April has come and gone. We are one step closer to the official start of the summer blockbuster season, which creeps further and further back towards the dawn of spring. This April afforded us a mix of films from the forgettable, to the unforgettable, to the regrettable.
The month saw the first blockbuster of the year. It also brought with it the most controversial title, so far, of the year. There was a fun splatter comedy, and a surreal horror film. We saw the continuations of a pair of franchises, and perhaps the start of another. A smartly written satire was also screened. Above all else, however, was the proliferation of formulaic film. Many films released this month seemed to come from very similar ingredients, just mixed in a slightly different manner.
Best of the month: United 93
Worst of the month: Phat Girlz
Here are the films I had the varying degrees of pleasure viewing, in the order in which I saw them:
- ATL. Surprisingly decent. I thought this movie was pretty good, it was written moderately well, and the acting was pretty good as well. I went into this with rather low expectations, and was glad with the result. It is the story of four friends reaching the end of their high school careers, reaching that turning point in their lives, and the choices they make that could direct them down the path of the rest of their life. ***
- Ice Age: The Meltdown. Plenty of funny diversions, but overall a pretty big letdown, as far as the movie is concerned. They took 40 minutes of story and stretched it out to feature length. I think the story of these guys was played out after the first one. Sadly, considering how well this has done, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a third film. It is not completely bad, John Leguizamo is very funny as Sid the Sloth. **.5
- Thank You for Smoking. What a wonderful movie this was. It wasn’t terribly hard hitting, in that we aren’t presented any new information. Where this movie gains its strength is in the witty and inventive way it is presented. It is straightforward, has some wonderful dialog exchanges and some fun performances. It was directed by Ivan Reitman’s son, Jason, so comedy is in his blood! This is definitely one to see. ***.5
- Slither. This movie was an absolute blast. It has the comedy, the gore, the performances, what fun. Watch as we are invaded by little slimy slugs, turned into zombies, and blow up real good! This is for anyone who likes the splatter comedy subgenre of horror, we’re few but we’re proud! ***.5
- Lucky Number Slevin. This movie was good, but a little too clever for its own good. The performances from the leads were dead on. The casting of Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley as rival gangsters is genius, and Lucy Liu has never been more adorable. I just didn’t care for how the story was telegraphed early on, then when the twist hits, it is like watching the movie a second time from a different angle. ***
- The Benchwarmers. This was not a good movie, but for some reason I found myself getting a kick out of it. That’s saying something, as I really don’t care for Rob Schneider. It was weird seeing him play the straight guy here. The sports motif worked well with the band of misfits that they have brought together. As hard as it is to believe, against all odds, I found myself laughing at their antics. **.5
- Take the Lead. The film may follow a tried, true, and clichéd formula, and be another in a long line of “based on a true story” movies, but somehow it works. The reason it works is, in a large part, due to Antonio Banderas. The guy just exudes cool on the screen, everything he’s in has that aura about it. In addition to his presence, some of the kids have good chemistry together, and of course, some of the dancing is very good. **.5
- Phat Girlz. Mo’Nique takes the lead in a plus sized comedy about plus sized women with plus sized dreams. Yeah, sounds like a tagline, but it pretty much sums up the film. The sentiments are very good, but the execution is lackluster, it doesn’t get deep enough into the issues. Plus, the film looks murky, like it lacks brightness, I just found the look off putting. **
- Scary Movie 4. Wow! What have we here? A Scary Movie sequel that is actually funny? The world must be coming to an end. After the abysmal second and third films, the third sequel comes through. It is very funny, using War of the Worlds as its base hanging on it a sequence of clever gags. It wasn’t as laugh out loud funny as I would have liked, but it was funny none the less. I particularly liked Anna Farris and the line “It’s OK, I’ve taken balls to the face before.” Priceless. ***
- Silent Hill. This one has brought some very mixed reactions. I liked it a lot. Director Christophe Gans has done a valiant job of bringing surreal survival horror to the screen. There is some very creepy stuff in this movie. It was nice to see a horror film that wasn’t the standard jump scare type, or torture film that have become so popular. It doesn’t work completely, but I really liked the effort. ***
- The Sentinel. AKA 24 the movie. The film centers on a plot to assassinate the president, a plot hatched by a traitor in the Secret Service. The movie is pretty good, but it is way too short on characterization, and in the end, the story was pretty shallow as well. Probably best as a rental. **.5
- The Wild. AKA Madagascar II, only this time, it’s actually pretty good. The story is pretty standard stuff, but it looks fantastic. The animation is smooth, well rendered, and has some very nice detail. An oddball group of zoo animals must venture into the wild to find a lost lion cub who wants to connect with his homeland. **.5
- United 93. Absolutely amazing. This film was such an incredible experience. It was not exploitive or manipulative. This is a movie that deserves to be seen, but it was difficult. I thought I was ready, turned out I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. Still, when you are ready, this movie is a must see. *****
- Stick It. I am sure they could have come up with a better name than this. It was very generic, but has a couple of plusses in the persons of Jeff Bridges and Missy Peregrym. I am not in the target demo, but I still found enough to enjoy without being completely alienated. It follows a formula, and is generally inoffensive. **
So, what did you think of April at the movies?
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