Best new movies on your streaming platforms
The one where life is both a winning score and a losing result
DIEGO MARADONA (M)
AMAZON; or rent via GOOGLE, ITUNES, YOUTUBE MOVIES
On occasion of this week's sad passing of Diego Maradona, we recommend tracking down this sublime documentary in tribute. After multi-award-winning documentary portraits of F1 racing ace Ayrton Senna and troubled singing sensation Amy Winehouse, it was here that filmmaker Asif Kapadia focused his trained eye on the infamous Argentine soccer legend Maradona. Once again breaking with convention to compelling and revealing effect, Kapadia zeros in almost exclusively on Maradona's tumultuous, rewarding and ultimately doomed seven years spearheading the Italian club Napoli. Sportspeople of today who complain of living life in a virtual fishbowl come off as mere whingers when you get a grip on what Maradona went through during this era. Just as miraculous as his instinctive wizardry on the pitch was his appetite for self-destruction off it. An unyielding inability to say no to drugs, sex and dangerous crime bosses is a constant theme here. But so too is Maradona's ability to preserve his genius with the ball at his feet for an unfathomable number of years, before it all catches up with him. A superior sports doco, not just for fans of "the beautiful game."
The one where the star is literally a dog-gone hero
A DOG'S JOURNEY (PG)
As this is indeed a sequel to the unlikely 2017 box-office hit A Dog's Purpose, multiple Marley & Me alerts must be issued immediately. For like its predecessor, this is a movie where many a pooch will be passing away. So consider yourself warned: if repeated sightings of canines carking it are sure to play your emotional state like a piano, you'd better bring along the biggest box of tissues you can get your paws on. This is the continuing story of Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad), an immortal 'dog spirit' that keeps getting transferred from the body of one tail-wagging tearaway to another. All in the name of answering a higher calling, of course. Whether he's a Yorkshire terrier, a Beagle or a St. Bernard, Bailey is not so much man's best friend as he is mankind's guardian angel. This time, between his many tasteful deaths, Bailey is watching over CJ, a little girl with big dreams of making it as a singer. It's all sweet, silly and kind of spooky as it was the first time around. Co-stars Dennis Quaid, Kathryn Prescott.
The one where there the show must go on
FOXTEL from Saturday; or RENT via various platforms.
This portrait of showbiz legend Judy Garland has problems with consistency. However, the same cannot be said of a stunning portrayal of the erratic entertainer by a revived and relentless Renée Zellweger, who goes up, over the rainbow and soars towards stratospheric heights of performance. The bulk of the movie unfolds in the late 1960s, where Garland has taken on a punishing season at a London theatre so she can pay for a home for her kids back in Los Angeles. Pills, booze, loneliness and self-doubt ghost Garland's every move, with the seeming knowledge every show could be her last sometimes inspiring her, and just as often, conspiring against her. Can get a bit tacky and too flash-backy, but Zellweger's immaculate work - which deservedly scored her a Best Actress Oscar - saves the day repeatedly.
The one that is bliss for movie buff
Fresh from a stellar run in a limited cinema release exquisite history lesson on what many consider to be the greatest movie ever made has already been fast-tracked to the front of Oscars calculations. And rightly so. In a year largely bereft of top-notch cinema, it is impossible to think of a 2020 movie featuring better directing, writing and acting than this. Working from a screenplay by his late father, acclaimed filmmaker David Fincher (The Social Network, Se7en, Gone Girl) takes us time-travelling back to the genesis of the movie masterpiece Citizen Kane. Many people assume this still-astonishing 1941 drama was the sole work of its young whiz-kid creator (and star) Orson Welles. What Mank makes clear in no uncertain terms is that it was Welles' co-writer Herman Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman) that was really responsible for Citizen Kane's game-changing tale of a mysterious media baron and the secret he took to his grave. Oldman's virtuoso performance as Mank - a drinker, a thinker and one of the most amusing raconteurs that ever lived - something to behold. Not far behind him is an inspired Amanda Seyfried as the fading Hollywood starlet Marion Davies. Filmed beguilingly in black-and-white, just like Citizen Kane.
The one that's a whodunnit that just keeps doing it
CROOKED HOUSE (PG)
An unpretentious Agatha Christie-penned murder mystery every bit as good as last year's all-star hit Murder on the Orient Express. As always, virtually everyone with a speaking part is a prime suspect until the very end. Max Irons stars as Charles Hayward, a 1940s private eye seconded to a British country estate to investigate the dodgy deceasing of an elderly shipping tycoon. Charlie's ex Sophia (Stephanie Martini) makes the introductions to the rest of her conniving clan, including a not-so-grieving widow (Christina Hendricks), a gun-toting grandma (Glenn Close) and an irksome heir apparent (Julian Sands).
The one worth staying up for
LATE NIGHT (M)
A consistently endearing light comedy that plays effectively enough when viewed as the cross between the Meryl Streep hit The Devil Wears Prada and TV's 30 Rock it unmistakably is. What keeps this engaging (though not always engaged) affair in an audience's good graces are lively scriptwriting and a flawlessly dominating lead performance from the great Emma Thompson. She plays Katherine Newbury, an acerbic British talk-show host whose lengthy run on American TV will soon end unless she reverses a precipitous ratings slide. To do so means reconnecting with both an adoring public kept at arm's length, and a team of writers she refers to by number (should she even deign to be in the same room). The accidental hiring of a vastly inexperienced joke generator named Molly (Mindy Kaling, who also penned the winning script here) proves to be the X-factor that just might save the imperious Katherine from small-screen oblivion. While Thompson is indeed wonderful here, so too is Kaling and a choice support cast.
The one where a long lost love is relocated
This beautifully elegiac drama is a tender, yet tenderising clash between a rigid faith and an unshakeable conviction. Faith is everywhere - almost oppressively so - inside a close-knit Orthodox Jewish community in northern London. As for the conviction, it too borders on overwhelming: a belief that somebody deemed to be the wrong one for you is also the only right one there will ever be. Upon the death of her father, Ronit (Rachel Weisz) reluctantly steps back inside a world that brusquely shut her out a decade ago. The reason for this cruelly enforced exile was her love for another woman, Esti (Rachel McAdams). Now fate is drawing the pair together again, via an emotional connection never completely severed. Two incredible performances from Weisz and McAdams justify enduring the tough times ahead here. The intense longing (and later, searing intimacy) they transmit to the viewer is almost unbearable to witness, charged with a damaging purity that does not leave scars, but will leave casualties.
Originally published as Best new movies on your streaming platforms