Kneel Before VOD: March 28th
Welcome to Kneel Before VOD, where the latest offerings on various video-on-demand platforms are highlighted for your streaming pleasure. With so many options these days from a range of different services, it can be daunting to select just one film without ending up making a list of a couple dozen. Below, find what we've selected as great entertainment choices to keep things simple.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
The latest rollicking adventure in the Star Wars story is unlike any in the series before it. A brand new cast of characters is introduced to carry out a dangerous mission to steal the plans for the Death Star, connecting Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Every single crew member has their moment to shine. I grew attached to all of the new characters in a way that I didn't in The Force Awakens, particularly Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). The impossibly sleek visuals follow in the footsteps of The Force Awakens, and are impressing and entertaining. Be sure to check out our Rogue One review from writer Tyler Scruggs if you haven't already.
Monster Trucks (2017)
Hauling a meaty $125 million dollar budget, this movie that few cared about starring no box office draws and a unappealing CGI alien has unsurprisingly turned out to be one of 2017's major disasters so far. Despite this, Monster Trucks proves to be an inoffensive, watchable family film. If you have a kid who's obsessed with cars, you could do a whole lot worse than Monster Trucks (like Cars 2, for instance). Besides, the always reliable CinemaScore gave it an "A", so it must be good.
Hidden Figures (2016)
Everybody thinks that they know the story of how the US landed on the moon. Hidden Figures lets you know just how wrong you are. As the Best Picture nominee's name implies, there were many engineers behind the historic event that we know nothing about, namely Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson. Hidden Figures focuses on these three black women who were known as the human computers, creating a majority of the equations crucial to the mission's success. It's a story that's been covered up by history, thankfully the film tells it with great performances from Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. Our writer Alex Miller reviewed the film back in January for its wide release, you can check it out there.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2016)
Fantastic Beasts may not be quite up to the standards set by the previous films in the Harry Potter series, but it still ends up being a fun time that benefits from gorgeous visuals and fun character designs. The prequel to the series follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a researcher who brings a suitcase full of magical creatures to New York and accidentally sets them free. Along with a few friends he makes along the way, he must do his best to wrangle the animals. If that were all it was, the film could have ended up being pretty great, but it bogs itself down with a boring subplot that attempts too much. It's still worth watching for newcomers and Potter fans alike to see some of the best looking CGI put to film.
Deja Vu (2006)
It may have underperformed both critically and at the box office eleven years ago, but today Deja Vu feels like a fresh, almost ahead of its time thriller. The convoluted time travel plot is shockingly compelling, informing you with all the sciencey talk you could want but never wearing itself down from over explanation. Denzel Washington provides a very Denzel Washington action performance, and Tony Scott directed the hell out of the action sequences in ways that only he knew how. One particularly complex sequence finds Denzel involved in two different car chase sequences at the same time. It's both a little silly and wholly exciting, like the rest of the movie. Check it out on Netflix.
Mississippi Grind (2015)
Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn's performances are the reason to see this indie. The two star as Curtis and Gerry, respectively, two self-destructive drunks who go on a road trip gambling across America to get to New Orleans. Curtis is a partier and Gerry a brooder, but the two quickly form a complicated friendship after bumping into each other in a bar. What happens next is your typical road trip movie of ups and downs made more than watchable by the two impressive performances by the leads. Check it out on Amazon Prime.
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
It's safe to say that Will Smith's career is in a tough spot. With Suicide Squad, After Earth, and Collateral Beauty he has an uncanny ability for choosing movies that might sound good on paper but don't turn out. At least he had the common sense to stay away from the sequel to his well regarded 1996 blockbuster Independence Day. The hole that Smith leaves is palpable, unable to be made up even with the returning faces of Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. The unknown Jessie Usher steps into Smith's shoes playing his character's son, but has nowhere near the amount of charisma as his onscreen father, who conveniently died off-screen. Even the dated effects of the first Independence Day are more impressive than the ones in Resurgence. Check it out on HBO Now.
El Mariachi (1993)
Robert Rodriguez's debut film is quite the achievement. Made on the less-than-shoestring budget of $7,000, the fact that El Mariachi manages to be not only competently made but really good is a miracle. The simple story has production value in its editing, performances, and violent visual effects that are more impressive than many films with budgets one hundred times larger. Check it out on Hulu.
Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Legendary director Federico Fellini directs his wife Guilietta Fellini in the film that won her the award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and him his second in a row Best Foreign Language award at the Academy Awards. Guilietta gives a spellbinding performances as the working girl Cabiria. Her trade usually is portrayed in film as a sad one not chosen willingly, but Cabiria is a strong, proud woman who owns her own home and doesn't let life get in her way. The film bounces from place to place, showing off the streets of Rome beautifully, but Cabiria is very much the center of attention. Check it out on FilmStruck.