You’re reading that article header correctly — the column that wouldn’t die has again…not…died. But for once, the fickleness of the Prognosticator’s general character and publishing schedule is justified, since it’s the perfect quality to embody April, that month of unreliable weather and wacky release dates.
Not only is this month slammed with filler and outright crap, the coming weeks have an amazing number of limited releases, some of which we fully expect to slip back to May. That’s May, 2008, in case you’re wondering what’s up when it comes time to see Slow Burn. So when The Reaping doesn’t show up on schedule, don’t come crying to me. And if you’re breathlessly awaiting Pathfinder, I can’t help you. And neither can anyone else. I don’t even know what the hell Redline is.
On the other hand, Everything’s Gone Green is mostly worth waiting for, so when it slips from this tentative limited release, remember to mark the calendar for whatever guaranteed to change release date gets penciled in next.
The consolation is that April has a handful of goddamn wonderful films. Hot Fuzz, somehow more gory than Edgar Wright’s zombie movie, is a must. As is Severance, and while I haven’t seen Grindhouse, I can’t imagine any of us missing it. Disturbia could be fun and Private Fears In Public Places (called Coeurs when I saw it last year) is reasonably good, if not the best flick Resnais has crafted. There’s at least one thing to get you into a theater every week, which will get us all used to spending the frivolous entertainment dollars that’ll be flowing down the drain from May through August.
Week of April 6
Are We Done Yet?
Ice Cube settles comfortably into utter irrelevance in this sequel to his hit
kiddie comedy from a few years back. Nick Persons (Ice Cube) is now married to
Suzanne (Nia Long). With her brood in tow, he moves them all to the ‘Burbs, but
finds his future dream home to be more reminiscent of another Tom Hanks movie, The
Prognostication: On one hand, this sort of movie isn’t made
for me. On the other hand, this sort of movie isn’t made for people who enjoy
movies. It’s just 90-minute of pratfalls and ultra-broad jokes that could exist
in any form. Hell, if you were looking at stills of the silly stunts in this
film on View-Master, you’d get the same effect. If you hop over to the IMDB
page for this monstrosity, you’ll be greeted by an animated embedded ad full of
Ice Cube mugging, and I ain’t talking about the kind he used to advocate as a
member of NWA. And that kind of says it all, really.
Dan Says: It’s a doggie movie! In a world where "star dogs" have their own toupees and publicists, Rex the dog plunges to earth after a sky-diving stunt and is picked up by a kid whose pop douses fire for a living. Lucky for them, the pooch can lift a mean leg and helps the soon to be closed firehouse get back on its feet.
Prognostication: Unless you’ve got one of those "Hang in there!" puppy posters hanging in some personal space of yours, this is a movie that was never ever meant for anyone who reads this site. You should know that it’s directed by Malcolm in the Middle vet Todd Holland and is rated PG for action peril, whatever the hell that means.
Russ Says: Paul Verhoeven directs this story of a young Dutch Jewish girl who does whatever she needs to do in order to survive the Nazi occupation of Holland during Wolrd War II. Siding with the Dutch resistance but taking a job in the Nazi headquarters, she engages in every sort of duplicity to save herself and, if possible, her friends and compatriots.
Prognostication: This is a total return to form for Verhoeven — I swear you won’t even remember Hollow Man during or after Black Book. Especially since the naked human this time isn’t Kevin Bacon, but the talented and utterly stunning Carice van Houten. If this flick doesn’t have the OTT satire of Starship Troopers or Robocop, it definitely has a soul, and a very bleak vision of humanity’s ability to compromise in ways both noble and profane. I thought I was completely over the WWII movie, but Black Book is entertaining enough that I could sit through the three hour running length another half-dozen times. If you’re in or near LA or NYC, get out and catch this so it can go wide.
Dan Says: Does Grindhouse really need an introduction? The project has been man-handled since the day it came out of the rumor mill and is finally arriving to satisfy your desire to visit the grindhouse of yesterday sans all the grinding and sticky seats that smell like sex. Rodriguez, Tarantino, Zombit, Wright and Roth deliver all the gruesome and heavenly racked fun you can handle in two tales about zombies, the machine gun leg that haunts them, a really mean stunt man and the trailers in between.
Prognostication: With all kinds of contrived controversy swirling around Grindhouse, the film is not only up on geek radar, it’s up on mainstream as well. Still, word is it’s tracking all mediocre-like with a $15 million weekend and may be a victim of its own genre-ing. As caveat, tracking may be a science, but it’s definitely not exact. I expect the numbers to move up and to the right in the coming week and would only be kind-of-shocked to see Grindhouse open in that range. Still, for those who see it, over the top fun is guaranteed.
A former Christian missionary (Hilary Swank) is called in to debunk religious
phenomena across the globe. Her latest assignment is a small
10 Biblical plagues and it may be a wee bit more authentic than she counted on.
Are the foretold prophecies of God any match for earnest acting from Hilary
Swank? Are you kidding me?
Prognostication: From the director of Lost in Space. From the
writers of the remake of House of Wax. From the plotline of Stigmata.
Featuring a lot of British actors looking for an easy American paycheck….and
Hilary Swank. Sounds like a slam dunk, no? Yeah, I don’t think so either. But
supernatural pap like this seems to thrive in weak weekends. Durn shame that it
has but one day of such due to its Thursday release until Grindhouse shows up on
Friday to pimp slap it around theaters. But once you’ve worn that out and
you’re looking to laugh at some good English actors like Stephen Rea and Idris
Elba slum it in some hokey religious schlock, it may not be that bad a bet.
Definitely not to be seen theatrically in any other fashion than as a matinee
in a deserted theater. Try the Tuesday after opening weekend.
Russ Says: True Story alert! Richard Gere is Clifford Irving, a writer who offset his poindexter moniker with mighty balls of brass. With his friend Richard Susskind (Alfred Molina), Irving concocted a scheme to write and, more important, sell an ‘authorized biography’ of the ultra-reclusive Howard Hughes. That Irving had never met, or planned to meet the cracked-out old aviator was hardly relevant.
Prognostication: I’ve always loved this story, for some of the same reasons I’m enthralled by the Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair escapades. But Clifford Irving’s hoax is one of the greatest, because it’s so ballsy and outré, just the sort of thing that could never happen in a world connected to the internet. (I’d like to believe it could still happen, so feel free to mail in a story proving me wrong.) As for the film, having Lasse Hallstrom’s name attached doesn’t inspire confidence. Has there been another more mediocre arthouse director in recent memory? Combine that with a cast that can either inspire or bore (Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci) and I’m afraid we’re going to be stuck with a very cool story, listlessly told.
Week of April 13
Dan Says: Historical discoveries tag the Vikings as having discovered America before Columbus. Pathfinder tells the story as if they discovered Frank Miller as well. After a ransacking at the hands of the Norsemen, the peaceful Natives discover a boy who was left behind (slaves for kids- sounds like a good trade). Years later, the Vikings return and Keith Urban doesn’t take to kindly to it, springing to action in an effort to separate bearded heads from hairy bodies.
Prognostication: The Thirteenth Warrior meets Dances with Wolves and I love it, in part because of the Vallejo-esque one sheet. I’m under no illusion this will do well, but I love this kind of loosely based historical crap. This film feels like it’s been knocking around for ages, and it has, in part, because it was based on a Norse film back in 1987 and has been out in Germany and other areas of the world for weeks and months. Verdict from the hinterlands? It’s not any good. As if you expected anything else. Still, I’ll be seeing it, despite knowing the fate which awaits.
Although the title suggests a mockumentary on some misbegotten 90s alternative
industrial metal band that just couldn’t quite make it, this is actually a Rear Window redux that follows a young
guy under house arrest (Shia LeBouf) who becomes absolutely convinced that his
creepy neighbor (David Morse) is…gasp…duh duh DUH…a killer. Surely there
couldn’t be any further twists awaiting those who brave the running time, could
Prognostication: I don’t feel one way or another about this one, really.
I’m kinda saddened to see the once-promising D.J. Caruso whiffing again here
after the titanic strikeouts of Taking Lives and Two
for the Money. The cast is ok, but I’m not sold on Shia as a serious
lead for a film yet, and I don’t think such an obvious ripoff of a classic will
change my mind. If you don’t have starpower and you don’t have an incredible
high concept and it’s not a cheap
horror movie, why even make this film? Who’s it for?
is a crusading journalist whose best friend has just been killed. She suspects
a high-powered businessman (Bruce Willis). The only, and I mean, only, logical
course of action is for her to go undercover in an attempt to seduce and entrap
the businessman in order to prove her theory. But is this guy onto her already?
Are her motives genuine? Are you willing to wait through all of this to see her
get pounded by another older white guy?
Prognostication: This reminds me, in a bad, but fun way, of 90s thrillers
like Willis’ own Mortal Thoughts or
Rich Man’s Wife. Just totally silly stuff that requires the leads to
balance equivalent desires to kill and screw each other. There’s a place for this
stuff, but unfortunately, it ain’t a theater. This is cable-grade junk meant to
be interrupted by lots of commercials while it’s on the background as you make
phone calls, eat snacks, and think about much more important things. If you
actually have to concentrate on these flicks and think about how absolutely
stupid they are, it just ruins the experience. So laugh off the commercials,
wait it out, and wait until it’s just a night at home with you, Perfect
Stranger, and some takeout. Then enjoy the fluff.
Everything’s Gone Green
Russ says: Slacker/Gen-X progenitor Douglas Coupland scripts his first feature, not too surprisingly focusing on a 20-something obsession with wealth. Ryan works at a lottery magazine, writing stories about and taking photos of the winners. When he meets a hot Asian girl with a rich, jerkoff boyfriend, he gets involved with a money laundering scam while his parents start making bank by spreading around a different kind of green.
Prognostication: I’m not much of a Coupland fan, so I can’t say if the EGG script hews closely to the tone of his books. I can, however, state that it sticks close to the classic independent comedy formula: affable lead; realistically hot romantic interest; sitcom plotting; catchy soundtrack. Copeland and director Paul Fox swirl those around in their gullet and spit out an entertaining, easy to watch comedy with puppy teeth and not even the ambition to appear as if it’s saying more than it really is. Which is sort of an achievement in itself, really.
Devin says: Ray Liotta is a district attorney who finds himself with gang leader LL Cool J getting in his face. Meanwhile, super fuckable Vulcan Jolene Blalock is an assistant DA trying to manipulate Ray, probably by way of her vagina.
Prognostication: This movie has been sitting on a shelf for almost four years. I don’t know if I need to Prognosticate much beyond that, to be frank. OK, how about this: the guy who directed it also directed The Art of War and Murder at 1600. Yeah, it sounds like a stinker in waiting… but that cast! Liotta! Blalock’s vagina! Chiwetel Efiojor is in there somewhere (the cast, not Blalock’s vagina, or at least not that I can prove, although I am willing to do plenty of spelunking to get to the cervix of this mystery)! Fisher Stevens!
The Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters
Dan Says: With the tagline "From the 1st Assistant Director of the 2nd Unit of Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth and the Production Assistant of the video Know Your Fryer", comes the big screen debut of Master Shake, Meatwad, Frylock and Ignignokt. Discover the origins of the Hunger Force and thrill as they battle through a nonsensical (it’s all about the jokes, baby!) plot about exercise equipment and Carl’s porn.
Prognostication: I watched season one and two and lost interest about the same time Homestar Runner started getting old. The shining brilliance that was coming off the ATHF star has waned since it’s apex in 2005, but I’d bet the movie is still pretty funny. Fans of the show will certainly find love, while everyone else will enjoy simmering in hate/indifference.
Private Fears In Public Places
Jeremy Says: What’s that? A new Alain Resnais film is getting U.S. distribution? Thanks to IFC Films, the legendary Hiroshima mon amour auteur’s adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn’s 2004 play about six people thwarted in their quest for a little romance will receive a very limited stateside run; that it’s been since perhaps 1986’s Malo that a Resnais picture has been granted such a privilege is, well, a little more than embarrassing (though I’d never admit publicly that Malo is the also the last Resnais picture I’ve bothered with).
Prognostication: Several critics, including the Chicago Reader‘s sage Jonathan Rosenbaum, felt Resnais returned to form with his last film, Not on the Lips, so there’s legitimate reason to be excited for this one. Resnais has assembled a terrific cast, including Laura Morante and Lambert "The Merovingian" Wilson, and is collaborating with gifted cinematographer Eric Gautier… and yet I’m quite sure my initial viewing of this will be on DVD. Shame on me.
Year of the Dog
Jeremy Says: Hipster misanthropist Mike White makes his directorial debut with this dramedy about a single woman (Molly Shannon) whose life is shaken up by the sudden death of her pet beagle. Though White wrote a few excellent episodes of Freaks and Geeks back in the day, he’s since established himself as a emotionally remote crafter of aggressively quirky comedies (e.g. Orange County and Nacho Libre) and low-key character studies (e.g. The Good Girl and Chuck and Buck). But this is White’s first time directing his own material, so maybe he’ll find the nuance that’s eluded his previous collaborators.
Prognostication: Or maybe he won’t. The film got a mixed critical reception at Sundance, with the only real consensus being that Molly Shannon is great and the dogs are ridiculously cute. If White can find a way to depict the pathos of seemingly ordinary people without making fun of them, this might be worthwhile, but indications are that he’s once again looking down on his characters. That said, the thought of Peter Sarsgaard playing an asexual animal activist named "Newt" is an encouraging one.
I’d be lying if I said I had even the faintest inkling of what this film is
about other than fast, exotic cars. I do know that they all belong to the
film’s producer/financier, and he bought himself about $1.5 million worth of
publicity for the film when he handed the keys to his Ferrari Enzo to Eddie
Griffin, who then proceeded to destroy it thereby adding to the value of the
other 400 or so Enzos that still exist. So what we have here is a ridiculous
auto vanity project courtesy of a guy with way too much money and time on his
Prognostication: You know you’re cooking when the title of your film is
so generic that the producers of The Fast and the Furious said
“Nah…too boring” and jettisoned it as the original title for their flick. Also,
check out this cast headlining a theatrical film in 2007: Tim Matheson. Chris
“Mr. Mira Sorvino” Backus. Angus Macfadyen. Wyclef Jean. The aforementioned
Eddie Griffin. Louis Mandylor. They couldn’t even get Costas! The commercials
focus on the address for the MySpace page longer than they do any of the cars
or actors. It doesn’t have the budget to have Torque-level FX zaniness,
but it does have the large cast of Z-listers to be this generation’s Cannonball
Run. And you know…kids need that kind of shit. They really do.
Week of April 20
Dan Says: When will road-tripping assholes like Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale ever learn to stop taking shortcuts in the middle of the night? Probably the same time they learn not to stop at dusty motels with weird as hell, coke-bottle glasses wearing greasy guys behind the check-in counter. Still, all’s well until they start watching the in-room video library and discover they’re stars of the next great motel snuff film.
Prognostication: Snuff horror gets some actorly name recognition, which usually means lots and lots of sucktitude. But I dunno. The premise is pretty creepy and the trailer tries really hard to deliver on that atmosphere. Vacancy is coming out of nowhere, but may benefit from its horror association. It’s also directed by Kontroll director Nimrod Antal, which is good, because Kontroll was critically beloved. On the other hand, the guy’s name is Nimrod. You decide.
Jeremy Says: Ryan Gosling plays an Assistant D.A. "playing a cat-and-mouse" game with some erudite asshole (Anthony Hopkins) who may or may not be trying to get away with murdering his wife. Written by a whole team of studio hacks and directed by the proficient Gregory Hoblit, it sounds an awful lot like a paycheck gig for two great actors. Also starring are the plain-but-sexy Rosamund Pike, the equally plain-but-sexy Embeth Davidtz and the plain-not-sexy-at-all David Strathairn. CHUD fave Xander Berkeley also appears.
Prognostication: Could be a fun little thriller with a decent twist ala Hoblit’s Primal Fear, or another case of a young Oscar nominee squandering carefully built-up goodwill by appearing alongside the scenery-munching Hopkins in a complete stinker ala Instinct. Because Hoblit’s delivered in the past, I’m going to withhold making any definitive prediction.
Devin says: Nicholas Angel isn’t just a good cop. He’s a great cop. And his arrest record is making the other cops in London look bad, so his superiors ship him out to the countryside, where they imagine he won’t find any crime to fight. But it turns out that Angel’s new beat, the bucolic town of Sandford, has some dark and deadly secrets bubbling just under the surface, and along with his new partner, the cop movie-loving Danny Butterman, Angel must solve a baffling series of murders.
Prognostication: It’s the follow-up to Shaun of the Dead from Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I gave it a 10 out of 10 in my review. Hot Fuzz is a technically better film than Shaun in every way (I still like Shaun better, but that’s because of my lifelong love for zombie movies, a love I don’t have for cop and action films), with a script so tight you could bounce a quarter off of it, or whatever they call one quarter of a British pound. Hot Fuzz is a film that grows on multiple viewings because once you’ve seen it you can go back and find the little hidden clues and jokes that set up elements that appear later in the film. Basically what I am saying here is see this movie 10 times.
In the Land of Women
Jeremy Says: Recently freed from The O.C. (which succeeded for one season at being a charming reworking of Beverly Hills 90210), the charismatic Adam Brody now embarks on his perilous quest to not become the next Jason Priestley. Starring as a television writer who retreats to the suburbs of Detroit to tend to his sick grandmother after getting dumped by his (literally) model girlfriend (the all kinds of hot Elena Anaya), Brody will see if he can generate some on-screen chemistry with the likes of Meg Ryan and the not-entirely-legal Kristen Stewart. Jonathan "Other Son of Larry" Kasdan is making his directorial debut from his own screenplay.
Prognostication: Having read the script… I still don’t know if this is going to be any good. Kasdan is a promising writer (you kinda have to be with those genes), but he’s still feeling his way. While it not might be my cup of treacle, I have a feeling that, if Warner Brothers markets to the right demographic, teenage girls are going to be dampening theater seats all spring thanks to the talented Mr. Brody.
Devin says: A girl eats some of her roommate’s brownies… not realizing they’re made with pot (and let me tell you, pot brownies will fuck you up in a huge way. Once I spent three hours on someone’s porch after eating way too many pot brownies (they took a long time to kick in and I thought maybe they weren’t made with enough dope) staring at the clouds being pretty convinced I was seeing Satan. I’ve done both mine and your fair shares of acid, mescaline and mushrooms, and none of those trips ever equaled that one brownie misadventure) and goes on a wacky trip through the city, totally fucking stoned.
Prognostication: After making a movie about child sexual abuse and UFOs (Mysterious Skin), Gregg Araki throws a change-up with this light hearted stoner comedy. It’s getting great buzz (no pun intended) on the festival circuit, and it has some pretty solid names in the cast, not least of which is Anna Farris, who I think needs to get out of that Scary Movie ghetto. Also appearing is The Office’s John Krasinski, John Cho aka the Chinese version of Chong, and Danny ‘Fucking’ Trejo.
Russ Says: In a plot that’s been billed as The Office meets Deliverance, a small group of execs for an arms company retreat to a lodge in eastern Europe for a weekend of team building. Unfortunately, they don’t exactly arrive at their intended destination, landing instead in a dilapidated old house near the hiding place of some violent, insane old war criminals.
Prognostication: I was one of a very few people who kinda liked Chris Smith’s debut Creep (go back in time to read a semi-review and interview here and here) and I knew that it would never have a wide audience. But Severance delivers everything we all want, and after seeing it four or five times, it still kicks. It’s funny, gory, outlandish and all crafted with impeccable timing. There’s no excuse for going to see Vacancy or Hostel 2 or any of the horror cheese that’s out and arriving if you haven’t already been to see Severance. Bear traps have never had so much appeal. (Actually, since I loved Kontroll, I won’t knock Vacancy out just yet.)
Week of April 27
Kickin’ It Old Skool
Jeremy Says: Jamie Kennedy gives his intermittently amusing wannabe act another spin with this saga of a white breakdancer who bangs his head during a competition and winds up in a coma for twenty years. When he comes to, he struggles to resurrect his career while contending with the fact that, even with the recent 80s style revival, no one’s wearing parachute pants anymore.
Prognostication: CHUD’s own Devin Faraci makes what I believe to be his big screen debut in this movie, so you know you’re going. But will the movie be any good? While I think Kennedy’s a funny guy in the right role, a little honesty is required here: I fucking loathed Malibu’s Most Wanted and haven’t been impressed with anything else he’s written for himself. This doesn’t mean I think he’s a bad guy; it’s just that our senses of humor don’t really mesh. You’ll have that.
Stone Cold Steve Austin headlines this
Royale/Running Man hybrid about criminals sentenced to death who are
temporarily freed to battle against each other to their death in a brutal
contest televised by an unscrupulous producer. First prize is freedom. Second
prize is you’re fired. From Existence. How can this not be the greatest thing
Prognostication: Well, to start with it is a WWE film. Not just a film
with ex-WWE guys like Austin and professional punching bag for diminutive
Asians Nathan Jones, but a film produced by the WWE. That’s not good. While I
appreciate their love for ridiculous Z-grade action and horror movie plots,
they haven’t made a good one yet. And this one’s written and directed by a guy
whose last film STARRED Lou Diamond Phillips. As in his face was prominently
featured on the video box. That was the main selling point of the film. Yeah.
Dan Says: Nate was simply minding his own business and walking through the dark and creepy woods alone at night when he was attacked and killed, which is the worst. The only problem is, he’s not really dead but floating around in limbo watching everyone look for him. Luckily, if he solves the mystery of his death he’ll get a second lease on life, because it sucks to die without losing your virginity first.
Prognostication: Teens caught in the ether where no one can see or hear them. I’m not sure why this is being billed as a horror/thriller—it sounds like a dream come true to me. War of the Worlds survivor Justin Chatwin stars in this David S. Goyer directed adolescent angst-fest, of which both facts have no bearing on my complete disinterest in this movie. I’m weary of the whole ghost thing and this movie feels like it’s coming out two years too late. I’d bet the rest of the country feels the same.
Nicolas Cage plays a guy who can see a few minutes into the future. Keep that
in mind. Minutes. Anyway, he was tormented by the government as a child with
endless tests, so now he lives in Vegas under a fake name as a “magician” who
stacks gambling winnings on the side. But – and here’s where it gets so, so
great – when a terrorist group threatens to detonate a nuke in Los Angeles, a
government agent (Julianne Moore) hunts him down in order to use his mighty
power. The power to buy them a few extra minutes. To stop a nuke.
Prognostication: Come on. How is the world not excited for this? It’s
directed by Lee “My, aren’t women’s clothes pretty?” Tamahori, who’s been
batting perfect having done the second XXX movie as well as Brosnan’s last
– and worst – Bond film, Die Another Day. It’s got a
ridiculous premise. Nicolas Cage will be overacting his but off. There’s no way
this isn’t entertaining in the most awful way imaginable. I’ve really come to
appreciate Cage’s dedication to livening up the worst crap to wash up onscreen
with his corny presence. Guy does a service as far as I’m concerned.
Devin says: It’s 1976, and times are changing for Long Island’s clam diggers. A big company, South Shell, is moving in on their waters and the hauls are getting smaller. A group of digger friends deal with these changes and the every day realities of their lives in this funny, sweetly observed movie written by Ken Marino, who makes me want to dip my balls in his script.
Prognostication: This is a future CHUD Essentials movie. It’s almost guaranteed a spot just based on this formula: a slice of life movie about an interesting and rarely explored subculture that is heavy on male bonding and witty dialogue and also stars Paul Rudd. The guineas behind this site eat this shit up like spaghetti. It doesn’t hurt that this is a very well-made movie, and beyond Rudd (who is always great. Always), Diggers has a terrific cast that includes former member of The State Marino, Ron Eldard, Josh Hamilton, Maura Tierney and a very, very good looking Lauren Ambrose.
Devin says: Gabriel Byrne lives in the Australian town of Jindabyne. When going on a fishing trip with his buddies, he finds the murdered body of a young girl… and doesn’t report it until his trip is over. His wife, Laura Linney, must deal with his callous actions and make things right with the dead girl’s family.
Prognostication: Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney are two great actors, and the movie is getting seriously strong buzz. Plus it’s based on a short story by one of America’s finest writers, Raymond Carver. Everything is in place to make Jindabyne a powerful, unforgettable film. Let’s hope the whole is as good as the ingredients.