By: Daniel Reynolds
My mind as of late has been far more attuned to the beats of professional basketball and the Toronto Raptors. I know this is not germane to the discussion at hand here, but it bears mentioning. Man cannot live on bread alone. (And the series with the Heat is at 1-1 right now.)
The month of May brings — hot damn — some good weather, some sunlight, and the promise of summer. These are no small things in a city that usually gets raked over some series winter doldrums (and just had a record amount of snow fall in April). Film is not often thought of as the best thing to be doing on a summer day. Sure, people appreciate the air conditioning, and obviously the tent pole summer movies just keep getting bigger so someone is watching them, but there remains that pull of the outdoors, of something else. Of basketball, perhaps.
But still, the movies march on. Every week a whole new crop — some good, some bad, some made to look like they were directed by late-period Tim Burton. It takes all kinds; even with the good weather, and the basketball, and life in general, I’ll be here to make the picks. Let’s get to it.
Winner: Captain America: Civil War
Look, you already know. Marvel movies gonna Marvel. The truth is: Marvel’s Captain America films have actually been the best of all their offerings. (Save perhaps the first Avengers film.) This one, directed once again by the Russo brothers, brings the whole gang back together plus Black Panther and Spider-Man. Now, I know what you’re thinking: How? Well, let’s find out, shall we.
Runner-Up: The Meddler
If you see one Susan Sarandon movie this week involving her in the role of a mother, make it The Meddler (rather than Mothers and Daughters, which looks bad). Toss in some Rose Byrne and now you’ve really got something going.
A couple of admissions: I’ve never seen a Ben Wheatley film and I’ve also never read anything by J.G. Ballard. I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting into here. The description of High-Rise, based on a Ballard book by the same name, has it as some kind of vertical Snowpiercer — that is, a story of class bound by an actual physical space (a tower in this case, a train for the latter). You can probably guess where this goes. At the same time, Wheatley appears to be working on a different, uh, level. Oh, and everyone’s favourite trickster, Tom Hiddleston, is on hand. I say it may be worth the risk.
Runner-Up: Money Monster
There are actually two other high-profile celebrity driven movies coming out this week (The Free State of Jones and Snowden) and this one actually looks like the best of the bunch. Let me be clear though: Money Monster will probably not be that special. It got bumped out to spring, and will be released in the shadow of Captain America. These are bad signs. Things are not all rosy for George Clooney.
Winner: The Nice Guys
The number one movie I’m excited to see this year. This is it. I can’t wait. Watch the trailer again with me. Yeehaw.
Runner-Up: A Bigger Splash
On the surface, with its beautiful locales (and even more beautiful people), Luca Guadagino’s A Bigger Splash looks like one of those movies about rich people grappling with whatever it is rich people grapple with, i.e. anything but reality. I admit, it’s hard to look entirely past that. Still though, it’s also hard to look past the delightful combination of Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes (who, somehow, has become 20 times more enjoyable to watch as he’s aged). Plus, very positive critical word of mouth.
Winner: X-Men: Apocalypse
The X-Men movies as they exist now are proof positive that you can’t go back home again. You just can’t do it. In 1995 I would have fought you in the street for anything related to X-Men and Apocalypse. I spent the year collecting an entire set of Fleer Ultra X-Men Chromium collectable cards. I lived and breathed that stuff, man. And now, here, in 2016, we have an X-Men movie that looks just like all of that stuff. And I’m over here shrugging my shoulders. (But Michael Fassbender as Magneto remains outstanding.)
Runner-Up: Mr. Right
So basically, screenwriter Max Landis, son of famed filmmaker John Landis, keeps turning out scripts that get bought, and then made, and then released as films. These films — save the first best one, Chronicle — all bomb. Landis just launched back-to-back forgettable films (did you see Victor Frankenstein? No, of course not), but he remains undeterred. Mr. Right is his latest, which looks forgettable too (a woman falls in love with a hitman!), but it stars Sam Rockwell, so, I don’t know, maybe go and see it?
May’s Bonus Limited Screening Pick: Dheepan
Dheepan, like director Jacques Audiard’s other films, goes for it. I said as much back at TIFF when it was screening then. Same goes for now. In the story of Tamil refugees on the run, trying to live a low profile life in the margins of French society, you have to know Audiard will eventually amp up the tension, the violence, the everything. The surprise here is that when it happens, it is tragic, fitting, and happily moving all at once. Go see the Cannes Palme D’or winner Dheepan.