Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Photo: Hellboy (Summit), Shazam! (Warner Bros.), Avengers: Endgame (Poster/Marvel/Disney), Graphic: Jimmy Hasse

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.


Shazam!

Theaters everywhere April 5

The Golden Age hero formerly known as Captain Marvel (no, not that one) has a secret that appeals to every superhero fan’s inner 10-year-old: He’s a regular kid who’s been granted the power to transform into a broad-chested, caped demigod whenever he says the magic word. Chuck’s Zachary Levi plays the adult-sized alter ego of the teenage Billy Batson, who must stop the villainous Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) from unleashing seven ghoulish gargoyles—one for each of the cardinal sins—on his hometown of Philadelphia.
Will it be worth your time? Following in the footsteps of Aquaman and Wonder Woman, Shazam! more or less continues the formerly glum DC film franchise’s run of surprisingly exuberant solo vehicles—though director David F. Sandberg, who borrows heavily from a variety of ’80s hits, seems more at home with the super-powered body-switching comedy than with the clumsy backstories conferred on both hero and villain.


Pet Sematary

Theaters everywhere April 5

“Sometimes, dead is better,” Fred Gwynne famously intoned in the last big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s grimmest, scariest novel. It’s a warning blithely ignored by the producers of this new version, which resurrects the story of a backwoods burial ground in rural Maine where “the person you put up there ain’t the person that comes back.” John Lithgow issues the ominous disclaimers this time, while Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz play the new parents in town, discovering that some urban legends are truer than others. The gravediggers in charge: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, who made the well-received Starry Eyes.
Will it be worth your time? Reviews from South By Southwest, where Pet Sematary premiered two weeks ago, were mostly positive, word being that the suffocating bleakness of the source material has been preserved, even if certain details of the last act have not. Just don’t go in expecting an It-style funhouse ride: Unfathomable grief is the real monster of King’s pitiless “Monkey’s Paw” riff.


The Best Of Enemies

Theaters everywhere April 5

Five or 10 years ago, a movie about civil rights activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) clashing with—and then possibly finding common ground with—Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) in the wake of court-ordered desegregation in early-’70s North Carolina might have been received as a well-intentioned historical drama. Now there’s perhaps a discomfiting familiarity in seeing Rockwell play a possibly reformable racist (shades of Three Billboards) in a story featuring an unlikely black-white friendship (shades of Best Picture winner Green Book), written and directed by a white guy (Robin Bissell, whose previous credits mostly involve producing Gary Ross movies).
Will it be worth your time? Even if their roles here seem to resemble their work in other movies, Rockwell and Henson are always compelling performers with specific energies. Best-case scenario, maybe they make this play a lot better than it sounds.


High Life

Select theaters April 5

Part space odyssey, part prison drama, all Claire Denis movie: The director of Beau Travail and White Material rockets her sensual sensibilities through the stratosphere, casting Robert Pattinson as a single father raising his infant daughter aboard a boxy, lonely spacecraft. Flashbacks reveal how he got there, introducing a population of death row inmates (played by Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, and OutKast’s André Benjamin, among others) careening through the cosmos on a suicide mission. This being a Denis movie, things get dark and physical.
Will it be worth your time? High Life isn’t just the English-language debut of this great French filmmaker. It’s also a return to elliptical form after the uncharacteristically gabby Let The Sunshine In. Whether the movie’s ruminations on desire, mortality, and parenthood entirely cohere, it’s fascinating as ever watching Denis apply her moody, poetically nonlinear style to a new genre. Also, this film contains something called The Fuck Box, and it’s as wild as it sounds.


Peterloo

Select theaters April 5

Anatomy of a bloodbath. That’s what acclaimed British director Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies) offers with his latest drama, a kind of procedural recounting of the events leading up to the infamous Peterloo Massacre of 1819, wherein government-armed cavalrymen charged into a crowd of some 60,000 peaceful protestors. Peterloo unfolds from multiple perspectives, assembling a giant ensemble of character actors to play townsfolk, stump-speech radicals, and magistrates—all hurtling toward a violent, history-making confrontation in Manchester.
Will it be worth your time? Maybe, if you can get excited by two and a half hours of feverish debate on tariffs and parliamentary reform. Though Leigh’s work is almost always worth seeking out, this is one of his driest films; the massacre doesn’t occupy much of its mammoth running time.


Amazing Grace

Select theaters April 5

Orson Welles’ long-lost swan song The Other Side Of The Wind wasn’t the only abandoned movie from the early 1970s to finally be completed last year. There was also this dazzling concert film, which chronicles the live recording of the late Aretha Franklin’s chart-topping gospel album of the same name. Shot by Sydney Pollack in a Los Angeles church in 1972, Amazing Grace was the victim of sound-sync issues that made assembly difficult, and was basically abandoned on the editing-room floor for almost half a century. But a team of producers acquired the rights to the footage in 2007, and though Franklin herself fought to keep the film out of release, it’s finally opening this week with the blessing of her estate.
Will it be worth your time? Without question. This is one for the concert film hall-of-fame—obliterating the distinctive between the venue it depicts and the auditorium you’d see it in, offering a front row seat to a legendary moment in pop music history. Don’t miss it.


The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Fathom one-night screenings April 10

One of the most Sisyphean sagas in film history comes to an end with the release of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, a meta-document of writer-director Terry Gilliam’s multi-decade quest to bring Don Quixote to the big screen. Adam Driver stars as Toby, a celebrated director who embarks on a quixotic adventure of his own after buying a copy of his student film, a low-budget adaptation of Don Quixote, from a Spanish street vendor. Jonathan Pryce co-stars as the lead in Toby’s student film, who’s since become convinced that he is Don Quixote.
Will it be worth your time? After 30 years of hype, perhaps it was inevitable that the actual experience of watching The Man Who Killed Don Quixote would be a letdown. As we noted in our festival review, although “an extended sequence set in a Holy Week festival at a baroque Spanish castle does provide some flashes of that old Gilliam magic, mostly this is just a warmed-over Fellini rehash.”


Hellboy

Theaters everywhere April 12

Hot off the success of his Oscar-winning The Shape Of Water, Guillermo del Toro finally completes his Hellboy trilogy, with Ron Perlman reprising the title role of the stogie-chomping, half-demon superhero. Just kidding! This Hellboy is a complete reboot, not a continuation, of del Toro’s series, with Neil Marshall taking over behind the camera and Stranger Things star David Harbour donning the prosthetic enhancements to play Mike Mignola’s iconic comic book creation. The cast also includes Milla Jovovich as the sorceress villain and Ian McShane in the mentor role previously occupied by John Hurt.
Will it be worth your time? Look, this isn’t a zero-sum game: You can be bummed out that the producers wouldn’t rehire del Toro and still give the new version a fair shake. But comparisons may still be inevitable, given how hard this Hellboy appears to be working to replicate not just the look (Harbour’s makeup is very similar to Perlman’s) but also the tone of the previous one. At least Marshall, who directed The Descent and also some of the more epically awesome episodes of Game Of Thrones, is a pretty good fit for a supposedly more horror-leaning take on the material—especially given the possibilities afforded by an R rating.


Little

Theaters everywhere April 12

Marsai Martin, young star of TV’s Black-ish, came up with the idea for this Will Packer production, becoming the youngest-ever credited executive producer on a movie in the process. Martin also stars in Little as the young version of Jordan (Regina Hall), a cruelly demanding boss who is particularly hard on her assistant, April (Issa Rae). When Jordan angers the wrong kid, she finds herself on the receiving end of a magical wish that has her waking up as a child (Martin). Some combination of antics, hijinks, and shenanigans likely ensues.
Will it be worth your time? This reverse-Big looks broad, but it should be fun to watch Rae and Hall cut loose, and the trailer is pretty amusing.


Missing Link

Theaters everywhere April 12

The latest from Laika, the stop-motion animation studio with the impeccable track record, looks a bit gentler than the more ghoulish likes of The Boxtrolls or Coraline. Directed by Chris Butler, who made the studio’s wonderful ParaNorman, Missing Link finds Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) and Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) setting out for the Pacific Northwest in search of the Bigfoot-y Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis), hoping to reveal his existence to the world.
Will it be worth your time? Come to think of it, all of Laika’s movies so far have been pretty wonderful. At some point they may break their early-Pixar-like streak, but early word on this one has been characteristically positive.


After

Theaters everywhere April 12

The trailer for After makes it tough to tell what kind of movie it is. A romantic drama about young lovers forced apart? A story of stalker-ish obsession? A weird Christian virginity tract in disguise? In fact, the project has odd origins: It’s based on a book series that started as One Direction fan fiction, à la how Fifty Shades began as unauthorized Twilight erotica. The Harry Styles stand-in is bad boy Hardin Scott (played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin), who falls into an intense relationship with college freshman Tessa Young (Josephine Langford). The substitute Zayn Malik is less clear from the trailer, but based on name alone, Zed Evans (Samuel Larsen) sounds like a contender.
Will it be worth your time? Probably not, but if you suffered through the tedium of the Fifty Shades movies for some cheap but full-bodied laughs at their expense, this might provide similar opportunities.


Her Smell

Select theaters April 12

Gifted NYC movie geek Alex Ross Perry bounces back from the flatly imitative domestic squabbles of Golden Exits with a claustrophobic rock drama. Set over a few years and few locales—the theatrical structure recalls Steve Jobs, of all films—Her Smell chronicles the meltdown of a self-destructive riot grrrl played by Handmaid’s Tale star (and Perry regular) Elisabeth Moss. Caught in her downward spiral is a reoccurring cast of alienated/abused bandmates, colleagues, and loved ones, played by the likes of Amber Heard, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin, Dan Stevens, Eric Stoltz, Ashley Benson, Dylan Gelula, and Virginia Madsen.
Will it be worth your time? Ignore the off-putting title. If this isn’t the best of Perry’s films (we’re partial to the caustic Listen Up Philip), it’s almost certainly the least openly derivative. Mostly, it’s worth seeing as a spectacular showcase for Moss, cutting loose like never before in the rare big-screen starring role, unleashing a tempest of bile and regret.


Dogman

Select theaters April 12

No, it’s not another superhero movie. The “dog man” of the title is Marcello (Marcello Fonte), a friendly, gentle pet groomer whose only discernible superpower is a rather astonishing patience and compassion. Both will be tested, however, by his “friendship” with a brutish ex-boxer (Edoardo Pesce) who bullies the locals and steals from every business owner in the area. Will this conflict be resolved peacefully? Take a wild guess, keeping in mind that the writer-director is Italy’s Matteo Garrone, who made the hellish gangster thriller Gomorrah.
Will it be worth your time? Dogman is primal in its simplicity, maybe to a fault; at a certain point, the question becomes not where it’s going but how far it will. What makes the film worth seeing is its lead performance: Fonte, who won the Best Actor prize at Cannes last summer, is gripping as a good man clinging hard and maybe hopelessly to his sense of virtue. Pacino comparisons have been made, and they’re not out of line.


Girls Of The Sun

Select theaters April 12

“Women, life, liberty!” That’s the rallying cry of the eponymous Girls Of The Sun, a hardened platoon of soldiers—all women, all former sex prisoners of ISIS—fighting to wrestle their homeland back from extremists. Eva Husson’s drama, which premiered in competition at least year’s Cannes, follows an eye-patched war journalist (fellow director Emmanuelle Bercot) who embeds herself in the unit. Golshifteh Farahani, from Paterson and About Elly, plays the squad’s headstrong leader.
Will it be worth your time? Husson modeled her dirty dozen-or-so on real all-female fighting forces in Kurdistan, which gives her movie an extra charge of righteous power. It needs it, because in many respects, Girls Of A Sun is a bombastic mixture of prestige- and war-movie clichés. If nothing else, though, the action scenes are robustly staged.


Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Select theaters April 12

The young poet-turned-filmmaker Bi Gan made an impressive debut with Kaili Blues, his enigmatic, reality-bending low-budget film about a reformed gangster’s journey through the misty, mountainous Chinese countryside. Now he seems to be doubling down on the ambitions and noir influences of his first feature (and taking a leap in terms of apparent production value and technical sophistication) with Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a 3D movie that tops the earlier film’s creative and dramatic centerpiece—a maddeningly choreographed 41-minute shot—with an even more elaborate long take that takes up more than half of this film’s running time.
Will it be worth your time? Though not as warmly received as Kaili Blues, Long Day’s Journey Into Night impressed plenty of critics at last year’s Cannes, cementing Bi (who’s still in his 20s) as a filmmaker to watch.


Breakthrough

Theaters everywhere April 17

A teenage boy (Marcel Ruiz) falls through the ice on Lake St. Louis, stays under for 15 minutes before getting rescued with no detectable pulse, and somehow makes a full recovery in the latest in a series of medical miracles made into movies and fully credited to God. Chrissy Metz plays the boy’s prayerful mother, Josh Lucas plays his father, and Topher Grace plays a local pastor. The cast also includes Dennis Haysbert and Mike Colter, which is a lot of talented people getting together to remind bereaved parents that maybe their children could have been saved if they prayed more.
Will it be worth your time? Jesus, no! Although maybe Topher Grace diehards will want to investigate what the hell he’s doing in this.


The Curse Of La Llorona

Theaters everywhere April 19

La Llorona, a wailing ghost who can be heard weeping for her dead children before coming to steal living ones, has been a part of Latinx folklore for centuries. Now she joins the Conjuring cinematic universe in The Curse Of La Llorona, directed by newcomer Michael Chaves, who’s also set to helm the upcoming The Conjuring 3. Set in 1970s Los Angeles, the film stars Linda Cardellini as a social worker who gets drawn into the legend, endangering her own children in the process.
Will it be worth your time?: Reviews of The Curse Of La Llorona following its premiere at SXSW are begrudging at best, describing it as a generic and forgettable horror outing, and taking issue with the casting of a non-Latina actress in the lead role. But will Annabelle make a post-credits cameo?


Under The Silver Lake

Select theaters April 19

After multiple delays, director David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to his new horror classic It Follows finally makes its way into theaters, nearly a full year after it premiered to very mixed reviews at Cannes. The film is an ambitious L.A. noir in the Inherent Vice mold, only with a dipshit-millennial answer to the usual unkempt detective—a shiftless amateur sleuth (Andrew Garfield) who falls down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories after his bombshell neighbor (Riley Keough) mysteriously disappears one night. The knotty plot comes to involve subliminal messages, hidden codes, a missing movie producer, underground tunnels, a string of canine slayings, and a supernatural assassin.
Will it be worth your time? Clearly not to every taste, Under The Silver Lake will likely continue to irritate or confound those who prefer their missing-person mysteries a little more cleanly plotted—or their gumshoes less of an unlikable creep. Those who admire big swings for the fence, however, will probably admire Mitchell’s crazed ambition, to say nothing of his clear gifts as a director, his impeccable command of mood and space. (By the way, rumors that the filmmaker was re-cutting Silver Lake after its divisive festival reception were apparently just that: rumors.)


Fast Color

Select theaters April 19

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 flick, 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.


Grass

Select theaters April 19

Blissfully immune to the perils of writer’s block, the staggeringly prolific South Korean writer-director Hong Sang-soo has made an art of repeating himself, turning reprise into a central theme of his continually permutating, alcohol-infused tales of regret and awkward social interaction. His latest, which arrives in theaters just two months after the melancholy Hotel By The River, is set around a coffee shop, where an aspiring writer (Kim Min-hee, Hong’s offscreen partner and onscreen muse) eavesdrops on the conversations of the strangers for inspiration.
Will it be worth your time? “Deceptive” is a common descriptor of Hong’s latter-day run of modest black-and-white features; though his movies often recycle plot points and situations (sometimes within the same film), he remains one of our most insightful and consistent observers of human foibles, missed connections, and blown opportunities.


Rafiki

Select theaters April 19

Coming from a country where homosexual relationships are illegal, Rafiki lives in a state of limbo: It was the first Kenyan film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, but was banned at home save for a weeklong Oscars-qualifying run. And the film engages with these perilous circumstances, telling a tender tale of first love between Kenyan teenagers Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva), whose same-sex attraction not only defies the proverb “good Kenyan girls become good Kenyan wives,” but also puts their lives at risk.
Will it be worth your time? Despite the sometimes grim circumstances under which Kena and Ziki fall for each other, Rafiki is a film that’s bursting with color and life, its stylistic technique emphasizing the joy and revolutionary power of love.


Avengers: Endgame

Theaters everywhere April 26

It’s been a long year since Marvel hit fans with that most shocking of blockbuster cliffhangers, the downbeat final minutes of Infinity War. With Endgame, directors Anthony and Joe Russo return to show us how Earth’s mightiest (remaining) heroes respond to the finger snap heard round the world. The studio is guarding plot secrets with a vigilance that makes Nick Fury look transparent; what we do know is that the film picks up shortly after the, ahem, dust settles on a much emptier universe, with the original Avengers joining forces with space raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper), size-changing goofball Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and newly minted superstar Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) to undo the damage done by the triumphantly genocidal space tyrant Thanos (Josh Brolin).
Will it be worth your time? Does it really matter? This is the kind of pop culture appointment event that audiences will likely turn out for in record numbers, if the presales (and outrageous eBay prices for opening night tickets) are any indication. Even plenty of the few who didn’t love Infinity War (like, you know, us) won’t be able to resist seeing how Marvel pays off its exceptionally bleak “to be continued.” Just be aware of how much time, exactly, you will be devoting to this supersized concluding chapter: At more than three hours, Endgame may end your bladder, too.


The White Crow

Select theaters April 26

Ralph Fiennes returns to the director’s chair for the first time in nearly six years for this biographical drama/thriller about ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko), adapted by playwright David Hare from a biography by Julie Kavanagh. Fiennes, who also co-stars as Nureyev’s teacher, covers his subject’s early-’60s defection from the Soviet Union. No word on whether the film dramatizes his 1978 appearance on The Muppet Show.
Will it be worth your time? Other movies written by Hare tend toward stodginess, but The White Crow got decent reviews at the Telluride Film Festival last fall. It looks a lot more propulsive than the usual arts-driven biopic, and maybe something of an accidental companion piece to the recent, excellent Cold War.


Body At Brighton Rock

Select theaters April 26

Following a series of notable entries in the horror anthologies Southbound and XX, director Roxanne Benjamin makes her feature debut with this survival thriller, which was inspired by the Christopher Pike books she used to read as a teenager. Karina Fontes stars as Wendy, a young, inexperienced park ranger who’s ordered to stand guard over a dead body she finds on a hike. The only problem is, she’s so deep in the backcountry that help won’t come until the next morning.
Will it be worth your time?: Body At Brighton Rock got mixed reviews following its debut at this year’s SXSW, with some reviewers critiquing the film’s sluggish middle section and others praising its paranoid atmosphere and jarring busts of violence.

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