Wondering what to watch this weekend? While there’s not a whole lot on offer in this second week of April in terms of streaming originals there’s still some delightful spectacle to be found.
Over on BBC iPlayer, there’s one of the smarter blockbusters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to ever overwhelm the multiplex: Shane Black’s Iron Man 3. Reuniting star Robert Downey Jr. with the director that, generally speaking, rescued the actor from Hollywood exile, the film reflects both of their best qualities and manages to even stand out as an authored work in a franchise of films notorious for sanding the edges off anyone who works for them.
Read more: New on Sky Cinema in April
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Read more: New on Netflix in April
Meanwhile, Chloë Grace Moretz gives her best performance to date in conversion therapy drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post (also on iPlayer), while one of Tim Burton's last great movies arrives on Prime Video ahead of a splurge of Bond films hitting the platform for bank holiday weekend.
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Iron Man 3 - BBC iPlayer (pick of the week)
Yes, it’s a Marvel movie. But Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 is a rare Marvel movie in that it feels distinctly authored, both in its employment of Black’s favourite motifs as well as his patented buddy cop dynamic between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and partner James Rhodes (Don Cheadle).
Read more: What went wrong with Iron Man 2?
Downey Jr. feels more at home here than he ever does again in the Avengers series of films, enlivened by longtime friend and collaborator Black’s hilarious, razor wit as well as the more human angle digging into Tony’s PTSD. When a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin begins a series of devastating personal attacks on Tony, all of the iconography of Iron Man is reduced to a pile of smouldering rubble, and Tony has to rebuild while considering — what makes him a superhero in the first place?
Black’s deconstruction of the character is the smartest that the Marvel mega-franchise has ever been, smuggling a emotionally complex reflection on the director’s own time in therapy into a comic book movie that ALSO tackles the fallacies of American imperialism and nationalism.
The Mandarin as played by Ben Kingsley is all smoke and mirrors, usage of vaguely Middle Eastern caricature to redirect from the film’s real and very American villain. The negative fan reaction to the misdirect — a genius rewriting of an infamously racist, Fu Manchu comic book character — proved that this was a much, much smarter film than some Marvel fans deserved.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (BBC iPlayer)
Director Desiree Akhavan’s followup to her feature Appropriate Behaviour is less a coming-of-age film and more a chronicle of state-sponsored arrested development — its main characters held in a prison (or purgatory), that of a gay conversion centre.
Set in Pennsylvania in 1993, it follows the eponymous teenager Cameron Post (Chloe Grace Moretz in her best performance to date) who is sent to this camp after getting caught making out with another girl. The centre, framed appropriately in all its restrictive and oppressive menace, is run by the strict Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother, Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), who prey on any latent self-loathing of the teenagers and brand them as sinners in need of repentance.
Watch a clip from The Miseducation of Cameron Post
In meeting the fellow transgressors Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck) Cameron finds an anchor, people to help her remain her authentic self — but Akhavan keeps things brutally matter-of-fact even with that found family. Considering the government’s recent, malicious exclusion of trans people from the ban on conversion therapy The Miseducation of Cameron Post’s depiction of this abusive, intolerant practice is still very much linked to the present day.
Also new on BBC iPlayer: Stan & Ollie, 99 Homes
Big Fish (IMDb TV on Prime Video)
Probably the last great Tim Burton film, Big Fish is (very vaguely speaking) in the same family of films about paternal discoveries as something like Beginners. It sees Ewan McGregor as the younger version of Edward (Albert Finney), a father whose estranged son William (Billy Crudup) seeks out reconciliation and understanding a man who, through his various tall tales and fabrications and dramatic embellishments, has remained at an emotional distance to him.
Read more: New on Prime Video in April
In its exploration of Edward’s tall tales, the film becomes something of a reflection on the act of sharing such stories itself, through Burton’s specific, fairytale-esque brand of visual storytelling. It also helps that, alongside that sense of style, many of the film’s rough edges are smoothed over through the sheer charm of McGregor’s performance as the young, adventurous and enterprising Edward.
The vivid colour, the bold practical sets, Big Fish is astoundingly well-crafted to the point that you can’t help but wonder — what the hell happened to Burton in the time since? Still, at least we have this.
Also new on Prime Video: Joe Bell, I, Robot
Watch: Why Michael Keaton quit Batman