Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to May

may

The next month is an interesting mixed bag of some would-be summer blockbusters, a few festival favorites and a couple of very promising comedies. Will “Captain America: Civil War” live up to its hype and buzz when it hits theaters? Can an “Alice in Wonderland” sequel actually be entertaining and not some Hot Topic-infused nightmare like its predecessor? Whether you’re interested in social commentary, buddy cop shenanigans or large cataclysmic affairs with things that go boom, there’s a little something for everyone.

“Captain America: Civil War”

Who: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner and Daniel Brühl
What: Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.
When: May 6th
Why: After their impressive work on “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the Russo brothers return with this culmination of two Captain America films and two Avengers films. The storyline finds the Marvel Cinematic Universe at a crossroads and alliances tested on a personal level, while the action in the trailers looks larger in scope with many moving parts. This film also features the introduction of both the Black Panther (Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to the MCU, and based on early reviews, promises to be a thrilling ride that offers real emotional stakes for the audience. Plus, who doesn’t love superhero on superhero fisticuffs?

“Money Monster”

Who: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell and Dominic West
What: Financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty are put into an explosive situation when an irate investor takes over their studio.
When: May 13th
Why: While this topic, taking Wall Street and its subcultures to task for their hubris, may be a little stale eight years out from the market crash, it’s sadly still relevant today for many people in the country. The trailer seemingly gives away most of the film, but it looks like a serious take on the repercussions of politics and financial institutions failing the common people, but with a real-time ticking clock (attached to a bomb) involved to make the tension even more palpable. Plus, it’s been five years since Jodie Foster last directed a film, so it’ll be interesting to see how she fares with this stellar cast and potentially hot-button topic.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to April

april

The upcoming summer movie season promises to be one of the biggest in years, so it’s a bit of a surprise that studios are limping (rather than sprinting) into that period with such a humdrum selection of films. Not even the few blockbusters that have smartly moved away from the summer madness – “The Jungle Book” and “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” – are very enticing, and that pretty much sums up all you need to know about April’s new releases. See a matinee if you must, but you’d be better off saving that money for the busy months ahead.

“The Boss”

Who: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Kristen Schaal and Kathy Bates
What: After she’s arrested for insider trading, Michelle Darnell emerges from prison ready to rebrand herself as America’s new sweetheart.
When: April 8th
Why: The last time Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone collaborated on a movie, it resulted in the groan-inducingly bad “Tammy,” and there’s not much evidence to suggest that “The Boss” – which sounds like a raunchy remake of the 1989 comedy, “Troop Beverly Hills” – will be any better. If you’re a fan of McCarthy’s over-the-top antics, then you’ll probably love her latest character, because it’s basically just another variation of the same obnoxious and mean-spirited jerk that she’s been playing for years. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very funny the first time, and no amount of ridiculous outfits or wigs is going to change that.

“Demolition”

Who: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper and Heather Lind
What: A successful investment banker struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash.
When: April 8th
Why: Jake Gyllenhaal has really turned around his career over the past few years with films like “Nightcrawler” and “Prisoners,” so it only seems fitting that he would team up with Jean-Marc Vallée, the Canadian-born director partially responsible for Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and Reese Witherspoon’s (“Wild”) recent career revivals. Though early reviews for “Demolition” have been mixed, this looks like yet another great showcase for Gyllenhaal as he continues to reinvent himself as a serious actor who’s willing to take risks. The April release date will likely kill any chances for an awards run, but it’s still the month’s best prospect.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to March

march

Let’s not beat around the bush: the big draw this month is undoubtedly the long-awaited match-up between superhero heavy hitters Batman and Superman. Although it’ll be interesting to see whether Warner Bros. and DC Comics are finally able to jumpstart their own shared cinematic universe à la Marvel with this very expensive Hail Mary, there are far more interesting movies that deserve your attention, including a pair of adult-minded sci-fi flicks from the makers of “Cloverfield” and “Take Shelter.”

“London Has Fallen”

Who: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett
What: While in London for the Prime Minister’s funeral, Mike Banning discovers a plot to assassinate all the attending world leaders.
When: March 4th
Why: “Olympus Has Fallen” may have been the better of the dueling “‘Die Hard’ in the White House” movies (though just barely), but the premise behind the sequel is almost as lame as its title, a moronic play on the famous children’s song. Not only does it seem ridiculous that Aaron Eckhart’s president and Gerard Butler’s secret service agent would find themselves in yet another hostage situation, but the very thing that made the first film enjoyable – the close quarters, single-location setting – has been discarded in favor of a more sprawling, city-wide adventure. Granted, it worked for “Die Hard,” but those movies also had John McClane.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

Who: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton
What: A journalist recounts her wartime coverage in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
When: March 4th
Why: War comedies are a tough proposition, especially those set in real-life warzones, because it’s a tricky balancing act of trying to earn laughs while still being respectful of the people at the butt of the joke. Though “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” sounds like a slam dunk on paper – in addition to Tina Fey reteaming with frequent collaborator Robert Carlock, it boasts a talented cast and a pair of directors (Glenn Ficarra and John Requa) with a solid track record – the trailers aren’t very encouraging. Moviegoers could use a good political satire after recent flops like “Our Brand is Crisis” and “Rock the Kasbah,” but sadly, this doesn’t seem to be it.

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Blu Tuesday: The Martian and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“The Martian”

WHAT: During a manned mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left behind by his crew after he seemingly dies in a storm. But when it turns out that Watney has survived, he must use his skills and intelligence to keep himself alive on the barren planet long enough to make contact with NASA and await rescue.

WHY: Although it’s the third film in as many years about astronauts in distress, “The Martian” is a smart, captivating and humorous adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestselling novel that covers very different narrative and emotional territory than “Gravity” and “Interstellar.” For starters, it’s a lot more uplifting than most sci-fi fare, eschewing the usual doom-mongering for a story about the power of optimism and perseverance that also doubles as one heckuva recruitment video for NASA. (Who knew science and math could be this much fun?) Matt Damon is perfectly cast as the Everyman astronaut forced to “science the shit” out of his seemingly impossible predicament, while the supporting cast – including Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejifor and Jessica Chastain – is absolutely stacked with talent. This is hands down Ridley Scott’s best movie since “Gladiator,” and it owes a lot to Drew Goddard’s screenplay, which takes a lighthearted approach to the high-stakes drama in order to produce one of the most purely entertaining crowd-pleasers in years.

EXTRAS: In addition to a pair of production featurettes, there are some fictional promo videos made for the film and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

“Mr. Robot: Season One”

WHAT: Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a cyber security engineer who suffers from social anxiety disorder, is recruited by a mysterious hacker named Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) to help take down an evil corporation that he believes is destroying the world.

WHY: USA Network hasn’t garnered much acclaim with its recent crop of original series, so when “Mr. Robot” debuted last summer to rave reviews, audiences were quick to stand up and take notice. Though the psychological thriller isn’t quite as groundbreaking as many have suggested – largely because its big twists have been executed better before – it gets off to a strong start thanks to Rami Malek’s breakout performance and a solid supporting cast. The hacker elements are really compelling, but once the show starts to dive more into Elliot’s psyche, it begins to unravel. Not only is Elliot an incredibly unreliable protagonist, giving the writers free reign to do whatever they want with little consequences, but the drastic change in direction midway through the season is so sudden that it feels like creator Sam Esmail got impatient allowing the story to develop organically. He burns through nearly two seasons’ worth of story in only 10 episodes, and while some viewers will appreciate that type of gung-ho attitude, a more disciplined approach would have resulted in a more rewarding payoff.

EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to January

january

As if the winter months weren’t already miserable enough, the January movie slate definitely won’t be one to remember. Though recent years have seen a slight increase in the quality of films being released during this time, 2016 will remind audiences why it’s long been considered a dumping ground for bad movies. There a few potential surprises from the likes of Michael Bay and Gavin O’Connor, but you’d be better off catching up on all the awards contenders (and maybe seeing “Star Wars” a third or fourth time) instead.

“The Forest”

Who: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa and Eoin Macken
What: A young woman searches for her twin sister in a Japanese forest, only to find herself surrounded by paranormal forces.
When: January 8th
Why: Believe it or not, “The Forest” isn’t a remake of a Japanese horror flick, but rather an original story whose makers somehow thought it would be a good idea to cast mostly white actors in a movie about a real-life problem in Japan. Cultural insensitivity aside, “The Forest” looks like your typical supernatural horror film circa 2005, when retooling Asian genre movies for American audiences was all the rave. Though it’s nice to see Natalie Dormer in her first Hollywood leading role, the “Game of Thrones” actress is far too talented to be wasting her time on low-rent projects like this.

“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”

Who: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber and David Costabile
What: An American ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya as a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.
When: January 15th
Why: Michael Bay’s “smaller” movies always interest me more than his effects-driven blockbusters, like this adaptation of bestselling author Mitchell Zuckoff’s book about the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Though Bay’s romanticism of the U.S. military can be a little irritating at times, he’s one of the best action directors around, and “13 Hours” is shaping up to his own personal “Black Hawk Down.” The film also boasts a solid ensemble cast led by John Krasinski and journeyman actor James Badge Dale, but its success will depend largely on whether Bay can tone down the pro-American flag-waving and just focus on telling a good story.

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