A month ago, it seemed that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to force incredible changes in the way VOD was going to operate going forward. With tons of new movies now sitting on shelves without theatres in which to release them, it was posited that the very model of the industry would be upended. It happened a little bit in the sense that a few films were either released directly to VOD (Trolls World Tour) or had their regular schedule expedited (Onward, Birds of Prey and many other films that were already out on screens when confinement began). Most predicted that this would become, in the parlance of our times, the new normal; what it has actually become is, well, not much.
Almost all films have had their theatrical release postponed, but almost everything now has a release date either at the end of the summer or deep into 2021. It does not seem, for the time being, that the announced revolution will happen.
One film that did have its release bumped directly to VOD is Capone, a biopic of the famed Chicago gangster (Tom Hardy) at the end of his life, as he slowly dies of syphilis. Directed by Josh Trank (who had seemingly finally bounced back after the disastrous Fantastic Four), Capone certainly looks weird enough to draw attention when it drops on May 12.
Also skipping a theatrical release for COVID-related reasons is How to Build a Girl, based on a novel by Caitlin Moran. Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart) stars as a British teenager who becomes a music journalist; Alfie Allen and Paddy Considine co-star.
This is also what has happened to Scoob!, a new animated reboot of the Scooby-Doo franchise with the voices of Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg and Amanda Seyfried. It will skip theatrical release and drop on VOD May 15.
Also out on VOD (and it was probably always slated to be exactly that) as of May 5 is Arkansas, a crime comedy that also marks the directorial debut of Clark Duke (Kick-Ass, Sex Drive). Duke and Liam Hemsworth star as a couple of low-level drug dealers who get in over their heads with the kingpin (Vince Vaughn). It sounds derivative as all hell, to tell you the truth, but I love me a derivative crime caper.
Speaking of derivative crime capers, Bruce Willis is back in another generic DTV crime movie starring a not-so-young, once-upon-a-time heartthrob (Chad Michael Murray, this time) in Survive the Night. The movie is presumably indistinguishable from all of the other movies that Willis has appeared in over the last five years.
One less common industry strategy has been to shift rights from one distributor to another. That seems to be what happened with the Kumail Nanjiani / Issa Rae comedy The Lovebirds, which was originally slated to premiere at SXSW. Paramount, who produced the film, instead sold the rights to Netflix, where the film will premiere on May 22. (The complete lack of festivals since mid-March has also put a severe damper on advance buzz. As a result, so many of these new movies remain huge question marks.)
Netflix’s deal with Adam Sandler’s production company apparently extends to Sandler’s buddies, as evidenced by the existence of The Wrong Missy. David Spade plays a guy who accidentally invites a crazy blind date (Lauren Lapkus) to accompany him to a wedding. It sounds like a shitty premise for assured garbage, but as a fan of Lapkus’s, I will probably still sacrifice some pandemic vibes to watch it.
Over at Amazon, catch the streaming premieres of few Amazon Studios productions. Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy (May 8) is a very good autobiographical tale from Shia Labeouf in which he plays his own father, alongside Noah Jupe as the young Shia.
Also on Amazon is sci-fi thriller The Vast of Night, which was picked up after a very successful festival run last fall. The 1950s-set film centres on two teenagers who investigate the presence of a strange radio frequency. ■
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