New Movies to Watch This Week: ‘Pieces of a Woman,’ ‘Herself,’ ‘Shadow in the Cloud’

There’s not a lot in the way of new releases for movie lovers this week, although that might be for the best, given the state of the coronavirus outbreak. The good news: Those films that are bowing in theaters over the New Year’s weekend will filter down to streaming outlets one week later — plus, most of the end-of-year blockbusters that audience might have been obliged to pay full price to see on the big screen can already be accessed at home (like would-be blockbusters like “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul”).

Still, take a moment to scope out what’s being launched, since there are some real treasures among them worth catching up with when you can. “The Iron Lady” director Phyllida Lloyd delivers one of the year’s best films with “Herself,” about an Irish woman who fights back against a sexist system in order to escape her abusive husband and create a home for her two young daughters…not entirely by herself, but with the help of a few kind souls.

Controversy magnet Shia LaBeouf stars opposite Vanessa Kirby, who gives an astonishing performance (one that includes an on-screen childbirth) in this portrait of a mother shattered by tragedy. Netflix is Oscar-qualifying the film in theaters, but will deliver to its subscribers on Jan. 7.

And in the third of three female-driven films, Chloë Grace Moretz takes on CG beasties and the taunts of an all-male flight crew in the high-altitude monster movie “Shadow in the Cloud” — this one available to practically anyone via streaming.

Here’s a rundown of those films opening this week that Variety has covered, along with links to where you can watch them. Find more movies and TV shows to stream here.

New Releases in Theaters

Herself (Phyllida Lloyd) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Where to Find It: In select theaters, followed by Prime Video on Jan. 8
Sandra (co-writer Clare Dunne) has two radiant daughters and a controlling husband who mistakes possession for affection, using force to keep his family together. Men like Gary are a cliché — which isn’t a slight against the screenplay but an acknowledgment that abusive personalities are nothing if not predictable. … But “Herself” believes in fundamental human goodness. Many filmmakers mistakenly think that exploiting tragedy is the way to jerk tears from their audience, when in fact, gestures of spontaneous kindness shown by near-strangers can be most moving. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

Pieces of a Woman (Kórnel Mundruczó) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In select theaters, followed by Netflix on Jan. 7
One can imagine such respected studio directors as Norman Jewison or Sidney Lumet making a film about the legal battle at the heart of “Pieces of a Woman”: A terrible tragedy has occurred, and an expectant young Boston couple (played by Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf) have taken their midwife to court. But instead of focusing on the trial, Mundruczó concentrates our attention on the couple, both of whom are shattered by the experience — but especially on the wife, who has more to rebuild than just her relationship in this mature, masterfully acted human drama. — Peter Debruge
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New Releases in Theaters

Night of the Kings (Philippe Lacôte)
Distributor: Neon
Where to Find It: One-week virtual cinema run in New York
Set partly in Ivory Coast’s “Mad Max”-like MACA correctional facility and partly in the imagination of its newest inmate, “Night of the Kings” feels radically different from most films set behind bars. Naturally, the wild plots and power games one typically associates with the genre still feature, but “Night” stands apart as Lacôte zeroes in on an unusual tradition within those walls: that of the “Roman” or storyteller, an honorific role to which “Night” attaches heightened life-and-death stakes: In Lacôte’s version, the Roman will be killed when his story concludes. — Peter Debruge
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Shadow in the Cloud (Roseanne Liang)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment/Redbox Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand and digital
This insanely entertaining high-altitude horror movie — set almost entirely aboard a gremlin-infested WW2-era B-17 bomber — asks you to check your internal B.S. barometer on the runway, then takes off into murky skies, testing the limits at every turn. Hardly a minute of the movie registers as “realistic,” but that hardly matters, since Liang so fully commits to its over-the-top sensibility that you’ll be clutching the armrest and grinning with glee for most of the ride. Chloë Grace Moretz was an inspired choice to play the lead in that she’s proved that she can kick ass, but doesn’t necessarily read that way on first glance. — Peter Debruge
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Sing Me a Song (Thomas Balmès)
Distributor: Participant Media/Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: Available on demand and digital
The sequel to 2013 doc “Happiness” spotlights the same Bhutanese monk 10 years later, now a young adult and the product of technological advancements, wrestling with the decision to abandon his spiritual calling for secular, earthly values. While more than an hour and a half seems like a long time to make the simplistic statement that the internet is bad, Balmès has greater profundity in mind when disseminating astute observations about how modern necessities and communicative devices impact cultures and ecosystems. — Courtney Howard
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Exclusive to Netflix

What Happened to Mr. Cha? (Kim Dong-kyu)
Where to Find It: Netflix

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