Twelve New Films You Can Watch Right Now That Have Been Fast-Tracked from Cinemas to Streaming
Cinemas across Australia are currently closed, but you can now watch 'Birds of Prey', Disney's 'Onward' and 'Just Mercy' at home.
April 15, 2020
Under normal circumstances, when a new-release movie starts playing in cinemas, audiences can't watch it on streaming, video on demand, DVD or blu-ray for a few months. But with a worldwide pandemic forcing picture palaces across the globe to shut down temporarily in the interest of public safety, the film industry is being forced to adjust.
While no one in Australia can currently head to their local movie theatre, sit in a darkened room with a crowd of fellow film buffs and feast their eyes on the silver screen, that doesn't mean we aren't eager to see the latest flicks. In fact, as these quarantine days turn into isolation-heavy weeks, you can be forgiven for craving something new to watch. So, film distributors have started fast-tracking their recent releases from cinemas to streaming — movies that were playing in theatres when they closed, flicks that had just released and even films that didn't yet get the chance to hit the big screen. Here's a dozen you can watch right now at home.
THE INVISIBLE MAN
Our critic says: "As written and directed by Australian filmmaker Leigh Whannell, this slow-building version of The Invisible Man isn't an account of a scientist corrupted by his latest discovery, as seen in its predecessors. Rather, it's a portrait of a woman at the mercy of a man who'll do anything and use any means to get what he wants. The end result: psychological horror mixed with futuristic science-fiction and layered with a piercing societal statement, and it's as effective as it sounds. Of course, anyone who saw Whannell's previous feature Upgrade will realise that this is the only interpretation of The Invisible Man that he could've made. The Aussie talent continues his fascination with body modification and tech-enabled surveillance, as well as his fondness for hyper-kinetic action, a pervasive mood of dread and tension, and a sparse, sleek look — plus his interrogation of the kind of society that, with not too many imaginative tweaks needed, we just might be headed for." — Sarah Ward
BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN)
Our critic says: "From the moment that Margot Robbie stole the show in Suicide Squad, a Harley Quinn-focused spinoff was always inevitable. So, knowing when they're onto a good thing — and witnessing their now Academy Award-nominated Australian star keep rising in fame via I, Tonya, Mary, Queen of Scots, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Bombshell — the folks behind the DC Extended Universe have gone and done the obvious. Thankfully, the powers-that-be learned a few lessons along the way, leaning into everything that first made the anarchic character attract so much big-screen attention. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is vividly stylised, irreverently upbeat, and both frenetic and fluid. To the benefit of every fight and chase scene, it's also more concerned with eye-popping action choreography than overblown special effects. The movie's riotous mood, lurid colour scheme and kookily comic sensibilities can't smooth out all of its bumps, though, but put it this way: Suicide Squad, this definitely isn't." — Sarah Ward
COME TO DADDY
Our critic says: "Following a map to a remote waterside location, Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) knocks on his father's door, reuniting with the man he hasn't seen for more than 30 years. It's a tense, awkward scene, with more of the same following — and, in a movie that segues from reunion drama to unsettling mystery flick to crime thriller, things only get unhinged and deranged from there. Marking the feature directorial debut of New Zealand producer-turned-filmmaker Ant Timpson (The ABCs of Death, Turbo Kid, Deathgasm), Come to Daddy proves an anarchic, unruly and very amusing ride, complete with committed performances not just from Wood, but from Martin Donovan, Michael Smiley and The Breaker Upperers' Madeleine Sami as well. It's also inspired by reality, although to say more would be to reveal too much about a movie that revels in its twists and turns. And in its ample splashes of gore and blood, too." — Sarah Ward
Our critic says: "Onward tells the tale of brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot (Marvel co-stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt), two teenage elves who've grown up without their dearly departed dad. Thanks to an unexpected flash of long-dormant magic, they're given the chance to spend one last day with their father — but, in order to do so, they'll have to undertake a perilous quest in Barley's rundown van Guinevere. From this description, you might've noticed that Pixar's usual formula isn't at play here, with the company branching beyond the "what if toys/cars/rats/robots/monsters/feelings had feelings?" setup that's served it so well in everything from the Toy Story franchise to Inside Out. Rest assured, however, that Onward's central elf siblings do indeed experience a whole heap of emotions as they cast spells, try to decipher mysterious maps, endeavour to avoid curses, explore their complicated brotherly relationship and team up with a part-lion, part-bat, part-scorpion called The Manticore (Octavia Spencer)." — Sarah Ward
Our critic says: "When The Hunger Games pit people against each other in an elaborate battle royale-style fight to the death, it did so in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world. In Craig Zobel's The Hunt, a similar situation applies — but, taking aim at the political divides so prominent between the left and right in America today, this satirical horror-thriller is firmly set our current reality. Here, 14 strangers awaken in a remote woodland area, gagged but with access to a giant crate of weapons. Soon afterwards, the shooting starts. Pitting "deplorables" against "liberal elites" in a film with the kill-or-be-killed chaos of reality TV parody Series 7: The Contenders and action choreography that'd make the John Wick franchise proud, The Hunt is nowhere near as savage, smart or politically astute as it thinks it is. That said, thanks to a steely lead performance by GLOW's Betty Gilpin, a playful sense of humour and a willingness to toy with audiences as much as it does with its characters, it entertains far more often than it provokes." — Sarah Ward
THE WAY BACK
Our critic says: "Pitched as Ben Affleck's big comeback role after a run of average-at-best flicks — including his short-lived turn as Batman — The Way Back follows a faded man who used to be a big deal. His character was once a high school basketball star; however the years since have been filled with bad choices, tragedy and an overabundance of alcohol. Given the chance to relive his glory days by coaching the school's struggling current team, he embarks on a quest for redemption. As well as boasting Affleck's best performance since Gone Girl, it's to The Way Back's credit that this underdog story on multiple levels doesn't always take the obvious route. Still, it's guilty of leaning on illness-related heartbreak for easy, cliched emotional manipulation, rather than trusting its central performance. Affleck feels like he's trying a little too hard to follow in his brother Casey's footsteps, too, with similarities to the far superior Manchester by the Sea evident." — Sarah Ward
The Way Back is available to stream via iTunes.
Our critic says: "When in doubt, they say to go back to your roots. Given that Guy Ritchie's last two films were Aladdin and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, it's fair to assume that doubt had squarely reared its head. As the director's name alone evokes the sound of cockney rhyming slang and the image of grimy London back alleys, dancing bedazzled elephants were about as off-brand as it gets. So he goes back to his roots with The Gentlemen — and it's a warm and welcome return. Overall, The Gentlemen is fun, to put it in the simplest of terms. It's certainly not without its faults — the patchwork of styles, from action film to hip hop music video and everything in between is constantly jarring — but the general experience is an agreeable one. Like the scotch enthusiastically consumed by the film's unofficial narrator, Fletcher (a delightful turn by Hugh Grant), The Gentlemen is a little rough at first, but smoother with every sip until you're silly drunk and smiling like a fool." — Tom Glasson
Our critic says: "In the latest big-screen version of Jane Austen's beloved novel, well-heeled chaos ensues — as much chaos that can within stately and sprawling country manors, while compliant, silent servants are always on hand, and amidst polite conversation constantly tinted with gossip (although as Downton Abbey keeps demonstrating, that's plenty). Emma circa 2020 does everything it's supposed to, including using its sumptuous production and costume design to paint a vivid picture of Regency-era England, but it adds little of its own personality. Austen's prose, here shaped into a screenplay by The Luminaries' author Eleanor Catton, still sparkles with wit. Making her feature filmmaking debut, photographer and music video director Autumn de Wilde retains the novel's playful mood, and pairs it with a sweeping sense of visual symmetry that'd do Wes Anderson proud. And yet, this adaptation feels mostly indistinguishable from the many other unchallenging film and TV versions of literary classics that've reached screens over the years. In fact, the end result is fine, but in the passable rather than excellent sense of the word." — Sarah Ward
Our critic says: "Just Mercy boasts much that other films would envy, such as an emotive true tale, serious subject matter that's sadly still relevant today and a top-notch cast. Eyes blazing, his voice calm yet commanding, and compassion driving his every move, Michael B. Jordan is especially fantastic as real-life lawyer Bryan Stevenson — and he's matched by a restrained but no less resonant Jamie Foxx as a man on death row and resigned to the lie of the land in the deep south. But the feeling that this has all been seen before is used to particularly compelling effect here. It's something that writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton is clearly cognisant of, as he was when he focused on troubled teens living in a group home in the excellent Short Term 12. Layering in other cases, such as that of fellow condemned prisoner Herbert Richardson (Rob Morgan), the filmmaker draws attention to the unending spate of real-life stories such as these. That's not a new revelation, but it bears heavily on a movie that's already weighty anyway." — Sarah Ward
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
Our critic says: "Cast-wise, there's a clear standout. Jim Carrey is back in full force, dropping the most endearingly over-the-top performance audiences have seen from him in ages. As villain Dr Robotnik, he's somehow even more cartoonish than the CGI Sonic — and it's spectacular. Like Sonic's running, however, there's far too little of it throughout. Instead, the lion's share of screen time is reserved for Sonic (voiced by Parks and Recreation's Ben Schwartz) and his new pal Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), the local sheriff who's helping him avoid capture. Giving credit where credit's due, Marsden delivers the goods, charming his way through scenes that ought to have tanked hard. Schwartz, too, makes the inspired choice of keeping Sonic low-key instead of manic, resulting in a far more likeable hero." — Tom Glasson
Our critic says: "All it took was a concert and a backpack for Richard Jewell's (Paul Walter Hauser) life to change forever. That's the real-life story that monopolised news headlines 24 years ago. It's also the tale that Jewell, with his desperate desire to work in law enforcement, was overjoyed to have attached to his name. And, it's the narrative that Richard Jewell tells, although Clint Eastwood's involvement should make it obvious that it doesn't end there. As demonstrated with gusto in the latter years of his five-decade directorial career, Eastwood is drawn to heroes. He's not just fascinated by people acting bravely, but by true tales of fortitude in the face of pressure, scrutiny, admonishment and even contempt by society, authorities and bureaucracy. American Sniper's flag-waving tribute to the deadliest marksman in US military history, Sully's recreation of the Miracle on the Hudson and subsequent investigation, and The Mule's account of an octogenarian forced to become a drug courier to make ends meet — they all fit the profile, as does Jewell's swift slide from saviour to suspect." — Sarah Ward
Our critic says: "Vin Diesel as Frankenstein's monster? Vin Diesel reliving the same events over and over again, Edge of Tomorrow-style, to right a past wrong? Vin Diesel filled with tiny robots — including in a Terminator-esque scene where half his face is exposed, revealing the nanotechnology gleaming beneath his flesh? Throw in shades of Universal Soldier and RoboCop as well (and some speedy car chases, because Diesel sure does love getting fast and furious behind the wheel), and that's Bloodshot. Yes, as well as tasking Diesel with playing a US soldier brought back from the dead, Bloodshot attempts to revive a variety of parts itself — all cobbled and spliced together from multiple other science-fiction stories and action flicks. Indeed, the fact that Bloodshot is actually based on a comic book character dating back to 1992 doesn't seem anywhere near as important to first-time feature director David SF Wilson as nodding at a heap of other pop culture titles." — Sarah Ward
Published on April 15, 2020 by Sarah Ward