If one of your New Year's resolutions was to watch more movies, grab yer Sharpie, pal. (If you'd wanted to talk quinoa, pilates, or not smoking in the house with all the windows closed while passed out on a pizza box as "Seven Samurai" blares in the background, you'd be in the wrong place, friend.)
Now, the first three months of the year are always populated with films which can be divided into two categories: squishy and not-squishy. Under "Squishy," we have romantic films and horror flicks — two sides of the same coin, the coin Hollywood hands us at this time every year because of that 24-hour thing that induces equally powerful, polar emotions: Valentine's Day. You must either love horror or love rom-coms; apparently we are not allowed to love both.
Should you be interested in fighting the system and living your life as if Feb. 14 doesn't exist, then you're in luck, because this is also a decent time to see some nifty thrillers that have nothing to do with love, or not-love.
Here, for your perusal, are all the movies hitting our theatres this spring that weren't super foreign and only going to be shown in somebody's basement in Denver for a single night. Release dates are subject to change.
Big Bad Wolves
After sweeping the Israeli Film Academy Awards and getting a thumbs up from Quentin Tarantino, this Israeli crime thriller hits limited U.S. theatres today. A father seeks vengeance for his daughter, the most recent victim in a series of brutal killings. He teams up with a police officer who thinks due process can suck it, and the pair set out to capture the religious studies teacher/suspect, released after a paperwork blunder. The cinematography looks more than inspired; the story twisted and darkly funny.
Ever seen "Rosemary's Baby"? This flick follows a similar premise: after realizing a night of their honeymoon is lost to memory, a newlywed couple (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller) return home, initially writing off the bride's weird behavior as pregnancy nerves. (A reasonable, if not entirely wise observation to share with a woman carrying any child, let alone the son of the Devil.) Eli Roth loved this film, Those of You Who Love Eli Roth.
A sweet, funny, newly-single, middle-aged woman (Paulina Garcia) finds her sea legs again and begins dating. And takes up paintball. And bungee jumping. And clubbing like a maniac. The rest of that is probably fine, but we all know what nights at the club lead to: hangovers, and finding a retired naval officer in your bed. Ai-yi-yi. "Gloria" is currently scooping up critics' love and film festivals' prizes. This might be a great film to take your auntie to. Uh, to which to take your auntie? Look! A new Jack Ryan movie!
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Chris Pine is the next Jack Ryan — a role previously snagged by Alec Baldwin in "Hunt for Red October," Harrison Ford in "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger," and Ben Affleck in "Sum of All Fears." Created by novelist Tom Clancy, Ryan is a marine turned professor turned CIA-operative. In this iteration, Pine-Ryan is sent to Russia to defuse a plot to unravel the U.S. economy. Also, his girlfriend (Keira Knightley) might be a spy, and Kenneth Branagh (who also directs) gets to speak in a Russian accent.
Ice-Cube stars as an overbearing cop; Kevin Hart plays his future brother-in-law, a loud-mouth high school security guard desperate to prove he's worthy of Cube's sister (Tika Sumpter.) How's he gonna do that? He's gonna ride around in Cube's black and white (that's slang for "police car," cutefaces) all over Atlanta. No, there won't be a helicopter looking for a murder but at two in the morning, they might get the Fatburger. If they're lucky, they'll see the lights of the Goodyear blimp. "Barbershop" director, Tim Story, directs.
The Nut Job
A badly behaved squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett), is sent on a mission to rob Maury's Nut Store and save all the squirrels, and racoons, and mice, and birds, and any other kind of animal that might presumably live in a park and enjoy eating nuts.
AWOL frogman-style soldier Henry (Tom Everett Scott) happily hides just north of the Canadian border, posing as a forest ranger until an old comrade, Clay, (Orlando Jones) finds him. Clay's just about got Henry in the perfect spot to shoot him dead when the two are discovered by a drug cartel, run by a Lucy Ricardo-coiffed Jean-Claude Van Damme. No, Van Damme does NOT show them his cool splits move. He's totally focused on retrieving a missing heroin shipment, but those two pesky kids keep getting in the way. In other news, actress Erin Steffey is only given the character name, "Girlfriend," leading me to suspect this film will not pass the Bechdel Test.
Desperate to get away from her drug-addled, hot mess of a mother (an unrecognizable Rosario Dawson) and the horrifying street life she was born into, Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) tracks down her missing father (Brendan Fraser) in a plea to make a fresh start for herself. Based on a true story and written and directed by Ron Krauss, this film appears to be a solid leap towards straight drama for Hudgens and a guarantee sob-fest for the audience. Pack the Kleenex.
Unless seeing Aaron Eckhart shirtless brings tears to your eyes, as it does for people whose names start with "J" and end in "Eaninefritz," it's probably safe to leave the Kleenex behind for this one. Eckhart plays the iconic creation of Dr. Frankenstein (dubbed Adam, which makes the title of the film a little confusing.) Anyhoo, Adam Frankenstein is hesitant to become involved in one of those centuries-long battles we mortals never see coming between supernatural characters. (This time, demons and gargoyles.) He has two big ole' hand-axes for chopping — and I'm going out on a limb here and assuming that Adam Frankenstein is important to both sides since his hand-axes are probably magical and can make more monsters like himself. I might just be making shit up now though. In other news, the graphic novel "I, Frankenstein" came after Kevin Grevioux (who wrote, directed and acted in the flick) penned the screenplay. So there's a little flippy-flop for ya.
That Awkward Moment
R, Romantic Comedy
First time writer-director Tom Gormican shows us his version of the ickily uncomfortable moment every relationship hits when it stops being fluffy fun and starts getting serious. I'm not sure he's talking about romantic relationships, however; this looks more like the disagreeable spot we find ourselves in when some of our friends are dating while others are not. Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller are three super BFFs who agree to stay single when Mikey (Jordan) gets dumped. That doesn't last when Jason (Efron) meets Ellie (Imogen Poots) and Daniel (Teller) starts messing around with Chelsey (Mackenzie Davis.) Awkward? Probably. The question is whether this'll be funny-awkward or can-I-watch-something-else-before-my-eyes-start-bleeding-awkward.
The LEGO Movie
The best LEGO movie to date is the stop-motion depiction of Eddie Izzard's epic rant "Cake or Death," clocking in at under two minutes and starring a LEGO Darth Vader. Seriously, look it up. Then we have this animated flick from "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and featuring voice work by Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Channing Tatum, Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Will Arnett and a zillion other recognizable actors. It follows a little LEGO dude, Emmet, tasked with saving the world from a baddie who wants to glue everything together. Colorful shots, zippy dialogue, and a straight-forward plotline may spell critical and box-office success, but my heart will never stop asking, "Cake or death?"
The Monuments Men
George Clooney co-wrote the screenplay, and directs and stars in this flick about a group of non-soldiers tasked with locating and protecting more than 5 million pieces of artwork stolen by the Nazis in the midst of WWII. Also stars Bill Murray, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban. Not to be missed, if you ask me. Which you did by lending me your eyes, friends and countrymen.
Swede Joel Kinnaman takes over Peter Weller's iconic role in this remake of the classic 1987 sci-fi flick about a mortally-wounded Detroit police officer rescued and rebuilt into a crime-destroying machine. (I also tried this by trying to get my cat to ride a Roomba. Crime was not destroyed but many other things were.) Jose Padilha directs, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish and Jackie Earle Haley star. I'm willing to bet RoboCop purists will show up, if only to sneer at inaccuracies. Haters gonna hate.
About Last Night
Nothing makes Valentine's Day more miserable than paying $12 to sit alone in a theater and watch a bunch of pretty people (Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant, Paula Patton, Adam Rodriguez, etc.) hooking up, breaking up over ridiculous shit, and then getting back together after talking about ALL the feelings. Your only hope: Kevin Hart is everywhere right now, and he may temper the saccharine storyline with quick-witted snarkiness.
Beautiful rich girl Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) falls for handsome, blue collar badboy, David Axelrod (Alex Pettyfer.) But her dad (Bruce Greenwood) puts his slippered foot down and basically says, "No, Jade Butterfield, you can't date David Axelrod. You are a beautiful rich girl and he is a handsome, blue collar bad boy." Expect makeout scenes in the back of a pickup truck, shouting on the brick steps of the Butterfield home, and swelling emo music during long stares near perfectly-coiffed topiary. Based on the character names (Jade Butterfield?! David Axelrod?!) and the simpering story about the repercussions of tampering with teen hormones, the screenplay was probably written by a 15 year-old girl...let's check. Nope. Shana Feste is 37.
Despite the posters you'll see in your local theater, this is not a comedy about mean, high-school vampire girls. It's a romantic movie about mean, high-school vampire girls. The premise: half-human/half-vampires charged with protecting nice, full-blooded vampires from mean, full-blooded ones get attacked by the mean ones, and it all takes place at their posh private school. Lordamercy, it sounds like a bad film, and yet, it's helmed by "Mean Girls" director, Mark Waters, and based on the supremely popular young adult, paranormal romance novels by Richelle Mead so it might not suck (#isaidsuckinavampiremoviepreivew). Stars Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry and Danila Kozlovsky.
A magical horse, a turn-of-the century burglar (Colin Farrell), an enchanted girl dying of consumption (Jessica Brown Findlay), and a gangster (Russell Crowe) cross paths in Akiva Goldsman's adapation of Mark Helprin's beloved 1983 novel. Also stars Jennifer Connelly and Will Smith. Given that Goldsman (and his partner, Sylvia Nasar) won an Oscar for the screenplay of "A Beautiful Mind," Helprin's novel is is probably in good hands, ya booknerds.
3 Days to Kill
Kevin Costner plays a terminally-ill former secret agent forced out of retirement by his sexy handler (Amber Heard.) She'll give him a potentially life-saving, experimental serum, but only if he takes out a couple of irritants, and by "takes out," I mean assassinate and by a "couple of irritants," I mean two-plus dudes his handler doesn't like. Subplot: reconnect with his teen daughter (Hailee Steinfeld.) The slick-yet-splashy action flick probably suits Costner, but I can't help but wonder if this isn't just a poor man's "Taken."
In 1860s Paris, Terese Raquin (Elizabeth Olsen) is married off to her cold fish of a cousin (Tom Felton) but soon falls desperately in lust for sexy painter Laurent LeClaire (Oscar Isaac.) The two conspire to kill her husband, but find the stifling gaze of her mother-in-law (Jessica Lange) a heavier burden than personal guilt or lawful punishment. I hear those things can be intense. Directed by Charlie Stratton and based on the play by Neal Bell.
Spoiler Alert! Pompeii doesn't survive Mt. Vesuvius' volcanic eruption. But who cares of liquid-hot magma when love is on the line? Not "Sixpack Abs" Milo (Kit Harrington), a gladiator desperate to save his girlfriend, Cassia (Emily Browning), from both the horrible Roman Senator (Keifer Sutherland) she's engaged to and the aforementioned lava. Directed by Paul "Alien vs. Predator" Anderson, not Paul Thomas "There Will Be Blood" Anderson.
The Wind Rises
If you're a manga fan, you'll be both thrilled Academy Award-winning director, Hayao Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises" hits screens in February, and unexcited by this news because it's probably old news. For the rest of you: this Golden Globe-nominated film tracks the life of Jiro Horikoshi, who carried his boyhood love of flight into adulthood, eventually designing the Mitsubishi A5M planes used in WWII.
Liam Neeson is a federal air marshall who hates flying. (Hold onta yer hats, kids, we're just gettin' started!) While over the Atlantic Ocean, a terrorist announces he's going to kill someone on the plane every 20 minutes if $150,000,000 isn't sent to a bank account, quick-style. Then we discover there's a bomb on board. And — wait for it, wait for it — Neeson's being framed for the whole thing. It's Liam Neeson against Everyone on the Plane, a feeling many of us understand having flown during the holiday season. Also stars Julianne Moore and Michelle Dockery.
Son of God
Director Christopher Spencer clearly likes to explore disparate topics: his previous work includes "The Human Body," "Animal Passions," "Space Race," "Stonehenge Decoded," and a few episodes of "I Shouldn't Be Alive." Following the commercial success of television mini-series "The Bible" (also starring Diogo Morgado as Jesus), Spencer digs into the story of Jesus. I'm guessing next he may do a documentary on Amazonian Pokemon rules.
Welcome to Yesterday
After a high school kid (Jonny Weston) finds his dad's old camera, and watches his dad's old footage of the kid's seventh birthday, he goes into his dad's old garage and discovers a project his old dad was working on: a time machine. (Hey, don't blame me; the kid spends a lot of time talking about his dad's old stuff.) He and his punk friends first use the machine for pranks, then for selfish things like impressing girls, and then because this is a time machine movie with teenagers, they jack up history and then jack it up more trying to fix it. It's a Michael Bay film, so expect an inordinate number of explosions.
300: Rise of an Empire
Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), the shiny, sinewy, nose-ringed giant from "300," joins forces with Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) to take down Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), the widow Artemisia (Eva Green), and all of Greece. Zack Snyder, who directed the original "300," left the directing to relative unknown Noam Murro, and instead shares screenwriting credit with Kurt Johnstad and Frank Miller, whose graphic novel, "Xerxes," served as the source material here. I don't have high hopes, but I didn't like the first movie either.
Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) is a celebrated concert pianist poised to make a comeback but wracked with sweaty, shaky stage fright; the man looks positively sick as he takes his seat. His panic begins to subside as he starts to play, but OH NO! someone's written death threats on his music sheet in red Sharpie; one wrong note and he's dead. Sure, the baddie (John Cusack) in this very promising thriller is a psychopath, but he's also clearly a patron of the arts.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Young Sherman (voiced by Max Charles) finds his old dog's time machine, and uses it for selfish things like impressing a girl. And then because this is a time machine movie with teenagers kids and dogs, they jack up history and then jack it up more trying to fix it. This is not a Michael Bay film.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Whether or not you love his insulated, colorful worlds packed with funky, neurotic characters, look "auteur" up in the dictionary and you'll find Wes Anderson. His latest flick, about a hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes), his trusty sidekick/lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori) and their connection to a stolen Renaissance painting, features several recurring Anderson actors (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman) and several newcomers (Saoirse Ronan, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson.) The audience will be featuring me.
I'll be sure to bring my notebook in case they teach us some new ones! Ahem. Jason Bateman plays a one-time spelling bee loser out to snatch the title from a child's hand ... by finding a loophole and competing as a grown man. Incidentally, this is Bateman's first stab at directing.
Grace of Monaco
Directed by Olivier Dahan ("La Vie en Rose"), "Grace of Monaco" focuses on a short time period in the life of Princess Grace, when her husband, Prince Ranier III (Tim Roth), and Charles De Gaulle (Andre Penvern) were at odds in the early 1960s. While her family disputes the historical accuracy of the film, Nicole Kidman (who plays Grace) has stated it's more of a character study than a biopic. Also stars Derek Jacobi, Frank Langella, Parker Posey and Milo Ventimiglia.
Need for Speed
Have we already moved past meth as this country's favorite drug? Oh, wait, this is about racing cars. Aaron Paul plays an ex-con out for revenge against his former racing partner who set him up for the death of his buddy, Pete (Harrison Gilbertson.) How revenge is accomplished by illegally racing across the country is beyond me, but then again, this is based on a video game and I stopped playing those after "Pitfall II."
Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club
I know what you're thinking and the answer is no. No, Tyler Perry does not dress up as one of the single moms (Nia Long, Amy Smart, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Zulay Henao, Cocoa Brown.) Because their bratty kids graffiti something, the moms are forced to co-chair a fundraiser, which leads to lots of empty wine bottles and dates with men in the neighborhood. That also doesn't make sense but I don't think this flick is based on a video game. Sounds more like a premise for a porno.
Man, I loved "Veronica Mars." We used to be friends. A long time ago. Obviously, so did a lot of other folks, since the Kickstarter campaign to get the film going was 91,585 backers strong. Kristen Bell returns as the plucky home-detective, who unwillingly returns to the little town of Neptune when her ex-boyfriend, Logan (Jason Dohring) is accused of murder. Again. Also stars Tina Majorino, Jerry O'Connell, James Franco, Krysten Ritter, and Justin Long.
Craig (Pat Healy) is having a bad day; his family is broke, there's a fresh eviction notice on his front door, and he's just been let go at work. Cue commiseration beers with Vince (Ethan Embry.) At the bar, they meet Colin (David Koechner) and his wife (Sara Paxton) who've decided to celebrate her birthday by paying Craig and Vince to do progressively dangerous things: slamming a shot for $50 quickly devolves into chopping a pinky finger off for $15,000. The dark comedy, directed by E.L. Katz and written by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, has gotten quite a lot of buzz.
This highly-anticipated adaptation of Veronica Roth's young adult novel takes place in a dystopian Chicago, where teens undergo personality tests when they hit 16. Falling into one of five categories is easy; falling squarely into three of the five is a problem. One so-called "Divergent" is Beatrice (Shailene Woodley), who attempts to hide her freakish irregularity by joining the Dauntless group, which isn't a very brave thing to do, now that I think of it. Also stars Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Maggie Q and Ashley Judd.
Muppets Most Wanted
James Bobin, who directed the 2011 reboot, reunites with our favorite cheeky puppet gang and "Flight of the Conchords," and adding Tina Fey, Tom Hiddleston, Salma Hayek, Christoph Waltz, Ricky Gervais, Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo. I'm excited to see Kermit in the clink.
A Haunted House 2
Marlon Wayans returns as Malcolm, the guy who exorcised his girlfriend's demons in the previous film. A year later, Malcolm's hopes for a fresh start in a new house are ruined when he discovers paranormal baddies have followed him.
Directed by Diego Luna, this biopic tracks the rise of Cesar Chavez, an American civil rights icon who struggled to improve the lives of farm workers. Chavez worked full-time in the fields from a very young age until he helped organize the Community Service Organization at 25 and became nationally-known in the '70s. Stars Michael Pena in the title role; co-starring Rosario Dawson, John Malkovich and America Ferrera.
Darren Aronofsky ("Requiem for a Dream," "Black Swan," "The Fountain") directs, and Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly star as the folks God commanded to build a big ole' boat to toss the animals into. I can't get my head around it — will it be a Charlton Heston-style biblical story, or a psychedelic trip guided by a thundering voice from the sky? Either way, count me and my hash brownies in.