Yes, this edition of my monthly look at upcoming movies is late, much to the dismay of my none of fans. But as someone who writes about movies on the Internet, I was obligated to spend the past several weeks obsessing over Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Read my pre-discussion, my “Benefit of the Doubt”, and my DC Extended Universe discussion – have I fulfilled my quota?) At this point, I’m so talked out about superhero movies that I’m dreading the release Captain America: Civil War. Might be a bit of an underhanded way for DC to cut the legs off of its competitor, but a win is a win. Anyway, here’s April.
APRIL 1, 2016
Well I guess it’s kind of pointless to talk about this date now. Regardless,
The Big: GOD’S NOT DEAD 2
Everyone was expecting Batman v Superman to be more powerful than it actually was, so the first week of April was left relatively free. The biggest movie last week was God’s Not Dead 2, the sequel to the surprise hit of 2014 – God’s Not Dead. The faith-based movie genre is one of the weirder ones around, while also being among the most popular. There is also a surprising amount of diversity within that certain class of movies that promote group ticket sales and moral enlightenment. While you might get well-meaning-but-all-together-flaccid movies like Miracles From Heaven and Heaven is for Real, you can also get hidden gems like the first God’s Not Dead.
If one puts aside any uncomfortable or even comfortable feelings one might have towards the subject matter of religion and takes the likes of God’s Not Dead (and even War Room, to a lesser extent) on face value, as actual films – narrative stories constructed as a motion picture – they are among the strangest, (unintentionally) funniest movies to come out in years. While the first GND starred 90s action TV stars Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain, the second dipped a bit lower in the IMDB pool with Melissa Joan Hart, Jesse Metcalfe, Pat Boone, and the always devilish Ray “Leland Palmer” Wise. Unfortunately, GND2 doesn’t reach the madcap heights of the first one, but it’s still a pretty good time, ripe with mockability and moments that make you question if you have no idea how the world works or if the filmmakers don’t. The first God’s Not Dead is available on Netflix Instant.
The Small: MILES AHEAD
Don Cheadle has tried for years to get a Miles Davis biopic made, and he finally accomplished it with Miles Ahead, which he both stars in and directs. Although it sits on Rotten Tomatoes with a moderate 70% – 6.2/10 average rating, at least it’s doing a lot better than I Saw The Light, which ranks lower than Batman v. Superman (just can’t get away from that one, can I?). Despite my interest in the actor and the subject, I have an inherent dislike towards most musical biopics due to the generic quality of the films, and the reviews seem to bear this out. Additionally, Midnight Special expanded this week.
APRIL 8, 2016
The Big: THE BOSS vs. HARDCORE HENRY
The Boss – It’s the new Melissa McCarthy comedy! Which pretty much tells you everything you need to know. This isn’t meant derisively, it’s the type of thing you can say about any major comedy star in a new vehicle. However, unlike McCarthy’s more popular works (i.e. the ones directed by Paul Feig … at least until Ghostbusters later this year is met with such intense Internet derision, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice!), this one is directed by her husband, Ben Falcone, who also helmed her in the terrible Tammy. Unlike the earlier film, this one seems to recognize that McCarthy works best with a comedic straight person at her side (in this case, Kristen Bell), but with a 19% – 4.6/10 average rating, it’s clear that’s the former Veronica Mars couldn’t rescue this from the comedic doldrums.
Hardcore Henry – It’s rare for action movies to have trailers that are genuinely exciting and different (and that don’t use the Hans Zimmer horns), but Hardcore Henry pulled it off. Shot in first person, the dizzying Henry actually seems like a video game come to life. While its 53% – 5.2/10 average rating Rotten Tomatoes score isn’t particularly good, this is also very much a niche film that revels in its ultraviolence and fun gimmick.
The Small: DEMOLITION
Demolition – For years, Jake Gyllenhaal has been one of those actors that deserved better roles. He finally got one in Nightcrawler, but it’s hard to know what to make of his latest, director Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition. Films about People on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown have the possibility of being dark and compelling (as either an intensely serious drama or a pitch black comedy), but based on the trailer, this movie ironically doesn’t have the destructive vibe necessary to give it the edge it needs. (The irony is based on its title.) It’s more The Company Men than Fight Club. The poor reviews (52% – 5.9/10 average rating) also doesn’t bode well. Then again, don’t genuine character dramas for the 30-40 demographic without some sort of hook seem kind of rare? Furthermore, the terrifically reviewed Everybody Wants Some!! – Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused – expands this week.
APRIL 15, 2016
The Big: THE JUNGLE BOOK
The Jungle Book – Jon Favreau’s “live action” (live human, CGI animals) take on Disney’s classic version of the Rudyard Kipling classic has received outstanding advanced reviews. Although only 15 reviews are in, it’s presently sitting at 100% – 7.6/10 average rating. Its similarly well-received trailers, clever/beloved voice cast (including Bill Murray as Baloo, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, and Ben Kingsley as Bagheera), and outstanding visuals could easily make this the most family friendly movie thus far this year. Plus the photo shoot of the actors with their CGI counterparts was neat. Poor Andy Serkis. The motion capture pioneer is making his directorial debut with yet another Jungle Book adaptation (based on the book, not the beloved animated film), but this was recently pushed from 2017 to 2018 to avoid competition with this take. So, the Iron Man director probably has created something really special.
The Small: GREEN ROOM
Green Room – Although the premise – a punk rock band fights skinheads in a battle to the death – might sound a bit hokey, writer-director Jeremy Saulnier has proven himself as a genuine behind-the-scenes talent with his first film, Blue Ruin – one of the most original takes on the vengeance thriller in years. Critics have also responded positively to his latest turn behind the camera by giving this an early 91% – 8.1/10 average rating. Plus, it stars Patrick Stewart as the villain. This is definitely high on my must-see April list, and it’s worth watching or rewatching Blue Ruin beforehand (it’s on Netflix Instant).
APRIL 22, 2016
The Big: THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR
So they made a follow-up movie to Snow White and the Huntsman, one of the least-liked box office hits in recent years (… just wait for Alice in Wonderland 2 next month). Both fortunately and unfortunately, this one comes without Kristen Stewart, who played Snow White in the earlier film and was also the main draw for audiences (she was utilizing her then-substantial Twilight fame while Chris “Huntsman” Hemsworth has never been able to capitalize on his Thor appeal). According to the latest trailer, her absence is explained away by this being a prequel to the earlier film. Based on the ads actually having humor – as well as the stars actually talking about the levity of this film compared to the earlier, more dour one in interviews – I guess we can blame Stewart’s character for sucking all the life out of this world. And people complain about the Wicked Witch.
What I find most fascinating about this movie is that it actually has three of the best actresses working today: Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, and Jessica Chastain. Those three are a powerhouse combination of female leads, and this is unimpressive April movie is the one that gets them together? And let’s get it out of the way now, Emily Blunt is clearly playing the Elsa from Frozen.
The Small: A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING
It’s almost always a bad sign when the movie trailer voice doesn’t sound right. There’s a certain cadence to Movie Trailer Voice that this one lacks, as though it’s voiced by someone trying to mimic the voice in an online parody video. I bring that up, not only because it distracted me throughout the trailer, but it’s also the most interesting thing about the trailer. And I am done saying trailer.
Following a remarkable turn in Bridge of Spies, Tom Hanks retreats to another role where he can easily coast on being the likeable everyman. The film itself – generic pablum. Everything seems forced – the humor, the plot, the love interest. This will be a surprising step back for Hanks – a Larry Crowne instead of Captain Philips. Of course, because the plot of the movie involves Hanks’ character trying to sell something to the king of Saudi Arabia, we’re sure to be inundated with articles accusing the movie of cultural insensitivity, cultural oversensitivity, and cultural oversensitivity leading to cultural insensitivity.
APRIL 29, 2016
The Big: KEANU vs. MOTHER’S DAY
Keanu – Key and Peele (from television’s Key and Peele) go from the small screen to the big one with Keanu about two guys posing as drug dealers to rescue a kitten. As is often the case, when many people skilled in sketch comedy make the jump to longer form narratives, the movie is probably going to get the traditional complaints about it being a good (or bad) idea for a skit that is unfortunately stretched out to feature length. However, the first 15 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes put it at a remarkable 73% – 6.9/10 average rating.
Mother’s Day – Garry Marshall returns with yet another installment in his anthology of people finding love on holidays – and the cast list for this one shows that that appeal has drastically died down. While main actresses Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston might hold some appeal (not as much as they used to, however), the key actors are Jason Sudeikis and Timothy Olyphant. I’ve liked both of them in plenty of things, but leading men in an ensemble comedy? New Year’s Eve had De Niro at least. Actually, the previous two movies – Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve – had a remarkable amount of stars. Watch the trailers for either and you’ll see how many names they’re shoving into each frame of the 2-and-a-half minutes. With this edition, every mildly known name gets its own focus.
So that’s April. The Jungle Book seems to have all the power in the Big realm while Green Room (as well as the expansions of Everybody Wants Some!! and Midnight Special) seem strong in the smalls. Next month begins with Captain America: Civil War, which means…more superhero articles! Great. “Hey everyone, it’s Spider-Man!” Obligations fulfilled?