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March Movie Preview 2012

The spring movie season is upon us and March promises big-time action and a healthy dose of humor, both of the mainstream and independent variety. We have previews of all the big films from this Friday's Project X to Disney's sci-fi epic John Carter to the season's most anticipated blockbuster, the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games.

Mar. 2

The Lorax

The Lorax marks the latest Dr. Seuss adaptation since 2008's Horton Hears A Who!, which strangely enough was written by the same duo of Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul but animated by Fox's Blue Sky Studios ("Ice Age" films). Although this one has a similar look and feel, Universal's Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me) animated the cautionary environmental tale instead.

Desperate to win the affections of the girl next door (Swift), a 12-year-old boy (Efron) living in a world where all is made of plastic ventures to a strange place to fetch the girl's one desire: to see a real living tree. There he discovers a man named the Once-ler (Helms) who tells him the story of a fuzzy orange creature named The Lorax (DeVito).

"Horton" and "Despicable " were excellent children's films, so I would expect the same for The Lorax: humor aimed at children but that adults can appreciate—and plenty of heart. Daurio and Paul write silly and cute more so than clever and hilarious, but considering these are children's films after all, that's really how it should be. ~ Steven

The Lorax
Directed by Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda
Written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, Dr. Seuss (book)
Starring: (voices) Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito, Ed Helms


Project X

Excessive drinking, drug use, general debauchery and a short person bursting out of a confined space in full attack mode seem to be the magic ingredients that have made director Todd Phillips one of the biggest names in comedy. But can another filmmaker turn Phillips’ recipe into a box-office hit like The Hangover was?

We’ll find out when Project X hits theaters tomorrow. Phillips is producing the found-footage comedy that takes The Hangover formula but lets you see more than just the aftermath of one increasingly crazy night of mayhem. Three high-school seniors looking to make a name for themselves among the cool kids get that and more when their house party becomes a magnet for all manner of chaos.

Although there’s no on-screen star power and the premise seems simple, expect Twitter feeds and Facebook pages to be littered with discussion
of Project X. Marketing is focusing on audience word of mouth similar to that of low-budget horror hit Paranormal Activity, and the promise of a party to end all parties may be all it takes for Project X to be one of the month’s big box-office winners. ~Sam

Project X
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh
Written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall
Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown



Mar. 9

John Carter

Brad Bird showed he could make the jump from animation to live action with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Now it is time to see if Andrew Stanton of Wall-E and Finding Nemo fame can do the same with this adaption of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ pulp-fiction character John Carter of Mars.

Disney is taking a big risk with this project, spending an estimated $200 million on a property that most of the general public has not heard of. Taylor Kitsch, who is also starring in this summer’s Battleship, is leading two high risk projects, and if they fail it will kill his chances of becoming a blockbuster star.

John Carter is a Civil War veteran who is teleported onto the Red Planet. Mars is inhabited by a species of alien known as the Barsoom and John is their prisoner. Mars is also a dying planet and Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Colins, also of X-Men Origins: Wolverine fame) needs a savior. Only John Carter of Earth can unite the inhabitants of Mars and help them save their planet. ~Kieran

John Carter
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Written by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon (screenplay), Edgar Rice Burroughs (novel)
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe



Silent House

A remake of a Uruguayan film The Silent House, this thriller finds Elizabeth Olsen (critical darling of Martha Marcy May Marlene) and her father terrorized by a sinister force. The catch? The entire film is done in one, unbroken take. Tracking shots in films always lend authenticity, so for this home invasion tale it could certainly add to the terror.

Filming a movie in a continuous shot is not an entirely revelatory technique, Alfred Hitchcock did it with Rope in 1948, but that isn’t to say this will fail because it isn’t entirely revolutionary. With the great Olsen in the lead, this could be one of the most interesting projects of the year even if it fails to fully live up to its ambitious goal.

The horror genre has been struggling recently to find something fresh and new and instead has been resorting to retreads, remakes and found-footage fare. Silent House could be a very welcomed breath of fresh air. ~Simon

Silent House
Directed by Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
Written by Oscar Estevez
Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens



A Thousand Words

We all know Eddie Murphy could use a career boost. For the last several years, he’s been stuck in projects that aim only for the kiddies, the only exception being Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist. With the fantasy-comedy A Thousand Words on the horizon, there might be some hope after all.

The plot revolves around a man who usually gets his way through lies and other manipulative means. One day, however, someone he’s duped curses him and he has only a thousand words left to say. After uttering his thousandth word, he’ll die.

The didacticism is already pretty clear from the story: don’t tell lies because they’ll catch up to you one of these days. However, a PG-13 rating indicates that this one definitely isn’t aiming for the youngsters, though the film could easily reach a younger demographic. For all we know, it could be both a didactic tale and a parody of such tales. What’s more, Murphy’s killing it in all of the promos thus far. Here’s hoping that this can get him out of his kiddie-appeasing rut once and for all. ~Julian

A Thousand Words
Directed by Brian Robbins
Written by Steve Koren
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Kerry Washington, Cliff Curtis



Mar. 16

21 Jump Street

The last thing the movies need is another cinematic rehashing of a popular old TV show, right? Well, what of one that looks laugh-out-loud funny?

21 Jump Street the TV show was a crime drama about young-looking investigators posing as youths to solve mysteries. Its film interpretation is a buddy-cop comedy starring Channing Tatum and Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill (first time we get to use that title!). Former classmates in high school, they are recruited to infiltrate a local school and bring down a drug ring.

If you can get past the initial groan factor that accompanies this film like a plague, you might be in for a treat. Early word is extremely positive, and critics are saying the film wears its R rating like a badge of honor. ~John

21 Jump Street
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Written by Michael Bacall, Jonah Hill, and Patrick Hasburgh & Stephen, J. Cannell (television series)



Jeff, Who Lives at Home (Limited Release)

If you're unfamiliar with the Duplass Brothers, here's a quick crash course: Filmmakers Jay and Mark are considered two of the godfathers of the mumblecore movement, a very independent style of filmmaking which emphasizes low-budget production values and improvisation to bring the most out of its characters and amateur actors.

Jay and Mark Duplass began their descent out of mumblecore in 2009 with Cyrus, an indie comedy starring Academy Award nominees Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly. They're going even more mainstream with their latest, a familial dramedy starring Jason Segel and Ed Helms as mismatched brothers trying to help each other through personal crises.

The film premiered on the festival circuit last fall and has slowly built positive buzz for months. It's out in limited release this month, and though it's unlikely to compete for any Oscars next year, these brothers are definitely the real deal, and any effort of theirs deserves attention. ~John

Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Written and Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass
Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon



Casa de mi Padre (Limited Release)

Although Will Ferrell is known best for his loud and flashy ensemble comedies, the comedian has ventured into quite a few smaller, more interesting vehicles in recent years, such as Melinda and Melinda, Stranger Than Fiction and Everything Must Go.

Now we have Casa de mi Padre (that would be “My Father’s House” to us Anglo’s) about a ranch hand (Ferrell) who finds his father’s farm in a financial fix. When his wealthy brother (Diego Luna) returns, he thinks his problems are behind him until he discovers his brother’s dealings are less than legit and a war erupts with a feared drug lord (Gael Garcia Bernal).

The film is entirely in Spanish, and I quite honestly don’t know what to make of it. It promises to be an oddball blend of Western action and wry comedy, but will ultimately only land in one camp: either as an ingenious farce and a successful departure for Ferrell, or a messy, cringe-worthy experiment. Seeing as Ferrell and long-time film partner Adam McKay wrote it, however, I am optimistic it will turn out closer to the former. ~Simon

Casa de mi Padre
Directed by Matt Piedmont
Written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay
Starring Will Ferrell, Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal



Mar. 23

The Hunger Games

It's unfair to keep comparing the two series, but it can't be helped; with Summit Entertainment’s "Twilight" series (mercifully) wrapping its theatrical run this year, Lionsgate (who now owns it) hopes to launch a new mega-franchise with the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and its sequels.

16-year old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a lead heroine who is more of a survivor hell-bent on keeping those close to her safe rather than a bland, cardboard cutout of a character whose only aspiration is to make a decision of who to marry. While the "Games" series isn't without its own love teenage triangle, it contains far less angst while possessing several themes/settings that cater less to a specific demographic and more to a universal audience.

The cast is eclectic to say the least and the premise (a complete ripoff of Battle Royale) is dark enough to draw those looking for a touch of romanticism with a fair deal of violence. Of course, all this implies that these things made it to the screen successfully. The audiences that grew up with "Twilight" have aged. Perhaps The Hunger Games will understand and reflect that for the better. ~Max

The Hunger Games
Directed by Gary Ross
Written by Gary Ross, Billy Ray, Suzanne Collins (screenplay and novel)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks



The Raid: Redemption (Limited Release)

There have been many top action movies from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, China and Thailand; now it is Indonesia’s turn. The Raid, retitled The Raid: Redemption for it’s North American as sequels have been planned, was written and directed by Welshman Gareth Evans. He unites with his Merantau star Iko Uwais in hopes of bringing the traditional Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat to a wider audience, just as Tony Jaa did for Muay Thai.

Just from the trailer, The Raid: Redemption looks like a great mix of Elite Squad and Ong-Bak, as a team of 30 elite SWAT operatives launches a clandestine raid against a notorious criminal safe house in Jakarta’s slums filled with gangsters, killers and powerful crime lords in a brutal fight for survival.

The Raid premiered at The Toronto International Film Festival where it was praised for action. An English-language remake is already in the works. ~Kieran

The Raid: Redemption
Written and Directed by Gareth Evans
Starring Iko Uwais, Anada George, Ray Sahetapy



Mar. 30

Wrath of the Titans

Although it’s sure to enjoy being 2012’s first big tentpole release, Wrath of the Titans certainly has its work cut out for it. Sure, you’ve never seen a cyclops, minotaur or harpy in real life, but a satisfying blockbuster sequel is a rarer creature still. That goes double when the original made serious bank at the expense of largely negative reviews.

It looks like many of the creative heads behind the first film felt Warner Bros. wrath, as the second trip back into Greek mythology has a new set of writers and Battle: Los Angeles director Jonathan Liebesman stepping in for Louis Leterrier. Stars Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson are back in the sandals they filled last time, but will also be joined by X-Men: First Class’ Rosamund Pike.

“Wrath” picks up 10 years after the last film, with retired hero Perseus getting pulled back into the life of adventure when Zeus is imprisoned and the titular Titans start wrecking havoc on Earth. The fact that Titans will actually be in the film this time is already a good start, and the trailer promises plenty of excitement courtesy of iconic mythological monsters. ~Sam

Wrath of the Titans
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Written by Dan Mazeau and David Johnson, Greg Berlanti, Beverly Cross (1981 screenplay)
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Rosamund Pike, Ralph Fiennes



Mirror, Mirror

Timeless stories tend to get a lot of silver-screen treatments, usually more than necessary, and that seems to be the case with Snow White as we have not one but two adaptations of this classic fairytale hitting theaters this year. The first of them is director Tarsem Singh’s (The Fall, Immortals) seemingly bouncy and comedic adaptation, Mirror, Mirror, which makes Walt Disney’s 1937 landmark animated feature look hardcore by comparison.

In its favor, the costuming from the late Oscar-nominated Eiko Ishioka could have some interesting surprises in store. What’s more, Julia Roberts is one of the greatest talents of her time, and it could be fun seeing her portray a villain. Additionally, it’s always fun to see a bright talent breakthrough to the mainstream, and Lily Collins aims to become a household name with several high-profile film roles to her name. Plus, there’s Armie Hammer finally realizing his leading romantic potential as the Prince.

But it goes without saying that this take on Snow White comes with far less anticipation than the Kristen Stewart- and Chris Hemsworth-led Snow White and the Huntsman. Still, this one also looks to capture a family audience, a demographic that can often pack quite the financially punch as the critically maligned revamp of The Smurfs proved last year. ~Julian

Mirror, Mirror
Directed by Tarsem Singh
Written by Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller (screenplay); Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (original story)
Starring: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer





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