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Wondering what to watch? In the words of a famous London cinema: sod the sunshine, come and sit in the dark. The heatwave leaves the outdoors a little hard to brave at the moment, so thank goodness there are some movies to keep you from getting heatstroke.
Key among this week’s releases is the arrival of Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s multi-award-nominated, animated documentary Flee on Disney+, a stirring depiction of a man’s struggle with overlapping uncertainties about his identity, and how to reveal his troubled past to his loved ones.
Also on the service, deserving of a shoutout, is The Bobs Burgers Movie, which is more or less exactly as it sounds — a long episode of the beloved animated sitcom, this time with a little more money onscreen as well as a more musical bent to its proceedings.
Read more: Everything new on Paramount+ in July
Meanwhile, Shudder releases its original film Good Madam, a psychological horror-thriller directed by Jenna Cato Bass, that continues her interest in genre explorations of South African history in a film that has earned some favourable comparisons to cult hit Get Out in its exploration of lingering, post-Apartheid racism.
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Flee (2021) - Disney+ (pick of the week)
Using of the medium of animation both as a disguise (in practical terms, for its main subject and interviewee Amin) and an expression of inner turmoil and freedom, Flee’s across-the-board nominations at last year’s Academy Awards in International Feature, Documentary and Animated Feature feel apt for once.
The Danish film, directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, intersperses archival footage amidst expressive, washed out drawings that depict Amin’s memories of fleeing Afghanistan, as well as the more rudimentary, newspaper cartoon strip style that depicts him in the past and present.
Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in July
The animation itself is a little stiff when it comes to the former, mostly sticking to key poses in a sort of pure functionality, with very little in-between movements for any expressive, nuanced movements to have the character representing Amin actually fully perform as him.
However those direct translations of Amin’s real life action to drawing can be a boon to the film as often as a frustration, as a quite respectable attempt to refrain from making the film feel too 'authored', so to let Amin speak for himself.
There’s a lot to reveal after all. From his until now hidden identity as a refugee overlapping with being a closeted gay man, Flee sensitively depicts the euphoria of the moment when its central character is finally able to stop running.
Also new on Disney+: The Bobs Burgers Movie (2022), Chicken Run (2000), Dead Poet Society (1989)
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) - NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership
Seemingly a victory lap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s take on Spider-Man, retrofitted to be a sort-of victory lap and/or redemption tour for Sony’s other Spider-Men — as played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield — Spider-Man: No Way Home has a lot going on.
Read more: Everything new on Sky Cinema in July
The famously, poorly kept secret of the other legacy Spider-Men being involved is handily the film’s highlight, one that can get past even some of the most weary superhero film fans. It’s simply nice to see Maguire’s signature gentleness in the role, and even some meta-textual meaning brought to Garfield’s more nervy, hyper-verbose and tortured take on the character. His Peter is offered a chance at preventing a tragedy he could not in his own movies.
As a long-time Spider-Fan, it’s hard to resist the three trading war stories and finding solace in each other’s company, the character traditionally being quite a solitary figure.
Sadly, of the three performances Holland is often in the lurch, with little to set his Peter Parker apart, and this Spider-Man series’ identity crisis is left as unresolved as the character’s by the film’s end — an issue not helped by the relative lack of flair from Jon Watts behind the camera.
Better as a reminder of old times than a brave new entry, but also perhaps the closest the MCU Spider-Man has come to replicating the classic angsts of Stan Lee and Steve Dikto’s wall-crawling hero.
Also new on NOW: King Richard (2021), Zola (2020)
Good Madam (2021) - Shudder
The fourth feature from celebrated South African writer/director Jenna Cato Bass (High Fantasy, Flatland), Good Madam — originally titled Mlungu Wam in Xhosa — sees Bass once again apply genre thrills to South Africa’s historical baggage.
High Fantasy set its sights on contemporary colonialist land ownership through the eyes of Bass’s many collaborators. Good Madam follows in its footsteps as it traces post-Apartheid race relations and how they linger in contemporary South Africa.
The films follows Tsidi, a single mother, who is forced to move in with her estranged mother Mavis, a live-in domestic worker caring for her catatonic white ‘Madam’ in Constantia, an affluent Cape Town suburb.
Read more: Everything new on Prime Video in July
Like Bass’s other films the South African director scales down a history of race-relations to a taut, small scale supernatural horror, its DIY construction lending it unity of vision — the screenplay co-written by her stars.
Also on Shudder: Mad God (2021)