Anticipating Avengers: April Movie Preview

M: May 1st brings us the release of one of the most highly anticipated films of the year, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the unofficial start of “blockbuster box office season.”

C: Wait… this isn’t May, is it? Because if so, the weather has some explaining to do.

M: No, it’s April, which unlike May, brings us nothing highly anticipated. However, perhaps in what it does bring there might be some hidden gems.

E: I think we have a few that will at least entertain us in a few months on video.

M: Also, in an effort to better serve you, our readers, we’re adding in couple features to the preview this month. First is a section at the top listing the different movies, where you can click on each one to jump right to our discussion of them. Second is a note next to each title (which will still contain the link to the trailer) letting you know if it’s going to be in wide or limited release.

C: Credit to M for both these clever ideas! Sound off below if you like the change and want us to keep it.

M: And without further ado…

April 3 – Furious 7, Woman In Gold, 5 to 7, Effie Gray

April 10The Longest Ride, Ex Machina, Kill Me Three Times

April 17 Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Child 44, Monkey Kingdom, Unfriended, True Story, Alex of Venice

April 24 The Age Of Adaline, Little Boy, The Water Diviner, Adult Beginners, Misery Loves Comedy

April 3

Furious 7  (wide)

M: We’ve discussed in previous previews — and it feels like more than every other year — that none of the siblings are invested in this series of movies, so I don’t think there’s much more for us to say here on the content, other than if you liked the previous six, you’ll probably see and like the seventh.

E: Well, I think that quality has varied among the previous 6, but yes.

M: No doubt. I don’t think many people look fondly back at Tokyo Drift.

C: I don’t know… it is the most interesting of the titles. In that it sounds like a disaster movie in which Godzilla battles plate tectonics.

E: The thing I find interesting about this 7th installment is that you don’t see any trick driving until halfway through the trailer, once we’ve established that the Fast & Furious family (Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodgriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris) are being hunted by mercenaries headed up by Jason Statham.  Actually, there’s something about this cast, which also includes Dwayne Johnson, Kurt Russell, Wonder Woman Gal Gadot, a cameo by rapper Iggy Azalea and Oscar nominee Djimon Honsou.  And something about the fact that the leads hardly seem to star in anything other than these movies.

M: They’re making one every other year, and unless you’re talking about Kevin Hart, very few movie stars work a lot more than that. That all said, the thing that I find curious in all the promotional material I’ve seen for this is that there’s little to no mention of star Paul Walker’s death. I know people don’t want to be accused of making money off of that kind of tragedy, but Hollywood usually mentions things like this in a “in his final role,” or at least gives some kind of nod to it. As close as they come is an almost throw-away line in one trailer that says “one last ride.” Odd.

C: I’ve seen exactly those taglines online, though I can’t say whether those were official promotions or just websites promoting their reviews.

E: I find the preview weirdly poignant.  Every time we see Walker with the family, in a golden light — every time one of the cast makes a preposterous, dangerous jump in a car — every time someone hangs off a ledge or a train or the edge of a building — it unsettles me.  The fragility of life, people!

Woman In Gold (limited)

E: This one I’m really interested in — it’s based on the true story of Gustav Klimt’s famous painting, which was stolen from its rightful owners by the Nazis, and how the family’s lone survivor (Helen Mirren) fought the Austrian government to get it back.

C: Oh yeah! I saw the trailer for this back when I went to see The Imitation Game, and it looks excellent. Almost like a legal-drama version of Judy Dench’s excellent Philomena. Those Dames are always trying to one-up each other…

M: Looks extremely well made and entertaining, especially for a film starring Ryan Reynolds.

E: Mirren launches a crusade to get back the portrait Klimt painted of her aunt, enlisting the help of a very dorky looking Reynolds.

M: Um, we have very different definitions of “dorky.” Putting on fake glasses, and looking otherwise exactly like Ryan Reynolds does not make one dorky in my book.

C: Gotta side with M on this one. The only thing about his appearance that might look “off” stems from the fact that the movie takes place in the late ’90s/early 2000s, so the aforementioned glasses have wire frames.

E: Doesn’t he have bad hair, too?

M: It might not be “sexiest man alive” hair, but I’d hardly call it either bad or dorky.

E: Whatever. Getting back to the central issue of the film, it may seem one-sided on the face of things, and I’ll be curious to see how the film presents it.  Obviously, the government shouldn’t perpetuate the looting of art, but — and this might be a weird personal quirk — I can’t help feeling that anyone who keeps important art in their home, rather than at least loaning it to a museum, is a bit selfish.

C: Hrm, well, you might plan to loan out a painting after you establish that you legally own it, you know. They’re not exclusive goals.

M: While I can’t agree with E entirely on the “you should be required to give it to a museum” bit of communism, I will say it certainly does appear to be one-sided, painting (pun intended) the Austrian government as the bad guys for not wanting to give a “national treasure” to someone who is going to take it out of the country.

E: And this is better than what I said how?

M: By being less communist. Duh.

E: It’s okay to be nationalistic but not public-minded about art?  Should the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston send its Egyptian collection back to Egypt?  All of the Impressionist work back to France?  Should you have to travel to a country to see its art?

M: Yes, exactly what I was saying, while trying to see this from the perspective of a government. You got me, as usual.

E: As long as you can admit that.

C: Um, E, you do know there are lots of people who believe very strongly that those Egyptian collections should go back to Egypt, right?

E: I do, and that’s why I’m intrigued.  Who’s right?

C: But this opens up a whole kettle of fish that isn’t relevant to the Klimt case.

M: Moving on, I wonder if any sort of arrangement of “shared custody” will be discussed. It would seem like that would be the mutually beneficial solution, but also generally not a solution that gets a movie made about it.

E: Well, who knows?  Maybe an agreement does exist.  Maybe we’ll just have to see this movie to find out. Obviously, we’ve got opinions on this topic.

C: I’m down for that.

E: I think a sibling trip to the theater, and maybe a restaurant after for some quibbling, is in order.

M: Sounds like a plan, as long as you don’t wear wire-rimmed glasses. I don’t want to be seen with a dork.

5 to 7 (limited)

M: Oh hooray, a romance based on French morality!

E: Yeah. The trailer promises it’s the most tender and romantic film since Audrey Hepburn made romantic comedies.  Which, who knows, but I cannot get past that premise.

M: Exactly. For those (everyone) who don’t know, it’s an indie film with a good cast, led by Anton Yelchin and Bond-girl Berenice Marlohe, supported by Glenn Close, Frank Langella, Eric Stoltz (who is contractually obligated to be in every indie movie) and Lambert Wilson (the Merovingian in the Matrix sequels, for those who don’t recognize the name).

C: Oh, because that helps.

M: Who doesn’t know The Merovingian? Come on! Anyway, this is the supremely romantic story of Yelchin becoming Marlohe’s “bit on the side,” which the French apparently schedule time for in their day, 5 to 7, hence the title. She tells her husband (The Merovingian) and kids about him, and they treat him like part of the family, as they do her husband’s mistress.

E: The scene with her kids freaks me out.  If that makes me judgmental, well, I feel perfectly fine judging a trailer to be too much for me.

M: Meanwhile Yelchin’s parents, Close and Langella, struggle to accept it. Critics rave about how it will redefine romance and relationships. Please, for the love of God (literally), let it not.

Effie Gray (limited)

M: E and C, this one is much more up your alley than mine, care to have your hand at it?

E: My brother, you have opened quite the can of worms here.

M: That is my specialty.

E: The first thing I heard about this historical film is that Emma Thompson wrote it, and that won me over right there.  First known for her Oscar winning screenplay of Sense & Sensibility, Thompson’s subsequent writing projects (Nanny MacPhee and Nanny MacPhee Returns) delighted me enough to overlook the casting of Dakota Fanning in the lead.  If she’s okay for Emma Thompson, I have to assume that there’s more to Fanning than we’ve thus far seen.  (Bear with me here before you explode, C.)

C: Wish they’d cast a British actress, but I’m bearing…

M: Odd, I’ve only ever heard people speak well of her. Do continue.

E: Then, to learn that Effie Gray (Fanning) is famous Victorian art critic John Ruskin’s child bride!  Yes.  I am exactly that much of a dork.

M: With or without fake glasses, apparently.

E: Har har. John Ruskin’s a terrific writer and thinker, and I’m intrigued to see him on the screen.

M: Pretty sure you should be using past tense here. And the word “portrayed.”

C: Okay, so that aspect of the project was in no way a revelation to me; the Victorian era is my academic focus and Effie Gray is notable as the woman (she was 19, hardly a “child bride”) whose marriage to Ruskin was such an utter disaster that she was granted an annulment to leave him and marry famous painter John Everett Millais. If that doesn’t sound Victorian enough for you, the reason was that she was still a virgin, her first husband having found her unclothed body “disgusting.” She and Millais had eight children.

E: Thompson’s husband Greg Wise, who plays Ruskin, is under appreciated as an actor.

M: First Branaugh now this guy. Emma Thompson… always sleeping with the people she works with.

C: Worked with in 1995…

E: *AHEM* And then we have the supporting cast, which includes such British lights as Russell Tovey, Derek Jacobi, David Suchet, James Fox, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane and of course Thompson herself. Yes, that’s Professor Trelawney, Hagrid and Mrs. Weasley, together again.  J’adore!

M: British, not French. Just sayin’.

E: Since the movie focuses on the Ruskin’s disastrous marriage (stifled in part by her suffocating in-laws, Walters and Suchet), it’s a mixed bag for me. I think I’m going to have to rent this.  It looks beautifully made, and though April is early to wonder about such things, I wouldn’t put it out of the running for more than a few Oscar nominations.

C: I’m psyched for it. I love Emma Thompson’s screenwriting and I think it could make quite the compelling story, if difficult in parts. Plus: Victorian costumes!

E: Indeed, I just thought your aversion to infidelity stories would sink this.  But cool!

April 10

The Longest Ride (wide)

M: The latest Nicholas Sparks movie that looks, well, entirely Nicholas Sparks-y. I can muster no more for this than that.

C: What more is there to say? You all know whether or not you like Nicholas Sparks.

E: Since Nicholas Sparks makes all of the QSs want to run shrieking, I’ll do the dirty work as fast as I can. Rodeo romance starring Brit Robertson (to be seen later this year Tomorrowland, one of 2015’s most promising offerings) and Scott Eastwood, who I’ve never heard of. It’s magical.  She’s a girl like no other, even though they come from different worlds. There’s also a love story from the past told in letters (nobody expected love letters in a Nicholas Sparks movie!), which will teach the modern readers how to value their own love properly.

C: Sooooooo, The Notebook again but without the old people. Who were the one good part.

M: This sap fest costars Game of Thrones‘ Oona Chaplin, Alan Alda, soon to be Supergirl Melissa Benoist, and ER‘s Gloria Reuben.

E: Nice to see her working, anyway. Take away message: love requires sacrifice, but it’s worth it.  Don’t you feel like you’ve learned something?

Ex Machina (limited)

M: I saw the trailer for this ages ago, and I’ve been keeping my eye out for it ever since. It’s a super tense looking thriller about a reclusive billionaire scientist (Oscar Isaacs) who is creating a humanoid robot with artificial intelligence, and brings a programmer (Domhnall Gleason) to his extremely secluded research facility to test it/her. It looks totally creepy, but potentially really good.

C: Domhnall Gleeson! Love him. But I may just rewatch the wonderful About Time… I don’t know if I can handle the creepiness!

E: Super tense, super creepy.  It’s not the kind of thing I rush out and see, but it looks very well made and very freaky.  Just what’s going on here?  Is Isaacs exactly who he says he is?  Has he really brought Gleeson there for the reasons he claims?  Who’s actually testing whom?

M:  It looks part Blade Runner, part something else I can’t put my finger on. I feel like I want to say Alien, but that’s not quite it. Gah! Anyway, the whole “who’s testing whom” makes you wonder if they want to go the full on Blade Runner route. It’s also the directorial debut of 28 Days Later writer Alex Garland.

Kill Me Three Times (limited)

M: So, this is an odd one. A madcap looking Simon Pegg movie, I figured I’d be right on board. Then I watched the trailer linked above, and, well, meh. However, I watched another trailer for it, one with less family friendly language, and saw more of what I expected. So, now I don’t know if its a meh movie that they were able to put together one good trailer for, or if the first trailer was poorly done and the movie’s good.

E: Meh.  Definitely going with meh.  I mean, the premise is moderately funny, but the trailer spoils the funny bit.

M: Pegg’s a goofy-looking hitman with a pretty fantastic mustache.

C: They tried to make that Johnny Depp movie on the premise of a mustache. It didn’t work…

M: He gets hired to kill some guy’s wife. As he sets up to take her out, someone else beats him to it. Or, at least tries to. Apparently the wife stole a ton of money, so a crazy chain of attempts on her life by a wide range of characters ensues.

E: Yeah, but now that I know all that’s happening, I’m not sure it’s funny anymore. I think all I can say about this is that one of the costars is Luke Hemsworth, older brother to Liam and Chris.

M: And fellow Aussie Bryan Brown, of Cocktail, F/X and more recently, The Good Wife.

E:  I’ve trained you well, M.  I’m so proud!

April 17

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (wide)

M: Did you see the first one?

E: Nope.

M: I did. It was mildly amusing, partly because it was filmed in a mall we used to frequent. Anyway, if you did, you probably saw most of the best parts and lines in this one, too.

C: I’m just amazed you saw it. I didn’t think anyone saw it.

E: Kevin James as a would-be lovable loser takes his family to Vegas, and of course stumbles into a major crime that he and his band of misfits alone can prevent.

M: Here’s my conundrum with this. I know why this got made… money. I know it will make money. What I don’t know is why it will make money. Doesn’t EVERYONE know it’s going to be bad?

E: Yes, but I’d way rather see this than last month’s attempt at broad comedy, Get Hard.  Way rather.

M: Oh, no question. If only for the scene with the cape.

Child 44 (wide)

M: I honestly don’t know what to make of this. I LOVE Gary Oldman. I think Tom Hardy’s a good actor. Plot of trying to stop a serial killer? Good. Historical setting? Good. Russian accents? Not bad. Backdrop of political pressure? Definitely a plus.

E: I thought it seemed pretty interesting, especially with the whole “murder can only happen in capitalist societies” bit.  Child murders generally freak me out, but perhaps because there was nothing graphic in the trailer, I’m more intrigued than I’d have expected.

M: My problem is, I’m less intrigued than I expected. I feel like, given the list above and how it hits a lot of the right buttons for me, I should feel invested after watching the trailer, like I want to see how they figure it out, how they stop this. I don’t know why I don’t, but I don’t.

E: I think the trailer’s muddy looking, as are the Russian accents. I’m not sure it comes together. 

Monkey Kingdom (wide)

M: The latest from Disney Nature, a tale of a momma monkey and her baby as they navigate the jungles, both natural and urban.

E: My kids — like most kids — love monkeys. I can see this being a hit with them; the monkeys are cute, the story looks intriguing (fascinating that they can craft this much of a story from the footage they have, too) and the visuals are stunning.

C: I’m glad you said most kids. I was terrified of monkeys as a child. I’m over that now, but I’m not such an enthusiast that I’d go see this in the theater.

M: Last year was my first trip to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. I was not expecting to like it as much as I did, and what really won me over was how much it felt like you were transported into a different land, a different continent. The monkeys, playing in the replica temples, were a huge part of that atmosphere. Watching the trailer for this I’m again amazed at what a spot on job the park did.

E: Bonus for those seeing this opening weekend: Disney will donate part of their proceeds to conservation efforts. A very fitting Earth Day viewing experience.

Unfriended (wide)

M: I Know What You Did Last Summer in the age of social media. A girl gets drunk and someone posts a horribly embarrassing video of her online. Three days later she kills herself.

E: I would roll my eyes at turning this into a horror movie, but this kind of thing happens way too often.

C: I can’t even imagine rolling one’s eyes at that awful, painful, all-too-real scenario.

M: On the anniversary of her death, someone crashes a group video chat of her friends, and starts to terrorize them. If I liked horror movies, this one would actually be one I’d check out, as it looks pretty clever… until it gets gory and ridiculous (a guy with his hand in a blender? really?).

E: Now I’m definitely going to roll my eyes at the horror movie bits; that was ridiculous. I can’t help wondering if it’s not all a prank.

M: Agreed, I was thinking that. Part IKWYDLS, part Scream?

E: I’m not sure the whole group video chat thing will work out — it seems like it might be annoying to watch when the action doesn’t take up the whole screen — but it’s different, and that’s automatically interesting.

True Story (limited)

C: For a second I read “Toy Story” and was excited…

M: Nope. No Buzz and Woody. Instead, Jonah Hill and James Franco, in a very un-Jonah-Hill-James-Franco-ish film. In this case the title is legit. Based on a true story, Hill plays Michael Finkel, a disgraced journalist whose name is used as an alias by a man, Chris Longo (Franco), who is accused of murdering his wife and three small children.

E: Well. That IS unexpected.

C: Wait, which “his”?

M: Sorry, math major using pronouns, won’t let it happen again. To clarify, Longo murdered his OWN wife and kids. Finkel interviews Longo in prison while he awaits trial, and innocence, guilt, and if there is more at play come into question. Brad Pitt executive produces.

E: I kind of can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think it looks fantastic.  Is there a wider conspiracy going on? Is Longo guilty or innocent? Bonus points for the presence of fellow Oscar nominee Felicity Jones as Finkel’s significant other.

C: Oh, but what an utter mismatch…

Alex of Venice (limited)

M: The Mindy Project‘s Chris Messina directs a story about a workaholic woman, Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) whose house-husband (Messina) leaves her and her son. She’s stuck with her crazy sister (Katie Nehra), pot-smoking father (Don Johnson) and eventual new boyfriend (Derek Luke) to try to put things back in order.

E: It looks well made and moderately interesting, if not quite as riveting as I might have hoped.  I’m very curious to read the reviews on this, anyway.

M: Looked meh to me. I bet C will be interested solely based on Messina, though.

C: Not so. I like The Mindy Project but I’m not going to see a movie just to watch him play a jerk who leaves at the beginning.

M: If it was a woman leaving her husband because he was an emotionally detached workaholic who she never saw, would you be calling her a jerk? Pretty sure this is supposed to be more complicated. Still, neither of us is planning on seeing it, so we may never know.

April 24

The Age Of Adaline (wide)

M: Blake Lively lives forever, but, like Connor MacLeod, has given up on love because of losing loved ones to old age. Ellen Burstyn, having a good year or so, plays her daughter. Harrison Ford players a former lover or friend, and they found an actor (Anthony Ingruber) who looks like a spot on young Harrison Ford to play him in flashbacks. And of course, she falls for Ford’s character’s son (Michiel Huisman, who looks ready to steal anyone and everyone’s girlfriends), who teaches her to let go.

C: Familiar as these tropes are, I feel like I’ve always seen them about immortal men, so at least something’s different.

E: I feel like I’ve seen this preview at every non-child movie I’ve seen for the last six months.  And what I take away from it is this:  Blake Lively is ridiculously beautiful.  Michael Huisman (the it-actor to play man candy on television for the last few years) is ridiculously handsome. And Han Solo looks OLD.

M: Only because he is. It’s going to be weird to see him AS old Han Solo.

C: So weird. Maybe something I never needed to see, frankly.

M: That aside, you know what I want to see? I want to see a movie or TV show where the person who is “cursed” to live forever looks like Randy Quaid instead of Dennis Quaid. Or maybe like Steve Buscemi or Rachel Dratch. Not ugly, just, to quote Fargo, kinda funny looking. Because beautiful people living forever has been done over and over.

Little Boy (wide)

M: When the trailer started out, I was thinking it was going to be hokey. Michael Rappaport and Kevin James’ presences, and the narration, well let’s just say that I wasn’t thinking that it was heading anywhere good. But as it went on, it really grew on me. The adventures of the boy and Rappaport in their imagination, the “do you believe you can do this” refrain were endearing. Then Tom Wilkerson, who’s great, made his way in, and it kept growing. So, I don’t fully know what I think, but I think I might like to NetFlix this some day.

E: Oh my gosh, that sucked me in whole.  The World War 2 setting, the fairy tale feeling, I dig it all.  I want it.  Sign me up now.  I really, really, really hope it’s good.

M: Honestly, even not watching the trailer, now just having it rattling around in my memory, it’s growing on me even more. And the feel is a bit Big Fish-like. Like, happy Tim Burton. I’m really intrigued.

C: Happy Tim Burton feels so long ago…

The Water Diviner (limited)

M: AKA, the movie that inspired Russell Crowe to make stupid, sexist comments!

E: Which then inspired us to lambaste him because of them.

C: Ah, those were good times. The lambasting, I mean.

M: You know what’s bad? That whole thing has turned me off of both Crowe, who’s a fantastic actor, and this movie, which really looks quite good. A distraught father and widower goes searching for the bodies of his three sons, who died in one day in the Battle of Gallipoli.

E: Gosh, what a depressing plot.  I can see why his character’s wife, the mother of those sons, kills herself. That kind of loss…

M: Also, in case anyone was wondering (like I was) why it seems the Australians and New Zealanders have a strong connection to a failed World War I battle, while we in the States know next to nothing (or nothing) about it, there’s good reason. Turns out that the Allied troops that fought at Gallipoli (for 9 months) were primarily comprised of Aussie and Kiwi forces, and that sowed the seeds of nationalism in what were semi-independent colonies that were still very much a part of the British Empire. The efforts, heroism and stories that came out of the battle, and the pride of those left behind, bound them together like nothing before had, apparently.

E: Despite Crowe’s buffoonery, and his age-inappropriate love interest, there’s a lot that makes me want this to be good, too.  It certainly looks beautiful as well as well made. Also, there is a ray of hope that one son might not have perished in the terrible battle.  So there’s that.<

Adult Beginners (limited)

C: Wait, don’t tell me this is a movie about a person failing at their independent life and having to move back in with their family. Because we’ve had none of those in the last two years…

M: Ding ding ding! The League‘s Nick Kroll headlines a fantastic cast in a witty-looking comedy about a man who bottoms out then goes to live with his sister, brother-in-law and nephew while he tries to put his life together. The cast includes Rose Byrne, Misery Loves Comedy‘s Bobby Cannavale, Joel McHale (friend of Kroll), Jason Mantzoukas (Kroll’s crazy brother-in-law Raffi on The League), Ally McBeal‘s Jane Krakowsi, SNL‘s Bobby Moynihan, Paula Garces and The Good Wife‘s Josh Charles (pretty sure this is what he left that show to make. Okay, no I’m not, but that should get E going).

E: Maybe if he appeared in the trailer at all it would, but as it is I don’t think I’m going to rise to the bait.  Usually I’d count something out with Cannavale (who somehow just irritates me) but the trailer made me laugh out loud more than once.

M: I know, right? For those wondering, the title comes from Krakowski’s swim class for “adult beginners” that Kroll and company take to help his nephew feel more comfortable learning to swim. Overall it looks witty and at times funny. The best part, to me, was Kroll and former classmate Moynihan arguing over whether or not children are, in fact, the future. Dry wit, I love.

E: Yeah, that’s the bit that made me laugh out loud.  More than once.  I’d rent it.

Misery Loves Comedy (limited)

M: I’m not usually the sibling pushing the documentary, but this is different. A Sundance-nominated documentary interviewing a TON of comedians about being a comedian. Seriously, you’d be reading all day if we tried to list everyone. Directed by Kevin Pollack, who is totally underrated, and is hilarious in two of my all time favorite movies (very, very different movies), Willow and The Usual Suspects.

E: I like Kevin Pollack.  And this looks worth watching.

M: Some of the interviewees are among my favorites, too. Not only that, but it including a range from people who haven’t done stand up in forever, like Tom Hanks, to the current king of it, Jim Gaffigan, to directors like Jason Reitman and Kevin Smith, elder luminaries like Whoppi Goldberg, Christopher Guest and Jason Alexander, behind the scenes people like Robert Smigel to current all stars like Amy Schumer, Jimmy Fallon and Marc Maron.

E: Now, on the other, Freddie Prince Jr?  I like him, but what is he doing on this list?

M: I wondered that, too. Maybe his dad was a comic? Or maybe he does stand up sometimes? You never know with actors.

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