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March Movie Preview

In movies, it’s not “beware the ides of March.” After the doldrums of January and February films, things finally start to pick up in March and this month looks like it could hold the first memorable films of 2012. From the animated film Rango with Johnny Depp opening Friday to Zack Snyder’s much-anticipated original film Sucker Punch on Mar. 25, there’s a high ceiling as things turn to spring.

March 4



Rango

This offbeat animated
comedy from Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski focuses on
a domestic chameleon named Rango who ends up in a Western town through a series
of mishaps. Johnny Depp leads the impressive voice cast as the titular
chameleon, which is rounded out by Abigail Breslin, Timothy Olyphant, and Ned
Beatty, among others.

This was never a question
of commercial success: the name of Depp alone propels moviegoers to hit
theaters in record numbers, not to mention the
Pirates connection with
Verbinski. However, it looks like the two might have another hit on their hands
with the critics. Much to my surprise, raves have been pouring in over at
Rotten Tomatoes this past week.

In fact, this might be the
only worthwhile family-oriented flick to grace theaters this March; the only
other PG films out this month are
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
and
Mars Needs Moms. ~Julian

 

Rango
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Written by John Logan,
Gore Verbinski, and James Ward Byrkit
Starring: Johnny Depp,
Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty

 



The Adjustment Bureau

Philip K. Dick’s stories have been
turned into classic films such as
Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total
Recall
and A Scanner Darkly, but also into some poor efforts: Paycheck
and Next. Now Dick’s short story Adjustment Team is getting
the Hollywood treatment and this paranoia thriller seems very promising.

Matt Damon stars in this sci-fi
thriller. He is known as an actor who picks his roles carefully and was so
committed to
The Adjustment Bureau that filming of Hereafter was
held up for a month. Rising star Emily Blunt co-stars as Damon’s love interest
and other actors involved include Anthony Mackie (
The Hurt Locker),
Shohreh Aghdashloo (
House of Sand and Fog) and Terence Stamp.
Writer George Nolfi (
Ocean’s Twelve, The Bourne Ultimatum) makes
his feature debut as a director.

David Norris is a rising politician
running for the U.S. Senate and looks destined to win. A chance encounter with
a beautiful ballerina, Elise (Blunt), changes all that as he falls in love with
her. The physical forces of fate conspire to keep them a part and forces David
and Elise on the run in a film about fate versus free will. It should be a film
that appeals to
Matrix fans and people who likes smart, thematic science
fiction. ~Kieran

 
 

The Adjustment Bureau
Directed by George Nolfi
Written by George Nolfi, Phillip K.
Dick (short story)
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt,
Terence Stamp

 



Take Me Home Tonight

From the ‘70s to the ‘80s, Topher Grace
goes from nerdy, Vista Cruiser-driving, Wisconsinite to car-stealing, nerdy
video store clerk in Take Me Home Tonight. After graduating college,
Grace’s Matt finds himself in a menial job with no direction in life to speak
of. Over the course of one crazy night all that will change (likely) as he gets
into shenanigans with his best friend played by Dan Fogler (far from my
favourite comedic thespian) and goes after the girl of his dreams in the sultry
form of Teresa Palmer.

Why Topher Grace isn’t a bigger star is
beyond me, especially considering the massive success of
That ‘70s Show.
Both Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have successfully branched out, though
despite the odd dramatic role and finding less than favourable buzz after
staring as Venom in 
Spider-Man 3, he is largely absent from the
limelight. Though delayed since a 2008 shoot completion date, hopefully his
inherent charisma and good-natured charms play well in 
Take Me Home
Tonight
, which also stars the consistently delightful Anna Farris as Matt’s
sister. Likely quickly destined for the very DVD shelf our protagonist
organizes, this raunchy throwback comedy nevertheless looks like a pleasant
little diversion. ~Simon

 

Take Me Home Tonight
Directed by Mike Dowse
Written by Jackie and Jeff
Filgo, Gordon Kaywin, Topher Grace
Starring: Topher Grace,
Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer

 

March 11

Battle:
Los Angeles

No denying there’s a market
for movies where it’s humans vs. aliens (
Independence Day, District 9, War of the Worlds …). It’s typically
the same story: Earth gets invaded by a species with superior
firepower and tactics, we make one last stand and somehow, we prevail
(ugh). 

The premise for Battle: Los
Angeles
doesn’t stray far from this formula when alien forces
systematically strike major cities all over the world. At the center of it all
is Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart of
The Dark Knight fame)
and his new platoon stationed in Los Angeles, one of the last standing cities
on Earth. As seemingly unstoppable alien forces close in around them, Nantz,
his platoon and the remaining citizens of L.A. seek to make one last stand for
humanity’s survival.

On paper, it doesn’t sound wildly
original (it doesn’t have to be). What does make “Battle: L.A.”
interesting is the manner in which it is made: shot as if it were
Black Hawk
Down
…with aliens (awesome). Unlike other alien invasion pieces, the
trailers released (the teaser being one of the best released last year) paint
a rather bleak picture for humanity. Not in recent memory has it looked
like we’re getting our collective asses so thoroughly kicked. Whether
humanity survives the film or not, you can expect some massive action set
pieces and what looks to be one hell of a dogfight. ~Max

 
 

Battle:
Los Angeles
Directed by Johnathan Liebesman
Written by: Christopher Bertolini
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle
Rodriguez, Will Rothaar, Bridget Moynahan

 

Red Riding Hood

It’s the familiar tale of Little
Red Riding Hood
, but it boasts a darker twist than the simplistic story
known to most.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Snow White and
the Huntsman
are just two additional films that look to exemplify the more
sinister elements of fairy tales. In other words, films of this nature won’t be
going away any time soon.

The cast led by Amanda
Seyfried certainly shows some promise, but one only needs to look at the
director to find reasons for skepticism. Catherine Hardwicke, who helmed the
first film in the
Twilight series, occupies the director’s seat for this
fantasy flick. Her debut
thirteen was a hit with the critics, but since
then she’s struggled in the quality department. Here’s hoping she took a turn
for the better with this one. ~Julian

 

Red Riding Hood
Directed by Catherine
Hardwicke
Written by David Johnson
Starring: Amanda Seyfried,
Gary Oldman, Julie Christie

 

Mars Needs Moms

As winter turns to spring, moviegoers are bombarded with
kid friendly programming. Take for instance this new animated feature that
moralizes respecting one’s parents. In Mars Needs Moms, a young boy
named Milo gains a deeper appreciation for his mom after Martians come to Earth
to take her away. Starring the voices of Seth Green, Joan Cusack, and the
unsightly motion-capture image of Dan Fogler, this Buena Vista offering is just
in time to catch the front end of a new trend.

Vampires are so last year. Alien invasions are a big trend
in 2011 motion pictures and every demographic is getting in on the action. I
Am Number Four
already released to a largely teenage response lat month
while Battle: Los Angeles has enough grit to bring out the adult crowd. Super
8
and Transformers: Dark of the Moon fulfill the blockbuster
category and Paul meets the comedy requirement. A children’s picture is
no surprise; aliens are no respecters of persons.

Buena Vista has a great track
record but there is something off about this particular effort. It is most
comparable to Planet 51, a reverse alien invasion story from 2009. Even
with the voice of Dwayne Johnson it finished with only $42 million domestic.
This picture may be innocent enough, but 3D isn’t going to take it far on this
planet. ~Dinah


 

Mars Needs Moms (in 3D)
Directed by Simon Wells
Written by Simon and Wendy Wells,
Berkeley Breathed (book)
Starring: (voices) Seth Green, Joan
Cusack, Dan Fogler

 

March 18

Paul

A story about an alien trying to find his
way home could easily be dismissed as an
E.T.-wannabe.
Paul, however, promises something
different—something that more closely resembles an Apatow comedy than Steven
Spielberg’s classic.



The reunion of Simon Pegg and Nick
Frost—making their first movie together in four years—is certainly something to
look forward to. Throw in
Superbad
helmer Greg Mottola as well as Seth Rogen and Jason Bateman, and you’ve
potentially got the makings of a comedy (or at least cult) classic.



While Pegg and Frost (two comic book nerds)
trek through Area 51, they stumble across a real alien, Paul (voice of Rogen),
who has been a government prisoner for 60 years. Wanting nothing more than to
track down his mothership and get back to his home planet, he hitches a ride
with these two pot-smoking clowns and gives them the adventure of their
lives.



It’s great that after hiatuses to pursue
other projects, so many talented individuals are back doing what they do best.
Pegg and Frost are back in the realm of buddy comedies together. Mottola, after
venturing into more subtle comedy with
Adventureland,
rejoins much of his
Superbad team.
And after getting the superhero bug out of his system, Seth Rogen is back doing
what he does best—making crude, but hilarious sex and pot jokes. It has also
been quite a while since a great comedy hit the screens, so if the public digs
this little green man,
Paul could be
a hit. ~John
 

Paul
Directed by Greg
Mottola                                                                           

Written by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth
Rogen (voice)

 



Limitless

Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper) is a
failed writer who has just been dumped by his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish).
With little hope for his future, Eddie volunteers for an experimental procedure
(because that’s how you deal with a bad break up) involving a drug called
“NZT.” Upon taking the drug, Eddie learns how to operate using near
100 percent of his brain’s capacity, increasing his memory to near super-human
levels and using his skills to break into the financial world. With his success
come hitmen who want him for the NZT and a financial tycoon called Carl Van
Loon (Robert DeNiro and I’m not kidding … that is the
character’s name) who wishes to use Eddie to make a fortune.

It’s not a bad thing when
you have the likeable/handsome Cooper, rising star Cornish and veteran who
isn’t what he used to be in DeNiro billing your film from a director (Neil
Burger) with the respectable film
The Illusionist to his credit.
Still, looking at
Limitless from the outside gives the sense of a film that
won’t be able to make up its mind (no pun) on what kind of film it’s supposed
to be. Clearly the pursuit of perfection will be a major theme, but when you
are following such an act as
Black Swan in that category, it’d likely be
best to lower your expectations. Still, from the look of the trailer,
it will at least be slick to look at, but will it be enough? ~Max


Limitless
Directed by Neil Burger
Written by Leslie Dixon, Alan Glynn (novel)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert
DeNiro, Abbie Cornish

 



The Lincoln Lawyer

Queue the music: there is
another courtroom drama on the way. Matthew McConaughey
is keeping his shirt on to play Mickey Haller, a lawyer who handles business
from the backseat of the titular vehicle. He lands a high-paying client when
Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a Beverly Hills realtor, is accused of rape and
attempted murder. Haller thinks he has hit the jackpot in this client ,but when
he gets to digging he realizes Roulet might not be the innocent man he claims;
in fact, he might be a serial killer.

The story
comes from crime novelist Michael Connelly, more famous for his Harry Bosch
character. If all goes well with this feature, his fans are hoping for an
adaptation featuring that long-running character. The
adaptation will have quite an uphill climb at the weekend box office.
The
Lincoln Lawyer
goes head to head against Limitless and Paul. All
three
are matched against second-week spillover from Battle: Los
Angeles.
~Dinah 




 
The Lincoln Lawyer
Directed by Brad Furman
Written by John Romano,
Michael Connelly (novel)

Starring: Matthew
McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe and Josh Lucas

 



Win Win (Limited Release)

One of the hits at this year’s Sundance Film
Festival in January,
Win Win marks
the third directorial effort from actor Thomas McCarthy. His films
The Station Agent and The Visitor (which earned Richard
Jenkins an Oscar nod) have all been low-profile, high-praise projects.
Win Win might help put him more on the
map. It stars Giamatti as an attorney moonlighting as a wrestling coach who
stumbles upon a kid whose case could provide him some needed money, but he also
happens to have enough talent to turn around the wrestling team. However, when
his rehabbing mother (Lynskey) re-enters the picture, everything starts to
crumble apart.

I’ve seen The
Visitor
and was really impressed. Bought up by Fox Searchlight, who has a
reputation for distributing terrific independent films, I’m holding out hope
that this film could put McCarthy on the map and earn him a major studio gig.
Then again, if he produces films of this quality with consistency, who cares
how well known he becomes. I look forward to seeing this one whenever I get a
chance, whether that’s in theaters or not. ~Steven

Win Win
Written and Directed
by Thomas McCarthy
Starring: Paul
Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Melanie Lynskey

 

March 25



Sucker
Punch

Even after a full dozen viewings ranging
from the comfort of my own room on YouTube to the real deal on the big screen,
Zack Snyder’s eye-meltingly stylistic trailer for Sucker Punch still
gives my the chills. After what distressingly seems like diminishing returns
from the director with the messy but enjoyable Watchmen to the rather
pedestrian (though again gorgeously rendered) 3-D animated film Legend of
the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
, this original offering from the sultan
of style seems to all but beg for us to forgive any past faux pas. Throwing in
everything from robot samurai and dragons to exploding dirigibles, Snyder’s Sucker
Punch
takes an oft-used storyline of an insane asylum inmate and turns it
on its head (or more likely severs that head).   

The aforementioned prisoner is the fragile
Baby Doll (Emily Browning), who with the help of fellow “patients” including
Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens and Jena Malone as Sweet Pea, Blondie and Rocker
respectively, retreat into an alternate reality in order to escape their
confines. I mentioned this was an original work and is in fact his first ever,
having taken all his previous material from literature and one previous film in
the case of
Dawn of the Dead. Early development actually began as far
back as 2007 but was put on hold to do
Watchmen before production
finally began. Another first for the man, this will be his first live-action
venture not to be rated R. Hopefully this does not inhibit his violent
trademark (the clips seem to indicates nothing of the sort) and hey, at least
it’s not in 3D. ~Simon  


Sucker Punch
Directed by Zack Synder
Written by Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya
Starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish,
Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone

 

Diary of a
Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

The original Diary of a Wimpy Kid
did a moderate business at the cinema. But with a low budget of $15 million it
made a strong profit and did well on DVD, so a sequel has been made quickly and
written by the previous film‘s writers Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah. British
animation director David Bowers (
Flushed Away) has replaced Thor
Freudenthal in adapting Jeff Kinney’s popular illustrated book series. Many of
the actors from the previous film reprise their roles: Zachary Gordon, Devon
Bostick, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris and Robert Capron. 12-year-old Peyton R.
List (
27 Dresses) joins them. Sadly, there is no Chloe Moretz in this
sequel.

Our hero Greg Hefley (Gordon) is
about to enter into the seventh grade and his relationship is evolving with his
older brother Rodrick (Bostick). As their parents try to bond with their
children, Greg attempts to impress his crush, Holly Hills (List). Most of us
can relate to all this and the
Diary of a Wimpy Kid series seems
like clean fun for children. ~Kieran

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Directed by David Bowers
Written by Jeff Filgo, Jeff Judah,
Gabe Sachs (screenplay), Jeff Kinney (novel)
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Robert
Capron, Devon Bostrick, Steve Zahn

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