With the summer movie season just around the corner, Hollywood is gearing up for what promises to be its most exciting slate of films in a long time by heading into the blockbuster-filled madness of May on a high note. This month has something for just about everyone, including several promising comedies, an innovative horror film with “Scream”-sized potential, and a new movie from action guru Luc Besson. It may not compare to what this summer has to offer, but it’s better than the doldrums of winter.
Who: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy
What: The gang is reunited in East Great Falls, Michigan for their high school reunion.
When: April 6th
Why: I’ve been a fan of the “American Pie” series (not including those terrible direct-to-DVD spinoffs, of course) since the original film was released back in 1999. It’s a purely generational thing; when the characters are having the same major life experiences as most people your age, it makes them easy to relate to. The movies also happen to be pretty entertaining in a guilty pleasure kind of way, and it’ll be great to see the whole cast reunited for the first time since they all went their separate ways to become big movie stars. Though that didn’t exactly work out for any of them (Alyson Hannigan and Seann William Scott are arguably the most successful of the bunch), as long as their chemistry is still intact, “American Reunion” should be a fun trip down memory lane.
Who: Chuck Rozanski, Holly Conrad, Eric Henson, Anthony Calderon and Skip Harvey
What: A behind-the-scenes look at the fans who gather by the thousands each year in San Diego, California to attend Comic-Con.
When: April 6th
Why: It’s actually quite surprising that no one has thought to make a documentary about Comic-Con until now, because although it’s not really a hard-hitting subject matter, it already has a built-in audience that continues to grow every year. Morgan Spurlock isn’t the first person you’d think of to direct a documentary about the popular geek Mecca, but he’s wisely chosen to stay out of the spotlight this time around, instead opting to focus on the lives of five attendees (including a toy collector, an aspiring artist and a costume designer) who have traveled to the annual convention for various reasons. And with guys like Stan Lee, Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith all involved in some form, Spurlock’s latest doc has the makings to be the perfect love letter to comic book geeks everywhere.
Who: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford
What: Five friends head to a remote cabin in the woods for the weekend where they get more than they bargained for.
When: April 13th
Why: I’ve had the good fortune to see Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods” twice now, and it’s every bit as original and entertaining as you’d expect for a movie co-written by Joss Whedon. This is one of those films that you need to go into knowing as little as possible, so while the trailer has been provided below, I’d recommend that you don’t watch it in order to avoid spoiling anything. It may look like just your average slasher flick on paper, but the movie has a few tricks up its sleeves. Fueled by a great script that not only defies most horror conventions, but does so with tongue firmly planted in cheek, “The Cabin in the Woods” is either going to be the movie that everyone can’t stop talking about, or that no one goes to see. Do your part and make sure it’s the former.
Who: Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso, Sean Hayes and Jane Lynch
What: While trying to save their childhood orphanage, Moe, Larry and Curly inadvertently stumble into a murder plot and wind up starring in a reality TV show.
When: April 13th
Why: I’ve never really understood the appeal of “The Three Stooges,” so I’m not too surprised that the Farrelly brothers’ big screen adaptation looks as terrible as it does. Despite my personal feelings on the Stooges, however, it’s strange to see their fans showing so much animosity towards the film, because it looks like the Farrellys have absolutely nailed the slapstick brand of comedy that the bumbling trio is known for. Though the movie has been in development for years (with Sean Penn, Jim Carrey and Benicio del Toro all involved in the project at some point), it no longer has the star-studded cast it once did, although that may be for the best. Then again, the Farrellys haven’t made a good movie in almost 15 years, so there’s definitely cause for concern.
Who: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Joseph Gilgun, Peter Stormare and Lennie James
What: A wrongly convicted man is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates.
When: April 13th
Why: When the first trailer for “Lockout” was released, there were some people who jokingly referred to it as “‘Taken’ in space,” and to be honest, they weren’t too far off. Writer/producer Luc Besson (who also co-wrote the Liam Neeson action thriller) has essentially been making the same movie for the last 20 years, and although most of his Euro-trash action films haven’t been as successful as “Taken,” they’re always a lot of fun to watch. Plus, this marks the first time that Besson has dabbled in sci-fi since “The Fifth Element,” and we all know how that turned out. Maggie Grace must be thrilled that she has more to do this time around, but it’s the pitch-perfect casting of Guy Pearce that could prove to be the real coup behind turning “Lockout” into this month’s breakout hit.
Who: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie and Rhys Ifans
What: A comedy that charts the ups and downs of an engaged couple’s relationship.
When: April 27th
Why: There are a number of great comedy writing teams in Hollywood, but perhaps one of the most underrated is Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, who already have a pair of terrific films to their names in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “The Muppets.” Those are both difficult movies to outshine, but Stoller’s third trip behind the camera (having previously directed “Sarah Marshall” and its quasi-sequel “Get Him to the Greek”) promises to be his funniest yet. Not only is it an interesting twist on the rom-com genre, but it’s loaded with tons of comedic talent, including Segel and fellow TV stars Chris Pratt and Alison Brie. Nevertheless, it’s the involvement of Emily Blunt that has me most excited, because the actress doesn’t get nearly enough opportunities to show off her comedic chops. And believe it or not, she might just be the funniest one of the bunch.
Who: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve and Brendan Gleeson
What: When a madman begins committing murders inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, a young detective joins forces with Poe to stop any more from coming true.
When: April 27th
Why: In what can only be described as a half-hearted attempt at cashing in on the success of the “Sherlock Holmes” films, James McTeigue’s “The Raven” re-imagines American poet Edgar Allen Poe as a sort of makeshift action hero who solves crimes. It’s the latest in a line of projects driven by Hollywood’s new fascination with revisionist history, but is Poe really that popular of a literary figure that people will care? Don’t get me wrong: the idea of someone performing copycat murders based on an author’s work of fiction has potential (even if it’s been done before, most recently in the pilot for the TV drama “Castle”), but there’s nothing in the trailer that suggests the film will be anything other than a generic whodunit. John Cusack deserves much better than this.
Who: Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Brendan Gleeson and Imelda Staunton
What: Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz for the Pirate of the Year award.
When: April 27th
Why: Considering how long it takes to make a stop-motion animated film, “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” likely went into production way back when pirate movies were still in the midst of a mini-renaissance. Of course, now that the subgenre has been exhausted by the very same franchise that brought it back to life (please stand up, “Pirates of the Caribbean”), it’s hard to tell whether moviegoers will be in the mood for another pirate adventure so soon. But if there’s anyone that can make it worthwhile, it’s the guys at Aardman Animation, best known for their witty and charming “Wallace & Gromit” shorts. And between its excellent voice cast (led by an unrecognizable Hugh Grant) and the involvement of Aardman co-founder Peter Lord, the movie couldn’t be in better hands.
Who: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon, Anson Mount and James Hong
What: A former cop must protect a Chinese girl who’s been entrusted with the combination to a safe that every criminal organization in town is after.
When: April 27th
Why: The fact that Lionsgate has already pushed back the movie’s release date several times doesn’t exactly exude confidence on the part of the studio, but I’m still cautiously optimistic about director Boaz Yakin’s first foray into the action genre. Although “Safe” looks eerily similar to just about every film to come out of the Jason Statham Factory of Ass-Kicking since the original “Transporter,” at least his movies are rarely dull, and that has a lot to do with Statham’s seemingly endless supply of charisma. He’s probably the most entertaining action star working today, even though he’s a good enough actor that he doesn’t need to rely on his fists so much. But regardless of how bad the movie may actually be, I’d gladly watch Statham kick ass and take names any day of the week.