While each week delivers a new mini Star Wars movie in the form of The Mandalorian, most of this week’s big releases are actually in theaters. Blumhouse’s body-swap horror comedy Freaky promises a wildly entertaining, oddly heartfelt time, and Cartoon Saloon’s long-awaited animated adventure Wolfwalkers is spectacle at its best. But it’s worth noting: Both hit multiplexes at a time when COVID cases are on the rise and movie theater safety is mostly an unknown.
While we wait for those movies to eventually hit streaming, here are the new movies you can watch on VOD this weekend.
Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo lead the cast of Prince of Egypt and Brave director Brenda Chapman’s first live-action film, which reimagines and intertwines the stories of Peter Pan and a Wonderland-bound Alice. The result, as we get into in our review, becomes something of a spot-the-reference game.
Chapman opens and closes Come Away with sequences where adult Alice (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) reads Yeats’ “The Stolen Child” to her own children, and between those bookends, even more literary allusions abound. Come Away fills Peter and Alice’s world with clear origin points for everything from the crocodile that eats Captain Hook’s hand to the Red Queen’s “Off with their heads!” catchphrase. There are so many blatant viewer-nudges that they start to feel more like farce than reference. By the time Peter and Alice encounter a goofy haberdasher (played by The Wire’s Clarke Peters), spouting the Mad Hatter’s riddles and familiar lines, it’s hard not to step outside the movie and wonder what’s actually real in this story, and whether the film’s outsized attempts at whimsy and wonder can survive the fuzzy execution.
Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds
Where to watch it: Stream on Apple TV Plus
The new film from renowned documentarian Werner Herzog (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Grizzly Man) and Cambridge volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer is a transfixing look at the cosmic history of meteorites and their impact on Earthly culture. Interviews with scientists, artists, and historians are woven together with Herzog’s gliding camera and poetic voice over to build something truly epic. As the filmmaker told Polygon in an exclusive interview, the point of Fireball is to behold the larger-than-life wonders of space. “It’s the excitement of science and the sense of awe. That’s exactly what science and filmmaking have in common. If I didn’t have a sense of awe, I wouldn’t have any of my films.”
OK, Echo Boomers. Michael Shannon leads a pack of young guns, including Patrick Schwarzenegger and Alex Pettyfer, in a conventional art heist movie where people around in masks and brandish guns. As THR puts it:
Seth Savoy’s debut feature attempts to update the venerable genre by adding sociological themes to the mix, making a social statement about how today’s millennials are forced to pursue a life of crime because of unjust economic opportunities. The result is that the slackly paced Echo Boomers has all the excitement of a feature-length essay in The Nation.
Watchmen’s Malin Akerman produced and stars in this R-rated comedy about a financially struggling woman who vents her frustrations in the fight club arena. She shows enough promise that she recruits an ex-boxer (Alec Baldwin) to whip her into shape. Comedy, drama, and punches ensue.
One of Paramount’s many movies intended to hit theaters this year, only to bounce to VOD in hopes of finding a quarantined audience, Jungleland stars two heavy-hitters, Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell, as brothers making it in the world of bare-knuckle boxing. The journey is what you might expect — bad decisions, crime bosses, the fight of their lives — but by all accounts, both actors deliver knockout performances.
New on Netflix this weekend
- Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, a magical new fantasy film meant to rev up the spirit
- The Life Ahead, Sophia Loren’s first movie in eons
- The rotoscope-animated war series The Liberator
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
Tamara Lawrance stars in this psychological horror-thriller about a woman whose boyfriend dies in an accident, leaving her pregnant and in the care of his oppressive, controlling family, Killing Eve’s Fiona Shaw and Dunkirk’s Jack Lowden. She’s positive they have an agenda they aren’t sharing with her, but as she starts to have eerie visions, the usual question arises: will she figure out what’s going on before it’s too late?
The Informer’s plot is pretty complicated, as both the Polish mob and the FBI force embedded informant Pete Koslow (Joel Kinnaman) to return to prison — the mobsters because they want him to start a drug empire for them behind bars, the FBI so they’ll have a man on the inside. There are enough players with competing interests in this story — with roles played by Common, Clive Owen, Ana de Armas, and Rosamund Pike — that it winds up like a micro, jail-based Game of Thrones, with Pete in the middle, trying to figure out how to navigate his own survival.
The French movie Proxima explores some of the same ideas as Netflix’s recently canceled Hilary Swank astronaut series Away: both focus on women astronauts balancing family concerns with their ambitions and devotion to science, while also dealing with sexism and jockeying from other competitive crew. Eva Green plays an astronaut headed to the International Space Station, which involves leaving her 7-year-old daughter on Earth. From our review:
In Penny Dreadful, Green demonstrated an ability to alternate between seeming preternaturally confident and absolutely tortured, and that contrast is on full display in Proxima. She can stand tall and wryly smirk through a belittling conversation, but when exhaustion hits, she looks on the brink of breaking. Yet when she walks out of the water in her spacesuit like Aphrodite emerging from the surf, triumphant after completing a tough exercise, it’s clear that she’s driven to succeed not just by her own dreams, but for her potential to inspire her daughter, and countless other young women to come.
The Dark and the Wicked
As a man dies on a farm, something dark and dangerous begins to spread to his family — first to his wife, whose heavy grief is taking her over, then to his adult children, who’ve returned home to say goodbye. Bryan Bertino, director of The Strangers and The Monster, continues his series of films about evils that may be metaphorical, taking over the lives of people who’ve given their personal flaws too much free reign. It’s an oppressive horror film that may be out to punish the audience as much as the characters.
From the director of Trollhunter and Scary Stores to Tell In the Dark, this action-fantasy stars The Fault in Our Stars’ Nat Wolff as a young man who accidentally kills a teenager, and winds up on the run. A psychologist has to determine what version of reality is true — has he actually developed the power of a god out of Norwegian myth? If so, why, and what does it mean?
After a theatrical run back in October, the year’s goriest and possibly most-discussed horror movie is finally on VOD. (Just in time to miss Halloween? What’s that about?) The plot’s complicated, but it involves mind control, high-tech cyberpunk assassination, and a lot of blood. From our review:
With Possessor, Brandon Cronenberg (Antiviral) grabs the body-horror baton from his father, Videodrome director David Cronenberg, and rams it into the audience’s collective eye. The movie is relentless and artful exploitation, less concerned with blunt messaging than blunt-force trauma. There’s loads of literal gore — every stabbing in Possessor goes about 28 stabs longer than your typical slasher would stab — and the abstract battle staged in Colin’s mind. Sequences in which Colin grapples Tasya on the metaphysical plane blend the retro surrealism of movies like Mandy with monstrous prosthetics and liquifying visual effects.