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.
Seann William Scott reprises his greatest role ever (sorry Stifler), slipping back into the pads and ice skates of Doug “The Thug” Glatt, a fictionalized version of a real minor-league hockey player who earned his keep roughing up rival players on the ice. Jay Baruchel’s sequel to his own loosely biographical Canadian comedy finds a retired Doug drawn back into his old, punishing line of work. His unlikely training partner: Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber), the veteran enforcer he squared off against in the first movie.
Will it be worth your time? Goon was an unexpected delight, reviving the profane, violent hilarity of ’70s sports movies like Slap Shot and The Longest Yard, only with a lovably doltish main character in Scott’s good-natured bruiser. The sequel recycles a lot of what worked before, without quite reproducing the pleasure high. If you loved the original, you’ll probably kind of like Last Of The Enforcers.
Lake Bell’s enthusiasm for ellipses carries over into the title of her sophomore feature, I Do… Until I Don’t. Like her debut, In A World…, I Do… Until I Don’t weaves together overlapping storylines as disparate characters try to navigate life in Los Angeles. This time around, though, the story doesn’t revolve around the insular world of voice-over actors, but a cynical documentary filmmaker who’s out to prove that marriage is an outdated social construct. Her plan? To reboot matrimony not as a lifetime commitment but as a seven-year contract with an option to renew. Bell, Ed Helms, Amber Heard, Wyatt Cenac, Paul Reiser, and Mary Steenburgen all appear as significant others pulled into the project.
Will it be worth your time? Bell shows chops both in front of and behind the camera. But the whole film is predicated on tearing down its marriage-averse straw-man character, and the seeds of a funnier, truer comedy never sprout. As a follow-up to In A World…, it’s a disappointment.
Michael Apted doesn’t have another Up movie due for two more years. In the meantime, he’s doing what he usually does in between entries in his acclaimed documentary cycle: putting in journeyman work in TV series (Masters Of Sex), middlebrow biopics (Gorillas In The Mist), and Hollywood dreck (The World Is Not Enough). Here he takes a crack at yet another entry in the seemingly endless cycle of London-set geopolitical action-thrillers. Noomi Rapace plays a CIA operative out to save the continually imperiled British capital from a twist- and double-crosses-filled terror plot; Michael Douglas, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, and Orlando Bloom round out the cast.
Will it be worth your time? The actors have some fun with the material (Malkovich, in particular, is a hoot), but this is one of those thrillers that just keeps piling one twist on top of another, until nothing that happens in the plot seems to matter anymore. It’s being dumped right before Labor Day for a reason.
Select theaters September 6
There’s committing hard to a documentary project, and then there’s moving to a whole new country and learning a whole new language for your nonfiction art. That’s what Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen, who previously worked together on the outsider-artist profile Marwencol, did with Spettacolo, about a tiny village in Tuscany that performs an annual theater piece (or “autodrama”) tackling their everyday problems. The film, whose title translates to “spectacle,” follows the townsfolk over a single year as they brainstorm, conceive, and rehearse for the performance.
Will it be worth your time? Although the two movies share an interest in conquering personal issues through art, Spettacolo’s let’s-put-on-a-show subject matter sounds less inherently fascinating and novel than the therapeutic model-town storytelling depicted in Marwencol—an impression supported by reviews from South By Southwest. That said, for those interested in taking in some unique regional culture, a movie ticket is a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. And if the filmmakers could uproot their lives and get fluent in Italian to make this project happen, we can probably at least watch it, right?
Twenty-seven years is roughly the amount of time that separates the childhood and adulthood passages of Stephen King’s hefty 1986 bestseller. Perhaps coincidentally, it’s also the amount of time that’s passed since Tim Curry played shape-shifting demon clown Pennywise in an ABC television miniseries based on the book. This new adaptation, directed by Andrés Muschietti (Mama), tackles just half of the novel, sticking to the scenes of King’s outcast heroes, the Loser’s Club, as petrified children, facing their greatest fears in deceptively idyllic 1950s Maine. Assuming the movie is a hit—and record-breaking views of the trailer suggest it will be—a decades-jumping concluding installment will follow.
Will it be worth your time? On the page, a lot of It’s power derives from the interplay between past and present—the way King leaps forward and backward in time to explore how childhood memories shape the rest of our lives. By dividing the story into two distinct parts, the producers have almost certainly sacrificed that element. But maybe we’re preemptively quibbling: The pitch-perfect trailers suggest that Muschietti has faithfully bottled the summer-vacation misfit camaraderie of the source material—not to mention, of course, all the R-rated white-knuckle terror the TV version could only dream of including.
Reese Witherspoon returns to the genteel rom-com genre, leaning into her lovable-mess persona to play a fortysomething mother who returns home to L.A. with her two children after her marriage falls apart, and takes on three young filmmaker brothers as boarders in her guesthouse. The guys slowly become an important part of her life, as she enters into a romance with the brother in his late 20s. If it looks and sounds like a Nancy Meyers movie, well, perhaps the apple didn’t fall far from the tree: Director Hallie Meyers-Shyer is Meyers’ daughter.
Will it be worth your time? If the well-heeled, real-estate-porn Meyers oeuvre is in your wheelhouse, this is the film for you. Either way, you probably already know if you’ll enjoy this one. (Count us among those less than excited for it.)
Sixteen years on, the tragic events of September 11 continue to loom large over the national consciousness, while the loss of thousands of human lives, the irreparable damage it caused to America’s sense of peace and security, and the incredible heroism that endured that day remain one of the most heartbreaking yet defining stories to ever be told in the history of our country. Anyway, here’s some cheap piece of shit with Charlie Sheen and Whoopi Goldberg.
Will it be worth your time? Those who have seen the trailer for 9/11—directed by Martin Guigui, late of the Raging Bull sequel/ripoff The Bronx Bull—seem to have at least found some gallows humor in what looks like a maudlin community play staged by actors serving out some sort of probationary sentence, a group that even includes poor Gina Gershon and Luis Guzmán. If you’re finally ready to laugh about 9/11, hey, have at it.
Cannes darlings Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (L’Enfant, Rosetta) return with another austere, formally controlled morality play. This time, they cast French starlet Adèle Haenel as a physician suffering a crisis of conscience when a teenage girl she refused to let into her practice after-hours is found dead the next morning. Perhaps to exorcise her creeping guilt, the doctor launches an amateur murder investigation, chasing leads across town as the filmmakers chase her through their signature over-the-shoulder following shots.
Will it be worth your time? The Dardennes are usually the safest of safe bets, but The Unknown Girl falls a bit below their high bar of excellence, mostly because the demands of a Jane Doe whodunit require an intricacy of plotting that isn’t really the Belgian brothers’ specialty. Of course, even second-tier Dardennes is probably worth a look, at least for those regularly enthralled by their durable style—a documentary-like directness that manages to feel both unsentimental and empathetic at once.
Remember last year’s Coming Through The Rye, starring Chris Cooper as J.D. Salinger? Okay, probably not. Anyway, this is the Notorious to its Capote—or maybe it would be, if Capote had garnered no attention whatsoever and Notorious was about a younger, sexier Truman Capote. Nicholas Hoult, no one’s first pick to play a Jewish New Yorker, stars as the not-yet-reclusive writer; the supporting cast includes Zoey Deutch, Kevin Spacey, Sarah Paulson, Eric Bogosian, Hope Davis, and James Urbaniak. Although Danny Strong is trumpeted as an “award-winning writer-director” in the trailer, this is his first feature; he used to be on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls and won an Emmy for writing Game Change.
Will it be worth your time? Only if you’re already excited to see something that looks like a super dry parody of a middling, middlebrow author biopic or are a grandparent who shows up to weekday matinees at Landmark theaters.
On paper, pay-to-prey big game hunting sounds like a deplorable practice: Wealthy hunters hand over tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for a guaranteed chance to kill a rare animal. But as the people involved in this business repeatedly stress, all the money forked over goes into conservation and ensuring the continued survival of the very species being put in the crosshairs. That’s among the paradoxes that made Trophy, which explores the increasingly complicated relationship between big game hunting and conservationism, one of the more acclaimed documentaries to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Will it be worth your time? Activist docs are a dime a dozen, but Trophy looks like more than just this year’s Blackfish; triggering audience outrage doesn’t seem to be the only item on the film’s complicated agenda, which raises lots of tough, complicated questions. Be forewarned, though, animal lovers: The hunting footage is reportedly quite graphic.
Stupid name aside, Rememory looks like just the kind of pulpy genre mashup to make for a fun night out at the movies. Part noir-ish mystery, part twee sci-fi, the film follows Sam Bloom (Peter Dinklage), who’s pulled into a murder investigation after someone kills Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan), inventor of a machine able to record and play memories. Using the machine, Sam searches Dunn’s memories in order to try and hunt down the killer.
Will it be worth your time? Festival reviews have not been kind, but this still sounds like the right kind of bananas. Anyway, it’s also one of the final films featuring the late, great Anton Yelchin. That alone might make it worth a look.
Documentary giant Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies, Boxing Gym) continues his lifelong project of chronicling every social institution that will permit him access. His 47th film in 50 years goes inside the New York Public Library, quietly observing the facility’s inner workings and the personalities that convene within. Ex Libris also expands its focus to nearly 100 associated branch libraries, spreading the cultural mission of this civic mecca to other communities in the tri-state area.
Will it be worth your time? It’ll require a good chunk of your time, that’s for sure. Like most of his recent work, Wiseman’s latest stretches past the three-hour mark, shaping its verité footage into an epic environmental portrait. This approach can yield films both unwieldy (the recent In Jackson Heights) and thrillingly comprehensive (At Berkeley), but even if Ex Libris hews closer to the former than the latter, it’ll doubtlessly contain encounters and individuals of great interest—practically a guarantee when you ease in for a new Wiseman.
Jennifer Lawrence stars as a woman whose dream of moving to the country for some peace and quiet is horrifically interrupted in the new film from Black Swan and Requiem For A Dream director Darren Aronofsky. Javier Bardem co-stars as Lawrence’s husband, who begins behaving suspiciously upon the arrival of two uninvited guests (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) at the couple’s isolated rural home. Next thing you know, there’s a Rosemary’s Baby-esque party going on in the living room, villagers with torches gathering on the lawn, and a secret door with a bloody symbol painted on it in the basement. That’ll drive down property values.
Will it be worth your time? Mother! looks like a down-and-dirty palate cleanser for Aronofsky after the divisive, ambitious spectacle of Noah. It also looks like the first pure horror movie of Aronofsky’s career—an exciting proposition, given the mind-bending intensity he’s already delivered in his horror-adjacent work. It won’t be boring, that much is all but guaranteed.
After losing his parents in a car accident and his fiancée to a terrorist attack, Mitch Rapp (The Maze Runner’s Dylan O’Brien) turns all that tragedy into a real grief-ertunity, using the rage boiling inside to become a black ops assassin. Sanaa Lathan costars as the CIA deputy director who sees the potential for ensuring global stability inside this deeply traumatized kid, hiring him to hunt down a rogue operative (Taylor Kitsch) in exotic locales across the world under the tutelage of Michael Keaton’s seasoned badass.
Will it be worth your time? Mitch Rapp is the main character of a 16-novels-and-counting series of political thrillers launched by the late 24 writer Vince Flynn, so CBS Films is definitely banking on this being a new Bourne-like franchise. Go if you want to get in on the ground floor—or if you’ve been waiting to see Michael Keaton’s biceps.
For his first feature since World War Z, director Marc Forster stages a less global-spanning, more intimate medical crisis. Blake Lively stars as a blind woman adjusting to a recent relocation to Bangkok when her husband (Jason Clarke) gets a new job. While there, she undergoes a risky procedure that restores her sight, but as she begins to see the world in a new light, her marriage starts to change in (literally) unforeseen ways.
Will it be worth your time? Forster is an uneven helmer, and he co-wrote the script with Ray Donovan writer Sean Conway, so the level of quality here is anyone’s guess. (Reviews from Toronto a year ago were split.) Without an official trailer to consult (don’t be too shocked if the film gets pushed back last minute), All I See Is You is pretty much the definition of a “wait-and-see” project—ironically, not a bad description of the plot, either.
Mike White, the creator of Enlightened and screenwriter of Chuck & Buck and School Of Rock (as well as, er, The Emoji Movie), finally gets around to helming another feature film a decade after his directorial debut, Year Of The Dog. Ben Stiller stars as—surprise, surprise—a fidgety middle-aged neurotic who undergoes a personal crisis as he accompanies his teenage son (Austin Abrams) on a series on visits to prospective colleges and worries about his own college buddies (Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jemaine Clement), who have all gone on to be humiliatingly successful.
Will it be worth your time? White’s brand of squirmy humanism is unmistakable, and Brad’s Status bears all of its hallmarks. And, for whatever it’s worth, the film retains a large part of the behind-the-scenes creative team from Enlightened, his most fully realized work.
An adaptation of Loung Ung’s same-titled memoir about her childhood in Cambodia under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, though of course the selling point is that it’s directed by Angelina Jolie, whose behind-the-camera career looks to do for 20th-century genocides and war crimes what James Franco has done for William Faulkner novels. (Perhaps that’s unfair, as a heck of a lot of people paid to see Unbroken, and it’s unlikely that even Franco has sat through those first-draft literary adaptations he cranks out at an alarming rate.) First They Killed My Father has attracted some negative press for its less-than-ethical-sounding audition process, and the book itself drew criticism from other writers in the Cambodian diaspora when it was published in 2000.
Will it be worth your time? And yet, on the other hand, First They Killed was produced by Rithy Panh (S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, The Missing Picture), who is the closest thing there is to an authority on cinematic depictions of the Cambodian genocide. If nothing else, Jolie has a great skill in bringing on collaborators. Roger Deakins lost his 12th Oscar for Unbroken; for this film, she enlists Danny Boyle’s regular lensman, Anthony Dod Mantle.
Nathan Silver, better known for minimally budgeted dramas like Stinking Heaven and Uncertain Terms, takes a sudden (but, in retrospect, not unexpected) left turn into all things archly stylized and Suspiria-colored in this psycho-thriller about an American flight attendant (Lindsay Burdge) who begins stalking a Parisian strip-club bartender (Damien Bonnard) after a one-night stand. Anjelica Huston serves as the narrator; the cinematography is by Sean Price Williams, the extremely gifted director of photography of Good Time, Queen Of Earth, Heaven Knows What, and basically every recent movie about self-destructing personalities that’s worth watching.
Will it be worth your time? The mockumentary-documentary head games of Silver’s recent Actor Martinez (which “co-starred” Burdge) and the analog video camerawork of Stinking Heaven both hinted at a filmmaker eager to take his work to stranger places. Color us intrigued.
The second expansion to The Lego Movie arrives just seven months after The Lego Batman Movie—a rapid pace of spinoffs that might be more concerning if the franchise hadn’t so far proved itself as adaptable as the tiny little blocks it’s based on. This installment looks to continue those previous films’ mix of rapid-fire gags, family-friendly heart, and deep daddy issues with a story about a teen ninja (Dave Franco) taking on his estranged, evil warlord father (Justin Theroux).
Will it be worth your time? You liked the other Lego movies, right? May as well add to the set.
Matthew Vaughn’s juvenile and gruesomely over-the-top retro-spy pastiche Kingsman: The Secret Service gets an apparently even more ludicrous sequel. This time around, Kingsman, the “independent” spy agency that’s disguised as a Savile Row tailor shop, dispatches its gentlemanly, Harry-Palmer-glasses-wearing agents—led by Taron Egerton and Colin Firth, who apparently didn’t die in the first film—to the former colonies so that they can join forces with their Stetson-crowned, cowboyish American counterparts, played by the likes of Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum. Let the battle of the cartoonish (yet utterly gutless) national stereotypes begin.
Will it be worth your time? The addition of an equally silly, Freedom HQ-style American agency might bring this sequel up to the level of gonzo ridiculousness that would have helped the original—which is actually pretty fun, funny, and an eyeful to look at—cover up the rank odor of its disgustingly patrician politics. Or maybe filling said American spy agency with a bunch of good ol’ boys is only going to make matters worse.
It was one of the biggest moments in American sports history: the 1973 showdown between world No. 1 tennis champion Billie Jean King and retired pro Bobby Riggs, a shameless self-promoter who sought to capitalize on the rise of women in the sport he once dominated by declaring all female players inherently inferior. Crazy Stupid Love costars Emma Stone and Steve Carell play the famous rivals, lobbing balls and insults at each other across the net, while navigating the media circus that sprang up around this politicized showdown.
Will it be worth your time? So nicknamed for its very public stakes, The Battle Of The Sexes is such no-brainer fodder for an inspirational sports drama that it’s strange no major motion picture has ever dramatized it before. (A TV movie and a documentary on the subject don’t really count.) Combining the directors of Little Miss Sunshine with the writer of Slumdog Millionaire sounds like a recipe for pure pap, but at least this could be pap with some contemporary resonance; sadly, questioning whether women should really be doing something men once did exclusively (like, you know, ghostbusting or serving as president of the United States) hasn’t gone out of fashion nearly half a century later.
Jake Gyllenhaal, looking more haunted than ever, chases Southpaw and Demolition with another recovery drama, this time starring as real-life survivor Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon Bombing. Based on the bestselling memoir of the same name, Stronger chronicles Bauman’s long, grueling adjustment process, with Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany as the girlfriend trying to help him through this harrowing crucible. It’s maybe the most mainstream effort yet from George Washington and Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green.
Will it be worth your time? The impression given off by the trailer is that a potentially moving true story has been pounded into tearjerker formula, though Gyllenhaal’s increasingly reliable intensity could make Stronger stronger than it looks. Regardless, Green fans probably shouldn’t expect his signature Southern-fried funkiness; stylistically, the film appears to be even more work-for-hire anonymous than his last movie, the crappy fact-based Sandra Bullock vehicle Our Brand Is Crisis.
Ah, the cusp of fall, when the competent middle-brow prestige pictures begin to bloom and the smell of Stephen Frears fills the air. This year brings Victoria & Abdul, starring Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as Abdul Karim, the Indian valet who served as the British monarch’s confidante and tutor in the last 15 years of her reign. Once upon a time, Frears was the prolific BBC veteran who made The Hit and My Beautiful Launderette; his misfires could still be interesting (see: Mary Reilly), and his hired-gun assignments could yield something like High Fidelity. Now he’s the “Isn’t that nice?” specialist who directed Philomena and Florence Foster Jenkins.
Will it be worth your time? Are you a member of an awards-giving body? The truth that we begrudge to admit is that these late-period Frears movies can be boring (see: The Program), but they’re rarely out-and-out bad; he’s both too safe and too experienced a director to let that happen. But what we wouldn’t give to see the guy make another crime movie or something.
Two fashion-designer sisters make the leap to filmmaking with a little help from Kirsten Dunst, who stars in this drug-fueled Northern California psychodrama about a woman who isolates herself in the woods after experiencing a life-changing and traumatic loss. She finds comfort from her grief in the form of a “potent cannabinoid drug,” according to the film’s official description, but soon that sweet oblivion begins to have bitter consequences in her real life—as much as she’s still connected to real life, that is.
Will it be worth your time? Directors Laura and Kate Mulleavy first made a name for themselves as founders of the fashion brand Rodarte, and their first film venture was designing the costumes for Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. According to Vogue, they also spent the year between college and the launch of their fashion line immersing themselves in Japanese horror movies. So, at the very least, the film could be an atmospheric marvel. And doesn’t Dunst deserve her own Black Swan?
Calm down, Star Wars nuts. The Force isn’t this year’s now annual trip to a galaxy far, far away (you’ll have to wait until December for that), but rather an in-depth documentary profile of the Oakland police force. Granted access to the city’s officers for two whole years, director Peter Nicks chronicled the department’s attempts at systematic reform—a goal complicated by the events in Ferguson, Missouri, which happened while Nicks was still embedded with these Bay Area boys in blue.
Will it be worth your time? It’s healthy to be skeptical of any movie that exclusively presents a police perspective, especially right now. By focusing on a department officially committed to curbing corruption, does The Force risk operating like a PR campaign for embattled police forces everywhere? We’ll have to see for ourselves, but the reviews from Sundance (where the film won a directing prize) were largely positive, with The Village Voice describing a tantalizing mixture of Michael Mann and Frederick Wiseman.
Yeah, we know: Tom Cruise is a name-on-the-marquee dinosaur in a franchise-driven era. But look, those unshakable movie-star reflexes that Cruise has excessively perfected over the course of his career (the guy hasn’t smiled or run like a normal human being since the 1990s) make him great at playing scumbags and opportunists. No one seems to understand this better than Cruise himself, who has subverted his action-hero persona several time to memorable effect, most recently in the darkly comic The Edge Of Tomorrow. And look what we have here: a comedy based loosely on the life of the airline-pilot-turned-drug-smuggler-turned-federal-informant Barry Seal (because all non-superhero movies are about the CIA now) that reunites Cruise with his Edge Of Tomorrow director, Doug Liman.
Will it be worth your time? Early reviews for American Made (which opened in Europe a few weeks ago) have mostly characterized the movie as breezy, competent, and totally superficial. And you know what, that’s more or less how it looks. But what’s not to like about the idea of a poor man’s American Hustle starring a cocaine-dusted, slightly Southern-accented Tom Cruise?
Between this and the big Stephen King adaptation opening a couple weeks earlier, it appears that the horror reboot train has officially roared into 1990. (What’s next, a new Jacob’s Ladder? Um, yes.) Jolting Joel Schumacher’s slick supernatural thriller back to life, Flatliners casts Ellen Page, Diego Luna, and Nina Dobrev as medical students discovering a way to cheat death, stopping their own hearts on the hospital slab and then jump-starting them a few minutes later. But what if they bring something back with them from the other side?
Will it be worth your time? Technically, this Flatliners is actually a sequel, not a remake, given that Kiefer Sutherland apparently reprises his role from the original. But you’d never guess as much from the trailer, which hits most of the same beats Schumacher did 27 years ago. Securing the director of the Swedish The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo doesn’t fill us with great confidence either.
Ninety-one-year-old Harry Dean Stanton stars as a 90-year-old atheist with a pack-a-day habit searching for enlightenment in this affectionate tribute from one great American character actor to another. (Fargo’s John Carroll Lynch directs.) The film is clearly meant as a vehicle for Stanton to convey the wisdom he’s gleaned from his many decades as an actor. But a quirky dramedy would be nothing without a supporting cast of equally colorful characters, which here include Ed Begley Jr., David Lynch, Ron Livingston, James Darren, and Stanton’s old Alien costar, Tom Skerritt, among others.
Will it be worth your time? Fans of Stanton’s world-weary persona and naturalistic acting style will be in their happy place here, though those who haven’t been indoctrinated into the Church Of Harry Dean might find the whole thing a bit too low-key.
The burgeoning genre of Stephen King-esque coming-of-age/horror hybrids gets a significant new entry with Super Dark Times, the feature debut of director Kevin Phillips, whose short “Too Cool For School” played at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is set in upstate New York in the late ’90s, just before the massacre at Columbine High School changed things for high school weirdos forever. Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) are better adjusted than the perpetrators of that awful crime, but things still take a very dark, friendship-testing turn after a horrible accident binds the boys in shared secrecy and suspicion.
Will it be worth your time? Phillips assembles Super Dark Times more skillfully and with more resonance than your average feature debut, and the plot does go in some genuinely surprising directions. How you reconcile those surprises depends on your tolerance for nihilism, though. The title is a promise and a warning.