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.
A.A. Milne’s rightly beloved Winnie-The-Pooh stories get the Hook (or is it Paddington?) treatment in this live-action-ish Disney fantasy from director Marc Forster. The little boy Christopher Robin is now a grown-up Ewan McGregor; like all workaholic family men, he’s forgotten what it’s like to have fun. Fortunately, his old imaginary friends Pooh, Piglet, and the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood are here to help. Jim Cummings, who has voiced Disney’s animated versions of Pooh and Tigger since the late 1980s, returns to his best-known roles; the booming bass of Brad Garrett makes an inspired choice for Eeyore.
Will it be worth your time? We here at The A.V. Club pride ourselves on being a bunch of black-hearted bastards, and would like to believe ourselves to be unsusceptible to the power of “cute.” But the idea of rendering Milne’s characters as disheveled old toys is kind of irresistible. Throw in a screenplay credit for indie filmmaker Alex Ross Perry (Queen Of Earth), and you’ve got us intrigued. Anyway, it’s gotta be better than Goodbye Christopher Robin.
From the producers of Stranger Things come even more strange things in this adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s teen-lit novel. After half of America’s under-18 population is wiped out by a mysterious disease, the rest begin developing powers that terrify their parents into sending them to internment camps… you know, for their own good. One of these kids is the particularly powerful 16-year-old Ruby (Hunger Games alum Amandla Stenberg), who escapes her camp, joins a band of runaway rebels, and helps to lead a revolution. Kung-Fu Panda 2 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson makes her live-action directorial debut in this sci-fi thriller that raises a fist against overstrict parents and a tyrannical government.
Will it be worth your time? After The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, etc. etc., the YA dystopia genre has been beaten close to death. While this one checks lots of boxes (oppressed post-apocalyptic world, strong female lead heading a rebellion, white male love interest affirming her strength), it does boast an otherwise diverse young cast, as well as themes—youthful resistance in a time of corruption, internment camps approved by the U.S. government, a future ruined for minors by those with a vote—that provide the premise a certain disturbing timeliness. There are probably worse (and less relevant) ways for teens to kill a couple hours.
Another attempt to subvert the superspy thriller for laughs, The Spy Who Dumped Me presumably hopes to follow in the critically and commercially successful footsteps of similar genre-bender Spy, only this time with Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon sharing top billing. The film sees the pair as best friends who are forced to go on the run after Kunis’ ex (Justin Theroux) reappears in her life, a bunch of assassins hot on his heels, and she learns he’s actually a CIA agent. Cue the witty banter, explosive set pieces, and hopefully solid chemistry between the Bad Moms star and SNL vet.
Will it be worth your time? Somewhat clunky title aside, we were fans of writer-director Susanna Fogel’s debut rom-com, Life Partners, which managed to deliver warm and understated humor with efficient dramatic pathos. This looks to be a far more outsized slice of absurdism, but hopefully Fogel can still earn some honest laughs. Besides, McKinnon is a comedic force to be reckoned with.
You’d think getting his very own full presidential pardon would make Dinesh D’Souza lighten up a bit. But the right-wing agitprop schlockmeister behind Hillary’s America: The Secret History Of The Democratic Party and America: Imagine The World Behind Her has bills to pay and a raging persecution complex to feed—and now he doesn’t even have the whole “convicted felon” thing to fall back on. Fortunately, the devilry of the international liberal cabal is as bottomless as D’Souza’s capacity for self-ownage. This one’s even got Hitler!
Will it be worth your time? Hell no. D’Souza, who holds the current A.V. Club record for the most consecutive F grades given to a single director, is a living example of the amount of grift one can get away with in the conservative mediasphere. A professional pity-party planner and self-declared expert on “the real racists,” he makes the blustery Alex Jones look self-aware by comparison.
A teenage girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) is caught canoodling with the prom queen. Because it’s 1993, her conservative aunt decides that the thing to do is ship her off to gay-conversion camp, where she resists the instruction of the “saved” reverend in charge (John Gallagher Jr.) and bonds with some of her fellow “patients” (including American Honey’s Sasha Lane). Before kids have begun to consider for themselves who they can be, the adults in their lives are telling them what they can’t be; it’s the heart-wrenching dilemma of this coming-of-age drama, adapted by writer-director Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior) from a novel by Emily M. Danforth.
Will it be worth your time? It’s pretty upsetting that a film set in the early ’90s would look so relevant to our here and now; with Mike Pence in the White House and conversion therapy clinics still in operation around the country, it’s no coincidence that yet another film on the topic (Boy Erased) is coming out this fall. But The Miseducation Of Cameron Post, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year, is affecting beyond its timeliness, thanks to Akhavan’s sensitive handling of performance and exposition.
Based on a 1997 beach read that was arguably written only to be adapted into a movie, belated “literary adaptation” The Meg has its own very simple purpose: to pit Jason Statham against a giant fucking shark. The trailer already implies that the titular terror, an extinct species of shark naturally 20 times bigger than Jaws and his ilk, will fluctuate in size based on the needs of each individual scene. But that doesn’t mean you’re in for a mess of Shark Attack 3: Megalodon proportions. This story of a group of scientists rushing to stop a 75-foot prehistoric monster from wreaking havoc on some very well-populated beaches presumably at least has the budget to do its pulpy premise justice.
Will it be worth your time? Again, Jason Statham fights a giant shark. Of course it will be. (The only thing giving us pause is director Jon Turteltaub, whose only feature-film credits in the past decade are Last Vegas and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Yikes.)
More than 25 years after casting Denzel Washington as Malcolm X, Spike Lee builds a new biopic around the star’s son, John David Washington. The former running back and Ballers regular plays Ron Stallworth, a Colorado Springs police officer who, in the late 1970s, managed to crank call his way into the KKK, posing as a white supremacist over the phone and sending a fellow officer (portrayed here by Adam Driver) in his place to the Klan’s meetings. Among those fooled by this grand ruse: a young David Duke (Topher Grace, a perfectly milquetoast villain).
Will it be worth your time? Dramatizing an incredible true story (or, as the opening credits put it, “some fo real, fo real shit”), Lee has made his most involving and accessible joint in ages: a riotous undercover-cop period piece that’s really a manifesto on our tumultuous American now, plus a big middle finger to racist shitheads of all eras. Can BlacKkKlansman connect with the same wide-release audience that producers Jordan Peele and Jason Blum drew with last year’s zeitgeist horror phenomenon Get Out? It deserves that kind of attention.
The original creepypasta superstar gets his own Hollywood film with this newest iteration of a story that has already received literally thousands of tellings on message boards and video-streaming sites. This time, the fable takes the form of a missing-person mystery, as a group of girls (led by The Conjuring’s Joey King) goes looking for a friend who disappeared, only to end up haunted by the forest-dwelling legend himself.
Will it be worth your time? Director Sylvain White doesn’t have a terribly reassuring track record (The Losers, I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer), leaving us to suspect that Slender Man will give the willies only to those who didn’t watch the HBO documentary or blow a few hours scrolling through the various internet stories on the urban legend.
It sounds like something the late Garry Marshall would have cooked up: an ensemble we-are-all-connected patchwork about the life-changing interactions between humans and canines in Los Angeles. Although it’s not entirely obvious from the trailer, actor-turned-director Ken Marino (How To Be A Latin Lover) has actually assembled a murderer’s row of indie- and studio-comedy vets—David Wain, Adam Pally, Jessica St. Clair, Lauren Lapkus, Rob Corddry—for his puppy-centric Short Cuts.
Will it be worth your time? Tough to say. The co-writing credit for Children’s Hospital and Burning Love writer Erica Oyama is promising; the other for Elissa Matsueda, screenwriter of such forgettable feel-good pap as The Miracle Season, less so. Still, with such a funny cast and director, it may just come down to your tolerance for cute-dog-based entertainment.
Underground writer-director Josephine Decker (Butter On The Latch) explores the nebulous line between being someone and playing someone with this drama about a troubled teenager (newcomer Helena Howard) encouraged by her new acting coach (Molly Parker) to channel her mental-health issues into performance. Fellow filmmaker Miranda July plays the starlet’s mother, competing against this new mentor figure for influence over her daughter. Speaking of influence, reliable sources report heavy shades of the late Jacques Rivette—specifically, in regards to extended scenes of theater troupe exercises.
Will it be worth your time? There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground when it comes to Madeline’s Madeline, whose high-volume improv and constant visual experimentation inspired both rapturous praise and repelled irritation when the film premiered at Sundance in January. Everyone does seem to agree, however, that it’s unlike anything else you’re likely to see this year. After a summer very heavy on sequels, that may count as an automatic endorsement.
Most people would say that Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) has hit the jackpot. Her boyfriend, Nick (Henry Golding), isn’t just handsome and charming. He’s also, as Rachel discovers when she accompanies him back home to Singapore for a family wedding, filthy stinking rich. Complicating this fairy tale is Nick’s family, led by disapproving matriarch Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), who can’t stand the thought of her son being in a relationship with a common economics professor like Rachel. (The horror!)
Will it be worth your time? Director Jon M. Chu has had, let’s say, a varied career (his last two films were Now You See Me 2 and Jem And The Holograms), but maybe his flashy, shallow style will work for a film about flashy, shallow people. And if Wu is half as magnetic in this film as she is on Fresh Off The Boat, she’ll be able to carry the film on her own.
For their fourth consecutive collaboration, director Peter Berg whisks his macho muse, Mark Wahlberg, off to Indonesia for a thriller about a badass CIA team tasked with escorting a local defector (The Raid’s Iko Uwais) through a city packed with highly trained heavies. The previous Berg-Wahlberg movies (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day) had the “based on a true story” thing going for them, but this programmer seems ripped less from the headlines than from the VHS bins and paperback shelves of yesteryear.
Will it be worth your time? It’s hard to get excited for another man-of-action Mark Wahlberg movie. But Uwais is another matter; so far, the martial arts star’s attempts to cross over into the English-language mainstream have been limited to cameos and direct-to-video releases. If nothing else, Mile 22 looks like it will give him ample opportunity to snap and gouge goons on camera.
The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee sets out on a bison-hunting expedition that goes horribly awry, forcing him to team up with a wolf in order to survive. Trailers make extremely clear that what we are witnessing is nothing less than an origin story for man’s friendship with dogs. This is a strange thematic detour for Albert Hughes, here making his solo directorial debut after previously helming a string of violent and occasionally graceful pictures (Menace II Society, The Book Of Eli) with his brother, Allen.
Will it be worth your time? If you really, really, really love dogs, or would just like to watch a bunch of IMAX-scale 3D wildlife footage? Maybe. Cat people will presumably be repulsed beyond measure.
Jesse Peretz (Our Idiot Brother) directed this adaptation of the 2009 novel by Nick Hornby, an unusually literal variation on the English author’s pet theme of the conflict of life and fandom. Annie (Rose Byrne), long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), is sick of putting up with his devotion to the reclusive, largely forgotten ’90s alt-rock icon Tucker Crowe. But after posting a negative review of Crowe’s early demos online, she finds herself drawn into an unlikely long-distance relationship with the self-loathing retired rocker (Ethan Hawke), effectively turning Duncan’s obsession against him.
Will it be worth your time? The trailer for Juliet, Naked sells it as a generic dramedy (“from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine”), and reactions to its premiere at this year’s Sundance were mixed to lukewarm. Still, Hawke has more or less perfected the ex-hipster role; having him play a lonely, past-his-prime Gen X pretty boy qualifies as something of a casting coup.
Thirteen installments in, the low-budget Puppet Master series hits theaters for the first time. The Littlest Reich attracted all sorts of attention when it was first announced, thanks to talent both in front of the camera (co-stars Thomas Lennon and Charlyne Yi) and behind it (screenwriter S. Craig Zahler, composer Fabio Frizzi) that’s of a different caliber than one might expect from any direct-to-video horror franchise, let alone one about killer marionettes.
Will it be worth your time? While The Littlest Reich sounds good on paper, in practice it’s extremely divisive, thanks to crass direction from Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wicklund that steamrolls over any sense of satire that may have been in Zahler’s script. What’s left is a tedious series of explicit gore scenes following Nazi puppets as they murder members of various minority groups, punctuated with hacky swipes at nerd culture and devoid of the wit that might have made it palatable to a wider audience than simply the “political correctness is ruining horror” demographic. That crowd, however, will love it.
After her husband receives the Nobel Prize In Literature, Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) reflects on her life outside the literary limelight and the cost of giving up her own ambitions to support a world-class narcissist, all the while being hounded by a would-be biographer (Christian Slater). Jonathan Pryce, who gave one of his best performances as a toxically patronizing Great American Writer in Listen Up Philip, plays the prize-winning prick; Annie Starke and Harry Lloyd, respectively, play Close’s and Pryce’s characters in flashbacks.
Will it be worth your time? Those who saw The Wife when it played at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival report that the movie is Close’s show from start to finish; the nearly year-long delay between the premiere and its theatrical release suggests that Sony Pictures Classics is planning a serious Oscar campaign.
Skate videos sit at a weird intersection of music video, documentary, and sketch comedy, with a scrappy energy that can lead to some truly beautiful shots, to say nothing of the tricks. Bing Liu’s Minding The Gap leans heavy into the medium’s documentary aspects, following the director’s own friends—generally drifting, pained young men—as they cycle through jobs, family problems, and therapeutic skating sessions throughout Rockford, Illinois. A close-up shot of a skateboard with the words “this device cures heartache” seems to be the thesis statement.
Will it be worth your time? Only if you’re interested in seeing someone unabashedly attempt to create a high-art skate video. (Reviews from Sundance, to be fair, were very positive.)
America finally gets its own Meet The Feebles, albeit with some humans in the mix. In a world where Muppet-style puppets live alongside humans, Melissa McCarthy’s cop is dispatched to investigate a killing spree that’s claiming the lives of the puppets who starred in a beloved ’80s children’s TV show. Naturally, she ends up partnering with a disgraced L.A. detective-turned-private-eye, a blue felt creation voiced by none other than Brian Henson, who also directed and is apparently ready to get in touch with his father Jim’s mischievous, adult-themed roots.
Will it be worth your time? Judging from the trailer, The Happytime Murders is going to lean very hard into vulgarity, getting by mostly on the novelty of puppets saying and doing really dirty shit. So if just the thought of that makes you laugh, you probably can’t go wrong.
C.H.O.M.P.S. meets Michael Bay’s Transformers in this story about a dirt-bike-riding teenage boy (Alex Neustaedter) and the fugitive military-industrial robot dog that becomes his best friend. From the boxy pooch-bots of Isle Of Dogs to the headless creations of Boston Dynamics, our present cultural moment offers no shortage of unsettling robotic hounds; we’ll see how first-time director Oliver Daly overcomes the fact that his looks like it came straight from the bowels of a gunmetal hell.
Will it be worth your time? If we had to pick one movie about a teen and his canid this month, we’d probably go with with Albert Hughes’ Alpha, which opens the week before A.X.L.
Just one month after the Unfriended sequel, along comes another thriller that makes a movie screen look like a laptop screen, telling a whole story through applications, open browsers, and webcam footage. Here the ScreenLife gimmick has been applied to a mystery, with John Cho as the concerned father scouring his missing daughter’s computer for clues as to her whereabouts.
Will it be worth your time? Dark Web proved that there’s room for more than one film that adopts this hyper-modern storytelling approach; given how much time so many of us spend planted in front of a keyboard, these movies possess a unique opportunity to exploit the technological tools we use to communicate, process information, and view the world. Factor in the strong reviews from Sundance and a lead performance by Cho—who has to be more charismatic than the doomed teens and twentysomethings of the Unfriended saga—and Searching looks worthy of your, ahem, bandwidth.
Writer-director Andrew Bujalski dove into the world of suburban fitness clubs in his last film, the under-seen and under-celebrated rom-com Results; his tour of drive-thru country continues in his latest, set around a low-rent Hooters wannabe called Double Whammies. Regina Hall stars as the breastaurant’s over-worked manager, who has her hands full with obnoxious customers, internal drama, and cable problems.
Will it be worth your time? A sensitive and generous observer of the un-cinematic corners of American life, Bujalski (Computer Chess, Beeswax) has yet to make a bad film, and Support The Girls got a warm reception at this year’s SXSW, with Hall’s performance singled out for praise. Like his fellow Austinite Richard Linklater, Bujalski seems to be genuinely interested in his characters as people, and Results showed that he could dip his toes in the mainstream without losing the qualities that make his filmmaking so special.
Playing in a junkyard is always dangerous, just for the tetanus alone. But for 12-year-old Eli (Myles Truitt), doing so could put his life and that of his whole family at risk. See, Eli’s discovered a mysterious pod filled with dead aliens while poking around in a scrap heap one afternoon, and now the FBI, a local crime lord, and alien soldiers are after him and his older brother, Jimmy (Jack Reynor), all trying to retrieve the incredibly powerful weapon Eli stole from one of those fallen extraterrestrials.
Will it be worth your time? Directors Jonathan and Josh Baker are still untested, but their short film “Bag Man,” upon which Kin is based, was impressive enough to attract A-list talent like Zoë Kravitz, Carrie Coon, Dennis Quaid, and James Franco to the project.
For his follow-up to the Oscar-winning Room, director Lenny Abrahamson transports audiences to a much more sprawling residence: a dilapidated and potentially haunted Warwickshire manor, where a country doctor (Domhnall Gleeson, who previously starred in Abrahamson’s Frank) gets involved with an aristocratic family that’s fallen on hard times and may be under supernatural influence. Based on a novel by The Handmaiden author Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger appears to trek into Shirley Jackson’s neck of the genre woods, raising that age-old question of whether the ghosts are real or just all in the head of a very frazzled, very repressed protagonist.
Will it be worth your time? Given the success of Room, for which Abrahamson scored a Best Director nomination, it feels like a vaguely bad sign that The Little Stranger is quietly opening at the end of August rather than premiering at one of the fall’s major film festivals. But the cast, which also includes Charlotte Rampling, Ruth Wilson, and Will Poulter, is promising. And although the trailers imply a thriller perhaps too restrained to be truly terrifying, it’s not like we’re crawling in throwbacks to the elegant psychological horror of The Haunting or The Innocents.
Having apparently exhausted their capacity and/or interest in atomizing giallo into shards of abstract, expressive action, Belgian-French genre mavericks Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Amer, The Strange Colour Of Your Body’s Tears) turn now to the exaggerated violence of ’70s Italian crime pictures. There’s a plot here concerning bandits, a love triangle, and some stolen booty, but it’s all just an excuse for a nearly feature-length gunfight conveyed through bold, associatively edited close-ups: of widening eyes, of smoking barrels, of bodies soaked in blood, piss, and glitter.
Will it be worth your time? Cattet and Forzani’s nearly avant-garde approach to genre can be as exhausting as it is thrilling; they have serious trouble sustaining it over the course of an entire feature. But anyone sympathetic to the privileging of virtuosic style over substance will get a few big hits of pleasure from Let The Corpses Tan’s fragmentary montage of mayhem.