Ivan (voiced by Sam Rockwell) is a mall circus gorilla who hears the call of the wild in the Disney+ adventure “The One and Only Ivan.”
Most theaters are still closed, but new streaming movies are coming to entertain you and your family during socially distanced times.
This weekend, a family-geared critter movie starring Sam Rockwell and Angelina Jolie hits Disney+; Netflix unleashes a kid spy comedy; a World War I drama looks at Black soldiers facing racism on the home front; Ethan Hawke plays a genius inventor in an unconventional biopic; and “Riverdale” star Lili Reinhart headlines an Amazon young-adult romance.
If that’s not enough to get you online and watching movies, two virtual film festivals launch this weekend for fans of Black cinema: the American Black Film Festival (featuring an online conversation with “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris on Saturday) and the BlackStar Film Festival.
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Here’s a rundown of new movies hitting streaming and on-demand platforms this week, for every cinematic taste:
If you’re a sucker for talking-animal movies: ‘The One and Only Ivan’
Katherine Applegate’s beloved children’s book gets a so-so live-action adaptation with CGI critters. Ivan (voiced by Rockwell) is an artistic gorilla and main attraction of a mall circus who decides, with the help of a wise elephant (Jolie) and a stray dog (Danny DeVito), that he wants to embrace freedom. A thoughtful animal-rights message, however, is sort of defeated by comedic high jinks and family-friendliness.
Where to watch:Disney+
If you want to ease your kid into James Bond movies: ‘The Sleepover’
“Spy Kids” meets “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” in this mediocre family adventure comedy starring Malin Akerman as an ex-thief in witness protection forced to do one last job, and her kids (Sadie Stanley and Maxwell Simkins) get involved in secret-agent shenanigans. Ken Marino is the vanilla dad, Joe Manganiello is the butt-kicking mom’s former beau and partner, but Simkins is the highlight – and an easy No. 1 pick for a “Goonies” reboot.
Where to watch:Netflix
If you prefer your teen romance on the tortured side: ‘Chemical Hearts’
While the adaptation never rises to the level of Krystal Sutherland’s excellent YA novel, the performances of its young stars help the love story grow on you. Henry (Austin Abrams) dreams of editing the school paper, but has to share the gig with transfer student Grace (Reinhart), who wields a cane and wears oddly oversize clothes. An attraction forms, though Grace’s tragic backstory creates a hefty obstacle for them both.
Where to watch:Amazon
If you’re interested in a war film with timely themes: ‘The 24th’
Frequent Spike Lee collaborator (and Oscar-winning “BlacKkKlansman” co-writer) Kevin Willmott directs this brutal, affecting and infuriating drama about the Houston riot of 1917. An all-Black Army regiment in Texas (including a fantastic Trai Byers, who co-wrote the script) is itching to fight Germans in World War I, though the unit’s biggest enemy is racist local cops, leading to a fateful night when the soldiers demand justice in bloody fashion.
If you like a little Tears for Fears in your historical biopics: ‘Tesla’
Get ready for a Nikola Tesla movie featuring an Apple laptop, an ice-cream fight between Tesla and Thomas Edison, and Ethan Hawke singing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” In this interestingly oddball film, Hawke plays the 19th-century powerhouse inventor as he deals with rival Edison (Kyle MacLachlan), patron George Westinghouse (Jim Gaffigan) and J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne (Eve Hewson).
If you need a feel-good pick-me-up with drag queens: ‘Stage Mother’
Jacki Weaver stars in the solid musical dramedy about a conservative Texas church-choir director who inherits a San Francisco drag club after her estranged gay son’s overdose. A cultural fish out of water living with her kid’s best friend (Lucy Liu), she does knows how to put on a show, finding a way to jump-start the business while weathering her husband’s homophobia and the cold shoulder from her son’s lover (Adrian Grenier).
If you’re down for a twist on the usual kidnapping drama: ‘The Vanished’
What seems on the surface like a run-of-the-mill missing-kid psychological thriller is, in the hands of writer/director/actor Peter Facinelli, a sneakily complex and even a bit bonkers whodunit. Thomas Jane and Anne Heche star as a struggling couple on a family getaway whose daughter disappears, which begins a rash of assorted deaths and uncovered secrets that plague the embattled local sheriff (Jason Patric).
If you prefer your comic-book movies with gore: ‘Random Acts of Violence’
Directed by Jay Baruchel, this nasty (in a good way) piece of horror business stars Jesse Williams as the Canadian creator of a successful comic in which the masked protagonist is based on a real-life serial slasher, and during a road trip to New York City, he runs into familiar scenes of disturbing carnage. Look underneath the kills for an intriguing exploration of artistic responsibility and modern morality.
Where to watch:Shudder
If you’re yearning for one seriously witchy Western: ‘The Pale Door’
A train robbery goes south for the Dalton gang – including their outlaw leader (Zachary Knighton) and his younger brother (Devin Druid) – and they end up a ghost town that, unfortunately for them, contains a coven of bloodthirsty witches. The indie horror film nicely twists multiple genres and tropes to create a refreshing fright fest, and the monster designs for the wicked women are top notch.
If you’re up for a two-bit ‘Black Mirror’ episode: ‘The Honeymoon Phase’
The middling sci-fi thriller stars Chloe Carroll and Jim Schubin as a young lovers who pass themselves off as a married couple to be part of a 30-day social experiment that comes with sweet self-isolation digs and $50,000. An increasingly weird situation drives a wedge between them, the third act reveals aren’t terrible and “Lost” mystery man Francois Chau shows up as the similarly enigmatic Director.
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