Welcome to Weekly Shots, our specially curated weekly feature that handpicks movies and TV shows just for you. Whether you’re looking for something new to watch or curious about what’s trending, our selections aim to please. For a dive into past recommendations, explore our archive here.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (Francis Lawrence)
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” set 64 years before the events of the original series, invites viewers back to the early days of Panem. This prequel, helmed by Francis Lawrence, chronicles the rise of a young Coriolanus Snow, played by Tom Blyth, from a privileged young man to the infamous dictator. The film’s heart lies in Rachel Zegler’s portrayal of District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird, a character who embodies both vulnerability and strength. With a stellar cast including Viola Davis and Peter Dinklage, the film offers a deep dive into themes of power, morality, and the struggle for survival. Its rich cinematography shifts from the lavishness of the Capitol to the raw, immersive environment of the forest, creating a visually striking narrative. A crucial addition to the Hunger Games saga, it’s a compelling watch for both long-time fans and newcomers. Read our review here.
In theaters now
Thanksgiving (Eli Roth)
Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving” marks the long-awaited full-length adaptation of his 2007 mock trailer from “Grindhouse,” artfully reviving the classic ’80s slasher genre. Set in a darkly humorous Black Friday scenario, this film introduces a mysterious killer hunting survivors of a past year’s sale disaster. It’s a clever blend of horror and satire, backed by a strong ensemble cast. Roth maintains a balance between humor and terror, creating an homage to the straightforward horror style of the ’80s. Despite a slight fumble in the climax, “Thanksgiving” is applauded for its effective amalgamation of gore, comedy, and nostalgic references. It’s a must-see for horror fans and a milestone in Roth’s filmmaking career.
In theaters now
Albert Brooks: Defending My Life (Rob Reiner)
One of the most brilliant comedic minds to ever live finally gets his due in Rob Reiner’s loving documentary. Framed around a conversation between the two, Brooks dives into all of his creative output while still proving he’s as witty as ever. If you’ve never seen some of his early late-night bits, you’re in for a treat. After watching, explore more from Brooks: Lost in America and Defending Your Life are on Max, Modern Romance is on Tubi, and Real Life is on Kanopy.
Streaming on Max
May December (Todd Haynes)
Todd Haynes’ “May December” is a multi-layered drama that delves into themes of identity, public perception, and the complexities of a scandalous relationship with a significant age gap, famously portrayed by Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore. The film follows actress Elizabeth Berry (Portman) as she prepares for a role by shadowing Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Moore) and her younger husband Joe, whose controversial relationship made headlines two decades earlier. While Haynes explores familiar themes of self-knowledge and duality, the film’s detached, sometimes clinical tone mutes its emotional impact. Nonetheless, Portman and Moore deliver riveting performances, masterfully revealing multifaceted aspects of their characters. Despite its intriguing premise and strong leads, “May December” struggles to fully engage its audience, remaining somewhat aloof and restrained in its exploration of complex, emotionally charged themes.
Streaming on Netflix
Queens of the Qing Dynasty (Ashley McKenzie)
“Ashley McKenzie’s Queens of the Qing Dynasty presents a poignant narrative set in a remote Nova Scotia hospital, exploring the lives of two individuals confined by institutional boundaries. The film introduces Star (Sarah Walker), an 18-year-old grappling with mental health issues, and An (Ziyin Zheng), a genderfluid Chinese expatriate, as they navigate the complexities of their lives within the hospital’s cold, clinical setting. McKenzie’s direction, marked by rigidly framed shots and a hypnotic blend of electronic music and hospital sounds, mirrors Star’s neurodiversity and An’s struggle for identity and acceptance in a foreign land. Despite their contrasting personalities, a delicate friendship blossoms between Star and An, avoiding clichéd narrative tropes. The film subtly addresses Star’s traumatic past and An’s challenges with Canadian immigration policies, focusing instead on their evolving relationship. McKenzie’s use of modern technology like texting, social media, and VR headsets in the narrative highlights their unconventional yet profound connection. Ultimately, Queens of the Qing Dynasty is a story of finding warmth and understanding in a world of isolation and strict societal norms.”
Streaming on MUBI
Biosphere (Mel Eslyn)
‘Biosphere’ emerges as a standout sci-fi dramedy, captivating audiences with its unexpected charm. The film artfully preserves its essence for first-time viewers, weaving a narrative around two men who may be Earth’s final survivors in a biosphere. Their journey is not just about survival; it’s an exploration of companionship and the shock of a discovery that upends everything they know. More than a mere survival story, ‘Biosphere’ is a tale of revelation and twists that keeps viewers engaged till the very end.
Streaming on AMC+
The Creator (Gareth Edwards)
Gareth Edwards’ “The Creator” stands as a unique yet familiar entry in the sci-fi genre. Set in a future where AI is deeply integrated into society, the film follows ex-black ops soldier Joshua, played by John David Washington, on a mission to thwart a powerful AI weapon and its creator, Nirmata. However, the plot takes a twist when Joshua discovers the weapon is a childlike robot, leading him on a different path. Despite its striking visual aesthetics and commendable cinematography by Greig Fraser and Oren Soffer, the film leans heavily on genre clichés, echoing elements from classics like “The Matrix,” “The Terminator,” and “Apocalypse Now.” Edwards’ attempt at original sci-fi, untethered from existing IPs, is admirable but struggles to break new ground, often reminiscing tried and tested narratives in sci-fi cinema.
Streaming on VOD
Rustin (George C. Wolfe)
Rustin (George C. Wolfe) spotlights Bayard Rustin, a crucial yet overlooked figure in the civil rights movement, best known for organizing the March on Washington. Colman Domingo’s portrayal of Rustin transcends the film’s shortcomings, bringing depth to a character who navigated the complexities of being an openly gay Black man in the 1960s. The film delves into Rustin’s personal struggles and his relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. (Aml Ameen), amid political tensions within the movement and pressure from figures like congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (Jeffrey Wright). Despite its prestigious backing, including producers Barack and Michelle Obama, and a script by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black, Rustin falls short of capturing the inspirational essence of its subject. The film’s narrative, sidetracked by Rustin’s personal distractions, lacks the memorable impact one might expect, despite a strong supporting cast featuring Chris Rock and Audra McDonald. Premiering on Netflix, Rustin is more successful as a historical piece than as a drama, providing overdue recognition to Rustin but failing to reach cinematic heights.
Streaming on Netflix
Manodrome (John Trengrove)
“Manodrome,” is a film that attempts to emulate “Fight Club” but falls short due to its lack of charisma and inability to make a significant cultural impact. The story follows Ralphie (Jesse Eisenberg), a directionless man who turns to weightlifting and eventually joins a communal living group led by Dad Dan (Adrien Brody). This group, consisting of men referred to as “Brothers” and “Dads,” practices semen retention, ritualistic confessions, and group celibacy, creating a cult-like environment. While Eisenberg delivers a convincing performance as a lost individual struggling with the responsibilities of impending fatherhood and economic challenges, the film’s script lacks direction, failing to develop Ralphie’s character or his motivations sufficiently. Despite competent filmmaking and Brody’s charming presence, “Manodrome” ultimately leaves viewers with a sense of emptiness, reflecting a societal shift from the aggressive restlessness of past cinematic portrayals of male desperation to a more apathetic ennui, but failing to capture the audience’s engagement or interest.
Streaming on VOD
Blue Beetle (Angel Manuel Soto)
Blue Beetle, directed by Angel Manuel Soto and starring Xolo Maridueña and Susan Sarandon, introduces a lesser-known superhero from the DC universe, set against the backdrop of an almost entirely Latino cast. Despite its longstanding comic book history dating back to 1939, Blue Beetle was relatively obscure until its recent adaptation. Touted as a landmark in diversity by DC, the film was initially slated for streaming but later upgraded to a theatrical release. However, its narrative suffers from being overly derivative, feeling like a cut-and-paste job of typical superhero motifs, despite the inclusion of Spanglish and Latino cultural elements. This attempt at uniqueness might not be sufficient to invigorate an audience increasingly weary of the continuous outpouring of comic-book movies, as suggested by lukewarm box-office responses. The film, while marking a step in representation, struggles to stand out in an oversaturated superhero movie landscape.
Streaming on Max
Best. Christmas. Ever! (Mary Lambert)
Mary Lambert’s Best. Christmas. Ever!, streaming on Netflix, ventures into the holiday genre with a mix of comedy and romance, yet falls short of delivering a fresh take on the well-worn themes of rivalry and envy during the festive season. Heather Graham and Brandy, as Charlotte Sanders and Jackie Jennings respectively, find themselves entangled in a predictable suburban drama, sparked by the annual boastful holiday newsletter from Jackie. The film attempts to explore the veneer of perfection often presented during the holidays, but its execution leans heavily on clichés, failing to provide any substantial critique or new insight into the complexities of rivalry and envy. Lambert’s direction, while competent, doesn’t elevate the material beyond the standard holiday movie fare, leaving viewers with a sense of déjà vu. Despite its promising cast, Best. Christmas. Ever! struggles to break free from the constraints of its genre and ends up as another addition to the ever-growing list of forgettable holiday films.
Streaming on Netflix
Dashing Through the Snow (Tim Story)
Tim Story’s Dashing Through the Snow, available on Disney+, is a holiday film that disappointingly misfires despite its attempt to update the classic Santa narrative. The film, starring Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Lil Rel Howery, is plagued by a jumbled plot and an overreliance on forced, nonsensical humor. The effort to infuse modern elements, including a Black Santa, gets lost amid erratic storytelling and a barrage of unfunny gags. Bridges delivers a lackluster performance, and Howery’s over-the-top acting fails to salvage the script’s shortcomings. The film’s attempt at holiday cheer is overshadowed by its chaotic execution, leaving viewers with a frivolous and forgettable addition to the festive movie genre. Dashing Through the Snow ultimately feels like a lump of coal in the holiday movie lineup, lacking the charm and warmth expected from a seasonal favorite.
Streaming on Disney Plus.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (Season One)
The unique manga- and video-game-inspired charm of the Scott Pilgrim universe returns in the series Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. This new venture brings back the beloved characters from the 2010 Edgar Wright film, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, with voice performances by the original cast including Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, and Aubrey Plaza. The series introduces a fresh plot twist while maintaining the iconic elements that fans adore, notably the music of Sex Bob-Omb. It’s a nostalgic trip for fans and a vibrant new introduction for newcomers to the world of Scott Pilgrim.
Streaming on Netflix
Monarch: Legacy of Monster (Season One)
“Monarch: Legacy of Monsters,” the latest Apple TV+ series set in the MonsterVerse, intertwines kaiju lore with human drama. The show operates on two timelines: the 1950s with Wyatt Russell as Lee Shaw, an Army officer, and 2015, delving into the secretive operations of Monarch. It kicks off with a flashback of John Goodman’s Bill Randa, leading to a present-day storyline where his daughter, Cate, unravels her father’s hidden legacy tied to Monarch. The series is an ambitious mix of monster action and intricate human stories, focusing on hidden family ties, Titan conspiracies, and the broader scope of the MonsterVerse. Yet, there’s a hint of worry that its complex timelines and unfolding mysteries might compromise a clear and effective storytelling approach.
Streaming on Apple TV+
The Crown (Season 6 Part One)
Netflix’s strategy of splitting seasons for its biggest hits continues with The Crown. Season 6, Part One, delves into the tumultuous final days of Princess Diana, portrayed by Elizabeth Debicki. Following her divorce from Prince Charles (Dominic West), Diana’s life is a whirlwind of romance with Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla) and relentless media scrutiny. Despite no longer being a royal, her every move is shadowed by paparazzi, causing distress that doesn’t go unnoticed by her sons, teen Prince William (Rufus Kampa) and Prince Harry (Fflyn Edwards). The season builds up to the tragic Paris tunnel incident, a pivotal moment that poses a significant challenge to Queen Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton) and the monarchy’s future.
Streaming on Netflix