Summer is fast approaching and while May could be seen as a slow warm-up before the studios start releasing their big blockbusters, there are already some great films on the calendar for Tokyo’s cinemas.

After a 10 year hiatus, the Men in Black are back with their second sequel, Men in Black 3. While the third film in a series is often disappointing, this looks like it has the potential to buck that trend. With returning stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, original director Barry Sonnenfeld plus Steven Spielberg as executive producer, there is no shortage of talent on the crew. It’s also being released here in Japan at the same time as the rest of the world, which is always nice! This time around we find Smith’s Agent J traveling back in time to the 1960s, when the MiB agency is still in its infancy. J team-ups with the young Agent K, played by Josh Brolin, in an attempt to save his life – and the planet. The original film was a great action/comedy with Will Smith at his wise-cracking best, and was hugely successful with audiences and critics alike. Let’s see if this film can repeat that success.

 The Muppets

Another film making a long expected comeback is The Muppets. It’s been over 30 years since the original Muppets television series, but this film is hoping to win over a whole new legion of fans – while pleasing those old enough to remember them the first time round. The film is co-written by Jason Segel who also stars as Gary. Along with his brother Walter (a muppet!) and girlfriend Mary, played by Amy Adams, he must reunite the Muppets to save their theatre from (who else?) a dastardly Texan oil baron intent on demolishing it. The film has been praised for its broad appeal, it is sufficiently postmodern and smart enough for adults, while keeping enough visual gags and comedy for children. Those of you with fond memories of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie and the rest of the gang are sure to have a good time taking your children along to this, the latest, but hopefully not last, Muppet caper.

Finally making their way to Japan are a couple more of this years Academy Award Best Picture nominees. First up is the The Descendants a comedy-drama centering around the story of George Clooney’s Honolulu-based lawyer Matt King. King has control over a sizable amount of land held in trust for his large extended family on Kauai island. After a boating accident leaves his wife in a coma, King must come to terms with his troubled marriage, his relationship with his two daughters, and the Kauai land. The film has been a hit with critics and picked up numerous awards and nominations at festivals around the world.

 The Descendents

Also on release is Midnight in Paris by the legendary Woody Allen. Working in the romantic comedy format he’s perhaps best known for, the film has been called a return to form for the director. Owen Wilson stars as as Gil, a screenwriter who comes to Paris with his fiancé, Inez, played by Evan Rachel-Wood. Gil is in love with the city but his fiancé isn’t quite so keen. While walking alone at midnight Gil finds himself transported back to the 1920s, where he finds inspiration meeting with his favourite writers, musicians and artists. The film has been well received and is one of the veteran director’s most successful films to date.

Fantasy-comedy Dark Shadows is the latest collaboration between director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Based on a cult gothic soap opera from the 60s, the film, stars Depp as Barnabas Collins, a wealthy playboy who rejects the advances of a witch and as a result is turned into a vampire and buried alive.

When Barnabas is discovered 200 years later, in 1972, he returns to his home to find all is not well with his troubled descendants. Alongside Depp is another Burton regular Helena Bonham Carter, with Eva Green as the witch, Angelique, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins. The film is very much in Burton’s typical gothic style and has a strong ensemble cast. Fans of the director’s work will want to check it out.

 The Skin I Live In

Our final film, and one that I’ve been waiting to hit these shores for a long time, is Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In. This Spanish thriller stars Antonio Banderas, in his first film with the director since 1990.

Banderas plays talented and wealthy plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard, who has created a burn-resistant artificial skin. He tests his creation on a young woman called Vera – held captive in his home – but the viewer will ask ‘who is this girl?’ and ‘what are the desires and intentions of the mysterious doctor?’ Almodovar’s films are deep, interesting and often shocking explorations of human nature, and they are always worth a watch.

by Christopher O’Keeffe