When you find yourself home more, you can have so many ambitious plans – to finally put up those shelves, take up visible mending, plant a garden, or even just overcome your distrust of the Instant Pot. But all that goes out the window if you fall into a TV binge. Next thing you know, it's 2 a.m., and the day is completely shot.
Movies then, are the perfect choice for controlled, at-home viewing that won't take too much of your time or too much of your creative soul. At only two hours (unless you count "The Irishman" or MCU), these discrete parcels of entertainment can provide just enough escapism to truly unwind.
The many flavors of new offerings this month means there's something for every craving, whether it's the downfall of society or feline film antics. And with many theaters shut down or experiencing less traffic because of social distancing, many movie studios have also rushed their films from the big screen to the small, an unforeseen early treat.
But with the wealth of offerings out there, it's hard to know what to commit to, especially since some of the newer movies still cost as much as two (albeit discounted) movie tickets to rent. It's still a steal when you consider it's good to watch with the whole family, and you're keeping the film studios afloat.
Fortunately, Salon is here to cut through the streaming clutter. Check out some of the best March movie offerings available for to stream now:
"1917" (Purchase on Amazon, iTunes, et al)
Sam Mendes' epic WWI thriller had Oscar bait written all over it and looked to steal the thunder from the more controversial "Joker," and it's easy to see why. Starring the eminently likable George MacKay and "Game of Thrones" ex-king Dean-Charles Chapman as two young soldiers who must traverse enemy territory in a race against the clock to save English lives, the film had its nail-biting premise doubled by the immediacy of the one-shot shooting style. Visually and aurally stunning thanks to Roger Deakins' cinematography and Thomas Newman's score, it's a well-constructed war film with a cavalcade of well-known cameos (the best of which is "Fleabag" hot priest Andrew Scott). While the movie's one-sided storytelling irked Salon's Matthew Rozsa, it earned a very fresh 89% on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Big Time Adolescence" (Hulu)
Pete Davidson is his Pete Davidson-est in this vehicle that feels tailored to his weird, awkward, yet totally owning-it strengths. He plays college dropout Zeke, who befriends and proceeds to work his slacker wiles on the teenager Mo. Said teen is played by Griffin Gluck, whom you may recognize from Netflix's hilarious and underrated "American Vandal" and in a supporting role in "Locke & Key."
"Cats" (For rent/purchase on Amazon, iTunes)
What is the Jellicle choice? Are you the Jellicle choice? What is a Jellicle anyway? If you want to finally find out what all the fuss was with the bonafide box-office bomb "Cats" – Tom Hooper's big-screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and T.S. Eliot's poems – now is your chance. Discover why your friends would not shut up about Skimbleshanks the railway cat! Hear Ian McKellan say, "Meow meow meowwww!" Experience the "unprecedented state of awed horror" from the digital fur technology and very wrong cat-sizing! Join in making #ReleaseTheButtholeCut trend! Life might be very hard to deal with right now, but for 110 minutes you can forget everything while you stare at the screen in terrified fascination.
"The Dog Doc" (Amazon)
If cats aren't your thing, then here's some counterprogramming. In this festival darling documentary, Smith Ridge Veterinary Center is where the hopeless canine medical cases go after owners have tried everything. Dr. Marty Goldstein provides holistic treatment that seems to work, but has earned himself both criticism and praise for his less conventional practice. Heartwarming and with plenty of doggos, this is a doc that provides a much-needed dose of optimism and sense of community when we need it most.
"Emma" (For 48-hour rental at $19.99 on Amazon, iTunes)
In Salon's review, Mary Elizabeth Williams calls director Autumn de Wilde's Jane Austen adaptation the "candy-coated 'Clueless' remake we deserve," nodding to Amy Heckerling's '90s interpretation of the same novel. Awash with a gorgeous palette and titillating score, the new film is a lively jaunt in which its heroine (Anya Taylor-Joy) matchmakers for her friend Harriet (Mia Goth), "misinterprets every cue and soon reveals herself both an unreliable judge of character and a messy bitch who lives for drama." An early scene also breaks with tradition and displays the naked bum of Emma's unacknowledged love interest George Knightley (Johnny Flynn), lovingly establishing this film as a hilarious and unexpectedly sensual delight.
"Frozen 2" (Disney+)
Disney saw fit to rush "Frozen 2" to home video much earlier than intended, as a treat for the beleaguered parents who will need to entertain their kiddos stuck at home. In this sequel, sister Anna and Elsa are once again on a mission to discover what happened to their parents, who were lost at sea and in the process learn a dark secret about their grandfather (that is strangely, thematically like "Watchmen"). The film delivers Idina Menzel's same escalating vocals in another show stopping song (yep, you'll hear that belted around the house), cute moments with Olaf, killer comedy song by Kristoff, and (if you really pay attention) subtext that explains why Elsa is a queer icon.
"The Invisible Man" (For 48-hour rental at $19.99 on Amazon, iTunes)
If you're going to watch just one recent Universal Pictures horror film, bypass the politically clumsy adventure "The Hunt" and instead opt for Leigh Whannell's savvy and genuinely scary take on the H.G. Wells classic "The Invisible Man." In the update, Cecilia ("The Handmaid's Tale" star Elisabeth Moss) thinks she's finally escaped her abusive relationship when it turns out her ex Adrian has killed himself and out of remorse for his past actions, left her his house. But soon, Cecilia begins to suspect that as an optics engineer, Adrian figured out how to turn himself invisible and faked his own death so that he could wreak revenge on her. Acknowledging the effects of trauma and how women are often not believed when it comes to abuse, "The Invisible Man" delves into the everyday psychological terrors that women experience daily. In Salon's review, Matthew Rozsa declared that the film's smart and tense storytelling is "what good horror is all about."
"Little Women" (Purchase on Amazon, iTunes, et al)
Although Louisa May Alcott's Civil War-era tale about the four March sisters has been an oft-adapted classic, there was always the problematic element of Jo's romantic journey. Somehow, Greta Gerwig tweaked the story just enough to incorporate the author's true artistic intent, thereby creating a fresher and far more feminist tale than before. Saorise Ronan is one of the most captivating Jo Marches to have hit the screen (sorry, Winona), and the rest fo the cast – including Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Timothée Chalamet – are just as stellar. It's no wonder that Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams called the film a "modern marvel."
"Phoenix, Oregon" (Online with a "theatrical at home" ticket)
Here's an ingenious way to support your indie movie theater even while sheltering in place. The midlife crisis comedy "Phoenix, Oregon" was supposed to be released in a limited number of arthouse cinemas before shuffling off to the digital ether, but given the current state of social isolation, moviegoers can now purchase a discounted theatrical-at-home ticket to stream from the comfort of their own bunker. That support will also with a free digital copy of the film upon its official release this summer.
In the film, Bobby (James Le Gros) is a middle-aged graphic novelist who still hasn't realized his full potential but gets pulled into a scheme to reinvent his life by his pal Carlos (Jesse Borrego) who wants to open a bowling alley that serves the "world's greatest pizza." The film also co-stars Lisa Edelstein, Diedrich Bader, and Kevin Corrigan.
"The Platform" (Netflix)
From Ashlie D. Steven's initial writeup for Salon's March Netflix offerings: "If everyone ate only what they needed, the food would reach the lowest level." This is the guiding principle of "The Platform," a Spanish-language dystopian film centered on a multi-level prison where inmates on high floors eat better than those below, who get the leftover scraps (it feels a little bit like a darker version of the 2015 Tom Hiddleston film, "High-Rise").
But then, an inmate rebels and tries to figure out a way for equality to prevail — but not everyone is on board.
"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" (Purchase on Amazon, iTunes, et al)
The conclusion to the nine-chapter Skywalker saga arrived with high expectations but left moviegoers with mixed feelings. While it was the most Star Wars-y "Star Wars" to ever war in the stars, its breakneck pace, overstuffed cast list, and undermining twist made for a less than satisfying experience. All that said, it's just the kind of pleasant departure from reality that's needed in a movie right now. And fortunately, you can purchase it now (with bonus content) long before it makes its way to Disney Plus.
"Stargirl" (Disney Plus)
This YA offering that Julia Hart ("Miss Stevens," "Fast Color") adapted from Jerry Spinelli's best-selling novel will be a welcome addition for the older kids. Arizona high schooler Leo (Graham Verchere) has hid his light under a bushel far too long after suffering a loss and moving to the tiny town of Mica, but when he turns 16 he meets the new kid, the bold and musically talented Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal). It's a sweet and unassuming story that explores teens and grief, identity, and self-expression.
Monday, March 23
"Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears" (Acorn TV)
It's been five years since the last fresh "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" installment in which the slinky Jazz Age sleuth sticks her nose where it doesn't belongs and looks stylish doing so. In her first cinematic treatment, Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) travels to late-1920s Jerusalem and saves a young Bedouin girl while unraveling a wartime mystery about a forgotten tribe, priceless emeralds, and ancient curses.
Tuesday, March 24
"Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)" (For purchase on Amazon, iTunes, et al)
Warner Bros. has released this "fantabulous, feminist grenade" a month early, allowing Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) to take out some kneecaps and act out our collective frustrations on the screen. In this joyful and irreverent adventure, Harley is emerging from the toxic relationship she had with Joker, and while that's good for her mental health, it also makes her a target not that she's no longer under his protection. Eventually, she joins forces with other badass women – played by Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell – to fight back against the real enemy: a very petulant Ewan McGregor.
Wednesday, March 25
"Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood" (Starz app, Starz)
Quentin Tarantino's love letter to Hollywood places the eminently okay Brad Pitt and decidedly better Leonardo DiCaprio in the late '60s, leading up to the Manson murders. But this is a revisionist history (what else is new with QT?), and while there is the expected bloodbath, there's are definitely problems associated with the film. But don't trust Salon's middling review or scathing takedown; watch it for yourself for the style and performances, if not for the subtle storytelling.
"Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution" (Netflix)
This is the second doc from the Obamas' Higher Ground Productions (after the Oscar win by "American Factory") and was a favorite at film festivals, winning the audience prize at Sundance. Beginning in the early 1970s, the film shines a light on Camp Jened in the Catskills, where the marginalized and ostracized youth get to do all the normal camp activities. From here, many were inspired to become activists as they matured, and the story follows the development of how the campers found their power.
Friday, March 27
"Portrait of a Lady on Fire" (Hulu)
Break out that Bordeaux you've been saving because this is the frenchest of French movies, in the best sense. Before Neon releases the Oscar-winning "Parasite" in April, the arthouse studio is releasing its award-winning film written and directed by Celine Sciamma.
In the late 18th century, young painter Marianne accepts a commission on an isolated island in Brittany to paint the beautiful aristocrat Heloise, so that the wealthy Milanese gentleman she's betrothed to can gaze upon her beauty in advance. But Heloise is defiant and has refused to sit for portraits, so Marianne is hired to pretend to be a paid companion and at night, paints her subject from memory. Despite this deception, the two women eventually develop a deep, emotional bond. While it may be obvious where this film is heading, the way it presents their relationship, the seaside cliffs, the lack of soundtrack, one amazing song, and the matter-of-fact acceptance of the circumstance of their life – all creates a stark and achingly beautiful experience.
"Resistance" (For rent on Amazon, iTunes)
In this film written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, Jesse Eisenberg plays Marcel Marceau, but long before he became a world-famous mime. During World War II, he was a Jewish actor named Marcel Mangel who joined the French resistance to save the lives of thousands of children orphaned at the hands of the Nazis.
In Mary Elizabeth Williams' review of the film, she gives credit to Eisenberg's performance and fluid physicality as "downright revelatory," but also praises Matthias Schweighöfer for portraying the Gestapo's "Butcher of Lyon," Klaus Barbie. His brutal and tense scenes "create the foundation of the film's suspense." But most of all, she found the film uplifting in its message about coming together as a community in our darkest hours and the power of artists.
From "Insecure" executive producer Prentice Penny, this is a classic father-son talke about third-generation Memphis barbecuer Elijah (Mamoudou Athie), who has a passion for wine and dreams of becoming a sommelier rather than follow his father Louis' (Courtney B. Vance) career path. Niecy Nash and MattMcGorry also co-star.
In Salon's review, Ashlie D. Steven writes that the film offers a "generous pour" of humanity to the elite world of somms and the mesmerizing yet occasionally opaque wine jargon. "It's sweet, medium-bodied, and unchallenging. It's the kind of movie anyone can easily curl up with, without too much thought. Just don't forget the wine."
"Vivarium" (For rent or purchase on Amazon, iTunes, et al)
In this science fiction/horror flick, Jesse Eisenberg (yeah, him again!) and Imogen Poots are a couple who moves into a new suburban neighborhood that is just too perfect, almost as if they are inside a manicured and curated world – much like a vivarium. Then, one day a baby shows up in a box on their doorstep . . .