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.
After launching the Saw and Insidious franchises for James Wan, Australian screenwriter Leigh Whannell takes a stab at sci-fi action, casting Logan Marshall-Green as a working-class mechanic who agrees to become a test subject for a slippery technocrat after being paralyzed in a car accident. Upgrade takes the dystopian satire of RoboCop and combines it with an ultra-violent revenge narrative, filtered through a futuristic take on the buddy-cop movie.
Will it be worth your time? Although he’s working within an established set of genre-movie characters and story beats, Whannell’s bold direction lifts Upgrade above your average genre fare—and makes it look a lot more big-budget than it actually is.
Johnny Knoxville, the Jerry Lewis of getting hit in the balls, returns for another battery of high-concept contusions in this ’80s comedy about a rundown amusement park (based on New Jersey’s real-life Action Park) where the wild fun isn’t cramped by wussy safety regulations. The Jackass ringleader plays the park’s owner, who decides to take on an encroaching corporate competitor by flirting even more dangerously with death and dismemberment.
Will it be worth your time? If you measure your interest in Knoxville movies by how many injuries he sustained during filming, then knowing he got four concussions, broke his wrist, lost two teeth, and popped his eye out of its socket should already have you lining up.
Based on an incident that happened in 1983, Adrift stars tragic-young-adult-romance veterans Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin as a couple of twentysomething sailing enthusiasts who are hired to deliver a yacht from Tahiti to San Diego, but are struck by a South Pacific hurricane. The actual story (the basic details of which reveal some obvious misdirection in the trailer) sounds like a nightmare; Baltasar Kormákur, who helmed the downbeat based-on-a-true-story survival programmer Everest, directed.
Will it be worth your time? Though better known for generic English-language crime films like Contraband and 2 Guns, Kormákur—who previously made another fact-based lost-at-sea thriller, The Deep, in his native Iceland—has become an old hand at the bleak and factual. Interestingly, most of Adrift was actually shot on the open Pacific. We’ll see if the realism pays off.
In December of 2004, a group of college kids put into motion what would come to be known as the Transy Book Heist: an attempt to steal the most valuable volumes contained within the Special Collections Library at Transylvania University—a haul worth some $5 million. American Animals, from writer-director Bart Layton, dramatizes the planning and execution of this daring theft, with Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, and Blake Jenner as three of the twentysomething masterminds getting in way, way over their heads.
Will it be worth your time? Layton, who made the exceptionally tricky documentary The Imposter, augments his first narrative feature with intriguing nonfiction elements, including talking-head interviews with the real-life culprits, who occasionally interact with the actors playing them. Nifty though this gimmick proves, American Animals ultimately doesn’t amount to much more than a stylish, derivative, academia-set heist picture—another portrait of best-laid criminal plans going spectacularly awry.
The difficult questions of contemporary parenting get a workout in the third feature film from TV director Silas Howard (Transparent, This Is Us). Claire Danes and Jim Parsons star as a couple raising their son Jake, who is approaching the age for New York’s stressful kindergarten admissions cycle. As his preferences for girls’ dress and toys reveals itself, the two consider pushing him in that direction—in part because it might help secure him access to a better school. As Jake starts acting out, the two have to confront difficult questions about how to raise their kid.
Will it be worth your time? Adapted from a play by Daniel Pearle, A Kid Like Jake overcompensates for its staginess, yielding mixed results under Howard’s uneven direction. (The title character never appears in the play, and probably could have remained unseen here, too.) There are authentic tensions nestled between its rushed resolutions and broad side characters; a better drama might have made them the focus.
Vincent Lindon, the unfailingly serious French star of The Measure Of A Man and Bastards, sprouts a bushy gray beard to play the titular sculptor in Jacques Doillon’s biopic. The film, which premiered at least year’s Cannes Film Festival, covers many of the essential bullet points of Rodin’s life and work, including his romantic/creative relationship with Camille Claudel (Izïa Higelin), a major figure of French art history in her own right.
Will it be worth your time? To answer that question with a question: Does a movie about a famous sculptor have to resemble a statue itself, immobile and honorary? Despite its focus on the man’s raging libido, Rodin is the epitome of dry, stuffy biodrama, approaching the life it dramatizes with stony reverence. Only Higelin’s volatile performance as Claudel ever threatens to shake Doillon’s movie out of its torpor.
Steven Soderbergh’s breezily entertaining Ocean’s films get a belated follow-up (or perhaps spin-off) in this caper comedy directed and co-written by longtime Soderbergh associate Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Pleasantville). Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the hitherto unmentioned sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, who sets out to mastermind a high-stakes heist of her own by robbing the Metropolitan Museum Of Art during the annual Met Gala. To that end, she assembles an all-female motley crew, played by the likes of Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter.
Will it be worth your time? Gregory Jacobs’ charmingly meandering Magic Mike XXL was even more fun than the original Magic Mike, so the idea of making a sequel to a Soderbergh film without the director himself at the helm isn’t necessarily a bad one. (Though, admittedly, he did shoot and edit that film, so it’s a special case.) And Bullock—who was originally cast opposite Clooney in the Jennifer Lopez role in Out Of Sight—is an obvious fit for Soderbergh-ian offbeat entertainment. But the trailers are not promising. In true Ocean’s style, we’re hoping to be surprised.
Mourning the death of her mother, artist Annie Graham (Toni Collette) begins to suspect that dark forces are conspiring against her family. The debut feature from writer-director Ari Aster was a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival—which is to say, its combination of grueling domestic drama and ceaselessly intense supernatural horror freaked out just about everyone who saw it there. Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff (Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle), and pint-sized Broadway star Milly Shapiro round out Annie’s supremely unlucky clan.
Will it be worth your time? Believe the hype. Hereditary is first-rate nightmare fuel, in part because all of its scares are rooted in emotional and psychological horror—the real traumas that linger longer than any well-timed jolt to the nerves. Fear, of course, is subjective, but even the rare few unfazed by Aster’s shock tactics will probably admire his prodigious craftsmanship and the volcanic commitment of Collette’s complex lead performance. It’s scary and scary good.
Drew Pearce, the co-writer of Iron Man 3, makes his directorial debut with this high-concept tossed salad; the main ingredients appear to be the John Wick movies and the Purge sequels. In a rioting dystopian (ain’t it always?) near-future Los Angeles, overdressed criminals gather at a secret underworld hospital with the strict set of rules and the decor of a luxury hotel; it’s basically the Wick-iverse’s Continental (right down to the Leitch-Stahelski lighting), but with Jodie Foster running the front desk. Mayhem predictably breaks loose as clients and intruders fight over a pen filled with diamonds. The cast includes the eminently watchable likes of Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista, and Sofia Boutella.
Will it be worth your time? C’mon, this looks fun.
In a world where casual cruelty is becoming ever more commonplace, we need Fred Rogers more than ever. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet From Stardom), this new documentary looks back at Rogers’ mission of spreading the values of kindness, compassion, and self-acceptance to children through his long-running PBS series Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Will it be worth your time? Won’t You Be My Neighbor has been racking up accolades from critics since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, in case the idea of spending 93 minutes in a world where kindness matters isn’t enough enticement on its own.
Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny), the virginal valedictorian and president of his senior class, grapples with his sexuality (presumably in a contemporary, lighthearted way) after realizing that he might be more attracted to a new friend (Antonio Marziale) than to his girlfriend (Madeline Weinstein). Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins, Wilson) wrote and directed this coming-of-age comedy.
Will it be worth your time? That depends on whether “apparent sincerity” is the quality you value most in a movie. Johnson’s previous films were pleasant-enough assemblages of indie clichés; though the focus here is on giggly fresh faces instead of depressed or socially graceless grown-up eccentrics, there’s little to suggest that Alex Strangelove will be any different.
Gordon Parks Jr.’s 1972 blaxploitation classic gets an update for the trap-music era in Sony’s Superfly remake, directed by hip-hop video impresario Director X with an original soundtrack by Future. Grown-ish’s Trevor Jackson stars as Youngblood Priest, an Atlanta drug dealer in search of the one score big enough to get him out of the game for good.
Will it be worth your time? Director X is among America’s foremost contemporary practitioners of the art of the music video—among his more notable works are Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta” and Drake’s “Hotline Bling” videos. So if nothing else, his vision for Superfly is bound to be dynamic.
Writer-director Brad Bird returns to both animation and the super-powered Parr family in this sequel to The Incredibles, his witty 2004 homage to Silver Age superheroes. Set shortly after the original film, Incredibles 2 finds mom Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) returning to public crime-fighting while dad Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) stays at home with the kids: moody Violet (Sarah Vowell), mischief-making Dash (Huck Milner), and teleporting, fire-breathing baby Jack-Jack.
Will it be worth your time? Although he hasn’t directed cartoon characters in over a decade, Bird’s first three features—The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille—have made him a legend of modern animation. His craftsmanship is undeniable, but the politics of his Space Age exceptionalism are a different matter. (His last film, the live-action Tomorrowland, suggests that they haven’t exactly mellowed with age.) If the trailers are any indication, Incredibles 2 seems to be doubling down on the original’s crankiness; expect the movie to keep the think-piece click cycle going through at least the end of the summer.
An early contender for the most ridiculous fucking premise of the year, Tag is a comedy about a group of guy friends that has been involved in an ongoing game of tag for 30 years. Yep, that seems to be the gist of it. Oh, and there’s a loose conceit about how one of the guys (Jeremy Renner) has never been tagged, and now plans to retire undefeated—which the rest of them can’t allow, naturally. We’re gonna guess there’s some heartfelt life lessons about friendship and growing up that happen in the process. Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, and Isla Fisher costar.
Will it be worth your time? God, who knows? There’s a chance this could lean into its Idiot Plot in an appealing way and come out with a “the first Hangover movie” vibe of agreeable-enough comedy. But the trailer is worryingly light on laughs.
For four tempestuous years in the 1980s, infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar had an affair with the glamorous journalist Virginia Vallejo. The story’s ripe for dramatization, and it’s hard to imagine better stars than Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in the leading roles. Fernando León de Aranoa wrote and directed the film based on Vallejo’s own memoirs, and it’s being positioned mostly as a high-octane, post-Narcos action caper. A gaunt, mustachioed Peter Sarsgaard represents the American government.
Will it be any good? Nah. Aranoa’s hardass melodramas have seen decreasing returns since the early 2000s, and early impressions of Loving Pablo have been abysmal.
Before signing on to fill Harrison Ford’s big shoes, Solo star Alden Ehrenreich strapped on combat gear to play a PTSD-afflicted grunt in Alexandre Moors’ Iraq War drama, which jumps around in time—from basic training to the battlefield to the home front—to unravel the mystery of a missing soldier. Ready Player One’s Tye Sheridan costars as one of Ehrenreich’s brothers in arms, while Jennifer Aniston and Toni Collette enlist as the mothers of the deployed.
Will it be worth your time? Despite a script co-written by A Ghost Story’s David Lowery and based on a loosely autobiographical novel by a real veteran, The Yellow Birds is about as generic as anti-war war movies get; beyond the clichéd shaky-cam battle scenes, the film borrows rather liberally from Full Metal Jacket, even filching a few images directly from Stanley Kubrick’s modern classic. And Ehrenreich is mostly wasted in a role that squishes his charisma into a perpetual sulk.
The monstrously popular hit that everyone vaguely remembers gets a sequel in this follow-up to 2015’s Jurassic World, with The Orphanage’s Juan Antonio Bayona taking over for Colin Trevorrow in the director’s chair. This time, Chris Pratt’s dino wrangler and Bryce Dallas Howard’s park manager realize that making new dinosaurs was a huge mistake, as evidenced by the events of four prior films, and they resolve to let the damn things go extinct already. Just kidding: They bring ’em back to America! Maybe the beasts will be so wowed by their endless options for streaming entertainment, they won’t eat anyone.
Will it be worth your time? Don’t you want to find out if the dinosaurs kill people?
Where do you go from one of the most ingenious, acclaimed horror movies of the new millennium? Writer-director David Robert Mitchell follows It Follows with this shaggy, paranoid L.A. noir, starring Andrew Garfield as a slacker whose amateur investigation into the disappearance of his bombshell neighbor (Riley Keough) sends him down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories.
Will it be worth your time? Certainly no one could accuse Mitchell of playing it safe. Under The Silver Lake is an ambitious, sometimes vexing thriller, sprawling haphazardly across almost two and a half hours of running time and featuring a protagonist whose violent temper and lecherous gaze land him uncomfortably in the anti-hero category. Think Inherent Vice filtered through the filmmaker’s own dreamy brand of American menace. Only weirder. Really.
Twilight dreamboat turned character actor Robert Pattinson chases his career-best work in Good Time with another offbeat genre experiment, this one a revisionist Western from the brothers who wrote and directed Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter. Pattinson plays a rich pioneer who enlists a drunken preacher (David Zellner, one of the aforementioned filmmakers) to travel with him across the frontier in search of his lost love (Mia Wasikowska), who he intends to marry. To say that this quixotic voyage resolves itself in a surprising way would be an understatement.
Will it be worth your time? Damsel has a single, subversive point to make, and it makes it over and over again, through a great twist that leads to a running joke. But the point is strong, and so is the cast, with Pattinson and Wasikowska complicating the chemistry they developed in their last quasi-romantic pairing, Maps To The Stars.
Dubbed “the strangest man to ever play baseball” by Casey Stengel (himself a great eccentric of the national pastime), Morris “Moe” Berg spent 15 seasons with the major leagues in the 1920s and 1930s, but remains far better known for his pursuits off the field—as an Ivy League-educated philologist, a lawyer, a game show contest, and a spy for the Office Of Strategic Services, the World War II predecessor of the CIA. This adaptation of Nicholas Dawidoff’s biography The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life Of Moe Berg casts Paul Rudd as the scholarly athlete turned secret agent and focuses on his role in gathering intelligence on the Third Reich’s nuclear weapons program. Mark Strong plays Berg’s target, Werner Heisenberg, the Nobel Prize winner of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle fame.
Will it be worth your time? Ben Lewin (The Sessions, Please Stand By) seems like a bad fit for the material. The real-life story is intriguing, but can it resist the indiewood writer-director’s feel-good reflexes?
Emily Blunt’s no-nonsense Kate Macer is nowhere to be found in this sequel to Denis Villeneuve’s superb, fluid, and terrifying thriller Sicario. Instead, the focus is on the shady “consultants” Matt (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), agents of the vicious realpolitik of the War On Drugs. Considering Sicario’s pointed handling of its protagonist (not to mention that tricky third act), the idea of a follow-up that makes leads out of a couple of intentionally ambiguous supporting characters sounds misconceived. But the screenplay is by Tyler Sheridan, who wrote both the original and the terrific Hell Or High Water in one of the great one-twos of the mid-2010s; the actor-turned-writer has a way of wrapping a sharp point in a flavorful genre yarn.
Will it be worth your time? The trailers look fittingly bleak and brutal. But as much as the original Sicario might have owed to its cast and Sheridan’s script, it was made by Villeneuve’s horror-inflected direction and the work of a first-rate crew. Day Of The Soldado’s Stefano Sollima is an unknown quantity; most of his credits are in Italian TV. Behind the camera, longtime Ridley Scott cinematographer Dariusz Wolski steps in as a replacement for Roger Deakins. Meanwhile, Hildur Guðnadóttir, a longtime associate of the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, takes over scoring duties.
The beloved character from all those Pepsi Max commercials you fast-forwarded through gets his very own motion picture, with NBA star Kyrie Irving reprising his role as the elderly yet spry Uncle Drew to school more youngsters on b-ball fundamentals, as well as the surprisingly sweet taste of zero-calorie Pepsi Max. Here Uncle Drew is roped into putting together his old street ball team—including fellow gray-wigged ringers Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, and Nate Robinson—to take on Nick Kroll’s irritating court hustler.
Will it be worth your time? Tiffany Haddish is in this! Otherwise: How amusing, on its face, do you find the idea of athletes pretending to be very old?
Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star in this remake of the Steve Martin/Michael Caine con-artist romp Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (itself a remake of the Marlon Brando/David Niven con-artist romp Bedtime Story). As in that film, Hathaway and Wilson play rival scammers competing over who can pull the biggest swindle, with the loser forced to leave town.
Will it be worth your time? The original was a breezy, fun caper that coasted along on the surprising chemistry between Caine and Martin. So naturally, it all falls to whatever similar sparks might fly between Hathaway and Wilson. However, the fact that this film is due to open next month and there’s still no trailer does not instill confidence.
It’s been a long eight years since Winter’s Bone scored an unlikely Best Picture nomination, introduced the world to future movie star Jennifer Lawrence, and was named best movie of the year by a little publication called The A.V. Club. For her first narrative feature since that big breakthrough, writer-director Debra Granik adapts a novel—itself based on a true story—about a traumatized military veteran (Ben Foster) living with his 13-year-old daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) in a public park just outside of Portland. What will happen to this self-sufficient family unit when the outside world intrudes upon its off-the-grid paradise?
Will it be worth your time? Although it lacks the crime-movie urgency and flavorful vernacular of Winter’s Bone, Leave No Trace reaffirms Granik as a filmmaker deeply attuned to the rhythms of life on the American fringes. It’s an understated, moving character drama, and with any luck, it will usher another remarkable teenage performer into the limelight. (McKenzie, like Lawrence before her, is superb.)
It’s the true tale of, yes, three identical strangers: triplets estranged since birth, adopted and raised by different parents and with no knowledge of each other, who met by chance in New York City circa 1980. But there are dark secrets buried deep within the men’s entwined history, and they’re thoroughly plumbed by Tim Wardle’s documentary on the subject, which takes audiences through every shocking twist of this stranger-than-fiction, headline-grabbing reunion.
Will it be worth your time? The film was one of the most acclaimed nonfiction features to come out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival—by most accounts, a quirky human-interest crowd-pleaser that morphs into a disturbing, tragic real-world thriller. Resist the urge to Google and just go in blind.
After her father dies, Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns to her isolated home village in North Yorkshire after a 15-year absence, ready to help her brother (Mark Stanley) tend to the family farm. But an ancient trauma—a shared secret between these estranged siblings—threatens to transform the old house into a tinderbox in this latest grim drama from U.K writer-director Clio Barnard.
Will it be worth your time? Barnard, who made the terrific, unconventional documentary The Arbor, has a strong grasp of working-class environments, and she’s a pro at coaxing naturalistic performances out of her actors. But Dark River is a kitchen-sink drag, weighed down by the visual and dramatic clichés through which it tackles a tough, familiar scenario.
This 1890s period piece recounts the true story of portrait painter Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain), who travels from her Brooklyn home all the way to Dakota in order to paint a picture of Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes). While there, she unwittingly stumbles into a tense and increasingly fraught standoff between the Lakota people—and their claims to the land—and the nearby white settlers. Sam Rockwell and Ciaran Hinds costar.
Will it be worth your time? The word “biopic” rarely inspires much confidence, and “based on a true story” is almost as worthless. However, the acting talent is all top-notch, and director Susanna White showed real promise with her sophomore feature, the spy thriller Our Kind Of Traitor. Plus, a script from the excellent British screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Allied, Locke) suggests something with more bite than the trailer conveys.
Xavier Legrand’s tense divorce drama observes the tumultuous aftermath of a marriage, as a young boy (Thomas Gioria) is put in the middle of the war his petty, abusive father (Denis Ménochet) is waging against his mother (Léa Drucker). The movie won the Silver Lion (or Best Director) at last year’s Venice Film Festival, edging out Mother!, Downsizing, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, among other high-profile competitors.
Will it be worth your time? Custody is grueling, for sure: a kind of domestic thriller about the horror of living under the rule of a bitter, violent guardian. But it unfurls this real-life nightmare scenario with an urgency and a clarity that recalls the best films of the Romanian New Wave.