New Movies to Watch This Week: ‘The Glorias,’ ‘On the Rocks,’ ‘Possessor,’ ‘The Boys in the Band’

Thursday’s news that President Trump and several in his orbit have tested positive for coronavirus should probably give one pause before heading to cinemas this weekend — or anytime soon. This thing is contagious, people! And I say that as someone who got COVID-19 myself during an early March trip to Broadway.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t need cinematic distractions, and American distributors continue to deliver. I’ll be headed to the Mission Tiki Drive-in tonight to attend a Beyond Fest double feature. (The venue has four screens, and Sofia Coppola-Bill Murray reunion “On the Rocks” just opened on one of them.)

China closed its theaters long before the U.S., and they’ve reopened them earlier as well, which explains why it has taken this long to get what was supposed to be a major blockbuster timed to the Chinese New Year: “Jiang Ziya,” from the animation studio responsible for “Ne Zha” (which earned nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in 2019). This one’s gorgeous, and not quite as hard to follow.

Films that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival continue to prop up the specialty market, led by Julie Taymor’s essential, lifetime-spanning Gloria Steinem biopic, “The Glorias,” starring Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore as the feminist icon.

Other Sundance titles include “Dick Johnson Is Dead” on Netflix, “Scare Me” on Shudder, Brandon Cronenberg’s brilliant but extreme “Possessor,” and alien-invasion comedy “Save Yourselves!” The latter was my least favorite, although in retrospect, it’s uncanny how it features two millennials in a kind of pre-COVID self-quarantine, oblivious to the invasion because they’ve chosen to take a device-free vacation — kinda like the way Jared Leto emerged from wherever to discover the world had been hit by a pandemic back in March.

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

Jiang Ziya (Teng Cheng, Wei Li)
Distributor: Well Go USA
Where to Find It: In select theaters
A staple of Chinese legend, Jiang Ziya is well-known to locals as the wise nobleman instrumental in unseating Emperor Zhou of the Shang dynasty and executing his duplicitous consort, Daji, a nine-tailed Fox Demon in disguise. That’s really all the context audiences need to know in advance — which is a relief, since the movie bombards them with backstory up front, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The filmmakers have dedicated serious attention to creating a stunning dramatic atmosphere for a story that, truth be told, is still plenty confusing to non-Chinese audiences. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

On the Rocks (Sofia Coppola)
Distributor: A24
Where to Find It: In select theaters now, coming to Apple TV Plus on Oct. 23
“On the Rocks” turns into a boozy humanistic hang-out caper movie, one that’s light-spirited and compelling, mordantly alive to the ins and outs of marriage, and a winning showcase for Murray’s aging-like-fine-whiskey brand of world-weary deviltry.— Owen Gleiberman
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Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg)
Distributor: Neon
Where to Find It: In select theaters now
As a second feature, “Possessor” hews even closer to daddy David’s career-long fixations: the permeability of flesh, the malleability of identity, the physical threat of modern technology, the psychological oppression of modern architecture. At the same time, however, it shows Brandon Cronenberg to be a writer-director with ideas and a way of executing them that’s distinctly his own. “Possessor” is a serious — and seriously unsettling — look at losing oneself in another person’s psyche. In the parallel reality of the film, thanks to the invention of a high-tech cranial implant, trained professionals can commandeer the minds of whomever they please. — Peter Debruge
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Save Yourselves! (Alex H. Fischer, Eleanor Wilson)
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Where to Find It: In select theaters now, with digital release to follow on Oct. 2
There’s only one joke in “Save Yourselves!” — this hapless generation is doomed! — but the survival comedy is delightful from start to apocalypse. The monsters are a marvel of low-budget ingenuity that nods to “Star Trek’s” infamous Tribbles. But these small, furry puffs are bloodsucking killers, who, with a thwhizz, flick their sticky 15-foot tongues through bottles, cars and human flesh. Attach the tip of their suckers to walls, and they can swing like Spider-Man. The movie’s best special effect is Sunita Mani and John Reynolds’ chemistry. It’s a breakout role for two young actors with strong comedy roots. — Amy Nicholson
Read the full review

New Releases on Demand and in Select Theaters

12 Hour Shift (Brea Grant)
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Where to Find It: Available in select theaters and on demand
Hospitalization proves more than usually fatal in this bloody black comedy from actress turned writer-director Brea Grant. This clever mix of the farcical and macabre finds shady nurse Angela Bettis’ sideline in illicit organ harvesting going seriously awry during an extra-long work stint at a 1999 Arkansas care facility. Although closer to the twistedly gallows-humorous likes of “The Hospital” and Scorcese’s underrated “Bringing Out the Dead” than the sizable subgenre of hospital horror mellers, it will most likely find an appreciative initial audience among genre fans. — Dennis Harvey
Read the full review

2067 (Seth Larney)
Distributor: RLJE Films
Where to Find It: Available in select theaters, on demand and digital
By now the term “dystopian future” almost seems redundant, at least at the movies — when was the last time you saw a film in which the future wasn’t dystopian? Audiences can swan-dive down that familiar sinkhole once again in Australian sci-fi adventure “2067,” a good-looking production that gets a lot out of its design aspects for the buck. In the realms of storytelling and character interest, however, this stock “can our protagonist save the planet that humanity already wrecked?” tale proves less resourceful, bogging down in convoluted, low-boil intrigue despite taking place in both the titular year and 25th century. — Dennis Harvey
Read the full review

The Antenna (Orçun Behram)
Distributor: Dark Star Pictures
Where to Find It: Select a virtual cinema to support
A truly frightening horror film unsettles with more than its crafts, but instead through the vulnerability of defenseless people stuck with bad options only. Behram’s “The Antenna,” a metaphor on Turkey’s current ruling under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is what happens when a filmmaker prioritizes visual concept over story, and falls short of crafting well-defined characters whose hurt we can care about. With such crucial facets undercooked, Behram’s genre exercise yields a handsomely designed but perishable dystopian horror-thriller that impresses through imagery and audio cues, but doesn’t scar the soul like it should. — Tomris Laffly
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A Call to Spy (Lydia Dean Pilcher)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: Available in select theaters and on demand
“A Call to Spy” braids the stories of three decorated WWII spies to reveal — and to revel in — their pivotal roles in British spy craft and history. The title may fall flat but the movie, a sturdy directorial debut for producer Pilcher, gets to the heart of the matter. Even as they faced various forms of discrimination, Vera Atkins, Virginia Hall and Noor Inayat Khan responded boldly to the tug of duty. They served Britain, and the movie does a stand-up job honoring them even as its prettiness calls into question the medium’s over-reliance on war as the crucible in which all heroism is to be measured. — Lisa Kennedy
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Death of Me (Darren Lynn Bousman)
Distributor: Saban Films
Where to Find It: Available in select theaters, on demand and digital
Vacationing couple Neil and Christine wake up from a heavy night’s boozing on a remote Thai island to find their passports missing and their memories largely blank. The premise of “Death of Me” is the kind of tidily absurd “whoa, wut” pitch that Charlie Kaufman’s fictitious hack brother Donald might have dreamed up in “Adaptation”: It sounds at once stupidly intriguing and intriguingly stupid, but it has our attention either way. As handled by sometime “Saw”-meister Bousman, this attractively mounted B-horror maintains that lurid, grabby quality even as its already sketchy ideas devolve into dubious, incoherent exotica. — Guy Lodge
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Eternal Beauty (Craig Roberts)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: Available on demand and digital
Roberts’ earnest but ungainly sophomore feature stumbles upon moments of clarity without ever finding a happy or consistent groove. Making a comedy about mental illness is a tall enough order without the tricky tonal embellishments, filched from influences as disparate as Paul Thomas Anderson and Terry Gilliam, that Roberts has attempted on an otherwise slender script. With an assist from Sally Hawkins’ valiantly committed lead performance, the result occasionally summons the genuinely disoriented perspective of an unstable protagonist, but more often, it’s the filmmaking that seems to spiral out of control. — Guy Lodge
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Scare Me (Josh Ruben)
Distributor: Shudder
Where to Find It: Available exclusively on Shudder
“Scare Me” is a spook show stripped to the basics. A boy and a girl, Fred and Fanny (Ruben and Aya Cash of “You’re the Worst”), hole up in a snowbound cabin swapping scary tales by the fireplace. He postures as a horror novelist, director, screenwriter and actor (though he’s really a frustrated marketer). She really is a horror novelist, the hip new darling author of a zombie best-seller, which Fred finds as intimidating as a dark basement. In Ruben’s playful and slight paean to the creative process, the tension in the air derives from more than its improvised tales of werewolves, trolls and satanic pop stars. The man is simply outmatched. — Amy Nicholson
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Sno Babies (Bridget Smith)
Distributor: Better Noise Films
Where to Find It: Available on demand and digital
For a while, “Sno Babies” has a mood of tranquil suburban dread that reels you in. Kristen is a girl with everything — a nice family, a good school, a safe neighborhood — but we can believe in her addiction, because she has grown up in a world that’s taught her to live for pleasure, the more reckless the better. But director Smith and screenwriter Mike Walsh, in trying to craft a cautionary tale (a fine ambition, though has there ever been a heroin drama that wasn’t a cautionary tale?), have concocted a plot that’s an unwieldy pile of too-muchness. And it undercuts the authenticity of the mood and the acting. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusive to Amazon Prime

The Glorias (Julie Taymor)
Distributor: LD Entertainment & Roadside Attractions
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime
In Taymor’s pinpoint timely yet rousingly old-fashioned biopic about the life and times of Gloria Steinem, the legendary feminist leader is portrayed by four different actresses at four different stages of her life. But “The Glorias” isn’t some heady deconstruction of Steinem’s image or mythology. Despite the teasing title, it’s not about several competing Glorias; it’s about how all the women Gloria Steinem met or knew, and whose pain and perception she absorbed, were Glorias. “The Glorias,” at heart, is an almost startlingly conventional movie, told with the sprawl — and, at times, the paint-by-numbers psychology — of a sidewinding cradle-to-grave biopic. — Owen Gleiberman
Read the full review

Exclusive to Netflix

The Boys in the Band (Joe Mantello)
Where to Find It: Netflix
This new Netflix version features the same cast as the revival, led by Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto (both are superb), as well as the same director, with Ryan Murphy once again leading the team of producers. Why is this the fifth stage? Viewed at home in the age of Covid, “The Boys in the Band” now looks like an ironic valentine of nostalgia to the days when sitting around a tattered New York apartment with friends, even when they have their claws out, feels like one of the most pleasurable things in the world. What holds the movie together, apart from Quinto’s dreamy geek mystique and delectable delivery of every line, is the tormented passion that Jim Parsons brings to it. — Owen Gleiberman
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Dick Johnson Is Dead (Kirsten Johnson) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It: Netflix
Eighties soft-rock band Mike and the Mechanics crooned, “I wish I could have told him in the living years,” mourning unspoken father-child affections over waves of glossy synths. This wonderful new documentary takes the same sentiment and gets one step ahead of it, with less sentimental sturm und drang. A profoundly heartfelt cinematic eulogy to the filmmaker’s living father Richard, made with his good-humored collaboration as he slowly slips into the limbo of Alzheimer’s, it also doubles as a witty, thoughtful rumination on death itself, the ways we prepare for it (or don’t), and what may or may not come next. — Guy Lodge
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American Murder: The Family Next Door (Jenny Popplewell)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Vampires vs. the Bronx (Osmany Rodriguez)
Where to Find It: Netflix

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