March was a jam-packed month full of happy surprises (Logan), mediocre but ultimately forgettable fare (Kong: Skull Island), Disney’s latest surefire blockbuster (Beauty and the Beast) and Trailers! Trailers! Trailers! April has … the latest The Fast and the Furious movie. We’re all to blame for Boss Baby being a success. Every last one of us.
APRIL 7, 2017
GOING IN STYLE v. SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE v. THE CASE FOR CHRIST v. GIFTED v. COLOSSAL
Going In Style – To show just how bad this month is, this is the fullest week and the highlight is this semi-annual old person comedy – a remake of a 1979 film. Alan Arkin, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman can still put in some great performances where their age is used for wisdom and integrity and complexity and presence rather than as a joke. Now, they are stuck performing in the “I’m old and confused trying to act cool!” trope. Reviews are also quite negative (39% fresh, 5.3/10 average rating). However, it’s directed by Zach Braff so hopefully this means his next maudlin “personal” piece no one cares about won’t be funded by viewers.
Smurfs: The Last Village – That’s right! Even The Smurfs get a reboot! In this third film (or first, depending on where Smurfiverse begins), this movie abandons the formula that made it a success(?), by cutting the live action and focusing on CGI only. Does the Smurfs world as a whole hold up, or is this yet another franchise that should bow out gracefully? And with everyone seemingly flocking to Boss Baby (are we so bereft of entertainment?), this might be lost in the smurffle.
The Case for Christ – The start of April is generally a good month for a faith-based film – 2016 saw the release of God’s Not Dead 2 – and this year gives us The Case for Christ. It’s a 1970s(?) period piece about an atheistic Chicago journalist who tries to disprove the existence of God in order to shame his religious wife only to presumably discover that God’s not dead. While these movies can do decent box office (e.g. Miracles from Heaven), The Case for Christ seems as though it might have too much harshness and not enough heart to reach the success of its brethren. Then again, it is a pretty empty week/month, so who knows?
Gifted – Still pondering a possible acting career without having to carry a star shield, Chris Evans tries his hand at legitimate acting with Gifted. Directed by Amazing Spider-Man helmer Marc Webb, Gifted stars Evans as a father raising a prodigy daughter, but when she makes her math gifts known to the world her nefarious grandmother wants to ship her to a special school for geniuses, and I presume use her for profit somewhere down the line. “But will Good Willa Hunting ever know a real life?!?” Evans’ character wonders. “Love is all that matters!” And we know the rest.
Colossal – Nacho Vigalondo – writer director of TimeCrimes, one of the best time travel movies of the past several years – returns to theaters with Colossal. A unique take on the kaiju movie, Colossal stars Anne Hathaway as a loser who learns she has a special bond with a monster destroying the world. With decent co-stars in Jason Sudeikis and Legion‘s Dan Stevens, plus a fantastic filmmaker behind it plus positive early reviews (76% fresh, 6.8/10 average rating), Colossal could be a pleasant surprise in this otherwise dour month. Or we could just stick with kaiju movies that are two CGI monsters punching one another while the humans are essentially lifeless automatons.
I’m sorry, I forgot about the cave drawing of Mothra at the end of Kong: Skull Island; that’s a multiverse we should feel privileged exists.
APRIL 14, 2017
THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS v. SPARK: A SPACE TAIL v. THE LOST CITY OF Z
The Fate of the Furious – Despite the great title and the series’ incredible, continued success, could The Fate of the Furious be where the Fast/Furious‘ franchise begins to swerve off the road. (No too soon intended.) Part of the films’ critical and commercial acclaim comes from playing deaf, dumb, and blind to some its more ridiculous elements – not that it’s ‘unaware,’ but more that it doesn’t present itself as being overly aware. The latest trailer for Fate with its prevalence of the word “family” and car/submarine fight makes it seem as though it can’t maintain the balance of ignorant ridiculousness that turned the 16-year-old franchise into a legitimate hit starting with the fifth installment. Regardless, it’s sure to be huge, even without Ghost Paul Walker.
Spark: A Space Tail – Another animated movie? “Spark, a teenage monkey and his friends, Chunk and Vix, are on a mission to regain Planet Bana – a kingdom overtaken by the evil overlord Zhong.” Is this based on anything? No wonder Boss Baby is so successful.
The Lost City of Z – After numerous false starts (including one where Benedict Cumberbatch was going to star), this true story about Percival Fawcett, a 1920s adventurer who gets lost in the Amazon, is hitting theaters with Charlie Hunnam in the lead role. Co-starring Robert Pattinson, who has been outdone in the indy film department by former Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart; Tom Holland; and Sienna Miller, Z is based on an interesting story set in an interesting time. Early reviews (88% fresh, 7.3/10 average rating) are positive with some complimenting the film old style epic quality. At least it looks better than Hunnam’s other leading role this year, the horrendous looking reboot of King Arthur from Guy Ritchie.
APRIL 21, 2017
FREE FIRE v. UNFORGETTABLE v. THE PROMISE
Free Fire – My most anticipated movie of the month, Free Fire is a 1970s crime throwback directed by the terrific Ben Wheatley (High Rise, Kill List). The cast (including Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, and Sharlto Copley) is great, and the film looks genuinely fun. Let’s hope it gets a wider release than this year’s similar under-released dark comedies, The Belko Experiment and T2: Trainspotting.
Unforgettable – Maybe the surprise hit of the month, Unforgettable is the Lifetime movie that somehow made it to theaters. In the grand tradition of The Boy Next Door, Katherine Heigl is the crazy ex, Rosario Dawson is the squeaky clean current, and they battle for the heart of 7th Heaven‘s Geoff Stults. Stupid as it might seem, sometimes camp is a welcome reprieve.
The Promise – A love triangle set in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire? How can it not be a hit? Directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda, Reservation Road), The Promise has a remarkable lead cast in Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, and Charlotte Le Bon, but the early reviews are surprisingly negative for a film that you’d expect to get at least prestige points.
APRIL 28, 2017
THE CIRCLE v. HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER v. SLEIGHT
The Circle – Tom Hanks and Emma Watson star in this sci-fi thriller about an evil corporation doing nefarious deeds! Director James Ponsoldt has a respectable filmography (The End of the Tour, Smashed, The Spectacular Now), but the “malevolent secret corporation” storyline needs to have a decent or original hook to be something more than a tired plot to a movie you end up watching on Netflix at 3 in the morning. And while it has actual stars, for every Sully and Beauty and The Beast, there’s a Hologram for the King and Colonia. But I’m always game for a 1970s-style dystopian sci-fi throwback. Here’s hoping it’s an actually good one.
How To Be a Latin Lover – Eugenio Derbez and Salma Hayek star as siblings in this comedy about a ladies’ man who must move in with his sister where he learns about the true meaning of family. It’s directed by The State‘s Ken Marino, who has a career’s worth of experience in trope subversion, so it’s certainly possible that this movie can have an edge that the logline cannot capture.
Sleight – Up-and-comer Jacob Latimore (who held his own against his respected veteran peers in the otherwise horrendous Collateral Beauty) stars as a street magician who must use his talents to rescue his kidnapped sister. Categorized as a domestic drama, maybe Sleight will involve using actual magic to pull off schemes instead relying on the CGI wizardy and mind control powers of the Now You See Me gang.
So that’s April, and it’s pretty terrible. No wonder The Fast of the Furious is going to make a billion dollars. But next comes May, where Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 kicks off the summer season, for good or ill.