(WOMENSENEWS)–April’s movies begin with brilliantly badass performances by Scarlett Johansson and Gina Carrano, in unusual femme-centric action films, both opening April 4.

In “Under the Skin,” Johansson plays an alien creature who, disguised as a beautiful and irresistibly seductive woman, drives down motorways around Glasgow, Scotland, in a van looking for hitchhiking men to pick up and devour, literally. Basing his script on Michel Faber’s bestselling sci-fi novel, British filmmaker Jonathan Glazer eschews extensive plot exposition, focusing instead on dazzling cinematography and alluring style that heighten the mystery. With very little dialogue, Johansson, almost unrecognizable under a mop of black hair, delivers a steely yet marvelously nuanced performance with a full and fascinating character arc. A must-see.

“In the Blood” stars action heroine Gina Carrano as Ava, a newlywed woman determined to find and save her husband after he’s been abducted during their honeymoon on a Caribbean island. She fights unsympathetic police and a corrupt government, is caught in the crossfire of local rival gangs and handles all sorts of threats that may scare you away from Caribbean islands. But the action-packed thriller is a good view, and Carrano brings gut and grit to her quest.

“The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden” is another island thriller; and it’s all true. The documentary investigates the unsolved 1930s mystery of disappeared residents of the Galapagos’ Floreana Island, which had become a retreat for a small group of urbanite settlers seeking a rural, self-sufficient lifestyle. Filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Daniel Geller use archival footage and interviews with descendants of the settlers, some still residing on Floreana, to reveal a history that is truly stranger than fiction.

“Watermark” is Jennifer Baichwal’s fascinating and beautifully shot documentary about how water shapes human civilization and how humans influence the flow of water by using it and altering the natural landscape.

For anyone who didn’t get enough Lars von Trier last month when “Nymphomaniac: Volume One” was released, “Nymphomaniac: Volume II” hits big screens on this day.

Opening April 11

“Hateship Loveship,” based on an Alice Munro short story, is director Liza Johnson’s second feature. It stars Kristen Wiig as Joanna, a lonely caregiver hired to look after Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld), a moody teenager who tricks Joanna into thinking romantically about her estranged father (Guy Pearce). Although Wiig’s understated performance is quite sympathetic, the plot is predictable and, overall, the film is rather bland and lacking.

“Kochadaiiyaan,” a femme-helmed action fantasy flick, is the first Indian feature to use performance-capture technology in which live performances are captured as very realistic animation. Directed by Soundarya Rajnikanth Ashwin and starring Deepika Padukone, this epic tale of revenge and retribution is unlike anything you’ve seen before. If you’re eager to enter a new dimension of cinema spectacle, this Bollywood-meets-Spartacus-meets-Avatar- meets-Superman in cyberspace is for you.

“Perfect Sisters” is, in contrast, a down-to-earth, truth-based mystery. Abigail Breslin and Georgie Henley play the “Bathtub Girls,” two Toronto sisters who drowned their substance-abusing mother (Mira Sorvino) to escape the constant abuse of living with her – and almost got away with it, too. This murderous coming-of-age tale is a real gripper.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” is Jim Jarmusch’s humorous, stylishly delicious vampire tale. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston star as vampire lovers whose comfortable centuries-enduring undead lifestyle is threatened as the harvested human blood they customarily sip from crystal goblets becomes increasingly hard to find due to contamination with disease and toxins. The film’s unusual, cleverly twisted perspective on the social issues that plague our species is a stake to the heart of contemporary human culture. Performance-wise, Swinton and Hiddleston nail it. A must-see.

In addition to covering film for Women’s eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for About.com and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, a nonprofit organization of the leading female film journalists in the U.S. and Canada. She is also a member of the prestigious Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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