Spring movie preview: April
With only one month to go before the uber-competitive summer season starts, April is bit softer as the studios wind down from March and gear up for May. There are a handful of releases that could hit in a big way but mostly, it’s middle of the road fare all the way, nothing super ambitious going on. Except for The Pirates! Band of Misfits because stop-motion animation is always ambitious.
In 1999 American Pie launched its young cast of mostly-unknowns to stardom. Thirteen years later, almost all of them are in need of a totally unnecessary and unwanted sequel in hopes of boosting their flagging careers. (I say “almost” because Alyson Hannigan has had a pretty nice career in television over the last decade.) I thought the first American Pie was funny when I was seventeen, but by the time the third movie in the franchise, American Wedding, came out in 2003, I was over it. And I have zero interest in this money-grabbing four-quel. If you’re looking for funny this weekend, see 21 Jump Street, if you haven’t already. And if you have, check out Goon, which stars Seann “Stifler” William Scott and is getting decent reviews.
This is one of those “people trapped in a confined space, waiting to die” horror movies. I’m not really into those, because the gimmick of the space usually overtakes actual storytelling (see also: Buried, Open Water). It’s about three people who get trapped by a murderous person in a little ATM lobby. Reviews have not been overwhelming.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope
Documentarian Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) is back with his look at the annual nerd-stravaganza: Comic-Con. A Fan’s Hope has gotten good reviews thus far, with most people appreciating Spurlock’s change in perspective as he spends most of his time behind the camera, instead of inserting himself into the narrative as a participant, his usual MO. Comic-Con makes for some pretty wild people watching, so this should be a fascinating look at nerd culture at its zenith.
Damsels in Distress
Much-admired writer/director Whit Stillman hasn’t made a movie since 1998’s The Last Days of Disco. He returns now with Damsels in Distress, a story about a group of girls at college determined to save everyone from themselves. I’ve heard mixed things about this movie. Reviews have been generally positive, but talking to people who’ve seen it, no one seems to enjoy watching it. I wonder if the reviews owe more to general affection and nostalgia for Stillman, who has made several excellent films in the past (Barcelona and Metropolitan, as well as the superb Disco), than whatever is actually going on with Damsels. Starring indie doll Greta Gerwig (Greenberg), Megalyn Echikunwoke (House of Lies), newcomer Carrie MacLemore and Analeigh Tipton (Crazy Stupid Love).
It is inevitable that after a young actor gets some attention in a big movie, their next movie is some crap horror flick that has probably been sitting on the shelf, waiting for someone in the cast to get famous enough to justify the expense of releasing it. Detention is that movie for Josh Hutcherson. Fresh off The Hunger Games, here is a crap horror flick about kids stuck in detention trying to escape a killer called Cinderhella. CINDERHELLA. Dane Cook is in this movie, too, which guarantees it will suck. His movie career has been less than stellar.
Willem Defoe stars as Martin, a professional hunter who is hired to hunt the last Tasmanian tiger. In reality, the Tasmanian tiger is extinct, but the premise of the film is that there is one left in the wild and a biotech company wants it (presumably for cloning and/or to mount death-lasers on its head), and so Martin is sent to capture it. As he tracks the tiger through backwoods Tasmania (my Australian ex used to joke about Tasmania like Americans do Alabama—is this accurate, Aussies, or was he being a dick?), Martin meets a cast of predictably backwards people. Again, the reviews have been pretty strong for The Hunter, but no one I’ve talked to likes it. It sounds like Defoe gives a great performance in an otherwise weak movie, and I wonder if it’s a case of praise for Defoe is covering up complaints about everything else.
The moment I knew I wanted to do something to do with movies as my livelihood: Age 14, sitting in the theater watching every person I’d ever met lose their shit over Titanic while I sat there, going, “But this movie is TERRIBLE!” and realizing that I was going to have to do something about the situation if such a hackneyed, derivative movie could not only get made, but be such a massive hit. I did not like Titanic in 1997 and I haven’t liked it any time I’ve been subjected to it since then. If you feel like hearing my list o’reasons it’s one of the most overrated movies in history, let me know. Otherwise, just know that every time someone says “I like Titanic” I hear “I’m a sucker, please sell me a bridge”.
We Have a Pope
Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room, The Caiman) is very popular on the international scene. His latest is We Have a Pope, which follows Cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli, Restless), the newly-elected pope who, incapacitated by fear, is unable to take office. So the Vatican appoints a therapist (Moretti) to try and help coax the pope out so he can officially be announced. Reviews have been mixed, but I find Moretti’s films are usually worth checking out. His perspective is never expected and his movies almost always feel quite fresh and interesting. Also, Piccoli is one of France’s greatest actors, so there’s that.
The Cabin in the Woods
It’s the merger of two very dedicated fan bases—horror nerds and Joss Whedon fanboys. They’ve been waiting ages for the Whedon produced and written Cabin in the Woods. I know nothing about this movie, as anyone who has been exposed to it repeatedly emphasizes that you shouldn’t even watch the trailer for fear of having whatever the twist is spoiled. I’ve posted the trailer below—whether you watch it or not is between you and your tolerance for spoilers.
This bounced around festivals last year and is now getting a limited release. Starring Ben Foster (The Messenger), Here is about a cartographer who falls in love with a photographer while doing a new survey of Armenia. It looks pretty sad and depressing, but even when the movies aren’t that great, Foster is always worth watching.
Director Luc Besson made a big impression with The Professional in 1994, but ever since then, he’s made a string of bad action movies and has run down his reputation in the process (although I do enjoy The Fifth Element as a trainwreck). He takes a stab at redemption with The Lady, which got decent reviews on last year’s festival circuit, and won star Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) generous praise for her portrayal of Burmese democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi. As a fan of Yeoh, I’ll see this eventually, but I’m not going to lie. I find Besson, as a director, to be pretty off-putting and I’m not really into his films.
I had the BIGGEST crush on Guy Pearce when Memento came in 2000. I’m so glad he’s back and healthy and we can enjoy him once again. This movie looks terrible—it’s about a prison in space that is overtaken by the inmates threatening to crash it on earth—and I’m sure it will be eye-roll inducing. But it’s Guy Pearce. I love him! I totally want to see this and I hope it sucks in the good way (you know, the fun, bad-action-movie-is-good way), and not in the bad way (the bad-action-movie-makes-me-want-to-set-the-theater-on-fire way).
The Three Stooges
I’ve never been a fan of the Three Stooges, so please feel free to explain to me why this movie is so offensive to people who are. Sure, it looks extremely silly and is second-hand embarrassing, but the Three Stooges were extremely silly and second-hand embarrassing. Obviously, I’m missing something because I don’t get why Stooges fans are so up in arms about this. I mean, it looks terrible, but the Three Stooges are kind of terrible, so… The expectations are so low and early word is so bad that the general consensus in the industry is that this movie, which is not a biopic but is meant to be a recreation of the Three Stooges style of comedy, will kill the actual Stooges biopic project by association. And that is a shame because the Stooges biopic is quite dark and interesting and could maybe, finally, explain to me what I am just not getting about the Three Stooges.
Lawrence Kasdan is a good filmmaker with a pretty bizarre resume, from The Big Chill to Wyatt Earp to French Kiss. This is his first film since 2003’s Dreamcatcher and it looks halfway decent at least. Diane Keaton stars as Beth, an empty-nester struggling with a disinterested husband (Kevin Kline). Beth rescues a dog and it becomes her constant companion, until her husband loses it after their daughter’s wedding. Beth enlists wedding guests to help find the dog, hijinks ensue. It doesn’t look groundbreaking, but it’s got a good cast and an identifiable premise—loneliness, companionship, rediscovery of love. That should be enough for a steady expansion that will see Darling Companion carry into summer as counter-programming to the popcorn fare. Also starring Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, Dianne Wiest, Sam Shepard and Richard Jenkins.
The Lucky One
Zac Efron + Nicholas Sparks + inevitable Sparksian ending where someone dies in a maudlin fashion = zero interest on my part.
A documentary about Bob Marley from the director of The Last King of Scotland. Pretty straightforward, should be worth it to Marley fans.
The Moth Diaries
Sarah Bolger (The Tudors), Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method) and model Lily Cole star in this horror movie about catty girls at boarding school. Scott Speedman is their teacher—I assume at least one of them has sex with him at some point. This does not look good. I’d recommend renting Cracks instead.
Think Like a Man
Based on Steve Harvey’s relationship book and starring Taraji Henson, Romany Malco (The 40 Year Old Virgin), Chris Brown—wait. Chris Brown? Pass.
To the Arctic 3D
Meryl Streep narrates this documentary that follows a mother polar bear and her two cubs through the Arctic. It’s Warner Brothers’ answer to Disney’s annual Earth Day nature-doc, and I’m sure it will pull plenty of heartstrings. Assuming you have heartstrings to be pulled and not, you know, scorpion tails and thistles like me.
Writer/director Richard Linklater defined Generation X on film in the 1990’s with movies like Slacker, Dazed & Confused and Before Sunrise (I know Dazed was set in the 1970’s but the parallels are there), and then he made The School of Rock with Jack Black and lost my unconditional love forever, though A Scanner Darkly did kind of put him back in my good graces. Bernie looks to be another step in the right direction for Linklater, even if he is re-teaming with Black. Given the right material, Black can be an effective actor, and Bernie might be the right balance of black comedy and outright weirdness to tap into Black’s inner actor. Based on an actual murder in 1990’s Texas, Bernie is about a mortician (Black) who becomes friends with the least popular person in town, the bitter widow Marjorie. Eventually Bernie kills Marjorie but she was so unpopular in town that the prosecuting attorney (Matthew McConaughey) finds it difficult to charge Bernie. As far as creepy crime movies with weird murders go, this is more intriguing than The Raven.
The Five Year Engagement
Jason Segel and his creative partner, Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) re-team for The Five Year Engagement, another of their skewed-perspective rom-coms. I’ve been a big fan of the Segel/Stoller movies to this point, so I’m hopeful that Engagement keeps the tradition alive. Segel is joined on screen by Emily Blunt and they play a couple that, for various reasons, ends up with a long engagement. I like the idea of a rom-com dealing with what happens when the perfect couple of the love story suffers a disaster-strewn ever after, but something about Engagement has not been landing with me. The trailer doesn’t look especially funny and the chemistry between Segel and Blunt seems a little flat. It almost feels like Stoller and Segel had to make this movie to fulfill a contract requirement. I hope I’m wrong, though. I hope it’s funny and worthy of the pedigree that brought us The Muppets and Sarah Marshall.
Girl in Progress
This movie stars Eva Mendes, who is Bitch-Enemy #1 right now thanks to her ongoing relationship with Ryan Gosling. So I imagine if you do go see it, it will be to make fun of Eva and tell each other how fat she looks and how their relationship must be fake because The Gos would never like a bitch like her. Because otherwise, this movie doesn’t look any good and I can’t imagine why you’d be seeing it.
Norway has been turning out some very intriguing and visually interesting films lately, and Headhunters is another entry in the “what is going on in Norway because they’re making some sweet ass films all of a sudden” category. It’s a crime thriller about an art thief attempting to acquire a painting from an ex-mercenary. It was a surprise hit at several North American festivals last year, including blow out reviews from TIFF. I am definitely making time for this one.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
I CAN’T WAIT THIS WILL BE THE BEST MOVIE EVER.
Seriously, though, I adore the book series by English author Gideon Defoe. They’re short, charming and funny—it’s a bit like reading Monty Python—and an Aardman Animations stop-motion cartoon is a perfect match to the silly, campy tone of the books. And the vocal work is stellar—Hugh Grant is virtually undetectable as the Pirate Captain and Salma Hayek, Imelda Staunton, Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Office), Brendan Gleeson (The Guard, Harry Potter) and David Tennant (Dr. Who) all do excellent work. I’ve gotten a glimpse and as both a huge fan of the books and an exacting film-goer, I am really enthusiastic about this movie’s potential.
I should be into this movie. I love Edgar Allen Poe, and I like creepy movies about murder. The Raven stars John Cusack as Poe in his final days, in an alternate-reality in which a serial murderer is recreating all Poe’s fictional murders in real life, and Poe teams up with a Baltimore detective (Luke Evans, Immortals) to solve the crimes. The trailer is moody and dark and a little weird and basically has a ribbon and a tag that says, “Sarah, this movie is just for you.” And yet, I am unmoved. I don’t know if it’s Cusack, who looks a bit zombified here, or if it’s the lack of cleverness, but I’m not really feeling The Raven.
I liked The Transporter, and I enjoyed Jason Statham in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, as well as The Italian Job (whatever, that’s a guilty pleasure movie for me), but the other side of Statham are these incredibly stupid Transporter knock-offs like Crank and Safe. He’s got to protect some girl and get her to some place and he’ll kill a bunch of people in increasingly not-possible ways throughout the film. That’s all there is, really.
Sound of My Voice
Co-written by and starring indie darling Brit Marling (Another Earth), Sound of My Voice is about a journalist (Christopher Denham, Shutter Island) and his girlfriend getting sucked into the cult he’s investigating. It was popular at Sundance 2011, but a lot of the complaints I’ve heard center around the unevenness of the story, since it was originally conceived as short webisodes and was later turned into a feature film. The inherent nature of a webisode isn’t exactly feature-friendly, which is why Joss Whedon hasn’t tried to turn Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog into a movie. Points to Marling & Co. for trying, but this looks like a rental to me.