By Joseph J. Airdo
As the world around us transforms into something that we previously only saw in movies like “Carriers” and “Contagion,” people are suddenly finding themselves stuck at home and in desperate need of something to do.
Aside from dusting off some old board games, accomplishing every item on your spring cleaning checklist and realizing that—when push comes to shove—you are actually a pretty good cook, your options may at first feel somewhat limited.
However, just as people are looking for new ways to have fun in these challenging and very unfamiliar times, movie studios are looking for new ways to get their films to audiences. With movie theaters having to close as a health precaution, many of this spring’s new offerings were left without an outlet incredibly quickly after their release.
Fortunately, we live in an age where we do not need to leave our homes to be entertained. Movie studios are helping to cure our cabin fever with some good, old-fashioned escapism, making a number of those films that debuted in theaters last month available for rent or purchase online.
Sure, nothing beats the big screen, but being able to enjoy a new movie with your significant other or family in the comfort of your own home is a pretty appealing thing right about now. So pop some popcorn, cuddle up on the couch and check out any—or all—of these new releases that were very recently only available in theaters.
‘Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey’
Margot Robbie reprises her role as Harley Quinn from 2016’s “Suicide Squad” in this crime dramedy that exists within the DC superhero universe. Available for digital rental and/or purchase through a variety of services, it is a frantic and fun piece of escapism entertainment with Robbie again proving that this is a character she was born to play. The crazy chaos that ensues is more than enough to take your mind off the real world’s woes for a couple of hours.
‘Sonic the Hedgehog’
Despite its abbreviated theatrical run, this action-comedy managed to score the title of highest-grossing video game film in U.S. box office history—and now it is available for purchase through a number of different digital platforms. James Marsden stars alongside the computer-animated speedy hedgehog as he tries to evade the clutches of Dr. Robotnik, played with extreme eccentricity by Jim Carrey. You do not need to be familiar with the video game to enjoy the flick’s fast-paced fun.
‘The Invisible Man’
Elisabeth Moss stars as a woman who is terrorized by her abusive ex who has discovered a way to make himself invisible in this psychological thriller. The flick, which is available to rent via several online services, brings the classic Universal monster into the modern age. Moss gives a great performance while the eerie chain of events leaves you on the edge of your seat—clutching your couch’s armrest—from beginning to end.
Chris Pratt and Tom Holland voice teenage elf brothers in this animated adventure from Disney/Pixar, which is not only available for digital purchase from a number of online outlets but is also streaming on Disney+. It is a magical movie that has everything you expect from a Disney/Pixar production—excitement, emotion and a lot of laughs. It also adheres a bit too well to the studio’s “buddy adventure” formula, but fun, fantasy and familiarity are three things families need more than ever at this moment.
‘The Way Back’
Ben Affleck stars as an alcoholic construction worker and former high school basketball star who seeks redemption by coaching the same team he used to play for in this uplifting sports drama. Affleck’s performance is better than the sum of the movie’s parts but it is well worth a watch thanks to its emotional weight. The film, which is available for digital purchase on several services, is at times cliche and formulaic but ultimately very moving and liable to make you stand up and cheer.
You will have to wait a full year to see Vin Diesel’s highly anticipated return to the role of Dominic Torreto in the rescheduled “F9,” but you can catch the actor in all his action-packed glory right now in “Bloodshot.” Available for digital purchase on a plethora of platforms, the film is based on a popular comic book about a soldier who, killed in action, is brought back to life as an unstoppable force with an army of nanotechnology in his veins. The current state of the world has likely left you spending a little too much time in your own head, so this movie’s mind-numbing action may be a godsend.
Having had its original release delayed as a result of political controversy and then opening the same week that theaters closed their doors as a health precaution, it appears as though this darkly comedic horror flick cannot catch a break—which is a real shame since it is an enormously entertaining thrill ride of a movie. A semi-hybrid of “The Purge” and “The Oath,” the movie stars Betty Gilpin, Emma Roberts, Ike Barinholtz and Justin Hartley as strangers who are being hunted for sport. It is now available to rent through a number of online outlets.
‘I Still Believe’
“Riverdale’s” KJ Apa stars alongside Britt Robertson, Shania Twain and Gary Sinise in this faith-based film. The true-life tale of Christian music star Jeremy Camp’s journey of love and loss, which is now available across multiple streaming platforms, is tremendously touching and filled with an abundance of hope—qualities that we all need in these trying times. Like the filmmakers’ 2018 hit, “I Can Only Imagine,” its appeal extends far beyond its genre.
‘Trolls: World Tour’
In full disclosure, this animated sequel—which is available for digital rental through several services—was not yet made available to critics at press time. But if the original 2016 hit is any indication, this family flick will fill homes across the country with a lively soundtrack, colorful characters and much-needed positivity like only Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) can deliver. And in this time of social distancing, it serves as the perfect reminder that someday soon, we will all get to celebrate hug time again.