As America enters its second month of self-isolation, the need for varied, quarantine-friendly activities is more important than ever. Among those is having an old-fashioned home movie night, which studios are attempting to still make into an event worth looking forward to and setting aside quality time for.
One of the most anticipated feature films making its way to the small screen this month is Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite," the South Korean film that snapped up a four Oscars in February (remember February?!). Not only did the film win the ultimate Best Picture prize, but its director charmed the film world with his candid and often childlike glee, declaring that he would "drink until the next morning" to celebrate and gazing at his golden statuette lovingly.
Besides "Parasite," April boasts a range of offerings, from indie darlings and horror flicks, to action films and family-friendly fare. Salon has curated this list to include some of the best, so you don't have to waste any of your precious quarantine time when you could be baking a loaf of bread or taking a Zoom hip-hop class. But if you want extra suggestions, you can still check out the movies you may have missed in March.
The following is an ongoing list and will be updated:
"Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert" (YouTube Channel for free)
Transport yourself to Indio, Calif., from the comfort of your own home to participate in #Couchella. Who knows when we'll be able to gather for such a huge event again to enjoy the great outdoors, two-days of music, and art again. This two-hour documentary goes behind the scenes and highlights many of the amazing performances that made the festival legendary.
"The Elephant Queen" (AppleTV+ free for a limited time at http://apple.co/FreeForEveryone)
AppleTV+ is offering a range of its originals free for a limited time, and that includes this documentary that follows matriarch Athena, her family of pachyderms, and the other critters who gather around and rely on a watering hole. The first half of the film is uplifting, but sensitive souls may need guidance when the film soon gives way to reality and how the ecosystem is threatened and delicately balanced.
If the documentary isn't your bag, the free AppleTV+ original series also include the sci-fi "For All Mankind," M. Night Shyamalan's creepy thriller "Servant," the bizarre period comedy "Dickinson," and many more that Salon has reviewed. Conspicuously absent is its marquee series "The Morning Show." You'll have to subscribe for that one. See what they did there?
"Fleabag" (Rent on Amazon Prime and Soho Theatre website)
Yes, "Fleabag" is an Emmy-wining comedy series by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but it began as her one-woman show, which has been on tour intermittently over the past few years. If you weren't able to catch any of those performances, here's your chance. For two weeks, the recorded version of the National Theatre Live production will be available to rent for $5, and that rental fee will benefit charities for those affected by the novel coronavirus.
"Invisible Life" (Amazon Prime)
In this gorgeous and heartbreaking film, two inseparable sisters Eurídice and Guida live at home with their conservative parents in 1950s Rio de Janeiro. When they're forced to separate, Eurídice must pursue her dream of becoming a renowned pianist on her own, but the sisters never give up trying to reunite.
As part of its Earth Month collection, Disney+ is streaming a slew of nature documentaries, including originals like "Penguins: Life on the Edge," "Dolphin Reef," its Disneynature series (from Chimpan-A to "Chimpanzee" – sorry, had to make a "Simpsons" reference there) to its National Geographic offerings.
Of those titles, "Jane" is a must-watch. The 2017 biographical doc by Brett Morgen uses archival footage to follow her journey as a young and untrained woman who challenges the male-dominated scientific community of her time, makes personal sacrifices, and revolutionizes the way we think of the natural world through her chimpanzee research.
"La vie scolaire" (Netflix)
According to Netflix, "The new vice principal of a middle school in Parisian suburb Saint Denis, Samia (Zita Hanrot) is warned by her fellow teachers that the students are unmotivated and hard to discipline. She sees things differently, however, when she gets to know the students, especially Yanis (Liam Pierron), who's sharp and driven but disillusioned by a world that seems to have turned its back on him and his family."
Rolling Stone's Peter Travers compared the film to "Dangerous Minds" and said it "gives the inspiring teacher/at-risk youth drama a hard-ass and heartfelt French redo."
"Les Misérables" (Amazon Prime)
If you dreamed a dream of a modern-day Les Miz sans big sewer scenes, this is it. Ladj Ly's feature-length directorial debut is a sprawling affair like Victor Hugo's classic and features various police officers in an anti-crime brigade in Montfermeil, a stolen lion cub, kids from the slums, incriminating video, and a violent uprising.
"Never Rarey Sometimes Always" (For rent on Amazon Prime, et al)
"Never Rarely Sometimes Always," Eliza Hittman's third feature-length drama, follows taciturn Pennsylvania teen Autumn (the revelatory newcomer Sidney Flanigan) as she traverses state lines to enter New York for an abortion. It's a dark, picaresque story, with Autumn's resourceful cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) along for the ride to help her terminate her pregnancy in a state where parental consent is not required. Hittman has referred to the movie as the anti-"Juno," though it is not without its currents of satire.
Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams writes, "There is much about 'Never Rarely Sometimes Always' that is intensely unsettling and enraging. It should be. . . . But please don't think the film is a downer, or too hard to bear. It is also an affecting testament to resilience, and to the power of female bonds."
Pixar only released this heartwarming adventure tale theatrically a month ago, but quarantine times call for new viewing opportunities. In a world populated by mythical magical creatures, elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfood (the MCU's Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) discover a way they can see their long-dead father for 24 hours, but as sometimes happen, their spell is only partially successful. As they rush to fix the spell within the limited time frame, the two brothers go on a road trip and learn to appreciate each other. Joining in the voiceover fun are Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, and Klye Bornheimer.
There's a reason why the trailer for "Parasite" is so confusing. Is it a horror film? Is it a comedy? What's this talk of a magic trick? To go into too much detail is to upset the carefully wrought tension and spoil some joyous surprises.
We can say that the darkly comic class war thriller centers on two families: the struggling Kim family, who assembles pizza boxes in their basement apartment to try and make ends meet; and the wealthy Parks, who live in a modern marvel of a home and hire servants to perform every task. In his review, Salon's Andrew O'Hehir wrote:
"Where your compassion and sympathy fall in this tale of two interlocking families at opposite ends of South Korea's societal pyramid will at least partly be a function of your starting point. Furthermore, it's likely to move around over the course of a deliberately perplexing movie loaded with plot switchbacks, sudden reversals of fortune, moral quandaries, and unexpected revelations."
"Pokémon: Detective Pikachu" (HBO for free)
You don't have to have an HBO subscription to enjoy over 500 hours of its premium programming right now. The cabler is offering for free some of its best series – both recent and classic – documentaries, and theatrical releases from its Warner Bros. partners, and that includes "Detective Pikachu." You may need to watch through your computer or the Roku app. (For the full list of free offerings, check out this Variety story.) While this move benefits many viewers who are now stuck at home because of social distancing, it's also probably a strategy to hook viewers to want to subscribe when the HBO Max streaming service launches in May. HBO learns from the best; gotta catch 'em all!
"Sea Fever" (For rent on Amazon, iTunes, et al)
When the crew of a fishing trawler begin to get sick, a captain is faced with the dilemma to isolate his ship to contain the contagion or risk infecting humanity by seeking medical assistance on shore. Sound familiar? The film stars Dougray Scott as the captain, who spoke to Salon about his character:
"He's not convinced — a bit like people when you present them with the circumstances of COVID-19, and how we deal with that. Some people are cynical about it, and don't want to believe the truth, and their selfish desire overrides the scenario."
"The Simpsons: Playdate with Destiny" (Disney+)
Here's the official description of the "Simpsons" short film that actually played before "Onward" in theaters:
"The film begins on a day that seemed like just another day at the park for Maggie Simpson. But when Maggie faces playground peril, a heroic young baby whisks her from danger — and steals her heart. After a blissful first playdate, Maggie can't wait to see her new baby beau again the following day, but things don't go exactly as planned. Will fate (or Homer) get in her way?"
The short film builds off the success of the 2012 Oscar-nominated short "The Longest Daycare," which will also be coming to Disney+. But you can watch it first below:
Pin-Jui is a young, good-looking Taiwanese dude who enjoys hanging out with his girl. But when he gets the opportunity to leave for America by marrying his boss' daughter, he decides this will give him the means to raise enough money so his mother also quit working her dangerous factory job and retire. Fast-forward 25+ years, and Pin-Jui is now Grover, and he's had a lifetime of regrets and nostalgia for who he left behind. "Master of None" co-creator Alan Yang makes his feature directorial debut with "Tigertail," which is inspired by his own father's story.
In an interview with Salon, Yang said, "I think the reaction I've already gotten in the hours it's been out is people saying, 'Was every stoic Asian dad a charismatic young guy, who's dancing around when he was younger?' It does happen! It's really something that we don't think about. We see stoic Asian dads in hundreds of movies, but I don't think we've explored these other sides of them, what they've gone through, what made them that way. My dad was the entry point, and I hope there's a universality and commonality that others find."
"Zombieland: Double Tap" (Starz)
Maybe you didn't know that you wanted or even needed a sequel to 2009's "Zombieland." Doesn't matter; you got it.
"Picking up 10 years after the events of "Zombieland," the new film begins as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) move into the abandoned White House in the post-apocalyptic zombie-filled world that Columbus has long referred to as Zombieland. Things seem to be settling down for them until Columbus scares Wichita with a marriage proposal that prompts her to scoop up her sister Little Rock and abandon both Columbus and Tallahassee. After several weeks pass, Columbus has seemingly moved on with a cute new girl named Madison (Zoey Deutch), but both he and Tallahassee are drawn back into the world of adventure when Wichita returns and informs them that Little Rock has run off with a new hippie boyfriend named Berkeley (Avan Jogia) and needs to be rescued," writes Salon's Matthew Rozsa.
Wednesday, April 15
"Jackie Robinson" (PBS online for free)
Now that you've powered through Ken Burns' "Baseball" series, see why the filmmaker deemed that Jackie Robinson, the first black player to make the Major Leagues, deserved his own breakout project. Burns was also able to lure big names ranging from the Obamas to Jamie Foxx to weigh in on Robinson's impact. The film celebrates the man who was a civil rights activist long before the big names like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks made their mark, but also pays tribute to his wife Rachel, whose intelligence and gumption made him the success he became. It's a surprising romantic focus that humanizes the athlete in a way we haven't seen before.
Thursday, April 16
"The Lighthouse" (Amazon)
Robert Eggers' follow-up to 2015's "The Witch" is a stunning black & white horror flick that stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two 19th-century lighthouse keepers who start to lose their sanity when a storm strands them on the remote island where they are stationed. The film has been praised for its aesthetics, the lead performances, and a gripping story.
Friday, April 17
"Bad Therapy" (Digital and VOD)
It's been 25 years since "Clueless," and Alicia Silverstone looks better than ever in this dark comedy in which she and Rob Corddry play Susan and Bob Howard, who seek marriage counseling from Judy Smalls (Michaela Watkins). Little do they know that Judy is actually a psychopath with a shady past where she didn't exactly keep things professional in therapy. The film, which is inspired by true events, also stars Haley Joel Osment and Sarah Shahi.
"Endings, Beginnings" (VOD)
Daphne ("Big Little Lies" star Shailene Woodley) is regrouping after a breakup and has cut out both alcohol and men from her life. That is, until she meets the Jack (Jamie Dornan) . . . and Frank (Sebastian Stan), two men who appeal to her in different ways other than being conventionally attractive. They also just happen to be best friends.
In an interview with Salon, Woodley says, "I think we're all searching for one person to fulfill all our needs in our minds, hearts, and physically. She finds out that there won't be one person to find and satisfy all those needs. . . . For me, I think it's incredibly female-empowering and relationship-empowering. Daphne is in control the whole time, and when she is not in control, and taken advantage of, she handles it well."
"Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth" (AppleTV+)
Featuring gorgeous animation, this short film is a celebration for Earth Day and addresses how kids may feel overwhelmed by uncertainty and the vastness of our world. Meryl Streep, Ruth Negga, Chris O'Dowd, and Jacob Tremblay lend their voices to this beautiful and family-friendly special.
"The Quarry" (VOD)
A drifter (Shea Whigham) travels to a small Texas town to impersonate the man he killed, who just happens to be a traveling preacher. The congregation loves his seemingly passsionate sermons about sins and forgiveness, but a police officer (Michael Shannon) is suspicious.
"Selah and the Spades" (Amazon Prime)
Tayarisha Poe makes an impactful feature directorial debut with this clever addition to the hierarchal high school canon that includes movies like "Heathers," "Election," "Mean Girls," and "Rushmore." Or perhaps a like "Lord of the Flies" with more illicit campus substances and less pig-killing. Here at the elite Haldwell boarding school, five factions exist, and at the top reigns the confident senior Selah (Lovie Simone) who is without an heir . . . until unmolded underclassman Paloma (Celeste O'Connor) transfers in. But the best laid plans, well, you know. It turns out that you can't always control a bunch of teenagers by forcing them to stay in their mandated lane.
Saturday & Sunday April 18 & 19
"Vinyl Nation" (Buy a virtual ticket for Record Store Day. Details at vinylnationfilm.com)
Shot over the course of two years, "Vinyl Nation" visits indie shops nationwide and talks to musical experts and everyday collectors alike to spotlight the breadth and diversity of the vinyl fandom. What emerges is a fuller picture of how the record renaissance of the past 15-odd years is no longer the domain of the older, oddball or affluent; it's a populist unifier.
Filmmakers Kevin Smokler and Christopher Boone spoke to Salon about making the love letter to vinyl, in addition to giving the proceeds of the Record Store Day screening ticket sales directly to local record stores. As we're all sitting at home, "Vinyl Nation" conveys that sense of togetherness that we're all craving right now. Take this doc for a spin.
Tuesday, April 21
"Bad Boys for Life" (VOD at all the usual places)
It's been 25 years, a freaking quarter of a century, since the original "Bad Boys" exploded onto theater screens, and frankly, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are still looking pretty spry. Although their characters have advanced in age, the plot feels head-scratchingly retro with a Mexican drug cartel causing the partners problems. Then again, this is a nostalgia play, and fans will be happy to see the duo back together, along with Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Núñez, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam, and Joe Pantoliano.
"Why Don't You Just Die!" (For digital purchase)
We could've just waited for this to be available for rent, but frankly, we just wanted to share this bonkers trailer with you. Young Matvey wants to do right by his girlfriend Olya, who asks him to kill her father, who is supposedly corrupt and evil. But when he shows up with a hammer, he finds that old Andrey can more than hold his own, and what results is a mad and bloody pitch-black comedy about two men literally trying to kill each other in an apartment.
Wednesday, April 22
"Circus of Books" (Netflix)
Documentary filmmaker Rachel Mason grew up thinking her parents ran a small bookstore. Which, they kind of did. Karen and Barry Mason — a straight, middle-class California couple — owned Circus of Books, a now-defunct Southern California sex shop that sold magazines and printed materials out front, and had a wide selection of hardcore gay videos and sex toys in the back.
Mason combines home video footage, contemporary interviews and archival footage to establish how important a shop like Circus of Books was to California's gay community.
"She Walks With Apes" (BBC America)
Now that we've gotten the gay porn out of the way, back to our regular Earth Day programming. According to the network:
"Narrated by Killing Eve's Golden Globe-winning Sandra Oh, the documentary is the epic story of three women – Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas – who embarked on lifelong journeys to live with humanity's closest living relatives, the Great Apes. Each of these trailblazers crossed the line from pure science to passionate advocacy, helping to launch the global environmental movement and transforming the possibilities for women in science."
"The Willoughbys" (Netflix)
This Netflix animated film based on the children's book of the same name by Lois Lowry, starts with what is probably a super relatable premise for anyone who went through a rebellious childhood phase. The four Willoughby siblings are convinced that life would be better off without their selfish parents, so they — plus, their bright blue cat — hatch a plan to abandon them on vacation and form a family of their own.
Friday, April 24
"Abominable" (Hulu debut, but it's been able to rent on digital for a while)
A young girl Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet) befriends a Yeti she names Everest, and along with her two pals Peng and Jin (Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor), tries to reunite Everest with his family while avoiding those who want to capture the Yeti.
"Beastie Boys Story" (AppleTV+)
Beastie Boys Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz's bestselling "Beastie Boys Book" collaboration inspired this continuation of their story. They reunite with their "Sabotage" director Spike Jonze for this intimate documentary about the band's 40 years of friendship, and will address life with and after the death of Adam "MCA" Yauch from cancer in 2012. The release of the film coincides with the 26th anniversary release of their No. 1 charting 1994 album "Ill Communication."
Get ready for some intense action from an MCU-heavy team, at least mainly behind the camera. The film reunites the Russo Brothers ("Avengers: Endgame) as producers and frequent "Avenges" stunt guy Sam Hargrave as the director. In front of the camera you have Thor, that is, Chris Hemsworth playing a black market mercenary named Tyler Rake, who must embark on a dangerous extraction to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord.
"To the Stars" (Digital release)
It's the 1960s, and in this tiny town of Oklahoma, the rather backward Iris (Kara Hayward) endures bullying at school and boozy antics at home from her mom. But then the mysterious new girl Maggie (Liana Liberato) arrives at school, and the two strike up a friendship. But Maggie's past will catch up with her and will find herself in a desperate situation, in which Iris might be the one to step forward and step up to help.
"The Assistant" (For purchase on Amazon, iTunes, etc.)
The film takes place over the course of a single day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), a recent college graduate working for a film executive, as she executes her mind-numbing grunt work, endures the smirking bro vibes of her male office mates (their necks under various sets of boots as well), and slowly begins to understand the boss is up to some vary shady stuff.
"Autism: The Sequel" (HBO)
In 2007, "Autism: The Musical" followed five children with autism as they wrote and performed their own musical. Now in their early 20s, the subjects – Adam, Henry, Lexi, Neal, and Wyatt – have created their own independence in the face of the challenges they face as adults on the spectrum. Both the original film and this 40-minute short will be available on all HBO platforms.
"The Photograph" (For purchase on Amazon, etc.)
In the film, museum curator Mae (Issa Rae of "Insecure") crosses paths with journalist Michael ("Atlanta" and "Get Out" star LaKeith Stanfield), who happens to be researching her now-deceased mother. Sparks fly, and the two learn what it takes to make their relationship work.
Salon's D. Watkins wrote of his appreciation for the film, "The American black experience has been the definition of pain; however, we do experience joy, fun, and love like every other race. We also experience success, and that is silently the most powerful element of 'The Photograph.'"