April films make for a mixed bag

By Hoang-Mai Hong

Maybe it’s because of the advent of spring, but movies feel somewhat fresher and wider ranging at this time of year, even if they aren’t. The slate feels as if it’s been wiped clean and expectations are wide open. Or maybe we’re just more tolerant with the prospect of fair weather? Upon closer investigation, overall there’s not too much to be excited about save the potential to be diverted by mostly fluffy and just fairly decent movies.

Case in point, this week will see the release of a Sundance indie darling (Sunshine Cleaning, in wide release this week), a not terrible looking old-fashioned exorcism movie (A Haunting in Connecticut), a brainless but appealingly simple action flick (12 Rounds, starring the WWE’s Jon Cena), a typical but comforting Colin Firth rom-com (The Accidental Husband) and a star-studded animated film (Monsters vs. Aliens). Of note is Adventureland, about a teen (Jesse Eisenberg) whose sense of entitlement is shattered when he has to spend his summer in the drudgery of the local amusement park. Of course, said park is rife with comedic possibilities, care of Ryan Reynolds, SNL’s Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, as well as a love interest (Twilight’s Kristen Stewart). Several of Hader and Wiig’s fellow comedians such as Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler and Stephen Colbert lend their vocal talents to the other movie of note this week, Dreamwork’s next Shrek-esque money-machine, Monsters vs. Aliens.

Sure to make a killing at the box office the following week is Katherine Heigl’s latest pointless romantic-comedy, The Ugly Truth. The real ugly truth is that the movie’s incredibly misogynistic poster and premier that one critic cited as proof that “romantic comedies are backsliding into record lows of reactionary bullshit,” can easily be brushed aside by the common denominator “female demographic.” The cad Gerard Butler and his dreamy accent also make an appearance. The male demographic can be distracted this week by the creatively monikered Fast & Furious, the fourth movie of the over-milked and spent cash cow of, almost, the same name.

Things perk up April 10 with a higher-grade version of Paul Blart: Mall Cop starring Seth Rogen. Observe and Report has him playing a bi-polar mall security guard who is pitted against a detective, played by Ray Liotta, in a competition to catch an infamous mall flasher and win the heart of the make-up counter girl (Anna Faris). The so-terrible-it’s-awesome award of the year may possibly go to the other new release that day, Dragonball: Evolution, which is, yes, the live-action version of the classic unintentionally hilarious Japanese anime.

If the prospect of those pieces of escapism doesn’t move you, seek refuge at the Engineered Air Theatre and in harsh reality with the latest Movies that Matter documentary playing April 6. El Ovido (Oblivion) focuses its lens on modern day Lima, Peru and its startling gap between the extremely wealthy class and the survival-oriented poor who have endured decades of terrorism, economic crises and government violence.

Zac Efron gets his big break away from Disney in 17 Again on April 17 which, judging from the trailer, is not a huge leap, but looks surprisingly sweet and endearing despite the reverse Big conceit. He plays the suddenly younger version of a divorced and washed-up father of two (Matthew Perry) who reconnects with his family in awkward, Oedipal-line-toeing ways. An actor who’s found his typecast niche and sticking to it, Jason Statham gets to reprise his role as the absurdly still alive professional hitman in Crank: High Voltage this week as well. The saga picks up from tough guy Chev Chelios’ fall from a helicopter and sees him in a race against time to get back his illegally harvested heart, while staving off death by restarting his artificial one by any absurd means possible. The clumsily funny bits include Statham strapped to a car battery in the middle of gang turf and rubbing himself against an old lady for the static electricity from her wool wardrobe.

Some classier bets are available for April 17, too. One is the American re-make of the fantastic British political thriller, State of Play– with a huge ensemble cast including Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams and Ben Affleck– that looks at the complex connections and channels of investigations of the murder of a congressman’s mistress, conducted by police alongside a team of investigative journalists. The other is Earth, a feature-length version of the Planet Earth series, narrated by Darth Vader himself, James Earl Jones. Seek out the U.K. version for narration by another vocal and sci-fi giant, Patrick Stewart.

The Soloist will finally hit theatres April 24 after being pushed back since December 2008. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as a journalist who befriends a now homeless violin prodigy (Jamie Foxx), the movie was apparently held to be pushed back for so long to give it fighting chance at next year’s Oscars. After giving audiences a glimpse of it last spring, we’ll finally be able to see what the buzz is all about.

For campus events, happily there are more than just the usual Cinemania listings (Transporter 3 on March 30, The Day the Earth Stood Still on April 3 and Twilight on April 13). The FILM 441 class will be hosting a short film festival and workshop, Show Us Your Shorts, going March 26-28 at the Nickle Arts Museum and the Plaza Theatre. The gala, screenings and workshop are free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted at the door.

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