New Movies to Watch This Week: ‘Malcolm & Marie,’ ‘Falling’ and a New Studio Ghibli

February is shaping up to be something special. In response to a pandemic-extended awards season, the sort of films that used to crowd the release calendar just before New Year’s in an effort to Oscar-qualify while also still maintaining some measure of last-minute/latest-thing freshness are now arranging to come out over the coming weeks.

Think of that as a teaser of such upcoming films as “Minari” and “Nomadland” more than a reflection of this week’s lineup, although a couple of this week’s releases feature elements the marketing departments would be happy to hear described as “Oscar worthy.”

The first is Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut, in which he plays a gay man dealing with his father’s dementia (featuring a raging performance by Lance Henriksen). The second is Sam Levinson’s resourceful two-hander “Malcolm & Marie,” made during the pandemic and featuring two terrific, on-fire performances from John David Washington and Zendaya. (Variety critic Joe Leydon also floated the suggestion that Brian Dennehy’s performances as a spiteful Klansman in the Spike Lee-produced “Son of the South” is deserving of posthumous attention.)

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

HanWay Films

New Releases on Demand and in Select Theaters

Falling (Viggo Mortensen)
Distributor: Quiver Distribution
Where to Find It: In theaters, on digital and on demand
Drawing on his own upbringing while touching on universal themes of family and loss, Mortensen reimagines the relationship with his parents — doting mother, difficult father — through the protective filter of fiction. In the process, the actor reminds that his best work comes from a place of emotional vulnerability. Dad was clearly a piece of work, portrayed here as a scorpion-tempered patriarch who dominated his family for decades, growing even more difficult with the onset of dementia (as seen in the present, where Lance Henriksen brings the hellfire). — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

A Glitch in the Matrix (Rodney Ascher)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
There are words, and many metaphors, one could use to describe simulation theory: the belief, popularized two decades ago by “The Matrix,” that the life we’re living — the people we know, the experiences we have, what we see, touch, think, and feel — is literally an illusion, an artificial façade orchestrated by minds far more developed than our own. … “A Glitch in the Matrix” gives each of those metaphors a workout. The movie takes the pulse of how science fiction has merged with our imaginations. — Owen Gleiberman
Read the full review

Little Fish (Chad Hartigan)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
With COVID-19 still raging around the world, a melancholy love story about a 2021 viral pandemic that ravages people’s relationships, romances and sense of self is perhaps not the easiest sell at the moment. Such timeliness proves both a blessing and a curse for “Little Fish,” writer-director Chad Hartigan’s heartfelt tale about a couple struggling with a global epidemic of memory loss. A portrait of life’s impermanence, it’s a bittersweet small-scale saga whose occasional sluggishness is offset by its sensitivity. — Nick Schager
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Rams (Jeremy Sims)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
Nearly six years ago, “Rams,” a touching humanist drama from Iceland directed and written by Grímur Hákonarson, won hearts — and prizes — at the Cannes Film Festival. Now, in trots an Australian remake. Adapted with winning cultural specificity by former newsman Jules Duncan, it’s longer and more broadly comic than the Icelandic version and boasts a tacked on, feel-good ending. Beloved Antipodean stars Sam Neill and Michael Caton play the two estranged brothers who must pull together to save what is dearest to them: their sheep. — Alissa Simon
Read the full review

The Reckoning (Neil Marshall)
Distributor: RLJE Films and Shudder
Where to Find It: In theaters, on digital and on demand
Marshall returns to his traditional horror roots with “The Reckoning,” an uneven melodrama about an innocent young widow accused of witchcraft during the Great Plague of London, 1665. Striving to be a rousing tale of female empowerment in the face of brutal patriarchy and religious extremism, “The Reckoning” has some powerful moments but relies too heavily on fantasy sequences to deliver scares, and its credibility is significantly compromised by the heroine consistently emerging from extreme torture sessions with barely a hair out of place or a smudge on her makeup. — Richard Kuipers
Read the full review

Son of the South (Barry Alexander Brown)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: Available on demand
Although he occasionally uses a broad brush dipped in primary colors while fashioning his admiring portrait of Bob Zellner, the grandson of a Ku Klux Klansman who improbably evolved into a civil rights activist during the early 1960s, Brown shrewdly and intelligently avoids most of the “white savior” clichés common to such scenarios. His well-crafted and period-persuasive biopic strikes a dramatically sound and emotionally satisfying balance between the moral awakening of its white protagonist and his relationships with sometimes encouraging, sometimes skeptical Black leaders and foot soldiers. — Joe Leydon
Read the full review

Two of Us (Filippo Meneghetti)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It: Available in theaters and on demand
Neither a hot-blooded tale of sexual discovery like “Blue Is the Warmest Color” nor a coolly alluring bauble like “Carol,” Meneghetti’s debut feature “Two of Us” is an entirely unique and uniquely vital lesbian love story. The tale of two older women whose decades-long secret relationship is threatened after tragedy strikes covers emotional and thematic ground that transcends the sexual preferences of the two main characters. This often-moving film is an affirmation of our universal desire for emotional intimacy and how the right connection can overcome all social and physical limitations. — Mark Keizer
Read the full review

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Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Exclusive to Amazon Prime

Bliss (Mike Cahill)
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime
The biggest challenge of discussing “Bliss” lies in describing its premise without making it sound considerably wilder and more interesting than it actually is. In short, the film stars Owen Wilson as a sad-sack office drone who, after accidentally killing his boss, is rescued by an intense, shamanistic homeless woman played by Salma Hayek, who not only informs him that they are soulmates, but also that they are among the few flesh-and-blood humans inhabiting a complex computer simulation. See? Sounds intriguing enough, doesn’t it? — Andrew Barker
Read the full review

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Earwig and the Witch
Courtesy of GKIDS

Available in Theaters and on HBO Max

Earwig and the Witch (Goro Miyazaki)
Distributor: GKIDS
Where to Find It: In select theaters and HBO Max
Erica Wigg, the main character of Goro Miyazaki’s made-for-TV feature “Earwig and the Witch,” is both a brat and an orphan. Those two traits seldom go together in children’s stories, and the combination provides a modest starting point for this intermittently amusing CG entry from Studio Ghibli — back in business but a shadow of its former glory. While the story doesn’t feel terribly original, Erica’s attitude manages to set her apart from such relatively well-behaved orphans as Harry Potter and Roald Dahl’s Matilda. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

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Malcolm & Marie
Dominic Miller/Netflix

Exclusive to Netflix

Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It: Netflix
While not nearly as ambitious as “Eyes Wide Shut” in theme or technique, Levinson’s feature feels every bit as raw and honest in exploring the fissures in a relationship with a bit of wear on its tires. Not too shabby for a film dashed off and shot during the pandemic. It’s “the biggest night of my life,” Malcolm believes, and we observe as they alternately appreciate and abuse one another, making love and war as they test and tentatively reestablish where they stand. The result is like Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” minus the booze and the cruel mirror a second couple provides. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

Strip Down, Rise Up (Michèle Ohayon)
Where to Find It: Netflix
The class at the heart of “Strip Down, Rise Up,” upends expectations. So does Ohayon’s cinema verité movie. Debuting on Netflix (where the subject might attract the wrong kind of audience, or precisely those who’d connect with it most), the doc is poignant, surprising and deftly reawakens questions about “patriarchy” — not by being a pole-dancing polemic but by foregrounding its characters’ experiences. The film isn’t concerned with strip clubs and their habitués [but rather what the class instructor] calls a “feminine lifestyle practice.” — Lisa Kennedy
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Life in a Day 2020
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Exclusive to YouTube

Life in a Day 2020 (Kevin Macdonald)
Where to Find It: On YouTube Feb. 6
It’s been precisely a decade since the first edition of “Life in a Day” debuted at Sundance, though in internet years, that amounts to several eons. So, what can “Life in a Day 2020” now bring to the table? Nothing groundbreaking, certainly. Macdonald’s followup collage neatly matches its predecessor in form and function, serving another enjoyable but unavoidably surface-level survey of how the other half lives. Videos flood in from Mongolian livestock farmers, Eastern European high-rise dwellers and American suburbanites alike, connected by little more than their access to a smartphone. — Guy Lodge
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