Wondering what to watch this weekend? A new month of streaming has begun, with awards season contenders and more landing on services in a flood of new releases.
Chief among them is Best Picture Oscar contender Elvis, a gaudy new biopic from Hollywood’s reigning champ of excess, Baz Luhrman, having garnered renown for its lead performance from Austin Butler (who, amusingly, sort of lied about the Elvis voice becoming his everyday speaking voice).
At the same time, MUBI releases the Japanese family drama Like Father, Like Son, an earlier film from Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose newest film Broker (his first film in the Korean language, and starring Parasite star Song Kang-ho) landed in cinemas this week.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in March
At the same time Disney+ releases the emotional documentary Finding Michael, following journey of Spencer Matthews to recover the body of his record-setting, mountaineering older brother from the Everest peak where he disappeared.
Paramount+ adds more classics to his library in the form of Francis Ford Coppola’s stone-cold classic The Godfather Trilogy, including Coppola’s recent re-edit of the third and final film, retitled Coda.
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Like Father, Like Son (2013) | (pick of the week)
Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda has long had a keen interest in splintered paternal dynamics amidst blood family and found family alike, and his 2013 film Like Father, Like Son might be his trickiest iteration on that theme.
Based on real cases in 1960s Japan where babies were accidentally switched at birth, the film looks at two families affected by such an exchange. The well-to-do but rather strict Ryota and his wife get a call from the hospital notifying them that their son Keita is not their child by birth, and Ryota struggles to adjust to the news. It’s not long before they find their biological son Ryusei, who has been raised by a poorer family, but one rich in love and kindness. Ryota struggles with what he has and hasn’t provided for Keita and whether he wants to make a switch so each boy lives with their birth parents.
The film’s idea that parental bonds transcend blood only makes the situation more messy and painful, exploding festering wounds in the family through the revelation of the switched children exposes are ugly, and very compelling.
Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in March
Throughout it all however Kore-eda balances that pain with a lot of sweetness — he remains an excellent director of child actors — and the usual contemplative calm that his films are known for. Kore-eda has a reputation for making cute and cuddly films but his best often house a troubled and bitter core like Like Father, Like Son does — for a good majority of this film, Ryota’s classism and traditionalism and his stubborn treatment of Keita is often uncomfortable to watch, even on the way to a heartfelt conclusion.
Also on MUBI: Glass Life (2021)
Finding Michael (2023) | Disney+
A deeply personal act of memorial through filmmaking, Finding Michael follows the two decade old story of Michael Matthews, the youngest British person to climb Mount Everest, who died during the climb, separated from the group in the mountain’s “Death Zone”.
The documentary itself is about his younger brother Spencer Matthews (known for being on Made in Chelsea), who along with his sister and mother seek closure by recovering his body from Everest, with the help of mountaineering expert Nims Purja.
What the critics think of Finding Michael
Evening Standard: A powerful doc about the unbreakable bond between brothers (3 min read)
Guardian: A reality TV star goes on a haunting high-altitude mission (4 min read)
The Telegraph: Stunning scenery and uneasy ethics among Everest's dead (3 min read)
As it tracks the planning of the journey before the journey itself, the doc covers some potent emotional material as it wonders about the difference between the excitement Spencer feels in retracing his brother’s journey and feeling closer to him, but also the pain it might also bring him — repeating a journey that led to a lot of anguish for his family and those who knew Michael.
The direction of the film itself is mostly just functional, the usual mix of archive and personal anecdote and interviews with family members and old expedition mates. What’s remarkable is the story at its core; as much a recounting of Michael’s original journey and subsequent disappearance, the logistics and the feelings of what it takes to make an Everest climb, not to mention the difficulty and absurdity in making sense of a death at such a young age, brought into sharper relief by the unforgiving nature of the mountain.
Also on Disney+: Empire of Light (2022)
Elvis (2022) | NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership
Since its release Baz Luhrman’s gaudy biopic has gyrated its way into being an Oscar frontrunner while its star Austin Butler has cleaned up at the preliminary awards shows for his performance as the King.
How much one enjoys this film sort of depends how much one has a tolerance for Bad Luhrman shenanigans, his utterly insane and overcooked editing style and brazenly anachronistic needledrops (all that needs to be said: there’s a Doja Cat track in this).
What the critics think of Elvis
Telegraph: You can’t help falling in love with Baz Luhrmann’s jukebox epic (4 min read)
Independent: Baz Luhrmann’s sweaty, seductive biopic makes the King cool again (6 min read)
Variety: A stylishly on-the-surface life-of-Elvis impersonation until it takes off in Vegas (9 min read)
Elvis is, to put it shortly, deranged, Luhrman’s maximalist style exploded to a reckless, breakneck pace over an epic two and a half hours. Butler’s widespread recognition isn’t unjustified, as a rare biopic performance that feels far more impassioned than the impersonations that often inexplicably wow awards bodies. As for the rest, mileage will undoubtedly vary.
Also on NOW: The Voyagers (2022) - from 5 March
The Godfather Trilogy (I, II and Coda) | Paramount+
Francis Ford Coppola’s decade-spanning saga of the rise and fall of Michael Corleone is recognised as an all-time great with good reason.
Read more: Everything new on Paramount+ in March
There’s often temptation to dismiss “canonised” films like this but doing so here would only be a disservice to one’s self. The first magnificent instalment follows Michael (Al Pacino in the role of a lifetime) as he enacts bloody revenge on his father’s would-be assassins, the second follows the dual storylines of a young Vito (De Niro!) while in the 1950s Michael expands his empire, the unfairly maligned third instalment sees Michael reckoning with a lifetime of sin.
Also on Paramount+: Orphan: First Kill (2022)