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.
Famed Phantom Thread skeptic Jennifer Lawrence reunites with director Francis Lawrence—no relation, beyond whatever kinship making Hunger Games movies together creates—for this action thriller about a top-secret Russian intelligence organization (timely!) that molds young minds and svelte bodies into seductive assassins. J-Law plays Dominika, a former ballerina who heads to “Sparrow School” after losing her livelihood to injury. Joel Edgerton is her C.I.A. target.
Will it be worth your time? What looks like a faintly sleazy, off-brand version of that Black Widow movie Marvel refuses to make is actually a fairly adult-oriented adaptation of a novel by a former CIA officer. In truth, it could probably stand to be a little pulpier; the Lawrences stop short of delivering any big thrills. Still, there’s fun to be had in watching the one-time Katniss Everdeen modulate her action-star charisma to a cooler shade of steeliness.
Pushed back from its original November release date, Eli Roth’s Death Wish couldn’t be arriving at a more inopportune cultural moment. Which is to say, now may not be the best time for a jacked-up vigilante fantasy about an ordinary dude taking justice into his own firearm-toting hands. Not that there’s necessarily any good time to revive this proudly fascist franchise, even with a squinty, smirking Bruce Willis taking over for Charles Bronson as the middle-aged civilian determined to hunt down and blow away the street thugs who hurt his family.
Will it be worth your time? Though the trailers suggest that the remake may mitigate at least one offensive element of the original, putting fewer people of color in the angry white dude’s crosshairs, “Death Wish by the writer-director of Hostel” still sounds like a recipe for tone-deaf tastelessness. Will Roth complete the trolling trilogy he started with his last two movies, the anti-SJW cannibal throwback The Green Inferno and the sexual entrapment thriller Knock Knock? Either way, the multiplex will be a safe space for NRA members this weekend.
No, it’s not a horror movie—unless poverty, addiction, and codependent relationships qualify as horror. Directed by first-timer Ashley McKenzie, this naturalistic, ultra-low-budget Canadian indie follows a couple of recovering trailer-park junkies in Nova Scotia as they struggle to get by, earning a few bucks here and there by mowing lawns in between trips to the local methadone clinic.
Will it be worth your time? Junkie love stories are a dime bag a dozen. But while Werewolf doesn’t transcend all of the tropes of that genre, it does serve as an arresting showcase for McKenzie, who proves with her debut that she has the chops to punch up familiar material—and maybe make something truly remarkable down the line.
The War Of 1812 is an unlikely vehicle for a horror-action hybrid, but director Ted Geoghegan makes it work in Mohawk. Starring Hemlock Grove’s Kaniehtiio Horn—a First Nations Mohawk who grew up on the Kahnawake Reserve—as a Mohawk woman driven to violence by soldiers’ assault on her family and her ancestral home in early 19th-century New York, the film engages with the horrors of American history in an uncommonly blunt way, using them to tell a tale of supernaturally tinged revenge.
Will it be worth your time? Geoghegan’s debut We Are Still Here was pure horror, but Mohawk is difficult to put into one particular genre box. It’s a provocative film in general, one that’s potent enough in its themes and brutal enough in its violence that genre fans looking for something different will be able to easily overlook its budgetary limitations.
Madeleine L’Engle’s classic science fantasy novel finally gets the big-screen treatment. (Let’s all just agree to ignore that wretched 2003 TV-movie version.) The story follows outcast teen Meg Murry (Storm Reid), who gets transported across space, along with her younger brother Charles Wallace and schoolmate Calvin, thanks to the intervention of three supernatural women, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling). The Ws task the kids with rescuing Meg’s scientist father (Chris Pine) from the clutches of a malevolent being (Michael Peña) serving the forces of evil.
Will it be worth your time? The film marks the first foray into CGI-heavy blockbusters for Ava DuVernay, who has garnered widespread acclaim for both her historical drama (Selma) and documentary work (13th). While it’s entirely possibly the film could be a creative misfire, it’s got one hell of a trailer, and along with DuVernay’s proven creative chops, features an adapted screenplay from Frozen writer-director Jennifer Lee.
Ten years after writer-director Bryan Bertino’s surprise horror hit The Strangers scared the shit out of audiences worldwide, a sequel has finally arrived, with Bertino replaced by veteran horror director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) after a lengthy, troubled production. Like the original, Prey At Night strands characters a remote area, where they’re stalked and tormented by mysterious assailants in masks. Here, the threat is to a family instead of a squabbling couple, with Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson as the parents trying to protect themselves and their two children during a long night in an empty trailer park.
Will it be worth your time? As much as we’d like to see a sequel that matches the original in terms of creeping dread—largely achieved through clever use of spatial geography—Roberts (The Other Side Of The Door) has a fairly uneven track record. And while the trailer suggests a more ambitious undertaking, with the family on the run through multiple locations instead of a single house, will another go-round with the trio of anonymous masked killers still result in diminishing returns?
Rob Cohen, the director of xXx, the first The Fast And The Furious, and the underappreciated Stealth, returns to his Mountain Dew-flavored action-programmer wheelhouse with this ludicrous-looking movie about a heist that (you guessed it!) goes down in the middle of a hurricane. Armed robbers hit a Treasury facility in Alabama while a Category 5 storm approaches from the coast; Maggie Grace is the federal agent who has to stop them, and Toby Kebbell is the meteorologist who drives her around in his souped-up storm chaser car.
Will it be worth your time? Well, it sure looks like a Rob Cohen movie, doesn’t it? The director, who most recently helmed the deliciously over-the-top Jennifer Lopez thriller The Boy Next Door, is something of a reliable quantity when it comes to cheap, dumb kicks.
More than a year after it made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival, Cory Finley’s blackly comic thriller (or is a thrilling black comedy?) finally makes its way to theaters, under a newly pluralized title. The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy plays a straight-laced teenager reacquainted with her childhood bestie (Olivia Cooke, the dying girl of Me And Earl And The Dying Girl), a self-aware sociopath who did something ghastly to her family’s horse. It’s an uncomfortable reunion, until the girls’ relationship skips straight from estranged friendship to conspiracy.
Will it be worth your time? Definitely, if a 21st-century Heathers sounds up your alley. Taylor-Joy and Cooke are both marvelous in entirely different registers, and Finley distinguishes his auspicious debut with craftsmanship as razor-sharp as the dialogue. Need more reason to go? Thoroughbreds also boasts the final screen appearance of the late Anton Yelchin.
It’s been a small eternity since Lara Croft made her last running leap from Playstation to multiplex, plummeting into the ravine of audience indifference that was 2003’s The Cradle Of Life. But since it’s never really “Game Over” for a recognizable pop-culture property, here’s a newly rebooted (respawned?) Tomb Raider. This time out, the X-treme spelunking duties and iconic tank top have passed from Angelina Jolie to Alicia Vikander, another Best Supporting Actress winner parlaying her clout into a steady action-heroine paycheck.
Will it be worth your time? Well, it has to be better than the terminally boring Indiana Jones knockoffs Jolie headlined last decade. Tomb Raider’s fun should theoretically translate smoothly from one medium to another, given how blatantly cinematic the games are. Enlisting Roar Uthaug, who directed the well-received Norwegian disaster movie The Wave, could bode well. Whether Vikander has the derring-do for this kind of gig—or, conversely, whether such a project is even worth her effort—remains to be seen.
The coming-of-age story receives a 21st-century update in Love, Simon, about a closeted gay everyteen who falls for an anonymous classmate he’s been chatting with online. Based on the young adult novel by Becky Albertalli and directed by superstar TV showrunner Greg Berlanti, the film promises to flip the script on the high-school romance with that ever-elusive blend of wit and heart.
Will it be worth your time? As The A.V. Club’s own Jesse Hassenger says in his early review of the film, Love, Simon is touching in its heartfelt progressivism, but can’t quite overcome the flimsiness of its creative team’s TV origins, resulting in a sweet but ultimately less than nourishing afternoon snack of a film.
Veep creator Armando Iannucci redirects his biting wit and affinity for savage infighting to a political environment even more cutthroat than Washington: the Moscow of 1953, when a cerebral hemorrhage put Joseph Stalin on his death bed and created a void of leadership within his power-hungry inner circle. Based on a French graphic novel, The Death Of Stalin assembles an entirely English-speaking cast—including Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Simon Russell Beale, and Michael Palin—to play this vipers’ nest of venomous Soviets.
Will it be worth your time? It’s Iannucci’s riskiest satire, hunting for laughs in a true reign of terror; banned in Russia itself, the film has been condemned for making light of both the country’s cultural history and the indiscriminate death and destruction Stalin waged on his own people. But if you can stomach its gallows humor—and get past its irreverent decision to let everyone just speak in their native language and accents—The Death Of Stalin is as scathingly, profanely funny as any of Iannucci’s merry skips down the halls of power. Remember, In The Loop made jest of some pretty serious subject matter, too.
In the summer of 1976, a group of Palestinian militants and left-wing West German terrorists hijacked an Air France flight with the help of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. The international hostage crisis (and spectacular rescue operation) that followed captivated the public, and within months it had been turned into an Oscar-nominated film by B-movie king Menahem Golan and a competing pair of TV movies that boasted some of the era’s craziest all-star casts. (Seriously.) Filling a role previously played by the likes of Helmut Berger and Klaus Kinski, Daniel Brühl stars as Wilfried Böse, one of the German hijackers; Rosamund Pike plays his partner, Brigitte Kuhlmann. José Padilha (Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, the RoboCop remake) directed.
Will it be worth your time? 7 Days In Entebbe was indifferently received when it premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. In the meantime, Carlos isn’t going to re-watch itself.
Proof positive that American blockbusters don’t need to smash records in America anymore to justify their existence, Guillermo Del Toro’s mecha-vs.-kaiju event movie Pacific Rim was a box-office disappointment in the U.S. but did big business overseas, especially in China. So along comes this delayed sequel, set 10 years after the events of the original and featuring Star Wars star John Boyega as the new swinging dick in Jaeger (a.k.a. giant-ass-robot) combat. Expect more skyscraper-sized monsters, mind-melding copilot bonding, and—rest easy everyone—bumbling comic relief from Charlie Day, who reprises his role as the beast-obsessed scientist from the original. (That movie’s other Charlie, however, is MIA.)
Will it be worth your time? Pacific Rim’s geeky, Japanophile fusion of Ultraman and Top Gun was very entertaining, but how many of the film’s pleasures can be attributed to the man in the cockpit, the king of the monsters running the show? Del Toro has only produced Uprising; the director’s chair is now occupied by Spartacus: Blood And Sand creator Steven S. DeKnight, who’s untested in the arena of big-budget IMAX spectacle. Still, it’s robots fighting monsters. Hard to imagine anyone failing to wring some fun out of that.
A sequel to 2011’s sleeper animated hit Gnomeo & Juliet—one that Disney notably had no trouble relinquishing to Paramount—Sherlock Gnomes returns to the garden of vaguely remembered delights for another round of lawn-related puns and sappy Elton John songs (you know, for kids). This time the literary riffs are on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with Johnny Depp voicing the “greatest ornamental detective” as he tries to solve the kidnapping of Gnomeo and Juliet’s various yard friends.
Will it be worth your time? Gnomeo & Juliet desperately straddled that sloppy middle ground between loud, kid-friendly slapstick and winking at adults through instantly dated pop-culture gags and celebrity cameos, to perfectly average results. With big names Johnny Depp, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mary J. Blige on board alongside the returning James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, and Ozzy Osbourne—and a trailer whose big jokes play on Google Maps and twerking—the sequel’s ambitions seem equally elementary, Gnome Watson.
Nothing says “young love” like a high-concept disease. This YA-adaptation-esque remake of a 2006 Japanese romantic drama stars Bella Thorne as an ordinary, guitar-strumming teen who can’t go out in the sun; Patrick Schwarzenegger is the hunky, pick-up-driving crush from whom she decides to hide her condition while going on a series of nighttime dates.
Will it be worth your time? The original Midnight Sun was conceived entirely as a vehicle for the acting-challenged Japanese singer-songwriter Yui, and though Bella Thorne is technically a vocalist (everyone remembers her 2014 EP Jersey, right?), the decision to retain the music subplot hints at some internal confusion. But on a more promising note, the film is directed by Scott Speer, who helmed one of the 3-D Step Up movies.
Wes Anderson returns to the animal hijinks and stop-motion animation that powered his Fantastic Mr. Fox with this futuristic, supposedly Kurosawa-influenced comedy about a little boy searching for his lost canine companion on a remote Japanese landfill where all of the country’s dogs have been quarantined. The cast list is huge and impressive even for an Anderson production, with Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Ken Watanabe, Scarlett Johansson, and more lending their best barks to the project.
Will it be worth your time? The trailer caught some heat for what looked to some like insensitive cultural appropriation, mainly in the depiction of the human Japanese characters. But reviews from Berlin, where Isle Of Dogs won the Silver Bear for Best Director, were almost universally glowing. At this point, every new Anderson movie is a major, must-see event. And the imagery that’s out there already is just stunning.
Newly and officially un-retired, Steven Soderbergh makes his fledgling foray into psychological horror with this thriller about a woman (The Crown’s Claire Foy) who believes she’s being stalked—an anxiety that’s thrown into question when she awakes to find herself committed to a mental institution. Ever the digital experimenter, Soderbergh shot the film on an iPhone 7, which is a potentially fruitful strategy, given the claustrophobic nature of the material.
Will it be worth your time? Reviews from Berlin were mixed, with some convinced the director is majorly slumming it with a hoary, trashy, what’s-real-and-what’s-not potboiler, while others noted a certain timely resonance to a story about a threatened woman whose accusations fall on deaf or disbelieving ears. On paper, Unsane certainly sounds like it lands firmly in Soderbergh’s wheelhouse; past projects like Side Effects, Bubble, and those twisty Ocean’s capers have all played with delayed reveals and unreliable points of view—the stuff of a good psychological thriller, in other words.
Writer Joe Kelly pens the feature-film adaptation of his own comic book series in this fantasy drama about a young outsider (Madison Wolfe) who finds refuge from the realities of her day-to-day life in a more imaginative world of monsters. However, reality and fiction soon start to blur. With supporting turns from Zoe Saldana and Imogen Poots, I Kill Giants looks to do for kids and giants what The BFG and A Monster Calls didn’t.
Will it be worth your time? The source material is excellent, and the cast looks solid, but this will be the first full-length movie from Danish director Anders Walter. Still, he won an Academy Award for the similarly fantastical short film “Helium,” which shared a number of themes and demonstrated he has a facility for working with younger actors.
The opening night selection of last year’s Cannes Film Festival finds French writer-director Arnaud Desplechin (My Golden Days, A Christmas Tale) returning to themes, ideas, and possibly even characters from his past work. Ostensibly, the plot concerns a filmmaker (regular Desplechin muse Mathieu Amalric) torn between his current lover (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and the ex-squeeze (Marion Cotillard) who disappeared without a trace 20 years earlier. But Desplechin veers off course often, getting preoccupied with the main character’s creative constipation and a film-within-the-film starring Louis Garrel as a hotshot diplomat.
Will it be worth your time? As all of the most unfairly scathing reviews from Cannes pointed out, Ismael’s Ghosts is kind of a mess: a scattershot drama that abandons its compelling central narrative for discursive subplots. But digressions and detours are part of the fun of a Desplechin movie, and his latest boasts plenty of the outrageous style through which he made an international name for himself, plus a scene of Marion Cotillard doing a loose-limbed dance to Bob Dylan. Also, word on the street is that the longer, rearranged director’s cut Magnolia is releasing into theaters is a better film than the one that opened Cannes.
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the writer-director team who took viewers to Italy in 2015’s unclassifiable Spring, explores terrain a little closer to home in The Endless. This heady sci-fi road trip revolves around brothers who return to the isolated cult compound in rural California where they grew up in order to find closure. After being confronted with some undeniably weird phenomena bending the laws of physics, however, the brothers are forced to confront the idea that maybe the UFO doomsday cult they’ve spent their entire adult lives trying to escape may have been on to something.
Will it be worth your time? Although The Endless builds on characters and themes first established in Benson and Moorhead’s 2012 film Resolution, you don’t have to be familiar with their previous work to appreciate it. Fans of cerebral genre fare like Coherence and Primer, take note.
Anyone who’s spent time around a high-school-level creative writing class likely remembers the one student whose assignments all sounded like something that might be found next to a pipe bomb. For Olivia Dejazet (Marina Foïs), a famous crime novelist teaching writing to a group of small-town teens in Laurent Cantet’s The Workshop, that student is Antoine (Matthieu Lucci), an angry young man with an unhealthy interest in stories of mass murder.
Will it be worth your time? It’s been a decade since Cantet won the Palme D’Or for his drama The Class; his accomplished and very promising early films (Time Out, Human Resources) now seem a lifetime away, while neither his English-language Joyce Carol Oates adaptation Foxfire nor the subsequent Return To Ithaca ever actually opened in the United States. Though relegated to the Un Certain Regard at last year’s Cannes, The Workshop has been acclaimed by many as a considerable comeback, with plenty of praise directed at newcomer Lucci.
The story of Saul Of Tarsus, the “Pharisee of Pharisees” who had the original road to Damascus moment and became one of the most important writers and preachers of early Christianity. (And, per tradition, the author of a large chunk of the New Testament.) Caravaggio, Rubens, Michelangelo, Mendelssohn, and Rembrandt have all given their interpretation of one of the great characters of the Apostolic Age. Now it’s time for the evangelical outfit Affirm Films to have a go. James Faulkner stars in the title role, while Jim Caviezel returns to the New Testament 14 years after The Passion Of The Christ to play Paul’s very own Dr. Watson, Luke The Evangelist.
Will it be worth your time? Aimed squarely at the American evangelical market, so-called faith-based production like Paul, Apostle Of Christ have a low ceiling when it comes to quality (Risen is about as good as it gets), and no floor.
Ernest Cline’s divisive, geek-friendly bestseller gets a big-budget adaptation courtesy of the biggest name in blockbustering, Steven Spielberg. Set in a future when everyone escapes into a nostalgia-powered online VR paradise called The Oasis, Ready Player One casts Tye Sheridan as an Ohio teen competing against the whole world to find an Easter egg buried somewhere in the digital sandbox by its late billionaire creator (new Spielberg regular Mark Rylance). Plenty of other notable human actors appear, but they’re sharing real estate with a library of licensed fictional icons, from the Ninja Turtles to The Iron Giant to Chucky from Child’s Play.
Will it be worth your time? Spielberg’s attachment makes a lot of sense, given that he helped pave the pop-culture landscape on which the novel is built, and we’d never dream of skipping a new sci-fi tentpole from the director of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and E.T. That said, Spielberg’s craftsmanship tends to get swallowed up by worlds made entirely out of 1s and 0s (see also: The BFG and Tintin). What’s more, the trailers make Ready Player One look as spot-the-reference pandering as the detractors insist the book is. Let’s hope there are deeper pleasures hidden like an Easter egg in this oasis of allusions and I Love The ’80s cameos.
Billed as “a psychological thriller,” Tyler Perry’s latest tale of a woman scorned pits Taraji P. Henson against a no-good, two-timing husband (Lyriq Bent). Though the trailers for Acrimony have been vague on the nature of the scorning (not to mention the question of how Henson’s character gets away with smoking in a therapist’s office), they did teach us to how to pronounce such words as “bitterness,” “malice,” and “anger.”
Will it be worth your time? If there’s one thing this country can agree on, it’s that Taraji P. Henson deserves better film roles. However, it’s unlikely that said better film role is going to come by way of Tyler Perry, a prolific filmmaker who has directed exactly zero good movies and only a handful of entertainingly weird ones.
The third film in the increasingly defensive-sounding God’s Not Dead franchise once again pits God against his sworn archenemy—college—in another epic battle for campus visitation rights. This time the theological-debatin’ action centers on Reverend Dave (played by David A.R. White, cofounder of God’s Not Dead’s distributor Pure Flix), with the series’ lynchpin supporting character finally getting his own Van Wilder: The Rise Of Taj-like starring turn after someone burns down his church. As Dave’s unbeliever lawyer brother who reluctantly helps him rebuild, John Corbett follows Kevin Sorbo in the requisite ’90s hunk-turned-atheist role.
Will it be worth your time? As with the other two God’s Not Dead films, if you’re not part of the choir being preached to, the appeal lies mostly in seeing what randomly assembled celebrities are called to collect some faith-driven paychecks—a motley apostolic crew that here includes Tatum O’Neal, Ted McGinley, and rapper Shwayze.
It’s a good month for movies and a bad one for equines. Arriving just weeks after Thoroughbreds, this first American-set drama from British writer-director Andrew Haigh (Weekend) chronicles the bond that develops between a quiet, scrawny teenage boy (Charlie Plummer from All The Money In The World) and the aging racehorse he looks after for a summer job. Sweet as that may sound, we’re talking about the new movie from the guy who made 45 Years. Things get difficult.
Will it be worth your time? Like Haigh’s other films, Lean On Pete is sensitively observed and beautifully acted. (Steve Buscemi is especially good as the horse’s grizzled owner.) It’s also a tough, unsentimental work, applying the stark simplicity of Italian neorealism to an unvarnished American backdrop. In other words, it’s closer to Bicycle Thieves than The Black Stallion. Take that as enticement or warning.
No, it’s not a Pixar sequel. The latest from writer-director Lynn Shelton belongs instead to the well-trodden genre of dramas about ex-convicts trying to readjust to life on the outside. After serving 20 years for a crime he may not have committed, Chris (Jay Duplass) returns to his Pacific Northwest hometown and rekindles a charged relationship with Carol (Edie Falco), one of his high-school teachers. The cast also includes Kaitlyn Dever and Parks And Recreation laugh-getter Ben Schwartz.
Will it be worth your time? Shelton got her start making intelligent, funny comedies without the safety net of a screenplay; films like Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister proved that “entirely improvised” didn’t have to be a red flag. Unfortunately, her scripted films have lacked that spark of personality and spontaneity. But word on Outside In from last year’s Toronto International Film Festival was mostly positive, with critics citing strong performances by Duplass and Falco.
For such a distinctly ’00s phenomenon, mumblecore has had a long epilogue. Greta Gerwig, its most gifted actor, is now an Oscar-nominated director and screenwriter; Joe Swanberg remains prolific; the Duplass brothers have found success as producers and writers; Andrew Bujalski is still underappreciated. But what about Aaron Katz? The director, who last tried his hand at genre filmmaking with the low-key quasi-whodunit Cold Weather, goes all out with the stylized, Los Angeles-set thriller Gemini, his biggest project to date—something about a young movie star (Zoë Kravitz), her protective personal assistant (Lola Kirke), and a homicide detective (John Cho).
Will it be worth your time? Word of mouth on Gemini has been strong, suggesting a twisty pulp thriller with oodles of style. We’re looking forward to it.