Mortal Kombat brings showers of blood to the April movie landscape

Mortal Kombat brings showers of blood to the April movie landscape

Clockwise from left: Thunder Force (Photo: Hopper Stone/Netflix), Mortal Kombat (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures), Without Remorse (Photo: Amazon Studios), Concrete Cowboy (Photo: Netflix)
Clockwise from left: Thunder Force (Photo: Hopper Stone/Netflix), Mortal Kombat (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures), Without Remorse (Photo: Amazon Studios), Concrete Cowboy (Photo: Netflix)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Although the vaccine rollout is underway in America, most studios still aren’t eyeing a big return to theaters quite yet; just as many of us would rather not risk our lives to see some Hollywood popcorn—no matter how much we miss it—Hollywood doesn’t seem too keen on risking a box office flop. Which means that April’s one major blockbuster, Mortal Kombat, is going to HBO Max as well as theaters. Otherwise, it’s the usual mix of tentative theatrical rollouts and streaming/digital premieres, with Netflix leading the latter crop with a new Melissa McCarthy vehicle, while Amazon offers some Tom Clancy action you can watch from home. Keep reading to find out what’s coming to a living room—and, yes, some theaters—near you. And before trekking out to see a movie on the big screen, please read up on the health risks.

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The Unholy

The Unholy

The Unholy

Select theaters April 2

Jeffrey Dean Morgan takes a swing at religious horror just in time for the Easter holiday weekend with this directorial debut from Evan Spiliotopoulos, best known for largely anonymous screenwriting work on Disney’s live-action Beauty And The Beast and the Dwayne Johnson Hercules film. Morgan stars as a sleazy reporter investigating a young woman (Cricket Brown) who claims to be able to heal people with the power of the Virgin Mary—or, at least, of a cheaply animated demon nun who understands the power of good word-of-mouth. Katie Aselton, Cary Elwes, and William Sadler round out the cast of potential holy-mother fodder.

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3 / 22

Concrete Cowboy

Concrete Cowboy

Concrete Cowboy

Netflix April 2

Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin stars as Cole, a 15-year-old who’s sent to stay with the father (Idris Elba)he barely knows for the summer. Over the next few months, the kid will learn not only to ride horses but also to trust his dad again. Concrete Cowboy is an unabashedly uplifting film, to the point of trading in cliché. But the phenomenon it highlights—Black inner-city horse riding clubs, specifically the Fletcher Street Riders in Philadelphia—is almost compelling enough to overcome its well-worn coming-of-age tropes. Almost.

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Shiva Baby

Shiva Baby

Shiva Baby

Select theaters and VOD April 2

A favorite of The A.V. Club’s at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, writer-director Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby is the good kind of anxiety-inducing. Rachel Sennott stars as Danielle, a New York college student whose day goes from complicated to chaotic as first her sugar daddy and then her ex-girlfriend show up at the Jewish funeral service she’s attending with her parents, played by character-actor favorites Fred Melamed and Polly Draper. Seligman stages her sex-positive cringe comedy like a thriller, with an unexpectedly nail-biting (and hilarious) result.

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Funny Face

Funny Face

Funny Face

Select theaters April 2

So entirely have superheroes monopolized the movie landscape that they’re now apparently showing up in micro-budget indies, too. Granted, the masked man of this latest brooding drama from writer-director Tim Sutton (Dark Night, Donnybrook) isn’t godlike. He is, rather, a fed-up misfit (played by Lady Macbeth’s Cosmo Jarvis) who slips on a scary, grinning mask and joins forces with a bereaved fellow New Yorker (newcomer Dela Meskienyar) to wage war on Manhattan fat cats. Sutton has a good eye for environmental detail, but as we noted in our review, his latest “puts everything in movie-movie-ish scare quotes—a self-defeating approach for a paean to urban authenticity.”

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Malmkrog

Malmkrog

Malmkrog

MUBI April 3

Surely the longest feature film to hit the American movie market since, uh, the Snyder Cut, Cristi Puiu’s three-and-a-half-hour highbrow dish session may also be the talkiest movie of this year or any other. The writer-director, whose The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu put Romanian cinema on the international map 15 years ago, arranges an exhaustive (and exhausting) series of philosophical debates among moniedaristocrats in a Transylvanian manor at the turn of the 20th century. If that sounds boring, well, you’ll probably be bored, though Malmkrog accrued its share of fervent defenders at this past autumn’s largely virtual edition of the New York Film Festival. The A.V. Club was not among those singing its praises.

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Thunder Force

Thunder Force

Thunder Force

Netflix April 9

In an obvious bid for the Together Again treatment, Melissa McCarthy has made a fifth film with her husband, director-writer-supporting actor Ben Falcone. The last one, Superintelligence, arrived just about six months ago; Thunder Force continues in the sci-fi realm as McCarthy plays a woman who accidentally acquires superhero-level strength from the genetic experiments of her scientist estranged bestie (Octavia Spencer), blessed with invisibility powers of her own. The two then team up to fight crime and, presumably, endless complaints about why McCarthy spends so much time making middling films with Falcone. But if superhero parody isn’t as easy as it looks, maybe low-expectations Netflix farce is about the right level for McCarthy and Falcone’s scattershot collaboration style.

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8 / 22

Voyagers

Voyagers

Voyagers

Select theaters April 9

In space, no one can hear you cut loose. That’s the setup of this cosmic thriller, which follows a crew of attractive astronauts (the passenger log includes Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Fionn Whitehead, and Colin Farrell) as they break NASA protocol and start indulging their most primal appetites, before the whole thing becomes a bad trip in more ways than one. The PG-13 rating assures that the zero-gravity debauchery won’t get too naughty, but it will likely be cut into frenetic music-video ribbons, if either the trailer or the byline of Limitless writer-director Neil Burger are any indication.

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Night In Paradise

Night In Paradise

Night In Paradise

Netflix April 9

Not even a never-ending global pandemic can stop the South Korean revenge-movie industry. Directed by Park Hoon-jung, the screenwriter of I Saw The Devil (a classic of this prodigious, often idiosyncratic national genre), Night In Paradise centers on a hitman who’s trying to make a getaway to the Russian city of Vladivostok in the middle of a Seoul gang war. Advance word from Venice (where Night In Paradise premiered last year) includes repeated mentions of grisly violence, memorable supporting characters, strong set pieces, and a little too much rumination. In other words, it sounds pretty good.

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Moffie

Moffie

Moffie

Select theaters and VOD April 9

To be honest, Oliver Hermanus’ drama about a closeted soldier in the early apartheid-era South Africa sounds like a baldly literal reading of Claire Denis’ classic Beau Travail (which is itself a boldly poetic reading of Billy Budd). But is that really such a bad thing? Is our present media landscape oversaturated with choreographed portraits of military depersonalization set at the juncture of modern colonialism and emotional repression? Only one thing is certain: Now that Zack Snyder has (retroactively) adopted the arthouse box of seriousness, we may have reached Peak Academy Ratio.

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11 / 22

The Banishing

The Banishing

The Banishing

Shudder April 15

How sinister does a place have to be to be dubbed “the most haunted house in England?” Very, as it turns out. Borley Rectory has been famous as a paranormal site since the late 1920s, and The Banishing is simply the latest of a handful of films based on the legend. This one takes the Conjuring approach, using a real-life case as a jumping-off point for a fictional story. Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay stars as a reverend’s wife with a secret past, in what appears to be a good old-fashioned Gothic creeper of a ghost story.

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12 / 22

In The Earth

In The Earth

In The Earth

Select theaters April 16

No one cared much for Ben Wheatley’s remake of Rebecca. But the cult British director is back in his A Field In England comfort zone with this follow-up, a nutty wilderness thriller about a pair of scientists (Joel Fry and Ellora Torchia) dealing with human and ecological threats during a deadly global pandemic. A COVID movie in multiple regards (Wheatley shot it with a small cast and crew last summer), In The Earth should satisfy gore-hounds, bong-rippers, and those firmly on the filmmaker’s usual wavelength of psychedelic lunacy. Anyone outside those demographics can safely sit this one out.

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Gunda

Gunda

Gunda

Select theaters April 16


Babe by way of the Sensory Ethnography Lab. That’s the elevator pitch for this alternately cute and harrowing nature documentary, which wordlessly captures—in crisp, striking black-and-white—the lives of animals on a Norwegian farm, including a flock of almost prehistoric chickens, a herd of staring bovine, and a mother sow with her new litter of piglets. Don’t be fooled by the G rating: Gunda is as unforgiving as we are to farm animals. But anyone searching for a truly immersive nonfiction experience will be in hog heaven. (Paul Thomas Anderson is a fan, too, if you need more incentive to see it.)

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Stowaway

Stowaway

Stowaway

Netflix April 22

The month’s other star-powered space movie looks more serious and less horny than Voyagers. It concerns a NASA engineer (Shamier Anderson) who wakes to find himself accidentally aboard a spacecraft that’s just embarked on a two-year voyage to Mars. The other astronauts (played by Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, and Daniel Dae Kim) quickly accommodate this inadvertent mission crasher. But what will happen when they discover that they only have enough life support for three crew members? Survival games are apparently the wheelhouse of Brazilian writer-director Joe Penna, making a pivot here into Netflix fare after pitting Mads Mikkelsen against the frigid elements in Arctic.

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15 / 22

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat

Select theaters and HBO Max April 23

The first trailer for Simon McQuoid’s reboot of the long-dormant Mortal Kombat film franchise spends longer than we’d like on the backstory of both new audience surrogate Lewis Tan and the titular tournament. On the other hand, it also features Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) stabbing people with their own frozen blood, Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) throwing his spear thing through a guy’s head, and Kano (Josh Lawson) ripping a dude’s heart out. So, yeah, we’re willing to give this latest video game adaptation (also starring Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade and Mehcad Brooks as Jax) a fair shake.

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16 / 22

The Asset

The Asset

The Asset

Select theaters April 23

Michael Keaton and Maggie Q play elite assassins—former rivals who’ve joined forces to fight a common foe—in this thriller from Martin Campbell, the reliable hand behind 007 reboots Goldeneye and Casino Royale. Screenwriter Richard Wenk (The Equalizer, the Magnificent Seven remake) has a track record with plots that are as formulaic and forgettable as The Asset’s title, but if anyone can rescue a movie from its plainly generic aspirations, it’s the sturdy, dexterous Campbell; his last feature, The Foreigner, is one of those films that’s leaner, meaner, and smarter than it looks.

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17 / 22

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse

Amazon Prime April 30

After five movies and four Jack Ryans, Paramount is finally moving on from multiple attempts to reboot Tom Clancy: first by adapting a book about CIA operative John Clark rather than another Ryan novel, then by selling that adaptation to Amazon. It looks like a natural fit: A Ryan series already airs on the streamer, as does the stylish, gritty ZeroZeroZero, co-created by Without Remorse director Stefano Sollima. For this origin story, Michael B. Jordan takes over the role of Clark, who has been played by Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber in past Ryan movies. Although the story hinges on Clark seeking revenge for (sigh) the murder of his pregnant wife, it’s been too long since Jordan was on screen in full movie-star mode. With the summer movie season starting late this year, maybe it’s the perfect time for a gussied-up Dad Movie.

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18 / 22

Things Heard And Seen

Things Heard And Seen

Things Heard And Seen

Netflix April 30

Amanda Seyfried in Things Heard And Seen
Amanda Seyfried in Things Heard And Seen
Photo: Netflix

Mank’s Amanda Seyfried revives the rich early-2000s tradition of chasing awards attention with a gothic supernatural thriller in this adaptation of the 2017 novel All Things Cease To Appear by Elizabeth Brundage. Seyfried and James Norton play a married Manhattan couple who decamp to the Hudson Valley and encounter spookiness related to both their new home and their old relationship. It’s a supernatural-tinged opportunity for married writer-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini to explore the dynamics of a marriage, something they’ve only grazed in an eclectic career that’s included American Splendor, The Extra Man, and The Nanny Diaries.

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19 / 22

About Endlessness

About Endlessness

About Endlessness

Select theaters and VOD April 30

Roy Andersson makes only one kind of movie, but it’s one of a kind: Like Songs From The Second Floor or You, The Living, his latest is a drolly depressive epic of human foibles and failures that unfolds across a series of immaculately framed, single-take vignettes. (Who outside that other Anderson has such a distinctive dollhouse visual style?) Even at a slim 78 minutes, the Venice-winning About Endlessness delivers everything an Andersson fan could desire—in other words, the usual tragicomic tableaux of gallows humor and disarming connection, this time populated by both a Christ figure and Adolf Hitler, among the usual parade of pasty everymen and -women.

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20 / 22

Plus

Plus

Plus

Barbara Crampton in Jakob’s Wife
Barbara Crampton in Jakob’s Wife
Photo: RLJE Films

Roe Vs. Wade (select and virtual theaters 4/2), a.k.a. the anti-abortion movie so controversially odious that Kevin Sorbo dropped out of it, is finally here to preach to its choir. Those seeking some corporate schadenfreude should queue up the start-up meltdown documentary WeWork: Or The Making And Breaking Of A $47 Million Unicorn (Hulu 4/2). Katherine Waterston is among the cast of Amundsen (virtual theaters and VOD 4/2), a biodrama about the supposed first man to reach the South Pole. Casey Affleck plays a psychiatrist and family man facing the consequences of a patient’s suicide in the thriller Every Breath You Take (select theaters and VOD 4/2). Harry Melling and Tom Brooke play Christian assassins on a mission to kill an atheist writer in the crime comedy Say Your Prayers (select theaters and VOD 4/2). Sundance prizewinner This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection (virtual theaters 4/2) casts the late Mary Twala Mhlongo as an 80-year-old woman mourning her son’s death while preparing for her own. The Power (Shudder 4/8) is a horror movie set in a hospital during the London blackouts of the early 1970s. The thriller Held (select theaters and VOD 4/9) traps a struggling married couple in a remote smart house. My True Fairytale (select theaters and VOD 4/9) follows a missing teenager who acquires superpowers. Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton gets a vampiric starring role in the SXSW midnight highlight Jakob’s Wife (select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms 4/16). It’s Ruby Rose versus Morgan Freeman in the action thriller Vanquish (select theaters 4/16; VOD and digital platforms 4/20). The Winter Soldier has a summer fling in the balmy Sebastian Stan romance Monday (select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms 4/16). Night Of The Sicario (select theaters 4/16; VOD and digital platforms 4/20), starring Natasha Henstridge as a DEA agent fending off cartel assassins during a hurricane, has no relation to the Denis Villeneuve movie. Norway’s unsuccessful submission for this year’s International Feature Oscar is Hope (select theaters 4/16), about a cancer diagnosis that brings a couple closer together. Also not competing for the Academy Award is Singapore’s submission, Wet Season (select theaters 4/23; virtual theaters and VOD 4/30), which concerns the growing bond between a Mandarin-language teacher and her student. Vampire attacks plague a small town with a tenuous connection to Bram Stoker in Boys From County Hell (Shudder 4/22). On the other end of the classic monster spectrum there’s Bloodthirsty (select theaters and VOD 4/23), in which a vegan indie rocker begins to get in touch with her inner carnivore. Sadly, Wildcat (select theaters 4/23; VOD and digital platforms 4/27) is not an adaptation of the fictional Eli Cash novel but rather a thriller about a reporter kidnapped by a militant group in the Middle East. The documentary sequel In Search Of Darkness: Part II (Shudder 4/26) dives deeper into the practical effects heyday of ’80s horror. Over The Top gets a distaff makeover with the arm-wrestling comedy Golden Arm (digital platforms 4/30). And Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry finally scores a lead movie role in the dramedy The Outside Story (VOD and digital platforms 4/30).

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Postponed

Postponed

Postponed

No Time To Die
No Time To Die
Photo: MGM

Bond fans will have to wait a little bit longer for the first major movie pushed off the calendar by COVID; 007’s No Time To Die has been reassigned again from this month to this October. A Quiet Place Part II was also once scheduled for last April and this April, but is now currently eyeing May 28 for its theatrical debut. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway adds to its enormous list of abandoned release dates, having ditched plans to finally come out this month in favor of an Independence Day drop. Same goes for the Fast & Furious gang, whose latest adventure, F9, now has a June 2021 return date. The post-apocalyptic Bios will bypass April in favor of August. Though it was once re-slated to hit the big screen on April 9, the Bob’s Burgers movie is presently off the schedule entirely. Disney animated movie Ron’s Gone Wrong has moved to October. And the Edgar Wright time-travel psychological horror whatsit Last Night In Soho also won’t open until October.

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