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The 8 Films You Must See This April

The 8 Films You Must See This April

April is about to give 2011 a significant dose of excellent specialty cinema, including a pair of Academy Award-nominated foreign films, new work from Kelly Reichardt and Duncan Jones, some great Danes, and the first medieval stoner comedy to star both an Oscar host and a best actress winner. Check out indieWIRE‘s picks for your eight best options (c’mon, that’s only two a week), and then check out April’s full calendar, as there are many worthy films that didn’t end up making this cut.

1. Meek’s Cutoff (April 8)

What’s The Deal? Kelly Reichardt follows up “Wendy & Lucy” with her most ambitious project, a western set in 1845 that follows a wagon team of three families (and their mountain-man guide) as they head through the Cascade Mountains. Reichardt’s “Wendy,” Michelle Williams, leads an impressive cast that also includes Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano and Shirley Henderson.

Who’s Already Seen It? Per criticWIRE, 28 critics gave “Cutoff” an average of B+.

Why is it a “Must See”? The subject of considerable acclaim since its premieres at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals last fall (it topped indieWIRE’s critic’s poll for Toronto), “Meek’s Cutoff” continues to prove that Reichardt is one of the most interesting American indie filmmakers working.

Check out the trailer below:

2. Incendies (April 22)

What’s The Deal? This Quebecois import finds director Denis Villeneuve (“Polytechnique”) offering us the story of Simon and Jeanne, twins who embark on a journey to the Middle East and encounter some shocking revelations about their mother’s past.

Who’s Already Seen It? Nineteen critics gave “Incendies” an average of B= on the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? Nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign-language film, “Incendies” is a gripping drama sure to give audiences something to chew on via its revelatory final act.

Check out the trailer below:

3. The Arbor (April 27)

What’s The Deal? British director Clio Barnard takes on the life of late playwright Andrea Dunbar in this film, in which filmed actors lip-synch audio interviews with Dunbar’s family, friends, and neighbors. It focuses on the relationship of Dunbar (who died tragically at the age of 29) with her daughter Lorraine, whose own life draws significant parallels to her mother’s.

Who’s Already Seen It? Three critics gave “The Arbor” an average of A on the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? Barnard bends genre and convention with this powerful new take on the documentary, exposing with great realism what iW critic Eric Kohn appropriately deemed a “document of grief.”

Check out the trailer below:

4. Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3-D (April 29)

What’s The Deal? The always engrossing Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of southern France, capturing the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind — and in 3-D, no less.

Who’s Already Seen It? Nineteen critics gave “Cave” an average of B on the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? Of one the most interesting uses of 3-D technology in recent memory, Herzog takes us back 30,000 years in a perfectly Herzogian manner.

Check out the trailer below:

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5. Source Code (April 1)

What’s The Deal? Duncan Jones follows up his acclaimed debut “Moon” with this time-shifting thriller that finds a soldier (Jake Gyllenhaal) waking up in the body of an unknown man, only to discover he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.

Who’s Already Seen It? Six critics gave “Source Code” an average of B on the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? “A lower-key younger brother to ‘Inception,'” says Eric Kohn, “Source Code” is sure to prove a unique and mind-bendy alternative to everything else in theaters this month.

Watch the first 4 1/2 minutes of the film here, and the trailer below:

6. In a Better World (April 1)

What’s The Deal? Danish director Susanne Bier won the Academy Award for best foreign-language film for this drama that follows the lives of two Danish families as they cross each other.

Who’s Already Seen It? Eleven critics gave “In a Better World” an average of B on the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? An Oscar is a reasonable stamp of approval. And critics have also warmed to the film’s strong performances and life-affirming conclusion.

Check out the trailer below:

7. Armadillo (April 15)

What’s The Deal? Another Danish import, Janus Metz’s Afghanistan war documentary “Armadillo” takes on the debate about the rules of engagement and thrill-seeking behavior of young soldiers. The film was the first documentary to screen in the Critics’ Week competition at Cannes last May, where it picked up a prize.

Who’s Already Seen It? Nine critics gave “Armadillo” an average of B+ on the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? The intimate access Metz gained to the soldiers helps create a distinctive and engrossing take on the culture of war.

Check out the trailer below:

8. Your Highness (April 15)

What’s The Deal? In what has to be the most bizarre follow-up project for two Oscar nominees (one of whom won), “Your Highness” finds much of the team behind “Pineapple Express” reuniting for this medieval stoner comedy. Directed by David Gordon Green and written by Danny McBride and Ben Best, the film stars “Express” star James Franco in first release since hosting the Oscars, alongside Oscar winner Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux and McBride himself.

Who’s Already Seen It? No one yet. But check back with the film’s criticWIRE page.

Why is it a “Must See”? Probably not for everyone, but it’s hard to imagine most people aren’t at least a little curious about how this pans out. The trailer below suggests some fantastically low-brow humor is en route via “Your Highness,” so if that’s your thing, so is this film.

Check out the (restricted redband) trailer below:

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