By Joseph J. Airdo
If you were to look at the theatrical release calendar for May a mere two months ago, you would have found a feast of films that were primed to kickstart the summer movie season with a great big bang.
Marvel superhero Black Widow was ready to break free from The Avengers in her own high-flying adventure. Dominic Toretto and the rest of the “Fast and Furious” family were about to debut an explosive ninth chapter in the action saga.
Serial killer Jigsaw was going to make his triumphant return—thanks to a little help from Chris Rock—in “Spiral: From the Book of Saw.” Even cartoon characters SpongeBob SquarePants and Scooby-Doo were set to re-enter the cultural zeitgeist in animated adventures “Sponge on the Run” and “Scoob!,” respectively.
However, with movie theaters shuttered as a health precaution, all of those films’ releases were inevitably postponed. At press time, it remained unclear as to when movies would again be projected onto big screens across the country.
As it stands, there are no new major movie releases on the calendar until July, at which time Disney’s live-action adaptation of “Mulan” and Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated time-bending thriller “Tenet” may be able to salvage the second half of summer.
In the meantime, we are extremely fortunate that we live in an age of computers, cell phones and digital streaming. It is difficult to imagine what “social distancing” would have felt like even just two decades ago without the ability to work from home, remain connected to our loved ones and have a seemingly endless supply of entertainment.
Netflix introduced its streaming service in 2007, forever changing the way we can access movies and television series. Sure, you can comb through the service’s archive of older titles, but Netflix is also constantly churning out original products—most of which have the same caliber of on-screen and off-screen talent as their theatrical counterparts.
A look at some of the service’s latest notable releases reveals there really is something for everyone on Netflix. Whether you are looking to laugh, be blown away, feel the love, keep the kiddies occupied or simply turn your brain off for a few hours, the summer movie season is still here. It is just now happening in your own living room.
Based on Ace Atkins’ novel “Wonderland,” with characters by Robert B. Parker (“Spenser: For Hire”), this action-comedy stars Mark Wahlberg as an ex-cop who—having just been released from prison for assaulting his captain — becomes embroiled in the deaths of two of his former colleagues. The movie was directed by Peter Berg, who previously worked with Wahlberg on “Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon,” “Patriots Day” and “Mile 22.” The pair clearly knows how to put on a good show that is jam-packed with mystery, action and a lot of laughs, thanks especially due to the fact that Wahlberg is essentially playing a heightened version of his Boston-accented self.
‘Coffee and Kareem’
Terrence Little Gardenhigh plays a 12-year-old who seeks out criminal fugitives to take out his mother’s new police officer boyfriend (played by Ed Helms) in this action-comedy. However, when his interaction with the fugitives accidentally exposes a secret network of criminal activity, all three of them find their lives in jeopardy. Although the setup sounds like that of a family flick, the film’s foul language and over-the-top violence make this a strictly adult affair—but one that will have you laughing and on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
‘Love Wedding Repeat’
In this romantic comedy, Eleanor Tomlinson plays a bride who enlists the help of her brother (played by Sam Claflin) to ensure her wedding day goes smoothly when her ex-boyfriend shows up. A simple switch in the carefully preplanned seating arrangement results in the wrong guest consuming a sleep sedative, and chaos ensues. It is a fairly funny flick that benefits from a crazy cast of characters while marrying elements of “Sliding Doors” with “Four Weddings and a Funeral” as it shows alternate versions of the amusingly messy chain of events.
Based on the book of the same title by Lois Lowry, this animated flick tells the story of four children who—convinced they would be better off raising themselves—hatch a sneaky plan to send their selfish parents on vacation so they can embark on their own high-flying adventure. Voice talents include Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Terry Crews, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski and Ricky Gervais. With a wickedly dark sense of humor similar to that of “Coraline,” it is as bizarre as it is heartwarming, thereby enchanting children and adults alike.
Chris Hemsworth plays a fearless black-market mercenary with nothing left to lose when his skills are solicited to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord in this action flick. Produced by Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed Hemsworth as Thor in “The Avengers: Infinity War” and “The Avengers: Endgame,” this thrill ride of a feature film packs all of the big-budget excitement you expect from a summer blockbuster.
Binge-Worthy Bonus: ‘Too Hot to Handle’
Of course, in addition to feature-length films, Netflix is also home to countless binge-worthy series that would leave one to believe that someone snuck into their house and covered their couch with glue. One of the latest such series is “Too Hot to Handle,” an eight-episode reality show in which several good-looking singles arrive on the shores of paradise to meet and mingle, only to later be told that, to win a $100,000 grand prize, they will need to give up any and all sexual activity. Because we do not yet know if CBS’s guilty pleasure “Love Island” will return this summer, this addictively ludicrous series is an adequate substitute that fills our inherent need for mindless entertainment.