COLUMN: 2016 Spring Movie Preview



The spring movie season is meant to bring promise coming out of winter, the slowest annual season of the year.  The awards seasons is done and gone and new movies can make their mark on 2016.  Most of the blockbusters we've been drooling over are still looming for when summer hits in May.  

However, for several years now, more tentpole movies are starting to stake their claim and populate the spring season where the competition is much less than the summer gauntlet which presents a new slugger every week from May until August.  Look no further than "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice," "The Jungle Book," and "The Huntsman: Winter's War."  All are summer-level films looking to get paid before being crushed by the likes of "Captain America: Civil War" when the calendar changes.  Here is my complete preview of the 2016 spring movie season.  Enjoy!  


"London Has Fallen"-- The unlikely 2013 winner of the "Destroy the White House Movie Sweepstakes" is going to learn why, unless your name is John McClane (and even he needs to stop), you quit while you're ahead with one action blockbuster success.  Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, and Melissa Leo all return for the paychecks.  (trailer)

"Zootopia"-- This has to be the quietest Disney non-holiday animated release seen around for quite some time.  It is suspicious that "Zootopia" isn't a summer release.  Normally, the Mouse House's marketing machine would be shouting a big movie from the mountaintops and shoving it down our throats with merchandise.  That's not happening here with Jason Bateman's animal world.  Like "The Good Dinosaur," could they have a lemon on their hands?  (trailer)

"Knight of Cups"-- Speaking of quiet, everyone is likely going to need a Red Bull or two to get through the latest Terrance Malick ("The Tree of Life") opus of existential precociousness, this time set in Hollywood.  There's something about his auteur presence because he still attracts A-listers like Oscar winners Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, and Cate Blanchett.  Bring a pillow.  (trailer)

"Whiskey Tango Foxtrot"-- From the directing team of "Crazy, Stupid, Love." and "Focus," comes Tina Fey stepping up from situational character/skit comedy into a true-life War on Terror memoir about a war correspondent in over her head.  Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, and Christopher Abbot round out the ensemble.  (trailer)


"10 Cloverfield Lane"-- Out of nowhere, J.J. Abrams's production shingle Bad Robot went and made a secret sequel to "Cloverfield" right under our noses, complete with a script polish from "Whiplash" creater Damien Chazelle.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher, Jr., and John Goodman occupy a new claustrophobic situation with the threat of alien menace outside their boundaries.   Color us excited!  (trailer)

"The Brothers Grimsby"-- Sacha Baron Cohen never runs out of zany characters, but he may soon run out of popularity and favor.  Since "Borat," each of his antics have come back to diminishing returns.  His idiotic soccer fan getting in the way of his super-spy brother (Mark Strong) doesn't sound promising, even with Rebel Wilson's help with jokes and Penelope Cruz's eye candy.  (trailer)

"Eye in the Sky"-- Gavin Hood, director of "Ender's Game," puts forth a timely military thriller about the questionable orders put before drone operations center manned by Helen Mirren, the late Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul.  To the discerning audiences, we will have to see if this can improve upon what filmmaker Andrew Niccol already covered last year with "A Good Kill" starring Ethan Hawke.  That is a tough act to follow.  (trailer)

"The Perfect Match"-- Terrance Jenkins displays his charm as a big spender who would rather bed beauties than settle down like his family wants.  For once, Kevin Hart is not in a film targeting the black demographic.  Instead, you get Paula Patton, Cassie Ventura, Brandy Norwood, and Donald Faison.  (trailer)

"The Young Messiah"-- Just in time for the Easter season is this chronicle of seven-year-old Jesus (newcomer Adam Greaves-Neal) as he and his parents (Vincent Walsh and Sara Lazzaro) are migrating back to Nazareth from Egypt when he begins to learn his importance and identity.  Sean Bean is your biggest name on the cast.  (trailer)

"Hello, My Name is Doris"-- Oscar winner Sally Field plays a lovestruck senior cubicle worker who gets motivated to seek romance with a dreamy co-worker half her age (Max Greenfield) in this quirky comedy from "Wet Hot American Summer" creator Michael Showalter.  (trailer)  

"The Lobster"-- In a very peculiar film that has made the international film festival rounds, Colin Farrell lives in a dystopian future where single people who cannot find marriage are turned into animals.  The ruling government sets up single people in a hotel to make arrange marriages in order to avoid this animalistic fate.  (trailer)


"Allegiant"-- The third (out of four) entry in the popular young adult "Divergent" series gets it big screen franchise treatment.  Series stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James. Naomi Watts, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Maggie Q, Ray Stevenson, and Octavia Spencer all return for more shocking revelations and uprisings.  (trailer)

"Midnight Special"-- Acclaimed indie filmmaker Jeff Nichols ("Mud" and "Take Shelter") returns with a science fiction thriller film about a father trying to protect his targeted son who possesses untapped mysterious powers.  "Midnight Special" stars Nichols vet Michael Shannon, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton, Kristen Dunst, and "St. Vincent" discovery Jaeden Lieberhar as the central boy.  Word is Nichols was emulating John Carpenter's classic "Starman."  (trailer)

"Miracles from Heaven"-- Competing for those same Easter dollars from the churchgoing crowd with "The Young Messiah," is Jennifer Garner leading the charge for director Patricia Riggen ("The 33") and this story about a little child cured without explanation from a deadly disease.  (trailer)

"The Program"-- Successful British director Stephen Frears ("High Fidelity," "Philomena," "The Queen") takes on the controversial downfall of disgraced cyclist and philanthropist Lance Armstrong, played by intense actor Ben Foster.  For years, this was rumored to be a role for Matt Damon.  It will be very curious to see what the reception is for a negative biopic.  (trailer)

"The Little Prince"-- Author Antoine de Saint-Exupery's beloved children's novel gets a 3D animated treatment from one of the "Kung Fu Panda" directors and top shelf supporting vocal cast of Jeff Bridges, Paul Rudd, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Ricky Gervais, Benicio del Toro, Paul Giamatti, Mackenzie Foy, and Albert Brooks.  This is the 16th TV or film adaptation of this well-worn tale from over a half-dozen countries.  (trailer)


"Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice"-- After years of hype and a rocky road of fanboy complaints from questionable marketing, we all finally get to see if Zack Snyder delivers on this humongous grudge match or if all of this "Batfleck" spectacle was too hasty and too soon since Christopher Nolan's films.  Warner Bros. is throwing everything they have behind Henry Cavill and Bruce Wayne.  After "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and the looming "Captain America: Civil War," this big film needs to be a home run.  (trailer)

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2"-- In a nostalgic bit of counter-programming versus the comic book giant comes the long-awaited sequel on Nia Vardalos's brain child that has been fourteen years in the making.  Long distance sequels like this, when done with the right touch, have scored well with audiences that love the originals.  Watch this put up decent numbers, even in the face of heroic capes.  (trailer)

"I Saw the Light"-- Also looking to stand out next to the superhero blockbuster is the eagerly anticipated biopic of country music legend Hank Williams.  Much like Brit Henry Cavill playing an American icon, so too is Tom Hiddleston as the tragic and volatile Williams.  Is it too early for potential Oscar buzz for Hiddleston?  (trailer)


"Everybody Wants Some"-- "Boyhood" was always going to be tough to top for filmmaker Richard Linklater, but he wasn't going to stop making movies.  "Everybody Wants Some" aligns more as a return to teen nostalgia equal to his "Dazed and Confused" classic.  This comedy follows the shenanigans of a college baseball team (mostly unknowns) flying solo on the road without coaches and chaperons.  (trailer)  

"Miles Ahead"-- Following right after Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams comes Don Cheadle directing and starring in this film about jazz revolutionary Miles Davis.  That's two Oscar hopeful biographies in two weeks and Cheadle's directorial debut.  (trailer)

"God's Not Dead 2"-- Here's a triple play for the religious demographic.  The first film from 2014 was a surprise hit, grossing $64 million worldwide versus a $2 million budget.  Playing with house money, the makers are looking to capitalize once again.  Expect red state bus loads at your theaters.  (trailer)

"Collide"-- A mix of old and new surrounds this thriller, also known as "Dark Places" (final title pending), about a young hiker (Nicholaus Hoult) forced to smuggle drugs as a driver on the wild Autobahn road in Europe.  Felicity Jones is the girl and two Sirs, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley, loom large to fill the scene.  (trailer)

"Amityville: The Awakening"-- The horror entries that circulate in the winter sometimes spread to the spring.  Recent "Hateful Eight" Oscar nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh brings us back to everyone's least favorite (and overused) Long Island haunted house.  (trailer)


"The Boss"-- The bad feeling you have is a case of "Adam Sandler Syndrome."  It is the sense that Melissa McCarthy keeps playing the same type of outrageous physical comedy character in too many of the same kinds of movies with little inspiration.  Laugh as you may at her snobby Oprah-wannabe dueling with Girl Scouts and busting Kristen Bell's chops, but this act is getting tiresome.  (trailer)

"Demolition"-- We might have a dark horse Oscar hopeful landing in the spring season in the form of the latest drama from "Wild" and "Dallas Buyers Club" director Jean Marc-Vallee.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays a hotshot banker shattered and taken down a peg by the tragic death of his wife.  Put this one high on your list to seek out in limited release.  (trailer)

"Before I Wake"-- One more week, one more unnoticeable horror film.  The most interesting fact on this one has to be the casting of young "Room" sensation Jacob Tremblay.  Either he's good or he's the next Haley Joel Osment.  A film like this is probably not the place to test that hope.  You also get Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane, two things that would make 2006 sizzle more than 2016.  (trailer)

"Hardcore Henry"--  There's an interesting novelty developing out of this unconventional action film.  The entire thing is shot in first-person POV like a video game to follow a man resurrected with no memory and a woman to save.  We've been waiting for this style of camera effect since being teased in "Doom" eleven years ago.  (trailer)

"Louder than Bombs"-- Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Ryan and Gabriel Byrne lead this leftover competitor from the 2015 Cannes Film Festival finally getting its theatrical release.  When a female war photographer dies, she leaves behind a father, two children, and a life of pictures that kept her away from home.  Mark this as a possible "hidden gem" for the season.  (trailer)

"The Invitation"-- Ah yes, here is the ambiguous and vague prerequisite horror entry cast with unknowns of every season that will make more money than it should and spawn four sequels.  If you can pick Michael Huisman out of a lineup, then you watch too much "Game of Thrones" or didn't stare long enough at the dreamy Blake Lively in "The Age of Adaline."  (trailer)


"The Jungle Book"-- This is the inescapable Disney entry you will keep hearing about more than "Zootopia."  The company's revisionist live-action remake/update plan continues with Rudyard Kipling's animal-filled adventure.  "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau has assembled an impressive voice roster of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, Scarlett Johannson, and Lupita Nyong'o to show young Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi) the dangers and joys of the wild.  Compared to the darkness of "Maleficent" and even "Cinderella" last year, the presence of Jon Favreau at the helm ought to give this film the right ingredient of personality.  (trailer)

"Barbershop: The Next Cut"-- Though not as long of a time gap as "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2," director Malcolm D. Lee, star Ice Cube, his hair clippers, and his colorful crew are back in Chicago after 11 years away from the screen.  Gang members (hello, "Chiraq") have added more trouble to his block so old friends (Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Anthony Anderson, Regina Hall, Sean Patrick Thomas) and new friends (Common, Nicki Minaj, Deon Cole) look to do something about it.  (trailer)

"Criminal"-- From the indie director of "The Iceman," Ryan Reynolds gets to show how much Q-rating he's earned from "Deadpool" to sell another picture.  He chases the ageless Kevin Costner as a dangerous convict implanted with the memories and skills of a top-flight CIA agent.  Gal "Wonder Woman" Gadot stands with Reynolds while Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman divvy up scenery to chew up and spit out.  (trailer)


"The Huntsman: Winter's War"-- Hey, hey, hey!  It's the spin-off sequel no one asked for, but lucky Chris Hemsworth gets paid to do (and kiss new love interest Emily Blunt).  This prequel to 2012's "Snow White and the Huntsman" that furthers the story and gives background to Queen Ravenna (the returning Charlize Theron) and her sister Freya (Jessica Chastain).  You better go get in line now.  It may sell out.  (trailer)

"Keanu"-- Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele take their comedy together to the big screen in this spoof of action films.  The two comedy partners play buddies who battle the gangs that are responsible for stealing their precious, titular family cat.  This season is starving for a good comedy.  (red band trailer)

"The Meddler"-- From the director of "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" comes this Special Presentation from last fall's Toronto International Film Festival.  It's a comedy/drama about an aging woman (Susan Sarandon) from New York.  She follows her daughter to L.A. to start a new life closer to her daughter (Rose Byrne) after becoming a widow.  J.K. Simmons, Megalyn Echikunwoke, and Billy Magnussen co-star.  (no trailer, but a clip)


"Mother's Day"-- Is long-time director Garry Marshall ever going to run out of holidays for big ensemble romantic comedies?  These are starting to sound like those fake sequels pitched at the end of "22 Jump Street."  Sure, we love Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Kate Hudson, Timothy Olyphant, and Britt Robertson, but when does this stop?  Arbor Day?  Flag Day?  (trailer)

"Ratchet and Clank"-- The popular video game series hits the big screen.  There's a good chance this is the film your pre-teen is tugging your shirt sleeves about to go see, especially while us old non-video game people are over here playing solitaire (All of that is code for me having never heard of them before).  On the plus side, Sylvester Stallone has a voice in it.  (trailer)