(Photo by Peter Iovino/©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

All Anna Kendrick Movies Ranked

Anna Kendrick’s first film was 2003’s Camp, a musical set at a camp for performing artists in upstate New York, a fitting extension of Kendrick’s childhood start in theater around her birthplace of Portland, Maine. The first of many Certified Fresh awards came with her next movie, Rocket Science; being cast as Jessica in the Twilight franchise meant Kendrick would have a high-profile job waiting for her for years to come.

Her career would soon become defined by steady versatility, appearing in a wide range of films like End of Watch, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and Cake. Kendrick is particularly adept in comedy hybrids, as seen in in The Voices, A Simple Favor, 50/50, and Up in the Air, the last of which garnered her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nom. Meanwhile, she’s been one of the 2010s most reliable musical stars – just look at Into the WoodsTrolls and, of course, the Pitch Perfect series.

Her latest films were Stowaway and the Trolls sequel, World Tour. And now, we’re ranking all Anna Kendrick movies by Tomatometer!

#38

Get a Job (2016)
9%

#38
Adjusted Score: 8529%
Critics Consensus: Inauthentic and unfunny, Get a Job is paltry to the point that its long-delayed release feels purely the result of its wasted cast having been promoted to greater fame all these years later.
Synopsis: A young man (Miles Teller) and his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) struggle to find desirable employment after graduating from college.... [More]
Directed By: Dylan Kidd

#37
#37
Adjusted Score: 9741%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A limousine driver (Jason Schwartzman) who once starred in high-school musicals hopes to cut an album, despite constant reminders of... [More]
Directed By: Todd Louiso

#36
Adjusted Score: 27411%
Critics Consensus: The cast is stocked with likable performers, but What to Expect When You're Expecting is too disjointed -- and too reliant on stock rom-com cliches -- to live up to its distinguished literary namesake.
Synopsis: Challenges of impending parenthood turn the lives of five couples upside down. Two celebrities are unprepared for the surprise demands... [More]
Directed By: Kirk Jones

#35

Rapture-Palooza (2013)
24%

#35
Adjusted Score: 21663%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Left behind after the Rapture, a young woman (Anna Kendrick) and her boyfriend (John Francis Daley) set out to prevent... [More]
Directed By: Paul Middleditch

#34

Table 19 (2017)
25%

#34
Adjusted Score: 33264%
Critics Consensus: Table 19 is marginally more entertaining than actually sitting with a table full of strangers at a wedding -- although most screenings won't come with an open bar, which makes it a wash.
Synopsis: Ex-maid of honor Eloise - having been relieved of her duties after being unceremoniously dumped by the best man via... [More]
Directed By: Jeffrey Blitz

#33
Adjusted Score: 33707%
Critics Consensus: Slow, joyless, and loaded with unintentionally humorous moments, Breaking Dawn Part 1 may satisfy the Twilight faithful, but it's strictly for fans of the franchise.
Synopsis: At last, Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) are getting married. When Jacob (Taylor Lautner) finds out that Bella... [More]
Directed By: Bill Condon

#32
Adjusted Score: 37577%
Critics Consensus: The Twilight Saga's second installment may satisfy hardcore fans of the series, but outsiders are likely to be turned off by its slow pace, relentlessly downcast tone, and excessive length.
Synopsis: After the abrupt departure of Edward (Robert Pattinson), her vampire love, Bella (Kristen Stewart) finds comfort in her deepening friendship... [More]
Directed By: Chris Weitz

#31

Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)
28%

#31
Adjusted Score: 38888%
Critics Consensus: Pitch Perfect 3 strains to recapture the magic that helped the original spawn a franchise, but ends up sending this increasingly unnecessary trilogy out on a low note.
Synopsis: After the highs of winning the world championships, the Bellas find themselves split apart and discovering there aren't job prospects... [More]
Directed By: Trish Sie

#30
Adjusted Score: 47525%
Critics Consensus: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates benefits from the screwball premise and the efforts of a game cast, even if the sporadically hilarious results don't quite live up to either.
Synopsis: Mike and Dave Stangle are young, adventurous, fun-loving brothers who tend to get out of control at family gatherings. When... [More]
Directed By: Jake Szymanski

#29

Mr. Right (2015)
44%

#29
Adjusted Score: 46590%
Critics Consensus: Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick work well together, but Mr. Right is too much of a tonal jumble to take advantage of their chemistry.
Synopsis: A woman (Anna Kendrick) comes to a crossroad when she finds out that her new beau (Sam Rockwell) is a... [More]
Directed By: Paco Cabezas

#28

Life After Beth (2014)
45%

#28
Adjusted Score: 48559%
Critics Consensus: In spite of Aubrey Plaza's committed performance, Life After Beth remains a sketch-worthy idea that's been uncomfortably stretched to feature length.
Synopsis: A guy (Dane DeHaan) discovers that his girlfriend (Aubrey Plaza) has returned from the dead, but his joy turns to... [More]
Directed By: Jeff Baena

#27

The Hollars (2016)
47%

#27
Adjusted Score: 51117%
Critics Consensus: The Hollars gathers an impressive assortment of talented stars; unfortunately, it's all in service of a story that's been played out more effectively in countless other indie dramedies.
Synopsis: A man (John Krasinski) returns home to his dysfunctional family after learning that his mother (Margo Martindale) has a brain... [More]
Directed By: John Krasinski

#26

Cake (2014)
49%

#26
Adjusted Score: 53919%
Critics Consensus: Cake finds Jennifer Aniston making the most of an overdue opportunity to test her dramatic chops, but it lacks sufficient depth or warmth to recommend for all but her most ardent fans.
Synopsis: After having visions of a member of her support group who killed herself, a woman (Jennifer Aniston) who also suffers... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Barnz

#25
Adjusted Score: 56792%
Critics Consensus: Stuffed with characters and overly reliant on uninspired dialogue, Eclipse won't win The Twilight Saga many new converts, despite an improved blend of romance and action fantasy.
Synopsis: Danger once again surrounds Bella (Kristen Stewart), as a string of mysterious killings terrorizes Seattle and a malicious vampire continues... [More]
Directed By: David Slade

#24

Twilight (2008)
49%

#24
Adjusted Score: 57424%
Critics Consensus: Having lost much of its bite transitioning to the big screen, Twilight will please its devoted fans, but do little for the uninitiated.
Synopsis: High-school student Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), always a bit of a misfit, doesn't expect life to change much when she... [More]
Directed By: Catherine Hardwicke

#23

The Accountant (2016)
52%

#23
Adjusted Score: 69104%
Critics Consensus: The Accountant writes off a committed performance from Ben Affleck, leaving viewers with a scattershot action thriller beset by an array of ill-advised deductions.
Synopsis: Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a mathematics savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Using a small-town CPA office... [More]
Directed By: Gavin O'Connor

#22

Noelle (2019)
54%

#22
Adjusted Score: 54691%
Critics Consensus: The always charming Anna Kendrick does her best, but Noelle's progressive take on a timeless tale is unfortunately subdued.
Synopsis: Kris Kringle's daughter is full of Christmas spirit but wishes she could do something important like her brother Nick, who... [More]
Directed By: Marc Lawrence

#21
#21
Adjusted Score: 57507%
Critics Consensus: The Company You Keep is a (frustratingly) slow-burning thriller about very contemporary issues.
Synopsis: Decades after an ill-fated robbery, a former member (Susan Sarandon) of the Weather Underground turns herself in to authorities. While... [More]
Directed By: Robert Redford

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 63707%
Critics Consensus: The Last Five Years hits a few awkward notes in its transition from stage to screen, but its freshness and sincere charm -- and well-matched stars -- offer their own rewards.
Synopsis: In New York, a struggling actress (Anna Kendrick) and a successful writer (Jeremy Jordan) sing about their failed marriage from... [More]
Directed By: Richard LaGravenese

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 69039%
Critics Consensus: Absurd yet anchored in knotty real-world themes, The Day Shall Come adds another bleakly funny satire to director/co-writer Christopher Morris' filmography.
Synopsis: An impoverished preacher who brings hope to the Miami projects is offered cash to save his family from eviction. He... [More]
Directed By: Chris Morris

#18

Digging for Fire (2015)
64%

#18
Adjusted Score: 66137%
Critics Consensus: Digging for Fire finds director/co-writer Joe Swanberg working from a familiar palette, but in ways that suggest he's taking new and exciting strides as a filmmaker.
Synopsis: A house sitter (Jake Johnson) becomes an amateur sleuth after finding a bone and a gun on the property.... [More]
Directed By: Joe Swanberg

#17

Camp (2003)
64%

#17
Adjusted Score: 66420%
Critics Consensus: Campy comedy that squeaks by on its charms.
Synopsis: At Camp Ovation, kids of all ages spend their summer expressing themselves through dance, music and theater. Vlad (Daniel Letterle)... [More]
Directed By: Todd Graff

#16

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)
65%

#16
Adjusted Score: 73772%
Critics Consensus: Pitch Perfect 2 sings in sweet comedic harmony, even if it doesn't hit quite as many high notes as its predecessor.
Synopsis: It's been three years since the Barden Bellas (Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson) became the first all-female group to win a... [More]
Directed By: Elizabeth Banks

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 81842%
Critics Consensus: A fun follow-up for fans of the original, Trolls World Tour offers a second helping of colorful animation, infectious energy, and sing-along songs.
Synopsis: Poppy and Branch discover that there are six different troll tribes scattered over six different lands. Each tribe is also... [More]
Directed By: Walt Dohrn

#14

Into the Woods (2014)
71%

#14
Adjusted Score: 80548%
Critics Consensus: On the whole, this Disney adaptation of the Sondheim classic sits comfortably at the corner of Hollywood and Broadway -- even if it darkens to its detriment in the final act.
Synopsis: As the result of the curse of a once-beautiful witch (Meryl Streep), a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily... [More]
Directed By: Rob Marshall

#13

The Voices (2014)
74%

#13
Adjusted Score: 77389%
Critics Consensus: The Voices gives Ryan Reynolds an opportunity to deliver a highlight-reel performance -- and offers an off-kilter treat for fans of black comedies.
Synopsis: A mentally unhinged factory worker (Ryan Reynolds) must decide whether to listen to his talking cat and become a killer,... [More]
Directed By: Marjane Satrapi

#12

Trolls (2016)
75%

#12
Adjusted Score: 84986%
Critics Consensus: Trolls brings its instantly recognizable characters to the big screen in a colorful adventure that, while geared toward the younger set, isn't without rewards for parents.
Synopsis: After the Bergens invade Troll Village, Poppy (Anna Kendrick), the happiest Troll ever born, and the overly-cautious, curmudgeonly Branch (Justin... [More]
Directed By: Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn

#11

Happy Christmas (2014)
75%

#11
Adjusted Score: 77750%
Critics Consensus: Intelligent, well-acted, and satisfyingly low-key, Happy Christmas marks another step in prolific filmmaker Joe Swanberg's creative evolution.
Synopsis: An immature party girl (Anna Kendrick) moves in with her brother's family to get over a breakup and throws their... [More]
Directed By: Joe Swanberg

#10

Stowaway (2021)
77%

#10
Adjusted Score: 81998%
Critics Consensus: Pacing problems prevent Stowaway from fully engaging, but it's distinguished by its thoughtful, well-acted approach to a story built on an excruciating moral dilemma.
Synopsis: A three-person crew on a mission to Mars faces an impossible choice when an unplanned passenger jeopardizes the lives of... [More]
Directed By: Joe Penna

#9

Pitch Perfect (2012)
81%

#9
Adjusted Score: 86241%
Critics Consensus: Pitch Perfect's plot is formulaic, but the performances are excellent and the musical numbers are toe-tapping as well.
Synopsis: College student Beca (Anna Kendrick) knows she does not want to be part of a clique, but that's exactly where... [More]
Directed By: Jason Moore

#8
Adjusted Score: 94277%
Critics Consensus: Its script may not be as dazzling as its eye-popping visuals, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is fast, funny, and inventive.
Synopsis: As bass guitarist for a garage-rock band, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) has never had trouble getting a girlfriend; usually, the... [More]
Directed By: Edgar Wright

#7

Rocket Science (2007)
84%

#7
Adjusted Score: 87022%
Critics Consensus: Though Rocket Science appears to be a typically quirky indie, the well-rounded performances and director Jeffrey Blitz's clear affection for his characters gives the film its proper human spark.
Synopsis: High-school student Hal Hefner's (Reece Daniel Thompson) life is falling down around him. His parents have split, his brother picks... [More]
Directed By: Jeffrey Blitz

#6

Drinking Buddies (2013)
84%

#6
Adjusted Score: 87462%
Critics Consensus: Smart, funny, and powered by fine performances from Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson, Drinking Buddies offers a bittersweet slice of observational comedy.
Synopsis: Although they're both dating other people, two co-workers (Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson) hang out together in bars and try to... [More]
Directed By: Joe Swanberg

#5

A Simple Favor (2018)
84%

#5
Adjusted Score: 99514%
Critics Consensus: Twisty, twisted, and above all simply fun, A Simple Favor casts a stylish mommy noir spell strengthened by potent performances from Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively.
Synopsis: Stephanie is a widowed, single mother who works as a vlogger in Connecticut. Her best friend, Emily, seems to have... [More]
Directed By: Paul Feig

#4

End of Watch (2012)
85%

#4
Adjusted Score: 92691%
Critics Consensus: End of Watch has the energy, devotion to characters, and charismatic performances to overcome the familiar pitfalls of its genre and handheld format.
Synopsis: Longtime LAPD partners and friends, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) patrol one of the most dangerous... [More]
Directed By: David Ayer

#3

ParaNorman (2012)
89%

#3
Adjusted Score: 95758%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated and solidly scripted, ParaNorman will entertain (and frighten) older children while providing surprisingly thoughtful fare for their parents.
Synopsis: Young Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has the ability to speak with the dead -- and he often prefers their company... [More]
Directed By: Chris Butler, Sam Fell

#2

Up in the Air (2009)
90%

#2
Adjusted Score: 102108%
Critics Consensus: Led by charismatic performances by its three leads, director Jason Reitman delivers a smart blend of humor and emotion with just enough edge for mainstream audiences.
Synopsis: An idea from a young, new co-worker (Anna Kendrick) would put an end to the constant travel of corporate downsizer... [More]
Directed By: Jason Reitman

#1

50/50 (2011)
93%

#1
Adjusted Score: 100751%
Critics Consensus: A good-hearted film about a difficult topic, 50/50 maneuvers between jokes and drama with surprising finesse.
Synopsis: Adam Lerner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has always tried to take good care of his health, so it comes as a cruel... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Levine

In 2007, director David Fincher teamed up with Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Jake Gyllenhaal on Zodiac, a potent murder mystery about the manhunt for the real life serial killer who terrorized northern California during the 1960s and 1970s. Gyllenhaal earned well-deserved praise for his portrayal of Robert Graysmith, the San Francisco Chronicle political cartoonist who helped decipher the Zodiac’s cryptic letters, but despite the film’s overwhelmingly positive critical reception, it was completely overlooked by the Academy Awards. Now that the film is officially 10 years old to the day, we thought it was the perfect time to look back at star Gyllenhaal’s best-reviewed films… including Zodiac.


10. The Good Girl (2002) 82%

Gyllenhaal ventured into romance — of a sort — with 2002’s The Good Girl, a small-town drama from Chuck & Buck screenwriter Mike White that starred Jennifer Aniston as a morose department store clerk struggling to choose between her unsatisfying marriage and her affair with the unstable, Catcher in the Rye-obsessed co-worker played by Gyllenhaal. Infidelity, dead-end jobs, and small towns are nothing new for the movies — indie films in particular — but however familiar its premise, The Good Girl earned praise from critics thanks to the finely wrought honesty of White’s script and strong performances from Aniston, Gyllenhaal, and their supporting cast (including John C. Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson, and Zooey Deschanel). Taking the cliche of a frustrated young man buried in Holden Caulfield and imbuing it with genuine depth, Gyllenhaal was a major part of why the Hollywood Reporter’s Duane Byrge called it “An absorbing, slice-of-depression life that touches nerves and rings true.”

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9. Prisoners (2013) 81%

After his 2011 film Incendies earned a heap of acclaim — including a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nod — French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve made his Hollywood debut with a gripping psychological thriller about a desperate man (Hugh Jackman) driven to extreme measures when his young daughter is abducted with her best friend. While much of the film rested on Jackman’s shoulders, he was supported by a stellar cast that included Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, and Jake Gyllenhaal as the skeptical detective whose investigation into the disappearance is beset by false leads and a father obsessed with vigilante justice. The end result was a twisty, twisted mystery that impressed more than a few critics, like USA Today’s Claudia Puig, who noted that “the plot raises complicated moral questions about how far an anguished person will go for the love of a child. At the same time, it sets up an intricate, horrifying mystery with breathtaking skill.”

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8. End of Watch (2012) 85%

Most critics — and more than a few filmgoers — would agree that the found-footage gimmick has been more than played out since rising to prominence with The Blair Witch Project in the late 1990s. Still, it’s a powerful tool when used in the right way, as demonstrated by writer/director David Ayer’s End of Watch, which follows a cop/film student (Gyllenhaal) and his partner (Michael Pena) on patrol in the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles. While Ayer’s use of the found footage technique certainly proved divisive among critics, End of Watch earned a healthy $51 million at the box office, picked up a pair of Independent Spirit Award nominations, and enjoyed the respect of scribes such as Amy Biancolli of the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote, “The best scenes are filmed inside the cruiser, dashboard shots that face inward instead of out, catching Gyllenhaal and Peña in moments so playful and true they make all other buddy cops look bogus by comparison.”

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7. Donnie Darko (2001) 86%

Time travel, a falling jet engine, and a dude in a bunny suit: From these disparate ingredients, writer-director Richard Kelly wove the tale of Donnie Darko, a suburban teenager (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) charged with repairing a rift in the fabric of our dimension. Or something. To call Darko “open to interpretation” would be understating the case a bit — it’s been alternately confounding and delighting audiences since it was released in 2001 — but its dense, ambiguous plot found stronger purchase with critics, who cared less about what it all meant than about simply having the chance to see an American movie that took some substantial risks. Though a few reviewers were confused and/or unimpressed (Staci Lynne Wilson of Fantastica Daily called it “derivative,” and Joe Leydon dismissed it as “a discombobulating muddle” in his writeup for the San Francisco Examiner), overall critical opinion proved a harbinger of the cult status the film would eventually enjoy on the home video market; as Thomas Delapa wrote for the Boulder Weekly, “If the sum total of Donnie Darko is hard to figure, there’s no questioning that its separate scenes add up to breathtaking filmmaking.” Despite a paltry $4.1 million gross during its original limited run, Darko returned to theaters in 2004 with a director’s cut — one whose 91 percent Tomatometer actually improved upon the original’s.

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6. Lovely & Amazing (2001) 86%

Years before he challenged taboos with Brokeback Mountain, Jake Gyllenhaal proved his versatility with script choices like the ones he made in 2001, which found him starring in Donnie Darko, Bubble Boy, and Nicole Holofcener’s Lovely & Amazing. Though Bubble Boy saw the widest release of the three (and some of the harshest reviews of Gyllenhaal’s career), Lovely & Amazing proved he could hold his own with a stellar cast that included Catherine Keener, Emily Mortimer, and Dermot Mulroney — and it proved that he was capable of rising to the challenge of a writer-director known for getting the best out of her actors. Here, Gyllenhaal stars as Jordan, a teenaged one-hour photo developer who earns the adulterous affection of his frustrated (and significantly older) co-worker, played by Catherine Keener. Holofcener’s films are known for focusing on women — and rightly so — but smart dramas need smart performances, and with his empathetic supporting turn here, Gyllenhaal more than held his own. Though it wasn’t a major commercial success, grossing only just over $4.2 million in limited release, Lovely & Amazing enjoyed a number of awards and nominations from critics’ associations, as well as acclaim from scribes such as Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press, who wrote, “For all its dirty talk and up-frontness, this is a family film — it’s about one family and the extended family of females. Any woman who sees it will recognize that, and any man who sees it will be better for it.”

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5. Brokeback Mountain (2005) 87%

Take a heart-wrenching short story by Annie Proulx, give it to award-winning director Ang Lee, and surround him with a rock-solid cast including Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, and — of course — Jake Gyllenhaal, and you’ve got Brokeback Mountain, one of the most talked-about (and award-winning) movies of 2005. Gyllenhaal and Ledger starred as Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar, a pair of Wyoming ranch hands whose tortured, almost completely unspoken affair has a profound impact on their lives — and the lives of their wives and children — over a period of several decades. Not your everyday Hollywood love story, to put it mildly — and to no one’s surprise, Gyllenhaal and Ledger earned more attention for their characters’ sexuality than for their performances in the roles, with a wide variety of pundits accusing the filmmakers of using Brokeback to further a political agenda; famously, one Utah theater owner canceled his engagement just hours before the first scheduled screening. Underneath all the hubbub, however, shone a beautifully acted love story with uncommon depth and intensity, and both Gyllenhaal and Ledger were richly rewarded for their work with an impressive number of awards and nominations, not to mention a $178 million worldwide gross and reams of critical praise from critics including Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who wrote, “It has become shorthand to call Brokeback Mountain the ‘gay cowboy movie,’ but it is much more than that glib description implies. This is a human story, a haunting film in the tradition of the great Hollywood romantic melodramas.”

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4. Zodiac (2007) 89%

In the hands of an ordinary filmmaker, any attempt to tell the story of the Zodiac Killer might have been equal parts conjecture and garden-variety gore — after all, the serial murderer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area for years in the 1960s and 1970s, taunting the police with a series of cryptic letters, eventually disappeared, never to be identified. For director David Fincher, though, the truly interesting story didn’t lie so much with the Zodiac as it did with the men and women who devoted themselves to apprehending him — particularly Robert Graysmith, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist who broke the Zodiac’s code and eventually became an asset to the investigation. As the increasingly driven Graysmith, Gyllenhaal led the viewer on a darkening spiral of dead ends, wild goose chases, and grim obsession — and he anchored a showy cast that included Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chloe Sevigny, and Anthony Edwards. Unfortunately, the words “David Fincher” and “serial killer drama” sparked hopes that Fincher was returning to his Se7en roots, and the studio’s marketing campaign did nothing to set filmgoers straight; ultimately, despite a strongly positive reaction from critics, Zodiac was a non-starter at the box office, and by the time awards season arrived, this March release was all but forgotten. It deserved better, according to writers like the Toronto Star’s Geoff Pevere, who argued, “It makes you want to study it even more closely, in search of things you might have missed, trailing after leads that flash by in the relentless momentum of going nowhere fast. If you’re not careful, it might make you obsessed.”

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3. October Sky (1999) 91%

It isn’t often that NASA engineers get their own biopics — but then, most of them don’t have life stories as inspiring as Homer Hickam, the West Virginia native whose Sputnik-fueled fascination with rockets turned him into a teen science fair sensation (and, more importantly, helped him avoid working in the local coalmine). Based on Hickam’s autobiographical novel Rocket Boys, Joe Johnston’s 1999 drama October Sky gave audiences a rare slice of critically acclaimed drama during the cold winter months — and it provided a breakout role for Gyllenhaal, whose biggest credits to that point came through parts in a pair of his father Stephen’s movies and minor appearances in City Slickers and Josh and S.A.M. Though he was surrounded with talented co-stars, it fell to Gyllenhaal to carry the movie as the young Hickam and make audiences believe in not only his wide-eyed wonder at the stars, but his struggles with his distant, unsupportive father (played by Chris Cooper); his success was noted by critics such as Jeff Vice of the Deseret News, who correctly predicted that “Even if October Sky was a complete dud, the drama would still get points for being the movie that launched the career of a new star, Jake Gyllenhaal.”

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2. Source Code (2011) 92%

It’s a common complaint that there isn’t any room for original ideas in Hollywood anymore, but every so often, we’re treated to a movie like Source Code that proves an exception to the rule. Helmed by Moon director Duncan Jones from a script by Ben Ripley, this twisty sci-fi thriller follows the adventures of a U.S. Army captain (Gyllenhaal) whose latest mission — to prevent a catastrophic bombing on board a moving train — masks a horrible personal tragedy that his support team is keeping from him. Bolstered by a strong support cast that included Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan, and Jeffrey Wright, and topped off by a thought-provoking ending, Source Code earned the applause of critics like the New Yorker’s David Denby, who wrote, “The movie is a formally disciplined piece of work, a triumph of movie syntax, made with a sense of rhythm and pace, and Gyllenhaal, who is always good at conveying anxiety, gives [his] desperation a comic edge.”

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1. Nightcrawler (2014) 95%

After cutting his teeth writing screenplays for films like The Fall and The Bourne Legacy, Dan Gilroy made his feature directorial debut with Nightcrawler, an uncomfortably tense thriller about a socially awkward man (Gyllenhaal) who finds his calling as an ambulance-chasing freelance videographer. Gilroy spent years reworking his script around the character of Lou Bloom and found a perfect partner in Gyllenhaal, who played an active part in the production of the film, lost nearly 30 pounds for the role, and turned in a powerhouse performance. With help from outstanding supporting players like Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, and Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler went on to become one of the best-reviewd films of the year and earned Gilroy a Best Original Screenplay nod at the Academy Awards in the process. As Christopher Orr of The Atlantic pointed out, “Gyllenhaal is the same age that De Niro was in Taxi Driver and, like him, he is learning to channel an eerie, inner charisma, offering it up in glimpses and glimmers rather than all at once.”

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This weekend’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates uses real-life events as the loose inspiration for some R-rated fun with a pair of clueless bros and the hard-partying women who hoodwink them into a date to their little sister’s nuptials. And since one of the young ladies in question is played by the ever-charming Anna Kendrick, we decided this would be a great time to take a fond look back at some of the brightest critical highlights from her career thus far. Hold on to your cups — it’s time for Total Recall!


Into the Woods (2014) 71%

Stephen Sondheim fans were concerned when word got out that Disney was bringing his Tony-winning musical Into the Woods to the big screen — chiefly because it seemed likely that the studio would lop off the less family-friendly elements of its twisted fairy tale story. Like any adaptation, the film version wasn’t exactly the same as its source material, but happily for Sondheim enthusiasts — and those who like a little dark fantasy mixed in with their musicals — Woods survived its journey to theaters largely intact. As Cinderella, Kendrick upped the superstar quotient of the robust ensemble assembled by director Rob Marshall, which also included Meryl Streep as a witch, Emily Blunt as a woman desperate to undo her curse, and Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf. “Some of the musical’s superfans will feel shortchanged by the movie no matter what, but you have to give credit where it’s due,” warned the Washington Post’s Stephanie Merry. “The adaptation is pretty faithful to the original — for better and worse.”

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The Voices (2014) 74%

For most films, making your main protagonist an employee at a bathtub factory would more than fulfill the weirdness quotient. But for 2015’s The Voices, that’s just the beginning of a surreal odyssey into bloody violence and black comedy — oh, and talking pets. Directed by acclaimed graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi by a script from Paranormal Activity 2 co-writer Michael R. Perry, The Voices stars Ryan Reynolds as an unhinged loner with some very dark secrets to hide — and Kendrick as a potential love interest who stands to make some disturbing discoveries. While its main character’s warped descent into a bleak, chaotic psychological abyss definitely isn’t for all viewers, those with a taste for the strange have found the end results intoxicating; as Sara Stewart wrote for the New York Post, it adds up to a “tonally wild indie, which is nearly too horrifying to be funny — but not quite.”

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 Happy Christmas (2014) 75%

Kendrick reunited with Drinking Buddies writer-director Joe Swanberg for 2014’s Happy Christmas, in which a young woman at an emotional crossroads decides to crash with her older brother — and her arrival triggers an uncomfortable upheaval in his life of domestic bliss. Like a lot of Swanberg pictures, Christmas coalesces around a series of low-key, largely improvised moments, but with enough of a dramatic throughline to elevate the proceedings beyond their familiar narrative underpinnings. “All in all,” wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Betsy Sharkey, “Happy Christmas is a good deal like cartoon Charlie Brown’s classic tree — scraggly, plenty of heart and much to enjoy, especially if you prefer your presents homemade.”

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Pitch Perfect (2012) 81%

Anna Kendrick can make a hundred movies, but for many filmgoers, she’ll probably always be most strongly identified with the Pitch Perfect series, and it’s easy to understand why. The fizzy charm of the 2012 original, starring Kendrick as a reluctant college freshman who stumbles into harmony with a campus a cappella group, exploded into a surprise $115 million hit — not only at the box office, but on the pop charts, where she scored a Top 10 single with “Cups,” her cover of the Carter Family classic “When I’m Gone.” The 2015 sequel (which added Hailee Steinfeld to an ace ensemble that already included Rebel Wilson) more than doubled its predecessor’s theatrical gross, and a third installment is already scheduled for 2017. Most critics have shared the audience’s evident enthusiasm for the franchise; as Connie Ogle wrote in her review of the original for the Miami Herald, “If you’re not grinning by the end of this light, funny crowd-pleaser, consider yourself tone deaf.”

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) 82%

After catching Hollywood’s eye in Up in the Air — and while she was still popping up in the Twilight franchise — Kendrick played the sister of the title character in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Edgar Wright’s adaptation of the Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novels about a bass player (Michael Cera) who has to battle, video game style, past his new lady love’s exes in order to win her affection. Stuffed with fun pop culture nods and stacked with a cast that also included Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Brie Larson, and Aubrey Plaza, Pilgrim opened to surprising critical indifference, but it earned the affection of critics like Slate’s Dana Stevens, who called it “A package of cinematic Pop Rocks, a neon-hued, defiantly non-nutritive confection that nonetheless makes you laugh at its sheer bold novelty.”

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Drinking Buddies (2013) 84%

The first of several films Kendrick’s made with the incredibly prolific Joe Swanberg, Drinking Buddies centers on the professional and romantic travails of a young Chicago foursome (rounded out by Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston), two of whom are co-workers at a local brewery. It might sound like a slim nail on which to hang a rom-com, but most critics thought it added up to some pretty engaging stuff — particularly since, as per Swanberg custom, the actors improvised their dialogue around the outline of the story. Filmed in a real working brewery (by actors drinking real beer), Drinking Buddies won over critics who’d already seen enough rom-coms for several lifetimes; as Moira MacDonald wrote for the Seattle Times, it “Sneaks up on you…you think it’s going in one direction, and suddenly it goes somewhere much more interesting.”

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Rocket Science (2007) 84%

You’ve probably watched more coming-of-age stories than you can count, but in the right hands, it’s a formula that can pay powerful dividends. Case in point: 2007’s Rocket Science, a teen dramedy about a high school student (Reece Thompson) whose stuttering makes it difficult to feel like he fits in — until he meets the star of the school’s debate team (Kendrick), who convinces him to sign up. Kendrick earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her work, which offered an intriguing prelude to the bigger-budget work looming in her future; calling the results “Self-consciously quirky on the outside,” Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek wrote, “this gentle teenage fable has an affecting, openhearted core.”

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End of Watch (2012) 85%

Cops versus gangbangers on the mean city streets! It’s a story Hollywood’s told countless times, but with End of Watch, director David Ayer still found a way to make it feel somewhat new. His success is due in no small part to this 2012 crime drama’s terrific cast, led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as LAPD partners working the South Central beat. Kendrick, as Gyllenhaal’s significant other, has more of a stock part, but — like her castmates — she infused what could have been a two-dimensional character with new life. “End of Watch is one thriller where the adrenaline rush, considerable as it is, is almost always put in the service of character,” observed NPR’s Bob Mondello. “Happily, the character on display turns out to be considerable, too.”

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Up in the Air (2009) 90%

Kendrick earned an Academy Award nomination for her work in this Jason Reitman dramedy, which put its finger on the pulse of the Great Recession with a story about a corporate downsizer (George Clooney) whose unencumbered, jet-setting lifestyle is thrown off its axis by the arrival of a new HR consultant (Kendrick) whose plans for the company threaten to make him obsolete. Its themes cut uncomfortably close for a number of viewers in uncertain economic times, but Up in the Air leavened the gloom with intelligent observations on modern culture — and even a bit of hope. “Timeliness can be tricky to pull off convincingly in movies,” wrote Claudia Puig for USA Today. “It’s tough to capture an era while it’s still happening, yet Up in the Air does so brilliantly, with wit and humanity.”

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50/50 (2011) 93%

Although Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were unquestionably the leads in 50/50, this 2011 “cancer comedy” — starring Gordon-Levitt as a guy who gets through his cancer diagnosis with a lot of help from his best buddy Rogen — was really rounded out by a pretty stellar ensemble. Kendrick joined the cast as Katherine, a medical therapist who develops a deeply personal relationship with Gordon-Levitt’s character, winsomely lowering the bro quotient in a deceptively thoughtful look at disease that earned nearly universal critical acclaim. “What ensues is Beaches meets Pineapple Express,” wrote Mary Elizabeth Williams for Salon. “Which, I’ve got to tell you, is pretty much what living with cancer is like.”

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Found Footage

It took a surprisingly long time for it to happen, but with this weekend’s Earth to Echo, found footage comes home to roost in the family film genre — and in honor of this adorably Amblinesque blend of 1980s all-ages fun and 21st-century technique, we decided to take a look at some of the more well-reviewed examples of a filmmaking style that’s definitely taken its share of critical lumps over the years. Naturally, there’s plenty of horror in here, but just like a group of kids heading off into the woods to debunk an urban legend, you might find a few surprises too. Power up that handheld camera, because it’s time for Total Recall!


The Bay

76%

A found footage horror movie from the guy who gave us Rain Man and The Natural? It sounds like a disaster, but in Barry Levinson’s The Bay, the only disaster is what we’re doing to our water supply — specifically in Chesapeake Bay, where the refusal of one town’s mayor to heed researchers’ warnings of lethal toxicity lead to a horrific outbreak of a mutant breed of tongue-eating louse. Freaky stuff, and well-handled by Levinson, who rebounded from a string of wretched stinkers like Envy and Man of the Year by using the inherent raw immediacy implied by found footage in pursuit of a timely (and obviously deeply felt) message. “Levinson’s film proves something pretty unequivocally,” argued Jason Gorber for Twitch. “Any conceit, any style, be it found footage or shakycam or haunted house or whatever, can be great in the hands of a good filmmaker.”

The Blair Witch Project

86%

No surprises here — The Blair Witch Project spawned the current found-footage craze, and there’s no way we were leaving it off this list, even if it has become a sort of whipping boy for the many inferior knockoffs inspired by its runaway success. And although, looking back, it really only has a few truly potent scares, it strings them out so patiently — and uses its then-novel narrative gimmick so well — that it’s easy to understand how Blair Witch scared the dickens out of so many filmgoers, particularly during the days of its early release, when it was still rumored to be culled from actual footage left behind by the Witch’s real-life victims. “The Blair Witch Project is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen,” decreed Lloyd Rose for the Washington Post. “Not the goriest, the grossest, the weirdest, the eeriest, the sickest, the creepiest or the slimiest… Just flat out the scariest.”

Chronicle

85%

Before 2012, the superhero and found-footage genres might not have seemed like the most natural of companions — but as Chronicle demonstrated, under the right circumstances, they can go together as deliciously as peanut butter and chocolate. Following the adventures of troubled teen Andrew (Dane DeHaan), his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), and their school acquaintance Steve (Michael B. Jordan) after they discover an unknown object that leaves them with telekinetic powers, the Josh Trank-directed drama imagines the giddy thrill that might come from developing adolescent superhuman abilities — as well as the struggle to come to terms with the responsibility all those cool new gifts entail. Of course, that’s a struggle familiar to anyone who’s ever read early Spider-Man, but Max Landis’ screenplay delves a bit deeper into the darkness — and the cast imbues his characters with easily relatable anguish. “It’s a testament to Trank’s capable direction that the movie feels so grounded in reality,” wrote USA Today’s Claudia Puig. “There is no sense of the magical in the goings-on, even though what the boys are doing defies logic and gravity.”

Cloverfield

78%

Hyped with a fairly brilliant “viral” ad campaign that made it seem like producer J.J. Abrams was brewing up some truly next-level cinema, Cloverfield couldn’t help but disappoint a little when it stomped into theaters in 2008 and filmgoers realized it was really just a monster movie with a(n occasionally nauseating) found-footage twist. Still, taken on its own terms, this is a better-than-average entry in this week’s subgenre, boasting some energetic work from director Matt Reeves and a solid script from Drew Goddard. Basically, if you’re going to watch one movie about a monster running amok in New York City while handicam-toting twentysomethings try to make sense of the destruction, this is the one to choose. “There’s nothing to Cloverfield, really, but stripped-down chaos shot in a faux-verite Blair Witch Project fashion,” shrugged the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips, who then admitted, “But I have to say, I was with it.”

End of Watch

85%

Most critics — and more than a few filmgoers — would agree that the found-footage gimmick has been more than played out since rising to prominence with The Blair Witch Project in the late 1990s. Still, it’s a powerful tool when used in the right way, as demonstrated by writer/director David Ayer’s End of Watch, which follows a cop/film student (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his partner (Michael Pena) on patrol in the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles. While Ayer’s use of the found footage technique proved divisive among critics, End of Watch earned a healthy $51 million at the box office, picked up a pair of Independent Spirit Award nominations, and enjoyed the respect of scribes such as Amy Biancolli of the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote, “The best scenes are filmed inside the cruiser, dashboard shots that face inward instead of out, catching Gyllenhaal and Peña in moments so playful and true they make all other buddy cops look bogus by comparison.”

Europa Report

81%

Having apparently never seen the end of 2010: The Year We Make Contact, a group of astronauts (played by Daniel Wu, Anamaria Marinca, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Sharlto Copley and Michael Nyqvist) board a deep space flight to Jupiter’s moon Europa, intent on probing the surface to try and find forms of life. The result is director Sebastián Cordero’s Europa Report, sort of a more intelligent cousin to the disastrous Apollo 18; rather than cheap scares and ill-conceived characters, Report tries to wring real human drama out of a dangerous situation that slowly goes from hopeful to horrifying — and, to many critics’ immense satisfaction, also grounds its story in intelligent dialogue that at least sounds like the kind of stuff scientists might say. “Finally,” crowed Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News. “A found-footage thriller that merits, and expands on, this irrationally popular format.”

Lake Mungo

96%

An eminently creepy low-budget ghost story barbed with scary videotapes, cell phone footage, and mockumentary interviews, Lake Mungo took the spirit of unsettling real-life documentaries like Capturing the Friedmans and used it as the chilling springboard for a grueling question: how do families carry on after the death of a loved one? In most cases, one hopes the answer includes fewer moments of blood-curdling horror than Mungo, but that undercurrent of real-world sadness helps anchor the fear with genuine poignancy. Calling it “a sophisticated, adult tale that blends complex, compelling emotions with reflexive commentary on film as a ‘medium’ of memory, manipulation and magic,” Little White Lies’ Anton Bitel deemed it “a classic supernatural enigma, once seen never forgotten.”

Paranormal Activity

83%

For a lot of found footage horror movies, the device is used largely as a narrative and/or editing gimmick in order to obfuscate details and amp up jump scares. But with 2009’s Paranormal Activity, director Oren Peli rocked it Blair Witch style, using the characters’ handheld cameras to slowly ratchet up an overall feeling of dread that finally yields to a payoff rendered all the more haunting by its refusal to rely on gore or over-the-top special effects. Your mileage may vary with the growing list of Paranormal spinoffs and sequels, but the original is as simple as it is effective. “It illustrates one of my favorite points, that silence and waiting can be more entertaining than frantic fast-cutting and berserk f/x,” wrote an appreciative Roger Ebert. “For extended periods here, nothing at all is happening, and believe me, you won’t be bored.”

[Rec]

89%

You’ve no doubt noticed that quite a few of the movies on our list have fallen under the horror umbrella, but precious few are as lethally effective as [Rec], the 2007 sensation helmed by Spanish writer-directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. Plunging viewers into the nightmarish hellscape of an apartment complex that might be ground zero for a quickly spreading virus that turns its hosts into homicidal savages, it proved that no matter how played out found footage might have seemed even then, it could still be used as an effective delivery mechanism for sparse, economic horror. The inevitable sequels fell victim to the laws of diminishing returns, but the original remains a classic of the genre; as Jason Morgan put it for Filmcritic.com, “Not since John Carpenter’s one-shot intro to Halloween has POV horror been this good.”

Trollhunter

82%

Found footage is so pervasive these days that it’s spread all the way to Norway, where director André Øvredal used it for his international cult hit Trollhunter. One of those movies whose plot is rather brilliantly summed up in its title, it follows the occasionally scary, often hilarious adventures of a group of college students whose pursuit of a suspected bear poacher takes a surprising turn when they discover that he’s actually after a much, much bigger quarry. With uniformly strong performances and more of a cinematic aesthetic than your average found-footage film, Trollhunter elicited applause from the majority of critics, including the Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney, who called it “An enjoyably off-kilter hybrid of The Blair Witch Project and Where the Wild Things Are.” There’s a presumably bigger-budget Hollywood remake in the works, but you don’t need to wait for that; the original is streaming via Netflix right now.

Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out Earth to Echo.

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Digital Multiplex, where we bring you the newest and best movies available for streaming and digital download. Each week, we’ll comb the biggest streaming sites for hot new releases and older gems that you can watch instantly in the comfort of your home. This week, we’ve got plenty of good stuff to choose from, including recent thrillers, insightful documentaries, and some classics from the 1980s. Read on to find out what’s available to watch right now.


Flight
   77%

Denzel Washington stars as Whip Whitaker, a commercial airline pilot whose mid-air heroics help to avert a catastrophic crash. Soon, however, his halo is tarnished, as investigators examine whether Whip was under the influence while flying.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


Seven Psychopaths
   83%

Colin Farrell stars as a struggling screenwriter whose well-meaning buddy (Sam Rockwell) places him in danger when he unwittingly kidnaps a dog belonging to a violent gangster (Woody Harrelson) who will stop at nothing to rescue his beloved pet.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


End of Watch
   85%

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena star partners in the LAPD – one of whom is shooting footage of life on the beat for a film school project – and what a wild few days they are. Upon making what seems like a routine bust, our heroes become the targets of a ruthless drug cartel.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


Pitch Perfect
   81%

Anna Kendrick stars as a new kid on campus who goes looking for a new clique and finds one in the form of the school’s a cappella ensemble. Can our heroine’s hip taste in tunes shake up the group’s staid arrangements — and make it a contender at the big singing competition?

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


The Sessions
   91%

John Hawkes and Helen Hunt star in a dramedy about a man with polio looking for romance.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


A Woman Under the Influence
   90%

John Cassavetes’ brutally realistic drama stars Gena Rowlands in an Oscar-nominated turn as a suburban housewife in the midst of a mental breakdown.

Available now on: Hulu


Compliance
   89%

This Certified Fresh thriller tells the tale of a fast food restaurant employee who gets into deep trouble after being accused of a crime she didn’t commit.

Available now on: Netflix


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
   81%

Matthew Broderick stars in John Hughes’ 1980s classic about a teenage iconoclast who takes his best pal on a wild tour of Chicago in an effort to cheer him up.

Available now on: Netflix


Trading Places
   88%

Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd star in a comedy about a privileged yuppie and a clever street hustler who find themselves swapping positions on the social ladder.

Available now on: Netflix


Terms of Endearment
   78%

Starring Debra Winger, Shirley MacLaine, and Jack Nicholson, this Best Picture winner is a dramedy about several decades in the lives of a mother and daughter.

Available now on: Netflix


Once Upon a Time in Mexico
   66%

Robert Rodriguez’ wild action/adventure stars Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, and Johnny Depp in a about an attempt to foil a conspiracy to kill the Mexican president.

Available now on: Netflix


Man With the Movie Camera
   97%

Dziga Vertov’s mind-blowing experimental film is a newly minted entrant into the prestigious Sight and Sound poll of the 10 greatest films of all time.

Available now on: Netflix

We recently had the chance to talk to End of Watch director David Ayer. This thriller about two LAPD officers stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, and was Certified Fresh at 86% on the Tomatometer. This week’s DVD/Blu-ray release of the film contains over 40 minutes of bonus scenes, and Ayer was kind enough to take the time to talk about that bonus material, as well as some of what went into making the film.



RT: I’ve just now watched the bonus material, some of the deleted scenes, and was really surprised that some of that stuff didn’t make it into the final film.

David Ayer: You know, it’s always a tough decision. I’m one of those guys, I just want the story to move, and it’s not exactly a plot-driven movie. So even though there’s these great character moments that, at the time and even through editing, I never thought I’d cut, you know, sometimes you just gotta do it.


RT: Those had to be some tough decisions. The interview scene with both Jake [Gyllenhaal] and Michael [Pena] sitting, talking, and going back through the fire scene, it took me right back to that scene when I had watched it in the movie. You’ve done other movies about LAPD; clearly you must know some guys in the department.

DA: Yeah, I mean, I have friends who work there or who have worked there, and I grew up in LA. I’m a good researcher. I listen, you know? It’s a thing of once you get to know cops, and they’re like, “Okay, this guy’s cool,” you know, they’ll open up to you and then you realize, “Okay, these are just normal people with an unusual job.”


RT: I felt like this was a side of day-to-day police work that we don’t normally see in movies. Is that what you were going for?

DA: Yeah, exactly. Even though a lot of the incidents are pretty incredible, that stuff happens. So even in Newton Division, where the film takes place, there’s a cartel presence, they pull over cartel runners, they take big dope hits off the street, you know, shootings are not that uncommon there, so all the things that these guys experience — guys in that area have experienced some of the human trafficking. I wanted to show how people deal with the daily trench work of policing.


RT: You’ve a really great cast here, and I have to point out the chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. I really believed that they had come up from the academy together. That was a level of chemistry between two guys that, you don’t often see. How did you end up with them specifically for this film?

DA: Jake got ahold of the script and, I guess, read it overnight and just came at me, and he’s like, “Dude, cast me. Dude, cast me. It’s the right thing to do. You know it.”


RT: I can hear him saying that.

DA: [laughs] Right? You know, actually, I made him read, because I’d kind of decided, “Yeah, I’ll cast him,” but I wanted him to read almost as more of a task, in the sense of, “Is this guy willing to go through a lot of rigamarole and headache to make this movie,” you know, because of the training and because of the sort of dedication ahead of time. I had him for five months; I had these guys for five months. And once we had Jake, it became about finding the right “Mike,” and, I mean, Pena’s a sick actor. He’s just sick. He came in and he read, and he did the opposite of kill it, and we were kind of like, “What the hell?” But it’s like, this isn’t a guy who auditions; this is a guy who takes his time to get into character, and once he’s there, he’s insane. So it’s kind of like, “Yeah, this is the right guy. This is the right guy.” We threw them together, put them through a lot of training, a lot of work, and they spent basically five months together, learning how to be cops from cops.


RT: Were there any specific things that ended up in the movie that came out of stories from people that you knew in the LAPD, that you can talk about?

DA: Yeah, a buddy of mine, Jaime FitzSimons, who’s a sheriff’s captain in Colorado now, a lot of this stuff happened to him and his partner. You know, they were in a gang unit back in the day in South Central — or South LA as it’s called now — and like, the kids being duct-taped and things like that, he experienced that. That’s how you deal with something like that as a parent.


RT: One of the other things that occurred to me is that you’re not a native of LA. You actually are from Illinois.

DA: I lived all over the country. I was born there, and moved every few years, and then ended up in LA when I was fourteen. So I went to high school out here in the neighborhood and all that good stuff.


RT: I feel like there’s a certain love for LA that filmmakers who hadn’t grown up here come in and have that I think is different than people who are natives. Especially in the work that you’ve done, I think that there’s definitely an interesting look at LA in especially the more crime-ridden areas, between Training Day and S.W.A.T. and some of the other stuff you’ve written. Is there something there that just keeps you going back to that well?

DA: I mean, I grew up in these neighborhoods, and I’ve seen a lot of stupid stuff go down. My wife’s from South LA, and we’ve got relatives there, so it’s still a world I’m connected to, and you know, the old saying in writing is “write what you know.” So it’s something that’s easy for me in the sense of how familiar I am with the world and the culture. But again, there’s that danger of Hollywood of getting typecast and that’s what I’d like to avoid.



End of Watch is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray.

This week on home video, we’ve got a few Certified Fresh movies to share with you, and at the top of the list is a gritty copy thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. After that, we’ve got an Oscar-nominated music documentary, a period drama based on a book, a cheeky female comedy, and another acclaimed doc about a bizarre crime story. See below for the full list!



End of Watch

85%

David Ayer’s filmography is filled with stories about Los Angeles cops, from screenwriting credits on Training Day, S.W.A.T., and Dark Blue to directorial efforts on Harsh Times and Street Kings. The only problem is, he hasn’t had a Fresh film since Training Day… until now. End of Watch finds Ayer mining familiar themes in the story of a pair of LAPD officers (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena) who unwittingly uncover an underground cartel network and, in doing so, become the targets of a ruthless gang. Thanks to a couple of outstanding performances from Gyllenhaal and Pena, as well as an air of authenticity in the script and some tense, adrenaline-fueled action, End of Watch came away with a Certified Fresh 85% on the Tomatometer, one of the better action thrillers to come out in the last year.



Searching for Sugar Man

95%

As any crate-digging DJ will tell you, thousands of musical acts have simply come and gone over the decades, having left little to no impression on the world. Such was apparently the case for Sixto Diaz Rodriguez — known simply as Rodriguez — an American folk singer who recorded a couple of albums in the 1970s and promptly disappeared. What he didn’t know was that his music had inexplicably caught on like wildfire in South Africa, and a couple of decades later, upon hearing rumors of his suicide, two fans from across the Atlantic set out to discover what had really happened to their hero. Searching for Sugar Man tells the story of their journey and the unexpected revival of Rodriguez’s music that followed, and critics say it’s by turns fascinating, informative, and mysterious. At a Certified Fresh 95% on the Tomatometer, the film has been nominated for Best Documentary at this year’s Oscars; it’s a winning portrait of a forgotten musical pioneer that’s probably worth a look.



The Paperboy

Director Lee Daniels impressed critics back in 2008 with Precious, the grim portrayal of inner-city child abuse, but it seems they weren’t quite sure what to think of his follow-up, The Paperboy. Based on the Pete Dexter novel of the same name, The Paperboy stars Matthew McConaughey as a 1960s Florida reporter named Ward Jensen who attempts to prove the innocence of death row inmate Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack). Along for the ride are Jack’s partner Yardley (David Oyelowo), younger brother Jack (Zac Efron), and a sensual woman named Charlotte (Nicole Kidman) who is in love with Van Wetter, despite never having met him. Critics felt that, despite its clearly talented cast and its faithfulness to the novel’s trashy, sordid tale, The Paperboy was simply too uneven in tone, so much so that it sometimes veered into camp. It has earned a few accolades here and there, but at 39% on the Tomatometer, be prepared for a bit of uncomfortable melodrama.



The Imposter

95%

If you like your documentaries dark, twisty, and bizarre, then search no further; The Imposter is most certainly up your alley. Utilizing both first person interviews and some reenactments, director Bart Layton tells the story of a young Texas boy’s disappearance in 1994 and his subsequent recovery — in Spain, of all places — three years later. But wait, there’s more: young Nicholas Barclay, as the boy was named, sported several of his distinguishing characteristics, but he now had brown eyes and dark hair, as opposed to blue eyes and blond hair. Was this actually Nicholas? If not, then who? How were his family members able to overlook the differences and accept him back into their lives? These are the questions that The Imposter seeks to answer, and critics say it’s an utterly gripping, brilliantly told story with pleasantly unexpected twists, despite its “true-crime” trappings. Certified Fresh at 95%, this is a ripped-from-the-headlines mystery that will engross you and baffle you all at once.



For a Good Time, Call…

57%

The success of Bridesmaids proved there was a viable contemporary market for female-centric comedies (duh, right?), and we’ve seen more of them pop up since then, including For a Good Time, Call…, which opened last August and left theaters shortly thereafter. It might be argued that its lack of recognizable, big-name stars only worked to its detriment, but for what it’s worth, critics were basically split down the middle on it. The film stars Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller (who also co-wrote the script) as polar opposites Katie and Lauren, enemies since their freshman year of college. When Lauren can no longer afford to live alone, a mutual friend (Justin Long) reintroduces her to Katie, and the pair reluctantly become roommates, until a mutually beneficial phone sex business brings them together. Many who saw the film found it funny, briskly paced, and with just the right amount of raunchiness, while others saw past what they thought to be half-hearted attempts to mimic the Judd Apatow formula. For a Good Time, Call… currently sits at 56% on the Tomatometer, so you may get some good laughs out of it, but don’t expect a comedic masterpiece.

Also available this week:

  • New Criterion Collection releases for Wim Wnders’s Oscar-nominated dance documentary Pina (95%) and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood (100%) on both DVD and Blu-ray.
  • Certified Fresh drama Keep the Lights On (95%).
  • A 60th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray of John Ford’s Oscar-winning A Quiet Man (89%), starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
  • Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (49%), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The Avengers. The Dark Knight Rises. Skyfall. There were plenty of highly-anticipated, critically acclaimed films that wowed moviegoers this year. But you know all about that stuff already, so we at RT decided to give some love to a few of the overlooked, underappreciated, and, in some cases, critically dismissed movies that made an impression on us. Read on for a rundown of lesser-known gems from 2012 that we think deserve another look.


85%

End of Watch

Matt Atchity – Editor in Chief

This was one of my favorite movies of the year (along with The Grey), but it really struggled to find an audience. So I was glad to see if get a recent re-release nationwide, and I really recommend seeing it if you have the chance. This story about two cops in South Central LA is sometimes funny, sometimes terrifying, and sometimes heartbreaking, and this movie caught me completely off-guard. I’m not sure what I’d been expecting, maybe another forgettable cop drama. What I got instead was a riveting ride-along with two cops (played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena) that I really believed had been partners for years. They had an easy familiarity that looked like a couple of guys that had gone beyond being partners or friends, and into real brotherhood. You laugh with them when they laugh at each other, and you worry about them when they’re on their own. Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera and David Harbour all put in strong supporting turns, Kendrick as Gyllenhaal’s new girlfriend, and Ferrera and Harbour as fellow cops. As I said before, I strongly recommend this movie, and I’d really like to see some of this cast (especially Pena) get some notice as the awards season heats up.


89%

The Turin Horse

Tim Ryan – Senior Editor

Nobody makes films like Hungarian director Bela Tarr. His spare, eerie meditations on morality and mortality occupy a bleak, mystical plane that seems to exist outside of time (or any notions of contemporary cinematic influence). The plot of The Turin Horse is simple — a man and his daughter tend to their farm while waiting for an apocalyptic storm to hit — and it’s told with an absolute minimum of artifice: the camera barely moves as our protagonists eat, work, and go about their daily business in near silence. I’m not even going to try to sell you on The Turin Horse; it’s the type of movie experience that will strike some as poetic and evocative, and others as a nifty cure for insomnia. But it casts a hypnotic spell, one that I’ve been unable to shake since seeing it. If you choose to watch it, I’ll give you one piece of advice: wear a sweater, because you can practically feel a wintery chill from the screen.


86%

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Grae Drake – Senior Editor

Since I am terrible at remembering actual historical events, I love movies with revisionist history–especially when they involve pirates and claymation. Aardman Studios enlisted the help of Hugh Grant, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, and Martin Freeman to tell the tale of the Pirate Captain, who really isn’t a great leader, and his quest to impress a girl (Queen Victoria). Along the way, he meets Charles Darwin, enters a science contest, tries to win Pirate of the Year, and learns what friendship is really all about. This film is nothing less than what I have come to expect from the Wallace and Gromit folks– it’s hysterical from start to finish, has staggering amounts of charm, and provides phenomenal detail even within the foam on beer. Every time I watch it, I want to give this movie a hug.


95%

The Queen of Versailles

Ryan Fujitani – Editor

This critically acclaimed but largely underseen documentary surprised me not so much because it was good, but because I enjoyed it for very different reasons than I expected. Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles begins with a portrait of a wealthy family living in excess: time-share mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie are in the process of building their dream house, a 90,000 sq. ft. mansion modeled after the Palace of Versailles. But then, the 2008 economic crisis hits them hard, and Siegel is forced to make vast cutbacks, both in his corporate empire and within the Siegel home itself; construction on the mansion is halted. At this point, one might expect to be overcome by a sudden rush of gleeful schadenfreude – and certainly, I felt some of this as I watched the beleaguered patriarch agonize over his expenses – but the film begins to reveal the layers behind the glitz and glamour, and this shift is what took me by surprise. Jackie’s been warped by her wealth, sure, but she’s well-meaning, she’s loving, she’s supportive, and she wants so badly for her family to feel like a family; I have to admit, I was kind of touched. The Queen of Versailles is an absolutely fascinating glimpse at the lives of the super rich, but its power is in its portrayal of the Siegels who, at the end of the day, are just another family trying to adapt to changes they’re wholly unprepared for. Never before have I experienced such a mix between my sympathy for and smug satisfaction with the misfortune of others.


47%

The Comedy

Luke Goodsell – International Editor

What can I say, I love movies about messed-up, unpleasant people — and the more messed-up and unpleasant the better, as far as I’m concerned. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have been testing the dynamics of audience discomfort for years with their brilliant Awesome Show, and that laugh-or-cringe sensibility manifests in a complex, dramatic way in Heidecker’s character here. Giving easily one of my favorite performances of the year, Heidecker plays a kind of repulsive trust-fund monster whose money allows him to do literally nothing with his life — nothing, that is, apart from drift from situation to situation antagonizing people; as though some kind of slovenly Andy Kaufman had been resurrected for a Noah Baumbach movie. He’s hideous but he’s also hilarious, and The Comedy moves more like a drama — you’re just never sure whether you should be in howls of pain or hysterics. The most impressive thing about both Alverson’s direction and Heidecker’s genius underplaying is not just the truth they locate in this husk of a man-boy, it’s that they nearly make you care about his sad predicament by the movie’s end. It’s the kind of character and film that splits critics down the middle, as well it should — with 40% on the Tomatometer, there’s love and loathing aplenty. The Comedy had a miniature theatrical run, but it’s widely available on VOD. Watch it, and either thank me or despise me afterwards.


77%

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Alex Vo – Editor

Of the 6,000 films Jay and Mark Duplass were involved with this year, Jeff, Who Lives at Home stands out. Not that I have any personal identification with a slacker who lives in his mom’s basement and believes he’s getting signs from the universe to do something meaningful, Jeff who (probably) eats too much cereal and (probably) is still hung-up on his ex. No identification at all. Instead, I connected with the movie’s charm and simplicity, from the title all the way down to its surprisingly generous spirit. Jeff (Jason Segel, essentially updating his Freaks and Geeks character for the information age) is presented as a lovable oaf, who could be a real underdog if it weren’t so inconvenient to getting high. And there is exciting depth to his friends and family, which includes people played by Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, and Ed Helms, all of whom get a few great scenes. Jeff’s adventure is madcap and full of digressions, easing its way into an affecting finale against the backdrop of a setting sun. Mumblecore, aka hipster Dogme, may be fleeting but in considering Jeff’s little heartfelt accomplishment, we can see the signs of life.


El Dedo

Kerr Lordygan – Review Aggregator

Tossing around in my head films such as Smashed (possible Oscar buzz on this anyway) and Bait (2012, funny, silly, exciting with quite creative gore), I ended up opting for El Dedo (“The Finger”). A selection of the Global Film Initiative, the film handles a slightly grotesque premise with lightheartedness and charm. The results are sometimes comical and always endearing. The plot is just ridiculous enough to be true. Based on real events, a few of the real-life subjects co-star, breaking the fourth wall to bring us closer. A beloved townsmen running for mayor in a town’s first election is murdered and his finger is saved for sentimental purposes. The town looks to the severed index finger for guidance, but will it still win the mayoral election? The characters are so likeable, the plot is almost surreal, this one is a winner, even for those who might not ordinarily watch foreign films.


53%

People Like Us

Catherine Pricci – Review Aggregator

This Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks drama may not necessarily be off the radar, but overall it was poorly received. And that’s unfortunate since this underappreciated film had fantastic performances by its two leads. A lot of critics felt this film lacked depth and was melodramatic, but most agreed that Pine and Banks put in standout performances. And audiences should keep an eye on newcomer Michael Hall D’Addario, who played Banks’s son; he stole most of the scenes he was in and is definitely someone to look out for in the future. If you like films with great performances, and don’t mind a tear or two, this one is worth another look.


26%

This Means War

Beki Lane – Production Assistant

I’m here to recommend a flick that got crushed on the Tomatometer, but is still tasty if you can handle a little pulp. This Means War is formulaic, but I believe that plot formulas exist because, just often enough, they work. This one really surprised me. If you don’t make the mistake of going in expecting something more than what it is, this film offers a lot of laughs and a really good time. Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy are really funny, and keep it stylish to boot. This film doesn’t fall into the chick flick category, nor does it cater exclusively to the bros. Rather it has great balance, and can be appreciated by all. In the civil unrest that can arise during the debate of what DVD to select for a stay-in date night, This Means War can bring both sides to a suitable accord.


79%

Dredd

Julio de Oliveira – Project Manager

Dredd is not one of those movies that you never heard about, but it’s probably one you didn’t care to watch when it hit the theaters earlier this year. Let’s face it, its box office was far from great, but – as a comic book fan – I decided to give it a shot, and I’m really glad I got to watch it in all its 3D glory. The guys behind Dredd did a pretty good job giving life to Mega City One, a post-apocalyptic metropolis dominated by crime, where cops enforce the law onto its citizens as judges, jury and executioners. The city looks so overpopulated, chaotic and hopeless that it convinces the audience that the unorthodox methods applied by the judges are the only way to go. Instead of spending a long time introducing this dystopic reality, director Pete Travis let you learn as you go. He basically shows a day in the life of the always-frowning Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and rookie psychic partner Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who get trapped in a gigantic residential complex called Peach Tree – more like a vertical concrete slum, dominated by drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). The movie is packed with action, God-they-are-not-gonna-make-it moments, and loads of gory violence. I also really like its beautiful, dark cinematography and the visual impact of the well-applied slow-motion technology and bullet-time effects. It’s a visual masterpiece. Dredd is still not available on home entertainment, but it will hit 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on January 8, 2013.


This week at the movies, we’ve got an aging baseball scout (Trouble with the Curve, starring Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams); a deadly judge (Dredd 3D, starring Karl Urban and Olivia Thirby); cartel-busting cops (End of Watch, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena); a religious leader (The Master, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman); and a creepy dwelling (House at the End of the Street, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Shue). What do the critics have to say?



Trouble With the Curve

Nobody plays a grizzled-but-secretly-lovable coot like Clint Eastwood. And critics say he and co-star Amy Adams are in fine form in Trouble with the Curve, even if the movie’s plot is as well-worn as an old catcher’s mitt. Gus Lobel (Eastwood) is an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves who’s losing both his sight and his preternatural gift for judging talent. When the team hopes to secure a hotshot prospect in the draft, Gus’ daughter Mickey (Adams) joins him on a trip to scout the player, mending their frayed relationship in the process. The pundits say Trouble With the Curve may not be a home run, but it’s a solid single: it’s warm, well-acted, and really predictable. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down the best movies starring Eastwood.)



Dredd 3D

79%

Judge Dredd, from 1995, has long been a punchline for fans of comic book adaptations. So it’s a small miracle that critics are pretty psyched about the franchise’s reboot — they say Dredd 3D is tense, visceral, and visually dazzling. Karl Urban stars as the title character, a law-enforcement agent that acts as judge, jury, and executioner. Patrolling the streets of a dystopian megalopolis, Dredd battles a vicious drug syndicate that’s taken over a heavily fortified apartment building. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Dredd is ultra-violent (sometimes excessively so), but it’s also deftly paced, action packed, and surprisingly smart.



End of Watch

85%

A buddy-cop movie shot in a found-footage style, End of Watch might initially look like a feature length episode of COPS. However, critics say this is a gritty take on well-trodden turf, and it benefits greatly from the chemistry between leads Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. They play partners in the LAPD – one of whom is shooting a few days on the beat for a film school project – and what a wild few days they are. Upon making what seems like a routine bust, our heroes become the targets of a ruthless drug cartel. The pundits say the Certified Fresh End of Watch is an immersive experience, putting audiences on a ride-along with two terrifically realized characters.



The Master

84%

Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master opens in wide release this weekend, and critics say this tale of a troubled man who falls under the influence of a shadowy religious leader is immersive, expertly crafted, and wonderfully acted. Joaquin Phoenix stars as a navy vet in the midst of personal turmoil who turns to Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the charismatic leader of a group called the Cause; soon, the two men are locked in a test of wills. The pundits say Certified Fresh The Master is a challenging work, but it’s often hypnotic and elusive in the best sense. (Check out RT staffer Jeff Giles’ Paul Thomas Anderson watching series here.)



House at the End of the Street

13%

It appears the folks behind House at the End of the Street were afraid the film wasn’t built on the sturdiest of foundations, since reviews are currently unavailable. Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Shue star as a mother and daughter who move into a new neighborhood, only to learn that the house next door was the site of a gruesome double murder that remains shrouded in mystery. It’s time to guess the Tomatometer! (And check out RT 24 Frames, which delves into Lawrence’s life and career.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

Finally, props to Brian Clarkson and Simon Opitz for coming the closest to guessing Resident Evil: Retribution‘s 29 percent Tomatometer.

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