Hot Stuff: The 2012 PopMatters Summer Movie Preview (May)

It begins with a bang, as one of the most highly anticipated comic book movies battles beleaguered vampires, underwater aliens, and the return of Agents J & K for May's monetary consideration.

Director: Joss Whedon

Film: The Avengers

Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson

MPAA rating: PG-13


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4 May
The Avengers

It's all led up to this, the Iron Man success, the takes on Thor and Captain America. Even the big green failures of the Hulk have paved the way for Marvel to finally bring their superhero team The Avengers to the big screen, and early buzz has director Joss Whedon knocking it out of the park. Granted, at nearly two and a half hours, there's a lot to cover and Loki may not be the most compelling villain, but the end result appears to have capitalized on all the promise presented in the material. Get ready for the mandatory sequel talk come release date.

Director: John Madden

Film: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Cast: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton

MPAA rating: R


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4 May
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Talk about taking a risk. This is counterprogramming at its most brash. While other areas of the country will see this roll out slowly, John Madden's latest will go head to head with a group of costumed crusaders in the major markets. Apparently, Mr. Shakespeare in Love and his studio believe that disgruntled fanboys, unable to get into a sold out Avengers screening, will take their tired dates one theater over to see a retirees seeking a more financially fit lifestyle in India. Some "veddy British" hijinx ensue. Yes, it's another culture shock comedy, but the cast and credentials support one's initial interest.

Director: Bess Kargman

Film: First Position

Cast: Aran Bell, Gaya Bommer Yemini, Michaela Deprince

MPAA rating:


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4 May
First Position

Like most closed societies, the world of ballet is something only a dancer can truly appreciate. The hardships and sacrifices, the joys of performance and the ever-present possibility of never being able to do so, professionally haunt the six individuals featured here. Ranging in age from nine to nineteen, we watch as our subjects enter the Youth America Grand Prix, the largest competition that awards full scholarships to top ballet schools. Within such a backdrop, personality and problems are highlighted and harnessed. A festival circuit favorite, this sounds like a standard documentary approach to an otherwise intriguing idea.

Director: Lisa Azuelos

Film: LOL

Cast: Miley Cyrus, Demi Moore, Ashley Greene, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Adam Sevani, Douglas Booth, Marlo Thomas

MPAA rating: PG-13


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4 May

When a foreign filmmaker comes to Hollywood, career resume intact, and attempts to reboot their bankability by making an English language version of their original triumphs, something specious usually happens. Just ask George Sluizer (The Vanishing) and Michael Haneke (Funny Games). This time around, French director Lisa Azuelos is remaking her 2008 coming of age comedy Laughing Out Loud -- now going by the shorter and more tech savvy LOL -- and she's bringing Miley Cyrus and Demi Moore along for the repetitive ride. The plot synopsis, filled with hints at sexual awakening and drug use, must be driving the House of Mouse stars fanbase loopy.

Director: Nicole Kassell

Film: A Little Bit of Heaven

Cast: Kate Hudson, Gael García Bernal, Rosemarie DeWitt, Lucy Punch, Romany Malco, Treat Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Bates

MPAA rating: PG-13


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4 May
A Little Bit of Heaven

Poor Kate Hudson. Twelve years ago, she was an Oscar nominated starlet whose parental lineage (she's the daughter of Goldie Hawn) suggested a successful career as a leading lady/comedian. A series of sizable flops later, and she's appearing in this five handkerchief weeper about a successful woman who falls in love with the doctor who diagnoses her terminal cancer. Of course, the actress can argue that she can only make what is offered to her, but what does it say about her commercial credentials that her choices run the gamut from this to Bride Wars and Something Borrowed?

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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