Watch: Arriving Today at a Theater (or Streaming Service) Near You

Sunday November 21, 2021
Originally published on November 19, 2021

Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Power of the Dog"
Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Power of the Dog"  

Going out to the movies has made a return, though far behind pre-pandemic levels. "Ticket sales in 2021 have already outpaced 2020?s paltry box office. But sales still lag nearly 70% behind 2019's $11.4 billion haul. As of Sunday, the domestic box office has tallied $2.84 billion in ticket sales, according to data from Comscore," reports CNBC.

But with distributors moving away from the pandemic model of streaming films simultaneous with their theatrical release, Hollywood hopes to return to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy.

Of the following films released this week, only one is being streamed on a service — "King Richard" on HBO Max. The others are exclusively in theaters.

"The Power of the Dog"

Already short-listed for Best Picture by the Oscar-watchdog site Gold Derby, Jane Campion's latest film is a powerful drama set in 1925 Montana that centers on a pair of rancher brothers (Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons) and what happens when one marries and brings her teenage son to live at the ranch. The film features Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the mother and son. Cumberbatch is getting some of the best reviews of his career as a vicious man with a mean streak set on terrorizing his brother's wife and son. "Phil's cruelty takes your breath away at times..." writes Bilge Ebiri in reviewing the film for Vulture. "It's a perfect role for Cumberbatch, whose gentle features and angular physique have always made him seem assembled from competing impulses." The film has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (In limited release in theaters. On Netflix on December 1).

"King Richard"

There is considerable Oscar buzz for Will Smith for playing the ambitious dad of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams as he assists in helping them realize their dreams. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, "King Richard" stands high on Rotten Tomatoes with a 93% positive critical consensus. In her three-and-one-half star review, Washington Post reviewer Ann Hornaday writes "Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green with a minimum of fuss and generous helpings of wit and uplift, "King Richard" might sand off the sharper edges of its real-life protagonist — but it's in service to the kind of family-friendly film that audiences crave, despite Hollywood's chronic and inexplicable indifference." (In theaters and on HBO Max).

"C'mon C'mon"

In this black-and-white drama, director/writer Mike Mills casts Joaquin Phoenix as an unattached journalist left to care for his precocious, 8-year old nephew (Woody Norman). The film has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While liking the performances, the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw wondered, "Tackling weighty themes and shot in classy monochrome, this coming-of-ager oozes prestige. But is it as deep as it seems?" He added, "It's an impressively contrived film, almost a machine for winning awards, a monochrome reverie of midlife yearning." (In theaters).

"Zeroes and Ones"

Longtime New York City-based director Abel Ferrera relocated to Rome in recent years where he filmed this pandemic-set thriller in which Ethan Hawke plays twins, one a military man of uncertain allegiance, the other his revolutionist brother. The film has a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ferrera filmed under strict Covid restrictions, which is reflected with face coverings and Zoom meetings being integrated into his story about a terrorist attack on the Vatican. "Where Zeros and Ones does offer viewing pleasures, they are generally aesthetic rather than dramatic. The film's experimental, lo-fi look and dreamy, impressionistic mood are certainly refreshingly off-grid," reviews Stephen Dalton in The Hollywood Reporter. "Hawke's boyish, old-school earnestness is an asset to Ferrara's inchoate ramblings. His committed performance and gravel-voiced intensity work like life-saving surgery on a barely coherent script..." (In theaters).

"Ghostbusters: Afterlife"

After the disastrous all-female reboot five years ago, "Ghostbusters" is back, but this time with a father-son connection. The new version is directed by Jason Reitman, the son of the original film's director Ivan Reitman. The new film, which stars Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon and Bill Murray, has a 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In reviewing the film for CNN, Brian Lowry writes: "At its best 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' simply delivers a good time, combining the upgraded special effects with comedy and youthful angst, while taking a little too long to get to the good stuff. (In theaters only).