Hugo Weaving as 'V' with Natalie Portman
So what's on the horizon between now and the start of the super-spectacular slam-bang Summer Movie Season? Here's a look at some of the movies set to open over the next two months. All release dates are subject to change, of course.
THE SHAGGY DOG
Disney remake of their 1959 story of a lawyer magically transformed into a sheepdog, starring Tim Allen. The trailer shows Allen hoisting his leg in the air to pee on a potted plant or something. Hard to believe that the original managed to be entertaining without any bathroom scenes; thank goodness we live in more enlightened times. Ahem. March 10.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES
Remake of the 1977 horror flick about a blood-thirsty family of mutants. Incidentally, we're talking about the old-fashioned radioactive kind of mutants here, not the lovable X-Men type. March 10.
V FOR VENDETTA
In 2020, England is a totalitarian state and V (Hugo Weaving from The Matrix) is a masked folk hero who recruits young Evey (Natalie Portman) to assist his fight for freedom. Based on the acclaimed Alan Moore comic book, the film is likely to disturb some with its imagery and political references. March 17.
NEIL YOUNG: HEART OF GOLD
Jonathan Demme, the man behind the fantastic Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, documents a two-night concert stint in Nashville by rock icon Neil Young, recovered after undergoing life-threatening brain surgery. March 17.
From South Africa. Set in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, the film - nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar - follows a young gang leader over the course of six days during which he ends up caring for a baby accidentally kidnapped during a car-jacking. March 24.
A bank heist goes wrong in this thriller starring Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen and Willem Dafoe, with Spike Lee directing. What an impressive roster! And all of them are known for their intense approaches to their craft. My jaw is tightening up just thinking about them. Release date: March 24.
LARRY THE CABLE GUY: HEALTH INSPECTOR
Sometimes the title says it all. For those who fondly remember the Ernest Goes to (fill in the blank) movies, this could be the start of an equally mentally stimulating comedy franchise. March 24.
ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN
Computer-animated sequel to the comedy about the unlikely friendship built between a woolly mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), a saber-tooth tiger (Denis Leary) and a sloth (John Leguizamo). The prehistoric fellows are joined by Queen Latifah, playing a woolly mammoth who thinks she's a possum. Sounds cute. March 31.
THANK YOU FOR SMOKING
A big hit on the film festival circuit, this comedy stars Aaron Eckhart (In the Company of Men) as a spin doctor for the tobacco industry. Robert Duvall, Katie Holmes and William H. Macy also star. March 31.
BASIC INSTINCT 2
My first reaction when I saw this title was a grimace coupled with a heartfelt, "Oh no." What was yours? I'm sure that some of you like the prospect of Sharon Stone reprising her role from the 1992 thriller. Sharon is certainly happy. She's been lobbying for this project for years. March 31.
Comedy drama about four roller-skating, hip-hop loving teens coming of age in a working-class Atlanta neighborhood. Here's the cool part: the story was provided by Antwone Fisher. Yes, that Antwone Fisher! March 31.
ASK THE DUST
A down-and-out novelist in L.A. falls for an easily-irritated waitress in this dark tale by Robert Towne (Chinatown) starring Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, Donald Sutherland and Justin Kirk. Hope for the best and cross your fingers, because with Colin Farrell, you never know. Late March.
TAKE THE LEAD
Antonio Banderas stars as a former professional ballroom dancer who volunteers to teach dance in an NYC school, where he clashes with his hip-hop influenced students. Sounds hopeless, unless ... April 7.
FRIENDS WITH MONEY
Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand and Catherine Keener star in a dramedy about four L.A. women dealing with kids, marriage troubles, midlife crises and stuff. Great cast. April 7.
Keifer Sutherland provides the lead voice in this animated tale of a lion in an NYC zoo who mistakenly ends up in the wild when ... wait a minute, wasn't that the plot of Madagascar? April 14.
It's Sunday and 14-year-old friends Flama and Moko expect to spend a typical day together. Unfortunately, the world has other plans, as their simple plans for a day of pizza and videogames are turned upside down. An audience favorite on the festival circuit. April 21.
What could be more depressing than another Vacation movie? How about one starring Robin Williams? Here it is, with Captain Ham playing a father who decides to drive his wife (Cheryl Hines) and kids to Colorado in the title vehicle. Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family) directs, so maybe it won't be as bad as it sounds. Or maybe it will be. April 28.
Steve Buscemi directs this comic tale of a 27-year-old dog walker (Casey Affleck) who moves back in with his Indiana family and encounters a former flame (Liv Tyler). The movie was shot near Goshen, Ind. April 28.
Murder among the suburban gangsta-wannabe crowd, inspired by a true story, starring Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Bruce Willis and ... wait a minute, Justin Timberlake?! Yes, the annoying little pop star is acting now and, according to reviews from the Sundance Film Festival, doing a good job, too. Holy Marky Mark! Sometime in April.