A quieter month in theory means more failures… but, who am I kidding, there are always tonnes of these. I’d probably have to watch ten times as many films to leave this column blank.
The most noteworthy oversight this month is undoubtedly The Batman. I’m a fan of the character anyway, and now they’ve made a version that sounds even more up my street — it’s regularly been compared to films like Se7en, my favourite movie ever. But life has conspired against me, and so I’ve not yet found a time to see it on the big screen. I still might, though I’ve already got the 4K Blu-ray on preorder anyway. That wasn’t the only new film at the cinema this month, although the likes of The Nan Movie and Morbius haven’t received the strongest notices. The new Michael Bay effort, Ambulance, sounds somewhat promising, though definitely something I’ll leave ’til streaming.
Even before that, the list of movies I’ve left to streaming that have now turned up on streaming is beginning to grow. It was a relatively strong month for Sky Cinema (which has ailed a bit over the last couple of years, between a dearth of new theatrical releases and distributors wanting to snaffle exclusivity for their own streamers), adding the likes of Fast & Furious 9, Reminiscence, Malignant, and Don’t Breathe 2; plus M. Night Shyamalan’s latest, Old, although I already own that on an (unwatched, natch) 4K disc. Sky are also the UK-exclusive home for Liam Neeson’s latest action trash, Blacklight, upending my previously-expressed notion that he had some kind of Amazon Prime exclusivity deal going on.
Talking of streaming premieres and Amazon Prime, the best they could offer this month was Deep Water, the Ben Affleck / Ana de Armas erotic thriller that’s had some kind of behind-the-scenes woes I haven’t bothered to follow. On the other hand, they’re also the streaming home for acclaimed Princess Diana biopic Spencer. You win some, you lose some. Netflix’s brand-new offerings were somewhat short on widely-discussed titles (no Oscar noms or headline-grabbing production issues here), but looked like a stronger slate overall. I’ve heard good things about Ryan Reynolds-starring sci-fi The Adam Project; post-apocalyptic Swedish thriller Black Crab seemed to shoot up their viewing chart; Nightride is billed as a “real-time crime thriller”, which sounds up my street; and I also spotted The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure, which looks like a Korean Pirates of the Caribbean. If it lives up to that vibe, which I got from its trailer, then it could be fun. Also not to be overlooked is Boiling Point, another real-time thriller — set in, er, a restaurant kitchen at Christmas — that I’ve heard is very good.
But for all that, the biggest streaming premiere of the month was surely the new Pixar on Disney+, Turning Red. If we ignore the empty-headed ‘controversy’ it generated (essentially, some middle-aged white men struggling with a story that wasn’t about a middle-aged white man), it’s meant to be very good — but I’m way behind on my Disney / Pixar viewing, so it just has to go on the list with Luca, Raya, Encanto, and probably a few others. In a very different mode, they were also the UK home for Fresh, a film which everyone has been talking about while trying to avoid the ‘surprise reveal’. If it’s not about cannibalism, the marketing has done a good job misdirecting my expectations. If it is about cannibalism, I’m not sure why everyone’s pretending it’s such a big secret. Maybe they’re just overly optimistic about what can be kept a surprise these days (the poster’s a dismembered hand packaged like a supermarket steak, c’mon!) Sticking with the big D, they also belatedly (it came out in the US back in January) debuted a belated (the last one was six years ago) continuation for the Ice Age franchise with The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild; plus, streaming debuts for Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley; Jessica Chastain’s Oscar winner, The Eyes of Tammy Faye; and the second pandemic-delayed Kenneth Branagh Poirot mystery, Death on the Nile — it slipped in there on the 30th, just in time to make this the second month in a row I’ve mentioned it (after its theatrical debut just last month). I’m inclined to jump straight to buying it on disc, to go with its predecessor (which I enjoyed), and that’s out in April — so it may end up mentioned in my failures three months on the trot. Or maybe I’ll actually watch it — stranger things have happened.
Once the home to deep cuts from the arthouse archive, MUBI increasingly have dibs on new arthouse (read: foreign) hits, at least in the UK. This month that boiled down to the streaming premiere of Cannes winner Titane, but they’ve got a big couple of months ahead, with Oscar nominees Drive My Car and The Worst Person in the World likely to feature in future editions of this column. All 4 do the same kind of thing later and freer, albeit with ads, recently including Bacurau, Rita, Sue and Bob Too (both their viewing windows now expired, unfortunately), Her Smell, and Ninjababy. There wasn’t so much noteworthy on the BBC iPlayer this month, although they’ve got back a couple of films I’ve been meaning to get round to for years, like If Beale Street Could Talk and Molly’s Game. I’m also going to mention La Belle Époque, which appeared on there just days after I posted my 5-star review, and is still available.
As always, we end with the place my disposable income goes to die: Blu-ray purchases… although the list doesn’t look so long this month. Indeed, day-one purchases were relatively thin on the ground: I picked up The Matrix Resurrections, because I loved it (and, er, didn’t pay for it first time round…), plus I imported Nightmare Alley on 4K (no UK release seems forthcoming, not even a retailer-exclusive Steelbook), and at the same time nabbed the new 4K release of The Sword and the Sorcerer — never seen it, no idea if I’ll like it, but I do sometimes enjoy a bit of ’80s-style Fantasy, so it’s the kind of thing that’s worth a punt to me. Rounding out my US order was a film I didn’t even know existed until Warner Archive put it out recently, the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, with a starry cast that includes Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, Angela Lansbury, and Vincent Price. Other new releases of older titles that I’ve never included Hong Kong take on Nikita, Black Cat, and Eureka’s latest classic martial arts title, Odd Couple. And then, of course, there were sales and offers: my 4K collection continues to bulge out with Halloween Kills and Venom: Let There Be Carnage from a chart 2-for-whatever; and a bunny-themed double (sort of) in a Disney 2-for-whatever, with Jojo Rabbit and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. A UK Criterion 2-for-whatever brought me Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and Topsy-Turvy (I used to love Gilbert and Sullivan’s work as a kid, but I haven’t listened to or seen any of it for ages). Finally-finally, a couple of limited editions I bought belatedly at near-as-damn-it full price before they disappeared forever: the HMV-exclusive edition of Almost Famous (it has both cuts in 4K, which the cheaper regular UK release does not) and Arrow’s Yokai Monsters set — the standard edition of which is already out, at a higher price point than the limited edition. What is the world coming to…