148 Best Releases Rated R

The Spool Staff

1- Title (Year) for Movies or 2- Title Season X for TV shows

MPAA RatingR

Ridley Scott’s surprisingly hollow biopic of the French military commander falters as a character piece and comes shy of victory as an epic. For a film with as many contradictions as Napoleon, it’s odd for it to be so straightforward. It covers 28 years, but it never feels like a lot of changes. It’s over two and a half hours, which, while not a herculean runtime, never entirely slows down. Perhaps it’s because it never really gets started. Ridley Scott’s latest opens with a public decapitation of Marie Antoinette (Catherine Walker), giving way to the 1793 Siege of Toulon. The violence is often unsparingly graphic, so why, then, does it feel so cosmetic? Shouldn’t a live horse eviscerated by a cannonball to the chest do something to the viewer? Continue Reading →

1- Title (Year) for Movies or 2- Title Season X for TV shows

Thomasin McKenzie & Anne Hathaway burn up the screen in William Oldroyd’s unsettling thriller. Eileen will likely be lost in the holiday season shuffle among such spectacles as the upcoming Wonka and awards-friendly fare like Ferrari. On the other hand, it’s unclear under what circumstances Eileen would make a big splash. It’s an odd, occasionally off-putting little film that wouldn’t work as well as it does if not for the scorching chemistry between its two leads. Continue Reading →

Blood Rage

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Serve up this bizarre, oddly funny 80s slasher as part of your holiday entertainment feast this year. Though Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s retro horror double feature Grindhouse met with audience indifference, the collection of fake movie trailers during its “intermission” became amusing pop culture ephemera. Of the four featured, Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving” is probably the most fun to revisit, mostly because of its loving dedication to capturing the unique seediness of an 80s slasher film. There’s something so familiar about the murky film quality, the low budget special effects, the incoherent plot (it appears to be a trailer for two different, unfinished movies stuck together, as was the case for many 80s horror movies), the glimpses of T&A, and of course, that hilarious voiceover and excellent tagline, that it seems unbelievable that it hadn’t actually already been made. Continue Reading →

The Holdovers

After stumbling with Downsizing, Alexander Payne bounces back with a gentle & witty comedy-drama. The artist Dmitry Samarov one said to me that the ratio of good to bad late periods in an artist's life was depressing to consider. For every Sir Edward William Elgar there was an Eric Clapton (my example, not his), and that it was rare to see someone sharpen as they aged. Now, I like Dmitry and certainly respect his opinion, but I can’t help but feel that when film overtook painting as the dominant artwork that people engage with, the ratio shifted towards bizarre experimentation and welcome self-reflection as much as dull self reflection. Continue Reading →


Long overshadowed by Sideways, we’re giving this understated dramedy its due for depicting Midwest with the specificity Hollywood rarely gives it. Alexander Payne’s Nebraska is as unassuming as the regular Midwestern folk it depicts. Even though this small, quiet, black-and-white comedy was flooded with nominations during the 2013 awards season it won almost none of them. Ten years on, it remains overshadowed by Payne’s more popular works like Sideways and Election. But this odd little dramedy is not only one of Payne’s finest films to date, it’s also his one true love letter to his home state of Nebraska and the Midwest itself. Continue Reading →

The Killer

To talk about The Killer is to strip away pretense. Well, one can try. Cold it may be, but David Fincher's latest is an incredibly open film. The houses are made of glass; the windows are ceiling-high; the voiceovers from the title character (Michael Fassbender) give infallible insight into his worldview. The film is his worldview, simple in its machinations and complex in its philosophy. In most other circumstances, this would unfold over time. And it does here, at least to an extent. Continue Reading →


As daybreak bleeds from within the walls, Priscilla Presley (Cailee Spaeny) wakes up next to her husband, Elvis (Jacob Elordi). Her water’s broken and, as he calls for a car, she goes to the bathroom, where she applies the perfect fake eyelashes in silence. Continue Reading →

May December

In such films as Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, Velvet Goldmine and I’m Not There, filmmaker Todd Haynes has taken the stories of famous people and utilized what we know—or think we know—about them to explore ideas about celebrity and our all-consuming need to render their often-complex stories into straightforward narratives. That strange compulsion to explain, understand, and commodify the lives of real people is at the heart of his latest work, May December, and it certainly seems to have sparked something in him because the end result is the strongest work that he has done in quite some time.  Continue Reading →


With her first film, Promising Young Woman, writer-director Emerald Fennell took a storyline that was essentially a cloddish-but-glossy retread of such female-driven revenge sagas as Ms .45 and I Spit on Your Grave, infused it with insights regarding gender issues that would barely have passed muster in a 100-level college class and somehow rode it to inexplicable praise and an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Continue Reading →


Both the main characters in Michel Franco’s Memory are struggling to deal with the echoes of their past. Sylvia (Jessica Chastain), a recovering alcoholic and single mother to 13-year-old Anna (Brooke Timber), desperately wants to forget the unspoken traumas of her childhood. Saul (Peter Saarsgard), on the other hand, can’t grab a hold of his past. He’s powerless as early-onset dementia slowly but inevitably steals it from him. After their high school reunion, he wordlessly follows her home and spends the night standing outside her building. In turn, she visits him at the house he shares with his brother (Josh Charles) and niece (Elsie Fisher). Then she takes him for a walk and accuses him of participating in a rape that she endured at the age of 12, a crime that he has no memory of committing.  Continue Reading →

Dicks: The Musical

The audaciously titled Dicks: The Musical comes with an equally eye-catching tagline, boasting the honor of being “A24’s first musical.” That’s bound to intrigue cinephiles everywhere. After all, not every movie studio is trendy enough to regularly sell out of logo festooned merchandise. Or even make hipster merch in the first place.  Continue Reading →

Dream Scenario

At this point, you can roughly divide the output of Nicolas Cage into one of two categories. First, there are films so tailored to his reigning wild man of cinema persona that it seems unimaginable they could exist if he passed. In the other camp are the quieter efforts like The Weather Man, Joe, and Pig that remind of what a powerful actor he still can be. His latest project, writer-director Kristoffer Borgli’s Dream Scenario, combines both approaches into a single offering. The result is a strange and wildly audacious work anchored by a surprisingly deft and low-key turn from Cage that stands in marked contrast to the weirdness surrounding him. Continue Reading →

The Burial

Whenever a crowd pleasing movie hits theaters or streaming, people lament, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” Often, these people refer to middle-of-the-road movies from the 80s and 90s, the type of film that would play on cable television in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, something that people watch over and over again, simply because it makes them feel lighter. The Burial, the new courtroom drama from writer/director Maggie Betts, falls firmly into this category. It’s dad-fare, set in 1995 when it also likely would’ve had mainstream success in popular culture.  Continue Reading →

Killers of the Flower Moon

Having earned just about every accolade there is and long cemented his position as one of the all-time great filmmakers, Martin Scorsese has nothing left to prove. Yet, on the cusp of 81–an age when most directors are either retiring to the Lifetime Achievement Award circuit or making films that are largely variations of their past glories–he is still out there challenging himself and audiences with bold and audacious projects. Continue Reading →

Totally Killer

The low-budget confines of Blumhouse movies mean that any idea can become a movie, including bold original visions like Whiplash or Get Out. Unfortunately, it also means a lot of subpar stuff can easily get the green light. The latest example is the new Amazon/Blumhouse collaboration, Totally Killer. Hailing from director Nahnatchka Khan, Totally Killer dares to ask a question no reasonable soul was pondering. “What if Happy Death Day and Hot Tub Time Machine had a tedious baby?” Buckle up, horror devotees. Here comes yet another dose of 1980s nostalgia and some frighteningly lousy editing. Continue Reading →

Killer Joe

Upon the news of the passing of William Friedkin, every headline reporting on the news focused on two films. It’s not surprising that the media spent so much time talking about The French Connection and The Exorcist, two bona fide masterpieces that paved the way for a new era of American filmmaking. What was disappointing was this seeming willingness to reduce a cinematic legend’s legacy to a burst of time in the early 1970s, thus dismissing the five decades that followed as either negligible or outright unworthy of interest.  Continue Reading →

Rules of Engagement

Even William Friedkin's most loyal fans would admit the Nineties were not a particularly fertile artistic period for him. That decade saw him putting out the laughable horror film The Guardian (1990), the eventual release of his long-on-the-shelf and heavily recut 1987 death penalty drama Rampage (1992), the tepid sports drama Blue Chips (1994), and the resoundingly unnecessary (save for a nifty car chase) Jade (1995). On the small screen, he helmed two made-for-cable remakes, the Roger Corman production Jailbreakers (1994) with Shannen Doherty, Antonio Sabato Jr., and Adrien Brody, and 12 Angry Men (1997) with a powerhouse cast that included Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Ossie Davis, James Gandolfini and, perhaps inevitably, Tony Danza.  Continue Reading →

The Hunted

At the risk of making a "getting a lot of Sorcerer vibes from this" guy out of myself, The Hunted—William Friedkin's 2003 old-master-hunts-rogue-student thriller really does make for a fascinating counterpart to his earlier men-on-a-desperate-mission masterwork. Both delve into the lives of damaged, forlorn, isolated men on perilous quests for deliverance. And both of those quests lead deep into madness. Both pointedly contrast man-made, flame-choked hellscapes (Sorcerer's exploding oil well, The Hunted's secret mission amidst the Kosovo War) with the vast, amoral green of the deep forest (Columbia and Oregon, respectively). Both turn on setpieces that thrill while maintaining a grounded (if not necessarily "realistic") feel and weave surreality in with care. Continue Reading →

The Exorcist: Believer

If you like loud noise jump scares, you’re going to love The Exorcist: Believer.  Continue Reading →

She Came to Me

Seven films into her career as a filmmaker and Rebecca Miller is still a perplexing study. From 1995’s Angela, her symbolic unpacking of a lost childhood (presumably her own) to 2015’s Maggie’s Plan, a symbolic study of a desire for independence (presumably her own), she's made female pain and pleasure her subject without ever settling on a formal approach. Miller is an auteur in the sense that the peculiar combination of confrontational sexuality and highly personal discursiveness seem like the province of someone who both knows exactly what kind of things she wants people to think about, even if she’s never decided the way she wants us to think about them, other than “immediately.” Continue Reading →


After the aggressively negative critic and audience response to 1980’s Cruising, William Friedkin took a curious “hell with it, I’m going to do whatever I want” approach to projects. None of what he directed over the next decade, save for To Live and Die in L.A., came close to receiving the kind of acclaim his early 70s career did. If anything, it seemed as though he had given up his precise, occasionally unreasonable eye for perfection in favor of churning out the most generic cable-friendly nonsense possible.  Continue Reading →