To put it lightly, it is a very strange time in the world right now. With many of us working from home and (hopefully) implementing social distancing, it’s left us antsy without a lot of our usual stress relief balms at the ready – things such as going to the movies. With so many of the upcoming theatrical releases moving their release dates and theaters shuttered for the foreseeable future, it’s a good time (if you’re given the time to do so) to explore options you may not have previously explored. Along with the numerous films you can dig through on the usual suspect streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, there’s also a bevy of incredible content on services such as MUBI and the Criterion Channel that will both leave you mentally enriched and allow you to unplug from the ongoing hellscape of our news system for approximately two hours.
That being said, there are still a few new releases trickling in through on-demand services or released as Netflix originals. Here are eight films that are worth checking out in April.
“Coffee & Kareem”
Cast: Ed Helms, Taraji P. Henson, Betty Gilpin
Synopsis: A 12-year-old’s scheme to scare away his mom’s new boyfriend, police officer James Coffee, backfires, exposing his family to a secret network of criminal activity.
What You Need to Know: It seems like it’s been a minute since we’ve last seen comedic actor Ed Helms in a leading role and it seems fitting to his style of characters in the past that he returns playing the disliked boyfriend to the protagonist’s mom. Directed by Michael Dowse who’s directed everything from the charming romantic comedy “What If” to the cult favorite “Goon,” (as well as the forgettable 2019 flick “Stuber”) “Coffee & Kareem” is another chance for the filmmaker to showcase his abilities through a variety of choices. Co-starring Taraji P. Henson and Betty Gilpin along with Terrence Little Gardenhigh as our protagonist, the film clocks in just under 90 minutes and while it may not be the most substantial film you watch this month, it could be a nice reprieve from the craziness at large.
Release Date: April 3rd on Netflix
“The Other Lamb”
Cast: Raffey Cassidy, Michiel Huisman,
Synopsis: A young woman born into an all-female cult begins to question the teachings of her leader.
What You Need to Know: Playing with themes of coming of age tales while examining the effects of cults on young women, “The Other Lamb” is a fascinating and terrifying example of how real life trauma can lead to powerful horror films. Directed by Malgorzata Szumowska (“In the Name Of…,” “Cialo”) the film marks the directors first in the English language. A hugely lauded director who won the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival for her film “In the Name Of…”, “The Other Lamb” will be a chance for those who maybe haven’t seen her other films become better acquainted with her work. The film stars exciting up and comer Raffey Cassidy who started in similarly startling films such as “Vox Lux” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” Release Date: April 3rd
Cast: Lee Hong-chi, Tzi Ma, Christine Ko, Hayden Szetzo
Synopsis: Years of monotonous work and a loveless marriage turns a once vibrant man into a shell of his former self.
What You Need to Know: There are plenty of coming of age stories but when done right they can be some of the most potent examples of storytelling. This is especially true when we’re given a twist on a familiar structure which seems to be the case with the upcoming Netflix film “Tiger Tail” which follows a man from adolescence into adulthood after his move from Taiwan to American in pursuit of a new and better life. The film stars Tzi Ma who did quiet but terrific work in last year’s “The Farewell.” Most exciting however is the involvement of Alan Yang who wrote and directed the film. Yang is best known as the co-creator of “Master of None” and “Tiger Tail” will be his feature film debut, something that fans of the Netflix series have been waiting for.
Release Date: April 10th on Netflix
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Sebastian Stan, Jamie Dornan
Synopsis: A Los Angeles woman unlocks the secrets to her life after meeting two handsome best friends at a party.
What You Need to Know: With an On Demand release scheduled May 1st, fans of Shailene Woodley can see her newest film early if they rent the film on digital through Itunes this upcoming month. The film is directed by filmmaker Drake Doremus who, aside from his stellar debut with the Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones two-hander “Like, Crazy,” has seen a pretty steady stream of middling (“Breathe In”) to bad (“Equals,” “Zoe”) about pretty, vacant characters falling in love with increasingly larger than life situations getting in the way of their romance. Despite a cast lead by the terrific Woodley, “Endings, Beginnings seems to follow in the filmmakers more recent efforts rather than reclaiming the “Like,Crazy” magic. Our critic who saw it at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival wrote “The problem with “Endings, Beginnings” is that Doremus never bothers to give us a compelling reason to care about a single one of these people, other than the fact that movie stars are playing them.”
Release Date: April 17th on Itunes
Cast: Noah Schnapp, Dagmara Domińczyk, Seu Jorge
Synopsis: A 12-year-old boy from Brooklyn cooks to unite his half Israeli and half Palestinian family.
What You Need to Know: Not all of us are able to sit down and work through a list of challenging and provocative films right now. Some of us are staying sane by watching the insanity of “Tiger King” on Netflix or steamrolling through “Love is Blind.” All of this to say that a film like “Abe,” a slice of life tale about a kid trying to bring together both sides of his family through the power of cooking and tradition might see a better reaction now when people are scrambling for feel good content to get them through tiring days. The film stars “Stranger Things” actor Noah Schnapp as the leading character and is directed by Fernando Grostein Andrade and premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Release Date: April 17th
Cast: Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham
Synopsis: A new preacher arrives in a desolate Texas town and encounters suspicion and the inevitable consequence of his past deeds.
What You Need to Know: Sometimes a film is worth watching for the cast alone. Sometimes, even just one name that stands out can be worth the time, something that’s often the case with Michael Shannon who hasn’t met an oddball character or script he hasn’t explored. One of our great actors working today, his next film is “The Quarry,” co-starring Shea Whigham and Catalina Sandino Moreno. Directed by Scott Teems who last directed two episodes of “Rectify,” the film is based on a novel of the same name by author Damon Galgut and was poised to have it’s premiere at the 2020 SXSW before it’s cancellation.
Release Date: April 17th
Cast: Wagner Moura, Ana de Armas, Bradley Whitford
Synopsis: United Nations diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello must fight for his life when a bomb blast in Baghdad, Iraq, cause the walls to come crashing down.
What You Need to Know: It’s only a matter of time before actress Ana de Armas is an indisputable star. She was the best part of the pretty incredible “Blade Runner 2049” and shone brightly in last year’s equally fabulous “Knives Out” among a cast of seasoned veterans. She showcases this star power alongside a performance by Wagner Moura in Greg Barker’s “Sergio” which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Best known for his work in documentary filmmaking with films such as “The Final Year” and “Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden,” Barker doesn’t stray too much from what he’s familiar to with “Sergio” acting as a follow up feature adaptation of his 2009 documentary of the same name. Our critic who saw it at Sundance called it “sluggish” but noting that performances by Armas and Moura elevated the material with Armas in particular acting as the glue of the film. They wrote “it depends upon de Armas to infuse “Sergio” with life, even if it’s as a love interest who only exists for the emotional shortcomings of the diplomat.”
Release Date: April 17th on Netflix
“True History of the Kelly Gang”
Cast: George MacKay, Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult
Synopsis: An exploration of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang as they attempt to evade authorities during the 1870s.
What You Need to Know: If you were a fan of the 2019 awards contender “1917” and were blown away by the central performance by George MacKay, “True History of the Kelly Gang” is here to remind you of the actors considerable talents. Directed by Justin Kurzel, the film offers the chance for the filmmaker to redeem himself following the abysmal “Assassins Creed” adaptation and a return to form for the director behind “Macbeth.” Our critic who saw it at the 2019 TIFF called it “Tarantino-esque” in how it handles its defiant ending. He wrote “Kurzel’s film celebrates Australia itself, as a lawless place with all the stirring raw potential of the American frontier, as much as it celebrates Kelly.”
Release Date: April 24th