For movie lovers, that we took cinemas for granted while they were open has provided one of our greatest pains. Especially given that films have provided some of our greatest escapes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
New movies are still being released, however, albeit on smaller screens, and often made with far smaller budgets than many of the films postponed by the mass closure of cinemas.
Covid-19 has rewritten many of the rules we had become used to. While blockbusters including Black Widow, A Quiet Place Part II, No Time to Die and Wonder Woman 1984 have all been moved to dates later in the 2020 calendar, a drip feed of new filmmaking is arriving on a variety of platforms every week.
In the past few days, this has included recent hits such as The Invisible Man and Emma, both of which have been released for rental months before they normally would have been. Films released in the last days of cinemas being open, including controversial thriller The Hunt and the gay romance And Then We Danced, are also already available for rental on platforms including iTunes, BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema.
If you were eager for a quick rundown of new films currently, or soon to be, available to stream, rent and purchase, The Independent has collated some of the very best – or at least, most notable. From dark thrillers to family comedies, here are the highlights of the next month in new movies.
Spiky and deeply uncomfortable, Swallow isn’t for the faint of heart. Haley Bennett stars as Hunter, a wealthy trophy wife leading a perfect if listless life. When she falls pregnant, however, she develops a taste for foreign objects – swallowing everything from marbles to pins to batteries. Bennett, who has bounced around in projects including The Girl on the Train and The Magnificent Seven but has yet to become a star, is spectacular. The film itself is a provocative and queasy wonder. (iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Sky Store, Virgin Media, Sony)
The Banker was intended to be Apple TV+’s first foray into major filmmaking, but was ultimately derailed at the end of 2019 by a scandal involving relatives of the real-life figures portrayed in the film. The film itself, however, hasn’t entirely been dented – Samuel L Jackson and Anthony Mackie play black entrepreneurs in Sixties LA who devise a plot to use an inexperienced white frontman (Nicholas Hoult) to “trojan horse” their grand ideas into action. (Apple TV+)
Lady and the Tramp
One of two new original movies streaming immediately on the newly-launched Disney+, Lady and the Tramp also isn’t an immediate attention grabber. Despite a heartwarming backstory (its canine stars were rescued from animal shelters prior to filming), this live-action remake can’t escape the drawbacks of its relatively low budget and lack of purpose. Easily entertained children, however, may be entranced. Read our full review here. (Disney+)
Dogs Don’t Wear Pants
Nothing can conquer the coronavirus blues quicker than a dark and funny S&M romcom that features incredible moments of squeamish body horror! Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is wonderfully oddball, a story of a grieving widower who stumbles upon an S&M dungeon and discovers enlightenment and acceptance with a dominatrix wearing a Louise Brooks wig. Not for everyone, but a daring vision unlike anything else out there. (Curzon Home Cinema)
The Jesus Rolls
A film nobody particularly asked for, and possibly few will be satisfied by, The Jesus Rolls is John Turturro’s Big Lebowski spin-off movie, as well as a remake of the French farce Going Places. Despite surrounding himself with a brilliant ensemble that includes Susan Sarandon, Jon Hamm, Audrey Tautou and Christopher Walken, Turturro struggles to make his film appealing to anyone outside hardcore Lebowski fandom – and even they may be slightly underwhelmed. Read our full review here. (iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Sky Store, Virgin Media, Sony)
The Rest of Us
Heather Graham delivers the best performance of her career in this gentle drama from director Aisling Chin-Lee. She’s a single mother with a restless teenage daughter (Sophie Nelisse), who invites the destitute woman who helped break up her marriage to live with her. A potentially soapy, even unbelievable, premise is instead rendered incredibly moving by the film’s smart and lived-in storytelling. (iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Sky Store, Virgin Media)
The Wolf Hour
Arguably the scariest movie you could watch right now, The Wolf Hour stars Naomi Watts as an agoraphobic writer slowly falling apart while trapped in her New York apartment during a heatwave. It’s an acting showcase as much as it is a test of patience, with a perpetual air of menace hanging over all of it. You’ll never want to hear a buzzer ring ever again. (iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Sky Store, Virgin Media, Sony)
Togo was generally well enough received upon its US streaming debut last December that you wonder if Disney regretted not releasing it in cinemas rather than the similarly doggy Call of the Wild. That movie, starring Harrison Ford and a not-particularly-convincing CGI collie, died in cinemas in February. Togo, meanwhile, is much better – inspired by the real-life story of a team of sled dogs transporting medicine across wintry Alaska in 1925, it features a number of exciting action set pieces and a characteristically magnetic performance from Willem Dafoe. (Disney+)
Spellbinding and brilliantly weird, Vivarium plays like a feature-length Twilight Zone episode, with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots trapped in an empty and creepily identikit planned community and unable to escape. Then a newborn baby appears. There are scares, some dark League of Gentlemen-style comedy and brilliant performances from its central pair, all before a doozy of a climax. (iTunes, BFI Player, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Sky Store, Virgin Media, Sony)
A supernaturally brilliant performance from 11-year-old Helena Zengel powers this provocative drama about the Berlin social services system. She is Benni, a traumatised child whose propensity for self-inflicted violence has caused disruption throughout her various foster homes. System Crasher is a noisy, frenetic and moving film, and blissfully free of judgments. (Curzon Home Cinema)
The Perfect Candidate
Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker Haifaa al-Mansour returns to her native country, from an excursion in the US, with this powerful and moving portrait of a woman running for local city council. Mila Al Zahrani is a Saudi doctor exhausted by cuts to her practice, who takes it upon herself to make change via the political system. Al-Mansour’s film goes to expected places, but it bursts with a gentle optimism. (Curzon Home Cinema, BFI Player)
A throwback to the slasher movies of the Nineties, and directed by Scream’s editor Patrick Lussier, Trick even stars a pair of Scream alumni: Jamie Kennedy, aka film geek Randy, and Omar Epps, one of Scream 2’s opening victims. Epps plays a detective on the trail of a masked killer who returns every Halloween to claim new victims. A combination of a number of different horror trends no longer en vogue, it’s a nostalgic thrill ride back to a simpler time. (iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Sky Store, Virgin Media, Sony)
Standing Up, Falling Down
Billy Crystal is one of those beloved stars who feels like he hasn’t been in front of a camera in eons (his last on-screen role was in 2012’s little-seen Parental Guidance), so this indie comedy is doubly rewarding. Even if Crystal wasn’t in it, Standing Up, Falling Down would be enjoyable – it’s the loose and cheerful story of two disparate men thrown together by coincidence and striking up a life-resuscitating friendship. Crystal is one half of the film’s central pair, the other Parks & Recreation’s wonderful Ben Schwartz. (iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Sky Store, Virgin Media, Sony)
Four Kids and It
An oddball cast that includes Russell Brand, Michael Caine, Paula Patton and Cheryl star in this adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson’s Four Children and It, itself inspired by the classic children’s novel Five Children and It. The kids of the title discover a wish-granting goblin creature while on holiday, with high jinks ensuing. Released in time for Easter, it’ll likely provide enjoyably noisy distraction for youngsters in between chocolate eggs. (Sky Store)
Trolls World Tour
The first of what could be a new trend as a result of the coronavirus – an expensive studio movie made for theatrical release, skipping cinemas due to their widespread closure and going straight to VOD. Trolls World Tour boasts an A-list cast that includes Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick and James Corden, as well as a hit theme song (“The Other Side”, Timberlake’s collaboration with SZA). That its predecessor, released in 2016, has had little to no pop-culture legacy may have tipped Universal Pictures’ hand when it came to unveiling it early. What it may mean for the future of cinema distribution remains to be seen. (iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Virgin Media, Sony and Sky Store – which will be making a range of movies available on the same day as their global release. Sky Store can also be found via the app on NOW TV devices)
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Pablo Larrain’s follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Jackie is a woozy, unpredictable drama that occasionally veers into psycho-thriller territory. It doesn’t entirely indulge in it, which may be a disappointment to some, but there’s enough to keep you mesmerised all the same. The story of a pair of dancers, formerly a couple, who abandoned their adoptive son under mysterious circumstances, it spirals into unexpected and often darkly comedic corners as it goes. (Mubi)