Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
A Lion King, a Spider-Man, and a killer alligator will make the multiplex a zoo this July

A Lion King, a Spider-Man, and a killer alligator will make the multiplex a zoo this July

Photo: Spider-Man: Far From Home (Marvel), Midsommar (A24), Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Sony), The Lion King (Disney), Graphic: Rebecca Fassola

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.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Theaters everywhere July 2

Usually the task of following up a massive Avengers blockbuster with a smaller-scale post-script falls to Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, but this summer’s “smaller” Marvel movie brings out bigger guns. In keeping with the John Hughes vibe of 2017’s Spider-Man reboot Homecoming, Far From Home pulls an ’80s sequel and sends its characters on a European vacation; Peter Parker (Tom Holland), MJ (Zendaya), and Ned (Jacob Batalon) are back from the Thanos snap and ready to enjoy a fun school trip. Unfortunately for Peter, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) comes calling for Spider-Man’s services, hoping that he’ll join Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the fight against a series of mayhem-causing Elementals.
Will it be worth your time? As it turns out, this Spider-Man movie does halfway resemble an Ant-Man movie: It’s funny, likable, and mostly light on its feet, with action sequences that are maybe a little forgettable. Even casual fans will probably enjoy Far From Home, though it’s not quite as good as Homecoming or, certainly, last year’s Into The Spider-Verse.


Select theaters July 3

One year ago, writer-director Ari Aster clucked his way into the pantheon of prestige horror shockers—and the bad dreams of discerning genre buffs—with his accomplished, harrowing debut, Hereditary. Now he’s back with a new nightmare, trading the gloom and shadows of a haunted house for the broad, perpetual daylight of a remote Swedish commune, where a bereaved grad student (Florence Pugh) accompanies her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) on a summer boys’ retreat. If the growing tension between the two lovers doesn’t kill them, the smiling hippie cultists surely will.
Will it be worth your time? Unfolding over a languid two hours and 20 minutes, Midsommar seems destined to piss off the Conjuring crowd even more so than Hereditary did; this time, Aster hasn’t cut the emotional turmoil with many bump-in-the-dark jolts. (For one thing, there’s no dark in which things can go bump.) But surrender to the film’s deceptively bucolic mood, and it just might get under your skin—especially during an ingeniously fucked-up final act.

Ray & Liz

Select theaters July 10

English photographer Richard Billingham has made a career out of sticking his home life and his impoverished upbringing under the microscope of his camera lens. His first feature as a writer and director is a kind of fictionalized companion to his breakthrough 1996 collection Ray’s A Laugh, which featured grotesque, candid images of his parents. Here, Billingham casts TV vets Justin Salinger and Ella Smith as, respectively, his alcoholic father and heavily tattooed mother, in a flashback-structured dramatization of his hard-knock, Thatcher-era childhood.
Will it be worth your time? Although it premiered at Locarno and picked up a string of awards at other fests, Ray & Liz has been divisively received by critics: While some have favorably compared it to the kitchen-sink nostalgia/memory pieces of Terence Davies, others have accused Billingham of aestheticizing poverty, raising the question of whether it’s possible to exploit your own class background. As a film by a photographer, it is, however, almost guaranteed to at least be visually interesting.


Theaters everywhere July 12

And the award for dumbest title of the year almost certainly goes to Stuber, a new action-comedy about (you ready for this?) an Uber driver named Stu. It’s Kumail Nanjiani, who played a comedian who ride-share gigged on the side in The Big Sick, who finds his portmanteau-mobile hijacked by a very aggressive passenger, an LAPD officer (Dave Bautista) on the hunt for a crime boss. Expect lots of slapstick violence and star-rating jokes.
Will it be worth your time? Sadly, the title may actually be the cleverest thing about Stuber, which overtaxes Nanjiani with frantic civilian-under-fire shtick and provides almost nothing funny for Bautista to say or do. The action is also embarrassingly sloppy, wasting the talents of The Raid’s Iko Uwais.


Theaters everywhere July 12

Piranha 3D director Alexandre Aja dives back into the aquatic horror subgenre with this monster movie about two foolish Floridians who refuse to evacuate their home during an apocalyptic Category 5 hurricane. Injured and trapped in a rapidly flooding basement, Dave (Barry Pepper) and Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) face almost certain doom, and that’s before the giant man-eating alligator chomps a rescue worker in half with one oversized bite.
Will it be worth your time?: Piranha 3D is basically the definition of dumb summer-movie fun, and although Crawl has a lot less potential for horny sight gags due to its lack of bikini-clad co-eds, its genre bona fides are bolstered by the involvement of Evil Dead director Sam Raimi as producer. Also, it was shot in Serbia, standing in for Florida—a true B-movie move.

The Farewell

Select theaters July 12

Having played comic-relief sidekick in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, rapper-turned-actress Awkwafina now gets her chance to prove her dramatic range in a starring role. She plays Billi, a Chinese-American woman traveling to China to say goodbye to her grandmother, who’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The big catch: Her entire extended family has conspired not to tell the elderly woman she’s dying, shouldering the burden of that knowledge themselves and planning a fake wedding to account for why everyone has gathered.
Will it be worth your time? One could imagine a version of this film that leaned further into farce, playing the grand deception for bigger (if still bittersweet) laughs. But The Farewell, from writer-director Lulu Wang, is touching and funny, a portrait of deep familial love bumping up against tradition. And as everyone discovered at Sundance, Awkwafina is the real deal, capable of more than just stealing laughs in big studio movies.

The Art Of Self Defense

Select theaters July 12

Sometime in the unspecified past, a meek and lonely young man (Jesse Eisenberg) turns to a karate guru (Alessandro Nivola) after a devastating assault leaves him more fearful than ever. He takes to his training immediately, and forges a tentative bond with a junior instructor (Imogen Poots). But he also discovers that the normal-looking dojo houses some dark and disturbing secrets. Writer-director Riley Stearns has a feel for the mundane awkwardness of male ego that recalls the Rex Kwon Do bits of Napoleon Dynamite fused with The Foot Fist Way—but way more violent and sometimes frightening.
Will it be worth your time? All of the arch, hushed deadpanning may test some viewers’ patience for movies that favor satire (and slightly vague satire, at that) over recognizable dialogue or behavior. But Eisenberg, Nivola, and Poots ground their caricatures, and the movie is often very funny.

Sword Of Trust

Select theaters July 12

The latest humanist comedy from Humpday director Lynn Shelton follows a pawn shop owner (Marc Maron) and a customer (Jillian Bell) as they team up to sell an antique sword, purported in a variety of internet conspiracy videos to prove that the South actually won the Civil War. Michaela Watkins and Jon Boss are also along for the ride, and Shelton worked on the script with A.P. Bio and Saturday Night Live veteran Mike O’Brien.
Will it be worth your time? Despite those script credits, Sword Of Trust reportedly marks Shelton’s return to largely improvised comedy—and as her earlier, funnier films proved, she’s a master of that field. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s Bell, Maron, Watkins, and O’Brien doing the improvising.

Point Blank

Netflix July 12

There are now so many actors affiliated with the Marvel Cinematic Universe that it’s become reductive and tedious to refer to performers in those terms. On the other hand, here’s Falcon teaming up with Crossbones! Which is to say, Point Blank (a remake of the 2010 French film, not of the 1967 classic of the same name) is a 90-minute Netflix action-thriller about tough guys Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo teaming up to exchange testy banter, punch and shoot at other dudes, and, oh yeah, rescue Mackie’s pregnant wife.
Will it be worth your time? Point Blank looks like an agreeable-enough time waster, and it might be fun to see Mackie and Grillo together outside the superhero realm—even if it says something about the state of the movie business that two reasonably well-known actors can co-star in enormous Captain America-level blockbusters, then turn around and topline a low-rent streaming actioner.

The Lion King

Theaters everywhere July 19

Disney’s ceaseless drive to “realistically” reinvent its own library of animated classics reaches its most technically ambitious apex yet, as Jon Favreau—battle-tested from his time on The Jungle Book—applies that same digital wizardry to the circle of life itself. Sporting a jaw-dropping cast (including Donald Glover, Beyoncé, and James Earl Jones, reprising his role from the 1994 original), this “new” take on The Lion King promises to deliver the same story that we recognize from our childhoods, Hamlet overtones and Pumbaa and all. It’s unclear, however, what Favreau’s film will do that its predecessor didn’t, which is the big question dogging (hyena-ing?) the likely summer smash.
Will it be worth your time? It’s hard to deny the sheer visual ambition of Favreau’s re-creations of iconic Disney shots, or that he’s found a cast of absolute ringers to play his versions of beloved characters. But from a distance, the film looks even more crass and calculated than May’s millennial-baiting Aladdin remake. Obviously, people are going to go see The Lion King in droves; it’s just a question of whether they’ll come away having seen something new or simply a (very expensive) new coat of paint.

David Crosby: Remember My Name

Select theaters July 19

The misadventures and misdeeds of David Crosby, the hippie survivor with the voice of an angel and the looks of a roadie, have often overshadowed his musical legacy as a member of the Byrds and folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. (Not to mention his underrated career as a solo artist.) Produced by Cameron Crowe, this documentary promises more of the Crosby legend: the drugs, the burned bridges, the failed relationships, the prison time, the near-misses with death.
Will it be worth your time? Although he’s well into his 70s, Crosby remains a consistently good, bullshit-free interviewee. Even if this documentary turns out to be little more than a biographical overview, his participation alone should keep it a cut above the rest of the boomer-nostalgia pack.

At War

Select theaters July 19

Four years after The Measure Of A Man picked up the Best Actor prize at Cannes, director Stéphane Brizé and star Vincent Lindon reunite for another politically conscious character study of a blue collar everyman. This time around, Lindon plays a union spokesperson at an automotive factory in a small town in the southwest of France. When their corporate overlords announce that they’re planning to close the plant, reneging on an earlier agreement that promised years of guaranteed employment in exchange for a pay cut, the workers go on strike.
Will it be worth your time? By most accounts a talkier and more straightforward drama than The Measure Of A Man, At War was greeted with mixed reviews when it premiered at last year’s Cannes, earning some less-than-favorable comparisons to the work of Ken Loach. Still, there’s no denying that Brizé, like Claire Denis, knows how to make the most of Lindon’s intense, rough-hewn presence.

A Faithful Man

Select theaters July 19

The French actor Louis Garrel has starred in so many New Wave-indebted romances that it seems inevitable that he would eventually start making his own. In A Faithful Man (which Garrel directed and co-wrote), he plays a Parisian journalist who gets back together with a recently widowed ex (Garrel’s real-life wife, Laetitia Casta). But the future looks far from blissful: Her 10-year-old son seems to be convinced that mom murdered dad, and the dead man’s sister (Lily-Rose Depp) has plans of her own.
Will it be worth your time? Garrel wrote the script with one of Europe’s most storied screenwriters, the octogenarian Jean-Claude Carriere, best known for his work with the surrealist Luis Buñuel. (More recently, he co-wrote several films with Garrel’s father, the great Philippe Garrel.) That’s enough to suggest that there’s probably something weirder and darker lurking underneath A Faithful Man’s apparently frothy surface.

I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians

Select theaters July 19

The title of this hefty meta-drama from director Radu Jude (Aferim!) is a direct quote from Romanian military dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, who’s said to have made the remark in prelude to a national atrocity: the Odessa Massacre of 1941, in which authorities slaughtered tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews. Radu’s satire concerns a young theater director planning a grand outdoor reenactment of the massacre, much to the chagrin of public officials who’d prefer this dark chapter in the country’s history not be drudged up.
Will it be worth your time? Like a lot of films from the so-called Romanian New Wave, I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians is long (it clocks in close to two and a half hours) and reportedly relies on at least a basic familiarity with Romanian culture. That said, if it’s anything like most of the other movies that fall under the umbrella of this particular cinematic movement, it’s probably also very good. (Reviews from the festival circuit were mostly admiring, some even citing Godard as a point of comparison.)

The Great Hack

Select theaters and Netflix July 24

Netflix takes a deep documentary dive into Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal—that’s the one where the social media company accidentally let a right-wing think tank harvest millions of users’ data for political marketing purposes, in case you’d lost track of all the scandals at this point. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim (who also collaborated on Noujaim’s 2013 Egyptian revolutionary doc The Square, and who are next set to tackle the NXIVM cult for HBO), The Great Hack attempts to paint a wider portrait of an event that will likely have a huge impact on Washington and Silicon Valley alike for years to come.
Will it be worth your time? Reviewers who dipped into The Great Hack at Sundance came away mildly impressed, praising the sheer amount of information covered. Amer and Noujaim have a solid reputation together at this point, and if their film reportedly indulges in the occasional scare tactic over pure, clinical fact, it’s not like this topic isn’t frightening enough to merit a little worst-case-scenario speculation.

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood

Theaters everywhere July 26

It was only a matter of time before Quentin Tarantino, reigning rock star of American geek-savant directors, made a movie about making movies. Set in the Los Angeles of 1969, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is a long, laidback elegy for the golden age of the industry, told through the misadventures of a washed-up TV cowboy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his slick, troublemaking stunt double (Brad Pitt). As these fictional entertainers grapple with the encroach of the New Hollywood, a very real starlet of the era, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), goes about her daily life, blissfully unaware of what history has in store for her.
Will it be worth your time? Originally scheduled to open on the anniversary of the Manson murders, Hollywood doesn’t collide its dramatized and invented elements in an entirely satisfying way. But this is still one of Tarantino’s most grounded films: a winningly ramshackle California “hangout movie,” in the filmmaker’s own parlance. And it offers DiCaprio and Pitt the opportunity to superbly riff on their public images as aging superstars in a once-again-changing Hollywood.

The Mountain

Select theaters July 26

Rick Alverson (Entertainment, The Comedy) tackles a period drama—albeit on his own strange, opaque terms—in this 1950s-set film about an introverted ice-rink employee (Tye Sheridan) who becomes an assistant to an itinerant lobotomist named Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum), traveling around mid-century America to ply the transorbital-surgery trade to local mental institutions.
Will it be worth your time? Goldblum’s character seems to be based on the notorious, flamboyant Walter Freeman II, who performed icepick lobotomies at $25 a pop; over the course of his career, he killed at least a hundred patients and left many more with severe brain damage. But don’t expect a historical exposé. The Mountain looks to be another one of Alverson’s explorations of American unease. The fact that the supporting cast includes Udo Kier and Denis Lavant—cult actors who seem to fit right into Alverson’s weird, confrontational universe—only makes it more intriguing.


Select theaters July 26

Earlier this year, Guy Nattiv’s short film “Skin” won an Oscar—and earned lots of eye rolls over its outlandish story of comeuppance, where a white supremacist is tattooed into looking like a black man. In a seeming bid to confuse everyone who has ever taken notice of his work, Nattiv has made a feature film called Skin, also about white supremacists and tattoos, also co-starring Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$), but with a completely different plot. This one is based on a true story, focusing on heavily tattooed white supremacist Bryon Widner (Jamie Bell), who decides to leave the neo-Nazi life behind and must undergo a series of painful tattoo removals in the process. Widner was previously the subject of the 2011 documentary Erasing Hate.
Will it be worth your time? Reviews out of the movie’s Toronto premiere were generally respectful, though some will question the utility of another racist’s redemption story. In any case, Skin has to be better than “Skin,” right?

Mike Wallace Is Here

Select theaters July 26

Mike Wallace, who died in 2012, is remembered as one of the toughest journalists on the planet, a man who would ask anyone anything, as long as he believed that there was a story behind the question. Relying largely on archival footage of the 60 Minutes star’s long career, Avi Belker’s new documentary dives into the details of that reputation, from Wallace’s dogged pursuit of truth to—in the words of his old pal Morley Safer—his tendency to be “such a prick” when his mood, or his journalistic instincts, drove him to it.
Will it be worth your time? Reviews from Sundance were unanimously positive, praising Belker’s willingness to take a clear look at Wallace’s life and career, stripped of any distracting hagiography. In a post-truth era, an eagle-eyed look back on the career of a journalistic trailblazer could be especially valuable.

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