'The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf', 'Vacation Friends', 'Personal Shopper': The movies to stream this weekend
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It’s a big week for superheroics, in and out of the cinema. While the arrival of Marvel Studios’s latest film Shang Chi is still imminent and a trailer for the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home just landed, past hits from previous phases of the ongoing MCU are available to stream, alongside more recent blockbusters.
While not a comic book character, Netflix has its own adventurous heroics to share in the form of The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, a prequel film to its original series about a mutant who hunts monsters for pay.
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The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf - Netflix
Calling itself a “Netflix anime film” — a pretty broad term as far as their productions are concerned, especially since it usually includes American productions — The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf perhaps seems to emphasise that when Netflix calls one of their originals ‘anime’, about half of the time it is meant to imply ‘adult animation’, the kind of which can sometimes feel like a rarity in the US (Genndy Tartakovsky’s excellent Primal being one example.)
Interestingly, like Netflix’s Castlevania series before it, Nightmare of the Wolf takes a lot of those cues from the more violent, adult fantasy anime that sprung out of the 90s. That’s to say it’s more violent style over substance, but it is extremely stylish. Directed by Han Kwang-il and produced by Studio Mir, best known for their work on various American animated series like The Legend of Korra, this new film once again proves their chops for fantasy action grounded in believable but nonetheless wondrous movement. Fans of Studio Mir’s previous work will find themselves surprised by the film’s brutality but will not doubt enjoy the stylishness with which its portrayed.
Watch a trailer for The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf
The story serves as a prequel to the main series (which stars Henry Cavill), explaining the scarcity of witchers in the present by digging into the past of his mentor, Vesemir. Vesemir comes up against a mage named Tetra Gilcrest, who uses the killings of the film’s brutal opening as fodder for her fearmongering campaign against witchers.
Not that it’s completely unfounded, the film also detailing the horrific rite of passage that makes witchers, named ‘The Trial of the Grasses’, a brutal and inhuman series of tests that few survive. The ones that do are left cynics, who dull their pain with whatever vices they can afford. That in combination with Han’s action design gives Nightmare of the Wolf a different energy to the sombreness of the setting of ‘the Continent’. As for the performances of those who inhabit it, while the voice direction isn’t always perfect but the main characters sparkle with distinctive personalities.
Also on Netflix: Untold: Caitlyn Jenner, He’s All That
Vacation Friends - Disney+
Originally set to star Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, this former 20th Century Fox comedy was inherited by Disney when it acquired the studio, and was retooled as a Disney+ original (Hulu in the US), landing on the UK service as an exclusive on 27 August.
Lil Rel Howery and Yvonne Orji play a couple whose wedding is crashed by John Cena and Meredith Hagner, some friends they made on a raucous Mexican holiday that they never expected to see again. It's raw and raunchy, hence why it's only on the age-gated Star section of the streaming service, and early reviews have been promising.
After stealing the show in The Suicide Squad and F9, it's clear summer 2021 belongs to John Cena, and now he's on vacation.
Also new on Disney+: Cruella is now free to stream for all subscribers
Personal Shopper - BBC iPlayer
This film directed by Olivier Assayas ties together multiple worlds and stories with a quiet elegance. Starring Kristen Stewart as the eponymous assistant, it’s as much about spirituality in an increasingly digitised age as it is about mourning. The story is this: a personal shopper (Stewart, excellent and subtle) in Paris refuses to leave the city until she makes contact of some kind with her twin brother who previously died there. Her life becomes more complicated when a mysterious person contacts her via text message - a person who claims to be her brother. It’s a ghost story where most of the tension comes from texting, something that on paper shouldn’t work as well as Assayas makes it.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - BBC iPlayer
In what could be considered a major foothold in how the MCU operates now, both onscreen and in press, Captain America: The Winter Soldier basically set the template for the rest of the decade of the studio’s films.
Ahead of the film’s release directors Anthony and Joe Russo — influential in part because of their role in directing the next two Avengers movies — insisted on the film’s place as a political thriller in the same vein as The Parallax View, The Manchurian Candidate and others, though the homages were ultimately wiped away in the same third act CG blowout that ends a lot of contemporary superhero flicks.
Still, there was a newfound, undeniable grit to the film and its action, with bone crunching hits and flashes of fun choreography. Combined with its confrontation of Captain America with the moral ambiguity of his superiors and issues of the surveillance state, for a time at least, it made for a very different Marvel movie.
Also new on BBC iPlayer: Iron Man 3, 99 Homes
Watch: Cry Macho - UK trailer