With all the Oscar-worthy winter frost melting down as Hollywood gets ready to turn up the heat through their latest batch of guilty summer pleasures, this Examiner brings you the most interesting and anticipated releases to keep an eye out for throughout the season’s inaugural month of May. Follow-up articles will be provided right here for the months of June through August, so read on and stay in excited tune with all the best releases set to demand your escape from the heat. With both mega-budget blockbusters and compelling indy fare on tap, this May looks to really deliver the goods…
- Man of Steel: In a superhero dream team that rivals even its hallowed subject, budding genre king, Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch, Watchmen), has joined forces with superhero kingpin producer/director, Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises), and Nolan’s long-time partner and stalwart genre writer, David Goyer, to helm the next Superman reboot! Outside of this obvious pedigree, Man of Steel’s supporting cast should be equally well-commanded by the stellar Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Take Shelter) as General Zod (memorably portrayed by Terence Stamp in Superman II), and other notable actors like Laurence Fishburne, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, etc. Although details about the identity and a potential appearance by Superman’s arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor, remain seductively scarce, the aforementioned impressive team and juicy teaser trailers behind this darker and more grounded take on Superman’s long-running mythos virtually promise the definition of a true summer blockbuster.
- The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s revered book finally gets the big-screen treatment, but it’s not so much the source material that warrants a mention here, so much as the brilliant decision to have visionary director, Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge), adapt it for the screen. While Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan offer their A-list celebrity talents to the proceedings, the real star players that intrigue this Examiner consist of the marriage between Luhrmann’s typically luscious and detailed approach to his film’s sets and cinematography, with Fitzgerald’s already similarly sumptuous and lyrically prose. The trailer alone brings all the frenetic energy and passion of those Roaring ’20’s to life in a way that few filmmakers could hope to accomplish, so for those seeking a rich aesthetic escape, this just might be the ticket.
- Star Trek Into Darkness: This latest entry in another long-running franchise will likely polarize hardened Trekkies from more casual genre fans, but should nonetheless perk up everyone’s eyebrows in representing the latest from genre wunderkind, J.J. Abrams, who has perhaps had more success than any single filmmaker over the last several years in releasing one crowd favorite flick after another (e.g., Cabin in the Woods, Mission: Impossible III, Super 8, etc.). Of additional interest is the fact that Abrams has just been slated to direct Disney’s upcoming Star Wars film, so any sci-fans out there should particularly be waiting with bated breath in the hopes that Abrams hasn’t lost his magical touch.
- Iron Man 3: As if May wasn’t already loaded with enough superhero madness, billionaire playboy Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr. of course) hopes to enter this crowded and competitive fray with his own special brand of high-tech ass-kicking. Perhaps due to Iron Man 2’s mixed reviews, Downey and former director Jon Favreau have apparently decided to mix things up with interesting choices that at least promise a hopeful and fresh third entry. Taking Favreau’s place in the director’s chair is action movie stalwart, Shane Black, who rose to fame as the writer of the revered original Lethal Weapon, before making an impressive directorial debut with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Add to the mix the veteran Ben Kingsley as long-time Iron Man arch nemesis the Mandarin, and you have another worthy excuse to stay indoors for a couple hours. The only question is how the dark and grim take on this third entry will compare with the similar philosophies and style employed by both Star Trek and Man of Steel.
Other Notable Releases:
- Black Rock: This relatively lower-budget thriller – about a girlfriends’ camping trip gone horribly awry when a group of hunters arrive – makes this list not so much for its tried-and-true genre plot, as any formulaic expectations will no doubt be enlivened by excellent genre-hopping writer/director, Jay Duplass, who has produced some of this Examiner’s favorite indy comedies and thrillers over the last several years (i.e. Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Cyrus, Baghead, etc.). As someone who is almost equally effective at generating both resonant dramedy and creepy tension, it will be interesting to see what Duplass does with this gritty-sounding material.
- The East: Another stellar indy writer/director, Zal Batmanglij, re-teams with collaborator and actress Brit Marling, for this second film in a trilogy inspired by their summer squatting with various anarchist collectives – an experience that also produced the first in the trilogy and one of this Examiner’s favorite releases of 2012, The Sound of My Voice. Backed by the solid cast of Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard, The East looks to bring the same kind of cerebral, pitch-perfect tone, ambiguous morality and self-assured style that kept audiences compelled and riveted to the screen while watching the incomparable The Sound of My Voice, a film whose unflinchingly deep, emotionally resonating and groundbreaking explorations of culture and society really deserves its own article.
- The Iceman: The aforementionedly stellar Michael Shannon gains another seemingly juicy role as a real-life contract killer in The Iceman. Although admittedly not much is known about this film yet, this Examiner is willing to go to bat for it simply by virtue of the fact that it’s centered around one of the most compelling new actors to grab our attention in everything that he does, coupled with my general affection for morbidly intriguing, true-life subjects like this.
- Afershock/No One Lives: Summer just wouldn’t be the same without a few gory horror flicks to frighten and disgust audiences used to less bloody fare in their more PG-13 action and superhero-minded fun. While No One Lives looks to deliver fairly typical slasher thrills and chills, Ryukei Kitamura (Versus, Midnight Meat Train) usually manages to spruce up the proceedings with unusually inventive camera work, marked by frenetic pacing and editing all splashed up with enough violence and brutality to send horror hounds home happy. Aftershock, which deals with the aftermath of an earthquake at a Chilean club, features prolific genre icon Eli Roth (Hostel, Inglorious Basterds), holding up a film from relative directing newcomer, Nicolas Lopez. With so many available options on his crowded plate, the simple fact that Roth chose to produce and star in this film is reason enough to take notice.
Stay tuned for my summer movie madness previews of June, July and August!
(Special thanks goes to Entertainment Weekly, from which the above list has been referenced and sourced for your enlightened anticipation.)