The holiday season isn’t going to feel the same without going to the movies with friends and family to see all of the latest hits. With the exception of “Wonder Woman 1984,” there aren’t any large tentpole films being released in theaters for the rest of 2020. But fear not! Your favorite streaming platforms are bringing new movies to you this holiday with Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ all including formerly-to-be-released-in-theaters movies to check out. Aside from the three movies that I will mention here, also check out “Mank” on Netflix. It’s bold, gorgeous, and probably my favorite movie of the year so far. Check out my review for “Mank.”
“Run” is the latest thrill ride from Aneesh Chaganty, director of the excellent “Searching.” His newest film, which premiered on Hulu recently, follows Chloe (Kiera Allen), a disabled teenager who suspects that her mother, Diane (Sarah Paulson), is giving her medication for fake impairments. What follows is an air-tight thriller with very few dull moments. After a devastating opening scene, the film struggles to find its footing until the story really starts to kick into gear. It really tries to build up Diane’s strange behavior to make her actions feel like a major betrayal, but since she acts suspicious from the beginning, there isn’t much surprise when Chloe actually begins to unravel the mystery.
There are many more twists and turns along the way that are extremely effective. Despite the first act being a little rocky with its pacing, the film still chugs along at a breakneck pace that gives little room for the viewer to catch their breath. There’s one sequence in particular that finds Chloe traversing the house that was extremely tense and effective. The final act is a tense thrill ride on its own, but the film’s final scene is incredibly corny and something that really left a sour taste in my mouth. I still definitely recommend this film to anyone who’s looking for a fun and quick thriller. Grade: B
For anyone whose favorite part of the holidays is grabbing a blanket in front of a fire with a cup of hot chocolate, “Happiest Season” is your movie. Now streaming on Hulu, the film follows Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis), a couple who chooses to go to Harper’s parent’s house for Christmas, but with one catch: Harper hasn’t told her family that she is gay yet. Both leads are excellent in what is such a sweet and hilarious holiday film. There are so many fun setpieces and jokes to enjoy, but there is also so much heart infused throughout.
Despite the conflicts and heartbreak sprinkled throughout, watching “Happiest Season” feels like being wrapped in a warm blanket. Sure, the characters have their differences and fights along the way, but you know in the back of your mind that it is all going to work out in the end. The film is predictable to a fault, but it never affects the emotional journey the film takes you on. My only other flaw is that throughout most of the arguments that Harper and Abby get into, Harper is always undisputedly in the wrong. I wish there were more moments to get me to care more about Harper, but this choice made the climax of the film hit a little bit harder once it arrived. Also, Dan Levy is king and steals the entire movie. Grade: B+
When I heard that Disney was producing a live-action, rated PG-13 “Mulan,” I was really excited to see what would hopefully be a brand new take on the beloved original animation. What I didn’t expect was the original premise to be all but ignored in favor of a bland, boring, narrative mess of an action movie. Positives? The film looks pretty cool and the action can be mindless fun. Negatives? Just about everything else. Yifei Liu (Mulan) looks like she would rather be anywhere else but in this movie. Just about every actor sleepwalks through their performance. For a movie like a Disney live-action adaptation to be effective, it needs to truly justify its existence by being either a completely new take, or an improvement over an older version of the source material. 2016’s “The Jungle Book” is the only movie in this catalog that I think was a true improvement over the original animation.
“Mulan” fails in all regards to be entertaining in the slightest. Mulan is established from the first scene to be an actual superhero, creating no stakes whatsoever throughout the entire film. I couldn’t even tell you the names of the other characters in this movie because they are so irrelevant. This film has ditched the most basic forms of human emotion for highly choreographed martial arts fights and overly complicated lore. I’m not as attached to the original animation as most are, but how a 22 year old cartoon conveys more emotion than a film starring actual people is beyond me. I’m so happy I waited until this was free on Disney+, because I would be furious if I paid for a ticket, or the ridiculous $30 fee when this film first started streaming back in September. Grade: D+