New Movies on Apple TV+

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New Movies on Apple TV+

Apple’s streaming service, Apple TV+, has focused more on original series than feature-length films with its subscription model driven by hits like Ted Lasso, Severance, The Morning Show and For All Mankind. But with only a fraction of the original movie releases of its rivals (just 15 at our last count), Apple TV+ was still the first to capture a coveted Best Picture Oscar win with last year’s Coda. And the computer-manufacturer-turned-entertainment-titan has released four new movies so far this year.

Here are the seven newest movies to stream for free on Apple TV+:

1. Emancipation

Release Date: December 2, 2022
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Will Smith, Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, Steven Ogg
Rating: R
Paste Review Rating: 6.1

Watch on Apple TV+

Will Smith is both an industrial-strength movie star and a nimbly talented actor. In Emancipation, he plays Peter, based on a real-life enslaved man named Gordon who escaped a Louisiana plantation in 1863, after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and became the subject of a famous photo showing the horrific network of whipping scars covering his back. He also joined the Union army and escaped the Confederates once more, as a soldier. Antoine Fuqua’s film focuses primarily on the visceral immediacy of Peter’s separation from his wife Dodienne (Charmaine Bingwa) and their children when he’s sent to lay railroad tracks for the Confederates, and his subsequent flight. Though he escapes in a small group, the men are quickly separated as they’re pursued by Fassel (Ben Foster), a ruthless slave hunter. At this point, anyone who recalls Smith’s well-publicized reluctance to star in Django Unchained may start to wonder what’s going on here. Fuqua may not be a Tarantino-level encyclopedia of exploitation movies, but he’s not much for solemn message pictures, either. Accordingly, he treats Emancipation like both a Western—one where only the white guys get to ride horses and wear hats—and a wilderness survival thriller, with Peter making his way through the Louisiana swamps, often evading capture by a matter of moments or inches. The film averages out a stripped-down Smith and the more florid filmmaking touches to land squarely in the middle of the road. Emancipation ostensibly addresses the creation of a famous image that shifted the course of public perception—a potential companion piece, then, to Till, from earlier this year—but Fuqua can’t do much with his own image-making beyond keeping the camera moving and faithfully recreating those famous photos. If there’s more left to say about the vileness of slavery or how it entwined with a stunningly bloody Civil War, Emancipation doesn’t bother saying it. In its straightforward way, it’s still a little starstruck. —Jesse Hassenger

2. Spirited

Release Date: November 18, 2022
Director: Sean Anders
Starring: Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Octavia Spencer, Patrick Page, Sunita Mani, Loren Woods, Tracy Morgan, Joe Tippett, Marlow Barkley, Aimee Carrero, Andrea Anders, Jen Tullock
Rating: 13+
Paste Review Rating: 6.8

Watch on Apple TV+

Spirited is yet another retelling of the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. Will Ferrell, already a holiday staple due to the 2003 classic Elf, stars as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Present has a lot in common with Buddy the Elf, marveling at the use of indoor plumbing and “newfangled modern mouth kisses.” Each Christmas Eve, he and his fellow ghosts—the Ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (voiced by Tracy Morgan and played by former NBA player Loren Woods)—pick one person to haunt, one person to give a chance to turn their life around and start being nice. Marley (Patrick Page) oversees the extremely well-staffed operation. This year’s pick is Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds), a high powered PR executive with no scruples. There’s no depth he won’t sink to. When we first meet Clint, he’s stirring divisiveness between those who own an artificial Christmas tree and those who own a real one with the song “Bringin’ Back Christmas.” “Feed that hate,” he exclaims. “He’s the perfect combination of Mussolini and Seacrest,” Present marvels. Some might say he’s unredeemable. But Present wants to try to get Clint to turn his life around. The script has some funny lines (along with quite a few plugs for Sephora) but is self-aware a little too often, like when Marley references “every other adaptation nobody asked for” or one of the characters asks, “Why are they singing?” And not to be a total Scrooge, but I really hated what happens to Clint at the end. But in the name of “doing a little good” like the movie suggests, I will say Spirited is not completely unredeemable. —Amy Amatangelo

3. Causeway

Release Date: November 4, 2022
Director: Lila Neugebauer
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jayne Houdyshell, Russell Harvard
Rating: R
Paste Review Rating: 7.0

Watch on Apple TV+

The emotional resonance of Causeway, the film debut from theater director Lila Neugebauer, is entirely indebted to the staggering performances of its lead actors. Jennifer Lawrence plays Lynsey, a former Army engineer who suffers a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan and returns stateside as a result. She meets James (Brian Tyree Henry, arguably the powerhouse of the two) in her hometown of New Orleans, driving her busted truck into his auto body shop by mere chance. Their burgeoning connection propels the film through a (slightly laggy) 91-minute runtime, the two taking turns divulging harsh, intimate truths about their imperfect pasts. While Lawrence and Henry imbue each scene they share with oscillating doses of humor and melancholy, the final product feels somewhat strained and stunted, particularly in its investigation into the hellish reality of actively trying to heal. Lynsey’s resolution to this personal dilemma culminates in predictable tugs at the heartstrings. It’s easy to be emotionally moved by stories of damaged Americans, with our many national “crises” involving addiction, over-militarization and car culture. Yet it’s hard to parse exactly what Causeway wants to say about the integral role of taking personal accountability through healing. Forgiveness is presented as a duty that’s often dashed by selfish personal hangups; healing from trauma is a linear journey, the lasting effects easily diffused with a friend and a six-pack. Collectively, we’d probably all like to believe that the latter sentiment is true, precisely because it offers two of the greatest coping mechanisms in existence: A drink and an equally fucked-up buddy to share it with you. You’ve got to admit, that’s some uniquely American medicine. —Natalia Keogan

4. Raymond & Ray

Release Date: October 21, 2022
Director: Rodrigo García
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Ethan Hawke, Maribel Verdú, Sophie Okonedo.
Rating: R

Watch on Apple TV+

Half-brothers Raymond (Ewan McGregor) and Ray (Ethan Hawke) reunite after the death of their abusive father in this dramedy from writer/director Rodrigo García which was met with a lukewarm response from critics.

5. The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Release Date: September 30, 2022
Director: Peter Farrelly
Starring: Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, Jake Picking, Archie Renaux, Kyle Allen, Will Ropp
Rating: R

Watch on Apple TV+

Peter Farrelly is, credit where due, an Oscar-level director, but he’s also an easy mark for fabrications, which is why Green Book is an affront to good taste, and one of The Greatest Beer Run Ever’s central motifs: The truth. John “Chickie” Donohue (Zac Efron) is likewise a total sucker for feel-good bullshit. He buys the American military’s stories about Vietnam and communism and monumental tallies of V.C. ass getting kicked by the U.S. of A. And why not? The propaganda goes down as smoothly as macro-brewed beer. The Greatest Beer Run Ever coolly confronts Chickie with a daunting existential question: What if all those stories are bald lies? No way, says Chickie. Screw those pinko hippies protesting the war out in the streets, defaming America’s troops; he’s so fired up about the disrespect shown to his neighborhood pals fighting abroad, some drafted into service, others encouraged to serve voluntarily, that, after a little casual egging on by his neighborhood pals at home, Chickie decides he’s going to inveigle his way into Vietnam with a duffel full of Pabst, hit up each base where he has friends stationed, and hand ‘em frosty ones as his affable, lunkheaded way of thanking them for their service. An idiotic gesture? Certainly! But is the gesture well received? Not really, no! It’s the Vietnam War. There are no rules, as Walter Sobchack snidely lectures Donny Kerabatsos in The Big Lebowski, and that applies to combat as well as gratitude. Like Green Book, The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a story about one man blithely strolling into others’ lives, and how bearing witness to their travails forces him to reassess his siloed worldview. Chickie is a man out of place and out of his depth. Vietnam’s war-torn horrors should feel colossal. But they feel dutifully staged. Even the emotional beats between Efron and his supporting cast—Jake Picking, Archie Renaux, Kyle Allen and Will Ropp, Chickie’s enlisted pals—don’t have the proper scale. Worse, Farrelly simply uses the movie as a template for laying down commentary ripped from today (about the power and necessity of truth in journalism) over Chickie’s story and Vietnam’s history. In a film seemingly made of lazy choices, this is the laziest, and most craven, of all. Farrelly is too busy making a Big Important Movie instead of making a movie that matters. —Andy Crump

6. Luck

Release Date: August 5, 2022
Director: Peggy Holmes
Stars: Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Colin O’Donoghue, Lil Rel Howery, Flula Borg, John Ratzenberger, Adelynn Spoon
Rating: PG

Watch on Apple TV+

Eighteen-year-old Sam (Eva Noblezada) has always been unlucky. Her keys fall down a manhole. Her bike has a flat tire. She inadvertently locks herself in the bathroom. Her toast always lands jam side down. But perhaps her biggest misfortune is that she never found her “forever family” and grew up in the Summerland Home for Girls. (The movie kicks the cliché of killing parents off up a notch: Sam never had parents at all!). Sam’s luck changes when she meets talking black cat Bob (Simon Pegg) who accidentally leaves behind a lucky penny. The penny turns Sam’s life around. Suddenly she’s stocking the shelves at her job at Flowers and More with aplomb. Her toaster works perfectly and even lands her toast jam side up. When Sam accidentally flushes the lucky penny down the toilet (what is a kid’s movie without a little toilet humor?), she is desperate to find another one and follows Bob down the secret portal to the Land of Luck. The plot of Luck is far too dense and convoluted. I suspect the movie’s target audience won’t have the patience for it. And that’s too bad. Because inside Kiel Murray’s complex script, there is a positive message: The idea that bad luck is just the mirror image of good luck, and that bad luck teaches you how to adjust and respond to what life brings. That some of Sam’s best experiences and friendships began with bad luck. That perhaps our bad experiences help make us who we are. —Amy Amatangelo

7. Cha Cha Real Smooth

Release Date: June 17, 2022
Director: Cooper Raiff
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Cooper Raiff, Vanessa Burghardt, Evan Assante, Brad Garrett, Leslie Mann
Rating: R

Watch on Apple TV+

Every once in a while you meet someone who’s truly just some guy, with no discernibly extraordinary qualities, for whom things seem to work out based on charisma alone. In writer-director-star Cooper Raiff’s friendly sophomore feature Cha Cha Real Smooth, that guy happens to be Andrew (Raiff), a charming and disarming recent Tulane graduate whose sole motivation is to make enough money to join his Fulbright scholar girlfriend in Barcelona. Unfortunately, the only job he can grab is as a minimum wage cashier at an unforgivingly named food court stand in his hometown while he crashes in his little brother’s room, fights with his pragmatist stepdad (Brad Garrett), and attempts to convince his mom (Leslie Mann) that she has the wrong taste in men and he has the right taste in women. Into this meandering existence stumble the opportunities of his lifetime thus far. While escorting his brother, David (the cute-as-a-button Evan Assante), to a bar mitzvah bash, Andrew takes it upon himself to spice up the floundering dance floor, and to make friends with the resident rumored bad mom, Domino (Dakota Johnson), and her autistic daughter, Lola (natural newcomer Vanessa Burghardt). He succeeds wildly at both, getting hired by a mob of Jewish moms as a party starter for their childrens’ b’nai mitzvot, and securing Domino’s affection in the process. In this indie, as with many before it, nothing is more attractive to a hot mom than a goofy, unfiltered young man-child who treats her own child like royalty. Also in this indie, as with many before it, Judaism is used as a backdrop and as texture, but isn’t engaged with on any level beyond its visual symbolism. But for the runtime of Cha Cha Real Smooth, Raiff’s clever script, affable characters and naturalistic direction makes it painless enough to sympathize with someone who can’t moonwalk, but will nevertheless skate on by. —Shayna Maci Warner