Theaters are closed. Hollywood production has ground to a standstill. Many (across many industries) are unfortunately out of work. And it is a good idea to just stay inside. With this turbulent current state of affairs, Hollywood studios are trying to recoup losses on their theatrical released films by placing them on digital VOD early.
In one respect, this is a generous offering, as it represents an essentially unprecedented choice by studios to ignore traditional windowing practices in order to give consumers access to new products. On the other hand, these releases come with lofty price tags. Given that streaming services offer plenty of feature film fare at much lower prices, it is hard to recommend anyone pay full price for the current slate of “early access” films. Some of these services are even free with ad support—Tubi, Vudu, and Crackle are perhaps the most readily available—and, with some digging, one can find a few gems.
However, for those looking for something new to watch, we have ranked the current (as of March 27) early access offerings.
Annie Silverstein’s feature debut, Bull, follows the intersecting stories of an ex-rodeo star turned bull wrangler named Abe Turner (Rob Morgan) and a teenager named Kris (Amber Havard) whose home life necessitates her independence. The two cross paths when Kris breaks into Abe’s house, stealing his alcohol and hosting a party there in order to impress her peers. Instead of turning her into the police, Abe sets Kris to work on his house. But Kris would have preferred to go to juvenile detention.
Universal’s 2017 re-interpretation of The Mummy, directed by Alex Kurtzman and starring Tom Cruise, went for a frivolous, action-oriented romp. It appeared to be searching for something akin to yet distinct from the Stephen Sommers-directed The Mummy (1999) and The MummyReturns—distinguished enough in its choreography to suit Cruise’s devil-may-care persona yet narratively grounded enough to kick off a multi-IP franchise worthy of crossovers and event films.
“Force majeure” refers to unforeseen acts that can prevent the fulfillment of a legal contract. In the case of Ruben Östlund’s 2014 film of that name, it refers to the unpredictable behavior of a man—a husband, a father—in the face of unexpected danger that could threaten to completely overturn his marriage and his own perception of himself. In Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s 2020 film Downhill, the title is a pun on downhill skiing and a marriage on the decline.
While on assignment in Louisiana, journalist Michael Block (LaKeith Stanfield) interviews a man named Isaac (Rob Morgan). Michael is struck by a photo in Isaac’s home of a woman (Chante Adams) and decides to follow up on the woman’s story when he returns to New York. She is a recently deceased photographer, and she left behind letters to Isaac and her daughter Mae (Issa Rae). It is through this photograph that Mae and Michael collide, and they do so with an immediate sense of romantic connection.
At the start of Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), the latest film from DC, Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie) is no longer with her beau the Joker. She is heartbroken and alone, and decides to mend wounds by drinking until belligerent. While in this state, she lets slip that she is no longer associated with the “Clown Prince of Crime,” a figure who strikes fear into the hearts of even Gotham’s most unhinged criminals. Without the Joker keeping them at bay, most everyone in the city wants to get even with Harley Quinn.
Alli (Maria Dizzia) and Jacob (Greg Keller) are married with two children with another on the way. They live a fairly humdrum life until they notice a young couple move into an adjacent building. The pair of 20-somethings (Juliana Canfield and Bret Lada) don’t like the idea of blinds, even when they have wild, free-spirited sex.
Alli and Jacob’s vantage point to this couple begins shifting their views on their own relationship, and these shifts continue even after they have their next child.