By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com March 1, 2013 at 2:54PM
It's been a long, dark couple of months at the start of 2013, with not all that much that's been worth seeing, bar a few bright spots like "Side Effects" and "No." But as the days start to get sunnier and warmer (we hope so, at least, or we're going to jump off something tall fairly soon), the prospects at movie theaters are improving a bit too.
Whether you're into big tentpole blockbusters or indie films by filmmakers both foreign and domestic, March sees the cinematic calendar kick into gear a little bit, and not a day too soon. To help you find your way through the listings, we've picked out ten of the most important movies coming out in the next 31 days. Let us know what you're most looking forward to in the comments section.
Synopsis: An strange and creepy uncle moves in with a teenage girl and her emotionally unstable mother after her father dies. Although the girl, India, has suspicions about his motives, she finds herself drawn to him.
What You Need To Know: As events for cinephiles go, a new film from Korean master Park Chan-wook -- his first in four years, and his first altogether in English -- director of "Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance" and "Oldboy," was surely going to be one of the biggest of the month. And the film, scripted by "Prison Break" actor Wentworth Miller and starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman and Jacki Weaver, only looked more and more promising as production got closer. Unfortunately, according to Rodrigo Perez, who reviewed the film at Sundance for us, something got lost in translation; all the director's "worst tendencies for the histrionic and overly operatic are on utterly garish display in the overwrought and tonally poisoned" film. Overly-stylized, over-familiar and over-egged, according to our review, he called it "a brutally empty, deeply unfortunate movie." But it should be noted that, while reviews have been wildly mixed in general, ours is at the more negative end of the spectrum; some critics have called it a masterpiece, and while some other Playlist team members wouldn't go that far, they did enjoy it more than RP. An acquired taste, and don't say we didn't warn you, but surely worth a look just to have an opinion on.
Release Date: Today, Friday March 1st
Synopsis: An adaptation of the classic fairytale about a simple farm boy whose magic beans unlock the way to a kingdom of giants in the sky -- giants who are in no way friendly.
What You Need To Know: If tracking is to be believed, "Jack The Giant Slayer," the first new film from director Bryan Singer in over four years, is on its way to becoming a "John Carter"-sized flop when it opens this weekend. And the writing's been on the wall for a while; the $200 million fairytale had been delayed by almost a year, was retitled, and generally looked pretty shoddy. So color us shocked when the film turned out to be a relatively pleasant surprise. It's far from a home-run -- as Kevin Jagernauth's review revealed, the film has unnecessary bookend sequences, needless 3D, unclear villains, and "perhaps most crucially, the digital effects leave something to be desired." But it's also a pretty enjoyable couple of hours, thanks to a good cast (including Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor), Singer's "already honed blockbuster sensibilities," and the film in general being a "familiar, but still compelling, well-oiled swashbuckler." So if you're considering a family trip to the multiplex in the near future, you could probably do worse.
Release Date: Today, Friday March 1st
Synopsis: An inventor named Oz seeks the opportunity to put his stamp on the world of illusion and storytelling, but he finds more than he bargained for when he’s whisked away to a faraway fantasy land.
What You Need To Know: So you know how we said you could do worse this month when it came to CGI-heavy family adventures? Behold, "Oz The Great & Powerful." The film's likely to be the biggest movie of March by a mile, but despite the presence of fanboy favorite Sam Raimi in the director's chair, and a cast including James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis, the film adds up to "a lot of smoke and light, without much behind it." In an inverse of "Jack The Giant Killer," the film "looks nothing short of spectacular," according to Kevin's review, often "beautifully rendered with eye-popping color." But narratively, it's something of a black hole, with the story proving "a dull carbon copy from the 1939 movie...The pacing of the two-hour-plus movie often sags, and the film's humor never quite establishes the running gags or knocks out the one-line zingers with enough success to call it funny." And while James Franco makes an appealing lead, Mila Kunis is "woefully miscast." It's not a disaster like "Alice in Wonderland," and does look genuinely spectacular, but you may have more fun with the 'Jack.'
Release Date: Friday, March 7th
Synopsis: A man is hired by a young woman to kill an underground crime lord in New York City to settle a personal score.
What You Need To Know: This time of year is thin on the ground for grown-up muscular crime fare, but we hope that "Dead Man Down" might deliver a hit for those who've been missing that sort of thing in their cinematic diet of late. The English-language debut of Niels Arden Oplev, the Swedish helmer whose original version of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" made him a hot prospect around town, the movie reteams him with his Lisbeth Salander, Noomi Rapace, who toplines alongside a looking-firmly-at-home Colin Farrell in a script from "Fringe" writer J.H. Wyman. Terrence Howard (as the villain), Dominic Cooper and, in a rare U.S. role, Isabelle Huppert make up some of the rest of the supporting cast, which would be worth considering the price of a ticket even if the story turns out to be as generic as it looks. But the visuals are impressive too, and while we haven't reviewed the film yet, the buzz that we're hearing is that Oplev brings some European smarts to the action, so "Dead Man Down" could turn out to be this month's most pleasant surprise.
Release Date: March 8th
Synopsis: Two friends find their friendship, faith and love tested in a rural Orthodox monastery.
What You Need To Know: Having delivered one of the true classics of European cinema of the 21st century so far in "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days," Romanian New Wave leader Cristian Mungiu came roaring back at Cannes with this punishing but rewarding drama that examines faith, love and evil. It's undoubtedly a tricky watch, as Kevin found in Cannes, saying, "it's in the push-and-pull between faith, love, God and the devil that the film may lose some viewers," and a "seemingly random and open ending" could turn off viewers even more. But the film is "gorgeously lensed, and executed with an exacting aesthetic," and if you "pace yourself and lean back, the rewards are ample; deceivingly complex, with an emotional center that peels away like an onion the longer it unfolds, this is a powerful effort from Mungiu in which love and faith are both different kinds of poison."
Release Date: Friday March 8th