It was a long, cold March.
Yeah, that's true of the weather, too, but I was referring to what Hollywood sent to most local movie palaces. Five weekends stuffed with more than 30 new titles, and yet one of the hardest questions I faced from movie lovers was “What's out there worth seeing right now?”
My stock answer has been, “Not much.” March is the movie doldrums.
Sure, I enjoyed several titles that played at Film Streams, which never has a bad month. “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga,” a documentary about life in Siberia, and “Don't Stop Believin',” about Journey's new lead singer, linger in my mind. Elle Fanning's phenomenal coming-of-age performance makes “Ginger & Rosa” worth catching.
“West of Memphis,” a documentary which traced an unjust triple murder conviction, was also worth the time at the multiplex.
Mainstream titles? Eh. “Oz the Great and Powerful” wasn't bad. “The Croods” was an animated treat. Not much else worth writing home about, and the year's box office numbers reflect that. Revenue is significantly down from 2012 so far.
The second-hardest question last month was “What's coming that you're looking forward to seeing?” Mostly, that's because I hadn't taken the time to really scope out April.
But, just for you, I have now.
• “The Company You Keep,” a thriller centered on a former Weather Underground activist from the 1960s, was directed by and stars Robert Redford. The rest of the cast looks smart, too: Stanley Tucci, Brit Marling, Nick Nolte. It opens April 5 on the coasts, probably later here.
• “The Place Beyond the Pines,” which had an Easter weekend opening on the coasts, arrives at Film Streams on April 12. Ryan Gosling is a trick motorcycle rider in the circus who learns he's a father, then takes to robbing banks to support his child. Bradley Cooper plays a rookie cop, Eva Mendes is Gosling's girlfriend, and the writer-director is Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”).
• “42,” the story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball (42 was his number, since retired), opens April 12. It stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson. Harrison Ford is Branch Rickey, inventor of the minor-league farm-club system and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The director-screenwriter is Brian Helgeland (“L.A. Confidential,” “Mystic River”).
• Tom Cruise stars in the futuristic sci-fi action flick “Oblivion,” opening April 12. William Monahan (“The Departed”) wrote the script, and Joseph Kosinski (“Tron Legacy”) directs. Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo co-star.
• Elusive writer-director Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”) usually puts many years between releases. Not this time. He's cast Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem in “To the Wonder,” about love, relationships and spirituality. It's set in Oklahoma and got split reactions at the Venice Film Festival. Opening nationally April 12, it's scheduled to hit the Dundee on May 3.
• I like Mark Wahlberg, and I like Dwayne Johnson, but I don't always like the movies they sign on to. “Pain & Gain,” an action comedy opening April 26, teams them as bodybuilders caught up in an extortion ring. A concern: Michael Bay (the “Transformers” franchise) is the director.
• “The Big Wedding,” April 26, pairs Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro as a long-divorced couple who pretend to still be married for an adopted son's wedding. Justin Zackham (“The Bucket List”) directs and co-wrote this.
• Matthew McConaughey is hot right now. In the drama “Mud” (April 26), he stars as a fugitive. Two teens decide to help him elude bounty hunters and reunite with his love. Writer-director Jeff Nichols impressed with “Take Shelter” (Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain). Let's see if he can again.
• "The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (April 26 on the coasts, maybe later here) intrigues because of director Mira Nair (“The Namesake”), who again explores the experience of the Muslim immigrant in America. Riz Ahmed stars, backed up by Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland.
• Coming to Film Streams: An Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Gatekeepers” (Friday), in which six former heads of Israel's secret police reflect on policy and soften their stance on a two-state solution; and “No” (April 19), Oscar-nominated foreign-language film about Chile's national plebiscite on the Pinochet presidency. Gael Garcia Bernal plays the leader of the group campaigning for the people to vote out strongman Pinochet.
• One more intriguing title, “Room 237,” is coming to the Dundee on April 19. It's a documentary that theorizes about the hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror film “The Shining.” We'll get back to this one later in the month.