May movie releases in Tokyo offer up a little something for everyone, from a return to X-Men’s world of the mutants to a serious look at the aftereffects of 3/11 on the children of Fukushima.

By Christopher O’Keeffe

Blue Jasmine—Out May 10

Woody Allen is best known for his films from the 70s, particularly Manhattan and Annie Hall, but the director has been hugely prolific throughout his career, having released a film a year since 1982. Recently, he has been hitting his stride again with Oscar-troubling fare such as Midnight in Paris and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. His latest, Blue Jasmine, has been similarly praised, particularly for the central performance of Cate Blanchett, which earned the actress awards at the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTAs, among others. Blanchett plays Jasmine, a former New York socialite who moves to San Francisco after losing all of her money. She tries to start a new life with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), but Jasmine is the architect of her own demise as her shallow, superficial assessments of the people around her fail to bring happiness to her own life or to the lives of those close to her.

Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin in Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin in Blue Jasmine

X-Men: Days of Future Past—Out May 30

Last month saw a summer of superheroes kick off with big-budget sequels in the form of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This month director Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men universe for the first time since 2003’s X2, arguably the best in the series and one of the most accomplished superhero films to date. X-Men: Days of Future Past is hugely ambitious in scope, combining returning characters from the first trilogy of films along with those from X-Men: First Class, which featured of Charles Xavier and Magneto in their younger days. Based on a classic Uncanny X-Men storyline from 1981, the various members of the X-Men teams from the past and present must join forces to prevent a nightmare future from coming to pass. The huge cast includes Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen as Magneto, James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Jennifer Lawrence as the shape-shifting Mystique and Halle Berry as weather-witch Storm. New to the lineup is everyone’s favorite Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask, an industrial scientist who creates mutant-destroying Sentinel robots.

Prisoners—Out May 3

Among the May movie releases in Tokyo, one that’s well worth a watch is the dark and intense crime drama Prisoners. Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard star as Keller Dover and Franklin Birch, a couple of blue-collar workers whose daughters are abducted one day while their families are enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. Dover becomes convinced of the guilt of a strange young man found in the vicinity, played by Paul Dano at his creepy, unlikeable best, and goes to extreme lengths to extract the truth from the disturbed loner. Jake Gyllenhal’s Detective Loki is also on the case, trying to deal with the multiple suspects and the increasingly dangerous behavior of the frantic fathers. French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s first full-length English language film constructs a story that twists and turns while leading the viewer into dark territories that test audience sympathies as characters go to questionable lengths in the pursuit of truth.

May movies in Tokyo

Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman in Prisoners

Inside Llweyn Davis—Out May 31

Any film from the Coen Brothers, the duo behind classics as varied as The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, O Brother, Where Art Thou, and Fargo deserves a mention. This time the brothers have returned to the comedy-drama format to document a week in the life of a singer from the 1961 New York folk scene. Inside Llweyn Davis is written, directed and edited by the pair and stars Oscar Isaac in his first major starring role as folk singer Llweyn Davis, supported by Carey Mulligan, the excellent young actress from Drive and The Great Gatsby, and Coen regular John Goodman as a heroin-shooting jazz musician. Loosely based on the life of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, the film contains interpretations of many of his songs, supplemented with new material from Executive Producer T-Bone Burnett and Marcus Mumford of indie folk band Mumford and Sons.

May movies in Tokyo

Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, and Adam Driver get to know each other in Inside Llweyn Davis

Dead Banging—Out May 17

Director Eiji Uchida marked himself out as one to watch with his shockingly funny black comedy Greatful Dead, which premiered at last month’s Yubari Fantastic International Film Festival in Hokkaido. While that film won’t get a full release until later in the year, the busy director’s newest, Dead Banging, is hitting cinemas in May. The horror-comedy, called Metalca in Japanese, follows a wannabe rock singer who can’t find the confidence to sing until coming across a metal-head zombie who can really rock—just as long as he can be held back from eating the audience. Naoko Watanabe stars as rock-obsessed singer Kanna, while real-life girl group Gacharic Spin back her up as the band, in the story of a group trying to make it work as the world around them falls apart.

A2-B-C—Out May 10

Over the past few years there has been a lot of work released about the events of 3/11, particularly documentaries covering the disaster and its impact. A2-B-C focuses on the aftermath of the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and its effect on the people living in the area surrounding the plant. American-born documentary filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash shot the film eighteen months after the disaster, while getting to know the families within Fukushima. Parents are scared, upset and concerned about their children’s future as schools deemed “safe” reopen, while medical checks reveal that some of their children are suffering from thyroid cysts and other medical problems. Particularly revealing are the reactions of the children who have grown used to living in a world haunted by fears of radiation. A2-B-C has been racking up awards on the international festival scene and now opens at the PorePore cinema in Higashi Nakano with that rarest of things—English subtitles.

May movies in Tokyo

Life in the aftermath of 3/11, as shown in A2-B-C

Main image: Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask in X-Men: Days of Future Past

May movie releases in Tokyo