Wondering what to watch over Easter? The long weekend brings with it a deeply varied selection of films to stream, from music docs and large scale fantasy action to more introspective film essays, espionage blockbusters to post-apocalyptic dramas.
MUBI releases Varda by Agnès, one of the final works by the eponymous French filmmaker known for groundbreaking films like Cleo from 5 to 7. BBC iPlayer hosts the harrowing but moving Children of Men as well as the patient Chinese drama So Long My Son.
Read more: New on Disney+ in April
On the original releases front, Prime Video puts out the latest Guy Ritchie blockbuster, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, lead by old favourite Jason Statham.
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Moonage Daydream (2022) | Netflix (pick of the week)
David Bowie was a singular artist deserving of a singular documentary, and Brett Morgen's 2022 movie more than lived up to the life and vast legacy of the artist formerly known as Ziggy Stardust.
Having delivered groundbreaking docs on The Rolling Stones (Crossfire Hurricane), Kurt Cobain (Montage of Heck) and Jane Goodall (Jane), the British filmmaker was tasked by the Bowie estate to tell the story of the boy from Brixton who became a global superstar, and was given free rein of his extensive archive of footage.
Read more: New on Netflix in April
It took Morgen five years to put together the sprawling and unconventional documentary — which features a lot of footage never before seen — and it makes a point of avoiding the traditional 'life story' format.
Watch: Brett Morgen talks to Yahoo about Moonage Daydream
There are no talking heads to be found, instead we get a kaleidoscopic portrait of the man, told across roughly two dozen rough chapters, some centering on rarely seen performances, some showing Bowie travelling in foreign lands, but all underscored by unique new mixes of his music.
It's not an easy watch for casual fans, some might say obtuse, and requires some prior knowledge of Bowie's story, but it rewards the patient viewer willing to tune in and drop out. -TB
Monster Hunter (2021) | Netflix
The words ‘video game curse’ are often uttered in relation to the works of Paul WS Anderson, but pay no mind to them. Most of the Resident Evil films, Afterlife and Retribution in particular, are a mid-budget blast of action ingenuity.
Monster Hunter takes that creativity and interest in physicality (particularly the athleticism of his partner and leading lady Milla Jovovich) and blows it up to kaiju scale. While the perspective of American military grunts is played out Anderson quickly turns it into an opportunity for a horror set piece putting a platoon of unwitting soldiers into a meat grinder, landing in another world and picked off one by one by gross creatures.
From there, Jovovich’s character is treated like a fresh face in an action RPG as in the video game its based on: learning how to hunt the beasts that killed her friends, making weapons from their bodies (Jovovich said in interviews with Empire that she based her character off one she made in the game).
She’s lead by the hand by a veteran monster hunter played by Thai action legend Tony Jaa, which makes for the film’s most endearing element — a relationship established almost entirely through physical acting, due to a language barrier between the two.
Even with only half of that relationship spoken out loud the film’s interest in letting the veteran action performers express themselves to each other through body language is a sight to behold: and that’s leaving aside the pretty entertaining giant monster killing.
Also new on Netflix: Lewis Capaldi: How I’m Feeling Now (2023)
Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (2023) | Prime Video
The films of Guy Ritchie have been on something of a creative plateau for some time now and the cumbersomely-titled Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre continues that trend, full of smarmy geezer quips and flat characterisation.
Statham stars as agent Orson Fortune, a no-nonsense freelance operative who is pulled into a mission that requires the assistance of an action movie star (Josh Hartnett), used as bait to draw in an international arms dealer played by Hugh Grant (who plays against his usual foppish type).
Read more: New on Prime Video in April
Fortune is paired up with Sarah Fidel, winningly performed by Aubrey Plaza, whose oddball delivery helps get her out of the film not only unscathed (despite the material) but perhaps even becomes the highlight. Bugzy Malone is also there, playing his character with cool stoicism. It’s all passably entertaining, if forgotten within a half hour after the credits rolling.
Also on Prime Video: Judy Blume Forever (2023)
Varda by Agnès (2019) | MUBI
Shortly before her passing Agnès Varda, pioneering director of the French New Wave, made the self-portrait documentary Varda by Agnès.
Its title echoing her past non-fiction works such as Jane B by Agnès V or Beaches of Agnès, Varda’s work here doesn’t so much feel like navel-gazing or self-indulgence like one might expect from such titles, but rather it’s a chance for the filmmaker to examine her life’s work on her own terms, to make her own eulogy before anyone else did.
There’s something of a fatalistic tone to proceedings, and the film’s essayist nature might limit it to being of interest to those who are already fans of her work rather than people looking to take their first steps, but it’s a graceful and moving last note.
Also on MUBI: Hester Street (1975)
Children of Men (2006) | BBC iPlayer
Perhaps the film that gave Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron his reputation for bravura long takes — a reputation he’ll later capitalise on with films like Gravity and Roma — the near future dystopia of Children of Men disturbs for how it perpetually seems just around the corner. Its bleak and isolated version of the UK the staging ground for a story set in what seems to be the final generation of humanity, as no more children are being born in 2027.
Read more: New on Paramount+ in April
But Clive Owen’s burnt out former activist Theo is recruited to help transport a pregnant woman, to somewhere that scientists might discover a way to rescue mankind from the brink.
The journey is fraught and tense and frequently harrowing, Cuaron ratcheting up tension the closer they get to their goal, all while the world of Children of Men depicted with an unsettling closeness to our own.
Also on iPlayer: So Long My Son (2019)