Kneel Before VOD: June 20th
Welcome to Kneel Before VOD, where the latest offerings on various video-on-demand platforms are highlighted for your streaming pleasure. With so many options these days from a range of different services, it can be daunting to select just one film without ending up making a list of a couple dozen. Below, find what we've selected as great entertainment choices to keep things simple.
Kong: Skull Island
It's been over 10 years since King Kong lumbered across the screen, and he's back in style. Jordan Vogt-Roberts not only managed to make one of the best action movies of the year, he makes one of the most iconic creatures in film feel new again. When a group of researchers guarded by marines show up to his island to document his existence, they soon learn the island's secret and get caught in an eternal battle between Kong and dinosaur-like creatures that emerge from below. (Check out Rob Trench's review.)
Hey, they made a third Smurfs movie. Moving on.
Jessica Chastain stars as Antonina Żabińska, a woman who owns and operates a zoo in 1930s Warsaw, Poland, with her husband, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh). The zoo is popular, but it is forced shut due to the bombing of Warsaw in 1939. As the war intensifies, Antonina and Jan use the zoo as a safe harbor for Jews to get them out of their ghettos. It's a sad film with an interesting true story that benefits immeasurably from Chastain, who is great as always. (Read Rob Trench's review.)
Netflix: Oh, Hello: On Broadway
Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland are two crotchety old New Yorkers with inflated egos who love nothing more than to annoy people and complaining about everything. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney have been playing these ridiculous assholes for years on Kroll Show (where they pranked guests by providing them a sandwich with too much tuna fish) and on podcasts like Comedy Bang! Bang!. In an effort to attract the average theatre goer, the show plays as parody of Broadway conventions as the duo mock without abandon various tropes. I'm overjoyed that Netflix taped a show for those that don't live in New York because this is an absolute can't-miss for comedy fans.
Amazon Prime: Star Trek Beyond
Fast and Furious director Justin Lin takes the helm from J.J. Abrams to deliver another great entry in the rebooted film franchise. En route to a rescue mission, the crew are forced to crash their ship on a dangerous planet by Krall (Idris Elba), a lizard-like alien searching for an artifact supposedly held on the ship. The crew gets separated and must regroup to take down the evil Krall. Lin once again proves that he's adept at creating exciting action set-pieces, and under his watch, Beyond became maybe the best in the rebooted series.
HBO Go/Now: Krampus
Christmas horror films already have a surprisingly decent track record, but Krampus is the best of them all. The film tells the grim story of a family snowed in, in their home, on Christmas with dysfunctional relatives as they are killed one by one by Krampus, a terrifying folklore demon who punishes those who lose their Christmas spirit. The film has a great cast and some of the most impressive practical effects I've ever seen and manages to drum up more than a few scares while delivering a genuinely heartfelt message.
Also Streaming: The Conjuring 2.
Hulu Plus: Grand Piano
Elijah Wood stars as Tom Selznick, a concert pianist making his grand return to the stage. On his way to the stage he receives a copy of "La Cinquette," the same demanding piece that made him quit music years earlier. Attached with the sheet music is a note that says he will die if he misses a note, and onstage he notices a sniper dot on him and receives an earpiece to talk to the man who has him captive (John Cusack). Tom must figure out who is after him and why, and try to put a stop to it before the end of the show. It's amazing all of the emotion that the film is able to evoke through music. The film's highest point is creating riveting drama even when the plot goes off the rails.