Watching high-quality films from the comfort of your own home has never been easier, and this week two new streaming-service movie offerings are a perfect example of the continuing evolution of the film industry due to COVID-19.
Just a few months ago, an epic war film starring Tom Hanks and a unique comedy starring Andy Samberg would’ve been big box office draws.
Today, all you have to do is turn on your TV.
Here are two new films you don’t want to miss.
Cast: Andy Samberg (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Cristin Milioti (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), JK Simmons (“Whiplash”), Tyler Hoechlin (“Supergirl”), Peter Gallagher (“American Beauty”), Camila Mendes (“Riverdale”)
Release date: The film premieres Friday on Hulu.
The premise: Easygoing Nyles (Andy Samberg) and maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti) hit it off at a Palm Springs wedding, but their encounter turns bizarre when they find themselves stuck in an infinite time loop.
Highs: ”Palm Springs” is a modern-day version of “Groundhog Day,” but with an R rating and more than one person stuck in time.
When we first meet Nyles, he seems to be having a blast. He doesn’t have a care in the world because, when it comes right down to it, nothing really matters because he’s stuck living the same day over and over. Nyles lounges in a pool drinking beer, attends a wedding reception wearing swim trunks and a Hawaiian shirt and gives surprisingly inspired wedding speeches. Resigned to his fate, he decides to just have fun.
Things significantly change when Sarah inadvertently gets stuck in a time loop with Nyles. The pair do a bunch of wild activities, as you would expect given their consequence-free environment, but also grow and evolve together in a sweet and thoughtful way that doesn’t beat you over the head with tired tropes like so many other films of this genre.
Lows: “Palm Springs” clocks in at a brisk 87 minutes. “Groundhog Day” is 14 minutes longer yet no scene feels wasted. I wish “Palm Springs” would’ve been a bit longer to better establish the frustration of being stuck in time and make the bond between Nyles and Sarah even stronger.
Grade: (A): Funny, clever and irreverent, “Palm Springs” is full of charm. This film, which is laugh-out-loud funny and introspective, is a wonderful summer treat.
Cast: Tom Hanks (“Cast Away”), Elisabeth Shue (“”Leaving Las Vegas”), Stephen Graham (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”)
Release date: The film premieres Friday on Apple TV+.
The premise: Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks) is the commander of a Navy destroyer, code-named Greyhound. His mission is to protect a convoy of 37 American, British and Canadian ships crossing the Atlantic in February 1942. For five days with no air cover, the captain must make his way through an area known as The Black Pit, all while fighting off Nazi U-boats, the elements and frequently unreliable technology.
“Greyhound” is based on the 1955 novel “The Good Shepherd” by C.S. Forester. The film was written by Hanks.
Highs: Intense. That’s the word that kept popping up in my head during “Greyhound.” Once in the Atlantic and the first U-boat is sighted, the film never lets its foot off the gas, which makes for a gripping experience.
The enemy is unrelenting. The submarines attacking the convoy move with precision and hold the advantage, especially at night when they’re harder to spot. Attacks come in waves and just when you think you can catch your breath, another crisis has to be dealt with.
Krause, who is never referred to by name, only as “Captain,” is dealing with more than just enemy U-boats. The Navy vet also has to contend with drastic weather conditions that impact visibility, unreliable radar and communications systems and a crew that has doubts if this first-time captain is leading them in the right direction. It’s a taught, thrilling adventure with some stunning visual effects.
Lows: The action in “Greyhound” is solely focused on five days in the Atlantic, which makes any storylines not complementary to the main plot troubling. There’s a tangential story about the captain and a love interest, played by Elisabeth Shue. While I’m a huge fan of Shue, her role has either been minimized or was never fully fleshed out.
Either way, it’s a torpedo “Greyhound” can’t avoid. The character should’ve either been written out so she wasn’t a curious distraction or embellished to further humanize her love interest.
Grade: (B+): “Greyhound” is a white-knuckle ride that does an excellent job of focusing on its singular purpose. This fictional story, based on the real dangers the brave men and women fighting the Nazis in World War II faced when crossing the Atlantic, is compelling.
Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.