While release dates and production schedules may be delayed, online streaming services haven’t been affected, luckily. That said, there’s no time like the present to catch up on your movie list. To help you sort the wheat from the chaff, we’ve rounded up some of the better new releases on the four most prominent streaming platforms, including Netflix and Amazon Prime. Whether you’re looking for an Academy Award winner or a twisted arthouse film of the highest caliber, we have you covered.
The Old Guard (2020)
Netflix dips into superhero storytelling with this original film starring Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Based on Greg Rucka’s comic book of the same name, The Old Guard follows four centuries-old immortal mercenaries who have secretly protected the world from peril for their entire existence. But when they discover another immortal has “awakened” and identified them, they’ll have to fight for their freedom and their lives.
Celebrated French music video director Michel Gondry and legendary American writer Charlie Kaufman teamed up for this tragicomic romance about a couple that are hell-bent on forgetting one another. Eternal Sunshine is visually spectacular, brilliantly perceptive, and a painful examination of love’s resiliency and the cruel core of human nature.
When Joel (Jim Carrey) learns that his ex, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has undergone an experimental procedure to erase their relationship from her memory, Joel vindictively decides to do the same. Almost as soon as the procedure starts, he has second thoughts, preferring to live with the memory of a former lover than to live without ever having felt that love at all. His quest to derail the procedure while unconscious is funny and upsetting as he and his brain’s reconstruction of Clementine rehash their relationship and their future as their memories are literally being torn away. Eternal Sunshine is deeply moving and comes with a couple of incredible twists.
Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a modern-day scavenger. He survives in Los Angeles through scavenging and petty theft until he stumbles into a new career as a cameraman. This new nocturnal career involves prowling police radio to be the first on the scene of shocking events and grisly crimes, and he’s a natural at it. When he catches the eye of a local news director (Rene Russo), she incentivizes his worst impulses to improve her station’s ratings, pushing Louis to frightening lengths to be the first to get the money shot.
Uncut Gems (2019)
Many consider Uncut Gems a significant Oscar snub; many think those people are crazy. The Safdie brothers’ stressful, pulse-pounding story about a gambling-addicted jeweler (Adam Sandler) in New York City is very much a love-it-or-hate-it kind of movie. Adam Sandler turns in one of his best performances ever as the jeweler Howard Ratner, who despite his charisma and savvy, just can’t seem to get out of his own way. When Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett (playing himself) takes an interest in one of Howard’s highest-ticket items, believing it to be a good luck charm, Ratner plans to make a killing. However, he can’t resist also gambling on Garnett and the Celtics to make the windfall that much greater, putting off mounting debts and obligations to do so.
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Spike Lee’s newest joint is a Netflix exclusive and couldn’t have come at a more politically important time. Da 5 Bloods tells the story of four African American Vietnam War veterans who return to the country after the war to seek the remains of their fallen squad leader and the fortune that he helped them hide. It’s a heavy, anguished look at Vietnam and the war that Black Americans have never been able to stop fighting — both in psychological and sociopolitical terms. It’s already garnering significant Oscars buzz despite the ceremony being months away.
The Assistant (2019)
The Assistant is a barely-fictional account of working for a Hollywood executive in the vein of Harvey Weinstein. Jane (Julia Garner) is a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer. When she lands her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul, she believes she’s on the fast track. As she follows her banal daily routine of making coffee, ordering lunch, and taking messages, she grows increasingly aware of the insidious pattern of abuse that constantly threatens her position. Working as a Hollywood assistant is unrewarding enough, and the constant degradation goes too far.
Monster’s Ball (2001)
Halle Berry won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a waitress named Leticia, who falls in love with a racist white prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton). The twist, however, is that the guard also happens to be the man who executed Leticia’s late husband. As the guard realizes the feelings he’s experiencing for this beautiful young woman, he is forced to re-examine his racist, insular attitude.
Palm Springs (2020)
Hulu’s newest original movie puts a fresh, unique spin on a few well-worn tropes in this time-looping wedding rom-com. Carefree Nyles and reluctant maid of honor Sarah have a chance encounter at a wedding in Palm Springs that becomes far more when they realize they’re stuck in a time-loop together. Suddenly, they can’t escape the venue, each other, or the dang event. While living the same day over and over together, they encounter some grim truths about themselves while simultaneously forging a way forward together.
Mr. Rogers had an extended moment in the final few years of the 2010s with the acclaimed documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Tom Hanks’ Oscar-nominated turn as the children’s show icon in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Both films are heartwarming in the extreme. When investigative journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile on Fred Rogers, he approaches the interview with skepticism. How could anyone be that good-natured? Meeting Mr. Rogers, however, and connecting with him throughout the interview process, chips away at Vogel’s jaded outlook on life. Through Mr. Rogers’ empathy and kindness, Vogel finds a way to reconcile with his own painful past.
Based on events in the life of acclaimed horror author Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House), Shirley follows the titular character (played by Elisabeth Moss) and her husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg). After moving to a small Vermont college town where Stanley will be a professor, he offers Fred and Rose (Logan Lerman and Odessa Young) free room and board as long as they look after his wife. As Jackson finds her creative process disrupted by the new environs and her husband’s philandering, she’ll find inspiration in the new couple.
You’d be excused if you saw the trailers full of massive, man-eating alligators swimming through floodwaters and hunting people seeking refuge on floating doors, and you thought, “Maybe I’ll skip this one.” However, that’s overlooking that Crawl is a product of The Hills Have Eyes director Alexandre Aja and Evil Dead creator Sam Raimi. A surprise critical and commercial hit, Crawl is a nature-horror blockbuster that is well worth seeing. When a massive hurricane hits her Florida town, Haley (Kaya Scodelario) ignores the evacuation order to search for her missing father (Barry Pepper). When she finds him gravely injured in their family home, they become trapped by floodwaters. As the water rises, however, they discover an even greater threat: a relentless pack of enormous alligators.
Al Capone may be the most imitated and chronicled gangster in Hollywood, but Capone is a slightly more sensitive look at the notorious Chicago mob leader. This 2020 film follows Capone (Tom Hardy) in his final days, suffering from dementia after a decade in prison. Capone is haunted by his violent past, which he relives through the fragmented, tormenting memories swimming in his brain. Directed by Josh Trank, the film also stars Matt Dillon, Linda Cardellini, and Kyle MacLachlan.
Knives Out (2019)
Writer-director Rian Johnson’s frenetic whodunit was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 92nd Academy Awards. When celebrated crime novelist Harlan Thrombey dies of mysterious causes, renowned Private Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) arrives to investigate the case. The normally sure-footed sleuth discovers there’s more to this case than meets the eye, however, and all he knows for sure is that everyone in Thrombey’s greedy, dysfunctional family is a suspect. Sifting through a web of lies, half-truths, and red herrings, Blanc must use every resource available to him, including Thrombey’s nurse Marta (Ana de Armas), to uncover the truth. Knives Out is unlike any mystery novel you’ve read or film you’ve seen, working with a disjointed timeline and narrative that both gives and takes information at will.
The Lighthouse (2019)
Robert Eggers follows up his surprising horror hit The Witch with this equally haunting, atmospheric film about isolation and torment. Set on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s, the film follows two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) as they try to maintain a lighthouse and their sanity before they’re relieved of duty. Dafoe and Pattinson make the most of the opportunity to carry the entire script while Eggers’ eerie, intentional direction makes this one alternately batty and unnerving.
Christopher Nolan’s genre-bending, effects-filled adventure became almost a genre and cultural movement itself. It’s easy to forget that the word “inception” wasn’t really a thing before Inception. The box office and critical hit is peak Nolan, with dazzling special effects, a complicated narrative, intentional misdirection, and a whole lot of open questions. That’s part of the fun. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers an outstanding performance as a thief who specializes in dream-sharing technology, going into the minds of targets to steal their most valuable information. When he’s hired for one last particularly difficult job, his past literally returns to haunt him.
HBO and HBO Max
An American Pickle (2020)
Seth Rogen stars as two men from different generations in HBO Max’s first original movie. Originally, Sony planned to release An American Pickle in theaters, but as theaters remain closed due to the pandemic, they pivoted to an HBO Max release instead. The first man Rogen plays is an immigrant worker at a pickle factory who is accidentally pickled and preserved for 100 years until he is revived in modern-day Brooklyn. The second man Rogen plays is that first man’s great-great-grandson, a computer programmer with absolutely nothing in common with his great-great-grandfather. Still, he’ll do his best to acclimate his ancestor to the modern world, even if it’s completely bizarre. An American Pickle is a goofy movie about what it means to be an American.
Bad Education (2019)
Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney shine in this TIFF standout that HBO acquired for a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release. Based on a true story, Bad Education follows the beloved superintendent (Jackman) of New York’s Roslyn school district and his staff, friends, and relatives, as they become the prime suspects in the largest public school embezzlement scandal in American history.
Jojo Rabbit (2019)
Jojo Rabbit is likely the most charming film you’ll ever see about the Hitler Youth. Nominated for six Oscars in 2020, including Best Picture, Jojo Rabbit is a funny, endearing look at blind nationalism and how damaging it can be for children and society. Jojo is a proud little Nazi who is so loyal to the party that Adolf Hitler himself is his imaginary friend. When he discovers that his mother is harboring a young Jewish girl in the house, Jojo’s entire world is turned upside down: She appears to not have horns and actually seems to be quite nice-looking and wise. Forced to confront his blind nationalism as the war turns against Germany, Jojo enters an existential crisis that is far too real for anyone his age.
Ready or Not (2019)
After 2017’s Get Out set a new bar for horror movies, 2019 and 2020 saw a strange run of The Deadliest Game spin-offs, with movies centered around humans staging ritualistic hunts of other humans. Ready or Not was one of the first and best in this run. Samara Weaving plays a newlywed whose wedding night takes a turn when she’s forced to take part in a game of hide-and-seek at her extremely wealthy, extremely eccentric in-laws’ home. Their version of hide-and-seek, however, is deeply, deeply disturbing and significantly higher stakes.
Although it received some backlash for treating legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman more like an action hero than an activist, Harriet nonetheless tells an important story about one of America’s greatest heroes. Cynthia Erivo was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Tubman in this biopic that follows the Underground Railroad hero from her escape from slavery through her many dangerous missions to liberate slaves. The PG-13 depiction of the antebellum and Civil War South makes this a worthwhile, educational watch for the whole family.
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