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Summer movies preview

  • Blockbuster

    Cinemagoers who like some Spandex with their action should look no further than X-Men: Days of Future Past. Director Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise features Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is sent back to the 1970s. Meanwhile, primate lovers can rejoice: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (pictured) might have lost its predecessor’s director Rupert Wyatt, but the sequel has gained Matt Reeves (Let Me In) - and motion capture supremo Andy Serkis returns as the lead ape Caesar. There has been a lot at the multiplex for comic book fans in recent years, but Guardians of the Galaxy could take them to the next level: the Marvel offering features a walking tree and a smart-talking raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). And finally, the creators of The Matrix return to science-fiction with Jupiter Ascending, a ‘space opera’ starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis and Sean Bean.

  • Visual treat

    Scarlett Johansson rounds off turns as a self-aware OS (Her) and an alien predator (Under the Skin) with another sci-fi-tinged part in the latest from French director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element). As a drugs mule-turned-superhero in the movie Lucy (pictured), Johansson brings class to an action role that could reverse Besson’s recent run of flops. Israeli director Ari Folman follows up his debut Waltz With Bashir in similarly eye-catching style. The Congress, loosely based on Stanislaw Lem’s 1971 sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress, is voiced by actors including Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel and Paul Giametti, and creates a landscape that looks like the product of “a genius designer on an acid trip”, according to one character. Another visual trip comes from Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), known for his music videos for the likes of Björk, Daft Punk and Beck. In Mood Indigo, Chloé (Audrey Tatou) suffers from an illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs – it’s been described as “a frothy, dreamlike romantic fantasy spiced by a constant cascade of surprising visual sparks”.

  • Comedy

    Woody Allen follows up Oscar-winning Blue Jasmine with Magic in the Moonlight, starring Colin Firth as an Englishman travelling to the South of France to investigate an art fraud. It’s been described as a light farce, and co-stars Emma Stone. The Trip to Italy follows comedians Steve Coogan (Philomena) and Rob Brydon on a gastronomic road trip heavy on banter. It’s a sequel to The Trip, also directed by Michael Winterbottom – but it swaps the Lake District for Italy’s sunny climes. David Wain (Hot American Summer, Role Models) pulls apart the rom-com with the help of Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd in They Came Together (pictured), while Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller goes for comedy gold with the frat boy Neighbors starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zac Efron.

  • Family

    Not so much films to take the kids to, as ones that explore family relationships, these movies run the gamut from low-key understatement to epic sweep. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (pictured) spans 12 years, filming its title character (played by Ellar Coltrane, who stars alongside Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) from the age of seven until the end of his teenage years. At the other end of the spectrum, old age is movingly portrayed in Land Ho!, the tale of an elderly man and his former brother-in-law on a trip to Iceland together. Borgman, meanwhile, injects darkness into a domestic family setting after the arrival of a mysterious stranger.

  • Dystopia

    For his English-language debut Snowpiercer, Korean master Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Memories Of Murder) envisages a future in which the world is reduced to a frozen wasteland and humanity’s survivors are grouped by social class in the carriages of a train. Jamie Bell, Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton star in the tale of rebels who plan to take over the engine (the US release date was pushed back when Harvey Weinstein planned to cut 20 minutes from the film; Bong won out after releasing a director’s cut in France). Meanwhile, Animal Kingdom director David Michôd teams up with Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson for The Rover (pictured). A man crosses the Australian desert to find his stolen car in a war-torn future, mixing outback thriller with Mad Max touches in a futuristic western. Another release, The Giver, features an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges and Alexander Skarsgård in a dystopian story based on a young adult novel that preceded the Hunger Games by 15 years.

  • Drama

    Roman Polanski directs an adaptation of a play in Venus in Fur (pictured). It’s not the first time the Polish film-maker has found source material in the theatre - previous films adapted from the stage include Carnage and Macbeth. Starring his wife Emmanuelle Seigner as an actor who auditions for a role with a director who becomes obsessed with her (Mathieu Amalric), it has been seen as a case of art imitating life. With Jimmy’s Hall, Ken Loach retains his social conviction in a tale about 1930s activist James Gralton – a companion piece to the British director’s 2006 Cannes Palm d'Or-winning film, The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Desert Dancer tells the true story of a group of friends who risk their lives to set up an underground dance company during the 2009 protests in Iran, learning from banned online videos of artists like Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly and Rudolf Nureyev.

  • Documentaries

    Two feature documentaries on subjects with Hollywood connections hit screens in the next few months. Roger Ebert is featured in a film based on his memoir, Life Itself, with director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) following the final few months of the late US movie critic’s life. Mike Myers makes his directorial debut with Supermensch: The Life of Shep Gordon, documenting the career of the man who managed stars like Pink Floyd, Luther Vandross and Alice Cooper. Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti’s life is explored by Alex Gibney (The Armstrong Lie) in his portrait Finding Fela! (pictured), while The Case Against 8 follows the legal challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Tim Berners-Lee and Cory Doctorow appear in The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, which director Brian Knappenberger was inspired to make after the public reaction that followed the Reddit co-founder’s suicide in 2013.

  • Romantic

    With Love is Strange, director Ira Sachs (Keep The Lights On) brings together John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a gay couple forced to live apart after one of them loses his job. A rom-com with something to say, Obvious Child won plaudits at the Sundance Film Festival for its performances and genre-busting storyline. What If – with Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver – and The Fault in our Stars (pictured) explore more familiar territory, although the latter’s Terms of Endearment-for-teens story offers a twist on the old-fashioned weepie. And for less conventional romantics, the zombie rom-com Life After Beth is more Shaun of the Dead than Ghost.

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