One film journalist’s stream-of-consciousness cinematic journey through the pandemic, Part 81
By Laurence Lerman / New York City
A year ago, Reel Streaming took a look at the theatrical release schedule for the 2021 summer and fall seasons. At that time, a number of major films initially set for summer release were being rescheduled for after Labor Day (like the James Bond adventure No Time to Die) or even later. Others were set to bypass theaters completely and receive both digital and streaming releases (the Jason Statham actioner Wrath of Man). And still more were receiving same-day theatrical and streaming premieres (Godzilla vs. Kong anyone?), giving audiences the option of either watching them at home or on the big screen.
Well, a year and a handful of Covid variants later, the summer release schedule (which begins in May as per Hollywood’s unique interpretation of the calendar) is looking much plumper, with a healthy number of major films on the theatrical release slate. While last year’s column looked at six months of upcoming titles, this year’s look-ahead is only covering a very busy May alone, with the rest of the summer schedule bursting at the seams. A handful of theater-bound titles will also be available on streaming platforms within a couple of weeks of their theatrical premieres, but the key here is that they are having theatrical premieres!
Here's a look at 10 of the most prominent movies opening theatrically in May, with a specialty film or two thrown in for a little artistic credibility.
See you at the movies!
Vortex (Now in theaters)
Controversial Argentinian filmmaker Gaspar Noé (Irreversible, Enter the Void), returns with a psychological drama revolving around the last days of an elderly couple stricken by dementia. Presented in split-screen as the two are each followed around their Paris apartment, the film stars horror maestro Dario Argento (!) in a rare acting turn, Françoise Lebrun and Christian Lutz. Released in New York City last week, it opens in L.A. on May 6.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 6)
Mighty Marvel Studios’ first assault of the season comes in the form of the second entry in the Doctor Strange franchise. Benedict Cumberbatch’s magical medic is joined by the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) as they traverses the mind-bending unrealities of the Multiverse to confront a powerful new baddie. Sam Raimi, of the first three Spider-Man movies, directs.
Marmaduke (May 6)
Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson provides the voice of the Winslow family’s lovable Great Dane in this animated film rendition of the famed comic strip canine. (There was a live-action effort back in 2010). This time out, Marmaduke is plunged into the world of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Operation Mincemeat (May 11)
Director John Madden’s adaptation of Ben Macintyre’s 2010 nonfiction bestseller recounts the fascinating World War II story of how two British intelligence officers utilized a dead secret agent and a bunch of falsified papers to deceive the German troops about the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily. Colin Firth, Rufus Wright and Matthew Macfadyen are the stars.
Montana Story (May 13)
The longtime independent filmmaking duo of Scott McGehee and David Siegel (Suture, Uncertainty) return with an original story about two estranged siblings who return home to the sprawling ranch where they were raised to confront a deep and bitter family legacy.
Firestarter (May 13)
Thirty-eight years ago, 13-year-old Drew Barrymore starred in the first film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1980 bestseller about a girl with “pyrokinesis,” the power to telepathically set the world around her ablaze. The new version stars Zac Efron and young Ryan Kiera Armstrong and is helmed by Keith Thomas, who creeped out critics a few years back with his 2019 feature directorial debut, The Vigil.
Pleasure (May 13)
Young Bella Cherry (newcomer Sofia Kappel) of Sweden arrives in Los Angeles with dreams of becoming an adult film star but quickly learns that porn fame isn’t all that easy to attain. Swedish filmmaker Ninja Thyberg based this feature on her 2013 short film by the same name.
Downton Abbey: A New Era (May 20)
This sequel to 2019’s Downton Abbey (itself a theatrical follow-up to the popular television series) finds a number of members of the Crawley family traveling to Southern France. Meanwhile, the rest of the dapper Downtonians host a group of guests from Hollywood. Like the first film and TV series before it, A New Era is written by Julian Fellowes.
Top Gun: Maverick (May 27)
Originally scheduled to be released in July, 2019, then rescheduled to the spring of the following year and and then hit hard with even more delays due to Covid, Tom Cruise finally returns to flying jets in the long-awaited sequel (we can say that now, right?) to the 1986 blockbuster. This one is directed by Joseph Kosinski who proved he’s got an eye for action and CGI sequences when he helmed Cruise’s 2013 sci-fi action thriller Oblivion.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie (May 27)
The Fox Network’s popular animated comedy series gets its shot at theatrical glory in its first feature film incarnation. The stars of the show’s original voice cast from the series reprise their roles as the Belcher family tries to save their restaurant from a growing sinkhole and an encroaching mystery.
Laurence Lerman is a film journalist, former editor of Video Business--Variety's DVD trade publication--and husband to The Insider's own Gwen Cooper. Over the course of his career he has conducted one-on-one interviews with just about every major director working today, including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Walter Hill, Spike Lee, and Werner Herzog, among numerous others. Once James Cameron specifically requested an interview with Laurence by name, which his wife still likes to brag about. Most recently, he is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online review site DiscDish.com.