Well, the winter season (an unusually mild one in this neck of the woods) is just about done, meaning the flowers, birds (and yes, bugs) will be back as the warmer weather of spring pushes to the forefront. That also means that Hollywood will be gearing up for its next slate of films – typically a build up to the big summer movie season. Spring films usually fall into holes in studios schedules (not quite summer blockbuster possibilities, but also not typically seen as Oscar fodder). Of course, the audiences generally have the last word. Some gems usually crop up at this time period (last spring’s “Crash” is a perfect example).
So here’s a look at the next couple of months worth of some of the big and little films expected to hit a theater near you. Naturally, release dates are subject to change.
Starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Christopher Plummer.
A terrific cast heads up this New York crime drama about a standoff between a bank robber (Owen) and police, led by a driven detective (Washington). Director Spike Lee might just have his biggest commercial hit on his hands here, teaming up with Washington for the fourth time. This also marks the first screen pairing of Washington and Foster, both two-time Oscar winners. (March 24)
“V for Vendetta”
Starring Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea and John Hurt.
Pushed back from its original November release, due to its terrorist themes, this movie’s script comes from Larry and Andy Wachowski, the creators of “The Matrix” trilogy. A totalitarian society is undermined by a freedom fighter only known as “V” (Weaving), who enlists the aid of a young woman (Portman) to take down the government. (March 17)
Starring Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse.
Bruce Willis plays (surprise) a burned-out New York cop forced to escort a prosecution witness (Mos Def) for a court trial. Complications ensue when he realizes this case involves the witness testifying against cops and is forced to protect him from his own department. Clearly, Willis is in his comfort zone with this pic, and with director Richard Donner (“Lethal Weapon” series) at the helm, this one might exceed expectations. (March 3)
“Failure to Launch”
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates.
In some casting creativity, Bates and Bradshaw are parents of McConaughey, looking to get their slacker son out of their home by enlisting the aid of a woman (Parker). Naturally, sparks fly between the cute couple. This seemingly quintessential date movie should work well for both men and women – provided it’s halfway decent. (March 10)
“The Shaggy Dog”
Starring Tim Allen, Kristin Davis, Robert Downey Jr., Danny Glover, Spencer Breslin, Zena Grey.
Yet another remake of a Disney film, Allen plays a constantly busy district attorney with too little time for his family, who then has to deal with being infected by a top-secret serem that occasionally turns him into a dog. It’s a family-oriented comedy and if you’ve seen any of the ads, you can figure out what you’re getting. (March 10)
“Dave Chappelle’s Block Party”
Starring Dave Chappelle, Kanye West, Lauren Hill, Pras, Wyclef Jean.
It’s like “Chappelle’s Show,” only you have to pay to see it now. Actually, this mix of sketch and standup comedy, along with music from West and the reunited Fugees, has the potential to be a breakout hit for Chappelle and director Michel Gondry. One only needs to look at DVD sales for “Chappelle’s Show” to know his popularity. (March 3, limited)
Starring Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Mandy Moore, Marcia Gay Harden, Willem Dafoe.
Reuniting with Paul Weitz, his director from “About a Boy,” Grant stars as the host of a hugely popular TV singing competition show, with Quaid as a less-than-brilliant President of the United States asked to serve as a judge. Farfetched? Sure, but this satirical film has a cast worth watching and is pretty topical to boot. (April 21)
Starring Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, Jon Lovitz, Tim Meadows.
With a large contingent of former “SNL”-ers, most of whom have starred in a lot of lowbrow comedies, you should know what you’re getting with this one. For the record, a trio of nerds, played by Schneider, Spade and Heder, are picked to participate in a highly competitive Little League tournament. OK, reality and logic are probably not strong suits of this particular movie. (April 7)
Featuring the voices of James Belushi, Kiefer Sutherland, Eddie Izzard and William Shatner.
On the heels of last year’s “Madagascar” comes another animated movie centering around a group of animals having to work together to solve a problem – this one involving a teenage lion being accidentally shipped from a New York zoo to Africa. With not a lot of family-oriented films clogging up the release schedule in April, this one might be poised for success. (April 14)
Starring Robin Williams, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Chenoweth.
Williams and Hines are a married couple who take their kids on an R.V. trip, hoping to bond as a family. Naturally, things don’t quite go according to schedule. It’s been a while since Williams has been in a truly funny film. Not sure if this one’s going to be it, either. (April 28)
Starring Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria and Kim Basinger.
A longtime and highly trained Secret Service agent (Douglas) attempts to foil a plot to assassinate the U.S. President. But when he’s framed for the murder of another agent, he’s forced to elude authorities, including his protégé (Sutherland). (April 14)