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Cars 2, Blow Out, and the best things we watched this weekend

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We’ve got recommendations from across Disney Plus, Shudder, and Criterion

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Lightning McQueen and Mater race away from an explosion in Cars 2 Photo: Pixar

This weekend marked the 78th Golden Globe Awards, an historic ceremony not only for it having been the first to take place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but for those whose work was recognized. Chloé Zhao became the first Asian woman to win the Golden Globe for best director for the Frances McDormand-led drama Nomadland, Chadwick Boseman was posthumously rewarded Best Drama Performance for his role in George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari was rewarded with the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language film following the controversial (and frankly bizarre) odyssey in the lead up to its nomination.

Aside from the Awards however, there were a ton of movies and films available via streaming for the Polygon team to choose from. Here are a few of the movies we enjoyed over the weekend, and what you might enjoy watching throughout the week as well.


Cars 2

Finn McMissile, Mater, and Lightning McQueen in Cars 2 Photo: Pixar

I want to formally rescind every critical comment I’ve ever made on the behalf of Cars 2.

This weekend, I enjoyed a double feature of Cars and Cars 2. It’s been years since I’ve watched either of them, and I was pretty confident in my assessment that while the original Cars was Just Fine, Thank You Very Much, Cars 2 was just a bunch of dumb jokes that did not make canonical sense in the greater Cars mythos. But upon this rewatch, I learned that I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

The original Cars put me to sleep, but I found myself enthralled by Cars 2. The first Cars doesn’t quite work for me is because it is too rooted in reality. I found myself questioning every little world-building detail: If you are born a truck, is your destiny just to ferry cars around inside your body till the end of time? Why do cars lock themselves if their insides are their organs? Why are there restaurants and cafes if all they consume is oil?

But with Cars 2, there is so much chaos and unbelievable plot elements that I can safely just tuck all the aforementioned overarching world-building questions in the back of my mind and just relish in its absurdity. The setup of Cars 2 already lends itself to humor: after accompanying racer Lightning McQueen on an international racing tour, goofy Mater finds himself caught up in a James Bond-esque spy mission, where suave agent Finn McMissle believes Mater to be an American spy in deep, deep undercover. Cue the hijinks, cue the hilarity, cue the really cool action sequences.

It’s all the delight of a spy movie, but with the added fact of Oh right, they’re all cars! This means that Finn McMissile launches wires from his tires in order to suspend himself over a secret meeting on a far off oil rig! That the cars have giant guns built somewhere into their bodies! That the car chase sequences are honestly the best car chase sequences I’ve seen in action movies, because the stakes are so much higher! Yes, there is a Pope, which once again raises questions about the greater Cars universe, but Agent Holley Shiftwell just sprouted wings and a jet engine, so I’m more focused on how cool that is.

I am going on record to say that Cars 2 is the superior Cars movie. It might not make you think deeply like Pixar films often do, but it will help you embrace your inner child’s boundless imagination. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride (ha). —Petrana Radulovic

Cars 2 is streaming on Disney Plus.

And everything else we’re watching...


Blow Out

John Travolta as Jack in Brian De Palma and John G. Fox’s Blow Out Photo: Filmways Pictures

Writer-director Brian De Palma replaces the curious eye of a swingin’ ‘60s fashion photographer for the tuned ear of a B-movie sound designer in this loose remake of Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film, Blowup. The choice turns an average mystery it one of the essential thrillers of the 1980s.

With more in common with Klute and The Parallax View than the Hitchcockian riffs that De Palma became known for, Blow Out finds a young John Travolta in over his head when a night out with his microphone leads him to witness and record the assassination of a rumored presidential candidate. The police think the car wreck was an accident; proof on Travolta’s magnetic sound tape, which he plays and replays and reconstructs with meticulous strain, suggests a hidden gunman was behind the death. Teaming up with a prostitute who was in the car at the time, and while being hunted by the shadowy figure behind the murder, the sound engineer jumps through hoops to substantiate his sonic evidence. Through it all, De Palma uses long-360-degree camerawork, God’s eye views, split-diopter lenses, and eye-popping color to crank up the suspense. —Matt Patches

Blow Out is streaming on Showtime Anytime and available to rent on Amazon and Apple.


The Dark and the Wicked

Marin Ireland in “The Dark and the Wicked.” Photo: RLJE Films/Shudder

The Dark and the Wicked is the latest release from Shudder and follows a family as an otherworldly evil takes over their farm and tries to take over their near-comatose father. It’s a pretty standard horror movie premise, but where The Dark and the Wicked really sets itself apart is in its relentless desire to scare you. This is a movie operating on a scares-per-minute quota that it always meets.

Unlike most normal possession movies, which would rely on careful set ups and long drawn out tension, The Dark and the Wicked starts its frights early and never slows down. There are haunting shapes lurking in dark shadows, loud sheep, glass bottle windchimes, a haunted diary, spiders, gore, and the actual devil. And that’s only the first half hour.

None of the movie’s scares are entirely unique, but that’s never really a problem. It feels more like director Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) is pulling them from a horror-movie thesaurus, but each one is perfect for its moment and is exceptionally well executed.

It’s hard to imagine a better pairing of streaming service and movie than this one too. Bertino is both mining the depths of horror-movie history, while actively working against the genre’s conventional pacing and rhythms, which makes it perfect for Shudder’s horror-movie paradise. The Dark and the Wicked isn’t the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s a great way to spend 90 minutes and exactly the kind of movie I come to Shudder for. —Austen Goslin

The Dark and the Wicked is currently streaming on Shudder and available to rent on Amazon.


Das Boot

Jürgen Prochnow as Capt.-Lt. Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock in 1981’s Das Boot Photo: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

My twice-a-month friend movie club decided to stick with movies that came out in 1982 for this next round of picks, hence Das Boot, which none of us had seen. (It originally released in Germany in ‘81, and arrived in the States in ‘82.) The Director’s Cut comes in at 3.5 hours, so I was bracing for a bit of a slog.

But, as it turns out, I found it massively compelling and not remotely indulgent. The characters are well fleshed out, and by the end I was fully enraptured by their intense journey. If you’re into Band of Brothers, this is tonally very similar, and the 3.5 hours can easily be broken into three separate viewings for a more episodic delivery mechanism. It’s easily one of the best war movies I’ve seen. —Russ Frushtick

Das Boot is available for rent on Amazon and Apple.


The Eisenhorn Trilogy

Gregor Eisenhorn, in art for the Black Library book trilogy starring him. Image: Black Library/Games Workshop

Back when they first came out in 2006, I gobbled up Dan Abnett’s Horus Heresy books with relish. They were my gateway into Games Workshop’s Black Library of Warhammer 40,000 novelizations, but I fell off of the series around Descent of Angels: Loyalty and Honour and began skipping around. That’s how I came to entirely miss the tremendous Eisenhorn trilogy.

Set during the 42nd millennium — effectively the current timeline of the 40K universe — there are three books in the series, titled Xenos, Malleus, and Hereticus. They tell the story of inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn and his colorful band of companions. Together, they show a completely different side of the 40K universe. Rather than focusing on tales of epic battles and planetary bombardments (although there are a few), Abnett focuses on a far more intimate storyline filled with intrigue, suspicion, and political machinations. It’s far from Shakespeare, but they’re excellent fun.

Rather than read them in paperback, for the last month or so I’ve been banging away at them via Audible, where they’re read by the excellent Toby Longworth. I’m not really accustomed to listening to audio books, but Longworth’s presentation made for some excellent long-distance drives and plenty of hobby time with the Warhammer 40,000 Indomitus boxed set.

It might be a good time to get caught up yourself, especially considering that Amazon has made it known they plan to produce a live-action television series based on these novels. Big Light Productions — the folks responsible for Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle — are signed on to the production. —Charlie Hall


The Man From Nowhere

Won Bin as widower-turned-vigilante Cha Tae-sik in 2010’s The Man From Nowhere Photo: Well Go Entertainment

Lee Jeong-beom’s 2010 action thriller The Man From Nowhere feels like a direct spiritual precursor to Derek Kolstad’s John Wick series, albeit more subdued and emotionally driven. Won Bin plays Cha Tae-sik, a mysterious widower-turned-pawnshop keeper who despite living in self-imposed seclusion forms an unlikely bond with So-mi (Sae-ron Kim), a young girl who lives in the same apartment complex. When So-mi mother’s steals a package of heroin from a ruthless gang of human traffickers and she and her daughter are abducted in an attempt to recover it, Cha Tae-sik embarks on a bloody campaign to exact revenge on them and rescue So-Mi, all while a team of South Korean DEA agents attempts to unravel the mystery of his elusive past and bring both him and the traffickers to justice.

The film is a methodical slow burn that explosively culminates in one of the most breathtaking knife fight showdowns I’ve ever seen in an action film. Won Bin’s raw and terse performance is magnetic, drawing the audience through the screen while propelling the action forward. The fact that he has yet to appear in a single film since only adds to the allure and mystique of his presence here. Sae-ron Kim is terrific here as well, delivering a speech here towards the tail end of the first act that’s beautiful and devastating in its emotional appeal. Considering recent reports that John Wick director Chad Stahelski and Derek Kolstad are currently attached to develop a forthcoming American adaptation, now is the perfect time to check out Lee’s original if you haven’t seen it already. From its stirring performances, don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it action sequences, and engrossing score courtesy of Oldboy composer Hyun-jung Shim, The Man From Nowhere is a tremendously gratifying action flick for anyone hungering for a more emotionally driven thrill ride. —Toussaint Egan

The Man From Nowhere is streaming on Amazon.


In the Mood for Love

Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung as Su Li-zhen and Chow Mo-wan in Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love Photo: The Criterion Collection

When you see one Wong Kar-wai film, you immediately want to see all of them, but not at once: They’re movies best enjoyed as chance encounters, like beguiling strangers you spend two hours with at a bar or on a train before continuing on your way. I can’t tell you how long I’ve had In the Mood for Love unwatched on my shelf for, but last Saturday was the evening we finally crossed paths. The movie is about neighbors Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-shen who begin to suspect their spouses are having an affair with each other, and slowly start to develop a relationship of their own. It’s an achingly beautiful movie, full of deep reds and tight, lonely spaces, one of those stories where nothing and everything happens all at once. Which is kind of how it goes, when two people begin to understand what they want only when they realize what they lack. —Joshua Rivera

In the Mood for Love is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel.


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