By David Seaman | Echo
This weekend, a superhero team will assemble for a second time to fight a new threat and make lots and lots of money. The month of April concludes with a "Gossip Girl" star playing an immortal falling in love and an Australian farmer searching for his sons after World War I. And this May sees the triumphant return of an all-girl a capella group and a lone survivalist wanderer in a post-apocalyptic desert. So before the summer season ushers in numerous franchise sequels and a "Minions" movie, check out these late spring films.
(Side note: All of these films will be in wide release. For some excellent upcoming films in limited release, check out "Slow West" (May 15) and "Me & Earl & The Dying Girl" (June 12). I had the privilege of seeing these great indie pictures premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in January, and both are sure to be awards contenders in the future.)
"Avengers: Age of Ultron" - May 1
Odds are you're seeing this with your friends either this weekend or next. And why shouldn't you? The first "Avengers" film was a massive critical and commercial hit, providing loads of humor and action. This super-stuffed comic book sequel promises more of the same, albeit with a darker tone. When Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) creates an artificial intelligence peacekeeping program, he inadvertently constructs Ultron, a robot villain. Now Iron Man will have to call upon the help of Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow to fight Ultron and save humanity from extinction. Along the way they will meet new heroes to help with their crusade.
Why see it: Superhero films, especially Marvel superhero films, are at their peak of popularity now. The trailers promise spectacular action. Director Joss Whedon is known for his witty dialogue and character development, which helped make the first one a success.
Reconsider: Too often a Marvel film will build up to the eventual sequel at the expense of original standalone storytelling. Hopefully "Ultron" gives us more character depth and heroic themes to chew on while also preparing us for the two "Avengers: Infinity War" movies in a few years.
"The Age of Adaline" - released April 24
Blake Lively convey class and beauty as Adaline Bowman, a woman who has mysteriously remained 29 years old for eight decades. Despite having a daughter whom she occasionally sees, Adaline has lived a solitary existence, refusing to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But when she falls in love again and meets her new beau's parents, her secrets begin to unravel. Part "Tuck Everlasting," part Chanel commercial, this immortal romance is sure to look great and cause some tears to flow.
Why see it: From the trailers, the film looks more sophisticated than a typical love story. Blake Lively is always an attractive presence. And apparently Harrison Ford gives his best performance in years as father of Adaline's new love.
Reconsider: "Adaline" has gone through multiple directors since it was first scheduled to film in 2011, which is never a good sign.
"The Water Diviner" - released April 24
Russell Crowe plays an Australian farmer during World War I in his directing debut. Four years after the Battle of Gallipoli, Joshua Connor travels to Turkey to search for his three missing sons. Arriving in Istanbul, he meets both friends and former enemies who help him in his seemingly futile mission.
Why see it: Crowe is usually a magnetic personality on screen, and he's had some great roles recently. This looks to be a promising directing debut for him. World War I is usually overshadowed in film by World War II and Vietnam, so it's nice to see a movie that focuses on the conflict. This is also the last film featuring cinematography from Andrew Lesnie, who passed away recently.
Reconsider: Critics have stated the film is rather conventional. It also ignores the Armenian genocide of 1915, whitewashing a sensitive topic that affected millions of lives.
"Pitch Perfect 2" - May 15
The Avengers don't have anything on the Barden Bellas and their super singing skills. The whole gang returns from the hit 2012 musical comedy to compete in an international a cappella competition that no American team has ever won. Packed with plenty of musical guest stars and crazy humor, "Pitch Perfect 2" will undeniably appeal to a female audience. And guys, admit it . . . you unironically enjoyed the original that your girlfriend dragged you to.
Why see it: A capella groups are huge now with the success of Penatonix and others. Anna Kendrick continues to rise as a star, and Rebel Wilson is always entertaining as Fat Amy.
Reconsider: You don't like Fat Amy for some reason. Musicals are not your thing and the plot looks cliché.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" - May 15
Australia is hitting the big screen hard with a slew of recent outback flicks, the latest being "Water Diviner" and this dusty ball of insanity. "Mad Max" creator George Miller returns to the franchise to direct. Max Rockatansky has exiled himself to wander the vast desert alone after the tragedies of the past. He reluctantly agrees to help a bald Charlize Theron and escaped captives cross the wasteland to escape a bloodthirsty gang. In a world lacking in water and overrun with strange rusted car creations, it's a real race to survive. Original series star Mel Gibson is replaced by younger and Tom Hardy in this fourth installment, coming 30 years after "Beyond Thunderdome."
Why see it: Miller said 90 percent of the special effects are practical, which sounds incredible if you've seen the footage in the trailers.
Reconsider: Gibson isn't on the best terms with the film industry and is much too old to reprise the role convincingly. But can Tom Hardy replace the quiet intensity and craziness Gibson brought to the last three installments?