This weekend, staying home is still your best bet. With most states implementing shelter-at-home orders to try to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic — and with movie theaters closing for the same reason — the best resource for entertainment has shifted from going out to home entertainment.
Movies like Trolls World Tour have forgone their theatrical releases and gone straight to VOD, with other blockbusters like Birds of Prey and The Way Back becoming available early (and as of this week, finally available to rent for $5.99). This week, a new crop of big movies becomes available to watch at home, ranging from deep sea horror to revenge thriller.
Here’s what’s new to watch this weekend, and how to watch them.
The Blumhouse reboot of the TV show Fantasy Island takes on the show’s premise: a group of people arrive on a tropical island, with each person receiving the promise that they will have a single fantasy fulfilled. Of course, the fantasies don’t quite play out as planned. While the movie isn’t all that scary, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as we get into in our review:
That’s ultimately the true novelty of Blumhouse’s PG-13 gimmick movies: Even when they don’t work very well, they tend to push horror in an accessible, oddly friendly direction. Horror fans are supposed to roll their eyes at this kind of softness in the genre, and demand something harder, bloodier, or crazier ... Still, is there anything really wrong with hanging semi-competent entertainment on a great hook, then selling it to bored teenagers?
The Rhythm Section
If you’ve ever wanted to see a former Gossip Girl cast member try her hand at a fight-heavy revenge thriller, then The Rhythm Section is the movie for you. Don’t be fooled by the film’s title — it has almost nothing to do with the film besides serving as the mantra Stefanie (Blake Lively) uses in order to keep herself calm. (“Think of your heart as the drums, your breathing as the bass.”) Bear in mind, though, as we mention in our review, the action is really the main reason to check this movie out.
The self-seriousness with which Morano tackles The Rhythm Section serves the action sequences well; Stefanie’s fights are genuinely harrowing and anxiety-inducing to watch as rattling close-ups create a sense of claustrophobia. However, that tone clashes with the silliness of Stefanie’s supposed mantra, which almost seems parodic of such lines in other action movies, and makes the black holes where characters should be all the more evident.
Kristen Stewart stars in this horror movie from William Eubank (The Signal), which crosses Alien with Armageddon and the survival game Soma as it follows a group of researchers in a deep sea drilling station as they try to escape disaster. The rest of the cast is filled out with other familiar faces — Vincent Cassel, Mamoudou Athie, John Gallagher Jr. — and, as we dove into in our review, the movie’s appeal is in cheering them on against terrifying odds.
[The] real attraction of Underwater is in rooting for these characters to survive while watching them get torn apart. Their deaths carry little weight, trading pathos for the fun of watching helmets implode and suits fill with blood. At points, the film’s flimsiness is laughable: A diagram estimating the range of an explosion shows that it’ll go just far enough to destroy monsters, but not the people escaping them. But Eubank always moves on quickly, bringing on the next set of undersea scares.
Where to watch it: Stream it on PBS
Documentary fans rejoice! Ken Burns’ film on the life of Jackie Robinson, the legendary baseball player, is available to watch for free. Made up of two parts, the documentary miniseries features Keith David as its narrator, with Jamie Foxx providing the voice of Robinson. Many other notable names provide other commentary, including Harry Belafonte and Barack and Michelle Obama.
For a new spin on an old story, check out Benh Zeitlin’s Wendy, which tackles J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan with a little more magical realism and makes Wendy its main character. As we note in our review, it’s Captain Hook who ends up really standing out, but there’s still plenty more to the movie. Once you’ve seen it, check out our interview with the director, which gets into the wild and practical way this island adventure was shot with a cast of non-professional kid actors.
New on Netflix this weekend
- Sergio, a biopic of United Nations diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello starring Wagner Moura (Narcos) and Ana de Armas (Knives Out)
- The new comedy special Chris D’Elia: No Pain
- A documentary series on the nonprofit organization the Innocence Project, logically titled The Innocence Files
- The origin of the minions, Despicable Me
- Too Hot to Handle, a new reality series that challenges contestants to keep their hands off of each other
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
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.
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.”