A Disney villain, Quiet Place aliens, and Zack Snyder zombies bring menace to the movies this May

A Disney villain, Quiet Place aliens, and Zack Snyder zombies bring menace to the movies this May

Clockwise from upper left: Emma Stone in Cruella (Photo: Disney), Chris Rock in Spiral: From The Book Of Saw (Photo: Lionsgate), Angelina Jolie in Those Who Wish Me Dead (Photo: Warner Bros.), Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part II (Photo: Paramount), and Dave Bautista in Army Of The Dead (Photo: Netflix)
Clockwise from upper left: Emma Stone in Cruella (Photo: Disney), Chris Rock in Spiral: From The Book Of Saw (Photo: Lionsgate), Angelina Jolie in Those Who Wish Me Dead (Photo: Warner Bros.), Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part II (Photo: Paramount), and Dave Bautista in Army Of The Dead (Photo: Netflix)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

May is usually the month that kicks off the summer movie season. For obvious reasons, that wasn’t the case last year, and it’s not quite the case this year either—the blockbusters don’t start arriving in earnest until June, which Hollywood is banking on as basically the earliest time they can unleash their prospective hits and still draw a vaccinated crowd. But more and more movies are hitting theaters over the next four weeks, and Memorial Day weekend does bring at least one hotly anticipated, COVID-delayed sequel that could jumpstart the box office again. Those not yet comfortable setting foot in a theater, however, can rest assured that there are plenty of high-profile streaming options bringing the multiplex home this May—from a Disney villain origin story to an Angelina Jolie oater to another Snyder cut (this one with fewer moody superheroes and more zombie mayhem). Keep reading to find out what’s coming to a living room—and, yes, some theaters—near you. And before trekking out to see a movie on the big screen, please read up on the health risks.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. I also write fiction, edit textbooks, and help run SportsAlcohol.com, a pop culture blog and podcast. Star Wars prequels forever!

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2 / 27

Wrath Of Man

Wrath Of Man

Wrath Of Man

Select theaters May 7

Guy Ritchie may have returned to laddish crime pictures with The Gentlemen, but he’s not really back until he reteams with Jason Statham, is he? Thankfully, Wrath Of Man seeks to rectify that situation, with Statham playing a mysterious, vengeful man who starts working for a transportation company that moves money around Los Angeles. It’s a remake of the 2004 French film Cash Truck, and if Statham, Ritchie, and a cash truck feel like the ingredients for a perfect heist, keep in mind that there’s always a wildcard that can lead to disaster. In related news, Wrath Of Man co-stars Post Malone.

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3 / 27

Here Today

Here Today

Here Today

Select theaters May 7

Billy Crystal’s first directorial effort in more than a decade sees the comedy vet team up with the ever-rising Tiffany Haddish for a buddy comedy about, uh…late-life care and the onset of dementia. But in a meet-cute (and possibly romantic) way, with Haddish becoming a caregiver and maybe more for Crystal’s veteran comedy writer after a chance encounter. It’s about as bad as it sounds—“a deadly combination of enfeebled comedy and maudlin melodrama,” as our official review from yesterday put it.

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4 / 27

Mainstream

Mainstream

Mainstream

Select theaters May 7

Gia Coppola knows a thing or two about fame: She’s the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola, niece of Sofia, and has adapted a James Franco short story collection into a starry teen drama. For her follow-up, Coppola ventures into next-gen social media stardom, as an aspiring filmmaker (Maya Hawke, daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman) crosses paths with a ranting lunatic going by the moniker No One Special (Andrew Garfield) with an online following. Despite all the second-and-third-generation talent involved (Jason Schwartzman, another Coppola, also appears), reviews from last fall’s festival circuit leaned negative—which may explain why distributor IFC is now refusing to show critics a movie that premiered eight months ago.

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5 / 27

Monster

Monster

Monster

Netflix May 7

Three years after its Sundance debut, this adaptation of a YA novel by Walter Dean Myers is finally headed to streaming airwaves. Critics at the fest dinged long-time music video director Anthony Mandler for letting flashy camera tricks distract from his story, about a young Black teenager swept up in a legal battle over a robbery gone wrong. But there was no shortage of praise for the actors, including Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson, John David Washington (still two years out from Tenet), A$AP Rocky, and Nas—and especially for Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Steve, the film-loving kid at the heart of Myers’ story.

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6 / 27

Above Suspicion

Above Suspicion

Above Suspicion

Select theaters May 7

While most of the major studios are understandably gun-shy about releasing new movies during a global pandemic, Lionsgate has been using re-opened theaters as an opportunity to clear its shelves. This true-crime thriller from director Philip Noyce, which came out two years ago in some territories and last summer in the U.K., casts Emilia Clarke as Susan Smith, a Kentucky drug dealer who becomes both informant and lover to a seemingly straight-arrow FBI agent (Jack Huston). The dribs-and-drabs release may have more to do with the bleak true-life subject matter and small-scale drama than the movie itself, though reviews have been mixed. (Our own was scathing.)

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7 / 27

State Funeral

State Funeral

State Funeral

Select theaters May 7

Though it was his debut fiction feature, the enigmatic My Joy, that first brought the filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa to wider international attention, his career in nonfiction goes back much further. Recalling Blockade, his celebrated archival documentary on the siege of Leningrad during World War II, State Funeral examines another pivotal and widely mythologized event in the history of the USSR: the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. The film draws on a wealth of color footage (much of it previously unseen) that was originally shot for The Great Farewell, an official documentary about the Soviet leader’s grandiose funeral ceremony.

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8 / 27

Oxygen

Oxygen

Oxygen

Netflix May 12

One-time torture porn specialist Alexandre Aja continues to stretch his skillset and expand his eclectic oeuvre with this Netflix sci-fi thriller about a woman (Mélanie Laurent) who awakens inside a high-tech, A.I.-controlled cryo unit, with no memory of how she got there or even who she is. Aja worked wonders with the confined spaces of his last movie, alligators-in-a-hurricane potboiler Crawl; let’s see if he can do the same for a setting about the size of a coffin. That the terrific Laurent is enduring the claustrophobia is promising.

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9 / 27

Spiral: From The Book Of Saw

Spiral: From The Book Of Saw

Spiral: From The Book Of Saw

Select theaters May 14

Four years after the largely forgettable Jigsaw, the Saw franchise attempts to reclaim some of its past, let’s say, prestige by tossing Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson into a more moody take on its usual bear-trap-on-face adventures. Veteran franchise director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saws II, III, and IV, none of which necessarily lend themselves to high expectations) returns to helm this revival installment, which is playing itself up as a more mature, more thoughtful Saw film—whatever the hell that might look like.

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10 / 27

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Select theaters and HBO Max May 14

Taylor Sheridan burst on the scene mid-decade with his screenplays for Sicario and Hell Or High Waterterrific stories of criminals and officers on the moral and geographic border, the former a sinister thriller, the latter a ripe hangout Western. Since then, his forays into scripting cable-news-adjacent modern pulp (including the recent Without Remorse) have been more miss than hit. Those Who Wish Me Dead, which Sheridan directed and co-wrote, centers on a smoke jumper (Angelina Jolie) who finds herself protecting a boy from a couple of black-suited killers. Sheriffs and metaphors for the destruction of the American landscape are, of course, involved.

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11 / 27

Profile

Profile

Profile

Select theaters May 14

Having previously produced the two Unfriended films and Searching, Russian-Kazakh filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov takes his own shot at Screenlife (a term he supposedly coined), the subgenre of thrillers that appear to unfold entirely on a computer screen, telling a story through the interface and apps many of us use on a daily basis. This new variation has nonfiction origins—it’s a presumably loose adaptation of the book In The Skin Of A Jihadist, in which a French journalist created a fake profile and posed as a convert to Islam in order to gain the attention and trust of an ISIS recruiter. Is there any innovation left in the film’s central technique/gimmick? The more burning question might be whether we can possibly expect a tasteful treatment of this subject matter from the director of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

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12 / 27

The Woman In The Window

The Woman In The Window

The Woman In The Window

Netflix May 14

Like The New Mutants, this Amy Adams thriller is finally seeing the light of day after multiple delays triggered by COVID-19, unfavorable test screenings, and the Disney-Fox merger. (It’s officially the final project from Fox 2000 Pictures—an achievement the Mouse House honored by unceremoniously selling the film to Netflix.) Adams stars as an agoraphobic psychologist who witnesses her neighbor (Gary Oldman) murder his wife (Julianne Moore)… or so she thinks, until the very much alive Jennifer Jason Leigh shows up insisting that she’s the man’s actual wife. The Rear Window games have been orchestrated by Joe Wright (Atonement, Darkest Hour), so expect a lot of showy camerawork, plus a first-rate cast that also includes Brian Tyree Henry, Tracy Letts, and our most recent Captains America, Anthony Mackie and Wyatt Russell.

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13 / 27

Finding You

Finding You

Finding You

Select theaters May 14

The 2011 YA novel There You’ll Find Me gets truncated into Finding You for its big-screen adaptation, which reunites the director and star of the little-seen 2019 romance The World We Make. Hiding out in a small Irish town after washing out of music school, Finley Sinclair (Rose Reid) meets movie star Beckett Rush (Jedidiah Goodacre, who despite his name is not a Coen brothers character), there to shoot his latest film. They begin an unlikely romance, which hopefully involves someone asking if either has seen Notting Hill.

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14 / 27

The Perfect Candidate

The Perfect Candidate

The Perfect Candidate

Select theaters May 14

After going abroad to make Mary Shelley and Nappily Ever After, Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour returned to her home country to direct this election drama. Mila Al Zahrani stars as an ambitious young doctor whose frustration with the repressive patriarchal culture around her leads her to become her town’s first-ever female political candidate—a feeling to which Al Mansour, the kingdom’s first female film director, can presumably relate. Like the incremental change advocated for in the movie, The Perfect Candidate’s rollout has been slow and deliberate, beginning at the Venice Film Festival in 2019 and culminating only now with an American theatrical run.

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15 / 27

The Killing Of Two Lovers

The Killing Of Two Lovers

The Killing Of Two Lovers

Select theaters and VOD May 14

The title brings to mind a grotesque James Gray/Yorgos Lanthimos crossover (presumably with a hooded Joaquin Phoenix twirling around with a rifle), but the subject matter of this drama from prolific short filmmaker Robert Machoian is more quotidian: the messy breakdown of marital relations. Clayne Crawford stars as a blue-collar, small-town Utahan who has recently separated from his wife. The film, which premiered pre-pandemic at last year’s Sundance, earned early praise for its performances and stark atmosphere.

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16 / 27

There Is No Evil

There Is No Evil

There Is No Evil

Select and virtual theaters May 14

No stranger to ceremonies and allegories, the Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof (Iron Island) takes on the subject of capital punishment in this anthology film, which offers four standalone stories of prospective executioners in a legal system that leads the world in death penalties per capita. For Rasoulof, punishment is more than an artistic theme; like his countryman Jafar Panahi, he has turned to working in secret after receiving an official ban from filmmaking. A month after There Is No Evil picked up the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlin Film Festival, the director was sentenced to two years in prison.

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17 / 27

Army Of The Dead

Army Of The Dead

Army Of The Dead

Netflix May 21

God (or Superman) help us, is 2021 the year of Zack Snyder? With the resurrected Justice League bringing his era of DC movies to a close, the writer-director returns to his roots. Technically, Army isn’t a sequel to Snyder’s first (and maybe still best) movie, the Dawn Of The Dead remake. But it does find him applying his signature slow-motion bombast to another horde of running zombies—the main obstacle faced by a group of mercenaries (led by Dave Bautista) trying to pull an elaborate heist in Las Vegas. A reported running time of 148 minutes proves that even when getting back to basics, Snyder still thinks big. But when the excesses include a zombie tiger and Tig Notaro as a swaggering pilot, this might be one #SnyderCut worth anticipating.

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18 / 27

P!nk: All I Know So Far

P!nk: All I Know So Far

P!nk: All I Know So Far

Amazon Prime May 21

It was filmed only two years ago, but seeing thousands of fans crowded into the pit of a massive stadium in P!nk: All I Know So Far feels like a transmission from another galaxy. Accompanied by the release of a new single and live album, this behind-the-scenes documentary follows the pop star as she embarks on her 158-date, 18-country “Beautiful Trauma” tour with dancers, crew, and her two children in tow. Directed by The Greatest Showman’s Michael Gracey, All I Know So Far promises to have a similar circus atmosphere—with P!nk, an accomplished aerialist whose shows include a number of high-wire stunts, serving as both the show and its ringmaster.

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19 / 27

New Order

New Order

New Order

Select theaters May 21

Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco (After Lucia, Chronic) loves to push buttons, but he’s never pushed them quite as hard as does in this brutal, dystopian thriller, in which a wealthy family’s swanky wedding reception is violently disrupted when the protests happening in the streets of Mexico City spill into their bubble of removed privilege. A parable of class warfare that unfolds from the perspective of the terrified bourgeois, even as it indicts their cloistered indifference (and the government’s totalitarian response), the film has already provoked more than its fair share of outraged reactions from audiences and critics alike—including cries of racism in Franco’s home country when the trailer premiered last fall. Expect the discourse surrounding the film to only intensify as Neon rolls it out to American audiences this month.

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20 / 27

Dream Horse

Dream Horse

Dream Horse

Select theaters May 21; VOD June 11

Toni Collette and Damian Lewis co-star in this ripped-from-the-very-gentle-headlines film about a Welsh woman with just one dream in life: horse. That is, breeding and owning a racehorse, which she achieves by talking her fellow villagers into a shared ownership scheme anchored by Lewis, playing a former horse owner longing to regain coveted “no-longer-former horse owner” status. And while you could just go look up what happened with the titular Dream Alliance—true story and all—director Euros Lyn would probably prefer you tune into his sweet-looking little film to find out the details instead.

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21 / 27

Séance

Séance

Séance

Select theaters, digital platforms, and VOD May 21

Breaking away from longtime creative partner Adam Wingard, for whom he penned You’re Next and The Guest, screenwriter Simon Barrett makes his feature debut behind the camera with this teen horror flick following an enigmatic new student (Suki Waterhouse) at a tony all-girls boarding school. The story takes familiar elements—mean girls, cruel pranks, late-night ouija board sessions—and gives them the dramatic second-act twist that’s become Barrett’s signature. We won’t spoil that here, obviously; all you need to know is that nothing is as it seems at Edelvine Academy. Not even the ghosts.

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22 / 27

A Quiet Place Part II

A Quiet Place Part II

A Quiet Place Part II

Select everywhere May 28; Paramount+ July 12

John Krasinski’s 2018 horror hit gets the sequel treatment, with a returning Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds trying to navigate a world where man is just as dangerous as metal-skinned aliens with immaculate hearing and knives for feet. (Or so Cillian Murphy’s six-month sorrow beard would have you believe.) Djimon Hounsou co-stars, while Krasinski (returning as writer and director) appears in flashbacks that reveal what the early frantic hours of his hushed apocalypse looked like. Originally scheduled to open in March of last year, before global circumstances made its vision of an eerily depopulated outdoors look a little less sci-fi, A Quiet Place Part II arrives now to lure viewers back into theaters over Memorial Day weekend. Will it silence our nagging suspicion that this premise didn’t demand continuation?

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23 / 27

Cruella

Cruella

Cruella

Select theaters and Disney+ Premier Access May 28

How many times can Disney repackage its impressive but non-infinite library of animated classics as a bold new interpretation before audiences start to rebel? Cruella really should be the breaking point; it arrives on the heels of the disappointing Mulan and the dismal Lion King; and even the idea of famously puppy-killing Cruella de Vil in the flesh has already been done, with Glenn Close playing the role in the 101 Dalmatians remake from 1996. And yet, there is something enticing about the prospect of watching Close’s fellow Oscar mainstay Emma Stone vamp through a Maleficent-as-fashionista version of the character, maybe because it seems to make the stylish fabulousness of Disney villainy into the whole story. Also, director Craig Gillespie has an affinity for misunderstood women; this is his follow-up to I, Tonya.

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24 / 27

Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue

Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue

Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue

Select theaters May 28

Jia Zhangke continues his life’s work chronicling the changing face of China with a new documentary, in which the director of Platform interviews three major writers born in different decades but all in the same place, Jia’s home province of Shanxi. It’s not the most visually ravishing or conceptually daring film this great artist has made on his favorite subject, nor the most focused (some of his past docs, like 24 City and I Wish You Knew, productively limited their scope). But the anecdotes are compelling, and as usual, Jia communicates plenty of big insights about the state of his nation.

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25 / 27

Plus:

Plus:

Plus:

Mads Mikkelsen in Riders Of Justice
Mads Mikkelsen in Riders Of Justice
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Sean Penn’s humanitarian efforts in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010 are the subject of a new documentary, Citizen Penn (Discovery+ 5/6). David Oyelowo makes his feature-directing debut with the family-friendly The Water Man (select theaters 5/7), about a young boy who embarks on an epic journey to save his sick mother. Cartel Land director Matthew Heineman profiles Colombian superstar J Balvin in the documentary The Boy From Medellín (Amazon Prime 5/7). The Gatekeepers director Dror Moreh turns his attention to the decades-long struggle for peace in the Middle East, as told from the perspective of the American mediators and negotiators working toward that goal over the past 30 years, in The Human Factor (select theaters 5/7). Venice contender Milestone (Netflix May 7) rides shotgun with an Indian truck-driver wrestling with grief and professional woes. The unthinkable of Swedish disaster movie The Unthinkable (select theaters and VOD 5/7) is a national invasion, supposedly quite well-staged on a low budget. Aliens take some poor degenerate slob’s body for a joyride in Fried Barry (Shudder 5/7)… but that’s nothing compared to what awaits the hapless hero of Benny Loves You (select theaters 5/7; VOD 5/11), who regrets throwing out his beloved childhood plush when the toy comes to murderous life. Horror film Initiation (select theaters, digital platforms, and VOD 5/7) unleashes a serial killer during a university’s pledge week. Three one-time kung fu disciples, now well into middle age, reunite to avenger their master’s death in the action comedy The Paper Tigers (select theaters and VOD 5/7). Meanwhile, Paper Spiders (select theaters 5/7) stars Lili Taylor as a woman whose worsening mental-health issues threaten her relationship with her daughter. The Descent and Game Of Thrones director Neil Marshall returns with The Reckoning (Shudder 5/13), starring Charlotte Kirk as a woman falsely accused of being a witch during the era of The Great Plague. The Djinn (select theaters, digital platforms, and VOD 5/14) pits a young boy against the spirit that grant him a voice. Can you blame Mads Mikkelsen for getting in on that sweet DTV action-trash money with revenge thriller Riders Of Justice (select theaters 5/14; VOD 5/21)? Estranged sibling musicians—one in Havana, the other in New York—are the subjects of the acclaimed documentary Los Hermanos/The Brothers (select theaters 5/14). Speaking of siblings, two of them unleash an ancient alien force in horror comedy PG: Psycho Goreman (Shudder 5/20). Eric Bana plays a federal agent who returns to his hometown to investigate a crime in the Australian smash The Dry (select theaters and VOD 5/21). There are wunderkinds, and then there’s Suzanne Lindon, who got into Cannes with her teenage writing, directing, and acting debut, Spring Blossom (select theaters 5/21). When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (select theaters 5/21) adapts Judith Kerr’s bestselling memoir about her family’s flight from Nazi Germany. The documentary Final Account (select theaters 5/21) looks into the lives of the last living members of Hitler’s Third Reich. And the last of the month’s WWII-related films, Into The Darkness (select theaters 5/21), is a drama about Danish war-profiteering during the occupation. Slasher fans should mark their calendars for The Retreat (select theaters and VOD 5/21), about a young couple fighting for their lives against a band of extremist killers, and Skull: The Mask (Shudder 5/27), a gory throwback to the heyday of Freddy and Jason. Blue Miracle (Netflix 5/27) dramatizes the supposedly true and inspirational story of a Mexican orphanage that entered “the world’s biggest fishing tournament.” Moby Doc (select theaters and digital platforms 5/28) is a doc about Moby, the famous electronic musician. Natalie Morales makes her own addition to the birth-control-rights comedy genre with Plan B (Hulu 5/28), which follows a teenage girl on a frantic search for the titular pill. And an American family, among them Rebecca Romijn, is stranded during an African safari in Endangered Species (select theaters 5/28).

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26 / 27

Postponed:

Postponed:

Postponed:

Black Widow
Black Widow
Photo: Marvel/Disney

Though it briefly bounced from last to this May, Black Widow is now scheduled to hit theaters and Disney+ on July 9. This has created a domino effect at Marvel Studios; among the films affected are Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, which has vacated its original May 7, 2021 date for next March, and Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, which briefly eyed the same May date before relocating to September 2021. F9 will hit theaters in South Korea and Taiwan on May 19, but American audiences will have to wait until June 25. Ryan Reynolds action-comedy Free Guy has suffered another delay, moving from May 21 to July 30. For a while there, The Matrix 4 was projected to hit theaters this May; it’s currently slated for a Christmas 2021 release in theaters and on HBO Max. And we’re giving some serious thought to not including Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway in these previews anymore, given that it’s, ahem, hopped from April to June, and then back to May, and then forward to July, and then back to June… all in the last five months alone. If this movie ever comes out, it will be a miracle.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. I also write fiction, edit textbooks, and help run SportsAlcohol.com, a pop culture blog and podcast. Star Wars prequels forever!