New Movies to Watch This Week: Pedro Almodovar’s English-Language Debut, ‘Yes Day’

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Peter Debruge
·8 min read
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Another week, another step toward the world as we knew it before COVID-19, thanks to nationwide vaccination efforts and the gradual reopening of theaters. A week after New York cinemas cautiously reopened, Los Angeles plans to do the same, and distributors are serving up movies they’d kept on the sidelines to serve the venues that have suffered so greatly this past year — although after last week’s deluge, this one brings a pretty meager menu of new releases.

Perhaps most tantalizing is Pedro Almodóvar’s “The Human Voice,” starring Tilda Swinton. Sony Pictures Classics is releasing the 30-minute short film, which debuted at the Venice Film Festival (one of 2020’s few in-person events), in just a handful of theaters, along with a fresh restoration of the Spanish master’s “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” That means audiences can come just for a short, social-distanced experience (ducking out after the short) or stick around to see the classic 1988 cult hit in which it factored, depending on their comfort level.

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Children of the ’80s might want to check out “Punky Brewster” star Soleil Moon Frye’s home-video super-cut, “Kid 90,” in which she delves into her adolescent trove of camcorder footage, featuring rowdy times with her fellow celebs, viewed with the maturity of a couple decades’ distance. The week’s other theatrical and streaming releases are fairly modest, though there are a few titles — including lesbian drama “Rain Beau’s End,” thriller “The Winter Lake,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”-like indie thriller “Honeydew” and the weekly Frank Grillo offering, “Cosmic Sin” — that escaped review, but might be worth investigating on your own.

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

New Releases Only in Theaters

Dutch (Preston A. Whitmore II)
Distributor: Faith Media Distribution
Where to Find It: In theaters now
“Dutch” is a shambling, rambling recycling of clichés and conventions from ’70s Blaxploitation fare mixed with stilted murder-trial melodrama and half-baked morsels of sociopolitical topicality. But, really, to describe this rancid slice of ineptitude that way is to risk making it sound a lot more interesting than it is. Written and directed by Whitmore, who obviously went about both tasks with all the zeal of someone paying off a debt, the movie progresses in bumpy fits and starts, with a time-tripping, flashback-within-flashback structure that does little to energize, and much to confuse, its simplistic plot. — Joe Leydon
Read the full review

Long Weekend (Stephen Basilone)
Distributor: Stage 6 Films
Where to Find It: In theaters now
“Boy meets girl” doesn’t exactly happen in stereotypical fashion in “Long Weekend.” These star-crossed lovers’ worlds collide on an average day totally by chance in this metaphysical, melancholic tale that skillfully fuses time-travel movie constructs with familiar romantic comedy tropes. By tweaking each of those formulas slightly, the results are refreshing and inventive. The soulful, comforting sentiments at the core of Basilone’s feature are really what ring true. The messages — that we should roll with the sad moments as those too could spiral into something just as magical and lovely — are resoundingly romantic notions retrofitted for this genre hybrid. — Courtney Howard
Read the full review

The Human Voice (Pedro Almodóvar) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Where to Find It: In New York, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles theaters
Almodóvar’s first short film in 11 years, and his first of any length to be made in English, “The Human Voice” outwardly seems like more of a departure for Spain’s most celebrated living auteur than it really is. It’s not, in fact, his first stab at filming the oft-interpreted Jean Cocteau monodrama of the same name. After explicitly referencing the one-woman theater piece in “Law of Desire,” he made it the conceptual starting point of “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” the next year. The poised, punchy “The Human Voice” is the yin to the yang of that bustling early film, indicating how the director’s filmmaking has evolved even as his fixations remain constant. — Guy Lodge
Read the full review

New Releases on Demand and in Select Theaters

Come True (Anthony Scott Burns)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand
“Come True” wears its many influences on its sleeve, notably the work of David Cronenberg and Philip K. Dick, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Donnie Darko,” with nods to “The Shining,” “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Terminator” thrown in for good measure. Nonetheless, Burns melds those inspirations — as well as Rodney Ascher’s “The Nightmare” — to craft a uniquely illusory sci-fi thriller about an adrift young woman who copes with her unsettling slumbering visions by participating in a sleep study. With sterling command of its malevolently dreamy tone, it casts a disquieting spell. — Nick Schager
Read the full review

The Inheritance (Ephraim Asili)
Distributor: Grasshopper Film
Where to Find It: Available exclusively through Projectr.tv virtual cinema
Experimental filmmaker Asili honors forerunners, stakes his claim to the vast terrain of Black thought, and teases an aesthetic that nods to French avant-gardist Chris Marker but all-out name-checks Jean-Luc Godard. Brainy, mannered, dryly amused, “The Inheritance” can appear willfully inexpert; the self-conscious acting feels both deliberate and the work of a director who hasn’t spent much time working with actors. But Asili dives confidently into big ideas. The movie is talk-talk-talk rich, and text-laden. The filmmaker weaves his own story of time spent in a collective with sound bites, vigorously utilized text and compelling archival images. — Lisa Kennedy
Read the full review

The Tunnel (Pål Øie)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: Available in virtual cinemas, followed by theaters and on demand April 9
Solidly crafted if a bit uninspired, Pål Øie’s thriller is like a horizontal, colder, sootier “Towering Inferno” minus the all-star-cast, though their soap-operatics are intact. While decently paced (frequent Øie collaborator Sjur Aarthun is both editor and cinematographer here), the film also settles into an inevitable eventual rut when there is little real action, just searching and waiting. We’re all too aware, once a late additional peril arrives to endanger nearly-rescued protagonists, that it’s been grafted on to yank the slackened narrative tension taut again. — Dennis Harvey
Read the full review

Available on Amazon Prime

Underplayed (Stacey Lee)
Distributor: Amazon Studios
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime
It’s no secret that nearly every genre of music outside of pop itself suffers from a moderate or severe gender imbalance problem, but the spotlight rarely falls on how women fare (or, as the case may be, don’t) in electronic dance music. “Underplayed” argues persuasively for women getting more seats at the table — or standup spots behind the turntable — even if it’s better at offering up underdog tales of individual female DJs who’ve triumphed than it is at getting at root causes of why they might’ve been held down. Lee’s film is at its best when it’s having these women tell their own stories and not throwing up downbeat statistics that beg more questions that the movie is prepared to answer. — Chris Willman
Read the full review

Exclusive to Hulu

Kid 90 (Soleil Moon Frye)
Where to Find It: Hulu
With “Kid 90,” Frye opens “Pandora’s box” — as she calls the archive of video cassettes, diary entries, answering machine messages and so forth that she kept locked away for more than 20 years — bracing herself for what she might find, and how those memories might make her feel. The resulting film, which hits Hulu amid a fresh wave of ’80s nostalgia (including Peacock’s recent “Punky Brewster” reboot), feels like it must have been a cathartic experience for the former child actor, who’s been bracingly candid about many personal issues — from peer pressure to teenage plastic surgery — over the years. Turns out, she was holding quite a bit back. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

Exclusive to Netflix

Bombay Rose (Gitanjali Rao)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Whatever color you’re imagining when you hear the title “Bombay Rose,” add a little more ruby to it: It’s no slight to Indian animator Rao’s debut feature to say its opulent palette may be its very richest asset. Rao reportedly spent six years crafting this elaborately braided urban romance, and its every shade of turmeric, pomegranate and caramel looks to have been exactingly and exhaustively selected, as Rao builds and fills her Mumbai streetscapes with a patient painter’s eye. (In a most literal sense, too: The film has actually been painted frame by frame.) Even by the standards of artisan arthouse animation, it’s quite a vision. — Guy Lodge
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Yes Day (Miguel Arteta)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Twenty-five years ago, “Yes Day” would have been a dumbed-down high-concept Hollywood family comedy, and you could say it still is. The difference is that now it’s the Netflix version, which means, in this case, that it’s not so much “dumb” as post-psychological. The premise, for anyone who’s a parent, will sound rather catchy. Allison, taken to task by her three children for being a Debbie Downer of a mom — a joyless disciplinarian who’s perpetually saying “No” — agrees to indulge her kids in a Yes Day. But if you’re going to cast someone as a mother who has lost her sense of yes, the last actor on earth anyone would think of is Jennifer Garner. — Courtney Howard
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Paper Lives (Can Ulkay)
Where to Find It: Netflix

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