April 1st - 3rd-
Sneaking into just over 1,000 theaters this weekend and most likely not making much of a dent is the horror spoof comedy Meet the Blacks. The horror movie being spoofed here is The Purge as the Black family (whose skin color is also black. Get it? They made a funny!) moves from Chicago to Beverly Hills to start new, but couldn't have timed it worse as they move there right at the start of the annual purge where all crime is legal for 12 hours. This style of movie has worked very well in the past as the Scary Movie franchise did very well and even A Haunted House also was a hit not too long ago. But Meet the Blacks looks like a dud. First off, I don't think many people are aware of this movie. Second, there isn't really any big names tied to this movie, in front or behind the camera. Third, The Purge isn't really popular enough to warrant a spoof comedy. But even so, Fifty Shades of Black and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies were both petty big flops this year and they did have those three things in their favor.
Two movies will be expanding into a moderate release this weekend. The first of those is Bleecker Street's Eye in the Sky. Bleecker Street is a new distribution company that started in 2014 and has been responsible for the distribution of Danny Collins, I'll See You in My Dreams, Pawn Sacrifice, and Trumbo. In addition to expanding Eye in the Sky, they will also have another release later in the month that we'll get to. Eye in the Sky expands after a successful run in limited release where it earned around $2 million in three weeks and has a very strong 92 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. This is a modern war thriller starring the late Alan Rickman in his final live action role. He'll return next month as a voice in Disney's Alice Through the Looking Glass, but audiences may be interested in catching the beloved actor one final time. Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul also join Rickman in this movie, which is about a mission to stop some suicide bombers in Kenya that escalates when a 9-year-old girl enters the kill zone.
The second movie expanding into a moderate release is Hello, My Name is Doris. This followed a similar trajectory as Eye in the Sky as it also had a successful three-week run in limited release with a similar per theater average and an 85 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. There's no Alan Rickman or war thriller to draw people in here, but what is earning this movie a lot of attention is the performance of Sally Field who plays an older lady named Doris working at a company with people mostly younger than her. She is inspired by a self-help seminar to romantically pursue one of her co-workers that is nearly half her age. Thus the movie is a comedic romance drama that is sure to attract at least some sort of niche crowd even if it struggles to appeal to a general audience.
April 8th - 11th-
Providing some counter-programming for those not interested in a Melissa McCarthy comedy will be the very unique action movie Hardcore Henry. What makes this movie unique is not necessarily the premise. The movie is about a guy named Henry who is raised from the dead without the knowledge of who he is and suddenly he has to go rescue the girl who has just told him she is his wife. The unique aspect of this movie is that it is told entirely from first person as if you are watching, or even playing, a first person shooter video game. This obviously won't be for everyone, but the concept alone should be enough to bring in a decent-sized crowd. The movie debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and was purchased for $10 million by STX Entertainment, a brand new production company dedicated to making/producing several medium-budget films per year. With this goal in mind, their first three movies, The Gift ($43.7 million), Secret in their Eyes ($20.2 million), and The Boy ($35.8 million), all did pretty well. Given the $10 million price tag for Hardcore Henry, anything in that range will be a win for STX.
The final wide release of the weekend is a horror movie I already talked about a few months back. Before I Wake was supposed to be released in September of 2015. In that month's preview, I talked about how it seemed like a bad idea for two horror movies to be released on the same weekend as it was Before I Wake and The Green Inferno. Then that weekend came and Before I Wake was M.I.A. I didn't really know what happened to it as somehow I missed the announcement of it being postponed. But then it reappeared here in April. So here we are again. This is a horror movie that follows a family whose young boy has dreams and nightmares that manifest in reality. He dreams something. They experience it. One huge advantage this movie has now as opposed to before is that the young boy is played by Jacob Tremblay. Back in September no one knew who he was. Following the release of the best picture nominee Room, everyone knows and loves Jacob Tremblay. How's that for a bit of dumb luck?
April 15th - 17th-
Speaking of trends, another current one is comedy sequels to older comedies that no one really asked for. This month's version of that is Barbershop: The Next Cut. Recent movies in this trend include Anchorman 2, Dumb and Dumber To, Zoolander 2, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. While opinions on each of these movies are quite varied, the most popular opinion is that these aren't very good movies, so I don't really know why the trend keeps going, but oh well. Barbershop: The Next Cut is actually the third Barbershop movie. The original Barbershop was released in 2002 while the sequel came out just two years later in 2004. Now it's been 12 years since that second one and here we have the third. I don't know if it's really fair to put Barbershop in the same category as Anchorman or Zoolander, but just in case I get swarmed by a hornet's nest of Barbershop fans, I won't make that judgment. I just know that reviews for them aren't super high and the box office totals weren't that great, so I don't know if this third one was necessary, especially since its been so long. It feels like they are about 10 years too late with this third movie.
Finally for this weekend we have a movie with possibly the most generic title I've seen in quite some time. Criminal. Yup. Just Criminal. This is an action movie where the memories and skills of a deceased CIA agent are implanted into a very dangerous criminal. If that title and that premise don't have you sold, perhaps the cast actually will. This is a movie that stars Deadpool and Wonder Woman hot off very huge superhero movies. Or should I say Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. Billed higher than those and possibly getting more screen time in this movie is Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, and Tommy Lee Jones, which is a pretty dang good cast. Ryan Reynolds' name isn't actually even on the movie poster for this, so perhaps his role isn't that big, but still. Big names don't always equate to big box office numbers and being released in the middle of April definitely doesn't. But this will provide another option for action fans if they've already seen Hardcore Henry and are dying for more.
April 22nd - 24th-
Opening alongside The Huntsman will be Bleecker Street's other movie from this month, Elvis & Nixon. As far as the release goes here, this will most likely be another smaller release in around 1,000 theaters, give or take a few hundred. But this has a premise that has a chance to intrigue movie-goers. It's exactly what the title makes it seem. A movie about Elvis and Nixon. Yes, that Elvis and that Nixon -- Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon. This is a true story about a time in 1970 where Elvis showed up at the White House requesting a meeting with President Nixon. There is a photo taken during this meeting of the two shaking hands that is the most requested photograph of all-time in the National Archives. This movie will tell the "untold true story" behind this moment. Michael Shannon will be playing Elvis while Kevin Spacey will be playing Nixon.
April 29th - May 1st-
Mother's Day will be on May 8th this year and leading up to that date the holiday will get its own movie called Mother's Day. This movie comes from director Garry Marshall, who directed Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, and The Princess Diaries. He also directed Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve, which is exactly the type of movie Mother's Day is. Both Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve had huge ensemble casts with a ton of different stories intertwining into one movie. Critically speaking, neither of these movies worked. Valentine's Day earned a lowly Rotten Tomatoes score of 18 percent while New Year's Eve was even worse at 7 percent. Financially speaking, Valentine's Day opened to a huge $56.3 million, but dropped like a rock and only finished with $110.5 million. New Year's Day opened to a much lower $13.0 million just a year later, but held much better and finished with $54.5 million. Mother's Day will probably follow in the footsteps of New Year's Eve as it's been enough time for people to forget the bad taste in their mouth that the other two left. Yes this does follow several different mothers and the large ensemble cast is led by Jennifer Aniston, Britt Robertson, Kate Hudson, and Julia Roberts.
Finishing up the month of April will be Ratchet & Clank. This is an animated movie that is adapted from the very popular video game series of the same name. Ratchet & Clank started on the PS2 and has shown up on all of Sony's platforms since then, so there's definitely a built-in audience here. However, history is against the Ratchet & Clank movie for two reasons. First, video game movies have a bad history in Hollywood, both in terms of box office gross and overall reception by fans and critics alike. Second, Ratchet & Clank doesn't come from a major animation studio. Some of these movies have had decent performances at the box office, but for the most part, animated movies without a major animation studio attached have a hard time finding an audience. Ratchet & Clank does have a good voice cast attached to it, which includes James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward, and Armin Shimerman reprising their roles from the games as Ratchet, Clank, Qwark, and Nefarious respectively. Joining them will be Rosario Dawson, Sylvester Stallone, Bella Thorne, John Goodman, and Paul Giammati. So that's a plus. However, it seems that family audiences will be saving their money for The Angry Birds Movie and/or Finding Dory in the upcoming months instead of seeing this one.