Thank you Mr. Pool! Up until the ridiculously unprecedented success of Deadpool, it seemed that this summer (arguably the biggest summer of all time – and not the good type like 1982, the bad type where every week a studio needs to bring out their biggest and loudest. These Preview articles are going to get annoyingly long and even more redundant than they are now.) was going to be a battle exclusively between Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War for top of the season, if not the year. But now, the unexpected success of the X-Men spinoff has thrown everything into disarray. Could it end up be the winner? Another of the superhero franchises? The ill-conceived sequel, Alice Through The Looking Glass? A wild card? But before we can know what will dominate, we have to get through March … and a lot of other months.
MARCH 4, 2016
The Big: LONDON HAS FALLEN vs. WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT
London Has Fallen: One week after Gerard Butler reminded us just why he has fallen out of favor since 300 with Gods of Egypt comes the sole reason why he received a slight blip in popularity in the decade since the Spartan saga came out– London Has Fallen. This week’s offering is the follow-up to 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen, the surprisingly entertaining White House hostage movie that felt closer in spirit and execution to Die Hard than it had any right to. This go-around finds bodyguard Gerard Butler, President Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman in yet another calamitous situation, except this time they’re in London. As Die Hard 2: Die Harder showed, making a sequel to a standalone action movie can be terrible. But as Die Hard 5: The One In Russia, things could get a lot worse.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: While modern war satires have an unfortunate tendency to be less clever and insightful and more left-leaning lecture, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has a very important component working for it – Robert Carlock. A regular writing/producing partner with Tina Fey (who stars in the film), he is part of the duo who has been responsible for the fantastic shows 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Although they have an obvious liberal sentiment, their shows capture a high brow/low brow mixture that harkens back to the Golden Age of The Simpsons better than most any other programming today.
The Small: KNIGHT OF CUPS
Knight of Cups: Terrence Malick has a new movie. Although the reviews are less than enthusiastic (61% Rotten Tomatoes score with a 5.5/10 average rating), a Terrence Malick movie almost always wins whatever “small” week it falls into. And that’s true even for To The Wonder, to give an idea just how an important a name he actually is regardless of the quality of the movie.
MARCH 11, 2016
The Big: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE vs. THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY
10 Cloverfield Lane: Does anyone still care about Cloverfield, the found footage monster movie hit of 2008? Who knows? But I guess we’re returning back to that world anyway, possibly, with this sequel or quasi-sequel or spin-off or something – the conflicting reports surrounding the release of the film have made its actual connection to the earlier films murky and confusing. That being said, producer JJ Abrams and the Bad Robot team have shown themselves mostly remarkable at using mystery to market their movies (Star Trek Into Darkness notwithstanding). Keeping the existence of this feature completely quiet until its first promo during Super Bowl 50 in February plus a decent cast with John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead has made 10 Cloverfield Lane a interesting specimen in this world of nearly every high budget movie being spoiled months before they hit theaters.
The Brothers Grimsby: Much like the long wait for a Cloverfield sequel(?), it also seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve seen an original film from Sacha Baron Cohen – even though it’s only been four years between 2012’s The Dictator and this. Borat and Bruno (plus their inspiration/predecessor, The Ali G Show) established Cohen as one of today’s brightest comedic voices. Even The Dictator, the underappreciated slapstick throwback, had enough moments to make me interested in what Cohen comes out with next. This week, he returns with The Brothers Grimsby. Although at first glance it seems like yet another uninteresting action-comedy, early reviews discussing the chemistry of Cohen and co-star Mark Strong, as well as highlighting the inappropriate humor (for good or ill) have given enough indication that this might be something greater, possibly befitting of Cohen’s positive reputation. Though at a scant 83 minutes, it almost doesn’t seem worth the ticket price yet also seems like a welcome reprieve from the need of modern comedies to constantly push the two hour mark.
The Little: HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS
Hello, My Name is Doris: Sure, the plot description of “a self-help seminar inspires a sixty-something woman (Sally Field) to romantically pursue her younger co-worker” sounds less than appealing, but it’s co-written and directed by Michael Showalter. This The State alum has more-than-proven himself through collaborations with his regular co-creator, David Wain (e.g. Wet Hot American Summer, Childrens Hospital). Moreover, his 2005 debut feature The Baxter is a very underrated romantic comedy with a rare and genuine sensitivity. Plus the early reviews for this movie has been resoundingly positive – the first eight reviews have granted this a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score with a 7.2/10 average rating).
MARCH 18, 2016
The Big: THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT
Welcome to part 3 in The Divergent Series – Allegiant (which is actually Part 1 of 2 even though the title makes no indication of that, probably because the filmmakers realized they could lure more people in if they believe that it’s finally over). Divergent, which is in very close competition with The Maze Runner for which Young Adult franchise people care less about, returns with what is the penultimate chapter of the tale in which a young girl must topple a regime that oppresses … we’ve already been through The Hunger Games, Part 4, Mockingjay, Part 2. Need we continue?
The Small: MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
Midnight Special: A new movie by Jeff Nichols is enough to put this at the top of the small for this week, even over potentially successful competitors such as the bawdy comedy The Bronze and the seemingly-buried Lance Armstrong biopic The Program. With three films, Jeff Nichols has established himself as one of the stronger indie filmmakers today. Starting with 2007’s Shotgun Stories, he moved onto 2011’s Take Shelter, which ended up being one of the best end-of-the-world movies ever made. The following year, he kicked off Matthew McConaughey’s banner year with Mud, which is one of the best “kid” movies in recent memory. It not only made the children feel like actual children, but also gave the adults heart and kindness, rather than relegate them as negligent, absent, or abusive caregivers, as these movies often do.
With Midnight Special, he returns to that subgenre with another father/son movie as their pair go on the run after learning the kid has special powers. With Mud, Nichols proved that he knows how to make a movie starring children without it feeling dumbed down for adults (or too gimmicky), and his movies have a genuine appreciation for humanity. Plus he is probably the director who best knows how to utilize the inherent weirdness of Michael Shannon, who co-stars in this film along with Force Awakens stand-out Adam Driver and Fargo/Melancholia‘s Kirsten Dunst.
MARCH 25, 2016
The Big: BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: Is there any bigger movie this month, maybe even this year? Will the universal love of The Bat overcome audience hatred of Zack Snyder’s take on Superman plus the ridiculously unfortunate Doomsday? We’ll find out soon enough. Obviously, I can write more on this, but since this will occupy the bulk of my March articles, I’m holding off.
The Little: MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 vs. I SAW THE LIGHT
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2: Seriously? Yes, 2002’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding was at one time the highest grossing independent film of all time (at least until The Passion of the Christ came along), but 15 years later, does anyone care? They tried a sitcom, and it failed after seven episodes. And that was in 2003, when people still remembered the movie. I understand the rationale behind offering alternative programming against Batman v. Superman, but this?
I Saw The Light 2: Another Walk The Line-ish musical biopic. Great. This time about Hank Williams. Bad early reviews help explain why the studio postponed this movie from the 2015 awards season until now, even with solid lead performers in Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Elizabeth Olsen and Tom Hiddleston. Speaking of Loki, High-Rise has a US release date of May 13. Now that’s a movie I’m looking forward to.
March! Every week seems to have something worth seeing, but nothing probably compares to the panicked Man of Steel apology known as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. How that will compare to Captain America v. Iron Man: Dawn of Infinity War, well that’s for May 6.