After weeks of tormenting audiences with gems like Failure To Launch and The Shaggy Dog, Hollywood seems ready to shake off the Oscar doldrums and unveil its spring collection. This is the season of unexpected delights, as the brutal marketplace of summer blockbusters has yet to open and the screens are still open to films that are original, ambitious, trenchant, uncategorizable, and sometimes uniquely bad.
What ever happened to Spike Lee? The usually provocative filmmaker goes the generic route with Inside Man (March 24), a thriller about a detective and a master thief who face off when a bank heist deteriorates into a hostage situation. Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, and Willem Dafoe star. Whatever happened to J.T. LeRoy? His/her book The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (March 24) comes to the screen in Asia Argento’s adaptation, even though the author has been proved to be deceitful in all things as well. What ever happened to Ivan Reitman? I don’t know, but his son Jason is making a splash with his directorial debut, Thank You for Smoking (March 24), a black comedy about a Big Tobacco honcho starring Aaron Eckhart and Maria Bello. And speaking of smoking: what ever happened to Sharon Stone? She’s back in her signature femme fatale role in Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction (March 31), stalking England with David Morrissey’s Scotland Yard shrink in the Michael Douglas role. Michael Caton-Jones (Scandal) directs.
The cruelest month starts out with the cruelest movie: sibling Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes should break your heart with L’Enfant (April 7), a harsh drama about a rootless couple coping with a child. Maybe they could use Friends with Money (April 14), Nicole Holofcener’s sardonic comedy about rootless couples, upscale-LA-style, starring Jennifer Aniston, Scott Caan, and Joan Cusack. These are the kind of people who probably watch American Dreamz (April 21), the American Idol–like talent show that’s the focus of this satire by Paul Weitz (American Pie) starring Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, and Mandy Moore. Sobering reality is on view in Flight93 (April 28), the story, narrated in real time, of the 9/11 flight that went down in Pennsylvania. Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) directs.
Ghost World auteur Terry Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential (May 5) might mark the end of quirky independent films for a bit; it’s a black comedy about a mediocre art student whose fortunes rise with murder. Max Minghella and Sophia Myles (Tristan & Isolde) star. The big blockbusters, meanwhile, get a head start on Memorial Day with Mission: Impossible III (May 5); Tom Cruise returns, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the bad guy, and it’s the first feature for director J.J. Abrams. Remakes as well as sequels are on offer; Poseidon (May 5) is Wolfgang Petersen’s salvaging of the 1972 disaster classic The Poseidon Adventure, with Josh Lucas and Kurt Russell. Then it’s anchors aweigh with The Da Vinci Code (May 19), Ron Howard’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s Vatican-bashing bestseller with Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, and X-men: The Last Stand (May 26), the climactic third installment in the epic tale of Marvel’s troubled mutant superheroes. Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, and Halle Berry all return; Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) directs.