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Lights, Camera, Action! What’s Onscreen and Coming Soon


It’s not even Memorial Day Weekend, the traditional start of summer blockbuster season, and the cineplexes are filled with mucho standout entertainment – for the kiddies, family, and serious adult trade. Rush to see those of interest for toward the end of May epics will be coming at you, opening almost every weekend.

Here are some choice contenders for your money currently in cinemas:

A Bigger Splash (Fox Searchlight) – Fans of Ralph Finnes, who’ve always wanted to see him do something different, are in for a treat — or they and others may never want to see him do something different again. Director Luca Guadagnino set his complex love triangle on the sun-drenched Sicilian volcanic island of Patelleria, where it swirls in a rip tide of jealousy and regrets for what was and what will never be again. It’s an apt setting. Loosely based on Alain Paige’s novel La Piscine/The Swimming Pool and Jacques Deray’s 1969 film of the same name, Tilda Swinton portrays a rock legend, whom we only hear rock legending about 30 seconds. She’s in this remote, Mediterranean non-paradise recuperating from surgery to repair vocal cords. If she speaks, it’s a hoarse whisper. She’s being tended by her recovering alcoholic partner/manager and videographer, played by Belgium’s Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone, The Danish Girl). They’re hopelessly devoted to each other.

With little to do, their hilltop villa’s pool is a soothing diversion where lots of skinny dipping goes on. The couple’s hedonistic rapture is rudely interrupted by a bombastic blast from their past: her longtime record producer and old flame and his former associate (Finnes), who lands on the island with his newly discovered daughter from a long ago divorce. In the role, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey’s Anastasia) goes from sulking and introspective to a Lolita-like temptress.

Finnes becomes the personification of an extrovert narcissist house guest from hell – who, when not splashing in the pool and trying to upend his discovery’s happiness, busts moves with abandonment to Rolling Stones’ LPs. Soon, smoldering ash is ignited. Swinton, torn between devotion to two lovers, finally has a role that digs deep into her psyche. Finnes’ performance will have its yeas and nays. The two-hour plus length often makes the going laborious. Discerning art house patrons who have patience with French and Italian avant-garde works of Godard and Renoir; and Antonioni,.De Sica, and Rossellini will dig it. Official Selection, Venice Film Festival.

Goofs: When did “Paul” get the keys to the car? How did the Stones LP get “there?” And didn’t Paul proclaim never to have smoked? These are new entries to the Motion Picture Holes of Fame.

Captain America: Civil War (Disney/Marvel; 3D and 2D) – Disney’s having a good year: the studio entered 2015 breaking box office records with J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens reboot, then more recently racked up record admissions for their CGI- heavy return to The Jungle Book. Now, to get the jump even on their big Memorial Day attraction Alice through the Looking Glass and appeal to the all-important summer teen audience, comes Anthony and Joe Russo’s action-packed, superhero-packed comic book follow-up to Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). Though it in no way surpasses it, the CGI special effects are often mind-boggling.

Everyone (well, not quite) is along for the ride: Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (GG-nom Scarlett Johansson); and Ant Man (Paul Rudd), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Crossbones (Frank Gillo), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch (played with gusto by Elizabeth Olsen), Spider Man (Tom Holland), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), and Vision (Paul Bettany). There’s a new villain, Zemo (Daniel Bruhl).

This edition deals with moral and ethical questions around the missions impossible of the Avenger battalion. The theft of diabolical biological weapon by mercenaries causes superhero migraines and sets the action ablaze. Heroes and fiends engage in truck-kicking, body-flinging, kick boxing, and all manner of bad-ass battle as Black Widow and Falcon help lead the rescue. When the Feds push for the Anti-Hero Registration Act, which will put the herores under U.N. purview, sides split. Iron Man and Black Widow go along, but Captain America and Falcon refuse. This leaves plenty of room for Zemo to raise holy heck.

Keanu (Warner Bros./New Line Cinema) — Will the Motion Picture Academy change their rules so that one of the cutest stars ever can be nominated? It would be wonderful to see Kitty, playing the title character here, nominated for Best Actress – though with only about 25 minutes of actual screen time, Supporting Actress might be a safer bet. The dynamic duo of popular Brit comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele hilariously poke fun at action films and their stereotypes in this familiar fish-out-of-water story.

They don aliases and pose as drug dealers to retrieve little Keanu, who’s been abducted by a vicious criminal. The pair joins forces in a thin, clichéd plot involving gang warfare, drug dealers, crime, and mistaken identity. Not everything rises to the level of Key and Peele’s comic timing and inane delivery, but it’s all tongue and cheek. At a time when we need laughs, Keanu delivers them.

The Man Who Knew Infinity (IFC) – Jeremy Irons (also currently in High-Rise), displaying the panache he’s so good at, and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) headline Matthew Brown‘s enthralling film about growing up poor in India and not allowing that to stop you from achieving almost unobtainable goals. During WWI, Patel’s character gains admittance to Cambridge University, where he finds an unlike mentor in his professor (Irons) and goes on to become an internationally-recognized pioneer in mathematical theories.

The Meddler (Sony Pictures Classics/Stage 6) – Susan Saradon (also a co-producer) displays a deft comic turn as a wife adrift following the death of her husband who finds a new “hobby. Her spunky bachelorette daughter, Rose Byrne (Damages; upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse). Soon, she spending so many hours visiting, interfering, giving lessons on life and sex, dispensing motherly love and concern that it doesn’t take long for Byrne to want to spurn all the attention.

Sarandon looks stunning, seeming to have found the fountain of youth. Ex-cop J. K. Simmons, as you’ve never seen him, and his Harley are the pair who rescue Byrne. gives the film a nice boost. Jason Ritter, Billy Magnussen, and Michael McKean are featured. You’ll be shocked when the tables get turned. 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

The Family Fang (Starz Digital; Theatres and On Demand) – Move over Royal Tenenbaums! You thought you were eccentric? You ain’t seen nothin’. Jason Bateman, who also directed, and Nicole Kidman are the estranged children of performance artists (who create art or is it junk in this sharp, taunt dark comedy based on Kevin Wilson’s book by with adaptation by Pulitzer-and Tony-winner for Best Play David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole). The siblings search for their eccentric parents – Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett, who’re feared dead (or are they?). In bonding, brother and sister may not have much effect on their parents but they manage to “fix” themselves.

Mothers and Daughters arrived with very little fanfare. Interwoven stories, told through the lens of photographer Rigby Gray, tell of what it is to be a mom. Love’s the one thing they can all agree on. Susan Sarandon [very busy being a mother this year!], Sharon Stone [looking hotter than ever], Christina Ricci, the always-watchable Courteney Cox [wish we’d see her more often], and Mira Sorvino star.


Opening Soon:

May 13: The Lobster (Picturehouse/Film 4/Canal +) – Move over Hunger Games and Youth and make way for what may be the unique film of the year, Yorgos Lanthimos’ futuristic love story , set against the tense background of a dystopian society, is finally seeing release after its 2014 Cannes Jury Prize and sleeper success at the New York Film Festival. It’s a bizarre love and marriage story set in the near future at a creepy hotel deep in a forest.

Headlining is Colin Farrell, perhaps his best role to date, with co-stars Léa Seydoux (Spectre, Saint Laurent, Grand Budapest Hotel), John C. Reilly, and Rachel Weisz. It’s anybody’s guess how audiences will respond. It’s won several overseas awards for Best Film and Farrell.

The Lobster takes expectations of modern-day relationships and satirizes them. The farcical goal aims to partner lonely humans with each other in a stress-inducing timeframe of 45 days, often resulting in deception and the suppression of true feelings in order to garner a relationship as a means of escape. The other side of the coin is the outcast tribe living a meager existence in the woods, where even flirting is punished by physical mutilation. Cold mechanical delivery of dialogue emphasizes the absurdity of the situation, and makes bizarre situations even more bizarre. Though more than a bit convoluted and not always so easy to follow, there’s a message about the fickle nature of relationships. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but adventuresome moviegoers will find much to relish.

May 13: Money Monster (Tri-Star) – This high stakes, fast-paced, high-tech global suspense thriller unfolds in real time. George Clooney and Julia Roberts, directed by Jodie Foster [her first time behind the camera since the 2011 bomb The Beaver], are Lee Gates, the self-proclaimed Wizard of Wall Street, and his producer of a cable TV show that provides viewers with investment tips and stock market analyses, all jazzed up with comedy bits and dance numbers to keep the ratings high. They’re riding high until an irate investor who’s lost everything (Jack O’Connell) takes over their studio and threatens to blow himself up. The standoff is broadcast live as Roberts frantically works against the clock to unravel the mystery behind a financial conspiracy. This is a radical departure from the intimate, character-driven films Foster’s directed (Little Man Tate, Home for the Holidays). Screened at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.


Ellis Nassour is an Ole Miss alum and noted arts journalist and author who recently donated an ever-growing exhibition of performing arts history to the University of Mississippi. He is the author of the best-selling Patsy Cline biography, Honky Tonk Angel, as well as the hit musical revue, Always, Patsy Cline.

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