Winter/Spring Movie Preview
Spring is coming, and a young man's thoughts lightly turn to seeing old movies that have been rejigged for 3-D.
In which case the young man - and the young woman - are in luck: both Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace and Titanic are being re-released in three dimensions over the next few months, creating a rare chance to see stereoscopic versions of Jar-Jar Binks and The King of the World within weeks of one another.
The 3-D conversions come on the heels of Disney's re-release of Beauty and the Beast and join a half dozen other films that require special glasses, not to mention a few extra dollars. The 3-D trend is expanding into the cold-weather months, and so are the kinds of films - expensive epics, kid-friendly animations - that are usually associated with summer or Oscar time. (The original Titanic came out in December, just in time for the Christmas rush, and Phantom Menace was a May release, on the cusp of the blockbusters.)
The biggest news of spring has nothing to do with 3-D, though. It's the highly anticipated film version of The Hunger Games, the post-apocalyptic young-adult novel that caused a pre-apocalyptic young-adult sensation and is the surest bet of the season. Less of a guarantee is the most expensive release, John Carter, Disney's $250-million gamble on a series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs (who had a pretty good go with the Tarzan franchise) about an Earthling on Mars. It's a gamble that raises the questions: Can Taylor Kitsch carry a film? Can director Andrew Stanton replicate the success of Wall-E and Finding Nemo in live-action sci-fi? Is the world still up for an Edgar Rice Burroughs story?
Coincidentally, Nemo is heading for its own 3-D conversion later this year. As Jar-Jar himself said, "Whena yousa thinking we are in trouble?"
Albert Nobbs: Glenn Close puts on a suit and tie for this film - which sounds like a sort of Irish Yentl - about a 19th-century woman who posed as a man so she could get a job as a waiter. Close also co-wrote the screenplay and the lyrics for the film's theme song, Lay Your Head Down. (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver; will expand)
The Woman in Black: Daniel Radcliffe, having finally graduated from Hogwarts, makes his post-Harry Potter debut in this horror film remake about a lawyer who discovers the angry ghost of a wronged woman is terrorizing a village. Good thing he studied spells.
Also opening: Big Miracle, Chronicle, Miss Bala, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Vancouver only, expands March 2 to Toronto), Pink Ribbons Inc., Surviving Progress, W.E. (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver; will expand)
We Need to Talk About Kevin: Tilda Swinton grieves persuasively as a mother who is devastated when her son - a sort of horror-film monster with surface charm who fools everyone but her - massacres his schoolmates. (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver; will expand)
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island: In this 3-D sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth, Dwayne Johnson leads an expedition to find missing explorer Michael Caine on a, well, mysterious island. Key scene in the trailer: Johnson pops a berry off his chest muscles and it flies right into the audience's laps.
Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace (3-D): Jar-Jar Binks flies right into the audience's laps.
Also opening: Safe House, Snow (Toronto and Halifax only), The Vow.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: Nicolas Cage is back as Johnny Blaze, the motorcycle rider who became the devil's bounty hunter and now must protect a young boy from Satan's clutches. Oh yes: it's in 3-D.
Also opening: In Darkness, The Secret World of Arrietty, This Means War.
Act of Valor: In this mix of fiction and reality, real-life Navy SEALS - with their real-life techniques and equipment - re-enact the rescue of a captured CIA operative and foil and terrorist plot.
Wanderlust: Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd are together again for this film from the Judd Apatow factory of transgressive comedy about a Manhattan couple that moves to a free-love commune. How transgressive? Aniston apparently appears topless.
Also opening: Flowers of War, Gone, Goon, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Tyler Perry's Good Deeds,
Keyhole: Guy Maddin's latest cinematic adventure stars Jason Patric as Ulysses Pick, a man who takes an odyssey through his own house.
Also in February: Doppelganger Paul (Toronto only).
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito and Betty White headline the voice actors in this animated story of the grumpy creature trying to protect his beloved trees. It was made by the directors of the ingenious Despicable Me (who are now working on Despicable Me 2, by the way). And yes: 3-D.
Also opening: Project X
John Carter: Canadian Taylor Kitsch stars in this large, expensive adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs story of a Civil War veteran who goes to Mars and must rescue a woman from the 12-foot creatures who live there.
Also opening: Being Elmo, Fightville, Friends with Kids, The Raven, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal; expands March 16 to Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa), Think Like a Man.
21 Jump Street: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star in this adaptation of the TV show - which starred a kid named Depp - about two cops who are sent back to high school to find a drug gang.
Mirror, Mirror: In this version of Snow White, Julia Roberts - who, once upon a time, would have played the heroine - has matured into the role of the evil queen, with Armie Hammer as the handsome prince. Yes: 3-D.
Jeff, Who Lives At Home: Jason Segel stars in this small offbeat comedy about a slacker who is forced out of his mother's basement on an errand that changes his life and that of his brother (Ed Helms). (Limited release; will expand.)
Also opening: The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Toronto only), Butter, The Bully Project, Payback.
The Hunger Games: Jennifer Lawrence - who exploded onto the scene in her Oscar-nominated turn in the gritty little Winter's Bone - won the talent hunt to star as Katniss Everdeen in the film version of Suzanne Collins' novel about a future world where people fight to the death on television. It doesn't sound like much of a stretch from reality TV. Whena yousa thinking we are in trouble?
Also opening: Footnote
The Pirates! Band of Misfits, 3-D: Hugh Grant provides the voice of a pirate captain in this animated comedy about buccaneers competing for the "pirate of the year" award. It's three-dimensional.
Wrath of the Titans: In this sequel laden with Greek mythology, not to mention three dimensions, Perseus (Sam Worthington) must rescue Zeus (Liam Neeson) from the underworld.
Also opening: The Forgiveness of Blood, Won't Back Down.
Gerhard Richter Painting, Flamenco, Flamenco, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga.
The Three Stooges: The life of three nyuck-nyuck-nyuckleheads from the time they are left on the orphanage steps until their fame in a reality-TV show. The Farrelly Brothers are responsible.
The Moth Diaries: In Mary Harron's horror film, a girl at a boarding school suspects her roommate is a vampire. (Limited)
Titanic 3-D: Finally, Leonardo DiCaprio right in the audience's laps.
Also opening: American Reunion, Boy, The Cold Light of Day, The Lady.
The Deep Blue Sea: Terence Davies directs this version of the Terence Rattigan play about the affair between a Royal Air Force pilot and a judge's wife. Rachel Weisz stars.
Also opening: Alps (Toronto only), Bullet to the Head.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: In this twist on the end-of-the-world movie - the romantic comedy at apocalypse - Keira Knightley and Steve Carell co-star as two people taking a last-minute road trip as an asteroid nears Earth.
A Thousand Words: In Eddie Murphy's comeback as a leading man - although it been sitting around since it was filmed in 2008 - he plays a lying literary agent who discovers he can speak only 1,000 more words before he dies. Eddie Murphy? Should take him about 10 minutes.
Also opening: Chimpanzee, Damsels in Distress, The Lucky One.
The Five-Year Engagement: Another comedy from the Judd Apatow gang, this one with Jason Segel and Emily Blunt as a couple who can't quite get married.
Also opening: Headhunters, The Lady, Safe, The Salt of Life.
All dates subject to change by studios.