Here’s what to expect at the theaters this month.
The big one: A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence*
In 2000, Swedish director Roy Andersson released the bleak-but-beautiful absurdist comedy Songs From The Second Floor, his first feature film in 25 years. He followed up with 2007’s You, The Living, and last year’s Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, to complete what he’s called his “being a human” trilogy. All three movies are made up of loosely connected sketches, riffing on failure, dreams, death, and the grinding gears of social institutions. And while the gags and ideas in Pigeon are less inspired than in You, The Living (which was itself less inspired than Songs), every 10 minutes or so, Andersson comes up with an image or a piece of elaborate choreography that’s simply jaw-dropping. From the warm-hearted beer-hall singalong to the surreal intrusion of an horse-bound 18th-century Swedish army into a modern bar, this film offers visions unlike any in contemporary cinema.
- Charlie’s Country*… The latest from director Rolf de Heer (best known for 2006’s Ten Canoes) concerns an elderly Aboriginal man whose primitive survival skills are no match for the modern world.
- Entourage… After eight seasons of defining bro-ness on HBO, the no-longer-young stud actor Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his boys come to the big screen, with real-life athletes and porn stars in tow.
- Hot Girls Wanted… Netflix will be hosting this eye-opening documentary about women who strip for webcams.
- Insidious: Chapter 3… James Wan hands off the directorial reins of this surprisingly successful horror franchise to its screenwriter, Leigh Whannell, who will undoubtedly carry over the spooky atmosphere and jump-scares that made the first two such massive hits.
- Love & Mercy*… Paul Dano and John Cusack both play Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson—the former in the mid-1960s Pet Sounds era, the latter in Wilson’s reclusive 1980s—in an offbeat, sometimes-ungainly approach to the musical biopic.
- The Nightmare*… Rodney Ascher follows his cult favorite docu-essay Room 237 with a documentary/horror hybrid, tackling the bizarre effects of sleep paralysis.
- An Open Secret*… Amy Berg’s much-discussed inquiry into sexual abuse in Hollywood finally gets a theatrical release, and is sure to generate controversy.
- Patch Town*… Craig Goodwill’s gothic musical fantasy imagines a world where Cabbage Patch Dolls are actual children, sent to work in a hellish toy factory when their owners outgrow them.
- Police Story: Lockdown… Jackie Chan returns again to the franchise that helped make him internationally famous; as with 2004’s New Police Story, this one’s a full reboot, with Chan playing an entirely new character, in a plot that’s half Die Hard, half Taken.
- Spy… Melissa McCarthy reunites with her Bridesmaids/Heat director Paul Feig, for another riotously foul-mouthed comedy.
- Testament Of Youth*… Ex Machina star Alicia Vikander anchors an adaptation of Vera Brittain’s memoir, about the lives of young women in the U.K. during World War I.
- We Are Still Here… First-time feature writer-director Ted Geoghegan pays homage to 1970s/1980s supernatural-horror movies with a film about a house that eats souls.
- Wild Horses*… Robert Duvall returns to the director’s chair for the first time in more than a decade for a Western/mystery/melodrama hybrid, about a rancher (Duvall) who tries to reconnect with his estranged gay son (James Franco) just as his family’s being implicated in a missing-person investigation.
And: Dawn Patrol*, Freedom*, Uncertain Terms*, United Passions
The big one: Jurassic World
If Jurassic World turns out to be awful, it’ll stand as an example of so much that Hollywood does wrong these days: bringing back name brands rather than coming up with original ideas; over-relying on CGI spectacle; rushing to co-opt underexperienced indie filmmakers (in this case, Safety Not Guaranteed’s Colin Trevorrow), so long as they’re white and male. On the other hand, dinosaurs are cool and star Chris Pratt is funny and affable, which means this movie has a low bar to clear to be entertaining. Here’s hoping for a rip-roaring adventure with awesome monsters, and not a film that launched a thousand thinkpieces.
- Live From New York!*… It’s (a documentary about) Saturday Night Live!
- Me And Earl And The Dying Girl*… The most popular film at this year’s Sundance Festival will probably win over a lot of non-festival audiences with its uplifting story of a teenage filmmaker whose worldview is changed by a cancer-stricken classmate. But there’s also bound to be more pushback against the movie’s cutesiness and underdeveloped supporting characters.
- Set Fire To The Stars*… Elijah Wood plays a wannabe poet who hangs out with Dylan Thomas (Celyn Jones) in 1950s New York.
- Soaked In Bleach… For those craving more Kurt Cobain post Montage Of Heck, this docudrama looks into the mysteries surrounding the death of the Nirvana frontman, with Daniel Roebuck playing a private investigator unconvinced by the official explanation for what happened.
- The Wolfpack*… This startling, moving documentary spends time with six cinephile brothers who’ve spent most of their lives confined to their New York apartment, where they re-created their favorite movies with video cameras.
- Vendetta… Promising Canadian genre filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska (a.k.a “The Twisted Twins”) jump from horror to action with this revenge thriller, starring Dean Cain as a detective who gets himself thrown in prison in order to get even with the man who killed his wife.
- The Yes Men Are Revolting… The anti-globalization “culture-jammers” get their third documentary, following 2003’s The Yes Men and 2009’s The Yes Men Fix The World.
And: Debug*, The 11th Hour*, L.A. Slasher
The big one: Inside Out
According to the early word out of Cannes, Inside Out might be the best Pixar feature since the studio’s phenomenal Ratatouille/WALL-E/Up/Toy Story 3 run of 2007-2010. Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, and Mindy Kaling (among others) voice the emotions inside an adolescent girl, in what looks to be a richer use of Pixar’s penchant for anthropomorphism than making cars talk. Monsters, Inc./Up director Pete Docter is at the helm, looking to extend his perfect record of getting adults to bawl like babies when confronted with the inevitability of aging and loss.
- Dope*… Another Sundance favorite, this vibrant caper-comedy follows a trio of Los Angeles nerds forced by a local gang-leader to become drug dealers.
- Eden*… Goodbye First Love writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve tells the fictionalized story of her brother Sven (who also co-wrote the film), a French DJ who helped popularize house music in the 1990s before seeing his fortunes dwindle while former peers like Daft Punk became international superstars.
- The Face Of An Angel*… Prolific director Michael Winterbottom returns with the story of a British filmmaker (played by Daniel Brühl) wrestling with how to make a movie about a college student slain while studying abroad.
- Infinitely Polar Bear*… Mark Ruffalo plays a manic-depressive dad who struggles to be “normal” for his two daughters when his wife (Zoe Saldana) is away.
- Manglehorn… David Gordon Green continues the “low-key character sketch” phase of his filmmaking career (as in Prince Avalanche and Joe) with the story of a sullen Texas locksmith, played by Al Pacino.
- The Overnight*… Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling play young parents who move to Los Angeles and have an excruciatingly awkward dinner date with a pair of eccentrics played by Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche.
- Rubble Kings*… Gang-ridden 1970s New York is the subject of this documentary, which talks to the former members of organizations like The Savage Skulls and The Turban Queens.
- The Tribe*… One of the most controversial films on this past year’s festival circuit, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe examines the complex criminal enterprises and social stratification at a Ukrainian school for the deaf.
And: American Heist, Anarchy Parlor*, Gabriel*, Pernicious, Phantom Halo
The big one: Ted 2
It’s hard to know what to make of Seth MacFarlane, an undisciplined and occasionally offensive writer-director-producer-actor-comedian who has the rare ability to generate gut-bustingly funny material. MacFarlane’s mega-hit Ted really only worked whenever the titular foul-mouthed teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) was just sitting around gabbing casually with his good-hearted owner John (Mark Wahlberg). But those scenes made up about half the movie, and most likely Ted 2—which is about the bear’s attempts to have a baby with his girlfriend, and to prove to a family court that he’s a person—will strike a similar balance between annoyingly plodding and genuinely hilarious.
- Batkid Begins*… For those who need an occasional reminder that the world isn’t irredeemably shitty, keep this documentary about a phenomenal Make-A-Wish event close at hand.
- Big Game*… The “most dangerous game” plot gets an executive upgrade in this endearingly silly throwback action picture, starring Samuel L. Jackson as a politically embattled U.S. president, lost in the Finnish mountains and relying on a teenage hunter to protect him from a band of assassins.
- Escobar: Paradise Lost*… Josh Hutcherson plays a surfer named Nick who becomes smitten with a young woman in Colombia in the early 1980s, then learns she’s the niece of charismatic, demanding drug lord Pablo Escobar (played by Benicio Del Toro).
- Felt*… Toad Road writer-director Jason Banker returns with the story of a traumatized, unstable San Francisco artist named Amy (played by Banker’s co-writer, Amy Everson) who dresses in an exaggerated “man” costume and tries to make men feel as uncomfortable as women do on the city streets every day.
- Fresh Dressed… Journalist Sacha Jenkins traces the origins and ongoing influence of hip-hop fashion.
- Into The Grizzly Maze*… After a succession of people go missing in the wilderness, their loved ones go looking for them. Bears ensue.
- A Little Chaos*… Alan Rickman directs a light period romance about the relationship between various artisans and aristocrats (primarily played by Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Stanley Tucci) brought together when King Louis XIV (Rickman) commissioned the gardens at Versailles.
- Max… Hard-to-pin-down auteur Boaz Yakin wrote and directed this family drama about a Marine service-dog who touches lives back on the home front, including the lives of characters played by Parenthood/Gilmore Girls’ Lauren Graham and The Flash’s Robbie “Firestorm” Amell.
- The Third Man*… The classic Carol Reed/Graham Greene/Orson Welles/Joseph Cotten mystery is getting re-released in a new 4K restoration. The shadows have never looked so deep, and the zither has never sounded so zingy.
And: A Borrowed Identity*, Glass Chin, Last Call, The Little Death, Runoff*, 7 Minutes*