That’s a Wrap: April movie releases you might have missed

Illustration of a movie set that says "That's a Wrap"
Emily Bi/File

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With finals right around the corner and spring allergens in the air, there is plenty of reason to stay indoors these next few weeks. Fortunately, whether you’ve got the sniffles or are just looking to procrastinate, there is a bumper crop of spring movie releases to keep you occupied.

After captivating the festival circuits last year, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s breathtaking “Memoria” and Celine Sciamma’s heartwarming and delicate “Petite Maman” both found their way into theaters. April also saw the release of standout blockbusters, such as “The Northman” and “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.” But, if you’re looking to watch something straight from your couch, film beats Joy Diamond and Emma Murphree are here to round up some streaming gems — and a couple of duds too.

“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”

In an interview with The New Yorker, director Jane Schoenbrun described the creative intentions behind their debut feature film “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”: “I wanted to evolve the language of how film has talked about the internet to something more true to my version of the internet,” they said.

Schoenbrun taps into something that has long plagued the genre of “internet movies” — their lack of authenticity, or, at the very least, their partial authenticity. “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” is emphatically bleak. Its central character, a young girl named Casey (Anna Cobb), ostensibly lives with her father, yet he never appears on screen with her. Viewers observe Casey’s technology-catalyzed downward spiral through computer webcams and the cryptic vlogs she records, which document her metaphysical transformations as she plays the online “World’s Fair Challenge.” 

Where Schoenbrun’s film diverges from previous explorations of the internet and identity is in its forefronting of loneliness. The film eschews binaries, instead examining Casey’s mental degradation in all its paranoid, ironic and fearful ambiguity.

— Emma Murphree

“Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood”

Who knew that it was possible to feel nostalgic for a time before one’s own? 

Richard Linklater’s latest semi-autobiographical animated film somehow manages to accomplish just that. Dripping with poignant 1960s nostalgia sharp enough to resonate with viewers of all ages, “Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood” is a vivid, timeless portrait of childhood wonder. Told through the perspective of fourth-grader Stanley (Milo Coy) and narrated retrospectively by his adult self (Jack Black), the film explores the excitement and imagination sparked by growing up in Houston amid the Space Race.

The film executes its unconventional storytelling with ease, seamlessly cutting between scenes of innocent boyhood in a house with five other siblings, news reports of the progression of the historic Apollo 11 mission and Stan’s own covert mission to the moon on the imaginary Apollo 10½ flight. Bright and colorful scenes are animated over spectacular live-action acting, creating a viewing experience filled with personality and without a dull moment.

Perhaps the most striking yet tender feature of “Apollo 10½” is the film’s ability to capture a time in American history when no innovation seemed implausible and dreams for the future were limitless — a comforting and inspiring escape.

— Joy Diamond

“White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch”

“White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” opens with a screeching post-punk guitar riff. It’s an odd sonic cue, conspicuously meant to trigger a wave of nostalgia for the fast-and-loose hedonism of the early aughts. Yet, it’s also reflective of the documentary’s core internal inconsistencies, wrapped up into one, ear-splitting sound bite.

Stylistically, there is nothing particularly interesting about the documentary, which keeps to a melange of talking heads from former Abercrombie models and store employees, interspersed with eyesore graphics. This formal banality would be more forgivable if the film’s tone was any more salient, but director Alison Klayman is content to write off the brand’s exclusionary ethos and practices as a mere blip on the radar. Rarely does the film stop to interrogate what Abercrombie & Fitch’s economic and cultural success says about the milieu that enabled it.

Fallaciously, the film presupposes that American culture has become disenchanted with the kind of WASPy aspirational sensibilities put forth by the brand. It fundamentally underestimates the cache of nostalgia, especially in an era where girls on Depop can sell “Y2K-inspired” clothing (much of which is deadstock Abercrombie & Fitch) for egregiously marked-up prices. It’s precisely the kind of misplaced optimism and moralizing that have become endemic to much of mainstream documentary filmmaking. Nevertheless, it’s a fun (if frustrating) watch.

— Emma Murphree

“Metal Lords”

In one word, “Metal Lords” is enigmatic. The film is more than meets the eye; what initially appears to be a “Lemonade Mouth”-adjacent tween film slowly reveals a darker, R-rated layer beneath its Disney Channel-inspired exterior. 

“Metal Lords” follows high school outcasts Kevin (Jaeden Martell) and Hunter (Adrian Greensmith) as they attempt to rise through the social ranks by forming a post-death metal band and competing in the Battle of the Bands. Though metal-purist Hunter initially resists, the two eventually team up with cellist Emily (Isis Hainsworth) to complete their lineup.

The film stands out with its jarring use of strong language. While this lends a more accurate portrayal of teen angst than other films about high school, it often comes across as gratuitous. Perhaps more surprising than the film’s explicit writing is the writer himself — D.B. Weiss, co-creator of “Game of Thrones” — whose creative ambitions in “Metal Lords” are not nearly as effective as in his other critically acclaimed projects. 

The writing attempts to capture a more raw, unfiltered teenage experience, but the lack of character background and development turns the excessive expletives into senseless anger rather than anything deeper. Still, intentionally and not, the ridiculousness of “Metal Lords” won’t fail to get some laughs.

— Joy Diamond

 

Emma Murphree and Joy Diamond cover film. Contact them at [email protected] and [email protected].