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The Best Movies Coming to Screens Big and Small This Week

Morgan Freeman is back, and he’s playing a bad guy

En español | Sure, he’s played God, the president of the United States and Nelson Mandela. But this time around, Morgan Freeman plays a bad, bad guy in his new film, opening on screens big and small this week. On the sweeter side, one of the best films of the year is here, and it’s a black-and-white documentary about a mama pig and her piglets. We kid you not. Read why our critics love it, and pass the popcorn!

If you loved Babe, have we got a film for you!

 Gunda, Unrated

Oh, stop! We’re recommending an arty, black-and-white documentary about the day-to-day reality of a domesticated sow, some cows and a one-legged chicken? Yes! This extraordinary, passionate feature executive-produced by vegan Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Victor Kossakovsky, 59, is one of the year’s best movies. Gunda documents the birth of a gargantuan porcine litter, mama Gunda’s nudging and nurturing of her piglets, and the devastation of their separation when the market comes calling. Few films capture the intense, sticky bond between a mother and her offspring so simply and wrenchingly, or convey the knowledge that we carnivores are devouring souls with every bite of bacon. While it won’t keep most of us off the pork, Gunda deserves its many awards, for its formal grace and clear-eyed, compassionate look at animal life down on the farm. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.)

Watch it: Gunda, in limited theaters April 16, streaming at Film Forum

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Sure, he’s played Nelson Mandela and God, but this week Morgan Freeman’s playing an all-out bad guy

 Vanquish, R

In a rare villain role, Morgan Freeman, 83, plays a wheelchair-using ex-cop named Damon who’s gone to the dark side in this underworld potboiler. Directed by George Gallo (Midnight Run), Vanquish costars Ruby Rose as Damon’s loyal caretaker with a criminal past, which comes in handy when Damon blackmails her into picking up five packages in one bullet-riddled evening. The action scenes are serviceable. If it weren’t for a semi-surprising third-act twist, this would feel right at home on Cinemax circa 1992. —Chris Nashawaty (C.N.)

Watch it: Vanquish, coming April 16 to select theaters and April 20 on demand

DON’T MISS THIS: Did you know Morgan Freeman began his film career at age 50? And has since made more than 100 movies? In honor of this iconic actor, our critics have named (and ranked!) Freeman’s 10 best films (so far). Get the whole list (and start streaming).

Whether marijuana is legal in your state or not, put this film high on your watch list

 The Marijuana Conspiracy, Unrated

The setup for this film might make a dandy reality show: Women ages 18-35 volunteer for a cannabis study in which a long-haired, B.F. Skinner-believing scientist puts them in a room, isolated from friends and family for about three months, and gives one group strong, government-grown weed. They learn to weave wool belts and get paid a few dollars per belt, which could add up to half a year’s salary. The idea is to see whether the drug will make them lazy, giggling, worthless burdens on society. Spoiler: The scientist says, “It’s crazy, but on average the stoners have made more bread than the sober gals!” It’s a bit far-fetched, but the film dramatizes a real Toronto experiment in 1972, when Canada was considering legalization and B.F. Skinner was taken seriously. It’s amateurishly made, but a fascinating tale that may make you giggle. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)

Watch it: The Marijuana Conspiracy, coming April 20 to iTunes

Your Netflix must-watch of the week is here!

Dolly Parton: A MusiCares Tribute

Dolly is the MusiCares person of the year, so a passel of stars joins the 75-year-old icon to perform and celebrate sweet memories, including Willie Nelson, Miley Cyrus, Kacey Musgraves, Shawn Mendes, Brandi Carlile and Katy Perry.

Watch it: Dolly Parton: A MusiCares Tribute, on Netflix

DON’T MISS THIS: The 14 Best Things Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix in April

Love rom-coms but tired of watching millennials have all the fun?

Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin star in the film It's Complicated and Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman in 5 Flights Up.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection; James Hamilton/Focus World/Courtesy Everett Collection

We hear you. Which is why our critics found the 13 best romantic comedies that feature older actors! From an all-grown-up Spencer and Tracy in 1957’s Desk Set to Angela Bassett in How Stella Got Her Groove Back in the late ’90s to Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland in 2017’s The Leisure Seeker, these are love stories for folks who know a thing or two about love. Grab your favorite rom-com date and get streaming here: Grown-ups In (and Out) of Love: 13 Great Rom-Coms Starring Older Actors

Love a surprise ending? Have we got the movies for you

Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment in a scene from The Sixth Sense and Daniel Kaluuya in the film Get Out

Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection; Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

There’s no better place to indulge in some fun April fooling than by watching movies — with their proud tradition of twist endings and final-reel gotchas and neck-snappers. In honor of prankster season, our critics are here with the ultimate list of movies with twists and turns we never saw coming. Get the list and start watching right here: April Fooling: The 12 Best Movie Twist Endings

Batter up! It’s baseball (movie) season!

Chadwick Boseman stars as Jackie Robinson in 42, Geena Davis as Dottie Hinson in A League of Their Own and Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in The Natural

D. Stevens/Warner Bros. Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection; Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection; Juergen Vollmer/Popperfoto/Getty Images

It’s time to limber up and get ready for a season of America’s pastime with this all-star collection of great baseball films. They’re all streaming for you with a click of the remote control — which means you’ll have plenty of time to steam some hot dogs, pop open a beer or soda, and get ready to cheer. Root, root, root for the home screen here: 12 Great Baseball Movies to Stream Ahead of Opening Day

What’s your favorite George Clooney movie?

George Clooney Portrait

John Russo/Getty Images

It’s tough, right? The megastar has helmed a long list of terrific movies (and broke out on a beloved TV series), but let’s name names. In honor of Clooney’s being named AARP’s Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Award winner, our critics have not only named his Top 10 roles, but they’ve ranked them! Is our No. 1 your No. 1? Check out the list (and enjoy the watching), right here: The 10 Best George Clooney Roles, Ranked

This one’s for all the jazz buffs out there

Andra Day and Kevin Hanchard star in the film The United States vs Billie Holiday

Takashi Seida/Paramount Pictures

As everyone gets excited for the new Billie Holiday biopic, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, it seemed like the perfect time to get into the jazz mood with some of the best films on the subject. Leave it to our critics to find jewels from 1950 through 2020 (two are even animated)! Turn the lights down low and settle in with our brand new list: Get in the Swing With These 8 Irresistible Jazz Movies

And speaking of stars we love, we talked to Stanley Tucci

The popular actor takes on a tender role in Supernova, which pairs him with Colin Firth as a gay couple facing down the looming prospect of early dementia. Tucci spoke with AARP about preparing for the role and the joy of reuniting with Firth. Read the whole interview, here: Stanley Tucci Explores the Landscape of Love and Early Dementia

Paging Mr. Ripley fans ...

You may already love novelist Patricia Highsmith without knowing it. Did you love the chilling thriller, The Talented Mr. Ripley? How about Strangers on a Train? Or the taut drama of Carol? If any of these movies tickled your fancy, you’re a fan of the prolific novelist whose birthday we celebrate this month. Go deeper with our definitive look at the best film adaptations of her novels you can stream right now, including some scoop on new movies and series coming up soon. Get the list and links, here: The Ultimate Guide to the Films of Novelist Patricia Highsmith

Feeling overwhelmed with all the streaming services on your TV?

A person holding a remote control in front of a wall displaying of dozen of screens showing content

simpson33/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Disney, HBO, Peacock … it seems like every time you turn around (or turn on the TV), another streaming service is vying for your attention (and subscription dollars). Which streaming services out there are really worth the money? How do you decide what to pick? Here’s what you need to know about your options on Apple, BET, CBS, Disney, HBO and NBC: Too Many TV Streaming Service Choices? Here’s What You Need to Know

Geena Davis has something to say, and we all need to listen up

Actress Geena Davis

Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

You may know the actress best for her star-making turn in 1991’s Thelma and Louise, but you may not know that her experience on that film inspired her to found an institute focused on gender bias in the media. AARP caught up with Davis this week to discuss her latest research — a sobering look at how women over 50 are portrayed in film. Read more (and get riled up), here: Geena Davis Calls Hollywood’s Age Bias ‘Dismal’

If you loved Da 5 Bloods, or BlacKkKlansman, or Do the Right Thing, or…

Director Spike Lee poses for photo in Sydney Australia

Jaimi Chisholm/Getty Images

Then you know that Spike Lee is one of America’s most influential filmmakers working today. But what you might not know is the full scope of his work, including these five critic-picked Spike Lee Joints that you should put to the top of your streaming list pronto. Get the list and catch up, right here: The 5 Best Spike Lee Films You Haven't (Yet) Seen

Backward AND in High Heels Department

Directors Lulu Wang Greta Gerwig and Ava DuVernay

Matteo Nardone/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images; Lia Toby/PA Images via Getty Images; Amy Sussman/Getty Images

(Left to right) Lulu Wang, Greta Gerwig and Ava DuVernay.

Women directors — long sidelined — are tearing it up in movies right now. And to celebrate their achievements, we’ve rounded up the 13 essential female filmmakers you need to be following — from Ava DuVernay to Kathryn Bigelow (plus links to their films available online).

Get the list: 13 Female Directors You Should Discover Right Now

More of the very best movies online

It’s truly amazing how many incredible movies there are available on mainstream platforms like Amazon, Netflix and others. Our critics round up the very best for you, no matter what your interest. Check out the latest “Best of” lists from AARP critics. There’s never been a better time to catch up on movies you always intended to watch.

Other movies to watch

 Concrete Cowboy, R

Far more than People’s 2018 sexiest man alive, Idris Elba, 48, mounts a horse as Harp in director Ricky Staub’s uplifting father-son drama. It’s set in the real-life, but little-known, community of Black cowboys at the Fletcher Street Stables on the fringe of a gentrifying Philadelphia neighborhood. Based on Gregory Neri’s bestselling YA novel Ghetto Cowboy, the strongly acted, leisurely-paced family drama costars Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin as Harp’s estranged son Cole, who gradually learns the cowboy way. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Concrete Cowboy, on Netflix

 Moffie, Unrated

Set in 1981, when the white-minority apartheid government fought Soviet-backed Angola (more than a decade before Nelson Mandela became president), Moffie follows a fresh teen “scab” doing compulsory service in the South African army. Nicholas, played with a quiet, Merchant Ivory beauty by Kai Luke Brummer, is a grunt with an extra strike against him. He’s a closeted “moffie,” an Afrikaans slur referring to homosexuals. Surrounded by athletic young men in boot camp and on the battlefield, he finds love, both carnal and collegial. Meanwhile, all around him the violent treatment of his brother soldiers, the virulent racism toward Black civilians and the unbridled homophobia constantly bombard him, chewing away at his soul and forcing him even deeper into silence. Moffie is a powerful tale of survival in the face of senseless prejudice and agonizing loss.

Watch it: Moffie, in theaters and on demand

Thunder Force

Why watch (yet another) superhero movie? Because this one’s genuinely funny and stars Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy, both 50, as ordinary folks suddenly granted superpowers. And they were super to begin with!

Watch it: Thunder Force, on Netflix

DON’T MISS THIS: The 14 Best Things Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix in April

 Nobody, R

Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk, 58, boldly follows Taken’s Liam Neeson, 68, and Charles Bronson — hey, even John Wayne — in Ilya Naishuller’s ultraviolent revenge thriller that’s topping the box office, a surprise number 1 hit. Odenkirk plays Hutch Mansell, a former “wet worker” for one of those three-initial secret agencies. This wolf in sheep’s clothing is trying to live quietly — but when armed robbers enter his suburban ranch house, well, this time it’s personal. The fanged canine casts off the shearling and gets down to some nasty business to protect his wife (played by Connie Nielsen, 55) and kids. Meanwhile, Christopher Lloyd, 82, is having a moment. After playing wingman to William Shatner’s late-life Romeo in Senior Moment, the Back to the Future star gets the film’s biggest laughs as Mansell’s Pops, a retired western-obsessed lawman who comes out shooting from under his lap rug when his son’s endangered. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Nobody, in theaters only

 Senior Moment, Unrated

Star Trek’s William Shatner, 90, taps his easygoing charm while plausibly playing a “young” (72-year-old) former NASA test pilot who gets his license revoked for reckless driving when a new district attorney wants to get dangerous senior drivers off the very clean streets of Palm Springs. Without his wheels, Victor meets Caroline (a delightful Jean Smart, 69) on the bus, and their romance runs its bumpy course, with loopy Christopher Lloyd, 82, as his wingman and handsome Esai Morales, 58, as Caroline’s gay best friend. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Senior Moment, in select theaters and on Apple TV

DON’T MISS THIS: Need a little more Shatner in your life? We thought so, which is why we caught up with the iconic star to discuss his new movie and life at 90. Read all about it, here: At 90, William Shatner Hits Warp Speed

 The Courier, PG-13

“Do stay out of the gulag, darling,” Mrs. Greville Wynne (Jessie Buckley) tells her husband (Benedict Cumberbatch). Little does Sheila know that the boozy British businessman has become a courier and spy, shuttling Soviet nuclear secrets nicked by GRU agent Oleg Penkovsky (Homeland’s Merab Ninidze, 55) from Moscow to London. Recalling John le Carré, the fact-based thriller unfolds in the run-up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) steps up in chic pumps and matchy-matchy outfits as American spymaster Emily Donovan, who joins MI6 to manage this “asset” and deflect war. —T.M.A.

Watch it: The Courier, in theaters

 The Father, PG-13

AARP Movies for Grownups Awards best-actor winner Anthony Hopkins scores the performance of a lifetime as a man afflicted with dementia. The film takes you inside his disintegrating reality — and also inside the experience of his daughter, Anne (The Favourite Oscar winner Olivia Colman), who looks after him and faces terrifying decisions about his treatment. Like Memento or A Beautiful Mind, the movie is a Rubik’s Cube of shifting memories and moments. Hopkins’ London octogenarian character alternately rails against his caregiver and flirts with the new one (Imogen Poots), who resembles his younger daughter, Lucy. He’s furious that Anne plans to run off to Paris with her beau — but that guy seems to be two people (sometimes played by Mark Gatiss, sometimes by Rufus Sewell). More disconcertingly, sometimes his daughter, Anne, seems to be another person (Olivia Williams). It’s a head-spinning masterpiece, and Hopkins tops himself as an actor. —T.A.

Watch it: The Father, in theaters and on video on demand

DON’T MISS THIS: Anthony Hopkins’s Life Has Never Been Better

 Coming 2 America, PG-13

Fun is back at the movies with Eddie Murphy’s Coming 2 America! The hilarious, big-hearted sequel three decades in the making has a fairy-tail plot. Happily married Prince Akeem (Murphy, 59, who also plays multiple supporting characters) ascends the Zamundan throne after the death of King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones, 90). The rules of succession demand a male heir. So Akeem and wingman Semmi (Arsenio Hall, 65) go back to Queens – and the illegitimate son (Jermaine Fowler) he unwittingly left behind. The cast is so delicious – charismatic Wesley Snipes, 58, as the evil general from Nextdoria, brassy baby mama Leslie Jones, 53, and funky Tracy Morgan, 52, as the lad’s uncle, to name a few. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Coming 2 America, on Amazon Prime Video

DON’T MISS THIS: Eddie Murphy’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked

 Nomadland, R

If you liked Frances McDormand in Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, you’ll love what’s likely her third Oscar-honored performance as the no-nonsense heroine Fern, a prickly widow who loses her job in Empire, Nevada. She hits the road in an RV, picking up work wherever she can: drugstores, restaurants, grim Amazon warehouses. Her trek is grittily realistic, and some of the folks she meets at the occasional urban-nomad gatherings at Arizona’s La Paz fairgrounds — called the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous — are real people telling their own stories. McDormand, 63, makes Fern a symbol of stubborn persistence, and a very particular person — solitary yet also social, deeply responsive to nature, too independent to yield to the courtship of a wonderful fellow nomad (genius actor David Strathairn, 72) or her sister’s wish to live a settled conventional life. Fern is living proof that not all who wander are lost. —T.A.

Watch it: Nomadland, in theaters and on Hulu

 Judas and the Black Messiah, R

Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield co-starred in Get Out. Now they own top billing in a very different American horror story, one that underscores systemic racism in sorely too timely a fashion. It recounts the FBI’s targeting of Chicago Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. Kaluuya portrays the firebrand socialist who was building the first multiracial “Rainbow Coalition” to fight poverty, substandard housing and police corruption. That rattled FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who infiltrated Hampton’s group with an informant named Michael O’Neal (Stanfield). Director Shaka King’s retelling is raw when it needs to be (there is gunplay) and stylish from start to brutal conclusion. Hampton was killed on Dec. 4, 1969, in a pre-dawn raid by a contingent of the Chicago police. Was Hampton the savior of the title? The film is sure to ignite conversations. But Stanfield nails the role of the betrayer whose actions are tinged with greed, fear and, yes, love. Judas is a late but commanding entry to the award season. —Lisa Kennedy (L.K.)

Watch it: Judas and the Black Messiah, in theaters and on HBO Max

 Minari, PG-13

In a sweet, funny, poignant tale inspired by director/writer Lee Isaac Chung’s own family, the squabbling Korean American family of Jacob Yi (The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun) flees a soul-crushing life as California chicken factory workers to chase the American dream to a farm in the Ozarks. They’re shunned by some, but another outsider, a local extreme Christian (a brilliant Will Patton, 66), pitches in on the planting. A good story gets great when the kids’ immigrant grandma (Yuh-Jung Youn, 73, Korea’s Meryl Streep) moves in, puzzling kids with her love of swearing, gambling, TV wrestling and funny foods like the wild crop minari. “Grandma smells like Korea!” complains one kid — who then bonds with her. A film that’s a trip to the heartland in more ways than one. —T.A.

Watch it: Minari, in theaters and on demand via A24 Films

 One Night in Miami, R

Oscar- and Emmy-winning powerhouse actress Regina King, 49, flexes her muscles behind the camera as a feature film director — and it’s clear it will be the first of many. For her debut, she opts for a talky screen adaptation of Kemp Powers’ 2013 play, which imagines a fictional February night in Miami. That 1964 evening, boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), activist Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), athlete Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and crooner Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.) gather, party and discuss what it meant, and what the obligations were, to be a successful Black man in ‘60s America. —T.M.A.

Watch it: One Night in Miami, in select theaters and on Amazon Prime

 Promising Young Woman, R

The dazzling Carey Mulligan plays Cassie, a once-stellar med student in this smart, stylish revenge flick for the #MeToo era. To the consternation of her baffled parents (Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown), Cassie is working at a coffee shop, turning 30 and living with them. She’s also spending nights at bars pretending to be blotto to lure men to assault her so she can avenge her childhood friend and med school classmate Nina, whose life was ruined by a sex scandal. (Everyone involved in her downfall got off scot-free.) Alison Brie (Mad Men), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man) are terrific as Nina’s victimized victimizers. —T.A.

Watch it: Promising Young Woman, in theaters

 Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, R

Viola Davis and, in his last role, the late Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) star in Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson’s illustrious tale of Ma Rainey, the 1920s Mother of the Blues. It’s hard to say which actor scores the more towering performance. It’s like a duet between geniuses — or, since they’re fighting bitterly over how Ma should record her music, old-dirty-blues-tent-show style or hepcat modern jazz style — an acting duel. Both win, as do all of us. —T.A.

Watch it: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, in theaters and on Netflix

RELATED: Viola Davis tells AARP about Ma Rainey, August Wilson, aging, her big break and what happens when you get everything you always wanted. Read it here: Viola Davis Finds a Powerful Voice

ALSO RELATED: Get the full story on August Wilson’s remarkable Pittsburgh Cycle — 10 plays that explore the American Black experience in every decade of the 20th century — and discover how to get a taste (or more) of each play, including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, here: The Essential Guide to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Playwright August Wilson

 The Life Ahead, PG-13

At 86, Sophia Loren is back! In her terrific new tearjerker, directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, she heartwarmingly plays a former prostitute, Holocaust survivor and caretaker for streetwalkers’ children. She looks after an orphaned African street kid (Ibrahima Gueye), grudgingly at first, and develops a deep bond with him.

Watch it: The Life Ahead, on Netflix

RELATED: Sophia Loren tells AARP about her comeback and her six life lessons

 The War With Grandpa, PG

Robert De Niro is both a towering icon of Scorsese gangster flicks and high-art tragedy and the king of blockbusters about the Focker family. In his latest silly featherweight comedy, he’s an irascible guy who moves into his grandson’s bedroom, so they conduct a prank-war over its possession. The conflict is somewhat Home Alone-like, but more illogical, as when De Niro, Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour and Cheech Marin challenge the kids to a trampoline volleyball match and the ref rules on the first round: “Age-appropriate team 1; AARP team none.” —T.A.

Watch it: The War With Grandpa, in theaters

RELATED: Find out what Jane Seymour thought about playing for laughs with Robert De Niro, in her new interview with AARP: Jane Seymour Shares Her Special View of England’s Royal Family

 The Trial of the Chicago 7, R

An utterly wonderful, vivid dramatization of the trial of Chicago’s 1968 demonstrators, with bravura performances by Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale. —T.A.

Watch it: The Trial of the Chicago 7, on Netflix

RELATED: Frank Langella tells AARP about The Trial of the Chicago 7, his string of history-based hits and the best time of his life — his 80s, here: All Rise for Frank Langella

Tim Appelo is AARP’s film and TV critic. Previously, he was Amazon’s entertainment editor, Entertainment Weekly’s video critic, and a writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, LA Weekly and The Village Voice.

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