The Movie Guru: Can’t-miss on-demand gems offer scary fun

“News of the World,” featuring Tom Hanks, was released in December and hit video on demand platforms this month. (Universal, Special to the Daily)

You don’t have to have a subscription service to enjoy new movies.

These days, even movies that are released exclusively in theaters end up jumping to video on demand pretty quickly. They’re available for rent through platforms such as Amazon or Google Play, as well as most cable services. Though the price tag is usually higher than a regular rental or even a movie ticket – $20 is a pretty standard price for new releases – it’s a bargain if you watch it as a family. More importantly, it’s a safer way to get a look at some of the best video on demand films you might have missed.

“News of the World”

The movie, which was released in December and hit video on demand platforms this month, is perfect for anyone who loves Westerns, Tom Hanks or grizzled, lonely men realizing they’re really just adoptive fathers in training. There are some tough parts to the movie – “News of the World” has plenty of that Western grit – but there are also plenty of lovely moments. Hanks is everything we always want him to be in movies, complicated and trustworthy and deeply sympathetic, and Helena Zengel is fantastic as a young girl whose life has been disrupted twice over by territorial disputes.


From the director of “Happy Death Day” and “Happy Death Day 2 U,” “Freaky” is the perfect movie for anyone looking for spunky girl protagonists and surprisingly hilarious horror. There’s some mystical mumbo jumbo that’s pretty much just the excuse for an excellently executed body switching trope, and both Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn both make the most out of the opportunity. This one is gorier than director Christopher Landon’s previous work, but if you’re a fan of slasher movies, that only makes the experience better.

“The Croods: A New Age”

If you liked “The Croods,” then you should definitely take the opportunity to spend more time with this comedically fun family. Even if you only vaguely remember the series, I suggest re-watching the original (now available on Netflix) before hunting down their further adventures. The movies, which follow a cave-family as they struggle to adjust to new circumstances and the inevitable growth circumstances that come from that, are both sweeter and more ridiculous than you probably remember. With everything that’s going on in the world right now, it’s a combination that particularly hits the spot.

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“Love and Monsters”

Apocalypse movies are a sensitive topic for some people right now, but since this one involves giant mutant bugs and lizards, it probably won’t stress anyone out too badly. More importantly, it involves an absolutely charming performance by Dylan O’Brien as a young man who braves the monster-infested world to find a girl who he knew years before. It’s an adventure movie and boy-and-his-dog movie rolled into one, with delightful guest turns by Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt that will make you wish they had their own spinoff. You’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, and you might even come away feeling a little more hopeful about your own circumstances.

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at

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