E: Yipeee yipee yipee! May is the popcorniest of popcorn movie months, and this May is going to be five weekends worth of awesome. (Although to be fair that may mean me seeing a few of these movies more than once.)
M: I was going to say, I didn’t see five movies I felt were must-see-in-the-theater movies. Three or Four, maybe.
E: Sadly, C will not be joining our conversation this month, so we won’t know how many movies she’d put on her must see list.
M: On a happier note, she’s winning awards and traveling to foreign lands!
E: And these proud older sibs will endeavor to be at least relatively entertaining without her.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (wide release)
E: Let the angel choirs sing! Or the fan-choirs, anyway. Choirs of fan-angels?
M: I know our movie preview titles have been leading up to this for a month or two now, but I’m not completely sold. The whole Ultron plot (evil indestructible ai robot tears team apart. team finds way to unite, destructs the indestructible) doesn’t do it for me. All of the trailers since the one where they are all trying to lift Mjolnir have just looked like a bunch of smashing things. Not that that’s bad, per se, but I’m hoping there’s something more to it, and that that something more is better than the something more in, say, Iron Man 2.
E: Obviously I hope so too, but I’m choosing to have faith in Joss Whedon. He’s usually much more interesting than that.
M: I have some faith in him, too. Especially since he himself referred to “the Whedonverse” in a Robot Chicken sketch. But in addition to the smash-bang promo materials, and that the story itself seems too obvious, I fear that they have too many main characters to be able to really tell a story. I mean, we already had a ton in the first Avengers, and now we’re adding Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Ultron and apparently Vision.
E: Yeah, I agree the glut of new players has a real Iron Man 2 feel to it. Sequelitis.
M: Throw in that the expectations for a movie may have never been higher. Now, to put these concerns in perspective, it’s not like I don’t already have tickets to take my son and his friends to see it tonight…
E: And it’s not like your son won’t be going with my son and his friends the following night…
Far From the Madding Crowd (limited)
E: It’s called counter programming, folks! Tired of superheroes dominating the multiplex? Say no more!
M: Not that I’m the target audience for this, but the superhero thing is getting a bit overdone.
E: Wait, what are you saying? You’re sick of superheroes?
M: No, or else I wouldn’t be going to Avengers tonight. I’d just like to see a little less reliance on them to fill the schedule.
E: So then check this one out. Carey Mulligan, who you might know from such costume dramas as Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House and An Education, wants us all to know that this isn’t the stuffy sort of British drama you might be expecting out of an adaptation of the classic Thomas Hardy novel. Why, might you ask? Because it starts with a woman refusing a marriage proposal. Cause no one’s ever done that before.
M: Heavens no.
E: So here’s my dilemma. I love Carey Mulligan. And Victorian adaptations. Balanced on the other side of these scales of justice is Thomas Hardy, who I avoid at all costs because his works usually make you fall in love with a wonderful protagonist only to see them brutally crushed by an indifferent world.
M: On the other-other side, Hardy was really good as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
E: Har har. You’re hilarious.
M: To quote 35-years-ago Han Solo (as opposed to the old, grey guy in the new trailer), I know.
E: Of course, the sunlight scenery draws me back (the director boasts that 3/4ths of the film is set outside), as does the promise that this a rare Hardy happy ending. So, I don’t know.
M: You know that NOTHING in the trailer gives you the slightest hope that this will end happily, right? Heck, the somber song in the trailer ends saying “my love slighted me.”
E: Yes, the trailer is gloomy, M, but — spoiler! — we know how the 100 year old book ends. So gloom-seekers, buyer beware!
M: Well, YOU know how the book ends. I don’t care enough to look it up.
Welcome to Me (limited)
E: Okay, this is an original idea.
M: That’s one way to look at it.
E: Kristin Wiig plays a bafflingly empty-headed woman who, upon winning the lottery, decides to buy herself a talk show, which she entitles Welcome to Me. In which she talks solely about herself.
M: I like Wiig, but, well, I kept waiting for something in the trailer that made me laugh. Or chuckle. Or not feel like they were making fun of someone who needs mental help.
E: Honestly, I don’t really like Wiig as much as I want to. I’m glad she gets movies made, but they’re not normally ones I rush out to see.
M: She’s been great in the Despicable Me movies, I run out to see those.
E: Those are great, I agree. The crew that makes Wiig’s televised oddity possible includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Wes Bentley, James Marsden, and the amazing Joan Cusack, which also makes me wish it looked funnier.
M: Or funny at all.
Hot Pursuit (wide)
M: The old “odd couple meets police protecting a witness meets road trip with female leads” mashup. Oldest plot in the book.
E: While I love the recent trend toward female-centric comedies, nothing about this cop movie interests me — and after seeing about 10,000 commercials for it, I really wish it did.
M: Wait, you’ve seen 10,000 commercials for this? I just watched the trailer, and it was the first I’d heard of its existence. No lie. We must watch really different things.
E: I don’t know how that’s possible, M. I genuinely see this every time I turn on the TV.
M: Well, you must not be watching the NFL Draft and NBA and NHL playoffs then. Imagine that. (everything else I watch, which is not much right now, admittedly, I fast forward through the commercials too fast to know what they’re for).
E: As for the plot: as hinted at, rule-loving police officer Reese Witherspoon goes on the run to protect her charge, vampy drug lord’s wife Sofia Vergara. Directed by Anne Fletcher of The Proposal, which, again, yay! More women telling women’s stories. I’ll be curious to see if its the hit the studio obviously thinks it can be.
M: Was The Proposal any good? I remember it looking horrible. Which raises a question… should you cheer female directors based on their gender and not their quality? Shouldn’t we want GOOD female directors? Or have we had this conversation before, maybe, say, 10,000 times?
E: The Proposal was okay. And yes, of course I’d rather there be more great female directors, just like I’d rather there were more great male directors. But considering how tiny the number of women who helm hit movies is, I’m going to take and celebrate every one I see.
5 Flights Up (limited)
M: Seems like the pitch was “Diane Keaton… and Morgan Freeman… and Kooky New Yorkers. We’ll figure out the rest as we go.” Surprisingly enough, I think it looks decent.
E: I agree, the leads are the point here, as well as the city. This is an adorable-looking, effervescent comedy about a married couple (Keaton and Freeman) thinking about selling their Brooklyn apartment because they’re getting too old to live without an elevator. It’s a thin premise, but there was so much charm and ease to it – especially to their relationship – that I’m not sure I care. Which makes it kind of the opposite of the two comedies we’ve already discussed.
The D Train (limited)
E: How do you feel about high school reunion comedies?
M: Generally, less than enthused.
E: This one stars Jack Black as a square suburban dad, and James Marsden as an actor. Dorkily enthusiastic Black (Dan, the “D Train” of the title) has tried and tried to get classmates to their 20th reunion to no avail, until he hits on the idea of convincing Marsden’s Oliver (who he spies in a commercial) to come, thereby making the event cool and enviable. But in the process of wooing Oliver to attend, Dan gets a little more than he bargained for (cough cough), and his life begins to unravel.
M: Yeah, it looks like shenanigans happen when D Train goes to try to convince Oliver, but not good shenanigans. And there looks to be lots of unraveling. And, well, not much of anything good. Blech.
E: Arnold Schwarzeneger reinvents the action flick as a sort of artsy, bleached out post-apocalyptic drama; his daughter Maggie, played by Abigail Breslin, has contracted a terrible zombie virus which is part of the aforementioned apocalypse, and run away before she can be saved or quarantined. So, hmm, I guess that makes it mid-apocalyptic? He needs to catch her, find a cure, or maybe even kill her before the authorities do.
M: Definitely not your typical Schwarzenegger fare. Of course, you don’t usually see things like “Tribecca Film Festival Official Selection” in the promo materials for his films, so you know right off that it’s going to be different. It looks like it could be good, or at least more meaningful, if you know what I mean, than most of his movies.
E: I definitely know what you mean — the subject matter might be close to Arnie’s wheelhouse, but the tone definitely is a departure. And good for him! I don’t love zombies, but this looks worth renting at least.
M: I’m so-so on zombies (like comedic, action or suspense more than gore). And while it’s bee a looooooong time since I’ve been psyched for anything Ahnold has been in, I agree about renting this. Feels like a shift of his that may be worth rewarding and encouraging.
Saint Laurent (limited)
E: The Saint Laurent in question is of course the legendary fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent. He’s a mess, of course. The film is in French, of course. The period detail is spellbinding. The colors explode off the screen.
E: Most evocative review quoted in the trailer: “If Scorcese adapted Proust, this would be it.” Cause that sounds appealing…
M: The entire trailer made me feel like I was in the 70’s. Not in a good way, like, in a “watching a movie from the 70’s and not being able to get past how dated it looks, sounds and feels” way.
E: That sums it up pretty well.
Mad Max: Fury Road (wide)
M: Weren’t we just talking about Tom Hardy?
E: Again, it was not that Tom Hardy! However, as a fan of both *this* Tom Hardy and, mildly, the original Mad Max films, I feel like I ought to be more excited about this. Maybe I’m just not that much of a fan?
M: No, it’s not just you. I liked the original, enjoyed Road Warrior (for the first half for the movie itself, and for the apex for the comedic value) and was amused by Thunderdome. This new one feels like an unnecessary retread.
E: Back in the 80s, the dusty, post-apocalyptic setting was a novelty; there’s nothing new about the end of the world these days. So maybe that’s where my lack of enthusiasm comes from?
M: Agreed, I think that’s definitely part of it.
E: Adding punch to Max’s universe are Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult. I admit, I’m very curious to see both if the reviews are good and if this makes money, but at least right now I’m not planning to put my own money into the Mad coffers.
Pitch Perfect 2 (wide)
E: I liked the original Pitch Perfect, and I am definitely a fan of a cappella itself. Good for you, Elizabeth Banks, for putting this one together.
M: Also a fan of a capella, as you well know, since you got me Pentatonix tickets for Christmas a couple years ago. Despite that, I’ve never actually seen the original. Rebel Wilson scared me off.
E: Oh, don’t be. It’s an ensemble piece; even if you dislike her character in this series (which I don’t, despite not being a fan in general) she’s not an overwhelming presence.
M: Yeah, I’ve been meaning to see it, just never makes it to the top of the list. Heck, I just saw Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time last week, so yeah.
E: M, seriously. We might have to revoke your sibling card. Anyway, I heard new-to the franchise Hailee Steinfeld sing in last year’s lovely Begin Again, and am happy to see her join the motley crew.
M: Well, she is certainly a strong actress.
E: Absolutely. I may be more interested in this film for the extras, like Pentatonix as one of the Barton Bellas’ international competitors, and a German Youtube sensation with the absolutely outstanding name of Flula Borg. I’m curious, though, what the core story will be. The previous film centered not merely on the competitive aspects, and on the Bellas coming together as a team, but on Anna Kendrick’s Becca, and her personal transformation through friendship, music and even love. Is there a similar story this time? The previews give no hint of it.
M: It really sounded like you were describing a My Little Pony episode just now.
The Connection (limited)
E: Have you ever heard of The French Connection? The famous, brutal Gene Hackman police flick from the 70s? Well, this is based on the same story, only they’ve left out the French part because this version was made by the actual French.
M: Like Saint Laurent, it’s also in French…
E: .The French make their movies in their own language? Shocking!
M: I’m setting something up, shush!
E: Oh fine.
M: …Unlike Saint Laurent, it makes the 70’s look enticing.
E: That wasn’t worth it.
M: No, probably not. Let’s get back to the movie.
E: Continuing the mini-trend of French history from in the 70s, we bring you the story of a magistrate, played by The Artist‘s Oscar winning Jean Dujardin, who made it his mission to take down a drug kingpin. There’s lots of gunfire — even on a beach — lots of car chases, and lots of Dujardin standing around looking cool. Oh, and a discotheque, of course.
Slow West (limited)
E: Shimmering, dream-like Western starring Khodi Smit-McPhee as a young Scot searching the American west for his love, who because of him had to emigrate and hide from a price on her head. Khodi’s future X-Men costar, Michael Fassbender, costars as a loner who takes it upon himself to protect the innocent young lad. Bounty hunters ensue. Obviously.
M: There have been a few good westerns made in the 2000’s. Based on what I’ve seen for it, I wouldn’t bet against this one joining their number.
Good Kill (limited)
E: Here’s a fun piece of trivia for you, M. Ethan Hawke reteams with his Gattaca director Andrew Niccol for this military-themed morality play.
M: You know how much I love Gattaca.
E: That I do.
M: However, the only things that this and Gattaca appear to have in common are Hawke, Niccol, and the ability to make you think.
E: Indeed: this is a contemporary war drama, not a sci fi thriller.
M: Not to mention that the former is highly stylized, slick and looks beautiful, while this is highly “realized,” gritty and looks barren. Let’s get to the content, which is what Niccol specializes in, though.
E: “Don’t ask me if it’s a just war,” Bruce Greenwood tells us. “To us, it’s just war. You have to keep compartmentalizing.” The film brings us the moment that former pilot Ethan Hawke, now re-trained as a drone operator, follows orders that almost surely result in the death of innocent civilians, even children. The thought of the collateral damage rips Hawke’s character apart.
M: It looks like a fantastic look at the personal devastation of war, even a war being fought on a video screen 8,000 miles away.
E: That’s where you get to Greenwood’s comment. Can you simply be an automaton, pushing buttons and following orders? Poor January Jones, yet again costarring as the oblivious wife to a tormented man. The film also stars Zoe Krativz as I think a fellow drone operator.
M: If she’s not an operator, she’s at least part of the team. But let me tangent a bit for a moment.
E: If that were an actual verb I would.
M: Thanks, sis. You know how I need to wait for your permission. Movies like this and American Sniper, that investigate the mental anguish of war, always take me back to one of the first pieces of fiction that made me explore that, a fantastic Star Trek Original Series episode about two societies that have been warring for centuries.
E: Proving we are siblings, because the trailer made me think of that classic Trek episode, too.
M: That we are sibs, yes, but also that speaks to the power of that episode. Anyway, the people in the episode had “evolved” to the point where, to eliminate the collateral damage and destruction of war (the intention of the drones seen in Good Kill), a lottery choose the people from each society who would die each month. They reported to a post, and were incinerated. Kirk, in the wisdom so commonly mixed in to the fun of the original series, destroys the incinerator and the computer that reports the deaths, telling the appalled citizens that they need the horrors of war to remember why they shouldn’t fight it any more. I feel like Good Kill, with its drones, pilots in air conditioned cubicles, gamers who high five after blowing up a truck full of enemies, and people who, as Hawke says in one trailer, killed six Taliban this morning, and is headed home to barbecue, understands that, and is trying to point out the same thing.
I’ll See You In My Dreams (limited)
E: Because we spend a lot of time bemoaning the lack of roles for women, I thought it was important to include this story of late in life friendship and love. After the death of her husband, Carol (the lovely Blythe Danner) gets jolted out of her routine by friends (Rhea Pearlman, Mary Kay Place and June Squibb) and a sexy stranger played by a cigar-chomping Sam Elliot.
M: After the guys she runs into in speed dating at the start of the trailer, I think Jeff Bridges’ character in Seventh Son would qualify as a sexy stranger.
E: Yes. Movie speed-dating events are always full of winners, aren’t they? Of course, there are a few movies about older people: Five Flights Up, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Amour, Quartet, Love Is Strange, just to name a few. I love seeing this age-appropriate romance (something typical of these late-in-life films), and would be happier to see more of Hollywood’s 40 and 50 year old leading men follow suit. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t easier to find a movie about a woman in her 70s than it is about a woman in her 50s. Prove me wrong, Hollywood!
M: I agree. And Danner looks to really shine in this, from her “karaoke”, which seems more like a jazz singing star of the silver screen of old, to the ease of conversation with her friends and daughter. Speaking of the latter, seriously, they couldn’t have gotten Gwyneth? Come on.
E: No offense to Malin Ackerman (who plays Danner’s daughter) but that would have been pretty great to see.
M: 12 years ago Disney successfully turned a classic theme park ride into a movie (Pirates of the Caribbean) and launched a franchise. They’re now hoping to turn a section of the same park into a movie franchise.
E: I can’t even tell you how excited I am for this movie. I think I may even be more thrilled for this than the Avengers, and considering my love of both comics and Joss Whedon, that’s saying something.
M: As you might be able to tell from my opening statement, I am approaching more cautiously.
E: Foolish mortal. This is going to rock. After spending the night in jail, Britt Robertson finds one of those ubiquitous Disney pins among her belongings — and every time she touches it, she’s transported to a magical country where the world’s best and brightest work to create a shining city on a hill. Run, it seems, by Hugh Laurie, because who else would you want in charge of a research and development facility besides Dr. House?
M: Um, anyone? I liked House, but I can’t picture him as a successful administrator. Wait, am I taking that questions too literally?
E: Not surprisingly, yes. Roberston eventually teams up with George Clooney, essentially playing the old man from Up and making me feel very, very old, and the two try to break into futuristic utopia Tomorrowland. Despite being more rough than diamond, Robertson might just be their chosen one.
M: Ok, first of all, Clooney is old. He was an adult on The Fact of Life, for crying out loud. Second, you do a better job of putting together the plot than any of the trailers or commercials I’ve seen. I’m more on board now. Maybe.
E: Just based on the visual and the visceral thrills of the trailers, director/Pixar golden boy Brad Bird seems to have knocked this one out of the park.
E: The preview looks scary, but why? We’re really that impoverished for original ideas?
E: ….Stop. Forget I was even dumb enough to ask that.
M: Ask what?
E: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I guess if anyone was going to remake this, Sam Raimi is a good bet.
M: I suppose. But since I’m admitting to things today, I’ll keep that going here. I’ve never seen the original. We were too young when it came out, and I’ve just never gotten around to it, or had much of a desire to. I know people love it, and the littler girl saying “They’re heeeere” is one of the classic movie moments of all time, but…
E: Yeah. I actually haven’t either, and I don’t have any desire to see either one; I’m just not sure why a classic scary movie needs an update. Better effects, maybe?
E: Cillian Murphy and Melanie Laurent star in the search for a spiritual healer played by Jennifer Connolley, who may or may not be a quack. She’s also Murphy’s mother, who may have abandoned his little brother when she couldn’t heal him; Laurent is a filmmaker who encourages Murphy to seek out his mother after many years estrangement. So, you know, fun and games.
M: We preview a lot of smaller, artsy movies. This is one of the more artsy I can remember.
E: Very much so, yes. The trailer swings for angst and beauty and succeeds at both without ever really making sense.
M: It could be brilliant. It could be an excruciating two hours of attempted emotional manipulation and haughty, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing drivel. I honestly can’t say which way I think it’s going to go.
E: Cameron Crowe is back, and I, for one, am pretty thrilled.
M: Throw in Bill Murray delivering at least one Crowe’s wonderful monologues? And a Glengary Glen Ross/The Departed-style Alec Baldwin rant? I’m pretty psyched, too.
E: Bradley Cooper stars as a pilot chasing his old demons and learning to move past his mistakes in a touching, funny way. It looks like an adult comedy — not adult as in porno adult, but for more grown up sensibilities.
M: Well, Crowe’s works tend to be either autobiographical, or tied to personal experiences, so it’s no surprise that now that he’s in his 50’s, 20-something years after Singles or Almost Famous, he’d be making something that’s targeted at a more mature, grown up audience.
E: Of course I’d have appreciated them casting a more adult love interest for 40-something Cooper than Emma Stone, who’s what, barely in her twenties?
M: Yeah, the casting all seems age appropriate outside of her. But well, I’m pretty sure everyone already knows how we feel about that subject.
E: True that. That said, this looks funny and charming and sports an amazing supporting cast, including the previously mentioned Murray and Baldwin, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel and Rachel McAdams as The One Who Got Away (and, clearly, is going to stay away).
M: There are two classic cliches at play here, the “guy that messed up who hooks up with new young spitfire that is what he was 10-15 years ago, and becomes the man he should have been all along”, and the “guy that messed up and wrecked the relationship with the best thing that ever happened to him, but gets a chance to rectify it and become the man he should have been all along.” But you know what I found really refreshing? I can’t honestly tell which way it’s going to go!
E: Oh, I’m pretty sure it’s #1. But yes, that’s the set up.
San Andreas (wide)
E: The Rock, hunting for his daughter after the big one hits the fault line and send southern California into chaos. Ex-wife Carla Gugino tags along.
M: I’ve seen a few different trailers/commercials for this. And as skeptical as I may be, I find myself hopeful that it’s going to be good. I mean, it has a lot going for it.
E: Screeeeeeeeech! Say what? I think I just got whiplash. The Rock is reteaming with his Journey to the Center of the Earth 2 director and you think that’s going to produce work worth multiplex prices?
M: First, at least in my opinion, disaster movies are a great genre.
E: Meh. Maybe. An underrepresented genre of late, anyway.
M: Second, it has some outstanding effects (the quake rippling toward the LA skyline? Awesome). Third, LOST show-runner Carlton Cuse wrote it.
E: Okay, those two might be something. The effects do look really good, and Carlton Cuse doesn’t hurt. But The Rock, M. The Rock.
M: Fourth (seriously, I’m up to fourth), it has a really solid cast. I mean, say what you want about his poor choices, the The Rock is charismatic. Add in Gugino, Ioan Gruffudd and Paul freaking Giamatti? But then also include Alexandra Daddario, Arrow‘s Colton Haynes, Will Yun Lee, Kylie Minogue and, E, The Good Wife‘s Archie Panjabi? That’s something, right?
E: Okay, I will admit that I like Gugino, Gruffudd and Giamatti. And obviously Archie P is a plus. So, I don’t know. Maybe. I did say May promised the popcorniest of popcorn movies, and this might be a good example of mindless fun.
E: So, when I saw this title, I started immediately speculating on what the results in question where. A pregnancy test? A school exam? Perhaps for a blood test for a heinous disease? Turns out that the answer is none of the above. The film centers around two coworkers at a fitness center, played by Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders, and their various challenges, clients and romantic misfires. Of which there are a lot.
M: So, as you know, I’ve been a big fan of Pearce since LA Confidential, and have yet to see him in something he wasn’t good in. Smulders was legitimately great on How I Met Your Mother (or as it should have been called *spoiler alert if you haven’t watched the finale don’t read this* How I Asked Your Permission to Date Aunt Robin Because Your Mom is Dead, or more succinctly, F.U. Audience, sincerely Carter Bays and Craig Thomas) and has been good in the Marvel universe. I like the pairing.
E: Snort. It’s good to see you’ve let go of the bitterness, M. Not that I blame you. Getting back to the movie, your girl Smulders’s set to train Kevin Corrigan of Community and The Mentalist…
M: …and Fringe, and the highly underrated Grounded For Life, which he was great on…
E: …a rich oddball who soon falls for her despite – or perhaps because of – her lack of interest and civility. Sample conversation: “Did I have a chance with you?” “Short answer, no.” “What’s the long answer?” “Nooooooooooooo.”
M: I enjoyed that.
E: I did as well. Obviously this is one of those would-be quirky indie comedies. I like Smulders, and the very idea of the deadly serious family favorite Pearce in a comedy intrigues me.
M: Like I said, he’s great in everything, I expect nothing less here. Throw in Giovanni Ribisi and Anthony Michael Hall in supporting roles, and I look forward to Netflixing this some day.
E: Maybe we’ll watch it together some day.
M: Sounds like fun! And that’s all she wrote for May. Summer movie season is here, get out there and enjoy it!