Far From Madding Crowd

(WOMENSENEWS)– "Far from the Madding Crowd," opening , is a beautifully realized cinematic adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel about Bathsheba Everdene, a woman who in her day was as much an icon of feminist independence as Katniss Everdeen is in ours. Carey Mulligan is brilliant as Everdene, capturing all the complexities of her character as she manages the affairs of her inherited estate and negotiates the attentions of three very appealing suitors (Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge). The film offers cinematic splendor. Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s camera sweeps spectacular vistas and, adjusting focus, settles selectively on intimate details that establish ambiance, define character and advance the story. Janet Patterson’s costuming and Claire Simpson’s editing are award-worthy and contribute greatly to the authenticity of director Thomas Vinterberg’s superb take on this classic yet contemporary tale of female empowerment. A must-see.

Also Opening May 1

"Welcome to Me" is director Shira Piven‘s second feature film. In this smartly provocative comedy, Kristen Wiig stars as Alice, a clinically depressed, isolated, delusional, Oprah-obsessed woman who wins the $87-million lottery, stops taking her psychiatrist-prescribed drugs and decides to produce her own talk show, starring herself. The bizarrely funny situation and clever script produce a quirky, probing look at a contemporary woman’s mental illness, personal aspirations and interpersonal relationships in a celebrity-centric culture governed by money. Wiig’s nuanced Alice is hilarious and pathetic at the same time, and the terrific ensemble (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Loretta Divine, James Marsden and more) constantly reflects her underlying pathos and adds luster to the film’s unique brand of meaningful silliness. See this one, too.

"Ride" is writer-director Helen Hunt‘s second feature film. It’s a comedy, and Hunt stars in it, too, playing Jackie, a successful New York career woman who is obsessed with her son (Brenton Thwaites), whose every move she tracks and tries to control. He leaves home for a West Coast college, and she follows him, only to find out that he’s dropped out of school and become a surfer. When she follows him on that ride, too, her journey soon becomes one of self-discovery, with Luke Wilson on board for a little light romance. The movie is a breezy entertainment, with Hunt’s airy delivery on her crisp and amusing script riding right in the curl of the wave. If you’re in need a happy ending, you’ll find one here.

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" is a blockbuster that will no doubt marvel action hero fans. It boasts a dazzling cast; Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Bruce Banner/theHulk (Mark Ruffalo), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and more. This time they assemble to battle Ultron, the rogue computer-driven ultra-bad mega-robot born of a Tony Stark/Iron Man invention gone amuck. If that plot description makes any sense to you, you’ll already know that this "Avengers" franchise episode occurs mid-epic. Plot alert: You need familiarity with what’s transpired and what’s to come in order to navigate and find satisfaction in this movie’s two and a half hours of cartoonish sturm und drang. Much credit goes to Johansson and Olsen for giving their all as super heroines. But as for the "Avengers" franchise and its mostly male-dominated pow-boom-crash ethos, I say enough already!

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