Smile, new Christmas movies, and every new movie to watch at home

This weekend Smile, the new horror thriller starring Sosie Bacon (13 Reasons Why), comes to streaming this weekend on Paramount Plus. If a movie about a leering, shape-shifting demon that feeds on the psychic trauma of its victims before devouring them whole from the inside doesn’t quite sound like your vibe right now, not to worry — there’s an avalanche of new movies to watch on VOD and streaming this week, including Jordan Peele’s new sci-fi horror film Nope on Peacock!

The sequel to the 1983 classic A Christmas Story, featuring Peter Billingsley reprising his role as a now adult Ralphie, comes to streaming this week on HBO Max, as well as the sequel to 2007’s Enchanted on Disney Plus, the contemporary musical comedy Spirited starring Ryan Gosling and Will Ferrell on Apple TV Plus, and a whole swath of movies like the fantasy adventure Slumberland, the fourth wall-breaking period drama The Wonder starring Florence Pugh, the prequel-reboot to 2013’s R.I.P.D., and the unconventional therapy documentary Stutz on Netflix. Plus, the excellent sci-fi musical drama Neptune Frost on Criterion Channel, and all the other movies that premiered on VOD this week, including Todd Field’s virtuosic drama Tár starring Cate Blanchett.

Here’s the low-down on everything there is to watch this weekend!


Smile

Where to watch: Available to stream on Paramount Plus

A woman smiling at a baby shower while younger children stand horrified in Smile

Image: Paramount Pictures

Genre: Horror/thriller
Run time: 1h 55m
Director: Parker Thin
Cast: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner

Sosie Bacon (Mare of Easttown) in this supernatural horror thriller as Dr. Rose Cotter, a therapist is exposed to a bizarre, traumatic event involving the death of one of her patients. Afterwards, Rose becomes increasingly more paranoid that a malicious spirit — the same entity responsible for her patient’s death and countless others — is haunting her at every turn, adopting the appearance of both strangers and loved ones alike while wearing an eerie, uncanny smile.

From our review:

Smile is often a gimmicky, even corny horror movie, packed with so many jump-scares that the sheer pile-on borders on laughable. Finn uses abrupt, loud sound cues and brutally rapid cuts to get viewers yelping and flinching over things as mundane as Rose biting into a hamburger, or tearing off a hangnail. But no matter how excessively the legitimate scares pile up, they’re startling and convincing. The editing and music are impressively tuned for maximum impact whenever the slow-burning tension resolves with an abrupt, ugly surprise. All of which makes Smile an efficient ride, if an unusually unrelenting one.

Nope

Where to watch: Available to stream on Peacock

OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya), Emerald Haywood (Keke Palmer), and Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) standing in a parched field in Nope

Image: Universal Pictures

Genre: Horror/sci-fi
Run time: 2h 10m
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun

Jordan Peele’s latest sci-fi horror mystery thriller stars returning collaborator Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and newcomer Keke Palmer (Alice) as two siblings who, after discovering something miraculous and horrifying above the skies of their family’s California horse ranch, work together to capture bona fide proof of extraterrestrial life.

From our review:

It would be too much to call Nope a bad movie. Even in Peele’s lack of precision, plenty of good qualities lurk underneath the knottier shortcomings. But this horror flick doesn’t rise to the levels of Get Out or Us, either. It isn’t because in this case, Peele isn’t trying to teach white people to understand the full scope and feeling of racism. It’s because Nope is an idea more than a story. It’s a collection of individually captivating scenes, as opposed to an intriguing whole. It’s a handsome picture, but Peele is far too impressed with its handsomeness to work on populating it with fully felt characters. It might enthrall audiences, and it might frighten them, but it’ll struggle to stay with them after the credits start to roll.

Tár

Where to watch: Available to rent for $19.99 on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu

Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) makes a vigorous full-body downward gesture while conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Todd Field’s Tár

Photo: Focus Features

Cate Blanchett stars in actor-director Todd Field (In the Bedroom, Little Children) long-awaited return to theaters as the eponymous Lydia Tár, a renowned composer-conductor whose life, career, and legacy are threatened by the cumulative consequences of her hubris, infidelity, and self-serving manipulation. It’s a remarkable film that not only features one of the best lead performances of the year, but also one of the most inexplicably bizarre, memorable, and fascinating endings in recent memory (Fair warning — don’t click that link if you don’t want want to be spoiled!).

A Christmas Story Christmas

Where to watch: Available to stream on HBO Max

A man wearing glasses (Peter Billingsley) stands on a ladder next to a Christmas tree, looking exasperated with his hand raised and mouth open.

Image: HBO Max

Genre: Comedy
Run time: 1h 39m
Director: Clay Kaytis
Cast: Peter Billingsley, Erinn Hayes, Scott Schwartz

Who doesn’t love A Christmas Story, starring Peter Billingsley? Moreover, who doesn’t love a legacy sequel? Nobody, that’s who! A now-adult Ralph “Ralphie” Parker returns to his childhood home 30 years later to celebrate Christmas with his wife and children. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.

Disenchanted

Where to watch: Available to stream on Disney Plus

A red-haired woman in a pink floral shirt (Amy Adams) holds a baby beside a young girl in a green coat (Morgan Philip) and a man (Patrick Dempsey) while standing in front of a staircase and living room.

Image: Disney

Set 15 years after the events of the live-action musical comedy Enchanted, this sequel follows former princess Giselle (Adams) and her husband Robert (Dempsey) as they decide to move with their family from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan to the sleepy suburb of Monroeville. When the town is magically transformed due to Giselle’s restlessness, she and her family must find a way to reverse the spell, all while figuring out what “happily ever after” truly means to them.

Slumberland

Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix

A furry horned man (Jason Momoa) in a purple coat and pants strikes a pose while standing in the street of a massive city beside a small girl (Marlow Barkley).

Image: Netflix

Genre: Fantasy/adventure
Run time: 1h 57m
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jason Momoa, Marlow Barkley, Chris O’Dowd

Based on Winsor McCay’s fantasy comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, director Francis Lawrence’s (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) fantasy adventure film follows a young girl (Marlow Barkley) who, with the help of an eccentric magical outlaw named Flip (Jason Momoa), embarks on a journey across the far reaches of the land of dreams in search of a way to see her late father again.

R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned

Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix

Dead sheriff Roy (Jeffrey Donovan) looks dubious as he and his more experienced, black-leather-clad ghost-hunter partner Jeanne (Penelope Mitchell) look at something offscreen in RIPD 2: Rise of the Damned

Photo: Joel Baik/Universal Pictures

Genre: Action/comedy
Run time: 1h 42m
Director: Paul Leyden
Cast: Jeffrey Donovan, Richard Fleeshman, Tilly Keeper

Y’all remember R.I.P.D., that 2013 supernatural action comedy starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds as two otherworldly lawmen hunting undead criminals? No? That’s okay, not a lot of people do, but anyway the point is that a prequel-reboot of the film came out this week and — surprise — apparently it’s pretty good! The film follows Bridges’ character Sheriff Roy Pulsipher, now played by Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) as he ventures out on his first big case after joining the R.I.P.D. while trying to solve the mystery of his own murder.

From our review:

It’s all nonsense, but it’s nonsense that improves on its predecessor, at least aesthetically: Reimagining RIPD as a Western downplays its status as a Men in Black knock-off, while giving the action some novelty and a baseline tactility. When the special effects arrive, they’re mostly generic squiggles of smoke and light, but the movie never descends into a green-screen nightmare populated by ugly CG characters the way the first one did. Instead, director and co-writer Paul Leyden (Chick Fight) uses old-fashioned set design, costumes, and lighting to set the scene, rather than an excess of computer gunk. It isn’t exactly a feast for the eyes: This is still a direct-to-video prequel to a franchise nonstarter. But the Western setting goes a long way toward avoiding the hazy, phony look of so many big-screen wannabe blockbusters.

Spirited

Where to watch: Available to stream on Apple TV Plus

A man in a red and white suit (Ryan Reynolds) and a man in a black and white suit (Will Ferrell) sing alongside one another in from a group of dancers.

Image: Apple TV Plus

Genre: Musical/comedy
Run time: 2h 7m
Director: Sean Anders
Cast: Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Octavia Spencer

Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell star in a musical version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol set in the present day. When Clint Briggs (Reynolds), an advertising executive who makes the lives of everyone around him as miserable as his own, is selected by the Ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) to have his soul redeemed, the latter gets more than what he bargained for. Briggs’ seeming inability to reform causes Present to rethink his entire existence, forcing both of them to reevaluate and relearn the true meaning of the holiday spirit.

Neptune Frost

Where to watch: Available to stream on Criterion Channel

Cheryl Isheja as Neptune Frost in Neptune Frost directed by Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams

Image: Sundance Institute

Genre: Sci-fi/musical
Run time: 1h 45m
Director: Saul Williams, Anisia Uzeyman
Cast: Elvis Ngabo, Cheryl Isheja, Kaya Free

This Afrofuturist musical drama follows an intersex African hacker who, upon discovering an anti-colonialist collective of escaped coltan miners and falling in love with one of them, lead a revolution against a totalitarian regime in the near-future.

From our review:

Neptune Frost is about the connection between joy and anger, between celebration and introspection, between a community and the individual. More pointedly, it’s a film about a disenfranchised collective who seize power over the technology their lives and labor have been exploited to create, and use it to give voice to a message that before went gone unheard. “Technology was the name of my brother,” Matalusa tells his fellow hackers in the film’s final act. “It’s technology that guides us today. They use our blood and sweat to communicate to one another, but have never heard our voice. Until now.”

The Wonder

Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix

A nurse (Florence Pugh) in a blue and white dress with a white scarf standing in a low field of grace with a gray sky overhead.

Photo: Aidan Monaghan/Netflix

Genre: Mystery/drama
Run time: 1h 48m
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Cast: Florence Pugh, Tom Burke, Kíla Lord Cassidy

Florence Pugh stars in this period drama as Elizabeth Wright, an English nurse in 1862 who is sent to a rural Irish village to look after a young girl who has not eaten for months. As tourists and visitors gather from far and wide believing the girl is a living saint, Elizabeth investigates the town to determine whether this is in fact a genuine miracle or some insidious plot.

From our review:

There’s a psychological explanation for what’s going on with Anna. Once the “holy secret” is prematurely revealed, however, the story loses both its intrigue and its driving force. The vagueness in the script — adapted by Leilo and Lady Macbeth screenwriter Alice Birch — flips from asset to liability in its second half, as thematic threads sputter and burn out without plot points to sustain them. The characters’ already opaque psychologies spin out in frustrating ways, and the film’s bouts of fourth-wall breaking overexplain some points while neglecting others. It’s true that Lib smashing against the brick wall of blind faith is an essential part of the story, but at some point, The Wonder crosses a line between eerie ambiguity and aimless floundering.

In Her Hands

Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix

A woman wearing a headscarf and glasses (Zarifa Ghafari) stares off into the distance.

Image: Netflix

Genre: Documentary
Run time: 1h 33m
Director: Marcel Mettelsiefen, Tamana Ayazi
Cast: Zarifa Ghafari

This documentary follows the story of Zarifa Ghafari, one of Afghanistan’s first female mayors and the youngest to ever hold the office at 26 years. Filmed over the course of two tumultuous years, the movie follows Ghafari’s struggle to maintain peace and survive amid the retreat of Western forces from the country, the Taliban’s 2021 recapture of Kabul, and the uncertain future of the nation’s women ahead.

Stutz

Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix

A black and white image of a bearded man (Jonah Hill) smiling and sitting in a chair against a blank wall with a portrait of an office hanging.

Image: Netflix

Genre: Documentary
Run time: 1h 36m
Director: Jonah Hill
Cast: Jonah Hill, Phil Stutz

In what is probably one of the most unconventional premises for a documentary ever produced — and yes I know, that’s really saying something — actor-director Jonah Hill (Mid90s) interviews his friend and psychiatrist Phil Stutz, about his life, his ‘Tools’ approach to therapy, and his philosophy with regard to doctor-patient (platonic) relationships.

Bantú Mama

Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix

A woman with her back turned to the camera (Clarisse Albrecht) lights a cigarette in front of an out-of-focus cityscape at night.

Image: ARRAY Releasing/Netflix

Genre: Drama
Run time: 1h 17m
Director: Ivan Herrera
Cast: Clarisse Albrecht, Euris Javiel, Johnny

After escaping from police custody on suspicion of smuggling drugs, Emma (Albrecht) — a Cameroonian-French woman — finds refuge in one of the most dangerous districts of Santo Domingo. Taken in by a group of children, she grows to become their unlikely protégée and maternal figure as their lives are subtly yet swiftly transformed by this encounter.

The People We Hate at the Wedding

Where to watch: Available to stream on Prime Video

A man in a blue suit with a pink floral corsage (Ben Platt) stands next to a woman in a red dress with a yellow floral corsage (Allison Janney) and a woman in a pink floral dress (Kristen Bell) with a forest of trees and hedges in the background.

Image: Amazon Prime Video

Genre: Comedy
Run time: 1h 39m
Director: Claire Scanlon
Cast: Allison Janney, Kirsten Bell, Ben Platt, Cynthia Addai-Robinson

Kristen Bell (The Good Place) and Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen) star as Alice and Paul, two dysfunctional American siblings who are invited to the wedding of their estranged, wealthy half-sister Eloise (Addai-Robinson) in the English countryside. Their attempt to reconnect however hits a snag when their boisterous behavior chaffs with otherwise posh and uptight manner of their fellow guests. Oh yeah, and Allison Janney (The West Wing) co-stars here as the siblings’ mother.

Revealer

Where to watch: Available to rent for $3.99 on Amazon, Vudu; $4.99 on Apple

A woman stands in a dark hallway illuminated by red neon lights.

Image: Shatterglass Films/Shudder

Genre: Horror/thriller
Run time: 1h 26m
Director: Luke Boyce
Cast: Caito Aase, Shaina Schrooten, Bishop Stevens

This recent horror thriller — previously exclusive on Shudder — is now available to rent on VOD. Set in 1987 Chicago on the eve of the apocalypse, a sex worker (Aase) and a religious protestor (Schrooten) find themselves trapped together in a peep show booth and forced to work together in order to survive.

Bad Axe

Where to watch: Available to rent for $6.99 on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu

A woman stands in crowd of protestors holding a sign reading “Black Lives Matter” over her head.

Image: IFC Films

Genre: Documentary
Run time: 1h 42m
Director: David Siev
Cast: Skyler Janssen, Michael Meinhold, Chun Siev

This documentary follows the lives of the Sievs, an average Asian-American family living in rural Michigan whose lives are upended in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Harassed by Neo-Nazis and haunted by memories of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Sievs fight to keep their family restaurant and the American dream alive in a time of great panic.

Taurus

Where to watch: Available to rent for $6.99 on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu

A photo of a young man covered in tattoos (Colson Baker/Machine Gun Kelly) in a black and pink bathrob sitting behind a glass living room table.

Photo: Jorge Cortez/RLJE Films

Genre: Drama
Run time: 1h 38m
Director: Tim Sutton
Cast: Machine Gun Kelly, Maddie Hasson, Scoot McNairy

If you’re not yet tired of hearing about Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly) and Megan Fox’s relationship, here’s a movie where the former stars as a “bad boy” musician going through a prolonged self-destructive episode and the latter makes a wordless cameo appearance as said rocker’s ex-girlfriend. Also, Scoot McNairy is here!

There There

Where to watch: Available to rent for $6.99 on Amazon and Vudu

A man in a gray tshirt (Jason Schwartzman) and a black headband over his head peers over at a nightstand with a light shining overhead.

Photo: Matthias Grunksy/Magnolia Pictures

Genre: Drama/comedy
Run time: 1h 34m
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Lili Taylor, Lennie James

Shot entirely in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, this film follows eight characters across four separate short stories exploring several takes on the nature of trust and forging unlikely connections in an increasingly peculiar and unhinged world.

Nocebo

Where to watch: Available for purchase for $14.99 on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu

A screaming woman (Eva Green) leans against a wall away from a red, fire-like glow off-screen.

Image: RLJE Films/Shudder

Genre: Horror
Run time: 1h 34m
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Cast: Eva Green, Mark Strong, Chai Fonacier

Eva Green (Penny Dreadful) stars in this psychological horror thriller as Christine, a fashion designer plagued by a unknown illness who turns to Diana (Fonacier), a caregiver well-versed in Filipino folk medicine, for help. When mysterious and disturbing visions and events begin to plague Christine, her husband Felix (Strong) will have to fight Diana in order to save his wife’s life.

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