Raised by Wolves season 1 ***
Sci-fi horror. This daring but drawn-out series is produced by film director Ridley Scott, and his fingerprints are visible all over it.
The showrunner may be Aaron Guzikowski, but the cold and bleak worldview Scott established in Alien (1979) and pushed to its grim limits in Alien: Covenant (2017) is front and centre in Raised by Wolves and dominates his collaborator’s input.
The show starts with an intriguing premise: two androids, Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim), land on Kepler-22b – the closest habitable planet outside our solar system.
A war on Earth between atheists and religious zealots, the Mithraic, has destroyed the planet, and the androids have been sent by an atheist scientist to raise 12 human embryos and restart society anew. Soon a Mithraic space-ship also shows up, leading to fresh conflict.
The first few episodes offer engaging twists and turns, as Mother and Father’s personalities start to develop and we’re introduced to a high-ranking Mithraic couple, Marcus (Vikings’ Travis Fimmel) and Sue (Niamh Algar), and their son, Paul (Felix Jamieson), who might be a messiah.
Shot near Cape Town, the show makes good use of the misty Stellenbosch mountains and Southern Africa’s distinctive quiver trees to create a suitably alien landscape.
Collin gives an astonishing performance, with often contradictory emotions flickering across her face that take Mother from sympathetic to scary in moments, while Salim and Algar provide the heart and humanity. The rest of the characters, unfortunately, aren’t well developed so it’s difficult to feel invested in them.
As more and more mysteries and weighty themes are piled on in each episode, the show loses momentum and the plot gets scattered in so many directions that it’s hard to see how everything can be resolved in a satisfying way.
And after spinning its wheels for about four episodes, the show’s finale packs in a bunch of bonkers ideas, which might tempt you to continue watching or put you off altogether, depending on your appetite for sci-fi tropes.
2020. 10 EPISODES. 16VL. AVAILABLE ON SHOWMAX.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore ***1/2
Crime comedy. Depressed nursing assistant Ruth (indie movie darling Melanie Lynskey) finds a new sense of purpose and a test of her mental health in her pursuit of the thieves who broke into her house. Her obnoxious neighbour Tony (Elijah Wood) is her sidekick in this losing battle against a pack of degenerate criminals as the pair encounter wacky situations while seeking justice.
Former child star Wood is proving himself to be a versatile character actor in his post-Lord of the Rings career, with roles in a variety of films, from black comedies to horror.
The cast’s acting is spot on and sometimes deliciously over the top. Even the bloody violence is quirky and funny, an ode by first-time writer-director Macon Blair (who also plays the Bar Dude in this film) to the Coen brothers’ Fargo (1996). There are even hints of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), which also starred Wood.
If you love offbeat indie treats, try this one on for size. – PIETER VAN ZYL
2017. 93 MIN. 16VL. AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX.
Monster Hunter **
Sci-fi action. Director Paul WS Anderson is no stranger to videogame adaptations, having helmed the 1995 version of Mortal Kombat as well as the Resident Evil movies starring his wife and muse, Milla Jovovich.
Monster Hunter gets off to a deliciously weird start, with Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as the Admiral, sailing a pirate ship through the dunes of a desert, as he and his crew are chased by an unseen creature burrowing through the sand.
Sadly, we don’t get to see Perl-man and his crew – which includes a humanoid cat known as the Meowscular Chef – again, until near the end of the film.
Most of the action follows Jovovich and her squad of soldiers, who are sucked into this alternate dimension populated by mean, hungry monsters, and martial arts star Tony Jaa as the titular Monster Hunter.
Their escapades are pretty dull – even by badass soldiers vs hideous monster standards – and things don’t liven up until the Admiral returns, apparently to set up a sequel we’ll probably never get to see. – DENNIS CAVERNELIS
2020. 103 MIN. 13V. AVAILABLE ON GOOGLE PLAY AND APPLE TV+.
A: All ages D: Drugs H: Horror L: Language N: Nudity P: Prejudice PG: Parental guidance
S: Sex V: Violence