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The best movies to see this month

Our film critics highlight the 10 best movies released in U.S. theaters for the month of May


Avengers: Age of Ultron

Why we’re excited
The Marvel universe expands yet further—and given that director Joss Whedon is behind the camera again, we've got few complaints about yet another superhero movie. The entire central cast—including Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Chris Hemsworth—all return, the former for what's rumored to be the last time.

What could go wrong?
The first Avengers, a perfect balance of sarcasm and spandex, set the bar mighty high. Can a sequel with its eyes on a double-part finale (Infinity War, scheduled for 2018 and 2019) stand alone?

Avengers: Age of Ultron opens May 1.

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Far From the Madding Crowd

Why we’re excited
There's nothing like a sophisticated British romance to cut through the summer's sugar. Burning with understated passion and a fine central performance from Carey Mulligan, Thomas Hardy's classic novel comes to life in an adaptation that's far from stodgy.

What could go wrong?
You might expect a little more oomph from Mulligan's opposite, played by Rust and Bone's Matthias Schoenaerts with handsome inertness.

Far from the Madding Crowd opens May 1.

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Photograph: Tracy Bennett


Why we’re excited
Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to a leading role—intriguingly, via an indie. The surface sounds as mainstream as it gets: A virus is turning America into zombies. But Maggie actually becomes an intimate domestic drama as Arnie stays by the side of his afflicted daughter (Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin).

What could go wrong?
How many facial expressions does the big guy have? Ambition doesn't always translate into success.

Maggie opens May 8.


Mad Max: Fury Road

Why we’re excited
Rebooting his brilliant and revolutionary Mad Max series, writer-director George Miller hits the post-apocalyptic wasteland once again, this time with star Tom Hardy in the title role. The movie feels huge, it's gorgeously photographed and the action sequences will slake the thirst of any summer movie fan.

What could go wrong?
Very little, provided you know what you're gassing up for. That said, fans hoping for The Road Warrior's level of mythic grandeur may leave only partly satisfied.

Mad Max: Fury Road opens May 15.

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Pitch Perfect 2

Why we’re excited
If you're seeing this on opening day, you either hate Mad Max movies or you're an extremely supportive boyfriend (good on you). Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson are back for more a cappella shenanigans. So long as the movie provides them with plenty of opportunities to be dorky, naughty and tuneful in equal measure, you'll leave with a silly song in your heart. 

What could go wrong?
How much melodrama can a singing contest contain? (Then again, how much does this movie really need?) You might hear some distracting explosions from the theater next door.

Pitch Perfect 2 opens May 15.

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Slow West

Why we’re excited
A hit at Sundance, John Maclean’s terse and casually weird revisionist Western stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as a young Scottish lad who journeys across the American frontier in search of his lost love. Michael Fassbender plays the bounty hunter who becomes his father figure along the way.

What could go wrong?
You might be one of those people who hates Westerns (poor thing). Fassbender is never cuddly, but he's especially fearsome and strange here.

Slow West opens May 15.

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Why we’re excited
The 1982 original—basically about a TV that eats a suburban family—is one of the most subversive films to arrive under the producing credit of Steven Spielberg. Its plot is a sturdy one, suitable for an update, and the smart cast assembled (including Sam Rockwell) inspires confidence.

What could go wrong?
Can it ever hope to compare to the first one? Once you know about that evil clown, you're ruined for life.

Poltergeist opens May 22.

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Why we’re excited
Brad Bird is the animation genius who smartened up the genre with The Incredibles. He's made a decent run in live action as well (Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol); his latest effort stars George Clooney and while the plot specifics remain a mystery, it looks like a popcorn-munching adventure with an inspirational emphasis on dreaming big.

What could go wrong?
Clooney seems to be playing an oblique riff on Walt Disney himself (not coincidentally, the releasing studio is Disney), and the self-glorification might be a touch too much for those with ambivalence toward the Mouse House.

Tomorrowland opens May 22.

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Photograph: Neal Preston


Why we’re excited
Writer-director Cameron Crowe will always be the guy behind Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire, and for those two reasons alone, his new romantic comedy is of interest. This time, he's got Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams and the attractive state of Hawaii on his side.

What could go wrong?
Is it ground that's too well-trod for Crowe? Rumors have emerged from the Sony email leaks that the movie has some charm problems.

Aloha opens May 29.

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San Andreas

Why we’re excited
Don't even pretend you're not ready for some disaster porn come the warm-weather months. This one features Dwayne Johnson, True Detective's Alexandra Daddario and the titular California fault line. Expect plenty of helicopter stunts and the best high-grade ridiculous that Hollywood can buy.

What could go wrong?
The recent Nepalese earthquake sure puts a damper on things. You're not going to get any sensitivity out of a sledgehammer.

San Andreas opens May 29.

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