L.A. Weekly’s (Streaming) Movie Guide is your look at the hottest films coming to 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.
Streaming Picks (released this Fri., April 3):
TOP PICK: Elephant (Disney +)- When Prince Harry touted his wife to Disney execs, we all knew we’d be seeing or hearing her soon. And here it is: Meghan Markle narrates this gorgeous documentary following a family of elephants as they journey across Africa.
TOP PICK: Slay the Dragon (VOD)- What happens when money influences a state’s redistricting process, dramatically skewing voting maps? According to this new doc, one of the greatest electoral manipulations in U.S. history, and one that poses a fundamental threat to our democracy. This new documentary delves deeper into the issue, from its inception to its aftermath, shining a light on those that have banded together to fight back. The film follows a handful of outraged citizen’s groups doing everything they can to fix a broken system.
TOP PICK: Rarely Never Sometimes Always (VOD)– Cousins Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and Skylar (Talia Ryder) navigate Autumn’s unplanned teen pregnancy in conservative rural Pennsylvania. Determined to get the help Autumn needs, the pair scrape together the necessary money to fund the procedure and embark on a journey to New York.
The Other Lamb (VOD)– A group of young women cut off from society in a remote forest commune by a Manson/messiah-like leader start to resist after one member’s revelations reveal his true intentions in this haunting tale of cult life.
Coffee & Kareem (Netflix)- Ed Helms and Taraji P. Henson make an odd couple but it’s the Detroit cop’s relationship with his girlfriend’s F-bomb dropping young son that drives this crime-driven screwball comedy.
The Death of Stalin (Netflix)– This comic historical drama about Joseph Stalin deserves a nod for its big name actors and 96% Rotten Tomatoes score, even if the 2017 title’s release on Netflix two years late is curious.
Early to home video on demand and streaming service releases:
TOP PICK: Birds of Prey (VOD)- Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was like a ray of lethal Technicolor sunshine in the otherwise abysmal baddie mess Suicide Squad. Well, the wacky punkette is back and she’s set on proving she don’t need no Joker to cause havoc. She’s OK with a squad though, and she ultimately gets a girl-powered one in this music video-like super-villain spectacle. Read full review here.
TOP PICK: Emma– (VOD) The Jane Austin classic is reimagined in this new adaptation by L.A. photographer Autumn De Wilde. Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Emma Woodhouse, a young woman navigating life and love in 1800s England. Meddlesome yet well-meaning, a spoiled Emma navigates life alongside her father (Bill Nighy) and longtime friend George Knightley (Johnny Flynn) as she acts as town matchmaker. From the comedic timing to the costumes, color palate, and soundtrack – everything about this comedy is as sharp and punctuated as its name.
TOP PICK: Onward (Disney +)-Pixar’s newest CGI extravaganza is a fantasy about two teenage elves on a quest to restore their dead father’s upper body after a botched spell brings him back as legs only. The magical world of wizards and sub-Tolkien creatures is set in a recognizable urban context (restaurants, cops, etc.) which deflates the sense of magic as well as the sense of fun. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt lend their voices to the two leads, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer pump up the levity. Dan Scanlon directed a screenplay by himself, Jason Headley and Keith Bunin. Read review here.
TOP PICK: Banana Split (VOD)- This teen romp boasts a likeable cast and relatable story concerning quirky high schooler April (Hannah Marks) and her breakup with her hunky boyfriend Nick (Dylan Sprouse- the other Disney twin from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, aka not the guy on Riverdale). When April discovers that her ex has a new girlfriend, Clara (Liana Liberato), the plot takes some predictable yet enjoyable turns as the two girls end up forging a secret friendship that proves stronger than romance. The angst and excitement here feels authentic thanks to Marks, who also wrote the script.
Sonic The Hedgehog (VOD)- Yet another attempt to resuscitate a pop culture icon from the recent past — in this case the late ’90s. The popular Sega video game series has survived the decades in various forms, and the blue spiny mammal with tremendous energy is at least as cute as the Smurfs, so why not? In this live action spinoff from Paramount, Sonic is pursued by Dr. Robotnik, played by Jim Carrey, who still harbors vast reserves of energy of his own. James Marsden plays his human ally, and everybody screams a lot. Jeff Fowler directed a script by Pat Casey and Josh Miller.
Call of the Wild (VOD)-Based on the novel by Jack London, the film is set in the wilds of Alaska and follows a dog’s journey as he transforms from a privileged pet to a brave adventurer. Stolen from his home in Santa Clara, California and transported to the frozen Canadian Yukon in a cruel and brutal fashion, Buck’s potential is noticed by rugged outdoorsman and prospector John Thorton (Harrison Ford) who nurtures the dog back to health. French-Canadian mail runners (Omar Sy, Cara Gee) train Buck to become a sled dog as he sheds his life of luxury and finds a new sense of purpose. Directed by Chris Sanders, the film relies heavily on CGI to retell this fantastic tale. See review here.
The Invisible Man (VOD) A revisionist retelling of the H.G. Wells’ classic novella of science gone wrong, this recent theatrical release starring Elisabeth Moss moves the focus from the existential dread of the inventor and places it on the victim, the inventor’s traumatized wife. Science is not the enemy this time; male toxicity is. Read review here.
The Hunt -Based on 1942’s famous short story, The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell, The Hunt has seemed somewhat doomed from the start. The original release was pushed following criticism from President Trump, and then, when it was finally due to come out, the coronavirus hit. Said to be a thriller that serves as a satire on America’s political divide, viewers are along for the ride as 12 strangers mysteriously awake in a clearing to find they are being hunted for sport by the “elite.” Tables are turned when Crystal (Betty Gilpin) decides to fight back. Produced by Blumhouse Productions and directed by Craig Zobel.
Brahms- The Boy 2 (Streaming)- Ghoulish doll Brahms is back to continue his reign of terror. In an effort to quell the onset of their young son Jude’s (Christopher Convery) troubled behavior, Liza (Katie Holmes) and Sean (Owain Yeoman) move the family to a guest house situated on deeply wooded land. Despite its haunting appearance, the young family somehow has no idea of the history of the main house – the Heelshire Mansion – and its terrifying past. Creepy attracts creepy, as Jude finds Brahms buried in the woods after being compelled to the spot by an unknown force. As the pair unite, the unsettling plot takes off. Complete with jump scares, ominous whispers, and a fittingly uncomfortable soundtrack, the film directed by William Brent Bell, reminds us that some things are better left buried.
Also available to stream now:
Invisible Life (Prime Video)
Dolphin Reef- (Disney +)
Home Before Dark (Apple TV)
Almost Love (Streaming)
It Started as a Joke (Streaming)
Lazy Susan (Streaming)
More recommended films to stream here.