May is going to be an amazing month and not just because it’s the launch of the summer movie season with some of the biggest blockbusters of the year, hugely anticipated sequels especially, but also there are a ton of great indies from master filmmakers that have played at film festivals going back over the past six months and we’re really excited people will finally have a chance to see them even if they have to seek them out.
Things kick off on May 2nd with the return of Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3, which reteams him with his Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black, as well as Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Jon Favreau from the previous movies. This is the big one since it introduces Iron Man’s greatest villain of all time, The Mandarin, and playing him is one of my favorite people in the whole world, Sir Ben Kingsley (I still remember when I interviewed him for Prince of Persia and he literally invited me to come over to visit him on the set of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo as if I could just get in a cab and drop over. He is seriously the nicest man on the planet.)
Then a couple of weeks later, J.J. Abrams reunites the young gang of the U.S.S. Enterprise, played by Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg and Anton Yelchin, for an equally anticipated sequel with J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness which may or may not involve the introduction of the classic Trek villain, Khan. But it does have Benedict Cumberbatch aka “Sherlock” aka “Smaug” who is pretty awesome on his own.
A week later, we get two MORE sequels – we all love sequels, right? The director and cast of the hit street racing FIVE-QUEL–that’s a word if I damn well want to make it one–are back for the SIX-QUEL (see above) Fast & Furious 6 (Universal Pictures – May ) with Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and the rest of their crew driving around the streets of England–they do know to drive on the opposite side, right?–this time teaming up with Dwayne “That Guy Again!” Johnson to stop a criminal organization. And we’re already going to get a SEVEN-Q okay, I’ll stop that now next year, so expect this one to be a huge Memorial Day hit.
Which may or may not be sad news for Todd Phillips’ finale to his epic trilogy The Hangover Part III, which brings back the Wolfpack of Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis. This time they’re back in Vegas as well as Mexico, I believe. Either way, Memorial Day should be a lot of fun at the movies.
In what may be one of the craziest last minute moves ever, Sony Pictures decided to move M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth, starring Will and Jaden Smith, up a week to May 31st, a week after those two big Memorial Day sequels. That doesn’t give the second “end of the earth” sci-fi movie of the year a good chance at being #1 that weekend but apparently they’re thinking of creating distance from Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
Sometime within all of that, Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann makes his triumphant return to theaters, reuniting with his Romeo + Juliet star Leonardo DiCaprio for their version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in 3D! Luhrmann has a great cast that includes Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, my future wife Isla Fisher – she’ll get sick of Sacha Baron Cohen, eventually, right?
Speaking of my future wife, she’s also part of the cast of Louis (The Incredible Hulk) Letterier’s magical action-heist movie Now You See Me (Summit May 31), which teams her with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco, playing a group of magicians who steal from the rich and give to the poor. Letterier rounds out the ensemble cast with “Dark Knight” co-stars Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, as well as Common, Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent.
The one animated movie of May and maybe one that will benefit from being the only animated movie in May is the latest from Blue Sky Films of the “Ice Age” movies and that’s Epic from Ice Age creator Chris Wedge and loosely based on the work of William Joyce (Rise of the Guardians).
Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington star in the family comedy Peeples, which is essentially trying to fill in time between Tyler Perry movies just with a much funnier cast plus this one also stars the amazing Melvin Van Peebles as well.
We’re not sure if the Chilean earthquake thriller Aftershock (TWC-Radius), directed by Chilean television superstar Nicolas Lopez with Eli Roth co-writing and producing, is going limited or wide at this point but if for some reason you’ve wanted to see Roth suffer a horrible fate–and if you suffered The Last Exorcism Part II, you might–this is the horror movie for you!
Then there are some of the limited releases and May has a literal plethora of movies from great indie filmmakers, some on their debuts, some on their third or fourth movies and seriously, there are so many good movies coming out in May that if you can’t at least find three or four movies in limited release to check out, you should not declare yourself a fan of movies. No, I’m serious.
With just two movies under her belt, Canada’s Sarah Polley has become one of the top indie filmmakers around and she gets more personal with the documentary Stories We Tell (Roadside Attractions May 10), an extremely personal and introspective look at how her life was changed when she learned that her birth father was an actor her actress mother had an affair with while performing a play in Montreal.
Filmmakers Scott McGehee and David Siegel, responsible for films like The Deep End and Bee Season, return with a loose adaptation of Henry James called What Maisie Knew (Millennium Films – May 3) featuring a breakthrough performance by 5-year-old Onata Aprile as the title character, a little girl who finds herself passed from one divorced parent, played by Julianne Moore, to the other, played by Steve Coogan, with their respective spouses (including Alexander Skarsgard) caught in the middle.
French auteur Olivier Assayas is back with a period coming-of-age drama called Something in the Air (IFC Films), which looks at a group of young artistic types in the early ’70s taking part in the anti-war protests.
Even if you’re not a tennis fan, you’re likely to be blown away by Maiken Baird and Michelle Major’s portrait of the famed sisters Venus and Serena (Magnolia Pictures – May 10) as they spent a tough year following them around. When it comes to documentaries, filmmaker Alex Gibney is one of the best and this month he goes behind the rise and fall of Julian Assange’s controversial website with We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (Focus World – May 24).
The Israeli Oscar nominee Fill the Void (Sony Pictures Classics – May 24) takes a look at the life of a young Israeli girl and how her life is affected when her newlywed sister suddenly dies forcing her to take on more responsibility. Speaking of Israel, it may be some of the oddest timing for the release of Ziad Doueiri s The Attack (Cohen Media Group), a drama about an Israeli doctor who discovers that his wife died in a suicide bombing as the suicide bomber. Even odder is that there’s a second movie about a bomber, this one involving the IRA in the form of James (Man on Wire) Marsh’s Shadow Dancer (Magnolia – May 31), starring Andrea Riseborough in the performance of her career as a mother who’s involved with an IRA bombing and Clive Owen as the British agent sent to find out why she would do it. All three of these movies are quite amazing and worth seeking out even if they’re lower profile than the big releases.
Some interesting horror options are also coming out this month including Black Rock, the new movie from the amazing Mrs. Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton, as well as No One Lives from one of my favorite Japanese filmmakers, Ryuhei Kitamura. Both of them involve torture and violence if you’re into that sort of thing.
On the other hand, British horror filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List) returns with a very different movie, the dark road comedy Sightseers (IFC Films), starring Steve Oram and Alice Lowe as an odd couple whose camping vacation turns into a bloody spree.
“Boardwalk Empire” and Man of Steel‘s General Zod, Michael Shannon, stars in The Iceman (Millennium Entertainment) and gives another great performance as ruthless contract killer Richard Kuklinski in Ariel Vromen’s crime thriller that will appeal to fans of Scorsese for sure.
Lastly, there are five movies I’ve yet to see, a couple that have played the festivals this year and last with huge buzz, including Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight (Sony Pictures Classics), which reunites him with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy for the third of their series of ongoing relationship dramas. I love the first two movies and love the pairing of Hawke/Delpy so hopefully I’ll have a chance to see it.
A few years back, the amazing Brit Marling and her filmmaking partner Zal Batmanglij created the distinctive cult thriller Sound of My Voice and now they’re back with The East (Fox Searchlight – May 31), starring Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page and Toby Kebbell. I’ve been asking Searchlight to see this movie since Sundance with no response so who knows if I’ll have a chance to see it now?
I don’t know anything about Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ The Kings of Summer (CBS Films – May 31), though it was one of the big buzz movies out of Sundance and it has a great comedy cast that includes Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation”) and his wife Megan Mullally as well as Alison Brie from “Community.”
You would think that Noah Baumbach’s new movie Frances Ha (Roadside Attractions – May 17), which reteams him with Greta Gerwig from Greenberg, would be more high profile and there was a lot of buzz for it from the September film festivals, but like others above, no opportunities were made to help me see it.
Lastly another movie I’m dying to see is the first movie from Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk in way too long a time, Pieta (Drafthouse Films), which his country put up for Oscar consideration. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see that as well.
As always, we’ll be writing more about the movies above in the weekly Weekend Warrior and look for our annual Summer Box Office preview very soon.