Wondering what to watch? A number of new releases arrive on streaming this week, perhaps a signal of the opening of the gates of awards season as year end approaches.
Among such prestigious dramas is the Apple TV+ original Causeway, continues of a return to acting from its star Jennifer Lawrence, who had taken a brief hiatus in 2019 following a string of less-than-favourable features, and returned in 2021 with Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up.
Read more: Everything new on Prime Video in November
The quaint, comedic whodunnit See How They Run comes to Disney+ this week, a locked room murder mystery that takes some cues from Rian Johnson’s critically acclaimed Knives Out. Meanwhile, Netflix releases a Todd Haynes film of years past that deserves all the attention that it can possibly get — the glam-rock rise-and-fall story Velvet Goldmine, which intertwines stories of LGBTQ identity through a character study of its chosen music scene.
And last but certainly not least the Roku Channel hosts one of the year’s funniest films in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, an original from the platform.
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Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022) - Roku Channel
Borne from a Funny or Die sketch, of all things, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is perhaps the finest music biopic parody this side of Walk Hard (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping doesn’t count as it goes for a slightly different target — the mockumentary).
True to the spirit of its chosen subject “Weird” Al Yankovic, it turns familiar tunes into a different song, a joke - we recognise all of the plot beats, even as the absurdity is cranked up. Take its approach to his track 'My Bologna', mimicking a hackneyed moment of inspiration from the awful, Rami Malek-starring Bohemian Rhapsody, or more simply the rise and fall trajectory that defines many a film of this kind.
Watch a trailer for Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
As Weird Al, Daniel Radcliffe is simultaneously perfectly suited to the part and hilariously incongruous with it, playing the character as a volatile rockstar with washboard abs, leaning into the absurdity with utmost sincerity and conviction — playing the kind of Weird Al that would put a cigarette out in the palm of an exec’s hand, before going on a bender with Madonna.
Director Eric Appel (who also created the short it’s based on) loses his way a little bit in the back half as one particular plot point gets drawn out to the point of exhaustion. But Appel’s film is overall a raucous delight — and, true to Weird Al himself — far more perceptive than anyone might have anticipated.
Also on Roku Channel: War of the Worlds (2005)
Causeway (2022) - Apple TV+
Causeway feels like a return to form for Lawrence. As a US soldier struggling to readjust to her life back home after suffering a brain injury on deployment, the first time in a long time that Lawrence has been given a real character to play. It's a grounded and substantial role rather than the caricatures of her stint on the X-Men films and David O. Russell’s obnoxious works.
As Lynsey, Lawrence gets to go back to the kind of small scale independent dramas on which she made her name and in which her best qualities as an actor shone through unforgettable, like Winter’s Bone rather than being buried in the thanklessness of the ensembles of various ensembles.
As Lynsey she conjures a similar presence on camera, one imbued with sincere feeling as her character strikes up a deeply felt friendship with local mechanic James, played by Brian Tyree Henry, a wonderful actor who has been similarly buried amidst franchises and other features that don’t utilise his best talents.
Also on Apple TV+: Sydney, Swan Song
Velvet Goldmine (1998) - Netflix
Written and directed by Todd Haynes and co-written by James Lyons, Velvet Goldmine is one of a number of music biographies and queer histories by the filmmaker Haynes, fictionalised and otherwise – his documentary from last year, The Velvet Underground, echoed the style of its chosen subject through emulation of the band’s avant-garde style.
I’m Not There sees six different actors play different shades of Bob Dylan, presented through different stages of his life. By the same measure Velvet Goldmine isn’t quite so biographical, pulling in a number of different sources — like Bowie, among a few others — as it explores intersecting stories orbiting the glam rock scene.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in November
It’s also a character study of a person who might be inspired by such a scene, through its journalist character Arthur Stuart (a pre-American Psycho Christian Bale), profiling the disappeared rock star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Stuart’s witnessing of the gay and bisexual stars of the music scene encouraged him to come out as gay himself, and the film follows him through the fallout of that decision and intertwines it with his recounting of Slade’s life story, as truth and fiction similarly twist around one another.
One of Haynes’s best works in a body already full of spectacular expressivity.
Also on Netflix: Wendell & Wild, Enola Holmes 2
See How They Run (2022) - Disney+
Set in the West End in 1950s London, Tom George and Mark Chappell’s See How They Run reaches back in time perhaps to get closer to the traditional setup of the classic murder mystery, its logistics simplified by a lack of interaction with social media, smartphones and other modern day vices.
Its twee, comedic stylings place it in the immediate vicinity of its contemporary, Knives Out by Rian Johnson (soon due a sequel in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story), but it ultimately lacks the same bite, or perceptiveness about the social mechanics of its chosen setting, the world of the theatre.
Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in November
In See How They Run, the cynical Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) teams up with the bright-eyed rookie Constable Stalker (Saiorse Ronan - as ever a go-to for a period piece) take on a case of a murder, of a crew member for a film adaptation of a hit play.
Unlike the aforementioned Knives Out, See How They Run feels a little dull, thanks in part to its decidedly tame, beige nature. It’s neither upsettingly bad nor remarkable, simply lukewarm.
Also on Disney+: Spider-Man 3
Watch: The cast of See How They Run talk whodunnits with Yahoo