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Judas and the Black Messiah and 9 new movies you can now watch at home

Black Panthers, killer animatronics, religious horror all pop up in this week’s VOD picks

Daniel Kaluuya stands in the center of a group of Black Panther Party members in Judas and the Black Messiah Photo: Warner Bros. Picture

The absence of new movies in theaters does not preclude the weekly rocking of Hollywood. This week, the animation world was shocked with the announcement on Tuesday that Disney would be shutting down Blue Sky Studios, the $5.9 billion global-grossing former 20th Century Fox animation studio known for such previous successes as the popular Ice Age series and Rio that the company acquired back in 2019. Then there was Gina Carano’s high-profile expulsion from Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian in the wake of incendiary and offensive comments made on social media, or the announcement of Pedro Pascal and Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey’s casting as the stars of HBO’s The Last of Us series.

As the industry figures itself out, audiences still have new movies to watch at home, from Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah on HBO Max to the wide-release streaming premiere of Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan’s 2018 debut Dead Pigs. Also, Nicolas Cage killing animatronic gophers. To help you wade through all the options, here are the new movies you can watch on VOD this weekend.

Judas and The Black Messiah

Where to watch it: Stream on HBO Max

Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton stands behind a lectern, holding his fist up as he leads a packed church hall in a Black Power chant. Photo: Warner Bros.

Inspired by true events, Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah stars Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, the late Black Panther Chairman and civil rights activist, and LaKeith Stanfield as his bodyguard (and FBI informant) William O’Neil. The film depicts the final months, days, and moments of Hampton’s life, his tragic death, and the essential role O’Neil played in the plot to destroy him. With supporting performances from Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Ashton Sanders, and Martin Sheen, King’s biopic is sure to be one of the most talked-about films of 2021. From our review,

It’s impossible to tell the entire story of a revolutionary movement in two hours, and Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah tries and fails. It discusses the Black Panther Party’s efforts to unite dispossessed people and exact an overthrow of American capitalism and imperialism solely in the broadest terms, while the BPP’s unlikely alliances, including with the Confederate-flag-flying Young Patriots Organization, are depicted only briefly. King is less interested in the BPP’s ascent than in white America’s obsessive need to destroy it, making for a film that too often seems like it’s spending unnecessary time with the same white oppressors BPP Chairman Fred Hampton (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya) is trying to separate from.

To All The Boys: Always and Forever

Where to watch it: Stream on Netflix

To All The Boys 3: Always and Forever - Lara holds her book in front of lights Photo: Katie Yu / Netflix

The long-awaited final installment in the popular teenage rom-com film series is new to Netflix this week. To All The Boys: Always and Forever sees the return of Lana Condor as Lara Jean Covey and Noah Centineo as her boyfriend Peter Kavinsky as two prepare for their final year of high-school and the impending and uncertain future of adulthood. From our review:

In the end, the best thing that can be said about Always and Forever is that it’s a beautiful collection of snapshots. The bright interior sets, such as Lara Jean’s room, her family home, and the diner she and Peter frequent, create an atmospheric evolution of the everyday, showing how even the most mundane settings can look warm and beautiful in Lara Jean’s romantic eyes. The moments she has not just with Peter, but with her family and friends, are similarly tender. In that vein, these individual scenes almost coalescence into a reflection on change at the end of senior year.

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar

Where to watch it: Stream on Amazon Prime

Kristin Wiig as Star reading a Culottes magazine in bed in Barn & Star Photos: Cate Cameron/Lionsgate

Bridesmaids’ Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig reunite for what’s primed to be another raunchy and ebullient cult comedy in Josh Greenbaum’s Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. Wiig and Mumolo star as the titular Star and Barb, two lifelong friends who leave their Midwest hometown to vacation at the luxurious Vista Del Mar resort in Florida get into all sorts of risqué hijinks and shenanigans. From our review:

What Wiig and Mumolo deliver for 90 minutes can only be described as comedic off-roading. Whether it’s improvisation or the result of years inside each other’s heads, the material beams off the screen. The two actors babble on in character about everything from racoon sleeping patterns to labia piercings and the high art of lounge singer Richard Cheese. And yet it’s all precise, too; Mumolo knows just the right way to mispronounce “Don Chee-adle?” and Wiig has the perfect wide-eyed look to fire back in agreement. When they hit the dance floor to rock out to a club remix of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” those oddball sensibilities flood the screen. They’ve created a movie that’s totally them, and everything from the pastel production design to the punctuating camerawork is on their oddball wavelength.

Willy’s Wonderland

Where to watch it: Stream on Amazon, Apple, Vudu, Vimeo

Nic Cage survives an explosive blast in Willy’s Wonderland Image: Screen Media

If you’re hungry for more Nicolas Cage-led antics in the vein of 2018’s breakout psychedelic action-horror onslaught Mandy or 2019’s Color Out of Space, Kevin Lewis’ action horror-comedy Willy’s Wonderland might be just your kind of crazy. Cage stars as a mysterious drifter-turned-janitor at a family entertainment center locked in a battle for survival against a cadre of homicidal animatronic puppets.

The Wanting Mare

Where to watch it: Stream on Amazon, Apple, Vudu, Vimeo

A figure in darkness stands at the edge of an immense open window out on a vast city at night in The Wanting Mare Photo: Anmaere Pictures

Writer-director Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s debut The Wanting Mare is a visually engrossing epoch-spanning story set in an alternate universe world similar to our own. Set in the city of Whitren, a coastal city on the mysterious planet of Anmaere where wild horses are captured annually to be shipped to the wintry city of Levithen, the film follows a line of women who inherit and are haunted by the dream of a long forgottent— and presumably better— past, all while each attempt to escape the fatalistic gravity of their hometown in the hopes of pursuing a better life. From our review,

For much of the movie’s 80 minutes and change, it resembles later-period Terrence Malick. Characters’ conversations are cut into spare, unfinished fragments. Simple progressions of images often aren’t entirely linear. At one point, around the halfway mark, the story jumps forward several decades without much warning. This is a movie about a massive horse-exporting business that never shows more than one horse on screen at a time. It’s not surprising that the movie was, at one point, produced by Shane Carruth, the filmmaker behind the similarly abstract Upstream Color. (Though Carruth was promoting the move about a year ago, his name seems to have been removed from the credits, presumably in response to abuse allegations that came out in 2020.)

Dead Pigs

Where to watch it: Stream on Mubi

A woman in a leopard print bathrobe and hair curlers stares dismissively at something above her. Photo: Federico Cesca

Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan made history last year as the first woman of Asian descent to helm a major Hollywood superhero franchise title, or as we called it in our review, “a messy, leg-breaking, heartwarming, inspirational good time.” Despite her rise in prominence however, Yan’s 2018 debut feature, Dead Pigs, has only now been made accessible to Western audiences via Mubi. A dramatic examination of intergenerational conflicts within an intensely status-driven society, Yan’s film follows a collection of offbeat characters including a down-and-out pig farmer, a busboy, a jaded rich girl, and an expat architect as their lives intertwine and clash as a stream of pig carcasses float down the Yangtze River and encroach ever closer to Shanghai.


Where to watch it: Stream on Amazon, Apple, Vudu, Vimeo

a menacing cloaked figure wearing a ram skull for a mask stands beneath an eerie ray of light. Photo: Mistik Jade Films

Jordan Graham’s second horror feature Sator is a nature-bound horror thriller in the vein of The Blair Witch Project or 2017’s It Comes at Night. Secluded in a desolate forest, a troubled family is preyed upon by a malevolent god-like entity known only as “Sator,” whose machinations are discernible only through the writings and ranting of Nani, the family’s ailing matriarch played by the late June Peterson. If you’re a fan heartbreaking horror with deft visual storytelling, Sator is a prime pick.

Marvel’s Behind the Mask

Where to watch it: Stream on Disney Plus

A collage of Marvel superheroes including Spiderman, Iron Man, the Hulk, Luke Cage, Black Panther, and more. Credit: Disney

Aside from being the primary mode through which Disney is disseminating the company’s high-profile shows like WandaVision and The Mandolorian into the stream of popular culture, Disney Plus is quickly growing into a platform built with the intention of deepening an understanding and appreciation of the history behind the company’s stories. Case in point, Marvel’s Behind the Mask, a new documentary featuring the artists and writers behind some of the most iconic characters born from Marvel’s 80-year legacy, including Black Panther, Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage, the X-Men, Captain Marvel, and more.

Le Samouraï (1967) and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Where to watch it: Stream on Criterion Channel

Alain Delon as Jef Costello sits still as a detective points a gun in his face. Photo: Compagnie Industrielle et Commerciale Cinématographique

Aside from the week’s newest offerings, if you’re looking for something more on the canonical side, take the time to sit down and watch Jean-Pierre Melville and Jim Jarmusch’s respective genre mash-ups featuring stoic code-bound assassins and contemporary samurai mythology. Melville’s Le Samourai set the template for subsequent existential anti-hero films such as Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional, John Woo’s The Killer, and Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition, and Jarmusch’s own Ghost Dog proves a worthy successor to Melville’s film on the strength of Forest Whitaker’s iconic performance and badass score courtesy of the one and only RZA.

Saint Maud

Where to watch it: Stream on Epix

A woman floats on her back in mid-air in a dark room, back arched and long hair dangling Photo: A24

Writer-director Rose Glass’ debut Saint Maud is an eerie religious horror film and chilling character study. Morfydd Clark stars as the titular Maud, a devoutly spiritual hospice nurse, who slowly but surely becomes obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient Amanda (Jennifer Ehle)— whether she wants to be saved or not. From our review:

By most reasonable standards, Saint Maud is a good horror movie. It has a strong sense of character and mood. It’s convincingly acted, both by Morfydd Clark as Maud, a private nurse losing herself to religious fanaticism, and Jennifer Ehle, as Maud’s patient Amanda, an atheist grappling with her terminal cancer diagnosis. Its score roils with tension, then recedes into silence when necessary. In spite of these strengths, though, it’s sometimes eerily, unavoidably familiar.

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