Welcome to Observer’s 2019 Spring Arts & Entertainment Preview, your comprehensive guide to the best of the season. We’ve combed through cultural offerings from across the country to bring you our picks for the events worth leaving home for, and the stuff you should be staying in for. Moviegoers should also check out our list of must-watch TV.
Sure, there may still be a slight chill in the air, but spring has officially established squatter’s rights on the 2019 calendar, and with it, a barrage of box-office-resuscitating blockbusters (thank you, Captain Marvel!) and quieter indie fare. That makes for an eclectic cinematic buffet that includes highly touted sophomore follow-ups from acclaimed directors and one of the biggest films in movie history. So yeah, there’s a lot going on these next few months. Which is why we’ve put together a handy guide to the most exciting upcoming theatrical releases, any of which could be a refreshing replacement for your usual humdrum Friday happy hour or lonely night on the couch.
Us (March 22)
A recent Hollywood trend has seen well-liked actors redefine their game as first-time directors. While that has added a handful of blue-chip prospects to the filmmaker pool, it’s also raised the stakes across the board. Which actors-turned-directors are the real deal, and which are simply flashes in the pan? After the undeniable success of Get Out, there’s a mountain of pressure on Jordan Peele’s Us to live up to the hype. Fortunately, after seeing the film at SXSW, we can assuage your doubts: He is definitely the real deal.
The Beach Bum (March 29)
Let’s face it: You’re either willing to go to the unabashedly weird places director Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers) takes you, or you’re not. Matthew McConaughey starring as a drug-fueled poet named Moondog who plays the bongos with snakes and hangs out with Snoop Dogg looks like it will, at the very least, be fun.
Shazam! (April 5)
It’s Big, but without Tom Hanks and with superheroes. Warner Bros.’s DC Universe is currently on the rebound thanks to the shocking success of Aquaman. As a less blockbuster-y superhero adventure with a slightly smaller budget (somewhere between $80 million and $90 million), Shazam! has to be a well-received crowd-pleaser to keep the gravy train going. Thankfully, star Zachary Levi is endlessly charming, and the early buzz from screenings has been overwhelmingly positive. WB has steadily been operating as if it knows it has a hit on its hands.
Little Woods (April 19)
We saw Little Woods, which stars Tessa Thompson and Lily James, when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and greatly enjoyed it. It’s a neo-western that modernizes the genre, focusing on two sisters struggling for a semblance of peace against a broken system in an economically depressed small town in North Dakota. There’s a reason Jordan Peele tapped director Nia DaCosta, who made her feature film debut with Little Woods, to helm the “spiritual sequel” to 1992’s Candyman. We highly recommend this one.
Under the Silver Lake (April 19)
All of the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the neo-noir mystery that is Under the Silver Lake has only piqued our interest further. Andrew Garfield stars as a young man who becomes obsessed with the sudden disappearance of his neighbor, only to stumble upon an elusive and dangerous large-scale conspiracy. Distributor A24—Lady Bird, Moonlight, Eighth Grade—is responsible for many of our favorite recent movies, which is why we’re giving this one the benefit of the doubt even if it wasn’t a smash hit with critics following its premiere at Cannes last year.
Avengers: Endgame (April 26)
The most ambitious cinematic event in movie history needs no further hype. If you’re not convinced by now, you never will be. If you are, you’re already well aware of the mammoth potential of Endgame. Strap in and get ready.
POKÉMON Detective Pikachu (May 10)
Live-action Pokémon—there’s simply no better cross-generational blockbuster pitch out there. The photo-realistic rendering of everyone’s favorite childhood franchise looks phenomenal, and the film’s story itself is connecting with audiences pre-release. This one is going to do $1 billion worldwide easily. Hop on the bandwagon while there’s still room.
Tolkien (May 10)
We’ve been eyeing this project for two years now, and our patience should be rewarded with what seems like a nontraditional biopic. Instead of the standard rise-and-fall format the genre loves to adhere to, Tolkien looks to incorporate elements of its subject’s crowning achievement—the Lord of the Rings novels—while telling the story of his life, from his stint in World War I to his imagining of Middle-Earth. Nichols Hoult will star as the iconic author who shaped the major genres of so many of today’s blockbusters.
John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum (May 17)
Puppies, head shots, and Keanu Reeves reuniting with Laurence Fishburne. That’s an ironclad argument as to why you should be in line to see this threequel on opening weekend. The little movie series that could has graduated from its modest origins to become a full-fledged original ass-kicking blockbuster franchise. Don’t you want to know how it ends?
Ad Astra (May 24)
There’s a chance Ad Astra‘s release date may get pushed back for a second time. Normally, that would be cause for concern. But in this case, director James Gray is dealing with some next-level visual effects that require continuous fine-tuning. In the end, it could be worth it. Twenty years after his father (Tommy Lee Jones) left on a one-way mission to Neptune to try to uncover signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), an Army Corps engineer, travels through the solar system to find him and understand why his mission failed.
Aladdin (May 24)
We get it. At the end of the day, these Disney live-action remakes are sorta just soulless cash grabs. But once you accept them for what they are, you free yourself up to actually enjoy them. No, Aladdin‘s promo materials don’t exactly have us jazzed. But if you’re looking for even an approximation of what you felt as a kid, along with some classic Disney tunes you still catch yourself humming, then this should be good enough—even if it doesn’t quite show you a whole new world.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May 31)
Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment have built up their shared cinematic MonsterVerse in a far different manner than Marvel—and it’s working. Through two films, the fledgling franchise has grossed more than $1 billion, and arguably no film trailer from 2018 generated more of a “wow” factor than Godzilla: King of the Monsters did at San Diego Comic Con. The sheer spectacle is something to behold. Plus, the flick will directly lead into next year’s highly anticipated Godzilla vs. Kong. What warm-blooded American isn’t at least intrigued by that outsize idea?
Rocketman (May 31)
If a middling Queen biopic can become a smash hit, why can’t the same hold true for a movie about the legendary Elton John? Director Dexter Fletcher was brought in to salvage Bohemian Rhapsody after Fox fired Bryan Singer; now, he’s helming Rocketman for Paramount Pictures. Everyone involved has stressed that this is not your average biopic and that it leans more into fantastical realism. Bonus: Star Taron Egerton actually sings throughout the film.