New Movies to Watch This Week: ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,’ ‘Greenland,’ ‘Monster Hunter’

Peter Debruge
·6-min read

Stuck at home while COVID-19 infections spike? The good news is that the best new movies to watch this week are heading straight to streaming services.

Amazon Prime subscribers can close out Steve McQueen’s masterful “Small Axe” anthology (five social dramas set in London’s West Indian immigrant community, made in the vein of BBC’s classic “Play for Today” program), while August Wilson adaptation “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” — featuring the final role of Chadwick Boseman, starring opposite never-better Viola Davis in the title role — makes its way to Netflix.

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But if it’s big-screen spectacle you’re after, you’ll have to judge for yourself how safe it is to watch films such as “Monster Hunter” — in which “Resident Evil” star Milla Jovovich steps into another video game adaptation to do battle with massive CG beasts from a parallel dimension — and “Fatale,” an infidelity thriller starring Hilary Swank as the Las Vegas fling who re-enters a philandering husband’s life after he calls the cops.

On demand, Gerard Butler was supposed to protect his family from a comet attack back in summer, but saw his effects-heavy escape postponed by several months when real-world disaster struck (the rest of the globe, or at least countries where theaters were open, got to see it on schedule). The week also brings contemporary Jane Austen adaptation “Modern Persuasion” and slick Japanese toon “Lupin III: The First,” a reboot of the popular gentleman spy franchise.

Here’s a rundown of those films opening this week that Variety has covered, along with links to where you can watch them. Find more movies and TV shows to stream here.

New Releases in Theaters

Fatale (Deon Taylor)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In wide release
Offering melodramatic thrills very much in the “Fatal Attraction” mode, “Fatale” presents Michael Ealy as a married L.A. sports agent whose first-time fall off the fidelity wagon unluckily proves to be with one hell of a “woman scorned.” Its appeal to African-American audiences furthered by villainess Hilary Swank’s character being a crooked cop, this is a glossy, formulaic exercise handled with enough finesse by director Deon Taylor to make for a diverting night’s watch, if not much more. — Dennis Harvey
Read the full review

Monster Hunter (Paul W.S. Anderson)
Distributor: Screen Gems
Where to Find It: In wide release
“Monster Hunter” moves along at a steady clip, dispensing with all but the most rudimentary character details in order to maximize the stuff that excites the fans — namely, striking compositions and carnage. Most of the time, during action scenes, you can’t tell what’s happening, but it seems to make sense to the characters, and the overripe sound design (which sounds like someone assaulting a couch with a baseball bat or smashing up the produce section at a grocery store) creates a kind of continuity through the Cuisinart cutting. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

New Releases on Demand and in Select Theaters

Greenland (Ric Roman Waugh)
Distributor: STX Films
Where to Find It: Available on demand and via digital platforms
Most disaster movies are about going big. But “Greenland,” in which Gerard Butler runs around trying to save his family as a comet gets ready to hit the earth, is a movie that takes pains to make the end of life as we know it look like something that could actually happen. In its relatively small-scale, often rather plodding B-movie way, it wants to do for apocalypse thrillers what “Contagion” did for outbreak movies. And there are moments when it does. — Owen Gleiberman
Read the full review

Lupin III: The First (Takashi Yamazaki)
Distributor: GKids
Where to Find It: Available on demand and via digital platforms
Eye-popping action steals the show in “Lupin III: The First,” the first computer-animated feature entry in the classic franchise about the French gentleman thief and master of disguise. Casting the hero as an Indiana Jones-like adventurer tussling with Nazis to unearth an ancient scientific invention, visual effects wizard Yamazaki (“Stand By Me: Doraemon”) has pulled off another hit, stoking the nostalgic sentiments of fans with a classy ’60s setting, while seducing a new generation of younger viewers with the slickness and flexibility of 3D technology. — Maggie Lee
Read the full review

Modern Persuasion (Alex Appel, Jonathan Lisecki)
Distributor:Samuel Goldwyn Entertainment
Where to Find It: Select a virtual cinema
Back in 1995, Roger Michell made the definitive film of “Persuasion.” That same year, Amy Heckerling set the bar for modernized Austen adaptations with “Clueless.” A quarter-century later, “Modern Persuasion” falls some way short of either benchmark. Refashioning Austen’s bittersweet final novel about love surmounting prickly English class politics as a peppy romantic comedy of missed connections among the moneyed New York media set, the film is both too innocuous and too flatly imagined to stir much feeling either way. — Guy Lodge
Read the full review

Exclusive to Amazon Prime

Education (Steve McQueen) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It: Prime Video
Set in the 1970s, the 63-minute final installment in McQueen’s “Small Axe” anthology focuses on a 12-year-old, Kingsley (Kenyah Sandy), who appears “normal” enough to our eyes, but is singled out by the administration as inferior to his classmates. When Kingsley acts up, the teacher sends him to the headmaster, who recommends to Kingsley’s parents that they send him to a “special” school. The brilliance of this particular episode is how it allows us to see ourselves in Kingsley and to consider the many unseen forces at play in our own socialization. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

Available on Netflix

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (George C. Wolfe) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: Now in limited release; coming to Netflix on Dec. 18
In “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” introductions matter. Whether or not audiences know the real Ma Rainey’s reputation as “mother of the blues,” August Wilson ensures that this musical pioneer is a larger-than-life character even before she steps foot onstage. And because Netflix’s socko feature adaptation marks the final role of “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman, exits assume a stirring poignancy as well. Nearly every second of Davis’ performance is about power, about who has the upper hand over whom and what it means for a person — much less a people — to be in a subordinate position. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

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