The days are getting longer and March has come in like a lion, which means it is springtime! And spring means the beginning of the big, loud popcorn movies that will both thrill and disappoint us all the way through Labor Day. So let's take a look at what's coming out from now until June, because while the weather might be turning nice, it's still more fun to sit inside in the dark.
John Carter (3/9)
What It Is: The first live-action feature from Pixar director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E), John Carter is based on the first book in Edgar Rice Burroughs' nearly a century old Barsoom space epic series. In the story, a grizzled (but young! and sexy!) Civil War vet named, duh, John Carter, magically travels to Mars and becomes a key player in a big alien war or something. Friday Night Lights mumble-hunk Taylor Kitsch makes his big starring debut in this CGI-heavy endeavor, while Lynn Collins plays a pretty Mars princess and Willem Dafoe voices a gross green alien. (As opposed to a gross green goblin.) Big battles are fought, space monsters are wrangled, and, one hopes, delicately placed loincloths flap open in the warm Mars breezes.
Should You See It: If you've been starved for epic movies these past few dreary months, then yes! The trailers make the whole thing look a little silly — those aliens look awfully cartoony, don't they? — but the source material is much beloved (if a tad forgotten all these years later) and Stanton has proven that he knows his way around a stirring story. Plus there's the curiosity factor about what an approximately $250 million movie looks and sounds like. Could this be a big old mess for Disney? A rousing kick-off to another lucrative franchise? Movie nerds will be chattering about this for a few weeks (until Hunger Games comes out, anyway) and you wouldn't want to be left out of that conversation. Plus, y'know. Taylor Kitsch. In shirtless battle garb. Nothin' Disney about that!
The Hunger Games (3/23)
What It Is: Really? You don't know what this is? Tell me, what is the rent like under that rock? The Hunger Games is the freaking Hunger Games, the first movie based on Suzanne Collins' blockbuster book series about a dystopian future in which teenagers are forced to fight to the death in a booby-trapped nightmare arena. The story follows braided heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), from the impoverished coal country of District 12 (it's supposed to Appalachia, basically), who volunteers for the games in the place of her little sister. This is bloody, brutal business, not fit for the little ones, but grimly entertaining for most everyone else. Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, and Stanley Tucci co-star, while Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth play the YA-requisite hunks in Katniss' life.
Should You See It: Abso-tutely-lutely yes. Look, we know that young adult stuff scares some of you off, and that probably impale-happy teen gladiatorial combat makes some of you squeamish, but there's actually a thread of something deeper and more thoughtful running through this story, so you actually might get something out of it. Or, y'know, you'll just be bleakly entertained for a couple of hours. Plus it will be interesting to see if Gary Ross, the director of Pleasantville and Seabiscuit, can effectively craft a decidedly dark, unrelenting picture. Oh, and, y'know, if you see the movie you don't have to read the book, so that's nice. Reading's for jerks, as we all know. See the movie instead!
Mirror Mirror (3/30)
What It Is: The first of this spring/summer's two Snow White movies, spectacle director Tarsem's film is the family one. Perky little Lily Collins plays Snow, the almost goofily doll-handsome Armie Hammer plays Prince Charming, and Julia Roberts decides to just go ahead and do all the accents as the Evil Queen. Plus, some sort of musical number! This PG-rated flick, with its cute dwarfs and everything, will probably please the chillens, and probably some of the goony adults who earnestly like ABC's fairy tale sugarfest Once Upon a Time.
Should You See It: Well, if you happen to be the proud owner of a chillen or two, you will probably have to see it, so why are we even bothering with "should"? But if you are some sort of childless weirdo, nah, you probably don't need to slap down all the cash. Sure it could be sorta cruelly fun to watch Julia Roberts do some sort of English/Dutch/Irish/Boston Brahmin accent for a little while, but you can do that from the comfort of your own home when this thing ends up On Demand. And anyway, the other Snow White movie looks so much cooler.
Wrath of the Titans (3/30)
What It Is: A sequel to 2010's noisy debacle Clash of the Titans, Wrath seems to actually involve a few Titans (not the Tennessee kind) but, sadly, no Kraken. Nope, there will be no releasing of anything but raggedy old Titans, we're afraid. And of course there will be Sam Worthington killing beasts (a cyclops, Cerberus, etc.) with his sword and romancing Rosamund Pike with his, uh, sword, while Liam Neeson continues to do his bellow/whisper thing as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes enjoys another delicious paycheck as Hades, dark god of the underworld. Still, though. No Kraken. :(
Should You See It: Um... did you see the first one? Like, did you see how the landscape would inexplicably change from, like, desert to forest in the middle of a scene? Or how none of the supporting characters mattered at all and were basically all unceremoniously killed off in one scene? And, y'know, how nothing made any sense at all? So, yeah. This is the second one of those, meaning it will probably make even less sense. It will be uniformly terrible and stupid and loud and dumb. SO OF COURSE YOU SHOULD SEE IT.
Jon Hamm is directed by his main squeeze Jennifer Westfeldt in the baby/relationship comedy Friends With Kids (3/9) ... Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Emily Blunt all star in hopefully the worst titled film of the year, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (3/9) ... Eddie Murphy's long-delayed comedy A Thousand Words, about a guy who can't speak lest he die, limps into theaters (3/9) ... Kelly McDonald and David Tennant meet cute while Michael Urie meddles in The Decoy Bride (3/9) ... The Euro sound/heist comedy Sound of Noise is gonna freak out all the squares (3/9) ... Poor Christian Slater pals around with a bunch of teenagers in the horror movie Playback (3/9) ... Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum head back to high school in 21 Jump Street (3/16) ... Will Ferrell speaks some kinda crazy Mexican language for the whole damn movie in Casa de mi Padre (3/16) ... Mumblecore bros Mark and Jay Duplass inch into the mainstream with the dramedy (that term! that terrible term!) Jeff Who Lives at Home, starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, and Susan Sarandon (3/16) ... American History X auteur Tony Kaye remerges on the scene with Detachment, a look at a troubled high school starring Adrien Brody (3/16) ... January Jones and Nicolas Cage team up to destroy the acting profession in Seeking Justice (3/16) ... The always exquisite Rachel Weisz is sad, beautiful, and British in The Deep Blue Sea (3/23) ... Michael C. Hall plays some sort of saddo in The Trouble With Bliss (3/23) ... The ever-growing Christian cinema industry tackles a big abortion story with October's Baby (3/23) ... Seann William Scott does some sort of hockey comedy called Goon (3/30) ... Halle Berry gets attacked by sharks, and the memories of her Oscar win, in Dark Tide (3/30) ... Clive Owen's career continues to sadly curdle in the monster/ghostie thrillah Intruders (3/30) ... The bully epidemic is dealt with in the documentary Bully (not to be confused with the Larry Clark film, which you should all see because it's horrifying) (3/30) ... The Norwegian sex comedy Turn Me On, Dammit! looks pretty darn dirty (3/30)
American Reunion (4/6)
What It Is: Oh, you know. Stiffler, Biggsy, Whoosie, Whatsit and the rest of the gang are all back together. They're all just humping pies for two hours and then Tara Reid shows up and falls down the stairs. Or, who knows, they're having a high school reunion or something and everyone's all "What a long, strange trip it's been" and we all feel old. The original oddly sentimental teen sex comedy came out in 1999. That was like 13 years ago! That's pretty horrifying. So this is a horror movie. A terrible, terrible horror movie.
Should You See It: Here's the problem. People old enough to have seen the original American Pie in the theaters probably won't want to see this one because, again, it will make them feel old (plus, who cares about any of these characters anymore?). And anyone younger, anyone who is the age now that us oldsters were back when the original came out, won't understand who the hell any of these people are so why would they see it? This movie exists for no one and thus almost doesn't exist at all. So how can you go see a movie that doesn't even exist?
The Cabin in the Woods (4/13)
What It Is: Beloved Buffy boy Joss Whedon co-wrote and produced this long-delayed horror movie, about a group of kids (among them Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth) who go to a, duhhh, cabin in the woods that turns out to be way more than just a cabin in the woods. There's evidently a whole reality TV conceit at work here too, which could be either fun or annoying. Buffy and Lost writer Drew Goddard co-wrote and directed this thing, so the pedigree is definitely there. But might its long delay mean bad things?
Should You See It: Well... take a look at the trailer. This clearly isn't exactly standard haunted cabin/creepy townspeople stuff. There's, like, technology. We personally don't find anything remotely scary about force-fields and underground control bunkers, but maybe you do! But really this looks like a renter. Or maybe even a wait-'til-HBOer. We love to support Joss Whedon and his frequent players (here they're Fran Kranz and Amy Acker), but this looks like it could be a $12 disappointment. But, hey, it's also rainy April and it's a pretty quiet movie month, so maybe why the hell not. Plus, again, Thor. Sweet, sweet hammergod Thor.
The Lucky One (4/20)
What It Is: Creepy schlock monger Nicholas Sparks brings us this story of an Iraq War veteran (this is not to be confused with the other Iraq War veteran drama The Lucky Ones, plural) who goes to find the girl whose photo he carried during the war to keep him inspired. So he basically wants to find the gal he looked at while he... cleaned his rifle. Zac Efron plays this hairy-palmed sumbitch, while Dagny Taggert herself, Taylor Schilling, plays the lady. Blythe Danner is also in this goo-fest, laying on some thick old lady wisdom. Anyway, the soldier finds the girl, she notices that he has big soldier muscles and sweats a lot, they go on a date on a beach, but of course there's a jealous ex, and obviously he can't find the words to tell her about the photo (because ew, who wants to know that) and it's all very Sparksian.
Should You See It: Are you dating a 17-year-old girl? Or are you and your friends, of any age or sex or whatever, totes obsessed with Zac Efron and interested in seeing his underpants? Then yes, you should see it. But otherwise... It's hard to say. Sometimes, like with The Notebook, these cheese-a-thons can be kinda good, but other times, as with Miley Stinkvirus's The Last Song, they are resoundingly terrible. So it's really a coin toss. Though, you try saying no to Zac Efron. Just go and try.
The Raven (4/27)
What It Is: John Cusack plays the famous writer Edgar Allan Poe as some sort of crimefighter. See, someone starts murdering people using methods found in his writing, so he has to get involved. This is one of those reimagined actiony/thrilly historical things and poor John Cusack, poor weird-careered John Cusack, is stuck doing all the bad-haired figuring out. That said, the story does sound kind of interesting, in that it deals with the days leading up to Poe's famously mysterious death. ("Reynolds!")
Should You See It: Sure! Could be fun. John Cusack does many garbage movies, but they're never that garbagey. Like, he doesn't pick terribly, you know? Even 1408 and Identity had their moments ("Whores don't get a second chance!"). Again, April is the quieter spring month, so why not spend some time in dreary Baltimore looking at gore? Oh, plus, Luke Evans is in this movie and he is an interesting guy.
Poor Jimmy Cameron needs some more money so won't you please go see Titanic 3D? (4/4) ... Long-lost Whit Stillman returns with the college comedy Damsels in Distress, featuring indie gal of the moment Greta Gerwig (4/6) ... Future Superman Henry Cavill tries to save his mom with his dad Bruce Willis' help while doing battle with Sigourney Weaver in the unintentional comedy The Cold Light of Day (4/6) ... Manitoba's weirdest son Guy Maddin has a new oddball feature called Keyhole that's in black and white because of course it is (4/6) ... Willem Dafoe really wants to find a Tasmanian tiger (because who doesn't) in The Hunter (4/6) ... A bunch of jerks scream and scream in the horror film ATM, which is about inadvertently seeing your balance even though you strenuously avoid it every time you take money out (4/6) ... Apparently Dane Cook is in a movie called Detention and he should stay there (4/6) ... What once starred Sean Penn and Jim Carrey now features Sean Hayes and Will Sasso, and that deflated thing is called The Three Stooges (4/13) ... Oscar-nominated classroom drama Monsieur Lazhar makes its way down from Canada (4/13) ... Blair Underwood and Sharon Leal have their kid snatched in the sequel-ish Woman Thou Art Loosed!: The 7th Day (4/13) ... Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi gets the biopic treatment in Luc Besson's Michele Yeoh vehicle The Lady (4/13) ... Danny Trejo does another piece of junk called Bad Ass (4/13) ... Kurt Russell and Kevin Covais finally team up in the time-travel football drama Touchback (4/13) ... Maggie Grace and Guy Pearce try to get the hell outta space jail in Lockout (4/20) ... The Moth Diaries is maybe where the Mothman wrote down all his prophecies? (4/20) ... Steve Harvey's not-at-all sexist advice book gets the movie treatment with Think Like a Man (4/20) ... Disney introduces us to a little orphaned chimp in the cryfest Chimpanzee (4/20) ... Adrien Brody and others do weed comedy in High School (4/20, duh) ... Jack Black is a mortician who murders Shirley MacLaine in the dark comedy Bernie (4/27) ... The Wallace & Gromit guys bring you claymation pirates in The Pirates! Band of Misfits (4/27) ... Jason Statham does the requisite protect-innocent-child action movie with Safe (4/27) ... Eva Mendes goes for serious actor cred in Girl in Progress (4/27) ... Indie darling Brit Marling (darling Marling!) co-wrote and stars in the cult drama Sound of My Voice (4/27) ... Jason Segel and Emily Blunt just can't seem to get married in The Five Year Engagement (4/27)
The Avengers (5/4)
What It Is: All the Marvel superheroes finally got up the courage to have this great big orgy they've been talking about for years now, and it's going down on May 4th. Everybody's joining in, from Iron Man to the Incredible Hulk to Black Widow to the Arrowman (or whoever Jeremy Renner is playing), and it's just going to be buck wild. Samuel L. Jackson oversees everything, making sure nobody goes too far ("Thor! Leave the hammer out of this.") and that everybody has a good time. Of course that weirdo Loki has to show up to try and ruin everyone's fun, but I'm sure the Marvel team will put a stop to that. Freak on, heroes!
Should You See It: Well, it's the culmination of all these recent Iron Man and Thor and Captain America movies, so yeah, don't you want to see where it's all been heading? Oh, and, Joss Whedon directed this thing, so that's pretty exciting. Look, the Marvel comic book movies have, for the most part, been lots of fun, so why should we think that all of them smooshed together would be anything less than fun too? It'll be a big silly blast, a perfect way to kick off the early-summer movie season with an enormous bucket of popcorn in hand.
Dark Shadows (5/11)
What It Is: Based on the 1960s cult favorite TV series about a cursed family, the big screen Dark Shadows is directed by Tim Burton and features his regular stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, along with Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Jackie Earle Haley. We've only seen a few pictures so far so it's impossible to tell if this will be an unfortunate Burton schlockfest like Sleepy Hollow or if he's made something genuinely creepy. Granted, the television show was incredibly campy, but it never winked or acknowledged that. Let's hope this movie version is the same way, something much closer to Sweeney Todd than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Should You See It: Probably! While adaptations of TV shows are often annoying, this one has been off the air long enough that it's probably OK, plus it doesn't have the same cultural resonance as something like Bewitched or whatever. The cast is exciting, especially the Michelle Pfeiffer factor. She's been woefully absent these days. That Pride and Prejudice and Zombies jokester Seth Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay has us a little worried, but we're trying to be optimistic. Darkly optimistic. As a ballast for all the bright flashing of superhero lasers and battleship missles, we're thinking Dark Shadows will do nicely.
What It Is: A movie "based" on the classic board game, Battleship is basically Transformers of the Sea, a kind of lurching alien robot destroys the world sort of thing that promises to be loud, incoherent, and obnoxious. Man of the season Taylor Kitsch stars as some kind of Navy somebody, while Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker bare their considerable acting assets and Liam Neeson finally once and for all eradicates any lingering memory of Schindler's List or Kinsey or Husbands and Wives. Director Peter Berg is great when he's doing TV (Friday Night Lights, Prime Suspect) but his movie sensibilities, seen in things like Hancock and The Kingdom, tend toward bombastic nonsense.
Should You See It: That said, it could be kind of fun in a so-bad-it's-good sort of way? Sure, that kind of ironic hate watching has gotten a little stale, but perhaps if it's some warm, lazy May day and you've enjoyed some, eh, herbal refreshment, it could be kind of fun to go down to the multiplex and have some sea robots scream at you for two hours. Plus if you're into this sort of thing, Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna are easy on the eyes, as are Kitsch and vampire soul-hunk Alexander Skarsgård. So yeah. Why not grab a friend, go, y'know, herb it up somewhere, and head on out to see Battleship. You'll laugh, you'll cry (when your popcorn's all gone), all of that. Then you can spend the rest of the day yelling "You sunk my battleship!" to each other and devolving into insane laughter. Very mature way to spend a Saturday.
What to Expect When You're Expecting (5/18)
What It Is: Basically Valentine's Day with screaming babies instead of Ashton Kutcher. So really it's no different. Everyone is in this thing, from Cameron Diaz to J.Lo to Dennis Quaid to Chris Rock to Megan Mullally to Love Actually dream date Rodrigo Santoro. It's all about pregnant ladies and the dudes who got them pregnant and don't know what to do and supposedly there will be laughs involved and probably some tears and definitely some jokes about poop and pee. Yay?
Should You See It: Well, if the insanely awful ad campaign is any indication, no. These big ensemble movies are rarely good, and with a cast like this (Chace Crawford, once again Brooklyn Decker, ol' Ramen head himself Matthew Morrison) we just can't see What to Expect being an exception. But, while your idiot boyfriend and his friend Duane go get stoned and watch Battleship, it might not be such a bad idea to smuggle some booze (hey, you're not pregnant!) into the theater and waste a couple of hours with this. Why the heck not? That Joe Mangamanganello guy from True Blood, y'know the muscly werewolf, is in it! Can't go wrong with that.
Kate Hudson's long-delayed romantic comedy/weepy about cancer A Little Bit of Heaven finally comes out (5/4) ... Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Bill Nighy are old and adorable and British and in India together in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (5/4) ... First Position, a documentary about a youth ballet competition, looks pretty great (5/4) ... Miley Cyrus gets to make out with this in LOL (5/4) ... Sacha Baron Cohen does more shtick, ho hum, in The Dictator (5/11) ... Bobcat Goldthwait directs a Falling Down-as-comedy movie called God Bless America, about a guy killing annoying people (5/11) ... Maggie Gyllenhaal enjoys the invention of the vibrator in Hysteria (5/18) ... Famous fashion editor Diana Vreeland is profiled in Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (5/18) ... A bunch of dopes, among them Jesse McCartney, get stuck in a fallout-ravaged town and spooky things start happening in Chernobyl Diaries (5/25) ... Will Smith is apparently not too old for this sh-t in Men In Black III (5/25) ... Wes Anderson returns to live-action filmmaking with Moonrise Kingdom, a wistful comedy (does he do anything else?) about a Boy Scouts-esque troupe (5/25)