This was the weekend we were waiting for: A return to movie theaters in the time of coronavirus. Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster, Tenet, was going to kick things off; fitting considering that fewer filmmakers are as personally devoted to the theater-going experience as Nolan.
Alas, it is not to be. Tenet has been rolled back to August, as have theater openings. As the summer blockbuster season continues to evaporate, the emphasis turns, once more, to streaming and video on demand.
Take The Old Guard, now streaming on Netflix, for example: In a normal world, it’d be a perfect mid-summer release of an action-packed graphic novel adaptation. The story: A band of immortal soldiers have grown weary of fighting for a world they no longer feel is worth saving. Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne share lead roles as the seen-it-all veteran and the doe-eyed recruit, respectively. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and written by Greg Rucka (who also penned the graphic novels), The Old Guard is decent, but the movie’s reliance on excessive gunplay and an impersonal body count leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Yet, it’s the characters that sink this story: Not one has a personality to speak of. Curious considering that half of them have been alive for more than 1,000 years. You’d think they’d pick up a little culture along the way. Not the most scintillating thing you’ll see this summer, but it’ll hold your attention.
Ditto for The Painted Bird, though you might not be happy about it. Adapting Jerzy Kosiński’s 1965 novel of the same name, Czech filmmaker Václav Marhoul tells the horrific story of a young Polish boy trying to survive a world ravaged by WWII. Shot in striking black and white by cinematographer Vladimír Smutný, The Painted Bird is atrocity after atrocity, piled on with such frankness you begin to wonder if Marhoul delights in making the audience cringe. The cruelty here is egalitarian: Soldiers, civilians, men, beast, children, women — one scene depicts female violence so jarring even Lars von Trier would draw pause. Proceed with caution. For rent on all major platforms.
Not a whole lot of laughs in either of those, but you’ll find plenty in Palm Springs, which, coincidentally, also involves the dilemma of immortality and various grisly deaths. But with a little sex. The conceit: Niles (Andy Samberg) is stuck in a Groundhog’s Day-esque time loop at a wedding in Palm Springs, California. No matter what he does or where he goes, he’ll always wake up in the same hotel room with the same cheating girlfriend. But when he inadvertently drags the bride’s sister, Sarah (Cristin Milioti), into the loop with him, things get bonkers. Written by Andy Siara and directed by Max Barbakow, Palm Springs is sweet and funny, and surprisingly original for a derivative high-concept movie. Streaming on Hulu.
For more on new releases to streaming and VOD, tune into Metro Arts on KGNU, Friday at 3 p.m. (88.5 FM, 1390 AM and online at kgnu.org).