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It usually isn’t until April when the notion of spring begins solidifying in people’s minds. While Rochester’s stubbornly cold climate prevents residents from experiencing nature’s seasonal fanfare of sunshine, rainbows, and chirping critters to the level that other areas do, the mood has set in nonetheless. Spring is in swing, and for the cinema, that also seems to be the case. After the typically dismal selection of early-year releases, April traditionally marks the opening salvo of America’s annual blockbuster run, which will culminate over the summer in a grandiose display of high-budget effects and an ocean of box-office revenue. This year looks to be no different.

Consider this the month of appetizers, and for April 2013, some look to be quite tasty. Of course, truly standout pictures are few and far between, so one must choose wisely. Below are some upcoming April releases that have the potential of being worth your 15 bucks and, if you’re lucky, something more.


April 5 (limited)

Danny Boyle made a name for himself helming trippy, cinematic excursions into exuberant, visual spaces. It worked for him in films like “Sunshine” and “127 Hours,” even winning him an Oscar for 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire.” His latest entry continues this stylistic trajectory, and early reviews look promising. Part caper, part psychosexual thriller, “Trance” seems amped up on brazen levels of psychedelic energy, a detail that is so intoxicating it almost makes you forget the film’s sturdy cast and Boyle’s flair for storytelling.

“Upstream Color”

April 5 (limited)

This is possibly the most enigmatic film of the year, and for that it is all the more fascinating. The cryptic synopsis reads, “A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.” Sounds like a sci-fi romance with philosophical touches. Who knows? Coming from the creators of “Primer,” the low-budget, time-travel mind screw that made quite the splash at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004, “Upstream Color” may be just the tonic we need for these mundane cinematic times.

“To the Wonder”

April 12 (limited)

Terrence Malick is arguably the contemporary master at filming nature, using its beauty to convey transcendent moods and messages. His camera is exultant — it humbles both the filmmaker and the audience to the film’s images, from the golden wheat fields in “Days of Heaven” to the interstellar vastness in “Tree of Life,” a movie that won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The Midwestern landscapes in “To the Wonder” look to offer a similar opportunity for spellbinding photography, and the film’s focus on love suggests a breathless, meditative parallelism between the immense scope of the images and that of the fundamental human emotion. It marks a director whose ambition is exhilarating.

“Pain and Gain”

April 26

Yes, this one could end up in the trash heap. It’s a Michael Bay film about rogue bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg and The Rock, who else?) who become caught up in an extortion ring and kidnapping scheme that goes awry. But that is also its appeal, and it becomes crucial that the film is a dark comedy. With this edge of satire, the movie begins to look better and better as a hyperbolic smorgasbord of machismo, profanely silly but still loads of fun. And check out that visual style, which features saturated color tones and rollicking camerawork.


April 26 (limited)

After debuting his well-received “Shotgun Stories” in 2007, Jeff Nichols delivered with the riveting psycho-apocalyptic thriller “Take Shelter,” drawing out a nerve-shredding performance from Michael Shannon. Both director and actor return in “Mud,” a story about two boys who assist a fugitive on his quest for freedom and love. The dynamite duo is reason enough to see Nichols’ latest film, but there’s more. Playing the titular antihero is Matthew McConaughey who, given his recent resurgence to acting prominence, catches the eye with every new film he is in.

Jeng is a member of the class of 2016.

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