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New in Theaters April 13: Rampage, Sgt. Stubby, Isle of Dogs, Beirut, Truth or Dare

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By Chris Kavan - 04/12/18 at 06:40 AM CT

It has been a nice mix at the theater this year. Black Panther was a huge hit, Ready Player One was nerd-tastic fun and A Quiet Place proved horror still has what it takes. This week is about to add a lot more to the mix. Dwayne Johnson returns hoping Rampage can crush the competition. Sgt. Stubby looks to corral the family crowd while Truth or Dare hopes there is room for two competing horror titles. Wes Anderson hopes Isle of Dogs plays just as well in wide release as it has in limited showings while Beirut provides plenty of thrilling action. It's going to be crowded, so it will be interesting to see how many of these new films can really compete, and which get left behind.

RAMPAGE Certainly the film with the best chance to compete for the top spot is Dwayne Johnson's latest action film, Rampage. Johnson has proven he can carry an action film - San Andreas proved that, and he's even better when part of an ensemble (Jumanji, the Furious serious). Rampage takes its cue from the game of the same name, though it is much more fleshed out. Johnson plays the world's most buff primatologist, one who has dedicated his life to George, a highly intelligent gorilla. But a rogue genetic experiment lands in George's pen, and changes the animal from a gentle giant to an ever-growing beast. Not ready to let his friend be destroyed, he will join forces with a disgraced genetic engineer (Naomie Harris) to do everything in his power to save his friend. Also, there is a giant wolf and gator (crocodile?) to contend with. The film looks ridiculous, but an awful lot of fun - much like the game, in fact. I guess if this does gangbusters one could say it will be the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all time - not that it would take all that much. We'll see how much Johnson's star power can take him.

TRUTH OR DARE Is there room for another horror film following the monster opening of A Quiet Place? Truth or Dare is not going to match that success, no, because it's not taking any chances. This is a cut-and-dried typical horror film of young people doing stupid things and dying in hilariously complicated ways. Jason Blum (of Blumhouse fame) is at least accomplished in bringing good horror to the big screen. Yet I can't help feel that this is one of his lesser efforts. Jeff Wadlow (Kick Ass 2, Cry Wolf) is behind the camera and it has some familiar names: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey and Sam Lerner among them, but nothing about this, aside from maybe those cheesy yet creepy-ass smiles, has really caught my attention. We'll see how this fares, but horror is big right now and even bad horror has a tendency to do well - at least for the short term.

SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO Now we go the complete opposite direction with the animated tale of Sgt. Stubby, the most decorated dog in American history. Based on the true story, Stubby - a stray boxer mix, was adopted when he was found near a training camp during WWI. This is the 102nd Infantry Regiment and doughboy Robert Conroy (voiced by Logan Lerman) formally adopts the pup, and he becomes a mascot at first, and something far more valuable once the boys reach the real war. While I'm sure the animated film won't get into the horrors of war, I just hope the film doesn't pander too much. Despite the true nature of the story, it seems odd to turn it into a kid-friendly animated film. Helena Bonham Carter, Gérard Depardieu, Jordan Beck and Brian Cook also lend their voices to the film. I have a hard time coming to terms with this one, but we'll see if families embrace it or not.

ISLE OF DOGS Being a huge Wes Anderson fan myself, I confess that I have never seen the director's earlier animated effort The Fantastic Mr. Fox despite the praise it received. A regrettable decision but it's nice to see Anderson hasn't forgotten the power of animation. Isle of Dogs follows a young boy, Atari (Koyu Rankin) in a near-future Japan. The dogs of Megasaki have been banished by the mayor (Kunichi Nomura) after contracting a flu-like illness. They find themselves on Trash Island, which is where Atari finds himself after his own beloved dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber) is also banished. The island is populated by many dogs, and voiced by many talented people including Anderson favorites Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Tilda Swinton. Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig, Courtney B. Vance, Scarlett Johansson and even Yoko Ono join the Anderson club. There is a lot more talent here as well - Fisher Stevens, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban, Akira Takayama, Frances McDormand, Akira Ito, Ken Watanabe, Roman Coppola and Anjelica Huston are also on hand. This has to be one of the more impressive cast lists in Anderson's career - and that is saying a lot. Like The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs is also a stop-motion animated films and it still contains the many touches one comes to associate with Anderson films. Throw in the musical talents of Academy Award winner Alexandre Desplat and I think any fan of Anderson, or cinema in general, is going to have a lot of fun with this. It has done just fine in limited release, we'll see how far it goes with general audiences.

BEIRUT Jon Hamm has certainly been a presence on television, thanks mostly to Mad Men, as well as having several supporting roles in film, but Beirut is his first, big lead film role. While Hamm is known a lot for comedy/drama, Beirut is more action/thriller, following a disillusioned, world-weary diplomat (Hamm) who is recruited by two CIA operatives (Rosamund Pike and Dean Norris) to return to the civil war-torn country in order to negotiate for the life of friend he once left behind. Though the film doesn't have a huge budget, it looks competent enough. Hamm seems to be able to hold his own, and the supporting cast (Shea Whigham, Mark Pellegrino and Douglas Hodge among them) will surely help. It's tough that this is coming out at a time when the competition is so overwhelming. It will likely be lost in the fold, which is too bad - Hamm deserves better, but hopefully this stepping stone will lead to bigger and better things.

It's going to be a packed weekend - lots of new films competing with lots of strong holdovers - so it will be interesting to see when the cards lie come Sunday.


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