MOVIE CLIPS: Previews of upcoming releases and special screenings

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

With an international  box office of $1.5 billion, the comic book vehicle, “Avengers” ranks below only “Avatar” and “Titanic” for commercial success. That makes it the biggest grossing film ever made by a guy not named James Cameron.

After repelling a world-wide invasion by the ever mischievous Loki, could you blame the spandex-wearing heroes superheroes  from S.H.I.E.L.D.  for taking a break? Aren’t they entitled to rest on their laurels for a while? Well, guys – vacation time is now officially over.

Now that Loki has been vanquished, who will supplant him as the super-villain to battle the good guys? Rather than a character from Norse mythology, how about a manmade creature named Ultron (voiced by James Spader)? At one juncture, Ultron pronounces, “When the dust settles, the only thing living in the world will be me!” Does that sound megalomaniacal enough for you?

The heroes from the original, Tony Stark/Ironman (Robert Downey, Jr.,), Steve Rogers/ Captain America (Chris Evans) , Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/ The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Cliff Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) are all back. Not enough star power for you? They’ll be joined by James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Pietro Maximoff/ Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Sam Wilson/ Falcon (Anthony Mackie). That’s certainly one helluva star-studded cast.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron”  was largely shot in England, but includes forays to such far-flung locations as Italy, South Korea, Bangladesh, and New York. It is estimated that over $350 million has been spent to make the film. This represents a huge gamble.

Will the multiple characters and their individual subplots merge into a satisfying whole? With Josh Wheadon back as writer/director, my bet is that this sequel will be a huge blockbuster and dramatically satisfying.

Opens wide at multiplexes on May 1. PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments) 141 minutes. Walt Disney Pictures

The Mafia Only Kills in Summer

Pierfrancesco Diliberto, performing under the stage name Pif, is a television satirist on Italian television. “The Mafia Only Kills in Summer,” is a one man tour de force for him that showcases his versatility as a writer, director, and actor.

Set in Palermo of the late ‘70s and ‘80s, the film offers a satire on the pernicious impact of the Mafia on the everyday lives of the city’s inhabitants.

Arturo (Alex Visconti) has a schoolboy crush on one of his classmates, Flora. One day, he is casually watching television and sees Prime Minster Giulio Andreotti, giving a speech. The politician was widely rumored to have ties to the Mafia. As the protagonist grows older (Pif assumes the role of the protagonist as an adult), these two narrative threads continue to inform the film.

Pietro Grasso, the former President of Italian Senate and anti-Mafia magistrate, pronounced the film as the best film ever made about the Sicilian Mafia.

At the European Film Awards, “The Mafia Only Kills in Summer” won as best comedy. Pietro Grasso, the former President of Italian Senate and anti-Mafia magistrate, pronounced the film as the best film ever made about the Siciilian

Opens on May 1 at the Ritz Bourse (4th & Ranstead) No MPAA rating. 89 minutes. Distrib Films (In Italian with English subtitles)

Raise the Roof

The documentary, “Raise the Roof,” will be the closing night offering of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival CineMondays program.

Some consider Poland as one of the most virulently anti-Semitic countries in history. However, in the fifteenth century, Jews were persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition and subjected to forced conversions to Catholicism. They were simultaneously expelled from England and France. Jews found a welcome home in Poland. The country became the largest Jewish community in the world.

During the Holocaust, approximately three million Polish Jew were annihilated. This left a mere 200,000 Jews in all of Poland.

One of the renowned hallmarks of Poland’s once thriving Jewish community was a fabled synagogue in the town of Gwozdziec. It was built three hundred years ago in the shadow of the Carpathian Mountains in what is now part of the Ukraine. The wooden house of worship was renowned for its elaborate architecture and its eye-popping roof. Along with many other Eastern European synagogues, it was burnt down by the Nazis during World War II.

“Raise the Roof” recounts a 10-year project by Rick and Laura Brown of Handshouse Studio, a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts. Although neither of them are Jewish or Polish, they spearheaded an effort to build a replica of the Gwozdziec synagogue in Warsaw. As depicted by documentarians, Yari and Cary Wolinsky, the daunting task involved more than 300 students and professionals from over 16 countries. It is projected to become one of the centerpieces of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

Plays Monday, May 4 at the Gershman Y (401 S. Broad Street) No MPAA rating. 85 minutes. (In English and Polish with English subtitles)


Nathan Lerner sees more than 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmail.com.




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