Welcome to our monthly movie preview. Here, we will count down our top choices for films opening in the month of April. While on the onset April 2015 appears a bit short on big brand name thrills (save for one high-octane, fast and furious franchise mainstay that will likely break zillions of box office records), next months looks to offer a plentiful assortment of eclectic titles to chose from. Join us as we take a glance of the cinematic offerings during the month of April hitting multiplexes and art-houses near you.
Oscar and Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign-Language Film this past year, and not to be confused with Sundance filmed-on-an-iPhone-breakout Tangerine, this Estonian drama from writer/director Zaza Urushadze takes place in the early 1990s during the Georgian war. The story charts an elderly man (and harvester of the titular fruit) named Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) who stayed at home while war wages at his doorstep. Tensions mount when Ivo takes in an injured soldier. Elmo Nuganen, Mikhail Meskhi, Giorgi Nakashidze, Raivo Trass and Zurab Bealishvili co-star.
Buzzometer: 3/10 – The Oscars seem likes ages ago but this surprise foreign-film nominee might still be able to get a small measure of attention from the honor – the film also holds the distinction of being the first movie from Estonia to ever achieve a nomination. Samuel Goldwyn Films picked up the film after it received the mention and hopes it can parlay it into a success story. Considering the low threshold for foreign films in the United States, it seems reasonable they can.
Release Date: April 17th (limited)
9) WOMAN IN GOLD
Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) directs this drama starring Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren (The Queen). Mirren portrays Maria Altmann, an elderly Jewish woman who, with the help of an inexperienced yet determined lawyer (Ryan Reynolds), attempts to retrieve priceless family possessions seized by the Nazis during World War II. To do so, she must contend with the Austrian government as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, and must recount the heart-wrenching personal journey she experienced when fleeing Vienna as a young woman. Katie Holmes (The Giver), Charles Dance (The Imitation Game), Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey), Daniel Brühl (Rush) and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) co-star.
Buzzometer: 3/10 – Early reviews for Woman in Gold suggest this Weinstein Company release isn’t going to ignite early awards talk, but this spring is short on prestige dramas and Mirren’s name recognition could play well for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel crowd looking for a bit more to chew on. Last year the actress helped turn the late summer confection The Hundred-Foot Journey into a mid-sized hit.
Release Date: April 1st (limited)
Iris is the penultimate film from the late Albert Maysles, the groundbreaking documentary filmmaker whose legendary career includes massively influential works like Salesman (1968), Grey Gardens (1975) and Gimme Shelter (1970). In Iris, Maysles turns his camera on Iris Apfel, the quick-witted, flamboyant, 93-year-old New York style maven and her over-sized persona which has been a benchmark of fashion scene for decades. Appropriately enough, the film made its world premiere at the 2014 New York Film Festival.
Buzzometer: 3/10 – The recent passing of Maysles has brought attention to one of the founding fathers of the documentary genre, something of which may bring to Iris a bit more poignancy than ever imagined. Yet for decades, Maylses has been a prolific, rule-breaking, genre-busting pioneer for the form, pointing his camera on some of the most uniquely spirited (and in many cases, most extra-ordinarily normal) subjects ever expressed in film. A successful recent theatrical revival celebrating the 40th anniversary of Grey Gardens proves there’s interest outside the cinephile sect; Iris perhaps could not be more timely. Maysles’ final film, In Transit will premiere this April at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.
Release Date: April 29th (limited)
7) LOST RIVER
Lost River (previously titled How to Catch a Monster) marks Oscar nominated actor Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut (he also wrote the film.) The movie famously premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where it received severe critical beatings. Now it arrives for audiences to judge for themselves. The surrealist fantasy drama stars Mad Men star Christina Hendricks (she co-starred in Gosling’s 2011 cult hit Drive) as a single mother swept into a dark and moody underworld. Weirdness ensues as she attempts to protect her son (Iain De Caestecker, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Saoirse Ronan (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) and Eva Mendes (The Place Beyond the Pines) co-star.
Buzzometer: 4/10 – The disastrous Cannes debut aside, Lost River remains a curiosity piece particularly in the vein that Gosling used his movie star capital to make such a strange, seemingly unmarketable fantasy-art house film in the first place. While Warner Bros. (who is distributing the title) is giving the title the barest bones of a release, there’s is also a slight tilt of re-appraisal of the film starting to take shape beneath the sea of bad press, suggesting there might be a small chance the film finds a cult following in the woodwork. Whatever the end result or the legacy, Gosling’s film has already been compared to the works of David Lynch and boasts cinematographer Benoit Debie (Spring Breakers, Enter the Void) as a cinephilic selling point.
Release Date: April 10th
6) THE WATER DIVINER
From one Oscar nominated actor making his directorial debut to another – Oscar winner Russell Crowe (Gladiator) makes his feature directing debut with this period epic (also, coincidentally distributed by Warner Bros.) in which the Australian actor also stars as a man who travels to Turkey following the Battle of Gallipoli to try and find his three missing sons. Jai Courtney (Unbroken) and Olga Kurylenko (To the Wonder) co-star.
Buzzometer: 4/10 – While Gosling‘s Lost River resides in Lynch terrain, Crowe seems to be navigating in the same cinematic space previously occupied by his Master and Commander director Peter Weir (Weir directed the acclaimed 1981 historical drama Gallipoli, starring a young Mel Gibson). Crowe also has the benefit of better advance word as The Water Diviner has earned warm early word and won the top prize at the 2014 Australian Film Institute Awards. However, will this Aussie-soaked drama translate for U.S. audiences?
Release Date: April 22nd
5) CHILD 44
Tom Hardy (Locke) heads a sterling ensemble cast in Safe House director Daniel Espinosa’s period thriller that has the former Bane as a disgraced secret police agent in 1953 Soviet Russia. Within this politically charged Stalin-era set-up, Hardy’s Leo Demidov faces moral and personal turmoil while pursuing a serial killer who preys on young boys. Noomi Rapace (Prometheus), Joel Kinnaman (RoboCop), Charles Dance (The Imitation Game), Vincent Cassel (Black Swan), Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Paddy Considine (Pride) and Oscar nominee Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) co-star in this thriller written by Richard Price (The Wire) based on the novel by Tom Rob Smith.
Buzzometer: 5/10 – The ensemble cast is the biggest selling point here with Hardy front and center. The British actor has been turned in several critically lauded performances in the past few years (Locke, Warrior, Bronson) yet outside of his work his director Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) hasn’t quite made much of a dent at the box office. If the stylish and confident looking Child 44 can develop strong word of mouth with audiences, it could help establish what may be a high profile year for the actor – he has the buzzy Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant (directed by recent Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárritu) slated later this year.
Release Date: April 17th
4) CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA
The plight of aging actresses was a trend at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where Clouds of Sils Maria – the latest, acclaimed drama from director Olivier Assayas (Demonlover, Carlos.) In competition at Cannes last year saw two differing points of view, one from Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars and the other from Juliette Binoche. In Clouds of Sils Maria, veteran international actress Maria Enders (played by Oscar winner Juliette Binoche, The English Patient) is invited to play a part in a revival of the stage show that made her a star to begin with twenty years prior. The caveat is that Maria is set to play the part of the older woman, prompting her to have a revealing look back at herself and her career as she faces of against a young Hollywood ingenue with a penchant for scandal (played by Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass.) Kristen Stewart co-stars as Enders’ assistant.
Buzzometer: 5/10 – Reviews coming out of Cannes last year were stellar suggesting the trio of women at the films’ center bring out the best in one another. This suggests the possibly of an art house hit for Sundance Selects, who is distributing the title stateside. Stewart, particularly, may boast the film’s strongest selling point – the Twilight actress recently became the first American actress in history to win a Cesar Award (France’s equivalent to the Oscars) for her work in the film.
Release Date: April 10th (limited)
3) TRUE STORY
Oscar nominated actors Jonah Hill (Moneyball) and James Franco (127 Hours) join forces with director and co-writer Rupert Goold (making his feature directorial debut) for a disturbing drama that proves truth is stranger than fiction. The story revolves around Michael Finkel (Hill), a former New York Times reporter who discovered that accused killer Christian Longo (Franco) used his name while living outside the United States. True Story recounts the relationship between Finkel and Longo and the bizarre cat-and-mouse investigation that followed. Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) co-stars. Goold wrote the screenplay with David Kajganich (A Bigger Splash).
Buzzometer: 6/10 – The film made its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival where the title received decent, if not exactly glowing reviews, True Story boasts a startling about face for funny men Hill and Franco, and hopefully has more going on aside from casting gimmickry. If anything, however, recent true crime investigative studies like HBO’s The Jinx and the hit podcast Serial have proved there’s an audience for lurid, real-world crime dramas.
Release Date: April 17th (limited)
2) EX MACHINA
The debut feature film from screenwriting wunderkind Alex Garland (writer of 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Never Let Me Go) is a heady science fiction drama starring a trio of budding talent – Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Domhnall Gleeson (Frank) and Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina). In Ex Machina, Isaac portrays a reclusive corporate head who recruits a young programmer (Gleeson) to participate in evaluating the human element in his breakthrough new creation – a life-like A.I. (Vikander), whose emotional intelligence proves far greater than ever imagined.
Buzzometer: 7/10 – Most recently, the film took South by Southwest by storm suggesting that if the film can breakout beyond the Austin hipster set, Ex Machina may have strong crossover potential. The trailer projects an intelligence and bold confidence that’s surely been missing in science fiction for some time now – the more important question may arise as if the movie can match that. If nothing else, Ex Machina might serve to test the chemistry of future Star Wars stars Isaac and Gleeson.
Release Date: April 10th (limited)
1) FURIOUS 7
The improbable and gleefully silly franchise continues with another installment of high-octane, need-for-speed global hijinks. Picking up the action after Fast & Furious 6 (released in May 2013 and, so far, the highest grossing chapter in the series), Furious 7 continues the course of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his rag tag group of grease hounds, this time with Jason Statham joining as a new threat to the team. Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Dwayne Johnson, Lucas Black, and the late Paul Walker (in his final film) return. Kurt Russell and Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) are new to the franchise, as is director James Wan (The Conjuring, Saw). Furious 7 made a huge recent splash as the secret screening at South by Southwest.
Buzzometer: 9/10 – Who could have predicted back in the summer of 2001 (when the first The Fast and the Furious debuted) that this franchise would keep afloat for this long or that, perhaps even more improbably that the franchise would become simultaneously sturdier and looser as it went along bouncing between insane hot-rod-ing and even more insane global espionage plots. It may have taken some time to get there, but The Fast and the Furious knows what it is, as do its audiences. Furious 7 may have a teensy bit more heft attached due to Walker’s late 2013 passing. While Furious 7‘s box office bounty is a given, can the franchise continue without its headlining straight man?
Release Date: April 3rd
ALSO OPENING IN APRIL:
- THE AGE OF ADALINE – Blake Lively finds the fountain of youth following a devastating accident in this romantic drama. (April 24th)
- ALEX OF VENICE – Veteran character actor Chris Messina (The Mindy Project) makes his directorial debut with this drama staring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed.) (April 17th – limited)
- BEYOND THE REACH – New thrillers pitting Michael Douglas against Jeremy Irvine (War Horse.) (April 17th – limited)
- EFFIE GRAY – Dakota Fanning stars a teenage bride in Victorian England in this period drama written by Emma Thompson. (April 3rd – limited)
- THE LONGEST RIDE – Scott Eastwood (Fury) and Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland) play lovers in the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation. (April 10th)
- MONKEY KINGDOM – The latest Disney nature documentary arrives just in time for Earth Day. (April 17th)
- PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2 – Kevin James returns in the sequel to the surprise 2009 comedy. (April 17th)