Movies That’ll Pump You Up for Summer Blockbuster Season

Photo: Walt Disney Pictures
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

With summer blockbuster season right around the corner (here come the explosions and car chases), we felt it necessary to take a moment to remind you of all the movies you should catch this May before the around-the-block lines for sequels and teenage hoards descend on theaters in June. From the indie and arty (hello, James Franco’s Palo Alto) to big budget spectacles (Bryan Cranston in Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past), here’s a sneak peek at some of the films everyone will be talking about this month.

May 9

Palo Alto

What: Gia Coppola’s (yes, one of those Coppolas) adaptation of James Franco’s 2010 book of short stories follows a group of delinquent peninsula high school students through a series of unsavory incidents in the Bay Area. You may want to pick up the collection beforehand; it’s a breezy and somewhat odd read, as you’d expect from our favorite General Hospital guest star. The underage relationship between Franco’s character “Mr. B” and Emma Roberts’ “April” should be interesting to watch, in light of his recent Instagram rejection from a 17-year-old fan.

Are we excited?: We’re always excited for a new piece of James Franco performance art and it’s going to be interesting to see what gets included from the dense set of tales. Val Kilmer is also listed as a cast member and his bizarro boy antics of the ’90s seem to be very in keeping with Franco’s current persona. When beloved Hollywood weirdos collide!

Neighbors

What: The team behind Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek take a look at intergenerational conflict in this story about young parents (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) who find themselves living next to a fraternity house led by the oft shirtless Zac Efron. Broad comedy with several likely references to Animal House, lots of Home Alone style pranks and, again, frequently shirtless Zac Efron (which seems to be a major selling point of the marketing campaign). What more do you want?

Are we excited?: Zac Efron definitely has a sense of comic timing; let’s hope the script does him justice and that he can take this opportunity working with Seth Rogan to further master his skills in the genre. The frat next door story seems a little “done,” but we love a clever reinvention of a classic.

The Double

What: Jesse Eisenberg stars in a dark comedy retelling of the Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella. Simon James and James Simon meet at work and discover they bear a striking resemblance to one another but with polar opposite personalities. When the bold and brash James tries to coach a meek and retiring Simon in the seduction of Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), things take a dark turn. Needless to say, the resemblance has a lot to do with it…

Are we excited?: The source material can’t be beat and we’ve been eager to see Eisenberg sink his teeth into another Zuckerberg type role. Maybe he can bring some of that smarm to the duplicitous James?

May 16

Godzilla

What: Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche and Sally Hawkings star in this big budget reboot of the Toho classics. The new film allegedly pits the famous monster against other mega-creatures, whose creation is linked to man’s scientific arrogance and mistreatment of the environment. Very timely sounding take on the green one.

Are we excited?: Walter White battling one of the most classic movie monsters of all time? Excited doesn’t begin to cover it. Even though the last American take on the big lizard was a snooze, we’re cautiously optimistic that this seemingly smarter approach will present big questions for contemporary audiences like the originals did about life in the atomic age.

Million Dollar Arm

What: Jon Hamm stars as real life sports agent J.B. Bernstein, who traveled to India to recruit baseball reality show contestants Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel for the American big leagues. It looks a little Cool Runnings, a little The Rookie and Hamm looks utterly at home in the world of baseball.

Are we excited?: Eh. But Jon Hamm would be delightful reading Tupperware care instructions so we’ll check this out just for him. We’re overdue for a new baseball classic, so hopefully this movie will surprise with some good storytelling. Just, please, go light on the cultural fish-out-of-water elements; it can read as xenophobia.

May 23

X-Men: Days of Future Past

What: Cast members and universes from the two separate X-Men film series unite in this truly epic telling of the “Future Past” comic storyline. Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen reprise their roles from the original Bryan Singer trilogy and are joined by James McEvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult from First Class. Time travel, possible apocalyptic futures and the series’ overriding metaphors about persecution and intolerance make up what seems like a truly complex dual timeline plot.

Are we excited?: Clearly. The best of both worlds colliding in the awesomeness that is the X-universe has us all secretly nerding out a little. Plus, the bromance that is the Patrick Stewart/Ian McKellan friendship needs to be documented whenever possible. Oh, and the cast will be joined by Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage. We’re off to a great start.

May 30

Maleficent

What: Angelina Jolie stars as the title evil fairy from Sleeping Beauty. What Wicked did in retelling the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, this film aims to do for the queen of the night. Jolie’s character goes from youthful purity to a heart of revenge with Elle Fanning’s Princess Aurora caught in the middle of a war between the human and forest worlds.

Are we excited?: With memories of Tim Burton’s lackluster Alice in Wonderland and the snooze-worthy Oz the Great and Powerful still fresh in our minds, we’re cautiously excited. The art so far looks brooding and beautiful, and Angelina certainly seems to be channelling the epic villainess trope like never before. But I have to ask: Doesn’t she seem like this might be how she behaves at home with Brad and the kids?

A Million Ways to Die in the West

What: Seth MacFarlane wrote, directed and stars in this western comedy about a meek sheep herder going up against an old west villain played by Liam Neeson, with Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried as love interests. The set up seems very Don Knotts in The Shakiest Gun in the West,  but with standard family-unfriendly touches by MacFarlane.

Are we excited?: Yes! We need a good western comedy; there hasn’t really been one since Blazing Saddles. While MacFarlane has proven himself capable of writing and directing a hit film with Ted, it’s going to be interesting to see if he can carry off leading man duties. If his SNL performance is any indication, we’ll be alright.

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Tony Bravo

Tony Bravo is a San Francisco freelancer covering fashion, menswear, lifestyle and entertainment stories. He is a regular contributor to The Bold Italic and the San Francisco Chronicle's Style section.

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