Procrastination is not a pretty thing, guys. But it does make these Redbox Ready columns much, much longer than their weekly siblings – so it all works out! There’s loads that Redbox has to offer these days – check out the list and see if anything fits your taste. Onward!
Tomatometer: 91%; Audience Score: 87%
Alex Garland has made his name as both a novelist and a screenwriter, the acclaimed wordsmith behind 28 Days Later (2002), Sunshine (2007), and Dredd (2012). He’s always been known for writing smart, thought-provoking sci-fi/horror tales, and this is his first directing experience. As far as debuts go, this is about as impressive as you can get. Even more rewarding is just how deep Garland wants to go. He doesn’t just want to throw up interesting ideas – he wants to take them to their natural and unexpected conclusions. Garland knows how to make these ideas the center of the film while still remembering how to feed them through strong characters and emotional stakes. There’s much of the unexpected in this film, and part of the beauty of it is wrestling with your own feelings about what Garland has to say.
Story: a young programmer wins a company competition that sends him to a remote location to take part in some ground-breaking experiments that involve evaluating the humanness of a female robot with the world’s first true artificial intelligence . Things do not go as planned.
Blush Factor: Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual references, and some violence.
What We Do In The Shadows
Tomatometer: 96%; Audience Score: 87%
This mockumentary has knocked over everyone with laughter at every film festival it’s been to. This is the one film – maybe more than any other on this list – that I’m actively dying to see. The trailer gives a good sense of the vibe – which mocks the self-seriousness we treat with all vampire tales, while also reminding us that they are humans, even if very unusual ones at that. How can that picture above not make you want to see this?
Story: Four vampire roommates try to adjust to the unforgiving modern world.
Blush Factor: Rated R for some comical bloodletting (these are vampires, after all), and some f-words that you may or may not miss due to that thick Kiwi accent.
Tomatometer: 29%; Audience Score: 49%
What started out as a simple mismatched buddy comedy became something far more inflammatory. The critics didn’t take too well to this film, with the audience only slightly more generous, and I think a lot of that has to do with a lack of self-awareness the film shockingly seems to show. It’s very common for R-rated comedies to cross the line; less so for them to inspire a plethora of think pieces, all confused by the racial elements in play here, and just how clueless (or careless?) the film seems to be with them.
But, hey: it’s very possible you won’t recognize any of this in the movie, and will laugh your way all the way through. You never know.
Story: A millionaire is busted for fraud and is set to join the notoriously tough San Quentin prison. He turns to the one black guy he knows to help him prepare. If that sounds like a racist premise, then you now know why many, many think pieces were written about this comedy’s racial politics.
Blush Factor: Rated R for “pervasive crude and sexual content” – including some very graphic nudity – and lots and lots of swearing.
Tomatometer: 78%; Audience Score: 77%
Dan Fogelman – pulling writing and directing duty here – has brought to the big screen a great deal of movies with heart (Cars, Bolt, Tangled) and has started stretching to ever more adult far with Crazy, Stupid, Love and Last Vegas. With Danny Collins, he seems to be matching his affinity for stories with heart with a newfound bigger edge. He’s got a fine performance from Al Pacino to center it. Should be a crowd-pleaser for many.
Story: An aging 1970s rocker refuses to give up his bad habits until he’s gifted with a 40-year-old handwritten letter from John Lennon – meant to be sent to him – prompting him to clean up his act and find a better way.
Blush Factor: Rated R for a brief scene of nudity and for lots and lots of f-words. Some alcohol and drugs because this is rock and roll, after all.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Tomatometer: 6%; Audience Score: 41%
Look, you either are the kind of person who enjoyed Paul Blart: Mall Cop or you’re not. Like his buddy Adam Sandler, Kevin James seems to be content with making more family-friendly fare that barely seems to charge to life. The critics never liked this one – nor have they liked any of James’ recent movies. And audiences will likely find this to be a passable movie to fall asleep through on a lazy Sunday.
Story: After doing a great job as a mall cop for 6 years, Blart takes a little, well-deserved vacation to Vegas as some bonding time with his daughter before she heads off to college. Things happen, and Paul Blart is clearly the only man who can save the day.
Blush Factor: Rated PG for some violence (mild, menacing violence – guns are held but not pointed or shot)
Run All Night
Tomatometer: 60%; Audience Score: 60%
Look, guys. Liam Neeson’s made a lot of action movies since Taken first came out 7 years ago. A lot of them seem to have one word titles. All of them have Neeson kicking ass and taking names, and often not much else built around it. Director Jaume Collet-Serra would know, as he’s already directed Neeson in 2011’s Unknown and 2014’s Non-Stop. Here, it seems, they have a better-than-average story with a better-than-average cast leading the way. If you like smart, simple crime films with some ass-kicking here and there, this could be a solid choice.
Story: A mobster/hit man (Neeson) has one night to figure out if his loyalties lie with his best friend, the mob boss, or with his estranged son. Anything involving the mob doesn’t tend to go too well or bloodlessly.
Blush Factor: Rated R for some sexually crude talk between men, lots of bloody violence (this is the mob after all!), and lots of f-words.
Tomatometer: 96%; Audience Score: 66%
This is one of those movies where the critics sang it high to the heavens (96% Fresh), but the audience did not find themselves nearly as enraptured (66% recommendation). Anytime you have a 25-30% difference between the critics and the audience, you usually have a film that’s more respected than it is something to be loved and remembered. I’ve seen this film. I respect the filmmaking. The score is haunting and spine-tingling as hell. The actors all do a great job. But I don’t think it adds up to nearly as much as it thinks it does. Only time will tell how we remember this film, but if you’re looking for something to give you a nice scare and/or scare your teenage kids off sex forever, this is a good bet.
Story: After having sex in the backseat of a car, a young woman is followed by some supernatural force she doesn’t understand.
Blush Factor: Rated R for “disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language”. I would say one of the more disturbing things about this movie is the score – it is just haunting and fills you with an ongoing sense of dread.
Tomatometer: 11%; Audience Score: 29%
I’m a fan of writer Steve Conrad, who wrote the criminally underrated The Weather Man (2005), The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013). Critics and audiences alike didn’t seem to get too much of out of this movie, but I believe that Conrad alone will at least create a few great, memorable moments in an otherwise unmemorable movie.
Story: a small business owner and his two associates take at trip to Europe to try and close the most important deal of their lives. And as the Laws of Hollywood decide, any trip to Europe involving a deal is bound to go very, very wrong.
Blush Factor: Rated R for “some strong risqué sexual content/nudity, as well as language and drug use”.
The Lazarus Effect
Tomatometer: 13%; Audience Score: 25%
Blumhouse Productions has climbed aboard and rocketed across the Hollywood success train with their simple, but deadly effective business model: small budgets ($2-5 million at best) horror films with name actors (such as Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass here). Their films tend always make their money back, and often times they prove to be big hits that create tons of profit. But here’s the thing: the business model doesn’t rely on the films being good, and they rarely are. But lower budgets allow for bigger risks, and where else are you going to see a movie with a creepy-eyed Olivia Wilde come back from the dead and threaten to do awful things? I can’t vouch for this being a good movie, but it could prove to be an entertainingly bad one.
Story: A group of medical students find a way to bring the dead back to life. You saw the “Lazarus” in the title, right?
Blush Factor: Rated R for lots of violence and gore, with some frightening scenes, and some language.
Clouds of Sils Maria
Tomatometer: 89%; Audience Score: 69%
After the exhaustive success of the Twilight series, Kristin Stewart seemed intent on diversifying her portfolio as much as possible. She’s done strong work in a variety of films, and this appears to be one of the better ones. It’s a strong story that’s impressed those who’ve seen it. And you can’t go wrong with Juliette Binoche at the forefront.
Story: A veteran actress, asked to participate in the revival of the play that made her famous 20 years earlier, flies to the Sils Maria – a remote region in the Alps – for rehearsal. There she meets another actress who reminds her a lot of herself.
Blush Factor: Rated R for language and brief graphic nudity.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Tomatometer: 74%, Audience Score: 85%
I wrote earlier about this gem, one of the best films to come out in 2015 so far, an absolute blast of giddy fun, great humor, and other Britishisms. Hollywood has this weird habit of bringing out young male actors and putting them in as many movies as possible, as if they could make them a star purely by force (see: Liam Hemsworth; Alex Pettyfer; Jai Courtney). But director Matthew Vaughn has brought out something special in newcomer Taran Egerton, who plays the lead character. The guy has got the action look down, on top of great acting ability and a killer sense of comic timing. He’s one to watch for years to come, and has already booked upcoming roles alongside Tom Hardy and Hugh Jackman.
Another great appeal: for all you Pride and Prejudice (the BBC version, of course!) fans out there who’ve always wondered, “What would it look like if Colin Firth kicked an unholy amount of ass?”, look no further. This film provides the truth and the delight that comes along with it. You’ll have a great time, have loads of laughs, see some great action, and all down with style to spare. Highly recommended.
Story: As a global threat emerges from a high-tech genius, a raw, yet promising street kid is recruited by a top-secret spy agency.
Blush Factor: This is about as Hard R as it gets. Lots and lots of swearing (over 100 F words), a huge amount of violence and blood (especially in the now-famous Kentucky church scene), and some drinking (because they’re British, of course).
Woman in Gold
Tomatometer: 53%, Audience Score: 83%
Any underdog story that has a Helen Mirren performance at the center is going to hold up quite well. Even better when it’s based on a true story, and handled with sincere touch by all those involved. This is a film that blends art, history, Jewish identity into a blended taste that seems to have been greatly enjoyed by audiences. Ryan Reynolds, here in a rare supporting part, has been acting under the radar with a number of interesting, smaller projects. This seems to have brought out the best in him.
Story: An older woman, who was a Jewish refugee during the Holocaust, fights the Austrian government to get back artwork she believes belongs to her family.
Blush Factor: Rated PG-13 for some minor swearing (a couple swear words) and thematic material related to the fact this is about the Holocaust and the aftermath.
Tomatometer: 51%, Audience Score: 35%
If you ever wanted to see Arnold Schwarzenegger, divorced from all his action iconography, actually act: this might be your best chance. This is one film that has divided critics and audiences alike since it first came out – there are those who came to love it, and there are those who found it a tedious bore. Finding out which part of the spectrum you land on is part of the fun of seeing movies that sneak under the radar.
Story: After a young daughter is infected with a disease that slowly turns her into a cannibalistic zombie, her father, The Terminator, stays by her side.
Blush Factor: Rated PG-13 for some disturbing thematic material (zombies and fathers!), some blood that you tend to see with zombie outbreaks, and some minor language.
Tomatometer: 97%, Audience Score: 84%
Lead actor Jack O’Connell had a rather big-fanfare Oscar bait of a movie in Unbroken last year, with his performance standing out amidst all the noise. There are many who have worked with O’Connell that have spoke volumes of his ability, and perhaps working here, beyond the radar of Hollywood, he’s found another gear. This has been highly regarded by critics across the board, and seems to have struck a strong chord with audiences as well. If you’re interested in history and a gritty, suspenseful tale of humanity, here’s your pick.
Story: Following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971, a young British soldier is accidentally trapped and abandoned in an area completely unfamiliar to him.
Blush Factor: Rated R for some violence that comes with bloody riots (getting shot close-range, limbs missing, etc.), and lots of swearing (these are the Irish, after all).
Tomatometer: 91%, Audience Score: 77%
Through Inglorious Basterds (2009), X-Men: First Class (2011), Shame (2011), and Prometheus (2012) – only 4 of the 12 movies he’s made in the last 5 years alone – Michael Fassbender has shown that his greatness as an actor is not just in his intensity, but in his chameleon-like ability. There’s nothing this guy can’t do, and do well.
When I first moved to Austin a few years ago, I had the privilege of watching Jack White and the Peacocks perform an incredible closing set at ACL. I was already a little starstruck from having seen James Marsden right in front of me (he’s a lot shorter than I expected!), but just before the end of the show, I looked to my far right and froze in shock: it was Michael Fassbender himself. The weirdest thing about seeing him was just how normal he looked. He didn’t look intense or brooding or anything like he had been in his movies. If anything, he looked and acted like a complete goofball, giggling with his buddies about the most random of things.
In the time since then, Fassbender has only shown more shades and colors of his ability. Most of his roles, however incredible, have not allowed him to have too much fun or be anything but captivatingly intense. So let this be another motivation to see Slow West – word on this film is that Fassbender’s loose and hilarious like you’ve never seen him before, another color to add to the acting rainbow he’s planted in still endless horizon.
Story: A teenage boy journeys across 19th century America in pursuit of the woman he loves, and a mysterious man volunteers to help him out.
Blush Factor: Rated R for lots of violence/gore, and for strong language.
Kill Me Three Times
Tomatometer: 9%, Audience Score: 32%
This is not a good movie. So there’s really only two, possibly three reasons to see this movie. They are:
1) It was shot on the western coast of Australia. The cinematographer did a pretty great job. So you’ll get pretty images of a very, very pretty area.
2) Simon Pegg is acting in what is probably his first villainous role.
3) The guys who made this were clearly influenced by Tarantino. They take great joy in spraying blood everywhere in cartoonish, slow-motion form. If that’s your thing, well, then that’s your thing.
Story: After a botched contract assignment, a professional killer gets involved with three different cases of murder, blackmail, and revenge
Blush Factor: Rated R for bloody violence (gunshots with ramifications that involve unrealistically spurted, flowing blood), language (lots of ‘f’ and some ‘s’ words), and some brief sexuality/nudity.
Tomatometer: 56%, Audience Score: 55%
Writer/Directors Glen Ficarra and John Requa delivered an underrated gem in I Love You, Phillip Morris in 2009 and then followed it up with a film that allowed them to take advantage of a uniformly great cast and some studio polish in Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011). For their next, they combined their love of twists and turns with their love of star wattage, and brought Will Smith and rising actress Margot Robbie into the fold. Smith and Robbie are two of the most charismatic, fun-to-watch stars you can find today, so a great deal of your enjoyment with this movie is going to depend on how you feel about them. Word on this film is that it takes a few too many twists and turns, but remains buoyant solely on the chemistry and performances of its two stars.
Story: A con man (Smith) takes an apprentice under his wing (Robbie). They decide to break it off after things get messy. They meet again 3 years later, but in completely different, far messier circumstances.
Blush Factor: Rated R for lots of strong language , some sexual content (mostly suggestive dialogue), and brief violence (some graphic gunshots).
Tomatometer: 25%, Audience Score: 42%
An important thing to remember as you watch this movie: the original script was over 600 pages long. Most movie scripts aren’t much more than 110-120 pages. And that’s even including the $200 million blockbusters. So what becomes of the other 480 pages? After seeing this film, I firmly believe they went towards creating a sci-fi mythology that was meant to be detailed and invigorating, but became quickly, horribly exhausting. I love seeing the Wachowskis indulge their imagination here, as everything but the actors are designed as beautifully as you could hope for. But the story slogs, weighed down by the stress of a thousand backstories thrown into a blender. The special effects and visuals have a texture and dexterity to them that’s rare in movies these days (even ones as expensive as this), but good luck making it to the end of this with the same energy as when you started.
Story: A young woman is working a crappy job before finding out she’s the heiress of an intergalactic nobility. She must rise to the occasion to save the citizens of Earth from a bigger threat. And Channing Tatum helps her kick some ass.
Blush Factor: PG-13 for some sci-fi violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some swearing (more than usual for a PG-13 movie), and partial nudity (some bare butts).
While We’re Young
Tomatometer: 84%, Audience Score: 57%
Writer/Director Noah Bambauch has found some great success with his new muse, Greta Gerwig, with their collaborations Frances Ha and Mistress America getting great reviews and seemingly injecting some extra mojo in Baumbach in the process. Outside of writing Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (I guess he had to pay the bills somehow), Baumbach’s last sole venture was 2010’s Greenberg. The critics raved for it at the time, just as they have done with While We’re Young, but both films suffer a huge difference of opinion from the audience. Here’s the split for While We’re Young/Greenberg:
Tomatometer: 84%/72% Audience Score: 57%/42%
With both films, there is at a 27 percentage point difference in the response. This makes both films highly divisive, with around half approving and half rejecting it. When I first saw Greenberg, I started raving about it, telling all my more cinema-minded friends about it. They almost all came back to me with a, “Wow, that was awful,” sentiment. It even somehow made them feel bad. I didn’t get this for a long time until I read a great A.V. Club article about the relative jerk nature of Stiller’s character. It was then I realized, “Wow, that Greenberg guy was an asshole.”
So here’s my point: when Baumbach is the sole writer, you know there’s a lot of thought and ideas that went into it. Sometimes they’re well made. Sometimes they’re overreaching. But the guy is a hell of writer. What I think gets people tripped up are his characters. They’re well-sketched, but they also might be too much like people you actually know. And sometimes that can be difficult for people. Sometimes that’s not a good feeling to recognize those kind of people on the screen. Who knows? You may greatly enjoy Baumbach’s latest this time out, and you might find yourself unable to bear it. It’s for you got give it a shot and decide for yourself.
Story: A middle-aged couple finds their marriage and careers at a crossroads when a new, young couple comes into their lives.
Blush Factor: Rated R for language – IMDB has calculated 38 f-words.
NEVER HEARD OF IT, SO YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN:
5 Flights Up
Tomatometer: 54%, Audience Score: 51%
I’ve never heard of this movie before. Apparently, it’s pretty good, and when you got Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton as your leads, you could do a lot worse. If you’re looking for a nice, warm story, this is a good bet.
Story: A long-time married couple who’ve spent their whole lives in the same New York apartment make a decision to move away, and find themselves overwhelmed by all the personal and real-estate issues that arise.
Blush Factor: PG-13 for some language and some nude images.
No Way Jose
There are no reviews or anything of the sort for this film. Which means its Redbox premiere is it’s premiere premiere. Adam Goldberg wrote and directed this film, and I’m going to go out on a limb with this one: he was absolutely fantastic as Julie Delpy’s American boyfriend in 2 Days in Paris. A couple years later, Delpy made 2 Days in New York with Chris Rock playing her American boyfriend. Rock later went on to make Top Five, and there’s a lot of genetic similarities between his and Delpy’s film. You can see the influence working with Delpy had on him, with him giving his characters time to talk through things with each other and enjoy nice, long walks together. So I do wonder: will No Way Jose show some of the Delpy influence?
Story: An indie-rocker who’s spent his time performing at children’s birthday parties approaches 40 and suddenly finds himself at a crossroads.
Blush Factor: Rated R for language and some sexual references.