When the snow melts and the calender gets to March, business finally starts to pick up in Hollywood. The abysmal winter movie season (and this one sure lived up to the adjective) is over and so is awards season from the year before. The public, along with the weather, can focus on bigger, newer, and brighter movies. The lineup for the Spring of 2013 is shaping up that way for our local west side Chicago theaters. Still, we're a season away from the real main event that is the summer movie season of blockbusters. Some of these movies are not good enough to compete during the summer, but are still better than the winter muck. Think of it as the summer's undercard. Here is my full Spring 2013 Movie Preview from "Every Movie Has a Lesson." Enjoy!
Jack the Giant Slayer-- Occupying the fateful John Carter slot (and label) from last year is Bryan Singer's long-gestating adventure film that pumps up the "Jack and the Beanstalk" fairy tale into its own muscle-bound movie, much like the 2012 trend of "Snow White" getting flashy renditions. Warm Bodies's Nicholas Hoult plays your new Jack. Naturally there's a princess (newcomer Eleanor Tomlinson), a mentor/soldier type (Ewan McGregor), a king (Ian McShane), a connected evil-doer (Stanley Tucci), and giants all over the place. This movie, like G.I. Joe later on this preview, was delayed from a prominent Summer 2012 releases due to additional marketing and improved special effects. We'll see if it pays off or acts like an albatross. Like John Carter, this one is hoping to score a crossover family audience and is paying a pretty penny (budget estimates approach $200 million) to try. (trailer)
Stoker-- Developed from the debut screenplay written by Prison Break star Wentworth Miller, renowed South Korean director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) makes his American debut with this creepy psychological thriller and Gothic mystery. Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman headlines as a twisted mother who hates on her troubled daughter (Alice in Wonderland's Mia Wasikowska) after her father's death. While her smooth uncle (Watchmen's Matthew Goode) moves in to take her father's place, the daughter learns the uncle's true nature. (trailer)
21 and Over-- The Hangover screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore make their directorial debut with, what else, a crazy "one wild night" story about a college kid, his friends, and his hi-jinks and debauchery-filled 21st birthday. We've seen this type of thing before, so don't expect much new broken ground. (trailer)
The Last Exorcism Part II-- Doesn't the title alone inspire the notion that a Part II shouldn't happen. Like all movie seasons, there's always a horror movie or two. This sequel gets the returning Ashley Bell and splatter czar Eli Roth's bankrolling. Good luck, folks. (trailer)
Phantom-- In what will likely look like a TV movie on the big screen, Academy Award winner Ed Harris, David Duchovny, and William Fichtner team up for a submarine movie that supposedly cloaks its intentions with secrecy. Somebody tell the marketing department that, because no one has heard of this movie and the people involved. It's new title: "Straight to DVD." (trailer)
Oz the Great and Powerful-- Spider-Man and Evil Dead hit-maker Sam Raimi takes on a prequel story for the classic Wizard of Oz, attempting to tell the back story of the Oscar Diggs(James Franco), the wizard who will become "Oz," and the friends and foes he makes and meets in foreign magical world. Raimi has Disney's backing (to the tune of a $200 million budget) and brings together a trio of top-notch actresses (Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, and Mila Kunis) to play the witches we've been expecting. Disney wants a repeat box office performance to Alice in Wonderland's $1 billion+ worldwide take. To me, The Wizard of Oz cannot and shouldn't be matched, making this a tougher sell. (trailer)
Dead Man Down-- Somehow, WWE Studios (yes, that WWE) got Danish director Niels Arden Oplev from the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to make his American debut re-teaming with Noomi Rapace for Dead Man Down. The thriller is about an assault victim (Rapace) angling to get revenge from the crime bosses responsible by blackmailing a mob enforcer (Colin Farrell) to turn on his boss (Terrance Howard). We'll just have to see how that recipe turns out. WWE fans, watch for Wade Barrett in a supporting role. (trailer)
Emperor-- Debuted in limited release, Academy Award winner Tommy Lee Jones takes on the role of the legendary General Douglas McArthur in a flashy political mystery taking place in Japan on the heels of their surrender of World War II. He and another general (played by Matthew Fox) are there to assess the Japanese emperor's involvement in starting the war, while the country is on the verge of post-war collapse. (trailer)
The Call-- Speaking of WWE Studios, they've got two films in a row this spring. Academy Award winner Halle Berry plays a 911 operator who gets involved with a teenager's (little Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin, now 16) kidnapping. Once again, WWE has a coup of a director, nabbing The Machinist director Brad Anderson for this kinetic thriller. Wrestling fans, watch for David Otunga in this one. Beware, the trailer gives the whole thing away, and I mean the WHOLE thing.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone-- Emmy-winning 30 Rock director Don Scardino step up to movies and scores a dynamite comedy cast of Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde, and Jim Carrey in a ham-fest of dueling magicians written by Bones's John Francis "Sweets" Daley and the co-writer of Horrible Bosses. Carell and Buscemi are an aging Sigfried and Roy-like duo of tans and hairstyles that have been aged and overshadowed by the headline-making feats of a Criss Angel/David Blaine-like Jim Carrey character. Arkin plays the old school inspiration of Carell as he seeks to get his stardom back. (trailer)
Upside Down-- Likely opening in limited release, this high-concept science fiction film involves two twin Earth-like planets set incredibly close to each other, but maintain their own unique gravity. This figurative separation of worlds denies a romance between Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst on opposite ends of gravity and social standing. It's a trailer that has to be seen to believed. It can either be amazingly original or amazingly absurd. It's got me curious. (trailer)
Olympus Has Fallen-- Training Day director Antoine Fuqua aims to top Air Force One with a hugely action-packed terrorism thriller. North Korean terrorist (Rick Yune) has captured the White House and the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart). This scrambles the politicians, including the Speaker of the House and acting President (Morgan Freeman, nice touch) and Secretary of Defense (Oscar winner Melissa Leo), into action to rescue the President and retake the White House. That means relying on a dismissed Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) who knows the place better than anyone to lead the mission. What? Steven Seagal wasn't available? (trailer)
Admission-- Little Fockers and American Pie director Chris Weitz puts together to the two most adorable comedians possible of their gender, Tiny Fey and Paul Rudd, into a movie together. Fey plays a straight-laced Princeton admissions officer on a recruiting visit to an alternative high school who begins to pull strings for a son (one that may or not be her own that she gave up for adoption years ago) of an ex-beau of hers played by Rudd. Naturally, the likeability factor (and also the predictability) is through the roof for Admission. Buyer beware, like The Call, the trailer gives the ENTIRE movie away in two minutes.
The Croods-- Aiming to be this spring's family hit on the scale of The Lorax from last year, the Dreamworks Animation team behind How to Train Your Dragon give us a Stone Age caveman family led by patriarch Nicolas Cage that embarks on a migratory adventure to reunite with his oldest daughter (Emma Stone) who prefers outdoors over caves and a nomad love interest (Ryan Reynolds). This sure ain't The Flintstones. (trailer)
Spring Breakers-- With the presence of former Disney Channel muses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens and ABC Family starlet Ashley Gordon, this comedy/drama is likely being marketed to kids and teenagers with its college fun and bikini-clad babes. The real film is a R-rated envelope-pusher about female thieves who score money for a Florida spring break trip, but get pinched on drug charges. They are bailed out and then controlled by a dangerous local thug (James Franco in cornrows, tats, and grills) and are now in over their heads. This isn't the spring break movie you think it is. These girls will not be the princesses you think they are. For some, it's likely a welcome image departure. (red band trailer)
The Sapphires-- Opening in limited release, this little Australian movie about four Aboriginal girls who become a glitzy sing quartet during the late 1960's and 70's has been drawing solid reviews since its debut at the Toronto Film Festival. Starring Bridesmaids's Chris O'Dowd and a bevy of unknowns, keep an eye on this feel-good charmer. (trailer)
Love and Honor-- Also in limited release, if Nicholas Sparks wrote a book that turned into a movie during the time of the Vietnam war, it might look like this. The Help's Chris Lowell and brother of Thor, Liam Hemsworth of The Last Song and The Hunger Games, star as a pair of Vietnam soliders who get a rare leave to go home, find romance (in the form of former Disney Channel star Aimee Teegarden and Warm Bodies's Theresa Palmer), and are now tempted to stay home and desert going back overseas. (trailer)
G.I. Joe: Retaliation-- We've come to our second Summer of 2012 bump. G.I. Joe: Retaliation was poised to open opposite Ted last summer but was pulled mere weeks before its release and rescheduled to now. Marketing was in full swing and toys were already on the shelves. The studio cited 3D conversion and boost of international marketing. The press (myself included) thinks that the huge 2012 popularity of Channing Tatum demanded re-shoots to not kill off his returning Duke character. Nevertheless, here comes Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), General Joe (Bruce Willis), Flint (newcomer D.J. Cotrona), Lady Jaye (TV's Friday Night Lights's Adrianne Palicki), and the returning grudge match of brothers between Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun). As you may remember from the first (and who doesn't), the U.S President (Jonathan Pryce) has been replaced with a disguised Zartan (The Mummy's Arnold Vosloo) with the firepower to control the world with only the Joes in his way. (trailer)
The Place Beyond the Pines-- If you want an early-year Oscar candidate for 2014, this is the one to keep an eye on. Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance directs this crime drama about a motorcycle stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) pitted against a dedicated cop (Bradley Cooper) after the stuntman turns to bank robbery to support his family. This one has got sizzle and some promising drama. This movie might top my wish list for the whole season. Don't miss the trailer!
The Host-- Stephenie Meyer's other non-Twilight novel is a science-fiction yarn about aliens that have inhabited the bodies (hence the name) of most of the planet's people. In true Twilight fashion, we get a forbidden romance between two enemy sides, a host (Atonement Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan) and a free human (Red Riding Hood's Max Irons). This is surprisingly fluffy teeny-bobber territory for director Andrew Niccol, who's usual science fiction writing in Gattaca, In Time, and The Truman Show is normally above this level. (trailer)
Tyler Perry's Temptation-- Hollywood mogul Tyler Perry continues his own popular brand by bringing another one of his stage plays, Temptation: The Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, into another star-studded film adaptation. Former child star Jurnee Smollett-Bell plays the counselor in question who becomes embroiled in a steamy affair with a womanizing client (Robbie Jones) when her marriage at home (with Lance Gross) lacks excitement. For headlines' sake, Kim Kardashian, Brandy Norwood, and Vanessa Williams give the settings some glamor. As always, Tyler's got a built-in audience that's ready for something new. (trailer)
Welcome to the Punch-- From executive producer Ridley Scott comes a limited release film starring James McAvoy, Mark Strong, and Oblivion's Andrea Risebourough about a noted criminal (Strong) who returns to London to spring his son from protective hospital custody and tangle with the detective (McAvoy) who's been chasing him for years. (trailer)
Great Expectations-- Also opening overseas and in limited release in director Mike Newell's (Four Weddings and a Funera, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) take on the classic Dickens novel. Every generation seems to have its take on this often-told movie. This one brings together War Horse's Jeremy Irvine, along with Harry Potter alums Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, and Jane Eyre's Holliday Grainger to fill out the familiar roles. Attention all English teachers! Make a field trip! (trailer)
Evil Dead-- Classic director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell are shepherding the authorized production of this modern remake to their cult classic. First-time director Fede Alvarez was handpicked by Raimi and a cast of unknowns hope to do the original justice when five friends at a remote cabin discover the Book of the Dead and unknowingly summon violent demons that possess each on of them. Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) was brought in to jazz up the script, but early word has this movie bordering NC-17 level violence. That ought to please the fans. (trailer)
Trance-- This is Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle's first film since his harrowing 127 Hours. Without much marketing to go off of, this film surrounds an art auctioneer, played by James McAvoy, who gets mixed up with gang element and seeks the help of hypnotherapist after a daring failed heist. For a director known back in the day for Trainspotting, seeing Boyle take on the idea of hypnotherapy ought to be a wild trip. This co-stars Vincent Cassell and Rosario Dawson. (trailer)
The Company You Keep-- The ageless Robert Redford directs and stars in a journalistic thriller. He plays an aged, reformed, yet wanted militant protester whose cover identity is discovered by an eager young journalist (Shia LeBouf) looking to make a name for himself, but doesn't see the ramifications. Redford rarely doesn't deliver and brings a big cast with him (Julie Christie, Sam Elliot, Richard Jenkins, Terrance Howard, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, and Susan Sarandon). With that pedigree, I hope this gets a larger-than-limited release. (trailer)
Jurassic Park 3D-- Here's another classic blockbuster celebrating an anniversary (its 20th) by getting converted to 3D and attempting to steal your money to see it on the big screen again. Steven Spielberg and Universal Pictures is clearly taking a page from the Disney and George Lucas playbooks with this nonsense. (trailer)
42-- Coinciding nicely with the opening of the baseball season, Oscar-winning superstar screenwriter (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River, Salt, Green Zone) and sometimes director (Payback) Brian Helgeland aims to tell the biographical story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson (played by virtual newcomer Chadwick Boseman) and his plight in historically breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Harrison Ford brings his headlining name and gravitas to play Hall of Fame executive Branch Rickey, the man who signs Jackie to the Brooklyn Dodgers and stewards his early career. (trailer)
To the Wonder-- Opening almost assuredly in limited release is the latest art film from revered-yet-despised director Terrance Malick (The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line). The readers of this website know my absolute disdain for Malick's meandering and pointless poetry from The Tree of Life (my full and hilarious review). This time around, Malick at least hired an editor than turned in a movie under two hours. That's a miracle in itself, but it left out entire scenes and entire characters played by the likes of Jessica Chastain, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Sheen. We'll see if that's addition by subtraction. Kidding aside, newly annointed two-time Oscar winner Ben Affleck leads the way as an American man who rekindles a hometown romance (Rachel McAdams) after his marriage to an European woman (Olga Kurylenko) fails, with a mysterious priest (Oscar winner Javier Bardem) in the mix. How that's the plot from the wandering trailer, I sure don't know. All I see is 800 different ways to show sunlit skies and people teaching each other arbitrarily to the voice of Bardem. Good luck, folks. (trailer)
Oblivion-- Of all the movies coming out this season, this one seems to carry the clout of a true summer-level blockbuster. Oblivion, the latest sci-fi action piece from Tom Cruise adapted by Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski from his own graphic novel, pulled the opposite trick of G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Jack the Giant Slayer by moving its release earlier from July 10 to here in April. Set in 2073 sixty years after an alien invasion decimates the planet, Cruise's character is a former Marine on drone repair duty recovering the remaining planetary resources when he discovers a human insurgency that has remained on the planet. This looks solid! (trailer)
Scary Movie 5-- If you can believe it, it's been seven long years since Scary Movie 4. Now, for the fifth edition, the show must go on without its core stars Anna Faris and Regina Hall. Writer-producer David Zucker (Airplane, Ghost) brought in director Malcolm D. Lee (Soul Men, Undercover Brother, Roll Bounce) to bring a little youth to the franchise. The main threads for parody and spoof appear to be Paranormal Activity and Black Swan, with a little Hunger Games, Madea, and Inception thrown in for good measure. (trailer)
Stuck in Love-- Rookie writer/director Josh Boone delivers a little independent dramedy (previously titled Writers) about a successful author (played by Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear) and the complicated relationships he was with his wife (Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly), his mistress (Kristen Bell), his free-spirited college-age daughter (Mirror Mirror's Lily Collins), her new squeeze (The Perks of Being a Wallflower's Logan Lerman), and his loser high school son (Admission's Nat Wolff). Nice little cast! (trailer)
Pain and Gain-- Director Michael Bay returns to the silver screen with supposedly a goal for "smaller" films than his bloated Transformers franchise. This $20 million-budgeted Mark Wahlberg/Dwayne Johnson bodybuilding heist comedy based on true Miami events is the result. Even for $20 million instead of $200 million, I'm pretty sure this is still going to be a Michael Bay style-fest of his usual cheese. Just look at the poster and the trailer. Gaudy American flag symbolism? Check. Slow-mo character establishing shots? Check. Gratuitous hot chicks? Check. Cops? Check. An Oscar nominee (Ed Harris) slumming it as a villain
The Big Wedding-- The Big Wedding is another long-delayed film that changed its title once already (from just The Wedding). This comedy surrounds an older divorced couple played by Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton, that pretend to still be married in order to not upset the ultra-conservative/religious family in attendance for the big day. This charade of keeping up false appearances disrupt's De Niro's current squeeze (Susan Sarandon), their other grown kids (Katherine Heigl and Topher Grace), and even the officiating priest (Robin Williams). This big ensemble also includes Amanda Seyfried and Ben Barnes as betrothed couple taking the plunge. The trailer does have some charming moments and this is shaping up to be the one solid romantic comedy/date movie offering of the season. (trailer)
Mud-- Hot newcomer director Jeff Nichols follows up his indie hit Take Shelter with this coming-of-age drama/adventure. Matthew McConaughey plays a prophetical murderer hiding out on a rural Mississippi island where he befriends two young boys and enthralls them with stories of being on the run and trying to get home to a lost lover (Reese Witherspoon). This one's been earning rave reviews, especially for McConaughey, on the independent circuit and at the Cannes Film Festival last year. It might be worth a look. (trailer)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist-- Opening in limited release, famed Indian director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Mississippi Masala) directs this political thriller about a successful Wall Street man who faces Pro-Pakistan disdain and upheaval immediately after the events of 9/11. Keifer Sutherland, Liev Schrieber, Kate Hudson, and newcomer Riz Ahmed lead the cast. (trailer)
The Numbers Station-- Finally, in another limited release, John Cusack plays an veteran CIA black ops agent that is charged with protecting a valuable code operator (Malin Akerman) after a surprise attack at her station. This little movie has been trying to gain traction On-Demand and online before getting a look theatrically. (trailer)
There, you have it! That's your full slate of movies for the month of March and April. The sooner these two months get done, the sooner summer gets here with all of its excitement. I hope you find some winners this spring at your local west side Chicago movie theaters. Hit up Fandango for advanced tickets!