As more and more states adopt shelter-in-place mandates in order to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus pandemic, there’s more and more demand for something to watch in the comfort of the home. That’s prompted streaming sites to offer loads of content, from HBO releasing free movies and shows and Apple TV Plus opening the gates on its own exclusives.
But the strange absence of movie theaters in our pop culture lives has also pushed Hollywood studios, normally concentrated on new theatrical releases, to meet the demand. Perhaps the biggest news of all is the straight-to-VOD release of Trolls World Tour. The first Trolls movie grossed over $364 million worldwide in 2016. The sequel was expected to hit theaters in March, but COVID-19 concerns forced Universal to change the release plans. Now viewers can cue it up right on their TV.
So if you’re sitting at home this weekend wondering what to watch, here are a few of the new titles now available, and what you need to know about them.
Trolls World Tour
The sequel to the glittery, pop-music-infused animated blockbuster is here, after being detoured from theaters to digital VOD platforms. In our review, Karen Han says the movie is the movie is a winner if you’re looking for another explosion of color, comedy, and earworms.
[2016’s Trolls] took the plasticky Troll dolls, familiar to audiences since the 1960s, turned them into invitingly soft creatures, and built a world around them out of scrapbook-like materials. Its ultimate message about finding happiness within oneself is facile, but directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn tell their story with such verve and weird humor that the corny moral doesn’t much matter. Its sequel, Trolls World Tour, has a slightly deeper message. It also ups the sheer amount of stuff happening on screen at any given time, aiming to pull off a similar trick, even though the story it’s dealing with is more complex.
The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson’s whodunnit has been available to purchase on digital for the last three weeks, but it’s finally rentable for people who are just looking for another round of Benoit Blanc sleuthing. If you haven’t heard why Knives Out is a must watch, our review will prime you:
In a mystery, discovering who committed the crime is exciting, but the truly juicy part is being able to lay out exactly why it all happened, like Hercule Poirot or Columbo. That sums up Knives Out, which is more of a whydunit than a whodunit. Watching the film feels like opening up a present to discover several more presents inside. The biggest box — the question of who killed the victim — isn’t the point. Knives Out is a murder mystery less interested in the death than in the survivors, and opening up those smaller boxes is a delight.
If you’ve seen Knives Out and want to get truly geeky about Johnson and his cinematographer Steve Yedlin’s approach to filmmaking, you’ll find no better story than our feature on how the DP wants to eliminate the film-vs.-digital debate.
We marveled at Greta Gerwig’s Little Women last December and can’t wait to revisit it again now that it’s on digital. There was so much to say, in fact, that we got every hardcore Little Women fan at Polygon in a room to talk about the ins and outs of the contemporary adaptation. And then we analyzed why the endings of Parasite and Little Women are similar. And then we paired every Birds of Prey heroine to their respective Little Women counterpart. Did we mention really falling for this movie? Go watch it.
Where to watch it: Buy on digital $19.99 on Amazon and Apple
The latest release from Dust, Gunpowder & Sky’s genre label, Sea Fever should scratch that creature feature itch for anyone who living a little too comfortably while cooped up inside. Our horror expert Jenna Stoeber weighed in, saying it’s not per:
Director Neasa Hardiman has clearly drawn inspiration from some of the tenser, more paranoid sequences of John Carpenter’s isolation classic The Thing, but Sea Fever doesn’t have the fiery personalities or the spectacle of discovery to match its predecessor ... [While the] drama doesn’t always have much backbone, but the stakes increase quickly as the terror escalates, and there’s rarely a dull moment. Viewers who are justifiably stressed about contagion and infection might not consider Sea Fever the right kind of light evening viewing. But for people who can handle the strong quarantine vibes, Sea Fever is a solid, engaging creature mystery.
Like a Boss
I failed to catch Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne team up for this comedic romp, but their reputations precede them. They individually slayed in comedies like Girls Trip, Bridesmaids, Night School, and the Neighbors movies, and in Like a Boss, they butt heads with Salma Hayek as a CEO From Hell.
The Elephant Queen
Where to watch it: Stream on Apple for free
The only clear winner of the streaming wars is the audience. Seemingly provoked by HBO’s decision to unlock a chunk of content on the HBO Go/Now streaming app, Apple announced on Friday that a selection of Apple TV Plus exclusives would also be free to view. The one big movie offering is this wildlife documentary narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, which “does the ‘Circle of Life’ better than the 2019 Lion King,” as we wrote in our review from launch. The film “does what Disney couldn’t: imbue emotional depth to its animal subjects and crafting a sweeping narrative across the African plains.”
New on Netflix this weekend
- The Main Event, a new kid-friendly film from WWE Studios
- The so-much-better-than-it-should-be threequel Angel Has Fallen
- Tigertail, the feature debut from Master of None co-creator Alan Yang
- The second season of Hi Score Girl
- The Groundhog Day-like rom-com Love Wedding Repeat, which sounds rough.
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
Sonic the Hedgehog
If the original design of live-action Sonic scared you off from the video game adaptation, now is your chance to discover why Sonic the Hedgehog might be some young viewer’s Shrek in 15 years. The movie is chock full of pop culture references and flatulence, but for the adults, there’s also game nostalgia and Jim Carrey. From our official review:
Carrey, delivering the most gonzo performance since Tom Hardy’s Venom, becomes literal comic relief for adults who wind up at Sonic the Hedgehog. His Robotnik amalgamates Ace Ventura, the Riddler, the Mask, and the Grinch into one lump of evil Silly Putty, stretching and spasming as he spits out one-liners. In his early introduction, the mustache-twirling villain chews out an army officer by asking if he has weekend plans to “drink beers and put the boat in the water,” an evocative but murky character assassination. Carrey shows up for the kids in the room, performing a three-minute dance routine inside his laser-light-filled Mad Scientist Van, but for the most part, he’s running parallel to Sonic, delighting in the cartoon logic the movie affords him.
Oh, and you’ll really want to catch the movie before the inevitable Sonic 2. Yes, of course there’s a post-credit scene!
Where to watch it: Stream it on Disney Plus
In our review of the animated fantasy epic, Tasha Robinson noted that any Pixar film arrives with “outsized expectations,” and that while Onward is “colorful and charming,” it’s also “safe, simple, and soft-edged compared to Pixar’s wilder swings for the outfield.”
There’s nothing wrong with this model of film for Pixar. It’s exciting to see the studio finally creating a new world, and the brotherly team-up at the film’s heart feels like a new model for a collection of storytellers that have focused on unlikely found families as often as they’ve focused on flesh-and-blood families. Onward takes a few representation steps forward as well, with a female character (voiced by Lena Waithe) who casually mentions her girlfriend; a prominent role for Octavia Spencer; and a pair of middle-aged-lady characters who get some nice bonding moments together and some action scenes of their own — both a rarity in animated features.
Once you check out the movie, read our interview with story supervisor Kelsey Mann to hear the wild ideas that didn’t make it to the screen.
Bad Boys for Life
In the third Bad Boys movie, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are past their prime. Thankfully, that’s the point. To put it another way, from our original review:
A third of the way into Bad Boys for Life, the trilogy-capper of Michael Bay’s hyperkinetic, hyper-saturated action franchise, Martin Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett takes a nap.
Mike Lowery (Will Smith) is hot on the trail of a motorcycle-driving assailant who gunned him down mid-wheelie, and he could probably use Marcus’ help. But with a new grandson, a loving marriage, and the weight of old(er) age keeping him down, Marcus feels less Bad Boy than La-Z-Boy. What would once have been a montage of roadsters and machine-gun fire is now a cross-cutting gag of Mike’s across-the-line info-gathering tactics and Marcus in full recline. It’s a riot.
Though envisioned as the end of a trilogy, Bad Boys for Life made a whopping $425 million worldwide in January, so ... watch it before a sequel arrives. Bad Boys 4Ever?
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Eliza Hittman’s new drama, about a young woman who travels from a rural Pennsylvania town to New York to receive a legal abortion, earned rave reviews out of Sundance 2020 in January. The film bowed in mid-March ... just as every movie theater in America started to close. Now Focus Features has released the film on VOD, so people can learn what all the buzz is about. In her review, Karen Han gets to heart of why a movie that could easily be a didactic issue movie becomes so heartfelt.
Hittman gets all this across simply by portraying the unfolding events honestly. Everything that happens is relatively mundane, and the sense of dread hanging over the proceedings only reflects that the world we live in can be frightening, particularly for those with little recourse. Nothing in the movie feels exaggerated or unbelievable, making Autumn’s struggle all the more devastating. The things occurring to her occur to real women every day, and cinematographer Hélène Louvart makes the unfolding events feel truer by going handheld, shakily following the young women around the city.
Once you check out this incredible drama, read our interview with Hittman, where she explains how she strived to carve out a truer reality than most of what we see on screen.