What up, my mutants? It's time for another summer comic book tentpole! Matthew Vaughn's "X-Men: First Class" hits theaters with its stacked line up of stars. If 'splosions n' laser beams n' shape shifting aren't your thing, you are in luck, as not one but two charming indie dramas also start their roll out: "Submarine," the debut feature from Richard Ayoade, and Mike Mills' sophomore effort "Beginners." There's also a host of smaller projects on screens, so let's get started, shall we?
Surprisingly, and in direct opposition to the look of the promotional materials (what is UP with that hideous Beast shot?!) Matthew Vaughn's "X-Men: First Class" is not a giant black hole of suck. Yay! McAvoy and Fassbender to the rescue! Despite its limited production and post-production schedule, Vaughn manages to pull off a winning comic book movie that is both intense and fun. How he managed to do that and impregnate January Jones (a rumor! Hearsay!) is beyond me. Look for our feature, "The Playlist's Top 15 Hookups of the 'X-Men: First Class' Set" later today (don't look for it. It's not there. It lives in our heads). Anyway, our review says, "crackling with high stakes intensity, yet remaining impressively light on its feet and fun, 'X-Men: First Class' is the super hero movie to beat this summer." Co-starring the hottie parade of Jennifer Lawrence, Zoe Kravitz, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon, Nicholas Hoult and Lucas Till. Rotten Tomatoes: 87% Metacritic: 66
Richard Ayoade's adorably quirky and winning dark teen drama "Submarine" made a splash at Sundance this year, and now it's hitting theaters for all of us plebes to enjoy. Starring Craig Roberts, Yasmin Page, Paddy Considine and Sally Hawkins, the film follows teenage Oliver through his romantic and familial ups and downs. Check out our Five Things feature on the film, and a chat with director Ayoade about his influences for more "Submarine"-goodness. Our review says the film is "a remarkably assured debut filled with dry humor, inventive visual wit and great performances." And did we mention it sports a soundtrack by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner? Worth the price of admission. RT: 92% MC: 75
Mike Mills' autobiographical "Beginners" hits theaters this weekend as well, with Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer as his dad who comes out of the closet late in life, and Mélanie Laurent as McGregor's love interest. Our review from SXSW says, "it’s an astute, enchanting and attentive examination of loving, losing and living that has just the right amount of technical embellishment that keeps it from ever being cloying and mopey; it makes you sigh and swoon in equal measure." What's that? You want more "Beginners" coverage? How about this interview with Mike Mills? And of course, our favorite Ewan McGregor performances. RT: 80% MC: 85
Jean-Luc Godard's latest, the experimental "Film socialisme" unspools on screens after its debut at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Our reviewer barely made it through, calling it "a completely obfuscating, obstinate, provocative and ultimately pointless exercise in we don’t even know what." Not for the faint of heart! RT: 53% MC: 67
Also in theaters, Michael Sheen and Mario Bello as grieving parents of a school shooter in "Beautiful Boy." Our review says the film is "one of those efforts probably best left in the Drawer O’ Bad Ideas," and that the film "consistently remains unconvincing." RT: 70% MC: 66
On the documentary side, "Rejoice and Shout" traces the origins and influence of gospel music with commentary from Smokey Robinson, Mavis Staples, Darrel Petties, and Bill Carpenter. Our review says the film "bites off more than it can chew," and "could’ve struck stronger chords if its scope was a bit narrower." RT: 64% MC: 67
Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis, Chloe Sevigny and Crispin Glover in the European drug dealing flick, based on a true story "Mr. Nice." Our review says "the film works for the most part because of the literate approach by director Bernard Rose." RT: 57% MC: 61
Micro-budgeted indie flag football flick "Turkey Bowl" from newcomer Kyle Smith, featuring a cast of his friends. Our review says, "with a simple premise, a slim running time (62 minutes), and some excellent editing, the filmmaker is able to craft not only an effective piece on deteriorating friendship and human sensitivity, but on the surface he constructs a very watchable and entertaining game of football." RT: 40% MC: 56
Indie rockers Carrie Brownstein (also of "Portlandia")and James Mercer in the Matt McCormick's debut feature "Some Days Are Better Than Others" RT: 44% MC: 53; Peter Stomare as a rural Canadian cop faced with a murder investigation in "Small Town Murder Songs" RT: 63%; environmental doc "The Last Mountain" about mountaintop removal in West Virginia RT: 75% MC: 65; feminist art documentary "!Women Art Revolution" featuring Miranda July RT: 71% MC: 74; rural horror flick "Yellowbrickroad" RT: 45% MC: 52; Chinese period drama "Empire of Silver" RT: 50% MC: 56; Hello 90s! Jason London and David Chokachi in the infidelity investigation "The Putt Putt Syndrome."