Summer’s finally right around the corner and that means lots and lots of the usual multiplex fanfare. With March coming to a close with quite the whimper, it looks like April is here to pick up the slack. Oh sure, I was quite excited for a few things in March (namely Rango (2011), Paul) and there was even a genuine surprise, (The Lincoln Lawyer), but now the studios are finally suiting up and breaking out a few of their big guns.
It’s certainly no April fool’s joke that the month starts off strong. First up there’s Duncan Jones’ anticipated follow-up to his Sundance debut Moon, Source Code. Paired with a writer (Ben Ripley) who’s delved unsuccessfully in sci-fi before, and a top-notch cast (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga), we’ll see if this train set thriller of body swapping lives up to the expectations of early critical word of mouth.
For the kiddie set, we have Hop with Russell Brand lending his vocal talents to the Easter bunny who just wants to drum in a rock and roll band. With James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco and Gary Cole part of the live-action duties here’s hopping… err, hoping that director Tim Hill (Muppets from Space, the first Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties) has finally learned a thing or two about the live-action/computer-animated hybrid films with a script from the writers of Despicable Me.
On the flip side of things, James Gunn returns to cinemas for the first time in five years with another swipe at superheroes with the appropriately titled Super. His last feature was the splattacular horror/comedy Slither and now his second outing (he is also the man behind 2000’s The Specials) will hopefully be better rounded that one. Featuring a plethora of cult status A-listers, Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Michael Rooker, Linda Cardellini and Nathan Fillion, things are definitely looking super for Super.
Meanwhile, the guys behind the original Saw, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell, bring us a spooky tale of parents (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) trying to keep their comatose child safe from evil spirits in a horror tale made up of some pretty great early buzz. While the original Saw will always continue to be the best of the now run-into-the-ground series, their Dead Silence is definitely underrated and even while dabbling in PG-13 territory lets audiences remember that one of the scariest tales of haunted families is only rated PG: Poltergeist.
This is one busy day with three big movies opening wide here. What shall reign supreme has yet to be seen but chances are with Universal touting “From the director of Pineapple Express” (David Gordon Green) all over their advertising, it will be close between the James Franco, Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel starring Your Highness and another highly publicized remake by the name of Arthur. Helen Mirren, Russell Brand and Jennifer Garner lead the way to see if they can make good on the original loveable billionaire premise that Dudley Moore originated back in 1981.
And finally, the girl with the hardest name to pronounce in Hollywood, Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones), Eric Bana, and Cate Blanchett step up for some hopefully thrilling shenanigans in Hanna. Ronan plays the title character who’s been raised in the wilderness by Bana, her father, to be a killing machine. Blanchett is an intelligence officer out to take them both down. Director Joe Wright is out of his safety zone here (after spearheading a string of stuffy dramas, Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, The Soloist), this just may be his most entertaining film yet.
Two beasts of a different color raise their heads mid-month and I couldn’t be any more excited for one of them. First up, there’s the new family-friendly Blue Sky Studios animated Rio featuring as a Jesse Eisenberg-voiced macaw who falls in love with the bird of his dreams, voiced by Anne Hathaway. There’s also a little film called Soul Surfer about a surfer (AnnaSophia Robb) returning to the open sea after losing her arm to a shark. Wait… did someone say shark? Count me in! Dennis Quaid, Craig T. Nelson, Helen Hunt, and Carrie Underwood(?!) also star.
To say that I’m a bit obsessed with the Scream series is a gross understatement. I even own the Ghostface action figures, so it’s no surprise that the film I’m most excited for is none other than Scream 4. The original trilogy cast returns (Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette) and now Ghostface is after a whole new slew of victims to be dispatched frighteningly hilariously. While I’ve heard wishy-washy things about the production, Kevin Williamson is still credited with the screenplay and I know that the Weinstein’s have given Wes Craven extra funding to add additional material to make some of the killings pay off even greater. So fingers crossed and let’s hope I don’t have to make a trip to Hollywood donning my own Ghostface mask and pay those production-tinkering prone Weinsteins my own little visit.
The end of the month pretty much fizzles out, aside from one huge film staking its claim in the final weekend of April releases. This day sees only one wide release. Surprising in that anything else opening against it wouldn’t find any trouble finding itself at the top spot of the box office. With the faux-vampire Twilight “saga” finally coming to a close this year, Robert Pattinson still has yet to find any kind of footing outside of staring harassingly at Kristen Stewart, but he’s probably betting pretty highly on Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of the Sara Gruen-penned novel, Water for Elephants. With a screenplay from hit-or-miss Richard LaGravenese, here’s hoping Lawrence’s branching out from genre fare (Constantine, I Am Legend) can give us something with more substance than what looks like something typically out of the Nicholas Sparks canon. It sure helps that Pattinson has the assistance of Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz and the great Hal Holbrook along for this look into a traveling circus. Oh, there’s also another Tyler Perry movie opening, Madea’s Big Happy Family.
So alas, in the end, comes the fifth entry of the most ridiculously entertaining, big dumb action series (with its most ludicrous title yet, no less). That’s right, just when you thought the series couldn’t get any more outrageous, Fast Five finally throws “The Rock” (Dwayne Johnson himself) behind the wheel to take down returning cast members Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster and Tyrese Gibson as they try their hand at another big heist. Director Justin Lin goes huge with this entry as the Fast and Furious series finally hits IMAX; I’m all in on this one.
Meanwhile, Disney tries to fill in the space left behind now that their High School Musical kids have graduated. Joe Nussbaum directs, but just because he made the great George Lucas in Love, doesn’t mean we can forgive him for Sleepover and American Pie Presents The Naked Mile. Even if Sydney White shows signs of him headed in the right direction, directing a cast of virtual unknowns and featuring one of the world’s most uninteresting trailers sure doesn’t help his case so we shall just have to see.
Also, The Weinstein Company inexplicably is going to try to capitalize on a sequel to an original no one saw with Hoodwinked Too! Hood VS. Evil. I’d give director Mike Disa the benefit of the doubt if it just didn’t all look like more of the same and not in a good way. Even if he’s contributed to good films in the past. Last time I tried this route we wound up with Kelly Asbury’s beyond abysmally awful Gnomeo & Juliet, so there ya go.
With May gearing up to stomp 2011’s first quarter into oblivion, I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted throughout April to find out which of these is worth their time. Even if most moviegoers will see nearly all of them whether they deserve your hard-earned cash or not, but I digress…so sit back and let April soak in before the onslaught of awesome begins starting with the mighty hammer itself on May 6!
Photos courtesy Dimension Films, Universal Pictures, and Twentieth Century Fox