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 weekend’s best new at-home releases.
The Christmas Chronicles 2, Netflix Between streamers, the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and traditional television networks, we’re getting 82 new holiday movies this season (this is not a joke). Wading through the offerings can be as stressful as any Christmas shopping season, let alone Christmas 2020. But one easy highlight is this glossy and slick production, a sequel to Netflix’s 2018 crowd-pleaser The Christmas Chronicles. Real-life couple Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn are back as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and delightful as before, while new cast members Julian Dennison and Tyrese Gibson bring some added charm to the family-friendly proceedings. The new film’s plot and its intended lessons don’t break the mould – step-siblings need to get along, evil elves are people, too – but director Chris Columbus keeps things bright and bouncy enough, and Netflix very clearly spent the equivalent of several nations’ GDPs on the production design.
Uncle Frank, Amazon Prime Video Although Uncle Frank is said to not be based on the life of its filmmaker Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood), the sheer intimacy of the family drama at least hints at the director’s own upbringing. Following a gay English professor’s journey from his New York university campus back home to the deep south to attend the funeral of his unloving father, Uncle Frank ticks off a lot of familiar melodrama boxes, right down to the weepy post-funeral reconciliation. But it gets a boost from Ball’s sensitive handling of the material, and two standout performances: Paul Bettany as the title character, and Ball’s real-life partner Peter Macdissi as Frank’s wily boyfriend.
Mosul, Netflix After already delivering Netflix one action-packed thriller about mercenaries hunting bad guys across a city over the course of a single day with Extraction, producing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo offer a similar package to the streaming giant with their new project, Mosul. Not to be confused with Dan Gabriel’s 2019 documentary of the same name, director Matthew Michael Carnahan’s Mosul is pure Hollywood, grafted onto the real-world terror of ISIS’s stranglehold over Iraq. Those expecting a geo-politics lesson will walk away disappointed and confused, but anyone hoping for an intense journey full of flying bullets and crumbling debris will be more than satisfied.
Human Rights Film Festival, streaming at HRFF.ca For the past nine years, Toronto’s Human Rights Film Festival has offered not only its best intentions, but important and powerful cinema, too. Naturally, the organization is skipping its physical iteration this year, but instead is offering a week-long festival Dec. 3 to 10 online, for free, with most titles available to home audiences across Canada. Highlights include the Canadian premiere of Objector, a drama looking at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as Brazilian women’s rights documentary Indianara and Syrian refugee doc Reunited.
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