This weekend sees the highly anticipated release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the sequel to 2018’s cult favorite anti-hero superhero movie starring Tom Hardy, and Titane, Julia Ducournau’s long-awaited follow-up to her 2016 debut Raw that won the coveted Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It’s also officially Fall, the spookiest (i.e. best) season of the year.
But if you’re not feeling up to venturing out to the theaters this weekend, there are plenty of new streaming releases, too. To help you get a handle on what’s new and available, here our guide to the movies you can watch on video on demand and streaming this weekend.
Ryan Reynolds stars in Shawn Levy’s sci-fi action comedy Free Guy as Guy, an NPC working as a bank teller in a massive open-world video game filled with chaos and mayhem. Seemingly unaware of both of the nature of the world and his own, Guy is perfectly content with his life until he crosses paths with a mysterious player named Millie (Jodie Comer) on a personal mission inside the game. Donning a pair of special glasses that allows him to see the game for what it is, Guy attempts to help Millie and discover more about himself in the process. From our review,
The first half of Free Guy is solid, with several great gags and subtle background nods to popular game franchises like Halo or Megaman, which won’t necessarily stand out, except to the most eagle-eyed viewers. But in the the film’s latter half, and especially its final act, Free Guy starts dabbling with a whole mess of ideas, including, but not limited to, performative online personas, collective action as a catalyst for systemic change, gun violence in America, a rebuke of toxic online behavior, and regrettably, a deus ex machina resolution powered entirely by highly recognizable licensed IP.
The Many Saints of Newark
Where to watch: In theaters and available to stream on HBO Max
Set many years before events of The Sopranos, Alan Taylor’s The Many Saints of Newark follows a young Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) who is taken under the wing of his uncle Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) and shown the up-and-coming gangster the family trade. As the DiMeo crime family’s hold over the divided city of Newark begins to wane, the Sopranos and other competing crime families make their move to secure power, wealth, and respect in a bid to become the new reigning family. From our review:
[David] Chase provides plenty of Sopranos fan service. The younger versions of most of the show’s major characters appear, played by actors essentially imitating the originals. (Most successful: Corey Stoll as Junior Soprano, capturing the essence of Dominic Chianese’s Junior performance, playing a man who manipulates people from the sidelines by constantly complaining.) The movie is also littered with Sopranos Easter eggs, most notably in the choice of New Jersey locations, many of which are incredibly important on the TV series.
Really, The Many Saints of Newark is more like two Sopranos flashback episodes yoked together than it is a proper motion picture. But what ultimately matters most is that they’re good flashback episodes.
The Forever Purge
Set eight years after the events of 2016’s The Purge: Election Year, The Forever Purge opens with the New Founding Fathers of America having reassumed control of the US government and re-instituting the annual Purge. Following the Purge’s resolution, a band of lawless marauders decide to prolong the Purge indefinitely, wrecking a wave of havoc as survivors attempt to protect themselves. From our review,
While the Purge franchise’s lack of subtlety is a big part of its charm, The Forever Purge is probably the biggest test of these movies’ unsubtle methods. There’s the delicious irony of a scenario where Americans desperately want to get into Mexico, but it’s burdened with a condescending execution. While Adela and Juan are ostensibly the protagonists, the Tucker family get all the actual character arcs. An overwhelming chunk of The Forever Purge’s brisk 103 minutes is devoted to the film’s Mexican immigrants saving the Tuckers’ lives, helping them survive, and furthering their moral development. It is, frankly, an insulting running thread that sours an otherwise deft horror-thriller.
The Card Counter
Paul Schrader follows his 2018 spiritual drama First Reformed with a moody vehicle for Oscar Isaac. The actor plays William Tell, an ex-military interrogator-turned-gambler who makes it his personal mission to reform a troubled young man (Tye Sheridan) out for revenge against Major John Gordo (Willem Dafoe). With the backing of La Linda (Tiffany Haddish), Tell and his protege set out on the road with their sights set on winning the World Series of poker in Las Vegas. Having screened out of festivals, early word is that Schrader has once again delivered a gnarly human drama. Vulture critic Alison Wilmore wrote in her review:
William recognizes the puerility of Cirk’s dead-end mission, and without acknowledging the degree it’s also his, dedicates himself to helping the young man move on. The Card Counter takes place in a punishing world of windowless casinos, hotel ballrooms, and highways devoid of scenery — a vision of the America used to justify the actions that now so traumatize William, that is intentionally bereft of poetry until La Linda takes William to a park illuminated by Christmas lights. If it’s not a country worth losing your soul for, it’s also not one that will pay any mind to a life spent wallowing in angst over it, either.
Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty as Joe Baylor, a LAPD officer-turned-emergency call operator trying desperately to a save the life of a caller as the city is wracked by a deadly forest fire. Not everything is as it seems however, as Joe must turn to unconventional means in order to come to his caller’s aid and uncover the truth behind their encounter. Gyllenhaal’s role is far cry from the unhinged derangement of his performance in 2014’s Nightcrawler, but the tone of trailer feels remarkable similar in its implicit insidiousness. Written by True Detective writer-creator Nic Pizzolatto, The Guilty looks as engrossing and exciting as anything Fuqua and Gyllenhaal have done in the past. From our review:
Though Fuqua’s films haven’t shied away from the misdeeds of law enforcement — recall the showy, malevolent character that won Washington his Training Day Oscar — they’re usually juxtaposed with innocent, honest police. The Guilty only really has one “real” cop on screen at all; the rest are voices on the other end of the phone, or officers who aren’t irritated about their full-time work at the call center. The phone-only cast is impressive: Peter Sarsgaard, Riley Keough, Ethan Hawke, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Paul Dano all call in, as if this were a supersized episode of Frasier.
Hugh Jackman (Logan) stars in Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy’s feature directorial debut Reminiscence as Nick Bannister, a private investigator who alongside his assistant Watts (Thandiwe Newton) specializes in navigating the minds of his clients in search of answers. Think Inception, but less emphasis on corporate espionage and impossible architecture. After crossing paths with a mysterious client (Rebecca Ferguson), Nick’s quest to solve her disappearance morphs into an obsessive odyssey that blurs the lines between past, present, reality, and fiction. From our review,
As a noir mystery, Reminiscence is certainly solid, with a series of complications and surprising reveals, and a genre-friendly helping of double-crossings and double-dealings, of slimy mobsters and rich monsters. It mostly fails through its character dynamics, especially for anyone who isn’t swooning over Nick’s monomania. Nick’s soppy voiceover not only steers the audience toward maudlin self-pity, it overexplains things better left subtle and up to interpretation, and it prevents viewers from just quietly soaking in the movie’s elaborate dystopian spectacle. It’s an irritating, intrusive drag, constantly trying to steer the audience and tell them what to think or how to feel. Joy’s symbolism can be equally heavy-handed: a bit of business with a recurring lost queen from a deck of cards is a ridiculously gratuitous bit of stagecraft in a story about a missing woman.
The Addams Family 2
The sequel to 2019’s The Addams Family finds Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) desperate to rekindle their waning bond with their children Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). Packing into their haunted camper, the family hit the road to travel across the country for one last family vacation. As someone who never saw the original, the trailer for the The Addams Family 2 didn’t do much to move the needle for me, but if you’re a longtime fan of Charles Addams comics, the 1964 sitcom, either of the live-action movies from the early ’90s, or are just looking for something funny and spooky to watch this weekend, The Addams Family 2 sounds like a good enough choice.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars in the neo-noir thriller American Night as John Kaplan, an art forger-turned-dealer looking to turn his ill-gotten gains into a lucrative career and open his own gallery. When a highly coveted Andy Warhol paining comes into his possession, John sees the opportunity he needs to enter into the big league. However, the painting in question is sought after by Michael Rubino (Emile Hirsch), the ruthless new head of the New York Mafia, who will stop at nothing — not even murder — to reclaim what he believes is rightfully his. Working alongside Sarah (Paz Vega), an ambitious museum conservator and Vincent, a wannabe ninja stuntman, John will have to stay one step ahead of Michael and the threat of death if he ever hopes to make it in the cutthroat world of art dealing. The trailer looks interesting, with eccentric characters, bold colors, and a genuinely offbeat premise.
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
Who doesn’t love a villainous origin story? Emma Stone stars in Craig Gillespie’s Cruella as the infamous Dalmatian murdering fashionista, years before her fateful clash with Roger Radcliffe and his adorable pets. Set in 1970s London, the film follows aspiring fashion designer Estella’s descent into villainy as she gradually becomes Joker-fied in a Devil Wears Prada-esque feud with her nefarious employer-turned-rival Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson). From our review,
The movie’s entire first half hour is completely unnecessary. There are a lot of scenes of Estella as a child (with her funky black-and-white hair), but none of them ever really pay off. Most of what she sets up through action and voiceover could be handled with a few lines of dialogue, or a single flashback. But Gillespie gives us enough of child-Cruella to flesh out a completely separate movie. Tonally, that first act feels like one, too — a sort of anti-Matilda where a precocious young girl pushes back at her bullies by being an even bigger bully, only to get kicked out of a posh private school. Then through a series of unfortunate events, she ends up living as a squatter in an abandoned building, surviving by committing petty crimes. That whole pre-origin-story origin story just drags the movie down, even if on its own it could make for a fun Disney Channel Original Movie.
Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix
Academy Award nominee Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) star in Theodore Melfi’s comedy-drama The Starling as Lilly and Jack Maynard, a couple eagerly anticipating the birth of their first child. When the pair suffer a difficult tragedy, Jack checks himself into a mental hospital to sort through his trauma, while Lilly attempts to deal with her own depression and guilt over the pregnancy. To make matters worse, Lilly is harassed by a lone starling who begins building a nest in her backyard. Turning to Larry (Kevin Kline), a psychologist-turned-veterinarian with a troubled past for help, Lilly eventually fosters a relationship caring for the starling, one which eventually affords her the strength to attempt repairing her relationship with Jack and build a future in the wake of tragedy. The trailer looks wholesome and upbeat, with McCarthy emphasizing more of her range as a dramatic actor all while nodding to her past comedic roles which have made her a household name.
F9: The Fast Saga
F is for family that does stuff together! In F9: The Fast Saga, the (supposedly) penultimate chapter in the long-running Fast and Furious franchise, that “stuff” involves Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his ride-or-die crew of civilian stunt drivers turned clandestine super-spies being pitted in a race (pun intended) against time to stop a devastating super-weapon from falling into the wrong hands. Things get even more complicated when Dom’s estranged brother Jakob (John Cena) shows up to throw a wrench in the works, pitting the two Toretto siblings in a deadly battle of wills as they hash out their baggage. Oh yeah, Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) go to space in this one. From our review,
F9 counteracts any character development by devoting a grating amount of time to meta-commentary on its own ridiculousness. On this lap of the franchise, Roman confronts the existential nature of the family’s inability to be harmed. How do they never get shot? How do they survive every car crash? Have they been chosen? If these were the incoherent mutterings of a man in constant action, it might be the perfect seriousness-deflating banter to cap any given action set-piece. But there are entire dialogue-driven scenes unpacking the possible supernatural forces at work in the Fast franchise. If the asides are setup for the series’ eventual crossover with Diesel’s Last Witch Hunter universe (c’mon, it’s good!), then the film isn’t taking the magical element seriously enough. If it’s just comic relief, it’s padding that falls flat — but not as flat as the five-minute gag about which Star Wars character Charlize Theron’s villain Cipher would be, the moment F9 goes full cringe.
Stuart Townsend, Scout Taylor-Compton, and Thomas Jane star in Badland director Justin Lee’s Apache Junction. Set in the lawless Old West outpost of Apache Junction, the film follows Jericho Ford (Townsend), a notorious gunfighter with an alcohol problem who comes to the rescue of Annabelle Angel (Taylor-Compton), a reporter who arrives in town asking dangerous questions as to why the local authority’s allow Apache Junction to exist at all. After killing three soldiers and inciting the wrath of the powerful Capt. Hensley (Trace Adkins), a bounty is placed on Jericho’s head. From the look of the trailer, Apache Junction looks like your standard contemporary Western homage built around archetypal characters and emphasis on snappy gunfights.
Birds of Paradise
Where to watch: Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video
Based on A.K. Small’s novel Bright Burning Stars, director Sarah Adina Smith’s Birds of Paradise stars Diana Silvers (Booksmart) and Kristine Froseth (Apostle) as Kate Sanders and Marine Durand; two girls from vastly different backgrounds attending a prestigious ballet school in Paris in their pursuit to become ballerinas. At first hostile, the two forge a bond that gradually morphs into a relationship founded in mutual respect, competition, and a shared sexual awakening. As the two begin to compete for the school’s most coveted prize: a contract to join the illustrious Opéra national de Paris company, Kate and Marine’s friendship morphs and builds into a tempestuous and emotionally-charged finale where only one of them can succeed in their goal. Critic Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review describes the film as, “a ballet-centered battle between rich and poor, experience and innocence.”