The weekend, Eternals, the 26th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hits theaters alongside Spencer, Pablo Larraín’s biopic drama starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana. If you’re not feeling up to venturing out to see existential superhero dramas or a real-life horror story of the British aristocracy, there’s still plenty of movies coming to VOD and streaming to watch from home this weekend.
Jeymes Samuel’s American Western action drama The Harder They Fall is now out on Netflix, joining Apple TV Plus’ Tom Hanks sci-fi movie Finch and the long-awaited (right?) Paw Patrol: The Movie on Paramount Plus. And that’s just the top of the stack of smaller releases hitting VOD for the first time, plus the highlights from last weekend.
To help you get a handle on what’s new and available, here are the new movies you can watch with the click of a button this weekend.
The Harder They Fall
Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix
Featuring an all-star ensemble cast including Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country), Zazie Beetz (Atlanta), Regina King (Watchmen), Idris Elba (The Suicide Squad), LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You), Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), and more, Jeymes Samuel’s Western The Harder They Fall follows the story of outlaw Nat Love (Majors) who embarks on a quest for revenge against his nemesis Rufus Black (Elba) after he escapes from prison. The film has garnered much attention for its stylish contemporary take on Western tropes and its predominantly Black cast of performers, but how does it stake up against other Black Western films of its ilk? From our review,
Apart from the star-studded ensemble, with a few of the actors totally miscast, this film is only groundbreaking in the sense that it was designed for streaming. Its aesthetics are more obtrusively loud than stylish or gaudy. Its story is too slight to back up the overlong runtime. The natural Western landscape, rendered artificially, lacks vastness. Samuel’s The Harder They Fall doesn’t rise to the epic scale of its spaghetti and Blaxploitation influences: The genre has never felt so small and streaming-friendly as it does in this tawdry misadventure.
Where to watch: Available to stream on Apple TV Plus
Tom Hanks (Cloud Atlas) stars in Miguel Sapochnik’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama Finch as an ailing inventor who, isolated and lonely in the wake of climate apocalypse, builds an android to keep himself company and his care for his pet dog after he passes away. Spurred by the threat of an oncoming storm, Finch embarks on a journey across the country in search of a safe haven for his creation, all while fending off the myriad dangers of this strange and hostile new world. From our review,
A tonally bizarre film that’s half motion-capture Pinocchio story, half live-action adaptation of Futurama’s infamously melancholy “Jurassic Bark” episode, Finch relies on Hanks’ instant likeability and genuine warmth to drive home the devastation of a post-apocalyptic world. Movie lovers know Hanks’ expressions and intonations, his body language, and his physicality, and his familiarity is key to the immediate sympathy the character and film require. Director Miguel Sapochnik (a Game of Thrones veteran who earned attention for episodes like “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards”) is betting on Hanks’ decades of accrued good will. With every one of Hanks’ aghast eye squints, bemused double looks, and easy laughs, Sapochnik is making the same gamble that the Wachowskis did with Hanks in their far superior sci-fi movie, Cloud Atlas.
Dead & Beautiful
Where to watch: Available to stream on Shudder
Did you watch Netflix’s Night Teeth? Imagine that, but from the perspective of the vampires, and set in China instead of Los Angeles. Director David Verbeek’s horror thriller Dead & Beautiful follows a groups of five rich, spoiled twenty-somethings (Gijs Blom, Aviis Zhong, Yen Tsao, Philip Juan, Anechka Marchenko) who complacent and bored with the luxuries and vices afforded by their wealth. After awakening from a particularly raucous night out together, the privileged urbanites discover that they have developed vampire fangs and an unquenchable thirst for human flesh. Navigating the challenges and opportunities presented to them, the group of friends descend a dark and unseemly path to discover just how monstrous they can become.
The Beta Test
Indie maven Jim Cummings (Thunder Road) stars in his satirical thriller The Beta Test, his directorial follow-up to 2020’s The Wolf of Snow Hollow, as Jordan, a successful Hollywood agent accepts an invitation for an anonymous sexual liaison on the eve of his upcoming marriage. Hounded by guilt and the suspicion that he has been unwittingly ensnared in a conspiracy of both infidelity and murder, Jordan must track down the identity of his anonymous partner before his life is shattered by the truth. The trailer gives off the vibe of David Fincher’s The Game by way of 50 Shades of Gray with a dash of incisive social commentary à la 2019 The Assistant.
Paw Patrol: The Movie
Based on the Canadian animated children’s series of the same name, Paw Patrol: The Movie follows 10-year-old Ryder and his team of talking search and rescue dogs as they travel to Adventure City to thwart the nefarious plans of their arch-nemesis Mayor Humdinger. Author Brian Platzer wrote about the show for Vulture back in 2019 and described the series among other things as, “a moral and aesthetic catastrophe.” Ouch! Anyway, if you’re into cartoons about anthropomorphic puppies in police outfits or unmitigated train wrecks, Paw Patrol: The Movie might be just the thing you’re looking to watch this weekend.
Josh Hartnett stars in writer-director John Swab’s action crime thriller Ida Red as Wyatt, the son of notorious crime boss Ida “Red” Walker (Melissa Leo). Following a botched heist job, Ida learns that she is set to be executed and requests the assistance of both her son and nephew Dallas (Frank Grillo), the acting head of Ida’s crime family. With no other options, Dallas and Wyatt must pull off one last heist in order to save Ida’s life, but the consequences of their actions may inevitably lead to the destruction of everything they hold dear. The trailer looks intense and gritty, and Hartnett convincingly portrays himself as a relatable albeit hardened family man trying to do the “right” thing in a situation where everything as gone horribly wrong.
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
Army of Thieves
Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix
Ludwig Dieter, the safe-cracking savant first introduced in Zach Snyder’s 2021 zombie heist film Army of the Dead, returns in the decidedly non-zombie-related heist movie Army of Thieves. Set six years before the events of Army of the Dead, the film find Dieter in the early years of his safecracking career. Recruited by a mysterious woman named Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmaneul) to take part in a high-stakes heist involving the cracking of three notoriously impenetrable safes across Europe, Dieter will have to rise to the occasion if he has any hope of becoming a legend among thieves — let alone making it out of the job alive. Directed by and starring Matthias Schweighöfer, Army of Thieves looks like an appropriately explosive and entertaining enough follow-up to Snyder’s original film, but is there more beneath the surface? From our review,
The myopic goals of franchise-building consume Army of Thieves down to the rind. The origin of Sebastian’s eventual Ludwig Dieter pseudonym is tied to a comic book, with cringeworthy abandon. Sebastian often has dreams of zombies coming to kill him, setting up the story beat in Army of the Dead where he locks himself in a safe for protection. And the film’s prologue connects directly to Snyder’s flick, through a flash-forward sequence. The only variation Schweighöfer takes is in the look and the feel of his movie: It isn’t nearly as bleak. Brightly lit and with far less gunplay, it also isn’t as gruesome — or as entertaining, for that matter. The quirky humor drowns the film in maudlin seas.
Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin
Where to watch: Available to stream on Paramount Plus
The Paranormal Activity franchise is back and — likely thanks to the pandemic dent in the entertainment industry — straight to streaming. Directed by a William Eubanks, who’s made some lower-budget, visually stunning genre movies like Underwater and The Signal, Next of Kin followers a documentary filmmaker as she descends into an Amish community. But all is not right in the god-fearing community, and in true Paranormal Activity fashion, hell breaks loose. Expect slightly fewer flashing lights due to the lack of electricity, but plenty of 2021-friendly twists on the formula.
The Spine of Night
If you’re desperately yearning for an animated dark fantasy horror epic in the vein of Ralph Bakshi’s Fire and Ice, or if you just really, really miss Metalocalypse, The Spine of Night is the kind of film that was made for you. Directed by Love, Death & Robots writer Philip Gelatt and animator Morgan Galen King, The Spine of Night is an ultra-violent animated fantasy following several generations of warriors and heroes battling demonic forces loosed upon the world by a crime against the gods. Featuring hand-rotoscoped animation and boasting a cast of performances by Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Joe Manganiello, and more, The Spine of Night promises to offer an over-the-top journey worth experiencing.
Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) and Hilmir Snær Guðnason star in Valdimar Jóhannsson’s dark fantastical Icelandic drama Lamb as a couple who discover a strange half-human, half-lamb creature born in their sheep born. With no children of their own, the couple adopt the young “child,” naming it Ada and attempt to raise it as their own with love, all while dark unseen forces conspire to lure the strange newborn back to the wilderness. As critic Alison Willmore wrote in her review for Vulture, “Lamb isn’t a horror movie. It’s more like a fairy tale, with all the darkness that most fairy tales have before they’re tidied up for contemporary consumption.”
Shuya Chang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny) stars in director Evan Jackson Leong’s action suspense drama Snakehead as Sister Tse, a young immigrant trying desperately to make a living in New York. Groomed by Dai Mah (Jade Wu), the matriarch of a ruthless Chinese crime family, Tse becomes a Snakehead (aka human smuggler) and rising through the ranks. However, when the ruthless realities of the job become too much to bear, Tse will be forced to choose what kind of life it is she wants to live in America — and how far she’s willing to go in order to realize it. The trailer looks exciting, with some impressive editing and action, and Chang certainly exudes a captivating presence of both desperation and steely command over the situation her character finds herself in.