Here’s what to expect at theaters this month.
The big one: Furious 7
Even if the latest installment in the Fast And The Furious franchise didn’t feature Paul Walker’s final performance, it’d still be a rare potential must-see in what’s been an otherwise dreary spring for Hollywood. A while back, the F&F movies moved past their street-racing/cops-and-robbers origins, and became increasingly imaginative, bizarre riffs on conventional action-adventure genres, with automobiles at the center. The big question for Furious 7—beyond how the film worked around Walker’s mid-production death—is whether Saw/Insidious director James Wan can live up to the stylish standards of Justin Lin, whose work on installments three through six helped expand the parameters of what the series could be. Encouraging signs: Lin’s screenwriting collaborator Chris Morgan is still on board, as are stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, and Dwayne Johnson.
- Cheatin’*… Bill Plympton’s latest indie animated feature is a typically twisted tale of a perfect couple who embark on a series of sexual dalliances, due to a misunderstanding.
- Cut Bank*… Liam Hemsworth, Billy Bob Thornton, John Malkovich, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bruce Dern, and Oliver Platt play an array of broad, violent characters in a sub-Coens crime comedy.
- Effie Gray… Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for this historical/literary drama, which stars Dakota Fanning as a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage with art critic John Ruskin (which is completely implausible, because critics are super-easy to love).
- 5 To 7… A writer embarks on an affair with a married woman—with the approval of her adulterous husband—in this sophisticated indie romance.
- Last Knights… Clive Owen picks up a sword again to play a warrior leading a small army against an evil emperor to defend their master’s good name. Morgan Freeman plays the master, and perhaps will also narrate? (Suggested opening line: “It was a time of dread…”)
- Woman In Gold*… My Week With Marilyn director Simon Curtis takes another look at the real-life intersection of art and society, telling the story of Maria Altmann (played by Helen Mirren), a Holocaust survivor who sued the Austrian government to retrieve Klimt paintings her family commissioned and the Nazis stole.
And: Any Day, Electric Slide, The Girl Is In Trouble
The big one: Clouds Of Sils Maria*
A favorite on the festival circuit last year, at Cannes, Toronto, and New York, Olivier Assayas’ highbrow drama stars Juliette Binoche as an aging actress rehearsing a play with her assistant, played by Kristen Stewart. The play made the actress a star when she was younger, but now she’s being asked to play a different, older character, while a hot Hollywood starlet (Chloë Grace Moretz) takes the lead. Set against the backdrop of stunning Swiss mountains, Clouds Of Sils Maria explores the parallels between these women’s private lives and the various parts they’re expected to play.
- About Elly*… Before A Separation and The Past, Asghar Farhadi wrote and directed this tense drama about a group of friends who take a vacation together, then have to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions from the Iranian authorities when a member of their party disappears.
- Broken Horses*… Anton Yelchin and Chris Marquette play brothers manipulated by a border-town crime boss (Vincent D’Onofrio) in this English-language thriller from Bollywood producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
- Ex Machina*… Cult author/screenwriter Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later) makes his directorial debut with a brainy science-fiction picture about a kind of love triangle between a genius engineer (Oscar Isaac), his young mentor (Domhnall Gleeson), and a beautiful android (Alicia Vikander).
- Kill Me Three Times*… This twisty pulp comedy stars Simon Pegg as a hitman who may be a puppet in a larger scheme, or may actually be pulling the strings.
- The Longest Ride… The newest Nicholas Sparks adaptation has Alan Alda as a romantic old coot whose tales of love and loss inspire a struggling rodeo rider and his art-student girlfriend.
- Rebels Of The Neon God*… Tsai Ming-liang’s 1992 debut film follows the intersecting lives of young people in Taipei’s arcades.
- The Reconstruction Of William Zero*… A grieving, guilt-stricken father clones himself in his suburban home in the latest product of the recent science-fiction indie boom.
- Song From The Forest*… Documentarian Michael Obert explores the complicated life of Louis Sarno, a musicologist with one foot in New York City and the other in the African village he’s helped support for two decades.
And: Black Souls*, Boy Meets Girl*, Desert Dancer*, Dial A Prayer, Dior And I, Flutter, Freetown*, Hooked Up, The House Across The Street, Infernal, Lost River*, The Moon And The Sun*, 1917
The big one: Child 44
Tom Rob Smith’s bestselling Stalin-era serial-killer thriller novel Child 44 comes to the big screen, via producer Ridley Scott, screenwriter Richard Price, and Safe House director Daniel Espinosa. Tom Hardy stars as a post-World War II Soviet MGB agent whose investigation into a series of child murders brings him into contact with a series of unhelpful state officials and shady citizens, played by a top-shelf cast that includes Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Vincent Cassel, Paddy Considine, and Jason Clarke. Espinosa’s previous work has been largely undistinguished, but Price knows his way around a crime procedural, and that list of actors promises some colorful performances and world-class conflict. Hardy vs. Oldman alone could be worth the price of admission.
- Beyond The Reach*… This underbaked Most Dangerous Game-style thriller (based on Robb White’s repeatedly adapted novel Deathwatch) stars Michael Douglas as a moneyed jerk who makes a fatal mistake on an illegal hunt, then tries to murder his young guide to cover it up.
- The Dead Lands… Director Toa Fraser and screenwriter Glenn Standring anchor the sword-and-sorcery genre in ancient Maori culture in this stylish martial-arts adventure.
- Far From Men… In David Oelhoffen’s offbeat adaptation of Albert Camus’ The Guest, Viggo Mortensen plays a different kind of Western hero: a French schoolteacher who’s ordered to transport a criminal through the war-torn Algerian mountains in the late 1950s.
- Hyena… The seedy world of the London drug and sex trade provide the milieu for Gerard Johnson’s moody, violent neo-noir.
- Misery Loves Comedy… For his first documentary, comedian Kevin Pollak asks dozens of his colleagues whether they think people have to be profoundly unhappy to be funny.
- Monkey Kingdom… Tina Fey narrates a DisneyNature documentary about a baby monkey and its mom.
- Of Horses And Men… The debut feature of Icelandic writer-director Benedikt Erlingsson weaves together a handful of stories about rural folk and their favorite horses.
- Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2… Kevin James hops back onto his Segway, ready to answer any lingering questions from his first Paul Blart movie.
- Tangerines*… A recent Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, this Georgian anti-war drama is about Estonian farmers who help wounded soldiers from opposite sides of a civil war.
- True Story*… James Franco and Jonah Hill re-team for a non-comedy, playing a murderer and the reporter whose identity he stole.
- Unfriended*… The inevitable found-footage horror film about cyberbullying has arrived. In related news, Facebook still needs to add a “dislike” button.
And: Alex Of Venice*, Antarctic Edge: 70 South*, Felix And Meira, The Human Experiment, The Road Within, The Squeeze
The big one: Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck*
Given that Brett Morgen’s Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck will be airing on HBO in May, it may not seem like there’s much reason to rush out to the cinema to see this documentary portrait of the late Nirvana frontman. But Morgen is one of the rare documentarians working today who thinks like a filmmaker, not just a journalist. As with his The Kid Stays In The Picture and Chicago 10—and his 30 For 30 episode “June 17th, 1994”—Morgen’s Montage Of Heck cuts together and enhances rare archival footage, forming it into an intimate, impressionistic look back at the life and music of a tortured genius.
- Adult Beginners*… This indie dramedy stars Nick Kroll as a self-absorbed entrepreneur who moves in with his sister (Rose Byrne) and tries to learn to be a decent person after his business goes bust.
- The Age Of Adaline… Blake Lively plays a woman who never gets any older in this romantic fantasy, which also stars Harrison Ford, Kathy Baker, and Ellen Burstyn (as the heroine’s daughter!).
- Beyond The Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary*… Here’s one for those who enjoyed The Lego Movie, but wished it had been a breezy, talking-head-filled documentary about adult fans of the venerable building toy.
- Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock ’N’ Roll*… Post-colonialism and pre-Khmer Rouge, Cambodia had its own thriving popular culture, including the rock ’n’ roll scene covered in this documentary.
- The Forger… John Travolta plays a career criminal who agrees to take on one last big job in order to spend time with his elderly father (Christopher Plummer) and dying son (Tye Sheridan).
- Little Boy… Bella writer-director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde returns with a WWII-era tearjerker, about a troubled 7-year-old who wants his soldier father home, and takes bold steps to make that happen.
- Rock The Kasbah*… Bill Murray plays a washed-up rock ’n’ roll manager who finds a new client on an Afghani TV talent show, in this comedy from screenwriter Mitch Glazer and director Barry Levinson.
- Skin Trade… Dolph Lundgren and Tony Jaa play mismatched cops in a Lundgren-penned-and-produced action picture that also stars Ron Perlman, Peter Weller, and Michael Jai White. Presumably, awesomeness ensues.
- The Water Diviner*… Russell Crowe makes his directorial debut and stars in a historical mystery about an Australian father who journeys to Turkey in 1919 to find out what happened to his sons in The Battle Of Gallipoli.
And: After The Ball, Blackbird*, Emptying The Skies, Helicopter Mom, Kung Fu Killer*, See You In Valhalla, WARx2*