As signs of theatrical releases begin to emerge, March still offers exciting major releases alongside equally exciting developments. The highly anticipated launch of Paramount Plus, with a wealth of exciting new offerings to stream in the form of classic and popular contemporary movies from one of Hollywood’s most venerable and enduring studios. WandaVision, the first in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest phase of streaming TV shows, just concluded, leaving fans with big questions and even bigger hopes for the MCU’s future.
In terms of exciting new VOD and streaming movies to watch from home, we’ve got a wide variety to choose from, from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Raya and the Last Dragon, the long-anticipated sequel to John Landis’ 1998 cult favorite comedy Coming to America in the form of the aptly named Coming 2 America, plus the premiere of The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run on Paramount Plus and Hulu’s Groundhog Day action-movie riff Boss Level. To help you get a lay of the land, here are the new movies you can watch on VOD this weekend.
Raya and the Last Dragon
Where to watch it: Stream on Disney Plus with Premier Access.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ newest computer-animated action fantasy adventure Raya and the Last Dragon follows the titular warrior princess Raya, voiced by Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Kelly Marie Tran, as she embarks on a journey to find the mythical last dragon Sisu ( Awkwafina) and rescue her shattered homeland of Kumandra from a dark malevolent threat. Co-directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting), the film is the first of Disney’s major animated features to premiere simultaneously in theaters and via streaming on Disney Plus’ Premier Access.
Coming 2 America
Where to watch it: Stream on Amazon Prime
Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall reprise their roles as King Akeem and his trusted confidante Semmi in the highly anticipated follow-up to John Landis’ 1988 comedy classic (which you can stream on Amazon Prime as well!). From our review,
In every sense, this is a silly dad movie, but it sharply charts the ways we assume our parents’ worst qualities as we age. The once-independent prince who traveled to America for love in spite of his father’s protests has grown up to be institutionally conservative, routinely bowing to Zamunda’s sexist laws, and disappointing both Meeka and his wife Lisa (who thankfully has so much more personality in this movie than in the original Coming to America). A mature Murphy, in some ways, makes the audience feel as though Akeem’s soul-searching mirrors Murphy’s. That sentiment probably stems from our familiarity with his career. We’ve seen Murphy rise from a young comedian with a childish, uproarious wit into a venerated performer and actor. We know the highs and lows of his career at the box office. We know he’s back, and we know he seems especially happy here.
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On the Run, the third film based on the long-running animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants, follows everyone’s favorite amphibious fry cook and his best friend Patrick Star as he embarks on an adventure to the Lost City of Atlantic City rescue his beloved pet snail Gary. From our review,
Like the two films before it, Sponge On the Run sends SpongeBob on a mission outside his comfort zone and far from his hometown of Bikini Bottom. Again, the scope of a film gives him a chance at an adventure more challenging and grandiose than those seen on TV — think of the relationship between classic Star Trek films and shows. But even though the movie recycles the setup of a wildly popular SpongeBob TV episode (2005’s “Have You Seen This Snail?”, which had a massive audience of almost 8 million), the film sidelines the heart and sincerity that defined not only those early seasons of the show, but the infinitely rewatchable 2004 film The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and the blast of creative optimism that was the recent Broadway musical.
Armie Hammer has ... well, he’s been in something of a predicament lately. Jake Kelly, his character in the Nicholas Jarecki’s latest opiod crisis crime thriller Crisis, also finds himself ensnared in his own crisis as an undercover DEA agent infiltrating a insidious ring of Fentanyl traffickers. Kelly’s story intersects with that of Dr. Tyrone Brower (Gary Oldman), a university professor who uncovers the dark truth behind his employer’s new “non-addictive” painkiller, and Clair Reimann (Evangeline Lilly), an architect and recovering oxycodone addict searching for her son.
Luis Gerardo Méndez and Connor Del Rio play the eponymous half-siblings of director Luke Greenfield’s (The Girl Next Door) new family comedy drama. Méndez plays Renato, a wealthy Mexican aviation exec who, after reconnecting with his estranged father on his deathbed, is introduced to his layabout American half-brother Asher. Tasked with embarking on a road trip to retrace their father’s route from Mexico to the US, hijinks ensue and the brothers inevitably bond and grow closer for the experience. The film writes itself!
Femme fatale criminal Pixie (Olivia Cooke) masterminds an elaborate heist as part of a plot to avenge her mother’s death. but when her plans go awry and a cadre of drug gangsters and killer priests led by Father Hector McGrath (Alec Baldwin), she’ll have to use every once of her wits, guile, and aptitude for violence to come out on top and set things right again.
Where to watch it: Available to stream on Hulu
Frank Grillo of Zero Dark Thirty and Captain America: Winter Soldier fame stars as Roy Pulver, an ex-soldier who finds himself living the same day over and over again, in Smokin’ Aces director Joe Carnahan’s Groundhog Day-meets-Hardcore Henry action flick Boss Level. From our review,
One of the worst feelings to have when watching an action movie is the sinking realization that the first fight scene on offer is the best one in store. Boss Level desperately needs that kind of novelty, because it’s so familiar. There have been many time-loop movies at this point, with several new ones hitting streaming services over the course of the last calendar year, including the YA drama The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, the romantic comedy Palm Springs, and the micro-indie The Obituary of Tunde Johnson. It’s becoming an overly familiar conceit in general. The best ones layer another genre twist on top of the central time loop, using the repetition to examine ideas and characters from all angles. Boss Level doesn’t really have that. It’s mostly a movie with designs on over-the-top action that are undercut by the actual action.
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari is an American story in the purest sense: Jacob (Steven Yeun), a Korean-American father with dreams of a better life for himself and his children, moves his family from California to Arkansas in pursuit of his dream of becoming a farmer. As they weather the challenges and hardships that come with this strange new life in the Ozarks, he and his family learn the true meaning of what it takes to build a home. From our best movies of 2020 list,
Novelistic and warmly rendered, Minari is a drama about everyday life, and remembering to see the gifts of what’s right in front of you. And the perspective comes from a top-tier cast: Along with Yeun, playing a piercing patriarch, Han Yeri delivers a touching performance as a mother holding fast to her wayward loved ones, newcomers Noel Cho and Alan S. Kim buck every bad trope to play goofy and lovable kids, and renowned Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn solidifies her legacy in a film that is wholly American.
Tom & Jerry
Where to watch it: Stream on HBO Max
The iconic Hanna-Barbera comedic duo Tom and Jerry return to the big screen in Tim Story’s live-action/animation hybrid adaptation. The pair get up to their usual antics, this time in New York City, with Tom hired by a desperate event planner to capture Jerry before he wrecks havoc on the eve of most highly anticipated wedding celebration of the century. Despite the occasional intermittent laughs throughout, the film feels thwarted by its lackluster human performances. From our review,
This would all have the making of a splendid Tom and Jerry farce, if not for those bothersome humans. The actual main character in this movie about a cartoon mouse punching a cartoon cat is designated relatable millennial Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz), who scams her way into a temporary hotel job assisting Terrance (Michael Peña) with the lavish wedding of two wealthy socialites/Instagram influencers (Colin Jost and Pallavi Sharda). Desperate to impress the hotel manager (Rob Delaney), Kayla hires Tom and gives him a jaunty little bellhop hat. She also becomes a confidante of sorts for the bride-to-be, who feels some hesitation about her wedding’s over-the-top details. These plotlines provide ample opportunities for familiar actors to mug, riff, and flail through all the dead air between the big cat-and-mouse battles. Collectively, the live-action cast generates maybe two laughs, total.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Where to watch it: Stream on Hulu
Singer-songwriter and actress Andra Day portrays the eponymous Lady Day in The Butler director Lee Daniels’ biopic The United States vs. Billie Holiday. The movie follows the iconic “Strange Fruit” songstress through the trials and tribulations of her life on and off the stage, from her fractious love life to the persecution she faced by the U.S. Government. From our review,
Daniels and Parks declare their tragic intent with an opening swell of foreboding strings, and lay out their worship of Holiday’s beauty with their first image of her: resplendent in a couture gown, creamy white flowers in her hair, bold red gloss on her lips, staring directly into the camera. Over the ensuing 130 minutes, though, those two approaches never fully coalesce. Daniels leans too often on the contrast between the poised, proper onstage version of Holiday, captivating audiences with her finery and wit, and the stripped-down, foul-mouthed offstage version, with her heroin spoons and the cocaine-dealing “candyman” she keeps on retainer. There isn’t enough of a middle there, no sustained sense of who Holiday was outside of her clothes, her addiction, and the men who manipulated her. The film is a jumbled mess of misaligned puzzle pieces that never assembles a full representation of its subject.
Mike P. Nelson’s Wrong Turn, the seventh installment and reboot to screenwriter Alan B. McElroy’s early-aught horror series, brings the series back to its roots with a tight premise following a group of friends who venture to hike across the Appalachian trail. Their blissful adventure is quickly transformed into a nightmare as the group is stalked by “The Foundation,” a murderous cabal of mountain dwellers who will do anything and everything to preserve their way of life.
Director Keith Thomas’ feature debut is a supernatural horror film steeped in Jewish lore and demonology. Set over the course of a single night in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood, The Vigil tells the story of Yakov (Dave Davis), a young man who reluctantly agrees to watch over the body of a recently-deceased member of his former congregation at the behest of his Rabbi in exchange for payment. Things quickly take a sinister turn however as Yakov is stalked by a preternatural force that seeks not only to manipulate the body to its own nefarious ends, but soon enough plots to overtake Yakov’s own body and soul as well.
Night of the Kings
Where to watch it: Stream via Select Virtual Cinemas
Philippe Lacôte’s Night of the Kings tells the One Thousand and One Nights-esque tale of a young pickpocket who is made the resident storyteller of the Ivory Coast MACA prison by Blackbeard, the prison’s ruthless ruler, and forced to entertain him and the rest of the prison with a single story spanning an entire night. If he stops for any reason before the night is over, something terrible will happen. A deftly woven blend of fantasy and reality, Night of the Kings is a rapturous testament to the power of storytelling. From our review,
Though Lacôte’s deft juggling of multiple interweaving stories is impressive, what ultimately makes Night of the Kings so special is how clearly the director depicts the power in telling a story. The tale of Zama King unfolds partially in re-creation through Roman’s narration, but the most striking parts of the film come when the prisoners take it upon themselves to act out scenes. Their re-enactments are balletic; the scenes set in the prison take on the air of a stage play, as street fights and magical duels are portrayed solely with human bodies. Men leap over each other and hold each other up to properly pay tribute to the story of Zama King. At points, they even begin to sing. That cooperation and grace stands in sharp contrast with the way they interact with each other when violence breaks out.
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