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.
Words like “harrowing” seem insufficient to describe a film like Last Men In Aleppo, Syrian director Feras Fayyad’s documentary about the White Helmets, first responders who rush in to try and save victims of bombings and military strikes in the war-ravaged city. It follows three volunteers who risk their lives as they comb through devastation looking for survivors, all the while wondering what to do about the omnipresent risks to their own families and whether there’s even anywhere they could possibly flee.
Will it be worth your time? While it obviously doesn’t scream “fun date movie,” this is undoubtedly a film worth your time. Winner of the World Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year, Last Men In Aleppo shines a light on these real-life civilian heroes, the kind of people who sprint into the fray while others are fleeing it. Fayyad was taken into custody a couple times by Bashar Al-Assad’s regime because of his efforts. The least we can do is watch the fruit of his labor.
May—and, by extension, the summer movie season—kicks off the same way it does almost every year: with the whams, pows, and quips of a Marvel extravaganza. The studio’s latest all-but-guaranteed smash reunites Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and the newly sapling-sized Groot (Vin Diesel) for another team-building jaunt across the cosmos. Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone, and returning writer-director James Gunn are also along for the joyride, scored to a new mixtape soundtrack of golden oldies and FM classics. Call it the second-most-anticipated space opera of 2017—a distinction the film’s motley band of interstellar Avengers would probably appreciate.
Will it be worth your time? Did you like Guardians Of The Galaxy? True to its title, Vol. 2 offers more of the same—a lot more. More irreverent in its humor and overloaded with a nostalgia for all things 1980s (snobs vs. slobs comedies, video arcades, David Hasselhoff), the sequel makes for a smoother ride than the original, even if it often resembles a Fast And Furious movie set in space.
Just imagine: You think you’ve captured history, only to have the world shift under your feet. A companion piece of sorts to director Laura Poitras’ Oscar-winning documentary about Edward Snowden, Citizenfour, Risk turns the camera on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and, to a more limited extent, on hacker and activist Jacob Appelbaum. After premiering a largely sympathetic version at last year’s Cannes, Poitras ended up radically recutting the footage in light of both WikiLeaks’ involvement in the 2016 election and the emergence of sexual abuse allegations against Appelbaum.
Will it be worth your time? “Problematic” is an overused label, but it truly applies to this fitful and flawed project, which feels incomplete (based on events mentioned, Poitras appears to have still been editing until a few weeks ago) and raises a number of questions about filmmaking ethics. At the same time, it’s still a fascinating document of the secrecy and media savvy that goes into running an organization like WikiLeaks. Assange has been profiled a million times since coming into the spotlight, but never so candidly.
Tracy Letts and Debra Winger play a husband and wife who both have been carrying on long-term affairs—he with a dance teacher, she with a writer. But just as they’re supposed to be leaving each other for their respective bohemian paramours, they find themselves rekindling their romance against their better judgment. Making his first feature in more than six years, the talented writer-director Azazel Jacobs (Momma’s Man, Terri) embraces the thorniness of his characters while playing off the dull suburban setting by employing a lushly romantic score.
Will it be worth your time? In many respects, The Lovers brings to mind a particular lost mission of independent film; it embraces the driveway-and-den, sex-in-middle-age ordinariness of a subject no studio would touch. But though Jacobs is admirable in his resistance to oversimplifying his characters’ emotions or the central conflict, an awkward third act throws the movie off its footing. As a result, it adds up to just a little less than the sum of its very charming parts.
Two couples—one played by Steve Coogan and Laura Linney, the other by Richard Gere and Rebecca Hall—sit down at a swanky restaurant to discuss the big… something their teenage sons have gotten themselves into. Adapting Herman Koch’s international bestseller, writer-director Oren Moverman (Rampart, Time Out Of Mind) swaps the setting from the Netherlands to the States, but preserves most of the novel’s disturbing twists, if not its caustic observational humor.
Will it be worth your time? Not so much. Without Koch’s surgical command of prose, all that remains are less-than-revelatory insights on human nature and parenthood. And in moving The Dinner from page to screen, Moverman hopelessly tangles its web of flashbacks, resulting in what often resembles a bad Atom Egoyan imitation. Crack the book instead.
New York transgender teen Ray (Elle Fanning) is ready to begin hormone treatments and leave behind the high school life he’s heretofore lived as girl. But though he has the support of his mother (Naomi Watts) and sassy grandmother (Susan Sarandon), Ray needs the written consent of his estranged, absentee father. More than a year after premiering to so-so reviews and some mild backlash for casting a cis woman as a trans man, Gaby Dellal’s sitcomish family drama finally arrives in American theaters.
Will it be worth your time? 3 Generations is being released, finally, in a new cut mandated by the Weinsteins, who shelved the film after its tepid festival reception. But whatever changes have been made, this is still more of a well-meaning film than a good one, with all three of the stars underserved by their material.
Jeff Garlin’s third directorial effort finds him playing Gene Handsome, a dapperly dressed L.A. homicide detective whose investigation into a gruesome murder is complicated—as is usually the case in Garlin’s world—by a bunch of idiots. (It’s not for nothing that Garlin’s last movie was titled, with admirable bluntness, Dealin’ With Idiots.) Getting Garlin’s dander up this time around is a stacked supporting cast of incompetent colleagues and weirdo suspects that includes Natasha Lyonne, Amy Sedaris, Timm Sharp, Eddie Pepitone, Steven Weber, Leah Remini, and even Kaley Cuoco as herself.
Will it be worth your time? Garlin’s starring vehicles all boast the same ramshackle, improvisational energy that makes him such a joy to watch on Curb Your Enthusiasm, though that doesn’t always translate to the big screen. Judging by the trailer, Handsome seems to follow that same formula—Garlin interviews idiot; idiot says something idiotic; Garlin gets exasperated—though perhaps he’s finally found his milieu in the lowered, sweatpants stakes of Netflix.
A drama inspired by the life of heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner, Chuck tells the story of the “Bayonne Bleeder,” a hard-luck Jersey pugilist whose career became the loose model for Rocky. In a sort of life-mirrors-art-mirrors-life twist, Wepner took to the streets after Sylvester Stallone’s boxing pic won all those Oscars, determined to let everyone know he was the real deal—and Chuck depicts the bruising experience of a life that went from Rocky to just plain rocky.
Will it be worth your time? Normally, a biopic starring a real-life husband and wife duo (Liev Schriber and Naomi Watts) triggers warning bells of vanity-project danger. However, in this case we’ll gladly go a few rounds with Chuck: Québécois director Philippe Falardeau is the man behind the excellent Monsieur Lazhar. And although his English-language debut The Good Lie was weak, that seemed more the fault of a crappy script. Chuck, with its positive early notices, holds far more potential, even for those who don’t usually cotton to sports films.
Everything’s coming up Maupassant! Earlier this year, fans of the 19th-century French writer were treated to a fresh translation of one of his final novels; now comes a new film adaptation of his 1883 debut novel, A Life. (For whatever reason, the film is being called A Woman’s Life in English.) Judith Chemla stars as a well-bred, convent-schooled young woman who finds herself in a cycle of disillusionment and betrayal. Stéphane Brizé (The Measure Of A Man) directed and co-wrote the screenplay.
Will it be worth your time? Depends on your tolerance for unrelenting suffering. Without the windows into the heroine’s thought process that Maupassant provided, that’s about all A Woman’s Life offers.
What’s better than one Cate Blanchett? How about a baker’s dozen of ’em? The versatile Australian actress plays 13 roles—from a homeless man to a newscaster—as she performs direct-to-camera monologues based on a century’s worth of artistic mission statements (including André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto and the vows of Dogme 95) in this experimental feature by Julian Rosefeldt, a German artist best known for his elaborate video installations.
Will it be worth your time? Originally a very well-received 12-screen video installation, Manifesto was edited together to make a 94-minute feature. There’s a curiosity factor to the whole project, but who knows whether something that played well in an art gallery will still work in one sitting on the big screen.
In his career-long passion to recreate British history as a series of flashy, hardass action capers, director Guy Ritchie is tackling the first of a planned multipart retelling of the King Arthur saga. Charlie Hunnam wears the crown, but expect a much earthier, visceral take on the role: Pre-release press has focused on the fact that he threw some thousand punches per day while filming the movie. The rest of the cast is no slouch, including Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Jude Law, Eric Bana, David Beckham, and a gigantic CGI fantasy elephant, which will probably be a better actor than Beckham, if we’re being honest.
Will it be worth your time? Ritchie has oscillated between the gimmick-filled energy of his early work and fun but workmanlike fare such as Sherlock Holmes and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The tone here seems split between freeze-framed, voice-over-filled action and a more stately, Peter Jackson-style fantasy epic, which may add up to messy fun but seems more likely to result in dour machismo.
Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn join comedic forces in Snatched, Schumer’s first starring movie role since Trainwreck and Hawn’s first film since 2002’s The Banger Sisters. (No pressure.) Written by Parks And Recreation alum Katie Dippold and directed by 50/50’s Jonathan Levine, the film lampoons Nancy Grace’s favorite trope of white women missing in paradise, with Hawn and Schumer as a mother-daughter duo who get kidnapped while on vacation in an unnamed tropical country.
Will it be worth your time? The talent in front of and behind the camera all boast impressive comedic pedigrees—Goldie Hawn fans in particular have reason to get excited, given her 15-year absence from the big screen. And even if the chemistry between the two actresses isn’t as good as it seems in interviews, the movie apparently clocks in at a brisk 91 minutes, mercifully short compared to some other recent, improv-heavy comedies.
Lowriders reveres the macho holy trinity of familial honor, car culture, and rap music, like a less action-packed Fast And Furious flick. The coming-of-age crime saga enlists Demián Bichir, Sons Of Anarchy’s Theo Rossi, and Supergirl’s Melissa Benoist in what appears to be an earnest exploration of Los Angeles’ changing cultural makeup as well as a pulpy take on the trials and tribulations of a young graffiti artist.
Will it be worth your time? Director Ricardo De Montreuil’s previous films, the melodramatic La Mujer De Mi Hermano and the equally melodramatic Mancora, took their interweaving ensemble sagas far too seriously. The pulpy nature of Lowriders could use a touch of levity but seems to entirely lack it, which does not bode well.
Pink Floyd fans need not apply. This The Wall stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena as American soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper, with only—you guessed it—a crumbling wall for cover. Doug Liman (Edge Of Tomorrow) directs from a script off of Hollywood’s annual rundown of acclaimed but unproduced screenplays, the Black List.
Will it be worth your time? Originally scheduled for a March release, The Wall sounds as theoretically promising as it did two months ago: The sniper scenes in Liman’s original The Bourne Identity were awesome, and the premise could allow for a tensely contained, psychologically intimate war movie. But can these particular two actors really carry it on their lonesome? Let’s hope Laith Nakli, who voices the enemy taunting them by walkie-talkie from afar, has the disembodied chops to up their game.
Eighty-year-old Eleanor Coppola—wife of Francis Ford Coppola, mother of Sofia Coppola and Roman Coppola, co-director of Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, and all-around chronicler of her Hollywood family’s behind-the-scenes drama—makes her very belated fiction directing debut with this Lifetime-produced romantic comedy. Alec Baldwin is a world-famous Hollywood big shot, Diane Lane is his bored wife, and Arnaud Viard is the French producer who drives her back to Paris from the Cannes Film Festival when her husband has to jet off on business.
Will it be worth your time? Advance word is that Paris Can Wait is featherweight, though critics who saw it at festivals last year can’t seem to agree whether it’s a pleasantly forgettable trifle or an excruciating one. But considering that the target audience seems to be past retirement age, they probably have a lot of time on their hands anyway.
Writer-director Rama Burshtein chases her critically acclaimed debut, Fill The Void, with another movie about a young woman of Orthodox Jewish faith on the cusp of marriage. This time, however, the filmmaker has shaped that basic scenario into a romantic comedy, following a jilted bride-to-be (Noa Kooler) who decides not to let a breakup with her fiancé derail her nuptials; one month out from the elaborately planned ceremony, she remains determined to save the date, reasoning that God will find her a new husband in time.
Will it be worth your time? To some, Fill The Void came uncomfortably close to endorsing oppressive dogma, to championing religious responsibility over personal happiness. Others saw something more complicated in its depiction of duty pitted against desire. Will The Wedding Plan provide ammo for either side? Either way, there’s no denying that Burshtein, a late-in-life convert to Haredi Judaism, provides fresh perspective on a culture that the movies rarely dramatize.
Ridley Scott’s latest voyage to the terrifying vacuum of space, where no one can hear you scream, is technically a direct sequel to Prometheus, itself a prequel to Scott’s original Alien. But Covenant’s branded title suggests that it may hew closer to its franchise roots, offering more monsters than mythology. Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, and Michael Fassbender (in a dual role, playing both the android David and his replacement model Walter) are among the actors hired to gape in awe at a beautiful extraterrestrial landscape, only to then get eviscerated by its less-than-beautiful inhabitants.
Will it be worth your time? Depends on what you’re looking for in a sequel to a prequel to Alien. If Covenant sticks close to the Prometheus mold, fans of that film’s ersatz hard sci-fi may be pleased. The trailer, however, with its scenes of the Xenomorph menacing a couple having sex in the shower, suggests a much less highfalutin Alien movie. Call us Jason X apologists, but doesn’t a space slasher seem like a more fun direction for this series to take?
The surprisingly enduring Diary Of A Wimpy Kid franchise officially enters its Beethoven phase with its fourth installment, replacing the entire principal cast—most of them now blossoming into wimpy adults—with a new set of actors, but keeping the same lighthearted lessons about not being a self-centered little shit intact. Nickelodeon-bred star Jason Ian Drucker takes over as Greg Heffley, the scheming teen star of Jeff Kinney’s book series, while Alicia Silverstone comes aboard to give aging Gen Xers a heart attack by playing his mom. This time around, the Heffleys take a road trip—ostensibly to see their grandmother, though that scamp Greg is really plotting to attend a video game convention. Hijinks and heart-to-heart talks ensue!
Will it be worth your time? If you’re the parent of a preteen—and they weren’t part of the internet backlash that ensued when a new cast was announced, or they’ve otherwise grown to accept that all things we love must change, wither, and die—you could definitely find more irritating ways to kill 100 minutes.
The human body’s war on teen horniness continues with this quarter’s requisite inoperable romance film, this time concerning young Madeline (The Hunger Games’ Amandla Stenberg) and her pining for next-door neighbor Olly (Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson). Theirs is a tender, tentative love story complicated by parents who just don’t understand, as well as Madeline’s severe combined immunodeficiency, or “bubble baby disease.” And yet, what’s a protective layer of sterilized plastic when it comes to surging hormones?
Will it be worth your time? Nicola Yoon’s young adult novel of the same name became a bestseller and earned accolades for its unconventional narrative approach and characters, which bodes well for shaking up the formula ever so slightly. Still, it will take an awful lot to overcome what has, weirdly, become the most conventional of modern love stories (not to mention the considerable shadow cast by The Boy In The Plastic Bubble, Bubble Boy, Seinfeld’s “Bubble Boy,” etc.).
Danish director and Dogme 95 co-founder Thomas Vinterberg returns with a period piece set in 1970s Copenhagen. When a university lecturer and his TV newscaster wife inherit a massive family home, they (along with their 14-year-old daughter) decide to invite a bunch of friends and colleagues to move in with them. As anyone who has read the history of basically any commune ever can probably guess, things don’t go smoothly.
Will it be worth your time?? Vinterberg has been hit or miss: For every The Celebration or The Hunt, there’s been a misguided Dear Wendy or bland Far From The Madding Crowd. Unlike that wobbly look at another era, however, this one returns him to his native land, where he’s always been more at home cinematically, armed with a story that seems geared to play to his strengths as an actor’s director good at delving into cramped spaces—both literal and emotional. Still, this might be a “wait and read the reviews” situation.
What could’ve been a strange footnote to the 2008 financial crisis—that the only bank prosecuted was a small, family-operated outfit serving New York’s Chinese immigrant community—is instead the focal point of documentarian Steve James’ latest work. The Hoop Dreams and Life Itself director is as focused on the human costs among the Sung family as he is on the hopelessly corrupt system that pinned the blame for the housing bubble on the 2,531st largest bank in the country. It documents a show trial created to purge the financial sector of bad guys while larger banks received financial bailouts, marking a clear deviation from more top-down tellings of the story like The Big Short.
Will it be worth your time? James’ characteristic probity and clarity never get in the way of his desire to tell a good story, and his career-long ability to explore race in America through the prism of other subjects here finds a deserving and underexposed focal point. Yes, it’ll be worth your time.
The winner of the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival, The Woman Who Left is only the second Lav Diaz movie to get a theatrical release in the United States. Shot in the insanely productive Filipino filmmaker’s customary digital black and white, this 1990s-set adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s short story “God Sees The Truth, But Waits” follows a middle-aged woman as she returns home after spending 30 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. Diaz, whose films evince a fascination with histories both familial and national, is the definition of a filmmaker who requires viewers to tune themselves to his wavelength, but advance word is that this is one of his more accessible works, for better or worse.
Will it be worth your time? Well, how much time do you have? Clocking in at a butt-numbing 226 minutes, The Woman Who Left is actually one of Diaz’s shortest features. (The other Lav Diaz movie that premiered last year, A Lullaby To The Sorrowful Mystery, is more than twice as long.) The nature of Diaz’s work has made it all but impossible to see on the big screen outside of the festival circuit; even if you discover that it isn’t for you, at least you’ll have a heck of a war story to tell.
Like a subdued suburban take on Brian De Palma, the E.L. Doctorow adaptation Wakefield puts a voyeuristic spin on the fantasy every harried, stressed adult has entertained at one point or another: What if you simply vanished without a trace? Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) doesn’t go far, holing up in his garage and observing his wife, Diana (Jennifer Garner), and children attempting to cope with his abrupt disappearance over the course of several months.
Will it be worth your time? With most of the film taking place in the confines of the attic room where Howard waits out his self-imposed exile, a compelling lead performance is essential to Wakefield’s success. Cranston is more up to the challenge than most, but given the film’s lackluster reception at the Toronto International Film Festival, there’s reason to believe Wakefield is as dusty as the rest of Cranston’s post-Breaking Bad movie work.
This spare, brutal postapocalyptic thriller played festivals two years ago, but is only now receiving American release, appropriately enough just as most Americans are pondering an inevitable return to living off the land in a decimated countryside full of cannibalistic drifters and rapists. The film has only three characters, very little dialogue, and a glacial pace, with elliptically composed scenes that tell the story of a lone survivalist gradually developing a relationship with two women who appear at his cabin. Nobody trusts anybody, and the result is a sense of quiet, naturalistic dread.
Will it be worth your time? Science fiction doesn’t get much more primal or timely than this look at an Earth after the population has reached the breaking point. It evokes Shane Carruth’s Primer and Upstream Color in the amount of tension, beauty, and terror that can be strung out of a shoestring budget and an unflinching vision. It’s an elemental fable of sex, violence, and survival, with scenes so harrowing they’ll replay in your head long afterward.
The rebooting of cheesy TV shows as meta-commentaries on our own cultural emptiness reaches its ouroboros stage with this big-screen restaging of the silly, silicone Baywatch, the ’90s series that took itself just seriously enough to star David Hasselhoff. Eternally game franchise player Dwayne Johnson takes over as Hasselhoff’s veteran lifeguard Mitch Buchannon, who must butt heads and abs with Zac Efron’s youngish hotshot in order to investigate a drug-trafficking operation for some reason, all while ogling the requisite bikini candy and making self-referential jokes about gratuitous slow-motion and shitty, far-fetched plots.
Will it be worth your time? Did you enjoy the similarly winking comic tone of 21 Jump Street but wish it had paid more attention to men’s boners? Do you think Johnson’s inherently likable energy can make any mismatched buddy comedy at least somewhat entertaining? How long is your flight anyway?
The merry-andrew Mr. Depp hath set out a fifth time as Sparrow, the infamous and insufferable sea clown, plainly known in all latitudes for being in the condition of drink and for his sundry and complicated scarfage. The noted players Ms. Knightley and Mr. Bloom, who have not been 10 years out to sea, reprise the roles of the lovers, with Mr. Rush of New Holland or Terra Australis as the cribbage-faced miscreant Barbossa and Mr. Bardem of the Islas Canarias as Salazar, the Spaniard of black magic, a novelty. With oceanic billows to be presented in IMAX 3-D, with the assurance that each present in the gallery shall earn the commission of Admiral Of The Narrow Seas.
Will it be worth your time? With welcome probity, this masque, in its very title, doth betray that it hath No Tales to tell, and is but Dead and a recital of past amusements, intended to hornswoggle those flush in the pocket of their doubloons, through the pricing of especial spectacles and Indian corn, cooked by adolescents of melancholic temperament.
David Michôd, who made Animal Kingdom and The Rover, adapts the war-correspondent memoir The Operators into a lightly fictionalized satire. War Machine chronicles the rise and fall of an ambitious Army officer (Brad Pitt with a gruff accent), modeled on Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan before some frank political remarks cost him his position. The stacked cast includes Tilda Swinton, Ben Kingsley, Topher Grace, Anthony Michael Hall, Lakeith Stanfield, Meg Tilly, and more.
Will it be worth your time? As a writer-director, Michôd’s done almost nothing but study men of violence, which makes him perhaps ideally suited to capturing military culture. Whether satire is really in his wheelhouse remains to be seen, but the details of this (mostly) true story could be plenty fascinating, regardless. The real question is if anyone will get to see its combat scenes, desert terrain, and Pittian swagger on a big screen; as a Netflix original, the film is reportedly headed straight for the streaming platform, despite a $60 million production budget that screams “coming soon to a theater near you.”
The Grateful Dead gets the prestige documentary treatment from director Amir Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That), who provides a comprehensive look at the band that evolved from hippie freak show to corporate enterprise to indelible, tie-dyed swatch of the American cultural fabric. According to early Sundance reviews, even those who aren’t especially attuned to the Dead’s grooves may come away with a new appreciation of the group’s unique (if by now clichéd) spirit, as it provides an intensely emotional look at the Dead’s formation, its struggles with the rigors imposed by success, and the tragic toll it ultimately took on leader Jerry Garcia.
Will it be worth your time? At a running time of just under four hours, this is not an idle question—particularly for anyone who finds the Dead’s sprawling jams to be more torturous than transcendent. But by all accounts, Long Strange Trip has the LSD-like power to open even the most closed of minds, so maybe give it a try, if only in microdoses at first.
Just in case you needed another reason to never trust strangers, Berlin Syndrome chronicles what happens to Australian photographer Clare (Teresa Palmer) after she hooks up with the charismatic Andi (Max Riemelt) while on vacation in Berlin. When Andi leaves for work the next morning, leaving Clare locked in his apartment, it seems like simple forgetfulness—until Andi returns to make it clear that he has no intention of letting Clare go.
Will it be worth your time? Director Cate Shortland explored shattered innocence and the nature of evil in her 2012 WWII drama Lore, about a German girl who discovers the horrifying nature of her Nazi parents’ political beliefs while fleeing Allied forces. But there’s no denying that the captive-woman plot of Berlin Syndrome is as well-worn as it is dark, meaning that Shortland will have to put a truly surprising spin on the material to make it worth the bleak viewing experience.