L.A. Weekly’s (Streaming) Movie Guide is your look at the hottest films available on your TV sets and electronic devices — from indie art house gems to popcorn-perfect blockbusters to new movies garnering buzz that moved from theaters (now closed in L.A.) to digital Video on Demand (VOD) and streaming subscription services. Check this guide regularly as you shelter at home during the pandemic.
Stop the presses … Netflix has finally produced an action movie worth watching. Extraction stars Chris Hemsworth as a sad-eyed mercenary hired to rescue the kidnapped teenage son (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) of a Bangladesh drug lord. Things don’t go according to plan, prompting a spectacular 12-minute one-shot action sequence reportedly filmed with a handheld camera strapped to the chest of stunt coordinator-turned-director Sam Hargrave. Written by Avengers director Joe Russo, Extraction proves itself memorable not for its crazy action but for the poignant chemistry between Hemsworth and Jaiswal. On set, Hemsworth is said to have referred to Jaiswal as “the little legend.” It’s easy to see why. —Chuck Wilson
It’s summer in Brooklyn and 12-year-old Abe (Noah Schnapp) is secretly working as an apprentice for a Brazilian chef (Seu Jorge) whose lessons in fusion Abe hopes to apply to his religiously diverse, emotionally fractured family. A low-key charmer rich in complex themes and delectable-looking food, Abe is the perfect movie to watch alongside your favorite young foodie. —C.W.
Circus of Books (Netflix)
For decades, the Circus of Books stores in West Hollywood and Silverlake weren’t just a place to buy porn and poppers, they were a safe harbor for gay men still nervous about being themselves. Filmmaker Rachel Mason’s parents, Karen and Barry, owned the shops, and in a Netflix documentary of particular interest to Angelenos, tracks her folk’s battles against censorship and homophobia, even as they struggled to reconcile their son’s emerging sexuality. Narratively, Circus of Books moves in fits and starts, but the story of how the Masons stumbled into the porn biz is fascinating — it’s easy to imagine executive producer Ryan Murphy making the Masons the heroes of a future miniseries. —C.W.
Sea Fever (VOD)
There’s a monster under the boat! Well, isn’t there always? The squid-like creature that attaches itself to an Irish fishing trawler in Neasa Hardiman’s impressive debut feature soon has the crew wondering which of them have been infected with its body-exploding parasites. While the setup is familiar, a gifted cast, led by Dougray Scott, Connie Neilsen and newcomer Hermione Cornfield, and a script more interested in character than gross-out scares — there’s one really good one — make this a monster movie with unexpected (wait for it) depth. —C.W.
Selah and the Spades (Amazon Prime Video)
Five social factions rule the illicit goings-on at the Haldwell Prep School, including the Spades, the school’s drug and booze running posse, led by Selah (Lovie Simone), a brilliant, beautiful senior looking for her successor. Enter Paloma (Celeste O’Connor), a socially ambitious photographer flattered by Selah’s attentions but soon overwhelmed by the labyrinthine turns of prep school villainy. For her virtuoso debut feature, writer-director Tayarisha Poe has made a film that’s funny and sexy, angry and complicated and most wonderfully, proudly ferocious. —C.W.
Stray Dolls (VOD)
In upstate New York, Riz (Geetanjali Thapa), an undocumented Indian immigrant, is ensnared by Una (Cynthia Nixon), a motel owner who promises her papers in exchange for work. A beat later, Riz is in deep with fellow maid, Dallas (Olivia DeJonge), who becomes both her best friend and biggest danger point, in ways that feel true to the complexities of a friendship built in duress. First-time writer-director Sonejuhi Sinha is frustratingly skimpy on plot specifics but her resourceful young leads, buoyed by the ever-amazing Nixon, are captivating. It’s been a week since I saw Stray Dolls, and I’m still worried about Riz. —C.W.
Straight Up (Outfest On Demand)
Straight Up is the pitch perfect debut of writer-director James Sweeney, who also stars as Todd, a young Asian-American coder who’s cool with being gay except for the sex part — he’s not keen on bodily functions. Feeling experimental, he begins a friendship/relationship with Rory (Katie Findlay), an actress as whip-smart as Todd and just as lonely (but not quite willing to admit it). These two talk at warp speed, a trait that might be annoying if their banter weren’t so funny and revealing. Romantically subversive in ways that feel true to the current moment, Straight Up may well become an era-defining classic. —C.W.
And Then We Danced (Outfest On Demand)
Backdropped by Tbilisi, Georgia, and taking place in the dance world, this evocative film explores the nature of dedication and desire, and how one can influence the other. Merab, a competitive dancer who has been training for years with his partner for a spot in the National Georgian Ensemble, finds himself grappling with conflicted emotions when Irakli, a new male dancer enters his world. Delving into the hyper-conservative confines of Georgian society, the film aims to explore LGBTQ+ struggles in an personal way while providing insight into the history and modern culture in a part of the world that is not well known beyond its surrounding regions. —Lina Lecaro
We Summon The Darkness (VOD)
After rocking out at a heavy metal concert, three stud-n-leather-clad gal pals invite some dudes to party at the estate where one of them lives- owned by her preacher dad (Johnny Knoxville). When the soiree turns deadly, all signs point to Satan, but the true villains are not who you’d expect. This fun little horror film will satisfy fans of menacing movie fare and metal music alike. Director Marc Meyers’ (My Friend Dahmer) takes on old school slasher movies shamelessly referencing the creepster cliches we’d expect from a film of this kind, but it manages to feel somewhat fresh thanks to the performances and in-on-the-joke dialog. —L.L.
Trolls World Tour (VOD)
There’s a lot to absorb in the new Trolls flick starring Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, but the takeaway seems to be something about how music divides us and rock n’ rollers would take over the world if they could. Of course, pop music -as sung by Kendrick’s lead character Princess Poppy- rules the airwaves, and in the end, it does here as well, but the technicolored “tour” that ensues aims to provide a taste of different Troll music types- funk, classical, county, techno and even yodeling- along the way. There’s some fun cameos – Ozzy Osbourne as the evil rock princess troll Barb’s dad, and George Clinton and Mary J. Blige as the funk king and queen- but the star here is the eye candy animation. Even more than the original, Trolls World Tour, is a rainbow-swathed, glitter-drenched escape from reality, and it provides the full-on fantastical at-home experience that many families are probably craving right now. Universal Pictures was forced to cancel the theatrical release and premiered it on demand instead, making it one of the first major films to bypass theaters due to the coronavirus. —L.L.
Also recommended (VOD & subsciption):
The Beastie Boys Movie (Apple TV+)
The Wiloughbys (Netflix)
Love Wedding Repeat (Netflix)
The Roads Not Taken
The Main Event
Y Cómo Es Él
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Party Hard Die Young
The Lost Husband
Ray & Liz