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.
Although Madea herself isn’t the guest of honor at the memorial service of the title, A Madea Family Funeral does reportedly mark the last time series Svengali Tyler Perry will zip himself into the geriatric suit. (As Perry told Sirius XM back in November, “It’s time for me to kill that old bitch.”) But the multi-hyphenate has been threatening to retire the character since at least 2009; whether he actually follows through probably depends on how Funeral does at the box office. It looks like a typically Perryesque blend of broad comedy and soap opera scandal, as Madea presides over a backwoods funeral that’s positively dripping with family secrets.
Will it be worth your time? Do you want the Madea series to last forever? If not, call Perry’s bluff and stay away, so he has an excuse to let the old gal rest in peace. He’ll probably be thankful, deep down.
Prestige-trash specialist Neil Jordan returns with his first feature film since 2012’s Byzantium, casting Isabelle Huppert as an emotionally unstable widow and Chloe Grace Moretz as the naive waitress who makes the mistake of being nice to her. Although Greta has a deranged quality reminiscent of the erotic thrillers that dominated the box office in the late ’80s and early ’90s, those hoping for intergenerational romance between Huppert and Moretz will walk away unsatisfied: The fatal attraction here is of the maternal kind, as Huppert attempts to take the place of Moretz’s recently deceased mother.
Will it be worth your time? You also shouldn’t expect Greta to pop back up next awards season or anything. But this lurid little thriller is appealingly kooky, with a handful of gasp-inducing twists and at least one memorably meme-able Isabelle Huppert moment.
Ever had a really bad trip you couldn’t wait to come down from? That’s the experience dramatized and nightmarishly exaggerated by Gaspar Noé’s latest all-out assault on the senses. In Climax, which unfolds basically in real time and within a single location, the French provocateur behind Irréversible and Enter The Void follows a young, multicultural dance troupe whose carefree shindig spirals into a collective freak-out after someone spikes the sangria with LSD. Sofia Boutella, from Star Trek Beyond and The Mummy, leads an energetic ensemble of mostly professional dancers, several of them making their screen debuts.
Will it be worth your time? Noé’s never been the deepest filmmaker—his movies often play like a series of “mind-blowing” virtuosic camera moves, with stoner dorm-room musings as the loose connective tissue. But the primal simplicity of Climax’s premise perfectly suits the director’s outrageous sense of style. It’s his most gripping, hypnotic, claustrophobic effort: a kind of apocalyptic horror musical, like Suspiria or Night Of The Living Dead by way of a Gallic Step Up sequel. Yes, for real.
Phoenix, from German writer-director Christian Petzold, remains one of The A.V. Club’s favorite movies of the decade, reconfiguring Vertigo into a haunting postwar noir about guilt, denial, and national identity. There’s also a little Hitchcock, along with Kafka and Casablanca, in Petzold’s follow-up about a refugee (Franz Rogowski) fleeing a wave of European fascism and impersonating a dead companion in… well, it’s tough to say just when this tricky throwback thriller takes place, actually.
Will it be worth your time? Absolutely. The indeterminate setting is just one way Petzold gloriously discombobulates his audience. Transit is an elegant, ingenious brain-bender whose slipperiness serves a larger purpose: This is a movie about how disturbingly little the present has diverged from the past. It should not be missed.
Arriving just a few months shy of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Todd Douglas Miller’s remarkable documentary offers something close to an all-access, four-dimensional portrait of one of humankind’s most historic achievements. Assembled from an unearthed supply of pristine, immaculately preserved 65mm archival footage and previously unreleased audio from the days in question, Apollo 11 stitches together a minute-by-minute account of the mission, taking audiences from the launchpad to the NASA nerve center to the lunar surface itself. The film begins its theatrical run in IMAX theaters this Friday.
Will it be worth your time? The footage alone is worth the price of admission: Not since Jane has a documentary secured such incredibly unblemished decades-old celluloid imagery, in this case making a spectacular event that the whole world watched on their televisions half a century ago look like it was shot yesterday. But Apollo 11 also demands to be seen for its present-tense immediacy—for the way it totally eschews the hindsight recollection of talking-head interviews. Even more so than First Man, it’s a time machine set to July 20, 1969.
Despite a title that would place it between The Wedding Date and The Wedding Planner on nonexistent video store shelves, The Wedding Guest is not part of the recent rom-com revival. It centers on a mysterious, gun-toting man (Dev Patel) who seems to be stalking and kidnapping a woman (Radhika Apte) right before her wedding. The trailer keeps things vague but intriguing, with Patel and Apte exchanging lots of fraught glances.
Will it be worth your time? Depends on your appetite for travelogues. Director Michael Winterbottom, who in his prime was sort of the modest British man’s Steven Soderbergh, has taken lately to finding every possible excuse to go sightseeing. And though The Wedding Guest has little in common tonally with the Trip comedies Winterbottom made with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, it again finds the filmmaker treating genre as an elaborate justification to turn his lens on a scenic land—in this case, the more photogenic stretches of the Indian subcontinent. Still, a movie ticket is cheaper than roundtrip airfare to Amritsar.
The MCU fires up the wayback machine and travels to the early ’90s to tell the origin story of the newest addition to its pantheon of big-screen heroes. Brie Larson takes the title role of Carol Danvers, a part-alien, part-human warrior who comes to Earth to stop the invasion of a race of extraterrestrial shapeshifters, the Skrull—and maybe to get some answers about her own past, which she can’t remember. Along for the ride is a certain authoritative S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, played by a digitally de-aged and eyepatch-free Samuel L. Jackson. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who made Mississippi Grind and Sugar, are directing.
Will it be worth your time? Captain Marvel looks as zippy and entertaining as any other superhero spectacle off the studio’s assembly line, but with the potential added fun factor of a Blockbuster Video-era setting. It’s also, of course, the first Marvel movie with a woman in the lead and a woman behind the camera (unless you count Lexi Alexander’s Punisher: War Zone, which wasn’t part of the MCU). But that couldn’t be the reason some “fans” are prematurely attacking the movie, right?
A Fantastic Woman director Sebastián Lelio follows up his English-language debut Disobedience with a remake of his own 2013 drama Gloria, swapping the location from Santiago, Chile to Los Angeles and the star from Paulina García to Julianne Moore. Other than that, the plot remains the same, focusing again on a 58-year-old woman whose unquenchable sense of joie de vivre leads her first to yoga class, then to the dance floor, and then into a flirtation with a fellow divorcé (played here by John Turturro).
Will it be worth your time? The original has been widely celebrated by critics, and currently sits at a stellar 99 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Whether it was strictly necessary for Lelio, who’s since added an Academy Award to his résumé, to retell this story is debatable. But Moore is reportedly excellent in the role, and it’s not as if we’re overloaded with films featuring women over the age of 50—or 40, or 35, for that matter—in romantic roles.
Jafar Panahi is an unstoppable creative force. Though officially banned from making movies by the Iranian authorities, the filmmaker has worked at a steady clip since his house arrest in 2010, directing and starring in an ongoing series of dramas that blur the line separating fiction from documentary. In his latest, Panahi again appears as himself, this time accompanying actress Behnaz Jafari on a search for an aspiring teenage actress who may have faked her suicide.
Will it be worth your time? While there’s an unusually urgent inciting incident, 3 Faces isn’t really a mystery. It’s another of Panahi’s gently polemical, inquisitive national portraits; the faces of the title belong to three actresses of different generations, all grappling with the challenges of living and working in Iran. Fans of the director’s late friend and creative collaborator Abbas Kiarostami should take special note, as 3 Faces pays conceptual and visual tribute to the films of that departed master.
Khalik Allah, the filmmaker and photographer who shot Beyoncé’s video album for Lemonade, assembles an ode to the people of Jamaica, where his mother was born. As with the director’s hour-long Field Niggas (2015), about life at a particular corner of Harlem, it’s a documentary in a loose sense—more of a collage of faces and places, shot on 16mm and digital, structured around the trimesters of a pregnancy.
Will it be worth your time? Since premiering at last year’s True/False, a festival that celebrates adventurous nonfiction, Black Mother has earned almost nothing but raves, with critics celebrating its impressionistic approach to national, cultural, and personal identity. Anyone seeking the standard information-delivery conventions of contemporary documentary cinema will probably be frustrated, however.
In the newest big-screen Nickelodeon animated venture (to be accompanied by a small-screen Nickelodeon companion series), a girl named June (Brianna Denski) discovers a magical hidden amusement park called Wonderland, which has somehow manifested from her childhood imagination. Wonder Park, meanwhile, has somehow manifested from a litany of directors, including Pixar alum Dylan Brown, who was fired for “inappropriate conduct”; Cow And Chicken creator David Feiss; and live-action filmmakers Robert Iscove (She’s All That) and Clare Kilner (The Wedding Date).
Will it be worth your time? Some of the trailer’s imagery is lush and fantastical, and much of its dialogue comes from chattering animal sidekicks voiced by the usual hodgepodge of disparate celebrities (John Oliver, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis). So basically, it looks like the usual deal for second-tier studio animation, where its worth may depend on how desperate parents are to occupy their young children for a couple of hours.
It’s nice to know that even after massive shifts in the media consumption landscape, teen soap stars are still afforded a few shots at supplemental big-screen stardom. Hence Cole Sprouse, Riverdale’s own Jughead Jones, acting opposite the always-delightful Haley Lu Richardson in a romantic drama about two young people with cystic fibrosis who fall in love but literally can’t get too close because of their condition. It’s directed by Justin Baldoni, who’s making his own jump from The CW to the multiplex after acting in Jane The Virgin for years.
Will it be worth your time? If you’ve been waiting patiently for Cole Sprouse to star in a feature film without his twin brother, Dylan, since 1999’s Big Daddy, or for Richardson to star in a movie without the pesky subtlety of Columbus or Support The Girls, maybe.
After a clever but underseen 2007 movie and a failed CW pilot, famed sleuthing prodigy Nancy Drew is back to skew towards a younger audience, with what looks, from its trailer, like a low-budget series-starter. Then again, its principle players are also familiar with darker, Stephen King-ish tones: Your new Nancy is Sophia Lillis, who faced off against Pennywise The Clown in the recent It, and her new director is Katt Shea, who made a Carrie sequel that turns 20 this month. The new film is based on the second Nancy Drew book, first published in 1930 and last adapted into a film in 1939, also from the Warner Bros. studio. In other words, Nancy has been on the WB payroll significantly longer than Batman or Superman.
Will it be worth your time? It doesn’t look as loopy or off-kilter as the Andrew Fleming version. Then again, the trailer for that one did it no favors, and Shea might well have an appealing new take.
Set in Chicago a decade after an alien invasion, this sci-fi thriller stars Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, the upcoming Native Son) as a young man who gets involved in a resistance movement against both the extraterrestrial occupation forces and the collaborationist human authorities. John Goodman seems to be playing one of the latter, but the trailers for Captive State have been focused more on selling the dystopia of a post-invasion Earth than on giving away any details of the plot.
Will it be worth your time? Director Rupert Wyatt’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes has been overshadowed by the technical accomplishments and dramatic ambitions of its Matt Reeves-directed sequels, and his remake of The Gambler is mostly remembered as the movie that cast Mark Wahlberg as a literature professor. Still, it’s too rare nowadays to see a new sci-fi film that isn’t meant to kick off a franchise. (Or is it?)
New York cousins Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg) and Anton (Alexander Skarsgård) decide to beat the financial world at its own game by installing a thousand-mile fiber-optic cable between Kansas and New Jersey, allowing them to receive stock market quotes one millisecond faster than their competition—especially their former boss, Eva Torres (Salma Hayek). The premise sounds like one of those too-strange-for-fiction stories, but maybe this one is just strange—it didn’t actually happen (at least not yet), but comes from the mind of War Witch director Kim Nguyen.
Will it be worth your time? Reviews out of Toronto were mixed, but watching Jesse Eisenberg try to fast-talk his way through dicey situations is a reliable pleasure.
Passions flare in this sophomore feature from longtime television director James Kent (Testament Of Youth), a period piece set in the post-World War II wreckage of Hamburg. A British colonel (Jason Clarke) brings his wife (Keira Knightley) to stay in the house requisitioned for them by the government, but in a gesture of impulsive goodwill, they offer to let the previous owner (Alexander Skarsgård) and his son remain as their houseguests. Soon enough, the colonel is called away, and nature takes its course between the two adults living in close quarters. Based on the novel by Rhidian Brook.
Will it be worth your time? If midcentury tales of illicit lust baked into political allegories are your cup of tea, you could do a lot worse than watching them acted out by Knightley, Clarke, and Skarsgård, all of whom are consummate pros at this kind of thing. Still, Kent’s previous film doesn’t inspire confidence; there’s a chance this could end up more staid than sumptuous.
In the Datong of the early 21st century, gangster moll Qiao (Zhao Tao) takes the fall for her mobster boyfriend (Liao Fan). Years later, she gets out of the clink and goes searching for her lost love. Like just about every film by writer-director Jia Zhangke (Mountains May Depart, Platform), the three-part Ash Is Purest White documents the ongoing evolution of modern Chinese culture. Here, though, the master filmmaker is also exploring changes to his own style, using a decade-plus-spanning narrative to return to the themes and settings of old works.
Will it be worth your time? Jia fans will get a huge kick out of the way Ash Is Purest White communes with his filmography—one reveal, in particular, will be a real doozy for anyone who’s seen what may be his best movie, Still Life. At the same time, this sprawling, trifurcated melodrama has its own shaggy (unknown) pleasures, and could work as an ideal introduction to the master director who made it.
A feverish, filthy-minded homage to giallo filmmaking at its most decadent—and its most nonsensical—French director Yann Gonzalez’s Knife + Heart gives ’70s porno-chic aesthetics the exquisitely sharp edge of a freshly brandished switchblade. It’s about a masked killer who picks off the members of a merry troupe of gay porn performers one by one, disturbing the heavily stylized peace of their pansexual utopia. Vanessa Paradis stars as the director of said pornos, whose investigation into who’s killing off her stars leads her into some hazy psychosexual territory.
Will it be worth your time? Knife + Heart was a favorite of our critics at last year’s Cannes and Fantastic fests. Following its world premiere at the former, film editor A.A. Dowd compared Knife + Heart to a “a DIY Boogie Nights” that “sometimes feels as rough around the edges and inelegantly plotted as its pornos-within-the-movie,” but whose jagged edges are “all part of its scrappy charm.”
“If you wanna control your horse, first you gotta control yourself.” Does this trailer line sum up the thematic thrust of The Mustang, the first feature directed by French actor Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre? The film follows a hardened convict (Matthias Schoenaerts) in rural Nevada who gets the opportunity to enter a rehabilitation program training wild mustangs. In the process of bonding with the animals and his new boss (Bruce Dern), the troubled man works to confront his violent past.
Will it be worth your time? Despite looking like the very definition of clichéd material (do you think there might be any parallels between taming a wild mustang and making peace with your own wild side?), advance reviews from the film’s Sundance premiere were largely positive, suggesting Clermont-Tonnerre put a fresh spin on this scenario. Schoenaerts in particular is reportedly terrific—no surprise to anyone who’s seen his work in A Bigger Splash or Bullhead.
Writer-director Jordan Peele follows up on the buzziest debut of the decade with Us, the second in a series of “social thrillers” he began with the Academy Award-winning Get Out. Black Panther’s Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke star as a married couple on vacation with their kids whose beach weekend takes a sinister turn when they encounter a family of terrifyingly violent doppelgängers dressed in matching red outfits, wearing freaky faceless masks, and brandishing gigantic gold scissors.
Will it be worth your time? Although Us won’t premiere for a few more weeks—it’s set for opening night of this year’s SXSW film festival—the massive outpouring of critical, audience, and awards-season support for Get Out makes it the most anticipated genre movie of the year. And given the hot streak Peele’s been on ever since winning that Oscar, it’s could be the most successful as well.
In November 2008, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks were carried out across multiple days and locations in Mumbai; the attack on the city’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is the focus of this tense-looking docudrama. Expert hotelier Dev Patel plays a waiter on staff at the hotel, while Armie Hammer and Jason Isaacs appear as guests. Director Anthony Maras makes his feature debut after several shorts, seemingly attempting to beat Paul Greengrass at his own morbid game.
Will it be worth your time? Early reviews have been positive, though audiences might be excused if they’re not excited to catch another you-are-there thriller ripped from the world’s most upsetting headlines.
When you’ve kicked off your career with a film as tough, monumental, and acclaimed as Son Of Saul, what on earth do you do for an encore? Hungarian writer-director László Nemes follows his 2015 Oscar-winning debut with a drama set in the Budapest of 1913, where the prodigal daughter (Juli Jakab) of the city’s most famous milliners returns, only to find herself enveloped by the family’s unfinished business.
Will it be worth your time? A plot description makes Sunset sound awfully genteel, especially after a film that dragged audiences through the nonstop horror of Auschwitz. Remarkably, though, Nemes has managed to relocate some of the dread and urgency of his powerhouse first feature to an environment where the stakes are theoretically much lower. Even if you don’t connect to Sunset’s soap-operatic narrative, you may be captivated by its fluid Steadicam shots and masterfully orchestrated chaos.
The American indie scene of today sometimes seems like little more than a farm league for the studios and streaming giants, but writer-director Joel Potrykus (Buzzard, The Alchemist Cookbook) still keeps to the spirit of its underground roots. His latest paean to junk food, self-destruction, and the grotesque, anti-social fantasies of Midwestern misfits is set entirely in one living room in 1999. Potrkykus’ regular leading man, Joshua Burge, plays a slacker who has to stay on the couch until he reaches level 256 of the original Pac-Man.
Will it be worth your time? Potrykus’s Doritos-dusted, basement-dwelling comedies of depravity and delusion may not be for every taste, but their deep veins of private antagonism and megalomania set them apart from everything else on the current low-budget landscape. If nothing else, they’re worth a try.
The Disney multiplex monopoly’s long march of intellectual-property-asserting live-action remakes continues with this “reimagining” of Dumbo, the 1941 classic about a big-eared circus elephant who discovers than he can fly. (Coming later this year: Aladdin and The Lion King.) The original’s childlike misfit metaphor seems like a perfect fit for director Tim Burton, but the emphasis here seems to be on the human cast, which includes Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, and Burton’s erstwhile Batman and Beetlejuice, Michael Keaton.
Will it be worth your time? The recent remakes of Beauty And The Beast and Cinderella were bloated and uninspired, and the idea of turning Dumbo, one of Disney’s shortest features, into a 130-minute extravaganza doesn’t sound too promising. But most of us at The A.V. Club are just the right age to regard Burton’s early films as formative viewing experiences, and would like nothing more than to see him make another great movie.
Matthew McConaughey makes his bid for “The Dude”-level immortality in Harmony Korine’s freewheeling new comedy, which casts the star as a stoner poet named Moondog who explains his philosophy on life thusly in the film’s teaser trailer: “Life’s a fuckin’ rodeo. I’m gonna suck the nectar out of it and fuck it raw dog til the wheels come off.” Moondog’s cocaine-and-pool-parties lifestyle takes a major hit after a judge orders him to get it together or face jail time. But lucky for him he’s got a supporting cast that includes Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, and Martin Lawrence to help him maintain the good vibes.
Will it be worth your time? Korine’s nigh-spiritual passion for the trashiest Florida has to offer made for a compelling aesthetic through-line in his last feature film, 2012’s Spring Breakers; combined with McConaughey’s natural affinity for playing lovable weirdos, The Beach Bum will likely have charm to spare. At the very least, it’s promising that the director seems to have moved on from the abrasive, scum-and-atrocity phase of early provocations like Gummo and his script for Kids.
You can count on the “based on a true story” Americana specialist John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks) to find the least sexy angle on the legend of Bonnie and Clyde. This Netflix production casts Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer, the retired-Texas-Ranger-turned-professional-strike-breaker who led the posse that tracked down and ultimately killed the Depression-era outlaw couple. Woody Harrelson plays his fellow lawman Maney Gault.
Will it be worth your time? As the screenwriter of Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World—another period piece about crooks and Texas Rangers—Hancock gave Costner what is arguably his best role. But that was more than a quarter-century ago; despite devoting his subsequent career to dramatizing the obvious signposts of American iconography (from The Alamo to McDonald’s), Hancock has never mustered the kind of ambiguity that Eastwood brought to that script.
Another month, another batch of movie characters with superpowers. But director-cowriter Julia Hart seems to bring a fresher perspective to this story of Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a woman whose abilities have necessitated a separation from her daughter, Lila (Saniyya Sidney), until it turns out the apple didn’t fall so far from the tree. The trailer looks more spare and reflective than the usual superhero fare, seemingly in the vein of indie-meets-genre fare like Midnight Special or Looper.
Will it be worth your time? Despite the six to 12 superhero movies that are now released annually, it’s rare to see a woman of color in that role, and Fast Color premiered at last year’s SXSW to generally positive notices. It looks like a refreshing change of pace (and point of view) in between MCU blockbusters.
The esteemed critic Kent Jones (Hitchcock/Truffaut) makes his fiction directing debut with this film about the rocky relationship between the title character (Mary Kay Place), a retiree with a busy schedule of volunteer work and hospital visits, and her resentful, heroin-addicted son (Jake Lacy). As the years pass, the young man cleans up and ends up turning his life around—only to become an overbearing born-again Christian who won’t stop pestering his mom to join his church.
Will it be worth your time? Diane’s portrayal of a mother and child who are always just a few beats off of being able to actually help each other is intriguing, and its depiction of the social lives of small-town seniors feels lived in. But we have mixed feelings about the film, a maundering and at times inelegant piece of work that never finds its shape as either drama or character study.