Streaming services are still proving themselves to have the most essential viewing in a world struck by a pandemic, but new action blockbusters are beginning to show that big screen movies may be back in business. The first three months of the year have supplied some stunning entertaining already, and the future is looking quite bright.
‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ (Theaters and HBO Max)
The culmination of the cinematic MonsterVerse was continuously pushed back before eventually hitting both theaters and HBO Max on the same day thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that seems to have worked to the film’s advantage – Godzilla vs. Kong has become an instant hit, earning the highest opening since the pandemic began and bringing in the kind of money that blockbusters had before theaters shut down. The titanic showdown between two of the biggest and baddest movie monsters proved that the movies and their ability to deliver massive spectacle aren’t going away anytime soon.
WandaVision was the first project released by Marvel Studios since the COVID-19 pandemic derailed their plans for 2020, serving as both the first entry in the cinematic universe’s “Phase 4” following their Infinity saga, and the franchise’s first true foray into both television and Disney+. The series immediately set itself apart by breaking the typical Marvel mold and presenting itself as a homage to sitcoms and slowly unveiling the mystery of its bizarre presentation. Marvel releases are still able to become events in themselves, and WandaVision managed to be a moving story on top of it all.
‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ (HBO Max)
Zack Snyder was the original de facto head of the DC Extended Universe, helming both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before exiting 2017’s Justice League in the middle of production due to a personal tragedy. Directing duties fell to Joss Whedon, who directed the first two Avengers films for Marvel Studios’ own cinematic universe. After the troubled production resulted in a disappointing response from both the box office and a considerable number of fans, a massive campaign was launched asking for Snyder to be allowed to finish his version of the movie. The persistence finally won out, and the now 4 hour long superhero epic was released onto HBO Max and gave fans exactly what they were looking for and teased the cinematic saga that could have been.
Filmmaker Chloé Zhao has been on the film festival circuit for years, but her latest examination of the modern day American west has been her most recognized work yet. With nominations for best director and best picture from nearly every single awards group and organization – and handily winning many of those – Nomadland is poised to compete at the Oscars this year. It has a very high chance of taking home the grand prize, and as a truly moving portrait of the life of those who call the open road their home, it would be very deserving.
‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ (VOD)
Shaka King and the Lucas brothers’ Judas and the Black Messiah told a vital story of the ongoing battle for Black liberation – that of former Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton and his murder at the hands of the FBI and their informant, William O’Neal. With a powerhouse cast featuring Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Dominique Fishback and Jesse Plemons, the film is both a powerful and entertaining movie that takes the overdone biopic genre and flips it into a war film. It’s a must-watch, and is an equally as deserving contender at this year’s Oscars.
‘I Care A Lot’ (Netflix)
Netflix’s darkly comedic crime film I Care A Lot is a ton of fun from start to finish, pitting two despicable people against each other in a battle of brains and brawn. The story of a court-appointed guardian (played by Rosamund Pike) who takes cruel advantage of her elderly clients and winds up in the sights of a murderous mob boss (played by Peter Dinklage) is one of the year’s most thoroughly entertaining flicks, and it nabbed its star the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.
‘Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel’ (Netflix)
One of the latest additions to Netflix’s vast catalogue of true crime series dove deep into the tragic disappearance of Elisa Lam at Los Angeles’ infamous Cecil Hotel. The series goes into the violent history of the hotel and how security footage taken moments before Lam’s disappearance spurred an endless host of online speculation and conspiracy theories. It’s one of the more interesting stories of how a tragic event is quickly sensationalised in a number of different ways.
Horror streaming service Shudder has been supplying a steady stream of horror essentials, cult favorites, and new classics with their originals. Slaxx, from director Elza Kephart, is one of the more ridiculous sounding ones on the surface: a possessed pair of jeans goes around murdering the employees of a fashion outlet. But the film is surprisingly sharp – delivering on both absurd slasher thrills and a smart message about the true price of consumerism.
‘Boss Level’ (Hulu)
Frank Grillo continues to prove himself as a true action star and none of his films have been quite as fun as Boss Level. The film is the most high-octane, blood spattering, and action-heavy take on time loops since Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt took on aliens in Edge of Tomorrow, and it has a solid heart at the center of it all as well. It’s as much a homage to video games as it is to classic action flicks of the past; shoot outs, martial arts, sword fighting, and car chases galore.
‘Nobody’ (Theaters and coming to VOD on April 16th)
Bob Odenkirk has risen to star status after dominating comedy and dramas alike, most notably for his performances in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Nobody has him now poised to take over the action genre, thanks to a story from John Wick and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier writer Derek Kolstad. The story of a seemingly average pushover who finds himself battling against a Russian mob kingpin, Nobody has the year’s most brutal and gritty action sequences, and a different kind of brilliant performance from Odenkirk.
Filmmaker and actress Brea Grant has worked on projects that play hard with their unique genre, and her latest film, Lucky, is a mix of slasher, home invasion, time loops, psychological thrillers, and satire. Grant (who wrote the film) stars as a self-help author named May who is stalked and attacked by a mysterious masked man every single night. It’s a wickedly poignant thrill ride with excellent direction from Natasha Kermani, and one of the very best reasons to subscribe to Shudder.
Sator is one of the most impressive accomplishments in recent film memory. Jordan Graham, drawing from experiences from his own life and family, directed, wrote, produced, edited, composed the score, and served as his own cinematographer (among other things!) on the film – doing everything besides acting. After being in production for over six years, the result is a masterclass in how to create a perfect horror atmosphere, drawing on films such The Blair Witch project to craft a tale of an obsessive young man on the hunt for a strange being deep in the woods. It’s one that sits with you for a good while afterwards.