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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


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


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


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

Directed by Greg Mottola                                                                           

Written by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg

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



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

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 McCarthyStarring: 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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