Five movies to watch while social distancing

Guest writer Koki Riley shares his picks for movies to watch while staying at home

Bars and restaurants are closed, nearly every class has moved online for the rest of the semester and much of the world as we know it is seemingly on lockdown.

The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has changed our lives in more ways than we can count. To pass the time while social distancing, here are five movies you can check out in the comfort of your own home.

Outbreak

Wolfgang Petersen’s "Outbreak" is a straight-to-the-point thriller. The movie features stars Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Donald Sutherland and Cuba Gooding Jr. Petersen turns his actors, especially Hoffman, into full-blown action stars. Thematic messaging and nuance are somewhat lost in the approach, as the structure of the film has a greater resemblance to that of a Keanu Reeves action movie than a dark thriller. Nevertheless, we get a tight script that advances the plot at a usefully brisk pace. The subject matter is certainly dire, but there’s an element of ridiculousness that keeps "Outbreak" fun and breezy.

Grade: B+

Where you can find it: Netflix


The Mask of Zorro

"The Mask of Zorro" is an absolute blast. A weird cross between Indiana Jones and Batman, Zorro, played by the great Antonio Banderas, is egotistical, hysterical and emotionally complex. He’s the Spanish-American superhero that we didn’t know we needed. The film, directed by Martin Campbell — who also directed two James Bond movies including "Casino Royale" — is expertly helmed with a tone that consistently plays into its absurdity and comedy. That, combined with the movie's beautifully choreographed action sequences, ensure that "The Mask of Zorro" never gets dull or overstays its welcome. 

Grade: A-

Where you can find it: Netflix


Speed

The only way to describe "Speed" is speed. Jan De Bont’s 1994 take on a "Die Hard" film is fast, explosive and to the point. De Bont, who was the cinematographer for "Die Hard," captures audiences with a thrilling opening sequence before throwing them into another action plot that never slows down. There’s no time to think for too long about what's happening in "Speed" — eventually, you'll just find yourself on the ride.

Grade: A-

Where you can find it: YouTube TV, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu


Aliens

There's not a lot to say about this one, and many of you have probably already seen this film. Nevertheless, "Aliens" is an action-packed masterpiece worth watching again. James Cameron’s 1986 action flick stars Sigourney Weaver in arguably the best female-led action star performance I’ve ever seen. Weaver, in her second time in the role, plays her character with such bravery, strength and heart. Watching her in this film was inspiring. Cameron on the other hand, who went on to have one of the most successful careers in movie history, implements his now-familiar action style to a tee. What makes Cameron special is his ability to combine his popcorn action style, like superhero movies, with the kind of character depth that makes the fictional world he created feel more realistic.

Grade: A

Where you can find it: YouTube TV and HBO Now


Stargirl

When I was a kid, I read a few of Jerry Spinelli’s books. Besides the fact that they were kid-friendly, there was an element of wondrous mystery to them that never felt produced or corporatized. So, when I heard Disney was making a "Stargirl" movie I wanted to check it out. And for the most part, it didn’t disappoint. The movie’s greatest strength is its casting. Grace VanderWaal’s performance as the mysteriously magnetic Stargirl surprisingly works quite well. Graham Verchere, who plays our main character Leo, is effective as a sweet and innocent protagonist. The rest of the high schoolers in this movie actually look like high schoolers, and without that kind of authenticity, this movie would have had trouble surviving. Not everything in "Stargirl" is perfect — there are a few logical leaps of faith the plot makes that are a bit distracting and take away from the ultimate morality of the story. But as long as you don’t think too hard, "Stargirl" is a film I’d generally recommend.

Grade: B

Where you can find it: Disney+

Do you have any thoughts on these movies or want more recommendations? Be sure to reach out and let us know. 

Happy viewing!


Reach the reporter at kbriley@asu.edu and on Twitter @KokiRiley.

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