Monthly Preview: April 2014

Well, last month completely lived up to my expectations: a bunch of good movies of varying genres and styles, with only one or two subpar efforts. And now it looks like April should continue along that same path. This month’s lineup feels even more arthouse-oriented than last month, so it should be a good month for “highbrow” film before we get into the tentpole season.

Dom Hemingway: Every few years, there seems to be a moment where a well-known British thespian takes a role as an absurdly foul-mouthed gangster in a small indie picture. Ben Kingsley did it in Sexy Beast, Ralph Fiennes did it in In Bruges, and now Jude Law is doing it in Dom Hemingway. But unlike in those other two films, here Law is taking center stage as a crook trying to put himself straight, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can capture the same scenery-chewing spirit as his predecessors while also providing an emotional core for the film to be built on. The movie certainly seems to have that old-school British gangster film vibe, and a solid supporting cast (Demian Bichir, Richard E. Grant and Emilia Clarke) on top of it. Should be a solid performance showcase if nothing else.

Stage Fright: Horror has never been a huge interest of mine- outside of the work of a few particular filmmakers- but every now and then I get the itch to watch some good ol’ schlocky scarefests, and Stage Fright seems to fit that bill, and it throws in a musical flair to boot. While I have no idea if this will be any good, it does look very fun and silly in the right kind of way, and should be a nice little afternoon diversion on iTunes (note: it’s VOD on the 3rd and will be in theaters in early May, just so you know). Who knows, it might even be better than I’m expecting…

Captain America: Winter Soldier: The big exception to the arthouse-friendly lineup of this month, the latest Marvel movie is apparently blowing the doors off of everyone that’s seen it. While I’ve never been as big a Cap fan, and I wasn’t sure how excited I was for this one until recently, I’m fully looking forward to it now, and it seems like Marvel has really hit its stride. While detractors might not buy it, I feel like each film is arriving with its own distinctive identity now, and that with the overall success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe they are giving filmmakers free reign to tell their stories as they see fit. And besides all of the big-picture implications of Winter Soldier’s success, the idea of a 70s-paranoia-thriller with superheroes (and this fully-stacked cast to boot) sounds just fine to me.

Under the Skin: It’s always exciting when major Hollywood figures commit to doing something far afield of the mainstream. And while Scarlett Johansson already spent her Marvel downtime doing voicework for Her, the fact that she’s also done this, a seemingly much more obtuse and difficult film, is worth noting. While I haven’t seen Jonathan Glazer’s creepy-sounding Birth, I have seen Sexy Beast (see Dom Hemingway above) and greatly enjoyed it… though I don’t think anything he’s done so far would be an indicator of what to expect from this film. There’s a very good chance that Under the Skin will infuriate and bore me, but that’s definitely not gonna stop me from giving it a look.

Joe: We all know Nicolas Cage has had a pretty ridiculous decade of work, and this looks like by far his most grounded and genuine work in awhile. We also know that David Gordon Green is starting to work his way back from his couple of years as the most random member of the Apatow Comedy Troupe, and while this seems like a more genre-based movie than his earliest work, it’s still closer to his old stomping grounds. So since we all know those things, I guess I don’t need to talk about this movie at all right? Right?

Only Lovers Left Alive: I have absolutely no experience with Jim Jarmusch’s work as of yet, and what I have heard about him leads me to believe there’s a very good chance that this will be the sort of arthouse-y movie that I don’t go for. However, when you assemble a cast like this one and what looks like one of the more unique and flashy takes on vampires I’ve seen in awhile, then I’m inclined to give you benefit of the doubt whether I know your work or not. One of the leading contenders to be this year’s Spring Breakers for me (i.e. an arthouse movie I actually enjoy).

That Demon Within: Our out-of-left-field choice for this month, That Demon Within seems like a nice Hong Kong take on the serial killer genre, and a good place for me to start expanding my foreign film knowledge into China. Director Dante Lam has made several movies that sound appealing to me, and this one looks incredibly cool and stylish, so it seems worthwhile to check out (assuming I can find it somewhere). Maybe it’s a double standard for me to be excited about what seems to be a style-first procedural from Hong Kong when I’d probably be dismissive of the average American equivalent, but this still looks distinctive enough to intrigue me.

Locke: Steven Knight has had a solid career as a screenwriter, crafting the underrated London thrillers Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises, and while I haven’t seen his directorial debut Hummingbird (aka Redemption here in the States) I’ve heard it’s a nice, character-centric spin on Jason Statham’s formula. So when you combine such narrative talents with a single-setting story and the acting prowess of Tom Hardy, then I am very inclined to give you a look. Not to mention that despite the limited setting the film seems to have a nice stylish look as well, which should go a long way to undercutting the chance for monotony. Should be a nice showcase for both Knight and Hardy, and I’m all for it.

As usual my list is light on comedy, but Alan Partridge starring Steve Coogan does look fun and I’d probably be more excited for it if I was more familiar with the character; I haven’t seen any of Errol Morris’ work yet but I’m interested to see him directly take on Rumsfeld in Unknown Known; my excitement for Transcendence has waned since I saw the first trailer for it, but I’m still hopeful that it could be the sort of smart scifi I’m always looking for; there’s also the Drafthouse Films documentary The Final Member about the Icelandic penis museum that sounds like a more lighthearted documentary but maybe not enough to sustain a feature; and finally I’ve heard some good things about revenge drama Blue Ruin, but the trailer makes it look pretty straightforward, so I still haven’t advanced beyond “curious” for that one.

Anyway, that’s April for you. Enjoy yourselves some movies, and bring on May!

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