Thirteen New Movies You Can Watch Right Now That Have Been Fast-Tracked From Cinemas to Streaming
Get comfy on the couch with Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White as wrestlers, Willy Wonka's origin story, Nicolas Cage haunting dreams and Sydney Sweeney's Sydney-shot rom-com.
February 26, 2024
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 will do that, and so will plenty of people staying home because they aren't well — that's no longer always the case.
Maybe you haven't had time to make it to your local cinema lately. Perhaps you've been under the weather. Given the hefty amount of titles 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 13 that you can watch right now at home.
Which cravings does Wonka inspire? Chocolate, of course, and also an appetite for more of filmmaker Paul King's blend of the inventive, warm-hearted and surreal. The British writer/director's chocolatier origin story is a sweet treat from its first taste, and firmly popped from the same box as his last two movie delights: Paddington and Paddington 2. Has the helmer used a similar recipe to his talking-bear pictures? Yes. Was it divine with that double dip in marmalade, and now equally so with creative confectionery and the man behind it? Yes again. While it'd be nice to see King and his regular writing partner Simon Farnaby (also an actor, complete with an appearance here) make an original tale again, as they last did with 2009's superb and sublime Bunny and the Bull, watching them cast their spell on childhood favourites dishes up as effervescent an experience as sipping fizzy lifting drinks. It's as uplifting as munching on hover chocs, too, aka the debut creation that Wonka's namesake unveils in his attempt to unleash his chocolates upon the world.
Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet, Bones and All) has everlasting gobstobbers, golden tickets and a whole factory pumping out a sugary rush in his future, as Roald Dahl first shared in 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then cinemagoers initially saw in 1971's Gene Wilder-starring all-timer Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Wonka churns up the story before that story, and technically before 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from Tim Burton (Wednesday) as led by Johnny Depp (Minamata) — but the less remembered about that most-recent adaptation, the better. There's no on-the-page precedent for this flick, then. Rather, King and Farnaby use pure imagination, plus what they know works for them, to delectable results. What they welcomely avoid is endeavouring to melt down Dahl's bag of tricks and remould it, and also eschew packing in references to past Chocolate Factory flicks like a cookie that's more chocolate chips than biscuit.
Gushing about Paddington movies, channelling Elvis, screaming about being a vampire, swooning over Cher, kidnapping babies, fighting cults, battling demonic animatronics, driving ambulances, flying with convicts, swapping faces, avenging pet pigs and milking alpacas, Nicolas Cage has gotten himself lodged in many a moviegoer's brain before. Dream Scenario takes that idea to the next level, not with the screen's most-inimitable star as himself — this isn't The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent — but in a film that works as well as it does, and as sharply, because he's its irreplaceable lead. Although writer/director Kristoffer Borgli didn't write his third feature (after DRIB and Sick of Myself) with Cage in mind, there's pure magic in matching his tale of pop-culture virality, fame and its costs to the man born Nicolas Kim Coppola. Who else could play someone so ubiquitous in the collective consciousness that everyone knows him, has deep-seated feelings and opinions about him, and can't stop thinking about him? Albeit for different reasons, it as much a stroke of genius as enlisting Being John Malkovich's namesake.
Dream Scenario wears its comparisons to Spike Jonze (Beastie Boys Story) and Charlie Kaufman's (I'm Thinking of Ending Things) masterpiece better than anything else between 1999 and now, other than their subsequent collaboration Adaptation — as starring none other than Cage — and the Kaufman-penned, Michel Gondry (Kidding)-helmed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. David Lynch (Cage's Wild at Heart director) and Ari Aster also come to mind while watching Borgli's film, which blends the surreal and satirical, and also spins a nightmare where dread paints every frame. Aster produces, lending a hand on a movie that pairs well with his own Beau Is Afraid, aka another flick where a schlubby, awkward and unhappy middle-aged man has his life upended in no small part thanks to his own anxiety. Dream Scenario isn't attempting to ape its predecessors, or Borgli's own Sick of Myself, another musing on celebrity, attention and the fact that almost everything about 21st-century existence has become a performance. Rather, the Norwegian filmmaker's latest plays like its title suggests: the product of slumbering while having all of the above swirling, twirling and dancing in your synapses — and with Cage always lurking, of course.
The Iron Claw
The Von Erich family's second generation of wrestlers was born ready to rumble, regardless of whether they wanted to or not. After diving into a cult's thrall in Martha Marcy May Marlene, then the idea that money and status can buy happiness in fellow psychological thriller The Nest, writer/director Sean Durkin adds another exceptional and gripping film to his resume with The Iron Claw — a movie that draws upon elements of both, too, as it tells its heartbreaking true tale. Unpacking the weight carried and toll weathered by brothers locked into one future and way of life from the moment that they existed, this is a feature about the shadow cast by power and dominance by those caught in its shade, and the cost of doggedly chasing one concept of triumph and masculinity above all else. The Zac Efron (The Greatest Beer Run Ever)-voiced narration pitches it as a picture about a family curse as well, but the supernatural has nothing on an authoritarian force refusing to let anyone flee his grasp.
The Iron Claw introduces the IRL Von Erich sporting dynasty with patriarch Fritz (Holt McCallany, 61st Street) doing the grappling, busting out the trademark grip that gives the movie its name, as his wife Doris (Maura Tierney, American Rust) and two of his boys wait outside. When they all come together after the match, it isn't just the pledge that Fritz will bring the National Wrestling Association's World Heavyweight Championship to their brood, which he's certain will fix their struggling plight, that lingers. Equally inescapable is the unyielding fixation burning in his steely glare, a look that will rarely falter in the film's 132-minute running time — and how his adoring sons (first-timers Grady Wilson and Valentine Newcomer) are already trained to see this world of rings, frays, throws and belts as their home, career path and destiny. With Harris Dickinson (A Murder at the End of the World), The Bear's Emmy- and Golden Globe-winner Jeremy Allen White, and Stanley Simons (Superior) joining Efron in the cast as grown versions of those two boys and two of their brothers, seeing how Fritz's obsession ripples through his family is crushing.
Michael Mann makes movies like a man haunted. From his 1981 debut Thief to his latest release Ferrari, it's no wonder that his films linger with viewers. Mann's work whirrs with the pursuit of professional greatness, and with the pressures of balancing that relentlessly revving chase with personal ties and desires — quests and woes that aren't his own in his narratives, but always feel intimate. Heat, 1995's Robert De Niro (Killers of the Flower Moon)- and Al Pacino (Hunters)-led crime-thriller that the filmmaker will forever be known for, has proven a spectacular example for nearly three decades. While the skilled burglar and dogged detective caught in its cat-and-mouse game are both experts in their realms, that doesn't make juggling their on-the-job and at-home realities any easier, cleaner or less chaotic. Using that very notion as its road, Ferrari is clearly the product of the same director. Perhaps Mann is speeding down that exact path after all, then, navigating the complexities of getting a film onto screens — his last was 2015's underseen Blackhat — on a mission to master his favourite themes.
Mann has helmed several model features already in Thief, Heat, The Insider and Collateral, with Ferrari a worthy addition to his resume. Wheels spin on and off the track in the elegantly and exquisitely crafted slice-of-life biopic, many literally but others via its namesake's personal life. Based on Brock Yates' book Enzo Ferrari: The Man, The Cars, The Races, The Machine, as adapted by screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin (the OG The Italian Job) to cover events in the summer of 1957 only, Ferrari is always hurtling — even when it's as patient as cinema in Mann's hands has ever been. The collision between single-minded goals and the messiness of existing constantly gives his pictures urgency, no matter how steady the gaze and stoic the character. And make no mistake, Adam Driver's (65) gravitas-dripping portrayal of race car driver-turned-sports car entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari (and Italian-accented but speaking in English, just as he did in House of Gucci) is as serious and determined as Mann's protagonists get, too.
Melancholy, cantankerousness, angst, hurt and snow: all five blanket Barton Academy in Alexander Payne's The Holdovers. It's Christmas in the New England-set latest film from the Election, About Schmidt and Nebraska director, but festive cheer is in short supply among the students and staff that give the movie its moniker. The five pupils all want to be anywhere but stuck at their exclusive boarding school over the yuletide break, with going home off the cards for an array of reasons. Then four get their wish, leaving just Angus Tully (debutant Dominic Sessa), who thought he'd be holidaying in Saint Kitts until his mother told him not to come so that she could have more time alone with his new stepdad. His sole company among the faculty: curmudgeonly classics professor Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti, Billions), who's being punished for failing the son of a wealthy donor, but would be hanging around campus anyway; plus grieving head cook Mary Lamb (Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Only Murders in the Building), who is weathering her first Christmas after losing her son — a Barton alum — in the Vietnam War.
The year is 1970 in Payne's long-awaited return behind the lens after 2017's Downsizing, as the film reinforces from its opening seconds with retro studio credits. The Holdovers continues that period-appropriate look in every frame afterwards — with kudos to cinematographer Eigil Bryld (No Hard Feelings), who perfects not only the hues and grain but the light and softness in his imagery — and matches it with the same mood and air, as if it's a lost feature unearthed from the era. Cat Stevens on the soundtrack, a focus on character and emotional truths, zero ties to franchises, a thoughtful story given room to breathe and build: that's this moving and funny dramedy. Christmas flicks regularly come trimmed with empty, easy nostalgia, but The Holdovers earns its wistfulness from a filmmaker who's no stranger to making movies that feel like throwbacks to the decade when he was a teen.
Anyone But You
Greenlighting Anyone But You with Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell as its leads must've been among Hollywood's easiest decisions. One of the rom-com's stars has been everywhere from Euphoria and The White Lotus to Reality of late, while the other is fresh off feeling the need for speed in Top Gun: Maverick. They both drip charisma. If this was the 80s, 90s or 00s, they each would have an entire segment of their filmographies dedicated to breezy romantic comedies like this Sydney-shot film, and probably more than a few together. Indeed, regardless of his gleaming casting, Anyone But You director and co-writer Will Gluck makes his first adult-oriented flick in 12 years — since Friends with Benefits, with Annie and the two Peter Rabbit movies since — as if it's still two, three or four decades back. The gimmick-fuelled plot, the scenic setting, swinging between stock-standard and OTT supporting characters: even amid overt riffs on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, they're all formulaically present and accounted for. So is the fact that Anyone But You's story always comes second to Sweeney and Powell's smouldering chemistry, and that most of its obvious jokes that only land because the pair sell them, as well as the whole movie.
Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell) meet-cute over a bathroom key in a busy cafe. That first dreamy day ends badly the next morning, however, with more pain in store when Bea's sister Halle (Hadley Robinson, The Boys in the Boat) gets engaged to Ben's best friend Pete's (GaTa, Dave) sister Claudia (Alexandra Shipp, Barbie). Cue their feud going international at the destination wedding in Australia, then getting a twist when Bea and Ben pretend that they're together. They're trying stop their fighting ruining the nuptials, get her parents to back off from pushing for a reunion with her ex (Darren Barnet, Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story) and make his own past love (model-turned-acting debutant Charlee Fraser) jealous. Every expected narrative beat is struck, then, while nodding to other rom-com wedding flicks — My Best Friend's Wedding co-stars Dermot Mulroney and Rachel Griffiths play Bea's mum and dad, with the latter also a Muriel's Wedding alum — and getting cheesily Aussie via koalas, endless shots of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, and Bryan Brown (Boy Swallows Universe) and Joe Davidson (Neighbours) playing the stereotypical parts. And yet, Sweeney and Powell ace their performances and rapport, and also couldn't be more watchable.
The first rule of making a movie about a high-school lesbian fight club is that there are no rules, other than embracing the concept and giving it your all. So punches Bottoms, a film where the gleefully cartoonish energy is always as important as the plot, and a feature that knows it's entering a big-screen ring that wouldn't even exist if Heathers, Clueless, Bring It On, Mean Girls, But I'm a Cheerleader, Easy A and Booksmart hadn't hopped over the ropes first. Three years after Shiva Baby, writer/director Emma Seligman and actor Rachel Sennott (Bodies Bodies Bodies) reunite, with the pair collaborating on the script this time around. Also crucial: bringing in The Bear's Ayo Edebiri, a friend from the duo's student days, to co-star. In a picture that values being stronger together, Seligman, Sennott and Edebiri make a knockout team. Bottoms' vibe could only spring from IRL pals, too, playing it loose and ridiculous like this crew is simply hanging out.
The setup: Sennott and Edebiri are PJ and Josie, who return to Rockbridge Falls High School after summer break keen to finally turn their love for popular cheerleaders Isabel (Havana Rose Liu, No Exit) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber, Babylon) into sex and romance. The best friends know that their social standing is anything but high — "gay, untalented and ugly" is how they describe themselves — but two queer girls can dream that this is their moment, then do their utmost to make their fantasies a reality. So, when the semester starts with PJ and Josie still stuck as outcasts, they conjure up a plan. Their gymnasium-based group is officially known as a women's self-defense class and is sold to their teachers as an act of female solidarity; however, no matter what they tell the principal (Wayne Pére, Your Honor), as well as the history teacher (Marshawn Lynch, Westworld) that they convince to be their advisor, there's really only one aim: not feminism and support, but getting laid.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
The DC Extended Universe is dead. With Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the comic book-to-screen franchise hardly swims out with a memorable farewell, hasn't washed up on a high and shouldn't have many tearful over its demise. More movies based on the company's superheroes are still on the way. They'll be badged the DC Universe instead, and start largely afresh; 2025's Superman: Legacy will be the first, with Pearl's David Corenswet as the eponymous figure, as directed by new DC Studios co-chairman and co-CEO James Gunn (The Suicide Squad). Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom ends up the old regime about as expected, however: soggily, unable to make the most of its star, and stuck treading water between what it really wants to be and box-ticking saga formula. Led by Jason Momoa (Fast X), the first Aquaman knew that it was goofy, playful fun. Its main man, plus filmmaker James Wan (Malignant), didn't splash around self-importance or sink into seriousness. Rather, they made a giddily irreverent underwater space opera — and, while it ebbed and flowed between colouring by numbers and getting entertainingly silly, the latter usually won out. Alas, exuberance loses the same battle in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
Having spent its existence playing catch-up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DCEU does exactly that for a final time here. As with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, there's such a large debt owed to Star Wars that elements seem to be lifted wholesale; just try not to laugh at Jabba the Hutt as a sea creature. 2018's initial Aquaman used past intergalactic flicks as a diving-off point, too, but with its own personality — no trace of which bobs up this time around. Wan helms again, switching to workman-like mode. He's co-credited on the story with returning screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (Orphan: First Kill), Momoa and Thomas Pa'a Sibbett (The Last Manhunt), but there's little but being dragged out with the prevailing tide, tonal chaos and a CGI mess on show. Now king of Atlantis and a father, Arthur Curry has another tussle with Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ambulance) to face, with his enemy aided by dark magic and exacerbating climate change. Only Aquaman teaming up with his imprisoned half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson, Insidious: The Red Door) will give the world a chance to survive. Even with an octopus spy and Nicole Kidman (Expats) riding a robot shark, a shipwreck results.
Nicholas Winton's "British Schindler" label wasn't invented for One Life, the rousing biopic that tells his story; however, it's a handy two-word description that couldn't better fit both him and the film. In the late 1930s, when the then-Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland was occupied by Nazi Germany, the London-born banker spearheaded a rescue mission to get children — mostly Jewish — out of the country. After being encouraged to visit Prague in 1938 by friends assisting refugees, he was so moved to stop as many kids as possible from falling victim to the Holocaust that he and a group of fellow humanitarians arranged trains to take them to England. The immense effort was dubbed kindertransport, with Winton assisting in saving 669 children. Then, in the decades that followed, his heroic feat was almost lost to history. In fact, it only returned to public knowledge in 1988 when his wife Grete Gjelstrup encouraged him to show his scrapbook from the time to Holocaust researcher Elizabeth Maxwell, who was married to media mogul Robert Maxwell. Smartly, One Life captures both remarkable aspects to Winton's story, flitting between them as it tells its powerful and stirring true tale.
The film's jumps backwards and forward also allow room for two excellent performances, enlisting Anthony Hopkins as the older Winton and Johnny Flynn (Operation Mincemeat) to do the honours in his younger years. With The Two Popes, his Oscar win for The Father, Armageddon Time and now this, Hopkins has been enjoying a stellar run in his 80s. If matching one of Hopkins' great portrayals in a period filled with them — a career, too, of course — was daunting for Flynn, he doesn't show it. As with Kurt and Wyatt Russell on the small screen's Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, they're playing the same man but also someone who changes, as everyone does, through his experiences. Accordingly, a lively Flynn captures Winton's zeal and determination, while a patient Hopkins wears the haunted disappointment of someone who has spent half of their life thinking that he hasn't done enough. When he finally realises the full impact of his efforts, it's a devastatingly touching moment in a potent feature that looks the standard sombre part, but also knows that flashiness isn't what leaves an imprint in a story as important as this.
It mightn't seem like Migration and Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget should be twin films. The first is Illumination's latest non-Minions effort. The second is the long-awaited sequel to 2000 claymation favourite Chicken Run. But this pair of animated movies is definitely the newest example of the long-running cinematic déjà vu trend. Past birds of a feather have included Antz and A Bug's Life, Deep Impact and Armageddon, Churchill and Darkest Hour, and Ben Is Back and Beautiful Boy — and oh-so-many more — aka pictures with similar plots releasing at around the same time. The current additions to the list both arrived in December 2023, focus on anthropomorphised poultry, and initially find their clucking and quacking critters happy in their own safe, insular idylls, only to be forced out into the scary wider world largely due to their kids. Chaos with humans in the food industry ensues, including a life-or-death quest to avoid being eaten, plus lessons about being willing to break out of your comfort zone/nest/pond. Famous voices help bring the avian protagonists to the screen, too — Elizabeth Banks (The Beanie Bubble) and Kumail Nanjiani (Welcome to Chippendales) are the parents in Migration, for instance, and Thandiwe Newton (Westworld) and Zachary Levi (Shazam! Fury of the Gods) in Dawn of the Nugget — although that's long been the industry standard in animation in general.
If you've seen Chicken Run's return, then, Migration will instantly feel familiar. This is an instance of two studios hatching near-identical films that both have their own charms, however. With Migration, a voice cast that also spans Awkwafina (Quiz Lady), Keegan-Michael Key (Wonka), Danny DeVito (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Carol Kane (Hunters) brings plenty of energy. As the key behind-the-camera talents, director Benjamin Renner (Ernest & Celestine) and screenwriter Mike White (yes, The White Lotus' Mike White) know how to enliven the narrative. That tale tells of mallards Mack (Nanjiani) and Pam (Banks), one nervous and the other adventurous, who follow another family from New England to Jamaica via New York City with their eager ducklings Dax (Caspar Jennings, Operation Mincemeat) and Gwen (first-timer Tresi Gazal), and cantankerous uncle (DeVito). But the Big Apple brings a run-in which a chef, after initially falling afoul of a flock of pigeons, befriending their leader (Awkwafina) and endeavouring to rescue the homesick parrot (Key) who knows the way to their sunny winter getaway.
Hitting cinemas in 2023, the year that Walt Disney Animation Studios celebrated its 100th birthday, shouldn't have meant that Wish needed to live up to a century's worth of beloved classics. And it wouldn't for viewers, even with the Mouse House's anniversary celebrations everywhere, if the company's latest film didn't bluntly draw attention to Disney hits gone by. Parts are cobbled together from Cinderella, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio. Not just fellow animated efforts get referenced; alongside shoutouts to Bambi and Peter Pan, Mary Poppins earns the nod well. Overtly elbowing rather than winking, directors Chris Buck (Frozen and Frozen II) and Fawn Veerasunthorn (head of story on Raya and the Last Dragon) plus screenwriters Jennifer Lee (another Frozen alum) and Allison Moore (Beacon 23) ensure that their audience has the mega media corporation's other fare in their heads. It's a dangerous strategy, calling out other movies if the feature doing the calling out is by-the-numbers at best, and it does Wish no favours. No one might've been actively thinking "I wish I was watching a different Disney movie instead" if they weren't pushed in that direction by the flick itself, but once that idea sweeps in it never floats away.
While the importance and power of dreams is Wish's main theme, the film forgot to have many itself. If it hoped to be a generic inspiration-touting fairy-tale musical, however, that fantasy was granted. Ariana DeBose (Argylle) and Chris Pine (Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves) star as teenager Asha and all-powerful sorcerer Magnifico, respectively. The latter created the kingdom of Rosas as a sanctuary to protect people's wishes, which hover in his castle — but he's stingy with granting them. When Asha discovers that the land's sovereign isn't as benevolent as he seems, then wishes on a star that becomes her beaming friend (and makes her goat Valentino talk, sporting the voice of Peter Pan & Wendy's Alan Tudyk), she decides to topple his rule and free the deepest desires of her fellow townsfolk. West Side Story Oscar-winner DeBose brings her best to the movie's songs, which would've fallen flat and proven forgettable in anyone else's hands, but they're the most vivid part of a film that starts with the storybook cliche, leans too heavily on chattering critters and can't match its classic look with an instant-classic picture.
James Wan didn't direct Night Swim, nor write it. Instead, the Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring and Malignant filmmaker is one of its producers alongside Get Out, Five Nights at Freddy's, and the recent Halloween and The Exorcist revivals' Jason Blum. So, the pair haven't quite gone the M3GAN route given that Wan earned a story credit on that 2023 hit — but surely the Australian had a hand in one specific detail. Marking the feature helming debut of writer/director Bryce McGuire, the Baghead scribe who adapts his 2014 short film with Rod Blackhurst (Blood for Dust), Night Swim includes a school named after Harold Holt. It's a movie about a haunted swimming pool that namechecks the Aussie Prime Minister who disappeared and has been presumed dead since failing to return after a swim in the sea in 1967. The cheeky early reference is a portentous Easter egg, not that ocean paddles are a part of this tale. Other than stars Wyatt Russell (Monarch: Legacy of Monsters) and Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin) trying to do what they can with the predictable material, including the former nodding to his family's baseballing history (his father Kurt and grandfather Bing, each also actors, both played), it's one of the movie's most notable aspects.
Russell steps into the shoes of Ray Waller, who has retired from doing the only thing he's ever loved due to illness. That move away from professional sports sends the ex-athlete, his wife Eve (Condon) and their children children Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes) and Elliot (Gavin Warren, Fear the Walking Dead) in search of a new home — and Ray feels a particular pull towards one specific abode and its groundwater-filled pool, even after tumbling unexpectedly into it. The paddling spot is meant to be helpful for his ailments, too. As viewers already know before this big decision, courtesy of a girl (Ayazhan Dalabayeva, Miracle Workers) having a traumatic splash in the 1992-set prologue, this isn't just any old backyard place for a dip. The evening pool scenes are fittingly hauntingly shot, but this is a movie where close to every element wades in from other flicks — The Shining, Poltergeist and The Ring among them — and sparking a sinking feeling about how derivative it is isn't the same as being suspenseful or scary.
In the Jason Statham cinematic universe, all that a movie needs is a profession as a moniker, its star scowling fiercely and the flimsiest of narratives propping up routine action scenes. So goes The Transporter, The Mechanic and now The Beekeeper (Crank doesn't quite fit, because the title doesn't describe Statham's character's job). The lead actor shared by all of these films can do and has done better. The Autopilot could be a name for his mode here, then. Directed by Suicide Squad's David Ayer, written by The Expendables 4's Kurt Wimmer and crediting Statham as a producer with them as well as a star, The Beekeeper doesn't attempt to get its main man doing anything that he couldn't do in his sleep, in fact — well, that and put him in a John Wick-esque scenario if it was written as a Gerard Butler (Plane) flick instead. Statham plays an ex-secret operative from a clandestine group called The Beekeepers, who is now literally keeping bees in his quiet life, but gets drawn back in after the kindly retired schoolteacher Eloise Parker (Phylicia Rashad, Creed III) that he rents a barn from is scammed by a ruthless operation.
The Beekeepers are all about justice. In its pursuit, they're also not beholden to the usual law. In fact, their remit is swarming in to protect the hive when the legal forces that everyone knows about don't do their job. (Plenty of bee nods and puns are also The Beekeeper's remit, unsurprisingly, even as it manages never to be intentionally amusing for a second, or show any desire to want to). So when there's no satisfactory resolution to the swindle and its aftermath, including with Parker's daughter Verona (Emmy Raver-Lampman, The Umbrella Academy) an agent on the case, Statham's Adam Clay gets a-stinging. Wimmer has indeed scripted Gerard Butler movies before, but his lead here can't make this more than a woefully clichéd mess that screams to use his knack for comedy, yet doesn't. Looking grimly trashy aesthetics-wise, working in oh-so-rote conspiracies, roping in Josh Hutcherson (Five Nights at Freddy's) and Jeremy Irons (The Flash) as well as Minnie Driver (Uproar): none give this any trace of a buzz, either, or turn it into B- (or bee-)movie honey.
Looking for more viewing options? Take a look at our monthly streaming recommendations across new straight-to-digital films and TV shows — and fast-tracked highlights from January 2024 (and also January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December 2023, too).
We keep a running list of must-stream TV from across 2024 as well, complete with full reviews.
And, we've also rounded up 2023's 15 best films, 15 best straight-to-streaming movies, 15 top flicks hardly anyone saw, 30 other films to catch up with, 15 best new TV series of 2023, another 15 excellent new TV shows that you might've missed and 15 best returning shows.
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