It’s not megalomaniacal super-villains that our heroes need to be afraid of in 2016: it’s each other.
Last month saw The Man of Steel square off against The Dark Knight in one of the most long awaited clashes in pop culture history. This April it’s the turn of Marvel’s leading men as Iron Man and Captain America take turns trading blows to resolve their own issues. Cap vs. Shellhead may be the title fight but there’s hard-hitting action to be found across the card this month. A crusading – and Oscar winning – news team go up against the clergy in “Spotlight” and Leonardo DiCaprio goes one-on-one with a bear in “The Revenant.” Ready? Fight!
By Christopher O’Keeffe
The Revenant – April 22
Picking up an Academy Award for Best Director is quite an achievement: taking away the prize in two consecutive years puts the winner in a most exclusive circle. Alejandro González Iñárritu is only the third man to hold such an honor and the first to do so in 65 years, thanks to “Birdman” followup “The Revenant.” The film also earned Leonardo DiCaprio his first Best Actor Oscar after many years of trying. DiCaprio stars as Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the wild Northern Plains of 1820s America. After being viciously attacked by a grizzly bear, the dying man is then abandoned and betrayed by the men left behind to see that his body was properly taken care of. What follows is an extraordinary (and true) story of survival as the seriously wounded Glass nurses himself back to health before setting out on a mission of vengeance against those men that callously left him to rot in a shallow grave. A film of staggering technical brilliance from a master of his craft, “The Revenant” offers brutal action set amidst a stunningly beautiful yet bitterly harsh environment.
Room – April 8
Indie drama “Room” took the world by storm, racking up multiple film prizes and making it all the way to the Academy Awards thanks to its deeply moving narrative. Young newcomer Jacob Tremblay wows as five-year-old Jack, a little boy who has lived his entire life inside a tiny room. Jack’s mother Joy, an equally impressive Brie Larson, was captured seven years earlier and has been held captive ever since. Joy tries to create a happy life for her son but struggles to cope with her situation and the routine rapes from a man they call “Old Nick.” With living conditions growing worse, Joy decides it’s time to make a break for the outside, introducing her son to a world he didn’t believe existed. Director Lenny Abrahamson infuses a film that could have been unbearably dark with the power of hope.
Lowlife Love – April 2
Tetsuo is a lowlife, a scummy film director with one minor hit to his name who lures in women with promises of acting roles only to use them for sex. Unfortunately, at the lowest levels of the indie filmmaking scene he’s not the only scumbag around. Eiji Uchida, director of outstanding 2013 black-comedy “Greatful Dead,” populates his latest work with a lineup of sleazy producers, actors, agents and managers who’ll do anything to make it to the top. Now, with the help of a naïve young screenwriter and an innocent actress, Tetsuo might just be able to get his career back on track, if he can get his act together and rise above the sleazy world he inhabits.
Youth – April 15
Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino provides the more thoughtful cinemagoer with a trip to the Swiss Alps in his latest work, “Youth.” Aging best friends Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel are guests at a luxurious hotel who spend their days lounging by the pool and reflecting on their lives and fading memories. One a successful film director and the other a renowned composer, their respective desire or apathy towards work drives the plot but it’s the traded words of these two acting heavyweights that provides the content. Encounters with the likes of Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda and Paul Dano add further color to this beautifully shot film. “Youth” is Sorrentino’s second English language film and the follow up to his 2013 Academy Award winning effort “The Great Beauty.”
Captain America: Civil War – April 23
After last month’s clash between DC Comic titans Batman and Superman, Marvel’s own big screen heavyweights are getting in on the hero vs. hero action. Robert Downey Jr.’s wisecracking Iron Man often came into conflict with Chris Evans’ stoic man-out-of-time Captain America but they formed a friendship built on mutual respect and shared adventures. When yet another international incident occurs involving The Avengers, Cap must take a stand to protect his friend The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) from the fallout, and the Earth’s mightiest superheroes become split down the middle. The Falcon (Antony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) line up behind Cap while Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and newcomer The Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) stand with Iron Man. And is that a certain web-slinging wall-crawler I see swinging into action…?
Spotlight – April 23
Spotlight” was this month’s other big Oscar winner, sneaking in and taking away the coveted Best Picture Award from under the nose of its rivals. Featuring a stellar ensemble cast, the film tells the story of The Boston Globe newspaper’s “Spotlight” investigative journalism team as they tackle allegations of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. Going up against Boston’s legal, religious and political leaders, the team risks everything to expose a decades old cover-up. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James and Liev Schreiber are the team members in a film quite rightly hailed as one of the best of the year. While the “Spotlight” film team took away a Best Picture Award, the real group of journalists earned themselves a Pulitzer Prize for their groundbreaking work.
Best of the Rest
The Mohican Comes Home – Punk rocker Ryuhei Matsuda returns to his island hometown to find his estranged father on his last legs. The wayward son decides to hang around and reconnect with the dying man in this life-affirming comedy-drama. (April 8)
Cop Car – This throwback action-thriller sees Kevin Bacon as a county sheriff on the trail of two young boys who have taken an abandoned cop car for a joyride into a world of trouble. (April 8)
Ayashii Kanojo – Japanese remake of Korean smash hit “Miss Granny,” in which a cantankerous grandmother magically regains the body of her twenty-something self for a second shot at life, love, and happiness in this joyous comedy-drama. (April 1)
Sicario – Intense thriller as Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro set out on a clandestine mission in the dangerous US/Mexico border area to tackle the war on drugs. (April 8)
Love – Provocateur Gasper Noé follows up Tokyo-set “Enter the Void” with another kaleidoscopic, sex-fueled drama. (April 1)
Zootopia – A cast of some of Hollywood’s finest provides the voices for this Disney animation caper that tells the story of hijinks in a city populated entirely by nonhuman mammals. (April 23)