— Michael O'Sullivan
Jon Lovitz provides the voice of the titular talking horse in “Ace and the Christmas Miracle,” a holiday-themed comedy about a con man (Steven Chase) whose sudden ability to communicate with a racehorse gives him an idea: Talk Ace into helping him fix the results of the upcoming New Year’s Day derby. PG. Available on demand. Contains some strong language, mature thematic elements and brief smoking.
The documentary “Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road” features the former Beach Boy reminiscing with longtime friend and Rolling Stone editor Jason Fine as they cruise around Los Angeles, interspersed with interviews with Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Nick Jonas, Linda Perry, Al Jardine and others. Variety calls it “part musical exploration, part ‘Carpool Karaoke.’ ” Unrated. Available on demand. 93 minutes.
“A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks” takes a documentary look at the life, career and legacy of an acclaimed photographer, filmmaker (“Shaft”) and social justice leader. According to the New York Times, “A line is drawn from Parks’s legacy to the cultural narratives being charted by the current photographers Devin Allen and LaToya Ruby Frazier.” TV-MA. Available on HBO and HBO Max. 89 minutes.
Michael Shannon plays a demanding college rowing coach in “Heart of Champions,” a sports drama about a team that has descended into turmoil and constant infighting. According to Variety, Shannon’s authoritative performance is “barely enough to keep this indie afloat.” PG-13. Available on demand. Contains some violence, suggestive material, partial nudity and brief strong language. 120 minutes.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars in “Hide and Seek,” a psychological thriller about a man whose search for his derelict brother, after the death of their wealthy father, leads him on a search filled with twists and family secrets. Joe Pantoliano and Jacinda Barrett also star. Unrated. Available on demand. Contains some violence, disturbing images, nudity and strong language. 83 minutes.
“Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time” is a documentary portrait of the writer of “Slaughterhouse -Five.” Begun in 1988, after filmmaker Robert Weide (“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth”) wrote a letter to his literary idol proposing a documentary, the film also is a reflection on the friendship the two men formed over the decades. Unrated. Available on demand. 126 minutes.
In “Prisoners of the Ghostland,” the new, post-apocalyptic thriller from Japanese cult filmmaker Sion Sono (“Love Exposure”), Nicolas Cage plays a bank robber who is sprung from jail by a warlord (Bill Moseley) and strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct in five days if he does not find and retrieve the man’s adopted granddaughter (Sofia Boutella), who has gone missing. IndieWire says: “If this gonzo cross-cultural mash-up pulls taut across more ideas than it has skin on its bones, well, it’s easy to forgive Sono and Cage for getting a bit overexcited about meeting for the first time.” Unrated. Available on AMC Plus and Shudder. 100 minutes.
“The Rumperbutts,” an indie rock musical comedy with a touch of fantasy (and songs by Mates of States), centers on a husband and wife indie-rock duo (Arian Moayed and Vanessa Ray) who have abandoned their dreams to perform on a kids’ TV show, until a mysterious stranger (“Silicon Valley’s” Josh Brener) offers them a toke on a magical joint that could change their lives. Unrated. Available on demand. 91 minutes.
Filmed over the five years in Turkey, Greece, Germany, Syria and the U.S., the documentary “Simple as Water” is a meditation on the meaning of family, as it follows several displaced Syrian families’ quests for normalcy amid the upheaval of war. The New York Times writes: “These stories avoid triteness by lingering on the daily, unassuming routines of their characters: after-school basketball games, a sunset walk through an orchard, the fashioning of a makeshift toy out of some string and a milk crate.” TV-MA. Available on HBO and HBO Max.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers is all over the place this week. (See “Hide and Seek,” above.) The actor stars in “Yakuza Princess,” a violent crime thriller set in the large Japanese community of Sao Paulo. Based on a graphic novel, the story follows an orphan, played by Japanese pop musician Masumi, who, after inheriting half of the Yakuza crime syndicate, forges an alliance with an amnesiac stranger (Meyers). The film, according to the New York Times, “has no higher function beyond its beheadings.” R. Available on demand. Contains strong bloody violence, some coarse language and graphic nudity. 111 minutes.
Ethan Hawke stars in “Zeros and Ones,” a political thriller from Abel Ferrara (“Bad Lieutenant”) about a rogue soldier who, while trying to stop a terrorist bombing, seeks news of his imprisoned rebel brother. (Both characters are played by Hawke). The Hollywood Reporter says: “The scrambled narrative, listless pace, clumsy stabs at profundity and severe lack of humor will limit the film’s appeal to [Ferrara’s] existing converts and cult movie connoisseurs.” R. Available on demand. Contains strong language, some violence, bloody images, sexual material and drugs. 86 minutes.