The 100 Best Movies on Netflix (July 2021)

100 meilleurs films sur Netflix en ce moment: les titres les mieux notés de 2021

Les meilleurs films sur Netflix peuvent être difficiles à trouver, mais nous ne serons probablement pas à court de grands films de si tôt. Vous avez l'embarras du choix, que vous recherchiez les meilleurs films d'action, les meilleurs films d'horreur, les meilleures comédies ou les meilleurs films classiques sur Netflix. Nous avons mis à jour la liste pour supprimer les excellents films qui viennent de quitter le service de streaming, mais de nombreux films sont toujours en streaming. En juillet, huit films ont été remplacés sur cette liste, y compris des favoris constants comme 20th Century Women et The Naked Gun, mais n'ayez crainte : comme toujours, le reflux du contenu en streaming correspond au flux de titres nouvellement disponibles comme Midnight Run et tous ces doux, doux films d'Austin Powers.

Plutôt que de passer votre temps à parcourir les catégories, à essayer de trouver le film parfait à regarder, nous avons fait de notre mieux pour vous faciliter la tâche sur Paste en mettant à jour notre liste des meilleurs films à regarder sur Netflix chaque semaine avec de nouveaux ajouts et oubliés. les films pareils.

Voici les 100 meilleurs films en streaming sur Netflix en ce moment :

Année : 2017
Réalisateur : Greta Gerwig
Acteurs : Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, Timothée Chalamet
Genre : Drame, Comédie
Score de tomates pourries : 99%
Note : R
Durée : 93 minutes

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Avant Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan)—Lady Bird est son prénom, comme dans "(elle) se l'est donnée"—auditions pour la comédie musicale de l'école, elle regarde un jeune homme sonner les notes finales à "Être vivant" de la compagnie de Stephen Sondheim. Quelques instants auparavant, alors qu'elle était dans une voiture avec sa mère, elle pose sa tête sur la fenêtre avec nostalgie et dit avec un soupir : « J'aimerais pouvoir vivre quelque chose. » Coincée à Sacramento, où elle pense qu'il n'y a rien à lui offrir tout en portant une attention particulière à tout ce que sa maison a à offrir, Lady Bird – et le film, écrit et réalisé par Greta Gerwig, qui partage son nom – a une ambivalence qui la traverse. veines. Quel match parfait : Stephen Sondheim et Greta Gerwig. Peu de cinéastes sont capables de capturer le même genre d'ambiguïté et de sentiments mitigés qui impliquent le refus de se décider : regardez Bobby, 35 ans, qui veut impulsivement épouser un ami, mais ne s'engage jamais avec aucune de ses petites amies, dans Company ; les « ourlets et haubans » de Cendrillon sur les, hum, marches du palais ; ou la raison pour laquelle Mme Lovett s'est arrêtée pour dire à Sweeney ses véritables motivations. Lady Bird n'est pas aussi conceptuelle que beaucoup d'œuvres de Sondheim, mais il y a une vérité perçante dans le film, et sans doute dans le travail de Gerwig en général, qui fait que ses angoisses et sa tendresse se répercutent dans le cœur du spectateur avec une fréquence égale. —Kyle Turner

Année : 1975
Réalisateurs : Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Stars : Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Connie Booth
Genre : Comédie
Score de tomates pourries : 97%
Évaluation : PG
Durée : 92 minutes

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Il craint qu'une partie de l'éclat ait été retirée du Saint Graal par sa propre omniprésence écrasante. De nos jours, quand on entend une « blessure de chair », un « ni ! ou une « immense étendue de terre », nos premières pensées sont souvent de nous faire répéter des scènes complètes par des nerds obsédés et désemparés. Ou, dans mon cas, de répéter des scènes complètes aux gens comme un nerd désemparé et obsessionnel. Mais si vous essayez de vous éloigner du facteur de sursaturation et de revisiter le film après quelques années, vous trouverez de nouvelles blagues aussi fraîches et hystériques que celles que nous connaissons tous. Le Saint Graal est, en effet, la comédie la plus dense du canon Python. Il y a tellement de blagues dans ce film, et il est surprenant de constater à quel point nous l'oublions facilement, compte tenu de sa réputation. Si vous êtes vraiment et irréversiblement épuisé par ce film, regardez-le à nouveau avec des commentaires et découvrez le deuxième niveau d'appréciation qui découle de l'inventivité avec laquelle il a été réalisé. Cela ne ressemble certainement pas à un film à 400 000 $, et il est agréable de découvrir lesquels des gags (comme les moitiés de noix de coco) sont nés d'un besoin de solutions de contournement à petit budget. La co-direction pour la première fois de l'artiste à l'écran Terry Jones (qui n'a réalisé que sporadiquement après la rupture de Python) et le solitaire américain Terry Gilliam (qui a prolifiquement plié le style cinématographique de Python dans sa propre marque unique de fantaisie cauchemardesque) se déplace avec une efficacité surréaliste. —Graham Techler

Année : 2019
Réalisateur : Martin Scorsese
Acteurs : Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Jesse Plemons, Anna Paquin
Genre : Crime, Drame
Score de tomates pourries : 96%
Note : R
Durée : 209 minutes

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Peggy Sheeran (Lucy Gallina) regarde son père, Frank (Robert De Niro), à travers une porte entrouverte alors qu'il fait sa valise pour un voyage de travail. In go pantalons et chemises, chacun soigneusement rangé et plié contre l'intérieur du bagage. Dans va le revolver snubnose, l'outil impitoyable du métier de Frank. Il ne sait pas que les yeux de sa fille sont braqués sur lui ; elle est constitutionnellement calme et le reste pendant la plupart de leurs interactions en tant qu'adultes. Il clôt l'affaire. Elle disparaît derrière la porte. Son jugement s'attarde. La scène se déroule au tiers du nouveau film de Martin Scorsese, L'Irlandais, du nom du sobriquet du monde de la mafia de Frank, et se rejoue dans son dernier plan, comme Frank, vieux, décrépit et totalement, désespérément seul, abandonné par sa famille et privé de ses amis gangsters au fil du temps, est assis sur son lit de maison de retraite. Peut-être qu'il attend la mort, mais très probablement il attend Peggy (jouée en adulte par Anna Paquin), qui l'a renié et n'a pas l'intention de lui pardonner ses péchés. Peggy sert d'arbitre moral à Scorsese. C'est une juge sévère : le film a une vision sombre du machisme tel qu'il se présente dans le royaume de la mafiosa et des tasses. Lorsque les personnages principaux de Scorsese ne complotent pas ou ne payent pas de stratagèmes dans des actes de violence, ils font des crises de colère, mangent de la crème glacée ou, dans un cas extrême, se battent avec des gifles dans une chute désespérément pathétique. Cette scène fait écho à des scènes tout aussi pitoyables dans Drunken Angel et Rashomon d'Akira Kurosawa: des bagarres entre des aspirants brutaux qui ont peur de se bagarrer, mais qui y sont contraints par leur propre bravade. L'Irlandais s'étend des années 1950 au début des années 2000, les années où Frank a travaillé pour la famille du crime Bufalino, dirigée par Russell (Joe Pesci, hors de sa retraite et intimidant). « Travailler » signifie assassiner certaines personnes, en muscler d'autres, voire faire exploser une voiture ou un immeuble lorsque l'occasion le justifie. Une fois désengagé du terrorisme des gangs, il est chez lui à lire le journal, à regarder les informations, à traîner Peggy chez l'épicier du coin pour lui donner une raclée pour l'avoir poussée. "Je n'ai fait que ce que vous devriez", dit le pauvre bâtard condamné avant que Frank ne le traîne dans la rue et n'écrase sa main sur le trottoir. L'Irlandais est un documentaire historique, relatant la vie de Sheeran et, à travers sa vie, la vie des Bufalinos et de leurs associés, en particulier ceux qui sont morts avant leur temps (c'est la plupart d'entre eux). C'est aussi un portrait de l'enfance projeté dans l'ombre d'une brutalité impartiale, et de ce qu'une jeune fille doit faire pour trouver la sécurité dans un monde défini par l'effusion de sang. —Andy Crump

Année : 2006
Réalisateur : Guillermo del Toro
Stars : Ivana Baquero, Sergí Lopez, Maribel Verdu, Alex Angulo, Doug Jones
Genre : Horreur, Fantastique
Score de tomates pourries : 95 %
Note : R
Durée : 115 minutes

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L'un des films les plus imaginatifs du 21e siècle, la fable espagnole de Guillermo del Toro est un triomphe de la narration et rien de moins qu'une œuvre d'art. À la fois saga de guerre et conte de fées, il retrace le voyage d'une jeune fille et de sa chasse au trésor à travers un autre monde pour sauver la vie de sa mère, au milieu de la guerre civile espagnole. Le Labyrinthe de Pan respire l'atmosphère avec sa cinématographie et ses valeurs de production époustouflantes, toutes guidées par la vision artistique vive de del Toro. Avec ce chef-d'œuvre à part entière, del Toro a consolidé sa position comme l'un des visionnaires les plus excitants et les plus talentueux de cette génération. —Jérémy Médine

Année : 2017
Réalisateur : Raoul Peck
Genre : Documentaire
Classement : PG-13
Durée : 93 minutes

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Raoul Peck se concentre sur le livre inachevé de James Baldwin, Remember This House, une œuvre qui aurait commémoré trois de ses amis, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X et Medgar Evers. Les trois hommes noirs ont été assassinés à cinq ans d'intervalle, et nous apprenons dans le film que Baldwin n'était pas seulement préoccupé par ces pertes en tant que coups terribles pour le mouvement des droits civiques, mais qu'il se souciait profondément des femmes et des enfants des hommes qui étaient assassiné. La douleur accablante de Baldwin est autant le sujet du film que son intellect. Et donc I Am Not Your Negro n'est pas seulement un portrait d'un artiste, mais un portrait de deuil – à quoi ressemble, sonne et ressent de perdre des amis, et de le faire avec le monde entier qui regarde (et avec tant d'Amérique refusant de comprendre comment cela s'est produit et pourquoi cela continuera de se produire). Peck n'aurait guère pu faire autre chose que nous donner ce sentiment, nous plaçant carrément en présence de Baldwin, et I Am Not Your Negro aurait probablement encore été un succès. Sa décision de s'éloigner du format documentaire habituel, où des esprits respectés commentent un sujet, crée un sentiment d'intimité difficile à inspirer dans des films comme celui-ci. Le plaisir de s'asseoir avec les paroles de Baldwin, et ses paroles seules, est exquis. Il n'y a pas d'interprète, personne pour expliquer Baldwin mais Baldwin – et c'est ainsi que cela devrait être. —Shannon M. Houston

Année : 1991
Réalisateur : James Cameron
Acteurs : Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong, Joe Morton
Note : R
Durée : 137 minutes

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Cette suite rare qui l'emporte sur son prédécesseur, James Cameron et le co-scénariste William Wisher Jr. ont conçu un scénario de film d'action presque parfait qui a renversé l'original et laissé Ahnold être un bon gars. Mais c'est la transformation de Linda Hamilton de demoiselle en détresse à héros méchant qui rend le film si remarquable. Pourquoi les gars devraient-ils avoir toutes les bonnes scènes d'action ? —Josh Jackson

Année : 2019
Réalisateurs : Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Acteurs : Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Eric Bogosian
Genre : Thriller
Score de tomates pourries : 92 %
Note : R
Durée : 135 minutes

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Le propriétaire d'une boutique exclusive dans le quartier diamantaire de New York, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) s'en sort bien pour lui-même et sa famille, même s'il ne peut s'empêcher de jouer de manière compulsive, devant son beau-frère Aron (Eric Bogosian, malveillant et visqueux ) un montant substantiel. Pourtant, Howard a d'autres risques à équilibrer : sa masse salariale est composée de Demany (Lakeith Stanfield), un chercheur à la fois de clients et de produits, et de Julia (Julia Fox, un phare inattendu au milieu de la tempête dans son premier rôle), une employée avec qui Howard entretient une liaison, la "gardant" à l'aise dans son appartement de New York. Sauf celle de sa femme (Idina Menzel, parfaitement blasée) visiblement marre de sa merde, et en attendant, il a une livraison spéciale en provenance d'Afrique : une opale noire, la pierre que nous avons appris à connaître intimement dans la première scène du film, qui, selon Howard, vaut des millions. . Ensuite, Demany amène Kevin Garnett (comme lui-même, si complètement dans le ton des frères Safdie) dans la boutique le jour même de l'arrivée de l'opale, inspirant un pari unique pour Howard – le genre qui va placez-le face à Aron et puis certains, ainsi qu'une foule de nouvelles conneries pour obtenir directement. Tout est sans aucun doute stressant – vraiment sans relâche, extrêmement stressant – mais les Safdies, sur leur sixième film, semblent prospérer dans l'anxiété, capturant l'inertie de la vie de Howard et des innombrables vies qui entrent en collision avec la sienne, dans toute sa beauté corsée. . Juste avant un match, Howard révèle à Garnett son grand plan pour un gros salaire, expliquant que Garnett l'a compris, n'est-ce pas ? Que des gars comme eux sont enfermés dans quelque chose de plus grand, travaillant sur une longueur d'onde plus élevée que la plupart, c'est ainsi qu'ils gagnent. Il peut être sur quelque chose, ou il peut tout sortir de son cul – peu importe, nous avons toujours su que Sandler l'avait en lui. C'est peut-être exactement ce que nous avions en tête. — Dom Sinacola

Année : 1986
Réalisateur : Spike Lee
Stars : Tracy Camila Johns, Spike Lee, John Canada Terrell, Tommy Redmond Hicks
Genre : Comédie, Romance
Score de tomates pourries : 91 %
Note : R
Durée : 85 minutes

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Un premier long métrage d'une franchise explosive qui a immédiatement annoncé la nouvelle voix courageuse et fraîche de Lee dans le cinéma américain, She's Gotta Have It, tourné comme un documentaire, est une exploration pondérée d'une jeune femme noire nommée Nola (Tracy Camilla Johns) essayant de décider entre ses trois amoureux masculins, tout en flirtant avec son apparente bisexualité, afin, avant tout, de comprendre ce qui la rend heureuse. Ce qui est rafraîchissant dans le film, c'est que Lee évoque toujours la possibilité que « aucune de ces réponses » n'est une réponse parfaitement viable à la fois pour Nola et pour les femmes célibataires, ce qui a changé la donne en 1986. La cinématographie indépendante en noir et blanc granuleuse de bricolage augmente le réalisme in-your-face du film. —Oktay Ege Kozak

Année : 1997
Réalisateur : Paul Thomas Anderson
Avec : Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heather Graham
Genre : Drame
Note : R
Durée : 155 minutes

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Bien que Boogie Nights ait été la première production épique de Paul Thomas Anderson avec une distribution d'ensemble, le temps et la perspective montrent que c'est son approche la plus proche de la perfection. L'auteur se spécialise dans la création de personnages pour les décomposer, et personne dans son exploration du secteur de la pornographie en 1997 n'est exempt de ses impulsions déconstructrices : peu de réalisateurs équilibrent l'hilarant et le déchirant de manière aussi transparente, et encore moins s'appuient sur l'ironie dramatique pour atteindre les deux. . Boogie Nights peut être amusant parce que ses personnages – de la jeune étoile montante de Mark Wahlberg à la starlette en déclin de Julianne Moore et au célèbre réalisateur de Burt Reynold qui doit faire face à une industrie en évolution sans lui – sont si malheureux, mais leur ignorance est tout aussi déchirante; ils désirent sincèrement fabriquer un bon produit, même s'ils ont du mal à comprendre ce qui constitue la qualité. Les pornographes fictifs d'Anderson peuvent désespérément et inutilement s'accrocher à une époque antérieure à la vidéo et au jeu amateur, mais Anderson lui-même a réussi à sortir un film de deux heures et demie qui veille à ne jamais dépasser son accueil, même lorsqu'il demande « un dernière chose." —Allie Conti

Année : 1988
Réalisateur : Martin Brest
Acteurs : Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, Dennis Farina, John Ashton
Note : R
Durée d'exécution : 122 minutes

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Les années 80 ont créé la formule d'action / comédie de manuel, et le réalisateur Martin Brest était en plein milieu de celui-ci. Son Beverly Hills Cop a été écrit à l'origine comme un film d'action direct, jusqu'à ce qu'Eddie Murphy soit choisi pour le rôle principal. Au lieu de garder le ton global sérieux du film et d'insérer simplement des décors de comédie déplacés dans le récit, Murphy et Brest ont insufflé un ton léger à tout le projet, tout en gardant les exigences de base d'une structure d'action dans endroit. Midnight Run, la suite brestoise de Beverly Hills Cop, parachève cette fusion. Aucune des séquences d'action ne se prend trop au sérieux, et aucune comédie n'apparaît comme une agression, désespérée d'extraire des rires faciles. Le principe et la structure sont très simples et assez prévisibles : c'est un road movie traditionnel dans lequel un chasseur de primes grisonnant (Robert DeNiro) doit transporter un comptable de la mafia (Charles Grodin) à travers le pays, avec la mafia et la police à leurs trousses. Ce qui fait que Midnight Run se sent toujours frais après 30 ans, c'est la maîtrise du ton susmentionnée de Brest et la formidable chimie entre DeNiro et Grodin, il est donc surprenant qu'ils n'aient pas été réunis pour d'autres films similaires après cela. Habituellement, le chasseur de primes masculin rugueux serait le joker contre l'homme droit étouffant du comptable, mais DeNiro et Grodin trouvent des moyens rafraîchissants de bricoler cette formule, le personnage de DeNiro apparaissant finalement comme un bon gars ordinaire qui a été traité plus que quelques mauvais mains, et Grodin comme un cinglé adorable mais parfois exaspérant. —Oktay Ege Kozak

Année : 1971
Réalisateur : Stanley Kubrick
Acteurs : Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, Miriam Karlin
Score de tomates pourries : 88 %
Note : R
Durée : 136 minutes

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Comme pour la plupart (enfin, probablement toutes) des adaptations du livre à l'écran de Stanley Kubric, A Clockwork Orange remixe plusieurs aspects du roman d'Anthony Burgess, et probablement pour le mieux (au moins Alex (un Malcolm McDowell terriblement électrique) n'est pas un pédophile dans le film de Kubrick, par exemple). C'est toujours une satire implacablement vicieuse dépeignant une société tolérante à la culture brutale des jeunes, une société où la science et la psychologie modernes sont les meilleures contre-mesures pour lutter contre l'Ultra Violence™ que commettent des hommes comme Alex et ses collègues « droogs ». Il est douloureusement clair que lorsque Alex est présenté comme une victime par le ministre britannique de l'Intérieur (Anthony Sharp), ce – alerte spoiler ! – le mal gagne. Christ, est-ce que l'un d'entre nous peut jamais entendre "Singing in the Rain" la même chose après ce cauchemar ? —Scott Wold

Année : 1974
Réalisateur : Roman Polanski
Acteurs : Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
Genre : Drame
Score de tomates pourries : 96%
Note : R
Durée : 130 minutes

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Quand vous regardez la série de films de Jack Nicholson dans ce que j'appellerai l'ère du "New Hollywood", commençant par Easy Rider en 1969 et se terminant par The Shining en 1980, c'est vraiment étonnant. Il y a à peine un raté sur la liste, donc c'est vraiment dire quelque chose que Chinatown, le classique du crime de Roman Polanski, se démarque parmi les meilleurs. Le mystère central est audacieux pour sa complexité, tournant autour des droits d'eau dans le sud de la Californie des années 1930 – une intrigue qui reste d'actualité aujourd'hui – et a sans aucun doute influencé la deuxième saison de True Detective. Comme une grande partie du travail de Polanski, une atmosphère menaçante accompagne l'intrigue, ombrageant chaque personnage dans le doute et sapant la possibilité d'une conclusion nette. Dans le monde de Polanski, le simple fait qu'un mystère soit résolu ne signifie pas qu'il y a une fin heureuse, et ses incroyables pouvoirs d'ambiguïté n'ont jamais été aussi forts qu'à Chinatown. Nominé pour 11 Oscars, il a remporté l'Oscar du scénario original de Robert Towne. Ajoutez Nicholson à son plus essentiel, avec une jeune Faye Dunaway et un John Huston vieillissant, et c'est vraiment l'un des classiques du cinéma américain. —S.R.

Année : 2017
Réalisateur : Sean Baker
Stars : Willem Dafoe, Bria Vinaite, Brooklyn Prince, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera, Caleb Landry Jones
Genre : Drame
Score de tomates pourries : 96%
Note : R
Durée : 115 minutes

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Aussi utile que puisse être une approche surréaliste pour recadrer le paradis, The Florida Project de Sean Baker présente une critique plus aiguë. Baker plonge son public dans ses mondes à travers le prisme du réalisme social, sa caméra sur le même terrain de jeu que Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), sa mère Halley (Bria Vinaite) et le gérant du motel dans lequel ils vivent, Bobby (Willem Dafoe) . La caméra vit avec les personnages, les regarde tirer un matelas infesté de punaises de lit à l'extérieur, ou s'asseoir et manger des crêpes près d'un petit fossé qui ressemble à un ruisseau. Rien de décisif ne se passe dans ces scènes, nous pouvons juste regarder et ne pas porter de jugement – ou porter un jugement, peu importe, c'est à nous de décider. Baker n'interfère jamais ; l'égalité de ces scènes sous l'œil de sa caméra rend les idées pointues de son film sur la survie et la joie d'autant plus frappantes. Le film peut être animé d'un sens de l'humour et, parfois, d'émerveillement, mais la vie de Halley est encadrée par une lutte interne pour savoir si l'humour et l'émerveillement peuvent l'aider à conserver son autonomie malgré son statut de classe. Le projet Florida est éclaboussé d'une profonde tristesse, avec des moments de frustration extériorisée et violente face à l'impuissance présumée, au fait d'être pratiquement né dans tout cela. Dans quelle mesure vous pensez que Baker est condescendant, condescendant ou exploiteur dépend de vous, mais les éclats de lumière du film, son idée de ce à quoi ressemble la prestation de soins lorsque la prestation de soins est un privilège, sont traités avec sensibilité. Lorsque le film passe du 35 mm au numérique dans ses derniers plans, Baker imprègne sa caméra, désormais mobile, d'une libération en roue libre : peu importe ce qui se passe après la fin du projet Florida, dans ces derniers instants, ces enfants sont nés pour vivre.

Année : 1999
Réalisateur : Alexander Payne
Acteurs : Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein
Genre : Comédie, Drame
Score de tomates pourries : 92 %
Note : R
Durée : 102 minutes

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Tom Perrotta écrit des romans qui dépouillent le vernis de la vie de banlieue mi-américaine polie et «civilisée» pour l'exposer comme la jungle Starbucks-ian qu'elle est : les impulsions les plus reptiliennes de la nature humaine peuvent frapper à tout moment pour démanteler les plus faibles dans la meute, ou au moins de flirter avec un comportement narcissique et hédoniste pur. En fait, deux grands films basés sur son travail décrivent ce lien thématique : dans Little Children de Todd Field, les indiscrétions sexuelles des personnages d'une petite ville sont racontées comme un documentaire National Geographic à l'ancienne, et dans Election d'Alexander Payne, la bande-son retentit d'un cri strident. , chant tribal en colère chaque fois qu'un personnage se sent offensé, se préparant à une attaque pour détruire socialement un ennemi. Le récit de Perrotta et Payne couvre un fossé entre un professeur de lycée, Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), qui n'est pas assez conscient de lui-même pour réaliser à quel point il est vraiment un connard égoïste, et une étudiante, Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) , l'incarnation de l'ambition aveugle et impitoyable, lors de l'élection pour nommer le nouveau président du corps étudiant. Sous cette histoire simple se cache une exploration précise et agile des efforts que chacun peut parcourir sur la voie du succès pour protéger son ego fragile tout en poignardant de nombreux dos. La version désormais emblématique de Witherspoon sur Tracy Flick est l'incarnation de cette personne que nous avons tous rencontrée et qui fera et dira littéralement n'importe quoi pour avancer dans la vie. Cependant, le professeur apparemment attentionné et guidant de Broderick succombe également à ses propres désirs les plus bas. Lequel périt, et lequel arrive en tête ne dépend pas d'une hiérarchie cosmique préconçue de bonnes mœurs (ou éthique, quelle est la différence ?), mais de qui peut être l'animal le plus astucieux et le plus intelligent de la meute. —Oktay Ege Kozak

Année : 2006
Réalisateur : Martin Campbell
Acteurs : Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright
Genre : Action, Thriller
Score de tomates pourries : 95 %
Classement : PG-13
Durée : 144 minutes

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Avec un visage anguleux ressemblant à un rocher, un corps sculpté et la livraison venimeuse de "Est-ce que ça a l'air de m'en foutre?" Lorsqu'on lui demande s'il veut que son martini secoue ou remue, le James Bond de Casino Royale (Daniel Craig) est aussi brisé et déterminé à continuer que le monde (délibérément post-11 septembre) qui l'entoure. La 21e entrée dans la franchise de plus de 40 ans à l'époque était plus qu'un simple redémarrage et plus qu'un simple retour aux sources – c'était un recalcul de ce que Bond aurait à signifier pour la culture qui l'entourait. Et bien que ce qui rend le personnage et la série intéressants, c'est ce besoin d'être réactif à la culture, Casino Royale insiste sur le fait que le public, en plus de Bond lui-même, peut ressentir chaque coup de poing, coup de pied, coup de feu, vague de nausée, vague de paranoïa. et, peut-être le plus important, chaque chagrin d'amour. Envoyé dans sa première mission en tant qu'agent double-0 pour gagner une partie de poker avec un homme qui finance le terrorisme, ce Bond est le plus viscéral comme celui de la folie, des erreurs et de l'orgueil. Il fait des paris risqués, il saute le coup, il expose son cœur. Craig s'est imposé comme un James Bond de la veine Fleming, pas le super-héros sage et invincible que Bond était devenu au cours de la série, mais imparfait, méchant, un tendre bâtard pas encore habitué aux expériences traumatisantes et impitoyables d'être le mercenaire des services secrets de Sa Majesté. Mélangeant des décors maximalistes et le drame à haute tension des jeux d'esprit psychosexuels, Casino Royale donne à Bond du cran, un cœur brisé et un sens palpable de la mortalité. —Kyle Turner

Année : 2020
Réalisateur : Spike Lee
Stars : Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo, Norman Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Jonathan Majors, Mélanie Thierry, Paul Walter Hauser, Jean Reno
Genre : Drame
Note : R
Durée : 156 minutes

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La chasse à l'or enfoui ne se termine pas bien et ne se déroule pas sans accroc. Le long chemin de la réconciliation, que ce soit avec son traumatisme, sa famille ou son identité nationale, n'est jamais sans heurts. Collez ces vérités avec les effets d'altération du racisme institutionnel, ajoutez une myriade de références à l'histoire – histoire américaine, histoire de la musique, histoire du cinéma – et vous obtenez Da 5 Bloods de Spike Lee, un film d'action vietnamien de style classique réalisé dans sa vision cinématographique. Comme dans BlacKkKlansman de 2018, Lee relie les points entre le passé et le présent, reliant la lutte pour les droits civils formulée dans l'objection de conscience et la protestation à la propre lutte de l'Amérique contemporaine contre le fascisme sanctionné par l'État. Après s'être ouvert avec un montage d'événements comprenant et de personnages s'exprimant contre la guerre du Vietnam, appelée principalement la guerre américaine dans le reste du film, Lee présente quatre des cinq sangs : Otis (Clarke Peters), Paul (Delroy Lindo) , Eddie (Norm Lewis) et Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), vétérans du Vietnam cautionnés, sont retournés à Ho Chi Minh-Ville apparemment pour retrouver et récupérer les ossements de leur chef d'escouade décédé, Norman (Chadwick Boseman). Il y a plus, bien sûr, "plus" étant environ 17 millions de dollars en lingots d'or plantés dans le sol vietnamien, propriété de la CIA mais réappropriés par les Bloods en réparation de leurs souffrances personnelles en tant qu'hommes menant une guerre pour un pays gouverné par des gens qui ne ' ne vous souciez pas de leurs droits. Lee est à l'apogée de ses pouvoirs lorsqu'il affirme sans ambages que depuis aussi longtemps qu'il s'est écoulé depuis la fin de la guerre du Vietnam, l'Amérique mène toujours obstinément les mêmes guerres contre son propre peuple et, d'ailleurs, le reste du monde. Et Lee est toujours en colère et mécontent du statu quo, étant l'oppression continue des Noirs américains par la brutalité policière, la suppression des électeurs et la négligence médicale. Dans ce contexte, la largeur de Da 5 Bloods est presque nécessaire. Comme dirait Paul : Tout va bien. —Andy Crump

Année : 1998
Réalisateur : Joël Coen
Acteurs : Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, John Turturro, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Note : R
Durée : 117 minutes

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Jeff « The Dude » Lebowski a beaucoup de temps libre – assez pour passer ses journées à courir après un tapis volé, au moins – mais il a du mal à s'habiller le matin, souffle les Russes blancs comme si c'était son travail (d'ailleurs, il n'en a pas de vrai) et traîne avec un groupe d'amateurs de bowling émotionnellement instables. Toute mission dans laquelle vous le lancez semble vouée à l'échec. Et pourtant, c'est la grande joie, et le grand triomphe, de The Big Lebowski des frères Coen et de son fainéant-héros consommé. Le Dude est un chevalier en pantalon de pyjama froissé, un peignoir sa cotte de mailles, une Ford Torino son cheval blanc. Grèves et gouttières, hauts et bas, il prend vie dans une foulée ambulante et mal rasée – et plus qu'une belle apparence et des forces inégalées, n'est-ce pas quelque chose auquel nous devrions tous aspirer? —Josh Jackson

Année 2013
Réalisateur : James Wan
Acteurs : Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor
Note : R
Durée : 112 minutes

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Qu'on le sache : James Wan est, à tout le moins, un réalisateur de films d'horreur au-dessus de la moyenne. L'ancêtre de séries à gros budget telles que Saw et Insidious a le don de créer une horreur populiste qui porte toujours une trace de sa propre identité artistique, un cadeau spielbergien pour ce qui parle au public multiplex sans sacrifier entièrement la caractérisation. Plusieurs de ses films se situent juste en dehors du top 100, si cette liste devait être étendue, mais La conjuration ne peut être nié en tant que représentant de Wan car c'est de loin le plus effrayant de tous ses longs métrages. Me rappelant l'expérience de voir pour la première fois Paranormal Activity dans un multiplex bondé, The Conjuring a un moyen de subvertir quand et où vous vous attendez à ce que les frayeurs arrivent. Son histoire de maison hantée / possession n'est rien que vous n'ayez jamais vu auparavant, mais peu de films de cette œuvre ces dernières années ont eu la moitié de l'élégance que Wan donne à une vieille ferme grinçante du Rhode Island. Le film répond aux attentes du public en vous lançant de grandes frayeurs sans les accumulations standard de Hollywood Jump Scare, évoquant simultanément des histoires de fantômes classiques de l'âge d'or telles que The Haunting de Robert Wise. Son intensité, ses effets et sa nature implacable le placent à plusieurs niveaux au-dessus de l'horreur PG-13 contre laquelle il était principalement en compétition. Il est intéressant de noter que The Conjuring a en fait reçu une note « R » malgré un manque de « violence », de gore ou de sexualité manifeste. C'était tout simplement trop effrayant à nier, et c'est digne de respect. —Jim Vorel

Année : 2008
Réalisateur : Wilson Yip
Stars : Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung, Dennis To, Syun-Wong Fen, Simon Yam, Gordon Lam
Note : R
Durée : 106 minutes

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L'Ip Man de 2008 a marqué, enfin, le moment où Donnie Yen, vraiment excellent mais jamais assez considéré, s'est imposé, jouant une version vaguement biographique du légendaire grand maître de Wing Chung et professeur d'un certain nombre de futurs maîtres d'arts martiaux (dont l'un était Bruce Lee). À Foshan (une ville célèbre pour les arts martiaux dans le sud et le centre de la Chine), un modeste pratiquant de Wing Chung essaie de surmonter pacifiquement l'invasion et l'occupation japonaise de la Chine en 1937, mais est finalement contraint à l'action. Une action à couper le souffle et à pulvériser le visage remplit ce film semi-historique, qui réussit glorieusement à la fois comme drame convaincant et comme appât pour les fans d'arts martiaux. -K. Alexandre Smith

Année : 2006
Réalisateur : Martin Scorsese
Stars : Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone
Genre : Drame, Thriller
Score de tomates pourries : 91 %
Note : R
Durée : 152 minutes

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Parfois vraiment drôle et parfois brutalement violent, l'ambitieux film de gangsters de Scorsese passe autant de temps à explorer le fonctionnement interne trompeur de l'Unité d'enquête spéciale de Boston et son homologue pro-criminalité, la mafia irlandaise dirigée par Frank Costello. Le premier film de gangsters du réalisateur à se dérouler à Boston lui a valu son premier prix du meilleur film aux Oscars. Mettant en vedette un casting de stars comme Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio et Jack Nicholson, le drame de gangsters, un remake du thriller hongkongais Infernal Affairs, maintient les qualités optimales d'un film classique de Scorsese : style, moralité et courage. —David Roark

Année 2014
Réalisateur : Dan Gilroy
Acteurs : Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton
Note : R
Durée : 117 minutes

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“A screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.” That’s the image Nina (Rene Russo) evokes when describing her news program in director Dan Gilroy’s tremendous thriller Nightcrawler. It’s tempting to adopt that as a metaphor for the entire film—Gilroy’s first, by the way, which makes his achievement doubly impressive—but while that is definitely part of the equation, what drives this movie forward is the menace that lurks just below the surface, beneath a calm exterior personified by Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom. A nocturnal rambler who scrounges for anything he can steal and sell, Lou is a motivated self-starter. Full of meaningful acronyms, manufactured self-confidence, and drive powered by self-improvement seminars, catchphrase wisdom and insight, he’s looking for a career to break into on the ground floor. When he comes across the lucrative world of nightcrawlers, freelance stringers who race after breaking news stories—the bloodier, the better is the prevailing wisdom—he has the ambition, opportunity and, most importantly, the moral flexibility to excel. Gyllenhaal, who shed in excess of 30 pounds for the role, has rarely—if ever—been better. Lou is calm, frank, goal-oriented and even borders on charming at times, but this measured exterior belies the inherent violence you spend the entire movie waiting to see erupt. Nightcrawler is tense and intense, ferocious and obsessed, and crackles with energy and a dark sense of humor.—Brent McKnight

Year: 2010
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 120 minutes

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The Social Network follows the evolution of one of the most financially successful and problematic institutions of the 21st century. The film opens with a break-up scene between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a young man completely devoid of social skills, and his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara). Zuckerberg confuses Erica with his literal, machine-like translations of her every word while occasionally throwing in a sarcastic witticism. Throughout the film this sort of wordplay ebbs and flows with comedy and tragedy. After Erica walks out on him, an inebriated Mark goes back to his Harvard dorm room and disses Erica with aspersions to her character and bra size on the school’s social page for everyone to see while also creating a new social website which, with help from a few friends, eventually becomes Facebook. Most of the film takes place as a series of flashbacks based on testimony in two lawsuits filed against Zuckerberg. The first is from a trio of Harvard upperclassmen who claim to have contracted Zuckerberg to create the network, and who also belong to an elite club that Mark wishes to be a part of. The other suit comes from his best friend and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) whose story in the film is as central as that of Zuckerberg’s. The disintegration of their relationship begins when the creator of Napster, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) takes a bandwagon seat on the rising company while creating a wedge between the co-founders. Garfield is wonderful as the unsure Saverin who wants to carefully guide Facebook into its future while Zuckerberg and Parker are full steam ahead. Like Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street, greed is still king and the wolves are at the door. —Tim Basham

Year: 2010
Director: Edgar Wright
Stars: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Brie Larson, Chris Evans, Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Schwartzman, Kieran Culkin
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 113 minutes

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In many ways, all of Edgar Wright’s films have been romantic comedies in some fashion. Shaun of the Dead just happens to have zombies and Hot Fuzz just happens to have two males as its romantic leads. In this way, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is perhaps Wright’s most clear-cut attempt at a rom-com. The story deals in a situation that is all too familiar in the relationship world—that of dealing with your romantic partner’s past romantic baggage. However, to paraphrase Scott Pilgrim’s own words, this emotional baggage (i.e., his girlfriend’s evil ex-boyfriends) is actively trying to kill him every 30 seconds. Just as in a musical, where characters start singing when emotions run too high, Scott Pilgrim dishes out videogame-style duels whenever emotional conflict comes into play. As heightened as Scott Pilgrim may seem at times, its undertones are all too relatable. —Mark Rozeman

Year: 2011
Director: Gore Verbinski
Stars: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy
Genre: Animated, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 105 minutes

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The most surprising thing about Rango is how much Johnny Depp disappears into the character of a nameless pet chameleon who creates his identity when his terrarium falls out of the back of a car into the desert frontier. Unlike a certain cartoon panda, who was basically an animated version of every Jack Black character ever, Rango is no Keith Richards with an eye-patch or crazy barber/milliner/chocolatier. He’s a cipher who becomes a fraud who becomes a hero. —Josh Jackson

Year: 2015
Director: Tom McCarthy
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: R
Runtime: 129 minutes

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Always a director who’s drawn great performances from his ensembles—we’ll set aside the disastrous The Cobbler for a moment—actor-turned-filmmaker Tom McCarthy has made his best drama since his first, 2003’s The Station Agent, with this stripped-down depiction of the Boston Globe’s 2001 investigation into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual misconduct. Starring the likes of Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber and John Slattery, Spotlight is about nothing more than watching smart, passionate reporters do their job, digging into a story and using their savvy and moxie to bring it to the world. The cast lets its characters’ jobs fill in the backstory of their lives, and in the process Spotlight does what Zodiac, The Insider and All the President’s Men did before it: let us appreciate the difficulty and rigor required for good journalism. Special kudos to best-in-show Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, a ruthless bloodhound of an investigative reporter who may inspire a lot of impressionable high school juniors in the audience to take up the profession. —Tim Grierson

Year: 2020
Director: Kirsten Johnson
Stars: Kirsten Johnson, Dick Johnson
Genre: Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 89 minutes

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If every great documentary is about the responsibility of observation, then Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson is also about the fragility of that observation. With her follow-up, Dick Johnson Is Dead, Johnson continues to interrogate that fragility, crafting a deeply personal ode to that over which she has no control: her father’s death. It helps that Dick Johnson is a mellifluous soul, an incessantly warm and beaming man surrounded by friends and colleagues and acquaintances who all uniformly, genuinely love him, but from its opening shots, Johnson makes it clear that her father’s wonderful nature will only make saying goodbye to him that much more difficult. And the time when she must do so looms closer and closer. Her impetus, she reluctantly acknowledges, is partly selfish as she decides to help acquaint her father with the end of his life, reenacting in lavish cinematic vignettes the many ways in which he could go out, from falling air conditioner unit, to nail-festooned 2×4 to the face, to your run-of-the-mill tumble down the stairs, replete with broken neck. The more Johnson loses herself in the project, spending more effort consulting stunt people and art directors and assorted crew members than her own dad (sitting peacefully on set, usually napping, never being much of a bother), the more she realizes she may be exploiting someone she loves—someone who is beginning to show the alarming signs of dementia and can no longer fully grasp the high concept to which he once agreed—to assuage her own anxiety. As her dad’s memory dissipates along with his ability to take care of himself, Dick Johnson Is Dead caters less to Dick’s need to preserve some sense of immortality than to his daughter’s need, all of our need, to let go. —Dom Sinacola

Year: 2017
Directors: Josh and Benny Safdie
Stars: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Buddy Duress, Peter Verby, Barkhad Abdi, Taliah Webster
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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The hero of Good Time is one of the canniest individuals in recent cinema, which might seem like an odd thing to say about a scummy lowlife who screws up a bank heist in the film’s opening reels. But don’t underestimate Connie: Several of the people who cross his path make that mistake, and he gets the better of them every time. Connie is played by Robert Pattinson in a performance so locked-in from the first second that it shoots off an electric spark from the actor to the audience: Just sit back, he seems to be telling us. I’ve got this under control. The financially strapped character lives in Queens, unhappy that his mentally challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie) is cooped up in a facility that, Connie believes, doesn’t do enough to help him. Impulsively, Connie strong-arms Nick into helping him rob a bank. They make off with thousands of dollars, but what they don’t realize is that they live in the real world, not a movie. A paint bomb goes off in their bag, staining the money and the criminals’ clothes. Shaken and trying not to panic, Connie and Nick abandon their getaway car, quickly raising the suspicion of some nearby cops, who chase down Nick. Connie escapes, determined to get his brother out of jail—either through bail money or other means. As Connie, Pattinson is shockingly vital and present, unabashedly throwing himself into any situation. Following their star’s lead, the filmmakers deliver a jet-fueled variation on their usual intricate exploration of New York’s marginalized citizens. Good Time features no shootouts or car chases—there isn’t a single explosion in the whole film. The Safdies and Pattinson don’t need any of that. Like Connie, they thrive on their wits and endless inventiveness—the thrill comes in marveling at how far it can take them. —Tim Grierson

Year: 1979
Director: George Miller
Stars: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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George Miller’s first foray into the dystopian world of Mad Max is distinctly less fantastical than the more colorful and grandiose films that would follow, ala Beyond Thunderdome—the original Mad Max by comparison is lean, mean, grounded and misanthropic in its aims. The world hasn’t quite to an end yet in this universe—rather, we are witnessing its death throes, which is actually significantly more disturbing. It’s a sentiment that feels frighteningly timely in just about any era, as mankind has nearly always felt perched on the brink of chaos in the last century. Mad Max pessimistically illustrates what that might look like, when all of our worst instincts are left to run roughshod over the ineffective handful of people who would defend us, but can’t even defend their own families. Failing that, all that’s left is bloody, spectacular revenge, which the film dishes out with some incredible car stunts and crashes that set a tough standard to surpass. —Jim Vorel

Year: 2001
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Jane Lynch, Amy Adams
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

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Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly go together like reconciliation and getting thrown out of Applebee’s. In one of the finest films directed by Adam McKay, the duo play race-car drivers in a loving send-up of NASCAR culture. Sacha Baron Cohen is perfect as Ferrell’s European foil Jean Girard, and the film is jam-packed with both sight gags (the live cougar in the race car) and brilliant dialogue (the prayer to eight-pound-six-ounce-newborn-infant Jesus). His sons Walker and Texas Ranger, the random appearance of Elvis Costello and Mos Def in Girard’s back yard, and Amy Adams recreating the Whitesnake video in the bar all provide Hall of Fame moments from the Judd Apatow canon.—Josh Jackson

Year: 2001
Director: Joel Gallen
Stars: Chris Evans, Jaime Pressly, Randy Quaid
Rating: R
Runtime: 88 minutes

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Chris Evans may have gone on to bigger and better things, but his blisteringly self-effacing performance as a deluded jock in subgenre parody Not Another Teen Movie was an early peak for Captain America. Bolstered by plenty of quotable lines and an expertly sliced cookie-cutter aesthetic from director and Comedy Central staple Joel Gallen, Not Another Teen Movie is a hilarious, barbed response to the wave of convoluted teen sex comedies that ran from the ‘80s to its 2001 release. Basically, this film did to teen rom-coms what Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story did to music biopics: the parody is so good that, after watching it, it’s hard to take earnest entries seriously. Raunchy yet sharp, the movie straddles low and high-brow with plenty of success—with a pissed-off Molly Ringwald capping it all in a perfect cameo.—Jacob Oller

Year: 2018
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Stars: Haru Kuroki, Moka Kamishiraishi, Gen Hoshino
Genre: Anime
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 98 minutes

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Most, if not all, of Mamoru Hosoda’s original films produced in the past decade function, to some degree or another, as exercises in autobiography. Summer War, apart from a premise more or less recycled from Hosoda’s 2000 directorial debut Digimon Adventure: Our War Game!, was the many-times-removed story of Hosoda meeting his wife’s family for the first time. 2012’s Wolf Children was inspired by the passing of Hosoda’s mother, animated in part by the anxieties and aspirations at the prospect of his own impending parenthood. 2015’s The Boy and the Beast was completed just after the birth of Hosoda’s first child, the product of his own questions as to what role a father should play in the life of his son. Mirai, the director’s seventh film, is not from Hosoda’s own experience, but filtered through the experiences of his first-born son meeting his baby sibling for the first time. Told care of the perspective of Kun (Moka Kamishiraishi), a toddler who feels displaced and insecure in the wake of his sister Mirai’s birth, Mirai is a beautiful adventure fantasy drama that whisks the viewer on a dazzling odyssey across Kun’s entire family tree, culminating in a poignant conclusion that emphasizes the beauty of what it means to love and to be loved. Mirai is Hosoda’s most accomplished film, the recipient of the first Academy Award nomination for an anime film not produced by Studio Ghibli, and an experience as edifying as it is a joy to behold. —Toussaint Egan

Year: 2007
Director: Greg Mottola
Stars: Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Martha MacIsaac, Emma Stone
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Every generation of teens has its generation of teen movies, and Greg Mottola’s Superbad is the epitome of mine. In Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), my friends and I had a mirror for our own insecurity and awkwardness—they were our modern-day Anthony Michael Halls. In Fogell/McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), we had an icon of weird who somehow ended up a winner, a sort of photonegative of Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick). And in Superbad’s constant dick jokes (care of a script by namesakes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg), we had an accurate representation of the way we all talked, maturity be damned. The film would join the pantheon of mid-2000s comedies—most notably Anchorman and Step Brothers—that created a white-adolescent-boy language made up entirely of lewd, absurd references. It’s a rom-com in many respects, but unlike its predecessors, Superbad is a romance between two buddies, a story wherein the ostensible sex drive is secondary to Platonic need. Most of John Hughes’ ’80s oeuvre centers on the cringe-worthy struggle of X character getting Y other character to notice their existence in order to have Y inevitably fall for X. No matter what else Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink have to say, their endgame remains Molly Ringwald getting with the correct Good Guy. Ditto Amy Heckerling’s iconic contributions to the genre, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, and the literary reimaginings (Ten Things I Hate About You, et. al.) that followed in the latter’s wake. In Superbad, Seth and Evan’s versions of the Good Guy aren’t Jules (a precocious Emma Stone) and Becca (Martha MacIsaac): they’re each other. In the film’s denouement, with the two leads snuggled up close in sleeping bags, Seth literally says, “I just wanna go to the rooftops and scream, ‘I love my best friend, Evan.’” For teenage boys struggling with anxiety over the seeming hopelessness of losing their virginity, Superbad provides a welcome respite, an acknowledgement that focusing your entire life upon your dick is pointless when there’s fulfillment to be had by your side the entire time. —Zach Blumenfeld

Year: 2020
Director: Remi Weekes
Stars: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, Matt Smith
Rating: NR
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Nothing sucks the energy out of horror than movies that withhold on horror. Movies can scare audiences in a variety of ways, of course, but the very least a horror movie can be is scary instead of screwing around. Remi Weekes’ His House doesn’t screw around. The film begins with a tragedy, and within 10 minutes of that opening handily out-grudges The Grudge by leaving ghosts strewn on the floor and across the stairs where his protagonists can trip over them. Ultimately, this is a movie about the inescapable innate grief of immigrant stories, a companion piece to contemporary independent cinema like Jonas Carpignano’s Mediterranea, which captures the dangers facing immigrants on the road and at their destinations with brutal neorealist clarity. Weekes is deeply invested in Bol and Rial as people, in where they come from, what led them to leave, and most of all what they did to leave. But Weeks is equally invested in making his viewers leap out of their skins. —Andy Crump

Year: 2013
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Ko A-sung
Genre: Action, Sci-fi
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

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There is a sequence midway through Snowpiercer that perfectly articulates what makes Korean writer/director Bong Joon-ho among the most dynamic filmmakers currently working. Two armies engage in a no-holds-barred, slow motion-heavy action set piece. Metal clashes against metal, and characters slash through their opponents as if their bodies were made of butter. It’s gory, imaginative, horrifying, beautiful, visceral and utterly glorious. Adapted from a French graphic novel by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer is a sci-fi thriller set in a futuristic world: Nearly two decades prior, in an ill-advised attempt to halt global warning, the government inundated the atmosphere with an experimental chemical that left our planet a barren, ice-covered wasteland. Now, the last of humanity resides on “Snowpiercer,” a vast train powered via a perpetual-motion engine and governed by a ruthless caste system. Needless to say, this scenario hasn’t exactly brought out the best of humanity. Bong’s bleak and brutal film may very well be playing a song that we’ve all heard before, but he does it with such gusto and dexterous skill you can’t help but be caught up the flurry. —Mark Rozeman

Year: 2018
Director: Gareth Evans
Stars: Dan Stevens, Lucy Boynton, Michael Sheen
Genre: Horror, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 129 minutes

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After the first two entries of The Raid made him a monolithic figure among action movie junkies, Apostle functions as the wider world’s introduction to the visceral filmmaking stylings of Welsh director Gareth Evans. Where his first films almost had the aesthetic of a videogame come to life—they’re about as close to a big screen adaptation of Streets of Rage as you’re ever going to find—Apostle might as well represent Evans’ desire to be taken seriously as a visual director and auteur. To do so, he’s explored some well-trodden ground in the form of the rural “cult infiltration movie,” making comparisons to the likes of The Wicker Man (or even Ti West’s The Sacrament) inevitable. However, Apostle forces its way into the year-end conversation of 2018’s best horror cinema through sheer style and verve. Every frame is beautifully composed, from the foreboding arrival of Dan Stevens’ smoldering character at the island cult compound, to the fantastically icky Grand Guignol of the third act, in which viscera flows with hedonistic abandon. Evans knows exactly how long to needle the audience with a slow-burning mystery before letting the blood dams burst; his conclusion both embraces supernatural craziness and uncomfortably realistic human violence. Gone is the precision of combat of The Raid, replaced by a clumsier brand of wanton savagery that is empowered not by honor but by desperate faith. Evans correctly concludes that this form of violence is far more frightening. —Jim Vorel

Year: 2018
Director: Orson Welles
Stars: John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Random, Susan Strasberg, Oja Kodar
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Rating: R
Runtime: 122 minutes

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As gaudy and inexplicable as its title, The Other Side of the Wind nonetheless sings with the force of its movement whistling past its constraints. The wind blows: Orson Welles channels it through his studio-inflicted/self-inflicted torpor, in that process finding an organic melody—or rather, jazz. The making-of documentary They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, released by Netflix to go with this film—the streaming giant’s finest moment—shows Welles, enormous and half-baked, describing what he calls “divine accidents.” These accidents were responsible for some of his oeuvre’s best details (wherein God resides), like the breaking of the egg in Touch of Evil; they were something he aimed to chase after (like chasing the wind) with this, his final project, released several decades after its shooting as Netflix opened their coffers to open the coffin in which the raw footage was locked. His former partners on the shoot, Peter Bogdanovich and Frank Marshall, make good on their old oath to their master to complete the film for him, and in finding the spirit of the thing, deliver us a masterpiece we barely deserve. A divine accident. John Huston plays John Huston as Jake Hannaford who is also Orson Welles, trying to finish The Other Side of the Wind much like Welles tried to finish The Other Side of the Wind, over the course of years with no real budget and by the seats-of-everyone’s-pants. In contrast, the film’s scenario is set up over the course of one evening and night, Hannaford surrounded by “disciples” and peers who are invited to a party to screen some of the footage of what the director hopes will be his greatest masterpiece, in what Welles hoped would be his. The film within the film is a riff on art film, with perhaps the strongest winks at Michelangelo Antonioni and Zabriskie Point. Life imitates art: Hannaford’s house is just around the rock corner from the one Zabriskie blew to bits. Aptly, that house is the setting for most of the film about Hannaford, in theory constructed from found footage from the cineaste paparazzi. The density is dizzying, the intellect fierce. In terms of Welles’ filmography, it’s like the last act of Citizen Kane felt up by Touch of Evil, then stripped and gutted by the meta-punk of F for Fake. No art exists in a vacuum, but The Other Side of the Wind, more than most, bleeds its own context. It is about Orson Welles, showing himself. Killing himself. —Chad Betz

Year: 2016
Director: Naoko Yamada
Stars: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, Megumi Han
Genre: Animation, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 129 minutes

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In a medium that too often feels at times constricted by the primacy of masculine aesthetic sensibilities and saturated with hyper-sexualized portrayals of women colloquially coded as “fan service,” Naoko Yamada’s presence is a welcome breath of fresh air, to say nothing of the inimitable quality of her films themselves. Inspired by the likes of Yasujiro Ozu, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Sergei Parajanov, Sofia Coppola, and Lucile Hadžihalilovic, Yamada is a director par excellence, capable of arresting attention and evoking melancholy and bittersweet catharsis through delicate compositions of deft sound, swift editing, ephemeral color palettes, and characters with rich inner lives rife with knotty, relatable struggles. A Silent Voice, adapted from Yoshitoki Oima’s manga of the same name, is a prime example of all these sensibilities at play. When Shoya Ishida meets Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf transfer student, in elementary school, he bullies her relentlessly to the amusement of his classmates. One day when Shoya goes too far, forcing Shoko to transfer again for fear of her own safety, he is branded a pariah by his peers and retreats into a state of self-imposed isolation and self-hatred. Years later, Shoya meets Shoko once again, now as teenagers, and attempts to make amends for the harm he inflicted on her, all while wrestling to understand his own motivations for doing so. A Silent Voice is a film of tremendous emotional depth—an affecting portrait of adolescent abuse, reconciliation and forgiveness for the harm perpetrated by others and ourselves. —Toussaint Egan

Year: 2013
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Stars: Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Chang, Cung Le, Hye-Kyo Song
Genre: Martial Arts, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 130 minutes

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Wong Kar Wai will indefatigably make anything elegant, and so it’s a given that The Grandmaster is a gorgeously paced historical epic told in patient piecemeal. A loose chronicle of the nascent legend of Yip Man, the film skirts the line between noir-ish tragedy and chiaroscuro thriller, rarely leaving room to discern the difference. From an opening set-piece that will leave you wondering why any other director since would ever bother capturing rain droplets in slo-motion, to one masterfully orchestrated balsa-wood-tower of martial arts prowess after another, there is little left to say about Wong’s directing other than hyperbole: This is heartfelt and beautiful action filmmaking, but never so far removed from the savagery of the action at hand that it romanticizes the pummeling of so many hapless foes. There are penalties to these punches and consequences to these kicks—there should be little doubt that The Grandmaster is not just a masterpiece of its genre but one of Wong’s best. —Dom Sinacola

Year: 2020
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Stars: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Rating: R
Runtime: 134 minutes

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Many viewers will think of ending I’m Thinking of Ending Things not long after it’s started. A cross-dissolve cascade of crude shots details the interior of a farmhouse or an apartment, or the interior of an interior. A woman we have not yet seen is practically mid-narration, telling us something for which we have no context. It feels wrong, off-putting. Something is not right. This is not how movies are supposed to work. Finally we see the woman, played brilliantly by Jessie Buckley. She is standing on the street as puffy snowflakes start to fall, like we’re within a 3-D snow globe with her. She looks up at a window a couple stories up. We see an old man looking down out of a window. We see Jesse Plemons looking down out of a window. We see Jesse Plemmons in the next shot picking up Jessie Buckley in his worn car. The movie music twinkles and swirls. Jessie Buckley’s Lucy or Lucia or Amy is thinking of ending things with Jesse’s Jake. Things aren’t going to go anywhere good, seems to be the reasoning. Jake drives the car and sometimes talks; his behaviors seem fairly consistent until they’re not, until some gesture boils up like a foreign object from another self. Louisa or Lucy is forthcoming, a fountain of personality and knowledge and interests. But sometimes she slows to a trickle, or is quiet, and suddenly she is someone else who is the same person but perhaps with different memories, different interests. Sometimes she is a painter, sometimes a physicist, sometimes neither. Jessie and Jesse are great. Their performances and their characters are hard to describe. The best movie of 2020 is terrible at being a “movie.” It does not subscribe to common patterns, rhythms, or tropes. It doesn’t even try to be a great movie, really, it simply tries to dissect the life of the mind of the other, and to do that by any cinematic means possible. The self-awareness of the film could have been unbearable, except awareness (and our fragmentary experience of it) is so entirely the point of everything that the film is wrapped up within and that is wrapped up within it. To say the film accepts both the beauty and ugliness of life would be a platitude that the film itself rejects. To say that “love conquers all,” even moreso. But these false truths flit in and about the film’s peripheral vision: illusions or ghosts, but welcome ones. —Chad Betz

Year: 2010
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley
Genre: Thriller
Rating: R
Runtime: 138 minutes

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Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s pulp thriller is a brainy and compelling take on that most hoary of film genres: psychological horror. Equal parts parable and cautionary tale, Shutter Island is an expertly-paced thriller that feels far shorter and more exhilarating than its lengthy runtime suggests. Federal marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio dressed to the nines as a scenery-devouring g-man) is sent to the eponymous isle—a maximum security mental-ward-cum-penitentiary off the New England coast called Ashecliffe—to investigate a criminally insane prisoner’s disappearance. It’s quickly apparent that there’s something amiss about this case, and a palpable sense of foreboding bleeds through Scorsese’s gorgeous and ominous establishing shots: brick buildings loom against murky skies, the prisoners’ screams echo through the facility’s crumbling corridors, and Daniels, a WWII veteran, is haunted by vivid and surreal flashbacks to his dead wife and the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. Scorsese’s knack for getting his audiences emotionally invested in the ride fosters a near-voyeuristic thrill at seeing DiCaprio (ravenous for what might well be an Oscar nod) break down, so the fragments of his psyche can be sorted out along with the plot. Which is why Scorsese hasn’t just crafted an admirable thriller—he’s damn near made the genre his own.—Michael Saba

Year: 1997
Director: Jay Roach
Stars: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Seth Green, Robert Wagner, Carrie Fisher
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was a cultural touchstone when it was first released thanks to Mike Myers’ instantly iconic performance and plethora of catchphrases, but it’s really a more clever film than it’s ever truly been given credit for (unlike its sequels). A loving spoof on the entire genre of spy movies, rewatching it now is especially rewarding, given the recent announcement that the upcoming James Bond film will be dealing with the classic villain organization “SPECTRE.” With the possible return of Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, audiences may finally understand that the character of Dr. Evil is an almost perfect parody of more serious Bond source material. Austin Powers may be a true ‘90s time capsule, but many of the jokes have improved with age.—Jim Vorel

Year: 2016
Director: Babak Anvari
Stars: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi, Ray Haratian, Arash Marandi
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 84 minutes

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For most of the film, Babak Anvari is crafting a stifling period drama, a horror movie of a different sort that tangibly conveys the claustrophobia of Iran during its tumultuous post-revolution period. Anvari, himself of a family that eventually fled the Ayatollah’s rule, has made Under the Shadow as statement of rebellion and tribute to his own mother. It’s a distinctly feminist film: Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is cast as the tough heroine fighting back against greater hostile forces—a horror movie archetype that takes on even more potency in this setting. Seeing Shideh defy the Khomeini regime by watching a Jane Fonda workout video, banned by the state, is almost as stirring as seeing her overcome her personal demons by protecting her child from a more literal one. —Brogan Morris

Year: 2012
Director: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Stars: Kodi Smt-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin
Genre: Animation, Fantasy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 96 minutes

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The beautifully crafted stop-motion film ParaNorman opens with two important pieces of information. First, we observe our young hero as he watches a B-zombie flick, complete with choppy edits and a boom mic that creeps its way into the frame. This lets us know that the filmmakers approach the upcoming story with tongues firmly planted in cheeks. Second, Norman carries on a conversation with his grandmother. This part of the scene is only significant once we learn that grandma is quite dead. The tale that follows is part Something Wicked This Way Comes, part The Goonies. The town of Blithe Hollow, once a colonial village, now a struggling tourist trap, has lived under the threat of a witch’s curse for 300 years—long enough for fear to transmogrify into camp. Norman can see and talk with ghosts, an ability that might make him quite popular with the dead set, but one that does little to improve his social standing with his living schoolmates… or his immediate family. At school, Norman is subject to bullying from students and teachers alike, and we quickly come to care for this small, tough, sweet boy as he patiently cleans the word “freak” from his locker. Another social outcast, the rotund Neil latches onto Norman, becoming his new best friend (whether Norman wants one or not). The arrival of Neil also indicates the arrival of the true heart of this endearing film, which is its humor. ParaNorman took two years to animate, and it shows in the exquisite craftsmanship of its design and execution. The artistic direction illustrates such a love for detail and texture that every bit of scenic design, from the town hall to a plastic bag caught in a fence, creates a perfect world for this story. Lead Animator Travis Knight and his sprawling team of animators, designers, and fabricators execute the vision with great flair. The result is a clear-headed and touching film about finding your own purpose, accepting others as they are and, most importantly, forgiveness. —Clay Steakley

Year: 2021
Director: Mike Rianda, Jeff Rowe (co-director)
Stars: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Eric Andre, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Mike Rianda, Olivia Colman
Genre: Comedy/Sci-Fi
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Animated generational divides have never been more like a sci-fi carnival than in The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Writer/director Mike Rianda’s feature debut (he and co-writer/director Jeff Rowe made their bones on the excellently spooky, silly show Gravity Falls) is equal parts absurd, endearing and terrifying. It’s easy to feel as lost or overwhelmed by the flashing lights and exhilarating sights as the central family fighting on one side of the title’s grudge match, but it’s equally easy to come away with the exhausted glee of a long, weary theme park outing’s aftermath. Its genre-embedded family bursts through every messy, jam-packed frame like they’re trying to escape (they often are), and in the process create the most energetic, endearing animated comedy so far this year. And its premise begins so humbly. Filmmaker and animator Katie (Abbi Jacobson) is leaving home for college and, to get there, has to go on a road trip with her family: Rick (Danny McBride), her Luddite outdoorsy dad; Linda (Maya Rudolph), her peacemaking mom; and Aaron (Rianda), her dino-freak little brother. You might be able to guess that Katie and her dad don’t always see eye-to-eye, even when Katie’s eyes aren’t glued to her phone or laptop. That technocriticism, where “screen time” is a dirty phrase and the stick-shifting, cabin-building father figure wants his family to experience the real world, could be as hacky as the twelfth season of a Tim Allen sitcom. The Mitchells vs. the Machines escapes that danger not only through some intentional nuance in its writing, but also some big ol’ anti-nuance: Partway through the trip, the evil tech companies screw up and phone-grown robots decide to shoot all the humans into space. This movie needed something this narratively large to support its gloriously kitchen-sink visuals. The Sony film uses some of the same tech that made Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse look so crisp and unique, adding comicky shading to its expressive CG. In fact, once some of the more freaky setpieces take off, you wouldn’t be surprised to see Miles Morales swing in to save the day. The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ spin on the Spidey aesthetic comes from meme and movie-obsessed Katie, whose imagination often breaks through into the real world and whose bizarre, neon and filter-ridden sketchbook doodles ornament the film’s already exciting palette with explosive oddity. This unique and savvy style meshes well with The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ wonderfully timed slapstick, crashing and smashing with an unexpected violence, balanced out with one truly dorky pug and plenty of visual asides poking fun at whatever happens to be going on.—Jacob Oller

Year: 2016
Director: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Jaeden Lieberher, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard
Genre: Science-Fiction
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 111 minutes

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Jeff Nichols’ fourth film continues a streak of smart, idiosyncratic genre tales that focus on family matters. But in Midnight Special, he gets a little more cosmic, telling a very human sci-fi story about a concerned father (Michael Shannon) trying to keep his boy (Jaeden Lieberher) away from the Feds, who believe (correctly) that he has special powers. Midnight Special is the sort of personal, ambitious mainstream film that seems to have all but evaporated from studios’ release schedules, which makes the fact that it was a commercial dud even more upsetting and dispiriting. Maybe on home video people will have a chance to catch up with this emotional drama, whose intimate contours and precise character work make it just as transporting on the small screen.—Tim Grierson

Year: 2020
Director: George C. Wolfe
Stars: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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Fittingly, Chadwick Boseman’s final role is all about the blues. The late actor’s appearance in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the August Wilson adaptation from director George C. Wolfe and writer Ruben Santiago-Hudson, is equal parts actorly showcase, angry eulogy and comprehensive lament—boiled together in the sweaty kitchen of a ‘20s Chicago recording session. A story of ambition’s multiple facets and eventual endpoints, Ma Rainey revolves around those orbiting its title character (Viola Davis). She’s a blues legend at the top of her game, finally appreciated (at least in some parts of the country) and ripe for exploitation by white men in suits. As if she’d let them. She’s comfortably late to record an album, leaving everyone else to kick up their heels and shoot the shit in true Wilson style—with Santiago-Hudson finding the essence of Wilson’s work. Davis’ brutal performance, made all the more potent by her avalanche of makeup and glistening sweat, perfectly sets the scene. She, alongside loosened neckties and whirring fans, gives the film its intended temperature and gravity so that Boseman and the rest of her band members can zip around like fireflies ambling in the summer heat. With tragic serendipity, Boseman leaves us a gift: he is on fire. Lean, with the camera placements and props emphasizing his gangly limbs (there’s a reason he wields a squashed and squat flugelhorn, a jazz staple that happens to work better visually), Levee is a highly physical role despite the chatty source material: It’s all about capturing attention, sometimes literally tap-dancing for it, with any ounce of shame overrun by an anxious energy. High-strung, twitchy and tense during a nearly five-minute monologue, Levee seems to sense the window to his dream is closing: Time is running out. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is more than Boseman’s performance, sure, with Davis and Colman Domingo going on some delicious tears of their own and Wilson’s words continuing to sear and soar in equal measure. But Boseman’s ownership of the film, an Oscar-worthy snapshot of potential and desire, gives an otherwise lovely and broad tragedy something specific to sing about.—Jacob Oller

Year: 2019
Directors: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn
Stars: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Violet Nelson, Barbara Eve Harris
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 105 minutes

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Nothing pays off in The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open. Every narrative detail, demanding resolution, goes mostly unnoticed: When Rosie (Violet Nelson) takes money from Áila’s (co-director Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) purse, for example, we expect that the ensuing time they spend together, the 90 minutes or so, will teach Rosie a lesson, will encourage her to return the bills. That doesn’t happen. Instead, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open tells of a chance meeting between two First Nations women, divided by socioeconomic stability but united in having both just experienced violations—Rosie’s is the latest in a string of domestic abuse incidents, while Áila’s had an IUD inserted amidst a cold, impersonal procedure, shot by cinematographer Norm Li on 16mm with a commitment to capturing Áila’s every near-traumatized grimace and wince. Li follows Áila from the office, into the street, where she spots Rosie barefoot in the rain, maybe in shock, and from there the two escape Rosie’s infuriated boyfriend to Áila’s dry, airy loft apartment. Li is always just behind, the rest of the film edited together into one, continuous shot as Áila tries to figure out what to do to help Rosie, and Rosie tries to figure out how to keep from being victimized by virtue signalling outsiders. That Áila is also a FIrst Nations woman hardly matters to Rosie; she barely even looks the part. Of course, when they do part, Rosie swallows whatever guilt she may have developed over stealing from Áila, and the caretakers at the safe house remind Áila when Rosie doesn’t want to stay that it sometimes takes people seven or eight times to relent and leave their abusive situation. We wait for resolution, for a sign that things will get better. When they don’t, we look for other signs, and we wait, left only with patience—to watch, and to never stop watching, and to sit with the weight of that, to afford the cost of empathy. —Dom Sinacola

Year: 2016
Director: Taika Waititi
Stars: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Rhys Darby
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 101 minutes

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Bella’s (Rima Te Wiata) first encounter with Ricky (Julian Dennison), the new foster child she’s agreed to take on, doesn’t inspire confidence, especially with her clumsy jokes at the expense of his weight. In turn, with child-services representative Paula (Rachel House) painting Ricky as an unruly wild child, one dreads the prospect of seeing the kid walk all over this possibly in-over-her-head mother. But Bella wears him down with kindness. And Ricky ends up less of a tough cookie than he—with his fondness for gangsta rap and all that implies—initially tried to project. An adaptation of Barry Crump’s novel Wild Pork and Watercress, Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople thrives on upending preconceived notions. The director shows sympathy for Ricky’s innocence, which is reflected in the film’s grand-adventure style. Cinematographer Lachlan Milne’s sweeping, colorful panoramas and a chapter-based narrative structure gives Hunt for the Wilderpeople the feel of a storybook fable, but thanks to the warm-hearted dynamic between Ricky and Hec (Sam Neill), even the film’s most whimsical moments carry a sense of real underlying pain: Both of these characters are outsiders ultimately looking for a home to call their own. —Kenji Fujishima

Year: 2018
Director: Armando Iannucci
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Jason Isaacs
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

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You can trace that dynamic from The Thick of It, through In the Loop and Veep, and then especially in his new film, The Death of Stalin, whose subject matter can be inferred from a mere glance. The Death of Stalin marks a major temporal departure for Iannucci, known for skewering contemporary political embarrassments and turmoil, by taking us back to 1953 Russia. Years out from the Great Purge, the country remains in the grip of widespread fear fomented by nationalism, public trials, antisemitism, executions, mass deportations and civic uncertainty. Iannucci asks us to laugh at an era not known for being especially funny. That’s the give and take at the film’s core: Iannucci drops a punchline and we guffaw, then moments later we hear a gunshot, accompanied by the sound of a fresh corpse hitting the ground. Finding humor in political violence is a big ask, and yet Iannucci’s dialogue is nimble but unfailingly harsh, replete with chafing castigations. We howl with laughter, though we can’t help feeling bad for every poor bastard caught on the receiving end of trademark Iannucci verbal abuse, which typically means we end up feeling bad for every character in his films. He spares no one from insult or injury, even when they’re lying dead on the floor, soaked in their own piss. A tale of mortal sins as well as venial ones, The Death of Stalin adds modern urgency to his comic storytelling trademarks: As nationalist sentiment rears its ugly head across the globe and macho authoritarian leaders contrive to hoard power at democracy’s expense, a farcical play on the political clusterfuck that followed Stalin’s passing feels shockingly apropos. It takes a deft hand and a rare talent to make tyranny and state sanctioned torture so funny. —Andy Crump

Year: 2017
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, An Seo Hyun, Byun Heebong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je Moon, Woo Shik Choi, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Okja takes more creative risks in its first five minutes than most films take over their entire span, and it doesn’t let up from there. What appears to be a sticking point for some critics and audiences, particularly Western ones, is the seemingly erratic tone, from sentiment to suspense to giddy action to whimsy to horror to whatever it is Jake Gyllenhaal is doing. But this is part and parcel with what makes Bong Joon-ho movies, well, Bong Joon-ho movies: They’re nuanced and complex, but they aren’t exactly subtle or restrained. They have attention to detail, but they are not delicate in their handling. They have multiple intentions, and they bring those intentions together to jam. They are imaginative works that craft momentum through part-counterpart alternations, and Okja is perhaps the finest example yet of the wild pendulum swing of a Bong film’s rhythmic tonality. Okja is also not a film about veganism, but it is a film that asks how we can find integrity and, above all, how we can act humanely towards other creatures, humans included. The answers Okja reaches are simple and vital, and without really speaking them it helps you hear those answers for yourself because it has asked all the right questions, and it has asked them in a way that is intensely engaging. —Chad Betz

Year: 2018
Director: Timo Tjahjanto
Stars: Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Sonny Pang
Genre: Martial Arts, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 121 minutes

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While Gareth Evans confounded fans of The Raid movies by giving them a British folk horror film (but a darn good one) this year, Timo Tjahjanto’s The Night Comes for Us scratches that Indonesian ultra-violent action itch. Furiously. Then stabs a shard of cow femur through it. Come for the violence, The Night Comes for Us bids you—and, also, stay for the violence. Finally, leave because of the violence. If that sounds grueling, don’t worry, it is. You could say it’s part of the point, but that might be projecting good intentions on a film that seems to care little for what’s paving the highway to hell. It’s got pedal to metal and headed right down the gullet of the abyss. It’s also got the best choreographed and constructed combat sequences of the year, and plenty of them, and they actually get better as the film goes along. There’s a scene where Joe Taslim’s anti-hero protagonist takes on a team inside a van, the film using the confines to compress the bone-crushing, like an action compactor. Other scenes are expansive in their controlled chaos and cartoonish blood-letting, like Streets of Rage levels, come to all-too-vivid life: the butcher shop level, the car garage level and a really cool later level where you play as a dope alternate character and take on a deadly sub-boss duo who have specialized weapons and styles and—no, seriously, this movie is a videogame. You’ll forget you weren’t playing it, so intensely will you feel a part of its brutality and so tapped out you’ll feel once you beat the final boss, who happens to be The Raid-star Iko Uwais with a box-cutter. It’s exceptionally painful and it goes on forever. Despite a storyline that’s basically just an excuse for emotional involvement (Taslim’s character is trying to protect a cute little girl from the Triad and has a lost-brotherhood bit with Uwais’s character) and, more than that, an easy way to set up action scenes on top of action scenes, there’s something about the conclusion of The Night Comes For Us that still strikes some sort of nerve of pathos, despite being mostly unearned in any traditional dramatic sense. Take it as a testament to the raw power of the visceral: A certain breed of cinematic action—as if by laws of physics—demands a reaction. —Chad Betz

Year: 2020
Director: Osmany Rodriguez
Stars: Jaden Michael, Gregory Diaz IV, Sarah Gadon, Shea Whigham, Method Man, Chris Redd
Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 85 minutes

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Vampires have historically been used as a metaphor for practically any societal evil you can think of in cinema, but the “vampire as gentrification allegory”? Now that’s a new one. And that’s what you’ll see in Netflix’s Vampires vs. The Bronx. It makes its political message abundantly clear. These are indeed vampiric real estate developers, intent on snapping up properties like the neighborhood courthouse, which is immediately reimagined as an upscale condo development titled “The Courthaus.” A bit on the nose, perhaps, but pretty funny at the same time.—Jim Vorel

Year: 2020
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Stars: Charlize Theron, Kiki Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Van Veronico Ngo, Henry Melling, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli
Genre: Action, Fantasy
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Gina Prince-Bythewood, given a budget more than worthy of the best DTV action flick anyone could hope could make it to permanent Netflix browsal, succeeds in towing, and then mildly subverting, the genre line: She proves she can capably steer a high-concept action blockbuster while cobbling together something that feels like the kind of movie “they” just don’t make anymore. All of it amounts to a one-step-forward-one-step-back appraisal: There is much to cull from the travails of Andromache the Scythian (Charlize Theron), an immortal warrior who, thousands of years later, still questions the purpose of her own endlessness, and sequels, given Netflix’s ostensibly unlimited resources, are all but guaranteed—but one wishes for more capably clear action auteurism, even when Prince-Bythewood’s action chops confidently step up. Still: There are countless joys to behold in The Old Guard, most of all the emergence of Kiki Layne—last seen as hyper-dramatic personae #1 in If Beale Street Could Talk—as exceptionally promising action star, executing a one-handed pistol cocking so confident and so unremarked-upon it automatically achieves cinematic canon. Otherwise, trigger-happy editing gets in the way of itself too often, admirable set-pieces sometimes chopped to shit, though plenty of violence—squelching and tendon-splitting—abounds, and the final villain is dispatched with such disregard for the human body that one can’t help but applaud Prince-Bythewood for getting it—for knowing that the key to good action filmmaking is treating people like piles of wet meat. —Dom Sinacola

Year: 2017
Director: Hiroyuki Seshita
Stars: Sora Amamiya, Kana Hanazawa, Takahiro Sakurai
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 105 minutes

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When it comes to dark industrial sci-fi, Tsutomu Nihei is a visionary. Trained as an architect before pursuing a career as a manga author, Nihei’s art is simultaneously sparse and labyrinthine, his body of work defined by a unifying obsession with invented spaces. Byzantine factories with gothic accents spanning across impossible chasms, populated by bow-legged synthoids and ghoulish predators touting serrated bone-swords and pulsating gristle-guns. His first and most famous series, Blame!, is considered the key text in Nihei’s aesthetic legacy, going so far as to inspire everything from videogames, to music, and even art and fashion. Past attempts have been made to adapt the series into an anime, though none have been able to materialize successfully. That is, until now. With the support of Netflix, Hiroyuki Seshita of Polygon Pictures has delivered that long-awaited Blame! film. Set on a far-future Earth consumed by a massive, self-replicating superstructure known as ‘The City’, Blame! follows Killy, a taciturn loner, wandering the layers of the planet in search of a human possessing the ‘net terminal gene,’ an elusive trait thought to be the only means of halting the city’s perpetual hostile expansion. Boasting a screenplay penned by Sadayuki Murai, famed for his writing on such series as Cowboy Bebop and Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, and supervised by Nihei himself, Seshita’s film abbreviates much of the manga’s early chapters and streamlines the story into an altogether more narrative and action-driven affair. Art director Hiroshi Takiguchi deftly replicates Nihei’s distinctive aesthetic, achieving in color what was before only monochromatic, while Yuki Moriyama capably improves on the uniform character designs of the original, imparting its casts with distinct, easily identifiable traits and silhouettes that greatly improve the story’s parsability. Blame! is as faithful an adaptation as is possible and as fitting an introduction to the series as the manga itself. Blame! builds a strong case for being not only one of the most conceptually entertaining anime films of late, but also for being one of, if not the best original anime film to grace Netflix in a long time. —Toussaint Egan

Year: 2018
Director: Tom McCarthy
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Camp, Ed Oxenbould
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 104 minutes

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On its surface, Wildlife is a pretty familiar mid-century portrait of white-picket-fence America. (Spoiler alert: The nuclear family isn’t as harmonious as you might imagine.) But Paul Dano’s directorial debut is often subtler and more moving than would be expected, and the film is guided by Carey Mulligan’s stunning performance as Jeanette, a mother left to look after her teen son once her failure of a husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) leaves town for a temporary job. Based on Richard Ford’s novel, Wildlife sets up expectations about this woman—oh, poor Jeanette, the helpless, sensitive lass—which Mulligan expertly explodes, constantly surprising us with the character’s capacity for reinvention and calculation. Whether plotting to find a replacement for her husband or confiding in her son about what a disappointment his father is, Jeanette expresses a whole generation of women’s frustration at being repressed by a patriarchal society. Mulligan makes that frustration sexy, poignant and liberating—even if we never stop seeing the character’s increasing desperation to free herself. —Tim Grierson

Year: 2014
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Stars: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: R
Runtime: 135 minutes

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Alfonso Cuarón’s most intimate film is also his most distancing. The camera sits back, black-and-white, focused not on the bourgeois children that represent the cinematographer-writer-director and his siblings growing up in Mexico City several decades ago, but moreso on the indigenous woman (Yalitza Aparicio) that cares for them and the household. Not even entirely focused on her, perhaps more focused on its classicist compositions of a place that no longer exists in the way Cuarón remembers it. The camera gazes and moves in trans-plane sequencing, giving us foreground, mid-ground and background elements in stark digital clarity. The sound mix is Dolby Atmos and enveloping. But the base aesthetic and narrative is Fellini, or long-lost Mexican neorealism, or Tati’s Playtime but with sight gags replaced by social concern and personal reverie. Reserved and immersive, introspective and outward-looking, old and new—some have accused Roma of being too calculated in what it tries to do, the balancing act it tries to pull off. Perhaps they’re not wrong, but it is to Cuarón’s immense credit as a thoughtful technician and storyteller that he does, in fact, pull it off. The result is a singular film experience, one that recreates something that was lost and then navigates it in such a way as to find the emergent story, then from that to find the emotional impact. So that when we come to that point late in Roma, we don’t even realize the slow, organic process by which we’ve been invested fully into the film; we’re not ready to be hit as hard as we are when the wallops come and the waves crash. It’s almost unbearable, but we bear it because we care about these people we’ve become involved with. And such is life. —Chad Betz

Year: 2005
Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Anna Paquin
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: R
Runtime: 81 minutes

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Borrowing themes from his previous films—children of failed marriages; characters whose bookish smarts seem to work against them; a floating sense of fatalism—The Squid and the Whale creeps ever closer to Noah Baumbach’s own tempestuous past. His parents’ faltering union isn’t just a detail used to add depth to a certain character. It’s the whole story—a gorgeous, candid portrait of the messy car crash of divorce, from all angles. “It’s hard to even put myself in the mindset of those movies anymore,” he told Paste in 2005. “With Squid, these are reinventions of people that are close to me, and this is the movie I identify with the most. It is a natural extension of what I have intended and what I feel. I trusted myself more on this one.” —Keenan Mayo

Year: 2011
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloë Grace Moretz
Genre: Mystery, Adventure
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 126 minutes

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With Hugo, director Martin Scorsese has created a dazzling, wondrous experience, an undeniable visual masterpiece. In his adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Scorsese weaves together his many passions and concerns: for art, for film, for fathers and father-figures. He retells the story of a boy (Hugo Cabret, played by Asa Butterfield) in search of a way to complete his father’s work. Alongside Hugo’s tale is the true story of Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), one of the world’s first filmmakers. By film’s end, Hugo makes a persuasive case that the art of film is as Méliès defines it—the invention of dreams. (And conversely, there’s a case to be made that, in our modern world, dreams are now the invention of film.) Regardless, as an ode to the history of movies, this film is a success. Indeed, it soars in visual achievement, which is what the moving pictures were originally about. Martin Scorsese has made a 3D film in an attempt to point to that lifelike quality in movies that has always existed—even before 3D. This quality is the very essence of film, and it is glorified—and rightly so—in Hugo, a cinematic tribute to the art of movies and to art itself. —Shannon M. Houston

Year: 2018
Director: Sandi Tan
Genre: Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Making sense of one’s past can be both a lifelong undertaking and a thorny proposition. In Shirkers, novelist Sandi Tan accomplishes that trickiest of endeavors, directing a documentary about herself that isn’t cloying or cringe-worthy. Quite the contrary, her movie is refreshingly candid and self-critical: She may be the star of the show, but she has a story to tell and the right perspective to frame it properly. Tan narrates the documentary as a memory piece, recounting her childhood in Singapore with her best friend Jasmine, where they were the two cool kids in their pretty square school, dreaming of being filmmakers and leaving their mark. To further that ambition, they collaborated with another friend, Sophia, on a surreal road movie called Shirkers, which would be directed by Tan’s mentor, an older teacher named Georges who carried himself as someone who knew his way around a movie camera. In her late teens and perhaps smitten with this man who showed her such attention—the documentary is cagey on the subject—Tan was intoxicated by the rush of making a film that she wrote and would be the star of. So how come we’ve never seen it? The documentary traces the strange, mysterious journey of the project, which was waylaid by Georges sneaking off with the reels of film with a vague promise of finishing the work. That never happened, and 20 years later Tan decides to open those old wounds, connecting with her old friends and trying to determine what became of Georges. Scenes from the unfinished film appear in Shirkers, tipping the audience off to the fact that there will be a happy-ish resolution to Tan’s quest. But the documentary ends up being less about tracking down the film canisters than being an exploration of nostalgia, friendship and the allure of mentors. Tan is lively, self-effacing company throughout—her voice has just the right sardonic tinge—but her visits with Jasmine and Sophia are particularly lovely and illuminating, suggesting how lifelong pals can see us in ways that we cannot. —Tim Grierson

Year: 2019
Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Azhy Robertson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: R
Runtime: 136 minutes

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The way that Adam Driver ends “Being Alive,” which his character in Marriage Story has just sung in full (including dialogue asides from Company’s lead’s friends), is like watching him drain what’s left of his spirit out onto the floor, in front of his small audience (which includes us). The performance starts off kind of goofy, the uninvited theater kid taking the reins to sing one of Broadway’s greatest showstoppers, but then, in another aside, he says, “Want something… want something…” He begins to get it. He begins to understand the weight of life, the dissatisfaction of squandered intimacy and what it might mean to finally become an adult: to embrace all those contradictions, all that alienation and loneliness. He takes a deep exhalation after the final notes, after the final belt; he finally realizes he’s got to grow up, take down his old life, make something new. It’s a lot like living on the Internet these days; the impossibility of crafting an “authentic self,” negligible the term may be, is compounded by a cultural landscape that refuses to admit that “authenticity” is as inauthentic a performance as anything else. Working through identities is painful and ugly. Arguably, we’re all working through how to be ourselves in relation to those around us. And that’s what Bobby, the 35-year-old at the center of Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical Company, is doing. The scene forces the viewer to make connections about their humanity, the art they’re experiencing, and the ever deadening world in which it all exists. Charlie grabs the microphone, drained, realizing that he has to figure out what he has to do next, to re-put his life together again. All of us, we’re putting it together too. Or trying, at least. That counts for something. —Kyle Turner

Year: 1990
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone
Genre: Science-Fiction, Action, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Very loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (and aren’t all PKD adaptations “very loose”?), Total Recall functions as a construct for Paul Verhoeven to take a high-concept premise about memory implants and lost identity and motivational uncertainty and turn it into an Arnold Schwarzenegger schlock-fest. It should be bad, but it’s not; it should be, at best, cheesy fun—but it’s even more than that. Unlike many of it’s sci-fi action peers, Total Recall never runs out of steam or ideas; it starts with the memory implant stuff, but on the back end gives us a vividly imagined Mars society with an oppressed mutant population (which is, like, the best special make-up effects portfolio ever) and a secret alien reactor that’s a MacGuffin but also a deus ex machina. The plot’s a mess but so is Arnold. It all works. Total Recall’s $60 million production budget was absolutely huge for its time, but unlike similar Hollywood ventures that put money towards glitz (like the 2012 remake, so slick it slips right out of one’s head), Verhoeven uses the loot to give us more dust, more grit, more decrepit sets, more twisted prosthetics and maximum Arnold. Verhoeven, in fact, uses Arnold as much as he uses anything else in the budget to tell this darkly exuberant story, from the contorted confusion of the set-up right on through to the eye-popping finale. It results in a sci-fi screed written in the form of a hundred Ahh-nuld faces, absurd and unforgettable. For as many times as Dick has been adapted, this is perhaps the one time the go-for-broke energy and imagination of his work has made it into the cinema (Blade Runner is something else entirely). Total Recall may have little in common with the actual content of the story it blows up, but it knows the vibe. And PKD vibes are the best kind. —Chad Betz

Year: 2019
Director: Mati Diop
Stars: Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow, Nicole Sougou, Aminate Kane
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 104 minutes

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Atlantics is quite the announcement for writer-drector Mati Diop. She takes the magic realism of a peer like Alice Rohrwacher and carries it to the world’s margins, examining class struggle in a Senegalese city by the Atlantic. Through the gritty, blustery opening images shot as artful document of the Dakar shore (outstanding work by cinematographer Claire Mathon) and the hypnotic electronic score by Fatima Al Qadiri, Diop is able to evoke an incomparable mood and sense of place. That it might look and sound so alien to an American watching this film on Netflix is perhaps a sharp enough indictment of the ways in which we intellectually seclude ourselves from realities beyond our own. Atlantics is about that and it’s about the breaking of that. It’s about the mystery of identity and how one can find identity by taking on the identity of something other, or can find it when looking in a mirror—not for the physical self but for the spirit. Congruously, it’s also about losing the identities that are culturally prescribed, that we may have been born with, nurtured and/or limited by. Love, the film posits, is a catalyst; love helps reform identities in transgressive and transcendent ways. And the film is at its best when it avoids being programmatic, lets its visuals pulse before you. It is yet another sad ghost story amongst many, but where it differs is finely drawing the distinction that sometimes the things that haunt the living most are not the things that were but the things that should have been. The film’s protagonist embraces that haunting as a form of hope; she loses something important and fills the hole by expanding her own self with the self that was touched by others. Though Atlantics feels elliptical in many ways, Diop has the bravery to end her film with a pretty resounding period. It’s a statement, both for itself and for its creator, and it’s a convincing one. —Chad Betz

Year: 2019
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: André Holland, Zazie Beetz, Melvin Gregg, Sonja Sohn
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Members of the “keep your politics outta my sportsball” crowd will probably hate High Flying Bird, Steven Soderbergh’s basketball drama, his latest experimentation with iPhone and his first collaboration with imminent playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney (of Moonlight fame and success). The film forces audiences to confront the implicit and innate racial biases woven throughout American sports culture, settling specifically in the NBA’s court. Granted, the apolitical type probably wouldn’t give High Flying Bird a second thought browsing their Netflix queues anyway, and that’s just fine. Soderbergh’s filmmaking and McCraney’s writing gel together with up tempo pacing and nearly lyrical dialogue exchanged between its tight cast of characters, chiefly Ray Burke (André Holland), a sports agent doing his best to serve his client, star prospect Erick Scott (Melvin Gregg), while navigating a fictionalized lockout. The lockout’s not that fictionalized (recall events that impacted the NBA through 2011, for instance), it’s just that Soderbergh and McCraney aren’t referencing anyone or anything in particular here, beyond systemic biases, both casual and fully intentional, woven into basketball’s DNA. The film makes a surgically precise study of how governance over the game, wrested from the hands of its players and bequeathed to their owners, leads to grim power dynamics recalling the days of slave trades and auction blocks. In regards to material, it’s merciless. In regards to craftsmanship, it’s unforgiving. But curious viewers will be rewarded with one of the year’s most economical bits of closed-circuit storytelling, anchored by Holland’s towering lead performance—so long as they can keep up. —Andy Crump

Year: 2016
Director: Ava DuVernay
Genre: Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Director Ava DuVernay has successfully made a documentary that challenges and even dismantles our collective understanding of one of the most dangerous notions of our time: “progress.” How do we define progress, and who precisely gets to define it? 13th is a captivating argument against those who measure progress with laws that pretend to protect American citizens and amendments, and even to uphold the Constitution. It is a deftly woven and defiant look at how clauses within those amendments (specifically the lauded 13th) and the language of our political system both veil and reveal a profound and devastating truth about America: Slavery was never abolished here, DuVernay and the participants in the film argue. It was simply amended, and it continues to be amended in 2016, with the constant evolution of the criminal justice system. It’s a bold and terrifying statement to make, but in using a documentary instead of, say, a narrative film, DuVernay is able to point directly to that history and to those people who have defined “progress” for black Americans. In doing so, she draws a line directly from the 13th amendment, to today’s America, which has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Like some of the best documentaries of our time, 13th is not just a film, but a demand; it’s a call to reject dangerous reiterations, specifically newer and newer Jim Crows. DuVernay’s work doesn’t expressly name what we might build in their place, but it demands that those of us watching resist the seduction of sameness disguised as slow progress, and imagine something greater: actual freedom. —Shannon M. Houston

Year: 2008
Director: John Stevenson, Mark Osborne
Stars: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong, Dan Fogler, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jackie Chan
Genre: Action, Comedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Kung Fu Panda isn’t just a good movie—it’s a good kung fu movie. The title isn’t pandering, because the film truly respects its source material. Jack Black’s character may as well be Sammo Hung or Jackie Chan in one of his early roles. All of the classical elements are there—an obnoxious pupil who becomes a fighting machine. A team of (literally) animal-based martial artists with varying styles. An unbeatable, rampaging villain in the vein of the Ghost-Faced Killer from Mystery of Chessboxing. And a secret technique that the hero needs to learn in order to conquer that villain. It’s a funny, vibrant film as easily enjoyed by children as adults, and one that the adult viewers should feel no embarrassment for enjoying as much as they do. If you like classical martial arts filmmaking, Kung Fu Panda is probably the most faithful animated twist on the genre that anyone has pulled off so far. Too bad the same can’t be said of its overblown sequels. —J.V.

Year: 2016
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Alden Ehrenreich, Christopher Lambert, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 106 minutes

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The period zaniness of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Hail, Caesar! is an ode to old Hollywood—and much more—as only they can do, tracing the efforts of James Brolin’s studio scandal fixer through a parade of 1950s soundstages, back lots and actors. His latest potential headline concerns the abduction of a Biblically epic movie star—George Clooney having a helluva good time doing his best Chuck Heston/Kirk Douglas amalgam—by what turns out to be a tea sandwich-serving think tank of communists. Other subplots have Scarlett Johansson’s starlet plotting out her unwed motherhood in the public eye and the screen makeover of an unsophisticated cowboy by Ralph Fiennes’ debonairly enunciating director, Laurence Laurentz. There are dueling gossip columnist twins (Tilda Swinton pulling double duty), a hapless film editor (Frances McDormand) and scattered movies-within-the-movie, which even pauses midway through for a thoroughly enchanting—and cheeky—Gene Kelly-styled song-and-dance number starring Channing Tatum as a heavily made-up matinee star with controversial extracurricular activities. Most of the main characters/performances take blatant inspiration from Hollywood legends of yore, and the cast seems to have as much fun as the Coens. Hail, Caesar! is by no means their best work, but it’s characteristically gorgeous, spiritedly acted and rife with political, religious and creative (sub)text for moviegoers as thoughtful and dorky as Joel and Ethan themselves. —Amanda Schurr

Year: 2018
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Stars: Adriano Tardiolo, Alba Rohrwacher, Luca Chikovani
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 137 minutes

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It’s very difficult to get into too many details about Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy as Lazzaro without spoiling it—which seems a ridiculous thing to say about a film that starts off as a rural Italian take on Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, but you’ve got no idea until you’re watching it. Rohrwacher’s The Wonders was a more intimate, personal film that had moments of magic realism peeking through, just barely. Happy as Lazzaro similarly keeps the magic in check (though a scene with whispers in a field will start to invoke Fellini) until it no longer can—and then the magic explodes, blowing up the narrative and sending what’s left in an insanely bold direction. We can only be applaud its daring. If Dostoevsky was re-framing the Christ narrative, Happy as Lazzaro re-frames the very idea of a Christ narrative until it is something else entirely. Here, Christ is a mythic wolf and our kind idiot Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) is a touched Lazarus; the difference between them is a matter of substance, time and place. Lazzaro’s goodness, like all earthly goodness, is simultaneously transcendent and doomed, but the wolf continues on beyond any mortal coil, against the flow of humanity. Lazzaro tries to follow, perhaps foolishly, perhaps blindly…but happily, nonetheless. —Chad Betz

Year: 2014
Director: Patrick Brice
Stars: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice
Rating: R
Runtime: 77 minutes

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Creep is a somewhat predictable but cheerfully demented little indie horror film, the directorial debut by Brice, who also released this year’s The Overnight. Starring the ever-prolific Mark Duplass, it’s a character study of two men—naive videographer and not-so-secretly psychotic recluse, the latter of which hires the former to come document his life out in a cabin in the woods. It leans entirely on its performances, which are excellent. Duplass, who can be charming and kooky in something like Safety Not Guaranteed, shines here as the deranged lunatic who forces himself into the protagonist’s life and haunts his every waking moment. The early moments of back-and-forth between the pair crackle with a sort of awkward intensity. Anyone genre-savvy will no doubt see where it’s going, but it’s a well-crafted ride that succeeds on the strength of chemistry between its two principal leads in a way that reminds me of the scenes between Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina. —Jim Vorel

Year: 1979
Director: Terry Jones
Stars: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Pretty much made on George Harrison’s dime and considered, even if apocryphally, by the legendary comedy troupe to be their best film (probably because it’s the closest they’ve come to a three-act narrative with obvious “thematic concerns”), Life of Brian got banned by a lot of countries at the butt-end of the ’70s. As a Christ story, the telling of how squealy mama’s boy Brian (Graham Chapman) mistakenly finds himself as one of many messiah figures rising in Judea under the shadow of Roman occupation (around 33 AD, on a Saturday afternoon-ish), Monty Python’s follow-up to Holy Grail may be the most political film of its ilk. As such, the British group stripped all romanticism and nobility from the story’s bones, lampooning everything from radical revolutionaries to religious institutions to government bureaucracy while never stooping to pick on the figure of Jesus or his empathetic teachings. Of course, Life of Brian isn’t the first film about Jesus (or: Jesus adjacent) to focus on the human side of the so-called savior—Martin Scorsese’s take popularly did so less than a decade later—but it feels like the first to leverage human weakness against the absurdity of the Divine’s expectations. Steeped in satire fixing on everything from Spartacus to Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, and buttressed by as many iconic lines as there are crucifixes holding up the film’s frames (as Brian’s equally squealy mother hollers to the swarming masses, “He’s not the messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!”), the film explores Jesus’s life by obsessing over the context around it. Maybe a “virgin birth” was really just called that to cover up a Roman centurion’s sexual crimes. Maybe coincidence (and also class struggle) is reality’s only guiding force. Maybe the standard of what makes a miracle should be a little higher. And maybe the one true through line of history is that stupid people will always follow stupid people, whistling all the way to our meaningless, futile deaths. —Dom Sinacola

Year: 2021
Director: Kitao Sakurai
Stars: Eric Andre, Tiffany Haddish, Lil Rel Howery, Michaela Conlin
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Rating: R
Runtime: 84 minutes

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What’s most distinguishable about Bad Trip is the way that it depicts the public which it interacts with. The film never aims to humiliate or dehumanize its subjects—instead of being disparaged or mocked in the name of comedy, bystanders are portrayed as more of a righteous tribunal than mere crabs in a barrel. The reprehensible behavior showcased always stems from Andre, Haddish or Howery, with spectators taking it upon themselves to moralize and attempt to salvage any remaining shred of the incognito actors’ perceived dignity—perhaps all too perfectly exemplified in a scene with a parking lot Army recruiter who civilly declines Andre’s offer of a blowjob in exchange for execution during a profound period of hopelessness. This ability to invoke public reaction—with no rubric for hardline emotions that the actors must elicit—is what allows the fabric of Bad Trip’s humor to shine through. With the professional actors shouldering the burden of both maintaining character for the benefit of the film’s overarching narrative as well as ensuring that the orchestrated gags play perfectly, the public’s only obligation is reacting genuinely, whether that be expressing anger, frustration, disdain or bewilderment. It’s this spectrum of varied emotion that is woven into the very fabric of the film, giving it an overtly genuine tone. At times it is even surprisingly heartwarming, with good samaritans stepping in to talk characters off of ledges and break up public quarrels.

Year: 2018
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Stars: Kanon Tani, Shota Shimoda, Christine Marie Cabanos, Michael Sinterniklaas, Stephanie Sheh
Genre: Animated, Comedy, Kids & Family, Fantasy
Runtime: 107 minutes

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Distributor GKids sells Lu Over the Wall as “family friendly,” which it is, an innocuous, offbeat alternative to the conventional computer animated joints typically found in modern multiplexes. But there’s “whimsical” and there’s “weird,” and Lu Over the Wall ventures well past the former and into the latter before director Masaaki Yuasa gets through the opening credits. Barely a moment goes by where we come close to touching base with reality: Even its most human beats, those precious hints of relatable qualities that encourage our empathy, are elongated, distorted, rendered nigh unrecognizable by exaggeration. Lu Over the Wall isn’t a movie that takes itself seriously, and for the average moviegoer, that’s very much a trait worth embracing. The plot is both simple and not: Teenager Kai (voiced by Michael Sinterniklaas in the English dub), recently relocated from Tokyo to the quiet fishing village of Hinashi, spends his days doing what most teenage boys do, sullenly hunkering down in his room and shutting out the world. As Kai struggles with his self-imposed isolation, he befriends Lu (Christine Marie Cabanos), a manic pixie dream mermaid wrought in miniature. What’s a solitary emo boy to do in a literal and figurative fish-out-of-water plot that’s buttressed by xenophobic overtones? Lu Over the Wall blends joy with political allegory with vibrant color palettes with storytelling magic, plus some actual magic, plus too many upbeat musical interludes to count. Describing the film merely as “creative” feels like an insult to its inspired madness. —Andy Crump

Year: 2014
Director: James Bobin
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson
Genre: Comedy, Adventure
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 107 minutes

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The follow-up to 2011’s rebooted The Muppets pays specific tribute to Kermit, the beloved amphibian behind the Muppets’ longevity; the film shows us what the crew might look like without his guiding influence, and it’s a pretty anarchic picture. But unlike The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted doesn’t overtly pay homage to its subjects, and instead quite contently filters its bounty of heist caper tropes through a felt-tinted lens. By doing so, the film ends up being just as much of an ode to the Muppets’ brand of unbridled delight without having to wax sentimental; in the end, James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller cleverly get to have their cake and eat it, too. And so do we. —Andy Crump

Year: 2019
Director: Craig Brewer
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Kodi Smit-Mcphee, Snoop Dogg, Ron Cephas Jones, Barry Shabaka Henley, Wesley Snipes
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Runtime: 118 minutes

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“I want the world to know I exist,” Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) declares in Dolemite Is My Name. Awareness on a grand scale is an ambitious goal—but it didn’t stop Moore from trying. Rudy Ray Moore is a multi-hyphenate performer looking to propel his comedy career. After seeing Rico (Ron Cephas Jones), the local homeless man that visits where Rudy works, do stand-up, Moore decides to steal and refine Rico’s material. He assumes the character of Dolemite, a sharp, vulgar pimp who oozes confidence, and the “new” material kills in local clubs. Eventually, Moore signs a comedy record deal and charts on Billboard. Emboldened, he sets a new goal: to make a Dolemite film, exhausting all his personal expenses to do so. At the heart of Dolemite Is My Name is the smooth-talking man himself, played by Eddie Murphy. The actor has, since 2012, been quiet in the public eye, taking years-long breaks between films. In 2016, he resurfaced for the drama Mr. Church, his performance praised but the film critically panned. Being hailed as his “comeback” role, Dolemite finds Murphy in fit comedy shape, tackling this lead part with gusto. He embraces Moore’s slightly goofy enthusiasm and can-do attitude without a hint of mocking. For a character like Dolemite, so deeply rooted in the Blaxploitation era of the ’70s and frankly riddled with so many stereotypical elements, Murphy succeeds by being earnest, even when delivering Dolemite’s raunchiest lines. He reminds us he’s one of the best at balancing drama and comedy. A figure who could have been an offensive caricature in the wrong hands, Dolemite, in Craig Brewer’s film, is so much more; we go beyond the surface of the character, exploring one man’s quest for stardom and the entrepreneurial risks he took to be the talk of the town. We get a film befitting of Moore’s legacy while simultaneously reminding audiences the star power of Eddie Murphy. —Joi Childs

Year: 2020
Director: Nadia Hallgren
Stars: Michelle Obama
Genre: Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 89 minutes

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There seem to be two goals of Netflix’s new Michelle Obama documentary—first, to humanize (or normalize) the former First Lady of the United States as she embarks on a countrywide book tour (for her bestseller of the same name), and second, to reinforce the idea that Michelle Obama is a woman necessarily and eternally concerned with race and racism in America, particularly for Black women. The first goal is achieved, almost as much as it can be, and the personal stories and appearance of family members like her mother and brother are the strongest part of the Becoming experience. The second goal is a little more complicated, largely due to the fact that Michelle Obama occupies a strange space as a figure who is neither a politician, nor an activist—but who often presents like one or the other. Nadia Hallgren’s film is an attempt at a portrait of a lady seemingly on fire, now that she’s “free at last.” In an early scene, Obama and billionaire Oprah Winfrey laugh as they candidly discuss the relief that came with the end of her time in the White House. Becoming is about the “liberation” of Michelle Obama, and it takes care to remind us of all that she endured on the road to the White House. There’s a hollowness sometimes echoed in Obama’s celebrity interviews (on her press tour, she sits down with the likes of Oprah, Stephen Colbert, Gayle King and Reese Witherspoon), but something far more interesting happens when Obama is working as a mentor. In several scenes, she sits down with small groups—groups of Black women, young female students, Native American students in Arizona, and older black women in the church. In one especially compelling scene, we go home with Shayla, a teen in one of the groups, and we get to know the women who are inspired by Obama’s story of becoming. Watching a young black girl, giddy as she imitates the former First Lady’s walk down a hall, we get the sense that the mere experience of being in the same space as Obama will change some of these girls forever. They light up the screen in this documentary; they are the true stars, and they bring the real magic to this story. —Shannon M. Houston

Year: 2017
Director: Robin Aubert
Stars: Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, Brigitte Poupart, Luc Proulx, Charlotte St-Martin
Rating: NR
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Genre geeks didn’t seem to take a lot of notice of Ravenous, beyond its Best Canadian Film award at the Toronto International Film Festival—perhaps the result of an “indie zombie drama” subgenre that seems to have run its course through films such as The Battery, and perhaps because it’s performed in French rather than English. Regardless, this is a competently crafted little drama thriller for the zombie completist, full of excellent performances from no-name actors and an intriguing take on the results of zombification. The infected here at times seem like your standard Romero ghouls, but they’re also a bit more: lost souls who have hung onto some kind of strange, rudimentary culture all their own. These aspects of the zombie plague are always hinted at, never extrapolated, but it enhances the profound feelings of loss and sadness present in Ravenous. —Jim Vorel

Year: 2017
Director: James Franco
Stars: James Franco, Seth Rogan, Dave Franco, Alison Brie
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: R
Runtime: 104 minutes

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To tackle the ineffable mystery of Tommy Wiseau’s consciousness is to understand the mind of a crocodile, or of a shark, or of a space alien. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Which is precisely what makes James Franco’s portrayal of Wiseau in The Disaster Artist such an impressive and triumphant one. Franco has physically transformed into Wiseau in the same manner that usually draws praise for an actor such as Daniel Day Lewis: not necessarily via hair or makeup, but in a way that is more primal and intimate. Every odd little tic, every awkward laugh, each inexplicable grimace—the gestures all shine through as genuine to anyone who has seen The Room, or even an interview with Wiseau. The portrayal is a huge part of what makes The Disaster Artist so compelling and just plain fun. You could make a good argument that this is the greatest role of Franco’s career. And even if The Disaster Artist reads like it’s positioning for a shot at year-end honors and the largest possible audience, fans of The Room will ultimately get far more from the experience than the average multiplex dweller. It’s a film to see with an audience familiar with what it’s about to see, with people who can appreciate the dedication with which Franco and co. have recreated so many of the original film’s woeful charm. —Jim Vorel

Year: 2018
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Stars: Tim Blake Nelson, Bill Heck, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan, Tom Waits, Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson
Genre: Western, Drama, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: R
Runtime: 132 minutes

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As much an anthology of post-bellum adventure stories as it is a retrospective of the many kinds of films the Coen brothers have made—not to mention a scathing bit of fantasy curbed against the stories we’ve used to water down the tragedy of our country’s growth—The Ballad of Buster Scruggs tells six tales of greed, murder, mercy and the harsh mistress of blind chance, the only through line being the bleakness of the horizon America trampled to stake its imperial claim. A musty traveling showman (Liam Neeson) weighs the burden of his limbless performer (Harry Melling) against each night’s measly cash-out; a lone prospector (Tom Waits) patiently divines the vein of gold he refers to respectfully as “Mr. Pocket”; a cocky outlaw (James Franco) swings between the two sides of fate, his whole life leading to a semi-decent punchline; a disparate collection of travelers argue about the vicissitudes of faith while a bounty hunted corpse sits atop their carriage, all five heading towards some ambiguous symbolism; and the titular mellifluous gunslinger finally meets his match, making for one of the strangest sights the Coens have ever conjured. With the downhome nihilism of No Country for Old Men and Fargo, the mythological whimsy of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the back-breaking metaphysical weight of A Serious Man or the cutting capers of Raising Arizona, the whole of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs—shot as a series of awe-inspiring vistas by DP Bruno Delbonnel punctuated by the porous mugs of the pioneers who populate them—sings to an unparalleled canon of genres and tones. That its centerpiece is a sweet romance, between a quiet young woman (Zoe Kazan) and a noble cowboy (Bill Heck) leading her wagon train along the Oregon Trail, proves that the Coens still have beautiful surprises in store more than three decades deep into their career-long odyssey of American life. —Dom Sinacola

Year: 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Genre: Documentary, Musical
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 142 minutes

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Bob Dylan’s life and career are so encased in myth that it can be hard to untangle the romanticism from the reality. As much a symbol as he is a man, Dylan has spent most of his adulthood resisting being labeled the voice of his generation while slyly welcoming fans’ desire to dissect his every utterance, devoting much of the last couple decades opening up the vaults to release a series of official “bootleg” recordings associated with his most iconic albums and tours. He invites us to look deeper and listen harder, as if the answers can be gleaned from closer study. Long before David Bowie, Tom Waits, Madonna or Lady Gaga dabbled in persona play, Robert Zimmerman made us ponder masks in popular music. He’s both there and not there, which can be frustrating and fascinating. Both sensations are on display in Rolling Thunder Revue, the oft-spectacular, sometimes shtick-y chronicle of Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder tour. As is typical when depicting anything in the Dylan universe, this concert film/documentary simultaneously oversells its subject’s genius and provides overwhelming evidence of what a brilliant artist he is. The documentary’s full title should also be a disclaimer: Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese. Early on, the movie features a contemporary interview from Dylan confessing that he doesn’t quite remember what prompted Rolling Thunder or what his ambitions were. “I don’t have a clue because it’s about nothing,” he says, another example of obscuration and seduction. The movie is a “story,” which means some parts might be invented or exaggerated, and because it’s “by Martin Scorsese,” the whole film is filtered through one artist’s perspective on another. Scorsese is after something grander than mere documentation—more layers of myth are applied while trying to present an honest account of a tour and a performer. At nearly two-and-a-half hours, Rolling Thunder Revue is overlong but also overpowering, inconclusive yet undeniably stirring. It left me exhausted, but I kinda want to see it again. —Tim Grierson

Year: 2004
Directors: Bangjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom
Stars: Ananda Everingham, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, Achita Sikamana
Rating: NR
Runtime: 97 minutes

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Right around the same time when the American horror film market was excitedly green-lighting remakes of Japanese horror films such as The Ring and The Grudge, Thailand produced what is likely its largest genre hit to date, Shutter. This is an uncomplicated, old-school kind of haunting story that is given a modern twist in its reveal of the connection between victim and tormenter—themes that are handled more fluidly here than in the overly dramaticized 2008 American remake of the same name. It thrives on the strength of its two central performances, particularly that of Ananda Everingham, who plays a man whose sins come back to revisit him, big-time. The final nature of his personal haunting is captured on a screen in a way that is both scary and familiar feeling, with an “urban legend”-like quality that sounds like it would make for a perfect campfire story. With that ending in particular, it’s little wonder that the American remake followed, but the Thai original more accurately conveys the film’s eventual tone of social criticism. —Jim Vorel

Year: 2014
Director: Jeffrey Schwarz
Stars: Divine, John Waters, Michael Musto, Ricki Lake
Genre: Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Jeffrey Schwarz’s I Am Divine covers the life of Divine (born Harris Glenn Milstead) from his early childhood in conservative Baltimore through his rise to fame as the “most beautiful woman in the world.” The story of Divine is intertwined with the story of the Dreamlanders—Divine’s adopted family, a group of people who joined forces to create a safe space to express who they were without fear of judgement from the rest of the world. Warhol’s Factory did the same thing (Schwarz makes a number of allusions to Warhol), but where Warhol grew to resent his superstars, John Waters, Divine, Mink Stole and the rest of them all seemed to genuinely like one another. What Schwarz uncovers in his movie—or at least, what he illuminates—is how kind, quiet and generous Milstead was, despite his outrageous alter ego. Through a series of interviews with former collaborators, friends and family, Schwarz helps paint a picture of an extraordinary boy who lived so far outside what was considered “normal,” he had no choice but to blaze his own trail. In turn, I Am Divine leaves one with was a sense that all things are possible. After all, John Waters and Divine—without experience, without contacts, without money—accomplished what Hollywood continually fails to do. —Lee Tyler

Year: 2017
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Stars: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Riley Keough
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

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Within seconds, It Comes at Night haunts you. In the scene from which writer/director Trey Edward Shults says the rest of his script sprung, in the very first images of the film, an old man (David Pendleton) wheezes while covered, his skin festering, in boils. It’s clear: He isn’t long for this world. Shults and DP Drew Daniels hold his face in close-up as if they’re cradling him, trying to make his passing easier. Each successive detail is revealed with a carefulness that could only be described as some sort of deep, abiding empathy for the characters, any characters, Shults has on screen: first comes the man’s defeated face, his labored breathing, then the muffled voices of reassurance, telling him it’s OK to let go and that he’s loved. Then we see that the voices are muffled because they’re coming from gas masks. Then we watch as the people wearing gas masks roll the old man in a wheelbarrow out to the woods where they shoot him in the head and incinerate his corpse in a hole. It Comes at Night is ostensibly a horror movie, moreso than Shults’s debut, Krisha, but even Krisha was more of a horror movie than most measured family dramas typically are. Perhaps knowing this, Shults calls It Comes at Night an atypical horror movie, but—it’s already obvious after only two of these—Shults makes horror movies to the extent that everything in them is laced with dread, and every situation suffocated with inevitability. For his sophomore film, adorned with a much larger budget than Krisha and cast with some real indie star power compared to his previous cast (of family members doing him a solid), Shults imagines a near future as could be expected from a somber flick like this. A “sickness” has ravaged the world and survival is all that matters for those still left. In order to keep their shit together enough to keep living, the small group of people in Shults’s film have to accept the same things the audience does: That important characters will die, tragedy will happen and the horror of life is about the pointlessness of resisting the tide of either. So it makes sense that It Comes at Night is such an open wound of a watch, pained with regret and loss and the mundane ache of simply existing: Throughout we feel as if we’re saying goodbye to these characters even as we’re just getting to know them. It’s trauma as tone poem, bittersweet down to its bones, a triumph of empathetic, soul-shaking movie-making. —Dom Sinacola

Year: 2015
Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Jon Favreau, Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes

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Jon Favreau took a break between the $163 million dollar Cowboys & Aliens and Disney’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book to write, direct and star in a small indie comedy-drama about a celebrated chef rediscovering his love for food. When the owner of his restaurant (Dustin Hoffman) won’t let him experiment in the kitchen and his social-media ignorance leads to a very public feud with a food critic (Oliver Platt), he quits and buys a food truck. The road-trip that follows is the sweet, earnest heart of the film—reconnecting with his son as he reconnects with a passion for food. There’s not much to the straight-forward plot, but the film’s humor and mouth-watering food porn make it a treat. —Josh Jackson

Year: 2017
Directors: Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Groß
Stars: Ia Shugliashvili, Merab Ninidze, Berta Khapava
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 119 minutes

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It’s a shame Netflix felt like Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß’s My Happy Family deserved a burial, that the company didn’t bother pushing the film for awards season and neglected to give it a boost in visibility for the average consumer. Because Ekvtimishvili and Groß’s latest collaboration in a long line of collaborations is superb, timely and altogether unexpected in its unwavering grace. Compared to the year’s other films centered on dysfunctional families, whether hammy (I, Tonya) or naturalist (Lady Bird), My Happy Family is a gentle tribute to dignity: Manana (Ia Shugliashvili) is never less than noble in her constant dedication to her family, even as she determines that to preserve her sanity she must move out of the apartment she shares with them and lay down roots in a pad of her own. My Happy Family doesn’t judge Manana—it validates her. It illustrates a woman’s liberation from social and familial expectations, allowing Manana to discover who she is, what she wants and where she’s going without looking down on her. But My Happy Family is a small film with grand artistic ambitions, and both Ekvtimishvili and Groß know that Manana’s bliss has its limit. They know that eventually the matters of her husband and children, plus their extended family, must be reconciled. Still, My Happy Family shows a benevolent kind of restraint by ending on a note of uncertainty, sparing us the lion’s share of that work, its ultimate lingering ambiguity a thing of honorable beauty. —Andy Crump

Year: 2018
Director: Susan Johnson
Stars: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 100 minutes

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the teen scene’s newest runaway hit, is a flat-out excellent film. It is not excellent “for a teen flick.” It is not excellent “for a romantic comedy.” It is excellent for a film. TATBILB fully inverts the 80/20 ratio: Within the first 20 minutes, all five of the deeply private love letters our daydreamy, emotionally buttoned-up protagonist Lara Jean (Lana Condor) has written to her childhood crushes over the years have been stolen and mailed out—including the one to her neighbor and best friend, Josh (Israel Broussard), who just happens to also be her older sister’s just barely ex-boyfriend. This swift puncturing of any protracted emotional dishonesty Lara Jean might have hoped to indulge in, well, forever, leaves the film’s final eighty minutes free for her to embrace some really radical emotional honesty. That TATBILB allows Lara Jean to accomplish this not in spite of but through the fanfic-favorite trope of “fake dating” another, less-risky letter recipient (Noah Centineo’s ridiculously charming Peter Kavinsky) is a story strength. Of course, all the emotional honesty in the world wouldn’t matter if TATBILB’s leads didn’t burn with chemistry. Fortunately, Lana Condor and Noah Centineo can get it. Condor and Centineo are undeniably the stars of the show, but TATBILB doesn’t rest on their charismatic laurels: Mahoro as Lucas is a foxy ball of friendliness; Madeleine Arthur as Lara Jean’s best (girl) friend, Chris, is just the wide-eyed punk weirdo she needs to be; Janel Parrish plays against type as the sweet and steel-spined Margot; Anna Cathcart steals every scene as Lara Jean’s meddling little sis, Kitty; and John Corbett plays the healthily engaged version of Kat Stratford’s single OBGYN dad with a discernible glee. The importance of Lara Jean and her sisters being half-Korean, and the majority of the cast (along with Mahoro) non-white, is hard to overstate, but it isn’t the most impressive thing about the cast by a long shot. In a genre that can so often see its characters lean too far into caricature, Lara Jean’s world is instead populated with teens—and through them, love—you can believe in. —Alexis Gunderson

Year: 2018
Director: Tamara Jenkins
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Kathryn Hahn, Kayli Carter, Molly Shannon, John Carroll Lynch
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Rating: R
Runtime: 123 minutes

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A rich film with the confidence to take its time, allowing its characters to unfurl and its themes to grow and develop, Private Life is a quietly remarkable comedy-drama about family, marriage and getting older. To accomplish all that, writer-director Tamara Jenkins uses as her entryway a familiar scenario: a 40-something couple struggling to have a baby. Led by terrific, tricky performances from Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn, Private Life keeps shifting and surprising, never offering anything dramatically monumental but speaking precisely about the bonds between people—how they can be threatened but also renewed. Giamatti and Hahn play Richard and Rachel, who have been married for quite some time, each of them enjoying a satisfying creative life in New York City. But in recent years, they’ve struggled to conceive, a process that no amount of fertility treatments has been able to remedy. Private Life devotes a significant amount of its early running time to showing how couples such as Richard and Rachel undergo IVF, which has its comic moments but is largely depressingly clinical. (Adding to the despair are the long lines of other expectant couples Richard and Rachel see in the waiting rooms sitting alongside them.) But Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills, The Savages) uses the couple’s struggles to discuss far more intriguing subject matter. It’s not simply the inability to have a child that eats at these two people. Their failure to conceive hints that they’re not young anymore and, with that, exacerbates the feelings of regret they have about the career decisions they made. Did they focus on their art at the expense of parenthood? Now that the shine is off their early creative success, is their barrenness another indication of their growing irrelevance? Perhaps most pressingly, are they obsessing about having a child because, deep down, they know their marriage has troubles? The inability to conceive bothers Richard, but for Rachel, it’s a deeper wound—one that goes far beyond being deprived of motherhood. Hahn and Jenkins make the woman’s pain palpable, layered and also a bit ineffable, illustrating how people reach middle age not entirely sure how they got there or where they’re headed next. —Tim Grierson

Year: 1984
Director: John G. Avildsen
Stars: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka
Genre: Drama, Action
Rating: PG
Runtime: 127 minutes

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Ralph Macchio’s crane-legged Karate Kid would become an icon of the ’80s, as would Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi, the sensei who trains the bullied Daniel LaRusso in martial arts. Although many of the scenes can feel a little worn and trope-laden, that’s mostly due to how much the film has been copied in the years since its release. It was the sort of feature that defined karate to an entire generation of young kids and must have inspired countless dojo openings and yellow belt ceremonies. It also features one of the great villains of ’80s cinema in the merciless Cobra Kai coach, Sensei John Kreese: “Sweep the leg, Johnny.” —Josh Jackson

Year: 2011
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Stars: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 100 minutes

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In his black-and-white ode to the Golden Age of Hollywood, Gallic writer-director Michael Hazanavicius honors form as well as content, packaging his romantic melodrama about the rise of a new ingénue and the fall of a silent movie star in 1920s and ’30s Los Angeles in luxurious black, white, and shades of shimmering silver. It’s a beautiful, ambitious, nostalgic endeavor that demonstrates its makers are, indeed, artists. —Annlee Ellingson

Year: 2017
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 103 minutes

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Director Mike Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game trims fat, condenses and slims, stripping away some of the odder quirks of Stephen King’s novel to get at the heart of themes underneath. The result is a tense, effective thriller that goes out of its way to highlight two strong actors (Bruce Greenwood and Carla Gugino) in an unfettered celebration of their craft. This is nothing new for Flanagan, whose recent output in the horror genre has been commendable. It’s hard to overlook some of the recurring themes in his work, beginning with 2011’s Absentia and all the way through the wildly imaginative Oculus, Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil. Every one of these films centers around a strong-willed female lead, as does Gerald’s Game. Is this coincidence? Or is the director drawn to stories that reflect the struggle of women to claim independence in their lives by shedding old scars or ghosts, be they literal or figurative? Either way, it made Flanagan an obvious fit for Gerald’s Game, an unassuming, overachieving little thriller that is blessed by two performers capable of handling the lion’s share of the dramatic challenges it presents. —Jim Vorel

Year: 2020
Director: Harry Bradbeer
Stars: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Louis Partridge, Helena Bonham Carter, Susie Wokoma, Frances de la Tour, Burn Gorman, Adeel Akhtar
Genre: Thriller, Adventure
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: PG-13

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Someone’s finally done right by Millie Bobby Brown and cast her as a fully fleshed out character. While her roles in ’80s nostalgia bonanza Stranger Things (kid cursed with psychokinetic abilities fighting extradimensional monsters) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (kid torn between divorced parents and surrounded rampaging colossi), neither role demands that she emote beyond forlorn gazes. In Enola Holmes, a mystery focused on Sherlock Holmes’ brilliant kid sister and her efforts to foil crime, Brown finally gets to do more than scream and frown. While the movie itself is heavy on plot and heavier on exposition, Brown’s performance makes the story gallop at a breezy clip regardless. She’s liberated, appropriate given that Enola Holmes is about the liberation Enola finds as she comes of age, stepping out of the curated world erected around her by her enigmatic mum, Eudoria (Helena Bonham-Carter). When her mother goes missing, Enola quickly deduces Eudoria has gone on the lam, and so she leaves Ferndell, the Holmes family’s estate, armed with pugilist skills and worldly knowledge passed down to her by her mother, intent on finding her and understanding why she left in the first place. With a wink here, a smile there and a stock-still but knowing glance at viewers, Brown is a dynamo, full of vigor, cheer and enough pathos to make the sub-theme of civil unrest and social change feel real and relevant to children on the cusp of teenhood and teens on the cusp of adulthood. Enola Holmes is about serious matters. Fortunately, it isn’t a serious film, which makes a nice change of pace from the Guy Ritchie movies and the BBC series, which never give in to the idea that tracking clues and apprehending villains could actually be fun. —Andy Crump

Year: 2016
Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%
Rating: R
Runtime: 134 minutes

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance is key to Snowden’s place in Stone’s oeuvre as another exceptional take on the nature of heroism. It’s every bit as complicated and ambiguous as Stone’s previous films on the subject, but the complexity is all internal—from Stone’s point of view, there’s no real questioning the fact that Snowden is a patriot and a hero. The questioning comes from within, as Snowden becomes less a film about heroism than about the physical and psychic costs of heroism—and whether or not they’re worth it. Stone and his actors (not just Gordon-Levitt, but Shailene Woodley, superb in an essential role as the woman Snowden loves) mine this material so thoroughly that when Snowden does allow itself moments of triumph they’re completely earned. This may be Stone’s most genuinely inspiring film since Born on the Fourth of July and his most poignant and romantic next to World Trade Center. Yet it’s also, at times, his bleakest work, a chilling horror film about the surveillance state under which we all live. That all of these tones—and a wide array in between—can exist coherently in the same film is indicative of Snowden’s success. It’s one of the best movies Stone has ever made—and easily one of the best of the year. —Jim Hemphill

Year: 2015
Director: Jon Watts
Stars: Kevin Bacon, James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford, Camryn Manheim, Shea Wigham
Genre: Thriller, Mystery & Suspense
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Rating: R
Runtime: 86 minutes

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A lean, rugged neo-noir that tweaks genre conventions by putting two young boys at the center of its attention, Cop Car opens with credits shimmering like police lights. Cut to snapshots of writer-director Jon Watts’ rural Colorado milieu, a place defined by barren storefronts, abandoned playgrounds, dilapidated trailer parks, and flat, dusty plains. Across the vast, barren land walk 10-year-olds Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford): Travis utters curse words that Harrison dutifully echoes in a kind of casual call-and-repeat bonding ritual, and from the first sight of the duo—orchestrated by Watts as one gorgeous, unbroken tracking shot which captures them dwarfed by the country’s big sky, even when they make their away through a barbed wire fence—it’s clear that the boys are on an odyssey of some sort, albeit one of initially undefined purpose. And it’s clear that Watts (co-scripting with Christopher Ford) wants Cop Car to serve as a downbeat commentary about the futility of escape. Coming upon a tree-shrouded area, the two are surprised to discover a county sheriff’s cruiser. They decide that the car has been abandoned. Up to no good, finding the driver’s side door unlocked and the keys inside, Travis and Harrison opt to take a joy ride. Apparently having both run away from home, the two speed around the cow-populated landscape like juvenile delinquents unconcerned about the potentially serious consequences of their actions. Such uninhibited, devil-may-care recklessness gives the material an immediate jolt of peril, even before Watts rewinds his tale to reveal the origins of the car and its owner. As it turns out, the car was left in this out-of-the-way locale by Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), its remote parking spot chosen so that the officer wouldn’t be seen hauling a body out of its trunk and onto a tarp, and then dragging it to a hole to be unceremoniously dumped. That corpse’s identity is left as vague as Kretzer’s reason for committing this apparent murder. Suffice it to say, when the sun does finally set on these characters, what’s left is a bleak portrait of the hopelessness of trying to change one’s circumstances, and the often-brutal punishment doled out by fate to those foolish enough to think they can alter who they are, where they come from, or where they’re going—even when those in question are just a couple of ne’er-do-well runaways looking for some mischievous kicks. —Nick Schager

Year: 2020
Director: Alice Wu
Stars: Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 105 minutes

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Netflix’s The Half of It begins somewhat deceptively, with a highly stylized animated retelling of an old Greek myth in which the four-armed, four-legged, two-headed humans of ancient times are sundered by the gods and wander about forever in search of the other half of their single heart. It ends with a scene between a boy and a girl, something that normally would come right out of a dopey rom-com, but in a way that subverts the trope on every level, from the inversion of its meaning to the quiet, intimate naturalism with which it is filmed. It’s a fitting juxtaposition because the film sandwiched between the two moments is about the fallacies that drive our neat and tidy narratives about love. Love is messy is the point, one called out aloud by main character Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) in Alice Wu’s short little film about a Chinese-American high schooler whose incredible writing skills find her hired to help her classmate, the kindhearted but far less charming Paul (Daniel Diemer), woo another girl. Paul does not realize that Ellie shares his unrequited desire for Aster (Alexxis Lemire), and that every sweet late-night text and smoldering note passed in class is tearing Ellie apart. If the story borrows its central conceit from Cyrano de Bergerac, it at least puts a few interesting spins on it: Ellie is an outsider in unique ways. She is the only Asian student at her school, an immigrant whose underemployed and linguistically challenged father struggles to run her household. She is the student who is so good at writing that she runs a side hustle writing papers for her entire class. And then there’s the other little matter of her feeling same-sex attraction in a stiflingly small, overwhelmingly Christian town. It’s a unique twist on a familiar story in a film that universalizes feelings of otherness for the audience, whether they come from being the runt of the litter or the child of an immigrant struggling to make it in America. —Kenneth Lowe

Year: 2019
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Stars: Iván Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale Coka, Alexandra Masangkay
Rating: NR
Runtime: 94 minutes

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The Platform benefits immensely from the strength of its simple, high-concept premise and all the superfluous information that is withheld from the viewer. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know why exactly people are placed into this diabolical, vertical prison structure, in which the only sustenance arrives once a day in the form of a steadily descending, increasingly gross stone slab piled high with perishables. Nor do we really need to know how this apparent social experiment operates, although the repeated glimpses we get at cooks slaving over perfect dishes to be sent down to the doomed convicts is no doubt designed to needle at our curiosity. What matters is that we observe the differences in human reaction to this plight—the ways that different personalities react to adversity with an “us or them” mentality, or a predatory hunger, or a spontaneous drive toward self-sacrificing altruism. The fact that the position of the prisoners is constantly in flux is key—it gives them both a tangible reason to be the change they want to see in their world, and an almost impossible temptation to do the exact opposite out of distrust of their neighbors. One expects a nihilistic streak here, and you won’t be disappointed—but there’s a few glimmers of hope shining through the cracks as well. Just enough, perhaps, to twist the knife that much deeper. —Jim Vorel

Year: 2019
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Stars: Ali Wong, Randall Park, Keanu Reeves, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang, Karan Soni
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 102 minutes

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A film written by and starring Ali Wong and Randall Park was always guaranteed to be a home run, but the endlessly funny and charming Always Be My Maybe truly exceeds all romcom expectations. The duo (who penned the script with Michael Golamco) play childhood friends who lose touch after an impulsive teenage romance ends badly. From there, Wong’s Sasha becomes a celebrity chef as Park’s Marcus continues to live at home and work for his father’s blue collar business after his mother’s tragic passing. They each have things to learn from one another, sure, but Always Be My Maybe doesn’t just end when romance blossoms; it leans into the complications of two adults with independent lives choosing to be together and figuring out how to make it all work. Part of that, crucially, includes both Marcus and Sasha playing supportive roles in one another’s careers rather than compromising and giving up their passions to be together. Director Nahnatchka Khan keeps the stylish film moving at a pleasant comedic clip throughout, and there’s a killer cameo appearance you will not want spoiled before you see the movie. Seriously, you should watch it right now. —Allison Keene

Year: 2017
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Stars: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Camp
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes

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In the uncanny valley of a Yorgos Lanthimos film, characters resemble human beings…but not entirely. In movies such as Dogtooth and The Lobster, the Greek writer-director has become a maestro of the queasy/funny horror-comedy, turning our universal anxieties into psychologically rich satires in which life’s mundane surfaces give way to dark, often bloody realities we don’t want to acknowledge. His movies are funny because they’re so shocking and disturbing because they’re so true. But for them to really soar, their provocations need to be grounded in recognizable behavior, which gives Lanthimos a foundation to then stretch his extreme stories past their breaking point. With his latest, we see what happens when his underlying ideas are not as complex as the intricacies of his execution. The Killing of a Sacred Deer reunites Lanthimos with his Lobster star Colin Farrell, who plays Steven, a cardiologist, who’s married to an ophthalmologist, Anna (Nicole Kidman). They have two children, teen Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and her younger brother Bob (Sunny Suljic). It would be hard to describe their personalities because, in typical Lanthimos fashion, they don’t really have any. Quickly, Sacred Deer introduces us to the fly in this particular ointment. His name is Martin (Barry Keoghan), a moody teen who seems as lobotomized as the other characters. There’s one crucial difference, though: He has befriended Steven for reasons that feel sinister but will only eventually become clear, and he keeps insinuating himself into the man’s world. It wouldn’t be much fun to reveal where Sacred Deer goes from there, but Sacred Deer may be Lanthimos’s most visually and sonically ambitious work—technically, it’s pristine—clever without ever quite deciding precisely what it’s about. —Tim Grierson

Year: 2016
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: John Gallagher Jr., Michael Trucco, Kate Siegel
Rating: R
Runtime: 81 minutes

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Hush is a simple, intimate film at heart, and one that takes more than a few cues from Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers, among other home-invasion thrillers. Director Mike Flanagan, whose Oculus is one of the decade’s better, more underrated horror films, remains a promising voice in horror, although Hush plays things considerably safer than that ambitious haunted mirror tale did. Here, the gimmick is that the sole woman being menaced by a masked intruder outside her woodland home is in fact deaf and mute—i.e., she can’t hear him coming or call for help. At first, the film appears as if it will truly echo The Strangers and keep both the killer’s identity and motivations secretive, but those expectations are subverted surprisingly quickly. It all boils down into more or less exactly the type of cat-and-mouse game you would expect, but the film manages to elevate itself in a couple of ways. First is the performance of actress Kate Siegel as protagonist Maddie, who displays just the right level of both vulnerability and resolve, without making too many of the boneheaded slasher film character choices that encourage you to stand up and yell at the screen. Second is the tangible sense of physicality the film manages in its scenes of violence, which are satisfyingly visceral. Ultimately it’s the villain who may leave a little something to be desired at times, but Hush is at the very least a satisfying way to spend a night in with Netflix. —Jim Vorel

Year: 2020
Director: David Dobkins
Stars: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Pierce Brosnan
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 121 minutes

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Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is—let’s be honest here—a bit on the thin side, and a little confusing. It’s got just enough sincerity to undermine its own satirical impulses and just enough pandering snark to undermine its own sincerity. It runs long, and it leans on a trope, Ferrell’s master trope and the common denominator in most of his best performances—the lovable but fundamentally clueless and self-absorbed man-baby who can’t get out of his own way. It’s a trope that, thanks to Ferrell himself, we have mined pretty thoroughly in comedy over the last few decades. And yet, even as Eurovision Song Contest makes a number of perplexing moves in its two-hour-plus runtime, you kind of can’t help rooting for it, and for its principal characters, because its refusal to be cynical operates as a vital, oxygenating escape hatch right now.—Amy Glynn

Year: 1988
Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Rating: R
Runtime: 133 minutes

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In this Oscar-winning Best Picture, Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) embarks on a road trip with his newly discovered brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). It’s not an intentional happy-go-lucky jaunt, though—Charlie is simply trying to get more of his recently deceased father’s $3 million estate, most of which he left to the autistic Raymond. Charlie gets to learn more about his brother and his mental tics like having to stop everything in order to watch Jeopardy! and buying underwear strictly from Kmart. Hoffman is undeniably good, and his performance as a savant earned him a Best Actor in a Leading Role award. But Cruise’s portrayal of a high-strung professional who transforms into a caring brother is also a treasure. The tender moments are just as important as the comical—and the blend of laughter and tears are skillfully spread out in this 1988 classic. —Shawn Christ

Year: 2021
Director: Jo Sung-hee
Stars: Song Joong-ki, Kim Tae-ri, Jin Seon-kyu, Yoo Hae-jin
Rating: NR
Runtime: 136 minutes

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Netflix introduced its audience to Southeast Asian big-budget sci-fi with the Chinese film The Wandering Earth, a mess of a story that was still beautiful to look at. Space Sweepers, from Korean filmmaker Jo Sung-hee, is a much more cohesive and coherent offering with just as much flash. The dystopian setting sees the head of a giant tech company creating an Eden on Mars, essentially consigning most of humanity to poverty and pollution. A ragtag team of space-junk collectors is each looking after their own self-interest when they find a mysterious young girl who entangles them in much larger worries. With compelling characters, thrilling action sequences and an engaging plot, it’s a strong entry for Korea’s first sci-fi blockbuster. —Josh Jackson

Year: 2009
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: R
Runtime: 88 minutes

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It seems like there’s a certain amount of blowback against Zombieland these days. Not among the general audience, where the film is still fairly well-liked, but among the horror and zombie geeks and “purists,” who don’t seem to consider it legitimate enough as a zombie film. I’m not sure why that is, in a genre where Shaun of the Dead is rightly hailed as the cream of the zombie comedy crop. Zombieland was certainly inspired on some level by the former, as it moved the action to the USA and brought together survivors who were anonymous to each other rather than a circle of friends, as in the tradition of Night of the Living Dead. Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus is the type of character we hadn’t seen in a zombie film before, even in the comedies—somewhat neurotic, not particularly well-equipped to fight, but brainy and resourceful enough to get by on his own, he presents an entirely different mold of survivor. Of course it’s Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee who really steals the show, as a short-fused drifter on a seemingly pointless quest to find the world’s last box of Twinkies. Featuring zombies that are legitimately threatening, it tows a near-perfect line between comedic (but gory) violence and character-driven humor. —Jim Vorel

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