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.
The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (Paramount+)
The final film made by legendary director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) before he died this past summer, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial serves as both a fitting career capstone and a slightly depressing artifact of the streaming era. A reworking of Herman Wouk’s novel and subsequent play about the trial of a U.S. Naval officer who forcibly took command of a ship from what he viewed as an unstable captain, Friedkin’s version continues the filmmaker’s late-canon habit of transferring stage productions to the screen (see Bug and Killer Joe) while also continuing the irascible artist’s obsession with hard-edged men who cannot tell the line between duty and sanity.
Whereas Edward Dmytryk’s 1954 screen adaptation starred Humphrey Bogart as the possibly insane captain and Van Johnson as the officer who perhaps averted catastrophe, Friedkin’s take has an icy Kiefer Sutherland and cocky Jake Lacey in the respective roles – plus a murderers’ row of character actors populating the benches of the military trial, including Lance Reddick (who also died a few months before the film was released). Stagey in its construction but never feeling artificial, Friedkin’s film is the kind of tense, simmering-with-rage drama that will get thoughtful audiences riled up just right. Which is why it’s all the more of a shame that The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial is being released with barely a whisper on Showtime in the U.S. and on Paramount+ in Canada. Although it is exceedingly easy to imagine Friedkin, never one to shy away from sharing his sour thoughts on the film industry, darkly cackling about this semi-tragedy from six feet under.
When Evil Lurks (Shudder)
If you want to experience a truly pitch-black Halloween, then there is absolutely no darker, more existentially terrifying way to do so than by watching this new horror movie from Argentine director Demián Rugna. A deeply unnerving experiment in moral comeuppance, When Evil Lurks follows two not especially ambitious brothers whose attempt to take a shortcut in exorcism rites results in the very worst possible outcome for the members of their small town. A barf-bag hit at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival, where the film made its world premiere in the Midnight Madness program, Rugna’s movie is a thoroughly bleak exercise in supernatural spectacle, with gnarly special effects and a raw, to-the-bone morbidity that lingers long after the film’s final victim is eviscerated. This is strong horror for strong stomachs – but those who feast on such fear factories will walk, or more likely limp, away slack-jawed and stuffed.
Dead Ringers (Prime Video)
A classier, but still just as bloody, Halloween-timed distraction can be found with Alice Birch’s unlikely instant-classic reworking of David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers. Morbid and poetic, surreal and sordid, the six-part miniseries balances as best it can the line between homage and innovation, the stitching together of old ideas and the fusing together of new ones. Birch’s big switch, of course, is switching the gender of the film’s original Mantle twins played by Jeremy Irons, here embodied by Rachel Weisz, who does such a tremendous job that she should be holding the Emmy Awards hostage instead of being ignored by the organization.
While the two leads have the same names and yin/yang personality traits as in Cronenberg’s film – Beverly is the more sensitive and docile one, Elliot the boundary-breaker who skirts all manner of ethical and moral lines – the space that Birch and her writers offer the women to move and operate within their world gives the characters a rich, raw meatiness. The time to explore and play with characters is a luxury of the television format, naturally, but it is so easy to see how other, sloppier producers might have resisted going as deep as Birch and her team (including Canadian directors Sean Durkin and Karena Evans) do here.
Shattered Glass (Kanopy)
A gripping journalism drama that feels more resonant every passing year, Billy Ray’s 2003 film Shattered Glass remains a powerful, and powerfully depressing, look at the state of North American media. And while the fabulism of New Republic writer Stephen Glass is at the centre of the film, Ray touches on myriad industry concerns that now seem darkly prescient, ranging from newsroom budget cuts to corporate mergers to the editorial tunnel vision that can sometimes result when publications choose to stick their heads into the sand. All that, and the film reminds you what a wonderful actor Canadian Hayden Christensen can be, when not having to wear the literal or metaphorical helmet of Darth Vader.
Bottoms (on-demand, including Apple TV, Google Play, Cineplex Store)
Wild, brash and intensely ambitious, Canadian director Emma Seligman’s new film Bottoms is the most excitingly original teen-sex comedy to come along in ages. Teenage best-friends P.J. (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) are in their senior year of high school and desperate to get laid before heading off to college. Their crushes, a pair of unattainable (and attached, presumably straight) cheerleaders, don’t seem to even know that they exist, so P.J. and Josie start a self-defence group that’s really a girls-only fight club in a bid to attract attention.
The wild plot mechanics are secondary, though, to the surreal high-school world that Seligman and co-writer Sennott create – a heightened reality that feels as wide and epic as the filmmaker’s first film, 2020′s Shiva Baby, felt claustrophobic and intimate. While Bottoms’ final leg dips ever so slightly into genuine emotion – forgetting its detached ironic cool – Seligman’s concoction is delightfully strange and unabashedly, proudly queer. The Canadian filmmaker also scores big bonus points for wringing a perfectly deadpan performance from NFL great Marshawn Lynch as P.J. and Josie’s fight-club mentor.