Movies to watch during the pandemic

Continuing from last week’s column, I shared a list of shows and series I’ve been watching during the last four months in lockdown. Here is my list of movies to watch between binge-ing shows. Also note many/most of these are not family friendly (marked with *), but parents need something to watch after the kids go to bed too. 

Onward (Disney+) – This was the last movie we saw in theaters and being a big Dungeons & Dragons nerd, I fell in love immediately with the high fantasy whimsy and adventure story of two brothers seeking the magic needed to bring their father back for one day. Featuring voices of Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, and Julia-Louis Drefyus, what’s not to love?

Twister (Netflix) – I curated a World Tour Day for my wife for her birthday since we couldn’t go anywhere, with breakfast in France, lunch in Italy, afternoon tapas in Spain, and concluding with a movie night in the park based on a very popular summer movies series in Bryant Park in NYC. The movie Rachel picked was one of my favorites, Twister, which had just dropped on Netflix a few days prior. Is it good? Well… Is it fun? Oh heck yeah. Tornadoes scare me to death, but there’s something about watching Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt survive and F5 that always makes me want to hop in a pick up and drive through Kansas in July.

Frozen II (Disney+) – It’s a great movie, what can I say? The music is fantastic, the story is uplifting and female-forward, and it’s simply a good time. Plus Elsa’s song “Into the Unknown” as covered by Panic! at the Disco is my pump-up jam. 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (Disney+, Netflix, Starz) – I had written an entire review of binge-ing the MCU in chronological order, but it ended up being several pages long and would never fit in the paper! Suffice it to say, watching all 3000 minutes of the MCU was a blast and not unlike binge-watching a TV show. Have you ever sat and watched five seasons of a show? Then you can watch all the Marvel movies. Do it. It’s a blast. 

The Star Wars Saga (Disney+) – Same as the MCU, all the movies are available on Disney+ and watching them in order was awesome. We did skip Solo because I had just rewatched it and the wife didn’t like it, but the prequel trilogy, Rogue One, the original trilogy, and the sequel trilogy are all there now, ready for your eyes, ears, and hearts. Tack on Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Mandalorian, you’ve got DAYS and DAYS of Star Wars to watch. Go forth, young Jedi!

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (Netflix) – A dark horse in this list for sure – and a Christmas movie kind of – we went on a rom-com kick for a while and I had never seen this one, admittedly because it looked pretty stupid when it came out. Turns out, it’s actually kind of great. It’s based on A Christmas Carol and follows those tropes fairly well. Matthew McConaughey is delightful as always, albeit a bit of a sexist jerk to start, but that’s the journey his character has to take as he’s visited by aforementioned past girlfriends. Great cast, mildly cringey writing in 2020, but pretty fun and funny!

Malcolm X* (Netflix) – The length of this movie at three hours and twenty-two minutes had always kept from watching it. Then I couldn’t find it anywhere streaming for the longest time. Now that it’s on Netflix, we hunkered down and watched it. Wow. Wow wow wow. Talk about an important film. Is it great? Well, I’m not sure. I don’t know enough about Malcolm X and what happened in his life to say, “This is excellent and accurate”, but it was eye-opening and incredibly edifying to a white kid from rural Colorado who had NO idea what the black experience was and continues to be in this country. Along with the next film, this is essential watching right now. Add it to your queue, have a glass of wine or a stiff drink, and prepare to learn.

13th (Netflix) – I am honestly ashamed it took me so long to watch this Academy Award-winning documentary. I was (and mostly still am) ignorant to the full scope of the 13th Amendment and its repercussions over the years. I am a VERY privileged white male and I feel sick that these atrocities have been happening for YEARS in plain sight. We need reform now, we need to make things right, and we need to stop killing black people. Black lives matter and it’s time for change. Brilliant and powerful. A must-see.

Hannah Gatsby: Douglas* (Netflix) – Fans of Hannah Gatsby likely found her from her first Netflix special Nannette which is not for the faint of heart, but good golly is it important to watch. With topics of mental health, rape and sexual assault, art history, and advocacy for social change, please watch Nannette, full stop. But also watch Douglas. It’s much lighter, it is absolutely hilarious, and an all-around great comedy special. She is supremely talented and such a unique and important voice in comedy, for women, and for the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Lovebirds* (Netflix) – I’m a HUGE Kumail Nanjiani fan, both his stand-up and his acting, and Issa Rae is a comic genius. I didn’t really know what to expect going in, but this rom-com heist film is a delightful thrill ride full of twists and turns. I enjoyed it immensely!

The Muppet Movies (Disney+ and rental services) – Rachel was shocked when I told her I hadn’t seen any of the Muppet movies beside A Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and the more recent Muppet Movie. All of them are available to stream, mostly on Disney+, but we had to find Muppets Take Manhattan on another service. What a treat! The Great Muppet Caper was by far my favorite with it’s very silly humor and absurd heist plot. Talk about feel-good movies!

Silence of the Lambs* (Netflix) – Now the opposite of feel-good, but still one I love. Jodie Foster and Sir Anthony Hopkins are perfection. I so often saw this edited for TV that each time I watch the unedited cut, I’m continually shocked at how horrific some of the film can be. But also the genius of having all the dialogue directed at Agent Starling to be delivered directly into camera. We see her perspective the entire film and it sets the tone for this “boys club” that is the FBI and how a strong, smart woman has to fight for everything she gets even when she’s the smartest one in the room. 

They Came Together* (HBO) – I love this movie, but I can understand it’s not for everyone. I was heartbroken to see it only has a 2.5 on a film review site I frequent because I laugh my butt off every time we watch it. Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd are laugh-out-loud hysterical and the meta-humor of rom-coms is the best I’ve ever seen. If you’re a fan of rom-coms, you will die laughing at every in-joke and reference to the many, many stupid tropes of those films. But man, this is a funny movie. 

Ready or Not* (HBO) – I really wanted to see this in theaters, but horror movies never last long enough to see much past the first couple weekends. I had heard from friends it was good and the trailer hooked me immediately. Guys. GUYS. It’s awesome. A bride learns on her wedding night that in order to be welcomed into her husband’s family, she must play a game with them and there is a VERY slim chance that she’ll have to play Hide and Seek, but not like anyone has ever played before. The one who hides is hunted by the ones who seek. It’s terrifying, hilarious, empowering, and gruesome. I LOVED IT. And the soundtrack is killer too. Watch, watch, watch!

These films will not be for everyone, nor do I expect anyone to reach out and commend my choices. Some may even offend some people and to them I have a few choice words not fit to print. Support black voices. Support female voices. Support LGBTQ+ voices. Support all minority voices and elevate their stories into the zeitgeist. But also take care of yourself and watch The Naked Gun if you need to. But be conscious, be respectful, and be humble. We’re all in this together. 

 

Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and writer living in NYC. Black lives matter. It’s time for change. www.blacklivesmatter.com 

 

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