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Films to watch on streaming platforms and free-to-air services this week

Late Night (EOne)
Late Night (EOne)

PA film critic Damon Smith chooses an A-Z of some of his favourite films to enjoy from the comfort of home this week on streaming platforms and free-to-air services.

Kaitlyn Dever as Amy and Beanie Feldstein as Molly (Annapurna Pictures, LLC/Francois Duhamel)

BOOKSMART (15, 102 mins) Comedy/Drama/Romance. Kaitlyn Dever. Beanie Feldstein, Mason Gooding, Jason Sudeikis. Director: Olivia Wilde.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Olivia Wilde’s raucous rites-of-passage comedy takes a leaf out of the school books of Clueless and Mean Girls to deliver life lessons about sisterly solidarity punctuated by a dizzying array of pithy one-liners.

Heartfelt hilarity is delivered with genuine warmth and grin-inducing sincerity by the dream team double-act of Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein.

They possess fizzing on-screen chemistry as best friends Amy and Molly, who have studiously forsaken fornication and partying in order to achieve their academic dreams.

Potentially thorny issues of fat-shaming, sexual experimentation and peer pressure are cheerfully navigated by a sorority of four female scriptwriters.

Belly laughs are abundant between some deeply touching moments of self-reflection and realisation, trading in pop culture references and near-the-knuckle humour that never threatens to become crude or mean-spirited.

These girls are sugar and spice and all things naughty but nice.

Deadpool 2 Photocall – London
Ryan Reynolds stars as the spandex-clad superhero (PA).

DEADPOOL (15, 108 mins) Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Comedy/Romance. Ryan Reynolds, TJ Miller, Ed Skrein, Gina Carano. Director: Tim Miller.

Screening on Film4 on March 27 at 9pm

A final opportunity to marvel at Ryan Reynolds in figure-hugging red spandex as the eponymous masked avenger, who pushes a car cigarette lighter into the mouth of one unfortunate henchman and quips “Don’t swallow!”

Relentlessly lurid and unapologetically foul-mouthed, Deadpool is a sinful treat.

Tim Miller’s hyperkinetic origin story is like a newborn puppy that has yet to be house-trained: boundlessly energetic and blissfully oblivious to the rules of acceptable conduct.

Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s script is crammed to bursting with zinging one-liners and a miasma of filth and toilet humour.

Some gags narrowly miss their target, but the duds are invariably followed up in quick succession by sly digs at comic book conventions.

The relentless barrage of pop culture references and post-modern in-jokes hinges on Reynolds’ ability to charm us and he barrels through every frame with a cocksure swagger that is impossible to resist.

THE INVISIBLE MAN (15, 124 mins) Horror/Thriller/Romance. Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Director: Leigh Whannell.

Streaming and available to download now on Amazon Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store and other platforms

Writer-director Leigh Whannell’s ingeniously executed horror thriller, inspired by the HG Wells novel of the same title, was another victim of recent cinema closures.

Fittingly, this two-hour masterclass in sustained nerve-jangling tension materialised without warning last weekend on streaming platforms and is even more deliciously unsettling when watched at home.

An emotionally wrought central performance from Elisabeth Moss firmly tethers an outlandish dramatic conceit to gut-wrenching reality.

She expertly captures the painful fragility and vulnerability of an architect, who becomes convinced that her abusive ex-boyfriend (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) – “a world leader in the field of optics” – has developed the technology to become an invisible stalker.

Whannell’s lean script retains a cold, calculating logic during the most fantastical flourishes.

He holds us in a vice-like grip from the bravura opening sequence and refuses to let go, delivering moments of stomach-churning brutality in a breathless second act.

I, TONYA (15, 119 mins) Comedy/Drama/Romance. Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson. Director: Craig Gillespie.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video until March 30, streaming and available to download on Netflix from March 30.

Supposedly based on “irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews” with US figure skating champion Tonya Harding and ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, I, Tonya is a barbed satire, which illuminates the 1994 attack on skater Nancy Kerrigan with aplomb.

Margot Robbie inhabits the title role with fearlessness and ferocity, tossing out expletives as if her life depended upon it.

Allison Janney deservedly won an Oscar as Tonya’s monstrous chain-smoking mother, who preaches cruelty as kindness to jaw-dropping excess.

Sebastian Stan oozes slippery charm as the man who walks Tonya down the aisle and exerts his marital “right” to lay his hands on her in anger.

Scenes of domestic abuse are extremely upsetting and director Craig Gillespie pulls no punches in his depiction of the couple’s volatile, self-destructive relationship.

Sequences on the ice are breathlessly staged, employing slick digital effects to blend Robbie’s face with the bodies of skating doubles so we truly believe the Australian actress is recreating the intricate routines.

I WISH (PG, 128 mins) Drama. Koki Maeda, Ohshiro Maeda, Nene Ohtsuka, Jo Odagiri. Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda.

Streaming free on All 4 On Demand until April 16

Celebrated Japanese film-maker Hirokazu Kore-eda explores familiar themes of childhood innocence and abandonment in this poetic slice of life featuring real-life siblings.

Twelve-year-old Koichi (Koki Maeda) lives with his mother (Nene Ohtsuka) in the southern town of Kagoshima, which nestles in the shadow of an active volcano.

Far to the north in Fukuoka, Koichi’s younger brother Ryunosuke (Ohshiro Maeda) lives with their musician father (Jo Odagiri).

The cherubs secretly embark on a cross-country odyssey to test out Koichi’s theory about the electrical field generated by passing trains.

Every frame of I Wish is beautifully observed, galvanised by the irresistible natural chemistry of the pint-sized protagonists.

Kore-eda’s gentle touch with his young, inexperienced leads is richly rewarded with naturalistic performances that pluck our heartstrings without resorting to unabashed emotional manipulation.

At an unsettling time when we are all reflecting on the importance of family, I Wish is a perfect tonic.

Late Night Photocall – London
Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling star in Late Night (PA)

LATE NIGHT (15, 102 mins) Comedy/Drama/Romance. Dame Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Denis O’Hare, John Lithgow. Director: Nisha Ganatra.

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Dame Emma Thompson relishes a plum role as a veteran talk show host, who has grown complacent and lost touch with her viewers, in director Nisha Ganatra’s spiky comedy of modern manners.

It’s a lip-smacking delight to see the two-time Oscar winner in full comic flow.

Scripted with a deft touch by co-star Mindy Kaling, Late Night takes aim at gender equality and diversity in the workplace and occasionally draws blood from well-placed barbs at the expense of the mainstream media’s obsession with youth and beauty.

Some aspects of the writing are a tad undernourished – one romantic subplot blossoms with almost no on-screen propagation and the emotional fallout of marital betrayal is too neatly contained.

However, chemistry between the lead actors fizzes.

Laughter and heartwarming sentiment are keenly balanced, tipping slightly in favour of the latter as the film talks its way to a crowd-pleasing resolution.

All’s fair in love and the war for TV ratings.

MUSTANG (15, 97 mins) Drama/Romance. Ilayda Akdogan, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Doga Doguslu, Gunes Sensoy, Nihal Koldas. Director: Deniz Gamze Erguven.

Streaming and available to download on MUBI until April 7

Directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven and based on some of her personal experiences, Mustang is a tender and deeply moving coming-of-age story that was deservedly nominated as Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Academy Awards.

It’s a beautifully observed family portrait, which attests to the unshakeable bonds between kin that hold firm through periods of great stress and upheaval.

The gently paced story centres on five spirited Turkish sisters – Sonay (Ilayda Akdogan), Selma (Tugba Sunguroglu), Ece (Elit Iscan), Nur (Doga Doguslu) and Lale (Gunes Sensoy).

When the girls’ behaviour threatens to bring shame on the household, their grandmother (Nihal Koldas) responds by consigning her young wards to the house and marrying them off to eligible local men.

Youngest sister Lale looks for an escape route and she forges a touching friendship with a driver called Yasin (Burak Yigit), who might be able to smuggle the brood to Istanbul in the back of his truck.

THE POST (12, 116 mins) Drama. Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys, Tracy Letts. Director: Steven Spielberg.

Streaming and available to download on Netflix

Director Steven Spielberg’s handsome dramatisation of the hard-fought battle for press freedom under the Nixon administration arrived on Netflix last week and feels uncomfortably relevant in a modern era of fake news and presidential Twitter outbursts.

The Post is a timely depiction of gender inequality in the workplace and lionises the achievements of Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, who risked losing the business her father bought in 1933 because she refused to be bullied into submission by a patriarchal establishment and sacrifice ideals enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Tubs are repeatedly thumped in Spielberg’s picture, most powerfully in Meryl Streep’s tour-de-force portrayal of Graham, which captures every facet of a working mother’s resolve, inner turmoil and defiance.

Tom Hanks provides robust support as Ben Bradlee, crusading executive editor of The Washington Post, who doesn’t appreciate meddling from the boardroom.

A QUIET PLACE (15, 90 mins) Thriller/Sci-Fi/Horror/Romance. Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe. Director: John Krasinski.

Streaming and available to download on Netflix

Last week’s cinema release of A Quiet Place Part II was delayed until later in the year when all cinemas are open.

Netflix has cleverly added the first chapter to its vast catalogue, giving us another chance to cower on the sofa at John Krasinski’s nerve-shredding horror thriller about a family battling against sightless otherworldly creatures, which hunt by sound.

Krasinski’s real-life wife Emily Blunt delivers a powerhouse performance as a mother hen, who is dedicated to preparing her children for a bleak future.

She gels magnificently with expressive young co-stars Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, who milk every tear and shudder of anguish from their characters’ nightmarish predicament.

Tense sequences in a grain silo and a water-logged nursery draw favourable comparisons with the Jurassic Park and Alien franchises.

Krasinski confidently tightens the screws with slickly engineered set pieces, which punctuate the heart-rending human drama.

Silence is golden – and imperative for survival.

SPIRITED AWAY (PG, 125 mins) Animation/Fantasy/Adventure. Featuring the voices of Daveigh Chase, Michael Chiklis, Lauren Holly, James Marsden, David Ogden Stiers. Director: Hayao Miyazaki.

Streaming and available to download on Netflix

Hayao Miyazaki’s extraordinary magical adventure deservedly won the 2003 Academy Award as Best Animated Feature and was added to Netflix at the beginning of the month.

Spirited Away is a breathtaking variation on a theme of Alice In Wonderland, following young Chihiro as she encounters a menagerie of weird and wonderful characters, who both hinder and aid her quest.

The story constantly surprises with daring plot twists and unexpected flights of surreal imagination, interspersed with gentle humour like a comical sequence in which Chihiro holds her breath as she deals with a Stink Spirit.

Lively vocal performances full of emotion carry the story along at a brisk pace.

Rarely has two hours passed so quickly or as enjoyably.

Another seven Studio Ghibli titles will be added to Netflix on April 1.

Highlights include Howl’s Moving Castle and the Little Mermaid-esque fantasy Ponyo.