This column features my individualized rundown of each month’s theatrical releases, with a quick synopsis and a quicker explanation of why I color-coded each title the way I did. My color-coding is explained as follows:
PURPLE – Can’t wait.
GREEN – Worth a look, or better.
YELLOW – Use caution.
RED – Bound to be disappointing, or worse.
BROWN – Crap. Guaranteed.
Please note: Release dates are subject to change. (Especially towards the second half of the year.)
Please also note: Occasionally my opinions change. I’m not too proud that I can’t admit to be wrong sometimes. In fact, when it’s a negative opinion, I welcome having my mind changed. (However, if your name is Justin Timberlake or Kevin James, your work is officially cut out for you there.)
As always, I encourage everyone reading to be an independent thinker. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone discourage you from liking what you like (that’s generally speaking – some things genuinely don’t deserve to be liked.)
What you get from me, as ever, is just one opinion, but from a guy who happens to have seen more movies than most anybody, who has studied this stuff and thought about it more often than is healthy, and who has just enough first-hand experience to have seen something about how it works, and therefore has a bit more informed of an opinion than many elsewhere on the internet.
So let’s go, April.
Source Code (April 1)
It’s the next sci-fi movie from Duncan Jones, who made the excellent and under-seen Moon in 2009. Jake Gyllenhaal stars, alongside Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan, two of the best actresses working in film today. The time-jumping premise sounds like a high-wire act, but it seems worth the risk.
Insidious (April 1)
A horror movie from the production team behind Saw (not a great sign), starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne (much better sign). I’ve heard mixed-to-positive reviews so far, generally much better than expected. There’s not a lot of horror to be had this month. You make the call.
Super (April 1)
Rainn Wilson (The Office) and Ellen Page (Inception) play misfits who embark on a second life as costumed crimefighters in the newest feature from Slither’s James Gunn. The sad thing about Super is that it keeps getting mentioned alongside last year’s awful Kick-Ass. It’s so much better and weirder than that. Look for my review later on today!
Hop (April 1)
Russell Brand. Skip. (For me, it’s not that easy. I have to see this one. Help me.)
Rubber (April 1, NY/LA/Austin)
A tire named Robert goes on a murderous rampage in this experimental horror film, a good bet for a future cult classic. Hey Robert, how do you feel about Easter bunnies who have the voice of Russell Brand?
Your Highness (April 8)
Star (and co-writer) Danny McBride, co-writer Ben Best, and director David Gordon Green last worked together on HBO’s Eastbound & Down. With co-star James Franco, they made Pineapple Express. With Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, and a medieval knights-and-wizards premise, this is an absolute necessity.
Hanna (April 8)
The director of Atonement reunites with his young star to make this thriller, which looks for all the world like Luc Besson made it. It seems to be a blend between La Femme Nikita and Leon/ The Professional. It also looks like a pretty well-done homage to those movies, and with a score by The Chemical Brothers, this could turn out to be very much worth your time.
Arthur (April 8)
Russell Brand. Skip. The trailers for this remake of the beloved Dudley Moore comedy are so shrill and irritating that it makes me want to punch myself in the dick. Just to make a statement.
Born to Be Wild (April 8)
This is a documentary, to be released in 3D and IMAX, about orangutans and elephants and the people who help protect these awesome but threatened species. Morgan Freeman narrates. My niece is all over this one, and I’ll be happy to see it too.
Meek’s Cutoff (April 8, limited)
I’ve heard great things about the work of director Kelly Reichardt, but haven’t had the chance to catch up yet. Her latest, again starring Michelle Williams, is a period piece about the harrowing days of the Oregon Trail. The poster is awesome, and I have a similar good feeling about the quality of the movie.
Scream 4 (April 15)
Zero interest. The time for these movies have passed. The first Scream mattered to me, but they lost me with the second, and in the intervening decade, I’ve become increasingly impatient with movies where beautiful young girls are stabbed to death in ironic scenes of pseudo-suspense. And Community’s Alison Brie is in this latest one, inevitably as murder-fodder. I simply won’t sit for a movie where sweet Annie Edison is stabbed to death. It’s not happening.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Rio (April 15)
An animated movie from “the creators of” the Pixar also-ran Ice Age franchise about escaped pet macaws who fly down to Brazil. The voice cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and Jamie Foxx, none of whom I have a problem with, although I do feel as if we’ve had a lot of them in the past two years. There’s also a voice from Will.I.Am from The Black-Eyed Peas, which I actively despise, so this probably isn’t going to be easy. But I have to do it, so I’ll let y’all know how it goes.
Soul Surfer (April 15)
From IMDB: “A teenage surfer girl summons the courage to go back into the ocean after losing an arm in a shark attack.” You may have heard about this story. I would like to tread lightly here, because I don’t mean to make light of a real person’s real suffering. But this movie looks like a hilariously earnest piece of… um… treacle. It took somewhere in the area of eight writers (and Baywatch producers) to bring this story to screen. The huge-mulleted Native American gentleman from Lorenzo Lamas’s 1990s syndicated opus Renegade is in the trailer. So is Kevin Sorbo from Hercules. And American Idol’s Carrie Underwood. You’ll forgive me if I don’t have great faith in these people to convey the seriousness of Bethany Hamilton’s real-life struggle. But the dickhead side of me cannot wait to see how they filmed the shark attack. Because I saw them get a lot of practice doing it on Baywatch. And it was glorious.
Apollo 18 (April 22)
The “found footage” approach to horror, established by the remarkably overrated Blair Witch Project and continuing with the similarly incident-free Paranormal Activity, continues with this tale of the supposed final manned voyage to the moon. I’m sure this idea seemed like a no-brainer to the writers and producers pitching it, and you never know, it could be interesting. But to my way of thinkind, those aforementioned movies are not promising ones to be grouped alongside.
Madea’s Big Happy Family (April 22)
People who love movies hate Tyler Perry movies. The reason is because he is terrible at making movies. I don’t begrudge the man his success, and you have to respect him as a businessman. But that certainly doesn’t mean he has any innate skill or lasting value in front of or behind a camera. Unlike many of his detractors, I’ve seen several of Tyler Perry’s movies. Which makes it all the more egregious that he’s wasted opportunities with some tremendous talent who deserve better showcases and more leading roles. (Taraji Henson, Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington, Anika Noni Rose, Derek Luke, Brian White, Idris Elba, Michael Jai White, etc., etc., etc.) It can fairly be argued that Tyler Perry serves an audience, but I personally believe that every audience deserves better than what Tyler Perry gives them. If I were him, I’d be embarrassed at plenty of the stuff he’s put out in the world. Then I’d take a little time off, listen to the way that people actually speak, go watch the great movies, take some screenwriting courses, and try a little harder.
Water for Elephants (April 22)
Love Reese Witherspoon, love elephants, love Ken Foree (he’s in it!), really like Christoph Waltz (from Inglourious Basterds), like the idea that director Francis Lawrence went from Constantine to I Am Legend to this, and I’ll tell you something else: I don’t mind that Robert Pattinson kid. I know a lot of people in my peer group despise him, but it’s not his fault he got cast in a shitty vampire franchise. Who wouldn’t take that job? This is one of the movies that will tell whether the guy from Twilight can really act. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt?
Born to Be a Star (April 22)
I like Nick Swardson as a comedian and especially as a maker of short-form web videos (Gay Robot, Wheelchair Cat, etc.: right up my alley), but he hasn’t had the chance yet to hit his potential in movies. He’s in tight with Sandler, so he always gets throwaway roles in Sandler’s movies, but none that have really registered. This is Swardson’s first starring vehicle, as a clueless guy who moves to Hollywood to become a porn star. I don’t know. Trey Parker and Matt Stone tried that premise before (with Orgazmo) and couldn’t really make it work. Much as I like Sandler and Swardson, they are a lot more mainstream and a lot less dedicated to anarchy than Parker & Stone are. I really don’t know if I need to see a tamer version of this premise.
Fast Five (April 29)
This franchise got a lot more interesting to me when Justin Lin took over. Lin, a sometime Community director, took over with the fun Tokyo Drift. After the decent Fast & Furious, he brings us this, the All-Star game of the franchise, bringing together characters from all four previous movies (Diesel, Walker, Brewster, Tyrese, Ludacris, etc.). It’s so much of a buffet that they went back in continuity to resurrect Sung Kang, the very likable actor from Tokyo Drift who I always hoped would get another shot in a mainstream movie. And of course, in Fast Five this crew is pitted against a goateed Dwayne Johnson, the perfect adversary. As much as his last movie, Faster, kind of sucked, I think the actor formerly known as “The Rock” will be a great fit for this movie. Like an old issue of Marvel Team-Up, this could be a lot of fun.
What’s Your Number? (April 29)
IMDB says: “A woman (Anna Faris) looks back at the past twenty men she’s had relationships with in her life and wonders if one of them might be her one true love.” I say: Not much, really. Here comes Anna Faris in an attempt to knock Kate Hudson off of her dippy-blond romantic-comedy perch. Good luck to her, I guess. Couldn’t do worse!
Prom (April 29)
It’s a Disney teen movie about a high school prom. I’m signed up for a screening, somehow. I can’t imagine that this movie and I have much of anything in common, but we’ll find out soon enough – let’s just hope I’m not arrested for lurking around the theater.
So anyway, that’s April. See you here again in May for the return of this column, but if you want a good dose of daily me, keep it locked to this station.