E: When did May becomes the best summer movie month? Because the popcorn epics you long to see? They’re in May. Those hot documentaries you want to see to impress your hipster friends? They’re all in May. The sequels? May. May May May May May.
M: Well, given that Star Wars opened in May in 1977, I think it’s been a while.
E: Yes, but it’s not just one movie. It’s at least one every weekend, for five weekends in a row. It’s awesome.
M: As for the “hot documentaries,” as you well know I have little interest in seeing anything to impress any hipsters, friend or foe. I’ll see the documentary if it’s interesting to me.
C: Yeah, hot documentaries seems like a contradiction in terms. And there are some good movies coming in June too. But May is starting off with a bang!
Iron Man 3
E: I loved Iron Man. I fell asleep during Iron Man 2; it was such an over-the-top action fest that it all blurred together for me. So I don’t know. I want it to be great, but without Jon Favreau at the helm, and considering the last in the series, I won’t be rushing out to see it opening weekend.
M: I, on the other hand, am actually running out to see it tonight. Well, I will more likely be driving, the theater’s too far, and I’m way too out of shape, but I digress. I love the first installment, and enjoyed the second, thought clearly it was inferior. Third movies in series like this can sometimes be huge letdowns (Spider-man 3, Lethal Weapon 3) but are sometimes crowning achievements (Return of the King, Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Given the casting of two of my all time favorite actors, Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce, I have high hopes.
C: So excited! How excited? I’m literally going to see this in half an hour. It’s all in the reviews, E. #2 was just okay. Everyone says this is better, more like #1. I can’t wait.
E: And I will wait eagerly for your reviews, then.
What Maisie Knew
C: I had no idea this was being adapted! Interesting, since the book is somewhat of an experiment in narration – told through the perspective of a small child.
E: Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan and Alexander Skarsgard star in this update of the Henry James novel about divorcing parents and the titular little girl. Lots of bad parenting going on from what I can see.
M: I am not familiar with the James novel, but it looks to be a gritty, emotional drama about a family making all kinds of strange and bad decisions. Mom and dad divorcing, remarrying, potentially re-divorcing, and there was a hint of the second round of spouses sparking a romance with each other. Looks messy, but likely very well acted.
E: Who knows – maybe I’ll be writing about Oscar nominations for acting next winter. It’s early, but stranger things have happened.
Greetings From Tim Buckley
E: An interesting sounding music biopic about Jeff Buckley – played by Penn Badgley – and his father, cult icon Tim. This doesn’t have that “must see it on the big screen” appeal, but I could absolutely see myself renting it.
M: You’re just a hipster wanna-be.
E: Am I? Well, I do listen to NPR.
C: Hm. I like Jeff Buckley’s music, but his story’s a sad one…
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s
E: Documentary about the famous department store, featuring interviews with designers like Armani.
M: What, exactly, is the draw of this? Couldn’t you just go shopping instead? Can we get back to the popcorn movies, I’m falling asleep just thinking about this.
The Great Gatsby
E: Okay, here it is – although if this is popcorn, it’s popcorn with truffle oil instead of spray on butter. As he proved in Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann loves him some luxe costume drama, and in The Great Gatsby he’s found his perfect union of literary pedigree, cultural opulence, and doomed love. It’s a Spectacular Spectacular!
M: This does seem the perfect fit for Luhrmann’s hyper-stylized visual directing.
C: It’s a great period for spectacle, and I feel like Fitzgerald and Luhrmann are a good fit. I’m also glad to see Luhrmann going back to adapting. I love his red curtain trilogy, but Australia was such a misfire that I’ll feel more comfortable with him using somebody else’s story this time out.
E: See now, I love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing, but I hate this story.
M: Oh, that makes me feel better! All I remember from reading it was that I despised it. No recollection of the details of the story, just that it sucked.
E: Enigmatic millionaire seeks to woo vapid, married rich girl, who has no value other than her beauty and her need to be rescued from her rage-filled husband; Daisy Buchanan is always a dream and never a person. We never get to know Gatsby himself, except that he wants things that aren’t worth the price he pays for them. This is the fourth film adaptation of the book, and despite impressive casts, none of the others have worked.
M: Maybe because “classic” and “entertaining” are not one and the same.
C: Yeah, well-written and interesting and a portrait of a certain set of people in a certain time people it may be, but heartwarming it is not. Though I’m wondering if Luhrmann will find some heart in it; it’s hard to imagine otherwise. Still, it’s a grim tale.
E: On the other hand, the film looks gorgeous, roaring with the Art Deco excess of the 1920s.
M: It totally does, and the look, Luhrmann’s style, and the music all make me want to overcome my bias against my visceral memory of the book and see it.
C: The soundtrack seems exciting.
E: In other positive news, the movie stars Tobey Maguire, whom I love, Cary Mulligan, whom I love, Tom Hardy, who I think is terrific, and in the title role, Leonardo DiCaprio, who makes movies that I really like with directors I respect but isn’t himself a draw for me.
M: I have always been a fan of Maguire, but Mulligan is no draw for me. My opinion of DiCaprio, I may have mentioned before, has done a complete 180 over the years. Early in his super-stardom, he was a complete turn off. I would avoid movies because he was in them. Catch Me If You Can started turning my opinion, and The Departed fully reversed it to the point where his presence in a film now make me more likely to see it. The only other actor I remember pulling that kind of 180 for me was Johnny Depp.
E: I will be waiting with great curiosity for the reviews.
M: I don’t know if this is a movie that you can read much into based on the reviews. Reviewers tend to either love or hate Luhrmann movies based on their already preconceived opinions of him and his style, so I’m not sure you’ll get a true read here. I think how it performs in its second and third weeks at the box office will be a better tell. Big drop-offs? Bad word of mouth, skip it. Small drop-offs, even gains? People like it, consider getting in line.
C: Good point. Though it’s possible, hanging out with a lot of literature geeks as I do, that I’ll get dragged out on opening weekend!
Venus and Serena
E: Documentary on the famous tennis stars. It seems like interesting counter programming, right? I’m sure there’s some excess there, but there also has to be a lot of hard work – not exactly the kind of thing we’d see in Gatsby.
M: They probably have more money than Gatsby did, so there’s that!
E: Kerry Washington’s average guy boyfriend crashes her weekend with her upper crust, snooty parents, and shenanigans ensue – partly because he wants to prove he’s worthy of marrying her, and partly because she (gulp) has actually never mentioned him to her family, and of course partly because her family is not as perfect as they’d like the world to think. Yeah. Way too many shades of awkward for me.
M: Way too many shades of cliche to me.
E: I do like David Allen Greer, though.
M: And Craig Robinson, and S. Epatha Merkerson. But no.
Star Trek Into Darkness
E: I am so stinking excited about this movie. You can debate all you want about whether or not J.J. Abrams’ rebooted alternate universe really counts as Star Trek or not, but you cannot deny the power of the first film. And the previews for this one look stunning. Benedict Cumberbatch! I cannot wait.
C: While I’m more excited about the various superhero sequels and reboots this summer, this movie’s definitely on my must-see list. I enjoyed the first movie (though I may have enjoyed the riff even more!), and Cumberbatch is a brilliant dude.
M: I had been hearing the rumors for months (if not more) that Cumberbatch’s character would be Khan. Or that it would at least be Khan, just with another name.
E: He’s not the Khan we’re used to, but he could certainly be an amazing alt universe equivalent.
M: Generally, where there’s smoke there’s fire (see: Prometheus as prequel to Alien). But what I think is causing the buzz, which I may have originated from Abrams, and even if it didn’t was certainly not discouraged by him, is that this movie looks to take its cues from what is still the best of all Star Trek movies, The Wrath of Khan. It looks to include the “needs of the one/needs of the many” debate, and putting people into situations to make personal sacrifices in order for the greater good to be achieved. To that I say… hoo-rah!
E: Can’t beat it!
M: Plus, I saw the first 10 minutes of it in front of The Hobbit back in December, and it was spectacular. Outstanding CGI, great 3D, great action and re-introduction to the characters.
C: Oo, lucky duck. Why didn’t I see that at my showing?
E: Me neither. Jealous!
M: We should probably address the other thing about this that has the geek community up in arms… the lack of punctuation in the title. Seriously. I have heard complaints for months that the “trek into darkness” part flows too much. COME ON PEOPLE! We shouldn’t need the Star Trek in the title, let alone the punctuation!
E: Sing it, bro.
C: Yeah. Sequel names of this millenium are sissy wusses. People are capable of brand recognition even with a unique title!
E: Kate Bosworth’s girl-power thriller about some friends camping for the weekend and some hunters who’d like to get their groove on with the girls (and aren’t particular about consent), and how (as the cliche goes) the hunters become the hunted.
M: I have soooo much trouble believing the premise of this. Stuck on a deserted island, married woman won’t have sex with a guy she was flirting with, so he and his buddies decided to hunt and kill her and her friends? Really, we’re gonna make that leap? That, and my dislike in general of horror, makes this one so far from anything I’ll ever see.
The English Teacher
C: Finally, a movie about me! It is, right? Oh… no.
E: Yeah, not so much. Inspirational high school educator Julianne Moore stages a play to help out a talented ex-student – and to do something true. The trailer slayed me. Love the shots of her speed dating in the preview- I swear there’s a cameo from John Hodgman in a mustache! Also, Greg Kinnear as a snippy parent! Nathan Lane quoting David Mamet! Awkward and inappropriate and really, really funny. I totally want to see this.
M: Hey, we agree on one! This has a great cast, an awkward but strong premise, and looks really, really funny. Hopefully they didn’t show all the best parts in the trailer, which is done far too frequently, but I’m definitely hopeful.
E: It seems like it might be in the vein of Crazy Stupid Love and Dan in Real Life; very cool.
M: One thing I found hilarious is the difference in marketing depending on genre. This is coming out after Iron Man and Gatsby, and the same weekend as Trek Into Darkness, which are all being billed as “summer blockbusters”. The end of the trailer for this say “Spring,” which is actually accurate, but made me think at first that it was going to be released earlier and got pushed back to now.
E: Interesting indeed – and yeah, I don’t know why studios put so many of the best summer movies in May, while school is still in session, and not in August, when it isn’t – but it’s not going to lessen my curiosity about the movie.
E: Aaron Eckhart stars as a man pursued by the CIA.
M: I have expounded before about how I thought the brief-lived Bruce Greenwood show Nowhere Man was ahead of its time. This is basically that show, but with some elements from Taken thrown into the mix. I think it looks fantastic.
E: Kind of Taken meets The Bourne Identity meets The Net meets North by Northwest. Could be a good thing.
E: I was a huge fan of the romantic indie film Before Sunrise (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke meet by chance on a train and spend the day walking and talking in Vienna), but I’ve never actually seen the less dewy follow up, Before Sunset. I don’t know, maybe I was afraid that it would tarnish the perfect, bittersweet glow of the first? Maybe I didn’t want the characters to grow up? And now there’s a third installment in the series! I really need to get my act together and catch up with these.
M: I was less of a fan of the first, and have no intention of catching up. I thought it was okay, but no where near as good as the critical and cult reaction it got.
C: Agreed. It definitely fell into the good-not-great camp, and the second one was just okay too. I have no need to see the third.
M: However, I do like that it’s possible for a small time indie movie to succeed to the point where it gets a sequel, and to be well received enough to make a third installment. That is something heartwarming in an industry that is rarely heartwarming.
E: It is, right? There’s something cool about revisiting the same characters over long swatches of time, too, and Richard Linklater and the two leads take years to write each installment, trying to make it feel lived and true. Good for them!
E: I’m actually super excited to see this animated adventure.
M: Really? Maybe it’s just that everything I’ve seen for it has been too Beyonce-centric.
E: What? You’re nuts. A teen age girl gets accidentally shrunken down and meets the tiny people who live and wage war in the grass and tree. Sure, it’s not the newest idea, but it’s an idea I love. Riding on hummingbirds! What’s not to enjoy about that?
M: Um, yeah, I think my 5 year old loved that in one of the direct to on-demand Tinkerbell movies…
E: But were there leaf soldiers in the Tinkerbell movies? I think not.
Fast and Furious 6
E: Yawn. How is this franchise still going?
C: Does anyone even remember there being a 4 and a 5? Or is it just me who missed that?
M: I haven’t seen any of these, but know people, both men and women, who love the series and are excited for this. At some point I might watch some of them, but I don’t know when that point will ever come.
The Hangover Part III
C: Now being billed as “the conclusion of the Wolfpack Trilogy.” Not sure you really get to claim to be a trilogy, guys, when each new film was an unplanned remake of the first for more cash.
E: Blah. I’m glad Bradley Cooper’s become a star, but there’s nothing even the smallest bit interesting to me about this. Hopefully it will live up to the expectations of the franchise’s fans.
M: I loved the first, but still haven’t found the time to watch the second, so I’m right there with you.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks
E: The title pretty much says it all about this documentary. Sounds interesting to me!
M: I don’t know, I followed the Wikileaks story in the news, and it wasn’t that interesting as it unfolded. Now, if someone’s making a movie about what happened at the consulate in Benghazi…
E: I’d see that one, too. Not holding my breath, however.
M: Will and Jaden Smith taking on the overgrown, human-abandoned planet in a sci fi-action flick that, other than in basic concept, appears to have nothing in common with Oblivion. I have always like The Fresh Prince, and Jaden has proven himself to be a good actor so far. This looks like it could be really good.
E: You’re right, the stranded father and son space ranger story has a lot of promise – though I will say, I’m sorry to see that the Fresh Prince has abandoned his hold on the Fourth of July weekend.
E: Interesting sounding indie about an investigator (Brit Marling) sent to infiltrate and spy on an extremist group of anti-corporate activists (Alexander Skarsgard and Ellen Page) but instead becomes swayed by their point of view.
M: I’m amazed there was an independent movie that was able to find directors and actors that were willing to attach themselves to such a concept!
Now You See Me
E: Vegas illusionist movie starring Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, David Franco, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. And no, it’s not a Burt Wonderstone style comedy; it’s about a Robin Hood-esque bank robbery apparently committed on stage. Impossible? Looks worth finding out.
C: Hm, I like heists a lot, but I actively hate half that cast. I like three of them a lot, though.
E: Well, in a cast that massive it’s easy enough to find people you dislike; I’m just astounded they were able to get them all in one movie. And also wondering if I know for sure which ones you hate…
M: Like last month’s The Big Wedding, that is a fantastic cast. Although, Laurent and Franco stick out… who the heck are they? Aside from that, the concept sounds kind of like the fantastic 2008 election-Ocean’s 11-esque episode of South Park. Could be fun.
E: Melanie Laurent got great press for her avenging angel role in Inglourious Basterds, and Franco’s the up and coming younger brother of James. Looks like it brings Eisenberg (who I’m sure is on C’s bad list) into familiar emotional territory: “First rule of magic: always be the smartest one in the room.”
E: Super creepy-looking dystopian thriller starring Game of Thrones‘ Lena Headley and Ethan Hawke as a couple in a society which has done away with crime, because one night a year there’s a bacchanalian evening where all crime is legal and all preventions are suspended. Really disturbing.
M: You know I love me some good dystopian fiction, I’m officially intrigued, even if I have no clue what “bacchanalian” means.
E: How lucky you are to have a sister who moonlights as an encyclopedia, then! I’m disappointed you don’t remember the deity Bacchus (the Roman version of Dionysus, or Percy Jackson’s Mr. D) who’s the god of wine and merry-making, and – as Wikipedia tells it – “ritual madness.” The idea of a purge (get your crazies out so you can be good the rest of the year) is generally bacchanalian, but the pleasures sought in this film may be solely violent and destructive. At any rate, you have a rich family stuck in a well protected house on this terrifying night – but will it be protection enough when their son takes pity on an injured man, and his tormentors come calling? I think it interests me more as a philosophy debate than a (thriller? horror?) film, but I’ll be curious to hear the reviews.
E: Clive Owen’s a puppet master in modern Belfast, ruthlessly forcing unwilling asset Andrea Riseborough to help him trap a terrorist. Thrillingly, it costars Gillian Anderson as a dangerously callous bureaucrat and Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger from Game of Thrones). And it looks really good.
M: Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson are a great start.
C: Word to that!
M: And it looks like a big weekend for Game of Thrones alum.
E: Indeed it does. And hopefully for movie-goers, too!