In the spring, movies are like New Yorkers—pale and flabby after the winter thaw, tannish and muscular by May.
So let’s get the easy ones out of the way. Come May 5, Tom Cruise will be pushing Mission: Impossible III hard, an excuse to get away from his pregnant wife. A week later, Poseidon, a remake of the 1972 disaster film The Poseidon Adventure starring Ernest Borgnine—I miss him. Then, well, only God (or perhaps Opus Dei) could stop The Da Vinci Code (May 19).
March boasts two—yes, two!—films to hope for the best from: the dark comedy Thank You for Smoking (March 17), by Jason (“Son of Ivan”) Reitman, and the futuristic V for Vendetta (March 17), from the furtive minds behind The Matrix, the Wachowski Brothers. (They’re still brothers, right? Didn’t one have a sex change? If so, are they still brothers? Discuss.) Smoking boasts what looks like a breakout performance from the perennially impressive Aaron Eckhart as a tobacco lobbyist at the top of his game. As for V for Vendetta … the last two Matrix installments were disappointments, but here’s hoping that the brothers have been energized by new material and a new muse (Natalie Portman). If you can’t get enough of this raven-haired ingénue, check out the small but poignant Israeli film Free Zone on April 7.
The sequel to 1992’s Basic Instinct arrives on March 31. Yes, Sharon Stone returns as the murderously sexy novelist Catherine Tramell. But no Wayne Knight. Why didn’t they bring him back? He made the crotch scene in the first film—his sweaty brow, his jaw-dropped expression. Michael Douglas had to play it cool, but Mr. Knight, he played it like the rest of us. But I digress ….
On April 7, Nicholas Jarecki’s documentary The Outsider debuts, about James Toback and the 12 days he had to shoot When Will I Be Loved, making Nicholas the third Jarecki brother to release a nonfiction film in the last three years. It should be good, considering the pedigree: Eugene’s Why We Fight is in the theaters now and has received decent reviews; Andrew’s Capturing the Friedmans was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004. Watch out, Maysle Brothers!
Nicole Holofcener’s Friends with Money, with a great cast, opens in … April? It has Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener (yum!) and Jennifer Aniston. Are studios afraid of another In Her Shoes, a well-received “chick flick” that didn’t make any money?
Two promising comedies emerge toward the end of spring: Terry Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential (April 28) and Scott Marshall’s Keeping Up with the Steins (May 12). With the deliciously aloof John Malkovich playing the mentor to a bunch of burgeoning painters in Confidential, Mr. Zwigoff ( Crumb, Bad Santa) looks like he’s found another subject to appeal to his fascination with the high art of the lowbrow (and vice versa). Meanwhile, Mr. Marshall, the son of director Garry Marshall, makes his feature-length, big-screen directorial debut with The Steins. The plotline: A boy uses his bar mitzvah to reconcile his feuding parents. (That’s nice. I used it to buy a car …. ) It stars Jeremy Piven (yes!) and Daryl Hannah (weird!).