April! The appetizer to the Summer madness. This year, we’ve got another entry in a megafranchise to set the tone for the coming season, with some nice sides to go with it. Let’s take a look.
- FREE FIRE – April 21. Ben Wheatley is one of the UK’s best filmmakers, and this might finally be his first big box-office hit following the great KILL LIST and HIGH RISE. This is a great action/comedy set in the 70s with a killer cast featuring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, and Sharlto Copley. Total madness, and you NEED to see it with a crowd.
- THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS – April 14, IMAX. Here we are, the EIGHTH film in the franchise no one saw coming. They’ve been one-upping themselves with each of the last four, and this doesn’t stop the formula, throwing in a friggin’ submarine fight. Just bananas. Does anyone really think Dominic Toretto is really a bad guy now? Regardless, it’ll be over two hours of mindless fun.
- THE CIRCLE – April 28. Tom Hanks is evil Steve Jobs! What else do you need? Well, Emma Watson is the central character, a new hire with a global social media phenomenon which might be more evil than it lets on. Should be a good thriller, writer/director James Ponsoldt made THE SPECTACULAR NOW and SMASHED, two criminally underseen films.
- PHOENIX FORGOTTEN – April 21. Another found footage horror film, but with a real UFO sighting thrown in, and this one’s produced by Ridley Scott! The writer also wrote PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING, so let’s hope this is a good step, since his MAZE RUNNER adaptations have been a bit thin.
- SLEIGHT – April 28. A young street magician’s brother is kidnapped by drug dealers, so he’s got to use his abilities to save him. But does he have more power than he lets on? It’s being described as “CHRONICLE meets IRON MAN”, so that sounds promising. Could be a sleeper.
- THE PROMISE – April 21. Any discussion of the Armenian Genocide is always controversial, so when a major film finally gets produced expect loads of conversation. Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale topline it, and it’s made by the writer/director of HOTEL RWANDA, but will it get any traction theatrically? Is April a good time to release something this powerful? Is it being dumped? Does it really have a chance?
- GIFTED – April 7 limited, 14 wide. Chris Evans takes up the mantle of raising his brother’s orphaned daughter, and it turns out she’s, well, gifted. He wants to let her have a normal childhood but her grandmother wants her to be placed in an environment more suited to her gifts, and they go head to head to determine the kid’s future. Reviews say it’s a perfectly cromulent drama, but is it worth hitting the theatre for? Probably not.
- BORN IN CHINA – April 21. Disney Nature’s latest big-screen eco-doc is focused on pandas. Who doesn’t love pandas? You? Get the hell out of here.
- GOING IN STYLE – April 7. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin decide they should rob the banks that ruined their retirement fund. Sure, why not. Oh, Zach Braff is directing? Hmm.
- UNFORGETTABLE – April 21. Time for another feminism setback! Thrillers about crazy women tearing families apart tend to do really well, so casting the largely hated Katherine Heigl as the evil woman makes total sense. She’s the ex pretending to play nice while scheming to destroy the new wife (Rosario Dawson). Successful producer Denise Di Novi makes her directorial debut, so expect lots of studio support, meaning a massive ad blitz.
- HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER – April 28. An aging lothario who’s been coasting on his charm is sent packing and needs to re-examine his life, but you know, comically. Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez has been recognized as the most influential Hispanic male in the world, but white people probably won’t know him. Will this be his breakout role? Actor Ken Marino makes his feature directorial debut here, and he’s one of my faves, but it seems pretty hammy overall. He’s got most of CHILDRENS’ HOSPITAL here as support, plus Kristen Bell, Rob Lowe, and Salma Hayek. I’d love for him to get a hit, but this doesn’t look like one.
- SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE – April 7, RealD3D. Finally free of the shackles of the real world, the Smurfs are where they belong: fully animated. They’ve also aimed this one squarely at very young children, so aside from playing “I know that voice” there’s nothing here for adults bringing their kids out.
Aaaaand that’s it. So be sure to catch FREE FIRE in theatres to support great filmmaking and great theatrical experiences. See you in May!