Fourteen New Movies You Can Watch in May That Have Been Fast-Tracked From Cinemas to Streaming
Including Joaquin Phoenix's latest mesmerising performance, a horror gem set on a porn shoot and the newest 'Batman' flick.
May 13, 2022
Before the pandemic, when a new-release movie started playing in cinemas, audiences couldn't watch it on streaming, video on demand, DVD or blu-ray for a few months. But with the past few years forcing film industry to make quite a few changes — widespread movie theatre closures and plenty of people staying home in iso will do that — that's no longer always the case.
Maybe you've had a close-contact run-in. Perhaps you haven't had time to make it to your local cinema lately. Given the hefty amount of films now releasing each week, maybe you simply missed something. Film distributors have been fast-tracking some of their new releases from cinemas to streaming recently — movies that might still be playing in theatres in some parts of the country, too. In preparation for your next couch session, here are 14 that you can watch right now at home.
In new slasher standout X, the eponymous letter doesn't simply mark a spot; it isn't by accident that the film takes its moniker from the classification given to the most violent and pornographic movies made. This is a horror flick set amid a porn shoot, after all, and it heartily embraces the fact that people like to watch from the get-go. Swaggering producer Wayne (Martin Henderson, The Gloaming), aspiring starlet Maxine Minx (Mia Goth, Emma), old-pro fellow actors Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow, Pitch Perfect 3) and Jackson Hole (Scott Mescudi, Don't Look Up), and arty director RJ (Owen Campbell, The Miseducation of Cameron Post) and his girlfriend/sound recorder Lorraine (Jenna Ortega, doing triple horror duty in 2022 so far in Scream, Studio 666 and now this) are counting on that truth to catapult themselves to fame. Hailing from Houston and aroused at the idea of repeating Debbie Does Dallas' success, they're heading out on the road to quieter climes to make the skin flick they're staking their futures on, and they desperately hope there's an audience.
X is set in the 70s, as both the home-entertainment pornography market and big-screen slashers were beginning to blossom. As a result, it's similarly well aware that sex and death are cinema's traditional taboos, and that they'll always be linked. That's art imitating life, because sex begets life and life begets death, but rare is the recent horror movie that stresses the connection so explicitly yet playfully. Making those links is Ti West, the writer/director responsible for several indie horror gems over the past decade or so — see: cult favourites The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers — and thrusting a smart, savage and salacious delight towards his viewers here. Yes, he could've gone with The Texas Porn-Shoot Massacre for the feature's title, but he isn't remaking the obvious seminal piece of genre inspiration.
The last time that Joaquin Phoenix appeared in cinemas, he played an overlooked and unheard man. "You don't listen, do you?" Arthur Fleck asked his social worker, and the entirety of Joker — and of Phoenix's magnetic Oscar-winning performance as the Batman foe in the 2019 film, too — provided the obvious answer. Returning to the big screen in a feature that couldn't be more different to his last, Phoenix now plays a professional listener. A radio journalist and podcaster who'd slide in seamlessly alongside Ira Glass on America's NPR, Johnny's niche is chatting with children. Travelling around the country from his New York base, C'mon C'mon's protagonist seeks thoughts about life, hopes, dreams, the future and the world in general, but never in a Kids Say the Darndest Things-type fashion. As Phoenix's sensitive, pensive gaze conveys under the tender guidance of Beginners and 20th Century Women filmmaker Mike Mills, Johnny truly and gratefully hears what his young interviewees utter.
Phoenix is all gentle care, quiet understanding and rippling melancholy as Johnny. All naturalism and attentiveness as well, he's also firmly at his best, no matter what's inscribed on his Academy Award. Here, Phoenix is as phenomenal as he was in his career highlight to-date, aka the exceptional You Were Never Really Here, in a part that again has his character pushed out of his comfort zone by a child. C'mon C'mon's Johnny spends his days talking with kids, but that doesn't mean he's equipped to look after his nine-year-old nephew Jesse (Woody Norman, The War of the Worlds) in Los Angeles when his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent) needs to assist her husband Paul (Scoot McNairy, A Quiet Place Part II) with his mental health. Johnny and Viv haven't spoken since their mother died a year earlier, and Johnny has previously overstepped when it comes to Paul — with the siblings' relationship so precarious that he barely knows Jesse — but volunteering to help is his immediate reflex.
When The Batman begins (not to be confused with Batman Begins), it's with the slaying of a powerful Gotham figure. A shocking crime that scandalises the city, it leaves a traumatised boy behind, and couldn't be more influential in the detective-style tale of blood and vengeance that follows. But viewers haven't seen this story before, despite appearances. It isn't the start of pop culture's lonesome billionaire orphan's usual plight, although he's there, all dressed in black, and has an instant affinity for the sorrowful kid. Behold the first standout feat achieved by this excellent latest take on the Dark Knight (not to be confused with The Dark Knight): realising that no one needs to see Bruce Wayne's parents meet their end for what'd feel like the millionth time.
The elder Waynes are still dead, and have been for two decades. Bruce (Robert Pattinson, Tenet) still festers with pain over their loss. And the prince of Gotham still turns vigilante by night, cleaning up the lawless streets one no-good punk at a time with only trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis, Long Shot) in on his secret. As directed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes' Matt Reeves, and co-scripted with The Unforgivable's Peter Craig, The Batman clocks something crucial about its namesake and the audiences that watch him, however. The caped crusader's every move stems from his inescapable grief as always, but no one has to witness its origins yet again to glean why he's become the conflicted protector of his anarchic city. Instead, here he's overtly anguished, upset, broken, broiling with hurt and working his way through those feelings in each affray — a suave, smooth and slick one-percenter playboy in his downtime, he isn't — and it's a more absorbing version of the character than seen in many of the past Bat flicks that've fluttered through cinemas.
DRIVE MY CAR
Inspired by Haruki Murakami's short story of the same name, Drive My Car's setup couldn't be simpler. Still recovering from a personal tragedy, actor and director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima, Silent Tokyo) agrees to helm a stage version of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima — but the company behind it insists on giving him a chauffeur for the duration of his stay. He declines, yet they contend it is mandatory for insurance and liability reasons, so Misaki (Toko Miura, Spaghetti Code Love) becomes a regular part of his working stint in the city. Friendship springs, slowly and gradually, but Murakami's name is one of the first signs that this won't follow a standard road. The other: Japanese filmmaker Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, who makes layered, thoughtful and probing reflections upon connection, as seen in his other efforts Happy Hour, Asako I & II and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy.
Drive My Car doesn't hurry to its narrative destination, clocking in at a minute shy of three hours, but it's a patient, engrossing and rewarding trip. It's a gorgeously shot and affectingly performed one, too, whether taking to the road, spending time with its central pair, or chronicling Yusuke's involving auditions and rehearsals. Another thing that Hamaguchi does disarmingly well: ponder possibilities and acceptance, two notions that echo through both Yusuke and Misaki's tales, and resonate with that always-winning combination of specificity and universality. Drive My Car is intimate and detailed about every element of its on-screen voyage and its character studies, and also a road map to soulful, relatable truths.
Like pouring kibble into a bowl for a hungry pooch each morning, Dog is dutiful with the basics: a man, a mutt, an odd-couple arrangement between seeming opposites with more in common than the human among them first thinks, and an emotional journey. Turner & Hooch-esque comedic hijinks ensue along the way, naturally, although that Tom Hanks-starring 80s flick didn't involve anyone getting cock-blocked from having a threesome with two tantric sex gurus by its four-legged scamp. Given that Channing Tatum's (Free Guy) Jackson Briggs needs to take Belgian Malinois Lulu 1500 miles from Montana to Arizona by car — she won't fly — Dog is also a road-trip film, complete with episodic antics involving weed farmers and fancy hotels at its pitstops. That's all so standard that it may as well be cinema's best friend, but this flick also reckons with combat-induced post-traumatic stress disorder of both the human and animal kind, and ideas of masculinity and strength attached to military service.
When Briggs is introduced by co-director Tatum and his fellow helmer/screenwriter Reid Carolin (who penned Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL), he's working in fast food by necessity — think Breaking Bad's fate for Saul Goodman, with Tatum even channelling the same stoic demeanour — as he waits to get redeployed. All he wants is to head back on active duty, but his higher-ups need convincing after the brain injury he received on his last tour. Still, his direct superior (Luke Forbes, SWAT) throws him a bone: if Briggs escorts Lulu to their former squad member's funeral, after he drove himself into a tree at 120 miles per hour, he'll sign off on his re-enlistment. Lulu has also been changed by her service, so much so that this'll be her last hurrah. Afterwards, Briggs is to return her to the nearest base where she'll be euthanised; however, the bond that springs between the two throws a bone into that distressing plan.
Each filmmaker walks in the shadows of all who came before them — and as the cinema's history lengthens, so will those penumbras. With Bergman Island, French director Mia Hansen-Løve doesn't merely ponder that idea; she makes it the foundation of her narrative, as well a launching pad for a playful and resonant look at love, work and creativity. Her central couple, both filmmakers, literally tread in the footsteps of the great Ingmar Bergman. Visiting Fårö, the island off Sweden's southeastern coast that he called home and his base, Chris (Vicky Krieps, Old) and Tony Sanders (Tim Roth, The Misfits) couldn't escape his imprint if they wanted to. They don't, of course, as they're searching for as much inspiration as they can find; however, the idea of being haunted by people and their creations soon spills over to Chris' work.
These Fårö escapades only fill half of the movie, because Bergman Island also brings Chris' budding screenplay to life. There, fellow filmmaker Amy (Mia Wasikowska, Blackbird) visits an island, too — dancing to ABBA and crossing paths with her ex Joseph (The Worst Person in the World's Anders Danielsen Lie). That tumultuous relationship is as bedevilled by other art and the past as Chris' quest to put pen to paper. And, via the film-within-a-film concept, there's a sense of mirroring that couldn't spring any firmer from Bergman himself. That said, the end result is as savvy and soulful as anything on Hansen-Løve's resume (including the stellar Eden and Things to Come) — and, due to Krieps and Wasikowska, as exceptionally acted.
When Flee won the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, it collected its first accolade. The wrenchingly affecting animated documentary hasn't stopped notching up deserving acclaim since. A spate of other gongs have come its way, in fact, including a history-making trifecta of nominations for Best International Feature, Best Documentary and Best Animated Feature at this year's Oscars, becoming the first picture to ever earn nods in all three categories at once. Mere minutes into watching, it's easy to glean why this moving and compassionate movie keeps garnering awards and attention. Pairing animation with factual storytelling is still rare enough that it stands out, but that blend alone isn't what makes Flee special. Writer/director Jonas Poher Rasmussen (What He Did) has created one of the best instances of the combination yet — a feature that could only have the impact it does by spilling its contents in such a way, like Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir before it — however, it's the tale he shares and the care with which he tells it that makes this something unshakeably exceptional.
Rasmussen's subject is Amin Nawabi, an Afghan refugee using a pseudonym. As his story fills Flee's frames, it's also plain to see why it can only be told through animation. Indeed, the film doesn't cover an easy plight — or a unique one, sadly — but Rasmussen renders every detail not just with eye-catching imagery, but with visuals that flow with empathy at every moment. The filmmaker's protagonist is a friend of his and has been for decades, and yet no one, not even the director himself, had ever previously heard him step through the events that the movie chronicles. Amin is now in his 40s, but he was once a kid in war-torn Kabul, then a teenager seeking asylum in Copenhagen. His life to-date has cast him in other roles in other countries, too, on his journey to house-hunting with his boyfriend as he chats through the ups and downs for his pal.
Love can spring quickly, igniting sparks instantly. Or, it can build gradually and gracefully, including over a lifetime. It can be swift and bold like a lightning strike, too, or it can linger, evolve and swell like a gentle breeze. In the sumptuous confines of Cyrano, the newest period piece from Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina), all of the above happens. The latest adaptation of Edmond Rostand's 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, this time as a musical via playwright Erica Schmidt's own song-filled on-stage version, lends its attention to two men who've fallen for the plucky Roxanne (Haley Bennett, Hillbilly Elegy) in opposite ways. Charming soldier Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr, The Trial of the Chicago 7) gets the fast-and-infatuated experience, while the movie's namesake (Peter Dinklage, I Care a Lot), a poet also handy in battle, has ached for his childhood pal for as long as he can remember.
Roxanne's two suitors make a chalk-and-cheese pair, with their contrasting approaches to matters of the heart — specifically, to winning her heart and helping ensure that she doesn't have to marry the rich and ruthless De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn, The Outsider) to secure her future — driving much of Cyrano's drama. Also present and accounted for, as all takes on the tale have included (see also: 80s rom-com Roxanne with Steve Martin, the Gérard Depardieu-starring Cyrano de Bergerac, 90s rom-com The Truth About Cats & Dogs with Uma Thurman and Janeane Garofalo, plus recent Netflix teen flicks Sierra Burgess Is a Loser and The Half of It): insecurities about appearance, a way with words and a ghostwriting gambit. Short in stature given Dinklage's casting, Cyrano can't even dream that Roxanne could love him. But he wants her to be happy above all else and knows that she's smitten with Christian, so he secretly lends his romantic rival his letter-penning abilities to help woo her by lyrical prose.
As the drummer for Nirvana and the frontman for Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl doesn't have many mixed bags on his resume. The music superstar has been in the spotlight for three-plus decades now, and boasts success after success to his name, complete with a list of awards and hits bound to make almost everyone else in the industry envious. But all their lives, Grohl and his fellow Foos must've dreamt of being horror movie stars — and the result, the pandemic-shot Studio 666, shouldn't entice any of them to quit their day jobs. A haunted-house horror-comedy, this rockstar lark is gonzo, gory and extremely goofy. It's a clear bit of fun for everyone involved, and it's made with overflowing love for the genre it slips into and parodies. But it's an indulgent and stretched exercise in famous folks following their whims at times like these, too. Achievement unlocked: there's Grohl's mixed bag.
Studio 666's setup revolves around Grohl, now-late drummer Taylor Hawkins, guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel and keyboardist Rami Jaffee packing their bags for a live-in recording session at an Encino mansion. As the movie's 1993-set prologue shows, their temporary new home has a dark past, after the last group that inhabited the spot met bloody ends; however, ignorance is bliss for the Foo Fighters. Actually, an obligation to deliver their tenth album to their overbearing manager (Jeff Garlin, Curb Your Enthusiasm) inspires the move, as does the band's creative lull in conjuring up the record otherwise. Grohl instantly falls for the sound of the space as well, to an unhinged degree, and his bandmates begrudgingly agree to the month-long stay to make musical magic happen. Recording an album doesn't usually spark The Evil Dead-style murderous mayhem, cursed book and all, but that's Studio 666's gambit.
Some movies sport monikers so out of sync with their contents that someone really should've had a rethink before they reached screens. Uncharted is one of them, but it was never going to switch its name. The action-adventure flick comes to cinemas following a decade and a half of trying, after the first Uncharted video game reached consoles in 2007 and the journey to turning it into a movie began the year after. Accordingly, this Tom Holland (Spider-Man: No Way Home)- and Mark Wahlberg (Joe Bell)-starring film was fated to keep its franchise's title, which references its globe-trotting, treasure hunting, dark passageway-crawling, dusty map-coveting storyline. But unexplored, unfamiliar and undiscovered, this terrain definitely isn't — as four Indiana Jones films to-date, two National Treasure flicks, three Tomb Raider movies, 80s duo Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile, and theme park ride-to-screen adaptation Jungle Cruise have already demonstrated.
In a film that acts as a prequel to its button-mashing counterparts, Holland plays Drake as a 20-something with brother issues, a vast knowledge of cocktail histories that's handy for his bartending gig, an obsession with 16th-century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and the gold he might've hidden, and very light fingers. Nate's elder sibling dipped out of his life after the pair were caught trying to steal a Magellan map as orphanage-dwelling kids, in fact, which Sully uses to his advantage when he first crosses his path in a New York bar — and, after some convincing, Nate has soon signed up to finish the quest he's been dreaming about since childhood. Naturally, this newly formed duo aren't the only ones on the Magellan treasure's trail. The wealthy Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas, The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard) is descended from the explorer's original financiers and boasts a hefty sense of entitlement, while knife-wielding mercenary Jo Braddock (Tati Gabrielle, You) and enterprising fortune-hunter Chloe Frazer (Sophia Ali, India Sweets and Spices) are each chasing a windfall.
Releasing a rom-com starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in 2022 toys with time a little. Its source material doesn't date back 25 years, to when its stars were both in Anaconda, but its broad strokes could've still fuelled a late-90s addition to the romantic-comedy genre. That's how creaky it feels; of course, that timing would've meant spinning a story without livestreamed concerts — and livestreamed lives, outside of films such as The Truman Show and EdTV — but it also would've rid the movie of one of its biggest crutches. Directed by Kat Coiro (A Case of You), Marry Me finds it too easy to blame too many character choices on the always-online, always-performing, always-oversharing mentality that's now the status quo. It too lazily uses the divide between constantly broadcasting one's every move via social media and happily living life offline to fuel its opposites-attract setup as well. It's no wonder that the movie always feels shallow, even for an obvious fairytale, and even as the script attempts to layer in knowing nods to how women like its central pop star are treated by the world whether or not they record and share every moment they're awake.
That singing celebrity is Kat Valdez, aka Lopez playing a part that could've easily been originally penned with her in mind. Kat is a global superstar who, to her dismay, is known as much for her hits as for her personal life. That said, she also willingly combines the two in the track 'Marry Me', a duet with her fiancé Bastian (Colombian singer Maluma) that the pair plan to get married to during a show livestreamed to 20 million people. But moments before Kat ascends to the on-stage altar, news that Bastian has been unfaithful spreads across the internet. Sick of being unlucky in love — and just as fed up with being publicly ridiculed for her romantic misfortunes — she picks out Owen's middle-school maths teacher Charlie Gilbert from the crowd and weds him instead. He's just holding a banner with the movie's title on it for his pal and fellow educator Parker Debbs (Sarah Silverman, Don't Look Up), and he's accompanied by his daughter Lou (Claudia Coleman, Gunpowder Milkshake), but he still says yes.
Daughter of Karl Marx, a socialist activist in her own right, a translator of Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck and Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and first seen in Miss Marx giving her father's eulogy in 1883, Eleanor Marx was many things — but she wasn't a fan of punk music. She simply couldn't have been, thanks to the gap between the timing of her life and the genre's arrival, with seven decades separating them. Still, that doesn't stop filmmaker Susanna Nicchiarelli (Nico, 1988) from soundtracking her biopic about the youngest Marx with rollicking punk tracks courtesy of current rockers by Downtown Boys, including a cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Dancing in the Dark'. Such a decision is anachronistic in fact but not in spirit, Miss Marx contends, and it's a savvy observation. In much about her life — her willingness to break free of her father's and society's expectations, her anti-establishment activism, and her rejection of mainstream norms among them — Eleanor fits the tunes.
If only Miss Marx moshed into cinemas with more than that smart idea layered over an otherwise by-the-numbers period drama — one that, despite its namesake's progressive quest for women's wrights, better working conditions for the masses and education across both genders, focuses on her ties to men, too. It boasts two particularly marvellous and playful scenes, one involving that punk soundtrack and an opium-fuelled dance by star Romola Garai (Suffragette) for the ages, the other toying with the dynamic between Eleanor and her paramour Edward Aveling (Patrick Kennedy, The Queen's Gambit), but a willingness to break the mould, thrash outside the lines and upset the status quo is rarely part of the movie. Eleanor's existence was defined by her dad since birth, of course. It was then linked to the already-married Edward when she decided to live with him as wife in all but the paperwork. But bringing her tale to the screen with such a focus feels not only much too straightforward, but also reductive.
Add The Castle to the list of influences flavouring Australian zombie franchise Wyrmwood: here, as in the beloved homegrown comedy, it's the vibe of the thing. Starting with 2014's low-budget labour of love Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and now continuing with Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, this bushland-set saga has atmosphere to spare. Free-flowing gore, a crash-and-bash urgency and a can-do attitude splatter across the screen in abundance, too. They're key factors in all movies about a dystopian future ravaged by the undead, but filmmaking siblings Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner ask that mood and tone to do much of their series' heavy lifting. The Wyrmwood films blast away with affection for all of the zombie flicks that've preceded them, and all of the outback thrillers, Ozploitation fare and mad scientist-fuelled tales as well — and they couldn't be more blatant about it — but, even with that teeming passion and prominent energy, they still prove less than the sum of their evident sources of inspiration.
Writer/director/editor Kiah and writer/producer Tristan stick with the most obvious protagonist the second time around: Rhys (Luke McKenzie, Wentworth), a special forces soldier who also happens to be the twin of a crucial figure from the prior film. He weathers dystopian life by holing up in a fenced-in compound where he uses a pen full of zombies to his advantage — aided by various contraptions, plenty of chains and shackles, plus blood-dripping carcasses as incentives — and by driving a Mad Max-style vehicle to round up undead test subjects for The Surgeon (Nicholas Boshier, The Moth Effect). In fact, after crossing paths with Tasia Zalar's (Streamline) Grace, he delivers her for military-approved experiments, but Shantae Barnes-Cowan's (Firebite) Maxi soon demands that he help set her free. Rhys has been operating under the assumption that The Surgeon and his armed pals had humanity's best interests in mind, despite all glaring appearances otherwise, a misguided belief that Maxi quickly vanquishes.
BOOK OF LOVE
In 2018's The Nightingale, Sam Claflin gave the performance of his career so far while playing thoroughly against type. As a British lieutenant in colonial-era Tasmania, he terrorised the film's female protagonist to a nerve-rattlingly distressing degree — and his work, just like the phenomenal feature he's in, isn't easy to watch. Book of Love, his latest movie, couldn't be more different; however, Claflin's portrayal could use even a sliver of the commitment he demonstrated four years back. The film around him could, too. Here, he plays a floundering novelist who doesn't want to do a very long list of things, so it makes sense that he takes to the part with a dissatisfied attitude that drips with not only unhappiness, but pouting petulance. He's meant to be one of this dire rom-com's romantic leads, however, and he constantly looks like he'd rather be doing anything else.
Author of The Sensible Heart, Claflin's Henry Copper is instantly as dour as his book sounds. It too is a romance, but he's proud of its sexlessness — to the point of boasting about it to bored would-be readers who definitely don't make a purchase afterwards. He's also seen using his novel as a pick-up line early in the movie, and that goes just as badly. In fact, his whole career seems to be a shambles, and the prim-and-proper Brit can't understand why. But he's also surprised when he's told that his latest has become a bestseller in Mexico, and he's hardly thrilled about the whirlwind promotional tour his brassy agent (Lucy Punch, The Prince) swiftly books him on. Upon arrival, where his local translator Maria Rodríguez (My Heart Goes Boom!) doubles as his minder, he's visibly displeased about everything he's asked to do — more so when he discovers that she's taken the liberty to spice up his work. Sparks somehow fly between them, otherwise there wouldn't be a movie, but nothing can ignite this cliched slog for audiences.
Looking for more at-home viewing options? Take a look at our monthly streaming recommendations across new straight-to-digital films and TV shows, or check out the movies that were fast-tracked to digital in January, February, March and April.