Eight New Movies You Can Watch Right Now That Have Been Fast-Tracked From Cinemas to Streaming
Get comfy on the couch with Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan navigating an AI-filled future, a wild take on 'The Parent Trap' and 'Cat Person' adapted into a movie.
January 22, 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 eight that you can watch right now at home.
Pondering the end of the earth also means pondering the end of people. When the planet that we live on withers to the point of becoming uninhabitable, humanity doesn't just suffer big-picture consequences as a species — existentially, the basic facets of being human are upended as well. So explores and interrogates Foe, the haunting third feature from Australian director Garth Davis (Lion, Mary Magdalene), as well as the latest adaptation of Canadian author Iain Reid's books after 2020 movie I'm Thinking of Ending Things. The pair teamed up to pen the script to a dystopian thriller that looks every inch the stark sci-fi part, using Victoria's Winton Wetlands as its shooting location to double for America's midwest circa 2065, and yet is always one thing above all else: like Killers of the Flower Moon, too, this is a relationship drama. This time, in his second film in a row made Down Under alongside Carmen, Paul Mescal (All of Us Strangers) plays half of Foe's key couple, opposite his Irish compatriot (plus Atonement, Brooklyn, Lady Bird and Little Women Academy Award-nominee) Saoirse Ronan.
The pair trade their natural lilts for American accents as Junior and Hen, holdout farmers in a world and at a time where there's little hope in the field, their actual fields or for the future. As a title card explains, days on the third rock from the sun are numbered. Also noted in that opening text is the setup moving forward, relocating the population to space stations. And, as Blade Runner did decades ago, simulated humans are also entwined in this new status quo. Junior and Hen's marriage is one of lived-in routine, concise exchanges and loaded looks, then — of resignation and malaise, with life's realities tampering down the high-school sweethearts' spirits mere years into their wedded bliss. He works at a poultry factory, she waits tables at a diner, and the bleak expanse surrounding their farmhouse sports rows of symbolism; Foe's central couple cling to the wish that the inherited land and their love alike hasn't turned fallow, no matter the signs otherwise. With such barrenness lingering, car lights outside their home one night and then a sharp knock at the door were always going to feel like more than just an ordinary visitor. The cause is anything but an average passerby: government consultant Terrance (Aaron Pierre, Old) has come with conscription orders for the OuterMore project, which is building the off-world installation that earth's residents will soon need to live on.
More Marvels, less Marvel: that could've, would've, should've been the path to making The Marvels more marvellous as it teams up Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson, Lessons in Chemistry), Ms Marvel's Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani in her big-screen debut) and WandaVision's Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris, They Cloned Tyrone). Unsurprisingly for a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie that goes heavy on the first word in the ever-sprawling franchise's moniker, this 33rd cinematic instalment in the series has a glaring Marvel problem. Thankfully, as it proves fun enough, likeable enough and sweet, but also overly saddled with the routine and familiar, it never has any Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel or Monica Rambeau issues. When there's too much Marvel-ness — too much been-there-done-that formula, too hefty a focus on smashing pixels together over spending time with people and too strong a sense that this is merely another chapter in the saga's assembly line, and also dutifully setting up what's next — The Marvels struggles, even as the shortest MCU feature yet. When the main trio get the luxury of being together, just seeing them revel in and react to each other's company is a delight. When there's also singing, dancing, a hearty sense of humour and/or Flerkens involved, the film soars.
Perhaps befitting a movie with three lead characters, this is a Goldilocks attempt at a picture that tries as overtly as a fairy-tale figure to get its balance just right. Filmmaker Nia DaCosta (Candyman) and her co-scribes Megan McDonnell (also WandaVision) and Elissa Karasik (Loki) can't quite find and keep their midpoint, however, due to all of the weight and demands that come after 15 years of the MCU, those 32 prior flicks, plus nine seasons of eight Disney+ TV shows since 2021 — and the many nods and references required in those directions. Marvel has cottoned on to how clunky this can be, and how exhausting to watch; the company has marketing streaming series Echo under the banner 'Marvel Spotlight' to signal that viewers can enjoy the story as a standalone experience without needing to have done copious amounts of MCU homework. If only The Marvels had been allowed to spin its tale the same way, even with Carol, Kamala and Monica's established histories across the franchise, and permitted to lean further into what makes it stand out from the rest of the Marvel crowd.
When is a Ridley Scott-directed, Joaquin Phoenix-starring trip to the past more than just a historical drama? Always, at least so far. Twice now, the filmmaker and actor have teamed up to explore Europe centuries ago, initially with Gladiator and now 23 years later with Napoleon — and where the Rome-set first was an action film as well, the second fancies its chances as a sometimes comedy. This biopic of the eponymous French military star-turned-emperor can be funny. In the lead, Phoenix (Beau Is Afraid) repeatedly boasts the line delivery, facial expressions and physical presence of someone actively courting laughs. When he declares "destiny has brought me this lamb chop!", all three coalesce. Scott (House of Gucci) not only lets the humour land, but fashions this muskets-and-cannons epic as a satire of men with authority and dominance, their egos, and the fact that ruling a country and defeating other nations doesn't cancel out their pettiness and insecurities.
As it's off with Marie Antoinette's (Catherine Walker, My Sailor, My Love) head, it's in with Napoleon's revolutionary stirrings in Scott and screenwriter David Scarpa's take (with the scribe returning to cut the powerful down to size after the director's All the Money in the World, just as Walker apes another famous figure after playing Anna Wintour in House of Gucci). Also in: Napoleon's tinkering with facts, which'll later see its namesake and his troops fire at the pyramids. Devotion to historical accuracy isn't the movie's aim. Like The Castle of blasts from the French past, it's more interested in the vibe of the thing — said 'thing' being how Napoleon Bonaparte, later Napoleon I, follows his yearning for glory and adoration above all else. Scott stitches together a selection of his own recurrent obsessions, too, such as Phoenix sulking, savaging the quest for command and influence, Gallic days of yore as seen in his debut The Duellists and the unrelated The Last Duel, and unfettered ambition's consequences as per The Martian and Prometheus, then tops it with the requisite bicorn hat.
"Margot met Robert on a Wednesday night toward the end of her fall semester." So starts the only thing that everyone was reading, and also talking about, in December 2017. Published by The New Yorker, Kristen Roupenian's Cat Person is a short story unparalleled in its viral fame. A piercingly matter-of-fact account of a dating nightmare, the piece of fiction became a literary and online phenomenon. Cat Person didn't just spark discourse about modern romance, relationship power dynamics, 21st-century communication, age gaps and more; it monopolised them, as fuelled by the internet, of course, and arriving as the #MeToo movement was at its early heights. Releasing it as a book, still as a 7000-word piece, came next. Now there's the film that was always bound to happen. As a movie lead by CODA's Emilia Jones, Cat Person can count the Twitter-to-cinema Zola as a peer in springboarding from digital phenomenon to picture palaces, and it too aims for a specific vibe: the feeling that the world experienced while first roving their eyes over the details on their phone, tablet or computer screen.
Cat Person and Zola have another glaring similarity: enlisting Succession's Nicholas Braun to infuse his Cousin Greg awkwardness into a wild tale. Here, he's the Robert that Margot encounters while "working behind the concession stand at the artsy movie theatre downtown when he came in and bought a large popcorn and a box of Red Vines", as Roupenian's story explains in its second sentence — and as filmmaker Susanna Fogel, the director of The Spy Who Dumped Me and one of Booksmart's writers, shows on-screen. Actors' performances don't exist in a vacuum for audiences. Unless you somehow missed the four-season Roy family shenanigans, plus all the rightly deserved attention around it, going into Cat Person unaware of Braun's best-known role is impossible. Self-consciousness, haplessness and discomfort are expected twice over of the man that Margot sells snacks to, then. Much follows.
DICKS: THE MUSICAL
When it starred Lindsay Lohan (Falling for Christmas) making her film debut in dual roles in the late 90s, and when Hayley Mills (The Wheel of Time) was doing double duty back in the 60s as well, The Parent Trap told of identical twins who were separated at birth when their mother and father divorced. Each parent gained custody of a baby, then raised the child separately. Never did the sisters cross paths until a summer camp years later, where they realised their connection, then hatched a plan to reunite their family by posing as each other back home. The tale springs from the page, with German novel Lisa and Lottie also inspiring adaptations in its homeland, Japan, the UK, India and Iran. The Olsen twins' It Takes Two owes it a debt, too. But there's never been a version of this story like Josh Sharp (Search Party) and Aaron Jackson's (Broad City) iteration, as first seen onstage in Fucking Identical Twins and now in cinemas as Dicks: The Musical.
So absurdly its own ridiculous, raucous, irreverent and raunchy thing, calling Dicks: The Musical exuberantly unhinged — or anything, really — doesn't do it justice. Before this A24 release brought its sibling antics to the big screen with singing, dancing, Megan Mullally (Party Down) and Nathan Lane (Beau Is Afraid) as its long-split parents, Borat and Brüno director Larry Charles behind the camera, Brisbane-born Saturday Night Live star Bowen Yang as drama-loving gay God and Megan Thee Stallion busting out a mid-movie tune, Fucking Identical Twins was a two-man production that premiered in 2014 to must-see success. Created at Upright Citizens Brigade, which was co-founded by Amy Poehler (Moxie), the then half-an-hour affair first filled a basement and now rises to share its delirium with the film-watching world. Leading the way in every guise: Sharp and Jackson, who definitely aren't twins let alone brothers, don't look a thing alike, yet know how to take audiences on a helluva wild ride.
There's no swapping faces in John Woo's latest English-language action-thriller. Instead, the iconic Hong Kong filmmaker brings guns, chases and a quest for revenge to the festive genre. As anyone who rightly considers Die Hard among the pinnacle of Christmas movies already knows, seasonal cinema offerings don't need to drip in schmaltz, holiday humour, or Santas and reindeers to be an end-of-year present. Still, in making his first Hollywood effort since 2003's Paycheck, the director behind Hard Target, Broken Arrow and Face/Off in the 90s — plus Mission: Impossible II in 2000 — keeps the ties of family gleaming in Silent Night. That said, from the moment that the picture opens with a man in a Rudolph-adorned jumper, fuzzy red pom-pom and all, in a battle on Texan back streets with gang members who've just torn his brood apart on Christmas Eve, Woo also goes the brutal route.
Silent Night's name echoes in several ways. Recalling a tune that's all about the jolliest time of the year is just one. Setting scenes in a period when halls are decked with boughs of holly is merely another. If protagonist Brian Godlock (Joel Kinnaman, The Suicide Squad) gets his wish, there'll be no more noise — let alone violence and bloodshed — from the criminals responsible for killing his young son (Alex Briseño, A Million Miles Away) with a stray bullet from drive-by crossfire as the boy rode his new bike in the front yard. Woo's main stylistic conceit comes to fruition instantly, however, because Silent Night largely avoids dialogue. Aided by meticulous sound design, that choice isn't a gimmick purely for the sake of it. Rather, Robert Archer Lynn's (Already Dead) script has Brian lose the ability to speak in the introductory sequence's fallout.
When most sports films bring real-life exploits to the screen, they piece together the steps it took for a person or a team to achieve the ultimate in their field, or come as close as possible while trying their hardest. Nyad is no different, but it's also a deeply absorbing character study of two people: its namesake Diana Nyad and her best friend Bonnie Stoll. The first is the long-distance swimmer whose feats the movie tracks, especially her quest to swim from Cuba to Florida in the 2010s. The second is the former professional racquetball player who became Nyad's coach when she set her sights on making history as a sexagenarian — and reattempting a gruelling leg she'd tried and failed when she was in her late 20s. It helps that Annette Bening (Death on the Nile) plays the swimmer and Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) her offsider, with both giving exceptional performances that unpack not only the demands of chasing such a dream, but of complicated friendships. Also assisting: that Nyad is helmed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, directors making their feature debut beyond documentaries after The Rescue, Meru and winning an Oscar for charting Alex Honnold's El Capitan climb in Free Solo.
Extraordinary efforts are this filmmaking pair's wheelhouse, clearly. Nyad and Stoll fit that description easily, as do Bening and Foster. With the latter, who brings shades of Michael J Fox (Still: A Michael J Fox Movie) to her portrayal, Nyad also provides a reminder of how phenomenal the Taxi Driver, The Silence of the Lambs and Panic Room star is on-screen, how charismatic as well, and how missed she's been while featuring in just four films in the past decade (the just-arrived fourth season of True Detective thankfully places Foster at its centre). Understandably, the movie's main actors have been earning awards attention. The picture around them never stops plunging into what makes both Nyad and Stoll tick — and keep shooting for such an immense goal, even as setback after setback comes their way — with Chin and Vasarhelyi experts in conveying minutiae. Whether or not you know the outcome, Nyad is rousing and compelling viewing, floating on excellent work by its four key creative talents.
Nyad streams via Netflix.
THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER
When they were making All the Real Girls, Pineapple Express and Your Highness together, plus Eastbound & Down, Vice Principals and The Righteous Gemstones as well, did filmmaker David Gordon Green and actor Danny McBride chat about creating their own versions of all-time horror masterpieces, in flicks that act as direct sequels to the OG films and ignore all of the past sequels, and also work as reboots sparking a new trilogy? Thanks to the recent Halloween films, this natter seems likely. In fact, now that Green and McBride have also given The Exorcist a spin, this kind of talk appears a certainty. So, writer/director Green was possessed with a new demonic screen story with McBride and Halloween Kills' Scott Teems, then penned a devil-made-me-do-it script with Camp X-Ray's Peter Sattler. The result is The Exorcist: Believer, a 50-years-later return to head-twisting dances with evil — this time with a prologue in Haiti rather than Iraq, the bulk of the action set in Georgia instead of Washington, DC's Georgetown, and two girls not one in need of faith's help to cast out malevolent fiends. Green and McBride's swap from Michael Myers to Pazuzu also already has its own trinity in the works.
As it apes the original movie's structure, there's a touch of trickery in starting The Exorcist: Believer in Port-au-Prince: the city's 2010 earthquake is used to get the plot in motion, a move that lands queasily, clunkily and exploitatively. Perhaps Green and company thought that slipping into a real-life tragedy's skin then wreaking havoc was a fitting piece of mirroring; instead, that choice should've been exorcised. Photographer Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery) is holidaying with his heavily pregnant wife Sorenne (Tracey Graves, On Ten) when the earth rumbles, leading to him becoming a single father — but not before the baby is blessed in utero by a local healer. Cut to 13 years later, where teenager Angela (Lidya Jewett, Ivy + Bean) is introduced rifling through her mother's belongings, then convincing her grief-stricken dad to let her have an after-school date with her classmate Katherine (debutant Olivia O'Neill). She doesn't tell him that they'll be trying to contact Sorenne via a seance in the woods, though, an event that ends with a disappearance, something unholy afoot and needing help from Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn, Law & Order: Organised Crime).
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, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December 2023, too.
We kept a running list of must-stream TV from across 2023 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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