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The PopMatters Summer Movie Preview – 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.

Film: 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

MPAA rating: PG-13

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1 May
Avengers: Age of UltronWith 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.

 

Film: Far from the Madding Crowd

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple

MPAA rating: PG

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1 May
Far from the Madding CrowdThomas 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.

 

Film: Hyena

Director: Gerard Johnson

Cast: Peter Ferdinando, Stephen Graham, Neil Maskell

MPAA rating: R

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1 May
HyenaYes, 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.

 

Film: Welcome to Me

Director: Shira Piven

Cast: Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Wes Bentley, Jennifer Jason Leigh

MPAA rating: R

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1 May
Welcome to MeKristen 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.

 

Film: Ride

Director: Helen Hunt

Cast: Helen Hunt, Luke Wilson, Brenton Thwaites, Leonor Varela

MPAA rating: R

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1 May
RideApparently, 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.

8 May

Film: Hot Pursuit

Director: Anne Fletcher

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Robert Kazinsky, Michael Mosley

MPAA rating: PG-13

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8 May
Hot PursuitIf you’ve seen the TV ads, you get the idea of what this unlikely buddy comedy is all about. Oscar winner Witherspoon is the police officer constantly ridiculed for her size. TV temptress Sofia Vergara is the reluctant widow of a drug dealer who is supposed to testify against those with a reason for her not to. Oh, and she’s constantly ribbed about her reported age. Directed by female filmmaker Anne Fletcher, responsible for such reasonably decent offerings as Step Up and The Proposal, we could be in for a rousing good time, or a derivative, dopey attempt to find funny business out of the typical mismatched pairing.

 

Film: The D Train

Director: Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel

Cast: Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn, Russell Posner, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike White

MPAA rating: R

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8 May
The D TrainThis movie is a hard title to track. You’d think that a new film starring Jack Black would have a bigger profile than this. In the proposed comedy, Mr. Tenacious D hopes to raise his reputation amongst the other members of his high school reunion class by bringing the most popular guy, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), with him to the celebration. Of course, getting him to the party will be hard. Lawless is a successful (?) model and loves L.A. One imagines a lot of mismatched hijinx ensuing. Again, it would be nice to know more about this project than the odd trailer tells.

 

Film: Maggie

Director: Henry Hobson

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Aiden Flowers

MPAA rating: R

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8 May
MaggieArnold Schwarzenegger and zombies. Sounds like a match made in high concept ’80s action film heaven, right? One can easily imagine the original roid rage hero taking down wave after wave of the undead and… wait. What? That’s not the story here? Instead, this is a tense indie drama with our former superstar playing a dad who must deal with a daughter “dying” from a horrid zombie virus. He is supposed to turn her over to quarantine at a certain point, but the former Gover-nator never makes things that easy. It all sounds very meta and post-modern. It also argues that not every decision Schwarzenegger makes revolves around guns and car chases.

 

Film: 5 Flights Up

Director: Richard Loncraine

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Diane Keaton, Carrie Preston, Miriam Shor, Cynthia Nixon

MPAA rating: PG

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8 May
5 Flights UpMorgan Freeman and Diane Keaton are an old married couple who hope to sell their apartment in Williamsburg for a nice seven-figure profit. Doing so will allow them to move to the Upper East Side, as well as care for their aging dog, Dorothy. Of course, things can’t and won’t go smoothly, leading to all manner of issues and insights. Oh, and we’re supposed to be laughing along the way. Indeed, this is the set-up for an adult comedy where the characters aren’t concerned about pop culture and, instead, use this twilight time to reflect on the various adversities they have to overcome. The stars are the real highlights here.

 

Film: Saint Laurent

Director: Bertrand Bonello

Cast: Gaspard Ulliel, Jérémie Renier, Louis Garrel, Léa Seydoux, Amira Casar, Aymeline Valade, Helmut Berger

MPAA rating: R

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8 May
Saint LaurentIt’s been quite a year for the famed designer, who died seven years ago at age 71. Earlier, The Weinstein Company picked up Jalil Lespert’s biopic of the noted couture talent. Now, we have another take on the same material, with Bertrand Bonello behind the lens and Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal of Hannibal Rising) in front of it. In either case, Laurent was one of the rare fashion icons who managed to make a name for himself outside of clothing lines. Indeed, he was honored with a showing at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and inspired hundreds with his unique approach to his art. Sounds like a nice Summer season alternative.

 

Film: Preggoland

Director: Jacob Tierney

Cast: Sonja Bennett, James Caan, Danny Trejo, Paul Campbell, Laura Harris

MPAA rating: R

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8 May
Preggoland Canadian writer/director Jacob Tierney, of The Trotsky and Good Neighbors fame, offers up this slice of everyday life centering on that exclusive woman’s club: pregnancy. Indeed, our main character here is so sick and tired of being the only one of her friends “without” child that she fakes she’s “enciente”. All of a sudden, instead of being an outcast, she’s back into this elitist and entitled group. While the idea is solid, especially for a comedy, here’s hoping that Tierney takes a moment or two to address the prejudice against the childless. Not everyone wants or can have children. Hopefully Preggoland can provide some perspective.

15 May

Film: Pitch Perfect 2

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp, Ester Dean, Katey Sagal

MPAA rating: PG-13

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/p/pitchperfect2poster.jpg

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15 May
Pitch Perfect 2Here’s a Hollywood story for you. An actress, perhaps best known for her work in comedy (though she is featured prominently in the exceedingly popular Hunger Games), gets a crack at directing a sequel to a hit musical film. Indeed, the sudden rise of Elizabeth Banks from likeable star to onset leader may one day end up the subject of some clever backstage documentary, but for the time being, we need to focus on this update. According to the ads, the Barden Bellas cause a controversy during an appearance before the President. In order to get their reputation back, they decide to take on Germany in an international competition the US has never won. Sounds fun.

 

Film: Mad Max: Fury Road

Director: George Miller

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/m/madmaxfuryroadpostewr.jpg

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15 May
Mad Max: Fury RoadYou know that old saying, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?” Well, watching what George Miller has up his action icon sleeve for this proposed reboot of the Mad Max franchise makes a film fan faint from the possibilities. Indeed, over the last few years, car chases have been reduced to CG enhanced examples of mechanized mayhem. Miller apparently wants to bring things back to the roots he established 30 years ago with the original film and its follow-up, The Road Warrior. The new story sees females, not fuel, as the dystopian jewel of choice. The trailer alone promises an edge-of-your-seat experience unlike any released recently.

 

Film: I’ll See You In My Dreams

Director: Brett Haley

Cast: Blythe Danner, Martin Starr, Sam Elliott, Malin Akerman, June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/i/illseeyouinmydreamsposter.jpg

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15 May
I’ll See You In My DreamsOtherwise known as the Blythe Danner starring vehicle. She plays an aging songstress who decides to embrace life after being widowed. With the help of her friends, Squibb, Pearlman, and Place, and a platonic relationship with her poolman (Starr), she begins to come out of her shell. Naturally, this leads to a romance with Sam Elliott. Considered a “charming” tour de force when it premiered at Sundance, this is clearly set up as counterprogramming for the otherwise odd 15 May weekend. On the one side is post-apocalyptic mayhem, while acapella singing rules the other roost. This sits squarely in the more than mainstream middle.

 

Film: Time Lapse

Director: Bradley D. King

Cast: Danielle Panabaker, Matt O’Leary, George Finn

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/t/timelapseposter.jpg

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15 May
Time LapseAnother trip into Twilight Zone territory, this time featuring an old Polaroid camera that can capture images 24 hours into the future. Naturally, our heroes decided to use the device for their own personal gain. That is, until some very disturbing pics start showing up on the prints. A hit at the recent Seattle International Film Festival, this release hopes to generate a bit of box office heat before disappearing to VOD and home video (where it has already been available around the world). It’s an intriguing if not wholly original idea that has a long way to go to match other indie genre efforts like Primer.

 

Film: Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World

Director: Belinda Sallin

Cast: H.R.Giger, Leslie Barany, Sandra Beretta, Mia Bonzanigo

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/h/hrgigerposter.jpg

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15 May
Dark Star: H. R. Giger’s WorldWith his recent passing this year, the famed artist and Oscar winning F/X designer left behind a legacy that few in his unusual position could ever match. This documentary, on the other hand, does little to enhance the Giger myth. Instead, most reviews point to a genial if slightly jumbled look at an aging icon, the discussion revolving around his personal life and philosophy more than his work on such famed films as Alien and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s aborted Dune project. Still, if you don’t mind the lack of a career overview, this will give you a taste of just how exciting, and eccentric, Giger was.

 

Film: Slow West

Director: John Maclean

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius, Rory McCann

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/s/slowwestposter.jpg

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15 May
Slow WestEvery few years, someone comes along and tries to reinvent — or at the very least, re-jumpstart — the public’s preference for Westerns. During the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, the genre was the movie-going public’s absolute favorite. Today, not so much. So this much-heralded horse opera has some might big saddle sores to overcome. On the plus side, it has Fassbender and Mendelsohn. On the down side, it’s been called slow and uneven. Still, we’re interested to see what musician (The Beta Band) turned first time feature filmmaker John Maclean has in store for us. The cast has us intrigued. Let’s hope the results deliver.

22 May

 

Film: Tomorrowland

Director: Brad Bird

Cast: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key

MPAA rating: PG-13

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/t/tomorrowlandposter.jpg

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22 May
TomorrowlandWe’ve been chomping at the bit for this original (albeit based on Disney’s theme park attractions) sci-fi epic ever since we heard the names “Brad Bird” (co-writer and director), “Damon Lindelof” (co-writer) and “George Clooney” (star). The first teaser trailer was intriguing, with the follow-ups filling in the narrative and visual gaps nicely. Now, all we need is for this film to come out and live up to our expectations. It will have some serious competition this month (The Avengers, Mad Max, The Human Centipede 3) but we have faith in Bird. The man has only made five feature films and has two Oscars to show for his efforts.

 

Film: Poltergeist (2015)

Director: Gil Kenan

Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, Jane Adams, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett

MPAA rating:

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22 May
Poltergeist (2015)Seriously? One of the best mainstream horror movies of all time and you need to remake it? And not only remake it, but based on the trailers, more or less copy it shot for shot? Thirty years ago, Steven Spielberg put Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Tobe Hooper in the director’s chair for a haunted house frightmare about suburbia gone spooky. Now, Gil Kenan of Monster House and City of Ember fame is behind the lens, which doesn’t bode well for this film’s fear factors. Okay, so not everything is the same (our psychic medium this time is a man), but this still feels awfully familiar, and unnecessary.

 

Film: Aloft

Director: Claudia Llosa

Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy, Mélanie Laurent, Ian Tracey

MPAA rating: R

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22 May
AloftTwo decades before, Nana Kunning (Connelly) was a struggling artist who had to give up her son, Ivan, for adoption. Now famous and celebrated, she is approached by a journalist who wants to reunite her with her child (now Cillian Murphy). Naturally, things don’t go so well. Peruvian filmmaker Claudia Llosa made a name for herself with The Milk of Sorrow (Oscar nominated and winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival) and this looks like a solid follow-up. Of course, “foreign” films don’t do so well during the US Summer movie season, but who knows. Reputation and the reality of the movie’s quality may overcome such shortsightedness.

 

Film: Sunshine Superman

Director: Marah Strauch

Cast: Carl Boenish , John B. Macaulay, Marah Strauch, John Long

MPAA rating: R

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22 May
Sunshine SupermanNo, this is not a documentary about the great British folk artist Donovan (he had a hit song by the same title). Instead, this is a look at the legendary BASE-jumper (and primary promoter of the sport), Carl Boenish. Also known as human flight, lovers of this extreme experience get a rush from leaping off tall buildings and outcroppings, allowing their aerodynamic suits to help them “glide” to safety — if they’re lucky. Sadly, Boenish passed in 1984, just as his activity was catching on. Luckily, he enjoyed photographing his escapades, and this movie is full of such imagery. Sounds like some excellent eye candy matched with an intriguing biography.

 

Film: The Rumperbutts

Director: Marc Brener

Cast: Kori Gardner, Jason Hammel, Josh Brener, Vanessa Ray, Arian Moayed

MPAA rating:

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22 May
The RumperbuttsAfter finding limited success on the indie music scene, a pair of struggling artists take a dead-end job on the titular children’s show. As their new career sucks the soul out of their lives, a mysterious man shows up to give them a second chance at… something. That’s as far as the synopsis goes. Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel of the group Mates of State are the duo and the project was funded in part through Kickstarter. This sounds either incredibly twee and hipster-riffic, or perhaps it finds a more satiric approach to its outsiders against the world designs. Either a Summer sleeper, or something quickly forgotten.

29 May

Film: Barely Lethal

Director: Kyle Newman

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Jessica Alba, Sophie Turner, Jaime King, Dove Cameron, Samuel L. Jackson, Thomas Mann

MPAA rating: R

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29 May
Barely LethalIt’s an idea we’ve seen and heard before: an assassin, tired of the killer for hire life, fakes their own death and tries to blend in to society, with obvious issues along the way. In this case, Fanboys director Kyle Newman puts True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld through her paces as the hitgirl with the yearning for normalcy. Along for the ride are Jessica Alba, Sophie Turner, Jaime King, Steve-O, and Samuel L. Jackson. For some reason, this reminds us of Gross Pointe Blank, albeit without the reunion angle. Indeed, our heroine is in high school, which means that, at some point, her past is going to come back to haunt her. Perhaps, during prom?

 

Film: San Andreas

Director: Brad Peyton

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino, Kylie Minogue, Paul Giamatti

MPAA rating: PG-13

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29 May
San AndreasTalk about regrettable timing. Perhaps by the time this disaster epic opens, featuring his macho muscled-ness as a helicopter pilot out to save people post-apocalypse, audiences will have forgotten about the unfortunate events in Nepal. On the other hand, this looks awesome, with a level of CG destruction that even Roland Emmerich would envy. The plot — The Rock has to retrieve his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) and daughter (Alexandra Daddario) from the aftermath of a devastating earthquake — is simple enough. As we all know, Dwayne Johnson is action bombast gold (just ask the Fast and Furious films). Here’s hoping this Brad Peyton directed effort delivers when it comes to mindless destruction.

 

Film: Aloha

Director: Cameron Crowe

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin

MPAA rating: R

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29 May
AlohaHere it is, the film that sent Sony execs into fits of anxious worry. Remember back when The Interview was an international incident and some cyber-terrorists decided to release the studio’s sketchy emails, including a healthy lambasting of artists like Adam Sandler (he deserves it) and Cameron Crowe (he doesn’t)? Seems this romantic adventure set in the Hawaiian islands was not among the favorites greenlit by the company, with predictions that it would bomb bigger than an aging nuke. Now, after a few months off the radar, we will see if Crowe is back in Oscar-winner form (as he was with Almost Famous) or if this will be more like Elizabethtown.

 

Film: Survivor

Director: James McTeigue

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Pierce Brosnan, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, Emma Thompson

MPAA rating: R

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29 May
SurvivorNow this is unusual — using Milla Jovovoch’s name in connection with a film that’s not part of the Resident Evil franchise or her latest husband’s (Paul W. S. Anderson) action efforts. Of course, we are still in thriller mode here, our star playing a British agent on the run for crimes she did not commit. The former James Bond is an assassin known as The Watchmaker, sent after her. While this all sounds trite and trivial, genre fans have at least one reason to cheer: V for Vendetta‘s James McTeigue is sitting behind the lens for this one. Look for it in theaters and same-day VOD.

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