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New in Theaters April 21: Born in China, Free Fire, Phoenix Forgotten, The Promise, Unforgettable

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By Chris Kavan - 04/19/17 at 06:09 PM CT

The box office is going to get a lot more crowded this upcoming weekend but even with the onslaught of new movies, Fate of the Furious should have no problem driving circles around the competition. Disneynature presents its newest documentary, following a trio of animal families in Born in China, for those wanting all-out action, Free Fire promises some claustrophobic mayhem. Horror fans can brave the found footage Phoenix Forgotten. Drama is in the cards for the wartime story of The Promise and we have a thriller about a woman who just can't let go in Unforgettable. There is a lot going on, so we may as well start.

BORN IN CHINA Disneynature may not be as flashy as the Star Wars or Marvel films, but the documentary series has been pretty nice for the studio. The movies don't cost much, they feature some great scenery and animals and, hey, with the success of Planet Earth and the like - it's good, clean fun for the kids as well as the adults. Born in China, as the title would imply, follows three animal families in China: a panda bear and her growing cub, a young golden monkey feeling displaced when his new sister arrives and a mother now leopard doing her best to raise her two cubs. The Office (US version) veteran John Krasinski narrates this story. Past Disneynature films have wound up in the $15 - $32 million range and even with the competition (including a lot still to offer to family crowds), Born in China will probably follow a similar pattern. In any case, just by having "China" in the title, it will do better internationally so I have a feeling this will do just fine for the studio.

FREE FIRE Action films have had a certain resurgence lately - whether it be the brooding violence of John Wick or the exuberant insanity of the Furious series or the continued excellence of James Bond and Mission Impossible. Trying to muscle in on this genre can be intimidating, but when it works out, it makes for some very interesting results. Free Fire, set in 1978 Boston, takes place entirely in a warehouse as two rival gangs fight for the goods - and survival. Can an entire film be a Mexican Standoff and work? I really liked the first trailer I saw and the cast is a knockout - Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sam Riley, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Noah Taylor, Enzo Cilenti and Michael Smiley all co-star here. It's risk setting an entire movie in such a tight space, but I think this will work - and a lot of people are going to wind up very dead. Still, this is the type of movie I'll most likely end up streaming at some point rather than rush out to the theater. Still, that lineup looks good and the movie itself looks like a lot of (violent) fun.

PHOENIX FORGOTTEN Every time I see a new found footage entry in to the horror genre, I'm usually reminded why this particular brand of horror has all but died out. Still, there is at least one good thing about Phoenix Forgotten - the fact it's based on an actual event that occurred in Phoenix, Arizona back in 1997. In this case, a group of strange lights were seen in the vicinity, chronicled by several people (including the mayor at the time) and made headlines nationwide. Though most likely having to deal with natural phenomena or the military, at the time no good reason was given leading to wild theories about UFOs. In the case of Phoenix Forgotten, it follows a group of teens who go out to explore the source of these strange lights only to find something sinister - and leaving behind only their recordings which, found years later, chronicle their fate. I mean, this sounds like typical setup for found footage, but, hell, it's bound to be better than the excruciating Area 51 (seriously - don't watch that one). I don't think it's going to have much impact but might one day enter my streaming library.

THE PROMISE On the more serious side of things, The Promise, which takes place at the Ottoman Empire faces its demise, follows a love triangle between the sophisticated Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), medical student Mikael (Oscar Isaac) and Chris (Christian Bale) a renowned American journalist. Ah, nothing says romance like a good, old-fashioned genocide, right? A movie like this usually benefits better from a limited release before going all-out wide (such as the recent Zookeeper's Wife) and I don't think even adult audiences will be rushing out for this one. With all the competition in the box office, I have a feeling this rather grim affair isn't going to catch many eyes.

UNFORGETTABLE Even though it's the last film on my list, Unforgettable probably has the best chance at a decent box office opening. The film follows David Connover (Geoff Stults) who remarries Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson) only to have his ex-wife Tessa (Katherine Heigl) make it her new mission to make sure said new wife lives a waking nightmare. It's been awhile since Heigl has been on the big screen in a major motion picture, but maybe this is what she needs to revive her career after starring in all those goody romantic comedy roles. Dawson has proven a versatile actress herself, though being the victim is a bit harder to believe. In any case, this thriller looks to have to best chance to open above $10 million. Most of the rest are going to be lucky to break the top five as far as I'm concerned.

It's going to get crowded at the box office, but that doesn't mean it's going to be an exciting weekend. The big question will be how much Fate of the Furious will drop in its second weekend, and if it's huge international total will continue to grow.


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