April’s 5 Must-See Movies

From fastpaced 'Furious 7' and sci-fi drama 'Ex Machina,' above, to Disneynature's 'Monkey Kingdom' and HBO's Lincoln doc, there are good movie options this month.
From fastpaced ‘Furious 7’ and sci-fi drama ‘Ex Machina,’ above, to Disneynature’s ‘Monkey Kingdom’ and HBO’s Lincoln doc, there are good movie options this month.

If you only see one movie this April, make it “Ex Machina.” I’m not even a big sci-fi fan but, whoa, what a movie. You have other options this month, but none equal that level of originality, entertainment and high-end effects.

Now let’s get to my five favorites for April:

APRIL 3: “FURIOUS 7

This latest chapter of the hugely successful “Fast and Furious” movie franchise is expected to clean up at the box office and break more records for Universal. So far, the series has earned $2.4 billion. In an interview with Variety, Vin Diesel spouted grandiose, “It will probably win best picture at the Oscars, unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever.” I don’t know about that, but the franchise does have a giant fan base. #Furious7 has been trending, like, forever on Twitter.

Diesel fought back tears at the Hollywood premiere when he paid tribute to Paul Walker, who died in Nov. 30, 2013, in a crash while going 100 mph in his Porsche Carrera GT. Walker’s previously filmed parts in this installment were salvaged, and there’s a moving montage at the end of the movie. This time the plot centers on Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeking revenge against Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his family for the death of his brother Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in chapter six. The cast includes Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Djimon Hounsou and Kurt Russell. Action crime thriller. Rated PG-13. 137 min.

Watch the trailer:

APRIL 3: “LAST KNIGHTS

What I enjoyed most about this movie was the attention to detail in the sets and costumes. The other two reasons to see it are Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”) and Academy Award-nominee Clive Owen (“Closer”). “Last Knights” is directed by Kazuaki Kiriya, who did his best with the screenplay by Michael Konyves, which has been criticized for lack of originality. There’s so much eye candy, though, that didn’t bother me.

The story is reminiscent of samurai films in its themes of loyalty, honor and respect. Lord Bartok (Freeman) has been like a father to Raiden (Owen) so, when Bartok is beheaded by sadistic ruler Gezza Mott (Aksel Hennie), Raiden must avenge his master’s death. Hennie, a Norwegian actor-director, is deliciously evil. The film also stars Tsuyoshi Ihara (“Letters from Iwo Jima”). It’s a lot of men and a drag that the only female character is Hannah, Mott’s victimized wife. Popular Korean actress Park Si-Yeon does a good job, though, in the little screen time she’s allotted. Action. Rated R. 115 min.

Watch the trailer:

APRIL 10: “EX MACHINA

Computer geek Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is the winner of a weeklong trip to the home of Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the man that owns the company Caleb works for. Nathan is the genius behind a hugely successful Internet company at the cutting edge of AI technology. Caleb soon grows to dislike the arrogant Nathan, who is narcissistic and cruel to his assistant Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno). Nathan’s brilliant AI creation is Ava (Alicia Vikander), a gorgeous robot.

Thanks to CGI, Ava has a transparent torso revealing her inner mechanics and blinking lights. Her big doe eyes seduce the naïve Caleb. Screenwriter Alex Garland (“28 Days Later”) makes his directing debut with this entrancing sci-fi tale that takes place in Nathan’s isolated compound that is as claustrophobic as any sci-fi spaceship. With its eye-popping visuals and intelligent story, you’ll be wowed. Trust me. Sci-fi drama. Rated R. 108 min.

Watch the trailer:

APRIL 10: “KILL ME THREE TIMES

There’s just no accounting for tastes. Some critics hated this movie because of the gory violence. Me? I had no problem with it. Some folks obviously didn’t get the quirky, over-the-top-grisly humor. I thought it was hilarious, action-packed and thrilling. Simon Pegg steals the show as Charlie Wolfe, a hit man with the conscience of a reptile. He’s been hired by jealous, abusive husband Jack (Callan Mulvey) to kill his wife Alice (Alice Braga) for having an affair with auto mechanic Dylan (Luke Hemsworth).

Set in an Australian surfing town, the plot twists and turns, revealing linked stories a la “Pulp Fiction.” There’s femme fatale Lucy (Teresa Palmer) and her dentist husband (Sullivan Stapleton) who has gotten them into a crippling gambling debt and put their lives in danger. The couple is frequently paid visits by a crooked cop (Bryan Brown). It’s all murder and mayhem and a very satisfying unfolding plot. I give it two big bloody thumbs up. Dark Comedy Action Thriller. Rated R. 90 min.

Watch the trailer:

APRIL 17: “MONKEY KINGDOM

This is an action-adventure for a family in South Asia — a family of monkeys that is. Disneynature brings you a colorful set of characters that include an extended family of macaque monkeys, a mongoose, leopards, lizards and more. Castle Rock monkey Maya and her newborn son Kip must struggle to navigate through the dangers of the Asian jungle and melodramas within their extended family. The monkeys live amidst ancient ruins and must learn to manage a complex and competitive social hierarchy. Tina Fey narrates. If you’re not charmed by this movie, I just don’t understand you. Docudrama. Rated PG. 108 min.

Watch the trailer:

 Bonus:

APRIL 13: “LIVING WITH LINCOLN

I’m cheating here by including an HBO movie, but you’ve really got to see this. It’s a fascinating documentary about President Abraham Lincoln, the most photographed man of his time. It is about the five generations of one special — and pathologically obsessed — American family that took on the “glorious burden” of researching and collecting every minute detail on the life of Lincoln. We are treated to Lincoln facts we didn’t know but even more fascinating is the family that created the archives.

The extensive collection includes photos that, without this family, could’ve been lost forever. Some of the iconic photos include those used for the penny, the five dollar bill, Mount Rushmore and the Lincoln Memorial. The doc is narrated by director Peter Kunhardt whose grandmother and great-grandfather were perhaps the most dedicated collectors of the kooky clan. Kunhardt’s grandmother was also the author and illustrator of children’s books including the classic, “Pat the Bunny.” Mental illnesses are explored — and the amazing accomplishments that occurred directly because of them. Documentary. Not rated. 108 min.

Watch the trailer:

Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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