The summer movie season has officially begun, and this May promises to be one of the biggest yet, with two massive superhero sequels, the return of Godzilla, and the latest comedies from Seth Rogen, Seth MacFarlane and Adam Sandler. And just to make things interesting, there are also a couple of smaller indie films that you’ll want to squeeze into your schedule to help prevent blockbuster overload. After all, there are still three more months of this to go.
“THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2″
Who: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan and Sally Field What: Spider-Man’s biggest battle has always been the struggle between power and responsibility, but Peter Parker is about to discover that a greater conflict lies ahead. When: May 2nd Why: The first “Amazing Spider-Man” improved upon Sam Raimi’s original in just about every way, but the one thing it lacked was a memorable villain. Director Marc Webb may have taken the criticisms a little too harshly, however, because the sequel already has fans groaning for making the same mistake that some believe ruined “Spider-Man 3”: too many villains. But instead of playing down these rumors, the studio has embraced them by not only revealing the several villains that appear in this movie, but teasing future one as well. It was actually a pretty smart move, because in the post-“Avengers” landscape, fanboys appreciate this kind of forward thinking. The fact that Webb has managed to cast some great actors in the villain roles is just the icing on top, provided he can strike the necessary balance that Raimi was unable to achieve with his last entry in the franchise.
Who: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco and Lisa Kudrow What: A couple with a newborn baby face unexpected difficulties after they are forced to live next to a fraternity house. When: May 9th Why: Nicholas Stoller’s last two films were a bit disappointing compared to his 2008 directorial debut, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” but he may have finally stopped the rot with this new frat comedy, which played like gangbusters at SXSW earlier this year. Though Seth Rogen runs really hot and cold with me, the actor appears to be in top form here, while Zac Efron has been begging for a role like this to show people that he’s more than just that dude from “High School Musical.” It’s also nice to see Rose Byrne returning to comedy after scene-stealing turns in “Bridesmaids” and “Get Him to the Greek,” because she’s done some of her best work in the genre. Of course, none of that matters if all the funny material has already been spoiled in the trailers, but judging by the early buzz on this one, it’s safe to say that won’t be an issue.
Who: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo and Scarlett Johansson What: A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family. When: May 9th Why: After helping launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008’s “Iron Man,” it was only natural that Jon Favreau would continue making big Hollywood blockbusters. But following the box office blunder of “Cowboys & Aliens,” nothing pleases me more than to see the “Swingers” scribe returning to his roots with a smaller, more personal film like “Chef.” Though he’s drafted in a couple Avengers friends (Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr.) for some cameos, his newest movie is a refreshingly CGI-free affair. The only special effects you’ll see here are the copious amounts of food porn teased in the trailer, and that’s all done in service of the story, which Favreau has smartly centered around the red-hot food truck trend, making “Chef” incredibly timely as well. If it’s any bit as good as “Swingers” and “Made,” Favreau could have another cult classic on his hands.
It’s not just the studios that get excited about the beginning of the summer movie season, but audiences as well, because the four-month period marks the release of some of the year’s most anticipated films, from action blockbusters to all-star comedies. This summer is particularly exciting, and it kicks off in May with the latest installments of some of Hollywood’s biggest franchises (“Iron Man,” “Star Trek,” “Fast & Furious” and “The Hangover”), as well as a few lower profile features with the potential to make a big impression.
“IRON MAN 3″
Who: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce What: When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, Stark starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution. When: May 3rd Why: “Iron Man 2” may be one of the weaker films in Marvel’s Phase One, but it deserves some slack for shouldering a lot of the groundwork leading up to “The Avengers.” With that said, it’ll be nice to see Tony Stark in a more standalone adventure this time out, which is reportedly based on Warren Ellis’ well-received “Extremis” arc, ushering in a change of status quo for the Iron Man armor. The film also marks a change behind the camera as well, with Shane Black taking over for the departing Jon Favreau, although the trailers suggest that it’s business as usual. That’s great news for fans of the first two films, because with the addition of Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall and Ben Kingsley to the cast, “Iron Man 3” is shaping up to the best of the series.
Who: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, James Franco and Ray Liotta What: The true story of notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski, from his early days in the mob until his arrest for the murder of more than 100 men. When: May 3rd Why: Millennium Entertainment doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to releasing small movies with big stars, but the cast of “The Iceman” is almost too good to ignore. Michael Shannon tends to deliver his best work in these types of indie films, while Winona Ryder proved in “Black Swan” that she’s still capable of turning in a good performance with the right material. And it wouldn’t be a crime movie without Ray Liotta popping up at some point, so director Ariel Vromen has that box checked as well. Though most people have probably never even heard of Richard Kuklinski or his true life story, sometimes those ones are the best.
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.
“THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL”
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.