Movie roundup: Support cinema this April
How’s it going, movie fan? April has arrived, and that means it’s time to make the jump from sleeper box office successes to gigantic blockbuster hits. We say this pretty much every year, but 2019 is maybe the fifth year of the superhero in a row.
This year alone sees the DC Universe follow-up their nutty experiment in underwater adventuring Aquaman with the equally delightful Shazam! Despite its premise ripped straight from Tom Hanks’ early career, reviews indicate that the fun romp could be the all-flossing, all-trending boost of youthful energy that the self-serious superhero genre needs.
At the other end of the spectrum, expect Avengers: Endgame to fill its confirmed three hours with hopefully just the right balance of cathartic thrills and self-reflective misery.
If we cast our eyes beyond the piles of comic book excess (did we mention Hellboy is also getting rebooted this month?), April becomes an exciting month for auteur-driven indie projects. If your local theaters get their hands on them, Claire Denis releasing a new film is always essential viewing, and Elisabeth Moss turns in her second schizophrenic performance of 2019 for rock ‘n’ roll character piece Her Smell.
If indie thinkpieces ain’t your jam, look no further than this month’s horror hopefuls Pet Semetary and The Curse of La Llorona as they continue the legacies of Stephen King and The Conjuring franchise as the leading forces for modern scares. Plus, we’re thrilled as hell to finally see Terry Gilliam’s latest phantasmagorical experiment The Man Who Killed Don Quixote hit the big screen after who knows how many years of development hell.
Check out April’s offerings of Disney treats and indie gems below, and update your watchlist accordingly!
Shazam! (Warner Bros.)
Manbabies who are still pounding their keyboards following Marvel Studio’s first female-led blockbuster, Captain Marvel, needn’t worry, as Warner Bros’ and DC Comics are releasing their male counterpart right round the corner. The seventh instalment of the DCEU will feature the original Captain Marvel, recently given a makeover and a name change to avoid confusion with Roy Thomas and Gene Colan’s creation, Carol Danvers.
It’s two years after the events of Justice League and, much like his encompassing franchise, orphan Billy Batson is struggling to find his place in the world. When he stumbles across a hidden realm and meets the wizard Shazam, 14-year-old Billy is granted the power to transform into an all-powerful, and very adult, superhero (Zachary Levi). The first thing a teenager does when he becomes a costumed hero? Try to go viral, of course.
Pet Sematary (Paramount Pictures)
When Louis Creed and his family move to a new rural home they quickly discover that their sleepy town is not what it seems after being introduced to the mysterious animal burial ground located deep in the nearby woods. Tragedy strikes after their cat is hit by a speeding truck, and Louis resorts to burying it in the sinister “Pet Sematary”, with horrific results. Stars Jason Clarke as Louis Creed, with John Lithgow as their creepy neighbor who initiates a perilous chain of events.
Peterloo (Entertainment One)
Mike Leigh directs an epic revolutionary period drama based on the Peterloo Massacre of Manchester, England. It’s 1819, and around 60,000 townsfolk gathered in St Peter’s Fields to demand a reformation of Parliament and fairer voting rights. Initially a peaceful protest, government militias would eventually fumble a panicked arrest of a protest leader, leading to a violent charge on the amassed crowd. It’s estimated that 15 people were killed, and over 700 wounded.
This harrowing event is told with delicate precision by one of Britain’s best working directors, and brought to life with top class performers such as Rory Kinnear (Spectre) and Maxine Peake (Black Mirror).
High Life (A24)
French art house director Claire Denis teams with Robert Pattinson and A24 for her first English language feature. Black holes, astronauts, and exploitation are blended in this gutsy sci-fi drama about a team of criminals who are tricked into participating in sexual experiments under the guise of a liberating trip to space.
Collaborating with her Let the Sunshine In star, Juliette Binoche, the brilliantly accomplished filmmaker weaves an intimate and harrowing tread through the universe. Co-stars Mia Goth (Suspiria) and André 3000 (yes, really).
The Haunting of Sharon Tate (Saban Films)
If you thought Quentin Tarantino’s sprawling 1960s Hollywood epic starring Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate as peripheral bloody set dressing is gearing up to be one of the year’s most problematic films, wait till you get a load of this.
Former tween star Hilary Duff stars as the actress during the most tragic period of her life. Pregnant and married to director and predator Roman Polanski, she experiences gruesome premonitions of her grisly fate at the hands of the Manson family, which eventually comes to pass in gory, exploitative detail.
The Public (Universal Pictures)
Breakfast Club star Emilio Estevez continues his later career streak of surprisingly adept and sensitive, if a little thematically ham-fisted, indie dramas. In The Public, an all-star cast portrays a group of homeless library patrons and librarians who deal with a non-violent sit-in during a relentless Midwestern cold front. Stars Alec Baldwin (Mission: Impossible – Fallout), Christian Slater (Mr Robot), Michael K Williams (Assassin’s Creed), and Jeffrey Wright (Westworld).
Teen Spirit (Lionsgate)
Actor Max Minghella (The Handmaid’s Tale) casts Elle Fanning for his directorial debut, whose channelling all her magnetic Neon Demon star power for a ride through the brutal world of pop stardom. The purple lighting and heady subject matter are all the indicators you need to recognise this as an announcement of potentially great new talent, though right now we’re praying this is the last time the 20-year-old Fanning plays a waifish, easily manipulated teenager who falls in over her head.
The Best of Enemies (STX Films)
Sam Rockwell got another call to play a hideous racist in a feature film, and you know he’s saying hell yes. Continuing a worrying trend for the underrated actor, he co-stars with Taraji P. Henson for a Ku Klux Klan biopic with all the worst parts of Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri and none of the nuanced fury and comedic awareness of BlackKklansman. If we have to sit through one more racially naive period piece with a dangerously naive “we’re not so different you and I” moral bow, we won’t be culpable for our actions.
Native Son (HBO Films)
Loose adaptation of Richard Wright’s novel of the same name, in which a young black man named Bigger Thomas finds a job with an influential white Chicago family. As with The Best of Enemies, there are unfortunate echoes to be found of Best Picture winner Green Book in some of the more critical responses for the film coming out of Sundance.
However, first-time feature director Rashid Johnson is an artist who’s been immersed in black American culture his entire artistic career, and adapting from the genius of Wright should hopefully encourage more kernels of truth and wisdom.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Screen Media Films)
We’re fully expecting Terry Gilliam’s latest, and most belabored, project to be delayed once again by the time of publication, but, for the moment, his long-awaited adaptation of Cervante’s original epic novel is tentatively set for an April release, and we couldn’t be more intrigued. Intrigued is always the right word for a Gilliam venture, as his fantastical, theatrical, absurdist dances of visual effects and pantomime performances often skirt a precarious line between farcical and brilliant.
Sauvage (Les Films de la Croisade)
Hardened French road movie about a 22 year old drifter who occasionally sells his body to make some quick cash. Félix Maritaud stars (120 BPM) as Léo, a disillusioned romantic who has no idea what the future will bring. Longing for love, he finds fleeting affection in the arms of his clients, but his life starts to spiral when he falls for fellow sex worker, Ahd. A compelling window into France’s LGBT scene.
Visionary filmmaker behind the original Hellboy blockbusters Guillermo del Toro has been given the boot in favor of a new vision starring Stranger Things’ David Harbour donning the Right Hand of Doom. The devilish agent of a secretive, supernatural bureau enlisted by the US government will battle hideous monsters, overpowering sorcery, and demonic angst with a team of fellow misfits.
Neil Marshall (Lost in Space) takes on directing duties for the third film starring the hulking red antihero. It was initially intended as the third entry in del Toro’s cult trilogy, though when the fantastical filmmaker was refused writer-director credit both he and his frequent collaborator Ron Perlman ditched the project for pastures new.
Now reinvented as a reboot, we’ll see if the promising supporting cast of Ian McShane (John Wick), Sasha Lane (The Miseducation of Cameron Post), and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil) is enough of a draw to generate sequels and spin-offs galore.
After (Aviron Pictures)
Based on Anna Todd’s darkly romantic novel, a young college student begins a turbulent relationship with a bad boy who soon reveals a hidden secret. Directed by Jenny Gage (All This Panic), the erotic thriller stars newcomers Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, and also features a guest appearance from Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions).
Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy (Universal Studios)
Newest entry into the action franchise that puts martial arts wizardry front and center. The Ip Man chronicles have been slowly building a dedicated fanbase since the release of the series’ first modern classic, which stars Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as the Wing Chun grandmaster and eventual teacher of cinema legend Bruce Lee.
In anticipation of the fourth mainline entry into the series, this spin-off serves as a glimpse into the life of one of Ip’s most formidable opponents, Cheung Tin Chi, who is brought back into a world of conflict after a brutal defeat forced him to turn his back on martial arts.
Stars wushu athlete Max Zhang in the lead role, with familiar faces Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians), with a special appearance from Ong-Bak’s Tony Jaa.
Dogman (01 Distribution)
Kooky indie drama about a dog groomer who reluctantly sells cocaine on the side to make ends meet. As his life hangs in the balance, he struggles to cope with the violent misdeeds of his unpredictable neighbor. Definitely one for David Lynch fans, and anyone who fancies experiencing an infectious sense of existential paranoia.
Her Smell (Gunpowder & Sky)
Elisabeth Moss puts Lady Gaga to shame as she features in her punk rock alternative to A Star is Born that proves rockstars don’t need a partner struggling with addiction to dabble in self-destruction. Moss stars as Becky, the once great lead singer of Something She, a punk sensation that kicked ass all over the 90s. Now her success is dwindling, her vices are catching up and she struggles to balance staying sober with retaining that same spark of creativity that launched the band to success.
Mia and the White Lion (Ledafilms Entertainment Group)
A young London girl is taken to live in Africa with her family, whereupon she strikes a loving relationship with a majestic white lion, Charlie. At first desperately homesick, her newfound partnership with the gentle giant gives her newfound purpose. However, when her new friend is put in danger, Mia embarks on a perilous journey to find Charlie a safe new home.
With a premise ripped straight from a straight-to-DVD Disney movie this should make for a watchable, if cheesy, couple of hours, and MélanieLaurent (Inglourious Basterds) is always a welcome presence.
Little (Universal Pictures)
Another light body-switching comedy that only demands half of our attention is always welcome on a hungover Sunday afternoon, so we’ll eagerly anticipate this one’s inevitable release on Netflix. Regina Hall (Support the Girls) stars as a career-driven woman who transforms into her younger self when the demands of adult life become too much to handle. Co-stars Insecure’s breakout Issa Rae as Jordan’s supportive friend.
Mary Magdalene (Focus Features)
Didn’t this come out like five years ago? Anyone umming and ahhing over whether or not to give the latest Biblical pontificating a shot, take a look at its decidedly lukewarm reception upon its release overseas. Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix make for an interesting pair, and heck, we’d love to see them regroup for a more interesting project, but this exploration of Jesus’s later years as a controversial prophet has all the energy of a stale ham sandwich. Skip it.
Stockholm (Blumhouse Productions)
The origins of Stockholm Syndrome are explored in this bizarre period piece heist movie. Set in 1973, an eccentric yet endearing criminal played by Ethan Hawke (First Reformed) holds up a bank in Sweden for several days. The hostage situation became the first live news event in Sweden’s history, and many cite the incident as coining the uncanny phenomenon in which a hostage falls in love with their captor. C0-stars Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) and Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service).
Justice League vs. the Fatal Five (Warner Bros. Animation)
Animated superhero brawl that is guaranteed to be at least marginally better than the recent live action attempt to bring the world’s second favorite (let’s face it) team of superheroes together on the big screen. Superman, Batman and co mobilize once more to take down a dastardly collection of supervillains that threaten to terrorize their neighborhood.
Breakthrough (20th Century Fox)
Heart-wrenching Christian drama set to be the first 20th Century Fox film to be released under the watchful eyes of Disney following the recently completed acquisition. Based on the true story of a faithful family whose resolve is tested when a St Louis teenager falls beneath a lake of ice, only recovering after spending 45 minutes without a pulse. Hopefully this mawkish sounding biopic surprises us and sets up a trend of promising releases from one of cinema’s most intimidating mergers.
The Curse of La Llorona (Warner Bros.)
Another bland as hell supernatural chiller, this time our interest being slightly engaged with Linda Cardellini taking up duties as the newest victim of ghostly torment. Despite being marketed as a solo outing, this 1970s horror is reportedly part of The Conjuring universe so expect Marvel-style cameos and easter eggs making rude appearances throughout the bland scares.
Under the Silver Lake (A24)
David Robert Mitchell follows his breakthrough horror throwback It Follows with a meandering conspiracy thriller set within the twisting avenues and seedy underbellies of Los Angeles. When perverted loner Sam’s beautiful neighbor disappears, he takes a leaf out of Thomas Pynchon and sets upon a paranoid quest to get to the bottom of a sprawling conspiracy.
Packed with cultural references and uncrackable codes, Sam’s near two-and-a-half-hour odyssey is bound to leave impatient viewers checking their watches, but could reward the more vigilant among you with a vast and rewarding dissection of America’s most relentless city. Stars former Spider-Man Andrew Garfield as the persistent makeshift detective.
Drunk Parents (Vertical Entertainment)
With Drunk Parents, 30 Rock fans can finally imagine a world where Jack Donaghy and Elisa Pedrera stayed together and spectacularly let themselves go. Alec Baldwin and Salma Hayek star in this sloppy comedy about an alcoholic couple who hide their financial woes from their suspicious daughter and nosy group of friends.
Little Woods (Neon)
Neo-Western starring Lily James (Mama Mia: Here We Go Again) and Tessa Thompson (Sorry to Bother You) as two sisters who are forced into a life of crime. Ollie has spent years granting her North Dakotan neighbors illegal access to Canadian healthcare, but her good-natured criminal enterprise is sabotaged by a call to arms from her sister, Deb.
We’ve been gratefully inundated with the occasional modern Western from the indie sphere in recent years, and Little Woods finally gives two of the best actresses in Hollywood the chance to hold their own in a male-dominated genre.
Avengers: Endgame (Marvel Studios)
It’s all been leading to this. The big one. The fourth and potentially final film starring Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Evan’s Captain America, and the rest of the super-powered team battling intergalactic threats with the potential to tear reality apart. Thanos has seemingly already won, but with the help of Ant-Man, Captain Marvel, and a couple of Guardians of the Galaxy, the OG team might have some semblance of hope to reverse the universe-wide devastation.
Whether or not this really will be the last Avengers film starring the complete original roster is still yet to be seen, but now the franchise has eleven years under its belt, you can safely bet on some gruesome deaths and tragic departures.
The Marvel universe will never look the same after 2019, as Endgame and the Disney/Fox merger threatens to completely change the landscape of characters the Hollywood giant can bend to their will. Before we picture the potentially grotesque reality of five or six of these things a year, sit back and keep enjoying the ride while you still can.
The White Crow (BBC Films)
Now he no longer has to sit in the makeup chair applying white makeup and a bald cap for four hours each morning, Voldemort himself Ralph Fiennes is thankfully finding more time to sit in the directors chair and get to work on his passion projects. For his third feature effort, Fiennes takes inspiration from the true story of Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, dubbed the greatest ballet dancer of his generation.
Fiennes himself stars as Nureyev’s teacher, Alexander Pushkin, with new star Oleg Ivenko playing the young prodigy. Also features Blue is the Warmest Color’s Adèle Exarchopoulos. A rare look into one of the most demanding artistic pursuits, The White Crow is a guaranteed highbrow gem from a legend of British cinema.