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.


The First Purge

Theaters everywhere July 4

Beginning though it did with a lackluster home-invasion thriller that curiously squandered its dystopian premise, the Purge series has steadily evolved into a crude but sometimes provocative B-movie manifesto on American capitalism, racism, and injustice. This fourth installment is a prequel that traces the franchise’s titular bloodbath—an annual 12-hour period when all crime is legal and the wealthy prey on the impoverished with impunity—back to its inaugural year. As in the previous two installments, most of our innocent heroes just trying to survive the night are people of color (the cast includes Insecure’s Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, and Joivan Wade), while Marisa Tomei steps in as the architect of this merciless social experiment.
Will it be worth your time? If you dig the franchise’s regular cocktail of low-budget thrills and anvil-heavy political metaphor, you’ll like The First Purge, too. If it can be believed, it goes even more blatantly (and, at times, uncomfortably) topical, though the origin-story timeframe means that series mastermind James DeMonaco—who wrote but did not direct this fourth installment—has to go a little lighter on the outrageous, alternate-universe world-building.


Ant-Man And The Wasp

Theaters everywhere July 6

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), the little guy of the MCU, returns in this breezy sequel to the 2015 super-powered caper Ant-Man. Set before the events of this year’s Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man And The Wasp finds the ex-con everydude with the size-changing suit getting mixed up in more misadventures with the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and his daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), a.k.a. the buzzing, shrinking superhero The Wasp. Director Peyton Reed is back—and so is Scott’s scene-stealing best friend Luis (Michael Peña).
Will it be worth your time? A faster-paced and more consistent film that its predecessor, Ant-Man And The Wasp makes for a fun break from the grinding narrative tectonics of the Marvel series; the MCU’s blockbuster team-ups are often characterized as hang-out movies, but the mood here is even more convivial. Reed’s effortless handling of special effects and changing scales is nothing to sneeze at either.


Sorry To Bother You

Select theaters July 6

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Atlanta scene-stealer Lakeith Stanfield nabs a starring role in the daftly satirical directorial debut of rapper and The Coup frontman Boots Riley. A hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Sorry To Bother You follows a cash-strapped Oakland telemarketer (Stanfield) who rockets up the ranks of his call center by perfecting his “white voice” (provided by David Cross). But will he lose his identity, not to mention his radical artist girlfriend (Tessa Thompson), selling a more insidious product for the company’s coke-head, alpha-bro CEO (Armie Hammer)?
Will it be worth your time? Riley’s first feature never lacks for big ideas; he’s made an inventive comedy about cultural assimilation, upward mobility, and glass ceilings. The film can, however, be a little scattershot, especially during its outrageously zany second half—as messy, in other words, as the topics it irreverently tackles.


Whitney

Select theaters July 6

Kevin Macdonald’s directorial career has been divided between workmanlike dramas and thrillers (The Last King Of Scotland, Black Sea), and documentaries (Touching The Void, One Day In September). Combining interviews with a range of home videos and TV appearances, this exhaustively assembled doc follows the life of the late Whitney Houston from her beginnings as the daughter of a successful back-up singer to international mega-stardom to her ignominious end as a late-night punchline who was found dead in a hotel bathtub.
Will it be worth your time? In a smart move, Macdonald treats Houston as the central figure of a larger family saga of ambition, illusion, and abuse, reflecting the diva’s public image through the private conflicts of the people around her. Though it never bucks documentary convention, the result may have more to say about what it means to be upwardly mobile in America than it does about pop.


The Legacy Of A Whitetail Deer Hunter

Netflix July 6

The caustic comedy team of Jody Hill and Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down, Vice Principals) continue to mine laughs from posturing blowhards with this story of a gruff TV outdoorsman (Josh Brolin) who drags his estranged 12-year-old son (Montana Jordan) and his crude yet loyal, Danny McBride-esque cameraman (McBride) into the woods to hunt the titular doe. Carrie Coon and Scoot McNairy co-star as, respectively, the kind of actors who seem like they should be doing something more meaningful than playing third fiddle in a Danny McBride comedy.
Will it be worth your time? Reviews from those who caught it at SXSW were not especially kind—even from those who enjoy McBride and Hill’s disarmingly genuine asshole comedy—and the fact that the film sat on the shelf for three years before landing on Netflix certainly speaks to those fizzled expectations. Still, it’s a pretty low-stakes investment to see an actor of Brolin’s caliber putting his all into jokes about jacking off.


Skyscraper

Theaters everywhere July 13

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Bad guys have taken over a futuristic Hong Kong skyscraper, and only the building’s American security consultant can stop them. The catch is that he’s been framed for the attack. But this fire-safety wonk is no wimp—he’s Dwayne Johnson, a star who’s literally too big for the audience to buy him as an ordinary guy who’s found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, the explanation is that he’s a former member of the FBI’s elite tactical team.
Will it be worth your time? As fun as it might sound to watch The Rock leap from a crane in a dumb action movie, potential viewers are advised to keep their expectations in check. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s last film, Central Intelligence (also starring Johnson), squandered an appealing set-up and odd couple duo on an action-comedy as sloppy as a late-period Adam Sandler vehicle.


Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Theaters everywhere July 13

Sony’s hit animated franchise completely betrays its roots—and its most devoted fans—by daring to leave the titular hotel behind for a cruise ship, where Adam Sandler’s Dracula and his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) escape for some fun in the vampire-killing sun alongside a whole host of actors working in sweatpants (Andy Samberg, Molly Shannon, Mel Brooks, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, etc.). Once on board, Drac meets the alluring Ericka (Kathryn Hahn), who turns out to be a descendant of Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan)—and then they do the mash! They do the perfectly acceptable, family-movie monster mash!
Will it be worth your time? Although this one lacks the input of Robert Smigel, who gussied up the gags in Hotel Transylvania 2, there’s every reason to expect that kids who enjoyed the lightly spooky, moderately ooky antics of the first two films will continue to be entertained. That is, provided they can get over the fact THAT THERE’S NO HOTEL. WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU GET OFF, SANDLER?


Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

Select theaters July 13

Gus Van Sant has made an conventional biopic, the Oscar-nominated Milk, and a wildly unconventional one, his unofficial Kurt Cobain tone poem Last Days. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot is somehow both at once: an ultra-earnest but unusually structured adaptation of a memoir by the late John Callahan, who mined his own disability—among other taboo subjects—for controversial comic strips. Joaquin Phoenix, who transformed his body into a massive, intimidating weapon in this spring’s You Were Never Really Here, goes the near opposite route here, severely limiting his radius of movement to star as the quadriplegic cartoonist.
Will it be worth your time? Taking its cues from Callahan’s book, Don’t Worry focuses heavily on the artist’s alcoholism, to the point where it almost plays like a tearfully sentimental advertisement for AA. At the same time, Van Sant toys with chronology, creating a nonlinear, sometimes aimless-feeling tangle of anecdotes and memories. It’s a peculiar blend, but also quite easily Van Sant’s most involving movie in a decade, thanks in part to a strong ensemble that also includes Rooney Mara, Jack Black, and a cast-against-type Jonah Hill.


Eighth Grade

Select theaters July 13

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For all but the most socially adept, middle school can be a nightmare—a real gauntlet of psychological distress. With his directorial debut, comedian Bo Burnham views that difficult, formative chapter of adolescent life through the eyes of a YouTube-obsessed wallflower (Elsie Fisher) struggling to assert her personality and maybe make some real friends during the final weeks of junior high.
Will it be worth your time? Imagine a version of Welcome To The Dollhouse that was somehow touching and charitable as well as brutally honest. That’s what Burnham pulls off with his crowd-pleasing comedy, buoyed by a lovely lead performance and real insight into the way modern technology has further complicated the ongoing popularity contest that it is growing up. It should melt hearts as reliably in theaters as it did at Sundance.


Puzzle

Select theaters July 13

Competitive puzzle assembly is the unlikely backdrop for this modestly scaled indie drama about a restless suburban housewife (Kelly Macdonald) who finds escape from her domestic boredom by pairing off with a jigsaw master (Life Of Pi and Jurassic World’s Irrfan Khan). David Denman, who played Roy on The Office, adds another inattentive partner to his resume as the husband who takes our heroine for granted, while ace teenage supporting player Austin Abrams, from The Americans and Brad’s Status, appears as one of her sons.
Will it be worth your time? Director Marc Turtletaub is known chiefly for producing, with his name attached to everything from Little Miss Sunshine to Safety Not Guaranteed to Chop Shop. Meanwhile, screenwriter Oren Moverman has forged a spotty career that includes his own movies, like Rampart and The Messenger, but also penning the scripts for rock bios I’m Not There and Love & Mercy. In other words, the pedigree on this thing is no help. Ultra-familiar though it sounds, the film—a remake on an Argentine drama of the same name—scored mostly positive reviews at Sundance this past January.


The Night Eats The World

Select theaters July 13

The never-ending quest for a fresh take on the zombie movie continues with this debut feature from French director Dominique Rocher. The concept blends shades of 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, and Nacho Vigalondo’s 2011 sci-fi movie Extraterrestrial, as Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) wakes up the morning after a drunken rager with a splitting headache and the shocking realization that while he was passed out, a zombie army devoured his friends, and most of Paris with them.
Will it be worth your time? Initial reviews of The Night Eats The World following its screenings at the Rotterdam and Tribeca Film Festivals were mostly positive, with critics giving Rocher credit for trying something different—even if that something different is overflowing with a very French sense of ennui.


Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Theaters everywhere July 20

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History repeats itself once more in this sequel to the jukebox musical turned 2008 box-office hit. Amanda Seyfried returns as Sophie Sheridan, now pregnant and running the Greek island villa owned by her mom, Donna (Meryl Streep). Terrified at the prospect of her own impending motherhood, Sophie digs deeper into her mother’s past and the circumstances surrounding her own birth, which is Lily James’ cue to step in as Donna’s carefree ’70s incarnation. The trio of potential dads from the original—played again by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgård, plus younger actors as the younger them—also pop in to dance along to Swedish pop songs against a tropical backdrop.
Will it be worth your time? Now that ABBA is officially back together, anything is possible. And if you must have a musical celebrity cameo, 1988 Best Actress Oscar winner Cher is probably your best option.


The Equalizer 2

Theaters everywhere July 20

Antoine Fuqua’s unremarkable adaptation of the 1980s TV series The Equalizer made back its budget, which means its time for sadistically problem-solving retired CIA operative Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) to break some more noses and get some more butts into seats. The first film ditched just about everything people remembered about the series to make a generic thriller about a stoic vigilante. The sequel, which finds McCall avenging a murder, will probably to be more of the same.
Will it be worth your time? Don’t let an action movie about a throat-chopping, sixtysomething widower with “a very particular set of skills” fool you: Unlike Liam Neeson, whose commitment has turned his action-star phase into a self-reflexive cycle about regret and guilt, Washington coasted through the first Equalizer on his overqualifications. And Fuqua has made a lot of lousy movies since Training Day—the most recent being an already forgotten remake of The Magnificent Seven that also starred Washington as a generic badass.


Unfriended: Dark Web

Theaters everywhere July 20

The original Unfriended seemed from a distance to be a one-off stunt, but it turned out much smarter than the detractors admitted. Anyway, it was successful enough to spawn a sequel. Dark Web eschews the supernatural storyline of its predecessor, replacing it with a ripped-from-the-tabloids tale of an international snuff-film ring that plans its crimes on the deep web and pays for the results in crypto.
Will it be worth your time? Although it twists itself into knots trying, Unfriended: Dark Web doesn’t grapple with the limitations—or the implied absurdity—of its desktop-only setting as effectively as its predecessor. The result is a movie that’s notable mostly for its meanness.


Blindspotting

Select theaters July 20

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Daveed Diggs, who won a Tony for originating the roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton, stars as a Bay Area ex-felon trying to keep his head down and his hands clean during his final three days of probation. Problem is, his loud-mouthed, hotheaded childhood bestie (Rafael Casal) keeps steering them toward trouble. And that’s to say nothing of the police shooting he witnesses by chance. Diggs and Casal, lifelong friends in real life, wrote the script for this energetic character drama, the directorial debut of Carlos López Estrada.
Will it be worth your time? Like this month’s other Sundance sensation about racial politics in contemporary Oakland, Blindspotting can be uneven, in this case creating an uneasy balance between flavorful buddy comedy and dead-serious melodrama. But Diggs is excellent in the lead role, telegraphing his anxiety and outrage through words spoken and rhythms spit. And the film’s ambition can’t be discounted.


Generation Wealth

Select theaters July 20

A talking head in the trailer for Generation Wealth compares our society to “the end of Rome,” while images of child beauty queens, Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, lurid strip clubs, dogs receiving plastic surgery, and unfathomably tacky McMansions scroll past. The film is one prong of a broader multimedia retrospective of the work of photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, who has long chronicled the ultra-wealthy. Here she turns the camera on herself and her own body of work, attempting to collapse a decade of filmmaking into a single cohesive statement and suss out a reason for her own monomania. Her conclusions—about America, herself, and us—don’t seem cheery.
Will it be worth your time? Greenfield’s The Queen Of Versailles remains one of the best documentaries of the millennium, at once insightful, human, and darkly comic, thanks in large part to the access the director was granted by her subjects. Generation Wealth bites off a lot, and will inevitably suffer from being autobiographical, but Greenfield’s is a viewpoint worth seeking out.


The Third Murder 

Select theaters July 20

Before winning the Palme D’Or (or top prize) at Cannes this May for his reportedly lovely Shoplifters, Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda made an unlikely left turn into courtroom procedural with this story of a career attorney (Masaharu Fukuyama) who begins to see inconsistencies in the official confession offered by his client (Koji Yakusho), a factory worker on trial for murdering his boss.
Will it be worth your time? It’s nice to hear that Koreeda, who’s made at least a few great films (After Life, Nobody Knows, Still Walking), has broken out of his wheelhouse and returned to genre-hopping; big Cannes win aside, he’s maybe churned out one too many gentle-as-the-breeze family dramas. That being said, even the director’s biggest fans seem to regard The Third Murder, his first movie shot in CinemaScope, as more theoretically than actually interesting—a talky legal thriller that struggles to justify its unresolved mysteries. If you see just one Koreeda movie this year, Shoplifters is probably the safer bet, assuming it makes it to theaters by December.


Mission: Impossible—Fallout

Theaters everywhere July 27

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Just how often can IMF distrust, disavow, or abandon their most super-charged superspy? It happens again in Mission: Impossible—Fallout, which finds Tom Cruise’s daredevil Ethan Hunt racing through the aftermath of a mission gone awry, evading enemies and allies alike. The allies this time include old teammates Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg (though not Jeremy Renner), imperiled wife Michelle Monaghan, and Hunt’s British match in espionage expertise, Rebecca Ferguson. It’s currently unclear where Henry Cavill and his inconvenient mustache fit into the hero-villain equation; all we really know about his CIA killing machine is that he’s apparently so lethal with his fists that he has to reload his arms.
Will it be worth your time? It’s a little disappointing that Cruise tapped Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie for Fallout, too, given that part of the appeal of the M:I series is how—up until now—it’s handed the reins over to a new auteur with each new entry. But that’s a small quibble to have with a Hollywood franchise this consistent and consistently exhilarating; there’s no reason to believe part six will fail to deliver the brisk fun and insanely dangerous stunt work its predecessors have, especially given the number of injuries Cruise sustained on set doubtlessly trying to break his fool neck for our entertainment.


Teen Titans Go! To The Movies

Theaters everywhere July 27

Cartoon Network’s silly superhero spoof Teen Titans Go! gets its own big-screen adventure—one that takes aim at the modern glut of superhero movies while mockingly contributing to it. After realizing that everyone else with superpowers has already gotten their shot at cinema stardom, Robin, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and the rest of the young, tertiary heroes parlay their ongoing war with archnemesis Deathstroke (Will Arnett) into something worthy of the big screen, with plenty of self-deprecating, fourth-wall-breaking digs at the larger comic-book universe along the way.
Will it be worth your time? The satire of the animated series can be scattershot, but the trailer promises big laughs for anyone who automatically finds riffing on the similarities between Deathstroke and Deadpool funny. As a bonus, the film’s Justice League is voiced by the once-in-a-weird-lifetime ensemble of Nicolas Cage, Jimmy Kimmel, Halsey, and Lil Yachty.


The Captain

Select theaters July 27

RED and Allegiant director Robert Schwentke returns to his native Germany to make something very different than his mainstream Hollywood fare. Blending dark satire and historical docudrama, the film follows Willi Herold (Max Hubacher), a Nazi deserter who steals a captain’s uniform during the last weeks of World War II. Once clad in the uniform of authority, Herold discovers that his fellow fascist soldiers will obey anyone who looks like they’re in charge, no matter how cruel and absurd their demands.
Will it be worth your time? U. S. distributor Music Box Films has a proven track record with foreign genre fare (it also brought the original Swedish Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy to America), and The Captain’s recent Best Film win at the Cinepocalypse Festival in Chicago is the latest in a string of honors on both sides of the Atlantic.


Good Manners

Select theaters July 27

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The werewolf myth’s ripe imagery of transformation, appetite, and body horror gets a queer and class-conscious reworking in this fantasy from the Brazilian writer-director duo of Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra. Isabél Zuaa stars as a live-in nanny whose pregnant employer (Marjorie Estiano) acts strange under the full moon; an affair sparks up between the two, but not before things start getting really weird.
Will it be worth your time? Advance word on Good Manners has been strong, with many praising the film’s ambitious mix of social commentary, stylized melodrama, and the supernatural, while voicing reservations about its unevenness and tonal shifts. Regardless, it sounds like a lot of movie.