Pass the Remote: Soothing, fun, sly and thoughtful films to usher in 2021

Since gatherings are a big no-no this season, how about uncorking the bubbly (alcoholic or nonalcoholic) at home and welcome the New Year by watching a film available to stream from Bay Area indie theaters?

There’s much to choose from. Here are five of your best bets.

“Driveways”: Andrew Ahn’s sophomore feature is my favorite film of 2020, an emotional salve for the rage-filled times in which we live. The late Brian Dennehy hits a career high as a lonely Korean War vet who befriends an ostracized and shy Korean American boy (Lucas Jaye) who just moved with his mother (Hong Chau) into his dead aunt’s hoarder house. Ahn’s film is a quiet, beautiful piece of transcendental art, a rewarding experience that says so much through its characters’ actions rather than their words. (Available to stream at

The late Brian Dennehy gives a tender performance in Andrew Ahn’s touching “Driveways.” (Courtesy of Filmrise)

“The Weasels’ Tale”: If you’re looking for something wicked and feisty, give Juan Jose Campanella’s lark of a black comedy a go. A batch of eccentric retired film types — a diva, a screenwriter, a director and the diva’s hubby — live together in a rundown mansion on some prime Argentine country land. That lucrative patch of real estate catches the fancy of two young opportunists who assume these oldsters are pushovers. But this colorful crew possess shocking secrets of their own, and prove to be formidable foes. It’s a pip. (Available to stream at

Mara (Graciela Borges) continues to act like a diva even if she’s retired in “The Weasels’ Tale.” (Courtesy of Outside Pictures)

“Shadow in the Cloud”: Campy and gloriously feminist, New Zealand filmmaker Roseanne Liang’s WWII creature feature action thriller is a blast. Chloe Grace Moretz puts Wonder Woman to shame as Captain Maude Garrett, a take-charge-of-the-situation hero who can stomp out a frequent-flying bat critter while punching back at sexist remarks from her bomber crewmates. It’s joyously ridiculous from beginning to end, but it also delivers a powerhouse message on feminism that, in a more traditional feature, would come across as earnest and perhaps as ineffectively just preaching to the choir. There’s nothing about “Shadow in the Cloud” that could be called ineffective. (Available to stream Jan. 1 at

Chloë Grace Moretz proves to be tougher than that other wonder woman in “Shadow in the Cloud.” (Vertical Entertainment)

“Another Round”: Suffering from midlife crises, a group of male teacher friends agree to go through life a bit tipsy in order to make reality much better. The dubious notion — set forth in an article one read — changes Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) from a boring lecturer into a spitfire prof with student cred. But as Thomas Vinterberg’s astute satire slyly reveals alcohol doesn’t change anything but will create more problems when issues are not confronted head-on. (Available for streaming at

Mads Mikkelsen delivers another nailed-it performance as a high school teacher who thinks being tipsy due to day drinking will make his life better in Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round.” (Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn)

“Night Shift”: Anne Fontaine’s character-driven drama does go a little sideways near the end, but still presents us with an intriguing moral dilemma — the French deportation of a refugee back to a country that will kill him. “Night Shift” puts you in the driver’s seat as three cops escort the doomed to the airport. Fontaine’s film plumbs the messy backgrounds of the three officers and how their jobs and relationships lead them to question what they are doing. It’s a resounding drama with a couple missteps. (Available to stream Jan. 1 at

The post Pass the Remote: Soothing, fun, sly and thoughtful films to spend New Year’s with appeared first on Local News Matters.

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