This week marked the beginning of the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival, the first in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with scores of critics and press descending on France to watch the international premieres of the most anticipated films of 2021. From Adam Driver in Leos Carax’s musical Annette to Mamoru Hosoda’s animated science fiction movie Belle to Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch and more, the first waves of pre-release hype are already beginning to trickle out from the festival’s grounds.
For everyone who wasn’t able to make it to one of this year’s most prestigious and exclusive cinematic events, there are still a ton of great movies available to stream and rent on video on demand. Black Widow, the 24th MCU film and Scarlett Johansson’s eighth appearance as super-spy Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff, premieres this weekend in theaters and on Disney Plus Premier, after a yearlong delay. The second film in Leigh Janiak’s trilogy of horror films based on R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series premieres on Netflix this weekend as well, alongside VOD releases like the French horror thriller Meander and more.
To help you get a handle on what’s new and available, here are the movies you can watch with the click of a button this weekend.
Where to watch: Available to stream on Disney Plus Premier Access
Set between the events of 2015’s Captain America: Civil War and 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow finds Natasha Romanoff alone and on the run after siding with Steve Rogers in the wake of the Sokovia Accords. Pursued by a mysterious assassin known as the Taskmaster, Natasha turns to old allies and confronts her sordid history to find answers and possible redemption for the sins of her past. From our review:
Black Widow mostly feels like an apology. It arrives as the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, two years (one of them a pandemic mulligan) after the 22nd film, Avengers: Endgame, featured an emotional scene that in no uncertain terms killed off Black Widow’s main character, Natasha Romanoff. Black Widow had been a consistent presence in the MCU since 2010’s Iron Man 2, and she was one of the key connective figures that helped all of these movies actually feel like a universe. She also seemed to be one of the only women of consequence in the entire franchise. And after coming and going, she’s only getting her own stand-alone movie now, which makes Black Widow feel like an afterthought. It’s only the second MCU film to star a female character, and that character isn’t even alive to take us somewhere new.
Fear Street Part Two: 1978
Where to watch it: Available to stream on Netflix
Fear Street Part Two: 1978 picks up the thread of the previous installment in the Fear Street trilogy, turning back the clocks to explore the story of “Ziggy” Berman (Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink) and her sister Cindy as they struggle to survive the terrifying Camp Nightwing massacre of 1978. From our review:
Like most middle chapters, Fear Street 1978 struggles to stand on its own, rather than functioning primarily as a bridge between the trilogy’s first and final installments. The final 15 minutes of the film are inarguably its strongest, jumping forward back to 1994 as Deena and Josh exhume Sarah Fier’s hand at the tree where she was hanged, now the site of the Shadyside Mall, where Heather Watkins was murdered in the previous film. As Deena attempts to lay Fier’s remains to rest, she’s struck by a vision not unlike what Sam experienced, one that seemingly transports her back in time to 1666, the year when Sunnyvale and Shadyside were founded, and the origin of the witch’s curse.
If you like sci-fi horror thrillers featuring intrepid female protagonists waking up in claustrophobic situations, Meander will totally be up your alley. Gaia Weiss stars as Lisa, a mysterious woman who, after accepting a ride from an ominous stranger, wakes up in a strange metallic labyrinth wearing nothing but a catsuit and a bulky bracelet with a countdown timer. Navigating a deadly series of puzzles, traps, and the murderous intentions of another prisoner trapped alongside her, Lisa will have to use all her wits to escape and see her daughter again. Sounds like Vincenzo Natali’s Cube meets David Schmoeller’s 1986 horror thriller Crawlspace.
And here’s what dropped last Friday:
The Tomorrow War
Where to watch it: Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video
Chris McKay’s sci-fi action drama The Tomorrow War stars Chris Pratt as Dan Forester, a former Green Beret turned high-school biology teacher who is drafted along with thousands of other ordinary civilians into a war with an alien species known as the White Spikes. Transported 30 years into the future, Dan works alongside his estranged father (J.K. Simmons) and a brilliant scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) to beat back this terrifying threat and secure a future for his daughter — and humanity. From our review:
Narratively padded and visually overstuffed with CGI, The Tomorrow War plays out like Starship Troopers drained of Paul Verhoeven’s subversive satire, Edge of Tomorrow devoid of Doug Liman’s wry flair for killing off Tom Cruise, Battle: Los Angeles without Aaron Eckhart’s believable grit, or Independence Day without Will Smith’s agreeable campiness.
Fear Street Part One: 1984
Where to watch it: Available to stream on Netflix
A generation of readers knows R.L. Stine for his bestselling Goosebumps series, the children’s horror novels published throughout the early-to-late ’90s that spawned dozens of spinoff series, a television series, and two live-action feature films starring Jack Black as Stine himself. By contrast, Stine’s young-adult Fear Street horror series, which predates Goosebumps, never amassed quite the same degree of mainstream recognition, even though it sold more than 80 million copies as of 2010. That might change with Fear Street Part One: 1994, the retro, light-on-its feet first entry in a trilogy of horror films loosely inspired by Stine’s original stories and set to release over the next few weeks. From our review:
One twist on the conventional slasher formula that Fear Street: 1994 introduces, and which will likely serve as the throughline connecting all three of the films, is the element of the occult in the form of Sara Feir, the film’s antagonist. Hanged as a witch several hundred years before the events of the film, Feir left behind a legacy — and a mysterious generation-spanning vendetta for one of the characters — that may be the source of much of the misfortune and horror plaguing Shadyside. Feir has possessed several otherwise innocent townspeople across history and twisted them to commit acts of gruesome violence for some unknown purpose. The twists that spring from out of this revelation make for some entertaining and shocking scenes in the latter half of the movie, culminating in several shocking kills where the brutality stands out from the otherwise chaste violence of the rest of the film.
Transformers and Jennifer’s Body star Megan Fox has been experiencing something of a career upswing lately. Take her latest role, in Till Death, S.K. Dale’s horror-action thriller, starring Fox as an unhappy wife ensnared in a Gerald’s Game-type situation when she wakes up in bed handcuffed to her husband’s corpse while vacationing at a secluded lake house for their anniversary. As if that weren’t enough, two robbers have descended on the house to rob the place blind, and murder anyone who might get in their way.
Based on — of all things — the 2016 multiplayer VR game based on the card game based on the classic social-deduction game Mafia, Werewolves Within stars Sam Richardson (I Think You Should Leave, The Tomorrow War) as Finn Wheeler, a forest ranger assigned to the small town of Beaverfield. When a freak snowstorm traps the town’s residents inside the local inn, Finn works with postal worker Cecily (Milana Vayntrub) to uncover which one of the townsfolk might be the werewolf killing people one by one.