This weekend, Dear Evan Hansen finally releases in theaters! The Broadway success-turned-silver screen spectacle has conjured up a range of passionate reactions among critics, most of negative, not the least of which our own which describes it as a film defined by “moral rot.” It’s hands-down the biggest movie releasing in theaters right, so if that doesn’t quite sound like your idea of a fun time, the good news is that there’s still a ton of great new movies available to stream and rent from home this weekend!
F9: The Fast Saga and Cruella are finally available to rent on VOD after premiering in theaters and via theater at home pricing within their opening weeks. Already seen those? Not to worry, there’s Badland director Justin Lee’s new western Apache Junction, Sarah Adina Smith’s erotic ballet drama Birds of Paradise on Amazon Prime Video, as well as tons more movies new to VOD and streaming this weekend.
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.
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 winner 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.”
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
DaCosta’s 2021 sequel to Candyman recontextualizes the original film in surprising (and critically divisive) ways, imagining the Candyman as less a singular specter and more of a generational trauma conjured by the sacrifice of black people victimized by systemic violence. While the creative ambitions of DaCosta’s film are admirable, the film itself might leave something to be desired for some viewers. From our review,
Like Anthony, DaCosta seems to want to say something substantial with her work. Her Candyman makes broad metaphorical strokes about the larger urban Black experience, but it’s aimed at an oblivious audience that needs didactic storytelling to understand racial politics. The film’s end is particularly muddled, doing more to set up a sequel than to smartly bind together Candyman’s varied, nascent themes. The film is missing out on a cohesive vision, to the point where the audience will spend the entire film waiting for the flashbacks and summaries to end, and for DaCosta’s movie to finally begin. But by the end, she’s only offered a visually stunning homage to the original film. For a director of her talent, that isn’t enough.
Prisoners of the Ghostland
As anyone familiar with Nicolas Cage’s work knows, there’s no such thing as “over-the-top” to the Oscar-winning actor. So when it comes to Prisoners of the Ghostland, a neo-noir western action movie starring Cage as a criminal mercenary named Hero sent to a parallel dimension to rescue a warlord’s granddaughter, it’s really just par for the course for Cage at this point. There’s samurai, gore, and testicle-mounted explosives galore and it absolutely, unequivocally whips. From our review,
Prisoners of the Ghostland is primed for the packed-house, few-drinks-in midnight-movie slot. Presented in the less-than-ideal at-home venue, by nature of virtual Sundance, it’s a delightful love letter to action-movie excess. Like The Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending or, more literally, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Sono embraces cartoon nonsense logic in order to whisk Cage to each of the film’s unexpected mile markers. The Governor is American, so obviously he strolls out in all whites and a cowboy hat. The samurai warriors might as well be RPG NPCs engaging in a sword battle set to Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle.” A sequence depicting the accident that melted the countryside into a decaying shade of its former self flips across the screen like the pages of a manga. A star who has perfected the mouth-agape, raised-eyebrow “Wut?” face is the glue that keeps all the pieces stuck to the collage.
Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix
Based on J.A. White’s 2018 horror fantasy children’s book, David Yarovesky’s Nightbooks stars Winslow Fegley as Alex Mosher, a boy from Brooklyn whose talent for telling scary stories attracts the attention of Natacha (Krysten Ritter), a powerful witch who kidnaps young Alex and imprisons him in her magical apartment. Similar to One Thousand and One Nights, Alex is forced to tell a scary story to Natacha every night ... or face dire consequences. With no recourse, Alex must join forces with Yasmin (Lidya Jewett), another imprisoned child in order to successfully elude Natacha and find a means of escape. The trailer looks sufficiently spooky and entertaining, as do Natacha’s many outlandish outfits (hot neon pink platform shoes!).
Where to watch: In theaters and available to stream on HBO Max
The 91-year-old award-winning actor-director Clint Eastwood shows no signs of stopping in Cry Macho, his latest neo-Western drama based on N. Richard Nash’s 1975 novel of the same name. Starring as Mike Milo, an former Texas rodeo star hired by his former boss to travel to Mexico to bring back his errant kid, Eastwood waxes melancholic about the futility of performative “macho-ness” and the bittersweet consequences of life’s choices in the film’s trailer. Cry Macho was originally intended to star Arnold Schwarzenegger, before Eastwood had to step in in light of a controversy that elapsed during production.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Where to watch: Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video
Adapted from Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s award-winning stage musical, director Jonathan Butterell’s coming-of-age musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie stars Max Harwood as a shy 16-year-old from a blue collar English town who dreams of one day becoming a drag queen. Taken under the wing by their mentor Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant), Jamie defies the ridicule of his father, classmates, and teachers to aspire to his dream and in doing so inspire others to recognize and be their truest selves. The musical numbers look fun and the cinematography courtesy of Christopher Ross (Cats) looks lively and inventive. Will everybody be talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie by the end of the weekend? Who knows, but never let it be said that I’d ever leave a good pun unwritten.
Lina Roessler’s comedy-drama stars Aubrey Plaza as Lucy Stanbridge, the inheritor of a once-illustrious publishing house now floundering after a string of failed titles. Hungry for a best seller, Lucy resort to Harris Shaw (Michael Caine), a cantankerous alcoholic writer still under contract for one last book. After releasing his novel, Lucy and Harris embark on a promotional tour filled with mishaps, revelations, and plenty of booze. Caine and Plaza make for an unlikely leading duo at face, but it’s not hard to imagine the former’s irascible charm paired with the latter’s deadpan brand of humor could be an entertaining recipe for success.
The Nowhere Inn
Exit Through the Gift Shop meets This Is Spinal Tap in The Nowhere Inn, a mockumentary-turned-psychological thriller drama starring Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) and Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia). Stylized as a concert documentary directed by a fictionalized version of Brownstein herself, The Nowhere Inn looks like a bizarre, self-aware oddity focused acutely at the nature of performance and the disparity between the myth and real lives of musicians.