Hanks and Theron in epic streaming battle
TOM Hanks and Charlize Theron go head-to-head this week in WWII naval epic Greyhound and action fantasy Old Guard. It's a star-studded streaming battle which demands the biggest home screen you can find.
Director: Aaron Schneider
Starring: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Elisabeth Shue
Running time: 91 minutes
Verdict: Hanks steers this battleship home
The filmmakers want you to taste the salt and feel the sea spray in this tense naval drama, based on real events.
An adaptation of C.S. Forester's 1955 novel The Good Shepherd, it's an old-school war movie with contemporary visual effects.
Greyhound is set during the Battle of the Atlantic, just months after the US officially entered World War II.
As the ocean heaves and the portholes ice over, an international convoy of 37 Allied ships comes under attack from a wolfpack of German U-boats.
Only the steady leadership of first-time Commander Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks) keeps the destroyer USS Keeling - call sign Greyhound --and many of the other vessels afloat.
Initially slated for a theatrical release, Sony Pictures Releasing sold this nail-biting star vehicle to Apple TV+ when the COVID-19 pandemic closed cinemas in the US.
It's essentially a one-man show, which unfolds against an action-packed backdrop.
Hanks, who also wrote the screenplay, is the film's still centre.
He portrays Krause as a man who is capable of carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, supported by a deep religious conviction.
The career officer viscerally registers the loss of "hundreds of souls" when one of his depth charges finds its target, but he never wavers.
When three of his own men are incinerated, Krause finds time to hold a proper sea burial for them between skirmishes, but springs back into action the instant the flags are folded.
Hanks is an actor of great subtlety; capable of expressing emotional depth with the most minimal of facial gestures. But this screenplay avoids any moral complexities.
Krause's adversaries remain faceless - all we see of the German U-boats is a sonar blip, a periscope or a conning tower.
The surface debris that denotes a successful hit is also shot from a detached distance.
We don't learn much about Krause's crew, either.
There's the African American cook who keeps trying to feed his commanding officer, only to watch the meals grow cold each time.
And a seasoned communications officer (Stephen Graham), for whom Krause clearly has professional respect.
Even the commander's own back story is remarkably slim - represented by a brief encounter at a bustling train station (featuring Elisabeth Shue) and a pair of monogrammed slippers.
Greyhound is an action-oriented battle drama, clear and simple, with a nuanced performance from Hanks at the helm.
Now screening on AppleTV+
THE OLD GUARD
Director: Gina Prince-Bythwood
Starring: Charlize Theron, Chiwetel Ejiofor, KiKi Layne
Running time: 118 minutes
Verdict: A battle-weary action movie
There's a teaser at the end of this humourless action fantasy that leaves the door open for a colourful, revenge-driven sequel.
Given the opportunity, Veronica Ngo's immortal warrior, Quynh - condemned during the medieval witch hunts to drown over and over again in an iron coffin at the bottom of the ocean - might well prove a worthy adversary for Charlize Theron's burnt-out avenger.
But the cast of The Old Guard is fighting with such blunt weapons, neither moviegoers nor investors are likely to have much of an appetite for a second round.
For a film about an elite group miraculously re-generating mercenaries who have been waging war on evil for eons, The Old Guard takes itself way too seriously.
With the right material, Theron is a formidable screen presence - her portrayal of Mad Max: Fury Road's Furiosa, for example, has branded itself onto the popular consciousness.
But even she can't do the sort of heavy lifting that is required to carry this film.
Andromache of Scythia (Andy, for short) has been fighting other people's battles for longer than she can remember - literally.
Seen through her eyes, Nicolo di Genova (Luca Marinelli) and Yusuf Al-Kayasani (Marwan Kenzari), who first encountered each other during the Crusades, are still rookies.
Even Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), the brains of the operation, only counts his birthdays in hundreds of years.
At the end of their superior's self-imposed 12-month break, the three men track her down to Morocco to propose a new job.
Something about the eleventh-hour rescue mission - involving a group of South Sudanese schoolgirls who have been taken hostage - disturbs the seasoned soldier.
And her instincts are right.
The Old Guard has been set up by a sadistic, profit-obsessed pharmaceutical executive (Harry Potter's Harry Melling) who views them as nothing more than human laboratory mice.
Regrouping after the near-miss encounter, they are alerted to the existence of a new member -- their first in centuries.
The last thing marine Nile Freeman (a breakout performance from KiKi Layne) remembers is having her throat slit by an Afghani terrorist. But now she can't even find a scar.
In a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, this tight-knit group battles to stay one step ahead of their well-resourced pursuers.
Chiwetel Ejiofor's former CIA agent is a somewhat enigmatic presence in the events that unfold.
For a film dealing with supernatural phenomena, The Old Guard is unusually dull and prosaic.
Director Gina Prince-Bythwood appear to have confused undead with lifeless. And the dialogue in screenwriter Greg Rucka's adaption of his own graphic novel is similarly inert.
The Old Guard is one of a string of recent Netflix films, including The Last Days Of American Crime and Chris Hemsworth's Extraction, that have taken the fun out of the action genre.
Now screening on Netflix
Three and a half stars
136 mins (MA15+)
The success of this unpredictable melodrama, shot from the raw, sensory-overloaded perspective an American teenager, hinges upon the breakout performances of its two young leads. Kelvin Harrison Jr (It Comes At Night) commits himself utterly to the role of senior high school student Tyler Williams, a high achiever who unravels in the face of a string of devastating events. Taylor Russell is incandescent as his younger sister Emily.
Waves is a story told in two parts. In the second, she confronts the fall-out from her brother's actions. Set in South Florida, Trey Edward Shults' semi-autobiographical account of grief, forgiveness and opioid addiction rides the peaks and troughs of an upper middle class African American family's existence -- before gently dumping movie goers back on shore.
Waves is now showing in selected cinemas
94 mins (PG)
Warners's animated reboot of the classic cartoon franchise, which has been around in various forms for more than 50 years, finally reveals how lifelong friends Scooby Doo (original cast member Frank Welker) and Shaggy (Will Forte) first met. And how they connected with Fred (Zac Efron), Velma (Gina Rodriguez) and Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) to form the legendary Mystery Inc. The young detectives are recruited by the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) in their latest adventure. Their mission: to stop the evil Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) from unleashing the three-headed hound Cerberus on an unsuspecting world.
Scoob is now available on digital release.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
128 minutes MA15+
Part biopic, part history lesson, part clarion call, I Am Not Your Negro cuts to the quick of racial prejudice, identifying the dishonesty, denial, self interest and deep, deep shame that underpin it. Based on US author and activist James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript, it's not an easy movie to watch, but in its refusal to let its audience dissemble, it's a strangely galvanising one. An incendiary piece of documentary-making
Now screening on SBS On Demand
Originally published as Hanks and Theron in epic streaming battle