Film, UK – out 3 March
Amy Poehler’s coming-of-age dramedy about a teenager who launches a feminist club to fight the patriarchy in her high school is produced like a slick piece of popular music, with all the easy listening/viewing vibes that suggests. Adapted from Jennifer Mathieu’s novel, Moxie is so indebted to the rhythms and grooves of other movies and shows that you can predict not just certain plot points, but certain lines before they happen; like when you feel a chord change coming in a catchy song.
But Moxie’s big, spirited, plucky personality imbues its artifice with a sassy attitude, and you can’t resist it. Hadley Robinson is perfectly cast as 16-year-old Vivian Carter (with Poehler as her mum) who is neither a dork nor one of the cool kids. She doesn’t want to stand out but won’t sit back and stay silent in a school that condones and even rewards sexism. The classroom is used as a political microcosm for a story about activism, collectivism and taking on power through creative means.
TV, UK 2021 – out 26 March
Like the Nic Cage documentary about swear words, the premise of The Irregulars suggests it was commissioned by algorithm: a gang of delinquent teenagers that go by the titular name investigate supernatural crimes at the behest of Sherlock Holmes, who takes all the credit. That’s just gotta work, right?
The teaser trailer is a 73-second exercise in pumped-up flimflam, culminating with a dramatic shot of the front door of 221B Baker Street, matched to the following commentary from a Fright Night-style narrator: “You think you’ve seen horror? You know nothing of what it is to be afraid!” All right pal, settle down.
TV, Spain, 2021 – out 19 March
Netflix sure likes the cut of Álex Pina’s jib. The Spanish producer, writer and showrunner is best-known for the very entertaining Money Heist, which became a big hit on the platform. His other work includes the lurid Ibiza-set mystery-drama White Lines. Pina’s latest – filmed on location in in Madrid and Tenerife – follows three sex workers who go on the run from their pimp.
Honourable mentions: School of Rock (film, 1 March), Pacific Rim: The Black TV, (4 March), Framing John DeLorean (film, 6 March), The One (TV, 12 March), Yes Day, Paper Lives (film, 12 March), Mao’s Last Dancer (film, 15 March), Simply Black (film, 17 March).
Shaun the Sheep the Movie
Film, UK – out 1 March
If I had a gun to my head and was asked to name the best film made so far this century (an odd demand, sure, but work with me), it would be Aardman’s superb 2015 production, which marks the cinematic debut of a certain mischief-making mammal. For fans of intelligent and visually distinctive animation, Mark Burton and Richard Starzak’s stop-motion feature is like nectar from the gods – with a lovingly crafted aesthetic and an ambitious dialogue-free narrative that channels the greats from the silent era, particularly Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Old mate Shaun and his pals travel to the big city to rescue their amnesia-afflicted farmer, prompting high jinks-filled misadventures that contemplate human absurdity (including a Buñuel-esque restaurant scene) in a film that cheekily, and rather brilliantly plays with sound-image relations, like in a Jacques Tati movie. And spatially the film is wonderful, the three dimensions of its delightful sets and figurines translating beautifully despite the oppressive flatness of the cinema and TV screen.
Film, France, 2019 – out 3 March
What if you loved a particular jacket so much that you decided nobody in the world should be allowed to wear a jacket of their own, of any kind? The premise of Quentin Dupieux’s film, Deerskin – among the best and sharpest comedies released last year – may not be relatable, but it is magnificently weird and fascinating – cerebral, even – in a deranged sort of way.
Georges (Jean Dujardin, best-known as the star of The Artist) coughs up considerable cash for his new deerskin jacket, then, shall we say, inflicts the cost on society. Camcorder in hand, he sets out to make a film entirely consisting of people taking off their jackets, then uses the camera to capture horrific acts – not unlike the protagonist in Michael Powell’s notorious 1960 thriller, Peeping Tom. Is this the portrait of a madman or a twisted social critique?
She Dies Tomorrow
Film, US – out 9 March
Horror films have presented many peculiar villains over the years, from a bed that eats people to a cursed red dress. But the monster, the baddie, the antagonist – whatever you want to call it – in Amy Seimetz’s horror movie is truly one for the ages. It’s a feeling.
Alone and on the sauce, Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) is adamant, for no particular reason, that she will die tomorrow. A friend (Jane Adams) tells her she’s mad, but soon the friend gets struck down by that feeling too, and passes it on to somebody else, and they pass it on to somebody else too, etc. What might be construed as plotline drifts like vapour between scenes, or maybe I should say between feelings. This is very much a mood piece, with a rich, oozing, enigmatic atmosphere.
Honourable mentions: An American Werewolf in London (film, 3 March), Back to the Future 1-3, 52 Tuesdays (film, 5 March), Manhunt: Dead Games (TV, 5 March), Oldboy (film, 10 March), Bloods (TV, 11 March), Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (film, 13 March, Schindler’s List (film, 15 March), The Disappearance (TV, 18 March), Dirty Dancing (film, 20 March), Between Black and Blue (TV, 26 March), City on a Hill season 2 (TV, 29 March)
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Film, US, 20212 – out 18 March
Despite the superhero genre getting an extremely easy ride from audiences and critics (never forget that Avengers: Endgame is sitting on a 94% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating), Zack Snyder’s 2017 Justice League movie has a poor reputation. It also had a rocky production, being interrupted by the tragic death of his daughter – prompting the studio to hire Joss Whedon to finish it. For years fans have been taking to social media with the hashtag #SnyderCut to try to wish an alternate, Snyderified version of it into existence.
Their dreams have been realised and Snyder gets a crack at redemption. Irrespective of the quality of the end result, the #SnyderCut will be a streaming “event”, with some bold aspects – including an approximately four-hour running time and a 4:3 aspect ratio.
TV, US, 2021 – out 11 March
Can we forgive this new Lena Dunham-produced dramedy for substituting the “t” in its title for a plus sign, just to look cool? And wha+ abou+ +he repor+ed use of actual dead ki++ens during produc+ion? Gross.
The show seems to be presenting itself as an authentic depiction of American yoof, and was in fact co-created by a 19-year-old, Zelda Barnz, and her father Daniel Barnz. Each of its half-hour episodes focus on a different teenager’s perspective, as they wade through the choppy wa+ers of adolescence.
Film, US, 2020 - out 26 March
One of the exceptional films from 2020, Australian director Kitty Green’s first non-documentary follows 24 hours in the life of a young female assistant (Julia Garner, powerful and understated) to a Weinstein-like Hollywood producer. It’s one of few dramas about fighting the patriarchy that communicates, in interesting and powerful ways, that there are not necessarily moments of dramatic inflection when it comes to day-to-day sexism; the insidiousness of entrenched and institutionalised sexism has a constant, pervading quality. Not an easy point to convey, but Green does it brilliantly.
Honourable mentions: The Walking Dead season 10C (TV, 1 March), Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut, Batman (film, 1 March), The Dark Truth Behind Personalities Tests (film, 4 March), Million Dollar Baby, Cast Away (film, 5 March), Moonlight (film, 19 March), The Lincoln Lawyer (film, 27 March).
Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire
TV, Australia, 2021 – out 16 March
First I couldn’t decide if this series was a little sensationalist; then I couldn’t decide if it was paced too quickly; then, finally, I came to the conclusion that it was utterly riveting – despite and because of these things. Edited to within an inch of its life, sure, but gobsmacking in a profoundly unsettling way. Journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna investigates a horrific moment in Australian history: the 1979 fire at Sydney’s Luna Park, during which, on the ghost train ride, six boys and one man lost their lives.
The question of whether the truth has ever been told about this event (which the police quickly declared an accident) is important. But before the series devotes itself to that, Meldrum-Hanna et al delve into the incident itself, exploring the tragic evening through dramatic recreations, old footage and interviews with survivors. Gird your loins, because this section is among the most horribly captivating prolonged sequences I have ever seen in Australian documentary.
TV, Australia, 2021 – out March 17
If the other episodes are half as good as the first (all I’ve seen so far) I will have no issue declaring that Kitty Flanagan’s new character, Helen Tudor-Fisk, has parachuted straight into the pantheon of Australia’s most memorable on-screen lawyers: the courtroom of Cleaver Greene, Janet King and Dennis Denuto. Fisk isn’t a people person; in fact she takes a job at a small firm that specialises in wills and probate so she won’t have to deal with clients who are, well, alive.
At least in theory; Fisk can still offend. There are several LOL moments in just the first few minutes, the humour revolving around the protagonist’s galumphing personality – plus the idea that the world has left her behind. Following a tradition embraced in the screwball era, the actors deliver their lines unnaturally fast, giving a ping-pong quality to some very funny dialogue.
Honourable mentions: : The Hunt for Gaddafi’s Billions (film, 1 March), Devolution: Devo Theory (film, 3 March), Being Frank: The Frank Gardner Story (TV, March 15), Laura’s Choice (TV, 17 March).
SBS on Demand
Australia in Colour season 2
TV, Australia, 2021 – out 10 March
The second season of Australia in Colour, like the first, uses the process of colourising dusty old monochrome footage for literal and metaphorical purposes: presenting a sparkling aesthetic that doubles as a symbolic message about the journey towards a more complete and detailed view of history.
Hugo Weaving returns to the narrator’s chair, regularly reminding us that we are watching footage “in colour for the first time”, in a series now unfolding through themed episodes (ie family, sport) rather than across a linear timeline. It’s always insightful, packing in lots of interesting connections. Reel ’em in with the colour novelty; keep ’em with the history lesson.
TV, France/Canada/Germany, 2020 - out 4 March
This historical thriller has an interesting setting: a partly demolished Berlin circa 1946, following the end of the second world war, the city caught between a horrific recent history and an uncertain future. American cop Max McLaughlin (Taylor Kitsch) arrives to kickstart a local police force, soon encountering all kinds of dreadful situations. The words of a Russian military man encountered in episode one is presumably ringing in his ears: “The war is not over, it just entered another phase.”
The dialogue sometimes feels too neat – too written – with lines like, “Everyone in this town carries a secret.” And two episodes in, Kitsch’s performance hasn’t wowed me: his version of an American tough guy feels cut out from an unexceptional noir. But those intrigued by the setting will probably get something out of it. Despite the grim subject matter, it’s unchallenging viewing.
Honourable mentions: A Fantastic Woman (film, 3 March), Call Me By Your Name (film, 5 March), Beforeigners (TV, 5 March), Possessions (TV, 10 March), Cavalry (film, 16 March), The Sleeps (TV, 18 March), Infernal Affairs 1, 2 and 3 (film, 19 March), Partisan (TV, 25 March), Rabbit-Proof Fence (film, 26 March), What We Do in the Shadows (film, 31 March).
Making Their Mark
TV, Australia, 2021 – out 12 March
The double meaning in the title of this seven-part AFL documentary series reminds me of an idea me and a pal once had for a footy movie about incompetent young players; it would be called “Drop Kicks”. The players captured in this series are rather good, however; they include Nic Naitanui (West Coast Eagles Ruckman), Stephen Coniglio (Greater Western Sydney Giants Captain), Eddie Betts (Carlton Football Club forward) and Rory Sloane (Adelaide Football Club Captain).
Making Their Mark follows them and others, including coaches and club leaders, throughout 2020, which the show’s makers claim was “the most challenging year” in the league’s history.
Coming 2 America
Film, US, 2021 – out 5 March
Eddie Murphy must have felt indestructible in the 1980s, leading hit after hit. But nothing changes faster than the zeitgeist, and boy did his street cred take a hit in the years and decades that followed. Despite the actor insisting, on the subject of making a comeback, that “there is no return [if] you never leave”.
A proven way to regain some clout – or at the very least to shoulder your way back into the spotlight – is to dust off your back catalogue. And so we have this belated sequel to John Landis’ 1988 romantic comedy, with Murphy reprising his role as Akeem Joffer, the prince of a fictitious African country who skadoodles to America to avoid an arranged marriage. Now king, Joffer returns to the US to find his long-lost son, who is air to the throne.
Honourable mentions: The Bay of Silence (film, 7 March), A Simple Wedding (film, 12 March), The Mauritanian (film, 24 March), Invincible (TV, 26 March), The Current War (film, 26 March), Personal History of David Copperfield (film, 30 March).
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers
TV, US, 2021 – out 26 March
There is something about the narrative template of a deeply flawed adult restoring their broken life by coaching kids on a sports team that just ... works. In the original Mighty Ducks, Emilio Estévez was pulled over for drunk driving and, in effect, sentenced to teach a bunch of doofus kids how to play ice hockey.
Now that the club is a monolithic institution, pretentious and highly selective, the time has come to reset the storyline. A 12-year-old is kicked out of the Mighty Ducks for not being good enough (he just wants to play, damn it!) and forms a new team of underdogs. Hmm, I wonder who should be the coach? The trailer shows Estévez responding to the inevitable call-to-arms in true Buttermaker style: “I hate hockey and I don’t like kids.”
Honourable mentions: Raya and the Last Dragon (film, 5 March), Love in the Time of Corona (TV, 12 March), The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Arrested Development seasons 1-3 (TV, 19 March).