Sometimes it feels as though film culture, once the purview of abstract thinkers, has become one big numbers game. Analysts pore over box-office statistics the way sabermetrics advocates study batting averages; to mix metaphors a little, some have developed Nate Silver-like powers of prediction, estimating weekend grosses with stunning accuracy. Furthermore, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have transformed film appreciation into a hierarchy of opinions, while pundits calculate awards-season chances and critics express their enthusiasm through numbered lists. Even the good folks at Criterion know the value of keeping count, devoted as they are to stamping a digit on the spine of each new release.
Much as we at the A.V. Club film department would love to rage against the dystopian barcoding of cinema, there’s no denying that crunching the numbers can be pretty fun. (If you can’t beat the accountants, join them, right?) It’s with that spirit of joyful resignation that we present our mathematical guide to the spring movie season—an equinox of equations, a statistician’s approach to three months of upcoming films. Keep a calculator handy.
The Monuments Men (February 7)
Raw data: In his fifth turn behind the camera and third collaboration with screenwriter Grant Heslov, director George Clooney casts himself as the leader of a very unlikely platoon—a seven-man squad of aging historians and academics, charged with saving thousands of European artworks stolen by the Nazis. Based, naturally, on a true story, this historical caper boasts a star-studded supporting cast, including Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bill Murray, and others.
Helpful equation: [(Ocean’s Eleven - 4) x (The Dirty Dozen - 5) x (Inglourious Basterds - 2)] / Antique Roadshow
Chance it’ll be good: 0 percent. It’s not a disaster or anything, but Clooney’s self-consciously old-fashioned war story celebrates the preservation of history by clouding it with corny romanticism. It’s noble to a fault.
2014 Oscar nominations: 0. Clooney failed to finish The Monuments Men in time for its original December release date, which means that it didn’t qualify for this year’s Academy Awards. There’s always next year—provided Oscar voters have good memories and an enduring affection for adventurous museum curators.
The LEGO Movie (February 7)
Raw data: An ordinary LEGO mini-figure named Emmet (Chris Pratt) is mistaken to be the savior of the LEGO universe, joining up with Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a wizard (Morgan Freeman), Batman (Will Arnett), and a ton of other plastic characters voiced by non-plastic stars to defeat Lord Business (Will Ferrell, doing his Mugatu/Megamind supervillain thing again).
Helpful equation: (Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs) + (a trip to LEGOLAND)
Chance it’ll be good: 100 percent. Despite dragging a bit in the middle third, it’s another deft, semi-miraculous adaptation from Clone High creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who also directed Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. The voice cast is superb, and the script is full of jokes with just the right hint of a genuinely positive commentary about imagination and the “right way” to play with toys.
Number of times Will Forte has voiced Abraham Lincoln: Two. Forte also voiced Honest Abe in Lord and Miller’s immaculate MTV series Clone High.
Vampire Academy (February 7)
Raw data: Brothers Mark Waters (known on the poster as “the director of Mean Girls”) and Daniel Waters (“the writer of Heathers”) are credited on the same film for the first time ever, an adaptation of a YA series about presumably non-sparkly vampires attending a presumably Hogwarts-ish boarding school.
Helpful equation: [Mean Girls + Heathers + Vamps] / (20 gallons of water)
Chance it’ll be good: 25 percent. Heathers and Mean Girls are spiritually compatible classics and throwing supernatural evil into the mix makes enough sense. But Mark Waters is also the director of Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Daniel Waters is also the writer of Sex And Death 101.
Expected variation on the average box-office grosses of Beautiful Creatures, The Host, and The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones: Plus or minus 10 percent.
A Fantastic Fear Of Everything (February 7)
Raw data: Looking more bedraggled (and acting more stunted) than any Cornetto Trilogy protagonist, Simon Pegg plays a children’s author expanding into the realm of Victorian crime novels. The only thing holding him back is the same thing that prevented his success in the kiddie genre: A history of severe traumas that leave him besieged by paranoia.
Helpful equation: [(Shaun Of The Dead - (Wright + Frost)] + [Gilliam-like absurdity + Burtonesque quirk] x (a night combing through “Serial killers” and related articles on Wikipedia)
Chance it'll be good: 0 percent. There are a few laughs, but Pegg desperately needs a comic foil off which to bounce his shtick and the film feels like a couple of sketches stretched to feature length.
Bonus points for extra-Britishness: 1000. Co-director and writer Crispian Mills is not only the son of actress Hayley Mills and filmmaker Roy Boulting—he’s also the former frontman for U.K. psych-rock act Kula Shaker.
Robocop (February 12)
Raw data: OmniCorp finds the perfect test subject for its half-man, half-robot, all-cop technology in the form of critically injured policeman Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). But the half-robot Murphy may not be as easy to control as his corporate overlords expect. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it happened in Paul Verhoeven’s masterful 1987 sci-fi satire of the same name. The 2014 model features Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, and probably a lot more CGI.
Helpful equation: [Robocop (1987) x Total Recall (2012)] + (backstory) - (crazy gore) + (vague feeling of depression)
Chance it’ll be good: 20 percent. Lots of people are interested in what Elite Squad director José Padilha does next—including, apparently, this movie’s surprisingly sterling and eclectic cast. But from the trailers, it looks like any semblance of social consciousness in this new Robocop will be heavy-handed and sorely lacking Verhoeven’s touch of perversity.
Number of Robocop movies currently recognized as worthwhile: 1
Winter’s Tale (February 14)
Raw data: Based on Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel, Winter’s Tale is a supernatural love story about a burglar (Colin Farrell), his terminally ill girlfriend (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay), a magical white horse, time travel in New York, and the immortality of true love. In other words, it’s a Valentine’s Day weepie that will set the mood for canoodling afterward.
Helpful equation: (The Lake House + The Time Traveler’s Wife) / Love Story
Chance it’ll be good: 30 percent, as the film’s sentimental tagline is eye-roll-inducing: “This is not a true story. This is true love.” But hey, we’re not made of stone, either.
Number of super storms that affected production: One. Like several other films and TV shows, Winter’s Tale’s production was delayed by Hurricane Sandy.
About Last Night (February 14)
Raw data: The 1986 war-of-the-sexes romantic comedy gets a modern makeover. Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant step into the Rob Lowe and Demi Moore parts, while Kevin Hart and Regina Hall fill in for Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins.
Helpful equation: (1986’s About Last Night…) + (cell phones and Los Angeles) - (Brat Pack members and Chicago)
Chance it’ll be good: 45 percent. Despite producers’ claims that this L.A.-set remake will skew closer to the source material—David Mamet’s 1974 stage play Sexual Perversity In Chicago—the impression provided by the trailers is that a scathing study of modern relationships has once again been reduced to a disposable date movie. That said, James Belushi is not on the cast list. That’s progress.
Movies Kevin Hart is scheduled to appear in this year: Four. And given the success of Ride Along and last summer’s hit stand-up film Let Me Explain, expect at least that many in 2015, too. The guy’s on fire.
Endless Love (February 14)
Raw data: It’s been 33 years since Brooke Shields fell madly in sex-love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, so it’s high time for a remake. This time out, Gabriella Wilde is the over-protected girl looking to explore, and Alex Pettyfer is the sexy, dangerous boy who wants to be her white knight while also sexing her to the max. Will they keep the bummer ending?
Helpful equation: (Endless Love 1981 – [Diana Ross + Lionel Richie]) + (2014’s aversion to unhappiness) + (Down To You)
Chance it’ll be good: 20 percent. The original isn’t exactly beloved, and the theme—do anything for that girl, including arson—seems especially suspect in these times.
Weeks the Ross/Richie title track “Endless Love” spent at No. 1 on the Hot 100 charts: Nine. Will the producers attempt to remake that, too?Trailer
Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian (February 14)
Raw data: French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin (Kings & Queen, A Christmas Tale) based his latest effort on the true story of Georges Devereux (Mathieu Amalric) and his efforts to help a shell-shocked World War II veteran (Benicio Del Toro).
Helpful equation: (Good Will Hunting) - (any sense of humor) x (Gallic arthouse severity).
Chance it’ll be good: 0 percent. Though it had a few hardy defenders at its Cannes premiere last year, most critics found it turgid and laborious, lacking the formal brio of Desplechin’s best work and continually getting mired in tell-me-about-your-mother psychobabble.
Amount of Blackfoot ancestry Del Toro has in real life: 0, though he’s claimed to be part Native American in certain interviews. (His family is Puerto Rican.)
3 Days To Kill (February 21)
Raw data: One month after playing an aging spy in the tepidly received Jack Ryan reboot, Kevin Costner returns to the espionage scene. His protagonist here is an elite agent whose plans to retire and spend time with his estranged teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) are complicated by a deadly medical diagnosis. To secure a cure for what ails him, he has to knock off some enemies of the state, completing the kill list in—you guessed it—three days.
Helpful equation: [(A Liam Neeson vehicle) - (Liam Neeson) + more jokes] x True Lies
Chance it’ll be good: 35 percent. The last time mononymous action hack McG tried his hand at spy games, the result was the dreadful This Means War. But this premise is less icky, and the script was co-authored by Luc Besson, that French authority on middle-aged dudes kicking ass and taking names.
Probability of a sequel: 5 percent. Even if the movie’s a hit, Costner isn’t likely to reprise his role. “I’ll never make a sequel,” he told Roger Ebert in 2008—a promise he’s managed to keep so far.
Pompeii (February 21)
Raw data: Evidently not an adaptation of the Edward Bulwer-Lytton novel The Last Days Of Pompeii, this spring’s would-be blockbuster stars Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington as a “slave who became a gladiator” (sound familiar?) searching for his true love (Emily Browning) during the historic, catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. One of the Paul Andersons directed. Sorry, not that one.
Helpful equation: (Gladiator + Titanic) - (any trace of prestige) + (a giant fucking CGI volcano)
Chance it’ll be good: 25 percent. Paul W.S. is a better filmmaker than his reputation suggests; he’s made at least a few entertaining genre movies, like Event Horizon and the first Resident Evil. But the trailers make Pompeii look bloated and derivative, with special effects only marginally superior to what audiences saw in Dante’s Peak and Volcano 17 years ago.
Years since Roman Polanski abandoned his Pompeii movie: Seven. Now that would have been something.
The Wind Rises (February 21)
Raw data: Legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki has stated that this fanciful biographical portrait of Jiro Horikoshi, the aeronautical engineer who designed Mitsubishi’s feared Zero fighter planes, will be his final film.
Helpful equation: (Porco Rosso - pigs) + Pearl Harbor (as seen from the other side).
Chance it’ll be good: 50 percent. That’s a compromise assessment—the film received largely respectful reviews upon its limited release late last year (for Oscar eligibility), but our own critic was decidedly less keen.
Wingspan of the Mitsubishi A5M, the primary aircraft featured in the movie: 36 feet, 1 inch.
Non-Stop (February 28)
Raw data: During an international flight, an air marshal (Liam Neeson) receives anonymous text messages threatening to kill one passenger every 20 minutes until a ransom is paid. When the bank account in question is traced to the marshal himself, he must do the stuff Liam Neeson does to track down the real culprit.
Helpful equation: [Flightplan + (Snakes On A Plane - snakes)] x (a very particular set of skills)
Chance it’ll be good: 55 percent. The trailer gives away a lot, but director Jaume Collet-Serra and Neeson previously collaborated on Unknown, a movie probably designed to knock off Taken but executed as amusingly cut-rate Hitchcock. This one looks similarly preposterous and similarly kind of fun.
Number of jokes related to the movie’s title that will be cracked during that weekend’s Oscar ceremony about its epic length: Somewhere between one and infinity.
Welcome To Yesterday (February 28)
Raw data: With the help of a mysterious blueprint, intrepid teenagers build a time machine and begin using the device to Marty McFly their futures. What could possibly go wrong?
Helpful equation: (Chronicle) + (Primer - convincing science) + (The Butterfly Effect)
Chance it’ll be good: 50 percent. Time travel, and the pretzel-logic plotting it often involves, is a reliably entertaining gimmick. Found footage, not as much. Here’s hoping Welcome To Yesterday actually does resemble the above-average Chronicle, and not the countless below-average found footage thrillers flooding theaters these days.
Years we’d have to travel back in time to stop the found footage craze from ever starting: At least 35. If we could get to 1979 or so, we could go all T-800 on Ruggero Deodato, director of the proto mock-doc horror movie, Cannibal Holocaust. Of course, we might also erase our own existence in the process. Damn paradoxes.
Ernest & Célestine (February 28)
Raw data: The unlikely friendship between a mouse and a hungry bear is the heart of this Oscar-nominated anthropomorphic fable, which also won the César award for Best Animated Film in its home country, France. It’s based on a children’s books by Gabrielle Vincent.
Helpful equation: (Beverly Cleary + dentistry) x (your nostalgia for hand-drawn animation)
Chance it’ll be good: 100 percent. It’s a thoroughly charming, improbably offbeat adventure, which proceeds from the inspired idea that all rodents are aspiring dentists who must secure the teeth of bear cubs in order to complete their studies. Most of Hollywood’s computer-animated fare suffers from a paucity of imagination by comparison.
Appearances by the late Jim Varney or idiotic New Age prophecies: 0.
Son Of God (February 28)
Raw data: Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s 10-hour The Bible TV miniseries apparently wasn’t enough, so they’ve recut the best bits—about that dude Jesus Christ—into a film for theatrical release. In the trailer, Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado appears to be playing dual roles: Smug Jesus and Bummed Jesus. He also has a CG hole in his hand, so apparently there was some FX budget.
Helpful equation: (The Passion Of The Christ) - (torture porn) + (all the Kool-Aid and a nice knit sweater)
Chance it’ll be good: 3 percent. It looks nominally like some parts of Game Of Thrones, but there are no dragons. (At least not in the trailer.)
Jesus quotes repurposed as marketing taglines: at least one. The Son Of God trailer cleverly quotes Jesus saying, “I am coming soon,” which totally has a double meaning. If only they’d dubbed him saying “I am coming soon… February 28 to be exact.”
Also in February:
British genre director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) heads for A Field In England (February 7), a period thriller about AWOL soldiers coerced into a treasure hunt. The documentary Kids For Cash (February 7) examines the headlines-grabbing (and Law & Order inspiring!) case of a judge who “sold” juvenile offenders to a correctional facility. Claude Lanzmann expands an outtake from his essential Shoah into the feature-length interview doc The Last Of The Unjust (February 7). Zoe Kazan plays twins, one of whom romances New Girl’s Jake Johnson, in The Pretty One (February 7). A corporate retreat goes wrong in the action comedy Welcome To The Jungle (February 7), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Adult World (February 14) casts Emma Roberts as a wannabe poet working at a sex shop and seeking mentorship from John Cusack. Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally play supporting roles in the comedy Date And Switch (February 14), about BFFs whose American Pie pact is complicated when one of them comes out of the closet. In the sequel Easy Money: Hard To Kill (February 14), Joel Kinnaman reprises the role of a social-climbing brat now locked into a life of crime. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (February 21) profiles the award-winning Broadway actress. In Secret (February 21), which was called Thérèse last fall, casts Elizabeth Olsen as the title character of Neal Bell’s 19th-century romance. Paradise Now director Hany Abu-Assad returns with Omar (February 21), about a Palestinian man who becomes an unwilling informant for the Israeli Army. The poorly titled The Bag Man (February 28) puts Robert De Niro and John Cusack through the crime-thriller motions. The Indian romance The Lunchbox (February 28) facilitates a May-December romance in Mumbai. And Stalingrad (February 28) blows up the famous WWII battle to IMAX proportions.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (March 7)
Raw data: Wes Anderson assembles what may be his biggest, most star-studded cast ever for this comedy about an eccentric, renowned concierge (Ralph Fiennes) and the bellboy (Tony Revolori) he takes under his wing. The period piece, set at a European hotel in the 1920s, opens the Berlin International Film Festival tonight.
Helpful equation: Grand Hotel x (Wes Anderson to the Wes Anderson power)
Chance it’ll be good: 90 percent. Wes rarely whiffs, and this new one looks like one of his giddiest clockwork creations. Who knew Fiennes was funny?
Anderson alums on the cast list: 10, by our count.
300: Rise Of An Empire (March 7)
Raw data: Having felled Sparta’s finest in 300, the dastardly lord Xerxes continues his campaign for power. But there’s fight left in the Greeks, especially with general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) leading the defensive fleet. Lena Headey returns for this seven-years-later sequel, based on another Frank Miller graphic novel and co-written by the director of the original, Zack Snyder.
Helpful equation: (300) - (the titular 300) - (unique premise) - (novelty of imagery) - (fan interest) - (Gerard Butler) - (any non-financial reason for this to exist)
Chance it’ll be good: 5 percent. Who better to take the reins of this for-some-reason-continuing franchise but the director of Smart People?
Minutes of the new film fans will get to see in advance: Thirteen, though only if said fans live in one of the 10 cities hosting official screenings of the original 300 on February 4.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (March 7)
Raw data: Aloof talking dog Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) must use his time machine to save the space-time continuum from the accidental damage caused by his bumbling human child Sherman. This is the fourth set of Jay Ward cartoon characters to get their own feature film, and the first to try its hand at an all-animation approach.
Helpful equation: [Rocky and Bullwinkle - Rocky - Bullwinkle] x CGI
Chance it’ll be good: 50 percent. The source material is clever and DreamWorks Animation has made some incremental improvements lately (The Croods, lack of Shrek sequels), but their track record is nonetheless spotty.
Probability it will end with its entire cast dancing to a cheesy pop hit: Nine in 10.
One Chance (March 7)
Raw data: Paul Potts (Tony winner James Corden) is an English misfit who wants desperately to be an opera singer. He gets an unexpected break via an audition for the Simon Cowell-produced Britain’s Got Talent, in an inspiring true story also produced by Simon Cowell.
Helpful equation: [1/1,000,000 x (Little Voice + Billy Elliot + Brassed Off!)] + Simon Cowell
Chance it’ll be good: 40 percent. You have to assume that if this was a rousing crowdpleaser, The Weinstein Company would have released it in December, to suckle aggressively at the awards-circuit teat. So maybe it’s just a modest, charming underdog story. Then again: it’s a movie produced by Simon Cowell about the potentially life-changing event of appearing on a TV show produced by Simon Cowell.
Percentage of other Simon Cowell-produced feature films that start with “One”: 100 percent, thanks to One Direction: This Is Us.
The Face Of Love (March 7)
Raw data: Annette Bening stars as a widow who, five years after the death of her husband (Ed Harris), finally musters the strength to start dating again. The catch: Her new man (Harris again) looks exactly like her late hubby.
Helpful equation: (P.S.) + (a dash of Vertigo)
Chance it’ll be good: 65 percent. Director Arie Posin’s last film, The Chumscrubber, was nothing to write home about. But reviews of The Face Of Love from Toronto were mostly positive, emphasizing the psychological complexity of the film’s romantic scenario.
Total prior Oscar nominations among the film’s cast: 12—four each for Bening, Harris, and co-star Robin Williams.
Veronica Mars (March 14)
Raw data: Kristen Bell returns as the titular detective, pulled back into the sleuthing game when her ex-boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring) is accused of murder, in this Kickstarter-funded adaptation of the canceled UPN/CW series. Expect most of Veronica’s Neptune High classmates to make appearances, though those pulling for a Backup cameo should remember how long it’s been in dog years since the show went off the air.
Helpful equation: (Veronica Mars + seven years - network notes) / (total combined running time of two Veronica Mars episodes)
Chance it’ll be good: 75 percent. Reviving a defunct series/property is always a crapshoot, and creator Rob Thomas won’t have a full television season to set-up and solve his mystery. Still, we believe in this project, which should at the very least provide closure that the series finale—really just a season finale that turned out to be the show’s final episode—could not.
Kickstarter backers: More than 90,000—a new record for the crowdsourcing website. The Mars campaign also raised $1 million in less than five hours, which is faster than any previous project, and reached its $2 million goal in a little more than 10 hours. The fans did their part, Thomas. Don’t screw this up.
Need For Speed (March 14)
Raw data: In this adaptation of the popular video-game series, a street racer (Aaron Paul), just released from a two-year prison stint for a crime he didn’t commit, embarks on a cross-country race that will somehow avenge the death of his friend.
Helpful equation: (Fast & Furious - Vin Diesel) + (Vanishing Point x “Yeah, bitch!”)
Chance it’ll be good: 30 percent. Game-to-movie adaptations are rarely any good, and this one is drawing from a series that privileges a fetish-like love of fast, fancy cars over everything else. A big-screen Burnout, the game with all the crashes and explosions, might be more fun.
Industry-mandated music/acting crossover: One. Four of the Fast & Furious movies had Tyrese, so Need For Speed got Kid Cudi.
The Single Moms Club (March 14)
Raw data: Another season, another Tyler Perry movie. This one concerns several single mothers—played by Nia Long, Amy Smart, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Zulay Henao, and Kendra C. Johnson, among others—who form a support group after their children are involved in a school vandalism incident. A television series based on the film is already in the works and will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Helpful equation (The First Wives Club) x (comedy + drama + life lessons + likely hint of a spiritual bent)
Chance it’ll be good: 40 percent. The recent Temptation notwithstanding, Perry’s Madea-free efforts tend to be less painful than those starring his geriatric alter ego. And any movie about the struggles of single mothers is at least theoretically welcome, though Perry has botched good premises before.
Highest Rotten Tomatoes score for a Perry picture: 63 percent, for the 2009 dramedy I Can Do Bad All By Myself
Bad Words (March 14)
Raw data: In his feature directorial debut, Jason Bateman casts himself as a grown man who’s used a loophole in the rules to ascend in the ranks of the national spelling bee tournament. He wages foul-mouthed psychological warfare on many on his pre-adolescent competitors, while also warming to one kid unfazed by his barrage of insults.
Helpful equation: [Bad Santa] - (the word “Santa”) + (the word “Words”) - (yuletide setting) - (great gags)
Chance it’ll be good: 0 percent. Bateman excels at playing selfish assholes, but the film—which one of our reviewers caught at Toronto—has more attitude than wit. And yes, it’s a blatant Bad Santa imitation.
Competitors in last year’s National Spelling Bee: 281, none of whom were a middle-aged man with mysterious motives and a secret soft spot for adorable moppets.
Enemy (March 14)
Raw data: Jake Gyllenhaal reunites with Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve to play a Toronto history professor who discovers, through improbably random means, that he has a doppelgänger—a third-rate bit actor he attempts to contact, only to later regret the decision.
Helpful equation: (Gyllenhaal x 2) + (Dead Ringers + banal sexual fantasy)
Chance it’ll be good: 0 percent. Villeneuve is a talented craftsman, but his attempt at Cronenbergian psychodrama is silly and humorless, at least according to our man on the scene in Toronto.
Recent films about doppelgängers based on a book called The Double: Two. In addition to Enemy, adapted from a novel by José Saramago, there’s the upcoming comedy The Double, based on the Dostoyevsky novella and starring Jesse Eisenberg as inexplicably identical coworkers.
The Missing Picture (March 19)
Raw data: Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh, who was a child when the Khmer Rouge decimated his country, tells his harrowing story using a series of remarkable tableaux populated with tiny clay figurines. He had no choice, as the only surviving documentary footage is Khmer Rouge propaganda.
Helpful equation: (The Sorrow And The Pity) x (Team America: World Police)
Chance it’ll be good: 100 percent. Panh’s use of abstract imagery lends startling potency to this atrocity tale. And the voiceover narration is so poetically written that it would make a remarkable book on its own. This is sure to be one of the year’s most extraordinary documentaries.
Estimated number of Cambodians murdered between 1975 and 1979: 1.8 million.
Divergent (March 21)
Raw data: Set in futuristic Chicago, the adaptation of Veronica Roth’s YA novel centers on Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley), a girl who discovers she doesn’t fit into one of the five rigid factions within her dystopian society.
Helpful equation: (The Hunger Games / the four houses of Hogwarts) x Brave New World
Chance it’ll be good: 40 percent. Summit Entertainment and parent company Lionsgate have been snapping up YA properties left and right since Twilight in 2008. Lionsgate struck gold again with The Hunger Games, and there’s hope that Divergent will be another golden egg from the young-adult book adaptation goose. All the elements are there for box-office success, from the cast (including Kate Winslet and rising star Miles Teller as the villain) to the requisite romance, but nothing here seems especially fresh or new.
On-screen siblings that will look more awkward this summer: Two. Woodley and Ansel Elgort, who play brother and sister here, star as lovers in the adaptation of John Green’s tearjerker The Fault In Our Stars.
Muppets Most Wanted (March 21)
Raw data: In this follow-up to 2011’s franchise-restarting The Muppets, Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy, and the rest are on a whirlwind European tour when Kermit is replaced by his Russian-accented doppelgänger, the nefarious Constantine. Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, and Ty Burrell assist with the human side of the high jinks.
Helpful equation: [The Muppets x The Great Muppet Caper] - Jason Segel
Chance it’ll be good: 90 percent. Segel and Amy Adams may be gone, but human co--stars always rotate in Muppet movies. The important thing is that director James Bobin, co-writer Nicholas Stoller, and songman Bret McKenzie all remain—along with, of course, all of the Muppets. A proper, theatrically released Muppet movie has never been less than watchable, and most of them have been delightful.
Percentage of critics and fans who will claim this movie fixes the myriad crippling problems with its then-near-universally beloved predecessor: At least 30 (around the same number who will lament Segel’s crippling absence).
Nymphomaniac: Volume I (March 21)
Raw data: Lars Von Trier’s latest provocation is a doozy: In its complete form, this tale of a sexually compulsive woman (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg as an adult and by Stacy Martin in her younger incarnation), which features copious unsimulated sex, runs well over five hours. An edited four-hour version, in two parts, is being released in the U.S.
Helpful equation: (Sex) + (sex) + (sex) + (sex) + (sex) + (fly fishing… wait, what?) + (sex) + (sex)
Chance it’ll be good: 100 percent. Volume I was shown as a secret screening at the recent Sundance Film Festival, and while it’s decidedly incomplete, playing like a movie that’s just cruelly been turned off halfway through, its button-pushing amalgam of pornography and philosophy (with the latter provided by a curious character played by Stellan Skarsgård) is vintage Von Trier.
Parts this movie should have had: One. If you must split long movies in two, distributors, at least release them simultaneously rather than staggering them weeks or months apart.
Jodorowsky’s Dune (March 21)
Raw data: One of cinema’s great “What if?”s, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science-fiction epic exists only as concept art (by the likes of H.R. Giger and Moebius), casting rumors (Orson Welles! Mick Jagger! Salvador Dalí!), and a proposed Pink Floyd score. This documentary picks up those fragments to discover what went wrong—and examine how the abandoned project still managed to distribute its whacked-out mélange to the sci-fi films that followed.
Helpful equation: (Dune - trace elements of David Lynch) + (Argo - Iran hostage crisis x hallucinogens) / (The Holy Mountain x Lost In La Mancha)
Chance it’ll be good: 85 percent. The stories behind realized Dune adaptations are fascinating enough. Imagine what gems were spawned from the version that left Dan O’Bannon so deep in debt, he had to write Alien to pay it all off. Still, Jodorowsky’s Dune is fundamentally hurt by the fact that it’s not, you know, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune.
Cost Dalí demanded to get out of bed each day: $100,000 an hour, which could buy a lot of melting clocks.
Noah (March 28)
Raw data: Just in time for Easter and Passover, Requiem For A Dream director Darren Aronofsky offers a presumably moody take on the rousing Biblical saga. Russell Crowe plays the eponymous patriarch, called upon by the Almighty to build a big boat and wrangle some amorous beasts to occupy it. Other actors weathering the mighty flood include Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson.
Helpful equation: (A Cecil B. DeMille biblical epic) + (The Last Wave) + (period-appropriate grunge and filth) + (the secular pleasures of CGI set pieces)
Chance it’ll be good: 65 percent. Aronofsky is untrained in the field of expensive blockbusters; it remains to be seen if he can capably mount an epic of this scale. But early reports of clashes with Paramount, which has received “worrisome” reactions from religious test audiences, have squashed fears that Noah might be a sell-out move for the director. Also, Clint Mansell did the score, which will assumedly be glorious.
Price tag of Hollywood’s last Noah-related movie: $175 million—about $50 million more than what’s been spent here—for the comedy Evan Almighty. This has to be better than that, right?
Sabotage (March 28)
Raw data: Colorfully nicknamed DEA operatives—Arnold Schwarzenegger as Breacher, Sam Worthington as Monster, Terrence Howard as Sugar, Mireille Enos as Lizzy, and so on—steal some drug money in a bust. Then the killing begins, as team members are gradually knocked off by an unknown assailant. It’s a race against time, etc.
Helpful equation: (End Of Watch - scrupulous officers) x 10 (as in Little Indians)
Chance it’ll be good: 60 percent. It’s a grabby pulp premise, and director David Ayer’s End Of Watch has its fans. But screenwriter Skip Woods had a hand in crafting Hitman, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and A Good Day To Die Hard, which is to say he also had a hand in ruining pulpy premises (and beloved characters) with insultingly slapdash writing.
Years since Schwarzenegger acted in a genuine ensemble that didn’t involve Sylvester Stallone: 17, which is how long it’s been since Batman & Robin.
The Raid 2 (March 28)
Raw data: Having presumably recovered from all the flesh-bruising, organ-softening battle he endured in 2011’s Indonesian ass-kicker The Raid: Redemption, SWAT team survivor Rama (Iko Uwais) goes undercover to bring down a powerful crime syndicate. More non-stop brutality is said to commence, this time on a citywide scale.
Helpful equation: (The Raid: Redemption + 47 minutes of running time - enclosed setting - any semblance of restraint) x The Departed
Chance it’ll be good: 85 percent. Evans’ original Raid was a powerhouse of an action movie, just relentless in its onslaught of virtuosic violence. Reports from Sundance, where it premiered in January, have been mostly enthusiastic. But could the carnage be too extreme? A few critics on the scene in Park City thought so.
Medical emergencies during the film’s premiere: At least one—though it was supposedly caused by “altitude sickness,” not the sight of snapping bones and cracking skulls. Likely story.
Cesar Chavez (March 28)
Raw data: Cesar Chavez doesn’t have the name recognition of Martin Luther King or Gandhi (though he does have lots of American streets named after him, which Gandhi can’t claim). This star-studded biopic could change that, as it dramatizes Chavez’s non-violent struggle to strengthen the rights of American laborers.
Helpful equation: (Malcolm X - controversy, hats, and Spike Lee) - (the city) + (golden fields of America)
Chance it’ll be good: 85 percent. The story deserves telling, and the cast is solid: Michael Peña, who plays Chavez, has proven himself as both a comedic and dramatic actor, and presumably he knows the stakes here. He’s joined by a director who obviously knows actors (Diego Luna) and some other excellent performers, including John Malkovich as the villain.
Days Chavez fasted in 1988 to protest pesticides: 36. Think about that when you’re ordering that large popcorn with extra butter.
Also in March:
A Farewell To Fools (March 7) casts Gérard Depardieu and Harvey Keitel in a WWII-era farce about wartime culpability and manipulation. In one of his approximately 3,000 appearances this spring, John Cusack plays a sniper demanding perfection from reclusive pianist Elijah Wood in the reportedly De Palma-ish thriller Grand Piano (March 7). Jacki Weaver is among the haunted family of Haunt (March 7). Stephen Chow (King Fu Hustle) pits demon hunters against, well, demons in Journey To The West (March 7). Not to be confused with the 2009 documentary of the same name, The Art Of The Steal (March 14) features Kurt Russell as a motorcycle-riding thief going in for that mythic One Last Score. Pharmacist Sam Rockwell romances married seductress Olivia Wilde in the dark comedy Better Living Through Chemistry (March 14). Paris is the city of love in Le Week-End (March 14), which pairs Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as long-time spouses looking to reignite the flame on a trip abroad. Anita Hill gets the bio-doc treatment in Anita (March 21). Tell No One director Guillaume Canet heads to 1970s Brooklyn with the crime thriller Blood Ties (March 21), starring Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, and more. Someone named Carter directs James Franco as a mentally disturbed actor in Maladies (March 21). And Guy Pearce plays a nostalgic music teacher in the drama Breathe In (March 28).
The Unknown Known (April 2)
Raw data: Legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, whose 2003 film The Fog Of War saw him engage with Vietnam War architect Robert S. McNamara, now turns his attention to another controversial secretary of defense: Donald Rumsfeld.
Helpful equation: (The Fog Of War) - (candor) + (more fog)
Chance it’ll be good: 100 percent, though it’s among Morris’ weakest efforts. Ultimately, Rumsfeld is just too evasive to serve as more than a curiosity; to the extent that The Unknown Known works, it’s as a portrait of a man who never lets his guard down, even as he constantly pretends to do so. Or so said our review last December, which we ran before learning that the film’s release date had been postponed.
Estimated number of “snowflakes” (memos) Rumsfeld composed during his six years as secretary of defense: More than 20,000, or roughly 10 per day (weekends included).
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4)
Raw data: Before getting the band back together in next year’s The Avengers 2, super soldier Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) must smoke out a villain laying low in D.C. His backup includes the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), S.H.I.E.L.D. honcho Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and newcomer The Falcon (Anthony Mackie). Meanwhile, the trailer strongly implies that Robert Redford may be the bad guy. Don’t spread that around.
Helpful equation: (Three Days Of The Condor) + (spandex)
Chance it’ll be good: 70 percent. The Russo brothers, best known for their work on Arrested Development and Community, aren’t the most intuitive choice to direct an expensive comic-book adaptation. But wasn’t that said about Sam Raimi and Christopher Nolan, too? Whether there’s truth to the filmmakers’ boasts that they’ve made a ’70s political thriller with superheroes remains to be seen. Either way, Marvel was so impressed with their work here that they’ve rehired them for another sequel.
Days until the next Avengers movie opens: 448. But who’s counting, right?
Nymphomaniac: Volume II (April 4)
Raw data: Lars Von Trier’s mammoth tale of a woman’s perverse sexual awakening continues, reportedly with even more graphic footage than its predecessor. (Scenes involving celebrities—the supporting cast includes Shia LaBeouf, Jamie Bell, and Connie Nielsen—employ CGI to graft famous heads onto porn actors’ bodies.)
Helpful equation: (Nymphomaniac: Volume I) + (two more hours)
Chance it’ll be good: 80 percent. Early reports from Europe, where the complete film has already opened, suggest that Volume II is more problematic, especially regarding a racially provocative three-way scene. But assuming that the movie continues in the same vein, it’s almost certain to be a winner.
Minutes edited out of Von Trier’s preferred version for the American release: Roughly 90.
Under The Skin (April 4)
Raw data: Scarlett Johansson follows up her voice-only role in Her with an equally striking performance in which she barely speaks at all. Mostly, she drives around Scotland asking random men for directions, though the ones who get into her car are never seen again.
Helpful equation: [(Starman) + (Alien) + (hidden-camera documentary)] x (disorienting abstraction)
Chance it’ll be good: 100 percent. Directed by Jonathan Glazer (Birth), Under The Skin is a non-stop visual tour de force—the rare film that seems to push the medium in a new, thrilling direction. Though based on a novel by Michel Faber, it operates almost exclusively in the realm of pure cinema, imagining how our planet might be experienced by a truly alien intelligence. And Johansson, who sometimes struggles playing ordinary humans, has rarely been better.
Scores for 2014 releases likely to be more striking than the one Mica Levi (a.k.a. Micachu) composed for this movie: 0.
Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar (April 4)
Raw data: Despite the name in the title, this isn’t another entry in the Madagascar franchise (which had lemurs in it too), but a live-action IMAX documentary about long-tailed primates endemic to the African island. Emperor Of Narration Morgan Freeman provides the voiceover, so this looks to be a fastball over the plate to fans of his penguin movie.
Helpful equation: (March Of The Penguins) - (penguins) + (cute bouncing monkey-type things)
Chance it’ll be good: 80 percent. Just look at those things in the trailer! They’re goddamn adorable! They hop kind of like kangaroos, but are primates who swing around trees. And they have those cool, long tails and cute little faces. And look, there’s a baby hanging on its mother’s back!
Number of lemur species: 103. According to the International Union For Conservation Of Nature, 24 of them are “critically endangered,” 52 are merely “endangered,” 20 are said to be “vulnerable,” and at least one has been labeled “having a rough time lately.”
Dom Hemingway (April 4)
Raw data: Jude Law plays the title role in this scabrous comedy about a safecracker, just released from prison, who travels with his buddy (Richard E. Grant) to collect the reward he’d been promised for keeping his mouth shut. His mouth does not stay shut, however.
Helpful equation: (Sexy Beast - Ray Winstone) + (Withnail — I)
Chance it’ll be good: 100 percent. Law turns in one of his most charismatic performances in years, unafraid to take this profane hoodlum way over the top, and his chemistry with an unusually subdued Grant is terrific. A sequence in which Dom is tasked to open a particularly tough safe in a specified period of time—with castration the penalty for failing—is one of the year’s comic highlights.
Elapsed time before Dom starts boasting directly to the camera about his incredible penis: 10 seconds.
Draft Day (April 11)
Raw data: Kevin Costner plays the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, wheeling and dealing in order to land the top pick in the upcoming NFL draft while dealing with a hotshot new coach (Denis Leary) and a very involved owner (Frank Langella). It’s the wildest fantasy film of the year.
Helpful equation: (Any Given Sunday + Moneyball) x NFL Films Presents
Chance it’ll be good: 15 percent. The best films about football cut to the heartbreak of severe injury and the cultural value placed on a game that boils down to land acquisition. But Draft Day looks like a sports comedy that will do nothing but puff up the NFL’s self-image and keep the sport in the public eye during the offseason. On the plus side, Ivan Reitman is the director’s chair, though it’s been a very long time since the Ghostbusters director made something worthwhile.
Number of cast members who have appeared in Superman adaptations: Three: Costner in Man Of Steel, Langella in Superman Returns, and Tom Welling in Smallville.
Rio 2 (April 11)
Raw data: 2011’s Rio was a pleasant enough time-waster, the sort of mediocrity Fox Animation typically aims for, but also the kind of mediocrity that pulled in more than $484 million worldwide. That ensured a sequel, which finds Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and their brood—previously thought to be the world’s only remaining macaws—ditching the big city and hanging out with Jewel’s family and former flame (Bruno Mars) in the jungle. High jinks presumably ensue.
Helpful equation: (Rio x 2) + (international pop star)
Chance it’ll be good: 50 percent. “Good” is a relative distinction when it comes to assembly line sequels to committee-made animated movies. We’d settle for “painless” or “mildly diverting.”
Difference between worldwide grosses of Rio and The A.V. Club’s 2011 film of the year, The Tree Of Life: $430,332,441.
Joe (April 11)
Raw data: After a number of years squandered on lowbrow comedies like The Sitter and Your Highness, David Gordon Green returns to his more pensive roots with this tale of a troubled teenager (Mud’s Tye Sheridan) who’s befriended by the title character, a hard-living crew foreman played by Nicolas Cage.
Helpful equation: (Nicolas Cage) + (crazy beard) — (crazy acting)
Chance it’ll be good: 100 percent. This is the kind of richly detailed, primarily atmospheric movie Green ought to be making—his best effort since All The Real Girls a decade ago. It’s also a welcome reminder that Cage can be an astonishing actor even when he’s not relying on bizarre tics and mannerisms; his Joe Ransom is so thoroughly decent that he actually functions as a positive role model, despite a few backwoods idiosyncrasies.
Consecutive years that Tye Sheridan has played a significant role in a major film: Three. (The Tree Of Life, 2011; Mud, 2012; and Joe, which premiered at Venice last fall.)
Oculus (April 11)
Raw data: Ten years after her brother supposedly murdered her parents—and days after he’s released from prison—Marie (Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff) begins chasing her decade-old suspicion that the real culprit was supernatural. The investigation leads to a creepy old family mirror. Cue the paranormal activity.
Helpful equation: (Mirrors - Kiefer Sutherland) / (James Wan’s recent oeuvre)
Chance it’ll be good: 65 percent. The premise seems a little shopworn, but early reviews have been positive and the trailer boasts a few genuine scares. Extra anticipation points for not attempting to look like recovered home movies.
Odds that Oculus employs a “mirror scare”: 1-1.
Only Lovers Left Alive (April 11)
Raw data: Even indie stalwart Jim Jarmusch has succumbed to the vampire craze, casting Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, and Mia Wasikowska as ageless bloodsuckers who spend most of their time collecting and cherishing humanity’s greatest cultural achievements.
Helpful equation: (Twilight + adult appeal) x (the first segment of Mystery Train)
Chance it’ll be good: 100 percent. Forever true to his iconoclastic spirit, Jarmusch has employed the tired vampire mythos to ends never before contemplated, with Swinton and Hiddleston showing far more interest in old guitars and new iPhones than in seeking out necks to chomp. Few films have better conveyed the sheer beauty of the world around us, to which we’re too often oblivious. Our reviewers at Cannes and Sundance both loved it.
Cool objects seen in the movie that Jarmusch himself probably owns: 100+.
St. Vincent (April 11)
Raw data: There’s not much info out there beyond a skeletal plot and a stellar cast list, but that’s enough to prick up ears. Bill Murray mentors a boy whose parents have recently divorced. Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, and Chris O’Dowd also star, and the script was one of those Hollywood “blacklist” dealies—the best unproduced scripts, etc.
Helpful equation: (Broken Flowers + Wes Anderson) - tweed suits + raunchy jokes + ¼ teaspoon of sentimentality (do not overseason!)
Chance it’ll be good: 93 percent. Excepting that Roosevelt movie that everybody would just as soon forget, Bill Murray is a national hero lately. Melissa McCarthy, given the right material, also kills it. Just don’t tone it down, people.
Years since Murray scored an Oscar nomination: 10, when he was up for Lost In Translation. Could this put him back in the game or did his sourpuss reaction to losing the last time around kill any future chances?
Alan Partridge (April 14)
Raw data: Steve Coogan has played his Alan Partridge character on radio and television for over two decades. In the film incarnation, Partridge has left his television career and makes his living as a DJ at a small-town radio station. When a conglomerate buys his station and sacks an unstable colleague (Colm Meany), a hostage situation develops—and Partridge sees the opportunity to “host” it.
Helpful equation: [Airheads + Anchorman] / The Trip
Chance it’ll be good: 100 percent. This very funny comedy, which screened at the New York Film Festival last fall, requires little to no previous knowledge of the Alan Partridge character—just an appreciation of Coogan’s talent for awakening the egomania within an essentially small-time radio presenter. An appetite for British silliness will also help; the movie takes satirical jabs but finds room for slapstick, too.
Separate programs/properties/events the character has appeared in: 33, including a live tour, an awards show, and a charity function.
Frankie & Alice (April 14)
Raw data: Halle Berry stars as a woman with multiple personalities (it’s called dissociative identity disorder now, insensitive pricks!)—one a stripper, one a racist Southern white woman. There’s a third, too, but the trailer doesn’t want anyone to know about that one, because it’s fucking crazy sounding.
Helpful equation: (Sybil) + (stripping) + (Stellan Skarsgård )+ (a dash of Lifetime) + (Oscar bait) + (it’s been sitting on a shelf for half a decade) = high probability of total trainwreck.
Chance it’ll be good: 35 percent. If it is a total trainwreck, it could be some Nicolas Cage-level shit. If it’s heartwarming or sensitive, it’ll need to hit a very small target to be bearable. The film did play at Cannes, where reaction was somewhat positive. But again: It was filmed in 2008 and 2009, and is only hitting American theaters now.
Major American award nominations: One—a Golden Globe nod for Berry in 2010, when the movie had a one-week qualifying run in Los Angeles.
Heaven Is For Real (April 16)
Raw data: The young son (Connor Corum) of a small-town pastor (Greg Kinnear) undergoes emergency surgery and wakes up with stories of his brief visit to heaven, thus proving irrevocably and inarguably for all time that heaven is an actual place.
Helpful equation: [(Dear God + Letters To God) - (Tim Conway shtick)] x [low-budget movies that receive semi-successful regional releases]
Chance it’ll be good: 7 percent, rounded up from 6.66 percent. The presence of Kinnear, Thomas Haden Church, and Margo Martindale suggests something more thoughtful than simple pro-faith propaganda. The premise, source, and trailer do not; they also seem to selfishly withhold vital information about whether or not hell is for real.
Number of additional God-centric movies Greg Kinnear must do to save his career from the clutches of the Dark Lord Satan: Hopefully zero?
Transcendence (April 18)
Raw data: A scientist (Johnny Depp) who is researching artificial intelligence is attacked by a radical anti-tech group that leaves him terminally ill. In order to continue his work, he and his partners download his mind into a computer. Co-starring Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, and Cillian Murphy, this is the directorial debut of Christopher Nolan’s longtime, Oscar-winning cinematographer, Wally Pfister.
Helpful equation: (Christopher Nolan + Terry Gilliam) / (The Fountain + Isaac Asimov)
Chance it’ll be good: 75 percent. Pfister’s work looks immaculate with almost no exception, despite what some jagged editing can do to the action sequences in Nolan’s films. And Johnny Depp hasn’t played a character that actually challenges him since Captain Jack Sparrow became the punchline for his decline.
Cast members who have worked with Christopher Nolan: Four. Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Cillian Murphy, and Josh Stewart have all worked with Pfister before on various Nolan projects.
A Haunted House 2 (April 18)
Raw data: Undeterred by the wretched reviews he received last January, Marlon Wayans returns with another “timely” spoof of found-footage horror movies. Was part one really a big enough hit to justify more egregious stereotypes and lazy fart jokes? It scarcely needed to be, given how low the film’s commercial-camcorder aesthetic must have kept costs.
Helpful equation: (A Haunted House) + (references to some of last year’s horror movies) - (any tiny trace of creative inspiration)
Chance it’ll be good: 3 percent, which is probably too generous, but the Wayans-penned Scary Movie installments were good for a couple of cheap chuckles. That’s the best anyone can hope for here.
Amount A Haunted House 2 will have to make before A Haunted House 3 gets the greenlight: maybe $25 million, maybe even less. The filmmakers spent only about $2 million on the original; the sequel can’t have cost much more. On opening weekend, pray for a blizzard or a mass power-outage—anything to stop this franchise cold.
Fading Gigolo (April 18)
Raw data: The gigolo of the title is writer-director-star John Turturro, portraying a Manhattan florist who begins selling his “companionship” to help a cash-strapped friend make ends meet. Said friend, his amateur “pimp,” is played by none other than Woody Allen, in a rare appearance outside of a Woody Allen movie.Helpful equation: (Midnight Cowboy) / (Mighty Aphrodite)
Chance it’ll be good: 50 percent, depending on the viewer’s sensibilities. According to one of our critics at Toronto, the film is a mixed bag—ludicrous and problematic, but possessed of a certain tender charm.
Times Allen has appeared in a feature he didn’t direct: Only 11, and sometimes only for an uncredited cameo.
Walk Of Shame (April 25)
Raw data: Elizabeth Banks plays a career-focused news anchor who reluctantly agrees to go out with her friends one night and ends up hooking up with James Marsden. She receives news about an important job interview later, but finds herself stranded in downtown Los Angeles without money, ID, her phone, or her car.
Helpful equation: (The Out Of Towners – tourists)/(Adventures In Babysitting - kids) + Knocked Up
Chance it’ll be good: 50 percent. On the one hand, the cast includes Banks, Marsden, Gillian Jacobs, The Wire’s Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Bill Burr, and Kevin Nealon. On the other, it’s written and directed by Steven Brill, who also wrote and directed Little Nicky and directed Without A Paddle and Mr. Deeds.
Number of times Walk Of Shame’s release date was pushed back: Two. The film was originally set for release last September, but distributor Focus World pushed it back six months to March 2014. In December, Focus added another month to the delay.
The Other Woman (April 25)
Raw data: Inspired by his wife Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes directed (and wrote) A Woman Under The Influence, a powerful film about the place and plight of women in modern America. Their son, Nick Cassavetes, directed this movie, a goofy-looking revenge fantasy starring three women (Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Kate Upton) cheated on by the same man.
Helpful equation: (Chasing Papi + Trading Places) + Jaime Lannister + Nicki Minaj
Chance it’ll be good: 10 percent. If it’s mean enough to be anywhere near realistic, it could wring some laughs. If it’s full of life lessons, it’s going to be brutal. Either way, the younger Cassavetes hasn’t exactly lived up the legacy of his father, though his supporting role in Face/Off (“No more drugs for this man!”) was pretty cool.
Chance uptight film reviewers will mention Woman or other John Cassavetes films in reviews: 85 percent.
The Quiet Ones (April 25)
Raw data: Skeptical Oxford professor Jared Harris and a team of students attempt to create a poltergeist in an effort to prove supernatural phenomena comes from human-generated negative energy. Naturally, that includes experimenting on a troubled, waifish orphan with long, stringy, dark hair, because this is a post-The Ring, post-The Grudge world. It’s all “inspired by actual events,” though the chances that any of this happened are slim.
Helpful equation: (The Ring) + (The Grudge) + (The Devil Inside) + (every other labored possession/haunting movie) + Lane from Mad Men
Chance it’ll be good: 40 percent. Jared Harris tends to elevate whatever he’s in, and The Quiet Ones looks good for a least a couple scares, but it also looks like a lot of similar movies that have come out over the past decade.
Estimated number of times “The Quiet Ones” by Oasis appears in the film: 0. It’s set in 1974.
Blue Ruin (April 25)
Raw data: Jeremy Saulnier, who’s shot all three of Matthew Porterfield’s features, directs this reportedly grim revenge story, about a man who returns to his hometown to commit a murder and suffers the consequences of this ill-conceived plot. The film won a prize at Directors’ Fortnight, the parallel Cannes festival, and has been accruing new fans ever since.
Helpful equation: (Noir - the city) x (Death Wish - righteous badassery)
Chance it’ll be good: 95 percent. Early reviews have been basically across-the-board ecstatic. If Saulnier’s work with actors is as strong as his eye for composition, expect The A.V. Club to join the praise chorus.
“Name” actors in the cast: 0, though Blue Ruin could put star Macon Blair on some radars. Also, costar Amy Hargreaves has done some TV work, including several appearances on the most recent season of Homeland.
Locke (April 25)
Raw data: For 85 minutes, it’s virtually nothing but Tom Hardy’s face, framed in close-up through the front windshield of a car, as his character makes phone calls and big life decisions on a long drive home. This real-time, one-man show is written and directed by Steven Knight, who penned Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises.
Helpful equation: (Cleo From 5 To 7) x (Buried) x (The Taste Of Cherry)
Chance it’ll be good: 80 percent. This has the potential to play like either a showy stunt or a daring minimalist experiment. Most critics reviewing the film from the festival circuit seem to think it’s the latter. Certainly, if there’s any contemporary actor capable of holding our attention for 85 solo minutes, it’s Hardy.
Start-to-finish takes Knight claims to have shot: 10. Hardy supposedly performed the whole movie in marathon takes, as though he was in a play. Knight then seamlessly spliced together moments from these 10 run-throughs, isolating the best performance beats while preserving the illusion of unbroken time.
Also in April:
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden (April 4), a documentary about an unsolved mystery on the island chain, features voice work from Cate Blanchett, Diane Kruger, and Connie Nielsen. Disney Nature heads to Alaska to spend a year with some Bears (April 18). The documentary For No Good Reason (April 25) finds Johnny Depp hanging out with the British cartoonist (and Hunter S. Thompson collaborator) Ralph Steadman. Nick Frost takes up salsa dancing—and without Simon Pegg as a dance partner—in Cuban Fury (April). The Final Member (April) is a surprisingly engaging documentary about an Icelandic museum of (wait for it) male genitalia. And the word is that James Gray’s The Immigrant (April), which A.V. Club critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky has called a masterpiece, is finally on its way to a theater near you.