Wondering what to watch this weekend? There are a double bill of post apocalypses, and Andy Serkis movies this week, as Netflix releases its new anime original Bubble, Disney+ drops the 2011 Rise of the Planet of Apes (as well as four other films from the original series), and Sky Cinema/NOW releases the utterly absurd and appropriately titled Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the Venom sequel share a connection in Andy Serkis, star of the former and director of the latter — both films standing apart from stolid blockbuster contemporaries but for completely different reasons. The former stands apart for its surprising soulfulness, the latter stands apart simply for being completely unhinged.
Meanwhile, as large-scale shonen anime film adaptations continue to dominate the box office, streaming services like Netflix have positioned themselves to be something of a last refuge for original anime films, which have begun to feel like something of a scarcity in terms of traditional cinema exhibition.
Read more: New on Netflix in April
Bubble is one such example, produced by a superstar animation studio responsible for some of the biggest series in the world.
Please note that a subscription may be required to watch.
Bubble (2022) - Netflix (Pick of the week)
Produced by the same studio and director as the international smash hit Attack on Titan, Tetsurō Araki’s Bubble bears all the visual hallmarks of the director’s previous work while being a much gentler take on what a post-apocalypse look like.
Set in a Tokyo now mostly underwater following a strange ecological disaster, it follows the young Hibiki as her encounters a mysterious girl named Uta who emerges from the water. The story is somewhat didactic and definitely a little unhinged in concept, but the visual storytelling is thrilling with its rushing through spaces alongside characters leaping from rooftop to rooftop, and even the poetry it finds in the nature surrounding the characters.
Also on Netflix: Honeymoon with My Mother (2022), The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes (2022)
Rise of the Planet of Apes (2011) - Disney+
Though the Matt Reeves-directed sequels, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes generally receive more attention, the first of this trilogy holds up just as well. Directed by Rupert Wyatt, Rise is set before the earth is taken from humankind and becomes the domain of apes.
Read more: New on Disney+ in April
The how of it is slightly less interesting than the why, starting with the story of scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s, a disease which has slowly consumed his father (John Lithgow). As he becomes more certain he is close to a breakthrough and tests his latest serum on apes, Will sees them demonstrate dramatic increases in intelligence and brain activity, most of all in especially Caesar, his pet chimpanzee - played with motion capture by Andy Serkis.
It’s Serkis’s performance as Caesar which is inarguably the film’s main draw, his physical portrayal of the burgeoning intelligence and thoughtfulness of the simian rivalling even Gollum as a mighty feat of motion capture art and performance.
By comparison the human cast isn’t quite as inspiring, although that’s intentional on the film’s part as it stacks the deck in the apes’ favour, as we against the hubris and cruelty of many of the scientists, and root for our own downfall. The beginning of one of the most surprisingly thoughtful American blockbuster series this past decade, setting the bar with involving action and astonishing digital effects.
Also on Disney+: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) - Sky Cinema and NOW
Doubling down on the absurd campiness of Tom Hardy’s outrageous performance in Venom, the Andy Serkis-directed Venom: Let There Be Carnage makes more room for the surprisingly endearing domestic bickering between Eddie Brock and his alien parasite roommate Venom, both framed in this film as a couple in a rom-com.
Read more: New on Sky Cinema in April
The relationship between the sweaty, shambling Brock and his murderous, goopy boyfriend is played for utter absurdity at all times (Venom goes to the club!) as Eddie tries to stop Venom from killing everyone all the time, shown in intense physical outbursts from Hardy, who commits with wildly entertaining fervour.
Watch a trailer for Venom: Let There Be Carnage
This is all without even getting to Woody Harrelson as the serial killer Cletus Kassidy, aka Carnage, Venom’s equally viscous and even more vicious comic book nemesis. The other surprising thing about this film is how quickly it moves, trimming most of the bloat that has come to define superhero blockbuster filmmaking and instead opting for a quick, completely lunatic 90 minutes. Probably not “good”, but definitely not boring.
Available on Sky Cinema or NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership.
Also on Sky Cinema and NOW: Dune (2021), Stillwater (2021)
Crimson Peak (2015) - Amazon Freevee on Prime Video
Guillermo Del Toro’s work has always favoured the macabre, and his gothic romance and haunted house horror story Crimson Peak is no different.
Constructed with a deep love and understanding of cinematic techniques now considered archaic, Del Toro’s film revels in even the most minuscule details of its construction, harkening back to the monsters of Universal’s golden age with stunning make-up and practical effects.
The story itself is fairly simple, perhaps so to give more room for luxuriating in the film’s lush visual detail. Mia Wasikowska plays an aspiring author torn between love for her childhood friend (Charlie Hunnam) and the temptation of a mysterious outsider (Tom Hiddleston) who sweeps her away to his mansion, which is inhabited by ghosts and a surly lady of the house played with steely menace by Jessica Chastain.
A beautiful — if bloody — homage to decades of horror cinema.
Also on Prime Video: Joe Bell (2020)