April is the cruelest movie month, pure Darwinian box-office carnage as a dozen new films tumbling into the commercial dumping bin between the Oscars and summer blockbusters.
We’ll guide you through some of the gems, starting with a couple of documentaries. Far: The Story of a Journey Around the World (Rating: A) is a chronicle of a German couple in their thirties who hitchhike around the planet, have a baby on route and discover that most of the earth is a kind and generous place.
Our other top pick is Amazing Grace (Rating: A), a soul-shaking Aretha Franklin gospel concert (Hallelujah, Cinners!) set in a Los Angeles church in 1972, recovered from unfinished footage by the late Sidney Pollack (Tootsie).
For a more serene spiritual experience, check out the Easter film, Mary Magdalene (B minus) with Rooney Mara as the girl who got religion, with co-stars Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter, in a film reviewer Kim Hughes says is well-acted and beautifully shot. A more contemporary conversion story in The Best of Enemies (C) with Sam Rockwell as a Klu Klux Klan member who, through the friendship of a civil rights worker (Taraji P. Henson) is cured of his racism.
If you must stray from the righteous path, you could hardly go further than Hellboy (C), which reviewer Jim Slotek, says is generous in its use of F-bombs and entrails. Our Bonnie Laufer talks to actor, David Harbour (Stranger Things), about the hell of acting under red make-up and stubby horns.
For this pre-Easter week, we have three family-friendly movies, Mia and the White Lion (B Plus), which doubles as an inspirational drama and family filmmaking experiment, featuring director Gilles de Maistre's real children and a pet lion, shot over several years.Missing Link (B) is a great-looking stop-action film from Portland’s Laika studio, in a story about a 19th-century gentleman adventurer (Hugh Jackman) who takes an articulate Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis) to meet its Yeti cousins. Little (B minus) is a body-switch comedy, starring Regina Hall, Issa Rae and Blackish kid star Marsai Martin (who pitched the idea at age 10), about a mean tech CEO who is magically sent back to middle-school so she can remember what bullying felt like.
Also in our Cin binm we have Stockholm (B minus), a dramedy, starring Ethan Hawke as the bank robber and Noomi Rapace as his hostage, based on the real-life event that gave us the phrase Stockholm Syndrome.
Finally, we have the shot off-the-stage film of Stratford’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (B minus) starring Martha Henry as the magician, Prospero, who, from across the centuries, sends us this useful viewing advice: “No tongue. All eyes. Be silent!”
Have a great weekend.