MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

12 Spring Movies To Watch

Trying to distance myself from the Oscar fervor, I decided to sit down and take a look at the schedule to see what worthwhile movies are coming out in the next four months.  This is a notoriously terrible time for quality films to be released, since the majority of the “prestige” films have been rushed to make the December 31st cutoff for the Academy Awards.  However, this dumping ground has also yielded some surprisingly enjoyable films in the past, most notably last March’s Zodiac.

So, without further ado, I present twelve films I think will be worth checking out over the next four months.  Some may be flops, others may be masterpieces, but based on the current information these are the twelve that I wouldn’t mind putting down my hard earned cash to find out (release dates subject to change of course):

Cassandra’s Dream (January 18th) – This one is kind of a cheat because I’ve seen this latest flick from the master Woody Allen.  It stars Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor as brothers, both gamblers in very different ways.  Farrell’s character likes to play cards and go to the track and when he hits a hot streak, he can get really hot, but he never gives up his job as a mechanic.  McGregor’s character is the more respectable one, trying to gamble by investing money into some new hotels in Los Angeles, even though he is currently living in England.  When the two brothers get down on their luck, they turn to their wealthy uncle (Tom Wilkinson), who is willing to help them if they’ll do him a favor.

I won’t do a full review here because this is a preview, but I will say that this is Woody’s best film since Everyone Says I Love You and a great companion piece with Match Point. I wonder if, at this point in Woody’s career he might be better off making crime dramas because he really seems to have a knack for it, between his British crime films and Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Some early reviews have not been so favorable to this film, but I disagree whole-heartedly.  There is a romantic subplot for McGregor’s character that could easily be dropped, but it does add to the flavor of the piece and I think Woody does a tremendous job of making McGregor and Farrell feel like brothers, even though they look nothing alike.  This would usually be the part of the review or preview where I would say something along the lines of “Woody’s back!” but I never really felt he was gone.  When someone has made so many great films, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he would make another one.  Even Woody’s “bad” films are merely just not good, they are never terrible.  See Cassandra’s Dream, it’s worth your time.

Cloverfield (January 18th) – Personally, I think the hype for this film was tiresome long before the ads started showing up.  I appreciate what the filmmakers and the marketers were trying to do by promoting this January event film that looks like a cross between Godzilla and The Blair Witch Project, but when something is so hyped before cameras have even rolled, it’s destined for expectations that can never be reached.

All that said, I am highly anticipating this film because of the filmmakers behind it.  I happen to be a Lost fanatic, so anything from J.J. Abrams is kind of a must-see for me at this point, but I also think the premise is genius.  The idea of making a monster movie, but using the Blair Witch tactic of telling the story through the eyes of a few digital cameras is definitely an original one and something to look out for.  From the previews it seems that the cameras might be a little too well-placed, a little too choreographed, but I suppose that’s necessary considering this is a flick that is going to be using CGI; however, I wish I saw a few more jerky camera movements to give the feel of a real person holding the camera instead of a DP.

Regardless, this is the first time I can remember there being an event film opening in January and I hope the film is successful enough to show the studios that people still want to see movies in the first month of the year.  I just hope this doesn’t turn out to be another Snakes on a Plane, all hype and no substance.

Jumper (February 14th) – I absolutely cannot stand Hayden Christensen’s acting and it has nothing to do with the Star Warsprequels and everything to do with his performances in Life as a House, Factory Girl, and Awake. I find him to be overly whiny and lacking in anything resembling subtlety; his performance inFactory Girl as a pseudo Bob Dylan was so laughable that it brought me right out of the film, unable to handle the sight of his postured and mannered take on the great musician.

That said, I thought he found the perfect role for his style inShattered Glass, a film and a performance that gives me a glimmer of hope that he might one day be able to break out of his shell and stop playing sniveling boys posing as men.

So why do I want to see Jumper?  Well, I suppose it has to do with the fact that I respectDoug Liman as a director and I find him to be consistently underrated as a craftsman.  This is, after all the man who directed Swingers, Go, and started off the Bourne series.  He seems to be able to switch up genres from film to film and even from second to second within each film, capturing the right tone for each piece.  He may not have directed the best Bourne film, but he certainly got the ball rolling with a first chapter that sets the stage for everything that follows.  The last film he directed was Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which I thought was the perfect summer escapist film and it seems that’s what he’s trying to do again with this latest flick about a dude who can teleport.  It also helps that Jim Uhls, the man who adapted Fight Club, is listed as one of the screenwriters.

I think the premise of a guy who can teleport himself anywhere in the world is an appealing one.  I mean, who hasn’t wanted to just go to bed at night and somehow wake up in Paris or Mumbai or Hawaii?  Who hasn’t spoken on the phone with somebody in another state or country and wanted to somehow teleport themselves to that person immediately?  I think there is a lot of potential in that premise because I think it’s a concept that we can all relate to.  Now, whether that concept is executed in the right way or not…

Samuel L. Jackson, the beautiful Rachel Bilson and Diane Lane, and the wonderful Jamie Bell all co-star, so at least I know Christensen will have ample support behind him, but that hasn’t always worked out for him in the past.  I’m kind of taking a leap of faith with this project, having been interested in it since it went into pre-production and now that the finish line is almost here, I’m anxious to see if my curiosity was founded.

Be Kind Rewind (February 22nd) – Michel Gondry is an interesting cat, a filmmaker who I’ve been impressed by since seeing his videos for Daft Punk.  He has directed one of my absolute favorite videos of all-time, the one for Cibo Matto’s “Sugar Water” and I’ve been waiting for him to bring that insane sensibility of his to the right project.  I think he got there with Human Nature, but it was really on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that we saw that he could be more than just a gimmicky director that relies on tricks because he also brought a gentle touch and a soul to that film.  Unfortunately, I found that soul to be missing from his last film, The Science of Sleep, which had two great lead performances mired in a mess of dreams with no thru-line.  I wanted to love that film, but I just couldn’t and wound up simply admiring it instead.

With this film it seems Gondry has decided to venture into out and out comedy, with Jack Black and Mos Def playing clerks at a video store, only Jack Black somehow ruins all the tapes by magnetizing them.  Instead of ordering new tapes (or DVDs for that matter), they decide to remake all the films themselves.  As a result, it gives Gondry (and Black and Def) an excuse to parody films as varied as Ghostbusters and Boyz N the Hood.

The premise is so outrageous, starting with the fact that they work in a store that sells VHS exclusively, but if you can’t get past that fact then I don’t think the rest will work either.  For myself, I think Gondry is a talented enough filmmaker that I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and go with the flow.  I just hope I’m rewarded for it.

City of Men (February 29th) – This is a semi-sequel to Fernando Mereilles’ Brazilian masterpiece City of God and it is set in the same violent streets and beautiful beaches of Rio de Janeiro.  Mereilles is a producer this time around, giving the directing reins to his buddy Paulo Morelli, who had directed a few episodes of the television show City of Men which this film is, I suppose, a sequel to.

I’ve seen the preview for this one a few times and based on that and the pedigree, I’m totally stoked.  I thought. City of God was one of the most visceral and emotional rides through a culture I didn’t know much about, telling a story spanning years and years, with more and more lives lost to drugs and murder.  If City of Men is even anywhere close to as good as its forbearer, then I think we’re all in for a treat this February.

Paranoid Park (March 7th) – There are some that think Gus Van Sant is a genius and others who are turned off by his minimalist approach to filmmaking in the last several years, an approach that has wrought Gerry, Elephant, and Last Days. I, for one, think the man is an absolute genius, breaking film down to its bare essentials and eschewing any kind of Hollywood melodrama in favor of long tracking shots where we can drift away with the characters and try to find meaning in their actions.  His films don’t tell you what to feel or what to think, they simply are and it’s up to us to fill in the blanks, giving you just enough to grapple with.

This latest film is based on a novel I have not read by Blake Nelson, about a teenage skateboarder who is somehow involved in the death of a security guard.  I expect we’ll see lots of beautiful kids walking and skateboarding and I imagine I’ll be transfixed the entire way through.

These are the kinds of films that make me love watching movies, taking simple stories and revealing the complexities in them.  The truth of the matter is that in life, there are no simple stories because we are not simple creatures.  And just as in life, we can’t always get inside these characters’ heads and find out why they do what they do.

In Elephant, there is no clear answer for why those kids shoot up the school.  Van Sant throws in red herrings like videogames, but he also shows that they had a pretty decent home life and they also had each other.  Contrast that with the kid who is driven to school by his drunk father, only to be scolded by the principal for showing up late and it’s a wonder why one kid would be so depressed and feel so isolated, while the other would try to make lemonade out of his lemon of a life.

I hope to find the same kind of power in this new film and it’s probably my most anticipated film of the Spring.

Snow Angels (March 7th) – David Gordon Green has been all over the map, in my opinion.  I found his first feature, George Washington, to be a brilliant Malickesque slice of life about a group of children in a small town.  It’s sad without being weepy and it’s meditative without being boring.  By the end of that film, you will feel like you have a pretty good idea of what it’s like to live in that town, with poor folks covered in dirt and grime but making it through and how hard it must be to be a child in that town, seeing everybody grinding it out day after day with nothing to look forward to but another sunrise and sunset.  Then with All the Real Girls, I felt he had really hit his stride, fashioning a realistic love story in that same kind of town.  It seemed as if Green had really found his milieu and Zooey Deschanel gives a bravura performance as the kind of bird that just can’t be contained.

Then Green made a complete miscalculation with Undertow, which is sort of a take-off onNight of the Hunter as directed by Terrence Malick (who produced) and contains a great performance by Jamie Bell, but a totally deranged one by Josh Lucas. The charm had worn off this time, especially since the movie seems to get lost halfway through and never finds its way again.

With this new film, Green tackles a more straightforward narrative in adapting Stewart O’Nan’s novel about a young man’s coming of age, a school shooting and human suffering in a small town in Western Pennsylvania.  It sounds like The Ice Storm and The Sweet Hereafter and to me, those are great films to be compared to, so that gets me pretty excited.

The cast is led by Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell, with Michael Angarano, Nicky Katt, Amy Sedaris and Griffin Dunne rounding things out.  I’m just excited to see if Green can re-capture that old magic before he releases his studio comedy Pineapple Express this summer.

Stop Loss (March 28th) – After about nine years, we finally get to see the sophomore outing from Boys Don’t Cry auteur Kimberly Peirce.  It seems in the years since, Peirce has been attached to myriad projects with nothing sticking and finally she comes back to us with a film about the Iraq war.  Uh oh, not another one of those…

See, I don’t have any particular bias against films being made about the current conflict in Iraq, it’s just that the ones that have been made haven’t been very good (In the Valley of Elah,Redacted) and I’m not anxious to see another film shove a message that I already agree with down my throat.  However, I immediately cast those doubts aside because this is Kimberly Peirce we’re talking about and I thought Boys Don’t Cry was such a seminal and beautiful film, one that helped launch the careers of Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny and Peter Sarsgaard.

This time around, Peirce is working with Ryan Phillippe as a soldier who refuses to go back to Iraq after serving his tour of duty, with the military insisting on extending his military contract.  Other actors include the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rob Brown, Channing Tatum, Abbie Cornish, and Victor Rasuk.

This is weighty material coming out at a time of year when most audiences (according to the studios) don’t want to see anything “important.”  I just want this to be the film about the Iraq War that I’ve been waiting for, one that weighs everything, looks at all sides and tells a human story.  But I fear that No End in Sight just might be that movie and that it will be difficult for any feature to capture that same kind of impact.  Still, if anyone can do it, I wouldn’t mind seeing Kimberly Peirce give it a try.

Leatherheads (April 4th) – George Clooney is one of my favorite movie stars right now.  On the heels of Michael Clayton, I just realize more and more that the man might not be Marlon Brando, but he just might be Cary Grant, and that’s not too shabby.  The guy is just plain old likable and charismatic and that takes a certain kind of talent too.

This film is one that Clooney is directing as well as starring in and it’s a romantic comedy set in the 1920’s with Clooney playing a football player and Renee Zellweger playing his love interest. The Office’s John Krasinski is a fellow football player who is also vying for Zellweger’s affections.

It sounds like a slight film, but then again so does Bringing Up Baby if you just looked at the logline.  For me, knowing that it’s starring Clooney and Zellweger is enough to make me curious and the fact that Clooney believes in the project enough to get behind the camera on it (which he’s also done for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night and Good Luck) is enough to make me excited.  It’s been a long time since there has been an honest to goodness romantic comedy that didn’t make me cringe.  This one might be formulaic like all the others, but at least I will get to watch charming actors who look beautiful.

The Ruins (April 4th) – Scott Smith’s novel The Ruins was one of the scariest books I’d read in years and that is the biggest reason why I’m so jazzed about this flick.  It also doesn’t hurt that Smith’s last book and adaptation was the marvelous A Simple Plan.

The Ruins is about six young people (two American couples along with a Swede and a German) trekking into the jungle in South America in search of some Mayan ruins.  I would tell you more, but I don’t know how much the previews will give away, so let’s just say that they wind up stranded in that jungle and are in grave danger.

When I first discovered what the villain of the novel was, I couldn’t imagine that it would be sufficiently scary, but little bit little that villain turns out to be one of the most horrifying things in literary history.  I’m being deliberately vague here, of course, because this is truly something you should discover on your own.

The cast is led by Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, and Jonathan Tuckerand that seems like pretty good casting to me, but it’s really all about how well we feel they know each other.  So much of the book is action and interior monologue, with the perspective shifting every few pages, so each of these actors must be capable of being the most important person on the screen at any given time.

It’s being directed by Carter Smith, who I don’t know anything about.  IMDB tells me that he’s directed nothing but a few short films, including one called Bugcrush. The tone of this and the angles he chooses with be paramount to this film succeeding and I wish him the best.  Scott Smith adapted his own novel for this and while I don’t think he’ll get a nomination like he did the last time out, he has the potential to make a classic horror film.

Baby Mama (April 18th) – I love 30 Rock.  As a result, I am head over heels in love with Tina Fey. Amy Poehler is also high on my list of women I’d like to marry one day.  They are both starring in this film; as a result, I’m already sold, even before I hear that Sigourney Weaver, Greg Kinnear, Romany Malco and Maura Tierney are supporting them.

This film is the feature debut of Michael McCullers, a longtime writer for SNL and a co-writer on films like Austin Powers: Goldmember and the plot follows a businesswoman (Fey) who hires a working class woman (Poehler) to be her surrogate when she finds out that she is infertile.  It’s a simple premise that I am sure these two beautiful comedic geniuses will milk for every laugh possible.

If you watch 30 Rock, then you already know that Fey is probably the best “straight man” working in comedy today.  Combine that with the manic energy that Poehler brings to every sketch I’ve ever seen her in and I would watch this duo read a phone book.  This is my early pick for the comedy to see this Spring, over the Will Ferrell basketball vehicle Semi-Pro.

The List (aka The Tourist) (April 25th) – This project has been in the pipeline for a while now and I’ve been intrigued ever since I heard the premise and saw the cast.  It follows a mild-mannered guy (Ewan McGregor) who is introduced to an enigmatic sex club by his friend (Hugh Jackman).  According to IMDB, there is also a mysterious disappearance and some kind of heist.  Michelle Williams and Maggie Q co-star.

Maybe it’s just the Eyes Wide Shut lover in me, but the idea of setting a movie in and around a sex club is fascinating to me.  Add in the fact that Jackman and McGregor are going to be leading me through this world and I’m more than willing to throw down twelve bucks to check it out.

The film is directed by tyro Marcel Langenegger from a script by Mark Bomback (who has written two scripts I’m not wild about in Live Free or Die Hard and Godsend).  This could be hit or miss and based on the fact that it’s been in the can for a while with no release indicates the latter, but I still think it’s worth tracking until the release date and try to find some more information.  If it turns out to be a dud, then summer is just a week away and you can wash the taste out of your mouth with a dose of Iron Man.

Other Films to Watch: 27 Dresses, Teeth, The Air I Breathe, Rambo,  In Bruges, The Spiderwick Chronicles,  My Blueberry Nights, Definitely Maybe, Vantage Point, Charlie Bartlett, The Other Boleyn Girl, Penelope,  Semi-Pro, 10,000 B.C., Funny Games, Sleepwalking, Pride and Glory, 21, Shine a Light.

Noah Forrest
January 7, 2008

Noah Forrest is a 24 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon