As the year goes on, we’re updating our weekly post for weekend releases, where we’ll include the last few weeks of releases. But if you want to know what else has come out earlier this year, we’ll keep updating this page as well.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF JUNE 14
Men In Black: International
Going by domestic box office, the Men in Black movies have made less and less with each release, despite coming out so far apart. The original 1997 film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld was a huge hit with audiences and critics, so Sonnenfeld returned as director for Men in Black II five years later. The sequel also did well at the box office, but it was trounced by critics and quickly forgotten. A decade later, Sonnenfeld returned for Men in Black III, which was a big improvement on the second film, but by this point, audiences had lost interest.
Ready to go back to black, Sony hired F. Gary Gray — who’s directed sequels for Sonnefeld’s films before — to make Men in Black: International, a soft reboot of the series with new leads, some familiar faces, and a fresh story about a mole who has infiltrated the MIB organization. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth star in the main roles, fresh off their collaboration in Thor: Ragnarok (and Avengers: Endgame to a lesser extent). And Sony has suited up a promising cast to accompany them: Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall, and Kumail Nanjiani, just to name a few.
Every generation since the 70s has gotten their own Shaft movie. Richard Roundtree defined the role under the direction of Gordon Parks in 1971 (and in the TV show, of course). Samuel L. Jackson took up the mantle in 2000 with John Singleton. And now, in 2019, Jessie T. Usher is up to bat with Tim Story (Barbershop, Ride Along and Ride Along 2), though the new Shaft is unique in how it unites all three generations of the iconic films. That means Roundtree, Jackson, and Usher are all in on the action this time around.
The screenplay for Shaft is by Kenya Barris & Alex Barnow, and it’s worth mentioning the original character of John Shaft comes from the novel by Ernest Tidyman, who co-wrote the screenplay for the 1971 film. The cast of Shaft (2019) includes Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, Method Man, Matt Lauria, and Avan Jogia.
In Late Night, Mindy Kaling tries to revamp a struggling late-night comedy show with her youthful perspective, much to the chagrin of the show’s host, played by Emma Thompson, a veteran of the industry who worries her relevance has faded. Sure, Late Night isn’t a romantic comedy in the traditional sense, but there’s no question the chemistry between Thompson and Kaling makes this one a great option for couples looking to get in a few laughs this weekend.
Directed by Nisha Ganatra with a screenplay by Mindy Kaling, Amazon Studios is expanding Late Night to wide release this weekend after terrific reviews and a buzz-building festival rollout. The cast includes Max Casella, Hugh Dancy, John Lithgow, Denis O’Hare, Reid Scott, and Amy Ryan.
The Dead Don’t Die and American Woman
Jim Jarmusch’s deadpan zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die hits 550 theaters this weekend, featuring a massive cast that includes Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, and too many other recognizable faces to briefly name. Plus you can catch the new Roadside Attractions drama American Woman in select theaters, which stars Sienna Miller, Christina Hendricks, and Aaron Paul.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF JUNE 7
X-Men: Dark Phoenix is essentially a “second chance” film. It attempts to correctly redo X-Men: The Last Stand from 2006, which also centered around the storyline of Jean Grey coming into uncontrollable psychic powers that pit her against her former allies, the X-Men. Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) reprises her role as a younger Jean in the ’90s after introducing her younger version of the character in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse. But with Fox now bought out by Disney, it looks like Dark Phoenix will be the last we’ll see of this 19-year saga (excluding next year’s unrelated New Mutants).
This is the first film directed by Simon Kinberg, who also wrote this film and many of Fox’s other X-Men films (including The Last Stand). Dark Phoenix is based on “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” a 1976 comics storyline by John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and Dave Cockrum. The cast includes James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Alexandra Shipp.
The Secret Life Of Pets 2
The Secret Life of Pets was a massive success for Illumination in 2016, cementing their status as a studio that could make money off of non-Minion characters. But some critics had notable complaints about the animated film, pointing out that the generic story lifted too generously from other family comedies, mainly the Toy Story movies. Secret Life of Pets 2 appears primed to address that shortcoming by maintaining its “hidden world” appeal of what pets do when their owners aren’t around, while also mixing in a fresher story with a wide range of characters big and small.
The film was directed by Chris Renaud, who directed the first Pets along with Despicable Me, its sequel, and The Lorax. The screenplay is by Brian Lynch, who wrote the first film. And the massive voice cast includes Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Ellie Kemper, Harrison Ford, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks, Bobby Moynihan, Nick Kroll, Kylie Hart, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, and Pete Holmes.
Late Night, The Last Black Man In San Francisco, and This One’s For The Ladies
Searching for some indie fare? Late Night — a new comedy starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson — rolls out in select theaters this weekend before going wide next week. There’s also The Last Black Man in San Francisco, a Sundance favorite directed by Joe Talbot and starring Jimmie Fails (it also happens to be my favorite film of 2019 so far). And you can also catch This One’s For The Ladies, a music documentary directed by Gene Graham.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF MAY 31
Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
Godzilla and his band of merry monsters have been terrorizing cinemas for almost as long as there have been cinemas. So it’s no surprise that after Gareth Edwards’ monster box office hit in 2014, Warner Bros’ “MonsterVerse” would eventually spawn a sequel. Godzilla: King of the Monsters seems to be set around a world on the brink of total destruction when roving “titans” emerge to vie for…royalty? It’s not all that clear, but what is clear is that we’re supposed to root for Godzilla to win because he’s the least malicious of them all…unless that’s what he wants you to think.
Directed and co-written by Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) with a screenplay by Max Borenstein and Zach Shields, Godzilla: King of the Monsters will roar into over 4,100 domestic theaters this weekend. The massive cast includes Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, Vera Farmiga, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Zhang Ziyi, and Ken Watanabe.
Paramount’s long-awaited biopic surrounding the life of Sir Elton John hits wide release this week, with Taron Egerton starring as the Pinball Wizard himself in Rocketman (yes, the song is technically “Rocket Man,” but we don’t talk about that). We’ve seen plenty of musical biopics before (even with the same director as recently as last fall), but with Elton John comes the opportunity to tell a more colorful, fantastical story without losing what makes the man’s career so enthralling in real life, let alone through the lens of cinema.
Rocketman was directed by Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle, Bohemian Rhapsody), written by Lee Hall, and produced by Matthew Vaughn and Elton John himself, along with several others. The cast includes Richard Madden, Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Steven Mackintosh, and Gemma Jones.
It wouldn’t be summertime without a few B-movie horror flicks based on some truly horrifying concepts. In the case of Blumhouse and Universal’s Ma, that horrifying concept is an increasingly unhinged adult who grows frighteningly obsessed with a group of high school teens after giving them her basement to drink and party in whenever they please. Octavia Spencer gives her absolute all in this role as a scorned, small-town veterinarian in rural Mississippi who goes to some…odd lengths to relive her own high school experience through these unsuspecting, doe-eyed kids.
Ma was directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up, The Girl on the Train), written by Scotty Landes (Workaholics), and produced by Jason Blum. It stars Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, Missi Pyle, Luke Evans, McKaley Miller, Allison Janney, Dominic Burgess, Victor Turpin, Dante Brown, Corey Fogelmanis, Gianni Paolo, Kyanna Simone Simpson, and of course, Octavia Spencer.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF MAY 24
Disney’s Aladdin was a defining animated film during their early ’90s “renaissance,” so it was only a matter of time before we’d see a live-action remake along the lines of Beauty and the Beast (2017). This is certainly one of the most diverse casts we’ve ever seen in a major blockbuster from Disney, which features the young, up-and-coming talent of Mena Massoud as Aladdin, the handsome thief who uses a magic lamp to wish his way into the heart of Princess Jasmine, played by Naomi Scott.
Granting his wishes is Will Smith as the fast-talking Genie, an often-blue-skinned demigod figure who injects every scene with Bollywood extravagance and, you guessed it, wish fulfillment. There are some flourishes of new ideas here and there, but you can mostly expect an almost shot-for-shot remake of the 1992 animated film with a handful of surprises and variations along the way.
Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) directed and co-wrote the film along with John August and Vanessa Taylor. The film features some new songs by Alan Menken, as well as Benj Pasek & Justin Paul from La La Land. The cast includes Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Marwan Kenzari, Numan Acar, and Navid Negahban.
Olivia Wilde, known for her wide array of roles both in film and on television, has stepped into the director’s chair for what she and her screenwriters consider the next “generational anthem” movie, where outcast high schoolers come of age in the most hilarious ways possible. In Booksmart, Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever play Molly and Amy, two know-it-all teens who want to party it up on the night before graduation to make up for lost time.
This is Wilde’s debut feature after directing four short films. The screenplay is by Katie Silberman, along with Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, and Susanna Fogel. The large ensemble cast includes Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Skyler Gisondo, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Diana Silvers, Molly Gordon, and Jason Sudeikis. Booksmart is rated “R” and will be released nationwide by Annapurna.
Here’s a premise for a superhero movie we haven’t really seen before. In Brightburn, a child from another planet (Jackson A. Dunn) crash-lands on Earth and is discovered to have extraordinary powers, but his unholy temperament leads to him becoming a murderous supervillain, not Superman. The result? A horror movie where the monster is a caped crusader, and our only hopes are the parental figures who combat his nature with their nurture. Could Sony have another surprise superpowered hit on their hands, albeit a far darker one than the last?
Brightburn was directed by David Yarovesky (The Hive) and produced by James Gunn & Kenneth Huang, with a screenplay by Mark Gunn & Brian Gunn. The cast includes Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones, and Meredith Hagner.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF MAY 17
When the first John Wick landed in theaters, not a ton of people expected this to be one of the next big action franchises. It was rated R, the directors were relative unknowns except in the world of stunt coordination, and it had been years since Keanu Reeves had headlined a major action film.
But John Wick surprised everyone by not just being a great movie, but also one with a generous cultural impact. It built an even larger following with its follow-up from two years ago, and here we are with the apparent conclusion to the trilogy, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, where the infamous hitman must now contend with an army of his fellow assassins all gunning for his head.
The film comes to us from Lionsgate and is once again directed by Chad Stahelski, who directed the previous John Wick films, with a screenplay by Derek Kolstad, who created the franchise. The cast includes Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Anjelica Huston, Jason Mantzoukas, Laurence Fishburne, and many more.
A Dog’s Journey
Humans love their dogs, and Universal is hoping that means they’ll also love A Dog’s Journey, the sequel to a A Dog’s Purpose from two years ago, which was based on a novel by W. Bruce Cameron. The premise largely remains the same, as the story centers around a dog named Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad) who continuously reincarnates after living out his dog years while still maintaining a deep bond with his original owner, Ethan (played by Dennis Quaid). In this new film, Bailey goes on a journey to look after Ethan’s granddaughter, CJ (played by various actors), as she grows up in a world where her trusty dog is always by her side.
This is the debut feature film for Gail Mancuso, a TV director known for Modern Family, Roseanne, and others. The screenplay is by W. Bruce Cameron & Cathryn Michon and Maya Forbes & Wally Wolodarksy. And the cast includes Betty Gilpin, Marg Helgenberger, Kathryn Prescott, Peggy Lipton, Britt Robertson, and more.
The Sun Is Also A Star
What are the ingredients to falling in love? In The Sun Is Also a Star, a wide-eyed romantic named Daniel (played by Charles Melton) makes his case to Natasha (Yara Shahidi) that they’re destined to be together despite having only just met. The problem is that Natasha is about to be kicked out of New York City and deported to Jamaica, where she was born. Still not sold? Daniel’s last name is Bae.
The Warner Bros. film was directed by Ry Russo-Young (Orphans, Nobody Walks, Before I Fall, Nightlife) and is based on a novel by Nicola Yoon, which was adapted into a screenplay by Tracy Oliver. The cast includes John Leguizamo, Jake Choi, Hill Harper, and more.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF MAY 10
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
At first glance, it might be hard to figure out who the true target demographic is for Pokémon Detective Pikachu, the live-action movie from Warner Bros. centered around the iconic Pokémon character as he tries to solve a mystery using the voice of Ryan Reynolds. Is this movie for grade school kids currently obsessed with the video games and anime? Is it for us older folks who traded the cards back when we were in elementary school and just want to see CG Pokémon adapted into a contemporary universe? Or is it for all of us who forgot to Pokémon Go to the polls?
Whatever the reason, Pokémon Detective Pikachu was directed and co-written by Rob Letterman (Shark Tale, Monsters vs Aliens, Gulliver’s Travels, Goosebumps) with Nicole Perlman also co-writing the screenplay. The cast includes Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Suki Waterhouse, and Bill Nighy.
Con artists. Gotta love ‘em! That’s the plot of The Hustle, anyway, which is a new buddy comedy starring Anne Hathaway as a big-time hustler who takes Rebel Wilson under her wing to pull off scams on the “dirty rotten men” who’ve personally wronged them. Hathaway is more of an elitist scam artist, while Wilson is more of a streetwise amateur trying to up her game, allowing for some big laughs as the two work off each other in their various misadventures.
The Hustle will be released this weekend by United Artists & MGM, and it’s directed by Chris Addison in his first feature film after directing 13 episodes of Veep. You may also recognize him from his appearance in a few episodes of Doctor Who, as well as The Thick of It, In the Loop, and plenty more. The screenplay is by Stanley Shapiro & Paul Henning, and Dale Launer and Jac Schaeffer. The cast includes Tim Blake Nelson, Emma Davies, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, and Douggie McMeekin.
Diane Keaton and Jacki Weaver star in Poms, a new comedy from STX Entertainment about a group of older women who start their own cheerleading squad out of a retirement home. Martha (Keaton) always wanted to be a cheerleader, and now that she’s in the twilight of her life, she sees a golden girls opportunity to make her dream a reality.
Poms was directed by Zara Hayes (Clothes to Die For, The Battle of the Sexes) with a screenplay by Shane Atkinson based off of a story by Hayes. This is also Hayes’ first narrative film after directing documentaries and television. The cast includes Pam Grier, Charlie Tahan, Rhea Perlman, Phyllis Somerville, Celia Weston, Charli Tahan, and Alisha Boe.
Nicholas Hoult plays legendary fantasy author and English professor J.R.R. Tolkien in this new biopic from Fox Searchlight, which will stay under the Disney umbrella for the time being. We follow Tolkien’s formative years in both South Africa and England, then later when he served during World War I, a period of his life that would go on to shape his eventual storytelling in books like The Lord of the Rings.
Dome Karukoski (Beauty and the Bastard, Heart of a Lion, Tom of Finland) directed the biographical film with the screenplay for Tolkien from David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford. The cast includes Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Anthony Boyle, and Patrick Gibson. The film came out in the UK on May 3 before its wide release here in the U.S. and Canada.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF MAY 3
If superheroes aren’t your game, perhaps a political romantic comedy might be worth electing? In Long Shot (Lionsgate), Charlize Theron plays a Secretary of State in need of a new speechwriter, so she hires a political journalist played by Seth Rogen, who incidentally had a childhood crush on her when she was his babysitter in high school. As the pair get to know each other, and as Theron’s candidacy gets underway, a few unlikely sparks parallel the unlikeliness of their romance getting in the way of her bid for the presidency.
Directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies, The Night Before, Snatched) and written by Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling, Long Shot has already gotten a good amount of praise from critics since it premiered at SXSW, so consider me a volunteer for this film’s box office campaign. The cast also includes O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alexander Skarsgård, Andy Serkis, Randall Park, June Diane Raphael, James Saito, Ravi Patel, and Gabrielle Graham.
Nearly 20 years ago, the “UglyDoll” brand of plush toys started to hit shelves, and they were practically an instant hit with kids. So by 2011, the rights to a movie were acquired by Illumination before eventually becoming the first family film released by STX Entertainment less than a decade later. Like a lot of other movies based on novelty brands, UglyDolls has a whole universe of recognizable characters who discover how being different and flawed is what makes them “perfect.” Why, yes this is the same director who made Gnomeo & Juliet, why do you ask?
Directed by Kelly Asbury (Spirit, Shrek 2, Gnomeo & Juliet, Smurfs: The Lost Village) and with a screenplay by Erica Rivinoja and Vivian Wang, UglyDolls appears to be another family-friendly exercise in tie-in merchandising. The voice cast includes Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe, Blake Shelton, Wanda Sykes, Pitbull, Emma Roberts, Lizzo, and Gabriel Iglesias.
Imagine if you bought your dream home in the idyllic Napa Valley, only to find that the man who sold it to you has no intention of actually letting it go? This is the plot of The Intruder, only the man in question is played by Dennis Quaid in a surprisingly villainous turn for the veteran actor. The couple, Michael Ealy and Meagan Good, have no choice but to try and put up with their seller’s constant lurking around the property, that is until things get truly out of hand.
Directed by Deon Taylor (The Hustle, Supremacy, Meet the Blacks, Traffik) with a screenplay by David Loughery, The Intruder (Sony/Screen Gems) appears to be a pulse-raising psychological thriller in the vein of films like Lakeview Terrace. The cast also includes Joseph Sikora, Alvina August, Lili Sepe, and Lee Shorten.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF APRIL 26
Last year, Avengers: Infinity War ended on a cliffhanger of epic proportions. As one of the biggest box office successes of all time, it makes sense for us to expect an even stronger reaction to its subsequent follow-up, Avengers: Endgame, which promises to effectively conclude a shared cinematic universe of franchises over a decade in the making. To call this an event movie would be putting it lightly.
Anticipation is so high, in fact, pre-ticket sales crashed on the first day of their release, which means you’ll have to be wary of spoilers on social media if you didn’t already secure your own ticket. I had the chance to see Endgame a little early, and I can safely say that this is one three-hour Marvel movie you have to see to believe.
Avengers: Endgame was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo with a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Its huge cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, and Josh Brolin as Thanos.
The White Crow
It’s unsurprising to see a lack of other wide releases competing with Avengers: Endgame, which will dominate screen share in theaters for the next few weeks. But we do have one limited release braving these early summer waters. That film is White Crow, which was directed by Ralph Fiennes, who also co-stars in the film alongside Oleg Ivenko and Adèle Exarchopoulos.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF APRIL 19
The Curse of La Llorona
Ghost stories surrounding “The Weeping Woman” have existed in Mexican folklore for many centuries, perhaps all the way back to the Aztec civilization. The familiar sight of a ghostly woman dressed in white has long adorned the iconic figure, who is based on a peasant woman who drowns her own children after their nobleman father leaves her for a woman of higher status. The Curse of La Llorona (Warner Bros.) tells a more contemporary story about a haunting involving “La Llorona” in 1970s Los Angeles and.
It’s actually been over 50 years since a direct film adaptation of the witch herself has been made (La Maldición de la Llorona in 1963), though pop culture has seen influences of the character in many movies and TV shows over the years. James Wan produced this new take on the old story (yes, it’s part of the Conjurverse), which is directed by Michael Chaves (his feature debut after a few short films) with a screenplay by Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis. The gothic horror stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, and Patricia Velásquez.
Breakthrough is based on the true story of a young Guatemalan teen named John who falls through an icy lake and is without oxygen for at least 15 minutes before getting rushed to the hospital. His life is presumed over by the medical professionals until his adoptive mother Joyce enters the room and prays over him, which apparently keeps him just barely alive and kicks off a fight for his life.
This will be one of the last films we see released by Fox 2000 (if not the last), since Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox. It’s based on the book The Impossible by Joyce Smith with the screenplay by Grant Nieporte. The film was directed by Roxann Dawson (who starred in Star Trek: Voyager and has directed episodes of “House of Cards” and “The Americans”) and stars Chrissy Metz, Marcel Ruiz, Josh Lucas, Topher Grace, Mike Colter, and Dennis Haysbert.
The Disneynature films are always a treat for audiences old and young alike because they find ways to tell cute stories about these animals that are as informative as they are entertaining. The best of these films also do well to stress how important it is to appreciate the planet as a whole and think of how our actions as humans affect the other creatures on Earth, which will hopefully be a through line in Penguins, the latest feature from Disneynature. This time, we’ll follow Steve, an Adélie penguin, as he treks across the Antarctic with his new Emperor penguin friend, Wuzzo, in order to find a life partner and start a family of his own.
Nature filmmaker Alastair Fothergill directed the film with the same team that made Bears and Chimpanzee for Disneynature. If you’re hoping to celebrate Earth Day in a few days, then Penguins just might be a worthwhile watch for the whole family.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF APRIL 12
It doesn’t feel like it’s been over a decade since the last Hellboy movie, at least for me, and that’s probably because while those initial two movies from Guillermo del Toro weren’t exactly cultural phenomenons (in terms of box office or ratings), they did come out at an exciting time for comic book cinema, when the possibilities felt a little more expansive and unrestricted compared to the mid-MCU era. In 2019, we’re in the full steam of a new era of comic book franchises that push the envelope on how far directors can go with their vision for these projects. A new Hellboy can be darker, gorier, and truer to the Dark Horse comics without being slavish to the fanbase. And judging from the trailers, that might be what we’re about to get with this R-rated reboot.
Directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent) and written by Andrew Cosby and Christopher Golden, Hellboy recasts our titular anti-hero as David Harbour of “Stranger Things” fame. Unlike the films made by Universal, Lionsgate and Summit have greenlit a reimagined Hellboy who leans far darker into the “give evil hell” aesthetic, along with a heavy-hitting cast that includes Sasha Lane, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Thomas Haden Church, Daniel Dae Kim, Brian Gleeson, and plenty more.
From the studio that brought us some of the best stop-motion films of all time, here comes Missing Link, an animated film with a premise about as unique as its main protagonist, especially compared to some of the other films by LAIKA. The “missing link” in question is in fact Mr. Link, a tall and heavy-set “something” covered in fur and voiced by Zach Galifianakis. He one day comes across an adventurer named Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), and the two embark on a journey to find Link’s long-lost relatives, eventually with the help of Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana).
Written and directed by Chris Butler (ParaNorman), who is also the head of story at LAIKA, Missing Link doesn’t exactly capture the same scope and wonder of films like Coraline or Kubo and the Two Strings, at least judging by the trailers. Despite this, Annapurna Pictures is betting big on the film going over well with mainstream audiences, as it’s pushing a wide release clearly aimed for families and younger viewers.
Like the name implies, Little is about a woman who is mysteriously transformed into a little girl, much to her own inconvenience as a high-power businesswoman with no interest in “growing down.” Little is, of course, an age and gender swap of the concept from Big, a comedy about recognizing the similarities and hilarious differences between our kid and adult selves. It should also be noted this is coming off the heels of Shazam!, a superhero movie with a similar body swap gimmick at play.
Little was directed and co-written by Tina Gordon Chism (Peeples), co-written by Tracy Oliver, and is based on an idea by Marsai Martin. The Universal film stars Regina Hall and Marsai Martin in the lead body-swapping roles, along with Issa Rae, JD McCrary, Justin Hartley, Tone Bell, and Caleb Emery.
Unlike most other low-budget teen romances based on YA novels, After comes to us from a self-published Wattpad series by Anna Todd, which was initially based on the bandmates from One Direction. Strange as that may sound (to some), After is really about a young woman who goes off to college and is tempted to cheat on her high school sweetheart with a Harry Styles-esque “bad boy.” Sold yet?
Yes, After has a very particular audience in mind, and based on the trailers, Aviron Pictures has basically nailed what made Todd’s novel so organically successful. This is the first narrative feature film directed by Jenny Gage (All This Panic), and the screenplay is by Susan McMartin. The cast includes Josephine Langford, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Jennifer Beals, and Peter Gallagher.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF APRIL 5
The concept of Shazam! is that of true wish fulfillment. Anyone, of any age, just has to say the name “Shazam” and become the best, superheroic version of themselves. In the case of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), that “fully realized” adult self is played by Zachary Levi in a career highlight for the actor, best known for his TV roles and untimely demise as a side character in the Thor movies. But in the year 2019, Levi is getting his due in this action-and-laugh-packed superhero adventure from Warner Bros. about family, responsibility, maybe a dose of Greek mythology, and other comic book tropes that are bound to make audiences smile.
Shazam! was directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation) with a screenplay by Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo). The additional cast includes Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Cooper Andrews, and Marta Milans.
To be honest, most of Stephen King’s stories have failed to click with me, especially some of the more famous horror adaptations like The Shining and original Pet Sematary. But like It from 2017, Pet Sematary is getting another chance to re-enter the pop culture zeitgeist, and even I’m pretty excited about what we’ve seen so far. It just looks flat out creepy, centering around a family moving to a rural home where a nearby cemetery for neighborhood pets is home to some absolutely horrifying secrets and terrors.
The Paramount film was co-directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Absence, Starry Eyes) with a screenplay by David Kajganich and Jeff Buhler. It’s of course adapted from King’s novel of the same name, which was first released in 1983. The cast includes Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, and Jeté Laurence.
The Best Of Enemies
At first glance, The Best of Enemies looks like a standard civil rights era drama centered around a story not so new to cinema. But it’s really the ensemble behind this film that promises a worthwhile and authentic narrative for these real-life figures from history. The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Ann Atwater, a renowned civil rights activist pitted in a contentious rivalry with KKK leader C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) over school desegregation in Durham, North Carolina.
The obvious appeal of the STX film is to showcase the inspiring life of Atwater, but also to highlight the room for redemption when it comes to system racism and how it can be stamped out through legislative action. The Best of Enemies was written and directed by Robin Bissell in his feature directorial debut, and it’s based on the book of the same name by Osha Gray Davidson.
Limited Releases: Amazing Grace, Peterloo, The Wind
Amazing Grace (Neon) opens in select theaters this weekend, documenting the famous and powerful “Amazing Grace” concert by Aretha Franklin in 1972. Mike Leigh’s Peterloo (Amazon Studios) also hits limited release, telling the true story of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819. And The Wind (IFC Midnight) opens in just 35 theaters and is a western horror film from director Emma Tammi.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF MARCH 29
At this point, Disney’s brand of live-action remakes fit into a wide, but diverse handful of categories. There are the princess reimaginings (Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and the upcoming Little Mermaid), the subversive spins (Pete’s Dragon, Maleficent), and the stylish repeats (Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, and the upcoming Lion King and Aladdin). There’s overlap, of course, especially when trying to factor in the role of Dumbo, one of the more classic Disney films with an opportunity to impress with otherworldly visuals (this is Tim Burton, after all), while also evolving aged material.
Like the original, Dumbo doesn’t quite fit into the exact same categories as a lot of its contemporaries, which if anything, is an exciting sign for this movie to do something different with a familiar story. Fortunately, the live-action family film has a strong pedigree of talent, with Tim Burton as ringleader (director) and a star-studded cast that includes Colin Farrell, Eva Green, Michael Keaton, Alan Arkin, and yes, Danny DeVito. Dumbo also includes Danny Elfman as composer and Ben Davis as cinematographer, giving us more than a few reasons to see just how high this flying elephant can soar.
The Beach Bum
Clocking in at 95 minutes, Neon’s The Beach Bum features Matthew McConaughey at his most mellow, which is seriously saying something. The film follows the stoner antics of Moondog (McConaughey), our titular beach bum who soaks in the sun, shrugs off responsibilities, and…well, that’s actually about all we know so far based on the trailer and synopsis.
Written and directed by Harmony Korine (Mister Lonely, Spring Breakers), The Beach Bum recently premiered at SXSW and co-stars Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Jimmy Buffett, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence, and Jonah Hill. It’ll be opening in about 750 theaters this weekend.
Diane (IFC Films) opens in just three theaters this weekend and stars Mary Kay Place (The Big Chill, Being John Malkovich, Sweet Home Alabama). This is the feature film debut of Kent Jones, and after premiering at Tribeca Film Festival, Diane has already gained universal acclaim from critics.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF MARCH 22
It’s not often a horror film will gain prestige attention from Hollywood, let alone from a first-time feature film director transitioning from a comedy sketch show. But that’s just what happened with 2017’s Get Out, Jordan Peele’s psychological brain melt, which mixed thrilling horror elements with provocative social commentary. Now, two years later, Peele returns with his sophomore effort, Us, which looks every bit as scary and insightful as its unrelated predecessor.
Us centers around a suburban family vacationing at a beach house, only to discover a group of mysterious doppelgangers bearing a striking resemblance to…them…who show up on their front door ready to “get crazy.” Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke star as the parents, along with Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph as their two kids. The cast also includes Elisabeth Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Kara Hayward, Anna Diop, Madison Curry, and Tim Heidecker.
Hotel Mumbai & Sunset
Two films will have a soft rollout this weekend, so be sure to check with your local theater for showtimes. First, there’s Hotel Mumbai, an action thriller starring Dev Patel and Armie Hammer about the real-life Taj Mahal Hotel terrorist attack that took place in Mumbai over a decade ago. There’s also Sunset, from Sony Pictures Classic, a new historical drama from László Nemes (Son of Saul), which premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF MARCH 15
Five Feet Apart
In the trailer for Five Feet Apart, a romantic YA drama from Lionsgate and CBS Films, Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse have a life-threatening disease that forces them to remain six feet apart, despite being love-sick teens. So obviously the movie is called Five Feet Apart after them deciding to break the rules and be one foot closer, because medical science definitely works on the rounding down system.
Regardless, this looks like the sort of heartbreaking, melodramatic Sunday matinee that’ll hit you right in the gut in part because of the emotions, but also because you’re so sad you have to wait a little bit longer for Richardson and Sprouse to be in a better movie that deserves them. In other words, I already bought my tickets.
The premise for Wonder Park couldn’t be simpler. A kid obsessed with building amusement parks in her neighborhood stumbles across a huge abandoned one in the woods, which she promptly sets up for success with a quirky cast of animal characters. It’s Nickelodeon Movies, of course, so you know it won’t be a horror movie based on that premise alone (not a bad idea for a sequel, though).
There’s no official director attached after original director Dylan Brown was let go, but we do know the story and screenplay are by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec with Robert Gordon getting partial credit for the story as well. The voice cast is pretty extensive and includes Brianna Denski as the main character, along with Mila Kunis, Jennifer Garner, John Oliver, Matthew Broderick, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, and more.
If you’ve ever complained that Hollywood has run out of ideas or never greenlights mid-budget sci-fi thrillers, then you have a chance this weekend to make amends with Focus Features. Yes, Captive State is hitting over 2,000 theaters this weekend, which is kind of surprising if you consider how original and avant-garde the trailers make it seem, but it might also be a good call if you narrow in on the cast and director.
That director is Rupert Wyatt, who found large success with his 2011 sci-fi film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And the cast includes John Goodman, Vera Farmiga, Kiki Layne, Madeline Brewer, Machine Gun Kelly, and plenty more. To be honest, I still have no idea what this one is actually about, but that’s sort of the appeal when it comes to science fiction with a hint of crime thriller and intrigue. We thought the same thing about Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade last year and it was largely considered an underrated gem of a movie and surprisingly good given the shoestring budget.
Stay tuned next week for our recap of how these films fared at the box office. To get tickets to these movies and more, head to the Atom Tickets homepage.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF MARCH 8
The wait is finally over. After 11 years and 20 movies, Disney and Marvel Studios will release their first female-led superhero movie with Captain Marvel. Similar to the momentum gained from last year’s Black Panther, fans of the character are over the moon about seeing Brie Larson in what will likely become her most iconic performance ever to hit pop culture (sorry Room and Short Term 12, we still love you).
There are a lot of firsts worth mentioning with Captain Marvel, like the fact that the film also features the MCU’s first female director, Anna Boden, who co-directs with her longtime collaborator Ryan Fleck. They also co-wrote the screenplay with even more women: Meg LeFauve, Nicole Perlman, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Liz Flahive, and Carly Mensch. The cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Gemma Chan, Colin Ford, and Lashana Lynch.
You’ll have to forgive the film community for not knowing much about The Kid, a new Western from Lionsgate that hasn’t gotten much in the way of marketing or festival traction, despite featuring some big names like Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, and even Chris Pratt as the villain (we don’t see that very often). Though the title implies this is a story mainly about the infamous gunslinger/outlaw “Billy the Kid,” it’s actually about a young boy (Jake Schur) who witnesses the showdown between Billy (DeHaan) and Sheriff Pat Garrett (Hawke).
This is the second feature film directed by acclaimed actor Vincent D’Onofrio (his first was Don’t Go in the Woods in 2010). If sci-fi and superheroes aren’t your thing, then you might have good reason to pay the Old West a visit this weekend.
The last two films by Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman, Disobedience) have featured complex women struggling to survive an oppressive society, but his newest film Gloria Bell feels noticeably lighter based on the trailers and early reactions. The film stars Julianne Moore as Gloria, a newly-divorced woman searching for enlightenment in LA, which leads her to an unexpected romance with Arnold (John Turturro).
Sure, Gloria Bell doesn’t sound very different from a whole host of romantic comedies you’ve probably seen before (and in fact, it’s an American remake of Lelio’s 2013 film, Gloria). But with Lelio behind the film and co-writing with Alice Johnson Boher, this might be a surprising, maybe even uplifting new take on a story we all know and love.
AND FOR EARLIER WEEKS…
For the weekend of March 1 – ‘Greta’ and ‘A Madea Family Funeral’
For the weekend of February 22 – ‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ and ‘Fighting with My Family’
For the weekend of February 15 – ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ and ‘Happy Death Day 2U’
For the weekend of February 8 – ‘The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part’ and ‘What Men Want’
For the weekend of February 1 – ‘Miss Bala,’ ‘Arctic’ and ‘Piercing’
For the weekend of January 25 – ‘The Kid Who Would Be King,’ ‘Serenity’ and ‘In Like Flynn’
For the weekend of January 18 – ‘Glass’ and ‘An Acceptable Loss’
For the weekend of January 11 – ‘The Upside,’ ‘Replicas’ and ‘A Dog’s Way Home’