RāViewz: Film & TV | March 2022
With a focus on addiction, superheroes and stories of colour, here's what Rāwiri is watching this month...
Euphoria Season 2, 2022 (HBO)
Stylish, sexy and coming to define the Gen Z zeitgeist, the second season of HBO's Euphoria has been a contentious series of episodes. Writer/Creator Sam Levinson has produced a show both defined by its success (it's the network's most successful show after Game of Thrones) and its criticisms of how it handles dark subject matter.
Season 2 centres on Rue Bennett's recovery from drug addiction and follows her as the relationships between family, friends and dealers undergoes pressurised change and threatens to thwart her progress. Portrayed by an Emmy-winning Zendaya, Rue is an engaging watch even when her behaviour becomes tiresome and problematic. Zendaya's bold performance elevates the material beyond its typical teen soap scripting challenges.
Elsewhere, the roundly affecting cast of seasoned and newfound talents bring stories of sexual assault, homophobia, transphobia and mental illness on top of the genre-heavy tales of love, lust and surviving high-school.
It's hardly the typical teen experience, even by the middle-class standards of its background, but thanks to snappy dialogue and a game cast of fascinating acting talent, Euphoria builds enough momentum to sustain the high of its nine episodes, and have you wanting the next hit.
The Batman, 2022 (Warner Bros.)
Maybe the most enduring superhero on the big screen, Batman is a character whose many iterations have helped inspire and invigorate the comic book genre across four decades. We might not have been especially in need of another version (the fourth Bat franchise in 25 years), but with box office business now dominated by guaranteed IP hits, where does this new version stand amongst its predecessors?
Director Matt Reeves has come a long way since co-creating teen drama Felicity in the 1990s, and cut his teeth on sci fi thrillers Cloverfield and Let Me In. He honed his craft helming parts 2 and 3 of the recent Planet of the Apes franchise, bringing together exceptional performances from all areas of his team. It's with this passion and attention to detail that he delivers the goods on The Batman.
Like the title suggests, the story features little of Bruce Wayne. Choosing instead to focus on the caped crusader in hero form, the action rolls along briskly for a film of this runtime length, and keeps the audience captivated even in its quieter moments. Robert Pattinson was an unusual but inspired choice and although the character prefers solitude, his greatest moments are in the company of Penguin (Colin Farrell), Riddler (Paul Dano) and Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz).
The film does enough differently to warrant its place alongside Nolan's near-perfect trilogy, while exploring plenty of intriguing options for where the story could go next.
Peacemaker, Season 1, 2021 (HBO Max/Neon)
Though last year's The Suicide Squad succeeded in revitalising a host of DC's lesser-known characters, few could have guessed that the wholly unlikeable Peacemaker would be the first to get his own namesake series.
Such is the charm of John Cena, though. Giving the character an entirely new set of motivations allows the audience to get on board with the challenge of rooting for him. With a handful of knowingly reverent scripts and some big, fun set pieces, the rest of the heavy lifting is left to Cena. And lifting is nothing new to him.
Though 2021's film outing had Christopher Smith's alter ego play the straight man most often (odd, but still straight), here his transplant into more grounded realities make him a compelling fish out of water. This gives writer/director James Gunn and its leading man plenty of opportunity to mine the scenes for comedic gold. Ably supported by Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black), Jennifer Holland and Chukwudi Iwuji, Peacemaker is one of the greatest achievements DC has delivered for any of its characters.
Oh, and in debuting just a few days into the year, Peacemaker, with its hilariously choreographed intro, also takes out the title of Best Opening Credits of 2022.
Inventing Anna, 2022 (Netflix)
Who is Anna Delvey? This is the question news reporter Vivian Kent asks her superiors when pitching the idea to pursue an outrageous story. Anna Delvey has recently been arrested for fraud. To Delvey's mind, the wealthy friends and up market hotels who are accusing her of dishonesty, are pathetic, jealous people. To those wealthy friends, Anna Delvey is a scam artist. To Vivian Kent, she could represent an opportunity to smooth over past professional mistakes.
Netflix's recent hit mini series is based on a book, which is in turn based on the real-life events of a Russian-born, German-raised, New York socialite, Anna Sorokin. Over the course of nine episodes, Anna's ambition to climb high society's social ladder brings her hurtling towards unsuspecting victims across plush hotels and fancy yachts all over the world.
Veep's Anna Chlumsky plays Vivian, the audience's lead in character, is always watchable but much like her fellow co-support, they're often outshone by the standout Julia Garner. As affecting here as she is in Ozark, it's her wild, whacky, and wholly outrageous performance as Anna that steals and holds your interest. She commits fully - bewildering accent and all - and makes the series worthwhile even though you're never really sure how the producers view their leading lady, and what they want to achieve by telling her story.