As the box office recovers in the wake of the record-breaking Avengers: Endgame, the films on offer in May offer a range of exciting alternatives to the Marvel behemoth. Documentaries are in a golden period at the moment, with Free Solo, Three Identical Strangers and They Shall Not Grow Old all a hit with cinema audiences in the last 12 months.
On 10 May a legendary music performance makes its long-awaited appearance in UK cinemas in Amazing Grace. Aretha Franklin’s performance at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles in January 1972 has already been immortalised on album but this documentary details the performance in all its glory. As a documentary it’s had a pretty turbulent history.
It was originally directed by Sydney Pollack and was set to be released in 1972, but Pollack forgot to sync the sound and had 20-odd hours of footage with no sound. Pollack died in 2008 but producer, Alan Elliott has painstakingly synced the sound and, after a number of lawsuits from Aretha Franklin trying to prevent its release, it can now be seen. With a history like that, and a universally acknowledged all-timer performance, Amazing Grace is not to be missed.
Continuing the music theme, but from a very different background is the Scottish rave drama, Beats, out on 17 May. If you have any nostalgia for the early-90s rave scene, this will bring it back with a vengeance. Two best friends in a small Scottish town in the summer of ’94 who head out for one last night together before life takes them in different directions. The music, from Orbital, The Prodigy and Leftfield, among others, will get your pulse racing and the friendship will make you feel all fuzzy. At least, it’s probably the friendship.
Out the same day is John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Keanu Reeves is now firmly cemented as one of the best action stars of all-time and his re-birth as John Wick has been one of the most purely enjoyable cinematic turns of the last few years. This third film is supposed to be the final part of the trilogy but who knows? What we do know is that it’s likely to be filled with ridiculous, brutal action and more headshots than a struggling actor’s Instagram.
The final week of the month is half-term week, so the big blockbuster films return. And how. Last year Bohemian Rhapsody was a genuine sensation, grossing over £50m in the UK and giving any legacy artists hoping to make a bit of extra cash the idea to turn their life story into a feature film. Next up is Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman. Thankfully this one looks more interesting than Bohemian Rhapsody, with surreal fantasy sequences, dance numbers and not shying away from Elton’s former drug use. Egerton looks well cast and it should be massive.
Finally, Booksmart is being hailed as the greatest teen-comedy for years. Over the last decade Olivia Wilde has proved herself a terrific actor and for her directorial debut, it looks like she could be even better behind the camera. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein star as two best over-achieving best friends who realise they spent too much time studying at high school so try to cram four years of fun into one night. If just about everyone who has seen it is to be believed this is one of the best films of the year. It’s out on 27 May and I can’t wait.