Early releases of top-rated films on iTunes

Rare opportunity to see latest flicks at home

'Emma.' is one of the films available for rent.

It seems that not just the stock market is suffering in these coronavirus times. Film studios that released movies just as social distancing was beginning are now trying to find ways to make up for the money they have lost due to cinemas closing or people staying home.

Their loss is our gain, as they say. Imagine my surprise when I saw that you could rent ‘Emma.’ and ‘The Invisible Man’ on iTunes, only a month after they both opened in theatres.

A day later, ‘Onward’ – the latest offering from Disney Pixar – was available to buy. This well-received animated flick hit screens in the US on 6 March.
In the past, the only way to watch mainstream releases this new, outside the cinema, was to get your hands on pirated versions with Korean subtitles or be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. An exception would be if a film got ghastly reviews [insert Nicholas Cage here] and there was no other choice than to dump it on the home market. Otherwise, this is a pretty unprecedented move.

We haven’t got around to watching ‘Onward’ yet, but my best friend Lynne and I devoured the two other films over the weekend. That probably wasn’t a great idea, in retrospect, as we’ve got some weeks ahead of us before things go back to normal – we should have spread out the bounty – but we were weak.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%
This latest film adaptation of the Jane Austen novel stars Anna Taylor-Joy (Emma), Johnny Flynn (George Knightley) and Bill Nighy (Mr. Woodhouse), and is directed by Autumn de Wilde.

In 1996, Gwyneth Paltrow played the role, and Kate Beckinsale also stepped into the shoes in the very same year for a TV movie. Then there was the BBC mini-series in 2009 starring Romola Garai as the protagonist; and who can forget Alicia Silverstone in 1995’s ‘Clueless’ which was also loosely based on the story? Clearly Austen’s tale does not get older in the retelling.

In this version, it is the 1800s, and Emma Woodhouse is a privileged young lady who entertains herself by playing matchmaker for those around her. Her latest project is Harriet Smith, a ninny in the nicest possible way, who Emma tries to throw together with Mr. Elton. However, her attempts at matchmaking cause more problems than solutions and may ultimately jeopardise her own chance at love and happiness.

Whereas Paltrow’s Emma was quite agreeable, Taylor-Joy’s approach is definitely more prickly, and therefore she distinguishes herself from previous interpretations. She wears her snobbishness on her sleeve, along with her intolerance of those she deems to be boring and dull.

Nighy is, as ever, fabulous in the role of her father who does not wish to ever see her leave home, and Flynn is a rougher-looking-than-usual, handsome Mr. Knightley … and a very good one.

The full cast is excellent, with terrific turns from Miranda Hart as Miss Bates and Josh O’Connor as Mr. Elton, all the way to Angus Imrie who plays one of the Woodhouses’ house staff, Bartholomew, who has very few lines, but whose facial expressions say it all.

The costumes are stunning, with the gorgeous backdrops of English countryside and stately homes thoroughly realised, thanks to brilliant cinematography.

‘Emma.’ is a light romantic comedy and just what the doctor ordered at a time like this. With strong performances, breathtaking visuals and a sharp script, I highly recommend it.

‘The Invisible Man’
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
I was gutted when I couldn’t see this in the cinema, and so was particularly thrilled to see it appear on the iTunes list.

This could not be further from the lighthearted romp that ‘Emma.’ is. It is dark, mysterious and has jumps aplenty in store for the audience. It is also very smartly written and executed, which lifts it above the run-of-the-mill horror flick.

Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), their childhood friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). But when Cecilia’s abusive ex, Adrian, (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, Cecilia suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of eerie coincidences turns lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, Cecilia’s sanity begins to unravel as she desperately tries to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.

Directed and written by Leigh Whannell, this movie is a doozy. Moss has had plenty of training for this role, thanks to her award-winning turn in the critically acclaimed series, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. She is all eyes and emotion as she tries to get past the abuse of her husband and deal with the news of his death, while being unable to shake the feeling that he is still around.

There are a number of moments that you won’t see coming and don’t be surprised if you find yourself watching some of it through your fingers. Lynne had to pause it several times to breathe before being ready to sit down again.
If you can manage it, watch with the lights off.

Both films are available on iTunes. They are only available for rent at present at US$19.99, which isn’t cheap, but if you have two or more people in the house, it’s less than you would have paid to see it at the cinema. The rental gets you a 48-hour viewing window in case you need more time between pauses of ‘The Invisible Man’.

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