Monthly Preview: March 2014

Now that “Oscar season” is thankfully behind us, we can get back to just watching movies for the fun of it. And with perfect timing, the Gods of Film have delivered unto us a great harvest of awesome-looking movies for this month of March. Covering all kinds of genres and styles, it’s the sort of eclectic mix I’ve come to expect from the spring months, and on odds alone I’m sure I will love at least one or two of these movies. So, let’s get to it:

Grand Budapest Hotel: At this point, Wes Anderson occupies the same space as filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodovar and Woody Allen. By that, I mean that he’s a filmmaker who exists completely within his own aesthetic voice and I find it hard to argue (with one or two exceptions) that any one of his works is better or worse than the others. A Wes Anderson film is a Wes Anderson film, and you’ll either like it or you won’t. I’m not a gigantic fan of his work, but I do generally find his movies enjoyable, and Grand Budapest Hotel looks quite enjoyable indeed. It’s particularly a rarity to see Ralph Fiennes doing comedy, so I will certainly appreciate that while I can.

Jodorowsky’s Dune: I have yet to see any of Jodorowsky’s movies, or read Frank Herbert’s Dune, but I know enough about both to be curious about this, one of the Holy Grails of Lost Movie Projects. This documentary about the subject has received nothing but praise so far, and I’m excited to get a glimpse of what might have been (especially seeing the start of the Alien-birthing partnership of Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger). I highly doubt that I’ll get to read all of Dune before I see this, but I’ll definitely try to get El Topo in under the wire first.

Grand Piano: This one is an interesting case, as I’ve actually already seen it (it’s been On Demand since the end of January). The film, which was sold as “Speed with a piano” but is more accurately “Phone Booth with a piano”, is an almost-perfectly-crafted sparse little thriller. Elijah Wood is great, the style is engaging without being overpowering, and the script is beautifully economic in the way a thriller should be. And appropriately enough, the music is quite good. While the third act is a little too rote and straightforward, it doesn’t undo the great work that came before it, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Oh, and I’m sure many of my generational peers would be entertained to know that Alex Winters (of Bill and Ted fame) plays a henchman in this, so there’s that.

Enemy: It seems fitting that doppelgangers be the subject of this year’s edition of The Parallel Creativity Show, and the first of these is Enemy. Coming from Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal, who collaborated on last year’s underrated (including by me) Prisoners, this one looks like a creepy, perverse movie, with Gyllenhaal again bringing his dark and twisted A-game. On top of that we get the underrated Melanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon, and the great Isabella Rossellini. While this is the sort of narrative that could easily devolve into something messy and incoherent, I have no reason to suspect that from this group, and there will be plenty of dark style to go around.

Veronica Mars: Sometimes, even in this increasingly “geek”-friendly pop cultural world, there can be feelings of unfairness among hardcore fans. This particularly applies to fans of cult TV shows, who never seem to be happy with what they get. For example, Firefly fans got what we wanted with Serenity but plenty of Browncoats still clamor for more. Hopefully this won’t happen with Veronica Mars fans, who took the extraordinary step of helping to fund the movie through Kickstarter. For what it’s worth, the movie looks as fun and entertaining as the show itself was, and even if you haven’t watched the show it looks like it should still work as a straight-up neo-noir. But for those of us who did follow the show will probably get so much more out of it. Now if only she doesn’t get back together with Logan in the end…

Blood Ties: This is the kind of old-school star-studded period crime epic that I can always find a way to get excited for (at least until the movie comes out and turns out to be terrible and I completely expunge it from my memory, but I digress). This one looks like it has as good a chance as any to pay off that excitement, especially coming from underrated New York filmmaker James Grey (The Yards, We Own The Night) and French director Guillaume Canet. Plus there’s that star-studded cast to consider. Should be a comfy bit of fun… even if I said that about Runner Runner, which I think was one of the worst-reviewed movies of last year. Let it be said that I don’t deny my fallibility.

Cheap Thrills: This one has been flying under the radar since last year’s festival circuit, but after looking into it I couldn’t be more jazzed. Combining the offbeat comedic stylings of someone like David Koechner with a premise rife with potential for fucked-up developments, it looks like a small story with a very deep angry streak in it. I still don’t know too much about what to expect with this one, but damn if it doesn’t look like something interesting.

Muppets Most Wanted: You show me someone who didn’t have fun with The Muppets (I’m speaking of the reboot but this applies to the Muppets through the years as well) and I’ll show you someone that is a scum-sucking hellbeast from the bowels of the Chaos Realms. Given that, I really don’t know why I’d need to sell any of you on the idea of another Muppets movie. It’ll be cute, it’ll be fun, it’ll be funny. It’s Kermit, it’s Gonzo, it’s Miss Piggy, it’s Fozzie. Take it or leave it.

Noah: Darren Aronofsky has been one of the better directors of his generation going all the way back to his debut, and getting to see him playing on the big stage, on his own terms no less, is thrilling all on it’s own.  I already dismissed early concerns about Noah back when the trailer first dropped. Since then there’s been confirmation that the film will be Aronofsky’s preferred cut, which is very reassuring. It is still very possible that Noah could be another grand passion project that falls prey to the director’s ambitions. But Aronofsky has yet to give me reason to doubt him, and I still think it could end up being something unique and daring and impressive. Even if the CGI is a bit subpar.

Berendal (The Raid 2): Did you see The Raid (aka Serbuan Maut)? If you didn’t then you missed one of the best pure action movies ever made. And now director Gareth Evans is following it up with this sequel, which is apparently bigger and bolder in every way than it’s predecessor. While the first was built on a straight-up, Die Hard-esque shoot-em-up, this one is a larger, sprawling crime epic in the vein of The Departed that also happens to involve tons of martial arts. If there’s any justice in the world star Iko Uwais should be the next Jet Li, and once Gareth Evans finishes his trilogy I hope Hollywood has the sense to let him do whatever he wants. This is the sort of straight action movies we need more of, and I hope we get them.

While the young adult franchise craze has brought us no shortage of subpar actioners in the last few years, I’m still intrigued by Divergent; while the basic mechanics of the worldbuilding seem a little murky to me, it’s got a great cast and looks solidly crafted, and might be worth a look. And while I find myself increasingly uninterested in Ahnuld, especially in his post-gubernatorial career rebirth, I am sort of interested in Sabotage; maybe it’s my inexplicable fascination with the career of director David Ayers, or the impressively B-movie supporting cast, or the fact that maybe there’s some moral ambiguity in an Ahnuld movie for once, but I might have to give it a look.

Phew, how ‘bout dem apples? Gonna be a good month, folks; April will have a lot to live up to. Now get out there and enjoy it while you can!

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