Spring Movie Preview

We work a bit in advance here on each issue, so I’m currently in the throes of creating a summer movie preview.

Summer—where “summer” is defined as Memorial Day through Labor Day—is a huge time for movies. Studios hold on to their biggest spectacles, their hottest properties, and their splashiest effects and unleash them right at the time when people are dying to sit in over-air-conditioned theaters to escape the heat. It’s a hallowed movie-going tradition.

Usually, the months before May are no great shakes for movies. You get Oscar holdovers and a bunch of junky horror films, teen comedies, and low-stakes thrillers to hold you over until things start to heat up.

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As I was perusing the schedule, though, I noticed something funny. While this summer is typically stuffed with superheroes and sequels, the spring isn’t looking as lean as usual. There are quite a bit of interesting films on tap for March and April. I don’t know if the studios just want to beat each other to the punch and are therefore inching up the placement of some key movies, or if they’re worried that some artier and weirder films would be lost in the shuffle if they were held until the summer. Last year, Alice in Wonderland made roughly a bazillion dollars with a March release date, so it could be that the studios just aren’t as gun-shy about releasing a cool movie outside the safety of summer.

So, what should we watch this spring? My humble suggestions:

March 4
It’s a western. It’s an animated movie about talking lizards and other small animals. It’s a Johnny Depp film. These seem like an unlikely mix, especially for an adult movie, but Salon.com called it one of those “kidult-oriented” movies that “barely pretends to be for kids.”

Take Me Home Tonight
March 4
This is one of those one-crazy-night coming-of-age movies and, since it takes place in the ’80s, the easiest thing to compare it to is a John Hughes movie. But Topher Grace, the film’s star and executive producer, says in the A.V. Club that it’s more akin to American Graffiti, and promises no cheesy winking-at-the-camera, didn’t-we-all-dress-funny-in-the-’80s jokes.

Battle: Los Angeles
March 11
Aliens are invading—again! (After watching the trailer, a friend leaned over and said he hoped they brought firewalls/virus protection this time, to avoid the mistakes they made in Independence Day.) I know this is shallow, but, as a New Yorker, I feel relieved that there’s finally a disaster movie taking place in California for once (special-effects people must think that our East Coast monuments are more fun to virtually destroy).

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 © 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Red Riding Hood
March 11
The director of the first Twilight movie moves from vampires to werewolves, and tarts up the old fairy tale for a modern audience. Get used to these types of fairytale remakes. After the success of Alice in Wonderland, new reworkings of Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and Jack and the Beanstalk are all in the hopper.


Jane Eyre
March 11
I may get my English BA revoked for this, but I never made it through my dusty old copy of this book. Still, the trailer for this version of the film—starring The Kids Are All Right‘s Mia Wasikowska and Inglourious Basterds‘ Michael Fassbender—makes it look intense and even a little bit cool.

March 18
A lovable alien comes to Earth and needs some help—only this isn’t E.T. It’s packed with comedic talent: Shaun of the Dead‘s Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star in it, the voice of the alien is Seth Rogen, and Superbad‘s Greg Mottola directs.

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Win Win
March 18
In the smaller, festival crowd, there is a subset of people who like watching the schlubby Paul Giamatti work through things. This one is for them, and it won Giamatti, who plays a high school wrestling coach who wants to help a struggling student, some good notices at Sundance.

Sucker Punch
March 25
Watchmen and 300 director Zack Snyder’s women-in-trouble film wouldn’t feel out of place in an amped-up summer lineup. It’s about girls trapped in a mental institution who retreat to a world of their imagination to find freedom. And that world looks, well, crazy-in-a-good-way. Think zeppelins, dragons, and girls kicking ass in pigtails.

 © 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Source Code
April 1
Thinkers who liked puzzling out the dreams-within-dreams in Inception and sci-fi fans who loved the ultra-tiny-budgeted Moon will want to come back for director Duncan Jones’ second feature film. I’ll say just one thing about it: It involves time travel.

April 8
Yes, it’s a remake of the old Arthur. Whether you’d think that’s a good idea or a travesty depends on if you like Dudley Moore more or less than British comedian Russell Brand. Brand certainly has it over Moore in the crazy-hair department.

Your Highness
April 8
High-toned people make a low-brow comedy: Artsy director David Gordon Green (George Washington, Snow Angels) and recent Oscar winner Natalie Portman join perma-grad-student James Franco and Danny McBride (aka Kenny-freakin’-Powers) in some kind of medieval pot-smoking adventure comedy.

The Conspirator
April 15
Robert Redford directs a period courtroom drama about the lawyers who prosecute and defend a woman charged in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. This is really, really, really not to be confused with The Lincoln Lawyer.

Water for Elephants
April 22
Hunk du jour Robert Pattinson trades his brooding vampire pallor for a colorful movie about working in a Depression-era circus. There’s nary a shirtless werewolf in sight, but he still finds himself vying for a young woman’s affection with a romantic rival. Poor kid can’t catch a break.

That’s a lot of movies to see in two months—get cracking! Which spring movies are you most excited about? Let me know in comments.

Red Riding Hood photo by Kimberly French. Sucker Punch photo by Clay Enos.

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