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The 5 Films You Must See This May

The 5 Films You Must See This May

May is about to offer quite the selection to movie-goers, with twenty-five films listed on indieWIRE’s May calendar. As an extension of our recent summer movie preview, indieWIRE has decided to offer the first of four monthly “must-see” lists to make cinematic decision-making as easy as possible this summer. From a hobo with a shotgun to Mel Gibson and a beaver to the long awaited release of Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” check out indieWIRE‘s picks for your five best options, and then check out May’s full calendar, as there are many worthy films that didn’t end up making this list.

1. The Tree of Life (May 27; Fox Searchlight)

What’s The Deal? Terrence Malick’s latest – which has probably been on a half dozen indieWIRE previews before getting delayed over and over – is 99.9% actually coming out this May. Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and having something to do with dinosaurs, the cosmos and the meaning of life (all against the backdrop of a 1950s family drama), the film is debuting in Cannes and then heading to theaters shortly thereafter.

Who’s Already Seen It? Terrence Malick. Some Cannes programmers. Some students at the University of Texas at Austin. Maybe Brad Pitt. Though we don’t even know any of that for sure. Check back with the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? “Life” has had one of the most fascinatingly mysterious release lead-ups of all time, and is clearly the summer’s most anticipated specialty release. Malick has only made five films in his near 40 year career, and the four that came before “Life” have all been heralded by critics and often end up on best-film-ever type lists. “The Tree of Life” may still be a bit of a mystery, but chances are it’s going to be one that delivers.

2. The Beaver (May 6; Summit Entertainment)

What’s The Deal? PR nightmare Mel Gibson makes an attempt at career damage control in Jodie Foster’s long-awaited third directorial effort. Gibson stars as a clinically depressed toy company CEO who finds solace through a beaver hand puppet that he begins to use to communicate to his estranged wife (played by Foster). The screenplay – written by Kyle Killen – topped the 2008 “Blacklist,” which ranks the year’s best unproduced screenplays.

Who’s Already Seen It? 10 critics gave it an average of B- on the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? Mass public hatred for Gibson will be no small obstacle to overcome, but “Beaver”‘s bizarrely intriguing premise (and fairly positive reviews out of SXSW) might make for a very curious public come May.

3. Midnight in Paris (May 20; Sony Pictures Classics)

What’s The Deal? Woody Allen’s 41st annual feature film hits theaters shortly after it opens the Cannes Film Festival. With an all-star cast including Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Owen Wilson, Michael Sheen, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, and French first lady Carla Bruni, Allen takes on Paris for the first time. Details on the plot are minimal, but we do know it involves “a young engaged couple forced to confront the illusion that a life different from their own is better.”

Who’s Already Seen It? No one as of yet, but check back with the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? It sounds a bit like “Vicky Christina Barcelona Goes To France,” which might not make for a classic, but could make for a very fun time. It’s a great cast (though isn’t it always), and while the Woodman has been more miss than hit in the past decade or so, maybe his first foray into the City of Lights will prove particularly inspirational.

4. City of Life and Death (May 11; Kino)

What’s The Deal? It has been a controversial path to theatrical release for Lu Chaun’s “City of Life and Death.” The film had been scheduled to make its theatrical debut on March 31, 2010 via National Geographic. But negotiations with the Chinese film board stalled, and “City” looked like it might not ever see a U.S. release. But last December Kino International stepped in, and is going to release “City” this May. Set during the 1937 occupation of Nanking by Japanese forces, the film takes a look at life inside the walled and occupied city, telling a largely untold story of the Chinese resisters who fought back.

Who’s Already Seen It? 7 critics gave “City” an average of B+ on the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? Check out indieWIRE’s review from back in 2009 for some glowing acclaim: “The essential moral irony of war – that acts that would be considered revoltingly inhumane if committed in the name of the individual are not only sanctioned but celebrated when committed in the name of country – has rarely been reflected on screen as honestly as in ‘City of Life and Death,’ Lu Chuan’s stunning dramatic take on the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanking, China. Unafraid to depict the blurring of moral boundaries on either side of the conflict, ‘Life and Death’ manages to convey the total horror of the Japanese atrocities from the perspective of both perpetrators and victims, all with exceptional nuance, sensitivity and sadness.”

5. Hobo With a Shotgun (May 6; Magnet)

What’s The Deal? Jason Eisener’s “Hobo with a Shotgun” stars Rutger Hauer (!) as the titular character. Fed up with the violence around him, he takes matters (and, apparently, a shotgun) into his own hands. Initially a fake trailer made for a contest to promote the release of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s double feature “Grindhouse,” the feature length “Hobo” made its debut in Sundance earlier this year.

Who’s Already Seen It? 15 critics gave “Hobo” an average of B- on the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? If they didn’t sell you with the title alone, then maybe “Hobo”‘s not for you.

For more information on all the films coming out this summer, visit our complete summer release calendar, which also includes dozens of films that could have easily made this list.

The full calendar:
May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE’s Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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