New Movies to Watch This Week: ‘The High Note,’ ‘The Vast of Night,’ ‘Screened Out’

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“Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross has the coveted late-May weekend virtually to herself with “The High Note,” as summer studio releases hold back for a time when it’s safe to return to theaters.

Still, if you’re caught up TV and looking for new movies worth seeing, there are enticing offerings on Netflix, Amazon and HBO Max, where the #MeToo-aligned Russell Simmons documentary “On the Record” shows a very different side of the music industry from Ross’ escapist R&B fantasy.

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Here are the week’s new releases, with excerpts from reviews and links to where you can watch them.

High-profile on-demand studio and indie offerings:

The High Note (Nisha Ganatra)
Distributor: Focus Features
Where to Find It:
Rent for $19.99 on Amazon, iTunes and other on-demand platforms.
Dakota Johnson, with her sun-dazed smile and wary doe-eyed glow (the look of an innocent who knows how to thread her way through a world of predators), can be a winsomely appealing performer, but what is she doing in “The High Note” playing Maggie, the personal assistant to an imperious pop-star diva? It’s the kind of job that would toughen up anyone who’s had it for a week. But Maggie, after three years of working for Grace Davis, a high-maintenance superstar from the ’90s played by Tracee Ellis Ross, still seems like a college student who won an internship. — Owen Gleiberman
Read the full review

Virtual Film Festivals

We Are One: A Global Film Festival
May 29-June 7
Where to Find It:
An international effort by 21 leading film festivals, from Tribeca to Cannes, this groundbreaking virtual showcase presents — free to all, with live feedback options — more than 100 hours of shorts, features and exclusive programming from events that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Be sure to check the schedule, since some things screen only once at specific times.

Independent films, directly on demand:

End of Sentence (Elfar Adalstein)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It:
Rent on Amazon and other on-demand platforms.
A deliberate, gentle, genuinely caring debut feature from Icelandic director Adalsteins, “End of Sentence” is built on a premise of sweet, creamed corn: a wayward youth and his estranged, retiring father rebuild their bond as they journey to Ireland to scatter the ashes of their mother and wife. Yet if the vehicle feels familiar, the passengers make it credible: John Hawkes and Logan Lerman, both on very fine form, work enough worn human damage into proceedings that we invest in their joint healing. — Guy Lodge
Read the full review

Screened Out (Jon Hyatt) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Dark Star Pictures
Where to Find It:
Rent on Amazon and other on-demand platforms.
There’s a word that keeps popping up in Hyatt’s must-see documentary about screen addiction in the age of mobile technology. The word is dopamine. That’s the neurotransmitter that sends signals to other cells, along pathways linked to pleasure and reward-motivated behavior. The idea that smartphones trigger our pleasure centers isn’t news, but “Screened Out” is all about the ways that the devices have been designed to do that very thing. That’s why we’re addicted to them. That’s why they’re rewiring our brains. — Owen Gleiberman
Read the full review

Papicha (Mounia Meddour)
Distributor: Distrib Films
Where to Find It: Opens virtually at Lincoln Center and other virtual cinemas.
Terrific lead characterizations and edgy camerawork hold their own against a problematic script in Meddour’s feature debut. This is a film designed to be championed by everyone wanting to support a woman’s right to self-expression: It’s got a female director (not a novelty in the Maghreb), depicts powerful young women refusing to bow down to fundamentalism, and is bursting with energy and likable figures. — Jay Weissberg
Read the full review

Stage: The Culinary Internship (Abby Ainsworth)
Distributor: Cargo Film Releasing
Where to Find It: Choose a virtual cinema to support.
This handsome, diverting documentary presents Spanish restaurant Mugaritz as a self-styled ivory tower, to which a gaggle of wide-eyed junior chefs annually struggle to gain access, yet there’s as much bemusement as awe in its gaze. “The pictures are beautiful, but is it food?” muses one chef as he pages through the Mugaritz cookbook. Many viewers will feel he has spoken for them as Ben Ainsworth’s camera lingers silkily over the most elaborate creations of a world-beating kitchen. — Guy Lodge
Read the full review

New to Netflix

I’m No Longer Here (Ya No Estoy Aquí) (Fernado Frías de la Parra)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Technically, Monterrey-based Ulises and his teen friends constitute a gang — they call themselves “Los Terkos,” dress alike in baggy clothes and sport magnificent hairstyles that turn the heads of total strangers — but these kids have come together out of a common interest not in crime, but for cumbia music. Writer-director Frías (“Los Espookys”) eschews comedy here, taking a more sober ethnographic approach. His first draft predates the series by at least five years and was workshopped at the Sundance Lab back before many people were paying attention to the Cholombiano subculture. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

Intuition (La Corazonada) (Alejandro Montiel)
Where to Find It: Netflix
The prequel to Argentine crime thriller “Perdida” focuses on the rookie detective’s first case, complicated by the fact her boss is a suspect.

Only on Amazon

The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson)
Where to Find It: Amazon
Patterson’s startlingly confident micro-budget indie is all about execution. Its B-movie plot is so familiar that writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger unabashedly frame the story as an episode of a TV show called “Paradox Theater,” an on-the-nose “Twilight Zone” imitation that’s the closest the film gets to nostalgia. The film (which Patterson funded by shooting game-time promos for his hometown NBA team, the OKC Thunder) has a let’s-put-on-a show energy. The audience can sense the cast and crew’s verve to not just complete the picture, but pull it off with style. — Amy Nicholson
Read the full review

Exclusive to HBO Max

On the Record (Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering)
Where to Find It: HBO Max
The fourth major documentary of the #MeToo era to offer an incendiary indictment of men who have used their power within the entertainment industry to commit and cover up patterns of abusive behavior, “On the Record” presents a searing, at times shocking exposé of alleged criminal acts. Here, what’s extraordinary is the disturbingly intimate communion the film creates between the audience and the survivors. Not just the facts but the meaning of these alleged crimes comes scarily alive in the emotional details of their telling. — Owen Gleiberman
Read the full review

Other releases debuting on streaming this week

Botero (Dan Millar)
Distributor: Corinth Films
Where to Find It: Choose a virtual cinema to support.
Painter Fernando Botero’s puffy portraits are instantly recognizable, but fewer people know the story of the Colombian artist revealed in this doc.

Celebrity Crush (Oliver Robins)
Distributor: Kyyba Films
Where to Find It: Rent on Amazon and other on-demand platforms.
On obsessive fan plots to lure the star of her favorite ’80s horror movie, “Chain-Faced Clown,” to her house for some unwanted attention.

Debt Collectors (Jesse V. Johnson)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: Rent on Amazon and other on-demand platforms.
It’s more of the same as action star Scott Adkins reteams with “Avengement” director Johnson in this sequel to 2018’s “The Debt Collector.”

For We Are Many (Alex Harron, Andrew Ionides, Brad Watson, Carlos Omar De Leon, Dane Keil, Lawrie Brewster, Mark Logan, Matthan Harris, Mitch Wilson, Paddy Murphy)
Distributor: Freestyle Digital Media
Where to Find It: Rent on Amazon and other on-demand platforms.
Sample the contributions of multiple horror directors as each riffs on a different kind of demon in this omnibus scare fest.

Funny Pains (Jorgy Cruz)
Distributor: Passion River Films
Where to Find It: Rent on Amazon and other on-demand platforms.
This profile of comedian Wendi Starling examines the personal challenges and political environment she navigated in building her career.

I Will Make You Mine (Lynn Chen)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: Rent on Amazon and other on-demand platforms.
Director-actress Chen revisits characters seen in her films “Surrogate Valentine” and “Daylight Savings” in this standalone romantic drama.

Street Fighting Men (Andrew James)
Distributor: First Run Features
Where to Find It: Rent on Ovid or buy via Vimeo.
The director dedicated three years to observing three African American men struggling against systemic disadvantages in modern-day Detroit.

Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own (Daniel Traub)
Distributor: Icarus Films
Where to Find It: Opens virtually at Film Forum, expanding in future weeks.
This hour-long doc examines one of the few female artists creating massive sculptures for public spaces.

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