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Women & Hollywood’s Summer Preview, Part 1: May and June 2015

Women & Hollywood's Summer Preview, Part 1: May and June 2015

The summer movie landscape can often feel like a haze of one huge blockbuster after another, each more testosterone-drenched than the last. However, this summer is packed with titles about women — and some of those women kick ass, too, proving that action franchises needn’t be limited to an aging notion of machismo. Milla Jovovich leads the adventurous “Survivor” (May 29), supported by Emma Thompson, in a story about a government agent trying to prove her innocence. “Pearl” (June 9) follows a woman determined to single-handedly finish off a drug lord and his army. Oscar-winning documentarian Amy Berg directs a dramatic thriller in “Every Secret Thing” (May 15), with a notable cast of Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, and Dakota Johnson.

Want to see movies directed or written by women? We’re in luck there, too, as many of these films have women at the helm. Realistic, gritty depictions of women are difficult to come by, but we’ll be blessed with more than a few chances to see them on screen this summer. Kristen Wiig continues her streak of interesting, three-dimensional portrayals in director Shira Piven’s “Welcome to Me” (May 1), about a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery. Helen Hunt writes, directs and stars in “Ride” (May 1), a film about a woman undergoing a journey of self-discovery later in her life. Writer and director Maya Forbes brings us “Infinitely Polar Bear” (June 19). Inspired by events in Forbes’ life, the film depicts a family brought to the brink of chaos by a father’s bipolar disorder and the (sometimes humorous) path that brings them back together.

There are more than a few big, buzzy titles on this list. “Spy” (June 5) continues Melissa McCarthy’s tour de fist with writer/director Paul Feig (“The Heat”), and promises to be one of the most ROFL movies of the year. “Pitch Perfect 2” (May 15), the sequel to the runaway 2012 hit, brings back the original all-star cast and writer, Kay Cannon, while adding Elizabeth Banks (who produced the first film) to the director’s seat. Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Type A Films, bring us “Hot Pursuit” (May 8), starring Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara in a buddy comedy filled with hijinks and directed by Anne Fletcher. “Tomorrowland” (May 22) stars Britt Robertson, in what may be her breakout summer. Paired with George Clooney and a script from director Brad Bird, “Tomorrowland” may be mysterious, but Bird has never failed to deliver the perfect mixture of wonder and entertainment value.

If you’ve ever despaired about the lack of women-centric films for the younger crowd, despair no longer. We’ll see two highly anticipated animated films that center around girl heroines this summer. Pixar’s big-budget “Inside Out” (June 19) will tell the story of a girl named Riley as she struggles to contain and manage the whirl of emotions inside her head. The prestigious Studio Ghibli has an American release slated for this summer, too. “When Marnie Was There” (May 22)  is a mind-bending tale of young female friendship, complete with Ghibli’s beautiful trademark hand-drawn animation.

Period dramas? We’ve got ‘em. A few swoon-worthy releases are slated for early summer, including some literary adaptations. First up is “Far From the Madding Crowd” (May 1), based on the Thomas Hardy classic. Starring Carey Mulligan, it promises complications of love, loyalty and one woman’s search for independence in an unforgiving era. “Testament of Youth” (June 5) is based on Vera Brittain’s WWI memoir. Mia Wasikowska continues to show versatility in “Madame Bovary” (June 12), an update of the novel. Kate Winslet comes to us in “A Little Chaos” (June 26), a romance set during Versailles’ heyday that centers around Sophie, a gardener in charge of building one of King Louis XIV’s famous palace gardens.

We will also see the release of several women-directed documentaries, including Lucia Small’s “One Cut, One Life” (May 13), Belinda Sallin’s “Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World” (May 15), and Sandy McLeod’s “Seeds of Time” (May 21), about the dramatic issues surrounding  genetically engineered crops and famine.

We don’t know about you, but we’ll be glued to the theater screen this summer. Here is a list of the women-centric, -written, and/or -directed titles for the months of May and June. All descriptions are press materials, unless otherwise noted.

May 1

“She’s Funny That Way (Squirrels to the Nuts)” – Co-Written by Louise Stratten

A married Broadway director (Owen Wilson) implores a call girl to turn her life around while the star of his latest production (Rhys Ifans) makes a play for his wife (Kathryn Hahn) in this ensemble comedy from director Peter Bogdonavich. Jennifer Aniston, Cybill Shepherd, Will Forte, and Lucy Punch co-star. (Rotten Tomatoes)

“Far From the Madding Crowd”

Based on the literary classic by Thomas Hardy, this is the story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching willfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love — as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance.

“Welcome to Me” – Directed by Shira Piven

What happens when a young woman with Borderline Personality Disorder wins the lottery? In the case of Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig), she quits her psychiatric meds and buys her own talk show. Inspired by the immortal Oprah, she broadcasts her dirty laundry as both a form of exhibitionism and a platform to share her peculiar views on everything from nutrition to relationships to neutering pets. Also starring Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Linda Cardellini. 

“Marie’s Story” 

At the turn of the 19th century, a humble artisan and his wife have a daughter, Marie (Ariana Rivoire), who is born deaf and blind and unable to communicate with the world around her. Desperate to find a connection to their daughter and avoid sending her to an asylum, the Heurtins send fourteen-year-old Marie to the Larnay Institute in central France, where an order of Catholic nuns manage a school for deaf girls. There, the idealistic Sister Marguerite (Isabelle Carré) sees in Marie a unique potential, and despite her Mother Superior’s skepticism, vows to bring the wild young thing out of the darkness into which she was born. Based on true events, “Marie’s Story” recounts the courageous journey of a young nun and the lives she would change forever, confronting failures and discouragement with joyous faith and love.

“Ride” – Written and Directed by Helen Hunt

When an editor from The New Yorker (Helen Hunt) follows her son (Brenton Thwaites) to LA after he drops out of college to surf and find himself, she ends up being the one thrust into a sea change of self-discovery. In this comedy written and directed by Helen Hunt, she befriends a limo driver (David Zayas), rediscovers her sexuality with a younger surf instructor (Luke Wilson) and begins to heal her fractured relationship with her son and herself. 

May 8

“Hot Pursuit (Don’t Mess With Texas)” – Directed by Anne Fletcher

An uptight policewoman (Reese Witherspoon) tries to protect a drug lord’s sexy widow (Sofía Vergara) as they race through a gauntlet of gunmen and crooked cops. 

“Noble”

They broke everything but her spirit. They took everything but her dream. Starring Deirdre O’Kane and Sarah Green, this is the incredible true story of a fearless Irish heroine driven by her daring vision to escape the slums of Ireland and risk everything on the streets of Vietnam. 

“Preggoland” – Written by Sonja Bennett

When Ruth (Sonja Bennett) ruins a baby shower with her drunken, juvenile antics, her old high school cronies, who are all mothers now, promptly de-friend her. But when she is later mistakenly thought to be “with child,” she is inexplicably welcomed back into the group. Although she initially tries to come clean, the many perks of pregnancy are far too seductive to ignore. “Preggoland” is a comedy about our societal obsession with babies and the lengths we’ll go to be part of a club. 

“Piku” – Written by Juhi Chaturvedi

Piku (Deepika Padukone) juggles her life as a successful architect and being a single parent to her 70-year old father Bhashkor Banerji (Amitabh Bachchan). Getting a life of her own, just doesn’t seem possible – not for the lack of trying, but she’s weighed down by the responsibilities of her work, home and a hypochondriac father. When Bhashkor emotionally blackmails Piku to take a road trip from Delhi to native Calcutta, the owner of the local cab company Rana (Irrfan Khan) has no choice but to drive them personally since none of his drivers are willing to endure Piku or her eccentric father. Piku is a heart-warming slice of life film about a father-daughter relationship.

“Sister Code”

Sister Code is the funny and touching story of three foster sisters with drastically different personalities living together in Los Angeles. Amber Rose plays Lexi, the free-spirited artist; Eva Marcille is Sheila, the corporate killer with a soft side, and Drew Sidora works her magic as Lavae, the glue that keeps the family together.With the revered matriarch of the family gone, the James girls must learn to navigate the choppy waters of love, life and sisterhood without her. And when a tragic sisterly secret is revealed, they must learn to dig deep, put their differences aside, and tap into that never-ending bond instilled in them by their beloved foster mother.Through it all, the three sisters will grow closer, love harder, and ultimately prove that mama James was right all along – blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than everything. 

May 13

“One Cut, One Life” (doc) – Co-Directed by Lucia Small

When seminal documentary filmmaker Ed Pincus (“Black Natchez,” “The Axe in the Attic”), considered the father of first-person nonfiction film, is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he and his collaborator Lucia Small (“My Father, The Genius”) team up to make one last film. “One Cut, One Life” is an intense, frank, and sometimes humorous exploration of the human condition that invites the viewer to contemplate what is important, not only at the end of life, but through all phases of live and creative pursuits. 

May 15

“Pitch Perfect 2” – Directed by Elizabeth Banks; Written by Kay Cannon

The Barden Bellas (Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld) enter an international a cappella competition which no American team has ever won.

“Every Secret Thing” – Directed by Amy Berg; Written by Nicole Holofcener

A detective looks to unravel a mystery surrounding missing children and the prime suspects: two young women who, seven years ago, were put away for an infant’s death. Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks and Dakota Fanning star.

“I’ll See You In My Dreams”

Carol (Blythe Danner) is a retired schoolteacher and a longtime widow in her 70’s. She enjoys a tranquil routine playing cards with close friends, keeping up her garden, and relaxing with a glass of wine. When her beloved dog dies, there’s a mournful vacuum that draws new experiences and attachments into her world. She forges a friendship with her pool guy and allows a pal to drag her to a speed dating shindig. And then there’s the gravelly-voiced, exuberant gentleman, Bill (Sam Elliot), who comes out of nowhere. Malin Ackerman costars.

“The Connection” – Co-Written by Audrey Diwan

A stylish, 70’s-period crime thriller inspired by true events, it tells the story of real-life Marseilles magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) and his relentless crusade to dismantle the most notorious drug smuggling operation in history: the French Connection.

“In the Name of My Daughter”

When her marriage falls apart, Agnes Le Roux (Adèle Haenel) moves back to the South of France from Africa to live with her mother, Renee (Catherine Deneuve), owner of the Palais de La Mediterranee casino in Nice. There, Agnes falls in love with Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet), a lawyer and Renee’s business adviser, who is ten years her senior. Behind the scenes hangs the shadow of the mafia and Fratoni, the owner of a rival casino, who wants to take over the Palais de la Mediterannee. In November 1977, after a failed suicide attempt, Agnes disappears. Her body is never found. Thirty years on, Maurice Agnelet remains the prime suspect in a murder case with no body and no proof of his guilt. Convinced of his involvement, Renee is prepared to fight to the bitter end to see him put behind bars.

“Dark Star: HR Giger’s World” (doc) – Directed and Written by Belinda Sallin

This documentary brings viewers into the home and life of the surrealist goth artist, H. R. Giger, who won an Academy Award for designing the legendary character from Ridley Scott’s Alien films starring Sigourney Weaver opposite creatures of Giger’s creation. In addition to his contributions to the nightmares of generations of moviegoers, H. R. Giger (1940-2014) was an accomplished sculptor and painter. His work lives on in album covers, tattoos, and in a museum dedicated to his work.

May 21

“Aloft” – Directed and Written by Claudia Llosa

As we follow a mother (Jennifer Connelly) and her son (Cillian Murphy), we delve into a past marred by an accident that tears them apart. She will become a renowned artist and healer, and he will grow into his own as a peculiar falconer who bears the marks of a double absence. In the present, a young journalist (Mélanie Laurent) will bring about an encounter between the two that puts the very meaning of life and art into question, so that we may contemplate the possibility of living life to its fullest, despite the uncertainties littering our paths.

“Seeds of Time” (doc) – Directed by Sandy McLeod

A perfect storm is brewing as agriculture pioneer Cary Fowler races against time to protect the future of our food. Gene banks of the world are crumbling, crop failures are producing starvation inspired rioting, and the accelerating effects of climate change are already affecting farmers globally. But Fowler’s journey, and our own, is just beginning. From Rome to Russia and, finally, a remote island under the Arctic Circle, his passionate and personal journey may hold the key to saving the one resource we cannot live without: our seeds. (Kino Lorber)

May 22

“Tomorrowland” 

Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (George Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world-and them-forever. Featuring a screenplay by “Lost” writer and co-creator Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, from a story by Lindelof & Bird & Jeff Jensen, “Tomorrowland” promises to take audiences on a thrill ride of nonstop adventures through new dimensions that have only been dreamed of.

“Something Better to Come” (doc) – Directed by Hanna Polak 

Hanna Polak’s Russian-Polish documentary about people who live in
Svalka, a garbage dump outside Moscow, outdoes “Boyhood” in one way: It’s said
to have been filmed over a total of 14 years. (The New York Times) 

“When Marnie Was There”

In the latest release from Studio Ghibli, a young girl is sent to the country for health reasons, where she meets an unlikely friend in the form of Marnie, a young girl with flowing blonde hair. As the friendship grows, we start to suspect that Marnie may have closer ties to the protagonist than we thought. (Voices of Sara Takatsuki, Nanako Matsushima)

“Sunshine Superman” (doc) – Written and Directed by Marah Strauch

A heart-racing documentary portrait of Carl Boenish, the father of the BASE-jumping movement, whose early passion for skydiving led him to ever more spectacular -and dangerous- feats of foot-launched human flight. Experience his jaw-dropping journey in life and love, to the pinnacle of his achievements when he and wife Jean broke the BASE-jumping Guinness World Record in 1984 on the Norwegian ‘Troll Wall’ mountain range. Incredibly, within days, triumph was followed by disaster. Told through a stunning mix of Carl’s 16mm archive footage, well-crafted re-enactments and state-of-the-art aerial photography, “Sunshine Superman” will leave you breathless and inspired.

“The Farewell Party (Mita Tova)” – Co-Directed and Co-Written by Sharon Maymon

A group of friends at a Jerusalem retirement home build a machine for self-administered euthanasia in order to help their terminally-ill friend. But as rumors of the secret machine begin to spread, more and more people ask for their help. Aliza Rosen and Levana Finkelstein star.

“(Dis)Honesty — The Truth About Lies” (doc) – Directed by Yael Melamede

From scandalous headlines to little white lies, “(Dis)Honesty – The Truth About Lies” explores the complex impact dishonesty has on our lives and everyday society. Interweaving groundbreaking stories from individuals affected by the unraveling of their lies, Dan Ariely and a team of scientists uncover our propensity to be dishonest — sometimes even unknowingly. What’s revealed is a fascinating look at the forces behind our collective behavior and the many truths behind lies. 

May 29

“Gemma Bovery” – Directed and Co-Written by Anne Fontaine

Life begins to imitate art in uncanny ways when earthy British beauty Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and her furniture restorer husband Charles Bovery (Jason Flemyng) move to the very same Norman village where the graphic novel was written. Local baker and Flaubert fan Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini) falls for the lovely and charming newcomer and sets out to be her mentor. It doesn’t take long before his wild imagination leads him to draw parallels between the literary and real life woman, as he insinuates himself into her life. She soon finds herself at a crossroads that seems to be fulfilling Joubert’s worst fears that her destiny is mirroring that of Flaubert’s doomed heroine. Director Anne Fontaine’s clever adaptation of the graphic novel is at once a cheeky literary mash-up, a sensuous romance, a witty feminist commentary, and a heady celebration of French provincial life. 

“I Believe in Unicorns” – Written and Directed by Leah Meyerhoff 

Davina (Natalia Dyer) is an imaginative and strong-willed
teenage girl who often escapes into a beautifully twisted fantasy life. Having
grown up quickly as the sole caretaker of her disabled mother (The
filmmaker’s mother Toni Meyerhoff), she looks for salvation in a new
relationship with an older boy (Peter Vack). Davina is swept into a
whirlwind of romance and adventure, but the enchantment of her new relationship
quickly fades when Sterling’s volatile side begins to emerge. “I Believe
in Unicorns” takes us on a road trip through the stunning and complex
landscape of troubled young love.

“Survivor”

After being mysteriously framed for a terrorist bombing, a Foreign Service Officer must evade government capture and death by a ruthless assassin in order to stop the real perpetrators’ master-and much deadlier-plan. Mila Jovovich and Emma Thompson star.

“Barely Lethal”

Megan Walsh (Hailee Steinfeld) is a teenage special ops agent who yearns for a normal adolescence. After faking her own death she assumes the role of an exchange student and quickly learns that surviving the treacherous waters of a typical American high school can be even more difficult than international espionage.

“You’re Sleeping, Nicole” (“Tu Dors Nicole”)

Making
the most of the family home while her parents are away, Nicole (Julianne Côté,)
22 years old, is enjoying a peaceful summer with her best friend Véronique (Catherine
St-Laurent). When Nicole’s older brother shows up with his band to record an
album, the girls’ friendship is put to the test. Their vacation takes an
unexpected turn, punctuated by a heatwave, Nicole’s growing insomnia and the
persistent courtship of a 10-year-old boy. 

“Gloria” – Written by Sabina Berman 

Gloria Trevi, the “Mexican Madonna,”
rose from poverty to international stardom, only to be brought crashing down by
a sex scandal that mesmerized the Spanish-speaking world. The new movie “Gloria”
tells the true story of her astonishing life, from her meteoric rise to the top
of the pop charts to the humiliating fall that followed, all set to a
soundtrack of the diva’s infectious hits. Sofia Espinosa stars. 

June 5

“Spy”

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an unassuming, deskbound CIA analyst, and the unsung hero behind the Agency’s most dangerous missions. But when her partner (Jude Law) falls off the grid and another top agent (Jason Statham) is compromised, she volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent a global disaster. (Co-starring Rose Byrne and Allison Janey.)

“Testament of Youth” – Written by Juliette Towhidi 

A searing story of love and war. Based on the classic First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, this is the incredible true story of one young woman’s struggle to survive the horrors of war, which robbed her of everyone and everything she held dear, but was ultimately unable to break her extraordinary spirit. (Stars Alicia Vikander, Hayley Atwell, Emily Watson, Kit Harrington, and Dominic West.)

June 9

“Pearl” – Co-Written by Dana M. Patton

Consumed by a horrific event in her past, a woman (Dana M. Patton) is driven to violent retribution, and soon discovers that there can be no getting even. Her only ally: a meth-making genius who manipulates her for her own ends, while she wages a vigilante campaign against a powerful drug lord and his thug army. A detective, investigating a series of grisly homicides, begins to uncover the truth about her, and the role he himself played in her origins.

June 12

“The Wolfpack” (doc) – Directed by Crystal Moselle

Locked away from society in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Angulo brothers learn about the outside world through the films that they watch. Nicknamed the Wolfpack, the brothers spend their childhood re-enacting their favorite films using elaborate homemade props and costumes. With no friends and living on welfare, they feed their curiosity, creativity, and imagination with film, which allows them to escape from their feelings of isolation and loneliness. Everything changes when one of the brothers escapes, and the power dynamics in the house are transformed. The Wolfpack must learn how to integrate into society without disbanding the brotherhood.

“Madame Bovary” – Directed and Co-Written by Sophie Barthes

Set in Normandy, France, this is the classic story of Emma Bovary (Mia Wasikowska), a young beauty who impulsively marries small-town doctor, Charles Bovary (Henry Llyod-Hughes), to leave her father’s pig farm far behind. But after being introduced to the glamorous world of high society, she soon becomes bored with her stodgy husband and mundane life, and seeks prestige and excitement outside the bonds of marriage.

“Runoff” – Written and Directed by Kimberly Levin

The beauty of the land cannot mask the brutality of a farm town. As harvest draws near, Betty (Joanne Kelley) confronts a terrifying new reality and will go to desperate lengths to save her family when they are threatened with being forced from their land. (IMDb)

The 11th Hour 

Successful businesswoman Maria (Kim
Basinger) has achieved everything except what she wants the most — a baby of
her own. She decides to deal with the matter by herself and embarks on a
desperate and dangerous journey in order to make her dream come true. (IMDb)

The Yes Men Are Revolting (doc) – Co-Directed by Laura Nix

Comedy troupe The Yes Men stage phony events and
press releases in an effort to bring attention to environmental dangers and
corporate greed. (IMDb) 

June 19

“Inside Out”

Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.

“Infinitely Polar Bear” – Written and Directed by Maya Forbes

Maya Forbes’ autobiographically inflected “Infinitely Polar Bear” stars Mark Ruffalo as Cameron, a man who suffers from bipolar disorder. After a breakdown forces him to leave his family and move into a halfway house, he attempts to rebuild a relationship with his two daughters, and win back the trust of his wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana). When Maggie decides to go to business school in New York, they decide that he will move back in and take care of the day-to-day care for the kids. Due to his mercurial nature, this leads to a series of quirky, funny, and sometimes frightening episodes. Infinitely Polar Bear screened at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. (Perry Seibert, Rovi)

“Eden” – Directed and Co-Written by Mia Hansen-Løve

Eden is based on the experiences of director Hansen-Løve’s brother Sven, who was one of the pioneering DJs of the French rave scene in the early 1990s. Greta Gerwig, Claire Tran, and Arsinee Khanjian co-star.

June 26

“A Little Chaos” – Co-Written by Alison Deegan

A romantic drama following Sabine (Kate Winslet), a strong-willed and talented landscape designer, who is chosen to build one of the main gardens at King Louis XIV’s new palace at Versailles. In her new position of power, she challenges gender and class barriers while also becoming professionally and romantically entangled with the court’s renowned landscape artist André Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts).

“The Outskirts” – Written by Dominique Ferrari and Suzanne Wrubel

After falling victim to a humiliating prank by the high school Queen Bee, best friends and world-class geeks, Mindy (Eden Sher) and Jodi (Victoria Justice), decide to get their revenge by uniting the outcasts of the school against her and her circle of friends. (IMDB) 

“Batkid Begins” (doc) – Directed by Dana Nachman 

“Batkid Begins” chronicles the events leading up to the day
Batkid saved San Francisco and shows what happens when an event goes
unintentionally viral. The [initial] goal that day was to get a couple hundred
people to show up and support Miles Scott and his wish to become Batkid after
battling leukemia for more than half his short life. What really ended up
happening? Tens of thousands of people showed up to help Miles live out his
dream. (Dana Nachman) 

Felt – Co-Written by Amy Everson 

A woman (Amy Everson) creates an alter ego in hopes of overcoming the
trauma inflicted by men in her life. (IMDb) 

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