In Theaters on April ???

Midnight Special

At a Glance: "Midnight Special" is a sci-fi drama about a father who rescues his son from a cult and goes on the run from both the religious fanatics who believe the boy to be their savior and a government with designs on his mysterious powers. Despite a nationwide ad campaign, the film's March release was limited to a mere five theaters. "Midnight Special" is finally expanding to a wide release, increasing the number of theaters playing the film every Friday in April.


Why I'm Excited: Jeff Nichols, the writer-director behind "Midnight Special," has not made a bad movie. All three of his previous projects ("Shotgun Stories," "Take Shelter," "Mud") earned broad acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Unsurprisingly, reception to "Midnight Special" has been positive, with some comparing the film positively to classic sci-fi flicks like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Fun fact: "Midnight Special's" initial five-theater release was the most successful limited opening since "The Revenant," pulling in $37,000 per theater - beating the per-theater-average of every other film that week.


 
In Theaters April 1

Eye In the Sky

At a Glance: "Eye in the Sky" presents an examination of modern drone warfare in this military thriller that unfolds at 50,000 feet over Nairobi, Kenya. Presented with an opportunity to take out several high value Al-Shabaab targets at the cost of an innocent life, a debate breaks out between British military and political leaders over the potential costs of their actions. If you haven't already seen the trailer, skip it and just see the movie.


Why I'm Excited: I saw "Eye in the Sky" over the weekend so you'll just have to wait for the review!


Hello, My Name is Doris

At a Glance: Sally Field stars in this romantic comedy-drama as Doris Miller, a sixty-something who throws inhibition to the wind in pursuit of her much-younger new coworker.


Why I'm Excited: Another limited release getting expanded in April, "Hello, My Name is Doris" looks like the kind of life-affirming film that leaves you smiling from ear to ear.

Why My Wife Is Excited: Max Greenfield.


God's Not Dead 2

At a Glance: In this sequel to "FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: The Movie," Sabrina the Teenage Witch is a teacher persecuted by ridiculous God-hating caricatures for casually mentioning Jesus.


Why I'm (Not) Excited:  Watching this trailer made my eyes roll so fast they almost shot out of my head. This is a movie made for people who think white Christians are the single most oppressed group in America because they might have to sell a cake to gay people. It aspires to nothing for anyone else (unlike previous faith-films like "Risen" or "Young Messiah").


Meet the Blacks

At a Glance: The Black family must defend themselves and their new home from invading neighbors who want to kill them in this parody of "The Purge."


Why I'm (Not) Excited: This style of low-aim, low-budget parody (in the vein of the "A Haunted House" series) has never really worked for me. They're almost always financially successful, but with budgets typically under $5 million, it's hard not to be.


I Saw the Light

At a Glance: Hank Williams was one of country music's greats and is counted as one of the most influential artists of his time. This biopic stars Tom Hiddleston as the troubled singer, chronicling his rise to fame and dark personal struggles.


Why I'm (Sorta) Excited: The movie is out and by many accounts has some issues, none of which are related to the central performance by Tom Hiddleston. I'll let a theatrically-inclined friend's Facebook review speak for me here: "While the movie overall suffers from serious story construction and editing issues, Tom Hiddleston gives a great performance and kills the Hank Williams, Sr. tracks. His version of "Cold, Cold Heart" that opens the film is worth the price of admission."

Why My Wife is Excited: Country music Loki.


In Theaters April 8

Hardcore Henry

At a Glance: "Hardcore Henry" tells the story of a man brought back from the dead as a cybernetically-enhanced killing machine who goes on a rampage to save his kidnapped wife. The film was shot entirely in first-person perspective, so it's basically "A Video Game: The Movie."


Why I'm (Sorta) Excited: Don't come to "Hardcore Henry" expecting a compelling narrative or richly developed characters. Come expecting a gimmick and some dumb, flashy action fun. Also, it may be wise to come expecting a mild case of motion sickness.

Why My Wife Is (Not) Excited: Susceptibility to mild cases of motion sickness.


The Boss

At a Glance: After six months in jail for insider trading, Michelle Darnell moves in with her former assistant and sets out to regain her lost fortunes by building a brownie-based empire.


Why I'm (Not) Excited: The trailer has a whiff of the "funniest stuff in the trailer" danger zone. Also, McCarthy's movies tend split evenly between good and bad. Last year's "Spy" was nominated for a Golden Globe, so she's due for a flop. I'd rather it be this than "Ghostbusters."


In Theaters April 15

The Jungle Book

At a Glance: "The Jungle Book" is the hotly anticipated first entry in Disney's CG/Live Action remakes of their animated classics. Aided by panther Bagheera and life-loving bear Baloo, a boy flees his jungle home pursued by its fierce tiger lord, Shere Khan.


Why I'm Excited: Skip this trailer to 1:45 and tell me your inner child doesn't come alive at the "Bear Necessities" arrangement. "The Jungle Book" features a stellar cast - Ben Kingsley and Bill Murray play Bagheera and Baloo, just to name two - and could signal the start of a live-action Disney renaissance.


Everybody Wants Some!

At a Glance: Writer-director Richard Linklater presents a take on the 80s in a story about a college freshman and his unruly new teammates experiencing the freedoms of adulthood for the first time.


Why I'm Excited: The trailer doesn't look like much, but I've got high hopes for "Everybody Wants Some." Richard Linklater excels at bringing past eras back to life in coming-of-age explorations much deeper than this trailer might suggest; his previous work includes "Dazed and Confused" and 2014 Oscar nominee "Boyhood." I wouldn't expect anything less from this.


Criminal

At a Glance: A dead CIA agent's memories are injected into a dangerous death row inmate to complete a mission vital to global security. Armed with new knowledge and skills, things go wrong when he doesn't behave as his handlers had hoped.


Why I'm (Not) Excited: The writing credit for "Criminal" is shared by two men whose last project was 1999's "Double Jeopardy," a film whose legalese premise was completely incorrect. Neither has worked in film since. I assume they've not brushed up their skills for "Criminal."


Barbershop: The Next Cut

At a Glance: The gang's all back in the three-quel to 2002's hit "Barbershop." Calvin and Eddie work to pull the community together in the face of escalating gang violence.


Why I'm Excited: The "Barbershop" films won over critics with warm humor and an emphasis on the value of community. I don't root for sequels often, but this is one I'd love to see do well...even if the inclusion of Nicki Minaj seems gimmicky.


In Theaters April 22


The Huntsman: Winter's War

At a Glance: In this half-prequel, half-sequel to "Snow White and the Huntsman," tragedy leads to the destructive awaking of ice powers in Freya, the Queen's sister. She exiles herself and becomes the Ice Queen, but her evil sister will not share power.


Why I'm (Not) Excited: Did you enjoy "Frozen?" Then get ready to enjoy it's half-baked, grim-dark cousin! The first movie didn't really light anyone on fire, so I'm not sure that this sequel is necessary or anticipated. It looks mediocre. Poor Chris Hemsworth, the man cannot land a decent non-Thor part to save his life.


Elvis & Nixon

At a Glance: Based on true events, "Elvis & Nixon" is a retelling of the bizarre day that Elvis Presley, The King himself, showed up at the White House unannounced and asked to meet with President Richard Nixon. This is Amazon Studios' first entry into theatrical film distribution.


Why I'm Excited: This real-life encounter is one of the weirdest footnotes in American history, exactly the kind of weird that deserves a movie. Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon are fantastic actors and (despite complaints about their likeness or lack thereof) I trust them with the material. Unfortunately, this is likely getting a limited release - keep an eye on local showtimes and maybe you'll get lucky!


In Theaters April 29

Keanu

At a Glance: After a nasty breakup, Rell finds new meaning in an adorable kitten named Keanu. When Keanu is cat-napped during a break-in, Rell and his friend Chandler will stop at nothing to bring him home, even if it means throwing in with violent gangsters. "Keanu" is the first feature film from comic-duo Key and Peele.


Why I'm Excited: Key and Peele never fail to make me laugh. Now that they've moved to the silver screen, I'm anxious to see how well their brand of humor translates to a feature film. The biggest danger is the fate that befalls many skit-show to big-screen transitions (I'm looking at you, SNL): a film based on a five minute premise stretched thinly over ninety minutes.

Why My Wife is Excited: "I Can Has Cheezburger: The Movie"


Mother's Day

At a Glance: "Mother's Day" is an ensemble romantic-comedy from director Gary Marshall. The film tells intertwining stories about the relationships between several mothers and their children and stars Jennifer Anniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, and Jason Sudeikis.


Why I'm (Not) Excited: Gary Marshall other holiday-themed ensemble rom-coms include "Valentine's Day" and "New Year's Eve," both of which were box office hits without doing well with critics. He's responsible for a lot of great flicks, but this particularly niche doesn't seem like it's much for quality.


Ratchet & Clank

At a Glance: "Ratchet & Clank" is a movie based on the Playstation video game series of the same name. Ratchet and his robot friend Clank work with the heroic Captain Quark to save the galaxy.


Why I'm (Not) Excited: Repeat after me: "Never get excited about a video game movie." I know that sounds dismissive, but there has never been a good video game movie. Never get excited about a video game movie.


Green Room

At a Glance: "Green Room" is a thriller featuring Patrick Stewart as the villain. I feel like that's really all you need to know, but here's how "Green Room" is described on the film's Wikipedia page: "A punk rock band witnesses a murder in a venue run by white supremacists and are forced to fight for survival against the supremacists, who are intent on covering up their crime."


Why I'm Excited: This movie features renowned thespian Patrick Stewart as the leader of a murderous white supremacist sect. Spoiler alert: He will be terrifying. I normally steer clear of horror flicks. Only a few a year grab my interest. This is one.

Why My Wife Is Not Excited: She will never sleep again.

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" is a fantastically frustrating film. More filler than fun, "Dawn of Justice" is a two and a half hour slog stuffed with shallow storytelling; a muddled, muddy mess that wastes an interesting premise on an under-cooked, underwhelming and at times incoherent narrative.

Where to begin?

If you get only one thing right in a movie called "Batman v Superman," it had better be the conflict that brings the son of Krypton and the Caped Crusader to blows. That conflict is set up in the first five minutes, as Bruce Wayne watches one of his company's towers fall in the battle between Zod and Superman that concluded "Man of Steel." His anger at Superman, seemingly indifferent towards collateral damage and innocent casualties, is a great starting point for a distrust that will eventually come to blows.

Or rather, it would be a good starting point, but isn't; it's the only point. This is the extent of the development given to the central conflict of the film. When we pick things up two years later, Batman is obsessively searching for a tool to use against Superman, a quest that makes up the majority of the film's running time. Superman is relegated almost entirely to filler, privately brooding over a growing public debate about his superhero role while alter ego Clark Kent complains about Batman's vigilantism in unprinted Daily Planet pieces. It's a weak attempt to give an otherwise sidelined Superman beef with Batman that goes nowhere fast.

It's worth noting that, breaking with more recent tradition, this Batman has no qualms about killing. It may have a basis in the comics, but after nearly two decades of a more restrained, rule-bound Batman, it's certainly jarring.  By the time Batman and Superman duke it out, Batman's blood-lust is completely unjustified by the events of the film. He's a homicidal Captain Ahab chasing down his Kryptonian white whale.

Running parallel to this are the schemes of Lex Luther, an eccentric young tech mogul who is perhaps the worst part of "Dawn of Justice." From start to finish, this is a failed villain. Thanks to a sloppy screenplay that withholds basic information in an inartful attempt to create intrigue, Luther's motivation, goals, and plan are never clear. There are enormous plot-holes, major developments that occur off-screen, and outright laughable twists. When he reveals his incomprehensible master plan, you're intended to feel surprise. I felt annoyed. 

For all "Dawn of Justice" aspires to do, it is shocking how little actually happens or matters. You might think "Dawn of Justice" would be overstuffed; after all, it's asked to do the heavy lifting for a future nine-film franchise. It doesn't. The lead-ins to "Justice League" and stand-alone films are clumsy. Future superheroes are introduced in what amounts to a series of YouTube clips. Events of future films are foreshadowed in a series of dream sequences that may tease the comic-book initiated but will bewilder the casual viewer, a far cry from the much smoother integration seen the Marvel's Phase 1 and 2 films. Yes, Wonder Woman is here, but she might as well be a cardboard cutout for all the depth she's given.

That isn't a knock on Gal Gadot's performance. By and large, the performances in "Dawn of Justice" are doing the best they can with some bad material. Ben Affleck's turn as the Dark Knight was a pleasant surprise, despite the script's bizarre treatment of the character. Henry Cavill's Superman is more nuanced and less irritating than he was in "Man of Steel," while Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne turn in reliably good reprisals of their characters. Jeremy Irons as Wayne's faithful butler Alfred is a real bright spot. Notably not a bright spot: poor Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, whose grating performance falls victim to the film's worst dialogue and some particularly baffling direction.

"Dawn of Justice" can be fairly summarized as follows: "Batman gets really mad and wants to fight Superman. A long two hours later, he does." If a well-crafted story is like a symphony, "Dawn of Justice" is the cacophonous noise of a middle school orchestra lurching amelodically from movement to movement. In their rush to play catch-up, Warner Brothers/DC have determinedly learned nothing from Marvel's wildly successful model. This is not the triumphant launch of a ten-film franchise, but a monumental misfire that should have been better.

Score: 2/5
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