You know the drill by now: a new weekend means new movies and TV shows to watch and fill the time. This week, we look at science-fiction, thrillers, and what falls in between.
It’s streaming picks time, and there’s no better time than now to dig in!
Side Effects (2013, directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherina Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum)
Where can I watch it? Amazon Prime.
What is it about? Emily should be happy – her husband Martin just got released from prison, and his transition back to normal life has been as painless as anyone could have hoped. Yet the young woman struggles with her own set of problems, culminating in an apparent suicide attempt disguised as a car crash. Apparently insensitive to traditional antidepressants and determined to get better at any cost, Emily accepts taking experimental new drugs in an effort to combat her anxiety. But is this miracle treatment really as inoffensive as it looks?
Why should I watch it? We won’t lie – Side Effects is far from a masterpiece. Don’t expect to get your views on life and cinema turned upside down after watching it. What it is, however, is a fun little twisty thriller that should keep even the most easily bored entertained from start to finish. We’re never quite sure of where the story will go until the very end of the film. While this may not be the most realistic or thoughtful take on the controversial subject of the use of medication for treating mental illness, each member of the cast gives their all to their multifaceted characters, with a special mention to Rooney Mara for her interpretation of the main role. If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief for a little while, you’re in for a good time.
The best of our streaming picks for: Thriller fans that love to be in the dark and never know what comes next. If you loved Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and other stories of the same type, this will delight you.
Arrival (2016, directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner)
Where can I watch it? GuideDoc
What is it about? After a few mysterious alien crafts land all over the world, Louise Banks, an expert linguist, is hired by the military to try to make sense of their language and determine whether this extraterrestrial life comes in peace or for more sinister ends.
Why should I watch it? Science-fiction sometimes has a reputation of not being accessible enough to regular audiences. Arrival is the rare film that can appeal to mainstream audiences without dumbing anything down for more niche crowds. Expanding on Ted Chiang’s 1998 novella Story of Your Life, Denis Villeneuve creates a world close enough to ours to make it resonate in unexpected ways. Don’t expect battles in distant galaxies and spaceships shooting laser beams: Arrival is much more interested in what’s happening on Earth and in its character’s minds. Addressing questions of time, language and determinism in a distinct atmosphere supported by beautiful cinematography and sound mixing, this might be the most human story about extraterrestrial life to grace cinema screens in the past few years.
The best of our streaming picks for: Those looking for a film that will equally make them think and feel. Even if alien stories never really “clicked” for you before, give this one a try.
Ex Machina (2014, directed by Alex Garland, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander)
Where can I watch it? Netflix.
What is it about? Caleb, a young programmer at a prestigious internet company, wins a contest for a one week trip in his mysterious CEO’s isolated mountain retreat. Not sure of what to expect, Caleb does his best to enjoy his time with his boss and all of his quirks… That is, until said boss asks him to take part of a groundbreaking scientific experiment involving the first true artificial intelligence, in the form of a beautiful robotic girl.
Why should I watch it? Okay, we’re kind of cheating here – Ex Machina has been part of Netflix’s Irish catalogue for a long time now. However, new releases were few this week, and if there is one film that can complement the ones above, it is this one. Side Effects was a thriller, Arrival was a humanistic take on science-fiction, and this falls quite perfectly in the middle of these two genres. A brilliant debut from writer Alex Garland (who later went on to direct Netflix’s Annihilation), the film’s dark atmosphere and its gorgeous locations are sure to make you keep your eyes on the screen through the entire runtime. As it celebrates its sixth birthday this month, now is the perfect time to catch up on this fan favourite. And as a bonus, you even get to support an Irish actor in the main role!
The best of our streaming picks for: Those that enjoyed either of the two above picks. Star Wars fans should also rejoice, as two of the main cast members are also co-stars in the new trilogy!
Which one of our streaming picks appeals to you the most this week? What did we miss? Let us know!