Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
It Chapter Two (Photo: Warner Bros.), Hustlers (Photo: Barbara Nitke), and Ad Astra (Photo: Francois Duhamel / Twentieth Century Fox)

Brad Pitt blasts off, Pennywise floats, and Downton Abbey reopens its doors this September

It Chapter Two (Photo: Warner Bros.), Hustlers (Photo: Barbara Nitke), and Ad Astra (Photo: Francois Duhamel / Twentieth Century Fox)
Graphic: Allison Corr

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.

It Chapter Two

Theaters everywhere September 6

Andy Muschietti’s quest to adapt one of Stephen King’s more unadaptable books comes to a close with It Chapter Two. The first half, which quickly became the highest-grossing horror movie of all time, followed Derry, Maine’s fabled Losers Club as children battling indescribable evil. Chapter Two picks up 27 years later, with the now-grown Losers returning to a town they can barely remember to defeat the immortal Pennywise once and for all.
Will it be worth your time? The first question on most viewers’ minds when presented with the prospect of a second It movie is “Who’s playing the grown-up Losers?” And the casting in the second film—which includes Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader—is indeed top notch. Sadly, however, the film also sacrifices suspense and horror for cheap laughs, making this a much less haunting It than its predecessor.

Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Select theaters September 6; VOD September 13

It’s been 15 years since Morgan Spurlock introduced a whole new layer of shame to eating fast food with Super Size Me, which found him gorging on McDonald’s for 30 straight days to prove that you shouldn’t do that. In the documentary’s wake, a chastened industry finally changed its ways, committing itself to using only healthy, organic, cruelty-free buzzwords in all of its advertising. But even though it says “free range” or “California” or whatever on its wrapper, is that deep-fried chicken sandwich really good for you? For this sequel, Spurlock opened his very own chicken shack, walking you through every step of the process from farm to nugget in order to uncover the shocking truth you already largely suspect, all rendered with his usual mix of plucky effervescence and gory detail.
Will it be worth your time? Super Size Me 2 already sounded slightly behind the curve even before it was shelved in the wake of Spurlock’s confession of sexual misconduct: There have simply been too many food exposés in the interim, some inspired by Super Size Me’s success, that similarly aimed at exposing all the horrors of everything we thoughtlessly hork down. Unless you have a special yen for hearing Spurlock explain it to you all over again, maybe with a few cartoons, you could probably get the grisly gist in about 10 minutes of Googling.

Satanic Panic

Select theaters September 6

The second in the relaunched Fangoria’s series of in-house movie productions, Satanic Panic hops on three hot ’n’ ready horror trends: satanic cults, class conflict, and winking pizza worship. The story is straightforward as it can be, following a pizza delivery driver (Hayley Griffith) who becomes incensed when a wealthy client refuses to tip. When she charges back into the house to confront him, however, she discovers that she’s interrupting a lot more than a kaffeeklatsch.
Will it be worth your time?: All the ingredients for a tasty horror movie are here: a great premise, a strong final girl, amusing celebrity casting, wild Shaw Brothers-influenced gore. Yet weak direction makes the result as mushy and unappetizing as reheated Papa John’s. If you’re looking for a fun, stylish thriller about sadistic rich monsters, try the recent Ready Or Not instead.

The Goldfinch

Theaters everywhere September 13

Just one week after the blockbuster-in-waiting It Chapter 2, Warner Bros. is releasing another adaptation of a very long book: a tony-looking take on the Pulitzer-winning Donna Tartt bestseller The Goldfinch. They’re also flexing prestige muscles many other major studios have let atrophy; this is, after all, a wide-release two-and-a-half-hour drama about a teenager whose mother is killed in a terrorist attack. John Crowley (Brooklyn, Intermission) branches out from the Irish Experience to direct Ansel Elgort as the grown-up version of the emotionally wounded kid (and budding art thief). Nicole Kidman plays Elgort’s substitute mother figure, while Jeffrey Wright, Luke Wilson, Sarah Paulson, Ashleigh Cummings, and Denis O’Hare fill out the cast.
Will it be worth your time? Movies genuinely for adults are so rarely released in this many theaters anymore that we almost want to recommend The Goldfinch sight unseen and on principle alone. But whether Crowley and screenwriter Peter Straughan can tame a mammoth novel into a coherent films does remain to be seen. The cast is promising, at least.


Theaters everywhere September 13

The Kitchen was a disappointment, but moviegoers still hungry for gangs of street-smart women turning to a life of crime have other options this fall. Hustlers dramatizes the true story of Manhattan strippers (played by Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu, among others) who concoct a seemingly foolproof plan to go all Robin Hood on their wealthy Wall Street clients, robbing from the rich and giving to themselves. The source material is a New York Magazine article, adapted for the screen by Lorene Scafaria.
Will it be worth your time?: Much of the press surrounding Hustlers has focused on the fact that it marks the big-screen debuts of R&B/hip-hop stars Lizzo and Cardi B, the latter of whom has talked openly about her experiences working as a stripper. Whether either’s charisma translates to acting chops remains to be seen. Equally uncertain is if the writer-director of The Meddler and Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World has a crackerjack caper in her.


Select theaters September 13

On a secluded mountain in Latin America, gun-toting teenagers with war names like Bigfoot, Wolf, and Smurf do the bidding of a mysterious militant group called The Organization. Their primary mission: keep close watch over an American engineer (Julianne Nicholson) they’ve taken hostage. But though these child soldiers are committed to the cause, they’re also hormonal, mixed-up children, and cracks begin to form in their makeshift Lord Of The Flies society when rival forces drive the unit into the sweltering, treacherous jungle.
Will it be worth your time? And then some. Monos, which won a prize at Sundance in January, is one of the year’s most striking cinematic visions: an intensely gripping drama that divides audience sympathies between its adolescent warriors (played by a cast of mostly unknown actors) and the woman they’ve kidnapped and imprisoned. It also boasts some spectacular, apocalyptic imagery, and a typically strange and memorable score from composer Mica Levi (Under The Skin, Jackie).


Select theaters September 13

After six years spent producing other people’s horror movies, NYC indie godfather Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo) steps back into the director’s chair for the latest in his series of films based around classic monsters. The subject this time is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein mythos, which Fessenden updates to center around a combat surgeon driven over the edge by his experiences in America’s endless “war on terror” and the Brooklynite who becomes his unwitting, unwilling test subject.
Will it be worth your time? Fessenden keeps the romantic aspect of Shelley’s lonely “modern Prometheus” intact, while adding thoughtful political commentary and experimental filmmaking techniques. Mileage may vary, however, on Depraved’s (very) slow-burn horror.

3 From Hell

Select theaters September 16

Last we saw the Firefly clan—the outlaw serial killers of Rob Zombie’s House Of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects—they were racing headfirst into a massive police barricade, going out in a Bonnie-and-Clyde blaze of gunfire and glory. But it’ll apparently take more than a hail of bullets—and a climactic rendition of “Freebird”—to keep these hillbilly psychos down. Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) all return for this trilogy-capper, which appears to at least partially involve a murder trial and the transformation of the trio into media darlings, à la Natural Born Killers.

Will it be worth your time? The Devil’s Rejects is probably Zombie’s most well-liked (and well-reviewed) movie, so it’s not a big surprise to see him return to that particular killing floor. But the trailer teases little of the extravagant style the shock-rocker-turned-director last applied to these degenerate characters. It looks, in fact, more like his threadbare 31—truly a dismal proposition for all but his most indiscriminate fans.

Midnight Traveler

Select theaters September 18

Portraits of the refugee experience don’t come much more up-close-and-personal than Midnight Traveler, Afghan director Hassan Fazili’s first-hand account of his family’s continent-crossing plight for sanctuary. Marked for death by the Taliban after the broadcast of a documentary he made about a reformed member of the organization, Fazili fled his home country in 2015 with his wife (fellow filmmaker Fatima Hussaini) and two young daughters. Using only smart phones, he filmed the whole experience, capturing each step of their dangerous journey, passing borders in secret and trying to make it to Europe.
Will it be worth your time? For obvious reasons, Midnight Traveler isn’t the most conceptually or visually sophisticated documentary—it’s essentially a home-video diary of one family’s years-and-country-spanning pilgrimage. But you’d have to be made of stone not to be moved by its vision of struggle and perseverance, and Hussaini even complicates that element by asking how his intentions as an artist gel with his responsibilities as a husband and father. It’s timely, urgent, and inherently intimate filmmaking.

Ad Astra

Theaters everywhere September 20

For a while, it appeared as though James Gray’s outer-space opus might disappear forever into the inky black void of production purgatory, having floated past two of its official release dates this year. But Ad Astra, about an astronaut (Brad Pitt) searching for his father (Tommy Lee Jones) at the edge of the solar system, has reemerged from the darkness, scoring a plum spot on the Venice lineup and an award-season wide release. The trailers are rich with mystery, largest among them whether or not this is actually an arty, extravagant, 20-years-later sequel to Space Cowboys.
Will it be worth your time? Gray has become one of American cinema’s most ambitious and underrated directors—his last two movies, The Immigrant and The Lost City Of Z, were triumphs of they-don’t-make-’em-like-they-used-to craftsmanship, bringing the past to vivid life. Whether Gray is as sure-footed in the vacuum of large-budget sci-fi remains to be seen, though the imagery looks totally jaw-dropping, and the quixotic narrative seems like a natural fit for a filmmaker who thinks big.

Rambo: Last Blood

Theaters everywhere September 20

John Rambo heads south of the border for his latest (and last?) blood-soaked, strangely moralistic one-man war on gun-toting bad guys. At this point, you’d think drug lords and other assorted villains would know better than to kidnap young girls without running a few background checks first to make sure they’re not tangentially related to septuagenarian slayer of men John Rambo—especially since his last rampage, 2008’s ultraviolent Rambo, proved that he’s only getting more kill-happy in his advancing years. And yet here we are, with Sergio Peris-Mencheta as the inevitably doomed baddie who provokes the beefy senior citizen’s wrath, and Paz Vega as Rambo’s latest sidekick/conversational target for his largely monosyllabic mumbles.
Will it be worth your time? The latter-day Rocky movies have seen Sylvester Stallone in a refreshingly contemplative mood, allowing his underdog hero to accept the aging process with a certain amount of grace. Not so the most recent Rambo, though, and nothing about Last Blood’s bombastic, dusty trailers suggest that Stallone’s second most iconic character has more to offer than mindless explosions and killing. A Rambo movie, in other words.

Downton Abbey

Select theaters September 20

Julian Fellowes’ soap-and-soup opera returns with this film continuation, picking up in the thoroughly modern era of 1927—a swinging age of shifting social mores and wantonly bobbed haircuts that threatens to upend everything the Crawley family knows about proper table setting. In bringing the beloved British drama to the big screen, Fellowes and director Michael Engler have conceived of the biggest, most cinematic luncheon imaginable: a visit from the King and Queen, who arrive at Downton at a time when the estate’s dwindling finances mean it can only maintain a paltry dozen or so servants. Can the assembled lords, ladies, and attendants set aside their myriad romances and inner lives long enough to serve the royals a proper cup of tea?
Will it be worth your time? If you’re already a fan of the show, seeing Jim Carter’s Carson striding up that familiar garden path—or just hearing that sweeping theme—is enough to stir those old warm feelings for these cold-blooded aristocrats, and you’ll surely be there at the first weekday matinee to soak up all of Maggie Smith’s sick burns and witness the all-new ways they’ve invented to make Edith suffer. But if you’d rather be gauche…


Select theaters September 20

Stop us if you’ve heard this one: A blowhard real-estate mogul with little regard for public decency (and some unlikely-to-be-human hair) parlays his cash—and a certain reptilian charisma—into the highest office in the land, then squanders his days on carnal interests and petty feuds. Such was the life and career of Silvio Berlusconi (you see what we did there?), the subject of this profile by Paolo Sorrentino, lately of The Young Pope, previously of This Must Be The Place and The Great Beauty, on the topic of powerful, eminently fallible men. And while the title (it translates as “Them”) refers to Berlusconi’s cadre of followers—most notably an ambitious young sex trafficker played by Riccardo Scamarcio—the focus is on the man himself, as played by Sorrentino mainstay Toni Servillo, as he drifts in and out of the Italian limelight.
Will it be worth your time? Reviews for Loro (which released in Italy in two parts last year, and in the U.K. in an edited-down single cut back in April) have been generally strong. Much praise has been reserved for Servillo’s typically excellent performance, but there’s also been a recognition of Sorrentino’s ability to juggle the ugly-but-stylish excess of Berlusconi’s infamous lifestyle with a certain empathy (if not necessarily sympathy) for the dirty, complicated old man himself.

Where’s My Roy Cohn?

Select theaters September 20

Dead, thank God. But as Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary unravels in nauseating detail, the unscrupulous lawyer, backroom power broker, and uniquely accomplished liar Roy Cohn continues to rot deep within America’s crawlspace, the effects of his morally bankrupt, Machiavellian tactics casting an acrid funk over an entire political system built on fear and contempt. The film explores Cohn’s dark artistry on behalf of some of the worst people in history, making a case for him as a sort of scumbag Zelig who whispered in the ears of Joseph McCarthy and John Gotti alike, and finally, traces his influence all the way up to the present day. (The title comes from a quote famously uttered by Cohn’s most devoted protégé, Donald Trump.)
Will it be worth your time? If you can stomach yet another treatise on How We Got Here in the wake of similar films on Cohn spawn Roger Stone and Fox News’ Roger Ailes, then Where’s My Roy Cohn? promises to be similarly illuminating, if completely dispiriting.

Corporate Animals

Select theaters and VOD September 20

The hard-charging CEO (Demi Moore) of an edible-cutlery startup decides to take her staff (including Jessica Williams, Karan Soni, Nasim Pedrad, and Isiah Whitlock Jr.) on a team-building spelunking retreat. A cave-in traps everyone underground, and the workplace tedium crosses into darkly comic survival-horror territory, where “edible” may turn out to be a ghoulishly operative word. As it happens, indie director Patrick Brice has experience with both low-budget horror (Creep) and the horrors of social awkwardness (The Overnight), while Ed Helms makes a brief return to corporate hell, playing the group’s guide.
Will it be worth your time? The movie’s most potentially tasteless element happens to be its funniest: The discussions of cannibalism ethics have a grim practicality. Otherwise, Corporate Animals has some amusingly loopy moments, but stretches its satire thin even at 85 minutes.


Theaters everywhere September 27

In the grand tradition of DreamWorks Animation producing an animated movie with subject matter similar to other studios’ animated movies, audiences can celebrate the one-year anniversary of Smallfoot and the six-month anniversary of Missing Link with Abominable, the company’s own crack at Yeti-centric adventure. Chloe Bennet voices Yi, a teenager in Shanghai who befriends a lost Yeti, names him Everest, and sets off on a quest to bring him home.
Will it be worth your time? Early Pixar veteran Jill Culton is listed as the writer and director of the film, a credit that, combined with Everest’s Toothless-ish design, brings to mind the creator-driven How To Train Your Dragon trilogy. It’s also the first DreamWorks feature in years not based on a book, toy, or a previous film, so maybe it’ll be a good time to check back in with them.


Select theaters September 27

The limited-scope biopic trolley keeps a-clangin’ with this story about beloved actress and singer Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger) that limits itself mostly to 1969, the year of her untimely death. As Garland struggles with substance abuse, she plays a series of concerts in London and embarks upon her fifth marriage, to pianist/manager Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock). The film is based on the play End Of The Rainbow, which has run on stages all over the world since its 2005 debut, and has been adapted by English theatre director Rupert Goold (who has not directed a production of Rainbow, but has two decades of Shakespeare experience under his belt).
Will it be worth your time? While it’s true that smaller slices of biography tend to be more fruitful than a cradle-to-grave approach, Judy’s trailer doesn’t do much to inspire hope for the banishment of biopic clichés. As usual, interest will depend largely on the potential spectacle of one celebrity impersonating another celebrity.

The Day Shall Come

Select theaters September 27

It’s been more than a decade since Chris Morris (Brass Eye) last made a movie—plenty of time for the world he takes such obvious delight in satirizing to get even weirder than it already was. Take the pulled-from-a-whole-mess-of-headlines plot of his new feature The Day Shall Come, about an FBI agent (played by Anna Kendrick), who pitches a harmless loon with a minor religious following to her bosses as “the next 9/11.” Kendrick soon finds herself propping up this modern-day Moses (played by newcomer Marchánt Davis) with increasing amounts of government support, working to turn a peaceful idealist into a credible threat worthy of enemy-of-the-state status—even if the FBI has to hand him every gun, bomb, and fake nuclear weapon he uses along the way.
Will it be worth your time? Morris’ first film, Four Lions, remains the absolute pinnacle of terrorist-age black comedy, as unrelenting in its pointedly silly humor as in its weary, angry eye on the self-serving fuck-ups on both sides of the War On Terror. Nothing about the promo materials for The Day suggests he’s lost a step in the intervening 10 years.

First Love

Select theaters September 27

At the Cannes Film Festival this May, wildly prolific Japanese genre maverick Takashi Miike (Audition, 13 Assassins) cheekily promised that his umpteenth feature was a change of pace, a gentle romance “without any decapitations.” He was kidding, of course—a head rolls before the opening credits have finished rolling—but there is a certain sentimental quality to this comically extreme yakuza farce, in which a terminally ill boxer (Masataka Kubota) and a haunted escort (Sakurako Kanishi) fall for each over one crazy night of escalating crime-movie complications.
Will it be worth your time? First Love majorly overstays its welcome, the screwball mayhem growing wearisome even before the over-the-top shootouts of its final act. But with Miike at the helm, some of the nutty carnage is pretty funny, in an Elmore Leonard kind of way. He’s made much better films, but also much worse ones.

Sean O'Neal has been writing for The A.V. Club since 2006.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. I also write fiction, edit textbooks, and help run SportsAlcohol.com, a pop culture blog and podcast. Star Wars prequels forever!