Five films to watch this May
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
The first Japanese ‘pocket monsters’ video game came out in 1996, and since then Pokémon has grown into a vast multi-media franchise, encompassing games, cartoons and more. But the phenomenon might just be getting started: when the trailer for the first ever live-action Pokémon film debuted in November, it clocked up 100 million views within 24 hours.
Directed by Rob Letterman, Detective Pikachu is a comedy about a furry yellow squirrel-ish creature (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who teams up with Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), the son of a missing private eye. Admittedly, some of us are still baffled, but, bearing in mind that the film is a noir pastiche that pairs real people with animated characters, it could turn out to be a 21st-Century Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, Aladdin is a live-action remake of the 1992 Disney cartoon, so you’ll probably know the plot and the songs before you see it. Not that that should do its box-office prospects any harm: Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast was almost identical to the original cartoon, and it was the second highest grossing film of 2017. Besides, there is one novel element in this version of Aladdin, and that’s the almost entirely non-white cast, including Mena Massoud in the title role, and Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine. The big question is whether Will Smith’s genie can possibly be as magical as the one voiced by Robin Williams.
The estate of JRR Tolkien isn’t too happy with this biopic of the great fantasy author: Tolkien’s relatives announced that they don’t “approve of... or endorse it in any way”. But that shouldn’t put off devotees of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – or, for that matter, devotees of Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins.
Hoult plays the orphaned John Ronald Reuel during his schooldays in Birmingham, his stint at Oxford University and his time in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme. Collins plays Edith, the fellow orphan whom his legal guardian forbids him to see.
Richard Trenholm in CNET praises Tolkien as a “poignant tale of fellowship”, promising that “fans will enjoy spotting the references and inspirations to the Middle-earth books, but the real story is about a generation scythed down by war”.
In 1988, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin as two confidence tricksters – a sophisticated Englishman and his loud-mouthed pupil/rival – who scam an heiress on the French Riviera. Three decades on, that film (itself based onBedtime Story from 1964) gets a gender-swapped makeover: it’s now Anne Hathaway who is English and Rebel Wilson who is loud-mouthed, while the heiress has become a Zuckerberg-like tech billionaire. The Hustle looks promising, not least because it is directed by Chris Addison, the British star of The Thick of It who went on to make several episodes of Veep.
Most of us know Superman’s origin myth: an alien baby crash-lands on Earth – the American Midwest, to be precise – where he is raised by a kindly childless couple. The killer questions asked by Brightburn are: what if that didn’t work out too well? What if the boy didn’t grow up to be kind and gentle, but resentful and unstable? And how exactly are you supposed to discipline a brat with godlike strength and speed? Produced by James ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Gunn, and written by Gunn’s brother and cousin, Brightburn stars Elizabeth Banks and David Denman as the adoptive parents who think they are in a superhero movie, but who are actually in a gut-wrenching horror film.