April 2014 Movie Preview

M: Interestingly, the summer movie season appears to begin in April this year, despite the fact that in most of the country spring still hasn’t even started yet.

C: Certainly not in New England!

E: Yep.  Despite the fact that I still have isolated snow banks scattered in my yard, we’ve got at least one full on summer style blockbuster premiering this week.

M: Isolated snow banks? Heck, it snowed THIS WEEK!

April 4th

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

M: Not only does Marvel’s latest Avengers blockbuster signal the start of the summer movie season, but it is getting rave reviews. I’ve even heard “greatest comic book movie ever made” thrown out. Plus, it adds Robert Redford as the head honcho of SHIELD, and Anthony Mackie as The Falcon.

C: I saw a Samuel L. Jackson interview this morning and he made the rather hilarious observation that this is his favorite of the Marvel films because “it has a plot!” That is promising…

M: …and pretty insulting to all the other Marvel movies at the same time.

E: I was a little meh on the original Captain America flick, but I’m super, super excited this one’s getting such fantastic reviews.  The previews look terrific, but we’ve been fooled by good previews.

M: I liked the first one, and yes, the previews do look great.

C: I’ll be seeing this on Saturday, so I can report back to you guys. I feel like the previews are actually too action-heavy for my tastes, but I hope for better in the movie.

E: I can’t wait to hear what you think!  I agree that the previews stress the action aspects (which is why I say they look good but are no guarantee of quality) but hopefully that’s just a marketing choice and not indicative of the entire flick.

Dom Hemingway

C: This, on the other hand, I think I can wait to see. British black comedy starring Jude Law as a safe-cracker who refused to squeal on his buddies and went to prison, and now that he’s out, is looking to be compensated. Co-starring Richard E. Grant, who I know mostly from BBC costume dramas. Could possibly be entertaining, in a dark way.

M: Jude Law is a plus. So are black comedy and safe-cracking. Going after your buddies for not squealing on them, though? Ehh…

Nymphomaniac: Volume 2

E: Remember last month when the first volume of avant-garde Danish film maker Lars Von Trier premiered and I thought we should mention it because some people somewhere must like him?

M: I was barely involved in last month’s preview, but no.

C: I do remember, but I’m not sure why this is worth bringing up again.

E: Well, I’m trying to be fair and balanced.  But I’m losing faith that anyone would actually like this stuff.

M: Pretty sure there’s a market for it. It’s just the same market as for actual porn.

April 11th

Draft Day

M: So, you would think this would be right in my wheel house, as a massive sports and NFL fan, and specifically a draft geek (regardless of sport, but especially the NFL). The cast is great, and there are a ton of cameos. But… I don’t know. I worry about plot, and specifically about payoff of the plot (okay, you made a big trade, but you still haven’t held a practice or played a game, let alone won anything). I worry about how cheesy it looks visually, kind of like low quality filming style. I really should be more on board with this. And if I’m saying that, I can only imagine what you guys are thinking.

E: There’s a plot?  Back up. Is this fiction or a documentary?

M: It stars Kevin Costner as the GM and Dennis Leary as the coach of the Cleveland Browns.

C: Okay, that’s weird. I definitely thought we were talking about nonfiction.

M: Admittedly, they might do as well as the most recent GM and coach of the Browns (each fired after only one season), but no, it is fiction. Jennifer Garner’s in it, too. As for plot, Costner’s job is on the line, and he pisses everyone off, including his coach and owner, before presumably pulling off a big win during the draft.

E: Riveting, bro. To be fair, good filmmaking should be able to transcend the subject matter, so I suppose it’s feasible that someone, somewhere, could make a movie about a draft that I wouldn’t prefer an enema to viewing.  Considering how obsessed you and Dad are by the NFL draft, though, it’s definitely saying something that the movie can’t even win you to its side.

M: Not saying it CAN’T win me to its side, I’m just saying it hasn’t yet, and that that’s telling.

C: To answer your query above, I am thinking: pass.

Rio 2

M: Never saw the first.

E: It was good enough.  I won’t be rushing out to the theaters to see this, although who know what will happen if we get a lot of rain during April break.  Cute animals, good voice over artists, bright and attractive visuals.

C: Really generic and perfunctory looking story, though. I think this bothers me the most about the last half-decade’s worth of popular off-brand animated movies. We talk about how “children are the future” and about how impressionable they are — why do we offer them have such a low standard of story?

E: Oh, honey.  Rio wasn’t anywhere near the lowest standard.

C: I didn’t say it was! But it’s so far from the highest…

M: I think they’re going to use that on their ads for the movie: “RIO WASN’T ANYWHERE NEAR THE LOWEST STANDARD” – Relatively Entertaining

C: We are super blurbable.

Oculus

M: Unfortunately, my 13-year-old daughter and I saw the preview for this in front of Divergent. It began going downhill when they showed that it was from WWE Productions, and kept diving down from there.

C: Wait… like… pro-wrestling? They make movies?

E: M, that has to be a joke.

M: Nope, no joke, the wrestling people. I will say, before they said the title of the film, there was a voice over that included the word “oculus,” and I was surprised something from WWE Productions had that in its vocabulary. That said, this looks like standard horror flick fare.

C: Starring Karen Gillan of Doctor Who fame. But why? one has to wonder. I mean, sure, young attractive women who were once on popular American TV shows often get hung out to dry and end up in crap like this (hey, did I mention Katee Sackhoff is also in the movie?) but the BBC usually does a better job of taking care of its own.

M: I spotted, or recognized, neither of them in the preview. Not good, for the film or for their careers.

E: Amy Pond and Starbuck in the same bad movie?  Now you’re just pissing me off, world.

Cuban Fury

M: Nick Frost (of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, etc) salsa dance battles Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) over Rashida Jones. I read an interesting article about this one, which Frost came up with the idea for and co-wrote to be “Strictly Ballroom meets The Bourne Identity.

C: I read that too, and it’s worth emphasizing that the Bourne connection is simply that the characters take dancing deadly seriously and consider it quite masculine. There is no actual spying or memory loss.

E: Or perhaps that the marketing team thinks they’ll get men to see it if they hint that guns will be involved as well as pas de deux.

M: Frost apparently trained something like 8 hours a day for 7 months to be able to do the dancing scenes. Not what I expect from him, but could be interesting!

E: C and I stumbled upon some clips of this, and we’re both pretty drawn to it.  Strictly Ballroom? Bring it on!

C: I like Jones, I like Dowd, and I like dancing.

E: Exactly. Win, win, win!

M: C, you forgot “I like Frost.” I like Frost.

C: I don’t have a strong impression of him one way or the other, but I like that he’s trying to come out from being just the chubby sidekick to Simon Pegg. So, sure, let’s count that as a win too.

E: Win, win, win and win?

C: Curious to hear the reviews!

Joe

E: Gritty Southern Gothic, based on the acclaimed novel (aren’t they all?), about a man with a violent past who’s drawn to protect a teenage boy from his abusive drunk of a father.

C: All gritty Southern Gothics are based on acclaimed novels? Huh, I don’t think I knew there were a lot of gritty Southern Gothic novels. I suppose because I don’t read them.

E: The trailer includes a lot of quotes about this being a return to greatness for lead Nicholas Cage, and a triumph for young Tye Sheridan of last year’s well reviewed Southern drifter McConnaissance flick, Mud.

M: So, Tye is type cast already. Poor kid.

E: And who’d think there’d be enough of these movies to make it a type?  It’s not necessarily something I want to run out at see, but I started the trailer rolling my eyes, and ended up engrossed by the story.  It had a similar feeling to Winter’s Bone, which I adore, and the early reviews are positive.

M: I’m just trying to picture Nic Cage screaming “I LOST MY HAND!” in a southern accent.

C: I can picture that. Oh Nic Cage.

The Railway Man

E: Okay, I’m drawn to this pretty, gritty story of a WW2 veteran trying to live and love after his brutal experiences as a prison at a Japanese work camp.  I love Colin Firth, I love The Bridge Over The River Kwai, the cast and the filmmaking look terrific.

M: I wonder if they’re trying to capitalize on the popularity of the book Unbroken, and beat that film to theaters.

E: Could be.  It’s based on another true story. My real hesitation is that it’s an odd fit for April. Why put awards bait here? Because any movie starring Oscar winners Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman is automatically awards bait even without the WW2 setting. Is it not as good as it looks?

M: We asked this question back in February with Monuments Men. We were all hopeful that it was being released at an odd time not for the usual reason of dumping something that turned out bad, but because of some other motivation. We were wrong, it was the usual. Unfortunately it’s probably the same thing here.

C: I’m still disappointed about that. But don’t they release one or two smaller Oscar-style flicks every spring, E? Why do I feel like that’s a thing?

E: Well, sometimes they try. We can hope, I guess.

Only Lovers Left Alive

C: Totally bizarre-looking film starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as vampires who have been lovers for centuries, and Mia Wasikowska as Swinton’s younger sister (do they mean, like, three centuries younger? Or if they’re birth siblings, how is “younger” even a valid comparison at the point where you’re both centuries old? These are the things I wonder about.) who threatens to come between them. I think it’s a sort of weird drama? It doesn’t look like it’s supposed to be funny at all.

E: Which is a shame because Hiddleston is wonderful and deserves great leading vehicles not produced by Marvel.  I agree that the trailer’s very tonally confusing, and I’ve never liked Jim Jarmusch films the way some people seem to.  And I don’t get why the vampires all have really big, bad hair.  Still, might be an interesting rental if you’re in the right mood for it.

C: It’s because they’ve seen so much, lived so long. Their hair is full of secrets.

April 18th

Transcendence

M: The daughter and I saw the preview for this super creepy-looking man-becomes-machine/machine-becomes-man thriller, too. The cast is incredible, and because of a bunch of the people in it (Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy) I wrongly assumed it was a Christopher Nolan film. It does have his kind of feel to it, too, at least in the ads for it. Not sure I want to see it, though, as the creepy level was off the charts for a non-horror movie.

C: Yeah, this being a Nolan film was the only explanation I could originally come up with for Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, and Paul Bettany all choosing to be in what looks like a pretty trite science fiction story about a dying human’s consciousness being uploaded into a computer, and become uberpowerful. Which isn’t, of course, to say that it couldn’t be gripping if well done.

E: I’d be very surprised if it were Inception-level smart.  It reminds me of the only moderately creepy and super predictable Hollow Man, a Kevin Bacon flick about a science experiment gone wrong.  Seen it on cable, already bored remembering.

M: Yeah, I had high hopes for Hollow Man when it came out. They were not realized.

C: I’ll be pleased if Transcendence is as smart as the X-Files episode with this plot.

M: In this family, comparison to an X-Files episode is a pretty high bar. Not sure I’d make it to the theater, but I’d be really on board if it was Nolan, I can’t get enough of his work. That it’s not is a hit, and so is the weird shots in the previews where it looks like somehow the the gravitational pull of the earth gets reversed, or something like that, and some sort of material starts floating up toward the sky. All I can think when I see it is the old Star Trek joke “you cannot change the laws of physics!” I struggle to see how creating a pseudo-AI would allow for that in any kind of believable way.

C: Well, it’s funny you should make that particular complaint, since the real director of this is Wally Pfister — director of photography on all Nolan’s big films. (His lengthy cinematography resume also includes such titles as Moneyball and The Italian Job.) So, while this is his directorial debut, I think we can safely anticipate a visually impressive film if nothing else…

M: That explains why it looks like a Nolan film!

E: The concept is Nolanesque, too.   Just not nuanced enough to actually work.

Heaven Is For Real

E: Greg Kinnear stars in this retelling of the best selling memoir about a little boy’s near death experience.  Our mom loves this book.

M: I’ve heard good things about it from other people, too. And Greg Kinnear is great.

C: It’s hard to imagine the book as a movie, though, from what I know about the story. There’s not exactly a plot, as far as I understand.

M: So, like Moneyball

C: And hey, they made a movie of that book about the golden retriever.

E: Ha ha.  But seriously, the trailer hints at a larger story I don’t think it will deliver.  I’ll be curious to hear the reviews.

A Haunted House 2

M: No.

Bears

M: The Disney Nature series continues with a documentary on bears. I’m guessing it’ll be at least tonally different than the When Animals Attack “documentaries.”

C: I saw a trailer for this, I think in front of The Lego Movie? It looks pretty adorable. Momma Bear and two baby bears go on a journey of survival or something. I don’t quite know how the get enough plot for a feature-length film out of a few animals out in nature, but the trailer sure made it sound like an epic story.

E: Even though I get that the views will be epic, I can’t wrap my mind around seeing an animal documentary in the theater. On the other hand, I might prefer it to Rio 2 on that hypothetical rainy day in April vacation…

C: Wait for DVD on both, and come visit me instead!

April 25th

The Other Woman

E: Someone is banking on this movie being a hit, because I’ve been seeing commercials for more than a week.  Cameron Diaz and Lesley Mann turn out to be married to the same man (Nicholas Coster Waldau), who’s also romancing Kate Upton.

C: Well, he has a type, anyway.

E: Indeed.  Hilarity ensues (theoretically) when the three decide to give him his comeuppance.  Again, I’m not motivated to rush out and see this, although it looks funnier to me than most of the female skewed comedies we’ve seen lately.  Like something you’d really enjoy on cable on a random weeknight.

M: So, it’s basically John Tucker Must Die (and a slew of other movies), but with adults instead of high school kids.

C: I was just going to say, isn’t there a teen movie with this exact plot, minus marriage?

E: Yeah but were there really a slew of high school lothario revenge movies, M?

M: I think there were. I didn’t see any of them, so I can’t say for sure, but it FEELS like that was a thing.

The Quiet Ones

E: Incredibly creepy looking horror flick about a foster child used in a series of experiments performed by a British university class in the 1970s.  Jared Harris stars as the professor (shudder) and Sam Clafin of Catching Fire as one of his students.

C: So, Fringe: The Young Olivia Story?

M: Or maybe Fringe: Walter and Williams Early Years? And you know, now that E described it, I’m remembering that we saw the trailer for this before Divergent, too. I don’t think it’s a good sign that I couldn’t remember it.

E: A shorn doll’s head,  big eyed child, evil tattoos suddenly appearing on the students’ bodies, levitation — it hits all the expected notes, yet seems genuinely alarming.  If horror movies are your bag, this might be worthwhile.

Brick Mansions

E: Or as I like to call it, the kitchen sink.  In the two minute trailer it’s clear this movie includes: 1) Dystopian near-future.  2) Urban gunslinger cliches. 3) Revenge for the dead father.  4) Undercover cops. 5) Class/race struggles. 6) Kung Fu. 7) Parcour.  Synchronized parcour. Seriously.  If they’d tossed out about half of these elements they might have been left with an interesting movie, but when Luc Besson’s involved, excess is the by-word.

M: Could be worse, could be Michael Bay.

C: I’m not sure that would be worse, just differently ridiculous.

E: Also, I feel a little bad about this, but seeing Paul Walker weirds me out a little.  Not that I don’t watch movies with dead people in them all the time, but still.

M: When you watch something from long ago, with people who died long (or long-ish) ago it’s normal. It’s different when the person dies before the movie comes out. It’s going to be similarly strange when the Mockingjay movies come out, seeing Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

E: Yes. Thank you for understanding that.

C: At least Paul Walker hasn’t been recreated through CGI in this! And I suspect that, far from sharing your concerns, E (which isn’t to say I don’t get what you mean, ’cause I do), this movie will do huge box office as Walker’s fans turn out to pay tribute.

Locke

E: High concept film that seems to involve a guy driving on the highway and making a lot of high stakes phone calls as his life (first professional, then personal) totally implodes.  Tom Hardy adopts a Russian accent and a beard, and smacks his steering wheel a lot.

C: A story about a man driving and talking on the phone! Sounds like a riveting one-man show off-Broadway. As a movie? Hm…

M: So, it’s not a spin off of LOST?

E: No, but I’m glad to see that was your first thought, too.

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2 comments on “April 2014 Movie Preview

  1. MMGF says:

    Wait, what was that about “A Haunted House 2,” again…?

  2. […] I categorically reject that statement; you just have blinders […]

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