Social distancing might be a necessity, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring
Greetings, moviegoers. For the next few weeks, it looks like new movies will be tough to come by. Studios are canceling premiers and the CDC is recommending that people stay away from crowded places (like movie theaters). It’s a safe bet that it could be weeks before we can return to the theater.
But there’s good news: In the 21st century, movies come to you.
If you’re stuck at home, you can still be entertained. Universal Studios has just announced that they’re bringing all their films currently in theaters to streaming (for a hefty rental fee of $20/title). If you don’t want to pay box office prices for at-home entertainment, however, there’s plenty of fantastic options for cinephiles, thanks to streaming services.
Here are my suggestions for what to watch.
The streaming service so ubiquitous in our culture, it’s viewed as the default, Netflix has a wealth of fascinating films for every mood.
It Comes at Night
When an unknown pathogen ravages the world, chaos reigns supreme. One family has found a way to keep themselves from harm by living in the middle of the woods and abiding by strict sanitation and safety protocols. The patriarch of the group (Joel Edgerton) is serious about preventing infection – he kills the family’s grandfather at the first sign of disease.
But when a seemingly healthy family shows up, begging for help, what will it do to the safe little bubble they’ve built?
A film about the dangers of paranoia and panic in the face of crisis, It Comes at Night is a tense, fascinating drama. With excellent performances and a script that digs at the very human tendency to close ranks and hoard resources, this flick may seem pretty timely. This is an excellent example of moody, atmospheric cinematography at its best. Director Trey Edward Shults shows off his use of shadows and long takes to create suspense. As we consider stricter quarantines and possible extensions to these precautions, It Comes at Night is a reminder not to lose your humanity while you’re social distancing.
Good Drama * R * 91 mins.
Disney+ is the one-stop-shop for family entertainment. If you need to keep the kids quiet and content for an afternoon, this is the ideal streaming service.
When an outbreak of diphtheria threatened the whole territory of Alaska in 1925, there were legitimate concerns the disease would kill the entire young population. The only hope was an anti-toxin serum. But in the midst of an Alaskan winter, planes and boats were unable to reach the epicenter of the outbreak in Nome.
This left only one option: dog sled teams. Twenty teams raced over 674 miles to deliver the lifesaving serum. One team, lead by aging sled dog Togo, had an especially long and treacherous piece of country to traverse. As Togo and his musher (Willem Dafoe) attempt to cross 260 miles of deadly ground, the people of Nome hope for a cure.
Part thrilling adventure, part heartwarming comedy, Togo is the perfect family film for older kids who love dogs. Watching the bond between Togo and his master grow as they deal with a perilous journey is utterly charming. The effects, and the fact that the film used real dogs instead of CGI, give this movie a sense of realism that will keep everyone on the edge of their seats. Togo is a gem of a film, and one that will give you hope in the midst of an outbreak.
Great Family Adventure * PG * 113 mins.
If you have a library card, you have access to this streaming service. Just login and you’ll have a huge catalog of classic, world, and modern cinema at your fingertips.
In 1930s’ Germany, a serial killer preys on children and terrifies the nation. The police seem unable to catch him, and the public is demanding justice. When legal actions bear no results, the public begins to support a criminal syndicate who promise to catch the killer by any means necessary. The people of Germany may find their killer, but at what cost?
A metaphor for what happened when the Nazi Party offered to solve all the problems of the German people, this classic Fritz Lang film is an excellent lesson in what happens when people allow panic to rule. Beautifully shot and featuring an iconic performance from Peter Lorre, M is one of the greatest German films ever made. Lang’s tracking shots and use of shadow influenced American filmmakers for decades; you’ll see the debt Silence of the Lambs and Se7en owes to Lang. If you feel the need to sell off hand sanitizer or hoard toilet paper, this is the movie to watch.
Great Drama * NR * 99 mins.
Known more for its television selections than films, Hulu is a streaming service that offers a lot of fun genre movies – especially ‘80s flashbacks, children’s flicks, and slasher movies.
Disgraced adventurer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) is determined to earn his place in a stuffy explorer society. He insists that legendary creatures are real, though he’s yet to get proof.
When a Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) writes to Frost, promising proof of a Bigfoot, the adventurer is surprised to discover that Link is the Bigfoot. An avid fan of Frost’s exploits, Link asks Frost to help him find his long lost cousins – the yetis in the Himalayan Mountains. Frost makes a deal: If Link agrees to give him proof of his existence to take back to the explorer society, then Frost will take Link to the yetis. But when the road ahead gets complicated, Frost may have to choose between his word and his reputation.
One of last year’s best animated movies, and also one of the most under-seen, Missing Link is a charming family film with an excellent message. Laika Studio has managed in its short run to fuse Pixar’s storytelling abilities with Aardman Studios’ impeccable stop motion animation. This film is an excellent example of both, offering up a brilliant story about the meaning of respect and friendship, and gorgeous character design. If you need a break from watching Frozen 2 on repeat, give this movie a try. Your kids and your sanity will thank you for it.
Great Animation * PG * 93 mins.
Instead of ordering things you don’t need from Amazon (trust me, that bulk package of Bazooka Joe gum doesn’t need to be to your house in two days), consider using your Prime membership to stream some fantastic movies.
Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) is owner of the popular drag club The Birdcage in Miami. His partner Albert (Nathan Lane) is the high-strung star of the show. Armand spends most of his days talking Albert out of fits and trying to keep the club running.
But when Armand’s son Val comes home from college and announces he’s getting married, things really get chaotic. It seems Val’s in-laws to be are a famous conservative senator and his wife. Now it’s up to Armand and Albert to play it straight long enough to ensure Val gets married.
Can the two men play it straight?
With all the gloom in the world right now, sometimes you just need to laugh. One of the funniest modern comedies, The Birdcage is a hilarious sendup of politics, relationships and the horrors of parenting. Both Williams and Lane offer amazing performances, backed up by Gene Hackman as a hilariously hypocritical conservative senator. If you’re looking for a movie that will make you forget about the state of current affairs, this is a sure bet.
Great Comedy * R * 117 mins.
In the coming weeks, Moviegoer will still be here, offering you the best of streaming so you and your family can stay safe and sane in your home.