No fooling, cinema-goers, April is the first month of 2014 that is absolutely stocked to the gills with (hopefully) quality movies in every genre imaginable. I mean, we know some of these movies are going to stink, but the ratio of success to failure will likely be in our favor. And April showers bring May flowers, which to me means the good movies raining down this month are making way for Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla to deflower us next month. Speaking of, a restored print of Ishirô Honda’s original 1954 Godzilla is going on a brief theatrical run in select cities throughout April and May, following its celebrated premiere at South by Southwest.

April’s smaller releases match up well with what the month is generally known for. For instance, Steve Coogan’s big-screen take on his small screen legend, Alan Partridge: The Movie, will give you the comedy that April Fool’s Day inspires. Project X’s Jonathan Daniel Brown stars as a drop-out who traffics marijuana across the Canadian border in John Stockwell’s Kid Cannabis, which comes out two days before marijuana’s unofficial holiday, 4/20. And to cope with the stress-induced horror of Tax Day, there’s CBS Films’ found footage thriller Afflicted, which injects monsters and international travel into the Chronicle plot outline. And if the IRS totally screws you over and over, you have the second volume of Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. And now: superheroes, brainy sci-fi, Parkour and Nicolas Cage.

Dom Hemingway
Start the month off right with the palate-dirtying crime comedy Dom Hemingway, from The Matador and The Hunting Party director Richard Shepard, in which Jude Law’s language is as blue as the triangles on the Flag of England. While there’s nothing wrong with Law’s dramatic skills, this is the kind of role he should play more often, as he looks so natural griming up every scene with monumental levels of confident smarm. And it’s a welcome return to features for Shepard, who has been busy directing episodes of HBO’s Girls.

In Dom Hemingway, Law plays a safe-cracker who spends 12 years in prison without giving up the names of his accomplices. Soon following his release, he is joined by best friend Dickie (Richard E. Grant) in paying a visit to crime boss Mr. Fontaine (Demián Bichir) in order to collect the money owed to Dom for his silence. Of course, this newfound fortune is short-lived, and Dom combats his ever-growing problems by reconnecting with his estranged daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke). While this will be getting a limited release, expect a growing fanbase once word of mouth – and a filthy mouth at that – gains traction.
Director: Richard Shepard
Stars: Jude Law, Emilia Clarke, Demian Bichir
Release Date: April 2
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
On the off chance you’ve been surviving on the nutrient-soaked floor mat of a car’s trunk for the last year or so, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is our latest window into the Marvel Universe, with Chris Evans’ charismatic titular superhero facing off against one of the comic world’s more treasured villains, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a brainwashed fighter whose threshold for evil is expansive. This sequel from Anthony and Joe Russo focuses just as much on Captain America’s adjustment to the modern world around him as it does the retro Cold War conspiracy drama and action sequences, creating what will hopefully be another superb effort from Marvel Studios.

Not that we’re playing favorites, but our own Eric gave the film a perfect rating, and praised it in nearly every conceivable way. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) both receive meaty supporting roles here, as does Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Could it be that The Winter Soldier will defy the superhero movie label by existing as an action thriller first and foremost, with stereotypical comic book theatrics taking a backseat? Or will it all feel as dated as Cap’s memory of radio shows? Either way, 'Murica!
Director: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Stars: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie
Release Date: April 4
Under the Skin
When she’s not saving the world with Captain America, Scarlett Johansson is lurking around the Scottish countryside in the visually hypnotic sci-fi head trip Under the Skin, director Jonathan Glazer’s third film following 2000’s Sexy Beast and 2004’s Birth. This will be the first time ScarJo will be seen in the buff on the big screen, and that would be a bigger attention-grabber if this were a thinly-designed romantic comedy or something, but Under the Skin has made a name for itself by taking viewers on a trippy journey into the weird mechanics of sexuality and individuality within society. Or something about black goop.

Loosely adapting Michel Faber’s 2000 novel, Glazer tells the story of an alien (Johansson) who travels through rural Scotland in a van, luring young men inside under the guise of a sexual tryst. The joke’s on the hornballs, because all she wants to do is use them for spare parts. To go any farther into the plot would rob the film of its mysterious pleasures, as this isn’t a pic where dialogue and introspective conversation are plentiful. Under the Skin has received wide acclaim since its festival run last fall, and we’re almost completely positive the reviews weren’t coerced by aliens. All hail the goop!
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Stars: Scarlett Johansson
Release Date: April 4
Joe
For years, it looked like both Nicolas Cage and director David Gordon Green had completely given up on producing moving and emotionally gratifying features, and along comes the dark drama Joe to stand out as a tense return to fine form for both men. Add to that combination one of Mud's breakout talents, Tye Sheridan, and the semi-tragic story of co-star Gary Poulter, a local homeless man whose years of substance abuse gave him the authenticity that Green wanted for Sheridan’s abusive father. Poulter’s performance has been praised by many who caught Joe on its ongoing festival run, but this will be his only one, as he died two months after production.

Joe (Cage), an ex-con who has learned to control his anger issues, hires teenager Gary (Sheridan), who starts looking to Joe as a misplaced role model as a way of avoiding his own awful home life. Wade (Poulter) is the abusive ingrate catalyst in this story, as Joe reaches a crossroads where he must decide between looking out for his own well-being, or for Gary’s, where both options come with severe consequences. You don’t even need to watch the trailer to understand this isn’t a movie that ends on all the characters rolling barrels of pennies over to the penny candy store.
Director: David Gordon Green
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Gary Poulter
Release Date: April 9
Draft Day
Diehard football fans are currently going through massive withdrawals right about now, nearly two months after Super Bowl XLVIII, but there’s a chance Ivan Reitman’s behind-the-pigskin drama Draft Day will curb some of those pangs. At least until the actual NFL Draft is held at the beginning of next month. Draft Day will also be a highly sought-out film for anyone who has "Kevin Costner trading in a cinematic baseball glove for a football jersey" on their bucket list.

Costner stars as Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver, Jr., who is trying everything in his playbook to land the number one draft pick with hopes of bringing success to his struggling team. But is his miracle cure/draft pick grounded in reality, or will he just turn everyone against him with a terrible decision? Reitman has gathered an impressive all-star cast here, so there’s potential for the drama and humor to go a hundred yards beyond more trite sports stories. You can expect to see Frank Langella, Denis Leary, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner, Terry Crews, Sam Elliott and Tom Welling, among others, with a solid cast on the bench as well. Now that we know Ivan Reitman isn’t going forward with Ghostbusters 3, he kind of needs a big win right now.
Director: Ivan Reitman
Stars: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella
Release Date: April 11
Oculus
Pay attention, folks, because you might not see anything like this again for quite a while. Mike Flanagan’s ghostly Oculus is a non-found-footage horror movie from Blumhouse Productions that isn’t a remake or based on any "true" events. Okay, so it technically is a remake of Flanagan’s short film Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan, but that film gained a cult following for being one of the scariest short films out there, so we’re not taking away any points. Plus, this flick looks genuinely unsettling.

Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan plays Kaylie, a young woman whose brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) was sent to a mental hospital when he was a kid for allegedly killing their parents. But Kaylie knows that the real culprit is an ancient haunted mirror. She is determined to prove that the mirror is cursed, and she’s documenting it in order to clear her brother’s name. Only the mirror isn’t keen on that plan, and Kaylie and Tim have to fight against their mental unraveling, all while Mommy (Katee Sackhoff) and Daddy (Rory Cochrane) are back for some real freaky family time. Chances are, you’ll never place your half-eaten apple next to a light bulb again!
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane, Katee Sackhoff
Release Date: April 11
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Rio 2
One of the easiest and most often used tricks for telling a sequel is to take as many main characters as possible and shoehorn them into a completely new environment, giving humor and drama new avenues to work their way through the story. Such is the case with Carlos Saldanha’s Rio 2, the sequel to 2011’s gorgeous but lacking Rio. That film was not a huge domestic success – earning $143 million on a $90 million budget – but with worldwide grosses of over $340 million, Blue Sky would have been birdbrained not to milk this concept for all it’s worth.

Rio 2 stars Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway as our leading macaw couple Blu and Jewel, who are enjoying the Rio city life with their two kids when they decide to leave it all behind and head off into the Amazon rainforest to look for a newly discovered family of macaws. Not coincidentally, these birds include Jewel’s father (Andy Garcia), her aunt (Rita Moreno) and her childhood friend Roberto, played by pop musician Bruno Mars. Expect to hear some elaborately-produced songs as Blu and Jewel have to stop the evil cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement) and his dart frog henchman (Kristin Chenoweth) from completely the macaws’ lives, as well as saving Blu’s owners Tulio and Linda from logger kidnappers. All that, and you don’t even need to take vacation time off of work to see it.
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jamie Foxx
Release Date: April 11
Cuban Fury
Cinema is full of silly romances with less-than-studly leading men getting into some high-concept shenanigans in order to gain the attraction of the woman they love. Knowing this, it’s still something of a shock to see Nick Frost at the head of the British rom-com Cuban Fury, the feature debut for established TV director James Griffiths. I suppose the films he’s done with Simon Pegg are kind of like romances…

In this lively comedy, Frost plays a man named Bruce Garrett, a confidence-lacking engineer whose present life is not the one he foresaw as a 13-year-old salsa dancing champion. But an experience with a bully destroyed his self-esteem, and now the half-depressed Bruce is only now regaining his verve through an attraction to his new boss (Rashida Jones), a beauty with her own set of problems. While he doesn’t think he has a real shot, he’s desperate to one-up his arrogant co-worker Drew (Chris O’Dowd), whose only problem with confidence is an over-abundance of it. Salsa’s fair in love and war, I think the expression goes.
Director: James Griffiths
Stars: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd
Release Date: April 11
Hateship Loveship
It’s a daunting task to bring the words of short story extraordinaire Alice Munro to the big screen, both in extending a limited story to feature-length and in figuring out how to properly convey the expertly constructed world that her characters live and breathe in. That challenge, coupled with the reverse casting of Kristen Wiig in a subtly dramatic role, gives Liza Johnson’s Hateship Loveship a handicap before the opening credits can even start. So it’s a good thing it looks as refreshingly interesting as it does.

As Johanna Parry, Wiig plays a homecare worker who hasn’t staked out a claim in her own life. She takes on a job as the nanny to Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenager whose mother died in an accident. Sabitha’s father, Ken (Guy Pearce) is a recovering addict and an all-around disappointment who is blamed for the mother’s death by Sabitha’s grandfather (Nick Nolte). It’s something of a surprise when Ken starts emailing Johanna all kinds of love-stricken emails, and it’s even more surprising when she finds out the emails were all faked by Sabitha and a friend. Can Johanna find actual substance in this new station of life, or are true emotions just words on a page to her?
Director: Liza Johnson
Stars: Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Hailee Steinfeld
Release Date: April 11
Only Lovers Left Alive
It’s hard to drive a wooden nail into pinpointing the most intriguing facet of the "I still can’t believe this is an existing thing" romantic horror Only Lovers Left Alive. Is it that director Jim Jarmusch isn’t known for making vampire rock star films? Is it the insanely talented cast bringing this unique tale to (undead) life? Is it just because these doom-and-gloom vamps aren’t teenagers? I’m pretty sure it’s the Jarmusch thing.

Tom Hiddleston plays the centuries-old Adam, a talented muse now living as a reclusive musician in Detroit, an ocean away from his lover Eve (Tilda Swinton). Adam’s depression and complete disdain for the modern human race leads him to tasking his young music-minded helper Ian (Anton Yelchin) to find a wooden bullet to end his life. But before he commits to that finality, Eve returns to him and they reconnect for a spell, only to have their happiness distorted with the arrival of Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska). This gothic love story also features performances from John Hurt and Jeffrey Wright as blood suppliers, and a score from minimalist composer Jozef van Wissem. I never thought I could hear the words "vampire love story" again without coughing up glitter.
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin
Release Date: April 11
Transcendence
Johnny Depp has become known as an actor who too often loses himself in elaborate costumes and over-the-top performances. And though he appears in Wally Pfister’s Transcendence at one point as a head made out of digital numbers, we can expect a far more human delivery from Depp, who plays a man that loses his humanity through science and technology. It’s the first film for Christopher Nolan’s former go-to cinematographer, and he’s chosen a doozy of a sci-fi story to tell with this first screenplay from Jack Paglen.

Dr. Will Caster (Depp) is an artificial intelligence researcher who is diagnosed with a terminal disease, which gives him the motivation to take his work into uncharted territories. With his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max (Paul Bettany), Will uploads his consciousness into a computer. Though it’s a success, any positive feelings Evelyn and Max may have are short-lived, as Will’s hunger for more power turns him into an unstoppable madman, er, madmachine. With a cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy and Clifton Collins, Jr., Transcendence is a further wake-up call to Hollywood that blockbusters can still be based on original ideas, too. Like…Transcendence 2: Upgrade.
Director: Wally Pfister
Stars: Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara
Release Date: April 18
A Haunted House 2
It’s a studio rule that the films most likely to get sequels are the ones that were only okay because you were on a lot of cold medicine at the time. You’d better lock your doors and windows, because Michael Tiddes’ A Haunted House 2 is moving into the neighborhood, and it’s bringing a U-Haul of new horror references with it. Well, they’re new in as much as co-writers Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez traded in focusing on Paranormal Activity and are now in full Conjuring-riffing mode.

In this sequel, Malcolm (Wayans) mourns the death of his girlfriend Kisha (Essence Atkins) by shacking up with Megan (Jaime Pressly) and her two kids in a new house. But Malcolm just can’t leave poltergeists behind, and strange things start happening to the home and children, leading up to a resurrected Kisha moving in across the street and making Malcolm’s life a literal hell. Beyond what will presumably be a ton of interracial relationship jokes, we’ll also get to see Mexican stereotypes pop up when comedian Gabriel Iglesias comes in as the next-door neighbor, and I’m sure Cedric the Entertainer’s return as Father Doug will head into equally hilarious territory. Now where’s that Robitussin?
Director: Michael Tiddes
Stars: Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly, Gabriel Iglesias
Release Date: April 18
Heaven is for Real
Along with the recent surprise hit God’s Not Dead, the upcoming Christian drama Heaven is for Real is a faith-based film you might not have heard about, in a year flooded with religious cinema. That’s somewhat surprising, as it’s backed by Sony and evangelist T.D. Jakes, it stars Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly, and it’s based on the best-selling book of the same name from author Lynn Vincent and Pastor Todd Burpo. It seems like the marketing for this movie would be a no-brainer, and the Good Word on the street may indeed lead to wider successes after it’s released.

Kinnear plays Pastor Burpo, whose small town Nebraska life is shaken up when his four-year-old son Colton needs to have emergency surgery. Colton could later details about his time on the operating table while he was supposedly unconscious, and says he experienced Heaven, where he saw God and spoke to relatives that he couldn’t possibly have known about otherwise. To be expected, his claims raise questions among everyone as to whether or not this is proof of a higher power.
Director: Randall Wallace
Stars: Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church
Release Date: April 18
Brick Mansions
As the final film Paul Walker completed before his untimely death last year, Camille Delamarre’s Brick Mansions will likely have a shadow hanging over it when it’s released, which is a shame, since it looks like one of the most exciting films he’s ever starred in. A remake of Luc Besson’s 2004 French action film District 13 – written by Besson and fellow Taken co-creator Robert Mark Kamen – Brick Mansions is also centered around the enjoyable gimmick of Parkour founder David Belle, who uses his location-utilizing skills to create near-impossible action sequences with stunning authenticity.

In the film, Walker plays a cop named Damien who goes undercover into a completely walled-off section of the city where seedy lowlifes are allowed to live as they please. Damien is paired up with ex-con Lino (David Belle), who knows his way around inside the walls. Both men are after the same man, Tremaine (RZA), a crime boss who destroyed the lives of people they cared most about. Brick Mansions also stars Robert Maillet and a bunch of walls that Belle backflips off of before punching someone in the throat.
Director: Camille Delamarre
Stars: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA
Release Date: April 25
The Other Woman
The past few years have seen a strong and welcome resurgence of Hollywood comedies led by women, and Nick Cassavetes’ upcoming The Other Woman isn’t lacking in the confident female department, as Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton are soldiers at war against the man they all thought they loved. Oh, and did I mention they grow to be close friends with each other? I think I smell a franchise here.

Diaz plays Carly, a woman who is having a perfectly enjoyable relationship with Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) until she discovers he has a wife named Kate (Mann). The women meet and their initial hatred for one another subsides as they form a plot to get revenge on Mark, also having an affair with Amber (Upton), who joins in on the scheming. The trailers look incredibly tame for an R-rated comedy, so here’s hoping the preview is just two-timing us and isn’t indicative of the final product.
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Stars: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Release Date: April 25
The Quiet Ones
Too often in modern horror movies, characters discover a haunted presence inside their home or family member and they spend the entire movie trying every method they can think of to get rid of it. Director John Pogue is flipping that concept on its head (at least for the first act) with Hammer Films’ The Quiet Ones, in which characters are actually trying and cause a paranormal event themselves. We hope you take your cautionary tales with two lumps of jump scares.

In 1970s Britain, Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) gathers a group of university students to help him test a theory that ghosts are brought about by negative energy inside the human beings themselves, and they attempt to create their own poltergeist with a troubled girl named Jane (Olivia Cooke). It doesn’t take a genius to realize things start to go very, very badly for this team, which includes Sam Claflin and Erin Richards, as Jane’s past reveals itself in the most horrifying of ways. My advice for future experimenters would be to start off with a generally happy person, instead of the doe-eyed loner with planet-sized inner demons.
Director: John Pogue
Stars: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke
Release Date: April 25
Locke
English actor Tom Hardy found his breakout success right around the same time fellow Brit Jason Statham became synonymous with "WTF was that?" and Hardy is thusly often reduced to being thought of as an action star instead of a really good actor who happens to have made a bunch of action movies. Hopefully that slight misconception will change with Locke, a single-location thriller from Dirty Pretty Things director Steven Knight, whose intention to make as limited a narrative as possible resulted in what may forever be known as the "Tom Hardy in a car" movie.

Hardy plays Ivan Locke, the manager of a construction company whose seemingly perfect life goes all sixes and sevens on a fateful ride home. The only onscreen character in the film, Locke has a series of phone conversations that affect his life in many ways. His boss asks him to do the impossible without a clear alternative, and his family life gets disrupted when an ex-lover comes back into the frame. Such a strange approach to storytelling could easily fail in lesser hands, but early buzz for Locke says Hardy and Knight can call this a driving success. Should we expect to see "Anti-Cellphone Use While Driving" groups picketing the screenings?
Director: Stephen Knight
Stars: Tom Hardy
Release Date: April 25

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