One year ago, The A.V. Club surveyed three months of upcoming films through the lens of Valentine’s Day, offering a dater’s guide to the spring movie season. This year, we’re thinking a little bigger, a little further outside the heart-shaped candy box. Why, after all, should we limit ourselves to one seasonal holiday when there’s an almost limitless supply of them scribbled across the calendar? Valentine’s Day may be one of the most prominent holidays of the season, but is it any more essential to the cultural fabric than Vince Vaughn’s birthday or the indispensable, widely celebrated Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day?
With The A.V. Club’s 2016 Spring Holiday Movie Preview, we’re pairing every major movie opening between now and the end of April with an equally major holiday scheduled on or near its release date. Looking for a new Hairstylist Appreciation Day staple to put on every year? We’ve got you covered. Need some time out of the house after a long National Lobster Newberg Day with the family? Boy, do we have the perfect movie for you. And because a holiday is a terrible thing to waste, we’ve also done our best to assess whether these holidays films—some of which we’ve seen, others we haven’t—are worth the day off from work you’ll surely be granted to observe them. (Remember, the Feast Day Of St. Barbatus Of Benevento comes only once a year. Don’t waste it on a bad movie!)
Those looking for a first look at these future holiday classics should check out the trailer reel we’ve assembled. Otherwise, bust out that collection of Save Your Vision Week songs, bring the Digital Learning Day decorations down from the attic, and dig into this guide of everything opening this, uh, holiday season.
The details: It’s been a while since an Icelandic movie made a splash in the U.S. (anyone remember Fridrik Thor Fridriksson?), but this tale of two rival shepherds—who are brothers and next-door neighbors, but haven’t spoken to each other in decades—has been steadily accruing fans and buzz ever since it won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes last year.
See it to celebrate: Cordova Ice Worm Day (2/3), an annual festival in Alaska dedicated to the only worms that make their home in a glacial climate. (Give Cordova’s citizens a break—there’s probably not a whole lot to do there.) Neither sheep nor any other livestock appear to get infested by these worms, and there aren’t any in Iceland, but Rams does feature sub-zero temperatures a-plenty.
Worth your day off? Definitely. A potential sleeper hit, Rams wrings a surprising amount of comedy from the machinations of two craggy old men who are constantly trying to outfox the other, then unexpectedly turns poignant in the home stretch. It’s an arthouse crowdpleaser that doesn’t pander.
The details: Josh Brolin plays a hardboiled studio fixer chasing down a snatched matinee idol (George Clooney); based on the trailers, the kidnappers refer to themselves as “The Future”—a suggestive moniker given the story’s setting in the 1950s. Appropriately for a movie about movie stars, Joel and Ethan Coen have assembled an all-star cast—including Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, and Channing Tatum—all of whom seem to be playing veiled versions of real industry icons. The title refers to the Roman-era epic that Clooney’s character is shooting while he’s abducted, but it might also be a jab at the idea of Hollywood royalty; leave it to the Coens to merrily fiddle away while Tinseltown burns.
See it to celebrate: Adlai Stevenson Day (2/5), an Illinois holiday in honor of the former state governor, who once spoke out against the Red Scare—a subject the Coens are rumored to touch upon in their trip to mid-century Hollywood. Plus, doesn’t a man who lost two presidential elections sound precisely like the sort of likable liberal loser that the Coens love to build movies around?
Worth your day off? All signs point to yes, and if it turns out that there any Adlai Stevenson jokes in the screenplay—which is entirely possible—then your ticket should be free.
The details: Back in 2009, Seth Grahame-Smith scored an unlikely bestseller by augmenting Jane Austen’s literary classic with reanimated flesh-eaters. The adaptation of that adaptation took some time to jolt to life, but when there’s no more room in development hell, the dead projects will roam the multiplex. Lily James, of last year’s Cinderella, is the sword-proficient Elizabeth Bennet to Sam Riley’s monster-hunting Darcy.
See it to celebrate: Fat Thursday (2/4). Hit a midnight screening and stuff your face like a ghoul at the concession stand before Lent.
Worth your day off? The trailer suggests that director Burr Steers (Charlie St. Cloud) has privileged the zombies over the pride and the prejudice, ditching the reverence to Austen’s text that inspired this very publication to gush about the book. Still, if this is what it takes to get kids to do their English homework…
The details: The latest just-in-time-for-Valentine’s Day Nicholas Sparks adaptation stars Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer as a young couple whose storybook romance gets sidelined by unexpected trauma. The Choice was directed by Ross Katz, whose previous two films are the well-received, low-key Kevin Bacon vehicle Taking Chance and the shaggy comedy Adult Beginners. “The choice” apparently refers to Katz’s decision to step off the indie track and get some of those big Sparks bucks.
See it to celebrate: Dump Your Significant Jerk Day (2/1), because ugh, men (or women), right?
Worth your day off? Not a chance, but do keep an eye on the spoiler sites on opening weekend to find out what nutso plot-twist Sparks pulled out of thin air this time. (Will one of the lovers actually be a ghost? Stay tuned!)
The details: Ethan Hawke adds another modestly budgeted thriller to his resume, playing a Minnesota cop investigating the case of a father (David Dencik) who pleads guilty to sexually assaulting his daughter (Emma Watson) but can’t actually remember committing the crime. Digging deeper reveals an insidious conspiracy and some unholy motives.
See it to celebrate: Super Bowl Sunday (2/7), in honor of a truly evil organization whose misdeeds we’d all like to conveniently forget.
Worth your day off? Hawke rarely phones in his genre assignments, and director Alejandro Amenábar established his spooky bona fides with The Others. Alas, early reviews have been unanimously negative.
The details: In a beachfront community in Chile, a group of disgraced priests find it difficult to live out the rest of their lives with quiet dignity when a drunken ex-parishioner shows up at their communal house and starts reminding them of what they did to get drummed out of the church in the first place. An unintended companion-piece to Spotlight (which features a couple of scenes concerning a similar “retirement home” in Boston), The Club is the latest film from the talented young director Pablo Larraín, who previously made Tony Manero, Post Mortem, and No.
See it to celebrate: Catholic Schools Week (1/31-2/6), and keep telling yourself that the church’s problems are all in the past.
Worth your day off? The Club won’t be for everybody, but for those who like old-school art films, where taciturn men and women wrestle with hard spiritual crises, the movie is a must-see.
The details: Several of the producers and directors behind the V/H/S series reunite for Southbound, a new horror anthology consisting of five overlapping stories, all based around themes of fateful decisions and their gruesome consequences. Set against the bleak backdrop of the American Southwest, the segments tell of home invasions gone wrong, sadistic 911 operators, a band that hitches a ride with the wrong couple, bartenders from another dimension, and petty criminals on the run from supernatural forces.
See it to celebrate: Diesel Engine Day (2/23), because if you’re ever going to lose those eerie skeletons that have been tailing you for the past 15 miles, you’re going to have to hit the gas, hard.
Worth your day off? Southbound is more cohesive than most horror anthologies released this decade, but aside from a couple of standout segments, this is more of a VOD pick (albeit a solid one).
The details: After years of developmental floundering, the Marvel Comics mercenary/superhero actually gets his own movie, and he’s still played by Ryan Reynolds almost seven years after X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Days Of Future Past will likely allow this film to ignore the immediate travestying of the character in Origins, with a more emotional core underneath the wisecracking, cartoonish ultra-violence.
See it to celebrate: Darwin Day (2/12), a commemoration of the scientist whose ideas about evolution this movie both illustrates (Deadpool adapts to survive, albeit with some help) and defies (if the Darwin-inspired “survival of the fittest” were truly in play here, Reynolds would not be on his third or fourth superhero role).
Worth your day off? Like Reynolds himself, Deadpool runs the risk of smothering its own potential irreverence and charm with self-aware smirking. On the other hand, maybe if Reynolds gets his dream franchise going, he can devote more time to his excellent character actor career. Also, in the first R-rated X-Men-related movie, Deadpool will fight both Colossus and Gina Carano; maybe this will have some of the exploitation bounce that the first Wolverine movie lacked.
The details: The long-in-the-works sequel to Terrence Malick’s favorite movie finds mentally incompetent male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and his marginally brighter rival-turned-buddy Hansel (Owen Wilson) aging out of the fashion industry, only to have to infiltrate it in order to once again foil poodle-haired fashion villain Mugatu (Will Ferrell) and his dastardly schemes. Co-starring are Penélope Cruz, an eyebrow-less Benedict Cumberbatch, and a whole bunch of celebrities playing themselves.
See it to celebrate: The end of International Petroleum Week (2/11), which is a good a time as any to raise awareness about the dangers of freak gasoline fight accidents.
Worth your day off? The trailers look dire, and though Stiller demonstrated some newfound technical ambition in his last directorial effort, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, his behind-the-camera work tends to be hit-or-miss. Maybe the original’s mix of satire, skit-character wackiness, and intentional stupidity is the kind of thing that can’t be done twice. We’d still see it, though.
The details: Dakota Johnson’s apparently annual Valentine’s Day release is still rated R, but probably has somewhat less sex than her previous hit. Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, and Leslie Mann are singletons playing the field in New York City, which may or may not be like a whole other character in the movie. The same might well be said for Jake Lacy, Damon Wayans Jr., Jason Mantzoukas, Anders Holm, and any other comedy dudes recruited to pitch woo here. Despite that lineup, Single is being marketed as, essentially, a rom-com without the boring dude stuff, focusing on the plucky heroine (Johnson) and the generator of zany antics she presumably calls a best friend (Wilson).
See it to celebrate: Single Awareness Day (2/14), which sounds like either the inspiration or a stealth promotional campaign for this movie, but is a sort-of real thing celebrating/consoling uncoupled folks on Valentine’s Day.
Worth your day off? All four leading ladies can certainly be funny; Johnson even brought a little intentional levity to Fifty Shades. But there aren’t many laughs in the trailer, are there?
The details: The latest film from renowned Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-ke (The World, A Touch Of Sin) is perhaps his most ambitious work to date, which is saying something. Beginning as a love triangle set in 1999, it jumps forward in time to track its characters’ radically different fortunes in 2014, then makes another leap—this time, remarkably, into the future (2025), at which point the action shifts from China to Australia and English takes over as the primary spoken language. Globalism, anyone?
See it to celebrate: The Chinese New Year Festival (2/8). 2016 is the Year Of The Monkey—specifically, the Fire Monkey, who’s the most aggressive of the lot; with Zhang Yimou having taken a long detour into spectacle, it’s safe to say that Jia is the one major filmmaker in China who still consistently plays with fire, especially when it comes to exploring the deleterious effects of capitalism on his country.
Worth your day off? Anyone who’s into foreign fare will want to see Mountains May Depart’s initial section, which opens with a rousing performance of the Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West” (symbolism!) and features some of Jia’s strongest character work. Subsequent chapters of the story, however, provide diminishing returns.
The details: You may have already seen Cabin Fever, Eli Roth’s cult fave feature-film debut about a group of college kids who head out to your stereotypical cabin in the woods and encounter a flesh-eating virus. If you have, well, now you get to watch it again, basically. Using the exact same script, a new cast and crew will re-stage an updated 2016 version of the horror-comedy, for reasons that presumably go beyond “That’s a way to make money, right?” Maybe the young blond kid will karate-chop his way toward a Taco Bell Crunch Wrap instead of pancakes?
See it to celebrate: National Care About Your Indoor Air Month, which February has inexplicably been designated as, because nothing says “clean indoor air” like infected people coughing up blood all over the walls.
Worth your day off? You’re better off seeing the original, unless you have a thing for hearing the same jokes twice over.
The details: Formerly called Mania Days, this indie drama stars Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby as bipolar writers who meet and fall in love while institutionalized, then try to look after each other while they explore the creative possibilities of their disorder. Writer-director Paul Dalio reportedly drew from his own experiences to tell this story, which has been renamed after a well-known book about the relationship between manic-depression and artistic inspiration.
See it to celebrate: National Patient Recognition Month, because for at least one month out of the year, doctors and nurses should be able to recognize their patients.
Worth your day off? It seems super unlikely, although the movie drew muted-but-respectful reviews at SXSW last year; and it’s intriguing that it was produced by Spike Lee’s 40 Acres And A Mule Filmworks.
The details: Colombian up-and-comer Ciro Guerra (The Wind Journeys) presents a black-and-white diptych inspired by the writings of the early 20th-century German ethnologist Theodor Koch-Grunberg and the American botanist and psychedelic researcher Richard Evans Schultes, both of whom spent time in the Amazon. Set in 1909 and 1940, Embrace Of The Serpent centers on a shaman named Karamakate—played by Nilbio Torres as a young man and by Antonio Bolívar in middle age—as he accompanies Koch-Grunberg (Borgman’s Jan Bijvoet) and later Schultes (Brionne Davis) as they search for a sacred plant in the rainforest.
See it to celebrate: Digital Learning Day (2/17), for those thankful that learning no longer involves traveling into unknown wildernesses or listening to tribal elders, but can instead be done through the same device you use to watch TV and ignore emails.
Worth your day off? Met with praise on the festival circuit, Embrace Of The Serpent won the top prize at Directors’ Fortnight and recently became the first Colombian film to be nominated for an Oscar. What we’re saying is people like it.
The details: Production designer Robert Eggers’ feature directorial debut has been steadily building buzz since debuting at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, garnering praise for its immersive world-building and intensely creepy atmosphere. Newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Thomasin, the eldest daughter of a devoutly religious family living on the edge of the wilderness in 1630s New England. After the family’s youngest child, a newborn boy, disappears, eerie omens and strange coincidences tear Thomasin’s family apart as her mother becomes convinced that a witch took her son.
See it to celebrate: The 324th anniversary of the Salem Witch Trials, which began in February of 1692. Historians now attribute the accusations of witchcraft that led to the trials—and subsequent executions—to mass hysteria and hallucinogenic mold. But The Witch might change your mind about that.
Worth your day off? Regardless of your interpretation of the film’s divisive ending, The Witch is undeniably one of the more original and beautifully made horror films to hit theaters in recent years.
The details: Kevin Reynolds, the director of Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and Waterworld, puts his personal touch (minus Kevin Costner and a whole lot of money) on the story of the Resurrection. When the body of a recently crucified Jewish rabble-rouser disappears from his tomb, a couple of Roman soldiers (Joseph Fiennes and Tom Felton, representing two generations of the villainous dreamboat type) are tasked with finding out what happened. Based on the trailer, the answer appears to involve unconvincing digital effects, a surprising amount of sword fighting, and the color palette of Spartacus: Blood And Sand.
See it to celebrate: The Feast Day Of St. Barbatus Of Benvento (2/19), because if you’re going to commemorate the life of a seventh-century Italian bishop best known for melting down a golden viper idol and making it into a cup, then you can probably sit through an entire movie about a character New Testament adaptations usually credit as “Roman Centurion.”
Worth your day off? Reynolds’ best-known movies were mildly redeemed by their scene-stealing villains, but seeing as Dennis Hopper and Alan Rickman are no longer with us, and Guy Pearce would probably rather be in something good, the answer is no.
The details: The story of track and field great Jesse Owens (Stephan James), whose historic success at the 1936 Summer Olympics was popularly seen as humiliating for Nazi Germany. Given the double-meaning title and the emphasis of lines like “People are counting on you to get on over there to Berlin and beat those Nazis” in the trailer, potential viewers shouldn’t expect much subtlety in this sports biopic. Filling the “Harrison Ford in 42” role, Jason Sudeikis adopts a faint drawl to play Owens’ coach, Larry Snyder; meanwhile, Black Book’s Carice Van Houten plays Leni Reifenstahl.
See it to celebrate: Lee Marvin’s Birthday (2/19), because if there’s anything the iconic tough-guy character actor and real-life World War II veteran loved, it was kicking Axis ass.
Worth your day off? Director Stephen Hopkins—known for such ’90s time capsules as Predator 2, Judgment Night, and Lost In Space—hasn’t directed a theatrical feature in a while, so there’s a good chance that the movie will play like a throwback to an earlier era’s idea of an unpretentious crowd-pleaser. So maybe?
The details: Anarchy and order go at it again in the latest ultra-violent drama from Aussie director John Hillcoat (The Proposition, Lawless), who this time pits an honest cop (Casey Affleck) against the bank robbers that have seduced his corrupt partner (Anthony Mackie). The sprawling ensemble includes Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Teresa Palmer, Michael Kenneth Williams, The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, and future DC superheroine Gal Gadot.
See it to celebrate: National Pistol Patent Day (2/25), because holy hell, there are a lot of guns in this movie.
Worth your day off? Probably. Hillcoat isn’t infallible, but there’s a definite Michael Mann vibe to the footage that’s out there. And it’s hard to argue with that cast.
The details: Arriving somewhat late to the sword/sandal/fantasy party, and somewhat late to his follow-up to Knowing, director Alex Proyas goes big with the expensive-looking story of a mortal warrior (Brenton Thwaites) and Egyptian god (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) uniting to save Egypt from another, less pleasant god (Gerard Butler, probably infuriating the producers of Immortals and 300: Rise Of An Empire by turning up here).
See it to celebrate: Tell A Fairy Tale Day (2/26), as you let Proyas and Lionsgate spin you a fantastical yarn about how a bunch of ancient Egyptians all almost all look like white Europeans. There’s a bonus fairy tale in the preemptive apology the filmmakers have already issued.
Worth your day off? A new Alex Proyas film is rare enough to celebrate; a really good one is rarer still. Knowing came closer than I, Robot, but nothing he’s done since Dark City has worked nearly that well. Still, he knows how to deliver the requisite visual splendor.
The details: Dexter Fletcher (Sunshine On Leith) returns to direct another feel-good film, this one about an awkward young Brit hoping to be the first of his country to enter the winter Olympics as a ski jumper. Kingsmen: The Secret Service star Taron Egerton joins Hugh Jackman in a quest to avoid the typical underdog sports-film clichés—or perhaps lean into them, as the trailer suggests.
See it to celebrate: The anniversary of the 1988 Winter Olympics, which also inspired a film made about an unexpected competitor.
Worth your day off? If you have a fondness for emotional button-pushing of the sports variety, this looks like it’s practically going to use cheat codes to hit them.
The details: In his ongoing effort to make up for all that time he wasn’t shooting movies (a.k.a. the 1980s), Terrence Malick continues to expedite his historically glacial filmmaking process. Hitting theaters about a year after premiering at Berlin, Knight Of Cups applies the director’s poetically elliptical touch to La La Land, as a screenwriter (Christian Bale) indulges in the excesses of Hollywood while grieving over his dead brother. The enormous cast includes Cate Blanchett, Antonio Banderas, Natalie Portman, Jason Clarke, Freida Pinto, and many more—though, this being a Malick movie, can any of those people be sure that their parts haven’t been cut over the last year?
See it to celebrate: The Obama-recognized Save Your Vision Month, because just about the best case anyone could make for functional eyesight is the ability to take in the visual wonders of a Terrence Malick movie.
Worth your day off? Reviews from Berlin were mixed, with some claiming that it brings the filmmaker much closer to self-parody than the divisive To The Wonder did. But let’s be honest, a new Malick project is always worth your day off. And hey, if you don’t like it, he’s supposedly got two more in the can for 2016. Who does the guy think he is, Takashi Miike?
The details: To sequelize the Die Hard-like Olympus Has Fallen, in which a Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) rescued the president (Aaron Eckhart) from a White House attack, London Has Fallen takes a more Die Hard With A Vengeance approach, sending Butler all around London in the wake of another attack on world leaders—a location chosen presumably in part because no one there will question Butler’s masticating version of an American accent.
See it to celebrate: Old Inauguration Day (3/4), because just as action movies from the olden days used to include the president (and rip off Die Hard) as a matter of course, the real-life president used to swear in on March 4. (A date that also functions as a command!)
Worth your day off? The atrocious original seemed to get some minimal credibility for following a particularly crummy Die Hard sequel (A Good Day To Die Hard) and preceding a surprisingly underseen Die Hard rip-off with a similar premise (White House Down). London Has Fallen being the only major Die Hard knockoff of spring 2016 will probably not make it any better.
The details: A bunny cop (Ginnifer Goodwin) teams up with a fox con artist (Jason Bateman) to solve a missing-persons case. Those aren’t noir slang terms; this is a new Disney cartoon about the diverse animal population of the titular city.
See it to celebrate: If Pets Had Thumbs Day (3/3), which invites revelers to speculate about what animals would be like if they were slightly more human. Lighthearted speculation is all this movie seems to require, though that didn’t stop Disney from releasing a baffling first trailer that felt the need to explain to children and adults alike that in the world of this animated movie, animals can talk and wear clothes.
Worth your day off? Sure, and maybe pull the kids out of school! Disney’s non-Pixar animation division has been on a hot streak for a while now, and directors Rich Moore and Byron Howard have credits on Wreck-It Ralph, Lilo & Stitch, The Simpsons, and Futurama between them.
The details: Tina Fey plays real-life war correspondent Kim Barker, who romances a Scottish journalist (Martin Freeman) and pals around with another American reporter (Margot Robbie), all while bringing a familiar strain of Liz Lemon zaniness to the Middle East. Crazy, Stupid, Love directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa helmed this apparent comedy, based on Barker’s memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days In Afghanistan And Pakistan.
See it to celebrate: Leap Day (2/29), of course! But will Leap Day Williams count the tears of onscreen children as fair trade for a box of Goobers?
Worth your day off? It could go either way. Fey is almost always funny, and we’re intrigued by her working with the men responsible for the criminally underrated I Love You Philip Morris. But did this material really call for the broad comic touch of SNL honcho Lorne Michaels, who produced? Plus, the whole thing looks just a little bit too much like Our Brand Is Crisis, supporting role for Billy Bob Thornton and all.
The details: Atom Egoyan has been on a dismal streak in recent years—few felt that Devil’s Knot added anything of substance to the saga of the West Memphis Three, and The Captive was almost universally ridiculed. Can he redeem himself with the emotionally fraught story of a dementia-addled Holocaust survivor (Christopher Plummer) attempting to track down the Nazi guard who tormented him?
See it to celebrate: A late Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia Care Staff Education Week (2/14–2/21), which was apparently ignored by the characters who were ostensibly in charge of supervising Plummer’s Nazi hunter. If you can find a local seminar entitled How Not To Let A Confused Octogenarian Wander Out Of Your Facility, or Hey, Maybe Don’t Sell Guns To People With Neurological Damage, all the better.
Worth your day off? That depends. When Remember premiered at the Venice Film Festival last fall, reviews were decidedly mixed, and it does fail utterly as the prestige drama it’s clearly trying to be. As an exploitation picture, however, it packs a genuine wallop, with Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris making an especially strong impression as the adult son of a possible candidate for the erstwhile Nazi in question.
The details: The latest in let’s-slow-down-a-children’s-song horror, The Other Side Of The Door features The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies as a grieving mother who tries to communicate with her dead child, only to trigger an explosion of horror movie clichés all over the place. Will there be jump scares? There will be. Will something evil slow-motion crawl across the floor? It will. Will household items move of their own accord? Do you even have to ask?
See it to celebrate: National Alfred Hitchcock Day (3/12), thereby giving you enough time to hear whether it’s way worse than a Hitchcock movie or way way worse than a Hitchcock movie.
Worth your day off? There’s nothing to suggest that a combination of past horror tropes can’t be refashioned into something terrifying, but it doesn’t exactly have the odds in its favor.
The details: Another year, another fresh-faced bestseller adaptation from indie-rock-soundtrack romance specialists Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns). This time around, they’re tackling Jojo Moyes’ tearjerker Me Before You, about a British twentysomething (Emilia Clarke) who gets a job looking after a handsome, super-rich, worldly quadriplegic (Sam Claflin), who is angry and super-depressed, but in a cool, enlightening way. Originally slated for last August, the movie also features Clarke’s Game Of Thrones co-star Charles Dance and former Neville Longbottom Matthew Lewis. (It seems director Thea Sharrock—best known outside theater circles for her revival of Equus, which starred Daniel Radcliffe—has a thing for Harry Potter actors.)
See it to celebrate: National Proofreading Day (3/8), in honor of every copy editor who reads the title and is able to suppress their twitch reflex by reminding themselves that at least it’s not called I Before You.
Worth your day off? Neustradter-Weber scripts can work with the sensibility of a confident director. (See: James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now). But while Sharrock is a veteran of the London stage, her most notable screen credits are two episodes of Call The Midwife.
The details: For weeks, it appeared on release calendars as Valencia, and all anyone knew about this mystery property was that it was a sci-fi project from J.J. Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot. As it turns out, Abrams was pulling an Abrams and concealing the identity of what we now know is a “blood relative” to his 2008 monster movie, Cloverfield. Plot secrets are on similarly tight lockdown, but this quasi-sequel apparently ditches the found-footage angle of its predecessor, focusing on a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) being held captive in an underground bunker by a man (John Goodman) who claims to have rescued her from nuclear fallout.
See it to celebrate: The Ides Of March (3/15), because there’s plenty for the characters to beware—at least as far anyone can tell from the ominous, typically cryptic first teaser.
Worth your day off? As much as we hate rewarding Abrams’ spoiler-phobic buzz building strategy, it’s hard not to be intrigued by 10 Cloverfield Lane, especially as the mogul seems to be taking an anthology-like approach to franchise building, rather than simply churning out the obvious sequel. Plus, the screenplay was co-written by Damien Chazelle, of Whiplash fame.
The details: Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, Alps) makes singularly weird movies, and The Lobster is no exception. Set in an alternate world where single people must find a romantic partner or be turned into an animal of their choice, the film stars Colin Farrell as a meek divorcé who seems to be en route to life as a crustacean until he meets a rebel (Rachel Weisz) with whom he forms a forbidden bond.
See it to celebrate: National Lobster Newberg Day (3/25), though anyone who’s read David Foster Wallace’s essay “Consider The Lobster” (which questions the ethics of boiling the creatures alive) will now also have to consider the possibility that their dinner might be some poor soul who couldn’t get a date. Bonus: Lobster Newberg is an anagram for Lobster Wenberg (look it up!), and Yorgos Lanthimos is an anagram for “To Holy Organisms” (as well as “Lo, Mr. Soothsayer” and “Lots Horny Amigos”).
Worth your day off? The Lobster is sure to be one of the year’s arthouse conversation pieces, and it finds Lanthimos back in sharply absurdist form after the minor disappointment that was Alps. It also gives Farrell, who put on considerable weight for the role, an opportunity to play memorably against type, opposite a superb cast that also includes Olivia Colman, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, and Ben Whishaw.
The details: Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest kooky character is Norman “Nobby” Grimsby, a rabid, thuggish soccer fan who finds out that his long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) is one of the U.K.’s most lethal secret agents. Thrown together, the two Grimsbys embark on a violent international adventure, in a parody of two-fisted action movies and British working-class life, directed by Now You See Me’s Louis Leterrier.
See it to celebrate: Didier Drogba’s birthday (3/11)—to pay your proper respects to an accomplished footballer who’d probably be the target of racist insults from Nobby.
Worth your day off? Highly unlikely. The trailer looks godawful and the film’s release date has been bumped back multiple times. Plus, it’s hard to remember the last time a new Sacha Baron Cohen project was what anyone would call “much-anticipated.”
The details: A British military commander (Helen Mirren) trying to stop a suicide bomb attack in Nairobi keeps threatening to shrug off procedural stipulations in Gavin Hood’s dialogue-heavy thriller, which premiered last fall at Toronto. Juggling between locations in the U.K., the U.S., and Africa, Eye In The Sky examines the complications of drone-based warfare, as the attempts to launch targeted missile attacks bump up against the possibility of human collateral damage—embodied in the form of a little girl obliviously selling bread within the limits of the blast radius.
See it to celebrate: National Ethics Month, which is perfect for a movie whose ideologically clashing characters are continually trying to justify the moral and practical consequences of their actions, often by yelling over each other.
Worth your day off? The blackly comic aspects of Eye In The Sky have been compared to Dr. Strangelove, but the real reason to see this fascinating but flawed movie is that it’s now one of Alan Rickman’s final screen appearances—and he is of course excellent as a man who keeps finding his hands tied by the chain of command.
The details: Sally Field was the toast of SXSW last year for her performance in this indie comedy, co-written and directed by The State and Wet Hot American Summer’s Michael Showalter. The former flying nun plays an office-worker whose quiet single life is upended when she falls in love with a much younger colleague, played by Max Greenfield (New Girl). The film was adapted from a short by Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same producer Laura Terruso, who co-wrote the new script.
See it to celebrate: Wellderly Week (3/21-3/27). And if you want to have a really weird time, take your grandma with you.
Worth your day off? Hard to say. Showalter previously wrote and directed 2005’s The Baxter, a slight, odd romantic comedy that’s developed a minor cult following. This new one seems likely to connect with an equally small-but-fervent audience.
The details: Reminiscent of Patton Oswalt’s bit about imagining George Lucas pitching the prequels, this is the film that asks, “Hey, do you love Jesus? Well, how about a couple hours of him as a little kid?!” Based on the novel by Anne Rice and co-starring Sean Bean as the soldier tasked with hunting down the son of God, The Young Messiah tracks Mary’s immaculate conception, on through to whatever youthful age Jesus was when he ran around doing Terrence Malick-like things. And since he’s a little white kid in this one, it’s truly miraculous.
See it to celebrate: Easter, a-no a-duh.
Worth your day off? Are you a friend or family member of Sean Bean? No? Then probably not.
The details: James Franco goes easy on himself, merely producing and starring in the film version of Stephen Elliott’s memoir/true-crime hybrid—though he presumably helped recruit writer-director Pamela Romanowsky when they met through Franco’s NYU adventures. Franco plays Elliott, a writer up against a deadline who wrestles with both a true-crime subject and conflicting accounts of his own past. Basically, it’s a movie about how rough it is to have a book deal.
See it to celebrate: National Cleaning Week (3/28-4/3), honoring one of many activities writers take up in order to put off the actual writing process (not to mention a pretty satisfying activity when you’re on addies).
Worth your day off? Sadly, no. The movie’s Elliott comes across as ridiculously self-mythologizing, and in a memoir-worthy twist, it’s self-mythology the real-life Elliott mostly finds ridiculous, too. The movie might provide momentary distraction, but you’ll wish you spent that time housecleaning (or working on your own writing) instead.
The details: The year is 2016, a dystopian future where a college undergrad is able to create a bestseller by distilling YA tropes and combining them with random five-dollar words, and every trilogy is actually four films. Veronica Roth’s low-cost Hunger Games alternative Divergent—set in a post-apocalyptic version of the parts of Chicago out-of-towners see on a day trip—begins its two-part conclusion with Allegiant, a movie you definitely don’t care about if you haven’t read the books, haven’t seen the two other movies, and aren’t already committed to seeing a fourth.
See it to celebrate: International Astrology Day (3/20), in honor of the randomly determined system of ascribed personality traits that provides the Divergent series (which would rather be called The Divergent Series) with most of its ideas and internal conflict.
Worth your day off? Only if your idea of a good time is an expensive, boring waste of talented young actors. (In which case: Where were you on Fantastic Four’s opening weekend?)
The details: Writers Irena Brignull and Bob Persichetti and director Mark Osborne (the latter of whom made the beautiful stop-motion animated cartoon “More” back in the 1990s) use a mix of styles and a handful of original new characters to adapt Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s beloved novella, about a pilot who encounters a wise young interplanetary traveler. This version surrounds the novella’s plot—itself a story-within-a-story—with yet another narrative, about a young girl who meets the now-elderly aviator. Jeff Bridges, Albert Brooks, Paul Rudd, Rachel McAdams, Ricky Gervais, Paul Giamatti, and Benicio Del Toro provide the voices.
See it to celebrate: L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday (3/13), because he knew all about another “little prince,” named Xenu.
Worth your day off? Probably, yeah. The book’s a minor masterpiece, the director’s responsible for one of the greatest animated shorts of all time, the voice cast is on point, and early reviews (from last year’s European, South American, and Asian runs) have been strong. The big potential stumbling-block is the framing device. Here’s hoping that Osborne and company are aware that they are responsible forever for what they have tamed.
The details: Writer-director Jeff Nichols re-teams with his Shotgun Stories/Take Shelter star Michael Shannon for what’s being described as a science-fiction chase picture, about a dad trying to keep his super-powered son safe from both the government and a religious cult. Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, and Sam Shepard play supporting roles, in a film that means to recall the likes of Close Encounters, E.T., and Starman, where the mundane and the fantastical co-existed comfortably.
See it to celebrate: Single Parents Day (3/21), because the real American heroes are the moms and dads who take time off from work to comfort sick kids, go to their soccer games, and protect them from ill-intentioned spiritual gurus.
Worth your day off? Yep. It’s mildly concerning that Midnight Special’s release date was bumped back from last fall to this spring, and that it hasn’t played any festivals (although it’s due to be at Berlin and SXSW). But Nichols has yet to make a bad movie, and with 2012’s Mud, he showed he could work with kids and deliver something broadly accessible.
The details: Probably not too many Americans have seen Arnaud Desplechin’s 1996 epic My Sex Life… Or How I Got Into An Argument—the movie that made Mathieu Amalric, playing Desplechin’s alter ego Paul Dedalus, a star in France (leading to roles in Hollywood films like Munich and Quantum Of Solace). Nonetheless, Desplechin has now made a sequel/prequel that checks in with Paul both today and during his adolescence in the ’80s.
See it to celebrate: Old Stuff Day (3/2), a holiday that’s actually about nostalgia and fawning over the past. Although, come to think of it, aren’t most holidays about that?
Worth your day off? Desplechin’s films (which also include Kings & Queen and A Christmas Tale) are almost always must-sees for arthouse aficionados. My Golden Days is arguably even better than My Sex Life (in part because it’s not three hours long), and works beautifully even for those who haven’t seen the earlier film; it’s an impressionistic portrait of youthful passion as filtered through a haze of regret.
The details: The 33 director Patricia Riggen and Trouble With The Curve writer Randy Brown get in on that sweet faith-based entertainment money in this T.D. Jakes-approved adaptation of a Heaven Is For Real-esque “true story” about a little girl who fell out of a tree, visited Heaven, and was thereupon cured of her digestive disorders. Jennifer Garner, Queen Latifah, and John Carroll Lynch star, while producer Joe Roth—the former studio head behind the whole “fairy tale origin story” thing—is able to rest a little easier, knowing that he’s finally found an exploitation genre that would make his late father-in-law, Samuel Z. Arkoff, proud.
See it to celebrate: National Optimism Month, in honor of your unwavering belief that a multimedia property that presents something that a child said they saw while unconscious as fact is based on genuine belief, and isn’t another cash-grab aimed a niche audience who will buy literally anything as long as it tells them what they want to hear.
Worth your day off? Honestly, you’d be better off going to church, provided there aren’t any huge projection screens or promises of healing and material gain involved. You know, like a place where people pray without expecting anything.
The details: Trey Edward Shults expands his own acclaimed short film to feature-length, ramping up the intensity as he films the awkward Thanksgiving reunion between a difficult older woman and the family who’s not that happy to see her. Krisha is a work of fiction—compared by some critics to the psychodramas of John Cassavetes—but the cast, including star Krisha Fairchild, is mostly made up of Shults’ kin.
See it to celebrate: Thanksgiving (11/24)… and preferably without your relatives.
Worth your day off? Definitely. Krisha was one of the buzz films at SWSW last spring, and then played at Cannes, before having a nice run on the regional festival circuit. Shults is being called one of the brightest new talents in American independent cinema.
The details: The neck-snapping Last Son Of Krypton goes mano a mano with a probably gun-toting Dark Knight in a battle that adolescents of all ages have been agreeing for decades makes no sense: Superman is basically a God, but what if Batman had a Kryptonite suit, plus he is a really smart detective, you know? Man Of Steel director Zack Snyder returns to stage the dimly lit slow-motion smackdowns, as well as to usher these flagship characters into the MCU-style mega-franchise that DC so desperately desires. (The film also includes appearances by Gal Gadot’s lasso-twirling Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa’s fish prince, Aquaman.)
See it to celebrate: Legal Assistants Day (3/26), in honor of both that trial-worthy title and Metropolis’ true superheroes, the law-school interns still filing paperwork two years after the city-destroying climax of Man Of Steel.
Worth your day off? Only if you’re really amped to hear Ben Affleck, in his best big-boy voice, ask the CGI likeness of Henry Cavill if he bleeds. Or maybe to see if Jesse Eisenberg can out-ham Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey.
The details: Firmly establishing My Big Fat Greek Wedding as a Jurassic Park or Mad Max-style time-lapse franchise, the 14-years-later sequel to the semi-inexplicable Nia Vardalos hit from 2002 finds Toula (Vardalos) and husband Ian (John Corbett) dealing with their teenage daughter, and also planning another, seemingly far less urgent wedding with Toula’s wacky Greek family.
See it to celebrate: Greek Independence Day (3/25), which is not actually a holiday based on how the original My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one of the most successful independent films of all time, but close enough.
Worth your day off? It’s probably more time-efficient than attending an actual wedding on a holiday, but really, who wants to spend even a couple hours with someone else’s loud, meddlesome extended family?
The details: That lanky son-of-a-bitch Tom Hiddleston dons a cowboy hat to help writer-director Marc Abraham tell the story of hard-boozin’, pill-poppin’, young-dyin’ country-and-western superstar Hank Williams, from his early days on Louisiana radio to his conquering of Nashville. Elizabeth Olsen plays Audrey Williams, Hank’s equally out-of-control wife, who’s constantly trying to Lucy Ricardo her way into the act.
See it to celebrate: Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day (3/27), in honor of the man who co-wrote “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy”—though not, sorry to say, “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through The Goalposts Of Life.”
Worth your day off? No. The film looks and sounds great, and both Hiddleston and Olsen are terrific, but this is another one of those musical biopics that spends so much time wallowing in its subject’s misery that after a while it’s hard not to wonder whether Abraham even likes Hank Williams.
The details: One of the victims of the Relativity Media bankruptcy from last year, this Kate Beckinsale-starring horror film is finally getting a release after being postponed due to the studio’s money woes. Details are light, save for a one-line description: “A mother and her young son release unimaginable horrors from the attic of their rural dream home.” It’s directed by D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four), but it features a script from Wentworth Miller, who wrote Stoker and is The Flash’s most delightful scenery chewer.
See it to celebrate: Make Up Your Own Holiday Day (3/26), which is clearly perfect for a chance to celebrate our just-decided “Release Of Long-Delayed Horror Movie Day.”
Worth your day off? We’re always rooting for Captain Cold.
The details: God is back, baby, and while he may have lost Kevin Sorbo, he’s converted a teenage witch (Melissa Joan Hart) and the Devil himself (Ray Wise) for this sequel to the 2014 surprise hit. Hart starts as a teacher who is fired for daring to mention the existence of Jesus in response to a student’s question, with Wise leading the torch-wielding crowd of ACLU bullies determined to martyr her for her beliefs. Good thing there are so many highly flammable straw men lying around.
See it to celebrate: National Atheist Day (4/1), because if Ray Wise is against God, then we are too.
Worth your day off? If the Mormons who keep ringing your doorbell while you’re trying to commit the sins of sloth and gluttony haven’t converted you yet, then neither will this movie. But it could be good for a few laughs.
The details: VHS is dead and buried, and so is Samara, the little girl who lived inside a cursed videocassette in The Ring. But the ghost in the machine returns in this not-quite-hotly-anticipated second sequel, which stars Johnny Galecki and boasts an executive producer credit from Guillermo Del Toro. No trailer yet, but it’s a good bet that Rings will switch up the format for something more contemporary. Here’s hoping for some sort of haunted Snapchat situation.
See it to celebrate: National Reconciliation Day (4/2). Or don’t, because as we learned in The Ring, “You’re not supposed to help her.”
Worth your day off? Maybe last decade. Isn’t it time we let this franchise rest in peace?
The details: Don Cheadle turned to crowdfunding to help finance his feature-directing debut: a film about the late jazz genius Miles Davis, using a 1970s Rolling Stone interview as the jumping-off point for a larger look at the man’s life and art. Cheadle also plays Davis, while Ewan McGregor is the reporter who gets drawn into one of the trumpeter’s bizarre daily adventures.
See it to celebrate: Jazz Appreciation Month or Mylesday (4/1, in honor of Irish writer Flann O’Brien), depending on whether you’re really into post-bop or you just like the name “Miles.”
Worth your day off? When Miles Ahead debuted at the New York Film Festival last fall, early reviews dubbed it a disappointment. But Cheadle’s such a national treasure that if feels wrong not to support this pet project anyway.
The details: Director Greg Mottola (Adventureland, Superbad) tries his hand at the secret-agent game, as this comedy involves a suburban couple getting caught up in international espionage after discovering their next-door neighbors are government spies. The cast includes Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, and unofficial starlet-of-the-season Gal Gadot. Here’s hoping the release date isn’t an indicator of quality.
See it to celebrate: April Fool’s Day, obviously—what else would be the proper day to reveal yourself to your neighbors as a spy? “Ta-da! Our friendship is a sham! Fooled you!”
Worth your day off? Mottola’s track record is solid, so we’re trusting him on this one. Plus, with Mad Men gone, we miss spending non-podcast time with Jon Hamm.
The details: Melissa McCarthy re-teams with her Tammy director (and real-life husband) Ben Falcone for a movie based on her Groundlings character Michelle Darnell, a wealthy businesswoman rebuilding her life following a prison sentence for insider trading.
See it to celebrate: Tax Day (4/18), as you mull whether to protect your personal fortune by committing tax fraud.
Worth your day off? Tammy couldn’t match McCarthy’s work with Paul Feig, but maybe the framework of a broad comedy (rather than a bizarre hybrid of character study and sitcom) will better play to McCarthy’s considerable strengths, including her underrated range. (Quick reminder here that her characters in Spy, The Heat, and Bridesmaids are not actually much alike.)
The details: Norwegian director Joachim Trier (Oslo, August 31st) makes his English-language debut with a drama about a suburban New York family trying to move on after the suicide of mom Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), an acclaimed photographer. Seemingly influenced by the eclectic ensemble films of French director Arnaud Desplechin, Trier’s overtly novelistic portrait of three men stalling for time—dad Gene (Gabrielle Byrne) and sons Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) and Conrad (Devin Druid)—employs multiple narrators, abrupt changes in perspective and style, and skips in time to explore different facets of a story in which not much seems to be happening on the surface.
See it to celebrate: Julian Lennon’s birthday (4/8), in solidarity with anyone who’s ever tried to get out of the shadow of a famous, accomplished, sometimes difficult and emotionally absent parent.
Worth your day off? Though it got a lukewarm reception at Cannes, Louder Than Bombs was one of our favorite films at last year’s festival. Superbly acted, this is one of those sensitive, ambitious, incompletely resolved American dramas that American indie filmmakers rarely get around to making.
The details: For those who can’t wait to see the kid from Room get into even more peril, here comes Before I Wake, in which Jacob Tremblay plays a special tyke whose dreams and nightmares become real. Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane are the adopted parents coping with these very dangerous night terrors in the latest from Oculus writer-director Mike Flanagan.
See it to celebrate: The National Dream Hotline (4/29-5/1), an annual event in which faculty and students of the School Of Metaphysics spend a whole weekend fielding calls about dreams and their meaning. Maybe the film will inspire nightmares that you can have interpreted!
Worth your day off? The film was delayed for almost a year, but that had more to do with its distributor, Relativity, filing for bankruptcy. While horror is often a toss-up, Oculus showed promise, and so does this new premise.
The details: The latest from Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) is a post-recession American Beauty, right down to the oldies soundtrack, overbearing dad with a secret (Chris Cooper, again), and the well-to-do white-collar narrator who takes a working-class job to show how alienated he’s become. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Davis, a Wall Street broker who starts hanging out with teenage outcasts and symbolically demolishing houses after his wife is killed in a car accident; Naomi Watts plays Karen, the customer service rep who befriends him after a hospital vending machine eats his $1.25.
See it to celebrate: International Customer Loyalty Month, in honor of Karen’s willingness to read and answer every one of Davis’ rambling, confessional complaint letters. That’s the kind of service that gets a customer to stick with one vending machine brand for life.
Worth your day off? Do you like American Beauty, but wish it were quirkier and more blatant in its symbolism, and also didn’t have anything in the way of a narrative momentum or climax?
The details: In olden times, Walt Disney Studios would re-release its animated classics every seven years to enchant a new generation of children. These days, the craze is for live-action remakes, so The Jungle Book becomes the latest Disney favorite to make the transition from pen-and-ink to flesh-and-blood—with a whole lot of CGI to help bridge the gaps. Eclectic blockbuster-director-for-hire Jon Favreau leads the expedition into Rudyard Kipling’s exotic animal kingdom, where he’ll encounter the voices of Bill Murray (as Baloo), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), and Christopher Walken (King Louie). Scarlett Johansson voices Kaa, which means the character will likely be excluded from any Jungle Book playsets and T-shirts.
See it to celebrate: National Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week (4/10-4/16), for all the good work they do in keeping singing bears and mesmerizing pythons off our streets.
Worth your day off? When you go to zoos, do you wish all the animals had been sweetened in post-production? Then this Jungle Book could be for you. For the rest of us, the success or failure of this remake will have more to do with how much the voice-cast gets to bring their own personalities to the picture.
The details: The latest entry in Ice Cube’s Barbershop franchise is also a sort-of sequel to Beauty Shop, putting male and female hairdressers into the same Chicago storefront, where they help each other with romantic woes, economic adversity, and the struggles of raising kids in a violent neighborhood. Roll Bounce/The Best Man director Malcolm D. Lee takes the helm, working from a script by Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and Survivor’s Remorse/Misadventures Of An Awkward Black Girl writer Tracy Oliver. The cast is a roll call of some of the brightest comic actors working today, including Deon Cole, Anthony Anderson, Lamorne Morris, Regina Hall, and J.B. Smoove.
See it to celebrate: Hairstylist Appreciation Day (4/30), because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Barbershop franchise, it’s that the folks who cut your hair can mess you up if you cross them. Tip generously.
Worth your day off? It’s not inconceivable. Lee’s a good director, Barris and Oliver are funny writers, and the screen will be packed with some of the most likable actors around. If they can all minimize the plot and maximize the scenes of folks ripping on each other, The Next Cut could be a treat.
The details: Desperate for a gig, a hardcore band agrees to play a skinhead joint in the middle of nowhere, and ends up locked in a life-and-death struggle with the venue’s neo-Nazi proprietors (led by Patrick Stewart, in the most menacing cast-against-type performance since Albert Brooks in Drive). Green Room was a hit on the festival circuit last year, where it appealed to both fans of artfully made genre fare and those wondering if you could disembowel someone with a box cutter.
See it to celebrate: Record Store Day (4/16). Maybe distributor A24 will arrange some kind of exclusive reprinting of the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” which the characters bravely/stupidly cover for their white-supremacist audience.
Worth your day off? Absolutely. Jeremy Saulnier’s last film, Blue Ruin, was an idiosyncratic variation on the revenge thriller. If it can be believed, Green Room is even better—a terrifying pressure-cooker of a thriller, not for the faint of heart or queasy of stomach.
The details: Twenty-three years after Dazed And Confused, Richard Linklater graduates from high school to college and from the ’70s to the ’80s with this sort-of companion piece following a bunch of baseball-playing freshmen getting into presumably well-observed and smartly detailed campus antics.
See it to celebrate: National Hanging Out Day (4/19), which is technically about laundry but which might as well have been established in honor of Linklater’s movies, at least half of which prominently feature some form of that activity.
Worth your day off? Almost certainly. Hanging out with Linklater’s characters is usually rewarding, and another movie about young people offers the bonus opportunity to maybe witness the early work of tomorrow’s McConaugheys, Afflecks, and Jovoviches.
The details: Produced by current king of low-budget horror Jason Blum and distributed by the Weinsteins, this long-delayed 14th (!) installment in the haunted-house franchise finds a single mother (newly minted Oscar nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh) moving her family into the titular property. Things get spooky, but not before teenage daughter Bella Thorne can meet cute with classmate Thomas Mann, who provides the scoop on their cursed new digs.
See it to celebrate: National Decorating Month, because nothing chases away the bad spirits like a readjustment of your feng shui.
Worth your day off? There’s some genuinely creepy imagery in the first trailer. But the fact that this latest sequel has been retooled and pushed back several times doesn’t exactly bode well. And how many murdered families is it going to take for someone to demolish that damn house already?
The details: Don’t worry, they’re not rereleasing the David Duchovny “comedy” from 2001. This is a very, very different film from French director Lucile Hadzihalilovic, making her belated second feature over a decade after getting attention for her mysterious, sensual, disturbing debut, Innocence. Set in a strange seaside community in which all the adults are women and all the children are boys, Evolution promises more of the same, but this time with a sci-fi/horror approach reminiscent of David Cronenberg.
See it to celebrate: National Nurses Day (5/6). Did we mention that a creepy, decrepit hospital figures prominently in this movie? Or that all of the moms are also medical professionals? Or that human anatomy and reproduction here bear only a tangential resemblance to their form and function in the real world? Plus, some of the imagery is off-putting enough that viewers may require a nurse of their own.
Worth your day off? If you’re eager to see one of the most divisive movies on last fall’s festival circuit, yes. For every critic who was mesmerized, another found Evolution pointlessly cryptic; even the naysayers, however, must admit that Hadzihalilovic—like her longtime romantic partner, Gaspar Noé (Irreversible, Enter The Void)—makes audacious, visionary films that are impossible to forget.
The details: In what sounds like both a backstory-heavy prequel and a rejiggered sequel to Snow White And The Huntsman, the Ice Queen (Emily Blunt), sister of the previous movie’s MVP Wicked Witch (Charlize Theron), squares off against the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and his forbidden warrior-lady love (Jessica Chastain). Kristen Stewart is not returning, and original inexperienced feature director Rupert Sanders has been replaced by new inexperienced feature director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (an effects supervisor on the original), because apparently this series is a training ground for the unemployed directors of tomorrow.
See it to celebrate: Hug An Australian Day (4/26), which has become a far busier holiday since the advent of the Hemsworth clan. To get all of your Hemsworth-hugging done in one shot, try to find a Winter’s War screening where Chris, Liam, Luke, Thaddeus, and Binky Hemsworth are all attending together.
Worth your day off? It’s hard to argue with a big fantasy movie starring powerhouses Blunt, Chastain, and Theron—almost as easy it is to argue with the necessity of awarding the Huntsman his own backward-looking mythic origin story. Did the stars all sign on because the project is secretly awesome, or is this just everyone’s backup franchise?
The details: Italian director Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, Reality) adapts several fairy tales collected by 17th-century poet Giambattista Basile. With their penchant for the bizarre and grotesque—including, in one case, a pet flea the size of a horse—they make the Brothers Grimm look like the Brothers Gladd.
See it to celebrate: National Princess Week (4/24–4/30). Of the three stories, the most compelling involves a king who foolishly promises his daughter to anyone who can solve a seemingly impossible puzzle, then has to watch when an ogre gives the correct answer and carries her off. As the princess, newcomer Bebe Cave gives a delicate yet forceful performance that recalls the young Emma Thompson.
Worth your day off? Like most anthology films—even those in which all of the stories are directed by the same person, as they are here—Tale Of Tales is a mixed bag. It doesn’t help that Garrone has chosen to intercut them rather than tell them sequentially, in a way that diminishes the impact of each. Still, fans of the outré will probably want to give this a look. Everything involving the giant flea, at least, is a keeper.
The details: Lorene Scafaria writes the mother of all screenplays—or rather, about her mother for her screenplay—and directs this somewhat autobiographical tale of a Hollywood career woman (Rose Byrne) and her parent (Susan Sarandon) whose lives become more deeply intertwined after the death of their father and husband, respectively. It’s a feel-good movie that nonetheless maintains an honest indie vibe from the director of Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World.
See it to celebrate: The holiday that far and away best applies to the film, Parental Alienation Awareness Day (4/25).
Worth your day off? Early reviews are promising, and suggest Scafaria has made an open-hearted film worth seeing—especially if you plan to spend time with your parent(s).
The details: Opening with a recreation of the novel’s notorious opening sentence (“Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog…”), Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of High-Rise preserves the 1970s setting of J.G. Ballard’s cult favorite, envisioning its story of a residential tower collapsing into Mad Max-like anarchy as a fractured, occasionally impenetrable black comedy. Tom Hiddleston stars as a new move-in at a super-modern apartment building, leading a very game cast (which includes Jeremy Irons, Elisabeth Moss, and James Purefoy) who make the most of the super-arch dialogue (“She said your tenancy application was very Byronic”) while Wheatley piles on 1970s kitsch, psychotic violence, and unmotivated camera angles.
See it to celebrate: Arbor Day (4/29), because after a long day of planting trees and getting honked at by passing cars, there’s no better feel-good chaser than the sight of entitled people killing each other because the garbage chute is broken and they don’t want to go outside.
Worth your day off? Wheatley (Kill List, A Field In England) isn’t for every taste, but this ambitious, darkly funny sci-fi nightmare was one of our favorite films at last year’s Toronto Film Festival.
The details: Fresh off of their celebrated Comedy Central sketch show, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele bring their comedy partnership to the big screen in Keanu, about two stoners who pose as drug dealers in order to locate their missing cat. Keanu Reeves has yet to join up as the voice of his feline namesake, but Rob Huebel, Will Forte, and Method Man have, and they’re all game for silly wordplay and sillier wigs.
See it to celebrate: 4/20, dude. Yes, it’s nine days late, but that’s actually pretty appropriate. Sneak in some McDonald’s breakfast.
Worth your day off? If you requested time off for 4/20 and then accidentally scheduled it nine days late, you’ll probably think anything is funny. But with a script co-written by Peele and former Key And Peele and Community writer Alex Rubens, there’s hope for the rest of us, too.
The details: Perhaps the first film called Mother’s Day outside of the horror genre, master of a different sort of horror Garry Marshall revives his intersecting-superstar squish-com structure to celebrate moms everywhere, calling in favors to Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, and Kate Hudson in the process. Timothy Olyphant and Jason Sudeikis jump on as well, figuring it’s easier to just submit before Marshall gets around to making Hug An Australian Day.
See it to celebrate: Your mother’s actual birthday. It’s around then, right? If it sneaks up on you, what better way to admit your laziness than to bring her out to this probably quite lazy movie, optimistically released two whole weekends before the actual Mother’s Day holiday?
Worth your day off? Forget about your day off; think about your poor mom. Consider for a moment that she might have good enough taste to avoid what sounds suspiciously like a romantic comedy retirement home.
The details: Insomniac Games’ popular platformer makes the leap from Playstation to theaters. The film supposedly retells the sci-fi origin story of its title duo, a talking feline adventurer and his robot companion. In addition to several veterans of the game series, the voice cast includes Sylvester Stallone, Rosario Dawson, John Goodman, and Paul Giamatti.
See it to celebrate: Bugs Bunny Day (4/30), though based on the noisy and irreverent trailer, Ratchet has a pluckier, less cocksure vibe than everyone’s favorite wascally wabbit.
Worth your day off? Once and current Insomniac talent was intimately involved in the production, pitching in on everything from the animation to the character design to the story, so the diehard fans may get what they want out of it. On the other hand, watching these characters self-actualize in a family-friendly animated adventure may feel like getting stuck sitting through a feature-length cutscene—or worse, watching someone else play a talky video game for a couple hours.
The details: A lowlife (Vince Vaughn) goes on the run from various other lowlifes with his estranged daughter in tow, and secretly takes out a life insurance policy on himself, so she’ll be amply rewarded if he gets killed. The daughter is played by Hailee Steinfeld, because apparently when you need someone to play the estranged daughter of a man who believes he’s about to die, you call Hailee Steinfeld.
See it to celebrate: Vince Vaughn’s birthday (3/28), that sacred day that, frustratingly, hardly ever overlaps with the joyous theatrical run of a new Vince Vaughn movie. In fact, we have been blessed with this occasion only three times in the past century, when Old School, Starsky & Hutch, and Be Cool all stayed in theaters long enough to play on Vaughn’s birthday.
Worth your day off? The time off work Americans receive to celebrate the birth of Vince Vaughn should be marked by quiet reflection; time spent watching Vince Vaughn vehicles of the last decade has been more often marked by listless disappointment. Maybe just throw on something Vaughn made before 2006 instead.