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February is off to a strong start in the streaming world, with three blockbuster premieres on Amazon, Netflix, and NOW TV all vying for your attention during another week of lockdown.
Gerard Butler is in disaster mode in Greenland, one of his best films in years. Joining Malcolm & Marie on Netflix is the beloved high school comedy Mean Girls, joined by the charismatic Korean sci-fi flick Space Sweepers. BBC iPlayer makes the gorgeous, perhaps under-appreciated horror In Fabric available, while NOW TV revisits one of the last superhero films to actually play in cinemas: Cathy Yan’s bright, fun and idiosyncratic Birds of Prey.
Please note that a subscription will be required to watch.
Greenland - Amazon Prime Video
Gerard Butler is perhaps modern cinema's greatest exponent of the grizzled, working class everyman. He's Bruce Willis in an era when the real Bruce Willis just can't cut it any more. His latest outing is Greenland, in which the world is rocked by the news that a comet is heading for the planet, potentially causing an extinction-level event. Those who are deemed to be valuable in potentially rebuilding civilisation are given wristbands, earning them passage to a safe haven in Greenland. As a structural engineer, Butler's character and his family make the cut, but they face more than a few struggles on their way to safety.What follows is a race against time in the face of a looming apocalypse.
Watch: The stars of Greenland talk to Yahoo about the film
Nobody could have imagined how relevant the film would feel in the era of COVID-19, but there's no denying that our current predicament gives everything an extra dose of poignancy. This is a powerful Butler movie which is about more than running, jumping, shouting and shooting. With compelling, nuanced characters and a real core of emotion, it's Gerry's best film in years (TB)
Birds of Prey - NOW TV with a Sky Cinema pass
Director Cathy Yan and producer Margot Robbie’s superhero project was a creative shot in the arm for Warner Bros’ line of DC films. It feels distinctly like their movie, which unfortunately sets it apart from the increasingly hegemonic stylings of contemporary comic book movies. Not only does it have a real sense of place, but surprisingly complex and hard-hitting fight scenes, with more than a touch of John Wick's distant long takes and complex choreography via Hong Kong action films (it’s primarily the latter, but John Wick director Chad Stahelski was around for action scenes with his frequent collaborator Jonathan Eusebio). Only here you can find added giant mallets and zany, Looney Tunes gymnastics for good measure. Such cinematic references aren’t only reserved for the action – hallucinations take the form of Howard Hawks homages, for example.
Watch a trailer for Birds of Prey
Yan’s film isn’t too concerned with making a grand statement message beyond its anarchy and its main character finally escaping the male gaze her prior appearance in Suicide Squad, nor is it interested in "elevating" itself beyond other comic book movies. Instead it steers into gleeful crassness and vivid stylisation through its opulent set and costume design. There are some shortcomings, as the intentionally scrambled opening act is somewhat dicey even as it lampshades the jumbled storytelling in a tone recalling Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It sometimes overindulges, whether in slow-mo, voiceover, musical cues that range from bizarre, breathy covers of 80s anthems to fairly obvious girl power needle-drops. Still, Birds of Prey’s indulgence is part of the charm, and its idiosyncrasies are something that few studio-mandated superhero fare, even from within Warner Bros, can match up to. (KC)
Also on Now TV: Irresistible, Pay Dirt
Malcolm & Marie - Netflix
While most of us spent our lockdowns on the sofa watching Tiger King and eating Pringles, director Sam Levinson and stars John David Washington and Zendaya decided to make a movie instead. Washington plays a talented, charismatic filmmaker who returns home after a glittering premiere with his partner, portrayed by Zendaya. He's on cloud nine and full of bravado, but he forgot to thank her in his speech, and this leads to a whole load of relationship secrets tumbling out.
This Netflix drama is certainly talky, but it's written with real wit and insight by Levinson who finds emotional wounds in the relationship and also skewers film critics with some pointed monologues. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous and the performances are packed with depth and intrigue. It's inspiring enough to make you want to put down the Pringles and so something. Well, almost. (TB)
In Fabric - BBC iPlayer
Perhaps director Peter Strickland’s strangest homage to Italian Giallo horror films, the sumptuous visuals and sound design of In Fabric are of course fixated on touch – particularly, the feel of a dress. The dress in question however is haunted, and makes for a delightfully weird journey through consumer capitalism and the high street sales culture that feels specific to the UK, as people fall victim to the item of clothing that simultaneously wants to be worn, and for no one to have it.
Watch a trailer for In Fabric
First time viewers will likely be thrown by a sharp turn midway through the film, as it reveals itself to be more of an anthology than a study of a single character, which feels like something of a shame as actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste is astonishing as a lead, especially in her reactions to and resistance against peculiar sales people speaking in amusingly cryptic, foreboding tones, and her son’s girlfriend who makes a particular show about staking her territory within the house. The second half leans more into the comedic undertones of the first, and while it’s entertaining enough, that initial story can’t help but be missed. A fun and gorgeously-presented film nonetheless. (KC)
Also on iPlayer: The Place Beyond The Pines, Lady Macbeth
Mean Girls - Netflix
Universally beloved amongst the generations practically raised on it, the appeal of the Tina Fey-written, Mark Waters-directed Mean Girls almost doesn’t need explanation. A star-maker for the likes of actresses Amanda Seyfried and Rachel McAdams, the high school comedy is still among the best of its kind.
It’s fit to stand alongside Clueless in its depiction of ruthless adolescent cliques and figuring out how to best assimilate amongst your peers. Meme-d and reposted into oblivion the jokes may be, but they’re still extremely sharp and funny in context, the gags faring far better with time than the mid-2000s fashion. (KC)
Also on Netflix: Malcolm & Marie, Space Sweepers