Wondering what to watch? While there’s little in the way of notable original releases this month there is a wealth of overlooked cinematic gems to be found this week on streaming.
For starters, Netflix hosts the independent sci-fi film Vesper, which impresses with some imaginative (and economically deployed) effects work, and visuals that imply a much grander scope beyond the acute focus of its narrative.
Also recently landed on the service is Michael Mann’s striking Muhammad Ali biopic, Ali, one of the finest examples of the form lead by an excellent performance from Will Smith. While NOW adds 2021’s new stab at an adaptation of the brutal fighting game series Mortal Kombat.
Read more: New on Prime Video in January 2023
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The first name uttered Michael Mann’s Muhammad Ali biopic isn’t the man himself, but Sam Cooke. The ‘King of Soul’ is the first on the stage, while the boxer diligently trains outside of the spotlight.
That’s to say that the film immediately signposts its interest and canniness about the history in which Ali was a piece, how he became ‘The Greatest’ in the surrounding struggle for civil rights is recognised as essential; the athleticism is a given, his cultural context is essential.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in January
Mann focuses on how the man’s defiance of any attempt at ownership over him — whether that’s through a name or a military draft — affects his public, personal and professional lives. The film is no hagiography either.
To this day it’s one of the finest performances that Will Smith has ever given, his own starry charm and braggadocio turned a little more fierce with Ali’s infamous rhyming trash talking. Far more than just impersonation, Smith also plays him with a steely gaze but also an undercurrent of uncertainty.
While Ali has its rough spots as it traces Muhammad Ali’s personal life and cultural legacy, it has undeniable magnetic pull. Take the opening segment: it's an exhilarating collage of societal change and black self-determination that contextualises who Ali is, what he represents and what he will mean to people at this point in time — all before it barrels into a bout with Sonny Liston, an infamous match that dovetailed with Ali changing his name from Cassius Clay to Cassius X, before then changing it to Muhammad Ali in his conversion to Islam.
The fight itself is filmed with a visceral sense of impact through Mann’s incorporation of digital handheld camerawork, as well as a grace that feels as flighty as Ali’s footwork. At the same time it builds up the importance of his relationship with Malcolm X (who also gets a heavy share of the plot as it shows divisions in the Nation of Islam as well as surveillance of him), efficiently laying the groundwork for how it’ll affect his fame and how quickly the public turns on him when he begins displaying political belief and conviction (with some exceptions — the film tracing the unlikely arc of his friendship with Howard Cosell).
While the rest of the film — following his exile and subsequent comeback along with Fight of the Century and Rumble in the Jungle — doesn’t quite move with this same clip as it sprawls outwards, it’s a fascinating representation of both man and Black history all the same.
A relatively low budget science fiction film, starring Eddie Marsan, that frequently defies the restraint that might imply, Vesper’s scope is surprisingly grand, even as it focuses in on a humble microcosm of the world it imagines.
It shows a future ruined by climate disaster, dubbed “The New Dark Ages”. As ever, humanity has played too much with fire and set the house alight, and now the Earth is a toxic wasteland, destroyed by manmade viruses as well as synthetic organisms, originally created to shelter survivors from the aftereffects of the apocalypse.
Watch a trailer for Vesper
Of course, it’s the richest people who survive best, living in walled-off citadels which remain unseen to the viewer — we can only imagine their splendour. Instead, directors Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper’s dystopia focuses squarely on the 99%, living in ruined old machinery and burnt out villages, murky swamps and woodlands.
Read more: New on Disney+ in January 2023
The visual effects work stands out most, with disturbing hybrids of plant and creature as well as a striking realisation of fascinating art direction, where humanity’s attachment to nature, even as its spoilt, is reflected in the shape of their buildings and vehicles. The story itself finds some solid emotional hooks, though it’s the spectacle and imagination of this small scale feature that proves most interesting.
Also on Netflix: Jung_E (2022), JFK, 13 Hours
This is not, in fact, the Mortal Kombat which is the source of that infamous theme tune. There’s no DJ yelling the title ahead of a 90s dance beat, because this is a slightly more self serious Mortal Kombat, one which aims for the blue-grey tones of contemporary MCU movies instead.
Read more: New on Sky/NOW in January 2023
Despite the headscratching decision to not make the film about the actual fighting tournament which the story revolves around there are some decent bouts, and perhaps some excitement to be found in seeing Scorpion throw down. Shame there’s no theme song, though.
Also on NOW: The Hanging Sun (2023)
Watch a trailer for Mortal Kombat
A Victorian man is in hospital after he was shot at multiple times in Melbourne's western suburbs.It is believed he was stopped in a vehicle on Mt Derrimut Road in Deer Park just after 9pm on Friday when the shots were fired.
A man has been arrested following the death of a woman in the outer Melbourne suburb of Lilydale.Police were called to a property on John Street about 5.
Tougher quarantine rules designed to protect against the risk of a rabies outbreak could lead to a blowout in wait times for people looking to bring pets into the country.Currently it takes about six months to apply to bring in a cat or dog from almost 70 countries, including the UK, Italy, Canada and US, and each animal must do at least 10 days of quarantine at a facility in Melbourne.
In the circular economy, there are words and there is action."There's definitely no shortage of ideas out there .
Freiburg have failed to capitalise on Bayern Munich's slip-up after being hammered 6-0 at Wolfsburg – and it's allowed Eintracht Frankfurt to take second spot in the Bundesliga thanks to their 3-0 win over Schalke.On Friday, champions Bayern could only draw 1-1 at now fifth-placed RB Leipzig as the German top flight resumed following its long mid-season break, but they were still left on top by five points after Saturday's matches.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has fired the army commander, General Julio Cesar de Arruda, a source with knowledge of the matter says.The firing of Arruda, who had been commander since December 28, was reported earlier on Saturday by Brazilian newspaper Folha de S Paulo and TV network Globonews.
Turkey has cancelled a planned visit by Sweden's defence minister in response to anti-Turkish protests that increased tension between the two countries as Sweden seeks Turkey's approval to join the NATO military alliance.An anti-Islam activist from Denmark received permission from police to stage a protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm where he burned the Koran.
Australia's netball Diamonds have opened the defence of their Quad Series title with a "messy" comeback victory over old rivals England – and a warning from their captain in South Africa that they've got huge room for improvement.The Diamonds hit back after a dismal start, rallying to win 61-55 in their opener in Cape Town on Saturday but only showing in patches why they're the world's number one side.
Jeremy Renner has revealed he broke more than 30 bones during his snowplough accident, saying they will "grow stronger, just like the love and bond with family and friends deepens".The actor, known for playing the bow and arrow-wielding Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), was airlifted to hospital with serious injuries on January 1 after he was accidentally run over by his own six-tonne ploughing machine while trying to help a family member.
Chinese people around the world are ushering in the New Year according to the traditional lunar calendar as the Year of the Tiger gives way to the Year of the Rabbit.But in China itself, anxiety and loss persists after the recent spike in COVID-19 infections while officials attempt to paint a brighter picture of the health situation.
US astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin has announced on Facebook that he has married his "longtime love" in a small ceremony in Los Angeles.Aldrin, who made history along with Neil Armstrong as the first humans to set foot on the surface of the moon, said the wedding took place on Friday, which was his 93rd birthday.
Western Sydney residents could have access to another 600 hospital beds as NSW Labor promises to deal with a shortage if elected.The boost will include $700 million to fund 300 more beds at Rouse Hill Hospital.
Brisbane Roar attacking midfielder Henry Hore is such a weapon as a super sub against tired legs that coach Warren Moon admits he almost demands to be picked in that role.The 23-year-old lifted the entire side when he came on in the second half of the 0-0 draw with A-League Men leaders Melbourne City on Saturday night and showcased a style of football Moon wants his team to keep playing.
Steve Smith is confident he will recover from a back complaint in time for next month's Test tour of India.Smith played the best innings of his T20 career on Saturday night, stroking his way to an unbeaten 125 as his Sydney Sixers thrashed Big Bash rivals the Sydney Thunder at the SCG.
The Sydney Flames have remained tight-lipped on Shane and Shyla Heal's unexplained absence from the WNBL after the father-daughter pair missed a second consecutive game this week.One of the most recognisable names in Australian basketball, Shane Heal was listed as "unavailable" to coach against the Southside Flyers on Wednesday, with guard and daughter Shyla also missing the 96-91 loss citing "personal reasons".
With no albums in the competition and only one award nomination, Andrew Swift could have been forgiven for thinking he would have a quiet Saturday night at the Golden Guitars.But the Melbourne-based troubadour, who won two country music awards in his breakout year 2019, pulled off the surprise of the evening, being named best male artist for the first time in his career.
Emerging star Sebastian Korda will continue his quest for family sporting supremacy when he takes on Poland's Hubert Hurkacz in the fourth round of the Australian Open.Fresh off a breakout victory over former world No.
A tearful Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has attended a memorial service to commemorate seven senior Interior Ministry officials killed in a helicopter crash this week as Russian forces claimed to have made more gains in the country's south.Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, his deputy and five other high-ranking ministry officials were killed when their French-made Super Puma helicopter plummeted amid fog into a nursery on the eastern outskirts of Kyiv on Wednesday.
Liverpool and Chelsea's chances of a top-four finish have suffered a blow as the pair played out a disappointing 0-0 draw in the Premier League, while Everton's relegation fears grew after a 2-0 loss at West Ham United.Only Southampton are below Everton – on goal difference alone – after the bottom side lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa, while West Ham's win meant Bournemouth replaced them in the bottom three despite earning a point in their 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest.
Aaron Mooy has been hailed for his exceptional post-World Cup form by his old Socceroos' mentor Ange Postecoglou while the modest midfielder shrugged off his man-of-the-match display in Celtic's Scottish Cup destruction of Morton.After a slow start to life at Parkhead, Mooy continues to improve seemingly with every match and Postecoglou was left saluting him after his one-time international charge scored twice to bookend the Scottish champions' 5-0 stroll into the fifth round.