Being quarantined doesn’t mean you can’t explore the world
It’s week two of our societal staycation and it’s understandable if you’re ready to get outside of the house. With the governor shutting down all but essential businesses, there aren’t many places to go other than the barren toilet paper aisle at the local supermarket.
Studios are continuing to release new titles to video on demand services, with a price tag around $20.
If you’re ready to leave your home, but not break the bank, The Moviegoer has a solution. This week I’m recommending six films on streaming services with wondrous worlds and fascinating cultures.
In Dakar, young Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) waits by the sea for her love, Souleiman (Traore) to return. After months working on a construction project with no pay, Souleiman and his crew have climbed into a boat and sailed for Europe, hoping to find money and better prospects. But Ada isn’t free to wait for Souleiman forever – her family has betrothed her to a wealthy man.
As her wedding day approaches, odd things begin happening to Ada and her husband to be. The whole city of Dakar seems to be unsettled by seemingly unexplainable occurrences. Will these events lead Ada back to her love or lead her to disaster?
Part romance, part ghost story, and part social critique, Atlantics is a beautiful film that gives you a look into the rich culture of Senegal. Director Mati Diop creates a spellbinding story, offering viewers a truly touching love story and a biting look at the inequalities that force the lovers apart. If you’re in the mood for sweeping romance and some truly breathtaking cinematography, Atlantics is the perfect film.
Great Drama * NR * 106 mins.
Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) has left her rural home to work for a middle-class family in Mexico City. Renamed by her employers, who aren’t interested in learning her real name, Cleo moves like an apparition through the house, always working, but rarely acknowledged for her work. As the family she works for begins to collapse, Cleo’s own position in the world is called into question.
An absolute masterpiece that draws heavily from writer-director Alfonso Cuarón’s childhood, Roma is one of the best modern films available on streaming. The film draws some inspiration from the Italian Neo-Realist movement of the 1960s, and shows the same brilliant devotion to capturing a brilliant sense of place. The city streets and country vistas teem with life, giving you an incredible sense of place and time.
Bolstered by a deeply emotional star turn from Aparicio, Roma is a tender tribute to people often left in the backgrounds of stories. With gorgeous cinematography and award-winning direction, this film is a piece of art to be savored.
Brilliant Drama * R * 135 mins.
Billi (Awkwafina) has always been close to her Nai-Nai (Shuzhen Zhao). Though she left China at a young age, Billi keeps in contact with her grandmother through frequent teasing phone calls. No matter what’s happening, Billi can count on her Nai Nai to rise her spirits.
When Billi’s learns her grandmother has stage 4 cancer, she barely has time to process her grief when she’s told that she absolutely cannot reveal this information to Nai Nai. It’s a tradition in China to not tell the dying about their condition, because the fear of death is thought to be worse than the actual disease. Billi, who was raised predominantly in New York, sees the tradition as insane and wants to tell her grandmother the truth.
Based on the real-life familial turmoil of director Lulu Wang, The Farewell is a deeply heartfelt story of grief, love, and tradition. Though the subject matter might make the movie seem like a tearjerker, this is a film filled with genuine affection and riotous humor. At the center is a stunning performance from Zhao, as the firecracker grandmother who isn’t afraid to play drinking games or tell you if you’ve gotten too skinny. Awkwafina puts away her bombastic persona to deliver a subtle, moving performance as a woman trapped between worlds.
Great Dramedy * PG * 100 mins.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Foster kid Ricky (Julian Dennison) is more interested in Tupac and Biggie than living on the land, but that changes when he’s taken in by Hector (Sam Neill) and Bella. The rural New Zealanders teach Ricky about living off the land and give him his first stable home.
When Bella dies, foster care tries to take Ricky, so he decides to take matters into his own hands–running off into the woods to live on his own. Woefully inept at survival skills, Ricky is quickly found by Hector. Before the two can return to civilization, a misunderstanding leads to a nationwide manhunt for the duo.
Wildly funny and surprisingly earnest, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is utterly charming. Director Taika Waititi keeps you laughing as the story becomes increasingly outlandish. Anchored by a grizzled performance by Neill, it is both absurd and grounded in emotional reality.
Great Comedy * PG-13 * 101 mins.
In 1969, America strapped three men into a metal can filled with rocket fuel and aimed them at the moon. As Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins hurtled toward history, America and the world waited with bated breath to see if man really could touch the stars.
A documentary filled with never-before-seen footage, Apollo 11 is a fascinating look at what it took to get man on the surface of the moon. You’ll see just how dangerous rockets were, and how engineers worked to shore up major flaws just days before the launch. The film also offers an excellent look at the personalities of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, humanizing these historic figures. Did you know that Aldrin liked to pull jokes on Houston while reporting data? This is the perfect film for families, be prepared to make some space themed crafts after the film.
After seven days of isolation, you may relate to the three men stuck in a cramped rocket for 8 days.
Great Documentary * G * 93 minutes.
When Pete (Oakes Fegley) is orphaned near the woods, he’s adopted by a dragon he names Elliott. They live a happy life together until a lumber camp encroaches on their happy home. When Pete is discovered by the lumberjacks, he’s taken away from Elliott and the woods.
Park ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) wants to help Pete find a home and assumes that his Elliott stories are a coping mechanism. But when odd things start happening, Grace wonders if there isn’t a bit of truth to Pete’s stories.
Pete’s Dragon is the rare remake that’s better than the original. Featuring a good message for kids about conservation and embracing your imagination, it’s also a great movie to launch an afternoon of art projects – have your kids design their own dragons after they see Pete’s.
Good Family Film * PG * 102 mins.