If last week was a big one for Netflix (what with “Mank” and “Hillbilly Elegy” out in theaters), then this one belongs to Amazon, who have a pair of big projects launching via their Prime Video subscription service. The first is “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen’s anthology “Small Axe,” an epic and altogether unconventional series that doesn’t fit neatly into the “film” or “TV” categories: McQueen has made five features, all set in London’s immigrant West Indian community, dealing with aspects of cultural identify, racism and community. Of the three entries I’ve seen, this week’s entry, “Mangrove,” is the strongest — and a great way to kick off the cycle, with a courtroom drama for those who felt Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” didn’t give adequate time to Bobby Seale.

Amazon also launches “The Sound of Metal,” a drama about a heavy metal drummer losing his hearing that doesn’t go at all in the direction one expects. Netflix continues its weekly run-up to Christmas with “The Princess Switch: Switched Again,” adding yet another Vanessa Hudgens lookalike to its trading-places shenanigans. And “Hulu” has an inventively over-the-top thriller in “Run,” wherein a teenager whose spent her life using a wheelchair realizes that her concerned mom (Sarah Paulson) may be the one holding her back.

There are a small handful of movies opening in theaters, including the astonishingly bad Chinese action film “Vanguard,” whose early-2020 release was delayed on account of COVID — and which doesn’t look likely to fare much better these days. The film “stars” Jackie Chan, but he mostly observes while other people do the fighting around him.

It’s another good week for documentaries, including deep dives into the life and work of “Soros,” “Belushi” and forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis (“Crazy, Not Insane”), who focused her career on murderers. Stronger still is the Romanian film “Collective,” which deals with a massive corruption scandal exposed after victims of a nightclub fire found themselves unable to get proper medical treatment — and lest that story seem a million miles away, the current pandemic and its tragic political component give the investigative film fresh relevance.

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.

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Vanguard Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

New Releases in Theaters

The Last Vermeer (Dan Friedkin)
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters now
The true, post-World War II story of a notorious Dutch art dealer accused of selling a priceless cultural treasure to Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, “The Last Vermeer” is an unconventional courtroom drama. After being arrested and tried for collaborating with the enemy, Han van Meegeren claimed that the artwork in question was not in fact a Johannes Vermeer masterpiece but a masterful forgery, painted by none other than himself. Van Meegeren’s story reduces neatly to the kind of handsome, upscale night-out offering that still draws sophisticated older audiences to art houses. — Peter Debruge
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Vanguard (Stanley Tong)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: Now in wide release
Few stars have worked harder to give audiences pleasure over a long haul than Jackie Chan. But lately, his screen appearances have been those of the elder statesman still trotted out to nominally preside over expensive but flavorless official diplomatic functions. “Vanguard” is fast-paced eye candy that’s as brainless as a video game, or rather several video games all mashed together. Alternately aiming for James Bond, Indiana Jones, superhero and commando-raid terrain, the movie might’ve flown as a larky fantasy-adventure whatsit if it possessed any self-aware wit. — Dennis Harvey
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Embattled Courtesy of IFC Films

New Releases on Demand and in Select Theaters

Collective (Alexander Nanau) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters, on demand and via digital platforms
Every now and then a documentary doesn’t just open your eyes but tears you apart. “Collective,” Alexander Nanau’s explosive observational documentary about unfathomable corruption at the heart of the Romanian medical industry, is such a work. Taken on its own, this chilling exposé should send shockwaves through a system so mired in venality that politicians as well as a large segment of the medical profession thought nothing of letting people die so they could stay in power and ensure their kickbacks. But the corrosive corruption revealed has ramifications far greater than just in Romania. — Jay Weissberg
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Embattled (Nick Sarkisov)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: In theaters, on demand and via digital platforms
At several points in Georgian director Nick Sarkisov’s roaring, blood-and-guts film, it’s hard not to wish it would take things down a notch: A hokey, old-fashioned father-son meller clothed in a younger man’s bling-encrusted robes, it increasingly sacrifices emotional credibility for the violent, amped-up bravado of MMA itself. By the time it pivots into outright revenge fantasy territory, the script’s earlier attempts at intimate character work are largely undone, though committed performances by Stephen Dorff and Darren Mann remain. — Guy Lodge
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Hearts and Bones (Ben Lawrence)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: Available on demand and via digital platforms
Time spent in a modern war zone can be traumatic for participant and observer alike, yet across continents and cultures, the shared experiences of living and loving in the wake of such experiences can be startlingly similar. This is multi-faceted and overarching theme woven throughout this impressive narrative feature debut. Lawrence’s thoughtful drama also casts an illuminating light on the current hot-button issue of immigrants to Australia and their place in the social fabric, specifically in the Western Sydney suburbs in which it is filmed. — Eddie Cockrell
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Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist (Alexandre O. Philippe)
Distributor: Shudder
Where to Find It: Watch exclusively on Shudder
Forty-six years after its release, “The Exorcist” is not exactly a film that wants for analysis; it’s also not a film people are likely to stop analyzing any time soon. “Memory: The Origins of Alien” director
Philippe’s documentary has a lot more of that to offer; that the scholar this time is Friedkin himself is what makes it lively and worthwhile. Essentially a single interview with Friedkin interspersed with repeatedly revisited clips, “Leap of Faith” chiefly examines — per its title — the film’s spiritual allusions and illusions, distinguishing it from just any old making-of doc. — Guy Lodge
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The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin)
Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories
Where to Find It: Watch on digital or via virtual cinema
With his perverse look at the early life of Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King, Montreal-based multi-hyphenate Rankin proves himself far more than simply the artistic heir to fellow Canuck Guy Maddin. His low-budget, high-concept recounting of political life in the Dominion of Canada circa the turn of the 20th century is both satiric and scurrilous; the more familiar one is with Canadian history, the funnier it is. But even without prior knowledge, it can be enjoyed for its combination of supreme creativity, jaw-dropping audacity and amusing tongue-in-cheek dialogue. — Dennis Harvey
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Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

Exclusive to Amazon Prime

Mangrove (Steve McQueen) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It: Prime Video
Ask yourself: What do the words “Black Power” signify to you? That’s the question several of the Mangrove Nine put to each of the potential jurors in what would prove to be a landmark civil rights trial. McQueen doesn’t overtly repeat the group’s query in “Mangrove,” the powerhouse courtroom drama that kicks off his upcoming “Small Axe” anthology series for Amazon: five stand-alone films designed to explore and elevate dimensions of Black life in Britain, set between 1968 and the mid-1980s. And yet, taken in toto, the project serves as the director’s emphatic, multifaceted response. — Peter Debruge
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Sound of Metal (Darius Marder)
Where to Find It: Prime Video
“Sound of Metal” is a film with a potent, searing hook. It stars Riz Ahmed as Ruben, a punk-metal drummer, heavy on the tattoos and peroxide, who has been thrashing away as part of a caterwauling noise band for so long that he’s losing his hearing. But “The Place Beyond the Pines” screenwriter Marder, making his first feature film as a director, is too preoccupied with the nuts and bolts of sound design and not enough with what he should be doing: establishing who Ruben is as a human being — how he got to this place, and what his reaction to his condition is. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusive to HBO

Crazy, Not Insane (Alex Gibney)
Where to Find It: HBO Max
When it comes to the mysterious and disturbing subject of what goes on in the minds of serial killers, popular culture has consistently been ahead of the curve. Yet part of the fascination of Gibney’s ominously absorbing documentary about the forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis, is that Lewis didn’t just become well-known for arguing that serial killers are mortally scarred, traumatized individuals whose personalities are divided off from themselves. She courted controversy every step of the way; her views were seen as subversive and unconventional. — Owen Gleiberman
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Run Courtesy of Hulu

Exclusive to Hulu

Run (Aneesh Chaganty)
Where to Find It: Hulu
Sarah Paulson is either the world’s best mother or the worst in “Run,” a deranged (in a good way) two-hander from “Searching” director Chaganty that piles one tragedy upon another and serves it up in the form of a thriller. Things kick off as Chloe (Kiera Allen) — who’s dealt with diabetes, asthma and lower-body paralysis for as long as she can remember — starts to question whether her life could have gone a very different way. But Chloe is hardly prepared for the degree to which her reality has been meticulously constructed by her mother (Sarah Paulson). — Peter Debruge
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The Princess Switch: Switched Again Courtesy of Netflix

Exclusive to Netflix

The Princess Switch: Switched Again (Mike Rohl)
Where to Find It: Netflix
With COVID resurgence meaning that only the naughty are likely to risk large gatherings this holiday season, there will be even more reliance on home-viewing comfort food. Bringing back the same director, writers and lead actors from Netflix’s original 2018 success, this pleasant sequel provides the updated “Prince and the Pauper” conceit a new wrinkle in giving star Vanessa Hudgens yet a third lookalike character to play. Though inevitably the formula wears a little thinner in spots this time, it’s a frothy fantasy that should satisfy viewers’ itch for confectionary-looking Christmas fluff. — Dennis Harvey
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Exclusive to Showtime

Belushi (R.J. Cutler)
Where to Find It: Showtime
There’s a telling moment in Cutler’s meticulous and touching life-and-death-of-a-comedy-legend documentary, in which John Belushi, a rising star at Second City in Chicago, gets asked during a radio interview what he thinks of Lou Costello — who was, in the interviewer’s eyes, another genially wacked, roly-poly comedian. Belushi, clearly annoyed, says: Nope, don’t like him. Belushi then goes on to say that he’s not a comedian beholden to the past; he’s out to create something new. That sounds like something a lot of comedians might say, but in Belushi’s case it really was true. — Owen Gleiberman
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