300: Rise of an Empire
Release date: March 7th
Cinema releases wouldn’t be cinema releases without some form of inessential film that makes its way to the screen as a form of a sequel milking it for all its worth, in other words, 300: Rise of an Empire. It appears to take place before, during and after the vents of the first film, something of a parallel/sequel set up, based on the yet to be released Frank Miller graphic novel, Xerxes. The plot is a romanticised set up over the second Persian invasion of Greece. Released on March 7th, it is scheduled to be released in 3D and IMAX, no doubt lengthened with more slow-motion fight scenes, and ready to dazzle with even more CGI.
Release date: March 7th
John Michael McDonagh moved out of the shadow of his brother Martin with 2011’s The Guard, a dark, minimalist procedural set in rural Ireland; enveloped by the sharp and macabre humour that seemingly defines this talented brood. Now three years later, McDonagh has reunited with Brendan Gleeson (who headlined The Guard) and already impressed the Sundance faithful with Calvary, his sophomore directorial effort. The storyline takes the disparate elements of parochial community and murder, mutating them into another acerbic and intentionally twisted reflection on the increasingly secular world we inhabit. The supporting cast includes the divine Kelly Reilly and increasingly popular Chris O’Dowd, the latter layering some mainstream appeal atop of McDonagh’s warped outlook. Expect politically incorrect dialogue and big ideas with this one.
Release date: March 13th
Veronica Mars comes to the UK film screens on March 13th from the American television series, where Kirsten Bell reprises her role as the title character, which may never have been produced if not for the Kick-starter campaign started by director, Rob Thomas, which generated 91,000 supporters and raised 5.7 million dollars. It follows from the cancelled series, continuing the TV’s series storyline where the titular character has moved to New York City nine years after the events of series three, but is forced to return to her hometown Neptune when her former boyfriend, Logan Echollus, is accused of murder.
Release date: 21st March
Taking its name from the rare circumstance in which a young offender is transferred to an adult prison due to uncontrollable violent behaviour, Starred Up sees Eric (Jack O’Connell) end up in the same dangerous prison as his father. With his life spiralling out of control, he is approached by a volunteer therapist and he finally begins to examine his actions while struggling to survive. The film thrives on O’Connell’s bravura performance and the authenticity of the screenplay, written by former prison worker Jonathan Asser. Director David Mackenzie seems to have hit the right balance between gritty violence and real emotional heft. Early screenings have resulted in unanimous praise, particularly from the Toronto International Film Festival. Difficult to watch, but not one you want to miss, it should definitely ease the minds of anyone worried about the state of British cinema.
Muppets Most Wanted
Release date: 28th March
It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to haul a whole host of celebrity butt to Moscow and break Kermit the Frog out of prison! The gang is back and, after an emotional reunion story in 2011, it’s a return to the oddball days with this script. When criminal frog mastermind Constantine uses a Velcro mole to incarcerate our beloved Kermit in his place, it is up to Miss Piggy and Co. to rescue him. Of course, this being the Muppets, this is hardly as straightforward and boring as it sounds – and it sounds complicated anyway! Ty Burrell’s French detective, Ricky Gervais’s “French” co-villain and Tina Fey’s Russian prison warden take up the non-Muppet slots, but if the trailer is any indication, the cameos and the jokes are plenty and pitch perfect. Raise the curtains lads, the show’s just getting started!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Release date: March 29th
The next instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe sees the return of the first Avenger himself, Captain America (Chris Evans). Working as an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Cap begins to expect that the agency has been keeping secrets from both him and the nation with the arrival of the mysterious Winter Solider. Forced to question authority and come to terms with his past, The Winter Soldier looks set to deliver Cap with one of the strongest movies from the MCU. Seemingly containing the more grounded aesthetic attributed to the first Iron Man, The Winter Solider would seem to be a moodier and more serious-minded genre picture from Marvel Studios. Taking a fan favourite story-lien to the big screen is always a treacherous task, but all that we have seen from this latest offering from Marvel has done nothing but excite, making The Winter Soldier perhaps the most hotly anticipated movie of the coming holiday break.
Release date: April 4th
Darren Aronofsky lends his unique artistic vision to one of the Bible’s most grandiose tales in the form of Noah. Russell Crowe stars as the titular biblical hero, a man who is plagued by dark and worrying visions of an apocalyptic event. Convinced that these visions are premonitions, Noah embarks on building a large Ark in order to save his family and others who are willing to believe in his fore-warnings. This is something which proves difficult when he comes into conflict with tribe leader Tubal Cain (Ray Winstone), who is none too quick to believe Noah’s outlandish visions. The prospect of Aronofsky delving in to the bizarre and nightmarish imagery that Biblical tales contain is an exciting prospect to say the least. We have see very little of what is being claimed to be an incredibly ambitious visual journey, marking Noah as the film this Easter season that one should most definitely not take for granted.
The Raid 2: Berandal
Release date: April 11th
Back in 2011, Gareth Evans blew audiences away with the blistering action spectacle that was The Raid. Now he’s back with his follow-up that promises to be even crazier, bloodier, and more brutal than the first. Picking up a mere 20 minutes after the events of the first film, our protagonist Rama (Iko Uwais) is chosen to go undercover in a jail containing the meanest and toughest thugs of Jakarta in the hope of infiltrating the crime syndicate that is corrupting the police force for whom he works. The Raid was unique for its display of impossibly fast martial arts craft; this second outing looks to build upon the sheer adrenaline fuelled thrills of the first with a larger scope and more narrative meat on the proverbial bones. Having already received with near-unanimous praise following its debut at Sundance earlier this year, The Raid 2 is a ride that you cannot afford to miss.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Release date: 18th April
When Marc Webb helmed the latest Spider-Man incarnation in 2012, a collective groan went up at the pace with which Hollywood was regurgitating used material. Which is why the reboot’s solid reception took so many by surprise. Now, free of having to revisit the customary origins story, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 aims to be an excellent addition to the superhero pantheon. Yes, there are points of concern. The number of villains is dangerously high, for starters, and Peter’s backstory still needs hashing out. But trailer and featurette footage looks very promising, and the decision to streamline the story by removing some characters is a good sign. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone already did a stellar job with their roles, and the new additions should be the same. Plus, the portrayal of a certain iconic event and the already-announced expansion of the Spiderverse shows that Sony is on the right track.