Anyone who’s sick of the sight of spandex look away now—the spring of superheroes is here and two of Marvel Comics’ biggest names are hitting our screens. Those looking for relief from the trials and tribulations of the super-powered can check out new comedy from Simon Pegg and friends, and a must-see, Oscar-nominated documentary.
By Christopher O’Keeffe
The Amazing Spider-Man 2—Out April 25
The Amazing Spiderman swung back onto screens in 2012 just a few short years after Sam Raimi’s Spidey trilogy had ended. While many questioned if it was too soon, the new (and appropriately named) director Marc Webb did a decent enough job to be offered the sequel with new guy Andrew Garfield back behind the mask. With the origin story out of the way, we can jump straight into the action as Peter Parker juggles his schoolwork and relationship with girlfriend Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) with a second life as a wall-crawling superhero. Three big villains are squaring off against Spidey this time around: Jamie Foxx’s Electro, Paul Giamatti’s Rhino and Dane DeHaan as the Green Goblin. We saw in the messy Spider-Man 3 that more doesn’t necessarily mean better, so it will be interesting to see if the film can keep on track with so many characters in play. Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man, so anyone hoping for a crossover into the Marvel-owned Avengers franchise will be disappointed—the wall-crawling hero will be swinging his way through solo adventures for the time being.
The Act of Killing—Out April 5
The Act of Killing was perhaps the most talked about documentary film of last year, although it didn’t take home the prize at last month’s Academy Awards. Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, the film looks at Anwar Congo and his cohorts, leaders of a notorious death squad that rose to power during an anti-communist purge in Indonesia from 1965 to 1966, during which more than 500,000 people were brutally murdered. Asked to reenact their killings in the style of their favorite movies, the killers take to the task with glee but the grisly reconstructions lead to contemplation on the motives and nature of their terrible crimes. It’s chilling to watch them speak with impunity about their hideous acts. On the strength of early footage, luminaries Werner Herzog and Errol Morris came aboard to executive produce.
Thermae Romae II—Out April 26
Thermae Romae II is a sequel to the 2012 hit Japanese comedy that saw popular star Hiroshi Abe as Lucius, a Roman architect who finds a portal to modern-day Japan. The fish-out-of-water comedy saw the confused Roman experience a variety of uniquely Japanese situations that provided him with ideas to take back to his own time. This sequel promises much of the same as the bathhouse architect is tasked with building a “thermae” in the Colosseum for the benefit of wounded gladiators. The film, based on an award-winning manga, traveled to numerous film festivals around the world and should prove popular again at the Japanese box office.
Grudge Match—Out April 4
Ever wanted to see Robert De Niro’s Raging Bull duke it out against Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky with both actors thirty years past their prime? No, probably not, but someone over in Tinseltown thought it would be a good idea, so here it is—Grudge Match. Stallone plays Henry “Razor” Sharp and De Niro is Billy “The Kid” McDonnen: two former rivals whose careers went down the drain after Razor announced his retirement on the eve of a big fight. Years later the pair are coaxed back into the ring for a definitive bout by a promoter. Stallone and De Niro appeared together before in the excellent Copland, and there may still be some fight in the aging superstars.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier—Out April 19
Marvel has already kicked off its second round of post-Avengers adventures with Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3, and now it’s time for the star-spangled avenger Captain America to take a second crack of the whip in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Lacking the swagger of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man or Thor’s scene-stealing villain, Loki, Captain America was solid entertainment but lacked the spark and visual presence of his teammates. This latest adventure sees Chris Evans back in costume, a simple soldier from a time when heroes and villains were more clear-cut than they are in today’s murky world of terrorism and politics. The action has been beefed up considerably as Cap faces off against a former friend turned Soviet super-spy, the “Winter Soldier” of the title. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow takes a bigger slice of the action, Samuel Jackson returns to his role as Nick Fury, and Robert Redford brings a touch of class to proceedings as a senior S.H.I.E.L.D. member.
The World’s End—Out April 5
Simon Pegg went from being a cult comedy TV favorite in his native England to starring in the likes of Star Trek, Mission: Impossible and The Adventures of Tintin after his breakthrough in hit zombie-rom-com Shaun of the Dead. Pegg and co-writer/director Edgar Wright would go on to make Hot Fuzz in 2007, and are now completing their trilogy with this final installment, The World’s End. Like the previous films in the series, The World’s End takes epic, Hollywood-style plots and sets them in uniquely British situations. Having already tackled a zombie apocalypse and a police thriller, here the team takes on an alien invasion of a quiet English town. When five friends reunite to tackle an epic pub crawl they failed to complete years earlier, they not only have to deal with old relationships and rivalries within the group but also the arrival of alien forces—all as the group becomes increasingly inebriated. Series regular Nick Frost is back as is the familiar face of Martin Freeman (Bilbo in The Hobbit), with Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine filling out the group.