April showers are here, and with them come May flowers, and the ramp up to summer blockbusters. These days, though, the old season-system is on its last legs with straight-to-VOD releases taking over and the time between theater and home video at its lowest ever. Here’s one of the last month-in-movies previews you can expect. Starting next month the movies will just be beamed directly into your head without you needing a preview guide. The future!
Hardcore Henry – This is one of those rarities that tries for the novel approach of doing something differently. They come around once in a while, attempting to do a rather film school gimmick and seeing if it will carry a movie, often at the expense of a better story—Mike Figgis’ Timecode (2000) comes to mind as a rare successful exception—which makes everyone forget about the often interesting gimmick. This time it’s a ramped-up, sci-fi action film that unfolds completely in first person. Have you ever imagined what watching a movie would be like if it was a video game instead of a movie? Here you go. I actually think this looks fabulous and I can’t wait to see it. I’m even more excited for the potential implications on the soon-to-be exploding genre of virtual reality movies. Yeah, baby. The future. Stars Sharlto Copley, Tim Roth, and Haley Bennett; directed by Ilya Naishuller.
The Boss – It’s not that I dislike Melissa McCarthy or doubt her talent. It’s just I’ve never actually seen her in something where I wasn’t rolling my eyes the entire time. This one, written and directed by her very funny husband Ben Falcone, looks primed to snap that streak. McCarthy plays a Martha Stewart-like figure sent to prison for insider trading who must re-brand herself upon release. The trailer actually made me smirk. I’m interested. Stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, and Peter Dinklage; directed by Ben Falcone.
Before I Wake – From the director of the highly enjoyable Oculus (2014) comes this much less interesting-looking horror vehicle about a kid whose dreams and nightmares become real. I liked this movie the first time I saw it, when the kid dreamed his parents would have an ugly divorce followed by a vicious child custody battle. It was called Kramer vs. Kramer, I think… Stars Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, and Jacob Tremblay.
Mr. Right – Much like Melissa McCarthy, I don’t have anything specifically against Anna Kendrick, it’s just I’ve also never seen a good movie featuring her. This one, from a script by John landis’ son Max Landis, also looks like it’s got the promise to snap a streak. Kendrick is an innocent girl with bad dating luck who falls for the perfect guy. The only problem is he’s a hitman on the run from the mob. On second thought, that sounds f*cking terrible. Why did I think this might be good? Oh yeah, the hitman in question is Sam Rockwell. I’m back in. Stars Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell, and Tim Roth; directed by Paco Cabezas.
The Jungle Book – This is precisely the kind of pre-summer fare I’m looking for. A live action adaptation of one of Disney’s best animated films (itself a very loose adaptation of the Kipling novel), The Jungle Book. If you’ve seen the trailers, you likely know what I’m excited about. A top-notch vocal cast (Bill Murray as Baloo and Ben Kingsley as Bagheera) coupled with some gorgeous-looking jungle visuals and a cute-as-can-be Mowgli (Neel Sethi). If this one bombs, I’m through with you all. For once, a blockbuster we can all agree on, right? I’ll be there. Stars Neel Sethi, Lupita Nyong’o, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Garry Shandling, Christopher Walken, and Ben Kingsley; directed by Jon Favreau.
Everybody Wants Some!! – Billed as the spiritual heir to his overrated “classic” Dazed & Confused, this new offering from Richard Linklater actually looks way funnier and less apt to inspire obnoxious fandom. I never understood the draw of the original, but Linklater is a wonderful director. And he’s certainly got a penchant for this time period and age group. I have high hopes for this comedy about some college baseball players experiencing freedom for the first time. Stars Wyatt Russell, Blake Jenner, and Ryan Guzman; directed by Richard Linklater.
Criminal – Well, this movie certainly looks stupid. Or rather, this movie certainly looked stupid the last several times we saw some iteration of the ol’ one-dude’s-mind, another-dude’s-body plot. In fact the last time I saw it, I remember thinking not only, “This sucks!” but also, “Hey there, Ryan Reynolds!” Well again, I predict I’ll be saying both of those things. This time Reynold’s mind in Costner’s body, sort of a reverse of the last one, and they’re fighting terrorists. If it weren’t for how much I like punk-rock laser-eye Costner in the trailers, I wouldn’t even be giving this one a chance. Stars Kevin Costner, Gal Gadot, Gary Oldman, and Ryan Reynolds; directed by Ariel Vromen.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War – I only included this one on the list because statistically speaking, based on how much money it made, you all apparently saw Snow White and the Huntsman, the 2012 Kristen Stewart vehicle that clued everyone in to the fact that none of us like her, but we all definitely like Charlize Theron. Well, guess what? For the sequel, Charlize is back, and Kristen is mercifully not. So maybe this sequel, which if I understand it correctly follows the Huntsman (?), won’t suck. Stars Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron; directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan.
Elvis & Nixon – This is a weird one. A comedy re-imagining of what the famed meeting between Elvis and President Nixon in 1970 was like. OK, sounds great so far. Starring Kevin Spacey as Nixon and the incomparable Michael Shannon as Elvis? OK, I would literally skip my own kid’s birth to see that. Written by Cary Elwes, Joey Sagal, and Hanala Sagal. This looks fantastic. Stars Kevin Spacey, Michael Shannon, Colin Hanks, and Johnny Knoxville.
Keanu – I’m cautiously optimistic about this one, because Key & Peele are funnier than hell. I loved their show, and I generally like everything I’ve seen them in. But the plot, which surrounds a kitten who’s gone missing and the adventures his very milquetoast young African-American owners get in while posing as gangsters to get him back… seems like a shabby vehicle to re-hash the same jokes about stereotypes that we all loved in Malibu’s Most Wanted (I’m actually not being sarcastic, I sort of love that movie). We’ll see, there could be a lot I’m missing here, but it might also just be really thin. Stars Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Luis Guzman, Method Man, and Will Forte; directed by Peter Atencio.
Green Room – This is one of my most highly anticipated releases of the year, and it’s dropping on a soft weekend without a lot of competition, so I’m hoping it cleans up. Jeremy Saulnier made one of my favorite films of the decade with 2013’s deeply affecting thriller Blue Ruin. With his new offering, he takes us into the depths of one of my own personal nightmares: a punk band playing a secluded house show witnesses a murder by neo-Nazis and gets sucked into a night of horrors. (What? I used to play in a punk band, and I often imagined us getting stomped to death by skinheads at some point.) Stars Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, and Imogen Poots; directed by Jeremy Saulnier.
By Ygal Kaufman