As we all shelter in place, home viewing has taken on new dimensions. Scroll any social media feed and you are sure to come across several people looking for movie recommendations. Since we can’t get to the theaters these days, we’ll have to pop our popcorn at home and settle in as (literal) armchair movie critics. Movie studios acted quickly, and many of the films that would normally still be in theaters—at least the second run theaters—are now available to stream from our homes. Some cost a bit more—the recently released Harrison Ford film The Call of the Wild will cost you $14.99 to view now, or you can wait until it becomes cheaper. When you think about it, though, movie tickets are $11 each in the U.S. If your whole family watches, it actually becomes reasonable to fork over $14.99 to stream it.
Here are 10 films to consider and links to our Banner reviews or, in the case of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, there are links to the trailer and to my review, pre-Banner days.
This timely and well-made film centers on two key figures, man and dog, in the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which dog-sled teams raced to transport diphtheria serum through harsh conditions over nearly 700 miles to save the Alaskan town of Nome from an epidemic. From our review: “For a mid-budget, direct-to-streaming movie, Togo looks fantastic. The story is told with a sure hand in a style rarely seen from Disney since the 1990s. Fans of historical adventure stories and animal lovers alike will appreciate the work put into Togo, though the latter will want to keep a box of tissues nearby.” Family friendly. (Disney +)
Based on Jack London’s 1903 classic book, this movie tells the story of Buck, a big-hearted dog whose blissful domestic life gets turned upside down when he is suddenly uprooted from his California home and transplanted to the exotic wilds of the Alaskan Yukon in the 1890s. As the newest rookie on a mail-delivery dog sled team, Buck experiences the adventure of a lifetime. Family friendly. ($14.99, YouTube, Amazon Prime)
From our review: “A year has passed since the events of How to Train Your Dragon 2. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), along with his Night Fury dragon Toothless, has led his people to create a dragon/Viking utopia. While the dragon riders are far from perfect, they’ve become fairly efficient at rescuing dragons from hunters and providing a safe haven in the land of Berk. Unfortunately, they’ve become so efficient that Berk is overcrowded, and one clumsy dragon can send buildings toppling like dominos.
As leader, Hiccup has to do something. But before he can set a course he learns that a famed dragon hunter named Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) is coming to destroy Berk and kill Toothless, as he has all the rest of his species. With two problems to solve, Hiccup turns to his late father’s journals and determines to relocate his people to the Hidden World, the original home of the dragons that lies beyond the edge of the world.” Family friendly. (Hulu, Amazon Prime, $9.99)
In 1862 scientist James Glaisher and wealthy young widow Amelia Wren launch a balloon expedition to fly higher than anyone in history. As their dangerous climb reduces their chances of survival, the unlikely duo soon discover things about themselves—and each other.
From our review: “James is a stuffy scientist. Amelia is a plucky romantic … Their adventures in the balloon happen almost in real-time, as we learn in flashbacks how they came together. Some of the tension is lost as we already know James will get his expedition off the ground, and Amelia will overcome the fears that have kept her earthbound since the death of her husband. But it helps us get a better idea of who these people are and what drives them.” Family friendly. (Amazon Prime)
An Austrian farmer faces the threat of execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis during World War II. From our review: “Franz Jägerstätter, played by August Diehl, is conscripted early in the war. Returning home to his wife, Fani, (Valerie Pachner) Franz is disillusioned by national socialism and particularly the Reich’s treatment of the marginalized. As the war wears on and re-conscription looms, Franz becomes increasingly convicted that God is calling him to stand up against this evil.” (Amazon Prime, YouTube, $5.99)
During World War I, two British soldiers race against time, crossing over into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow soldiers—including one of their own brothers.
From our review: “An extraordinary technical accomplishment, 1917 offers a profound consideration of the thoughtless carnage but also the great feats of bravery seen in WWI.”
(Amazon Prime, YouTube, $5.99)
Behind the Vatican walls, Pope Benedict and the future Pope Francis must find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church.
From our review: “The Two Popes is a spiritually keen marvel. It wades into the deep: the difficulties of being merely human while navigating a spiritual journey.” (Netflix).
A modern and lustrous retelling of the 1868 classic by Louisa May Alcott.
From our review: “I was a bit worried about what director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) would do with my treasured sisters March—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Would she shellac it with modernism as Moira Walley Beckett did with Anne with an E? I fretted in vain. Gerwig and company have delivered a vigorous, poignant and loyal version of the immortal novel.” Family friendly. (YouTube, Amazon Prime, $14.99)
From our review: “A spot of blood. Shoeprints in the mud. A broken lattice. Clues point a finger at the very one we don’t want guilty. In other words, Knives Out, a Rian Johnson film, is a delightful bit of movie fun. … This old-fashioned Agatha Christie-type of whodunit serves up the usual tropes with twists: a house that looks like it ought to be haunted, a murder-mystery writer murdered, a family of suspects who are all a little too spoiled from novelist dad’s success.”
(YouTube, Amazon Prime, $5.99)
In 1946 a London-based writer begins exchanging letters with residents on the island of Guernsey, which was German-occupied during WWII. Feeling compelled to visit the island, she starts to get a picture of what it was like during the occupation.
From my review on my personal blog: “The movie has been praised for being lovely and charming—comfort food for the spirit. It’s also been panned for being predictable and not challenging or provocative enough. Both critiques are true. I loved cuddling up to this film in my living room. It made me laugh and tear up. The scenery! The Downton Abbey folk! And the wondrous statement it makes about books, readers, and the reading life. “You already know what books can do,” Juliet says. We do. Books transport us to magical places like Guernsey we may never visit but wish we could. They cultivate deep kinships with characters we will never meet but know in the deepest corners of our souls. That’s what the Guernsey book did for me. Too bad the movie didn’t stretch far enough to do the same.” (Netflix)