COLUMN: 2015 Spring Movie Preview



Normally ever year, there's a few more movies during the spring season to sink our teeth into that the winter season before it.  Normally, there's little more buzz and hype because the slow opening of the year is over, the awards season is done, and summer is around the corner.  This year, I don't think that can be said.  Outside of two or three movies, this is a very week lineup.  I think the winter season, dominated by "American Sniper," "Taken 3," "Fifty Shades of Grey," "Kingsman: The Secret Service," and "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" is going to end up trumping the list you see below.  The clear big hitter is the highly-anticipated "Furious 7," but that's about it.  Read on and see if you can find something to spark your interest.


"Chappie"-- Right off the bat, this is one of those few two or three movies worth circling.  "District 9" and "Elysium" filmmaker Neill Blomkamp returns with another South African-set-and-shot science fiction film that looks to blend little bits of his previous works along with a dash of "Robocop" and "Short Circuit."  "Slumdog Millionaire" Dev Patel plays a young scientist who re-programs a police droid to operate with feelings and self-learning, much to the chagrin of the robot developer (Hugh Jackman).  As always, Blomkamp shows imagination and promise.  Maybe this will connect better with audiences than "Elysium" did.  (trailer)

"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"-- This might be the second movie of a few lists, just because the first one was such a pleasant and surprise hit.  Dev Patel and his hotel guest of British greats are back for another few days and nights of hot Indian style and romance.  Richard Gere joins the party for this one as the next fought-over catch.  (trailer)

"Unfinished Business"-- Anyone who has read my scathing review of Vince Vaughn's "Delivery Man" from two years ago knows how I'm going to feel about this.  Well, Vince thought it best to re-team with "Delivery Man" director Ken Scott for another go-around.  Vaughn loses the schmaltz to play a business owner who goes wild on a European business trip with his two associates, the veteran Tom Wilkinson and the rookie David Franco.  Get out the bomb sirens, I can see this one coming.  (red band trailer)


"Cinderella"-- Here comes you first of two Disney live-action revamps/retellings of their animated classics (Jon Favreau's "The Jungle Book" comes in October).  They've gone to this well for several years now and have churned out hits.  Nothing's going to stop them now and "Cinderella" is up, directed by Kenneth Branagh.   Micro-waisted "Dowtown Abbey" star Lily James steps into the title role of the housemaid being held down by her evil stepmother (Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, cashing a paycheck).  Former "Game of Thrones" stud Richard Madden in your Prince and Helena Bonham Carter is your ever-present Fairy Godmother.  I keep asking what's the point.  Too much is the same and the parts that are different in this revamps take away from the charm of the original.  That and the trailer gives the entire story away even with the newness.

"Run All Night"-- Go-to gravelly action star Liam Neeson reteams with his "Unknown" and "Nonstop" director for another gun fest of a father defending his son ("Robocop" star Joel Kinnaman) who's being targeted by a local mobster (Ed Harris) after Neeson kills that man's son.  Gee, I wonder what happens.  I hate to say it, but Neeson is becoming a predictable, older version of Jason Statham.  All of these movies are the same.  (trailer)

"Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension"-- Paramount Pictures continues to beat this dead horse of a horror franchise.  They know they are cheap to produce and easy bets to get their money back.  If you lost count (and I know I did), this is the sixth of the series and original star Katie Featherston is still here.  (trailer)


"The Divergent Series: Insurgent"-- Here's one of those handful of headline films for the season that will get you to take notice, however, it's probably just for fans of the series.  Last year's "Divergent" was a modest success, but nowhere near the global smash equal to "The Hunger Games."  Maybe this second film can boost that up.  Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney, Mekhi Phifer, Ashley Judd, Zoe Kravitz, Ray Stevenson, Naomi Watts, and Ansel Egort fill up this saga.  (trailer)

"The Gunman"-- "Taken" director Pierre Morel has possibly found a new old man muse in Oscar winner Sean Penn in an action thriller about a former operative trying to get out of the spy game and settle down with his family in Europe.  Naturally, that's not going to happen smoothly.  Penn is backed up by fellow dramatic heavyweights Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, and Ray Winstone in what has to be the best cast of voices alone in year.  This will ooze toughness.  (trailer)

"Do You Believe?"-- Small scale religious-backed movies have become surprise little hits in Hollywood lately.  The people behind "God's Not Dead" switch from a declarative title to an interrogative one with this drama starring Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Ted McGinley, Lee Majors, Cybill Shepherd, Alexa Vega, and Brian Bosworth.  My "80's Alert" sounded five times on that reading.  (trailer)


"Get Hard"-- Comedy fans, here's your one worthy entry.  Sorry, Vince Vaughn.  You don't count, but the team of Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart rings louder.  Ferrell plays a white collar criminal facing down a prison sentence who seeks out toughness advice from Hart's wannabe thug.  You know you're going to laugh with those two together.  (trailer)

"Home"-- The latest 3D animation adventure from DreamWorks and the director that brought you "Over the Hedge" is "Home, based on the children's book "The True Meaning of Smekday" about some amateur alien invaders that attempt to take over the Earth.  The voice talents include Rihanna, Jim Parsons, Steve Martin, and Jennifer Lopez.  Rihanna has full soundtrack ready to drop with the movie.  (trailer)


"Furious 7"-- Here is your cleanup hitter and your headliner.  With a wide-open season of zero worthy competition, the seventh edition and farewell tour for deceased series original Paul Walker is going to rake in the dough.  Spinning off of Jason Statham's entry as the new villain to exact revenge over the car-driving hoods that killed his brother (Luke Evans), the guys and gals are back in L.A., but threatened on their own turf.  All of the old regulars and new regulars are back and joined by Statham, Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou, Ronda Rousey, and Kurt Russell.  (trailer)


"The Longest Ride"-- Go ahead and make your sexual innuendo towards the film title now of a college girl who falls for a rodeo cowboy in this Nicholas Sparks novel adaptation.  Here's mine: "It probably should have stayed lasting eight seconds."  Hey-o!  Jokes aside, you have the young and pretty faces of upcoming "Tomorrowland" star Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood (the studly son of Clint himself) steaming it up as the pining would-be lovers, in a story that parallels and older love narrated by Alan Alda  "Barbershop," "Soul Food," and "Men of Honor" director George Tillman, Jr. got this unenviable task of making something out Sparks where few have succeeded.  (trailer)

"The Moon and the Sun"-- "Soul Surfer" director Sean McNamara moves from surfboards to swords with the fantasy tale foreign film based on the 1997 Vonda McIntyre novel of the same name that blends history with science fiction.  Pierce Brosnan plays an aged King Louis XIV whose quest for immortality leads him to mermaid-like sea creatures.  (no trailer yet) 


"Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2"-- The sequel you all signed the petition to get!  Yes!  Finally!  Something, something, more sarcasm, and Kevin James.  Something, something, more sarcasm, and that mustache and Las Vegas.  This isn't going to be pretty.  (trailer)

"Child 44"-- Backed by Ridley Scott as a producer, "Safe House" director Daniel Espinosa dives into the Cold War to follow a disgraced Russian agent, played by Tom Hardy, who seeks to solve a mysterious series of child murders.  Hardy is backed by Noomi Repace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinneman, Jason Clarke, Dev Patel, Paddy Considine, and Vincent Cassell as he dives down the murky rabbit hole.  (trailer)

"Monkey Kingdom"-- Here is your annual Disneynature documentary entry for Earth Day, following the tradition set by "Earth," "Oceans," and "Bears" in recent years.  "Life of Pi" star Suraj Sharma is your narrator for a look at the monkeys that inhabit the ancient ruins of Southeast Asia.  (trailer)


"The Water Diviner"-- This Australian/Turkish production is the directorial debut of Russell Crowe.  He stars as a father looking to find his three sons who were either killed or missing at the Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey during Australia's efforts of the First World War (the same one featured in the famed Peter Weir/Mel Gibson 1981 film).  Jai Courtney, Olga Kurylenko, Yilmaz Erdogan, and Cem Yilmaz co-star.  (trailer)

"The Age of Adaline"-- From the maker of "Celeste and Jesse Forever," comes a little twist on age-defying romance.  Blake Lively plays a woman who hasn't aged for 80 years and still looks 27.  She has tried to maintain a solitary existence to hide her secret, but discovers romance ("Game of Thrones" cast member Michiel Huisman).  Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker, and, low and behold, Harrison Ford finish the ensemble.  (trailer)