Though the COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health concern, people still want to see movies. The desire to go out and see something has led to an uptick in attendance for drive-in movie theaters, and led restaurants to convert their parking lots into drive-in theaters. If you’re going to go out and watch a movie, the drive-in model has social distancing built in, making it a safer model than going to a traditional movie theater. (Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced that businesses, including movie theaters, would be reopening in the state, a decision that has been slammed as unsafe.)
However, traditional movie theaters are still closed, which means that your best bet for entertainment this weekend is checking out what’s available to watch from the comfort of your own home. This weekend’s selection is heavy on independent films, whereas last week was full of blockbusters, with the digital releases of Fantasy Island, Underwater, and The Rhythm Section. The newly available movies, however, boast a great Hugh Jackman performance, as well as two Shea Whigham appearances, and are well worth catching.
Here are the new movies you can watch this weekend (including what’s new on Netflix), as well as where to find them.
Where to watch it: Bad Education premieres on HBO at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, and will be available on HBO Now, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime Video afterward
The screenplay of Bad Education is based on events that occurred at Roslyn High School during the time that writer Mike Makowsky was a student there, namely superintendent Frank Tassone’s less-than-savory methods of making his school district one of the best in the country. Hugh Jackman stars as Tassone, with Allison Janney, Ray Romano, and Geraldine Viswanathan filling out the rest of the cast. In our review, Tasha Robinson praises Jackman for bolstering the squirm-worthy drama:
The film leans heavily on Jackman’s placid charm to carry not just the story, but the tone. Frank is scripted as a glad-handing administrator who prides himself on knowing everything about his people — not just the names of the school’s parents and students, but who they’re related to, what hobbies interest them, and so forth. But he rarely comes off as an oily salesman. Jackman normally specializes in much bigger and broader performances, whether he’s playing seething anti-hero Wolverine in various X-Men movies, or belting out Broadway-style tunes onstage or in musicals like The Greatest Showman and Les Misérables. Here, he’s much more human-sized, a slick but seemingly sincere functionary who’s found his exact level, and has the success record to prove it. He’s a beloved, award-winning administrator who authentically seems to care about the people around him, and Jackman sells both the sincerity, and the sense of something lurking under it.
Last year’s hit Hustlers costs less than a buck to rent this weekend, which makes it an absolute steal. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star in this pulled-from-the-headlines story, which we call in our review “the female-led heist movie we’ve been waiting for.”
It’s difficult to imagine that any movie in theaters this year will be more sheer, rollicking fun — or more fabulous, or more full of feeling — than Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers. Based on Jessica Pressler’s “The Hustlers at Scores,” the film upends expectations on multiple levels, providing the strippers at its center with the agency of which they’re usually robbed on screen, as well as punching above the emotional weight you might expect for a film about a hustle gone wrong.
To the Stars
Moonrise Kingdom’s Kara Hayward returns in To the Stars, a film about a small town in 1960’s Oklahoma. Hayward plays Iris, an introverted teenager who is bullied at school and finds little peace at home. When a new family moves into town, Iris makes friends with their daughter Maggie (Liana Liberato), but the events that brought the family out to Oklahoma start to cause ripples through the tight-knit community. Shea Whigham plays Iris’ father, and Tony Hale and Malin Akerman play Maggie’s parents. In our review from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, we said director Martha Stephens’ “dustbowl compositions steer To the Stars clear of cliché or period-piece artifice. You’ll never be as mad at modern politicians who want to take us back to the ‘good ol’ days’ as you will watching this adept coming-of-age tale.”
The True History of the Kelly Gang
Assassin’s Creed director Justin Kurzel takes on history in a less outlandish vein with The True History of the Kelly Gang. The Kelly Gang were a group of outlaws who gained notoriety in 1870s Australia, and the movie follows their flight from the authorities. 1917’s George MacKay stars as Kelly himself, with Russell Crowe as a figure from Kelly’s past.
The Quarry makes for a Shea Whigham double-whammy this weekend. The film stars Whigham as a mysterious drifter who tries to start a new life as the cleric to a small-town congregation. The local police chief (Michael Shannon), however, has his suspicions, and a gruesome crime threatens to unravel things even further.
New on Netflix this weekend
- Circus of Books, a documentary about a mom-and-pop bookstore that ended up becoming the biggest distributor of gay porn in the United States
- Extraction, an action thriller starring Chris Hemsworth as the mercenary Tyler Rake
- The Midnight Gospel, the new series from the creator of Adventure Time
- Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz’s improv comedy specials Middleditch & Schwartz
- Netflix’s latest animated outing, The Willoughbys
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
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.
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.