For the past few years, April has been steadily, quietly growing in importance, turning into a launching point for the summer season and generally serving as host to much better films than “ought” to show up so early in the year.
This is not happening in 2016. In fact, the month’s slate looks almost comically dire, with its highlights coming in the form of movies you can kind of convince yourself might be good, rather than anything that’s actually promising. Fans of live-action Disney films might disagree, but we’ll have words with those people soon enough.
Whatever other sins the right-wing Christian parable God’s Not Dead 2 might commit, none are so offensive in my sight as that title: clearly, almost objectively, it should have been called God’s Still Not Dead. Ah, the wasted possibilities. It hardly needs saying that I’m not this film’s target audience.
Nor can I rightly call myself in the target for Meet the Blacks, whose premise is a family that wants badly to move out of Chicago. Also, as you can possibly suss out from the cryptic, deeply subtle title, they’re African-American. It is a parody of The Purge. Perez Hilton is in the cast. I know I’m just throwing words together, but the whole thing sounds mind-melting. Hopefully in a good way? It’s hard to say. If that title speaks to the level of wit involved, it is probably not in a good way.
Lastly, the Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light, which received a vigorous critical paddling in limited release, is going wide. Why the hell not.
Okay, maybe we got one here: The Boss is a Melissa McCarthy joint whose ad campaign is almost totally free from “the fat lady trips and falls ha ha!” jokes, which I think must be a good sign; it co-stars Kristen Bell, which isn’t necessarily a good sign, but it at least piques my interest. Also, it was directed by McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone, co-writing the screenplay with her, and the last time they did that together it was Tammy okay I give up never mind, it’s going to suck.
Over in the horror gutter, we find Before I Wake, directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan, whose Absentia and Oculus, both of which were imperfect but largely interesting. It is about a little boy whose nightmares come into the physical world in the form of killer butterflies and… no, no, I cannot. Damn.
I’m not even going to pretend with Hardcore Henry, which appears to be the FMV from a first-person shooter that accidentally got released to motion picture theaters. I have so far had one conversation about how it looks like the worst fucking piece of shit in the history of cinema, and I look forward to having more.
There it is. Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book, if we can use that phrase for a production in which child actor Neel Sethi is the only thing seen onscreen that wasn’t made in a computer. The trailer promises a nightmare of mish-mashed tones (is it a heartfelt family adventure? A bleak-unto-horror exercise in grimness? Guess we’ll find out!), and at least one unacceptably horrendous vocal performance, Scarlett Johansson as seductive python Kaa; but it also promises some eerily photo-realistic CGI, so at least it should maybe look decent? Absent a legendary actress playing a great animated villain in the flesh, I’m scrambling to find one thing here that might be at all worth looking forward to – maybe if Bill Murray, playing Baloo the bear, gets to actually sing “Bare Necessities”, but at this point, it’s not clear if it’s in the film or not. I gather that there are people out there who are excited, and I am dumbfounded how that could be.
A much-too-good cast gets thrown at a bullshit sci-fi thriller premise in Criminal, the second film in two calendar years with Ryan Reynolds and brain-swapping (though this time, I don’t believe that his brain is one that gets swapped). Because everybody loved Self/less. And it is probably a sign of my desperation and nothing else, that Barbershop: The Next Cut is my solitary hope for redeeming the whole month. The other Barbershops were good! Some of these decade-later sequels work out pretty well! It seems to be engaging with the omnipresent gang violence in Chicago in a thoughtful way! It is going to be weird as hell when I come back complain that I was disappointed by the third film in a comedy trilogy that started fourteen years ago.
A fictionalised biopic in which Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon meet? They’re played by Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey? Oh fuck the fuck off, Elvis & Nixon.
And yet that’s positively sedate in its rationality compared to The Huntsman: Winter’s War, which starts off with the gigantic disadvantage of being a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, and then proceeds to jettison the character who has even the slightest modicum of name recognition. Somehow, this film has attracted three outstanding actresses: Charlize Theron, despite her character being dead, is back, and Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt join her. Since Theron was the solitary good thing about the first movie, does this mean that Winter’s War will be three times as good? Boy, it would be nice if math worked that way, huh.
You guys! You guys! Garry Marshall is still making ensemble romcoms based on holidays, you guys! This time, he’s attacking Mother’s Day. What the god damn? What is this going to even be? Is it about MILFs? A MILF romcom would actually be pretty clever. Oh Christ, it has Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts – is this really what they’re reduced to now? Is our culture really that poisonous? Good Lord. We are being punished by a wrathful god. It’s probably because I made that joke back at the top of the post. I’m sorry.
The year’s first cartoon based on a video game that nobody talks about anymore: Ratchet & Clank. So plan for that, maybe. Also Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele headline their very first feature, Keanu, which is a violent gang comedy about a kitty. I am intrigued – I am definitely intrigued. But the trailer doesn’t suggest that there’s a natural route to stretch this out to feature length without straining pretty badly at the seams.