Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to May

I remember a simpler time when May was still considered part of spring, but these days, the studios are so eager to beat the competition to the punch with the first big blockbuster of the season that it’s now widely accepted as the start of summer. That’s all fine and well, but by extending the season by an additional month, it also increases the chance of disappointment, which is looking pretty likely based on the May release schedule, despite the fact that a certain superhero film will be kicking off the festivities.


Who: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson
What: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers in order to save the Earth from Loki and his invading army.
When: May 4th
Why: The idea of an Avengers movie may not sound like much of a gamble today as it did four years ago when Marvel first announced its ambitious master plan, but it’s a risk that certainly seems to have paid off. Anyone that considers themselves a fan of comics or the recent Marvel solo films has undoubtedly placed this movie at the top of their must-see list. After all, the prospect of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the rest of the Avengers sharing the screen is simply too awesome to ignore, and the decision to bring back Loki as the main villain (hands down the most interesting of the Marvel film baddies) only makes things that much more exciting. Sure, Joss Whedon has never taken on a project of this scale before, but as a self-professed geek with a great track record of managing ensemble casts, there’s no one more qualified for the job than him.


Who: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel
What: British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel, only to find that it’s less luxurious than its advertisements.
When: May 4th
Why: It’s hard to imagine a better piece of counterprogramming to “The Avengers” than this John Madden dramedy, because although studios have typically put a chick flick up against a surefire blockbuster to lure female moviegoers in the past, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a film that both sexes can enjoy. And the best part is that it actually looks pretty good, although that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the cast includes four of the most respected British actors working today. While the movie could have easily come across as being too schmaltzy in the hands of another director, Madden appears to have struck the right balance between comedy and sentimentality.


Who: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter
What: An imprisoned vampire is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.
When: May 11th
Why: I’ve never seen the late ‘60s TV show that serves as the inspiration for this big screen adaptation, but based solely on the early reaction to the trailer, it’s not exactly what anyone was expecting. Though it may seem strange that director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp, both of whom claim they were massive fans of the gothic drama as kids, would re-imagine it as a comedy, their version seems to be less about damaging the show’s memory and more about embracing its campiness. While they admittedly might have taken it a little too far (cue Alice Cooper cameo), the cast is simply too good for “Dark Shadows” to be a complete disaster. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.


Who: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, John C. Reilly and Ben Kingsley
What: The tale of an oppressive, democracy-hating dictator whose misadventures in America lead to a series of outrageous culture clashes.
When: May 16th
Why: Though Sacha Baron Cohen’s larger-than-life characters have always been a bit hit-and-miss (you never know if you’re going to get a “Borat” or a “Bruno”), I’m at least a little curious about his latest collaboration with director Larry Charles because it’s a scripted comedy as opposed to the more free-form mockumentaries they’ve made in the past. And with the recent deaths of Muammar Gaddafi and Kim Jong-il, the movie’s release couldn’t be any more timely. Whether or not it’s actually funny remains to be seen, but with a cast that includes Anna Faris and John C. Reilly, and a script co-written by “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Seinfeld” scribe Alex Berg, it’s brimming with potential.


Who: Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Liam Neeson and Alexander Skarsgard
What: A fleet of naval ships must face off against alien intruders with destructive goals.
When: May 18th
Why: As if adapting toy lines and theme park rides wasn’t bad enough, Hollywood must be getting pretty desperate for ideas if they’ve moved on to board games. Though the very suggestion of a film based on “Battleship” had most people awaiting the punch line when it was first announced, it’s clear that Peter Berg’s big screen adaptation doesn’t have much in common with Hasbro’s strategy game apart from battleships and its marketable name. In fact, you almost have to commend Berg and writers Erich and Jon Hoeber for crafting it into an alien invasion film, because it was the most sensible direction to take with the material. But while the chances that the movie is actually any good are slim, it’ll make a boatload of cash, and that’s all Universal really cares about.


Who: Will Smith, Josh Brolin, Alice Eve, Jemaine Clement and Tommy Lee Jones
What: Agent J travels back in time to the 1960s to stop an alien from assassinating Agent K and changing history.
When: May 25th
Why: After the catastrophe that was “Men in Black II,” I never thought I’d have to suffer through another one of these movies again. Unfortunately, director Barry Sonnenfeld and star Will Smith felt otherwise, because they’ve finally managed to complete their trilogy after a decade-long break. But for as dreadful as the first sequel was, this installment doesn’t look like much of an improvement, so much so that earlier reports of script problems don’t sound as unfounded as the filmmakers would lead you to believe. Though I’m sure general interest is a little higher than mine, there’s not much to get excited about beyond Josh Brolin’s eerily good impression of Tommy Lee Jones.


Who: Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton
What: When two 12-year-olds fall in love and run away together into the wilderness, various authorities team up to track them down.
When: May 25th
Why: I’ve always been a fan of Wes Anderson’s work (save for “The Life Aquatic”), but my expectations for this film are surprisingly low. Though many of the cornerstones of a typical Anderson production are on display (great cast, quirky characters and a folk/rock soundtrack), he’s done the precocious kid thing before, and the main story sounds a bit like Richard Ayoade’s “Submarine.” With that said, however, Anderson has a pretty great track record. I still think Bruce Willis looks terribly out of place here, but it’s nice to see the director working with some new faces, particularly Edward Norton and Frances McDormand, who are exactly the type of actors you’d expect to see in one of his movies.


Who: Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Jesse McCartney and Olivia Dudley
What: Six tourists visit the abandoned city of Pripyat, former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, only to discover they’re not alone.
When: May 25th
Why: I honestly can’t think of a single good reason why anyone should go see this film unless you’re a diehard horror junkie. Though Oren Peli’s name might attract some fans of the “Paranormal Activity” series, he’s only credited as a producer here, which means that he likely had very little to do with the movie apart from conceiving the original idea. Based on the trailer, I don’t even know if the threat is supposed to be supernatural or merely some crazy Ukrainian guy that just wants to punish those who’ve turned the Chernobyl tragedy into a tourist attraction, but it doesn’t really matter, because I think we all know how it’s going to end: very badly, for both the film’s victims and its audience.