DC Comics may have fired the opening salvo of summer blockbuster season in March with the poorly-reviewed and rather bland Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but Marvel is now set to flex its considerable muscles. Their latest team-up looks set to dominate the final week of April 2016 at the multiplex.
However, there’s plenty of other movies to grace cinemas between now and then, with some solid counter-programming in the wake of Batman v Superman‘s commercial invincibility. There are some intriguing thrillers, a foreign festival favourite and a handful of comedies vying for the attention of audiences who are finally all superhero-ed out.
Here are the ten films you should try to catch in UK cinemas during March 2016.
10. Bastille Day (Apr 22)
Speculation continues to mount that Idris Elba is going to be the next James Bond. Films like gritty action thriller Bastille Day will do nothing to dispel those rumours. It looks set to be 90 minutes of one of the world’s most badass performers smashing heads and quipping at the camera in a gruff voice. That’s enough for anyone surely?
Elba plays Sean Briar, who is the prototypical maverick cop. He isn’t afraid to bend the rules to get results and it is this that leads him to cross paths with con artist Michael Mason, played by none other than Robb Stark himself – Richard Madden. They must form an unlikely team in order to mount an anti-terrorist operation in France on the eponymous holiday.
Director James Watkins is more accustomed to the horror genre, having helmed two stellar British efforts in The Woman in Black and Eden Lake. If he can convert successfully to the world of the action thriller, this could be one of the most purely entertaining releases of the month.
9. The Jungle Book (Apr 15)
There are currently two competing adaptations of The Jungle Book on the horizon. First out of the blocks is Disney, with a new live-action take inspired far more by their iconic 1967 musical than the Rudyard Kipling novel, starring the likes of Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Idris Elba, who seems to be in half of the films out this month.
Elba plays antagonistic tiger Shere Khan, who wishes to drive man cub Mowgli out of the jungle, where the presence of man is forbidden. With the help of Bill Murray’s Baloo and Ben Kingsley as panther Bagheera, Mowgli must find a way to preserve his place in his new jungle home. Unfortunately, Shere Khan is determined to have his own way.
There’s also Christopher Walken as an enormous bloody orangutan. What’s not to love?
8. Eye in the Sky (Apr 15)
Drone warfare thriller Eye in the Sky will almost certainly be remembered for being the last live-action role played by the late Alan Rickman. The British performer, who died in January after a battle with cancer, will only appear other than this as smoking caterpillar Absolem in the Alice in Wonderland sequel.
Rickman plays Lieutenant General Frank Benson stars alongside Helen Mirren as a senior military officer overseeing drone pilots operating in Kenya. Mirren’s intelligence officer leads a mission to take out a terrorist safe house, but the job of Aaron Paul‘s pilot becomes rather more morally complex when a nine-year-old girl enters the defined “kill zone”.
On the face of it, Eye in the Sky simply seems like a British retread of Andrew Niccol’s underseen gem Good Kill. Hopefully, though, this will be a tale that acknowledges the complexities and issues of drone warfare from a British perspective, giving the events a slightly different slant.
7. Son of Saul (Apr 29)
Gruelling Holocaust drama Son of Saul won the award for Best Foreign Language film at this year’s Oscars. László Nemes’ film won rave reviews and finally arrives on UK shores this month after more than a year of hype.
Géza Röhrig stars as Saul, who is an Auschwitz prisoner charged with disposing with the bodies of Jews killed in the gas chambers. One day, Saul discovers a body within the corpses that he believes is his son. He then attempts to secure a proper Jewish burial for his child.
With its bleak subject matter, Son of Saul is unlikely to be a laugh-a-minute thrill ride. It should, however, be a potent take on a little-seen corner of the horrific prospect of life within a Nazi death camp.
6. Demolition (Apr 29)
Jake Gyllenhaal is currently in the form of his career, having done remarkable work in films like Nightcrawler and End of Watch. His latest is a collaboration with director Jean-Marc Vallée, who has received awards buzz for his last two films – Dallas Buyers Club and Wild.
Gyllenhaal plays an investment banker who begins to mentally unravel after the death of his wife in a car crash. A series of complaint letters to a vending machine company turn in to an examination of his life that prompts him to try to rebuild himself by demolishing the life he had set up for himself.
Vallée is a bizarre director and one who doesn’t always make films that explore the true depth of their premises. However, with Gyllenhaal at the centre of the action and a deeply intriguing tone, this could be a surprise success.
5. Eddie the Eagle (Apr 1)
There’s an entire sub-genre of homegrown cinema in the UK devoted to inspiring and optimistic underdog stories. We are a nation of people who love to get behind people with absolutely no chance of succeeding, which perhaps reflects the fortunes of many of our sporting teams. The latest stirring tale is that of Britain’s most famous ski jumper in Eddie the Eagle.
Kingsman star Taron Egerton plays Eddie Edwards, who is determined to get to the Olympics and tries out various sports in order to find one in which he is good enough. He eventually decides to become a ski jumper and enlists Hugh Jackman‘s former champion to whip him into shape.
Reviews of Eddie the Eagle have been pretty universally positive, lauding the film as an uplifting British tale in the vein of Billy Elliot. On the strength of director Dexter Fletcher‘s last film – the tremendous musical Sunshine on Leith – he is becoming something of a master of uplifting cinema.
4. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Apr 22)
This has, so far, been a pretty appalling year for major Hollywood comedy, with films like Zoolander 2 and the truly pitiful Dirty Grandpa barely mustering as much as a slight chuckle. Step forward Tina Fey, who is looking to make 2016 considerably funnier with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
Fey plays a disgruntled broadcast journalist, who is tasked with taking on an assignment reporting the war in Afghanistan. She forms relationships with many of the reporters already working in the area and is eventually able to get frank information from soldiers about the conflict.
The trailers for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot feature their fair share of laughs, albeit wrapped up in rather generic comedy trappings. Fey is one of the most talented comedic actresses currently working and this could give her plenty to get her teeth into.
3. Hardcore Henry (Apr 8)
Hardcore Henry is an interesting film in that its success will be entirely tied into whether its innovative central conceit works or not. The film, directed by Ilya Naishuller, is presented entirely from the perspective of the central character as recorded on a Go Pro camera.
In a hilariously overblown central story, Henry is resurrected as a cybernetic super soldier. He attempts to save his wife from an army of bio-engineered soldiers whilst trying to work out who and what the hell he is.
The supporting cast features the likes of Tim Roth and Sharlto Copley and the trailer seems to suggest that the film packs a lot of frenetic action into its running time. If only for its unique premise, this one has to be worth a trip to the multiplex.
2. Midnight Special (Apr 8)
Jeff Nichols has marked himself out as an interesting indie director with Take Shelter and Mud. His latest film, Midnight Special, focuses on a child with mysterious special powers and reunites Nichols with his lucky charm Michael Shannon.
Shannon plays Roy, who flees a religious cult with his son, who has begun to manifest special powers. Roy enlists the help of Joel Edgerton‘s state trooper to ensure that his child gets to an undisclosed location where something magical is expected to happen.
Midnight Special is one of those films that could well live or die on the way it presents its central mystery. Nichols is a talented filmmaker and the marketing has done a tremendous job of concealing the film’s secrets, which ensures that it will enter cinemas as something both mysterious and intriguing.
1. Captain America: Civil War (Apr 29)
There isn’t much that needs to be said about Captain America: Civil War, which is the latest iteration of the Marvel cinematic juggernaut. It brings together almost all of the Avengers and divides them in two, pitting hero against hero and friend against friend.
After the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, there are plans to force superheroes to register in order to become more accountable for their actions. Tony Stark agrees with this, but Steve Rogers does not. Soon, teams are assembled and it’s Iron Man versus Captain America in a titanic showdown.
The second super-smackdown of the year, after the rather glum Batman v Superman, Civil War is an important next step for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it moves towards the huge pay-off of Infinity War. If it’s half as interesting as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it will be the best superhero movie of this year.
Which films will you be seeing in April 2016? Are there any missing from this list or any that you will definitely be avoiding? Let me know in the comments section.