Like the classic Eastwood flick, spring brings with it the good (surprise snow days), the bad (surprise snow days) and the ugly (black ice). And the season's films are no different.
Here's what looks good: "42," the story of baseball and civil rights legend, Jackie Robinson; "The Place Beyond the Pines," which reunites "Blue Valentine" alum Ryan Gosling and Derek Cianfrance; the internationally-touted French spermbank farce, "Starbuck"; Sam Raimi's whimsical eye-candy, "Oz the Great and Powerful"; Roman Coppola's wild, Sheen-infused adventure, "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III"; and possibly the world's first ever zom-rom-com, "Warm Bodies" -- a story about a member of the undead and his human lady-love.
Should you find yourself making paper chains to count down the days 'till summer blockbusters such as "Iron Man 3" hit the screen, fret not. Here's what looks bad (-ass): double Bruce Willis action ("G.I. Joe: Retaliation," "A Good Day to Die Hard"), a Jason Statham revenge tale ("Parker') and even a little Michael Bay (Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in "Pain & Gain").
Finally, with Valentine's Day in the mix, Hollywood can be counted on to bring the ugly -- although horror fans may not love what's on tap depending on how they feel about remakes ("Evil Dead" and "Carrie" both release this spring), and feral children haunted by their demonic, ghostly "Mama." The one you shouldn't miss: "John Dies at the End," a Don "Phantasm" Coscarelli flick with visuals that'll make you wonder if you accidentally put acid on your popcorn.
Below you'll find nearly 40 films due to open over the next four months. Release dates are subject to change.
Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) is a morally ambiguous New York City mayor with an unfaithful wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). He pays an ex-cop (Mark Wahlberg) with skeletons in his own closet to find out who his wife's lover is, and soon Wahlberg realizes he's been duped into something much more sinister. Directed by Allen Hughes. ("Dead Presidents")
The Last Stand
This comedic action flick from "The Good, The Bad, and the Weird" director, Jee-woon Kim, stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a small town sheriff tasked with defending his tiny border town from an evil cartel boss. Doesn't sound like a problem for Arnie, really, until you learn his deputies include a loose canon (Luis Guzman), a girl (Jaimie Alexander), and a buffoon in pajama bottoms (Johnny Knoxville). Also stars Forest Whitaker.
Two little girls (Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse) who lived in a creepy cabin alone in the woods for at least five years are discovered, dirty and climbing the walls. Taken in by the government and subsequently sent to live with their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his special lady-friend (Jessica Chastain) the girls' recoveries seem within reach until the house fills with moths and flickering lights, and a ghost-mom shows up with wild hair and a penchant for hiding under the bed. I watched this preview in a theatre a month ago with a couple of friends and we found it enormously entertaining to whisper, "Mama!" to each other periodically. That may be the highlight of the experience.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (in 3D)
This flick was due out nearly a year ago. But Jeremy Renner is so hot right now...funny because his character is Hansel, and if you've seen "Zoolander," you'd know Hansel's been hot for years. Ahem. The premise is hilarious: Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) rise like phoenixes from their harrowing gingerbread house trauma and grow up to be badass witch-hunters. Their hunger for vengeance may finally be sated if they can take down a new witch (Famke Janssen) who's been snatching village kids at an alarming rate.
A dozen directors (including Elizabeth Banks, Peter Farrelly and Bob Odenkirk) lead scores of actors (including Hugh Jackman, Emma Stone, Gerard Butler, Kristen Bell, Naomi Watts, Anna Faris, Kate Winslet, Halle Berry, Liev Schreiber, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jason Sudeikis and Justin Long) in this film, which is comprised of a zillion subplots -- most of them appearing to be "blue" in nature.
Jason Statham plays a tough robber with a posh voice, fabulous style and a strict code of honor (which all sounds terrifically familiar) who's sold out by his crew, shot and left on the road for dead. His revenge plan lands him in Miami, where he teams up with another thief (Jennifer Lopez) who's already working with his old crew. Also stars Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte and Patti LuPone.
John Dies at the End (Limited Release)
Director Don Coscarelli is known for his "Phantasm" series of horror flicks and the cult film, "Bubba Ho-tep," which features an epic battle between Elvis, JFK and a mummy. Consider that your fair warning. In this movie, a couple of slack-jawed college students (Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes) must save Earth from a new street drug -- The Soy Sauce -- which sends its dopers into alternate dimensions and returns them not-so-human. The film's gonna be weird, it's gonna be gross, and it's gonna have a 6-foot tall monster made out of cold cuts. Count me in.
Bullet to the Head
Sylvester Stallone stars as Jimmy Bobo (really?!), a hitman whose daughter (Sarah Shahi) got snatched by a pack of really bad dudes. So he teams up with cop (Sung Kang) to take out the baddies. Even though the title nods toward gunfights exclusively, there are also explosions, dudes tossed from scaffolding what may be an epic axe fight with Jason Momoa.
Stand Up Guys
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin play former con-men, reunited after Walken picks Pacino up from his stint in the big house and they both break Arkin out of the retirement home. The three besties fall on their old ways, stealing a car, doing drugs and getting into trouble, but their "playfulness" is underscored by the price on Pacino's head for an old, unsettled score -- and Walken is the one who's been tasked with the assignment.
Until now, I thought the closest thing we had to a zom-rom-com (zombie romantic comedy) was Simon Pegg's fabulous "Shaun of the Dead." But this flick is the real deal. Our protagonist, a hot zombie named "R" (Nicholas Hoult) falls for and immediately saves the life of Julie (Teresa Palmer), the daughter of a powerful general (John Malkovich) hell-bent on eradicating the growing zombie problem. The star-crossed lovers are in some serious trouble. Directed by Jonathan Levine ( "50/50" ), who also adapted the screenplay from Isaac Marion's novel of the same name.
Jason Bateman plays a businessman (named Sandy) traveling the country in an attempt to track down the woman (Melissa McCarthy) who's stolen his identity. She doesn't turn out to be a sweet, little trickster, but rather a borderline nut who gets them both into even bigger trouble. Cue the hijinks.
Steven Soderbergh's latest is a twisty labyrinthine murder story located at the intersection of a sweet, young wife (Rooney Mara) who may or may not be wigged out on her anti-anxiety meds, her doting, charming husband (Channing Tatum) who may or may not still be involved in whatever sent him to prison in the first place, and her flabbergasted psychiatrist (Jude Law) who may or may not be obsessed with her.
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (Limited)
As Al Jourgensen of Ministry screams, "The mind is a terrible thing to taste." (I went through a punk/goth/thrash period in the early '90s.) Anyway, writer/director Roman Coppola was gonna take us through the breakdown of a graphic designer after his special lady breaks up with him. I know what you're thinking...you're thinking, "Winning." And that could very well be true, since this utterly insane romp stars Bill Murray -- one of Coppola's besties -- Jason Schwartzman and Charlie Sheen. Don't get confused though: Charles Swan was a buccaneer. Charlie Sheen's real name is Carlos Estevez. And Martin Sheen's real name is Ramon Antonio Gerardo Estevez. Crazy, right? Just like the movie.
Richard LaGravenese directed "P.S. I Love You," which was a hot mess. But he wrote "The Fisher King," which got him nominated for an Oscar. Both films made me cry. I suspect this one won't, unless it's from laughter. The story: a coven of witches living in the South battle to decide if the high schooler about to go "full witch" will end up on the side of evil or not. Stars Alice Englert, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum and Alden Ehrenreich.
A Good Day to Die Hard
John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Moscow to straighten out his son (Jai Courtney), but discovers his kid is a CIA agent trying to stop baddies from getting their hands on nuclear weapons. It looks like your standard action flick, plus Bruce Willis, which is a solid start. But slapping "Die Hard" onto a title of a film helmed by nobody involved in the earlier flicks doesn't a classic action flick make.
Oh golly. Here we have a Nicholas "The Notebook" Sparks novel sent to the big screen by 3-time Oscar nominated director, Lasse "Cider House Rules" Hallstrom. Julianne Hough stars as Katie Feldman, a pretty girl running from a mysterious past who settles in a tiny fishing village and becomes besties with the hot widower/single dad (Josh Duhamel) who runs the local market. But lo! Her past catches up, threatening their burgeoning love. I was going to tell you to pack Kleenex before going to the theatre, but I'm reading the book now and unless Hallstrom works some serious magic here, the only reason you'll cry is because you spent so much money to watch a seriously lame flick.
Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton chillax with their two sons in suburbia until crazy stuff begins happening at their house. And I'm not talking keg stands, I'm talking migrating birds crashing into the windows, mysterious brands appearing on their bodies, and what looks like an alien showing up in the dark hallway. Only J.K. Simmons can give them answers to what's happening...but they can't be saved. Or can they? Doo! Doo! DOOOOOO! Written and directed by Charles Scott Stewart, who made his name in visual effects. So at the very least, this flick might look awesome.
Stuntman Ric Roman Waugh took off his stuntman hat in 2001 and started writing and directing movies. This one stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (no, I will never stop calling him that) as a concerned father, trying to help his son's plea bargain prospects by joining and later ratting out a drug kingpin. He's caught between a ball-busting prosecutor (Susan Sarandon) and some seriously bad dudes (including Michael Kenneth Williams.) Also stars Benjamin Bratt, Barry Pepper and Harold Perrineau.
21 and Over
Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) is turning 21 on the eve of a big job interview his father (Francois Chau) has arranged for him. Jeff is prepared to do as his father asks until his two idiot besties (Miles Teller and Skylar Astin) show up unannounced and take him out. By "take him out," I meant lead him to frat house parties and bars with mechanical bulls, but because poor Jeff is nearly killed a few times, I suppose the other meaning works too. While the whole "stressed Asian guy shouldn't be partying because he has a job but can't help himself because his friend is so funny" feels like a direct ripoff of "Harold and Kumar," "21 and Over" looks like it might have a few new tricks up its sleeve.
Jack the Giant Slayer (in 3D)
Director Bryan Singer ("X-Men") helms this live action rendition of the "Jack and the Beanstalk" tale. In this version, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) isn't a geek trading a cow for beans -- instead, he's kind of a noble dude in love with an adventure-thirsty princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) who gets herself kidnapped by an evil human (Stanley Tucci) hell-bent on taking over her kingdom by leading a race of giants out of their banishment in the skies and back down to earth. Fee, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of an English-mun.
The Last Exorcism: Part II
This isn't "Harry Potter" or "Lord of the Rings" so I'm not sure how the filmmakers here got away with making a two-part finale. Anyhow, Nell Sweetzer escaped the evil forces possessing her in the first-last film, but in this last-last film, her attempts at rebuilding a life are usurped again by the same evil. Stars Ashley Bell and Andrew Sensenig.
As much love as this nation has for the amazing Tina Fey and the adorable Paul Rudd, there's something off in this romantic comedy about a college admissions officer (Fey) who gets a call from a hot teacher at an alternative school (Rudd), pushing for the entry of a kid (Nat Wolff) who turns out to be the kid she gave up for adoption. Maybe it's just too tidy.
Oz The Great and Powerful (in 3D)
Sam "The Evil Dead" Raimi adapts L. Frank Baum's novel about a stage magician (James Franco) who gets caught in a tornado, sent to a magical land and quickly finds himself embroiled in an epic battle between three sister-witches. (Like sister-wives, only more enchanting.) These three witches (Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis) each have ideas about how to use his powers, but none of them understand he's just a dude with access to smoke bombs. If the screenplay is half as amazing as the visuals, this film might be awesome.
Acclaimed writer/director Kimberly Peirce ("Boys Don't Cry" ) updates the 1976 horror film (adapted from a Stephen King novel) about a high schooler (Chloe Grace Moretz) who lives at home with her religion-obsessed mother (Julianne Moore) and uses her telekinetic powers to destroy her bullying peers.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Steve Carell stars as Burt Wonderstone, a garish magician who gleefully performs alongside his trusty wingman, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), until a new, shirtless magician (Jim Carrey) steals the limelight and the ticket sales. Sent to work at an old folks' home by his agent (James Gandolfini) Burt re-discovers his idol (Alan Arkin) and his passion for magic. Honestly, it's probably worth the price of entry just to see Carell in an enormous feathered and highlighted wig.
The Croods (in 3D)
A fearful caveman (Nicolas Cage) begrudgingly allows his cave family to escape into a new, lush world when their old one literally crumbles. Led through the mysterious land by a cave-hottie (Ryan Reynolds) who wears a live monkey for a belt, the family Crood learn things about themselves and others through a series of adventu...zzzzzz. Sorry, I feel asleep for a moment. Voices by Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke and Cloris Leachman.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (in 3D)
Rock-climbing terrorist-ninjas attack a base, presumably on the orders of the president (Jonathan Pryce.) But REALLY, it's Cobra Commander (Faran Tahir) who then blows up half of downtown London. Thankfully, the G.I. Joe team (Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Ray Stevenson, Adrianne Palicki, etc.) is on the case. Bonus: RZA plays "Blind Master." This is an interesting leap for director Jon M. Chu, whose last film was "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never."
With the "Twilight" series at an end, novelist Stephanie Meyers' latest tome, "The Host" hits the big screen. In a nutshell: parasitic aliens inhabit human bodies. One of them takes over a chick named Melanie (Saoirse Ronan). The "soul" and Melanie's consciousness battle it out, and because this is a Meyers story, the soul is in love with Ian (Jake Abel) and Melanie is in love with Jared (Max Irons) and there's lots of fighting and confusion over love. If I were Meyers' husband, all these love-triangle stories would have me worried. Also stars Diane Kruger and William Hurt.
Slacker short-order cook David (Patrick Huard) just knocked up his girlfriend (Julie LeBreton) and is excited about putting some order into his mess of a life. That enthusiasm comes to a screeching halt when he's hit with a lawsuit; between 1988 and 1990, David was a regular at a sperm bank under the alias "Starbuck," and now his 142 children are suing to find out who's their daddy. This subtitled French film, directed by Ken Scott, has been making the rounds at festivals around the world, winning awards in several categories.
The Place Beyond the Pines (Limited)
Ryan Gosling plays a stuntman who discovers a year after the fact that he fathered a child by his ex-girlfriend (Eva Mendes). In order to provide for them, he begins robbing banks and crosses paths with an ex-cop (Bradley Cooper) running for political office. Writer/director Derek Cianfrance, who previously directed Gosling in the highly acclaimed "Blue Valentine," is winning kudos again for "Pines" and could very well become an important American director.
A high-strung F.B.I. agent (Sandra Bullock) and a borderline insane Boston cop (Melissa McCarthy) are forced to partner up to take down a drug kingpin. Beer, Spanx-jokes and hijinx ensue. Directed by Paul "Bridesmaids" Feig.
Play ball! The story of famed Brooklyn Dodgers player Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) who became the first African-American to play major league baseball (and subsequently became a leader in the Civil Rights movement) hits the big screen this spring, under the helm of Oscar-winning writer/director Brian Helgeland ("Mystic River," "L.A. Confidential"). Also stars Harrison Ford as Robinson's champion, Branch Rickey.
Evil Dead (in 3D)
This classic Sam Raimi film gets a major overhaul, losing the camp and gaining gore. The story: a group of campers (Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci and Elizabeth Blackmore) find the Book of the Dead in an old cabin and unwittingly loose the demons hiding in the woods nearby. They chop and burn and hack themselves to bits, leaving only one to fight for his survival. Directed by Fede Alvarez, who co-wrote the updated screenplay with Diablo Cody ("Juno"). And no, it doesn't look like Bruce Campbell's gonna make a cameo.
Scary Movie 5
Before you get too excited, the fifth installment doesn't star Anna Faris. Instead, we get Ashley Tisdale as the bimbo blonde in this horror-film parody which mocks "Paranormal Activity," "Inception," "Black Swan" and Lindsay Lohan. Stars Charlie Sheen, Jerry O'Connell, Molly Shannon, Heather Locklear, Chris Elliott, Kate Walsh and yes, Lindsay Lohan.
Jack (Tom Cruise) is a drone repairmen sent to the abandoned Earth for two weeks to perform relatively benign tasks. Along with most of humanity, Jack believes that 60 years before, a battle with aliens nearly demolished the planet...but when he crosses paths with monsters, humans trapped in pods and Morgan Freeman wearing an eyepatch, he begins to question the story.
The Big Wedding
This film was set to release last October, and while that's typically a sign of trouble, the premise and key actors are still tempting...many years ago, Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton adopted a little boy (Ben Barnes) so their daughter (Katherine Heigl) would have a sibling. Years later, De Niro has shacked up with Keaton's wild ex-best friend, Susan Sarandon. As their son's wedding to Amanda Seyfried approaches, the divorced couple must pretend to still be married for the benefit of the birth mother (Patricia Rae), a deeply religious woman. Also stars Robin Williams as Father Monaghan.
Pain & Gain
With April coming to a close and "Iron Man 3" around the corner, whet your summer blockbuster whistle with this Michael Bay flick based on a true story about three bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Anthony Mackie) sick of eking out an existence in a gym, wearing sweatpants 24-7, and paying their rent late. (Preach! Uh, sorta.) So they kidnap a slimy rich guy (Tony Shalhoub), take him for all he's worth (which is a lot), and play around in speedboats and new houses until Rich Guy sends a mean S.O.B. (Ed Harris) after them.
And now it's time for "Iron Man 3."