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KEEP AN EYE OUT

Cate Blanchett stars in Tár, and more biopics – from Princess Diana to the Unabomber

Cate Blanchett stars in Tár, and more biopics – from Princess Diana to the Unabomber
Maverick Life’s pick of films and series to look out for in March 2023 on Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, and in cinemas. Images: Supplied

Maverick Life’s pick of films and series to look out for in March 2023 on Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, and in cinemas.

Feminist viewing for International Women’s Month

Empire of the light: 1 March on Disney+

A British romantic drama created by Sam Mendes (Skyfall, 1917) set in an English coastal town in the early 1980s and centred on an Art Deco theatre that brought people together. The film is a tribute to the films that inspired Mendes in his youth, and is a little overindulgent at the beginning, but Olivia Colman’s characteristically profound performance and Roger Deakins’s cinematography move things along to a richer and more satisfying conclusion.  

Sex & Pleasure: Wednesdays from 8 March on Showmax

After the Success of the Showmax original series, Sex in Afrikaans, the streamer is taking a more general dive into South African sex life. “Everyone has sex, even your most conservative grandmother had eight kids. So let’s talk about it.” The show is directed by Ayanda Duma, who also produced the South African leg of Planet Sex with Cara Delevigne. Each episode explores South African culture pertaining to a different aspect of sexuality – sex work, parenting, love, drugs, orgasm, disability, age and spirituality.  

The Power: March 31 on Prime Video

Fantasy and science fiction tend to be the most engrossing when they investigate how an impossible or futuristic premise would play out given the sociopolitics of the real world. This is what has made The Boys one of Amazon’s biggest hits. The Power does this on a smaller and more niche scale, allowing you to take it a little more seriously. Teenage girls all over the world inexplicably develop the ability to create electronic jolts from their fingertips. When they realise that they can provoke the same power in older women, the phenomenon creates an enormous power shift in gender politics that ripples through the world.

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Based on true stories

Ted K: 6 March on Showmax

South African actor Sharlto Copley (District 9Beast) stars as the notorious Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, who became the subject of the biggest manhunt in US history. A misanthrope, Kaczynski lived a secluded life in the Rocky Mountains, and when the modern world began encroaching on his quiet existence, the intrusion radicalised his already antisocial ideology, culminating in a series of deadly bomb attacks. The series gets spookily up-close with his obsessive and vengeful psychology, daring to understand the motivations behind a misunderstood mass murderer. 

Spencer: 9 March on Showmax

A biographical drama set over the British royal family’s 1991 Christmas holiday at Sandringham House. Kristen Stewart (Twilight) was nominated for an Oscar in 2022 for her role as a conflicted Princess Diana weighing up whether to leave Prince Charles. The film is atypically psychological for a royal drama, full of haunting dream sequences and subjective cinematography to reimagine events from within Diana’s gilded cage.

The Inspection: In cinemas 17 March

A military boot camp film following an archetypal plotline – struggling underdog joins the army and becomes the target of a cruel authority figure, befriends a few outcasts and digs deep to prove their strength and resolve. It may be a familiar story but this time it’s a real one, and with that realism comes a degree of nuance that adds novel complexity to the tropes. Director Elegance Bratton got out of jail and became a marine recruit shortly after 9/11. As a gay black man determined to succeed in an institution defined by a history of homophobia, he must decide whether or not to leverage Islamophobia to deflect the target on his back. Unlike similar films such as Moffie, there is a confused portrayal of the military as a whole – as a viewer we are asked to cheer for his success within a framework that is obviously broken, and the film’s awareness of that paradox is intriguing. 

Tetris: 31 March on Apple TV+

For decades Tetris was the most popular video game in the world. Grand Theft Auto and Minecraft have both overtaken it since then, but because there were so many other games around by the time they became popular, they’ll never match the mythical magic that the simple challenge of geometry had. This series tracks the inception and uptake of the addictive game. It’s not as bland a tale as it sounds, revelling in the novelty of gaming in the Eighties and the enormous sociopolitical changes at the time. 

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Based on untrue stories

Tár: In cinemas 3 March

A psychological drama starring Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, the conductor of a renowned German orchestra. At the height of her career, launching a book and rehearsing a performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, Tár is on the cusp of a creative breakthrough and mental breakdown. At times, the melodrama may feel self-indulgent if you cannot relate to the lofty poetic statements intended in Tár, but Blanchett’s piercing presence holds your attention regardless, and won her a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice award, as well as several Oscar nominations. 

Daisy Jones & the Six: 3 March on Prime Video

A hotly anticipated limited musical drama series following the familiar stratospheric rise and sudden inexplicable descent of a sensational fictitious rock band. Although the band never existed, many have speculated that it mirrors Fleetwood Mac. Based on the New York Times bestseller novel of the same name, the series tells the story of their break-up decades later, with all the scandalous romances and internal drama that so often come with rapid fame. 

Swarm: 17 March on Prime Video

Created by musician and actor Donald Glover, this horror-thriller series focuses on the dark downward spiral of a young woman named Dre (Dominique Fishback) whose obsession with her favourite singer (whose aesthetic and sound mirror that of Beyoncé) reaches unhealthy, creepy and increasingly dangerous levels.

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Your dose of true crime

Money Shot: The Pornhub Story: 15 March on Netflix

A Netflix documentary unpacking how the most prolific pornography site changed the industry – allowing normal people to distribute erotic content to an enormous audience for a profit, thereby opening the door to a horrific illegal industry of non-consensual footage and sex trafficking. Anti-trafficking organisations interviewed in the film explain how difficult it is to regulate abusive content without censoring, and the ways in which Pornhub has prioritised its profits over the safety of the people who serve as its product.

Stella Murders: 17 March on Showmax

The creators of acclaimed local documentary series Devilsdorp have dug up another unsettlingly small-town horror story. The film investigates the deaths of two teenage girls at their hostel at Stella High School in 2018. Stella is a small, quiet cattle-farming dorpie near Vryburg in North West with a population of just more than 4,000, so when police began to suspect that their deaths were not suicide, it was only a matter of time before the truth came out. “In such a close-knit community, danger is expected to come from the outside,” says clinical psychologist Elmarie Claassens in the trailer. “But the thing about danger is: it doesn’t come exclusively from the outside.”

Waco: American Apocalypse: 22 March on Netflix

A cut-and-paste Netflix true crime docuseries, with the same unnerving score, archival footage, slick editing and drawn-out suspense as whatever the last one was – either it’s your thing or it isn’t. This time the cameras are pointed to Waco, Texas, in 1993. The series is being released 30 years after cult leader David Koresh was besieged by the federal government for 51 days in a conflict that was screened to the nation on live television. It began with the biggest gunfight on American soil since the Civil War and ended in a literal blaze. 

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Science fiction from light to dark

Star wars: The Mandalorian Season 3: 1 March on Disney+

The platform’s flagship series put Disney+ on the map with the success of its first season which featured a faceless protagonists played by Pedro Pascal (Narcos, The Last Of Us) and a meme-friendly sidekick (the adorable baby Yoda) but the series has been quiet since the conclusion of season 2 to accommodate another Star Wars spinoff – The Book of Boba Fett. With the third season finally here, it’s anyone’s guess whether fans will flock to it again, but Lucasfilm is betting they will, considering it’s the most action-packed season so far. 

Extrapolations: 17 March on Apple TV+

Scott Z Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum, Contagion, An Inconvenient Truth) directs this futuristic anthology series about a web of characters whose lives are all linked by the effects of climate change. With actors lining up express their concern for the future of the planet, the series has amassed one of the most high-profile casts in recent history, including Meryl Streep, Sienna Miller, Kit Harington, Daveed Diggs, Edward Norton, Diane Lane, David Schwimmer, Keri Russell, Marion Cotillard, Forest Whitaker and Tobey Maguire. The first three episodes will premiere on 17 March followed by five more on subsequent Fridays.

The Big Prize Door: 29 March on Apple TV+

A high-concept sci-fi comedy based on a novel by MO Walsh. With a simple, impossible premise, it feels like a thought experiment was undergone with a couple of beers in hand. In a department store in a small town, a machine inexplicably appears which can provide the true life potential and reason for being to every person in the town. What begins as a fantastic revelation creates unforeseen crises that are ironically predictable to the viewers. DM/ML

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