March 5, 2014

Spring forward: A flood of good movies can be found this season

There’s really no off-season in Hollywood. Contrary to popular belief, the industry doesn’t close shop during that stretch between the end of the Oscar ceremonies and the beginning of the summer blockbusters. Plenty of movies get cranked out: originals, sequels, prequels, reimaginings. Here’s a roster of what’s fashionable in the spring collection.

There’s really no off-season in Hollywood.

Contrary to popular belief, the industry doesn’t close shop during that stretch between the end of the Oscar ceremonies and the beginning of the summer blockbusters. Plenty of movies get cranked out: originals, sequels, prequels, reimaginings.

Here’s a roster of what’s fashionable in the spring collection.


“Mr. Peabody Sherman”:

Snoopy is not the smartest cartoon beagle in the world. Fans of the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” TV series recognize that honor goes to Mr. Peabody, star of the “Peabody’s Improbable History” segment of the beloved 1960s show. Finally, he and adopted boy Sherman get their own big-screen adventure, which focuses on their travels via the WABAC time machine.

“300: Rise of an Empire”:

Gerard Butler turned down the invitation to be in this sequel to the 2006 blockbuster — shrewd, considering his character died in the first one. Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Xerxes” provides the setup for this more naval tale of a Greek general (Sullivan Stapleton) who repels a Persian invasion. Zack Snyder co-wrote the screenplay but passed on directing duties this go-round to instead tackle 2016’s “Batman vs. Superman.”

March 14

“Need for Speed”:

The first video game adaptation to hit theaters this year arrives 20 years after the EA game it was based on debuted. “Need for Speed” stars Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”) as a recently released convict who joins a cross-country race to exact revenge on the man who framed him.

“Veronica Mars”:

While Kristen Bell has effortlessly jumped to movies such as “Frozen” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” she hasn’t forgotten the 2004-2007 TV series where she made her name. Now “Marshmallows” (nicknames of the show’s fans) can delight in seeing the former teen detective return to the town of Neptune for her high school reunion and to help solve a murder. The production set all kinds of records on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, with supporters helping to raise a huge chunk of its $6 million budget.

March 21

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”:

Eccentric filmmaker Wes Anderson returns to Quirkyville with a tale involving a concierge (Ralph Fiennes) and his new lobby boy (Tony Revolori) at a pre-WWII European hotel. In addition to an Oscar-fueled cast that includes Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and Jude Law, this marks the “Moonrise Kingdom” director’s seventh collaboration with actor Bill Murray.

“Muppets Most Wanted”:

The 2011 “Muppets” reboot proved to be the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational success fans of the Emmy-winning TV show could have hoped for. The sequel looks equally promising, incorporating Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell into a plot involving a European tour, jewel heist and Kermit the Frog look-alike thief.


Those enamored with the young adult section of bookstores should be first in line for the initial Veronica Roth novel to hit multiplexes. Shailene Wood- ley (“The Spectacular Now”) stars as Tris in the latest dystopian teen franchise. Here, society is rigidly divided into five distinct personality factions, and straying from one can be punishable by death.

March 28


The concept looks like the kind of bloated historical epic that made Cecil B. DeMille a household name. But the name Darren Aronofsky alters artistic expectations. The “Black Swan” director promises a movie about “survivor’s guilt,” with Russell Crowe as the titular character and Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman and Anthony Hopkins rounding out the cast.


Filmmaker David Ayer concocts an action thriller involving an elite DEA team, a drug cartel and a missing $10 million. Oh, and the squad is led by Arnold Schwarzenegger! Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard and Mireille Enos co-star. Similar to Ayer’s previous “End of Watch,” the message of the film seems to be, “Don’t mess with a drug cartel.”

April 4

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”:

Even though Iron Man and Thor beat Marvel’s most veteran character to a post-“Avengers” solo project, “The Winter Soldier” is generating buzz for its deliberate lack of CGI instituted by filmmaking duo the Russo Brothers (TV’s “Arrested Development”). The sequel introduces several iconic comic book characters to the big screen, including Anthony Mackie as the Falcon.

“Island of Lemurs: Madagascar”:

The voices of Ben Stiller and Chris Rock will not be on display in “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar.” Instead, Oscar winner Morgan Freeman narrates this IMAX documentary about the outrageously adorable primates that populate the biodiverse island country.

April 11

“Draft Day”:

Kevin Costner in a sports movie? After proving his skill at baseball and golf, the star moves to the gridiron with a tale about an NFL GM attempting to land the No. 1 draft pick. Episodes of ESPN’s “30 for 30” have proven this subject matter is rife with intrigue. Costner originally was scripted to work for the Buffalo Bills, but the studio switched it to the Cleveland Browns because production costs are cheaper in Ohio.

“St. Vincent De Van Nuys”:

Bill Murray is turning up everywhere lately: “Monuments Men,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” He also headlines the super-secretive “St. Vincent De Van Nuys,” playing a misanthropic war vet of the same name who becomes a mentor to a boy whose parents just divorced. Also joining the fun is Naomi Watts as a pregnant Russian prostitute.

“Rio 2”:

“It’s on in the Amazon,” the poster boasts. Nervous macaw Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and their kids leave the comfort of the Wonderful City for the more perilous indigenous forest. Andy Garcia, Bruno Mars and Kristin Chenoweth are among the new feathered friends found in this colorful animated adventure.

April 16

“Heaven Is for Real”:

The best-selling Christian book by pastor Todd Burpo finds Greg Kinnear playing the author. The project documents Burpo’s experiences after his son (Connor Corum) underwent emergency surgery and began describing encounters in heaven with people he couldn’t have known about. “Braveheart” writer Randall Wallace directs.

April 17


Johnny Depp stars as a terminally ill scientist — and target of anti-technology extremists — who downloads himself into a computer, granting him vast power. Think Max Headroom meets Dr. Manhattan. “Transcendence” marks the directing debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister (”The Dark Knight” trilogy), an anti-tech advocate himself. He insisted on shooting with 35mm film stock and bypassing all digital camera processes.

April 18


The Disneynature company (of “African Cats” and “Wings of Life” fame) is back with a new set of fascinating subjects: a family of grizzly bears that resides off the majestic coast of Alaska. Bear-like actor John C. Reilly (“Wreck-It Ralph”) narrates.

“A Haunted House 2”:

Apparently, there was “A Haunted House” released last year — and the comedy went on to gross $40 million on a $2 million budget. Not unexpected that a sequel got cranked out faster than the next “Paranormal Activity” sight gag. Marlon Wayans returns with a new girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) and a new set of supernatural incidents plaguing his life. Expect “The Conjuring” to heavily factor into this second story.

April 25

“The Quiet Ones”:

Speaking of “The Conjuring” “The Quiet Ones” is the first film released to take advantage of the template established by last year’s $137 million-grossing horror hit. It’s also set in the early-’70s and features an “inspired by actual events” tag. Jared Harris (“Pompeii”) portrays a university professor researching the strange events that follow a young girl (Olivia Cooke).

“The Other Woman”:

A mistress (Cameron Diaz) and wife (Leslie Mann) find out their man (“Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is cheating on both of them with a younger woman (Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton). Together they conspire to take revenge on the philandering cad. Nick Cassavetes (“The Notebook”) directs. And Nicki Minaj stars as Diaz’s sassy best friend.

No KC date scheduled

“Dom Hemingway”: Jude Law packed on 30 pounds (and mutton chops) to portray the Dom Hemingway of the title, a profane cockney safe-cracker who returns from prison after a dozen years to collect on the money owed for keeping his mouth shut. Picture “Sexy Beast” meets “The Limey.”

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