PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

The PopMatters 'Short Ends & Leader' Spring Film Preview

Bill Gibron

In order to separate the worthy from the worthless, PopMatters' "Short Ends & Leader" editor is highlighting 10 new films he's looking forward to this spring.

Spring used to be the artistic dead end period of the cinematic season; a dull time now that the Oscars are over, a somewhat depressing time for the studios that would have to cut their creative loses. It was a time for dumping the detritus of less-than-stellar films and for creating a landfill of ill-advised star turns, hubris based hackwork, and high concept calls that ended up just crapping out. Like the dire dog days of summer, when August would announce the blockbuster also-rans leading into September's equally uneventful lull, film fans knew that spring movies gave them little in return for their winter-worn buck. Indeed, when filmmaking went from an artform to a commodity, when bean counters started outnumbering the creative element, spring was considered Tinsel Town's time to just throw the lot overboard and see what would float.

Then, like a promise detected in the breeze, something changed. Instead of featuring all wannabes and wastes of time, the months between Oscar and Memorial Day became a time for some substantial Cineplex hits to come forth. In 2002, Panic Room delivered almost $100 million at the box office, providing the argument that a smart, stylized thriller could indeed, float. Then Anger Management and Daredevil did the same thing the spring of the very next year. Each argued for a fanbase ready to enjoy decent, if derivative, fare at this time of year.

But without a doubt, it was Mel Gibson's ballsy Bible epic The Passion of the Christ that cemented the spring's fiscal fortitude. A worldwide phenomenon, perfectly timed to coincide with the Christian celebration of Easter, Passion placed nearly $371 million in the coffers of motion picture moneychangers, and before you knew it, the one time entertainment deadzone known as Spring got a major marketing overhaul.

Now, Hollywood bets on these March/April celluloid showers to bring many happy monetary flowerings. From 2005's Hitch to last year's Ice Age sequel, the industry is now jockeying for prime product positioning. And it's starting earlier every year. We've already seen Nicholas Cage's long delayed comic book movie Ghost Rider finally make a mid-February bow (and about $79 million), while the hungry-for-a-hit Jim Carrey has just opened his attempted psychological chiller The Number 23. Indeed, between now and a certain web-slinger's arrival the first weekend in May, an eccentric collection of movies will find its way into your local Bijou.

In order to separate the worthy from the worthless (as we know, not all that floats is gold), PopMatters' "Short Ends & Leader" editor is highlighting 10 new films he's looking forward to this spring. Unless release dates get retrofitted for unknown creative (or economic) reasons, here, in alphabetical order, are the titles that revitalize his slowly thawing aesthetics:

Director: Zack Snyder Film: 300 Studio: Warner Bros. Cast: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Michael Fassbender, Vincent Regan, Dominic West MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/300/ First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-03-09 UK Release Date: 2007-03-23 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/3/300-poster.jpg

Display as: List

If Sin City was responsible for anything -- and the conversation between fans and critics can be quite daunting -- Robert Rodriguez proved that computer animation and CGI effects can be used for more than just pretty little spacescapes laced with all kinds of anthropomorphic beings. If done correctly, it could wholly revamp an entire cinematic genre (in Sin City's case, the crime noir). Zack Synder, who was last seen revising George Romero's classic Dawn of the Dead, has now upped the ante, taking another Frank Miller graphic novel concerning the last stand between 300 Spartan warriors and hordes of Persian attackers and transforming it into a work of technological art. For those who thought Gladiator was the last word in contemporary sword and sandal spectacle, get ready to have your peplum proclivities rewired.

300

Display Artist: Brewer, Craig Director: Brewer Director: Craig Film: Black Snake Moan Studio: Paramount Vantage Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, John Cothran Jr, Michael Raymond-James Website: http://www.moanmovie.com/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount_vantage/blacksnakemoan/ First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-03-02 (General release) UK Release Date: 2007-05-18 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/black-snake-moan-poster.jpg

Display as: List

It has the unnerving look of an exploitation epic circa 1960, and a scandalous storyline that centers around a small Southern town, a nympho-maniacal local gal, and a former bluesman who tries to "cure" her with some very unusual tough love. There is just something so Baby Doll about star Samuel L. Jackson dragging around leading lady Christina Ricci by a big metal chain. The advanced word regarding Craig Brewer's follow-up to his Indie hit Hustle and Flow has been mixed, with some finding the racy rural approach a bit too baroque for such a simple idea. Others acknowledge Brewer as a breakthrough artist, a white filmmaker finding intriguing ways of visualizing major minority themes. Either way, expect this effort to lift the director's already high profile, which already appears poised to turn him into a major Hollywood heavyweight.

Black Snake Moan

Display Artist: Will Speck, Josh Gordon (II) Director: Will Speck Director: Josh Gordon (II) Film: Blades of Glory Studio: Paramount Cast: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer Website: http://www.bladesofglorymovie.com/ MPAA rating: N/A Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/bladesofglory/ First date: 2007 Distributor: Dream Works US Release Date: 2007-03-30 (General release) UK Release Date: 2007-04-06 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/blades-of-glory-poster.jpg

Display as: List

While it sounds like an inverse reconfiguration of the classic Saturday Night Live skit with Martin Short and Harry Shearer as the world's first all male synchronized swimmers, these two dudes on ice skates spoof may be a certified sleeper. After all, it has the puzzlingly popular Will Ferrell and the so far underused Jon Herder as the sowcowing studs. Adding fuel to the fires of uncertainty, this is the first major movie for directing duo Josh Gordon and Will Speck, based on a script from untried screenwriters Jeff and Craig Cox. Perhaps the biggest fear many critics have is that this entire enterprise could degenerate into 90 minutes of mindless homophobia (the trailer seems to play on that tendency). It will also be interesting to see how the film handles the obvious athletic limitations of its less than physical cast.

Blades of Glory

Director: James Wan Film: Dead Silence Studio: Universal Cast: Leigh Whannell, Amber Valletta, Ryan Kwanten, Donnie Wahlberg, Christina Cox Website: http://www.deadsilencemovie.net/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/universal/deadsilence/ First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-03-16 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/d/dead-silence-poster.jpg

Display as: List

Talk about resting on your considerable laurels. It was way back in 2003 when James Wan became a genre cause celeb for his turn behind the lens (and help behind the typewriter) in the psychological shell game, Saw. Since then, rumors have been rampant over what his next directorial project would be -- this, while buddy Leigh Whannell went on to oversee the next two films in the Jigsaw franchise. The answer is this obvious homage to '70s Italian terror in combination with the standard scary doll dynamic. Using the well worn formula of a local legend (here, the vengeful spirit of a female ventriloquist) and a man seeking answers for a tragedy in his past, this gloomy ghost story promises to be a major departure from the Hitchcockian histrionics of Wan's previous work.

Dead Silence

Display Artist: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez Director: Quentin Tarantino Director: Robert Rodriguez Film: Grindhouse Studio: Dimension Films (The Weinstein Company) Cast: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, John Jaratt, Marley Shelton Website: http://www.grindhousemovie.net/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/weinstein/grindhouse/ First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-04-06 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/g/grindhouse-poster.jpg

Display as: List

What is it with the sudden fascination with exploitation? While those film fans in the know understand the massive impact the business had on the medium overall (including the breakdown of certain censorship restrictions), it seems the Naughts have inspired a sudden desire to look back to the drive-in for creative inspiration. In this case, two of modern moviemaking's most exciting stylists offer a bravura reminder of when the sleaze of 42nd Street merged with the profitability of the passion pit. Robert Rodriguez takes on terror with his zombie stomp Planet Terror while Quentin Tarantino gives Kurt Russell the Travolta treatment as a psychotic stuntman in Death Proof. Featuring fake movie trailers and theatrical ads from the likes of Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright, this promises to be the film geek happening of the pre-Blockbuster season.

Grindhouse

Director: Edgar Wright Film: Hot Fuzz Studio: Rogue Pictures (Focus) Cast: Jim Broadbent, Steve Coogan, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Edward Woodward Website: http://www.hotfuzz.com/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/focus_features/hotfuzz/hd/ First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-04-20 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2007-02-14 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/h/hot-fuzz-poster.jpg

Display as: List

It takes a great deal of talent to find something new and novel in a dead and dying genre, but Brit wits Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright found such innovation with brilliant horror comedy Shaun of the Dead. Now the duo take on the police procedural as Pegg plays Sergeant Nicholas Angel, a big city London cop unceremoniously transferred to an idyllic English country town. Along with partner PC Danny Butterman (the always hilarious Nick Frost), the pair stumbles upon a series of accidental deaths that may or may not have sinister underpinnings. With the obsession over hyperstylized violent action films as the foundation for their funny business, the team behind some of the UK's more inventive comedies (TV's Spaced) promise to deliver the kind of massive crossover hit that has so far eluded the duo.

Hot Fuzz

Director: Stephen J. Anderson Film: Meet the Robinsons Studio: Disney Cast: Angela Bassett, Spencer Fox, Jordan Fry, Tom Kenny, Harland Williams Website: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/meettherobinsons/ MPAA rating: G Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/disney/meettherobinsons/ First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-03-30 (General release) UK Release Date: 2007-03-30 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/meet-the-robinsons-poster.jpg

Display as: List

When it comes to its animation department, Disney has been all over the map the last few years. First, they announced a phasing out of all hand drawn animation. Then they battled with Pixar over a collaborative contract extension. Then their own 3-D effort Chicken Little tanked, and suddenly, they were buddy-buddy with John Lassiter and the gang again (even naming the Toy Story titan head of their cartoon department). Now comes this under the radar effort, a bit of futuristic surrealism that looks like Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius meshed with Back to the Future. There's an uncertain pedigree behind the motherboards (director Stephen J. Anderson is helming his first major mainstream effort) and a standard House of Mouse dynamic (lots of anarchic ancillary characters) on screen, so this could be a decent diversion. It could also be the last nail in the previous regime's creative coffin.

Meet the Robinsons

Director: Mike Binder Film: Reign Over Me Studio: Sony Cast: Don Cheadle, Adam Sandler, Saffron Burrows, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Liv Tyler Website: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/reignoverme/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/reignoverme/ First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-03-23 (General release) UK Release Date: 2007-04-13 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/r/reign-over-me-poster.jpg

Display as: List

The events of 9/11 have inspired a great deal of discussion, but until recently, very little cinematic catharsis. Yet after the relatively tame returns for the two fact-based looks at the events that terrible September day (United 93 and World Trade Center) Sony is betting that Americans are ready for a fictional drama based on the disaster... one starring a notoriously sophomoric comic looking to make his serious film debut, to boot. That is indeed the challenge facing this intriguing effort from filmmaker Mike Binder. It's Adam Sandler in the role of a man devastated by the loss of his family in the attacks, and Don Cheadle as the college roommate trying to bring him back to the world of the living. While it sounds a lot like a politically aware rewrite of The Fisher King, one hopes the subject matter stifles Sandler's inherent immaturity.

Reign Over Me

Director: Danny Boyle Film: Sunshine Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures Cast: Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Cillian Murphy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh Website: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/sunshine/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox_searchlight/sunshine/ First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-07-20 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2007-04-05 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/sunshine-poster.jpg

Display as: List

One doesn't readily associate British auteur Danny Boyle with science fiction, but then again, that could be said for any of his directorial choices. Who could have imagined that the man who made the Zen drug rave-up Trainspotting would next reinvent the living dead genre with 28 Days Later, only to follow that up with Millions, a well-meaning family film. As part of his continued cinematic shapeshifting, this latest movie finds the filmmaker mining Solaris territory, as a ragtag crew of diverse astronauts race to re-ignite a dying sun. Rumor has it that the rest of the world will see this film before people in America will, where it may be pushed back to the Fall of 2007 for possible awards consideration. That could be a real sign of significant promise, or the standard US treatment for a film the industry feels no one will appreciate.

Sunshine

Director: David Fincher Film: Zodiac Studio: Paramount Pictures Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, Elias Koteas, Donal Logue, John Carroll Lynch, Dermot Mulroney Website: http://www.zodiacmovie.com/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/zodiac/ First date: 2007 Distributor: Paramount US Release Date: 2007-03-02 (General release) UK Release Date: 2007-04-20 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/z/zodiac-poster.jpg

Display as: List

David Fincher has been MIA since delivering his über-intellectualized thriller Panic Room five years ago. Along the way, he's been associated with everything from another take on the Alien franchise to a mega-budgeted realization of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama. While those two possibilities languish in the realm of rumored possibility, Fincher decided to revisit the dark serial killer territory he mined in Se7en. The result is this stylish '70s throwback, based on the famed San Francisco murder spree of the title terror. With a fascinating cast (Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo) and the Polyester ambience of the Me Decade as a backdrop, this promises to be a mind-bender…which is no big surprise coming from the man who helmed The Game and one of the '90s best films, Fight Club.

Zodiac

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Laura Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.