In February, Black Panther proved that Disney/Marvel still really know what they’re doing, while The Cloverfield Paradox and Mute proved that Netflix is still completely clueless when it comes to original movies. There goes all hope for Scorsese’s The Irishman. But that’s still many months away. For now, we have a jam-packed March.
MARCH 2, 2017
Red Sparrow v. Death Wish
Red Sparrow – They finally made that Black Widow movie, said every film commentator ever. Director Francis Lawrence re-teams with his Hunger Games ingenue Jennifer Lawrence to give us, well the Black Widow movie. With The Americans and even Atomic Blonde, the Russian spy genre has some renewed life running through its veins, but Sparrow looks far more generic than those two. Early reviews are barely positive with a 54%, 5.7 average rating, and only a very minor buzz surrounding its release. Will this be the franchise to turn around Jennifer Lawrence’s seemingly dwindling popularity? Probably not.
Death Wish – What is the point of a remake? The original novel by Brian Garfield, about a pacifist who becomes a vigilante after losing his family, is more a dramatic character piece of a man pushed to the edge, as well as a consideration of the ethics of vigilantism. The 1974 movie starring Charles Bronson isn’t quite as subtle or dramatic, but those elements are still there, to some extent. Yet instead of utilizing the strengths of the novel or the original movie, this adaptation seems closer to a straight-to-Netflix shoot-em-up vigilante movie. Considering that it’s starring Bruce Willis at his most annoyingly Bruce Willis (look at his recent filmography, he’s been pretty much irrelevant since Looper) and that it’s directed by Hostel‘s Eli Roth (whose last film was 2013’s constantly delayed The Green Inferno) and that it doesn’t have any reviews the Thursday afternoon before release doesn’t help. What also doesn’t help? How the over-the-top action from the trailers makes this look closer to the infamous Death Wish 3 than the original.
MARCH 9, 2017
A Wrinkle In Time v. The Strangers: Prey at Night v. The Hurricane Heist v. Gringo v. Thoroughbreds v. Goldstone v. Death of Stalin
A Wrinkle In Time – Selma director Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s classic children’s novel has become one of the most buzzed about movies of the season. The cast includes Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and newcomer Storm Reid. While live action children’s movies rarely do as well as their animated counterpart, the iconic status of the story combined with the media blitz might make this a hit.
The Strangers: Prey at Night – This month’s big horror movie, The Strangers: Prey at Night is the first sequel to 2008’s The Strangers. This time, masked ne’er-do-wells torment Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks and The Ring‘s Martin Henderson instead of The Leftover‘s Liv Tyler and Felicity‘s Scott Speedman. That it took so long for The Strangers to get a sequel makes one wonder whether this is a re-imagining, reboot, or the start of a new “Strangers” anthology series, especially now that The Cloverfield Paradox has sullied that brand.
The Hurricane Heist – Since kicking off The Fast and the Furious franchise back in 2001, director Rob Cohen’s career has not been that impressive. He’s the man behind such failed blockbusters as Stealth, the first two XXX movies, and the Jennifer Lopez Lifetime reject, The Boy Next Door. He’s back with a movie about bank robbers who find themselves trapped because of a hurricane and the Treasury Agent/meteorologist combo (played by not-quite-movie-stars Maggie Grace and Toby Kebbell) that threaten to bring them down. Potential to be the best bad movie of the year.
Gringo – Stunt man Nash Edgerton goes behind the camera as the director of Gringo. A high quality cast including Joel Edgerton (his brother), Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, and David Oyelowo highlight this dark crime comedy about drug dealers. The darkly comic crime genre never really regained the heights of popularity that it had in the post-Tarantino mid-1990s, but there’s always potential for a fun romp (e.g. last year’s underrated Freefire).
Thoroughbreds – Olivia Cooke (to be seen later this month in Ready Player One) and Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch) star in this revenge tale that earned some positive buzz during last year’s award circuit. The two play upper class teenagers who team up with an older scumbag (Anton Yelchin in one of last roles) to commit a murder in ritzy suburbia.
Goldstone – This Australian import centers around the investigation of missing persons in a mining town. Many of the generally positive reviews comment on this thriller’s social consciousness, which might make it this year’s Wind River. That’s not a bad comparison at all considering how that Native American tale was by far one of 2017’s best movies.
Death of Stalin – Arnando Iannucci, the comedic genius behind The Thick of It and Veep, writes and directs this dark comedy about what happened immediately following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. Even without the fantastic reviews (97%, 8.3/10 rating on Rotten Tomatoes), Iannucci has such a unique and clever voice, Stalin easily ranks among this month’s highlights.
MARCH 16, 2017
Tomb Raider v. Love, Simon v. 7 Days in Entebbe v. Journey’s End
Tomb Raider – Time for another round of “let’s try to make a video game movie work!” Academy Award-winner Alicia Vikander tries to do what her husband Michael Fassbender couldn’t two years ago with Assassin’s Creed. Tomb Raider looks like a generic action-adventurer, and that’s probably the best anyone can say about it and the best it can hope to be. Will the return of Lara “She’s a Survivor” Croft be the film that turns around the aspiring genre’s fortunes? Well, there’s always Rampage next month.
Love, Simon – Arrow-verse mastermind Greg Berlanti directs this feature about the coming of age (and coming out) of a gay seventeen-year-old (played by Nick Robinson). Despite the recent rash of coming of age stories, it’s still an angle not often seen, especially in major releases. Early reviews are quite good as well.
7 Days in Entebbe – Despite a respectable cast with Rosamund Pike and Daniel Brühl, and an occasionally decent director with José Padilha (Narcos … but also the Robocop remake), this take on the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight has gotten mostly really negative reviews.
Journey’s End – World War I is often quality fodder for movies, and this battle-drenched film is hitting theaters with terrific reviews (97%, 7.5/10). A decent cast too as Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, Paul Bettany, and Toby Jones must navigate the French trenches. Not to be confused with Parade’s End, the 2012 WWI HBO miniseries with Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall.
MARCH 23, 2017
Pacific Rim Uprising v. Isle of Dogs v. Unsane v. I Kill Giants
Pacific Rim Uprising – Not the biggest hit when it was initially released, Pacific Rim earned enough globally for a sequel to be commissioned. Guillermo del Toro gives up the director’s chair for this incarnation, however, and gives it to Steven S. DeKnight, former showrunner of Netflix’s Daredevil. The first was a genuinely fun surprise, and this, starring Star Wars’ John Boyega instead of King Arthur‘s Charlie Hunnam, seems like more of the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but without Del Toro’s panache, could it still be more than another CGI monsters battle movie?
Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson returns to the animation realm for the first time since the phenomenal The Fantastic Mr. Fox – possibly the best movie for a filmmaker with one of the greatest filmographies of the past two decades. Isle of Dogs is also probably the best looking release of March, if not the entire first half of the year. Response has been fantastic, as Anderson won the Silver Bear for Best Director for this at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival.
Unsane – Steven Soderbergh follows up last year’s underseen Logan Lucky with this horror movie about a woman trapped in a mental institution. It might look like a conventional thriller, but Soderbergh is adept at finding unique ways to explore a conventional genre and a true appreciation for effective shlock.
Sherlock Gnomes – Thankfully, there are a lot of kids’ movies this month.
I Kill Giants – Based on a popular graphic novel, I Kill Giants is about a young girl who deals with her personal issues by fighting actual monsters, which may or may not be real. The lack of promotions for this movie makes one question the studio’s faith in it. Or maybe they’re planning to postpone it to get away from A Wrinkle In Time and Isle of Dogs. Or maybe it’s just bad so they’re burying it.
MARCH 30, 2017
Ready Player One v. Acrimony v. God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness v. Gemini
Ready Player One – Perfectly adequate drama auteur Steven Spielberg tries once again for the mass friendly hit with Ready Player One. This sci-fi fantasy about an Easter Egg hunt in a virtual world is based on Ernest Cline’s best-seller, which proves that all that matters is nostalgia and references. (Solo: A Star Wars Story coming this May!)
Acrimony – Madea mastermind Tyler Perry returns to the seedy side of moralistic dramas (see also: Temptations: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor) with Acrimony. Taraji P. Henson, just off of Proud Mary, once again plays a woman out for revenge. Except this time, it’s against her philandering husband.
God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness – The God’s Not Dead series produces the most unintentionally entertaining faith-based films in the entire genre. This third installment features recurring cast member David A.R. White (whose character was arrested for refusing to turn his sermons into the police at the end of the second one) dealing with what happens after his church is destroyed. And probably that entire arrest thing.
Gemini – Film distributor Neon had a fantastic year in 2017 with Ingrid Goes West, I, Tonya, and Colossal, so Gemini has a lot to live up to. Starring Lola Kirke of Mozart in the Jungle and Zoe Kravitz of Mad Max: Fury Road, Rough Night, and Fantastic Beasts, Gemini involves a murder mystery centered around the relationship between a celebrity and her assistant. Early reviews make it sound like another stand out.
So that’s March. It is quite the impressive month with big movies, small movies, franchises, and original properties throughout. Isle of Dogs is my top pick, but it seems to be one of the overall better months in recent years. As for next month? Nothing else matters now that Avengers: Infinity War is coming out a week earlier (April 27).