The PopMatters Summer Movie Preview - May 2015

by Bill Gibron

6 May 2015

The popcorn movie season starts in earnest with efforts from the Avengers, Mad Max, the ladies of Pitch Perfect 2, and Brad Bird's Tomorrowland, among many others.
 


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Avengers: Age of Ultron

Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson
1 May
Avengers: Age of Ultron

With a near-record breaking $187 million at the box office on opening weekend (leading to a monstrous $500 million plus overall, including international), it looks like Disney and its comic book character offshoot is setting the bar awfully high for the rest of the Summer. Considering its continuing commercial success and a schedule that has superheroes dominating the Cineplex for the next several years, Marvel can crow all it wants to about this often uneven sequel. Stuffed to the gills with geek content and almost imploding because of it, Joss Whedon’s final foray into the world of Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, et. al. may not match the original, but it’s a fine follow-up.

 

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Far from the Madding Crowd

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple
1 May
Far from the Madding Crowd

Thomas Hardy’s proto-feminist tome is often referred to as the birth of the modern RomCom. Even with its Victorian setting and arcane social rules, the adventures of Bathsheba Everdeen and the three men after her heart resonate with contemporary audiences more than the works of the Brontes or Miss Alcott. That’s because our heroine, played by Carrie Mulligan this time around, has a grounded center that makes her often illogical actions seem perfectly salient. This latest adaptation is pretty and breezy, but it also lacks the depth Hardy brought to the material. This is a nice attempt at an ‘80s Merchant/Ivory effort.

 

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Hyena

Director: Gerard Johnson
Cast: Peter Ferdinando, Stephen Graham, Neil Maskell
1 May
Hyena

Yes, this is another of those by now familiar corrupt cop thrillers. Yes, our hero gets in “Dutch” with a bunch of angry Albanian drug dealers while facing an internal investigation by the force. Yes, it’s British, and proud of it. So how does writer/director Gerard Johnson make this all work without it feeling familiar and flat? Call it directorial flare, and picking the right actor for the part. Invoking Nicolas Winding Refn and his work with Ryan Gosling, Johnson hired Peter Ferdinando to take on the role of the rogue policeman, and their work together is mesmerizing. The rest of the narrative may be obvious, but Johnson and his star make it work.

 

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Welcome to Me

Director: Shira Piven
Cast: Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Wes Bentley, Jennifer Jason Leigh
1 May
Welcome to Me

Kristen Wiig is a woman with borderline personality disorder who, one day, wins the lottery. She immediately takes her winnings, heads down to the local cable access station, and demands her own show. Thus we have the set-up for the slight but still endearing satire which argues that anything media-driven will be taken seriously, even when it shouldn’t be. Andy Warhol’s familiar 15 minutes of fame concept is in full force here, allowing Wiig to improvise and adlib her way through a weird combination of goofiness and gall. As usual, the star is sensational. The rest of the movie only works in parts.

 

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Ride

Director: Helen Hunt
Cast: Helen Hunt, Luke Wilson, Brenton Thwaites, Leonor Varela
1 May
Ride

Apparently, this is the season for actors turned directors. Ryan Gosling gave us the criminally underrated Lost River, while Russell Crowe avoided an argument over genocide with his calm, casual look at Gallipoli, The Water Diviner. We’ll even seen Elizabeth Banks step up and give Pitch Perfect the sequel some are obviously waiting for. Now comes Helen Hunt, with a project she herself wrote, revolving around a strained mother/son relationship and… surfing, of all things. After her Oscar for As Good As It Gets, the actress has been making quite a name for herself in the indie scene. It will be interesting to see if she can pull this off.

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