The 40 Best Movies on Redbox

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The 40 Best Movies on Redbox

The best movies on Redbox right now include many films of Paste’s Best Movies of 2019 (So Far), including some hidden gems among the big-budget movies plastered all over the Redbox display, including the latest in the John Wick series, horror hit Us and the highest-grossing movie of all time, Avengers: Endgame. Our guide to movies at Redbox includes Oscar winners, kids movies, comedies, indie film, biopics and horror. And all of the movies listed here are available on DVD for $1.75 ($2 if you want Blu-Ray) right now.

You can also check out our guides to the best movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Hulu, Showtime, Cinemax, YouTube, on demand and in theaters. Or visit all our Paste Movie Guides.

Here are the 40 best new movies at Redbox:

yesterday-movie-poster.jpg 40. Yesterday
Year: 2019
Director: Danny Boyle 
A struggling musician named Jack (Himesh Patel), still barely hanging onto his passion in life thanks to the unwavering support and encouragement from his best friend/manager Ellie (Lily James), gets hit by a bus and is knocked out on the night when all power mysteriously gets cut off across the globe for a minute. He wakes up in the hospital to a new reality where The Beatles never existed, and he’s the only one on the planet who remembers their songs. By introducing the world to John, Paul, George and sometimes Ringo’s genius, he becomes an overnight sensation as the greatest songwriter of all time. Thus is Yesterday’s high-concept comedy/musical premise. But it’s also a testament to how not only The Beatles, but great art in general, enriches the human soul and makes us grateful to be alive. While many might assume the introduction of The Beatles’ greatest work into a virgin universe would result in widespread acceptance, writer Richard Curtis and director Danny Boyle have a lot of fun with how the modern world would react to the songs and would tweak them to fit the times. The film is chock full of astute humor about, say, who the hell Sergeant Pepper is or how “Hey Dude” makes more sense than “Hey Jude.” (Thankfully, the “I used to beat my girlfriend” lyric from “Getting Better” isn’t mentioned.) While Curtis’ attention to character keeps us emotionally engaged, Boyle’s manic editing and quirky visual choices, such as names of locations floating around the frame, propels the story forward like a well-oiled narrative machine. With her effortless charisma and magnetism, Lily James proves herself to be a formidable rom-com star. Himesh Patel certainly fits Curtis’ archetype of melancholic and self-deprecating male protagonists, but also leaves a strong impression with his beautiful singing voice and stage presence. If it accomplishes nothing else, Yesterday lets us relive the grandiosity of The Beatles as if it’s our first time. A fab accomplishment indeed. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review


aladdin.jpg 39. Aladdin
Year: 2019
Director: Guy Ritchie
I haven’t really been a fan of Disney’s live-action remakes, but Aladdin is a rip-roaring action/fantasy/musical that manages to exist on a relatively independent and distinguished tonal field. The basic story beats and the songs are of course transplanted, but at least an effort is put forth to serve a wholly invigorating piece of family entertainment that provides something new to fans and newcomers alike. True to its ambition of presenting an epic adventure, this Aladdin runs a whopping forty minutes longer than the 1992 version, yet almost none of it is filler. Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) is given as much agency and focus as the titular character (Mena Massoud), the beloved street rat who falls in love with her and decides to use a certain magic lamp with a certain resident genie (Will Smith) to become a prince so he can marry her. Of course, the palace’s evil vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) is also after the lamp. Will Jafar snatch the lamp from Aladdin and become the bloodthirsty tyrant of the land, or will Aladdin defeat him with the help of his buddies, the twitchy monkey Abu and the kindly magic carpet? Of course the answer is clear for anyone with a passing knowledge of the animated film. But some changes, even tiny ones, give us new perspectives on the story. As a Middle-Eastern immigrant myself, I’d be lying if I said the sight of such characters being portrayed by actors who match their ethnicity in such a giant budget Hollywood blockbuster didn’t make me feel a sense of due progress. Yet of course all of that is for naught if the talent can’t deliver. Which brings us to Smith’s genie. It’s impossible to top the 100-jokes-a-minute singular power and vigor of Robin Williams’ voice performance, so Smith doesn’t even try. He wisely stays in his lane by letting his trademark swagger and cool magnetism inform the character. With music that breathes new life to beloved songs with an emphasis on percussion and horns, and production designer Gemma Jackson’s luscious world building that borrows from various Middle-Eastern cultures as added pedigree, Aladdin is the rare remake that actually gives us a whole new world. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review


captain-marvel.jpg 38. Captain Marvel
Year: 2019
Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
It remains, when you think about it, absolutely insane that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has featured two new movies, one of which introduces an entirely new character, in between two halves of a nearly six-hour epic where half the cast dies in Part One. Talk about your flex moves! One thing Captain Marvel has going for it that Ant Man and the Wasp didn’t is that it gives us a lead character we can care about and (even more importantly) an actor who rises to the occasion. In many of these Marvel origin stories—and by my count, this is the eighth one since the original Iron Man—the movie goes through great pains to explain to us why we should care about this new character, why, with everything else we have to keep track of, we should readily agree to adding one more to the mix. Captain Marvel, like many MCU movies, sometimes labors under the weight of having to tell its own story while still connecting to the larger, ongoing saga, but it has no issues with justifying its main character: We see in her eyes, from the first second, what’s different about her. The movie has us on her side before she ever says a word. The key is Brie Larson, an instantly, almost subconsciously empathetic actress who finds a new, fascinating gear here as Vers who, when we first meet her, is a Kree warrior fighting in outer space with an elite force led by her trainer, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Vers has no memory of her past, but it returns to her when, in the midst of a battle, she’s dumped onto a distant planet that turns out not only to be Earth, but also her home planet and in the year 1995. She ends up, rather conveniently, running into future S.H.I.E.L.D. head Nick Fury (a digitally de-aged, and convincingly so, Samuel L. Jackson) and a series of Air Force pilots who provide clues to her past through a supersecret initiative called “Pegasus.” The film is otherwise entertaining and exhausting in the equal measures we have come to expect from modern Marvel movies—if you’ve seen one bad guy bent on galaxy domination, you’ve seen them all. But this movie isn’t about the supporting characters, or the setting, or even how well its big action set pieces play out. It’s all about whether or not they can sell this Captain Marvel as someone who even the mighty Avengers can call to someday help them save the world. —Will Leitch / Full Review


how-to-train-dragon-hidden-world-movie-poster copy.jpg 37. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Year: 2019
Director: Dean DeBlois
While every studio is tripping over themselves to kick-start the next blockbuster franchise before the first film is even cast, the How to Train Your Dragon crew has been building an engaging family fantasy/adventure trilogy (loosely based on the novels of Cressida Cowell) over the last ten years. The first movie was a pleasant surprise—it not only avoided Dreamworks’ then-prevalent animated family fare formula of tongue-in-cheek humor and pop-culture references, but built on its source material in a way that created a distinct fantasy world that any fan of the genre, child or adult, could enjoy. At its core, the story of Viking teen Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) befriending a rare dragon called Toothless and learning to get along with dragons in a culture that feared and hunted them was a tender allegory on young adults paving their own way in life while standing up to tradition they deem to be wrongheaded. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World revolves around Hiccup trying to find a new location that would keep the people of Berk and their dragons safe. After spending years rescuing dragons from captivity, the townspeople are understandably worried that the dragon poachers will soon retaliate, so Hiccup takes it upon himself to find the mythical Hidden World where humans and dragons can live in peace. Meanwhile, Toothless falls in love with a female night fury (dubbed a “light fury” thanks to her bright white skin). The new love interest is joined by a new antagonist, Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), the greatest dragon hunter in the world. The developing rift—or perhaps it’s more precise to call it “drift”—between Hiccup and Toothless that provides the overall narrative glue for the film’s series of breathtaking action set pieces might provide a bittersweet tone for fans of the series. Yet it also captures the bittersweet experiences we all face when we take our final steps into adulthood. That doesn’t mean the spectacle is lacking. The visual majesty of this Viking utopia, full of foggy mountains and the clear blue sea as far as the eye can see get yet another upgrade with some new breathtaking locations. It all makes for a solid conclusion to such an endearing franchise. Given it success, it seems unlikely this will be the last film from the land of Berk and beyond. But as a closing chapter in the tale of Hiccup and Toothless, The Hidden World ends this portion of the tale on a satisfying note. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review


rocketman-movie-poster.jpg 36. Rocketman
Year: 2019
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Any major studio that gets its hands on the rights to a rock star’s music, desiring to retrofit it into a movie for the fans, has two options: Make a biopic that episodically lines up snippets of the artist’s life, like last year’s bafflingly popular Bohemian Rhapsody, or make a jukebox musical that integrates the beloved hits into an original story, like the gaudy Mamma Mia! or the sublime Across the Universe. Rocketman, a dazzlingly entertaining, heartbreaking, vulnerable, and delightfully exuberant biopic about the great Elton John (Taron Egerton) dares to ask a question so simple yet so smart: Why not do both? So we get an intimately dissected and well-acted biopic as well as a spectacularly visualized and choreographed musical. We begin with Elton, né Reginald, a child prodigy burying himself in his music to cope with the emotional hole in his heart brought on by his loveless father (Steven Mackintosh) and selfish mother (Bryce Dallas Howard). After finding true inspiration thanks to his lyric-writing partner Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), he enjoys the spoils of becoming an overnight smash. But of course the music, the money and the millions of fans turn out to be a temporary fix for the loneliness he has felt since childhood, so in comes the “dark period” full of drugs, sex, copious partying and the alienation of everyone who genuinely loves him, a period made worse by an abusive relationship with his life partner/manager (Richard Madden). This all sets up the third act, the long road to redemption. So the recipe is the same we’ve tried many times before, but writer Lee Hall and director Dexter Fletcher infuse it with delectable and previously unused ingredients. In a strictly audio/visual sense, the musical numbers are stunning, each new one managing to top what came before in uniqueness and whimsy. Most importantly, Taron Egerton embodies Elton with a captivating natural presence; his is a meticulously mannered performance in the best possible way, where even the tiniest facial tic becomes an irreplaceable detail that completes the big picture. Overall, it’s hard to imagine a better tribute to such a singular icon. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review


creed-ii.jpg 35. Creed II
Year: 2018
Director: Steven Caple Jr.
The bad news about Creed II is that Creed II isn’t a very good Creed movie, in the sense that it does not follow through on the examinations of black American identity—the search for, the substance of, the complications of—that Ryan Coogler embarked on in 2015. The good news about Creed II is that it’s a good Rocky movie, and lord knows that outside of Rocky and Rocky Balboa, that distinction could be considered rare. (Rocky II qualifies, but also reads somewhat as television in an era before “movies are TV shows and TV shows are movies” became its own aesthetic.) Maybe the best news is that Creed II revisits and even, such as it can, correct the events of Rocky IV. It was inevitable that we’d get here, and that after addressing Rocky IV in Creed through text and subtext, the new spin-off franchise would have to address it through action and plot. Not written in the stars were chances of Creed II’s quality, which is unexpectedly high despite falling short of Coogler’s progenitor movie. (Being as Coogler was born to make movies, this doesn’t feel like a failure.) In Creed II, we see a tangle of fathers and sons as Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is roped into a match against Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed Adonis’s dad back in 1985. Adonis is backed mostly by his love, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and his foster mother, Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad), as Rocky himself (Sylvester Stallone) refuses to have anything do with another Creed-Drago bout. The film weaves a web of male relationships—Rocky and Adonis, Adonis and Creed, Viktor and Ivan, Ivan and Rocky, and so on—reconciling each thread in an ending montage liable to make grown men break down in tears. (If we must have spin-off franchise movies, maybe we can have a spin-off focused on the Dragos; Lundgren and Munteanu share a muscular but shockingly tender chemistry.) Maybe this isn’t the Creed sequel we deserved, but it’s the Creed sequel we have, and an admirable entry in the great American saga of the Rocky series. —Andy Crump


missing-link-movie-poster.jpg 34. Missing Link
Year: 2019
Director: Chris Butler
Since we learned that Bumbles bounce in 1964, the legend of Bigfoot has provided a jumping-off point for countless kids’ movies. Warner gave us Smallfoot last year, and 2019 will deliver two more, DreamWorks’ Abominable and Laika’s Missing Link. What sets the Laika film apart, as usual, is the visual spectacle provided by the studio’s stop-motion animation. Fortunately, equal care went into the story as to the distinctive animation. The last Sasquatch teams up with failed explorer Sir Lionel Frost to find a new family among the Yeti of the Himalayas. Hugh Jackman as mythical-beast hunter and Zoe Saldana as his partner’s widow both grow in satisfying ways, and Zach Galifianakis provides equal parts comedy and charm as the well-read, mild-mannered beast. Still, it’s the meticulous craft of stop-motion scenes from Edwardian England to the frontier of the Wild West to the mountains of Nepal that will stick with you the longest. —Josh Jackson


aquaman-movie-poster.jpg 33. Aquaman
Year: 2018
Director: James Wan
Paying environmental catastrophe lip service is an expected thematic conceit for movies in 2018, but no one (hypothetically) wants to pay to sit in a damp two hours and 20 minutes of guilt when every film in this Universe to come before was either suffocatingly grim or unfairly tasked with shouldering the entire weight of Hollywood’s misogyny. All Wan had to do was deliver a blisteringly colorful spectacle. Aquaman is dumb and loud and really dumb and too long and dumb but also wonderfully creative and shameless; it’s both the superhero film we need, and the one we deserve. The plot, as is the case in almost every DCEU entry, is as bloated as it is messy and predictable, a whale carcass washed up on shore sliced in half by Atlantean plasma lasers during a Two Towers-league battle with an army of crab people. Those action scenes, though. Revolutionary at best, innovative at worst, Wan and his team have taken what Justice League incapably worked around—talking/interacting/fighting/living underwater—and transformed that obstacle into a marvelous strength, using the omnidirectional freedom of subterranean saltwater violence to make up for the “everyone is flying” bullshit of Zack Snyder’s wet dreams while never abandoning the unique physics (limitations) of all that wetness. A late film battle scene between Orm’s hordes and the aforementioned talking crustaceans is astounding: a feat of design and imagination for which James Wan should understand that this is most likely why he’s on this Earth. Likewise, while the surface scenarios featuring Arthur and Mera searching for a lost trident that holds the key to saving the world just add needless fat to an already drowning runtime, one rooftop, wall-obliterating sequence shines, a demonstration of Wan’s formidable grip on action grammar, pushing long takes and swooping crane shots to establish a seamless, real-time geography for Mera (Amber Heard), Arthur (Jason Momoa) and Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) to just wreck each other’s day. Bell towers explode; the living rooms and privacy of more than two Sicilian grandmothers are violated. Granted, the scene exists for its own sake, devoid of narrative stakes and sense, but that’s hardly ever been a valid argument against any contemporary studio movie anyway. If Justice League was a self-aware course correction, then Aquaman is course correction as business model, a denial of much of what Snyder established, leaning hard into Momoa’s charm and Wan’s old-school fantasy proclivities. May Martha bless us, everyone. —Dom Sinacola



detective-pikachu-movie-poster.jpg 32. Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Year: 2019
Director: Rob Letterman
Starring Ryan Reynolds as a PG version of Deadpool and wide-eyed baby angel Justice Smith, Pokémon Detective Pikachu tosses together the Pokémon fanbase with lightly grizzled noir cinema, a coming-of-age story and a dash of family drama. While that may seem like a meal with too many ingredients, the result is rather filling. Tim Goodman (Smith) exists at that stage of early adulthood when friends slip away to different corners of the globe, and one’s direction in life must be decided. Tim contents himself with the life he’s built as a junior insurance adjustor. When he learns his policeman father has been killed in the line of duty, he travels to the literal urban jungle of Ryme City, where humans and Pokémon live side by side in adorable harmony. Of course, his father’s death isn’t cut and dry. Soon, with the help of his father’s Pokémon partner, Pikachu, Tim becomes an investigator in his own right, navigating the not-so-mean streets of Ryme City and learning to dream bigger than he ever dared before. Visually the film builds on Pikachu’s love of noir by creating a neon noir world. Instead of relying on shadows and inky blacks to create mystery, cinematographer John Mathieson (Gladiator) uses the neon glow of city signs to banish nearly all shadows from the frame. Blacks create a nice contrast but only reach a complete lack of light in a car crash scene. Lighting the film’s darker moments with neon makes the transition to the sunnier, more family-focused moments a smooth one. And really: The cute factor of this film cannot be overstated. This film is fantasy, and the results are magical. It completely skips the uncanny valley in favor of a wickedly fun, albeit unnatural look, capturing the spirit of its source material as effectively as a well-aimed Poké Ball. —Joelle Monique / Full Review


shazam-movie-poster.jpg 31. Shazam!
Year: 2019
Director: David F. Sandberg
The best thing one can say about Shazam! is that, following on the fins of the wonderfully extravagant and amazingly stupid Aquaman, the latest DC movie is one more sign to assure the proletariat that the imprint has permanently dislodged its head from the asshole of Zack Snyder’s Murderverse. While Wonder Woman mused that, hey, maybe a DC movie need not labor over traumatized backstories and hypermasculinized mommy issues, and Aquaman suggested that blockbuster movies can have things like “color” and “humor,” Shazam! synthesizes those mommy issues into a positive treatise on family, doubling down on the jokes and bright primary shininess. The plot, by-the-numbers, floats somewhere between a Spielberg coming-of-age adventure, a Big reboot and a late-’80s horror comedy—think The Monster Squad in that it’s intended for kids but is too old for its ostensible demographic. If only Shazam! were as much a herald as its DCEU forebears, for better or ill, a sign of something new and exciting to come. It’s not. It is, despite its surprisingly gruesome violence, little more than another superhero movie that will make more money than the GDP of a small island nation. Leaning real hard into the jokes about horny teenage boys and meta-skewerings of superhero films, Shazam! can’t help but comment on its genre ad nauseam, though, unlike Deadpool, it never risks arguing against its own existence. It’s, more often than not, a very funny movie, and a superhero film with a budget under $100M is a (sigh—sorry, Mom) refreshing development for the genre. Plus, a diverse cast is always welcome, even if headlined by Zachary Levi, who must realize how goddamn lucky he is to get the one remaining superhero role where it conceptually pays off to be a generically attractive white guy. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review


alita-battle.jpg 30. Alita: Battle Angel
Year: 2019
Director: Robert Rodriguez 
Alita: Battle Angel begins with Dyson Ito (Christoph Waltz), doctor to cyborgs, scavenging through a junkyard full of spare parts in order to find anything he can use. What better way to start a film than with a metaphor about itself? Just like Dr. Ito, director Robert Rodriguez and co-writer/co-producer James Cameron sift through the remnants of established sci-fi and cyberpunk properties in order to glue together a recognizable and cohesive narrative within the confines of its genre. Considering the talent involved, it’s not surprising that the finished product is a frequently fun and kinetic, visually pleasing sci-fi/actioner, albeit one that doesn’t have a single new or fresh part embedded in it. Again considering the talent involved, that feels like a lost opportunity. Based on the popular manga, Gunnm, Alita: Battle Angel mostly takes its visual cues and narrative structure from a 1993 anime adaptation. That anime is barely an hour long, yet manages to pack in a sprawling cyberpunk universe with a deep and complex lore that supports whatever over-the-top tech fetish cyber action it throws at you. The story follows Alita (Rosa Salazar), whom Dr. Ito finds during his junk hunt and brings back to life. Her brain is human, but the rest of her is artificial. Just like a cyborg version of Jason Bourne, she doesn’t remember her past, but has supreme ass-kicking instincts, leading Ito to suspect some sinister military use in her past. The future world that Battle Angel inhabits is the lovechild of Blade Runner and Mad Max, a grimy post-apocalyptic city that’s also a grand, overpopulated cyberpunk metropolis. Apart from Alita gradually figuring out her ass-kicking skills, there’s another clear reason for giving the character amnesia: So she can be used as an exposition dump to settle the audience into the story’s world and the hodgepodge of various sub-plots that co-screenwriters James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis and Robert Rodriguez cram into a two-hour runtime. However, when the fighting finally begins, Battle Angel gets its metallic ass in gear. Rodriguez pushes the confines of the PG-13 rating to create some genre- and source-material-appropriate hack-and-slash gruesomeness with a significant amount of cyborg bodies split in half, decapitated and torn to pieces. For fans of the manga and anime, there isn’t much in the way of new material to be found here, though nor is it likely to grate on one’s fandom to the extent that the Ghost of the Shell live-action adaptation did. For fans of futuristic sci-fi/action, it should provide an engaging experience. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review


last-black-man.jpg 29. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Year: 2019
Director: Joe Talbot
In Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco, white people are the harbingers of annihilation. The film centers on Jimmie Fails (Jimmie Fails), the proverbial Last Black Man who attempts to reclaim his family’s old home in San Francisco’s Fillmore neighborhood, once called “The Harlem of the West,” by trespassing on the property to do banal bits of upkeep: painting the trim, tending to the flowers. He tries desperately to keep and save the house. Outside, the zombies are well-meaning, old white people, hipster girls and disgusting tech bros invading the city. Opening with images of apocalypse—a street preacher barking about repentance, and men in HazMat suits trying to clean up the pollution in the Bay—The Last Black Man in San Francisco winks at gentrification as an extinction-level event—for Black people in the city, at least. A shrewd inversion of racist tropes, we see the white owners yell at Fails to get off their property, knowing Fails is the real caretaker of the house, and the white residents are, even in their neoliberal good intentions, the villains, the invaders. —Geoff Nelson


her-smell-movie-poster.jpg 28. Her Smell
Year: 2019
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Her Smell chronicles the fall and rise of Elisabeth Moss’s Becky Something, a Courtney Love surrogate and frontwoman of the punk rock band Something She; Becky talks like a Wonderland character but acts like an uncaged animal. Moss being an actress whose greatest asset is her eyes, and Perry being a filmmaker who fixates on the human gaze, Becky spends the movie staring either at other characters or into the camera. Her eyes burn like toxic twin moons. The movie’s first three quarters light the match of her self-immolation. In the punk rock world there’s little more stultifying than commercial success; add in a poisonous personality and an enthusiastic drug habit and Becky’s unmaking—by her own hand—is assured. Yet, the film’s final act redeems her, such as Perry’s movies redeem anyone. In contrast to his other work, Her Smell is compassionate, even tender; Becky, later seen sober, washed up and repentant for her years as a monster fed on abusing her ex-husband (Dan Stevens), her bandmates (Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin) and her mother (Virginia Madsen), sings a devastatingly moving cover of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” to her daughter in a moment equally as gentle as it is painful. Even in the recovery phase, Her Smell delicately walks a perilous tightrope and arrives on the other side as the masterpiece of Perry’s career. —Andy Crump


dragged-across-concrete-movie-poster.jpg 27. Dragged Across Concrete
Year: 2019
Director: S. Craig Zahler
It’s more apt a title than most to describe the manner in which writer-director S. Craig Zahler pulls us from place to place over the course of a few days in the lives of old school cops Brett (Mel Gibson) and Anthony (Vince Vaughn). We meet them in the few hushed minutes before they brutalize a suspect; they seem much too self-aware and articulate to be as racist as one would assume, given their propensity for violence, and Zahler never quite justifies nor condemns their copious, morally questionable (and often despicable) actions. All in the name of supporting their families under the threat of losing their jobs, so they say; Zahler gives fascinating, quick-witted lines and hilarious rapport and insightful mini-soliloquies to his two leads, so he obviously wants them to be remembered as tragic figures more than outright villains. Equally venomous and Victorian, offensive and outraged, Dragged Across Concrete is a potboiler in the purest sense, a wicked tale of two cops putting their skills to more lucrative use, a sad bit of pulp that describes our current economic despair as tonally on-point as the economic despair of any American decade since forever—a movie about racist white cops starring Mel Gibson and his notable Hollywood conservative friend, Vince Vaughn. Were one to overlook Zahler’s obvious mastering of atmosphere and dread and bleakly compelling genre indulgence, one would find Problematic: The Movie, a measured provocation meant to make questionable choices in order to—if we’re being charitable—ultimately condemn these two men to the loser’s heap of history. Unlike the endings to Zahler’s previous films, Bone Tomahawk and the endlessly entertaining Brawl in Cell Block 99, Dragged Across Concrete’s final half hour exhausts itself to an inevitable, somber conclusion. The right person has won, but only at the cost of great trauma in his wake. And as for Brett and Anthony, their defeat is swift, melacholic and, perhaps best of all, stupid: Zahler’s final refutation for the very beliefs he also seems, sometimes and unfortunately, to be all about. —Dom Sinacola


crawl-movie-poster.jpg 26. Crawl
Release Date: July 12, 2019
Director: Alexandre Aja
Crawl, unlike Jaws, is actually just a movie about people vs. a natural predator. It is simple. It is effective. It is the most fun I’ve had in a theater since John Wick 3. Directed by Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, High Tension, Horns) and written by Shawn and Michael Rasmussen, Crawl is a horror-thriller set in the heart of Florida. In it, Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) returns home from college during a category 5 hurricane, searching for her father, Dave Keller (Barry Pepper), whom she’s unable to get a hold of. Luckily for Haley, she is an aspiring collegiate swimmer so she probably won’t drown while she trudges through flooded street after flooded street. Not so luckily, she finds her dad stuck in a crawl space where the water is slowly rising. There is also their cute family dog, Sugar. And, as advertised, there are alligators—toothy and ravenous. Crawl’s heart thrums with the unique beat that is Florida itself. In the age of “Florida Man” stories that go viral on a near-daily basis, Florida is a seemingly mythic place. There, a man can rob a bank wielding two raccoons, so it just makes sense that a father and daughter could be beset by alligators in a house during a category 5 hurricane. It is just another day in our collective projection of what that humid little state can offer. Still, Crawl embraces the absurd with intense seriousness. There is very little levity to be found in the film, and emotions, blood and viscera flow forth when Crawl really kicks into gear. Both Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario sell the intensity of their situation and the fractured, emotional state of their relationship. Yes, as the plot demands it, they grow closer and have moments of revelation, but they also bicker and argue, the trauma of their past as alive and dangerous in the house as the alligators that lurk just below the water’s surface. Small details—faded, etched-in height measurements on the wall; a swing outside—help us care for these characters as things just get worse and worse. There was once joy to be found in this home. But now …there are alligators and a category 5 hurricane. In the sweaty, latter months of the season, in an age in which such horror is relegated to Syfy drivel, Crawl is a brilliant ode to the magical realism of Florida and how, when made with craft and care, few movie-going experiences are as good as creature-features in the hottest month of the year. —Cole Henry / Full Review


art-self-defense-movie-poster.jpg 25. The Art of Self-Defense
Year: 2019
Director: Riley Stearns
Boys aren’t supposed to enjoy being fussed over or decorated, and boys who do need to be corrected, the thinking goes. The Art of Self-Defense seems at first as if it’s just about how silly the axiomatic trappings of masculinity are. Then you realize that, no, it’s also about how scary they are, too. Casey (Jesse Eisenberg, in a role seemingly written to fit him like a glove) is a squirrely man who works a boring job and finds himself at the bottom of every social pissing order he encounters, be it French tourists who ridicule him in the steadfast belief he couldn’t possibly understand their language (he can), or the jerks at the office who sit around talking shit. When he’s randomly attacked on a walk back home from the store, it knocks something loose in him, and he finds himself taking whatever steps necessary to protect himself, be it by buying a gun or wandering into the karate dojo of “Sensei” (Alessandro Nivola). Sensei’s straight-faced sophistry is exactly what a terrified, inadequate young man like Casey is searching for, and he quickly throws himself into the inner workings of the dojo to the exclusion of all his other responsibilities. Inevitably, Casey finds himself at Sensei’s mercy, manipulated into committing violence against a random bystander. He begins to witness firsthand the abuse Sensei levels at his own students, the tactics he uses to build their self-esteem through group violence, but never high enough that they aren’t in awe of him. That includes Imogen Poots’ super serious, murderously intense Anna, one of the dojo’s founders who nonetheless is passed over for promotion time and again. She’s useful for teaching the children’s morning classes, though, because of course a woman has stronger maternal instincts—it can’t be helped. The world of The Art of Self-Defense is an immaculately contained space, as claustrophobic and unmoored as modern life, filmed almost exclusively in cramped interiors and dingy rooms with sickly lighting. Something feels off about Sensei and his dojo right from the get-go, and as more layers of his deception and manipulation are peeled back, it all paints a perfect portrait of a social order based on hateful, dangerous bullshit, but one so alluring that you completely believe the prisoners within it really would never think to leave. Though the film veers heedlessly into the truly Grand Guignol, the parody of toxic masculinity only feels exaggerated by a very little bit. The Art of Self-Defense doesn’t argue for compassion and acknowledgment of one’s softer side so much as it argues you should fight against toxic bullshit. Preferably with a well-timed sucker punch. —Kenneth Lowe / Full Review


kid-king.jpg 24. The Kid Who Would Be King
Year: 2019
Director: Joe Cornish
What better time to retell the King Arthur origin story as a witty, charming and rousing family fantasy/adventure? The Kid Who Would Be King reminds its core audience—and perhaps even some adults—that we might still find hope in our future leaders if passé values like compassion, chivalry, compromise, virtue and honor are remixed back into society. Any creative tasked with reinvigorating a public domain myth would do well to take notes from writer-director Joe Cornish’s thrillingly fresh take on the Arthurian legend. The legend tells, in the form of boisterous opening narration accompanied by some colorful children’s textbook animation, that Arthur and his brave knights were able to defeat Arthur’s evil sister, Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), and cast her into the bowels of hell. However, Morgana vowed to come back and cover the land in darkness when the land is once again bitterly divided the way it was before Arthur’s time. Cut to post-Brexit England, where half the country despises the other half, which Morgana understandably takes as an invitation to unleash her army of minions to take back the land. Will a hero of Arthurian stature show up to challenge her once again? That hero, in true ’80s-style children’s fantasy fashion, comes in the form of a meek but pure-of-heart 12-year-old named Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis, an 11 on the instant adorability meter), who not only has to contend with the surrounding culture and media constantly reminding him how his country’s about to implode, but has to defend himself and his even nerdier best friend, Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), against school bullies Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris). Those familiar with the Arthurian legend might predict where this story’s going simply by looking at the character names, but Cornish’s specialty, as evidenced by his terrific London alien invasion adventure Attack the Block, lies is in applying sci-fi/fantasy tropes to invigorating new settings. The Kid Who Would Be Kid hits the family classic trifecta: Spectacular fun for kids and adults, full of important themes and a rebellious attitude in regard to the wide range of things grownups are messing up. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review


amazing-grace-aretha-movie-poster.jpg 23. Amazing Grace
Year: 2019
Director: N/A
A few years after the Apollo 11 mission, a different type of cosmic occurrence occurred at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Over two nights in January 1972, Aretha Franklin (just shy of her 30th birthday) recorded what would become the greatest-selling gospel album of all time—and arguably her finest album, period. The record Amazing Grace has been with us ever since, but the record of that night, shot by a young filmmaker named Sydney Pollack, has been kept away from public view for myriad reasons. Sadly, it took Franklin’s death last year at the age of 76 for that film to finally come to light. Though Amazing Grace was probably destined to be one of those much-rumored “lost” films that could never live up to its legend once the world got to see it, it’s a titanic vision of a performer whose extraordinary gift is self-evident, and the movie simply lets her be her magnificent self. Not credited to any director but completed by music producer Alan Elliott (and shot by Sydney Pollack), Amazing Grace is a straightforward presentation of archival materials without contemporary context or insights. But that’s enough, because history roars to life in this film, especially whenever Franklin opens her mouth and that incredible voice pours out. And, among its many attributes, Amazing Grace brings back the young Aretha Franklin who’s a human being rather than the totemic figure she became. She’s touchingly vulnerable, hesitant, normal in between songs, as if she’s just living her life, not consciously delivering an iconic album. And while the music critic in me will note that it’s a tad disappointing that the film peaks early, with her excellent version of Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy” as the night’s first song, Amazing Grace hums with the thrill of lightning being captured in a bottle—a thrill that’s as much a treat for the eyes as the ears. —Tim Grierson


beale-street-movie-poster.jpg 22. If Beale Street Could Talk
Year: 2018
Director: Barry Jenkins
Time for our characters elliptical, and the love story between Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) the rhythm we’ll return to over and over. As our narrator, Tish speaks in both curt statements and koans, Barry Jenkins’ screenplay translating James Baldwin’s novel as an oneiric bit of voyeurism: When the two finally consummate their relationship after a lifetime (barely two decades) of friendship between them and their families, the mood is divine and revelatory. Do people actually have sex like that? God no, but maybe we wish we did? And sometimes we convince ourselves we have, with the right person, just two bodies alone, against the world, in a space—maybe the only space—of their own. The couple’s story is simple and not: A cop (Ed Skrein) with a petty score to settle against Fonny connives a Puerto Rican woman (Emily Rios) who was raped to pick Fonny out of a lineup, even though his alibi and all evidence suggests otherwise. In the film’s first scene, we watch Tish visit Fonny in jail to tell him that she’s pregnant. He’s ecstatic; we immediately recognize that unique alchemy of terror and joy that accompanies any new parent, but we also know that for a young black couple, the world is bent against their love thriving. “I hope that nobody has ever had to look at anybody they love through glass,” Tish says. Do they hope? James and Layne’s performances, so wondrously in sync, suggest they must, one flesh with no other choice. As Tish’s mother, Regina King perhaps best understands the wickedness of that hope, playing Sharon as a woman who can’t quite get what she wants, but who seems to intuit that such progress may be further than most in her situation. Beleaguered but undaunted, she’s the film’s matriarch, a force of such warmth that, even in our fear watching as Tish’s belly grows and her hope wanes, Sharon’s presence reassures us—not that everything will be alright, but that everything will be. The end of If Beale Street Could Talk is practically a given—unless your ignorance guides you throughout this idiotic world—but there is still love in those final moments, as much love as there was in the film’s symmetrical opening. There’s hope in that, however pathetically little. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review


can-you-ever-forgive-me-movie-poster.jpg 21. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Year: 2018
Director: Marielle Heller
Ten minutes into the film, the aging, broke, world-weary Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) walks by a room of a handful of women circled around a fastidiously dressed man decrying “Writer’s Block” as laziness, as a justification of the inability to do work or to be original. At a party held in her agent Marjorie’s (Jane Curtin) enormous apartment (there’s a coat check guy), Israel is an invisible outsider in the world of the literary elite. No one talks to her, and there’s the palpable friction of her contempt for the snobbery of such characters who ramble on about structure and reflexivity and her yearning to be recognized and embraced as worthy and talented. The writer of a handful of well-received and panned biographies, Israel is told by Marjorie that she has not made a name for herself, that she has disappeared behind her writing. Or, as Israel retorts, she’s doing her job—but still, she has doubt. And what do so many queer people do when they want to toe the line between disappearing into someone else and flaunting their own persona? They do drag. Certainly, one of the fundamental questions at the heart of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, based on Lee Israel’s autobiography, is a notion of authenticity within art, or, in this case, within writing. To make ends meet, Israel begins to forge and embellish the personal letters of literary and social figures like Dorothy Parker and Noël Coward, and as she becomes further invested in the con of selling them to collectors and bookstore owners, she realizes she has to negotiate the space between her persona as a writer and how much of that persona is predicated on imitation without a real grasp on her own sensibilities or idiosyncrasies as a writer. How much real is there in this representation, how much authenticity is there in her artifice?

Through the eyes of Israel and Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), New York retains the gritty luster of the 1970s, a time where the city still had a place for them. Heller and Holofcener and Whitty have an otherworldly skill at pinpointing the queer bitterness of these people’s lives, their willingness to keep living, and what may lurk beneath their armor. Like few other films, Can You Ever Forgive Me? seems tailor-made for a person like me: It’s a film about the frustrating, often sad life of writers, the anxiety of being able to create, the uncertainty of whether you have a voice in your craft, the adoration for a time and its figures to whence you do not belong, the things queer people will do to fight off loneliness. —Kyle Turner

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