Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Photo: A Quiet Place Part II (Paramount Pictures), Onward (Disney/Pixar), Bloodshot (Sony 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.


Onward

Theaters everywhere March 6

Putting a kid-friendly spin on the same basic concept as Netflix’s much-maligned Will Smith vehicle Bright, Pixar’s latest all-ages adventure takes place in a modern fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons enchantment that’s lost all its enchantment. That is, until a gift from beyond the grave sends teenage elf Ian (Tom Holland) and his older brother, Barley (Chris Pratt), on an epic adventure to meet their long-dead father and prove that magic is still possible—even in suburbia. Monsters University director Dan Scanlon oversees their road trip.
Will it be worth your time? Even a middling Pixar movie is better than most of the kids’ fare that’s shruggingly released into theaters every year. But the notion that Onward will become a classic on the level of Toy Story or WALL-E or any of the studio’s best is, well, a fairy tale.


The Way Back

Theaters everywhere March 6

Did it rub you wrong, seeing Ben Affleck achieve Oscar glory and nab the much-coveted role of Batman? Fear not: The up-and-down career of the actor-writer-director hit another lull with the flopping of Live By Night and the disappointment of Justice League. Now he’s reunited with his Accountant director Gavin O’Connor for the appropriately underdog-centric story of an alcoholic who gets a job coaching the basketball team at his high school alma mater.
Will it be worth your time? Actually, yes! The Way Back is one for the pro-Affleck camp: a sports drama that’s really a moving showcase for its lead actor and whatever demons he may be exorcising through the role. Credit O’Connor, too; if you got choked up during his Warrior, bring your hankie again.


First Cow

Select theaters March 6

Meek’s Cutoff, a hypnotic-trance Western about a caravan that strays off course into danger and disaster, was one of The A.V. Club’s favorite movies of the last decade. Now the film’s writer-director, Kelly Reichardt, has returned to the setting of her masterpiece with a gentler portrait of 19th-century Oregon hardship, this one concerning the friendship that develops between a soft-spoken cook (John Magaro) and a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee). Their financial salvation or damnation lies with a wealthy landowner’s cow, which the two begin milking in secret for the purposes of baking and selling biscuits.
Will it be worth your time? Just about all of Reichardt’s quiet portraits of loneliness and desperation are, provided you can get on their minimalist wavelength. This one’s warmer and funnier than the rest, like the filmmaker’s meditative spin on a classic buddy comedy. The adorable ungulate helps.


Sorry We Missed You

Select theaters March 6

Ken Loach’s ongoing crusade to highlight every injustice visited upon the working class arrives, at last, to the gig economy. In Sorry We Missed You, the venerated English filmmaker follows a family man (Kris Hitchen) who invests in the promise of self-employment issued by a UPS-like delivery company, which will “let” him drive his own truck and run his own franchise. If you’ve seen any of Loach’s other downers—or, you know, driven for Uber—you can probably guess how this “be your own boss” opportunity plays out.
Will it be worth your time? Loach’s rage toward a system that steamrolls honest, hard-working people is typically bracing. Also typical, alas, is the feeling that the writer-director is doing a lot of the steamrolling himself—like his recent Cannes winner I, Daniel Blake, this one piles on its downtrodden hero so relentlessly that it starts to feel like overkill. It’s more screed than drama, though of course that’s very much by polemical design.


The Banker

Select theaters March 6, Apple TV+ March 20

Inspired by a true story, this ’60s period piece stars Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson as a couple of successful Black entrepreneurs who plot to expand their business portfolios by hiring a white man (Nicholas Hoult) to pose as a wealthy investor. Originally intended for release last year, The Banker was withdrawn a day before its premiere due to sexual abuse allegations against one of the co-producers, son of the real man Mackie plays.
Will it be worth your time? It may be opening in March instead of December, but The Banker is still very much an award-season movie, with all the familiar formula and hackneyed big speeches that implies; the film never really finds the man behind the inspirational true story.


The Wild Goose Lake

Select theaters March 6

After accidentally shooting and killing a cop during a crime spree, a stoic gangster (Hu Ge) goes on the lam. Soon every police officer in a 100-mile radius is in hot pursuit. Chinese director Diao Yinan follows up his Black Coal, Thin Ice with an expressionistic neo-noir, full of guns, motorcycles, rain, shadows, neon, and splashes of stylized, sometimes abstracted violence. The film premiered in competition at Cannes last summer.
Will it be worth your time? The story is negligible, but Yinan brings a lot of flare to the violence, and he’s found a compelling urban-rural backdrop for his game of genre pastiche. If it sounds up your alley, it probably is.


Bacurau

Select theaters March 6

At first glance, Bacurau looks like another idiosyncratic, ensemble portrait of community from Kleber Mendonça Filho, the acclaimed Brazilian director of Neighboring Sounds and Aquarius. But all is not what it seems in the film’s near-future setting, a secluded village that suddenly finds itself in danger of being rather literally wiped off the map by a hostile, corrupt government. Before long, Filho is making explicit his professed love for John Carpenter, right around the time an appearance by Udo Kier shifts things into full genre gear.
Will it be worth your time? Bacurau starts off as a charmingly laid-back ensemble drama about life in a remote outlaw town in Northeastern Brazil, which is engrossing in its own right. But if that isn’t enough to hold your interest, hang tight—this film goes in wild, unpredictable directions that make it impossible to forget.


The Burnt Orange Heresy

Select theaters March 6

The hardboiled fiction of Charles Willeford has only been adapted to the screen a few times (in Miami Blues, Cockfighter, and The Woman Chaser), but always with memorable results. Based on a novel that is widely considered to be one of Willeford’s best, this art-world thriller centers on an ambitious and unscrupulous art critic (The Square’s Claes Bang, playing yet another gallery snob) who gets involved with a wealthy collector (Mick Jagger) in a plot to steal a painting by a notoriously reclusive artist (Donald Sutherland). Director Giuseppe Capotondi has given the source material an even more highbrow gloss; while Willeford’s novel was set in Florida, the film shifts the story to Italy’s Lake Como.
Will it be worth your time? The sophisticated veneer is just that: a veneer. This is a thriller of almost entirely superficial pleasures, from the old-Hollywood snap of its dialogue to the chemistry between its attractive stars (including a perfectly cast Elizabeth Debicki). But those pleasures are real.


The Hunt

Theaters everywhere March 13

With The Hunt, director Craig Zobel was all set to follow the path of his buddy David Gordon Green from thought-provoking indies like Great World Of Sound and Compliance to mainstream Universal-produced horror. Then rightwing pundits (and the president) got wind of its “Most Dangerous Game”-style premise, allegedly involving a group of “elites” hunting a group of red-state “deplorables.” Between the ensuing controversy and several recent mass shootings, Universal opted to pull the film from its release schedule. Now The Hunt is back on, with new trailers trumpeting that very controversy, which was of course stirred up before anyone decreeing the film had actually seen it (or, for that matter, thought about what a movie might be saying by depicting liberals hunting conservatives). For their part, the filmmakers insist that The Hunt satirizes both sides of the political divide.
Will it be worth your time? A lot of media critics are starting to dismantle the idea that the best satires take on “both sides”; that attribute is less enticing than the presence of Zobel and his eclectic cast: Hilary Swank, Betty Gilpin, Emma Roberts, Macon Blair, and Sturgill Simpson.


Bloodshot

Theaters everywhere March 13

Vin Diesel is finally ready to make the jump from talking tree man to full-fledged superhero, albeit one published by Valiant Comics with a heavy dose of The Punisher-by-way-of-Frankenstein energy powering his generic but smoldering rage. Blown up under mysterious circumstances—and resurrected by a scientist you just know is a villain because he’s played by Guy Pearce—Diesel’s former soldier is imbued with the power of nanomachine-laced blood. If the “grizzled antihero seeks vengeance” plot sounds generic, the trailer for Bloodshot also reveals that there’s more to Diesel’s memories of his wife’s murder, leading one to wonder if the Memento parallels stop at Pearce’s casting.
Will it be worth your time? Diesel is Diesel, an artisan of looking (sometimes literally) steely and unconcerned while bad guys like Outlander’s Sam Heughan—playing a bargain-bin Doc Ock—try to get in his way. Director David S.F. Wilson is a newbie, though, coming out of the world of visual effects, which might be cause for concern. But Bloodshot’s most intriguing asset might be its script, courtesy of Jeff Wadlow and Oscar-nominee Eric Heisserer, whose Arrival suggests that he knows how to play around with memory in a way that can defy a project’s more pulpy genre roots.


My Spy

Theaters everywhere March 13

Like John Cena before him, charismatic former wrestler Dave Bautista is nearly as well-known for comic roles as tough guy ones. So tradition dictates that he must be paired with a diminutive and usually smart-mouthed child who undermines his status as a badass lawman, which is why he’s rolled into My Spy to play JJ, a CIA agent who must surveil and then protect 9-year-old Sophie (Chloe Coleman). At least Bautista is in good company; director Peter Segal has previously worked with big-name tough guys (De Niro, Stallone, The Rock) as well as a bunch of high-profile comedians (Sandler, Farley, Carell).
Will it be worth your time? It’s hard to remember the last tough-guy-meets-spitfire-kid movie that was actually good, but if Kristen Schaal’s trailer-ending line about the quality of Bautista’s dancing remains in the movie, this one has at least one big laugh.


I Still Believe

Theaters everywhere March 13

The Erwin Brothers, directors of the faith-based hit I Can Only Imagine, are back with another songography about a Christian musician facing hardship. Based on the memoir and song of the same name, I Still Believe follows Jeremy Camp (K.J. Apa, Riverdales Archie) and his relationship with Melissa Lynn-Henning (Britt Robertson), who he met and married after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Gary Sinise and Shania Twain form an unexpected odd couple as Jeremy’s parents, and Bart Millard, subject of I Can Only Imagine, is an executive producer (and touring to support the new film).
Will it be worth your time? If you liked I Can Only Imagine, keep the faith; this will probably reward your devotion as well.


Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Select theaters March 13

Knocked up by a callous classmate and decidedly unprepared to be a mother, a Pennsylvania teenager (Sidney Flanigan) heads to New York City to procure an abortion, her cousin/coworker (Talia Ryder) supportively along for the ride. Their cross-state odyssey is the subject of this tough, unvarnished drama from writer-director Eliza Hittman, who previously explored the pitfalls of growing up in Tri-State character studies It Felt Like Love and Beach Rats. Like those films, this new one premiered to great acclaim at Sundance.
Will it be worth your time? Hittman takes a big leap forward with Never Rarely Sometimes Always, which marries the keen observation of her past work to a story of great dramatic and social urgency. And though her insight into the obstacles placed in the way of a woman’s right to choose lend the film great topicality, it never feels like a diatribe.


The Informer

Select theaters March 13

A reformed criminal (Joel Kinnaman) is forced to return to prison as an unofficial undercover agent to gather evidence against a drug-dealing mob boss, while his handler (Rosamund Pike) clashes with a more callous official (Clive Owen) and his wife (Ana de Armas) does the worrying-wife thing. Though this seems like a movie from 2015 or so, it’s merely been kicking around since last year, when it was released in the United Kingdom over the summer.
Will it be worth your time? The Informer’s U.K. release garnered mixed reviews, so it’s probably wise to keep your expectations low, despite the presence of perpetually underused Pike and Owen.


Big Time Adolescence

Select theaters March 13; Hulu March 20

Pete Davidson’s first leading role in a movie (beating his upcoming Judd Apatow project King Of Staten Island to theaters by a few months) places him in the unlikely position of mentor. He plays Zeke, a college-aged dropout who hangs out with his ex-girlfriend’s little brother Mo (American Vandal’s Griffin Gluck) and schools him in the complexities of growing up—as well as drug-dealing and homemade tattoos, both the kind of topics Davidson might well cover on one of his Weekend Update segments on Saturday Night Live. Davidson must have had a positive experience making Big Time Adolescence; writer-director Jason Orley also helmed the comedian’s new Netflix special.
Will it be worth your time? Maybe for fans of coming-of-age films or Davidson himself. Reviews from last year’s Sundance were more affectionate than one might expect from such an antics-saturated trailer, though the year-plus it took Big Time Adolescence to make it to theaters isn’t a great sign.


Lost Girls

Select theaters March 13

A mother’s search for her missing daughter exposes a much larger evil in Lost Girls, based on Robert Kolker’s 2014 nonfiction book of the same name. Amy Ryan stars as Mari Gilbert, a Long Island mother whose investigation into the gated community where her daughter Shannan (Thomasin McKenzie) was last seen uncovers evidence of a serial killer preying on sex workers—and a police department that doesn’t care about the victims.
Will it be worth your time? Director Liz Garbus (What Happened, Miss Simone?) is best known as a documentarian, so it remains to be seen how well she’ll spin drama out of an unsolved murder case. But early reviews out of Sundance were mostly positive, and Ryan is basically always good.


A Quiet Place Part II

Theaters everywhere March 20

John Krasinski’s 2018 horror hit gets the bigger, louder sequel treatment, with a returning Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds trying to navigate a world where man is just as dangerous as metal-skinned human-hunting aliens with immaculate hearing and knives for feet. (Or so Cillian Murphy’s six-month sorrow beard would have you believe.) Djimon Hounsou co-stars, while Krasinski (still writing and directing) appears in flashbacks that reveal what the early frantic hours of his hushed apocalypse looked like.
Will it be worth your time? The first A Quiet Place was a gimmick horror movie that made startlingly good use of its gimmick (to say nothing of the charisma of Blunt and her young co-stars). It’s not clear what, exactly, its sequel has to up that appeal beyond a plot insisting that, yes, man is the real monster. But if it sticks close to the values of the original—pure visual storytelling, minimal dialogue, lots of suspense—this second installment could silence our nagging suspicion that a franchise set in this world isn’t necessary.


The Truth

Select theaters March 20

Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche, together at last! That overdue pairing of French acting royalty is at the center of The Truth, which casts Deneuve as a revered, aging star and Binoche as her screenwriter daughter, reunited during the shooting of a sci-fi movie. If that’s not enough of a hook, this frothy family drama marks the first time Japanese writer-director Kore-eda Hirokazu (Shoplifters) has made a film outside his native country and language.
Will it be worth your time? Like a lot of Kore-eda’s work, The Truth is charming but a little slight. Still, it’s fun to see the filmmaker mix his own sensibility with a distinctly Gallic one, just as it’s entertaining to see these two legendary performers trade barbs and bon mots.


Deerskin

Select theater March 20

Jean Dujardin, Oscar winning star of The Artist, slips into a deranged and deadpan new comic register as Georges, a French oddball singularly focused on his most prized possession: a 100% deerskin jacket. Eventually, this obsession leads him into both an amateur filmmaking career and a disturbing crime spree in the latest whatsit from musician- turned-director Quentin Dupieux (Rubber, Wrong). Portrait Of A Lady On Fire’s Adèle Haenel costars.
Will it be worth your time? Dupieux’s films often ride a single absurdist joke to feature length, and Deerskin is no exception. But the joke, in this case, is funny and also pretty pointed, making this more than just a weird-for-weird’s-sake exercise. And Dujardin is a hoot—the maniac as bumbling accidental artist.


The Climb

Select theaters March 20

The title refers to a long, winding bike ride embarked upon by Kyle (Kyle Marvin) and his best man, Mike (Michael Angelo Covino), in the opening scene of this unusually ambitious indie comedy. But it could also describe, in more abstract terms, the thrust of the narrative—an uphill attempt to mend a friendship after one party shatters it with a betrayal. Covino directed the film, which he wrote with his costar; like a surprisingly large number of this month’s smaller releases, it premiered to acclaim at Cannes last May.
Will it be worth your time? Yes. The Climb is sharp, funny, and unpredictable, and it’s directed with a virtuosic confidence uncommon to most seriocomic American gabfests—and especially to first features.


Mulan

Theaters everywhere March 27

Disney’s latest and possibly most ambitious live-action trawl through its animated library ditches the cricket, the dragon, and the songs, but keeps the basic plot. Once again, Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei) is a young woman whose aging father (Tzi Ma) is conscripted to fight off a horde of rampaging warriors; once again, she ditches out on matchmaking and proper ladyhood in order to fight in his place. Whale Rider’s Niki Caro directs a cast of absolute ringers, including Jet Li as the emperor, Donnie Yen as Mulan’s stern mentor, and Gong Li as a mysterious witch fighting at the villainous Bori Khan’s side.
Will it be worth your time? After last year’s Lion King and Aladdin remakes, it’s nice to see Disney do more than simply trace over an old hit—and this appears to be a live-action version with some actual live action in it, the Mouse House throwing resources it usually expends on CGI animals into epic battle scenes.


Resistance

Select theaters March 27

When you read the words “Marcel Marceau biopic,” what do you imagine? The most famous mime of the 20th century performing l’art du silence to enraptured audiences during his world tours? The creation of his signature character, Bip The Clown? Maybe something about his time on the set of Barbarella? In fact, like a number of French artists of his generation, Marceau spent World War II with the French Resistance. Jesse Eisenberg stars in this drama about the master mime’s early years.
Will it be worth your time? Trailers can be misleading, but it’s hard to deny that, for a movie about a mime who fights Nazis, Resistance looks mightily dull. Eisenberg’s misbegotten French accent isn’t doing it any favors, and neither does the track record of writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz; his last attempt at a biographical drama, Hands Of Stone, was disorganized and forgettable.


On A Magical Night

Select theaters March 27

With her marriage falling apart, a middle-aged college professor (Chiara Mastroianni) moves into the hotel across the street from her Paris apartment—only to discover a twentysomething version of her husband living in her suite. But On A Magical Night isn’t content with offering just one fantasy of being able to rekindle a relationship with a partner’s younger self; before long, the hotel room starts filling up with more and more Ghost Of Indiscretions Past.
Will it be worth your time? Writer-director Christophe Honoré (Sorry Angel, Love Songs) has built his career in part on making the kind of blasé bed-hopping relationship movies that are supposedly a specialty of the French. He seems to have stumbled on a whimsically inspired idea here; whether he manages to take it anywhere is another question.

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