Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to March

Springtime is finally here, and as the weather starts to get a little better, so does your choice of movies. Though March wasn’t always known as a month where you could score big at the box office, Zack Snyder’s “300” changed all that, and since then, the studios have been more open to releasing some of their higher profile films in an attempt to cash in on the pre-summer excitement. If it’s big-budget epics you’re after, or just a great comedy anchored by some big names, then you’ll want to continue reading.

“BEING FLYNN”

Who: Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, Olivia Thirlby and Julianne Moore
What: While working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn re-encounters his estranged father, a con man and self-proclaimed poet.
When: March 2nd
Why: This is the kind of film that you’d normally expect to see during awards season, which is what makes Focus Features’ decision to release it in March so refreshing. Of course, it could just mean that the movie simply isn’t good enough to be Oscar bait, but with actors like Robert De Niro and Paul Dano involved, it seems pretty unlikely. Based on playwright Nick Flynn’s memoir, “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City” (a great book title, but hardly one that rolls off the tongue when buying a ticket at the movie theater), “Being Flynn” might just be the film that finally gets De Niro’s acting career back on track. If nothing else, it’s great to see Paul Weitz directing some much headier material following the dreadful “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” and “Little Fockers.”

“JOHN CARTER”

Who: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Dominic West and Mark Strong
What: After a Civil War veteran is inexplicably transported to Mars, he becomes mixed up in a conflict amongst the habitants of the planet.
When: March 9th
Why: I had never even heard of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ series of pulp fantasy novels when a “John Carter” movie was first rumored a few years ago as a possible directing project for Jon Favreau, but after seeing the initial trailer, I was sold. It’s been awhile since a sci-fi epic has come along that actually looks the part, and a lot of that credit goes to Andrew Stanton, who, although he’s best known for directing Pixar hits like “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E,” is following in the footsteps of colleague Brad Bird with his live-action debut. While it will be interesting to see what Stanton can do outside the realm of animation, however, the film’s success will ultimately depend on whether Taylor Kitsch can prove to be the action star that Hollywood is betting on him to become.

“FRIENDS WITH KIDS”

Who: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph
What: Two best friends decide to have a child together while keeping their relationship platonic to avoid the toll kids can take on romantic relationships.
When: March 9th
Why: I’ve been looking forward to seeing “Friends with Kids” ever since it premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival to pretty high acclaim. Although the setup may sound a bit sitcomy, it’s an interesting twist on the conventional rom-com genre that feels appropriate in this very unconventional day and age. Plus, the cast is simply too good not to get excited. In addition to the talent listed above, the movie also stars Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox and Ed Burns, and was written and directed by star Jennifer Westfeldt, aka Mrs. Jon Hamm. Each couple will undoubtedly have their respective moments to shine, but I’m really looking forward to the reunion between Hamm and Kristen Wiig, whose scenes together in “Bridesmaids” were the highlight of the movie.

“21 JUMP STREET”

Who: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Brie Larson and Dave Franco
What: A pair of underachieving cops is sent undercover to a local high school to bring down a synthetic drug ring.
When: March 16th
Why: The movie is a Holy Trinity of things that I hate – TV-to-film adaptations, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum – and yet early buzz for the action comedy has it tipped to be the first breakout hit of the year. The trailer suggests otherwise, but if directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (whose only previous experience behind the camera was on the animated film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) can keep Hill on a tight leash and get the best out of Tatum, then who knows? The idea of sending cops undercover at a high school is even more ridiculous now than it was when the TV series aired back in the late 80s, but the fact that the script was penned by Michael Bacall (who co-wrote the awesome “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) gives me hope that it’ll be better than expected.

“JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME”

Who: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer
What: Dispatched from his basement room on an errand for his mother, slacker Jeff spends the day with his brother as he tracks his possibly adulterous wife.
When: March 16th
Why: Though they haven’t always had the good fortune to work with big-name talent, the Duplass brothers have yet to make a bad movie in their short but impressive directing careers. Of course, if “Cyrus” proved anything, it’s that their unconventional brand of mumblecore filmmaking functions even better with top-notch actors, so it’s great to see that the directing duo is back at it again with A-list talent like Jason Segel, Ed Helms and Susan Sarandon. The fellow sitcom stars, in particular, both exhibit a great knack for the kind of improvisational comedy that typically serves as the building blocks for all of Jay and Mark Duplass’ films, while Sarandon can pretty much do no wrong. The basic setup may sound a bit like that terrible Ron Howard dramedy, “The Dilemma,” but “Jeff Who Lives at Home” promises to be a much funnier and all-around better movie.

“CASA DE MI PADRE”

Who: Will Ferrell, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna and Genesis Rodriguez
What: Scheming on a way to save their father’s ranch, the Alvarez brothers find themselves in a war with Mexico’s most feared drug lord.
When: March 16th
Why: Will Ferrell is no longer the comedy superstar that he was five years ago, but he’s been working overtime lately in an attempt to reinvigorate his career. Guest spots on “The Office” and “Eastbound & Down” are one thing, but starring in a Spanish-language comedy that’s equal parts spaghetti western and telenovela is a pretty daring career move even for someone as seemingly fearless as Ferrell. Though the involvement of Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna lends the project a certain degree of authenticity (if you’re going to make a Spanish-language movie, then you might as well get the best actors from that region), it’s hard to tell if the film will be as gut-wrenchingly funny as it looks or just a disappointing gimmick that would have worked better as an “SNL” skit.

“THE HUNGER GAMES”

Who: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and Woody Harrelson
What: Set in a future where kids are forced to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place.
When: March 23rd
Why: A lot of people have been quick to bill “The Hunger Games” as the next “Twilight,” and while it’s easy to see why – not only is it based on a series of young adult novels, but it also features a very similar love triangle at its core – just about everyone involved with the movie has argued against such comparisons. But whether or not you actually agree with their comments, it would be silly to think that Lionsgate won’t be using the “Twilight” films as the measure of success for the first (and likely not last) installment. Though Gary Ross is certainly an odd choice to direct such a film, based on the various images and trailers released so far, he seems to have totally nailed the look and tone of Suzanne Collins’ dystopian world, and in the end, that’s all fans can really ask for.

“THE RAID”

Who: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy and Doni Alamsyah
What: A SWAT team becomes trapped in an apartment building run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.
When: March 23rd
Why: With the exception of “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Django Unchained,” Gareth Evans’ much-buzzed about Indonesian action film is probably my most anticipated movie of 2012. That’s not bad company to share, especially for a film that nobody knew anything about six months ago. Since its TIFF premiere, “The Raid” has been making the rounds on the festival circuit as the hype machine continues to roll on, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ll almost likely be disappointed if it isn’t the greatest action movie ever made. All joking aside, this film looks absolutely badass – a no-holds-barred beat-‘em-up that isn’t so much concerned with story than cramming as much bone-breaking, testosterone-pumping action into every frame as it possibly can.

“WRATH OF THE TITANS”

Who: Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes
What: Perseus embarks on a quest into the underworld to rescue Zeus, who has been captured by his traitorous son, Ares, and his brother, Hades.
When: March 30th
Why: Although the last movie felt somewhat restricted by its attempts at staying true to the story from the 1981 original, “Wrath of the Titans” has the freedom to do pretty much whatever it wants. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the story will be any better, but as you can probably tell from the trailer, that’s the least of director Jonathan Liebesman’s concerns. The biggest draw of these films is watching Perseus (still played by Sam Worthington, but now rocking a Kenny Powers-inspired mullet) face off against one mythological creature after the next like some kind of video game. It’s also encouraging to see that the gods will be playing a bigger part as well, because what’s the point of casting Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes if you don’t make the most of their talents?

“MIRROR MIRROR”

Who: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane and Sean Bean
What: An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven diminutive rebels to win back her birthright.
When: March 30th
Why: In the ongoing saga of the battling Snow White movies, Tarsem Singh’s “Mirror Mirror” seems to be at a complete disadvantage before either film even opens. While Rupert Sanders’ upcoming “Snow White and the Huntsman” actually looks like it might be a cool twist on the classic Grimm fairy tale, Singh’s lighthearted take on the material might be a little too silly for its own good. Replete with goofy humor, Bollywood dance numbers and the director’s trademark oversaturated visuals, “Mirror Mirror” is about as different from the other Snow White movie as you could get. But while Julia Roberts certainly appears to be having a blast playing the Evil Queen, the whole thing just looks far too ridiculous to take seriously, let alone enjoy. This has disaster written all over it.

  

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