I believe I read somewhere that, with the likes of Captain America: Civil War, the summer blockbuster season has apparently started. When I hear the phrase ‘summer blockbuster season’ I do expect the hype train to never stop pulling into the station and offloading shipment after shipment of excitement over films with a budget comparable to the GDP of developing nations. And yet, have I? Have you? Cinematic anticipation feels pretty much spent; we’ve had the two biggest superhero films this year already, the next Star Wars is sitting patiently in the middle of December and people really seemed to like Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, more than I was expecting. I’m not saying May is devoid of great titles, how you dare suggest such slander, all I mean to say is that it’s not as bombastic and ridiculous a month as you might have heard. Actually, now that I’ve said that, there is an X-Men film and a fantasy epic bankrolled by a billion-dollar company, but that’s as crazy as it gets. Promise.
Florence Foster Jenkins – 5th May
Can you recall in March a certain French-Czech collaboration called Marguerite? The R-Rated French reimagining of the life of the infamous operatic wannabe Florence Foster Jenkins as a Parisian socialite? Well you do now, because on a somehow-completely-unrelated note here is the Stephen Frears-directed, Meryl-Streep-starring, PG-rated Anglo-American version of her story, and they haven’t even had to change the language or nothing! What more is there I can say except that Stephen Frears managed to get Hugh Grant out of semi-retirement to do this film just so he could work alongside The Streep. If you’re a fan of The Many Face of Meryl Streep, biopics, Stephen Frears or just can’t get behind the French language, then this is the one for you.
Everybody Wants Some!! – 13th May
I have a new contender for ‘Understatement of the Year 2016’: Richard Linklater is good at movies. I’m not just talking about Boyhood here, I mean his entire body of work spanning the Before… trilogy, the endearing antidote to ’70’s nostalgia that is Dazed and Confused, unashamedly likeable titles like School of Rock and the nose dive into cell-shaded psychosis that is A Scanner Darkly. Man’s just good. Everybody Wants Some!! is familiar territory for Linklater in that it skews the college-based comedies of the 1980s with the same lightness and depth we’ve come to expect from the man that re-popularized the song “Slow Ride” by Foghat.
Knight of Cups – 6th May
I could try to spend this next piece trying to tell you exactly what it is that Terrence Malick’s latest, Knight of Cups, is about, but given the nature of Terrence Malick, would I actually be telling you anything? I mean, sure the visual side of his films are sumptuous to say the least but what else is there? According to the variety of sources I see before me, Knight of Cups is about a writer, Nick (Christian Bale) who indulges in the excesses of the American West Coast at the expense of several women in his life. As vibrant as that may sound, this is Terrence Malick, so expect everyone to whisper a voice-over about the nature of life and God at some point/throughout the whole damn thing. Except Cate Blanchett, that is. Cate’s got no time for your whisper games, son.
Green Room – 13th May
Green Room is writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to 2014’s Blue Ruin and, if my understanding of word patterns and colour gradients is even half as good as I think it is, the precursor to his next film Yellow Rule. Jokes about colours and the phoneme “roo” aside, Green Room is actually a dirty, tense siege film all about punks versus Neo-Nazis. Now since at least the 1970s punks have been saying they could quite easily smash all the Nazis, but what if said fanatical fascists were led by, say, a charismatic space captain and/or super psychic mutant? Yep, Patrick Stewart leads a band of murderous skinheads against the combined punk powers of Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner and Imogen Poots. I’m not saying they’re doomed necessarily… but…
X-Men: Apocalypse – 17th May
I didn’t think the X-Men franchise could ever have come back from those incessant and ineffective Wolverine films, but, y’know, sometimes it’s nice to be proven wrong. While I’m sure Hugh Jackman’ll make an appearance, with the focus now off his sideburns and hand-swords for once we may get to have the kind of thrilling adventure the X-men were always meant to have. Mainly by saving the world from all manners of end-of-the-world crazy. Representing the crazy party this time around we have Oscar Issac’s Apocalypse (or En Sabah Nur, I dunno), the world’s most powerful mutant, who unites the next four-strongest mutants in the world to help him… destroy it? Rule it? Messily redistribute its human occupants like a fine gooey mist? Bad craic, essentially. James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn and Kodi Smit-McPhee all also somehow star.
A Hologram for the King – 20th May
If I told you that there was a film to be released where Tom Hanks riffs on Talking Heads’ classic tune Once in a Lifetime only to try and sell holograms to Saudi royalty you may well say to me, “Scott, what version of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen did you see and how much cheese had you eaten?” The first answer is “a whole block of Cathedral City Mature Cheddar in 10 minutes, don’t you judge me” and the second one is explained in the next sentence. If A Hologram for the King seems formulaic, that’s because narratively the beats are the same as about 30% of films that are made these days: down on his luck white American man goes to new place, befriends locals, struggles with task at hand, finds kindred soul, and becomes a better person. Don’t look at it too dismissively, mind you, this is Tom Hanks after all.
Sing Street – 20th May
Not content with painting adult relationships based around music as problematic and emotionally vexing, John Carney (of Once and Begin Again notoriety) goes for something a bit more personal in Sing Street: the story of young relationships based around music being problematic and emotionally vexing! That said, Sing Street is more about trying to be in a teen band in Dublin the 1980s than it is about why we’re all romantically doomed, so it’s a welcome bit of lightness to Carney’s otherwise fatalistic pallet. After accidentally telling a girl he likes that he’s in a band, Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) has to somehow make true on that lie and deal with the pressures of his new public school, not to mention the video shoot he’s just talked himself into. The 1980s: The Decade of Hijinks.
Alice Through the Looking Glass – 27th May
Okay, full disclosure here guys: 2010’s Alice in Wonderland was, to my critical eyes, the kind of pants you find discarded by the side of country roads. It was a steel drum band at 5 o’clock in the morning. It was a poke in the eye after cataract surgery. It remains one of the few films I actually regret having paid money to see, and yet there’s a sequel. I guess the bigger question is why on earth I’d dare to mention an unnecessary sequel to a wet paper towel of a film in this most precious of monthly previews. Well? Does the tale of Alice (Mia Wasikowska) escaping from a sanatorium to return to Wonderland and travel through time make it worth the plug? Actually it’s because it’s directed by James Bobin of The Muppets and Flight of The Conchords fame, so there’s a glimmer of hope for it yet…
Love & Friendship – 27th May
So far this month we’ve had mutants, lunatics, holograms, Nazis, Meryl Streep and Terrence Malick but where oh where are all the Austen-period dramas? What kind of UK film release preview would this be if we didn’t have at least ONE foray into the catalogued works of our most celebrated female author? While I hesitate to comment, here for your pleasure is Love & Friendship. Based on Austen’s novel Lady Susan, Love & Friendship is the tale of one Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) who does the 18th century equivalent of crashing at her in-law’s place as part of a scheme to get her daughter married all the while causing varieties of wit and scandal. I’m not usually one for this kind of film, but the mutterings over this are uniformly excellent to the point where even I may have to check it out.
Warcraft – May 29th
I hope I’m not the only one who thought that Duncan Jones was an odd fit for the movie adaptation of one of the planet’s most successful videogame franchises. How is it you can go from making two fantastic single-setting films (and in the case of his exemplary freshman effort Moon, with one actor) to making the first of possibly many sweeping fantasy epics based on the intellectual properties of PC super-giant, Blizzard? Are those skills translatable? I’m just worried that Dunc’s put his reputation on the line here, you know how videogame movie franchises are. In any case, the world of Azeroth finds itself in a spot of bother when an army of Orcs appear seeking to violently colonize whatever they see. But are they really an army or actually a band of refugees? Ben Foster, Clancy Brown, Dominic Cooper, Paula Patton and Travis ‘that lad from Vikings‘ Fimmel all star.