What to watch: The best movies new to streaming from An Elephant Sitting Still to Godzilla vs Kong
Looking for something to stream over the weekend?
Are wondering what to watch this weekend? On streaming, there’s a compelling mix of blockbuster epics and international cinema: Prime Video adds Adam Wingard's follow-up to both Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
BC iPlayer adds a trio of Clemency, Going in Style and Danny Boyle’s adaptation of The Beach, a mixed bag with incredibly 2000s elements.
MUBI showcases films like Hu Bo’s magnificent, harrowing An Elephant Sitting Still as well as Holy Spider, from Ali Abbasi (best known for his 2018 film Border as well as episodes of HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us).
Read more: How to stream the Best Picture Oscar nominees
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An Elephant Sitting Still (2018) | MUBI
Sadly the first and only feature film directed by the Chinese novelist and filmmaker Hu Bo – who died by suicide by not long after finishing it – An Elephant Sitting Still is remarkable, though almost completely despairing.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in March
As well as their shared misery the film’s ensemble is united by a myth: an elephant that can be supposedly found in a Northern Chinese city, one that sits and does nothing, no matter what happens around it or what happens to it.
The rather large scale sprawl of the film is surprising considering its closeness to and the time spent on the psychology of its characters, their pains unpacked at sometimes unbearable length and empathetic detail.
It’s a long and haunting experience but also one that’s frequently astonishing as it wonders about understanding a world that makes no sense.
Also on MUBI: Flatland (2019), Holy Spider (2022)
Godzilla vs Kong (2021) | Prime Video
Like many blockbuster stories with “versus” in the title, the headline match of Godzilla vs Kong eventually gives way to an even grander conflict: the kaiju brawl to end all kaiju brawls.
Read more: Everything new on Prime Video in March
Directed by Adam Wingard, best known for his much smaller and more economical film The Guest, Godzilla vs Kong does just fine with its clash of the titans but like the previous film King of the Monsters it struggles to make its human stories interesting beyond the on-the-ground perspective that they provide of the big monkey and nuclear lizard punching each other.
Watch a trailer for Godzilla vs Kong
In the now widespread tradition of building a cinematic universe, the American Godzilla films have fixated on building a grand mythology around these monsters, but not so much that they can’t hand wave it away in time for the big fights.
It feels lacking in comparison to the Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, which had a stronger a strong thematic link between the small scale human troubles and the big scale monster ones. For all those issues however, sometimes you just want to see King Kong relocating his shoulder on a skyscraper during a fist fight with an atomic fire breathing reptile, and that’s plenty.
Also on Prime: Love, Rosie (via Freevee)
The Beach (2000) | BBC iPlayer
Danny Boyle's 2000 film sees a young man (Leonardo DiCaprio) on holiday in Thailand, seeking separation from his everyday life in his mid-20s. After he is given a map by a man who has lost his mind, the same man is found dead the next day but Richard follows it obsessively anyway, taking French couple Etienne and his girlfriend Francoise on the journey with him to the beach that the man with the map was raving about.
What they find is an island settlement of foreigners with their own rituals and traditions. There’s something in the margins: It's Lord of the Flies via tourism, an allegory for how Westerners claim possession over foreign land and how seemingly new age approaches to tourism is just as bad as the infamously barbaric behaviour of clubbing holidays, particularly as Richard has a Colonel Kurtz style breakdown in the island jungle and imagines a war on tourists.
Read more: Everything new on Paramount+ in March
It’s unlikely that fans of Alex Garland's book will enjoy Boyle’s scattershot approach. Moby needledrops and other incredibly 2000s soundtrack cues (and one incredibly embarrassing video game fantasy), pile up on top of an overcooked performance from DiCaprio, whose character Richard is deeply unlikeable.
But for everyone else, there’s some compelling visuals by way of cinematographer Darius Khondji as well as a genuinely suspenseful and even gory second half (a shark attack proves particularly nasty) as trouble reaches paradise.
Also on iPlayer: Clemency (2019), Going in Style (2017)