The rising temperatures signify one thing: Summer Blockbuster Season! The summer movie season used to start on 4th of July weekend, but as our box office format changes, the blockbusters have started peeping out earlier and earlier with our first summer-time comic book movie coming to us the first week of May. As always, I’ll list the ten movies you should make time for this month!
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
Synopsis: The continued adventures of Spider-Man, aka Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), see him battling various villains including Electro (Jamie Foxx) and ingraining himself deeper into the world of Oscorp after meeting the founder’s son, Harry (Dane DeHaan).
What You Need to Know: The Spider-Man franchise has seen its share of hits and misses, starting with the original trilogy back in 2002. Marc Webb’s 2012 reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” returned Peter Parker to the world of mild-mannered high-schooler coping with great power which brings… well, you know the line. The reboot eventually grossed over $700 million worldwide after a soft start in North America and mixed critical reception. During filming last summer, the movie received a bit of controversy over Shailene Woodley’s casting as Mary-Jane Watson. Court of public opinion online questioned whether Woodley was “hot” enough to play the red-headed love of Parker’s life, and there were additional questions after it was announced Woodley was cut from the finished film. Whether or not she reappears remains to be seen, but the third movie already has a release date. The trailers are hyping the sheer amount of villains in this feature, conjuring up images of the failed “Spider-Man 3,” and from Oliver Lyttelton’s review of “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the comparison is apropos. “We left thinking that, if [the franchise] continues on this downward curve, we’d avoid future Spider-Man films like the plague.” Only time will tell if this is the summer’s big disappointment, but there’s a virulent fanbase for Spidey, so regardless of bad reviews they’ll be out to sling through the air with Peter Parker.
Release Date: May 2nd
Synopsis: Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) is an isolated young man struggling to stand out to his family and crush. A new employee in his office, James, is a perfect physical double for Simon, only James has the personality Simon craves. This become irksome when James starts taking over Simon’s life.
What You Need to Know: There’s an added level of irony in discussing director Richard Ayoade’s “The Double” considering last month saw another movie about doubles, the Jake Gyllenhaal thriller “Enemy.” Ayoade is better known as an actor, especially in the BBC comedy “The IT Crowd,” but he’s carved out a niche as a stellar director after his debut, 2010’s “Submarine.” The first trailer for “The Double” is all about mood, as evidenced by the emphasis on lights and music as opposed to dialogue. The cast is comprised of indie darlings including the aforementioned Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) and Mia Wasikowska (“Jane Eyre”). Our own Kevin Jagernauth was thrilled by “The Double” when he reviewed it back at TIFF last year. His “A-” review praises Ayoade’s “voice and vision.” If you’re looking for something “totally bonkers, hilarious, and wickedly clever,” here’s a movie for you.
Release Date: May 9th in limited release.
Synopsis: A suburban couple (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) get more than they bargained for when a fraternity moves in next door.
What You Need to Know: Nicholas Stoller is a director with a penchant for comedy. The two movies he penned with actor Jason Segel, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek” turned in to quotable hits (their third collaboration, “The Five-Year Engagement,” not so much). Stoller turned to Seth Rogen (“This is the End”) for his next feature, “Neighbors,” centering around a raunchy war between the routine world of suburbia and the chaos of college. Drew Taylor adored the movie at SXSW, giving it an “A-.” “Away from the slightly pat comedies that he has made in the past, Stoller shines.” The movie should pull in Rogen fans although Zac Efron is a bit of a wildcard at this point. His personal issues notwithstanding, his last feature, “That Awkward Moment” failed to ignite audiences’ passions a few months back. If anything, pairing up with Rogen for this comedy, playing a frat boy no less, should restore faith in him.
Release Date: May 9th
Synopsis: Humanity’s future depends on Godzilla.
What You Need to Know: Since his debut in 1954, Godzilla is a creature who has thrilled, scared, and been the subject of ridicule. The original “Gojira,” set for a theatrical rerelease coinciding with this reboot, was an indictment against nuclear power in light of the Japanese attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was only upon U.S. release that the premise was changed, American actors were inserted, and the franchise moved from there. Since then, Godzilla’s seen it all, including an earlier, ill-fated reboot in 1998. When the franchise was rebooted, fans were intrigued by Gareth Edwards taking the helm as director, as his 2010 horror film “Monsters” emphasized story as opposed to cheap scares, an element standing out in the trailer for the new “Godzilla.” When talking about tackling Godzilla for a modern audience, Edwards understands what he’s up against and is interested in creating a more serious-minded take on the character. Obviously, he’s doing something right to entice a stellar cast including Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, and Juliette Binoche, opening up speculation that there’s something pretty amazing here and we’re not just talking about the big green behemoth himself.
Release Date: May 16th
Synopsis: A Polish immigrant (Marion Cotillard) becomes embroiled in a life of prostitution after meeting a dashing man (Joaquin Phoenix) who helps her get off Ellis Island.
What You Need to Know: The trailer for “The Immigrant” is one of the prettiest I’ve seen this year. Its sepia-tone and beautiful rendering of star Marion Cotillard creates an Old World throwback you can’t help but get wrapped up in. The problem is whether audiences are willing to devote the time necessary to it. Director James Gray’s known to divide audiences and critics. “The Immigrant” waited a while from its Cannes premiere to hit theaters, with some critics not rolling with the specific pacing. Jessica Kiang saw the movie at last year’s Cannes Film Festival where she gave it a “B+.” The slow pace was noticed by Kiang, but she chalked it up to Gray’s desire to move events “carefully, step-by-step.” She also took time to praise the three leads, especially Cotillard. Ultimately, there’s something mesmerizing about “The Immigrant” which “satisfies on nearly every level.”
Release Date: May 16th in New York and Los Angeles
“Cold in July”
Synopsis: Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) is considered a local hero after killing a small-time burglar trying to break into Dane’s house. When the burglar’s father (Sam Shepard) comes into town, Richard fears for the safety of his family.
What You Need to Know: There’s a pulp quality to director Jim Mickle’s (“Stake Land”) noir, “Cold in July.” The poster is one giveaway of its noir-ish roots, alongside dominant leading man Michael C. Hall playing a character with a dark secret who’s considered a hero. Our own Rodrigo Perez took in the thriller at Sundance, giving it a “B.” “’Cold in July’…has a lot more going on underneath the surface that one might expect for an elaborate genre film.” Something clicked during production because Mickel’s already set to reteam with this film’s writer, Nick Damici for a TV series entitled “Hap and Leonard.” The series will air on the Sundance Channel and is based on the book series utilized for “Cold in July.”
Release Date: May 23rd in limited release
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”
Synopsis: The characters from the original “X-Men” films travel back in time to convince a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) to band together in order to fix the future.
What You Need to Know: With almost every comic book franchise looking to integrate their characters into one cohesive world the “X-Men” series takes a step forward with “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” The progenitor of this installment, 2011’s “X-Men: First Class,” had a slow rollout, opening to less money than the previous “X-Men: The Last Stand,” despite positive reviews and a cast that includes awards darling Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender. The various trailers certainly play up the action, particularly the malevolent Sentinels, and a sequel, “X-Men: Apocalypse” is set to be even bigger than “Days of Future Past” when it drops in 2016 (right in the midst of several other major comic book movies). Unfortunately, it hasn’t been smooth sailing with this project. The movie has a lot riding on it, as the second most expensive movie 20th Century Fox has produced after “Avatar”; characters have been cut from the finished product; and there’s that little issue with director Bryan Singer. Whether any of this is going to doom the movie remains to be seen. Regardless, fans of the “X-Men” franchise will eat up the blending of two schools of mutants, and the sheer amount of characters looks to be pleasing on the big screen.
Release Date: May 23rd
“A Million Ways to Die in the West”
Synopsis: A scared sheep farmer named Albert (Seth MacFarlane) vows to take down a vicious gunfighter (Liam Neeson) after he falls in love with the outlaw’s wife (Charlize Theron).
What You Need to Know: Seth MacFarlane is a director you love or hate. He’s carved out a niche for himself on Fox with his cartoon series’ “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” as well as reinvigorating Carl Sagan’s show “Cosmos” earlier this year. MacFarlane’s turn behind the camera for theatrical release saw the massive hit “Ted” amass over $500 million two summers ago. And let’s not forget he’s hosted the Oscars to boot. His next feature is an anachronistic Western with a diverse cast including Neeson, Theron, Amanda Seyfriend, and Neil Patrick Harris. The red band trailer shows off the requisite raunchy humor MacFarlane’s made his own, as well as brief snippets of action and a musical number (the man loves musicals!). The question becomes: Does MacFarlane, who not only directs this picture but co-wrote and stars in it, have the ability to make it to $500 million again? The trailers are funny but there are still people resistant to MacFarlane’s sense of humor who’ll immediately be turned off at the mere mention of his name. It’s doubtful the movie will fail outright, but $500 million is a big number to hit.
Release Date: May 30th
Synopsis: The story behind the evil Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and how she came to curse the young Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) into pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel.
What You Need to Know: After the publication of Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked,” revisionist fairy tales became a huge boon for movie studios with Walt Disney Pictures leading the pack. After their take on “Snow White and the Huntsmen” Disney turned to a villain they own exclusively, Maleficent from the 1959 animated feature “Sleeping Beauty,” one of the more popular baddies in Disney’s canon. Angelina Jolie plays the horned queen of evil and this could be Jolie’s year between this and her directorial skills on “Unbroken,” which is already being touted as an Oscar contender. Disney’s running with this new take, turning Maleficent into some type of fallen angel as evidenced by the trailer, and getting Lana Del Ray to rerecord “Once Upon a Dream,” probably to rival her work on “Young and Beautiful” last year. This probably won’t be the kid’s movie of the year, but Disney’s putting all their eggs in this basket (until “Star Wars: Episode VII” next Christmas) so look for the marketing to intensify as this comes to theaters.
Release Date: May 30th
Synopsis: A trio of eco-terrorists plots to blow up a dam only to realize the consequences are bigger than they anticipated.
What You Need to Know: Director Kelly Reichardt has directed some evocative features including “Wendy & Lucy” and “Meek’s Cutoff.” Her latest is an eco-terrorism thriller our own Oliver Lyttelton called “devilishly ambiguous” when he watched it at last year’s Venice Film Festival. His “A-” review calls out actor Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) for his “distinct screen persona,” as well as Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard for their solid performances. Eco-terrorists are proving their worth as a source of engaging thrillers between this and last year’s “The East” starring Brit Marling. While the themes appear similar based on the premise alone, there’s enough here to differentiate the two, especially in proving that “Reichardt is one of the most exciting directorial talents we have right now.”
Release Date: May 30th in limited release
Honorable Mentions this month: “Belle” (May 2nd), “Palo Alto” (May 9th), “Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case” (May 16th), “Tracks” (May 23rd), “We Are the Best” (May 30th), “Filth” (May 30th)