Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
From left: Charlie's Angels (Photo: Nadja Klier/CTMG), Terminator: Dark Fate (Skydance Productions/Paramount Pictures), and Doctor Sleep (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

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.


Terminator: Dark Fate

Theaters everywhere November 1

Get this: There’s a new Terminator movie coming out, promising a fresh take and maybe the beginning of a new trilogy! If this sounds like a familiar marketing hook, it’s because time-traveling cyborgs have failed to erase evidence of the last three times the Terminator series blazed back onto movie screens, promising the exact same thing. This time, at least, James Cameron is actually involved, sharing producing and story credits. His involvement probably helped secure the participation of Arnold Schwarzenegger (playing yet another variation on his most iconic role) and Linda Hamilton, who returns as an even-more-hardened Sarah Connor. The cast also includes Mackenzie Davis, playing a Terminator figure who’s slightly more human than usual, and Natalia Reyes, as the latest target of those relentless hunting machines.
Will it be worth your time? As detailed in our review, Terminator: Dark Fate will probably please fans of the first two films more than the other misbegotten sequels they spawned. But it’s largely a rehash of those films, with a few intriguing developments sprinkled over a bunch of middling action set pieces.


Motherless Brooklyn

Theaters everywhere November 1

Edward Norton has been trying to adapt Jonathan Lethem’s mystery novel Motherless Brooklyn for so long that setting the movie during the book’s original 1999 publication would now make it a period piece. Finally releasing his passion project, Norton leans into that incongruity and transposes the story of Lionel Essrog, a semi-pro detective with Tourette syndrome, into the 1950s. Norton plays Lionel, who assists a tough-but-tender gumshoe (Bruce Willis) until his boss gets shot on the job. Lionel’s subsequent investigation winds through multiple boroughs, intersecting with a community activist (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a mysterious stranger (Willem Dafoe), and a city planner (Alec Baldwin) modeled on real-life New York City power broker and racist Robert Moses—a figure who isn’t part of Lethem’s original text.
Will it be worth your time? If you don’t mind setting aside 150 minutes, yes. Motherless Brooklyn is a little poky, especially as it folds in its ambitious Robert Moses material, but the performances are uniformly strong, the dialogue has some literary crackle, and Norton’s direction is sure-handed. It’s an entertainingly old-fashioned thriller for dads and dads at heart.


Arctic Dogs

Theaters everywhere November 1

An arctic fox who yearns to do the job of a sled-pulling husky doesn’t exactly bring to mind a rat-wants-to-cook level of insurmountable odds, but that’s the hook for this animated comedy from Entertainment Studios, an upstart distributor that is truly, definitely, absolutely not a tax shelter producing cardboard mockbusters. Arctic Dogs also may function as a temporary replacement for the dearly departed Jeremy Renner app; it features not just Renner’s vocal performance as the fox, but several songs from the actor-musician, who is currently engaged in a custody battle particularly ill-timed to the release of a new family film. So thank goodness for the spotless records of costars James Franco, Alec Baldwin, and Michael Madsen. Heidi Klum, Anjelica Huston, and John Cleese also lend their voices, presumably because Jenny McCarthy, Lori Loughlin, and Jeffrey Tambor were unavailable.
Will it be worth your time? If you’re a parent, your time is somehow both invaluable (in that every minute counts) and worthless (in that your child may have a terrible whim to see a terrible movie). So who’s to say? (But no.)


The Irishman

Select theaters November 1; Netflix November 27

With two recent box office smashes jocking his style and scores of Marvel fans calling for his head, Martin Scorsese is having a moment. His very big autumn culminates with the release of his longest movie to date, an extended eulogy for a genre he mastered. Based on a nonfiction book by Charles Brandt, The Irishman casts the director’s one-time muse Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran, a truck driver who moonlighted as a Mafia hitman over the back half of the 20th century. Joining this crime movie reunion are Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel, along with Al Pacino, making his first appearance in Scorsese Land as the disappeared labor leader Jimmy Hoffa. That most are playing characters we first meet in middle age is thanks to the magic of de-aging technology—a big reason for the hefty $150-million-plus budget Netflix forked over for the film.
Will it be worth your time? All three and a half hours of it. Scorsese’s latest (and maybe last) mob epic may be marathon length, but like Goodfellas and Casino before it, the film never drags—it’s got that famous Marty wit and momentum, at least until he slows things down in the final hour, when The Irishman becomes a stark meditation on the consequences of violence.


Harriet

Select theaters November 1

A tale 150 years in the making, Harriet is the first big-screen biopic about Harriet Tubman, the American hero who guided more than 300 people on the perilous journey from slavery to freedom on the Underground Railroad in the 1850s. Cynthia Erivo, from Widows and Bad Times At The El Royale, stars as Tubman, with Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) directing a story that begins with Tubman’s own escape from slavery in the early 1840s and culminates with her leading troops into battle during the Civil War.
Will it be worth your time? Though she was a controversial choice for the role, Erivo compellingly conveys the righteous, headstrong conviction of this true American hero. Nothing else about the film is quite as powerful, however.


American Dharma

Select theaters November 1

Despite his reputation as one of the world’s greatest documentary filmmakers, Errol Morris had significant difficulty finding a U.S. distributor for his latest effort: a feature-length conversation with former Trump campaign manager and adviser Steve Bannon. (It was finally acquired by Utopia, a fairly new outfit.) Like all of Morris’ films, it’s anything but confrontational, at least on its surface; the director is more present than usual, and pushes back more frequently, but he seeks to understand his subject, not condemn him.
Will it be worth your time? Many critics who saw American Dharma on the festival circuit last year complained that it treats Bannon with kid gloves, in effect legitimizing his toxic worldview. That’s too simplistic, though. Morris makes the most visually dynamic talking-head docs in the business, and in this film, more than in any of his previous work, he uses images—mostly derived from one of Bannon’s favorite classic Hollywood movies, Twelve O’Clock High—to subtly undermine the words being spoken. The result, while far from perfect, is more slippery than the initial negative reaction suggested.


Marriage Story

Select theaters November 6; Netflix December 6

Title aside, Marriage Story is really about the end of a marriage—a topic Noah Baumbach previously tackled in his acclaimed, withering, and loosely autobiographical The Squid And The Whale. Here, though, the writer-director is adopting not the perspective of a child caught in the middle of “irreconcilable differences” but of the two parents: New York playwright Charlie (Adam Driver) and actress Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), whose attempts to kindly and cleanly separate are upended when the lawyers get involved.
Will be worth your time? Absolutely. Though maybe not quite as balanced as Netflix’s dual-poster advertising campaign might have you believe (Baumbach slightly favors Charlie’s point of view), Marriage Story is nonetheless one of this generally caustic filmmaker’s most empathetic works: a divorce drama equally interested in emotional and legal trials. And the performances, including supporting turns by Laura Dern and Ray Liotta, are terrific.


Doctor Sleep

Theaters everywhere November 8

Lately, Stephen King adaptations have been arriving at an even steadier clip than Stephen King novels usually do. Following closely on the heels of Pet Sematary, In The Tall Grass, and the concluding chapter of It, is this big-screen version of the author’s 2013 bestseller, a belated sequel to The Shining set several decades after that one horrifying winter in The Overlook. Ewan McGregor plays the adult Danny Torrance, still grappling with his strange gifts and the memories of his dad trying to axe-murder him, while director Mike Flanagan—who made the faithful Netflix adaptation of Gerald’s Game—massages 500-some pages of plot into a two-and-a-half-hour movie about warring psychics and lingering trauma.
Will it be worth your time? Responses to the novel were mixed, with The A.V. Club falling firmly in the con camp. But Flanagan, whose Haunting Of Hill House relevantly toggled between past and present, somehow earned the writer’s blessing to make Doctor Sleep not just an adaptation of its source material but also a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s towering 1980 take on The Shining, which King has always hated for its deviations. Seeing how Flanagan reconciles these multiple visions could be worth the long return trip to the Torrance-verse.


Midway

Theaters everywhere November 8

Roland Emmerich, the master of disaster behind such clamorous, conspiracy-theory-inspired entertainments as Independence Day, 2012, and The Day After Tomorrow, tackles the most famous naval battle of World War II in his signature style of extreme explode-o-vision. Expect lots of flying debris, sentimental speeches, and a cast of characters you will neither remember nor care about—some of them played by the likes of Patrick Wilson, Nick Jonas, Luke Evans, and a toupee-wearing Woody Harrelson.
Will it be worth your time? While Emmerich has a generally strong track record with goofy action and sci-fi movies (Godzilla notwithstanding), history tends to the cornball wizard’s worst instincts. There’s a reason Midway isn’t being advertised as the latest film “from the director of Stonewall.”


Playing With Fire

Theaters everywhere November 8

There comes a time for every big-screen tough guy to participate in humorous situations predicated on the enormous size difference between an extremely muscular man and smaller, less jacked children. That time has evidently come for John Cena, who dutifully suits up for Playing With Fire, in which three young siblings are rescued and then babysat by a trio of death-defying firefighters (Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, and John Leguizamo). Because they are men, this is funny. Director Andy Fickman understands this because he directed The Game Plan, where Dwayne Johnson experienced a similar incongruity.
Will it be worth your time? It’s possible that Cena, Key, and Leguizamo make a funny movie together. It’s less likely that it would come from the director of You Again, She’s The Man, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.


Last Christmas

Theaters everywhere November 8

Kate (Emilia Clarke) is a cynical loner—so cynical, even, that she says dismissive things whilst wearing an elf costume and dark eye makeup! As she deals with holiday-season mishaps and the aftermath of an illness that nearly killed her, Kate meets Tom (Henry Golding), a suspiciously handsome stranger who encourages her to change her life. In case this London-set Christmas rom-com didn’t sound crowd-pleasing enough, it’s got music aplenty: Kate is an aspiring singer, and the film’s soundtrack is basically a greatest-hits record for George Michael, whose songs “inspired” the screenplay by co-star Emma Thompson.
Will it be worth your time? Clarke and Golding are generally adorable, Thompson is smart and funny, and director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, A Simple Favor) is reliable. So why isn’t there a single, genuine laugh in the trailers? Still, we’re as curious as the rest of the internet to find out if this really boasts the dodgy plot twist it seems to.


Honey Boy

Select theaters November 8

Remember when Shia LaBeouf recorded himself in a theater watching a multi-day marathon of Shia LaBeouf movies? That self-reflexive interest gets a new workout in Honey Boy, a baldly autobiographical coming-of-age story written by LaBeouf and directed by Alma Har’el. Lucas Hedges plays a troubled twentysomething movie star (sound familiar?) whose stint in rehab triggers memories of his past as a Disney-channel star (It’s Noah Jupe) grappling with the abusive supervision of his washed-up, freeloading father. The big meta hook: LaBeouf himself appears as the bad dad, a fictionalized version of his own.
Will it be worth your time? Whatever interest Honey Boy will hold for its audience, as opposed to its writer-star, will probably be voyeuristic: It’s the next best thing to eavesdropping on a famous person’s drama therapy. As just plain ol’ drama, though, it’s pretty ordinary—a kitchen-sink Sundance indie you’ve seen plenty of times before.


The Kingmaker

Select theaters November 8; Showtime 2020

Director Lauren Greenfield (The Queen Of Versailles, Generation Wealth) has spent her career zeroing in on immense, ostentatious, near-criminal levels of wealth and how said riches deform the brains of those who obtain it. It was possibly inevitable, then, that the documentarian would eventually gravitate to Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines, 1980s punchline, and co-holder (with her now-dead husband, Ferdinand) of the Guinness World Record for most cash fleeced from a national government. But where Greenfield’s previous films presented their ultra-rich subjects as almost pitiably inept, The Kingmaker is by all accounts a darker effort, splitting its time between Marcos’ self-interested self-indulgence and the terrifying but steady drumbeat of her family’s reemergence into the halls of national power.
Will it be worth your time? Marcos is a fascinating figure, both clownish and inescapably sinister. Per reviews from the film’s Venice debut, The Kingmaker examines both sides of her complicated public life, refusing to gloss over the terror of a newly resurgent Marcos regime, while still allowing audiences to bask in the inherent ridiculousness of Imelda’s all-consuming need for bright pink suits and ludicrous masses of illegally acquired jewels.


Lady & The Tramp

Disney+ November 12

In the same year that saw brand-new (and variably faithful) takes on Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King, Disney runs another animated classic through the live-action remake machine. Based on the 1955 movie about the love that blossoms between two pooches of different social stations, Lady & The Tramp secures the voices of Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux as, respectively, a pampered purebred cocker spaniel and her scrappy mutt suitor; Sam Elliott, Benedict Wong, and Janelle Monaé are also on board as Lady and the Tramp’s canine sidekicks. The most notable thing about the movie is probably that it’s debuting on Disney+ instead of in theaters.
Will it be worth your time? Disney’s recent remakes have been forgettable at best, pointless at worst. And like the recent Lion King, this one performs a truly dubious makeover, turning characters beloved for their hand-drawn expressiveness into blankly “photorealistic” CGI creations. But hey, if you desperately need to know what two real dogs slurping the same strand of spaghetti would look like, the answer is a monthly fee away.


Charlie’s Angels

Theaters everywhere November 15

The new Charlie’s Angels might look like a premature reboot of the series Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz headlined last decade (which itself was a big-screen remake of the 1970s television show), but it’s actually an overdue sequel. That, anyway, is how writer-director Elizabeth Banks has positioned her film, which takes place in a world where there are now multiple teams of ass-kicking female investigators answering to different Bosleys. Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska play one such global wing of Angels, called in to protect a whistleblower who alerts the agency to a revolutionary new power source with the potential to become a super weapon.
Will it be worth your time? Banks made her directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2, and while that movie has its fans, her action chops—an essential part of any Charlie’s Angels movie—remain untested. The often subdued Stewart is particularly animated in trailers for the film, however, which seems to point to some fun blockbuster escapism.


Ford V Ferrari

Theaters everywhere November 15

Director James Mangold (Logan, Walk The Line) takes on the brutal and stylish world of mid-century motorsport with this drama about the Ford-backed Shelby American team and its attempt to unseat perennial Le Mans winners Ferrari, culminating in the 1966 Le Mans race. Matt Damon plays the car designer Carroll Shelby; Christian Bale is his British-born engineer and driver, Ken Miles.
Will it be worth your time? Although his career has never been limited to macho subjects (see: Girl, Interrupted), Mangold seems to be at his best when portraying complicated, near-mythic men. The word-of-mouth on Ford V Ferrari (which played Telluride and TIFF earlier this year) has been good; even mixed reviews have praised the film’s racing sequences.


The Good Liar

Theaters everywhere November 15

Bill Condon won an Oscar for 1998’s Gods And Monsters, directing Ian McKellen in a complex, sympathetic portrait of Frankenstein director James Whale. The duo are up to something altogether nastier, though, with their latest collaboration, pitching McKellen as an inevitably charming older con man hoping to fleece lonely lover Helen Mirren out of her considerable fortune. But with hostile forces closing in—including, presumably, the dreaded specter of emotional connection—it becomes an open question as to who here is actually conning who. (After all, it’s not like you cast Helen Mirren in a movie like this if all you want her to play is the hapless dupe.)
Will it be worth your time? It’s a familiar-sounding story, but watching McKellen and Mirren face off against each other is likely to be worth the price of admission. And it’s good to see Condon return to more grounded matters after his tenure in the Mouse House remake factory.


Waves

Select theaters November 15

Trey Edward Shults, the writer-director of Krisha and It Comes At Night, takes a swing for the fences with his third feature: a long, colorful, music-driven drama about a Florida family consumed by crisis. Unfolding across two stylistically distinct halves, Waves initially follows a frazzled teenage wrestler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) buckling under the pressure of a tumultuous relationship and the tough-love expectations of his father (Sterling K. Brown). Eventually, the scope widens to adopt the perspective of his sister (Taylor Russell), tiptoeing into her own adolescent romance with a classmate (Lucas Hedges).
Will it be worth your time? From its constantly circling camera to its soundtrack of wall-to-wall Frank Ocean and Animal Collective bangers, Waves might be the most loudly stylized indie of the year. But while Shults’ expressive approach certainly feels keyed to the heightened emotions of his teenage characters, it sometimes threatens to drown out the family drama at center.


The Report

Select theaters November 15

Earlier this fall, Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat made a wonkish blast of infotainment out of a stack of damning documents. Its screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, takes a similarly ambitious but tonally different approach with The Report, which dryly dramatizes the years-long efforts of Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) to uncover the full truth about the CIA’s Detention And Interrogation Program after 9/11, then to make his findings public. In place of fourth-wall-breaking humor, there is only raw information, streamlined into a straightforwardly engrossing portrait of democracy’s inner workings.
Will it be worth your time? Burns, who wrote and directed The Report, doesn’t possess the same panache as his regular collaborator, Soderbergh. But in just about every other respect, this is the superior movie, made in the just-the-facts spirit of its subject; it’s a pure procedural, likely to bore some while captivating anyone with an interest in the nuts-and-bolts legwork of investigation.


Atlantics

Select theaters and Netflix November 15

Parasite won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, but the Grand Prix (basically second prize) went to Mati Diop’s debut feature, which finds a uniquely eerie angle on the current refugee crisis. Set in Senegal, it focuses on the women who are left behind when their husbands and boyfriends, who haven’t been paid for months of labor on a construction site, desperately leave the country by sea in search of better opportunities. What happens is best left to be discovered on screen, but let’s just say that there’s a reason why Atlantics has sometimes been screened with the subtitle A Ghost Love Story.
Will it be worth your time? Certainly the Cannes jury (headed by Alejandro González Iñárritu this year) thinks so. And there’s no denying the power of the literally haunting conceit that Diop uses to emphasize the plight of exploited Senegalese workers. But the film works considerably better as creative agitprop than as a romance from beyond the grave, and it expends way too much energy on a subplot involving the police investigator who’s looking into a related, mysterious case of wedding-night arson.


I Lost My Body

Select theaters November 15; Netflix November 29

Writer, director, and animator Jérémy Clapin won the top prize at Critics’ Week—one of the sidebar festivals held in Cannes during Cannes—for his feature debut, a magical-realism fable about a severed hand making its way across Paris in search of its owner. Who’d the appendage belong to and how’d they lose it? Flashbacks provide the answers, through a coming-of-age story that breaks up the surreal, wordless pilgrimage of the misplaced body part.
Will it be worth your time? Plot isn’t actually the strong suit of this French cartoon curio, whose character-driven stretches (some involving a banal romance) are actually much less interesting than the scenes of the disembodied hand scaling window ledges, leaping under subway trains, and fighting off rats and birds. But the animation is rich and beautiful throughout, and it’s not like we’re drowning in animated movies for grown-ups.


The Hottest August

Select theaters November 15

There’s no shortage of documentaries about climate change—which makes sense, as it’s an issue that affects literally everyone on the planet. But The Hottest August takes a more abstract approach to the crisis, and to other hot-button issues like gentrification and the rise of white nationalism. During an especially sweltering summer, director Brett Story walked around New York City and talked to various people about their hopes and expectations for the future, cutting the results into an ambivalent, unsettling mosaic of cultural anxiety.
Will it be worth your time? Anyone hoping for a climactic call to action should look elsewhere; The Hottest August presents an undeniably dispiriting portrait of a city—and maybe even a country and species—united only in collective defeatism. Yet the film is also populated by a bunch of interesting oddballs, recalling the vignette-driven anthropological documentaries of Werner Herzog and Errol Morris. It’s as involving as it is depressing.


Frozen II

Theaters everywhere November 22

Six years on, the original Frozen remains Disney’s highest-grossing original animated feature to date, spurred on by winning performances, clever plot choices that invert the company’s usual dynamics, and roughly eight million sing-along renditions of “Let It Go.” Inevitable, presumably, was a sequel, bringing back Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf (still Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Graff, and Josh Gad, respectively) to hunt down the source of Elsa’s mysterious ice-based powers, and answer the question of whatever happened to her and Anna’s long-absent parents. (Was this sort of elaborate backstory-diving strictly necessary? Shhh, the catchy songs are about to start.)
Will it be worth your time? Frozen wasn’t just massively successful; it was also pretty good, riffing on the company’s traditional princess fantasies in inventive and interesting ways. Frozen II reunites the same creative team, including directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and songwriting pair Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Disney sequels have had a decidedly mixed track record over the years, but the first teaser trailer for Frozen II showed a team eager to play around with the animation possibilities of Elsa’s powers, while still emphasizing the sisterly bond that formed the first movie’s surprisingly warm, non-traditional heart.


21 Bridges

Theaters everywhere November 22

Chadwick Boseman has spent much of his big-screen career on biopic and/or superhero duty, playing Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, and Black Panther with impressive versatility and charm. So it’s potentially exciting to see how he does with what looks like an old-fashioned star vehicle like 21 Bridges, where he plays an NYPD officer who shuts down all exits from the city in an attempt to catch a pair of murderers. Taylor Kitsch and Stephan James play the suspects, Sienna Miller plays Boseman’s partner, and J.K. Simmons and Keith David are also on hand, because a pulpy-sounding story like this is nothing without a couple of ace character actors.
Will it be worth your time? 21 Bridges has bounced around the release schedule as upstart studio STX tries to juggle its slate of mid-budget, star-driven movies that might have been big hits in the mid-’90s. But in a superhero-dominated landscape, that brand of meat-and-potatoes filmmaking can be appealing, and Boseman is almost always a compelling presence.


A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Select theaters November 22

Mr. Rogers is back, just in time for Thanksgiving, to reduce the whole family to a puddle of feelings! Okay, so it’s not the real Fred Rogers, technically. In A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, a different icon of American wholesomeness, Tom Hanks, slips on the sneakers, red cardigan, and inviting smile to play the late, beloved children’s entertainer. Rather than fashion a life-spanning biopic, director Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and her screenwriters dramatize a 1998 encounter between Rogers and the Esquire reporter (Matthew Rhys of The Americans) who interviewed him.
Will it be worth your time? A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a pretty conventional crowd-pleaser, inserting Rogers into the story of a sad, grumpy journalist who just needs a little help forgiving his deadbeat dad. But Hanks is very good in the role, not so much attempting a close imitation (which might be impossible, even for a more chameleon-like star) as using his own trustworthy persona as a proxy for Fred’s. And in its best moments, the film does reflect the fundamental decency and compassion of its famous subject.


Dark Waters

Select theaters November 22

Todd Haynes, a filmmaker of subtextual fascinations, is no stranger to environmental paranoia, but he still seems like an odd choice to direct this stolid-looking fact-based drama about Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a former corporate defense attorney who initiated a class-action lawsuit against the chemical giant DuPont over mass exposure to PFOA, a carcinogen that was used in the production of Teflon.
Will it be worth your time? Every Haynes film since 1991’s Poison has premiered at a major film fest (either Sundance, Cannes, or Venice); Dark Waters’ conspicuous absence from this year’s festival circuit seems like an ill omen. Is he taking a late-career turn toward the middlebrow mainstream after the commercial disappointment of Wonderstruck? Or is there something more going on here?


Varda By Agnès

Select theaters November 22

Thanks to the awards-season success of her 2017 documentary Faces Places, arthouse icon Agnès Varda was still gaining new fans when she died at the age of 90 earlier this year. And the beloved matriarch of the French New Wave left her many acolytes a parting gift in the form of Varda By Agnès, wherein she walks viewers through the highs and lows of her legendary career with the playful spirit and endless generosity that endeared her to generations of cinephiles.
Will it be worth your time? Varda By Agnès is a masterclass in filmmaking as recounted through the medium of creative autobiography, and even if you aren’t an aspiring (or practicing!) filmmaker looking for tips and inspiration, Varda’s famous joie de vivre has the ability to inspire everyone.


Knives Out

Theaters everywhere November 27

When you’ve just made one of the most successful but divisive blockbusters of the new century, what do you do for an encore? If you’re Rian Johnson, you gather a bunch of movie stars in a Gothic manor for a classic murder mystery! Hyper-jumping from the galaxy far, far away to Agatha Christie’s neck of the genre woods, the Last Jedi director offers a knotty whodunit about a bestselling novelist (Christopher Plummer) found dead in his room from an apparent suicide, and the ostentatiously Southern private eye (Daniel Craig) who suspects foul play. The stacked lineup of suspects includes Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Ana de Armas, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Will it be worth your time? Only if you like spending it in a near-constant state of giddy surprise, disbelief, and delight. Knives Out is a brain-bending blast from start to finish, with a whole ensemble’s worth of juicily over-the-top actors making a meal of his venomous dialogue and bumbling through his unpredictable plot. That there’s a rather poignant and timely political dimension to these outrageous investigative games is icing on the ornately decorated birthday cake.


Queen & Slim

Theaters everywhere November 22

A first date turns into a life-changing adventure in Queen & Slim, the debut feature from prolific music-video director and Insecure producer Melina Matsoukas. Jodie Turner-Smith (The Neon Demon) and Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya star as the titular couple, on their way home from an awkward Tinder date when a violent encounter with a racist police officer forces them to go on the run. The danger and sexual tension presumably only escalates as Queen and Slim—dubbed “the Black Bonnie and Clyde” after a video of their escape goes viral—criss-cross the U.S. in search of sanctuary.
Will it be worth your time? The video for Beyoncé’s “Formation” proves that Matsoukas has the chops, and with Emmy winner Lena Waithe penning the script and Oscar nominee Kaluuya leading the cast, this definitely seems like a ride worth taking. Could it be an awards contender, too?


The Two Popes

Select theaters November 27; Netflix December 20

The streaming wars are clearly heating up; just look at Netflix attempting to out-pope HBO. There are no young popes in this comedy-drama from City Of God director Fernando Meirelles, adapted by Anthony McCarten from his play. But the film does offer two real-life papal leaders, palling around Vatican City: The more conservative, severe Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and the humbler, somewhat more progressive Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), who would become Pope Francis. The two men meet for a series of conversations preceding Pope Benedict’s unexpected retirement after just eight years in the papacy, and much of the movie consists of the two men discussing faith, compromise, and the future of their church.
Will it be worth your time? The average viewer’s tolerance for de facto palace intrigue of the Catholic Church may be limited, especially when it’s purported to be pretty low-key and talky. But reviews out of this year’s fall festival circuit have also indicated that The Two Popes is a worthwhile undertaking, especially for fans of Hopkins and Pryce.


63 Up

Select theaters November 27

Has it been another seven years already? Yes, it’s time for the latest installment of the longest-running documentary series in cinema history, in which director Michael Apted interviews a dozen or so English school kids from a variety of class backgrounds. Well, they were 7-year-old kids when the original film was made, anyway, back in 1964; he’s talked to them every seven years since, and they’re all now 63. If you’ve seen any of the previous Up movies, you know exactly what to expect. They’ll just be a little older.
Will it be worth your time? It seems impolite to say so, somehow, but the Up series got more and more fascinating as it progressed, through 35 Up, and then it sort of plateaued. By middle age, most people’s lives have settled into a comfortable groove; 42 Up and 49 Up, in particular, found their subjects much as the previous installment had left them, albeit with a more few wrinkles and gray hairs. As they head toward becoming senior citizens, however, things are bound to get more poignant. Indeed, this is the first of the films that must reckon with one of the subjects having passed away since the last one.

Share This Story