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Weekend Movie Guide 05/27: Blockbusters For The Family, Frat-House & The Arthouse

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Summer blockbuster season is officially in full force! Memorial Day weekend is traditionally Hollywood's highest-grossing (long) weekend. This year brings two highly anticipated sequels, one for the family & one for the frat-house. Even snobs will delight at the big names appearing at the arthouse.

Dreamworks' star-studded, stylish Kung Fu Panda 2 is poised for a box-office black belt. Jennifer Yuh worked her way up the CGI boys' club (including production work on the hand-drawn segments of the original Kung Fu Panda) and is the first woman in Hollywood to direct an animated film. If feminism doesn't strike your fancy, she studied martial arts films religiously as a child, so she knows what made the original work. Also returning are the vocal talents of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross & James Hong (Mr. Ping)! Gary Oldman & Jean-Claude Van Damme promise to be kick-ass additions.

The Hangover was a surprise hit two summers ago, grossing nearly half a billion dollars for Warner Bros. It's no surprise they're looking to recapture the magic with The Hangover: Part II. The Wolfpack is back in black out, this time waking up with a throbbing, shaved & tattooed head in Bangkok, Thailand. Say what you will about Sin City, at least they spoke English. Will audiences party down a second time, or call out sick? Early reviews criticize the film for hewing too closely to the original, but it's The Hangover, not Hemingway.

Speaking of overblown literary comparisons, Terrence Malick is cinema's J.D. Salinger. The intensely private writer/director created cinematic hallmarks Badlands, Days of Heaven & The Thin Red Line, but may be better known for his disappearing acts. Twenty years elapsed between Days of Heaven & The Thin Red Line, but luckily it hasn't been as long a wait for the enigma to emerge again with Tree of Life. The film premiered earlier this month at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the prestigious Palmes d'Or (arguably filmmaking's highest honor). Its haunting trailer tells of a man (Sean Penn)'s present struggles with memories of his tumultuous childhood, hard-edged father (Brad Pitt) and wispy mother (Jessica Chastain). Weaved within are exquisite landscapes & the divine cosmos, setting this human conflict as a stage for the drama of life itself.

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While Malick's films are praised for their grandiosity, Blank City examines the rough, raw film culture of the New York underground. The documentary features a treasure trove of rare footage from 70s & 80s experimental film, punk & hip-hop concerts and the frontlines of Gotham at its grimiest. Survivors of these seedy scenes include actor Steve Buscemi; artists Debbie Harry (Blondie), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) & Fab 5 Freddy; and auteur Jim Jarmusch. All share their stories of the impoverished city that birthed a generation of street independents. The always witty John Waters (himself no stranger to straddling the galleries & the gutter) joins the motley mavericks, even though he bleeds Baltimore.

Looking for something further off the beaten path? Check out our weekly guide to the best of LA's repertory theaters, midnight movies & special events. See you at the movies!

Wide Release
The Hangover Part II (Reviews) (Showtimes)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (Reviews) (Showtimes) (3D Showtimes)

Limited Release
The Abduction of Zack Butterfield (Reviews) (Laemmle's Sunset 5)
Blank City (Reviews) (Nuart Theatre)
The Double Hour (Reviews) (Laemmle's Sunset 5) (The Landmark)
Dumbstruck (Reviews) (Regent Theatre)
Make Believe (Reviews) (Laemmle's Sunset 5)
Shadows and Lies (Reviews) (Laemmle's Sunset 5)
The Tree of Life (Reviews) (The Landmark)

Trailers
Kung Fu Panda 2

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The Hangover Part II

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Tree of Life

Blank City