With movie theatres reopening and then closing and then who-knows-what, there is comfort in knowing that, thanks to streaming and video-on-demand, we can all program our own double (or triple, or quadruple) bills at home. Here are this week’s best new digital releases.
The Rental, Amazon Prime Video
Released in drive-ins and on-demand stateside way back in July, Dave Franco’s well-received horror movie is finally available to law-abiding Canadians starting Friday. While The Rental doesn’t reinvent conventions, it does abide by them in a slick, frequently unnerving manner. Following two couples, including Dan Stevens and Franco’s real-life wife Alison Brie, as they try to enjoy a long weekend getaway facilitated by an Airbnb-like service, The Rental offers a compelling mix of domestic-drama tension and slasher thrills. And following last summer’s Kevin Bacon-starring You Should Have Left, it offers further evidence that you should never, ever stay in someone else’s house. The hotel industry could use a win right about now.
Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, digital TIFF Bell Lightbox
One of the best and most underrated selections of this past fall’s Toronto International Film Festival, this long-titled Hungarian drama asks what would you do if the love of your life disavowed any knowledge of you? That is the curious situation that Marta (Natasa Stork) finds herself in after returning to Budapest from decades abroad. She believes – she knows for a fact – that Janos (Viktor Bodo), whom she met while in New Jersey, knows her and loves her. Yet when she plans a rendezvous back home, Janos says he has no idea who she is or what she is talking about. This throws Marta, a neurosurgeon who is beginning to doubt her own work, into a state of existential crisis, one that director Lili Horvat teases with curiosity and ambiguity, as if Krzysztof Kieslowski were alive and well and making movies in Budapest. The ending twists the knife, but just enough that you’ll bleed out satisfied.
Identifying Features, digital TIFF Bell Lightbox
A rebuke to the streaming world’s unceasing flow of narco-thrillers, director Fernanda Valadez’s debut feature offers a more nuanced, humane look at Mexico’s migration crisis. Tracing twin narratives – one involving a mother’s (Mercedes Hernandez) search for her border-destined son, another following a young man’s (David Illescas) deportation from the U.S. – Identifying Features finds drama not in guns and shootouts, but smaller everyday tragedies. While the details of Valadez’s world can be vague at times, and the filmmaker is no fan of dialogue, Identifying Features is an intriguing corrective to cinema that treats Mexico as little more than a land of cheap thrills.
Stallone: Frank, That Is, VOD
I am not going to pretend that this look at the lesser-known Stallone sibling is a good movie. It is a vanity project with the faintest hint of documentary ambitions – a barely feature-length tribute to the many apparent talents (music! acting! boxing!) of Sylvester’s younger brother. But there is a certain cheesy charm in watching so many members of Hollywood’s lower-tier talent pool – Billy Dee Williams, Nick Vallelonga, Billy Zane and gosh-dang Geraldo Rivera – gather to sing the praises of Hollywood’s ultimate D-lister/Saturday Night Live punchline. Sure, genuine star Arnold Schwarzenegger pops up, but it seems that he only agreed to talk if he could do so while working out. Director Derek Wayne Johnson’s “film” may have been struggling for distribution for some time – one interview subject, actor Danny Aiello, died in 2019 – but now that it’s finally here, it’s charming in a slimy Entourage sort of way. Plus: it contains lots of Frank’s Staying Alive single Far From Over. Which is pretty catchy.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.