Before you turn on your television, iPad, or laptop this weekend and drown in options, The Globe and Mail presents three best bets that are worth your coveted downtime – no commute to the movie theatre required.
The Elephant Queen, Apple TV+: November is a big, confusing month for any Canadian looking to watch something in the comfort of their own home. In addition to the plethora of existing streaming services – from Netflix to Crave to Kanopy to Shudder to Amazon Prime Video – two entertainment giants are unveiling bright and shiny offerings: Disney+, which launches Nov. 12, and Apple TV+, which opened its virtual doors on Nov. 1. The former has yet to make much available to media, but the House that Steve Jobs Built has at least offered a peek behind the iCurtain, and is leading its feature-film slate with this original documentary from long-time nature filmmakers Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble. The Elephant Queen is an odd choice for a splashy launch; its narrative following a female elephant and her herd in Kenya is engaging, but far from groundbreaking. Yet Chiwetel Ejiofor’s narration is smooth, and it should play nicely on the biggest screen your home can withstand. It’s also miles ahead of Apple TV+'s serialized offerings such as The Morning Show and See. Stomp around the streaming service this weekend, and you’ll see what I mean.
One Child Nation, Amazon Prime Video: Make what you will of Amazon’s theatrical release this past summer of One Child Nation, Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang’s furious documentary about the devastating fallout of China’s “one-child” policy that lasted for more than 35 years. Was the distribution a little combative nudge on the part of the retail giant, which pulled its e-commerce business out of China this past July? Maybe it’s just coincidence, but however Wang’s doc made its way into the world, audiences the world over should be grateful, given how expertly Zhang and Wang peel back the layers of propaganda surrounding the policy to uncover tragedies that will take generations to reconcile within the nation, and abroad.
The Love Witch, Kanopy: Near the beginning of Anna Biller’s The Love Witch, a psychodrama dripping with camp and nostalgia that hit a handful of theatres in 2016 but should find an eager audience via streaming, Samantha Robinson’s title character announces, with a mix of innocence and malice, that there’s nothing wrong with being a witch: “All it means is using your will to get whatever you want.” What The Love Witch wants is to be an unabashed love letter to a cinematic time long gone – an era in which Technicolor melodramas mixed with Russ Meyer sexploitation flicks. The Love Witch handily achieves its goals, employing Biller’s strong sense of retro style and Robinson’s wink-wink performance to deliver a subversive homage to a host of out-of-fashion genres. The thin plot revolves around the misadventures of the enchanting Elaine, who goes on a tear through a new town, coaxing men into bed before bumping them off. But the narrative is just an excuse for Biller to riff on the power of femmes fatales. This is not a potion fit for everyone, but for a select few, The Love Witch offers powerful magic.