Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Dragon tattoos, fantastic beasts, and more make this November a jam-packed month for movies

Dragon tattoos, fantastic beasts, and more make this November a jam-packed month for movies

Photo: The Girl In The Spider’s Web (Sony), Widows (20th Century Fox), Ralph Breaks The Internet (Disney), Creed II (Warner Bros.), Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald (Warner Bros.), Graphic: Allison Corr

So many movies, so little time. Every week brings a new crop of them, opening in multiplexes and arthouse theaters across the nation, and arriving in increasingly high volumes on streaming platforms like Netflix. How’s a voracious moviegoer to keep up? That’s where The A.V. Club comes in. The first week of every month, we’ll be previewing all the major movies coming to theaters (or laptops or gaming systems or Rokus) near you, helping narrow down these upcoming releases by making educated guesses on whether they’re worth your time and money.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Theaters everywhere November 2

The backstage drama of creating a Freddie Mercury biopic may not quite equal the backstage drama of creating a series of deathless pop-rock hits, but this movie about Queen and its distinctive frontman sure gave it a shot: Sacha Baron Cohen was attached for ages before the project finally went ahead with Rami Malek as Mercury and Bryan Singer in the director’s chair... until Singer stopped showing up for work more than halfway through the shoot and was replaced by Dexter Fletcher, who evidently considered this an audition for his upcoming Elton John movie. The final film doesn’t quite follow Mercury from cradle to grave—more from meeting the other guys in Queen to triumphing with them at Live Aid—but it checks plenty of the expected boxes.
Will it be worth your time? Our review is mixed—and still a bit more positive than many others. Almost everyone who’s seen it seems to agree that, at best, this represents a return to rock-biopic boilerplate after the innovations of movies like Love & Mercy and I’m Not There.

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms

Theaters everywhere November 2

Disney finds another public domain property to convert into live-action spectacle with The Nutcracker And The Four Realms, “inspired by” the E.T.A. Hoffmann story, though one suspects the famed Tchaikovsky ballet looms much larger on the source-material front. Mackenzie Foy takes on the role of Clara, now excited to receive a golden key from her godfather Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman) that unlocks a box containing a gift from her late mother. However, when the key disappears into a parallel world of magic and talking mice, Clara must enter a mysterious “Fourth Realm” presided over by the evil Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren).
Will it be worth your time? Another soulless live-action remake from the Disney magic machine, The Nutcracker And The Four Realms is strictly for its core audience of preteen girls and their parents. The elementary-school set will be charmed by its fanciful costumes and ballet sequences, but anyone old enough to drive may find it an oddly flavorless confection.

Nobody’s Fool

Theaters everywhere November 2

Not a reboot of the Paul Newman classic but the return of Tyler Perry to his more prolific two-movies-a-year model after a few years working at a slower pace. Following this year’s Acrimony, Nobody’s Fool is his rare outright comedy not featuring Madea, at least as far as anyone knows. Instead, it’s about successful Danica (Tika Sumpter) reuniting with her sister, Tanya (Tiffany Haddish), who’s just out of prison and, per the film’s trailer, interested in helping Danica find out whether her online boyfriend is catfishing her.
Will it be worth your time? It probably depends on a number of factors: tolerance for the peculiar rhythms of Tyler Perry films, desire for a non-Madea comedy from the writer-director, and level of interest in concern-trolling about Tiffany Haddish’s career choices, among others. At least Haddish is better equipped to handle Perry’s long, baggy improv runs than some of his past stars (like Perry himself).

The Other Side Of The Wind

Select theaters and Netflix November 2

Shot sporadically throughout the early- to mid-1970s, Orson Welles’ boisterous, self-reflexive, raggedly experimental showbiz tragedy has for decades been one of film’s most notorious unfinished works, right up there with The Day The Clown Cried. Welles himself never completed a cut of the movie, but now, after several high-profile attempts at finishing the project, it’s finally seeing the light of day. John Huston stars as Jake Hannaford, a hard-drinking macho movie director whose attempt at a with-it art film (also called The Other Side Of The Wind) is about to be shut down by the studio. Hours before a fatal car accident, he celebrates his 70th birthday, surrounded by old friends, wannabes, and documentary filmmakers.
Will it be worth your time? How often does a film master who’s been dead for decades release a new film? Bawdy, undisciplined, filled with Wellesian bon mots and satiric jabs at the movie culture of its time, The Other Side Of The Wind may have been too weird even for the ’70s. But underneath is one of Welles’ psychologically penetrating character studies: a portrait of a man running from feelings buried in the movies and relationships he will leave behind.

Boy Erased

Select theaters November 2

The unfortunately still timely topic of gay-conversion “therapy” gets its second dramatic rendition of the year in director Joel Edgerton’s follow-up to The Gift. (The first, The Miseducation Of Cameron Post, hit theaters in late July.) Based on the memoir by Garrard Conley, Boy Erased stars Lucas Hedges as Jared, the 19-year-old son of a Baptist preacher who is sent to a prison-like “ex-gay Christian ministry” camp after being forcibly outed to his parents. Nicole Kidman co-stars as Jared’s concerned mom, alongside Russell Crowe as his stern religious dad.
Will it be worth your time? Our own Lawrence Garcia is mixed on the film, saying that it “invigorates what is otherwise boilerplate Oscar-season fare with the accumulated details of [Conley’s] lived experience” but ultimately squanders its potential with an overly complicated structure.


Select theaters November 2

Music-video veteran Joseph Kahn’s hyperactive satire about language and appropriation is a loose reworking of All About Eve set in the world of battle rap. Jackie Long plays the Bette Davis role as a master freestyler who’s one of the stars of the underground circuit; Calum Worthy is his Anne Baxter, a wimpy white hip-hop obsessive who discovers that he has a superhuman ability to come up with racist and misogynist insults on the fly.
Will it be worth your time? Our review describes Bodied as “simultaneously entertaining, overwhelming, compelling, and grating.” If nothing else, it’s certainly a vision, indulgent in style and substance.

Searching For Ingmar Bergman

Select theaters November 2

There are worse choices to helm an Ingmar Bergman documentary than Margarethe von Trotta. The fiercely feminist German director (Hannah Arendt, Sheer Madness) has received her fair share of comparisons to the Swedish master, so it feels apropos that she’s the one to helm this retrospective of Bergman’s life and work. Conducting interviews with his contemporaries and artistic collaborators, retracing key steps in his career, and unearthing archival footage of the man himself, von Trotta’s documentary attempts to find something new to say about one of the most acclaimed (and most studied) auteurs of all time.
Will it be worth your time? Sadly, it really doesn’t find anything new to say. Besides a personal anecdote about the influence The Seventh Seal had on von Trotta’s own career, Searching For Ingmar Bergman is exactly the kind of anonymous biographical overview any director might make on this subject, except that it also curiously ignores certain seminal films. Only Bergman neophytes will learn much, and they’re probably better off finding a more comprehensive source of information.

The Grief Of Others

Select theaters November 2

Three years after premiering at South By Southwest and opening in France, the second feature by Texas indie multi-hyphenate Patrick Wang (In The Family) is finally coming to American theaters. In fact, the film’s release took so long that it’s now arriving directly on the heels of his third feature, the two-part small-town epic A Bread Factory, which started its U.S. run last week. The Grief Of Others is a quieter, less overtly ambitious affair, an adaptation of Leah Hager Cohen’s novel about a family trying to get on with life after the death of its newborn.
Will it be worth your time? The A.V. Club is a big fan of Wang’s other two movies, both of which are beholden only to their own rhythms and dramatic rules—the upside of the filmmaker’s go-it-alone ethos and self-distribution model. Even the delayed path to screens can’t shake our certainty that The Grief Of Others is worth checking out, too.

The Front Runner

Select theaters November 6

For a few short weeks in the spring of 1987, plenty believed that Democratic Senator Gary Hart would be the next president of the United States. Then reporters snapped pictures of a young woman, Donna Rice, entering the married politician’s D.C. townhouse; within a week of the story breaking, he suspended his campaign and dropped out of the race. With The Front Runner, director Jason Reitman (Up In The Air, this year’s Tully) recounts the scandal from multiple angles, casting Hugh Jackman as the disgraced Hart, Vera Farmiga as his wife, and J.K. Simmons as campaign manager Bill Dixon, with an ensemble of recognizable faces playing aides and reporters, all scrambling through one damaging news cycle.
Will it be worth your time? Although it’s shrewdly opening on Election Day, possibly as nostalgic counter-programming (remember when candidates actually quit when embroiled with scandal?), The Front Runner’s timing actually isn’t so great. Is this really the moment for a movie about how greedy and invasive the press can be, putting too much scrutiny on political figures? Besides all that, the script, adapted from a nonfiction book by Matt Bai, often plays like knockoff Sorkin, all mediocre zingers and rhetorical points scored via hindsight.

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs

Select theaters November 8; Netflix November 16

Madcap movie brats Joel and Ethan Coen return to the dusty frontier of their True Grit remake with this Netflix anthology film, which offers six tonally, stylistically disparate short stories about the violence and cruelty of the Old West. Some, like the title chapter, which features Tim Blake Nelson as the deadliest singing cowboy in movie history, are daft screwball larks. Others, like a drama about an impresario (Liam Neeson) with an unusual attraction to peddle, strike a more melancholic note. All are made with the steel-trap craftsmanship fans have come to expect from the directors of Fargo, No Country For Old Men, and The Big Lebowski.
Will it be worth your time? For an omnibus project, Buster Scruggs is actually pretty consistent—it’s held together by not just the Coens’ reliable panache, but also their increasingly bleak worldview, which pokes through even the funnier entries. If only one of the stories, starring Zoe Kazan as a spinster on the Oregon Trail, leaves a truly strong impression, there are no real duds either. If possible, see it on the big screen; just because you can stream Bruno Delbonnel’s spectacular Western imagery straight to your laptop doesn’t mean you should.

The Grinch

Theaters everywhere November 9

Has it really been 18 years since Jim Carrey and Ron Howard ruined How The Grinch Stole Christmas, to the apparent delight of millions? It has indeed, so here comes Illumination Entertainment, the company behind Sing and Minions, ready to out-ruin Opie with their own expansion of a perfectly concise 26-minute cartoon (or even-shorter book). Most people know the story by now, so the suspense will come from finding out how noisily it will be padded out to achieve feature-length running time, or perhaps the performance particulars of a well-cast Benedict Cumberbatch. Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, and Angela Lansbury are also in the voice cast, while Pharrell Williams narrates.
Will it be worth your time? Fully half of Illumination’s output so far has been in the Despicable Me universe, which is to say it may have already exhausted the possibilities of a kid-friendly villain whose heart swells up several sizes in the end. Then again, there hasn’t been a booty-shorts gag in a Grinch movie before, and the trailer indicates that this one is willing to break that ground.

The Girl In The Spider’s Web

Theaters everywhere November 9

David Fincher’s awesomely machined adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo didn’t meet Sony’s box office expectations back in 2011, but the studio is still dead set on making an English-language franchise out of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium novels—albeit at half the original budget. Taking over the role from Rooney Mara, Claire Foy stars as the goth super-hacker Lisbeth Salander in this reboot-slash-sequel. Swedish actor Sverrir Gudnason plays her Watson-with-benefits, Mikael Blomkvist.
Will it be worth your time? Fede Álvarez (Don’t Breathe, the Evil Dead remake) may not be Fincher, but he’s proven himself to be a talented genre director. Throw in a supporting cast that includes LaKeith Stanfield, Vicky Krieps, and Mindhunter’s Cameron Britton, and you’ve got us intrigued.


Theaters everywhere November 9

It may not be another secret Cloverfield film, but the first R-rated release from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot studio has all the hallmarks of one of the producer’s twisty mystery-box productions. (Indeed, it was suspected to be a new Cloverfield film until Abrams explicitly shot the theory down, though whether that was in response to the negative reaction to The Cloverfield Paradox is an open question.) Director Julius Avery’s horror-thriller is set in World War II and follows a group of American paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines and tasked with taking out a radio transmitter inside a fortified church. Unfortunately for them, the Nazi compound turns out to be harboring some grisly experiments, and soon, it’s not just regular German soldiers they have to fear.
Will it be worth your time? Recent advertising has shied away from the campy vibe of the initial AC/DC-scored trailer, instead emphasizing the Cronenbergian body horror and claustrophobic intensity of the premise. The result seems to fall somewhere between those two tones, with a largely positive critical response to the movie’s over-the-top genre mashup. If ripping apart undead Nazi science experiments sounds like fun, Overlord should deliver on your Wolfensteinian expectations.

Outlaw King

Select theaters and Netflix November 9

Braveheart’s very long list of historical inaccuracies began with its title, which implied that folk hero William Wallace was the celebrated “brave heart” of Scottish history. In truth, that legendary moniker was coined to describe a contemporary: the King Of Scots, Robert The Bruce, who led the country during the First War Of Scottish Independence. Outlaw King, a kind of unofficial sequel and grubby rejoinder to Mel Gibson’s Oscar winner, offers Robert his own sweeping biodrama, with current Star Trek captain Chris Pine as the national hero.
Will it be worth your time? Although it takes fewer liberties with the facts, Outlaw King doesn’t actually break much with Braveheart’s sentimental approach to this historical period, counting as it does on viewers to automatically align themselves with the “good guys” and hiss at the bad ones. And while director David Mackenzie (Hell Or High Water) stages the battle scenes with confidence and some aplomb, he’s badly miscast the lead—which is to say that Pine, charismatic though he often is, simply doesn’t convince as a 14th-century warrior king.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald

Theaters everywhere November 16

For the umpteenth time, we return to J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts-verse, a world of magic, destiny, strange creatures, secrets, yada yada yada. This sequel to the 1920s-set Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them finds Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), the twee-est of all wizards, getting dragged into a power struggle between the evil Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp, with a serious case of “Tekken hair”) and a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). The director, as always, is David Yates.
Will it be worth your time? This is the second of a planned five film series, and just the thought of having to write up a preview of one of these in 2024 is making us feel older. That having been said, Yates’ direction of the Potter films has its charms—as long as he has time to pause and take in the special-effects scenery.


Theaters everywhere November 16

Who could have guessed that Steve McQueen would follow his Best Picture win for 12 Years A Slave with a slam-bang crime opus? That’s exactly what the acclaimed director and one-time experimental video artist has done with Widows, his muscular adaptation of a 1980s British mini-series. The plot, relocated to a crooked modern-day Chicago, concerns three bereaved women (Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki) plotting a heist after their husbands are killed during a job gone wrong. The sprawling cast also includes Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Carrie Coon, Robert DuVall, Liam Neeson, and Atlanta’s very busy Brian Tyree Henry.
Will it be worth your time? Widows is pulp, no question. But with a script co-written by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn and that dynamite cast, it’s intelligent and serious pulp, the kind Michael Mann tends to offer up every few years. And if McQueen is slumming, he’s sure not phoning in it—there are sequences, like the jarringly cross-cut opening getaway, that remind how good mainstream thrillers can be when tackled by filmmakers with chops and vision. This thing could be a big hit. It would deserve it.

Instant Family

Theaters everywhere November 16

Did Daddy’s Home director and co-writer get Mark Wahlberg in the divorce? Wahlberg peels off from his onscreen buddy Will Ferrell to star in his own family romp opposite Rose Byrne, suggesting an attempted cross-pollination with Neighbors. Wahlberg and Byrne, who are difficult to picture having a conversation, play a married couple who look into adopting a teenage foster kid and wind up with a trio of siblings. Will sudden parenthood change their lives for the better, or will the movie end with them shipping the kids back to an orphanage? It’s impossible to say.
Will it be worth your time? The trailer indicates a throwback to the Cheaper By The Dozen school of cutesy, sentimental family comedy—so basically, the already-middling Daddy’s Home without Will Ferrell to goose the laughs. There may be limits even to Byrne’s superhuman charm.

At Eternity’s Gate

Select theaters November 16

With a title taken from a portrait of a tortured old man Vincent van Gogh painted some two months before his death, Julian Schnabel’s van Gogh biopic promises to go deeper than starry nights and sunflowers. At Eternity’s Gate makes no promises about the truth, however, saying in promo copy that it combines happenings described in van Gogh’s letters with “hearsay and moments that are just plain invented.” Willem Dafoe, presumably aiming to upgrade from a Best Supporting Actor to a Best Actor nomination come next year’s Oscars, stars as van Gogh, alongside Mads Mikkelsen as van Gogh’s priest, Rupert Friend as his brother Theo, and Oscar Isaac as his contemporary Paul Gauguin.
Will it be worth your time? Early reviews from the Venice Film Festival were positive overall, singling out Dafoe’s performance and the suitably impressionistic filmmaking. In his review for Variety, Owen Gleiberman calls it “the fullest vision of van Gogh I’ve seen on film,” putting it above 1956’s Lust For Life and 1990’s Vincent & Theo.

Creed 2

Theaters everywhere November 21

Three years after starring in the best Rocky sequel ever, Michael B. Jordan returns to play Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed and protégé of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, also co-writing). This time Adonis is training for the latest fight of his life: a boxing match up against the son of Ivan Drago, who killed his father in the ring during Rocky IV. Dolph Lundgren returns as Drago, Brigitte Nielsen returns as his wife, Ludmilla, Tessa Thompson returns as Bianca, and Milo Ventimiglia from Rocky Balboa reprises his role as Rocky Jr. (No word on how the son of Paulie’s robot might fit into all this.) Creed director Ryan Coogler is only executive-producing this time, with indie director Steven Caple Jr. taking his shot at the title.
Will it be worth your time? Letting Stallone co-write yet another sequel, especially one that tries to incorporate the legacy of Rocky IV, seems like a questionable way to follow up a movie as terrific as Creed. But that film turned out better than it had any right to be, and even gave its Rocky IV connections some emotional depth. Maybe Caple will prove as adept as Coogler at jumping from indies to studio pictures.

Ralph Breaks The Internet

Theaters everywhere November 21

Moving from the nostalgic glow of arcade games of yesteryear to the rapid-fire internet of today, the sequel to Wreck-It Ralph unleashes its lovable lug of a hero (again voiced by John C. Reilly) into the wilds of the modern digital landscape. After her game breaks, Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) enlists Ralph’s help in finding a replacement part to fix the machine, sending them into the depths of the world wide web, where they encounter the latest in badass racing-fame avatars (Gal Gadot). Will Ralph’s diminutive friend even want to return after she’s seen the bright lights of the internet?
Will it be worth your time? Advance looks make it seem like Ralph Breaks The Internet misunderstands exactly what made the character (and universe) appealing in the first place; having Ralph stumble through up-to-the-minute hot-take jokes about Snapchat and pop-up ads could result in a Shrek-style exercise in lazy riffing. Hopefully the trailers are just burning off the lamest and flashiest gags.

Robin Hood

Theaters everywhere November 21

From the same basic stylistic template that brought us Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword comes another medieval myth updated for the fashion tastes of today’s video games: Robin Hood in a hoodie. Taron Egerton stars as the outlaw who famously stole from the rich and gave to the poor, but still had some money left over for designer streetwear. Jamie Foxx is his beloved ally, Little John; Sherwood Forest is nowhere to be seen and everything seems to be on fire.
Will it be worth your time? Robin Hood looks viscerally dire. But what if there’s an off chance that it’s the compulsively watchable, trashy kind of dire, and not just tedious and embarrassing?

Green Book

Theaters everywhere November 21

In the 1960s, a wealthy Jamaican-American pianist (Mahershala Ali) embarks on a potentially dangerous concert tour of the Deep South. He needs a driver who can handle the wheel and get out of a tight spot if they get into one. He finds such a man in an uncouth New York City bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) who don’t read or talk so good, but when it comes to trouble? Fuggedaboutit! Remarkably, this mismatched-buddy road picture from Peter Farrelly—working for once without his brother, Bobby—is based on a true story, with Ali playing the real-life musician Don Shirley, who really toured the South during the Civil Rights era.
Will it be worth your time? Both actors are pretty good, though Mortensen pushes it sometimes with his mugging, exaggerated Italian working-Joe routine. But Green Book, which won the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, isn’t just a shameless middlebrow crowdpleaser. It’s an often tone-deaf dramedy about racism—a movie designed to make viewers feel better about something they shouldn’t necessarily feel better about right now. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the Farrelly byline, it often works best at its most broadly comedic: a Dumb & Smarter to warm your grandmother’s heart.

The Christmas Chronicles

Netflix November 22

Netflix’s status as a cross between a flashy movie studio and a cable channel with hours to fill means that its original movies really run a gamut of approaches. Sometimes they offer a home to the Coen brothers, and sometimes they dip into the lucrative world of holiday chintz. This year’s highest-profile Netflix Christmas gift is a family picture starring Kurt Russell as what looks like a mildly wisecracking (and significantly less rotund) Santa Claus who takes some children on an unforgettable adventure. Clay Kaytis, an animator on some of the best recent Disney films as well as the eternally cursed director of The Angry Birds Movie, makes the transition to live action under the watchful eye of producer Chris Columbus.
Will it be worth your time? It’s a Christmas movie on Netflix. Is it supposed to be?

The Favourite

Select theaters November 23

The Lobster and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer director Yorgos Lanthimos returns with a new kind of head trip: a costume drama set in early 18th-century England. The Crown’s Olivia Colman stars as Queen Anne, a ruler whose myriad health problems and loose grip on reality make her vulnerable to the machinations of her scheming companion, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). Then Sarah’s infuriatingly sweet cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone), arrives on the scene. Despite her demure appearance, Abigail is just as ruthless as Sarah in her pursuit of courtly status, leading the cousins into a vicious competition to see who will be the queen’s favo(u)rite.
Will it be worth your time? A new Yorgos Lanthimos film is always an event. And although The Favourite sees the director working in a different mode than his usual chilly, deadpan satire, early reviews indicate that Lanthimos uses the over-the-top passion of Stone, Weisz, and Colman’s performances toward similarly incisive ends.


Select theaters November 23

The films of Hirokazu Koreeda (Our Little Sister, After The Storm) are sometimes so breezily kindhearted, so nice, that they threaten to blow away in the wind as you watch them. So it’s always exciting to see the Japanese filmmaker apply his signature humanism to slightly tougher material. Shoplifters, Koreeda’s latest, fits that bill beautifully, centered as it is on a surrogate family of petty criminals who take in a neglected child off the street—a choice that could, of course, have legal consequences, considering that it’s, you know, technically kidnapping.
Will it be worth your time? To some surprise, Shoplifters won the Palme D’Or at Cannes this year, beating out such formidable competition as BlacKkKlansman, the new Jean-Luc Godard film, and the recently released Burning. Whether it deserved that prestigious distinction or not, it’s a lovely, involving drama, like something Frank Capra might have made if he were an Italian neorealist filmmaker.

The Possession Of Hannah Grace

Theaters everywhere November 30

In this post-mortem possession film, Pretty Little Liars’ Shay Mitchell plays Megan Reed, who’s working the graveyard shift at a morgue when she accepts the body of a severely disfigured corpse, reportedly the victim of a family-led exorcism gone wrong. Of course, it’s not long before Megan starts experiencing strange visions and worrying that whatever spirit the family was trying to exorcise may not be gone.
Will it be worth your time? Basically, it looks like a louder, flashier, and more CGI-heavy version of The Autopsy Of Jane Doe, the understated and unnerving horror film from Trollhunter director André Øvredal. Sure, there’s a chance the story might have benefitted from being run through the Hollywood-ification process—complete with teen-friendly star and blunt-force imagery—but how often is that actually the case?

Anna And The Apocalypse

Select theaters November 30

It might not be the world’s first zombie musical (Takashi Miike’s The Happiness Of The Katakuris beat it by about 15 years), but Anna And The Apocalypse may very well be the world’s first Christmas-themed zombie musical. After a long and celebrated run on the genre festival circuit, this sophomore feature from Scottish director John McPhail hits U.S. theaters at the end of November, just in time for the holiday season. Ella Hunt stars as Anna, a high school student in the charming fictional hamlet of Little Haven, who, along with her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming), has to get across town as quickly as possible after zombies take over. The premise recalls Shaun Of The Dead. But with Christmas! And singing!
Will it be worth your time? As is always the case with big-screen musicals, your mileage may vary. But the rapturous reception the film received at last year’s Fantastic Fest, and festival reviews from critics impressed by how well it navigates its shifting tones, point toward Anna And The Apocalypse becoming a new Christmas classic for those who know “Once More, With Feeling” by heart.

If Beale Street Could Talk

Select theaters November 30

When you’ve just made an almost universally revered masterpiece, what do you do for an encore? Barry Jenkins, writer-director of Moonlight, chases his surprise Best Picture winner with another drama about black life in America. Adapting a 1974 novel by the great James Baldwin, Jenkins spins a bittersweet romance between two young lovers, Fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (KiKi Layne), whose plans to start a family in 1970s Harlem are upended by a false accusation and a miscarriage of justice. Regina King, Brian Tyree Henry, and Dave Franco co-star.
Will it be worth your time? Don’t go in expecting another Moonlight, which had an expressive, singular power that maybe couldn’t be replicated, even if that were Jenkins’ goal. Larger in scope, with a bigger cast of characters and an ambitious nonlinear structure, If Beale Street Could Talk is its own movie—and an often gorgeous, poignant one at that, though it fares better when matching Baldwin’s prose with vibrant imagery instead of repurposing the novelist’s dialogue.

Everybody Knows

Select theaters November 30

Everybody Knows isn’t the first movie Asghar Farhadi has made outside of his native Iran—The Past took place in France, remember. But it does feature the writer-director’s most star-studded cast to date, with Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Ricardo Darín lending their talent (and wattage) to another of his studies of deception and division. This one takes place in a small village outside of Madrid, where a sudden disappearance plummets a group of estranged characters into a melodramatic morass of old resentments, unresolved class conflict, and long-preserved secrets. Into Farhadi Land, in other words.
Will it be worth your time? The opening-night selection of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Everybody Knows took something of a critical drubbing—a first for Farhadi, who’s been earning almost nothing but raves since his masterpiece, A Separation, made him one of international cinema’s biggest names. The film is better than its early reviews suggest (the performances are strong, for one), but Farhadi’s tangled-web storytelling has started to faintly resemble a formula, and intentionally or not, the title teases that the movie’s biggest reveal is kind of a “no duh.”

Happy As Lazzaro

Select theaters and Netflix November 30

In a remote Italian village, a family of sharecroppers works the land of a wealthy cigarette magnate. One summer, a lopsided friendship develops between the sons of these two entwined clans, kind-hearted Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) and spoiled scion Tancredi (pop star Luca Chikovani). The setup of this Cannes-approved drama suggests a throwback to the Italian peasant epics of the 1970s, but writer-director Alice Rohrwacher (The Wonders) has some surprises up her sleeve.
Will it be worth your time? The title character is almost a parody of old-fashioned, working-class virtue: the inherent goodness of salt-of-the-earth types. But his dutiful decency is also a guiding principle for Happy As Lazzaro, whose charms are hard to resist—especially once the movie makes what we’ll call an unexpected leap.