April 2016 Movie Preview
And with the arrival of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘ we can officially say that the Summer Movie Season has started. This is a bit awkward, however, because it’s rainy as hell and the day I’m writing this (belated) preview, we had snow.
But is the British “Summer” reflective on the output in U.K. cinemas? This is actually quite a surprising month because while we do have big tent-pole releases, but we’ve got some very interesting counter-programming and lots of variety on display. But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s dive right into April 2016!
April 1st 2016
Eddie the Eagle –
Have you ever realised the biopics made in the U.K. only work in extremes? In recent years we’ve had brilliant true-story movies like ‘The King’s Speech‘, ‘Philomena‘, ‘Rush‘ and more but we’ve also had absolute train-wrecks like ‘Diana‘ and ‘One Chance‘. When it comes to ‘Eddie the Eagle‘, I have a feeling that we’re at least going to be on the positive end of the spectrum. The true story of Olympic Ski Jumper, Eddie Edwards, is a natural crowd-pleaser (though it feels odd to release this movie during the year of the SUMMER Olympics, but whatever) so don’t expect something out-of-this-world.
What makes this movie noteworthy, aside from its story, is the pedigree of those involved. Coming from ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service‘ director Matthew Vaughn’s production company, MARV Films, we have a great British filmmaker acting as the producer and one of 2015’s breakout stars Taron Egerton working with Australia’s national-treasure Hugh Jackman. This looks a fun, light-hearted underdog story and I’m looking forward to a sports-movie from the U.K. that isn’t just about football.
April 8th 2016
In August 2014 we lost one of the most iconic comedic stars of all time; Robin Williams, leaving behind a legacy of terrifically funny work such as ‘Mrs. Doubtfire‘, ‘Good Morning, Vietnam‘ and ‘Aladdin‘ just to name a few. However, he also has a library of impeccable dramatic work like ‘Dead Poets Society‘ as well as his Oscar-winning turn in ‘Good Will Hunting‘. Since his death, his final few films have slowly been coming out such as ‘Absolutely Anything‘, ‘Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb‘ and ‘A Merry Friggin’ Christmas‘ with his final dramatic role in ‘Boulevard‘ getting a limited U.K. release.
‘Boulevard‘ tells the story of a married man in his 60s, played by Robin Williams, who starts an affair with a younger man played by Roberto Aguire. I wish I could write this preview and tell you how terrific this film is and that it’s a great last movie for a man who was taken from this world far too soon, but reviews for ‘Boulevard‘ haven’t been strong and the trailers really don’t have me interested. If it wasn’t for Robin Williams’ involvement and the unfortunate association with his death then I doubt there would be much public traction for it.
Hardcore Henry –
‘Hardcore Henry‘, otherwise known as “That movie that’s like a video game”, is a movie that I respect more than I’m excited for. Yes, the concept of a 90-minute action movie done entirely from a first-person perspective is something I’m intrigued about but everything from the title, the awesome trailer utilising Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” and the 18-rating, you get the sense that ‘Hardcore Henry‘ has turned out exactly the way Russian musician-turned-director Ilya Naishullar wanted it to.
The premise is simple; Henry has amnesia after an accident that resulted in the loss of several limbs which have now been replaced by cybernetic ones. Mercenaries have kidnapped his wife and he has to go and kill as many people as possible to get her back. What makes ‘Hardcore Henry‘ interesting is its execution but whether or not audiences will be able to sit through a first-person movie on a huge cinema screen remains to be seen. But I am looking forward to the experiment, even though I’m sure the experimental aspect will be the most noteworthy thing about it.
Whoever responded to that question with “me”…no you didn’t. You’re lying. Because NO ONE asked for this prequel.
2012’s ‘Snow White and the Huntsman‘ is the definition of “meh”. There’s nothing noteworthy about it, the story is meh, the acting is meh, the action is meh, the effects are meh, the production design is stolen from a dozen other (better) films and it wasn’t even a big money-maker for Universal Pictures. So just how the hell this movie even exists absolutely baffles me.
But we have the movie so let’s talk about it. Other than its superb female-ensemble cast of Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain (three of the best women working in the industry) there’s nothing here of interest. It’s a prequel set in an uninteresting fairy-tale world and the action looks pretty tepid from the trailers. I’m sorry, but there’s really not much to say here. It looks meh and that’s probably because it’s following a previous meh instalment.
The Man Who Knew Infinity –
Another week, another U.K. based biopic. Here, we have ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity‘ which is based off the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan; an Indian Mathematician, who lived a life of poverty in India before receiving an education at Cambridge University during World War 1. Dev Patel plays Ramanujan whilst Jeremy Irons plays his professor, G.H. Hardy. We also have Stephen Fry and Toby Jones in supporting roles which adds to the pedigree.
Watching the trailer, however, I was getting major flashbacks to ‘The Theory of Everything‘ with smatterings of ‘The Danish Girl‘ and a hint of the “white saviour” trope. I think the real-life story of Ramanujan is worth adapting into film to demonstrate examples of finding genius in impoverished or unexpected places, but the trailers seem to be indicating some sort supernatural element or incorporating faith and belief into…maths. Numbers are about as objective as it gets so that idea seems at odds with its very premise, but that could be part of the point. Either way, the talent is there, but I’m not gonna be rushing out to this.
Midnight Special –
Coming from high-concept, low-budget director Jeff Nichols (‘Take Shelter‘ & ‘Mud‘) we have ‘Midnight Special‘ which assembles a talented cast for a mystery-thriller centred around a child with supernatural abilities. Michael Shannon plays the father, Kirsten Dunst is the mother, Joel Edgerton is the family-friend and Adam Driver is the F.B.I. Agent leading the investigation.
We’ve got quite a few original movies coming out this month, but ‘Midnight Special‘ is the one I’m most intrigued about. The trailers have done a good job at selling the bond of a father and son, whilst also teasing the bigger picture and what is going on. It’s a good use of the “mystery-box”, even though I am getting ‘Super 8‘ vibes from the promotional material. We’ve got a simple mystery set-up, but the potential emotional pay-off is what excites me the most.
April 15th 2016
Here’s Kevin Costner’s annual attempt to try and grab a share of the older-action market from Liam Neeson. ‘Criminal‘ follows Costner who has the memories of a deceased CIA Agent (played by Ryan Reynolds) implanted into his mind, meaning he has to undertake his incomplete mission. Not a bad premise and the cast is superb with Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Alice Eve and Gal Gadot along for the ride.
But the trailers have nothing else to offer, the reviews haven’t been great and how generic is that title? ‘Criminal‘? Seriously? Are these really the types of movies that Kevin Costner wants to be doing when he’s not Pa Kent?
Eye In The Sky –
Drone Warfare is a very controversial subject. The morality of being able to kill dozens of people at anytime, anywhere on the planet without putting yourself in direct risk has presented many grey-areas in modern warfare and more and more drones are being created and remotely-controlled every day. “Welcome to the new front line”, says the poster for ‘Eye In The Sky‘, which is brought to us by Gavin Hood, the director of ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘ and ‘Ender’s Game‘.
Okay, so Hood’s recent track-record isn’t great. But maybe after two blockbuster misfires, a much smaller film will get him back on track. With a strong capable cast comprised of Helen Mirren, Barkhad Abdi, Aaron Paul and the final on-screen appearance of the late Alan Rickman (his appearance in the upcoming ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass‘ is through voice-over), ‘Eye In The Sky‘ looks like great, dramatic counter-programming to the bigger movies being released and should come as a breath of fresh-air after the dangerously simple-minded approach to drone-warfare offered by ‘London Has Fallen‘ last month.
The Jungle Book –
Touted by director Jon Favreau as one of the most technologically advanced movies ever made, Disney are re-making their own 1967 animated movie (which was inspired by the 1894 Rudyard Kipling book of the same name) with an all-star, motion-captured cast that was created entirely on a sound-stage. The jungle seen on screen is entirely digital with even Neel Sethi’s Mowgli character being mostly being a digital creation (as Sethi would perform motion capture and the CGI-wizards at Disney would add his clothing on-top).
Disney’s animated version of ‘The Jungle Book‘ is considered one of their most iconic films thanks to a combination of memorable characters, awesome music and great art-work/atmosphere and it would seen that Jon Favreau has managed to translate that into live-action because this looks amazing. The trailers have been terrific, early reviews have been glowing (95% on Rotten Tomatoes at time of writing) and it would seem after a shaky start with their live-action re-makes, Disney have found their stride. Andy Serkis must be wetting his pants right now since he’s making ‘Jungle Book: Origins‘ for Warner Bros. in 2018.
April 20th 2016
Friend Request –
The internet is a pretty scary place sometimes and because of that Hollywood has tried to tap into that fear in their horror/thriller movies. This results in the admirable but bad ‘Unfriended‘ or the hysterical ‘Feardotcom‘ and it would seem that German director Simon Verhoeven’s ‘Friend Request‘ will go the same way.
Seriously, watch the trailer for what’s meant to be a serious thriller and try not to laugh. I double dare you.
April 22nd 2016
Bastille Day –
Idris Elba desperately needs more of a Hollywood career. He’s conquered television with shows like “Luthor” and done voice work in movies like ‘Zootropolis‘ and ‘The Jungle Book‘, but apart from supporting roles in geek-appeal genre movies like ‘Pacific Rim‘ and the “Thor” series, he’s not really considered a “name” yet. Until be becomes a “name”, he’ll just have to star in generic looking action films.
Which nicely transitions me into ‘Bastille Day‘ where Elba plays a former CIA agent who teams up with a con-man to thwart a terrorist plot in France. ‘Bastille Day‘ doesn’t look horrible, but you can guarantee that a movie like this would normally go straight to DVD if it didn’t star Elba or come from the director of ‘The Woman In Black‘. It just looks pretty generic and there’s nothing from the trailers that have me interested. This could be a safe skip.
This Western Passion-Project of Natalie Portman has spent years circling directors actors and has flirted with cancellation many times but it finally made it across the finish line with Portman starring alongside Joel Edgerton and Ewan McGregor with Gavin O’Connor directing. BUT…is it worth seeing?
I wish I could say that after all that time spent in production-hell that it came out the other end to massive critical acclaim but there hasn’t been a lot of praise for ‘Jane Got A Gun‘. Reviews have been mixed, there’s not a lot of passion or goodwill surrounding the film and as someone who doesn’t think there’s been a good western movie in a long time, that really disappoints me. I’m glad it finally got made, but I think that’s as far as it’s gonna go.
Miles Ahead –
Somewhat of an anomaly in April (an Oscar-hopeful biopic) we have Don Cheadle directing, starring, and co-writing ‘Miles Ahead‘, a biopic about the influential jazz musician Miles Davis. With a cast also comprising of Emayatzy Corinealdi, Ewan McGregor and Michael Stuhlbarg, the prestige and the story definitely have potential.
I also really enjoyed the trailer (linked below) which shows off the 16mm cinematography of Roberto Schaefer, the rebellious nature of its titular character as well as how far the production team have gone to re-creating the era and even giving the movie vibes of blaxploitation. Reviews have been generally positive and I think there’s a lot of material in the career of Miles Davis to portray on film. I’m not hyped for this, but I’m looking forward to seeing a film like this, especially at such a strange time of year.
April 29th 2016
Captain America: Civil War –
How does one introduce entries to the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point? We’re 13 films into this grand, blockbuster epic so you’re either on-board with it by now or not. Despite numerous studios trying to catch-up, such as Warner Bros with their DC Comics universe, Universal with their Universal Monsters Series and many others, only Marvel/Disney have managed to get the formula off the ground effectively and have reaped huge profits as well as immense critical and audience acclaim.
And looking at the promotional material for ‘Captain America: Civil War‘, it’s demonstrating exactly why this long-form of story-telling is effective because while having Steve Rogers and Tony Stark fight each other will make for some great spectacle, deep down you don’t want to see the MCU divided, yet you can see both sides of the argument as the main characters have been growing, changing and evolving for almost a decade on-screen. Simply put, the movie looks fun, yet immensely dramatic, packed with characters and action and it’s one of my most anticipated movies of the whole year, let alone April 2016.
Oh yeah, and Spider-Man is back home again. HYPE TIME!
At first glance, ‘Demolition‘ seems to tick a lot of the right boxes for me. Director Jean-Marc Vallée has made some strong films recently with ‘Dallas Buyers Club‘ and ‘Wild‘, Jake Gyllenhaal is a true talent after proving himself in films like ‘Source Code‘, ‘Prisoners‘, ‘Nightcrawler‘ and more and we also have a potentially emotional and relatable story about new beginnings and grief.
Too bad it looks terrible.
Now, the reviews haven’t been so bad but the promotional material and the trailers are trying so desperately hard to be quirky, off-beat and act unconventional. Ironically, it just makes it come across as out-of-touch, dumb and conventional as hell. I’m sure we’ll get good performances, but this is a case of the marketing killing any potential anticipation I may have had for ‘Demolition‘. It just looks like “Hipster the Movie”. Watch the trailer and tell me I’m wrong.
Ratchet and Clank –
No, you are not mistaken. The ‘Ratchet and Clank‘ movie, adapted from the Insomniac Games franchise of the same name on Sony video game consoles, is in fact coming out this month. There’s just so little promotion and hype around it, that most people I’ve spoken to didn’t even know that this movie was a thing despite being fans of the series. In a year where ‘Warcraft‘ and ‘Assassin’s Creed‘ are expected to bring video game movies into a long-overdue golden age, ‘Ratchet and Clank‘ simply isn’t part of the discussion. Heck, I even know people who think the upcoming ‘Angry Birds‘ movie looks funny.
Anyway, how does the movie look? Eh. It looks okay. The trailers aren’t great, but that could be because this origin story is being aimed at a younger demographic and the trailers are structured and tailored towards that audience. Hopefully with the end result, we’ll have something that’s faithful to the games, especially since the story-team of the franchise were heavily involved in the movie. We also have the release of this movie being accompanied by a PS4 remake of the 2002 “Ratchet and Clank” original game, both of which tie-into each other, so hopefully the movie isn’t just a cash-grab to promote the game (or vice versa).
Son of Saul –
I’m often asked why I don’t review many foreign-language films and whether or not I have some sort of prejudice against them. The answer is; of course not. It’s just difficult for me to find screenings, nearby theatres that play them and because they’re given so little marketing I don’t even know they’re being released until they’ve already come and gone from cinemas. However, ‘Son of Saul‘ had the benefit of winning the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language Film” this year, so it’s been a lot harder to miss.
This Hungarian drama centres around Saul, who is a Jewish prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp; Auschwitz. He is tasked with burning the corpses of those who are exterminated in the gas chambers and one day encounters his own son’s body. He must choose between taking part in a prison uprising, or giving his son a proper Jewish burial. So yeah, this film ain’t gonna be a fun watch but critics say it’s an incredibly rewarding and powerful movie. Not bad for the directorial debut of Hungarian director László Nemes.
So there we go, we’ve got lots of high-profile films to look forward to this month! As usual, here are my Top 3 in no particular order;
- ‘The Jungle Book‘
- ‘Eye In The Sky‘
- ‘Captain America: Civil War‘
But that’s just me. What about you? What are you folks looking forward to this April? Are there any other releases that I missed that you can’t wait to see? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below!
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Posted: 17th Apr 16