What to watch on VOD and streaming this weekend

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What NOW critics are streaming

I May Destroy You

(Michaela Coel)

Michaela Coel’s latest series is inspired by autobiographical events. But after watching a couple of its 12 half-hour episodes, you get a strong sense the British TV creator and actor is undertaking an exercise in demythologizing. Coel stars as Arabella, a London writer and social media star. While procrastinating a major book deadline, she heads out to a bar where someone spikes her drink. Her memory is spotty but slowly she pieces together that she was sexually assaulted. This incident causes her to question everything – her close relationships, her childhood memories and her behaviour toward others. Through an almost discursive structure, I May Destroy You flashes back and forward to flush out the lives of people testing boundaries and confronting impulses.

As she did in her great sex comedy Chewing Gum, Coel gives an unpredictable and highly physical performance. Whether Arabella is contorting into yoga poses or tweaking on coke, Coel isn’t interested in taking a safe path through the idiosyncrasies of the character’s psyche. This can mean some aspects of Arabella seem glossed over at first – namely her writing style, though a sense of it emerges in fragments. I May Destroy You is careful to avoid both moralizing and victim-blaming narratives, finding a deceptively delicate balance. Coel takes the idea that sexual assault survivor must fit into a tidy archetype, snorts it up and hurls it back at viewers as an incendiary, frequently uncomfortable and often funny series that is testing TV boundaries as much as Arabella is examining her own. Premieres Sunday (June 7) on HBO Canada and streams on Crave. NNNN (Kevin Ritchie)

Mouthpiece

(Patricia Rozema)

After her mother’s sudden death, 20-something Toronto writer Cassandra spirals out of control, trying to compose a eulogy while coming to terms with the differences (and similarities) between her and her late mom, who gave up her literary dreams to raise two kids on her own. Patricia Rozema’s version of Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava’s award-winning stage play does more than just open the work up; it fills in key bits of information, shows us Cassandra out and about in Toronto and gives everything an affecting emotional resonance. At the same time, it maintains the work’s fierce, questing spirit about the complexities of being a modern woman; one key element involving actors Nostbakken and Sadava shouldn’t be spoiled. Nostbakken’s score, whether performed a cappella by the two leads or in big production numbers, adds another layer. And the cast, which includes Maev Beaty as Cassandra’s mom, Elaine, brings an authenticity to the material that is deeply satisfying. 91 minutes. Begins streaming on CBC Gem on June 6.  NNNN (Glenn Sumi)

The Forbidden Reel

(Ariel Nasr)

When the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, one of their first acts was to rewrite the nation’s history in its own image; that meant, among other things, going after the archives at Afghan Film, which held decades of a national cinema now considered “un-Islamic.” Nasr (The Boxing Girls Of Kabul) uses that footnote as an entry point to the dense, detailed study of Afghan cinema, weaving engaging interviews with key filmmakers like Latif Ahmadi (The Immigrant Birds) and Siddiq Barmak (Osama) into a comprehensive cultural history that features plenty of clips from the rescued films. There’s a lot to unpack in the history of Afghani cinema – you could make a miniseries just about the pro-Soviet films commissioned during the occupation in the 70s, and the Mujahedeen counter-propaganda that emerged in the 80s – and The Forbidden Reel is an excellent primer on it. Nasr even finds a properly upbeat ending for his story, which I did not expect at all. 119 minutes. Subtitled. Streaming in the Hot Docs Online Festival through June 24. NNNN (NW)

Corpus Christi

(Jan Komasa)

Komasa’s Oscar-nominated drama is a story about the transformative power of faith – though perhaps not in the way one might expect. Opening as a bleak study of a troubled young man (Bartosz Bielenia) impersonating a priest in a rural Polish town, it slowly opens up to a much broader perspective on belief and healing, with a humanistic core that recalls Robert Duvall’s 1997 drama The Apostle. Bielenia is a magnetic presence – he has Cillian Murphy’s preternatural intensity, with an element of watchfulness and vulnerability that slowly melts away as Daniel grows into the role he’s assumed. But there are other forces at work among the townsfolk, who are still bearing the weight of a devastating loss and unsure where to put it; the more Daniel tries to provide solace, the more he becomes part of a dynamic he doesn’t fully understand. And then there’s the matter of his own past transgressions. Komasa’s rigorous direction keeps the pressure on and the focus tight, pulling every ounce of tension from Mateusz Pacewicz’s taut script. 115 minutes. Subtitled. Available for rental or purchase on digital and on demand. NNNN (Norman Wilner)

Zombi Child

(Bertrand Bonello)

The schoolgirl and horror genres have mixed plenty of times, but Bonello puts a restrained touch on both to create a mood that feels strange and elusive. Similar to 2016’s (less accessible) terrorism flick Nocturama, the French director tells another story about wayward teens, wealth and privilege, but in a way that is pointedly playing off social dynamics wrought by France’s colonial legacy. Two stories in two countries and time periods unfold simultaneously. In 1962 Haiti, Clairvius Narcisse (Mackenson Bijou) dies but reawakens as a zombie and is forced to work as a slave labourer. We then flash-forward to a swanky Parisian private school for students who are related to Legion of Honor winners. New girl Mélissa (Wislanda Louimat), whose parents died in the 2010 Haiti earthquake, befriends Fanny (Louise Labèque) and joins their ad hoc sorority.

Via long, aloof, portrait-like shots – the ethereal effect is further accentuated by understated acting – Mélissa and Haitian culture become sources of intense fascination and intimidation for her white classmates. Gradually, Fanny grows disconcertingly obsessed with her new friend’s voodoo priestess aunt (Katiana Milfort), allowing supernatural elements to cross-pollinate both parts of the movie. Through flirting with discontinuous arthouse, Zombi Child is suspenseful and watchable thanks to impressively sublime uses of lighting and colour, a contrast between earnest teen girl romantic fantasy and arch humour and bursts of pop music. It all culminates in a wildly flamboyant finale, but the shift to standard horror mode ends up being the movie’s biggest shock. 103 minutes. Available to rent via Virtual Paradise Theatre or streaming on Criterion Channel. NNN (KR)

Becky

(Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion)

Horror meets Home Alone in this brutal thriller starring The Haunting Of Hill House’s Lulu Wilson as the eponymous teen… who proves scarily resourceful at taking out a gang of convicts who show up at her family cottage on the weekend her widowed father (Joel McHale) and his new fiancée (Amanda Brugel) try the blended-family thing. Milott and Murnion, makers of the kid-zombie splatter comedy Cooties and the high-concept siege picture Bushwick, have assembled an interesting cast around a simple, spare premise, but they can’t quite land the tone: the movie’s oppressive tone – and the sincerity of Wilson’s performance – doesn’t quite line up with the midnight-movie violence. But yes, that’s Kevin James playing the big bad – covered in Nazi ink so we know he’s really serious about playing against type – though the more interesting performance comes from Brugel (The Handmaid’s Tale, Kim’s Convenience) as Becky’s would-be stepmom. 93 minutes. Available for rental and purchase on digital and on demand. Read full review hereNN (NW)

What’s new to VOD 

Becky

Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale; directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott

Read NOW’s review

iTunes, Google Play

Judy & Punch

Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman, Benedict Hardie, directed by Mirrah Foulks

iTunes, Google Play 

Last Moment Of Clarity

Samara Weaving, Brian Cox, Carly Chaikin; directed by Colin Krisel and James Krisel

iTunes, Google Play

Made In Bangladesh

Rikita Nandini Shimu, Novera Rahman, Parvin Paru; directed by Rubaiyat Hossain

Human Rights Watch Virtual Theatre

Searching Eva

Documentary directed by Pia Hellenthal

iTunes, Google Play

2040

Documentary directed by Damon Garneau

iTunes, Google Play 

Available June 9

Born In Evin

Documentary directed by Maryam Zaree

Read NOW’s review

iTunes pre-order, Google Play wishlist

Corpus Christi

Bartosz Bielenia, Aleksandra Konieczna, Eliza Rycembel; directed by Jan Komasa

Read NOW’s review

iTunes pre-order, Google Play wishlist

Lie Exposed

Leslie Hope, Bruce Greenwood, Megan Follows; directed by Jerry Ciccoritti

iTunes pre-order, Google Play wishlist

The Postcard Killings

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Famke Janssen, Naomi Battrick; directed by Danis Tanovic

iTunes pre-order, Google Play wishlist

Disc recommendation of the week

Jaws

(Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 4K)

Steven Spielberg’s 1975 thriller created the template for the summer blockbuster and set an awfully high bar in doing so: only a handful of other films have come close to matching its perfect balance of rich characterizations, tightly structured plotting, wonderful 70s performances and nerve-shredding cinematic virtuosity.

It’s also one of my favourite movies, so damn right I’m going to celebrate its arrival in a 4K edition, which finally gives us the chance to bring Universal’s gorgeous 2012 digital restoration home. The Blu-ray looked great, but the enhanced resolution and higher dynamic range makes Spielberg’s film feel more like… well… film, bringing out the grain of the 35mm stock, deepening the murk of the water off the Amity coast and letting us see subtle details – like flecks of water in Quint’s beard, or fading paint on the Orca’s yellow barrels – that momentarily distract us and leave us vulnerable to Spielberg’s beautifully orchestrated shocks all over again. (Another distraction: the way the subplot about image-conscious politicians determined to deny the undeniable resonates almost perfectly with 2020.)

There are no new special features, but all of the extras produced for that earlier Blu-ray are included – including two feature-length documentaries, both delights. (NW)

@normwilner