Normally, The A.V. Club uses this space to preview all the major films coming to a theater near you. But with the world in the grips of a pandemic, nothing’s coming to a theater near you; theaters have closed their doors, and studios have pushed back their releases. So for the time being, we’ll instead be previewing movies going straight to VOD and streaming services. We’ll also note what might be available to watch (some distributors have yet to finalize release strategies for their titles) and the films that definitely won’t be, as they’ve been officially postponed. These days, we’re all watching movies at home. Consider this now a source of the new releases coming to a living room near you.
Mubi April 2
Chilean filmmaker Camila José Donoso throws together reality and fiction, shakes them up, and watches them explode in Nona, If They Soak Me, I’ll Burn Them. Donoso’s real-life grandmother, Josefina Ramírez, stars as a fictionalized version of herself—a little more of a firebug, perhaps, but with the same radical spirit that made her an enthusiastic resistor of the dictatorial Pinochet regime in the ’70s and ’80s. She’s a fascinating character, no question, but the movie around may be too languid and aimless for its own good.
Netflix April 3
Stuber director Michael Dowse returns with another cop-adjacent mismatched-buddy comedy, only this time with the cop as the flustered stick-in-the-mud (Ed Helms, naturally) and his civilian sidekick as the freewheeling, foulmouthed agent of chaos. Twist: Those civilian swears come from a 12-year-old boy named Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh). Extra bonus twist: Officer James Coffee (Helms) is dating Kareem’s mom (Taraji P. Henson). That’s at least three high concepts in one, which means Coffee & Kareem could get busted for cliché trafficking. But the trailer isn’t altogether unamusing; in classic Netflix style, it feels like something that definitely would have gotten the full theatrical treatment five years ago.
VOD and digital April 3
Gerrymandering, the American political tradition of redrawing the boundaries of voting districts (sometimes outrageously) to give one party an advantage, is the subject of this activist documentary. As a primer on the basics of the shady time-honored practice, it gets the job done. But even with November 3 looming ominously on the horizon, the film is less stirring as a call to arms; truly progressive electoral reform is outside of its scope of interest.
VOD and digital platforms April 3
The first English-language feature by Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska debuted at Toronto last year, inviting viewers into an especially moody meditation on that old favorite: the appeal and the repulsion of cults. Raffey Cassidy stars as Selah, the youngest of roughly 20 “wives” assembled by Game Of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman, a self-styled “Prophet” with a fixation on menstruation, “Eve’s sin,” and a whole host of other patriarchal ways to blame his supposed spouses for their uniformly miserable fates. When the group is suddenly forced to move, things rapidly spiral down into madness.
Mubi April 9
Who’s stoked for a movie about the textile industry? Dry as it may sound, the subject’s a clothesline on which avant-garde animator Jodie Mack hangs both her richly hypnotic style and larger questions about the global spread and appropriation of cultural materials. Shot on 16mm in 15 different countries, this entrancing 60-minute collage unfolds via stop-motion montages of fabric, set to the pulse of an electronic soundtrack. Experimental films rarely receive any sort of release; it’s a testament to its downright danceable rhythm that The Grand Bizarre will be available to stream everywhere next week.
VOD and digital platforms April 10
2016’s Trolls was a big enough hit (both commercially and, somewhat more surprisingly, critically) that nothing—not even the complete shutdown of the entire theater industry—was going to stop Dreamworks from releasing its blockbuster follow-up installment. So we return to the now-streaming, still neon-slathered world of Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake), whose celebrity-voiced social circle now expands to feature a bunch of trolls from other musical walks of life—including Rachel Bloom as a guitar-shredding rock troll looking to box all the other genres out. Will the power of friendship triumph? Will cameos from George Clinton, Ozzy Osbourne, and Mary J. Blige wow the funk and metal-loving 7-year-olds of today? Will the theatrical window ever recover from this big-haired slight? Only time—and magic!—will tell.
VOD and streaming services April 10
Depending on how you look at it, this is either the best or the worst time for a horror film about a deadly contagion ripping through an isolated group of people trapped in a claustrophobic setting. For those who think it’s the former, in comes Sea Fever, starring Rust Creek’s Hermione Corfield and Wonder Woman’s Connie Nielsen as crew members aboard an Irish fishing boat beset by an alien parasite. Director Neasa Hardiman puts her influences—Ridley Scott’s Alien, John Carpenter’s The Thing—front and center in this paranoid, violent tale, for a film that’s creepily prescient, if not especially groundbreaking.
Netflix April 10
Presumably nicking its title from the alternate moniker given to Edge Of Tomorrow’s home video release, this comedy follows Jack (Sam Claflin) attempting to navigate a number of obstacles that arise at his sister’s wedding—apparently in multiple iterations of a single day, though it’s difficult to tell whether it’s more Groundhog Day repetitions or Sliding Doors variations. Most intriguing is its casting of Olivia Munn in a leading role; based on The Newsroom and The Predator, she can do more than she’s often given. Love. Wedding. Repeat is the feature directing debut from Death At A Funeral screenwriter Dean Craig; after this, he’ll be just three weddings away from the British standard!
Netflix April 10
The directorial debut of Master Of None co-creator Alan Yang tells the story of Pin-Jui (Tzi Ma, eventually), a Taiwanese immigrant reflecting on a life of sacrifices made to achieve some semblance of the American dream. Christine Ko co-stars as his daughter, Angela, whose life seems to be paralleling that of her stubborn, flashback-prone father–a character that Yang loosely modeled on his own dad, embellishing details of his experiences while paring down a screenplay that originally ran 250 pages. Of the Netflix original films premiering in April, this looks the most promising.
MUBI April 21
Canadian writer-director Denis Côté (Curling, Vic + Flo Saw A Bear) is no stranger to eerie vibes or rural settings. His latest delves into the supernatural; it’s an ensemble drama about a tiny community in Quebec struggling to get over the death (and suspected suicide) of one of their own when apparitions of the departed begin appearing on the outskirts of town. Though Côté’s last fiction feature, Boris Without Béatrice, was an update of a Greek myth with a glitzy backdrop, most of his films have been intimate, idiosyncratic studies of social and emotional isolation—themes that seem all too relevant in this current global moment.
VOD and digital platforms April 24
Numerous movies have been made about the bushranger and Australian folk hero Ned Kelly; he’s the subject, in fact, of what’s widely considered to be the first feature film ever, 1906’s The Story Of The Kelly Gang. But director Justin Kurzel (Macbeth, Assassin’s Creed) takes a slightly different approach with this origin story, which focuses largely on the formative years of young Ned (1917’s George MacKay) as he’s torn between several lousy model roles played by the likes of Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult, and The Babadook’s Essie Davis. It’s thoughtful, eccentric, and elemental enough to justify yet another retelling of an oft-told life story.
Netflix April 24
Not to be confused with any of the countless other films that share its generic title (including earlier direct-to-video outings for the likes of Bruce Willis and Vinnie Jones), this action movie comes from the Marvel brain trust: It was scripted by Joe Russo, directed by longtime Avengers-verse stunt coordinator (and Chris Evans stunt double) Sam Hargrave, and stars the Mighty Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth. The plot concerns a mercenary who is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of a powerful drug kingpin. While the reliably funny Hemsworth has occasionally been miscast in glowering, Mel-Gibson-esque leading-man roles, one suspects that Extraction has better ideas about what to do with his talents.
Digital platforms April 24
In the small-town Oklahoma of the 1960s, a wallflower (Moonrise Kingdom’s Kara Hayward) forges a fast friendship with a cosmopolitan classmate (Liana Liberato) new to town. Shot in digital black-and-white, this coming-of-age drama from director Martha Stephens (Land Ho!) strains to approximate the itchy melancholy of The Last Picture Show. The cast, though, which includes Malin Akerman, Tony Hale, and Jordana Spiro among others, is strong.
MUBI April 30
An underage Russian volunteer loses his eyesight after a gas attack on the front lines of World War I; forced to rely on his hearing, he is reassigned to a primitive listening station to keep track of enemy aircraft. Like Beanpole’s Kantemir Balagov, writer-director Alexander Zolotukhin is a graduate of the legendary five-year filmmaking workshop run by Alexander Sokurov in the small North Caucasus city of Nalchik. The master’s influence appears to be all over the bleared, desaturated, grainy palette of his debut feature, which premiered at last year’s Berlin Film Festival.
Originally set to premiere at SXSW, Paramount’s Issa Rae-Kumail Nanjiani vehicle The Lovebirds was unceremoniously pushed out of the nest by the festival’s cancellation in early March. Now, the film has found a safe place to nest at Netflix, which has yet to announce a streaming premiere date. When it does debut, The Lovebirds will join a growing subgenre of action-comedies, à la Date Night and Keeping Up With The Joneses, about ordinary, bored couples suddenly thrust into extraordinary, life-and-death circumstances.
Stuber’s director isn’t the only one revisiting the mismatched-buddy formula with a kid involved. Star Dave Bautista has also re-enlisted, this time teaming with—get this—a pint-sized but precocious little girl (Chloe Coleman) whose family he’s surveilling. It remains to be seen whether STX will bump My Spy back to give it a more robust theatrical release. If it does, this schedule-shuffled action-comedy stands a good chance of coming out at least a full year after its original summer 2019 release date.
Emerald Fennell, show-runner on the second season of Killing Eve, wrote and directed this genuinely discomfiting #MeToo revenge yarn, starring Carey Mulligan as a barista who spends her nights springing traps for sexual predators. With its tricky blend of tones—it’s a character drama spiked with dollops of thriller suspense, very dark humor, and even some romantic-comedy conventions—Promising Young Woman was poised to become one of the talking points of the spring movie season when it hit theaters this month. Now the question is whether Focus will kick back its release or just drop it on VOD/streaming services so we can argue about it now.
No Time To Die, featuring what may be Daniel Craig’s final turn as James Bond, was the first major Hollywood movie to scuttle its release plans because of COVID-19—it’s been pushed back to November. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, which quickly followed 007’s lead, was initially (and optimistically) relocated to August, but has since moved even further out, to January 15, 2021. Poor, perpetually delayed X-Men spinoff The New Mutants has been sucked back into purgatory, with no new release date announced yet. Likewise, the hidden-camera prank comedy Bad Trip, starring Eric André, Lil Rel Howery, and Tiffany Haddish, which was supposed to come out in October, then in February, and finally in April, but is now TBD. Antlers, a horror movie by Black Mass director Scott Cooper, is tentatively slated to drop later in 2020, while Lionsgate plans to wait until theaters reopen before setting a new date for the Janelle Monáe thriller Antebellum. On the lower-budgeted, festival-favorite end of the spectrum, there’s no word just yet on when to expect psychological thriller Saint Maud, Baltimore dirt-biker drama Charm City Kings, psycho-dramatic biopic Shirley (starring Elisabeth Moss as reclusive author Shirley Jackson), acclaimed Jack London adaptation Martin Eden, or reportedly grueling, three-hour Jerzy Kosiński adaptation The Painted Bird.