Wondering what to watch this weekend? Some might say that it’s too early to start getting into the Holiday spirit but ever since the calendar ticked over from October, Yuletide content has become fair game.
Written and directed by James Gunn, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special takes a surprisingly earnest approach to VHS oddities, in a nostalgic story that sees the surrogate family of former space criminals trying to lift one teammate’s spirits.
Though perhaps less in that spirit, the (somewhat) celebratory and critically acclaimed Another Round lands on Netflix this week, the Mads Mikkelsen-led film about day drinking having landed an Academy Award nomination for Best Director and a win for Best International Feature film (and with good reason).
Read more: Everything new on Paramount+ in November
At the same time, Robert Egger’s violent, spectacular 2022 historical epic The Northman arrives on NOW, just in time to catch up on some of the year’s best films before the business of December.
Please note that a subscription may be required to watch.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022) - Disney+ (pick of the week)
Guardians of the Galaxy was already one of the more idiosyncratic Marvel Studios series. Writer-director James Gunn’s personality and thematic interests shine through at all times, with his ability to handle on quippy comedy by filtering it through violent misfit characters with no sense of decorum.
The relative remove from the clutter of the rest of the MCU series also helps, especially in its messy and directionless Phase 4. The bar has been lowered further than ever for the mega franchise, so pleasant surprises like The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special land even better than they might have at the height of the franchises powers.
Read more: Why has Phase 4 of the MCU been so divisive?
As is holiday tradition the special is about a month too early but it’s charming regardless. Like its predecessors, the Holiday Special uses the ‘mixtape’ approach to insert songs — including a bunch of different Christmas rock songs — making it feel like a breezy break between acts.
Watch a trailer for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Seemingly shot with spare time during the production of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, the relatively small scale side story sees the two most clueless characters Drax and Mantis trying to “save Christmas” for Peter (Chris Pratt), after learning that the holiday had been soured for him in the past by his adoptive father Yondu (Michael Rooker).
They also to try lift his spirits after the loss of teammate Gamora (Zoe Saldana). To them however, this means immediately flying to Earth for an attempted kidnapping of Kevin Bacon.
There’s a lot of fun to be had with the resultant chaotic decisions made out of love; like songs about Santa Claus that completely, amusingly misconstrues who or what he is, singing about violent revolution by the elves.
Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in November
Like Mantis being a weird drunk bug lady, robs somebody with psychic powers as soon as she realises she could do it. And of course there’s Bautista’s performance as Drax, which has long been a highlight of these films, here, who simply gets to put in a straightforward comedic performance as he acts confused and bemused by Hollywood Boulevard.
Part of why that humour works is that it’s earnest rather than self defensive, it allows itself to be sentimental. It’s very sweet and heartfelt — not just simple franchise extension, it’s in service of deepening the character’s relationships.
Also new on Disney+: Disenchanted (2022)
The Northman (2022) - NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership
With his latest film The Northman, The Lighthouse director Robert Eggers applies his renowned sense of historical detail to the era of Vikings, in an adaptation of medieval Scandinavian legend, the tale of Amleth which is itself a direct inspiration on the character of Hamlet.
Read more: Everything new on Sky & NOW in November
Amleth is a young boy and heir to the throne before his father is betrayed and murdered by his uncle, his mother (Nicole Kidman) held captive. He grows (into Alex Skarsgaard) under the influence of vengeance, and a bloody odyssey to save his kin and honour the dead begins. Rather than just brutal, grimy period realism Eggers also imbues the film with a sense of grand myth, directly addressing early Norse religious faith in Odin through his subjective approach.
Watch a trailer for The Northman
If a character believes something happens, it unfolds that way, whether its Bjork as a witch telling ominous prophecy, or a magic sword claimed from the hands of the undead, or the Valkyries themselves. The Northman is as considered as The Witch or The Lighthouse, but also a spectacular historical fantasy with shades of Conan.
Also new on NOW: The Phantom of the Open (2022)
Another Round (2019) - Netflix from 27 November
Known for his part in leading the pack of the late 90s and early 2000s film movement known as Dogme 95 with Festen, director Thomas Vinterberg has been putting out thorny and intimate dramas ever since, including The Hunt, starring Mads Mikkelsen.
Another Round reunites star and director, as Mikkelsen plays a teacher who along with his colleagues hit a midlife crisis and decide to participate in a game: keeping their blood alcohol levels above a certain threshold, and see where the effects take them.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in November
The film is aware of this path to alcoholism but also refuses to condemn its characters outright; it follows them along on their giddy party high before reaching a rather infectiously emphatic conclusion, where Mikkelsen gets to put his history of ballet dancing to glorious work.
Also on Netflix: Ghislaine Maxwell: Filthy Rich (2022, original)