Weeks after studios began shuffling their tentpole release dates, the movie industry continues to change in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The last week saw a major scuffle occur, as NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell’s comments about the direct-to-VOD release of Trolls 2 led AMC and Regal chains to declare they would ban Universal films from their theaters.
For now, however, VOD and streaming are still the best way to catch new movies. This week’s newly available movies range from indies to blockbusters that came out just before movie theaters closed down. There’s The Assistant, Kitty Green’s feature about the abuse that led to the #MeToo movement; The Photograph, a romance between characters played by Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield; Deerskin, a strange — and strangely delightful — film about a seemingly supernatural jacket; and more.
Here are the new movies you can watch this weekend (including some of the bigger titles that are new on Netflix in May), as well as where to find them.
Kitty Green’s follow-up to the Netflix documentary Casting JonBenét — and her first foray into narrative features — is The Assistant, a portrait of abuse in the film industry and what made such corruption of power possible. It’s a stunning film, as we wrote in our review here:
When the #MeToo movement began inviting women to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the sheer number and scope of the stories seemed unfathomable. It was hard to accept that the misconduct and coverups being recounted could have gone on for so long. Kitty Green’s feature film The Assistant tugs on that thread by focusing on a film-production assistant who begins to chafe against the toxic behavior surrounding her. Unlike Bombshell, which took a glossier look at the sexual-harassment allegations against Fox News’ Roger Ailes, The Assistant is played entirely straight. By focusing on the events of a single day and a single character’s experience of them, Green perfectly captures the horror of working in such an abusive environment. No embellishment is necessary.
Daniel Radcliffe continues his as-far-from-Harry-Potter-as-possible post-Harry Potter career with Guns Akimbo, in which he plays a computer programmer who is forced to compete in an underground fight club. The catch? He has guns bolted to both of his hands, and is being pitted against the game’s most vicious entrant. Though the film’s director stirred up controversy in February, the movie arrives to VOD this week to fill a midnight-movie-sized hole.
Sparks fly between Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield in this romantic drama from director Stella Meghie (The Weekend). The death of a famed photographer brings her estranged daughter Mae (Rae) to town, and as she tries to reconcile herself with the loss, she begins to fall for the journalist (Stanfield) investigating her mother’s death.
Where to watch it: Available through local theaters’ virtual cinema partnerships
The French black comedy Deerskin, starring The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, is one of the strangest films in recent memory. Here’s what our review out of Cannes last year said:
To get a sense of just how strange the French film Deerskin is, take a look at the official synopsis: “Georges, 44 years old, and his jacket, 100% deerskin, have a plan.” The mystifying logline is perfect for the new black comedy from Quentin Dupieux (Reality, Rubber aka the killer tire movie), which stars The Artist’s Jean Dujardin as Georges. The film is slim in all senses of the word — in runtime (it clocks in at 77 minutes), in cast (Dujardin and Adèle Haenel play the only significant characters), and in concept (the jacket really is the thing) — and manages to escalate to a magnificent level of bizarreness nevertheless. It’s telling that Deerskin is screening as a part of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight selection, which screens off the to the side from the more “prestigious” competition slate, and played home to Mandy and Climax last year.
Black and Blue
Black and Blue stars Naomie Harris as an army veteran who returns to her hometown as a cop, and is drawn into a web of corruption when she captures the murder of a young drug dealer on her body cam. When Maya Phillips wrote about police brutality in film for Polygon, she touched on the scenes and themes of Black and Blue:
In Black and Blue, Alicia is framed for a police murder of a black boy, then tracked down by both the police and members of the black community. The movie doesn’t go for subtlety; Alicia’s tiresome, 108-minute ordeal is framed with characters who try to forcefully pigeonhole her into one camp or the other. Other black characters call her an Uncle Tom, and one cop asks her, “You think they your people? … You’re blue now.” The nexus of Alicia’s conflict isn’t that she witnessed a crime, but that she refuses to choose between her identity as a black woman and her position with the police. In the end, her dedication to the truth saves her, so she doesn’t have to choose. She can remain a part of her community while also retaining her honor as a cop.
New on Netflix this weekend
- Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story, a crime documentary about Cyntoia Brown Long, a prison reform advocate
- The thriller Dangerous Lies, which pits Riverdale’s Camila Mendes against a bunch of … dangerous lies
- The tender documentary A Secret Love, about two women who kept their relationship secret for seven decades
- The Half of It, a modern teen retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac
- Hollywood, Ryan Murphy’s latest series, about the post-World War II movie industry
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
Where to watch it: Catch it on HBO Now, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime Video
The screenplay of Bad Education is based on a scandal that occurred at Roslyn High School while writer Mike Makowsky was a student there, as superintendent Frank Tassone was embroiled in an embezzlement cast while making his school district one of the best in the country. Hugh Jackman stars as Tassone, with Allison Janney, Ray Romano, and Geraldine Viswanathan filling out the rest of the cast. In our review, Tasha Robinson praises Jackman for bolstering the squirm-worthy drama:
The film leans heavily on Jackman’s placid charm to carry not just the story, but the tone. Frank is scripted as a glad-handing administrator who prides himself on knowing everything about his people — not just the names of the school’s parents and students, but who they’re related to, what hobbies interest them, and so forth. But he rarely comes off as an oily salesman. Jackman normally specializes in much bigger and broader performances, whether he’s playing seething anti-hero Wolverine in various X-Men movies, or belting out Broadway-style tunes onstage or in musicals like The Greatest Showman and Les Misérables. Here, he’s much more human-sized, a slick but seemingly sincere functionary who’s found his exact level, and has the success record to prove it. He’s a beloved, award-winning administrator who authentically seems to care about the people around him, and Jackman sells both the sincerity, and the sense of something lurking under it.
Last year’s hit Hustlers costs less than a buck to rent this weekend, which makes it an absolute steal. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star in this pulled-from-the-headlines story, which we call in our review “the female-led heist movie we’ve been waiting for.”
It’s difficult to imagine that any movie in theaters this year will be more sheer, rollicking fun — or more fabulous, or more full of feeling — than Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers. Based on Jessica Pressler’s “The Hustlers at Scores,” the film upends expectations on multiple levels, providing the strippers at its center with the agency of which they’re usually robbed on screen, as well as punching above the emotional weight you might expect for a film about a hustle gone wrong.
To the Stars
Moonrise Kingdom’s Kara Hayward returns in To the Stars, a film about a small town in 1960’s Oklahoma. Hayward plays Iris, an introverted teenager who is bullied at school and finds little peace at home. When a new family moves into town, Iris makes friends with their daughter Maggie (Liana Liberato), but the events that brought the family out to Oklahoma start to cause ripples through the tight-knit community. Shea Whigham plays Iris’ father, and Tony Hale and Malin Akerman play Maggie’s parents. In our review from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, we said director Martha Stephens’ “dustbowl compositions steer To the Stars clear of cliché or period-piece artifice. You’ll never be as mad at modern politicians who want to take us back to the ‘good ol’ days’ as you will watching this adept coming-of-age tale.”
The True History of the Kelly Gang
Assassin’s Creed director Justin Kurzel takes on history in a less outlandish vein with The True History of the Kelly Gang. The Kelly Gang were a group of outlaws who gained notoriety in 1870s Australia, and the movie follows their flight from the authorities. 1917’s George MacKay stars as Kelly himself, with Russell Crowe as a figure from Kelly’s past.
The Quarry makes for a Shea Whigham double-whammy this weekend. The film stars Whigham as a mysterious drifter who tries to start a new life as the cleric to a small-town congregation. But the local police chief (Michael Shannon) has his suspicions, and a gruesome crime threatens to unravel things even further.