Wondering what to watch this weekend? The second week of September brings with it two very different new original releases: firstly, yet another Disney live-action remake via Robert Zemeckis’s new take on Pinocchio, which apparently might only beat Guillermo Del Toro’s upcoming stop-motion adaptation in the sense that it’s coming out first (straight to Disney+).
Secondly, Shudder adds the much more appealing Saloum, written and directed by Jean-Luc Herbulot. What appears to be an intense, if fairly grounded single-location thriller suddenly spirals into a hallucinatory experience that sees the trauma of both a country and its main character externalised as supernatural horror.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in September
At the same time, Christopher Nolan’s latest and arguably weirdest blockbuster Tenet lands on Prime Video, a time travel thriller obsessed with a palindromic narrative that’s as loud as it is silly and entertaining.
In short, there’s at least two pretty great and creative genre treats to watch this weekend.
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Saloum (2021) - Shudder (pick of the week)
Written and directed by Jean-Luc Herbulot, from a story by Herbulot and Pamala Diop, the film begins with the exploits of a legendary group of mercenaries known as the Bangui Hyenas — Chaka, Rafa and Midnight — after their violent emancipation of a drug dealer in Guinea-Bissau they must stash their stolen gold bounty.
In their escape, they find out that their plane has been sabotaged, and so they have to make an emergency landing, hiding long enough to repair and refuel their plane after being shot down, then escape back to Dakar, Senegal. Taking refuge at a holiday camp in the coastal region of Sine-Saloum, they try to blend in with the guests; and to their terrible luck, they’re recognised almost immediately by two of the camp’s patrons – one of which is a police officer.
Here Saloum begins its first transformation into a claustrophobic thriller as the Hyenas try and maintain their cover. But most dangerous is that Chaka has a secret, one that brought the group to Sine-Saloum as his past comes back to haunt the entire group.
This much is already grounds for an exciting chamber piece thriller, but Herbulot and Diop’s script gleefully throws a wrench in the works and turns Saloum into a multi hyphenate genre film that uses the supernatural to explore the fault lines left behind by war in the Sine-Saloum region of Senegal, as well as Chaka’s troubled past.
It’s a giddy blend of western and buddy movie with folkloric spiritual horror, one that shifts gears numerous times in its unpacking of a violent history.
Also on Shudder: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021), Mad God (2022)
Pinocchio (2022) - Disney+
In a year with multiple different adaptations of Carlo Collodi’s classic children’s book Pinocchio, the new film from Robert Zemeckis is the latest addition to Disney’s conveyor belt of live-action remakes of their own animated works — now taking on the second feature film Walt Disney Animation Studios ever made. Reuniting with Zemeckis after the similarly uncanny Polar Express, Tom Hanks settles into yet another role this year as a peculiar old-timer (following Elvis) through his take on Geppetto.
Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in September
Zemeckis, known for some of the most innovative interpolation of animation and live-action ever put to film in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, falls short of the promise of that film from its opening featuring meta-narration from a uncanny CG version of Jiminy Cricket, only outdone by Pinocchio himself, a strange and direct replication of the first film’s drawings.
Watch a clip from Pinocchio
Not to mention the CG animals that occupy Geppetto’s workshop, including an animated cat and an animated goldfish — other than Hanks, nothing really feels alive. It all calls into question the very idea of making a live action remake of this film when the majority of its inhabitants are animated anyway, with nothing really new to offer, no new angle on a story with many interpretations.
It replicates the same old songs (in another odd decision in updating something, even keeping some of its old racial insensitivity) – all reduced to the hollow and fleeting feeling of recognising something old. Even then, there’s an air of self-congratulation about it from the very beginning, pondering about the legacy of the song 'When You Wish Upon a Star', the song from the original film that became the studio’s theme song.
Time will tell, but perhaps the only way in which it can be proud of itself when compared to Guillermo Del Toro’s upcoming stop-motion adaptation, is that it’s coming out first.
Also new on Disney+: Thor Love and Thunder (2022), Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
Tenet (2020) - Prime Video
Superstar director Christopher Nolan is obsessed with temporality. Inception took one man’s grief and buried it in layers of dreams and time dilation, Interstellar took that same vague construction on an emotional journey outward into the cosmic void. Tenet however, is pure logistics, a film intently focused purely on being a palindrome. John David Washington plays ‘The Protagonist’, an intelligence operative introduced into the secretive world of Tenet, full of anonymous, clandestine agents saving the world across time.
Read more: Everything new on Prime Video in September
As one of the film’s own character says (disparagingly, in his case), it’s “cowboy s***”, wholly concerned with how its cast of charming operatives undertake cool, Bond-esque action both forwards and backwards at the same time. It’s as wild as it sounds, with a labyrinthine timeline propelled by aggressive sound mixing and Ludwig Gorranson’s incredible score.
It’s not above maintaining the silliness of old Bond flicks too – Kenneth Branagh is clearly channelling something from that era with a corny Russian accent. Better still, his antagonist wants to destroy the world with an “inverted” nuclear bomb (because apparently making munitions go backwards makes them more dangerous). Sure!
Also on Prime Video: Flight/Risk (2022)