Do you feel like you’re drowning … but you haven’t even left your couch? Welcome to the Great Content Overload Era. To help you navigate the choppy digital waves, here are The Globe’s best bets for weekend streaming.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (Apple TV+)
Here’s the big streaming-era head-scratcher of the week – and I mean really, REALLY big: Does anyone outside of the Apple TV+ offices (and perhaps inside them?) realize that the streamer is releasing a huge new series this week continuing the MonsterVerse saga involving Godzilla, King Kong and other giant kaiju? Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is a fabulously expensive and ambitious undertaking that takes the continuity established in Gareth Edwards’s 2014 big-screen revamp of Godzilla – and continued in 2017′s Kong: Skull Island, 2019′s Godzilla: King of the Monsters and 2021′s Godzilla vs. Kong – and stretches it into limited-series form starring Kurt Russell. Yet there’s been barely a wisp of marketing about the endeavour.
Perhaps Godzilla himself just tore down all the billboards that were presumably placed across major cities. Or maybe Apple TV+ just isn’t that too excited about the series, which is understandable given that, judging by the series’ first two episodes, someone forgot to tell the producers to include all that many monsters in this MonsterVerse experiment. Mostly, this is a character-centric drama following the scientists and soldiers involved in the mysterious Monarch organization, the franchise’s equivalent of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. agency, which attempts (and often fails) to keep all the many creatures in check.
Although the new show looks great – the action takes place everywhere from Tokyo to San Francisco to Afghanistan – and there’s a neat casting trick in having the slick actor Wyatt Russell play a younger version of his father Kurt’s military tough guy, far too much time is spent talking about the monsters instead of seeing them duking it out. Add this to a timeline-hopping narrative that is not so much difficult to piece together as it is cumbersome – the pilot juggles four separate eras – and it’s unclear if this show is really the legacy that Godzilla right-holders Legendary Entertainment want to live on in the zeitgeist. The kaiju-curious might want to check out the first episode (which features a quick appearance from Skull Island co-star John Goodman caught between a giant spider-giant scorpion melee, which is something you don’t get to see every day), but others might be best served waiting for next year’s theatrical release of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (Netflix)
Listen up, Godzilla, because here’s a far more successful example of reworking a feature film for the small screen. Thirteen years after director Edgar Wright first adapted Canadian Bryan Lee O’Malley’s beloved graphic-novel series about one lovelorn Toronto slacker, the author (alongside BenDavid Grabinski and animation studio Science Saru) have reworked it into an eight-part cartoon. And they’ve managed to wrangle just about every member of the film’s cast back to voice the characters, which includes not only star Michael Cera but such now-heavy-hitters as Brie Larson, Chris Evans, Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick.
What sounds like a redundant retread plays out surprisingly well. Not only because the animation allows the series to more lovingly recall O’Malley’s original aesthetic – pitched somewhere between classic anime and Nintendo 8-bit graphics card – but also offering the hyper narrative antics room to breathe. Toronto, captured in a time-capsule early aughts iteration, looks appropriately fantasy-like, while the many fights between Scott and the ex-boyfriends of his crush Romana Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) are bouncy, spirited and ridiculous. Bonus: It turns out that Cera just needed to get older in order to more poignantly evoke Scott’s delusionary twentysomething mindset.
Although George C. Wolfe’s biopic about forgotten civil-rights icon Bayard Rustin can lean toward the traditional and sentimental, Rustin contains one of the year’s best lead performances. As the title character, an openly gay Black man who was instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Colman Domingo is ferocious, fearless, fantastic. Long a director’s favourite secret weapon in supporting roles, including Wolfe’s own 2020 drama Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and the HBO series Euphoria, Domingo gets a well-deserved shot at leading-man stardom here and grabs the opportunity with all his might. The actor is so captivating in a role that could have slipped into cliché that he overshadows his many talented co-stars who often lead instead of support, including Jeffrey Wright, Chris Rock and Audra McDonald.
Oppenheimer (on-demand, including Apple TV, Google Play, Prime Video, Cineplex Store)
One of the best movies (perhaps the best?) of the year finally arrives on the digital market – though it will be a while longer still until it’s available on the streaming services. Regardless, Christopher Nolan’s epic deserves a rewatch at home as soon as you can afford to take the time to do so. The film is deeper, richer and more devastating than anything that the director has ever made. If Hollywood is ending as we know it – and all signs on that question point to a strong “maybe” – then Oppenheimer is the ideal movie to finish us all.
Here’s something light to end your week: 80 minutes of straightforward Nazi-killin’. Sisu – a Finnish word whose concept invokes unrelenting strength of will and perseverance – is all fury and vengeance, a series of extravagantly gonzo set-pieces set in Finland during the waning days of the Second World War. Focusing on a war vet who is confronted by a squad of SS officers after his gold, the movie moves with the speed of Mad Max: Fury Road and the bloodlust of a thousand B-movies. Enjoy the weekend, everyone.
Sarah Bernstein won this year's Giller for her novel Study for Obedience. Which of these authors has not won the book prize?
- Leonard Cohen
- Margaret Atwood
- Vincent Lam
- Souvankham Thammavongsa