New Movies to Watch This Week: ‘Borat’ and ‘After’ Sequels, ‘The Witches’ and ‘Rebecca’ Remakes

Peter Debruge
·10 min read

It’s a week of high-profile sequels and remakes, all of which are easier to see at home than in theaters.

The splashiest of the bunch is Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” follow-up, in which the gotcha comedian parodies right-wing values not only by attempting to embarrass Mike Pence and Rudy Giuliani, but also in getting American conservatives to react to the character’s medieval values. Although Amazon Prime subscribers can watch the movie via the service, it’s also available in select drive-ins around the country.

Another hybrid release, available in theaters and on demand, has already done big business abroad, rivaling “Tenet” on a per-screen basis in limited U.K. release: “After We Collided” continues the steamy fan-fiction romance inspired by Harry Styles of One Direction, and by all reports, the only thing worse than the movie is the news that it’s part two of a planned four-film franchise.

Netflix delivers a pair of glossy films this week, including animated original “Over the Moon,” which marks the directorial debut of Oscar winner Glen Keane (“Dear Basketball”). It’s a visionary, Disney-caliber CG toon about a Chinese girl who launches herself into space on a quest to keep her late mother’s memory alive — and kids are gonna love it.

A slightly tougher sell for the streamer is Netflix’s “Rebecca” remake, which looks gorgeous, but inevitably shrinks in the shadow of the Alfred Hitchcock classic that came before. Still, it’s better than one might expect, offering up vintage glamour and Gothic suspense for younger audiences, who might not know Daphne du Maurier’s novel.

Other Halloween-timed releases include “Bad Hair,” an African American horror satire on Hulu, and Roald Dahl adaptation “The Witches,” starring Anne Hathaway and a host of visual effects. “Death Becomes Her” director Robert Zemeckis injects some of that same camp energy into this glossy studio-level production, which pivots from theaters to HBO Max.

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

New Releases in Theaters

Beasts Clawing at Straws (Kim Yong-hoon)
Distributor: Artsploitation Films
Where to Find It: In theaters now
Cheap gangsters, duplicitous dragon ladies, a mute tattooed assassin, get-rich-quick schlubs looking to score and a comical detective: “Beasts Clawing at Straws” could just as well be called “Beasts Toying with Clichés” if it weren’t such an amusing, echt Korean romp. Director Kim acknowledges a certain “Fargo” influence, but there’s also a hint of “What’s Up, Doc?” albeit far bloodier, as a Louis Vuitton bag stuffed with cash becomes the catalyst for a cascading chain of events that Kim daringly builds non-chronologically. Featuring major stars Jung Woo-sung and Jeon Do-yeon, the film is an overstretched yet fun joyride. — Jay Weissberg
Read the full review

Synchronic (Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead)
Distributor: Well Go USA
Where to Find It: In theaters and drive-ins now
Making underwhelming use of its not-bad “time travel pill” conceit, Benson’s sci-fi-tinged script is not at all ingeniously plotted, insists we care about tritely sketched characters, and is never credible enough to transcend an air of escalating silliness. (It is, among other things, surely the most trivial treatment of American slavery in recent cinema.) The directors bestow a fair degree of professional polish with their accumulated expertise and improved budget here, but “Synchronic” remains a misfire that gets sketchier the more seriously it takes itself. — Tomris Laffly
Read the full review

New Releases on Demand and in Select Theaters

After We Collided (Roger Kumble)
Distributor: Open Road Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
“This is a story you’ve heard before,” drones the toneless opening voiceover, but thing is, we really haven’t, because this is not a story. It is a numbingly repetitive series of manufactured minor dramas between the two terminally self-involved, staggeringly uninteresting protagonists of the first film. Post “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades,” this placeholder installment in a projected four-movie series is the worst of all the terrible franchise movies revolving around the truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a dark secret and/or leather jacket must be in want of a prim, virginal nonentity to save him from himself. — Jessica Kiang
Read the full review

Coming Home Again (Wayne Wang)
Distributor: Outsider Pictures
Where to Find It: Select a virtual cinema to support
An intimate chamber piece that tightly interlaces remembrances of food and family, Wayne Wang’s quietly sensitive “Coming Home Again” adapts Chang-rae Lee’s award-winning 1995 New Yorker essay, a personal piece on Lee’s caring for his terminally ill mother and cooking her Korean dishes. A filmmaker with a diverse slate that includes the likes of “The Joy Luck Club” and female-centric populist films like “Maid in Manhattan” and “Last Holiday,” Wang operates loosely in the vein of his 1995 film “Smoke” here: incisively observant and attentive to items, mining in objects emotional traces of those who touched them. — Tomris Laffly
Read the full review

Friendsgiving (Nicole Paone)
Distributor: Saban Films
Where to Find It: In theaters, on demand and through digital providers
Surely for as long as families have been gathering for Thanksgiving, the option of a less fractious holiday spent with kith rather than kin has been on the table. Yet the takeaway, such as it is, from Paone’s sketchy, loose-knit ensemble comedy is that there ultimately isn’t much difference between the two: Turkey Day is a recipe for conflict with or without blood relatives in attendance. It’s a premise that “Friendsgiving” contrives by clumping together a pick-and-mix of mismatched, eccentric characters whom you can’t imagine ever willingly hanging out in the first place; whatever binds them is largely lost in the boozy haze of a slender screenplay. — Guy Lodge
Read the full review

The Place of No Words (Mark Webber)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
With its modest intentions, “The Place of No Words” loosely brings to mind David Lowery’s similarly experimental “A Ghost Story,” in a good way — which is to say, those who are patient with its deliberate shapelessness will be eventually rewarded with something both intimate and gradually immersive à la “Where the Wild Things Are.” While the disorderly open-ended narrative and layers of mythical metaphors are risky (and at times distancing) artistic choices, they make perfect sense for Webber, considering the unique cinematic place the actor-turned-director has carved out for himself. — Tomris Laffly
Read the full review

Radium Girls (Lydia Dean Pilcher, Ginny Mohler)
Distributor: Juno Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters and virtual cinemas
The half-life of radium-226, the toxic isotope used in phosphorescent paint, is around 1,600 years. That of “Radium Girls,” the David-and Goliath story of a handful of young women taking Big Radium to court in the 1920s, is presumably much shorter. In the two-and-a-half years since it premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, this dramatization seems to have lost quite a bit of whatever luster it might have once had. Scrupulously sincere in its approach, the film aims for inspirational true story, but is sadly uninspired, and its relationship to real history is obscured by the schematic way it is fictionalized. — Jessica Kiang
Read the full review

Available on Amazon Prime

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Amazon Prime
No one knows “fake news” better than Sacha Baron Cohen, who pioneered a form of bogus journalism as political satire with “Da Ali G Show” and 2006 spinoff feature “Borat,” which brilliantly blurred the lines between staged shtick and candid camera routines. Now, Baron Cohen is back in character with a stealth sequel. Here, shot and delivered amid an unprecedented global pandemic, is a staggering act of comedic revolt with built-in viral potential. Rowdy and relevant, the film is shaping up to be the kind of October surprise capable of sparking laughs, fueling public discourse and engaging voters as serious-minded messaging can’t. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

Exclusive to HBO Max

Roald Dahl’s The Witches (Robert Zemeckis)
Where to Find It: HBO Max
In the 1990 screen version of “The Witches,” the Grand High Witch was played by Anjelica Huston in a performance of pure delectable scenery-eating kitsch. Thirty years later, Robert Zemeckis has now directed a version that remains true to the novel (and also builds on the earlier film), and what he brings to it is his fusion of relatability and FX gizmo play. It’s nothing more than a baroque cartoon horror film, but the best parts have a crackpot malevolence that’s hard to resist. The triumph of Anne Hathaway’s performance is that she never allows the visual effects to dominate her; she acts from inside them, wearing them like makeup. — Owen Gleiberman
Read the full review

Exclusive to Hulu

Bad Hair (Justin Simien)
Where to Find It: Hulu
In “Bad Hair,” beauty standards bring pain. Anna’s hair is a battleground. After an opening scene of a preteen hair-straightening gone wrong, she refuses to let it be touched. Combs, needles, scissors are obvious threats. To Simien, the tossing of lock over shoulder is as threatening as flipping open a switchblade. The director’s serio-comic tone is at once sly, resonant, and horrific. Despite the jump scares, Simien is serious about his message. He wants to be clear that he feels black women have been subjected to centuries of cultural oppression aimed at convincing them that their natural hair is a flaw. — Amy Nicholson
Read the full review

Exclusive to Netflix

Over the Moon (Glen Keane)
Where to Find It: Netflix
“Over the Moon” celebrates Chinese culture as no mainstream American toon — not even “Mulan” — has before. But it does so in a way that’s so formulaically Western that it feels like the creative team took “Coco” and dressed it up in another country’s colors, customs and costumes. The plot plays off the myth of Chang’e (Phillipa Soo), goddess of the moon, who sacrificed earthly romance with handsome Houyi (Conrad Ricamora) for immortality among the stars, which sparks the movie’s main character, 13-year-old Fei Fei (Cathy Ang), to prove it’s true … by building a rocket to the moon. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

Rebecca (Ben Wheatley)
Where to Find It: Netflix
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” begins both Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 best-seller “Rebecca” and nearly every adaptation of the Gothic novel that has followed, including Alfred Hitchcock’s atmospheric 1940 best picture winner. With such a definitive version already on the books, why reboot “Rebecca”? The earlier film looms so large over anything Wheatley does that it necessarily gives the new project an inferiority complex. But neither the director nor his writing team is trying to do a straightforward remake here. Their “Rebecca” is more of a re-adaptation, restoring certain key ideas that the Hays Code scrubbed clean. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

More from Variety

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.