‘The Green Knight’, ‘Stillwater’, ‘Demonic’ and ‘Reminiscence’ — a bounty of new movies to stream

AUG 28 — Just like the cinema release schedules from the pre-Covid era, some weekends feel very dull when it comes to new streaming releases while other weekends feel like you are gifted with a bonanza of interesting new releases you need to find time to catch up on.

Last weekend was a case in point, with a whole bevy of interesting new releases from major streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO Max, some free as exclusives/originals and some available to rent on demand.

Even as I sat down to write this column, I still haven’t managed to find the time to watch the much-anticipated new Leos Carax film (and Cannes sensation) Annette, regretting my choice to watch the absolutely disappointing new Jason Momoa action movie Sweet Girl first.

Still, managing to catch five out of the seven new films released last weekend is already, I’d like to think, a job well done.

Dev Patel plays Sir Gawain in ‘The Green Knight’. — Screen capture via YouTube/A24
Dev Patel plays Sir Gawain in ‘The Green Knight’. — Screen capture via YouTube/A24

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The Green Knight

Available to rent from the usual VOD platforms like Amazon Prime, The Green Knight is far and away my favourite of the bunch from last weekend’s slate of new releases. 

Writer-director David Lowery is back in his more poetic and enigmatic mode a la his post-modern classic A Ghost Story, and the film, an adaptation of the Arthurian poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, is a completely tantalizing and mesmerizing watch, full of lyrical visual passages and playful narrative “glitches” that tease and force the viewers into thinking deeply about what the movie’s really about — the delusion of masculinity and a misguided mode of macho manhood.

It’s a fairly simple plot; Dev Patel plays Sir Gawain, who attends a Christmas feast hosted by his uncle King Arthur at the famous round table, and in an ill-advised attempt to prove his worth as a knight, accepts a challenge by the Green Knight, which involves him having to go seek out the Green Knight at Christmas the next year to receive the exact blow he manages to land on the Green Knight. 

The catch, however, is that in his misconceived attempt to prove his manhood, he has cut off the head of said Green Knight. 

And so the film is Sir Gawain’s journey — physical, mental, psychological and metaphysical in equal measure — towards accepting his fate and the consequences of his actions, told with great beauty by Lowery and bound to play in your head for days after watching it.

Stillwater

A hugely watchable and thoughtful character study masquerading as an investigative thriller, this new film from Oscar winner Tom McCarthy (of Spotlight fame) is anchored by an excellent Matt Damon, who plays Bill Baker, your classic unloveable American stuck in a fish out of water situation in Marseille, France, courtesy of the fact that his daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin, from Little Miss Sunshine) is in the middle of serving a nine-year prison sentence for the murder of her girlfriend.

The plot involves some new evidence coming to light, with Bill having to go it alone in trying to prove his daughter’s innocence. 

While there are legit thrills to be had here in Bill’s attempts to locate the all-important evidence, what McCarthy has slyly served up here is a touching and humane exploration of Bill as a self-professed f**k-up looking for redemption late in his life. 

The two contrasting genres don’t necessarily mesh well together all the time, but it’s an involving enough watch that you won’t notice that two hours and 20 minutes have passed by.

Demonic

Being a huge fan of District 9 and Chappie, a new film from Neill Blomkamp is something I’ll always look forward to, and even though it took six years for his new one, his first horror flick Demonic, to finally arrive, I’m pretty happy that it finally did. 

However, even though this one still displays his usual obsessions with sci-fi and technology, blending the usual demonic possession movie with VR (virtual reality) technology and even a whole squad of armed priests (literally soldiers of God!), it’s sadly quite lacking in the horror department, being devoid of the actual scares and suspense needed to stand out in the genre, and is only worthy of a watch because of the slick execution of its high concept.

If you’re a Blomkamp fan, you’ll still find things to admire and enjoy here, despite it clearly being his weakest (and dullest) film yet, but if you’re a casual film fan who’s never seen a Blomkamp film before, I’d suggest you start somewhere else first.

Reminiscence

An HBO Max exclusive, this feature film debut from Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy, starring big names like Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, is as stylish as one would expect from a writer-director with that kind of previous track record. 

A sort of riff on the concept in Total Recall, Jackman plays Nick Bannister, a private eye who runs a business in which a machine (which looks like a lo-fi blend of the machines in Minority Report and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) enables customers to relive their memories, or in the case of Ferguson’s femme fatale character Mae, to look for her lost keys.

An obvious tribute to classic film noirs of the past, of course Mae, being the femme fatale of the film, is quite a bit more than she lets on, and when she goes missing after an intense love affair with Bannister, he becomes obsessed with finding her, no matter the obvious dangers this quest poses to himself and his business associate Watts (Thandiwe Newton). 

Unfortunately, it’s all a bit undercooked and soulless here, with none of the twists and turns needed to get viewers emotionally, resulting in a pretty bland serving of futuristic neo-noir.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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