As more and more people are compelled to practice social distancing and encouraged to stay home, as movie theaters temporarily shutter their doors, and as studios continue to pull their scheduled 2020 films off the release calendar, we’ve decided to reformat this weekly Critics Consensus column to focus on titles that are newly available on the home entertainment market. With that in mind, our list of digital new releases this week includes a fresh-from-the-theaters Pixar movie, the latest Star Wars adventure, a Razzie-winning Broadway adaptation, and a trio of brand new theatrical releases that are being made digitally available way ahead of schedule. See below for the most notable titles hitting VOD this week.
It was just three weeks ago that we saw the release of The Invisible Man, Universal Pictures’ updated take on the classic H.G. Wells novel, starring Elisabeth Moss. However, in light of the recent global crisis, the studio has opted to make a handful of its latest theatrical releases available to would-be moviegoers who are self-quarantined at home, and this is the biggest of them. Moss stars as Cecilia Kass, who flees the home of her abusive ex and learns soon after that he has committed suicide. Except that he might not have, and now Cecilia has to figure out if she’s really imagining things, or if it’s possible he actually invented a way to make himself invisible. It’s a timely story that’s well-crafted, and it impressed critics enough to become the best-reviewed horror film of the year so far. If you didn’t get a chance to see it before the theaters closed, it should be available for digital rental on Friday.
Following Universal’s example, Walt Disney Studios has also decided to release one of its most recent theatrical films into the digital marketplace just a couple of weeks after it opened. Pixar’s Onward features the voices of a couple of MCU stars, Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, as a pair of elf brothers living in a suburbanized fantasy world where magic has been rendered obsolete by technology. When Ian is gifted the means to resurrect his dead father for 24 hours on his 16th birthday, he inadvertently only summons the bottom half, so he and Barley set out on a road trip to rediscover the magic they’ll need to bring back the rest of their dad before time runs out. Though it isn’t being hailed as an instant classic, Onward still earned enough acclaim to be Certified Fresh, and if you’re looking for something new to watch with your stir-crazy kids, you can pay to watch it today or wait for it to drop on the Disney+ streaming service on April 3.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had a lot riding on its shoulders. Not only was it the conclusion of the recent sequel trilogy in the Star Wars universe, but it was meant to wrap up the entirety of the so-called Skywalker Saga itself, which began with the original film all the way back in 1977. If that weren’t enough, writer/director J.J. Abrams also had to contend with upended expectations from Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi even as he attempted to tie up over four decades of storytelling in one film. Did Abrams succeed? Critics loved The Last Jedi but didn’t care much for The Rise of Skywalker, and audiences had pretty much the opposite reaction, so it’s probably safe to say both directors’ efforts landed somewhere in the middle. The story catches up with our new galactic heroes and some old, familiar faces as they face off against an evil from the past and chart a new course for the future. This one dropped earlier this week, so you can properly binge the entire saga at home now.
Even if there was never a “butthole cut” of the film, Cats still managed to capture the moviegoing public’s morbid curiosity, what with its nonsensical “plot,” its peculiar A-list cameos, and its reportedly horrifying special effects, and it even succeeded in impressing a handful of critics, even as it baffled countless others. If you’re one of those people who wondered what the fuss was about, but not enough to pay theater prices to see it, you can now gather up a group of friends and host a watch party. Whether or not you choose to remain sober for the multiple Razzie Award winner — Seth Rogen chose not to — is up to you, but results may vary.
After just one week in theaters, the “liberal elites hunt deplorables” movie The Hunt, which ultimately isn’t as controversial as it thinks it is, will be available to watch from the comfort of your nonpartisan couch. It’s kind of a fitting culmination of several months of delays for the movie, which was pulled from its initial release date in September of 2019 amid a pair of deadly mass shootings and rescheduled for the same opening weekend — last weekend, to be precise — when strict social distancing measures went into effect pretty much everywhere. That said, the chances of getting into heated political debates over the film are probably much slimmer if you’re watching it at home with your friends, so maybe that works in the movie’s favor. As one of the three titles Universal announced for early digital access, The Hunt is expected to be available on Friday.
This small, indie comedy didn’t get a very wide release, so it’s exactly the kind of film that should benefit from a more robust home market for the foreseeable future. Kate Micucci and Sam Huntington star in Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss as a married couple in whose home a local cult leader (played by Taika Waititi) previously killed himself in the bathtub. Inspired by his actions, his followers begin breaking into the house to copy his death, and the couple soon find themselves the unwitting facilitators of ritual suicide. It’s a pitch-black comedy that screened in just a few theaters at the beginning of march, and it’s available now on a few VOD platforms.
This film is the only one this week that is available digitally and also technically scheduled to open in theaters, although the cineplex closures will probably affect the latter and relegate the film strictly to the former. Marisa Tomei and Liev Schreiber star in this remake of the 2014 Italian film of the same name about two families whose lives become connected after a tragedy. Its gotten decent reviews so far, and its impressive supporting cast includes Peter Sarsgaard, Alex Wolff, and Maya Hawke. It was set to open in theaters and be available on VOD on Friday.
The third and likely least well-known film that Universal is making available for an early digital release is Autumn de Wilde’s new interpretation of the classic Jane Austen novel Emma. Anya Taylor-Joy stars as the titular matchmaker, who discovers that maybe she’s not as good at bringing people together as she thought she was, all while her own romance bubbles up and takes her by surprise, and critics have been delighted by the film to the tune of a Certified Fresh 85% Tomatometer score. This one has been in theaters for longer than the other films, but it wasn’t in many, so now’s your chance to check it out at home.
Thumbnail images by Walt Disney Pictures and Universal Pictures