This weekend, The Matrix Resurrections, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and the struggling Nightmare Alley and West Side Story, hope to lure audiences out of their homes and into the movie theaters during the holidays. A combination of COVID concerns and familial guilt may be their biggest adversaries (not to mention that Resurrections is available on HBO Max) — but luckily there is plenty of new stuff to watch at home.
From Netflix releases to Oscar-friendly dramas and the Resident Evil reboot you were probably too lazy to actually see in theaters but are dying to check out with a rental all hit home-viewing services. And if you’re spending the holidays cooped up at home, consider a remote watching party with friends of family: they’re easier than ever to pull off.
On that note, to help you get a handle on what’s new and available, here are the new movies you can watch with the click of a button this weekend.
The Matrix Resurrections
Where to watch: Available to stream on HBO Max
Eighteen years after the one-two punch of The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions comes The Matrix Resurrections, a mind-bender from original mastemind Lana Wachowski that works as both commentary on the franchise’s legacy and a damn good heist movie set inside The Matrix. If you want to dig a bit deeper, go read our outstanding review. Here’s a taste:
The Matrix Resurrections is about doing the impossible. On a very basic level, it’s about the insurmountable and inherently cynical task of making a follow-up to the Matrix trilogy, one that breaks technical and narrative ground the way the first film did. On a thematic one, it’s an agitprop romance, one of the most effective mass media diagnoses of the current moment that finds countless things to be angry about, and proposes fighting them all with radical, reckless love. On top of all that, it is also a kick-ass work of sci-fi action — propulsive, gorgeous, and yet still intimate — that revisits the familiar to show audiences something very new.
Where to watch: Available to stream on Disney Plus
Disney’s final animated feature of the year made our list of the best movies of 2021. Here’s why:
It’s always a strange year when Walt Disney Animation Studios outdoes Pixar on color, emotion, and innovation, but that happened in 2021. Pixar’s film Luca is a low-key and generally low-stakes charmer about friendship and family, but Disney’s Encanto explores similar themes about belonging and connection, and ramps them up to a feverish pitch. The story, about a magical home, the magical family it houses, and the one family member who doesn’t have a special gift, draws heavily on Colombian art and design for its richly textured characters and setting. But Lin-Manuel Miranda’s dizzyingly dense songs are the centerpiece of the film — they’re authentic earworms that function as important parts of the story instead of tacked-on interludes.
And the movie’s big emotions are compelling and powerful. Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) accepts her place as the family’s powerless black sheep with grace and humility for a long time, but eventually, the unfairness of the world catches up with her, and the seething hurt she’s been holding back for so long is palpable. Encanto is visually sumptuous, but it also cuts to the same kind of dark inner demons that the best Pixar movies reach, and offers some catharsis for anyone who’s ever felt at odds with their family, or the world in general.
Don’t Look Up
Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix
The Big Short and Vice director Adam McKay merges with Step Brothers and Anchorman director Adam McKay in this fuming comedy about the end of the world. McKay locked up an all-star cast for his first outing for Netflix, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, and Timothée Chalamet, but based on reviews, it seems to be polarizing the audience, even in its noble quest to shake up the conversation on climate change. Here’s a bit from our take:
Don’t Look Up becomes a work of well-acted exhaustion. It’s not very interesting to see this cycle play out in a hypothetical context because this particular media circus is already repeated ad nauseum. McKay wastes his talented ensemble by having them labor in the service of virtually nothing, as his film has little to say about why we are trapped in these cycles, and it doesn’t seem to offer anything beyond the greatest hits of a bad few months online. If the jokes about daytime television, internet memes, or political ineptitude were funnier, this would be forgivable. Humor is subjective, but giving an example of Don’t Look Up’s specific jokes feels like a spoiler, depriving you of one of the three times you’ll likely experience a genuine laugh.
The Last Duel
Ridley Scott’s medieval epic, starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver, and Killing Eve’s Jodie Cormer, pretty much bombed in theaters this fall, despite promising reviews. Our colleague Zosha Millman caught it after a few weeks in theaters, and walked out having had one of her best movie experiences of the year, suggesting the movie’s themes on sexual violence and human strife were worth the challenge. “The absolute high of digesting such a complicated, thorny narrative in a theater all to myself is something I’ve been chasing ever since.”
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
A reboot of the Resident Evil movie franchise that skews closer to the games turned out to not be what fans wanted — no one showed up to theaters when the movie bowed in November and, after bombing, it quickly departed screens for premium home video rental. But here’s the thing: it’s pretty solid! Despite being fully loaded with Easter eggs, director Johannes Roberts delivers a genuine horror film in the mode of James Wan. On the scale of this year’s biggest surprises, Welcome to Raccoon City is up there.
Lamb, a drama imported by A24 starring Prometheus’ Noomi Rapace, has a number of turns that would be egregious to spoil. But let’s just say Rapace’s character adopts Ada, a mysterious half-lamb half-human child, and that the director was really into capturing live lamb births on film.
“Paul Verhoeven, you horny motherfucker, you’ve done it again.”
So says our critic Joshua Rivera, who devoured the Robocop and Elle director’s erotic drama about nuns in 17th century Italy. From an early age, Benedetta (Virginie Efira) has believed that she’s been touched by God. When Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia) arrives to her convent, Benedetta’s touched … by much more. The sexual and spiritual intertwine in ways that seem like a perfect fit for Verhoeven’s daring brand of cinema. Here’s more from Joshua:
Some may find Benedetta too exploitative to take seriously. That criticism has its merits: The movie’s lasciviousness can be read as being meant for the camera as much as it is for the characters. Its queerness can come across as something purely meant to titillate straight men. But in the context of the rigid confines of Catholicism at the peak of its powers, Verhoeven’s argument for Benedetta’s extremes is compelling. He presses the sacred against the profane, and brings the religious denial of the human experience into question.
The latest from Mike Mills (Beginners, 20th Century Women) stars Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny, an uncle who slips into the father figure role for his young nephew, without much of a clue on how to parent. Simple, black-and-white, and apparently quite stirring. From our friends over at Vulture:
Johnny nurtures his 9-year-old nephew, Jesse (Woody Norman), taking him from his home in Los Angeles to the different cities he visits for work, while his novelist sister, Viv (Gabby Hoffman), helps Jesse’s father Paul (Scoot McNairy) during a manic bipolar disorder episode in the Bay Area.
Not much happens in C’mon C’mon. There’s no overly grand gestures of love. There’s no arch monologues. There’s no teary reappraisals underscored by irrevocable shifts in the characters’ lives. As Johnny travels with Jesse in tow and Viv wrestles with Paul’s refusal to heal in the linear fashion people who don’t struggle with mental illness expect, the film finds a raw beauty in the wonders and heartbreaks of everyday life. It’s a humble portrait of a family’s deepening connections supported by a number of cinematic pleasures — expert sound design and cinematography; touching performances by Norman and Hoffman; and a tremendous showing from Joaquin Phoenix, operating at a register he’s rarely found before. It’s a career best for him — lovely, empathetic, humane.
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch is a self-proclaimed “love letter to journalists,” and a comedy anthology following the misadventures of a group of hapless columnists working for the eccentric editor of an American newspaper in the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé (Boredom-upon-Apathy). Anderson’s proclivity for fastidiously detailed set, bright colors, irreverent deadpan humor, and quirky characters has won him both acclaim and criticism throughout his career. How does The French Dispatch compare to his previous work? From our review,
The film is divided into five separate vignettes, each a reported column belonging to a specific newspaper section, written by one of the journalists. As is often the case with anthology-style films, some sections work better than others. Anderson’s penchant for dry comedy used to explain grief, the inner workings of dysfunctional people, and children experiencing the loss of innocence comes to the forefront once again. And yet this is the director’s least digestible work. It’s supposedly a love letter to the New Yorker of yore, but while The French Dispatch features Anderson’s familiar aesthetic style, it’s often a distant omnibus that might appeal only to his most ardent fans.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Andy Serkis’ follow-up to 2018’s antihero action comedy Venom follows Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), investigative journalist-turned-human-host of the alien symbiote Venom, as he attempts to rejuvenate his career by interviewing Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), a psychotic serial killer with an infatuation for Venom. When Kasady becomes the host of another symbiote named Carnage, Eddie and Venom will have to work together to defeat this new threat and resolve their strained relationship. From our review,
At a lean 97 minutes, Venom: Let There Be Carnage doesn’t suffer from the kind of slack mid-section that weighs down so many action-forward superhero movies. In fact, the second act is when Venom gets to really shine as a character. He’s fed up with living in a host that doesn’t appreciate what he does for him and won’t let him eat the criminals they stop, so he decides to take his gifts elsewhere. Full of self-righteous anger, Venom digs his claws into the side of Eddie’s pretty little souped-up two-wheel drive and explores the city on his own, jumping from body to body and presumably killing each new host along the way.
The Hand of God
Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix
The Young Pope director Paolo Sorrentino’s 2021 drama The Hand of God follows the story of Fabietto Schisa (Filippo Scotti), a young boy coming of age in Naples amid the tumultous 1980s. With few friends and no lover to call his own, Fabietto’s maturation into young adulthood is punctuated by both serendipitous joys and startling tragedies, culminating in a story that’s as achingly poignant as it is deeply relatable.
Where to watch: Available to stream on Hulu
Chloë Grace Moretz (Let Me In) and Algee Smith (The Hate U Give) star in the sci-fi thriller Mother/Android as Georgia and Sam, expectant parents who find themselves on a desperate journey for survival in a post-apocalyptic world where androids have rebelled against their human masters. Just days way from the birth of their first child, the couple must trek through dangerous territory in order to find a human enclave where they can safely raise their child. The trailer looks exciting and oddly reminiscent of the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy, albeit with androids that resemble the robots in 2018’s Detroit: Become Human.
Where to watch: Available to stream on Apple TV Plus
Mahershala Ali (True Detective) stars in the sci-fi drama Swan Song as Cameron Turner, a loving husband and father who discovers that he has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Wracked with despair at the thought of leaving his wife Poppy (Naomie Harris) as widow and his child without a father, Cameron is presented with an alternative experimental solution by his doctor (Glenn Close): create a carbon copy clone of himself to live on in his stead. As Cameron struggles with the emotional toll of his decision, he’ll come to learn more about life, love, grief, and happiness than he had ever imagined.
Imagine Whiplash or Black Swan, but instead of jazz drumming or ballet, if it was a film about a queer college freshman’s arduous physical and psychological ordeal to become the best novice rower on her school’s varsity boat team. The trailer for The Novice feels claustrophobic and appropriately unnerving, with Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan) delivering an intense performance as the obsessively perfectionist Alex Dall.