11 Straight-to-Streaming Blockbusters to Watch While Theaters Are Closed
Once upon a time, movie fans had a lot to look forward to in the way of summer 2020 theatrical releases. The 25th James Bond flick No Time to Die was set to kick things off in April, and in May, Scarlett Johansson’s overdue MCU standalone film, Black Widow, and the next Fast and Furious flick, F9, were scheduled to drop. Then, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 was scheduled to hit theaters in June, and the long-awaited Top Gun: Maverick was expected the same month. And of course Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, seemingly the last hope for some semblance of a movie theater blockbuster this year, will only be released to select U.S. theaters after its international debut. That’s just a small sample of the major movies that were delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The silver lining is that a bounty of streaming and video-on-demand options were already on the way — and even more movies pivoted to streaming debuts amid the shutdowns — to provide us all with more than enough great movie options to keep audiences entertained in our own at-home theaters.
Stay home and stay safe with these cineplex-quality films that are streaming on popular streaming services right now.
An American Pickle Where to watch: HBO Max Seth Rogen, An American PicklePhoto: Hopper StoneSeth Rogen finds himself in a… predicament in this HBO Max exclusive film in which he plays an Eastern European immigrant to America who gets perfectly preserved in pickle brine for 100 years and must adjust to life in 2020 Brooklyn. Rogen also plays his great grandson, a loner with no direction in life who learns a thing or two about hard work and pickles from his great grandpa. It’s certainly watchable thanks to its odd sense of charm. And with a premise like that, of course this is based on a short story by Simon Rich (Man Seeking Woman, Miracle Workers), who also wrote the film. -Tim Surette [An American Pickle Review] Da 5 Bloods Where to watch: Netflix Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo, and Jonathan Majors, Da 5 BloodsPhoto: David Lee/NetflixSpike Lee’s latest joint, Da 5 Bloods, hit Netflix smack dab in the middle of nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd, and, as with most of his filmography, the movie offers a timely, scathing rebuke of the history of America’s treatment of Black people — this time, through the lens of the “bloods,” Black soldiers who fought on the front lines in Vietnam. The story’s action is carried forward by the decades-later reunion of one platoon, as they journey back to recover their lost leader’s remains and the pile of gold they found and stowed away on the battlefield. But the takeaway from the pic — apart from the fact that Delroy Lindo delivers a tour-de-force performance — is that it sheds light on another oft-unrecognized sacrifice and segment of our nation’s history. [Da 5 Bloods Review] [7 Movies to Watch if You Liked Da 5 Bloods] Extraction Where to watch: Netflix Chris Hemsworth, ExtractionPhoto: Jasin Boland/NetflixIf not a Netflix Original by design, Sam Hargrave’s Extraction, a Chris Hemsworth-led action pic, would’ve easily made the marquee of the local cineplex in a normal year. Not since The Haunting of Hill House have we seen such an impressive extended single-take shot, and Hemsworth’s turn as a disillusioned mercenary who reluctantly accepts an assignment to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned drug lord from a vicious rival is extremely watchable if you’re looking to dig into a tub of popcorn and have a good time. Chances are, you’ll be left wanting much more after the credits roll, and the good news is that Extraction 2 is already in the works. [Extraction Review] [8 Action Movies to Watch on Netflix if You Liked Extraction] Greyhound Where to watch: Apple TV+ Tom Hanks, GreyhoundPhoto: AppleDon’t let the tight runtime fool you; Greyhound is still very much a war epic at just 1 hour and 31 minutes. The film — which Tom Hanks adapted from C.S. Forester’s The Good Shepherd and which was directed by Aaron Schneider — features Hanks as the fictional commanding officer of a U.S. Navy vessel who must lead a convoy of Allied ships through the perilous Black Pit, a stretch of sea inaccessible to air support during the Battle of the Atlantic. For that three-day period, Hanks’ Commander Ernest Krause is relentlessly tested and taunted by a “wolfpack” of U-boats, and it’s on him to shepherd the ships across the Atlantic. There’s little fluff to be found in this film, but the action is, to borrow an oft-used phrase in the film, “steady as you go.” [Greyhound Review] Hamilton: An American Musical Where to watch: Disney+ Lin-Manuel Miranda, HamiltonPhoto: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/For The Washington Post via Getty ImagesFor anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to see the celebrated Broadway musical Hamilton live, especially when show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda still led the original cast, director Thomas Kail captured a stunning 2016 performance of the show, with plans for the film to release wide in 2021. Once the coronavirus pandemic put all of Hollywood on hold, though, the pic — a musical biography of Alexander Hamilton told with a soundtrack of hip-hop, R&B, and soul — was redirected to a pre-Fourth of July release on Disney+ and gave audiences at home plenty of reasons to sing this Independence Day. Host Where to watch: Shudder HostPhoto: ShudderDirector Rob Savage was struck by inspiration during quarantine, and quickly made a remotely-produced horror movie, Host, where all the action takes place on the video chat app Zoom. In the film, a group of friends gather with a medium to do a seance over Zoom. It’s supposed to be fun, but things quickly go very wrong. It’s way more scary and technically impressive than you might be expecting, and will remind you of Paranormal Activity in how much mileage it gets out of its limitations. The actors operated their own cameras, helped rig their own practical effects, and did their own lighting. It’s a really impressive little movie, and is easily one of the best pieces of entertainment to come out of quarantine. -Liam Mathews [Host Review] The Lovebirds Where to watch: Netflix Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, The LovebirdsPhoto: Skip Bolen/NETFLIXAn anticipated romance movie smuggled inside of an action comedy, The Lovebirds was supposed to premiere at SXSW in March 2020 before everything shut down. That allowed Netflix to gobble it up, so nearly all the world could still see Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae play a couple on the rocks who learn to love each other again after accidentally becoming involved in a murder the same day they were going to break up. It’s full of the kind of raucous humor that sees Nanjiani kicked in the face by a horse, all the while bringing Rae’s and Nanjiani’s characters closer together for a happy ending. -Tim Surette [The Lovebirds Review] The Old Guard Where to watch: Netflix Charlize Theron, The Old GuardPhoto: Aimee Spinks/NETFLIXGina Prince-Bythewood’s action thriller The Old Guard is more than just your ordinary shoot-’em-up-bang-bang-style popcorn flick. The pic stars Charlize Theron as Andy, the ancient leader of a race of semi-immortals who secretly work to save the world, one fight at a time, and take on a reluctant new member in KiKi Layne’s Nile. Although The Old Guard does offer plenty of high-octane sequences, the characters also deliver some thoughtful commentary about the heroes’ burden of watching the world continue to self-destruct no matter how many bad guys they vanquish, along with some sublime LGBTQ representation. [The Old Guard Review] Palm Springs Where to watch: Hulu Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg, Palm SpringsPhoto: HuluThe less you know about Palm Springs going into it, the better, but it’s probably no secret at this point that this delightful comedy features Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti as a pair of wedding goers who find themselves trapped in a time loop. Their performances are at once goofy and grounded, and there are plenty of surprises packed into every precious minute of this wild, incredibly fun rom-com with touches of sci-fi. [Palm Springs Review] Spenser Confidential Where to watch: Netflix Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke, Spenser ConfidentialPhoto: NetflixMark Wahlberg and Peter Berg have teamed up for a lot of action dramas over the years (see also: Lone Survivor, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon, and Mile 22), but Spenser Confidential marks their first film which even flirts with comedy — and it’s all the better for it. The premise of the movie is simple enough; Wahlberg stars as an ex-cop who did his time for beating up his crooked boss and returns to find that his department is enmeshed a very sordid scandal that only he, his mentor Henry (Alan Arkin), his gentle giant roommate Hawk (Winston Duke), and his on-and-off-again girlfriend Cissy (Iliza Schlesinger) can untangle. But what might otherwise be a rote cop drama is immediately elevated by the movie’s commitment to being a very Boston drama with a lot of sharp humor sprinkled in at just the right moments. The Vast of Night Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video Photo: AmazonOK, maybe this one wouldn’t have been a major blockbuster, but it’s already destined to be an indie sci-fi classic talked about by elite cinephiles for years to come. The winner of Sundance’s 2019 Best Narrative Feature Audience Award is set in 1950s New Mexico and follows a young woman and a man who investigate mysterious audio that appears to be coming from space, but skips special effects for mounting mood and incredible filmmaking. Andrew Patterson’s directorial debut is a stunner, showing off his unique eye with what are sure to be his trademark one-take shots involving hundreds of extras, multiple locations, and a camera that never wants to turn off. There’s a mesmerizing scene involving the young woman operating a switchboard that’s already become one of my favorite scenes in film history, and I can’t wait to see what Patterson comes at us with next. -Tim Surette