Thirteen New Movies You Can Watch in February That Have Been Fast-Tracked From Cinemas to Streaming
Get comfy on the couch with Timothée Chalamet's latest, a savage culinary thriller, a doco about a tale so wild it can only be true and a viral horror hit.
February 17, 2023
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 been under the weather. 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 13 that you can watch right now at home.
BONES AND ALL
To be a character in a Luca Guadagnino film is to be ravenous. The Italian director does have a self-described Desire trilogy — I Am Love, A Bigger Splash and Call Me By Your Name — on his resume, after all. In those movies and more, he spins sensual stories about hungry hearts, minds and eyes, all while feeding his audience's very same body parts. He tells tales of protagonists bubbling with lust and yearning, craving love and acceptance, and trying to devour this fleeting thing called life while they're living it. Guadagnino hones in on the willingness to surrender to that rumbling and pining, whether pursuing a swooning, sweeping, summery romance in the first feature that put Timothée Chalamet in front of his camera, or losing oneself to twitchy, witchy dance in his Suspiria remake. Never before has he taken having an insatiable appetite to its most literal and unnerving extreme, however, but aching cannibal love story Bones and All is pure Guadagnino.
Peaches filled with longing's sticky remnants are so 2017 for Guadagnino, and for now-Little Women, Don't Look Up and Dune star Chalamet. Biting into voracious romances will never get old, though. Five years after Call Me By Your Name earned them both Oscar nominations — the filmmaker for Best Picture, his lead for Best Actor — they reteam for a movie that traverses the American midwest rather than northern Italy, swaps erotic fruit for human flesh and comes loaded with an eerie undercurrent, but also dwells in similar territory. It's still the 80s, and both hope and melancholy still drift in the air. The phenomenal Taylor Russell (Lost in Space) drives the feature as Maren, an 18-year-old with an urge to snack on people that makes her an unpopular slumber-party guest. When she meets Chalamet's Lee, a fellow 'eater', Bones and All becomes another sublime exploration of love's all-consuming feelings — and every bit as exquisite as Guadagnino and Chalamet's last stunning collaboration.
Getting "yes chef" bellowed his way as Julian Slowik, the head chef at exclusive fictional restaurant Hawthorne, Ralph Fiennes (The Forgiven) is a sinister delight in the vicious and delicious The Menu. With his character terrorising staff and customers alike, but similarly trapped with his employees in the hospo grind, Fiennes is also visibly having a ball in an entertainingly slippery role. He plays the part with the instant presence to make a room of well-paying patrons snap to attention just because he's there, and his facial expressions — his eyes in particular — are a masterclass in passive malevolence. There's a cruel streak in Slowik, as there is in the movie, but The Menu is a black, bleak, vengeful comedy as well. Director Mark Mylod (What's Your Number?) and writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy (The Onion) know the best thing to eat, aka the rich, and turn their fine-dining factory into a savage, savvy and scathingly amusing satire about coveting $1250-a-head meals but letting the workers behind them slice, steam, stir and sweat through upscale kitchen drudgery.
Babbling snootily about mouth-feel before even getting to Hawthorne by boat, Tyler (Nicholas Hoult, The Great) doesn't spare a passing thought for the restaurant's workers. A self-confessed foodie who can't abide by the eatery's no-photography rule for a single course, he's in fanboy heaven after finally scoring a booking — and doesn't his companion Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy, Amsterdam) know it. She's less enthused, and her lack of fawning over her surroundings, Slowik, each plate and the theatre of it all rankles her date. She's the least-excited diner of the evening's entire list, in fact, which also spans status-chasing finance bros (The Terminal List's Arturo Castro, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' Mark St Cyr and The Now's Rob Yang), a cashed-up couple (Mass' Reed Birney and Julia's Judith Light) who attend regularly, an arrogant food critic (Janet McTeer, Ozark) and her editor (Paul Adelstein, The Greatest Beer Run Ever), and a movie star (John Leguizamo, Encanto) with his assistant (Aimee Carrero, Spirited).
A single tweet has sparked many things for many people; however, the chaos started by a social-media missive from New Zealand journalist and filmmaker David Farrier has few parallels. In 2013, he commented on Twitter about a friend parking their car at Auckland's now-closed Bashford Antiques, then weathering an unpleasant experience: the threat of towing, instant abuse, and an immediate demand for $250 in order to be allowed to leave. Farrier next began writing articles about it all, and what seemed like a clamping racket, in 2016. In his first piece, he covered being asked by his employer three years prior to delete his tweet, too. But his own ordeal was only just beginning, because his ordeal involves Michael Organ. "You pay a soul tax for every minute you spend with him," Farrier notes in the documentary he's made about all of the above, complete with far more twists than anyone can imagine going in — and watching Mister Organ, the feeling behind that observation is starkly apparent.
As well as helping impose onerous conditions on folks parking outside an antiques store, and becoming the owner's constant companion in the process, claiming to be royalty is also part of this tale. Organ has defended himself in serious court cases, and assisted with bringing legal proceedings against others, including Farrier. His web of interpersonal dealings, as fleshed out through discussions with ex-housemates and acquaintances, brings bewildered and infuriated interviewees into the doco. Finding someone to say a kind word about him is almost impossible, other than the endlessly talkative Organ himself. For newcomers to this situation, it's best to get the ins and outs by watching, stolen boats and all, because no description does them justice — but Farrier's time with Organ, as he tries to get to the bottom of his story, never fails to surprise. Viewers of filmmaker's Tickled and Dark Tourist will easily glean why he was drawn to tell this tale, though; for starters, it's another disturbing, perplexing, so-messy-it-can-only-be-true slice of life.
Age may instil nocturnal bravery in most of us, stopping the flinching and wincing at things that routinely go bump, thump and jump in the night in our ordinary homes, but the childhood feeling of lying awake in the dark with shadows, shapes and strange sounds haunting an eerie void never seeps from memory. Close your eyes, cast your mind back, and the unsettling and uncertain sensation can easily spring again — that's how engrained it is. Or, with your peepers wide open, you could just watch new micro-budget Canadian horror movie Skinamarink. First-time feature filmmaker Kyle Edward Ball has even made this breakout hit, which cost just $15,000 to produce, in the house he grew up in. His characters: two kids, four-year-old Kevin (debutant Lucas Paul) and six-year-old Kaylee (fellow newcomer Dali Rose Tetreault), who wake up deep into the evening. The emotion he's trading in: pure primal dread, because to view this digitally shot but immensely grainy-looking flick is to be plunged back to a time when nightmares lingered the instant that the light switched off.
Skinamarink does indeed jump backwards, meeting Kevin and Kaylee in 1995 when they can't find their dad (Ross Paul, Moby Dick) or mum (Jaime Hill, Give and Take) after waking. But, befitting a movie that's an immersive collage of distressing and disquieting images and noises from the get-go, it also pulsates with an air of being trapped in time. It takes its name from a nonsense nursery-rhyme song from 1910, then includes cartoons from the 1930s on Kevin and Kaylee's television to brighten up the night's relentless darkness. In its exacting, hissing sound design especially, it brings David Lynch's 1977 debut Eraserhead to mind. And the influence of 1999's The Blair Witch Project and the 2007-born Paranormal Activity franchise is just as evident, although Skinamarink is far more ambient, experimental and experiential. Ball has evolved from crafting YouTube shorts inspired by online commenters' worst dreams to this: his own creepypasta.
BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn't the movie it was initially going to be, the sequel to 2018's electrifying and dynamic Black Panther that anyone behind it originally wanted it to be, or the chapter in the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe that it first aimed to be — this, the world already knows. The reason why is equally familiar, after Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer in 2020 aged 43. At its best, this direct followup to the MCU's debut trip to its powerful African nation doesn't just know this, too, but scorches that awareness deep into its frames. King T'Challa's death starts the feature, a loss that filmmaking trickery doesn't reverse, no matter how meaningless mortality frequently proves when on-screen resurrections are usually a matter of mere plot twists. Wakanda Forever begins with heartbreak and pain, in fact, and with facing the hard truth that life ends and, in ways both big and small, that nothing is ever the same.
Your typical franchise entry about quick-quipping costumed crusaders courageously protecting the planet, this clearly isn't. Directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler (Creed) like its predecessor — co-scripting again with Joe Robert Cole (All Day and a Night) — Wakanda Forever is about grief, expected futures that can no longer be and having to move forward anyway. That applies in front of and behind the lens; as ruminating so heavily on loss underscores, the movie has a built-in justification for not matching the initial flick. The Boseman-sized hole at Wakanda Forever's centre is gaping, unsurprisingly, even in a feature that's a loving homage to him, and his charm and gravitas-filled take on the titular character. Also, that vast void isn't one this film can fill. Amid overtly reckoning with absence, Coogler still has a top-notch cast — returnees Letitia Wright (Death on the Nile), Angela Bassett (Gunpowder Milkshake), Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), Lupita Nyong'o (The 355) and Winston Duke (Nine Days), plus new addition Tenoch Huerta (Narcos: Mexico), most notably — drawing eyeballs towards his vibrant imagery, but his picture is also burdened with MCU bloat and mechanics, and infuriating bet-hedging.
Films about humanity's affinity with animals are films about our ties to the natural world — and doesn't Blueback splash that truth around. Plunging from The Dry into the wet, writer/director Robert Connolly reteams with Eric Bana for another page-to-screen adaptation of a homegrown book; this is another movie inseparable from its landscape, too, again exploring the impact people have upon it. This time, however, Bana isn't the star. He's memorable as larrikin abalone diver and fisherman 'Mad' Macka, and this Tim Winton-based feature would've benefited from more of his presence, but the Dirty John actor is firmly in supporting mode. Set against the enticing Western Australian coast as the author's work tends to be, this is a picture about the sea's thrall, existential importance and inherent sense of connection — as filtered through the bond between a girl and a wild blue groper, plus the evolving relationship between that same child and her eco-warrior mother.
Mia Wasikowska (Bergman Island) plays Blueback's fish-befriending protagonist as an adult, with the text's Abel becoming Abby here. Radha Mitchell (Girl at the Window) shares the screen as Dora, her widowed mother, early in the film's year-hopping timeline. Still, in their second of three movies in succession — arriving before upcoming The Dry sequel Force of Nature — Connolly and Bana dip back into familiar territory. Obvious swaps are evident, including a beachside rather than a farming community, and atrocities against the planet and its wildlife instead of crimes against people, but it's easy to see Blueback's appeal as a reunion project. Among the key differences as Abby and Dora fight to save their town and its aquatic treasures, still battling wrongs to strive for what's right: this is an overtly and eagerly family-friendly affair.
Thanks to everything from The Saddle Club and I Hate My Teenage Daughter to Sweet/Vicious and The Bold Type, Gold Coast-born Australian actor Aisha Dee knows what it's like to live life through screens. She's been acting since she was a teenager, and she's charted the highs of her chosen profession — all in front of a lens. In Sissy, she hops in front of a camera again, naturally, and not only once but twice. In this delightfully savvy and funny Aussie horror film, Dee turns in a wonderfully layered performance as the titular Instagram influencer, whose soaring follower count, non-stop flow of likes and adoring comments, and online fame all stems from her carefully poised and curated wellness videos. Also known as @SincerelyCecilia, the character's sense of self springs from that virtual attention too; however, when she reconnects with her childhood best friend Emma (co-director/co-writer Hannah Barlow), gets invited to her bachelorette weekend and finds old schoolyard dynamics bubbling up, that facade starts to shatter.
If Mean Girls was a slasher film set in a remote cabin in rural Australia, it might look something like Sissy — and that's a compliment multiple times over. Every horror movie wants to be smart and savage on multiple levels, but Barlow and fellow co-helmer/co-scribe Kane Senes (reteaming after 2017's For Now) weaponise everything from influencer culture and pastel, rainbow and glitter colour palettes to toxic friendships, all while spinning a clever, cutting and comedic take on the impact of bullying. They also fill their feature with as gloriously diverse a cast as Australian cinema has boasted, and with one helluva lead performance. If Carrie was set in today's always-online world, amid cancel culture and plentiful praise at the press of a button, it'd look like this, too, but this instant Aussie horror classic takes its own bold stab at plenty of genres.
What's more difficult a feat: to ponder everything that the universe might hold, as James Gray did in 2019's sublime Ad Astra, or to peer back at your own childhood, as the writer/director now does with Armageddon Time? In both cases, the bonds and echoes between parents and children earn the filmmaker's attention. In both cases, thoughtful, complex and affecting movies result. And, as shared with everything he's made over the past three decades — The Yards, The Immigrant and The Lost City of Z among them — fantastic performances glide across the screen, too. Here, in a portrait of a pre-teen's growing awareness of his privilege, the world's prejudices, the devastating history of his ancestors, and how tentative a place people can hold due to race, religion, money, politics and more, young stars Banks Repeta (The Black Phone) and Jaylin Webb (The Wonder Years) manage something remarkable, in fact, more than holding their own against a reliably excellent Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Anne Hathaway (Locked Down) and Jeremy Strong (Succession).
Repeta plays sixth-grader Paul Graff, Gray's on-screen surrogate, and Armageddon Time's curious and confident protagonist. At his new public school circa 1980, he's happy standing out alongside his new friend Johnny (Webb), dreaming of being an artist despite his dad's (Strong) stern disapproval and disrupting class whenever he can to his mum's (Hathaway) dismay — and outside of it, he's happiest spending time with his doting grandfather (Hopkins). But Paul will start to understand the luck he has in the world, hailing from a middle-class Jewish family, compared to his black, bused-in friend, even if that comfort is tenuous, too. And, he'll keep seeing the way the world has Johnny at a disadvantage in every way possible, from their instantly scornful teacher to Paul's own parents' quick judgement. As lensed with the look and feel of a memory, Armageddon Time is clear about the small moments that leave an imprint, and the small deeds left undone that cause craters. It's a powerful work from a filmmaker surveying happy and sorrowful slices of the past, and doing so with unflinching eyes.
THE VELVET QUEEN
"If nothing came, we just hadn't looked properly." Partway through The Velvet Queen, writer Sylvain Tesson utters these lyrical words about a specific and patient quest; however, they echo far further than the task at hand. This absorbing documentary tracks his efforts with wildlife photographer Vincent Munier to see a snow leopard — one of the most rare and elusive big cats there is — but much in the entrancing film relates to life in general. Indeed, while the animals that roam the Tibetan plateau earns this flick's focus, as does the sweeping landscape itself, Munier and his fellow co-director and feature first-timer Marie Amiguet have made a movie about existence first and foremost. When you peer at nature, you should see the world, as well as humanity's place in it. You should feel the planet's history, and the impact that's being made on its future, too. Sensing exactly that with this engrossing picture comes easily — and so does playing a ravishing big-screen game of Where's Wally?.
No one wears red-and-white striped jumpers within The Velvet Queen's frames, of course. The Consolations of the Forest author Tesson and world-renowned shutterbug Munier dress to blend in, trying to camouflage into their sometimes-dusty, sometimes-snowy, always-rocky surroundings, but they aren't the ones that the film endeavours to spy. The creatures that inhabit Tibet's craggy peaks have evolved to blend in, so attempting to see many of them is an act of persistence and deep observation — and locking eyes on the snow leopard takes that experience to another level. Sometimes, pure movement gives away a critter's presence. On one occasion, looking back through images of a perched falcon offers unexpected rewards. As lensed by Amiguet (La vallée des loups), Munier and assistant director Léo-Pol Jacquot, The Velvet Queen draws upon hidden cameras, too, but so much of Tesson and Munier's mission is about sitting, watching and accepting that everything happens in its own time.
Exploring the story of the religious community that shares its name, New Zealand documentary Gloriavale makes for stunning, gut-wrenching and infuriating viewing. It's been a booming time for NZ films that earn that description over the past few months — see also: Mister Organ above — but this true tale was always going to stand out and leave an imprint. Given that it involves chatting to survivors of the cult-like organisation, particularly excommunicated members relaying their heartbreaking experiences, being aghast at their ordeals is a natural reaction. Feeling angry that this can happen is, too, including as the film charts legal proceedings to bring Gloriavale's horrors to light. What has gone on behind closed doors, in a closed community, in the West Coast-based sect heartily requires this type of exposé — and with brother and sister John and Virginia as their key interviewees, filmmakers Fergus Grady and Noel Smyth (reteaming after 2019's Camino Skies) are up to the task.
The specifics date back to the late 1960s, when the organisation was founded and started drawing in members, who were soon living under the sect's strict beliefs. Here, for instance, women are expected to work all through their waking hours to keep Gloriavale running — not even sitting down for meals — and cramming the group's many families all under one big roof is the norm. Also, when sexual abuse claims arise, including with children as victims, blame is directed everywhere but the accused perpetrators. As Gloriavale steps through details like these again and again, it's unsurprisingly harrowing from the outset. Archival footage from within the community only adds to the distressing mood, and charting the legal cases ups the drama, but the accounts of what's gone on at the titular place would be damning and gripping as is even if Grady and Smyth only had talking-head interviews at their disposal.
WHITNEY HOUSTON: I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY
In the decade since her death in 2012, Whitney Houston has proven one of filmmaking's greatest loves of all. No fewer than five movies have told her tale, including documentaries Whitney: Can I Be Me and Whitney — and that's without including a feature about her daughter Bobbi Kristina, a miniseries focused on her ex-husband Bobby Brown and dramas clearly based on her story. All of that attention echoes for obvious reasons. Houston's mezzo-soprano voice, which earned her the nickname "The Voice", soared to stratospheric and literally breathtaking levels. Still holding the record for the most consecutive number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, which she took from The Beatles and the Bee Gees, her career zoomed skyward as well. That swift rise from New Jersey church choir member to one of the biggest bestselling music artists ever was matched by tabloid-fodder lows, however, and that tragic, gone-too-soon passing — and Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody charts it all.
Taking its name from one of Houston's most exuberant singles isn't just music biopic 101 (see also: Bohemian Rhapsody, also penned by this film's screenwriter Anthony McCarten). Kasi Lemmons' (Harriet) feature follows the standard Wikipedia entry-like genre template, but the filmmaker wants those titular words to reflect how Whitney (Naomi Ackie, Master of None) just wanted to be herself, to be loved as such, and openly be with Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams, Black Lightning), the girlfriend-turned-creative director that her gospel singer mother Cissy Houston (Tamara Tunie, Cowboy Bebop) and stern father John (Clarke Peters, The Man Who Fell to Earth) disapprove of. Instead, after being signed to Arista Records at 19 by producer and executive Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci, The King's Man), Whitney becomes America's princess next door. Ackie turns in a commanding, multi-layered performance as the conflicted singer — even while lip-synching, with the movie smartly using Houston's own vocals — in a film that's impassioned, wisely filled with electrifying performance recreations, yet is happy to just hit every expected note.
LYLE, LYLE CROCODILE
The Paddington movies did it better. That's a general catch-all statement that can apply to almost anything, zero context required, and it's also the prevailing feeling while watching Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. Instead of a marmalade-coveting bear, a singing crocodile is trying to win hearts — and the similarities don't stop there. The page-to-screen leap from a children's favourite? Tick. An adorable animal winding up in a family of humans who need its unique presence to make their lives complete, bring them together and show them what truly matters? Tick again. The strait-laced dad, creative mum, nasty neighbour and kindly kid? Keep ticking. Also present in both: the titular critter donning human clothing and craving fruity foods, warm colours aplenty, a vintage look and feel to interior spaces, a tense and traumatic capture, and an accomplished star having a whole lot of fun going big, broad and cartoonish (Javier Bardem here, and worlds away from The Good Boss, Dune or Everybody Knows).
Bardem's playful turn as magician Hector P Valenti is the best thing about Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, which is breezily watchable but so indebted to Paddington and its sequel — so desperate to be an American version of the charming English franchise — that orange conserve might as well be smeared across the lens. As directed by Office Christmas Party's Josh Gordon and Will Speck, and scripted by Johnny English Strikes Again's Will Davies (adapting from Bernard Waber's books), the film is also a musical, with the eponymous croc (voiced by Shawn Mendes) able to sing but not speak. Those forgettable songs pad out a slight story, after Valenti discovers Lyle, hopes to get famous as a double act and loses his New York City brownstone when his gambit fails. Then the new residents, the Primm family, find the reptile in the attic, son Josh (Winslow Fegley, Come Play) finds a friend and his parents (Hustlers' Constance Wu and Blonde's Scoot McNairy) find their own reasons to get snapped up in the critter's singing-and-dancing vibe — although Mr Grumps (Brett Gelman, Stranger Things) downstairs obviously lives up to his moniker.
PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH
Since arriving in cinemas in 2001, Shrek has inspired three more ogre-centric flicks, a heap of shorts and TV specials, and a stage musical for the whole family. It's also the reason that green-hued burlesque shows exist, plus all manner of parties and raves — none of the last three of which are appropriate for kids, obviously. But beyond the Mike Myers (The Pentaverate)-voiced titular figure himself, only Puss in Boots has become solo big-screen fodder from among the franchise's array of characters. Like much in this series, the shoe-wearing feline hails from fairy tales, but the reason for its ongoing on-screen popularity is as simple as casting. Who doesn't want to see a kitty swashbuckler voiced by Antonio Banderas (Official Competition), basically making this a moggie Zorro? Based on the 2011 Puss in Boots' $555 million at the box office, that concept is irresistible to plenty of folks — hence, albeit 11 years later, sequel Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.
Pairing the right talent to the right animated character doesn't instantly make movie magic, of course; however, The Last Wish, which literally has Puss seeking magic, is among the best films that the broader Shrek saga has conjured up so far. The eponymous cat begins the picture being his usual swaggering self and caring little for the consequences, including his own dwindling lives. One raucous incident sees him realise that he's died eight times already, though, and knowing this ninth go-around is his last according to feline lore suddenly fills him with existential woe. That's a thoughtful premise for an all-ages-friendly flick, and one that's never dampened by the film's plethora of fairy tale nods, high-energy vibe and usually amusing gags. So, Puss, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek, House of Gucci) and their new canine companion Perro (Harvey Guillén, What We Do in the Shadows) attempt to find a famed wishing star that can make avoiding death a reality — but Goldilocks (Florence Pugh, The Wonder) and the three bears (Black Widow's Ray Winstone, Mothering Sunday's Olivia Colman and Our Flag Means Death's Samson Kayo) are also after it, as is a no longer 'little' Jack Horner (John Mulaney, Big Mouth).
Looking for more at-home 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, too. You can also peruse our best new films, new TV shows, returning TV shows and straight-to-streaming movies, plus movies you might've missed and television standouts of 2022 you mightn't have gotten to.
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