The 2013/2014 winter season has been especially brutal this year – and I’m not just talking about the freezing temperatures and harsh weather patterns. Movie offerings (especially in the opening months of 2014) have not been all that great, with more duds like 47 Ronin, I Frankenstein and Pompeii than hits like Lone Survivor or The LEGO Movie.
HOWEVER, unlike previous years, the rush to break out of the winter doldrums and embrace the bigger, better movies waiting the wings has come earlier than ever, with Spring 2014 offering a lineup of films that bear close resemblance to the summer movie season. Things kick off in epic fashion with 300: Rise of an Empire – but with films like Need For Speed, The Raid 2, Transcendence and Captain America: The Winter Soldier also on deck, we may be camped out in dark theaters too often to see the warmth and bloom return.
March 2014 Movies
300: Rise of an Empire
Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel, Xerxes, and told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster 300, this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh battlefield—on the sea—as Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war. 300: Rise of an Empire pits Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and Artemesia (Eva Green), vengeful commander of the Persian navy.
The world of 300 set a new precedent for comic book movies, but with director Zack Snyder only serving as producer on the followup, will the end results of Rise of an Empire be nearly as groundbreaking?
The Grand Budapest Hotel
March 7th (Limited Release – Expands on the 14th)
The Grand Budapest Hotel tells of a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars and his friendship with a young employee who becomes his trusted protégé. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting, the battle for an enormous family fortune and the slow and then sudden upheavals that transformed Europe during the first half of the 20th century. The latest from Wes Anderson with a familiar cast lineup that includes Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Bill Murray.
Wes Anderson fans, rejoice. After some childhood deviations (Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdoms) Anderson looks to be back to his brand of offbeat sophisticated humor for adults – this time with history as his backdrop.
March 7th (Limited Release)
Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood), the most talented pianist of his generation, stopped performing in public because of his stage fright. Years after a catastrophic performance, he reappears in public in a long-awaited concert in Chicago. In a packed theater, in front of the expectant audience, Tom finds a message written on the score: “Play one wrong note and you die.” Without leaving the piano, Tom must discover the anonymous sniper’s motives and look for help without anyone realizing.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell), the most accomplished canine in the world, and his boy, Sherman (Max Charles), use a time machine called the Wabac to embark on outrageous adventures. However, when Sherman takes the Wabac without permission to impress his friend Penny (Ariel Winter), he accidentally rips a hole in the universe and causes havoc with world history. It’s up to Mr. Peabody to mount a rescue and prevent the past, present and future from being permanently altered.
Dreamworks has put out new classics like Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon; will Peabody and Sherman measure up? It’s very hard to tell at this point.
In the directorial debut from Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses), Guy Trilby (Bateman), a 40-year-old misanthrope, makes waves at a regional spelling bee when, due to a loophole in the rules, he is allowed to enter and, later, wins. Hurling insults at every turn, Guy advances to the national contest in Los Angeles, accompanied by a reporter (Kathryn Hahn) who wants to discover his hidden motives for entering the bee. As the competition gears up, friendless Guy inexplicably forms a bond with a young speller who is feeling parental pressure to win.
Better Living Through Chemistry
March 14th (Limited)
A straight-laced pharmacist’s uneventful life spirals out of control when he starts an affair with a trophy wife customer who takes him on a joyride involving sex, drugs and possibly murder. Starring Olivia Wilde, Michelle Monaghan, Sam Rockewell, Ray Liotta and Jane Fonda.
Need for Speed
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), a blue-collar mechanic who races muscle cars on the side in an unsanctioned street-racing circuit. Struggling to keep his family-owned garage afloat, he reluctantly partners with the wealthy and arrogant ex-NASCAR driver Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). But just as a major sale to car broker Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots) looks like it will save Tobey’s shop, a disastrous race allows Dino to frame Tobey for a crime he didn’t commit, sending Tobey to prison while Dino expands his business out West.
Can Need For Speed establish a new precedent for video game movies as quality blockbuster contenders? We shall see!
Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club
Brought together by an incident at their children’s school, a group of single mothers from different walks of life bond, and create a support group that helps them find comedy in the obstacles of life. Starring Nia Long, Terry Crews, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Zulay Henao, Cocoa Brown and Amy Smart.
March 14th (Limited)
This movie reboot (initially propelled by Kickstarter) catches up with Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) on the eve of graduating law school, with her amateur sleuthing days behind her. While interviewing at high-end New York law firms, Veronica Mars gets a call from her ex-boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring) who has been accused of murder. Veronica heads back to Neptune just to help Logan find an attorney, but when things don’t seem right with how Logan’s case is perceived and handled, Veronica finds herself being pulled back into a life she thought she had left behind.
Is there truly a lucrative box office future for these Kickstarter movie revivals? Veronica Mars will be the lab rat that helps determine an answer.
The latest YA book adaptation, Diverget is set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Winslet) to destroy all Divergents, Tris must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James) and together they must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it’s too late. Based on the best-selling book series by Veronica Roth, this film boasts some talent like Woodley and Winslet, but has yet to impress the moviegoing masses.
Muppets Most Wanted
Disney’s “Muppets Most Wanted” takes the entire Muppets gang on a global tour, selling out grand theaters in some of Europe’s most exciting destinations, including Berlin, Madrid and London. But mayhem follows the Muppets overseas, as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper headed by Constantine—the World’s Number One Criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit—and his dastardly sidekick Dominic, aka Number Two, portrayed by Ricky Gervais. The film stars Tina Fey as Nadya, a feisty prison guard, and Ty Burrell as Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon.
The first Muppets reboot movie was a warm piece of nostalgia; this sequel feels more like franchise business than heartfelt revisiting.
Nymphomaniac: Part One
March 21st (Limited)
In part I of Lars von Trier’s controversial new film, a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac (Charlotte Gainsbourg) recounts her erotic experiences to the man (Stellan Skarsgård) who saved her after a beating. The audience for this one won’t be large – but it holds a certain amount of interest and morbid curiosity for the art-house crowd.
The Biblical Noah suffers visions of an apocalyptic deluge and takes measures to protect his family from the coming flood. Starring Russel Crowe as Noah, and co-starring Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins.
While the concern has been placed on how Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky will treat the biblical material behind the film, in truth, Aronofsky’s vision is based on something more distant from the bible inspiration – as expressed through a surreal graphic novel he released to secure financing for this film. That’s to say: This Noah could offer something new enough to both stand on its own and avoid offending religious types.
The Raid 2
After fighting his way out of a building filled with gangsters and madmen rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) thought it was done and he could resume a normal life. He couldn’t have been more wrong; his victory only attracted bigger, worse, criminal predators and corrupt officials. His family at risk, Rama has only one choice to protect his infant son and wife: He must go undercover to enter the criminal underworld himself and climb through the hierarchy to the top of the heap.
The Raid: Redemption single-handed redefined the standard in action movie-making for a new era. The sequel seems to be leaving the scaled-down focus of the low-budget first chapter behind for a “bigger is better” push. That’s not a strategy that always works out well – but we’re pulling for this one.
In “Sabotage”, Arnold Schwarzenegger leads an elite DEA task force that takes on the world’s deadliest drug cartels. When the team successfully executes a high-stakes raid on a cartel safe house, they think their work is done – until, one-by-one, the team members mysteriously start to be eliminated. As the body count rises, everyone is a suspect. Co-starring Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Josh Holloway, Joe Maganiello and Mireille Enos.
On the surface this looks like another generic action flick, but two things set it apart from the pack. 1. The movie was written/directed by David Ayer, the mind behind hard-boiled LA crime films like Training Day and End of Watch. 2. Sabotage is loosely based on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, one of the most clever murder mysteries ever written.
APRIL 2014 MOVIES
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
After the cataclysmic events in New York with his fellow Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Capt. America (Chris Evans), lives in the nation’s capital as he tries to adjust to modern times. An attack on a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague throws Rogers into a web of intrigue that places the whole world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a new ally, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Rogers struggles to expose an ever-widening conspiracy, but he and his team soon come up against an unexpected enemy – the dreaded Winter Soldier.
Captain America 2 has already blown Marvel fans away with footage that looks to up the action ante to a level and style previously unseen in these solo films. With a story that could also offer some great throwback political thrills, this could indeed be a new phase of the Marvel movie experience.
After spending 12 years in prison for keeping his mouth shut, notorious safe-cracker Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is back on the streets of London looking to collect what he’s owed. But when it comes time to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke), unstoppable Dom finds himself facing an insurmountable problem.
This new film by Richard Shepard (The Matador) should catch the attention of the indie crowd.
Nymphomaniac: Part Two
Did you watch Part One? Still want to watch Part Two?
Under the Skin
An alien disguised as a mesmerizing woman (Scarlett Johansson) snares human prey on remote highways and other desolate spots in Scotland with her voracious sexuality. Over time, she begins to change her thinking about humans and finds herself on a collision course with her own kind.
This new artfully shot concept film from Jonathan Glazer (Birth, Seaxy Beast) looks to make the most out of Scarlett Johansson’s bombshell looks; but viewers may never see the Avengers star the same way afterward. The soundtrack and sound editing are especially haunting.
An NFL general manager (Kevin Costner) faces tough decisions on draft day. Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, and Ellen Burstyn co-star.
Director Ivan Reitman is better known these days for films like No Strings Attached and My Super Ex-Girlfriend than Ghostbusters. However, despite the fact that this looks like an extended commercial for the NFL, it also looks like one of those Kevin Coster americana sports stories that could be enjoyable. Just leave your Field of Dreams expectations at the door.
Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie (Karen Gillan) were merely teenagers when both of their parents were brutally butchered. Years later, Kaylie is certain that an antique mirror their parents used to own holds the answer to her darkest questions. As curious Kaylie reacquires the mirror, a nightmarish entity within it returns with a vengeance. Katee Sackhoff also co-stars.
Karen Gillan is already known (and loved) by Doctor Who fans, and she’ll soon hit the big time with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy – but will this horror thriller from Mike Flanagan (based on his 2006 short film) be a solid introduction to Gillan’s big-screen career?
It’s a jungle out there for Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and their three kids in RIO 2, after they’re hurtled from that magical city to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel (Jemaine Clement), and meets the most fearsome adversary of all – his father-in-law.
If your kids (or just you) liked the first one…
A Haunted House 2
After losing his beloved Kisha in a car accident, Malcolm starts anew, by remarrying Megan, a mother of two. When things begin to get back into their paranormal ways, targeting both the children and the property, things complicate even more when his back-to-life Kisha moves into the neighborhood.
This movie probably shouldn’t exist. But C’est la vie…
The latest feature film in the Disney Nature series focuses on the lives of bears living along the Alaskan coastal shores and mountains.
When futurist scientist Will (Johnny Depp) is fatally wounded in an attack by an anti-tech terrorist group, the woman he loves, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) gets help from colleague Max (Paul Bettany) to download Will’s mind into a computer. The new A.I. version of Will quickly gains awareness of his new state of existence – and all the newfound powers that come with it. Soon, Evelyn realizes that in holding on to the man she loves, she may have just doomed the world.
Dark Knight Trilogy cinematographer Wally Pfister steps out to direct his own feature film, and this sci-fi thriller has the look and markings of something that could be great. Having a cast with the likes of Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser and Clifton Collins Jr. doesn’t hurt, either.
In a dystopian Detroit, abandoned brick mansions now house only the most dangerous criminals. Unable to control the crime, the police constructed a colossal containment wall around this area to protect the rest of the city. Undercover cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker) and Lino (David Belle) never should have crossed, paths, but when drug kingpin Tremaine (RZA) kidnaps Lino’s girlfriend, Damien reluctantly accepts the help of the fearless ex-convict, and together they must stop a sinister plot to devastate the entire city.
If you haven’t put it together yet, this is a remake of the French film District 13, which introduced David Belle’s parkour free running style to the action genre. Don’t expect the American remake to be the superior version – but fans of Walker might want a look at one of the late actor’s last screen projects.
The Other Woman (2014)
After discovering her boyfriend (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is married, a woman (Cameron Diaz) tries to get her ruined life back on track. But when she accidentally meets the wife he’s been cheating on (Leslie Mann), she realizes they have much in common, and her sworn enemy becomes her greatest friend. When yet another affair is discovered (Kate Upton), all three women team up to plot mutual revenge on their cheating, lying, three-timing SOB.
This looks like a modern day version of The First Wives Club – and that may not be a bad thing. Between Diaz, Mann, Upton and co-stars like Niki Minaj, there should be a little something here for just about everyone.
The Spring thaw will hopefully also crack the frosty disappointment that some bad movies have left in our bones. There’s plenty of potential from the lineup above – but then again, there are a few clear cases where a theater ticket won’t be worth your while. Finally, films like Transcendence, 300: Rise of an Empire and Need for Speed have us very curious about how they will play.
All in all, Spring 2014 should be an interesting ride.
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Head over to Fandango for showtimes and ticket info on any of the movies listed in our preview.
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