his childhood in 1980s Queens, New York, to stylishly evoke an era of bigotry and abuse, underlining the rhetoric of a Republican Party campaign that would prove a divisive but winning formula 36 years later.
Repeta catalyses winning on-screen partnerships with Webb and Hopkins, the latter retaining a British accent thanks to his character's Liverpudlian roots.
Gray's snapshot of middle-class angst and the loss of childhood innocence feels overly familiar and allows its piercing lens to mist up with nostalgia.
However, the script unearths moments of beauty in the mundane that emphasise the universality of this boy's life.
NEW TO DOWNLOAD, STREAM OR BUY ON DVD/BLU-RAY
Dear Edward (10 episodes, starts streaming from February 3 exclusively on Apple TV+, Drama)
Twelve-year-old Edward Adler (Colin O'Brien) is the sole survivor of a plane crash that claims the lives of his parents and older brother.
During a time of intense grief, the media spotlight fixates on the boy who emerged from the wreckage and Edward's maternal aunt Lacey (Taylor Schilling) takes on the role of guardian and carer.
She attends grief counselling to process the loss of her sister and forges strong connections to others affected by the tragedy.
Meanwhile, Edward faces challenges at school and at home as a reluctant overnight celebrity in a 10-part drama based on Ann Napolitano's novel.
The first three episodes premiere this week and subsequent instalments are available on Fridays.
Your Honor – Season 2 (10 episodes, starts streaming from February 3 exclusively on Paramount+, Drama/Thriller)
Bryan Cranston reprises his role as respected New Orleans judge Michael Desiato in the American remake of acclaimed Israeli TV series Kvodo, which serves justice on Sky Atlantic and streams exclusively on Now.
In the first series, Michael spun a web of lies to protect his beloved son Adam (Hunter Doohan) after the teenager killed another boy in a hit-and-run.
The victim turned out to be Rocco Baxter (Benjamin Hassan Wadsworth), son of sadistic crime lord Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his wife Gina (Hope Davis).
The ripple effect of the incident continues to be felt by the Desiato and Baxter clans, sparking quests for revenge and salvation that jeopardise more lives.
The second series opens with a salvo of three episodes then reverts to weekly instalments.
You – Season 4 (10 episodes, starts streaming from February 9 on Netflix, Thriller/Drama/Romance)
Penn Badgley wrestles with murderous urges as serial killer and bookstore manager Joe Goldberg when the psychological thriller based on Caroline Kepnes' best-selling novels returns to Netflix for a fourth outing.
The series unfolds in two parts. Episodes one to five premiere this week and the concluding five chapters are available from March 9.
Joe adopts a new identity – a teaching professor in London – to escape the smouldering ashes of his past and continue his dogged pursuit of Marienne Bellamy (Tati Gabrielle).
His efforts to lie low are threatened when another diabolical predator, dubbed the Eat The Rich Killer, targets his new circle of wealthy socialite friends.
The hunter becomes the prey as Joe hones his detective skills to unmask another murderer in the city and distract attention from his shadowy past.
Funny Woman (6 episodes, starts streaming from February 9 exclusively on Now, Comedy/Drama)
A female comedian faces an uphill battle to confront outdated attitudes during the cultural explosion of the 1960s in a six-part drama directed by Oliver Parker, which is based on the book by Nick Hornby.
Barbara Parker (Gemma Arterton) is crowned Miss Blackpool but she yearns for something more than a winner's sash in a beauty pageant in her seaside town.
She heads south to the bright lights of London but life in the capital isn't the dream that Barbara imagined from her magazine articles and she faces numerous setbacks.
Barbara's northern wit remains razor-sharp and she successfully auditions for a TV comedy show that will have an indelible impact on British pop culture for decades to come.
Operating in a predominantly male environment, Barbara reinvents herself to reshape prevailing attitudes to funny women and cement her standing as the nation's sweetheart.
Harlem – Season 2 (8 episodes, starts streaming from February 3 exclusively on Prime Video, Comedy/Drama/Romance)
Two episodes of the second series of Harlem premiere every week, testing sisterly bonds in the historically black neighbourhood of New York City through the eyes of Columbia University anthropology professor Camille (Meagan Good) and her coterie of friends.
The dust begins to settle after Camille self-destructs her career and love life.
Meanwhile, good friend Tye (Jerrie Johnson) contemplates her future after her efforts to launch a dating app, hopeful romantic Quinn (Grace Byers) embarks on a journey of self-discovery and fortune smiles on singer and actress Angie (Shoniqua Shandai).
The women rely on each other to battle self-doubt and their insecurities and achieve personal goals as vibrant 30-somethings in the city.
The Rookie: Feds (13 episodes, starts streaming from February 8 exclusively on Now, Thriller/Action)
Niecy Nash-Betts headlines a spin-off from the police procedural drama The Rookie created by Alexi Hawley, which targets criminals on Sky Witness and streams exclusively on Now.
Former FBI agent Christopher “Cutty” Clark (Frankie Faison) is unhappy when his daughter Simone follows his example and completes her training to serve her country at the age of 48.
She is the oldest rookie at the FBI Academy and is determined to join a newly formed special unit in the Los Angeles office led by Supervisory Special Agent Matthew Garza (Felix Solis).
Simone gets her wish and joins fellow Quantico graduate Brendon Acres (Kevin Zegers), promotion-hungry Carter Hope (James Lesure) and Laura Stenson (Britt Robertson) to investigate a bomber at large in the metropolis.
My Dad The Bounty Hunter (10 episodes, streaming from February 9 exclusively on Netflix, Animation/Sci-Fi/Action/Comedy)
Siblings unexpectedly embark on an action-packed intergalactic adventure in a computer-animated comedy created by Everett Downing Jr and Patrick Harpin.
Lisa (voiced by Priah Ferguson) and her little brother Sean (Jecobi Swain) are disappointed when their seemingly average father Terry (Laz Alonso) announces that he needs to attend to an urgent work matter.
The children yearn to spend more quality time with their old man so they secretly stow away in the boot of Terry's car with the intention of joining him at work.
Lisa and Sean are blissfully unaware that their father is the toughest bounty hunter in the galaxy, Sabro Brok, and they are gate-crashing a mission to apprehend an elusive otherworldly fugitive.
The children tag along for the warp-speed ride, encountering weird aliens and robots as they get their wish and strengthen their bond to their father.
True Spirit (Cert 12, 106 mins, streaming from February 3 exclusively on Netflix, Drama)
Sarah Spillane directs a true story of courage and perseverance from a script written by Rebecca Banner, Cathy Randall and Spillane.
Jessica Watson (Teagan Croft) is raised with her siblings on Australia's Gold Coast by her parents Roger (Josh Lawson) and Julie (Anna Paquin), who encourage the teenager to chase her dreams.
At the age of 16, she prepares to leave Sydney to become the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world.
Supported by her sailing coach and mentor Ben Bryant (Cliff Curtis), Jessica pits herself against some of the most challenging stretches of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans over the course of 210 days.
Whitney Houston & Bobbi Kristina: Didn't We Almost Have It All (Cert 12, 90 mins, streaming from February 7 exclusively on Paramount+, Documentary)
The turbulent life of Whitney Houston has been dissected and celebrated in the documentaries Whitney: Can I Be Me and Whitney, and most recently in the musical drama Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
This feature-length documentary uses first-hand accounts from people who knew the New Jersey-born singer to chart the parallel fortunes of Houston and her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown.
Contributors include Houston's friends Perri “Pebbles” Reid and Cherrelle, sister-in-law Tina Brown, goddaughter Brandi Boyd, former creative director Tiffanie Dixon and Bobbi Kristina's best friend Sarah “Bess” Beckmann.