'Fear Street', 'The Tomorrow War', 'Akira': The movies to stream this weekend

The Tomorrow War, Fear Street, Akira (Amazon/Netflix/Manga)
The Tomorrow War, Fear Street, Akira (Amazon/Netflix/Manga)

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It’s a busy week! After adding the Mobile Suit Gundam compilation films and the feature sequel to the series Char’s Counterattack to their service, the new film Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway continues the story begun in Yoshiyuki Tomino’s groundbreaking series.

It’s a big week for anime on the site in general — titles like the worldwide smash hit My Hero Academia and its second movie Heroes Rising, as well as the classic Akira also making their way to the service.

Meanwhile, the service’s RL Stine adaptation trilogy of Fear Street begins, and Amazon drops a new sci-fi original with The Tomorrow War.

Please note that subscriptions may be required to watch.

Fear Street Part 1: 1994 - Netflix

Maya Hawke in Fear Street Part 1: 1994 (Netflix)
Maya Hawke in Fear Street Part 1: 1994 (Netflix)

This adaptation of the Fear Street series from RL Stine (the Stephen King of children’s literature) looks to unspool 300 years of horror in the town of Shadyville across three films, in three consecutive weeks.

This first entry, set in 1994 (despite featuring a needle drop of Prodigy's 'Firestarter', which came out in 96), has a group of teenagers find out that all the spooky events that have occurred in their town of Shadyside, Ohio may be connected to each other, and that they may be the next targets.

It’s an interesting progression in the streaming service’s blurring of the line between television and film, each new chapter covering a different flavour of horror that’ll feel frightening to its intended audience but not too frightening.

The Tomorrow War - Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Studios will exclusively release The Tomorrow War globally on Prime Video July 2nd, 2021 (Amazon)
Amazon Studios will exclusively release The Tomorrow War globally on Prime Video July 2nd, 2021 (Amazon)

Iraq veteran and current high school biology teacher Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) is first seen deeply unsatisfied with his comfortable suburban life. His chance to potentially be exceptional comes along in the form of a military draft to fight in a war 30 years in the future, where humanity is fighting a losing battle against monsters that look like giant lice. Eventually The Tomorrow War reveals itself as a movie about fatherhood: turns out the REAL Tomorrow War is the battle against becoming like your own parents. It’s maybe a little about veteran’s trauma and impending climate disaster too, as it takes time to unpack the emotional horror of what the people drafted in the past have gone through, as well as how humanity began killing itself long before the monsters got here - though it takes too many digressions on its way to these points.

Watch: Chris Pratt talks to Yahoo about The Tomorrow War

Yvonne Strahovski proves more capable than Pratt in communicating any gravitas these parts of the script requires. Still, these fears of repeating the mistakes and traumas of the past maps well onto a story about time travel, and there are genuinely cool concepts at play here, especially because original blockbusters feel like such a rarity these days, but so much of it is executed with a disappointing lack of visual imagination. It’s disappointing from McKay, whose previous works have a colourful kineticism that feels barely present here. At least his sense of humour comes through - in some sporadically amusing dialogue and a surprising and delightful arc for a kid obsessed with volcanoes. It feels buried among too much other superfluous stuff though, its early action sequences neither adding threat nor excitement. The flaws of Tomorrow War are glaring and continually, frustrating but its later acts are frequently enjoyably silly but, ironically enough, it takes far too long to get there.

Mandabi - Amazon Prime Video

Directed, written and produced by the legendary, ‘father of African cinema’ Ousmane Sembène, the film was originally made in 1968 where it won the Special Jury Prize at Venice Film Festival. (Studiocanal)
Directed, written and produced by the legendary, ‘father of African cinema’ Ousmane Sembène, the film was originally made in 1968 where it won the Special Jury Prize at Venice Film Festival. (Studiocanal)

What’s arguably the finest work from Father of African cinema Ousumane Sembène, is receiving a rerelease in 4K, now available for digital rental after a brief run in cinemas. The Senegalese director was a master of observation and Mandabi, following on from his (other) masterpiece Black Girl, is biting, tragicomic proof.

The first feature film released in the Wolof language, it’s a gorgeously realised but biting inditement of our blind faith in capitalist systems, Mandabi is absolutely withering in its point of view, pointing out just how incompatible it is with human ambition, a drive it was built to exploit.

Also new on Prime: La La Land (3 July), War Dogs, Escape Room

Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway - Netflix

The new story in the “Universal Century” timeline of Mobile Suit Gundam (the main chronology in which the original show is set) Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway — adapted from the first novel in a trilogy by franchise creator Yoshiyuki Tomino — is set 26 years after the events of that very first show. It’s now the year UC 105, and Hathaway Noa, the son of a war hero and supporting character from the film Char’s Counterattack, is himself leading an insurgency against Earth and the ruling Earth Federation.

A chance meeting between an enemy commander and a potential love triangle complicates things, and Hathaway begins to doubt his vision for the future of mankind and his methods in attaining it. The significance of the previous Gundam films and series on the character’s emotional arcs gives Hathaway a strange placement amongst Netflix’s library, since a number of its significant prequels such as Zeta Gundam (which also features Hathaway as a side character) aren’t on the service. That lack of curation prioritises the fame of the title without considering how to make new entries accessible to new fans.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway (Netflix)
Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway (Netflix)

As for the film itself: director Shuko Murase and his incredibly talented team have built a fascinating piece of science fiction upon a complex and well-considered fictional history between the ruling Earth Federation and the colonies they built in space 100 years prior, the shades of black and white that previously characterised each faction having long since blurred into grey.

It’s also gorgeous, each scene composed with captivating detail and even elegance in its character designs and animation. While this is a franchise about gigantic mechs the film makes plenty of room for introspective human drama amongst its speculative science fiction. The action itself is awesome, its final showdown realised from compelling angles and backed by Hiroyuki Sawano’s propulsive score — but it’s also terrifying, between bloody and intimately staged gunfights to the titanic scale of its mecha combat, at once point entirely witnessed from the ground up by fleeing civilians caught in the almighty crossfire, as the animators emphasise how every single motion of these machines results in calamitous destruction.

Still insisting upon the inherent evil of its eponymous mechs, Gundam is forever a series just as interested in exploring its characters as victims of war as well as heroes of it; Hathaway is no different and all the better for it as it leans into the monstrosity of its machines, its protagonist at one point playing bystander to the mech fights as much as he is a participant, realising firsthand the human cost of what he has set in motion. Wherever the series goes from here, it seems extremely promising.

Akira - Netflix

What more can be said? Quite simply one of the greatest animated films, one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made (and I have written about it before, for its recent 4K restoration). Katsuhiro Otomo’s adaptation of his own (equally excellent) cyberpunk manga series amplified the sociopolitical anxieties of 80s Japan onto a cataclysmic scale.

But amongst its hand-drawn visual splendour and overwhelming chaos, its aggressive and futuristic score from Geinoh Yamashiroguchi, it’s the fraught emotional bond between teenagers Kaneda and Tetsuo that truly drives this masterpiece.

Also new on Netflix: My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, Hobbs & Shaw, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial