Is spring becoming the new "summer" at the box office? Although summer has traditionally been the time when Hollywood rolls out its biggest blockbusters and special effects-heavy films, last year's "The Hunger Games" (released in March) proved major blockbusters can happen earlier in the year. Hollywood seems to have taken notice, and several movies slated for release this spring have the potential to become hits, even before "Iron Man 3" officially kicks off the summer movie season on May 3. A spring release date also gives some of these movies a chance to stand out and not get lost in the summer movie shuffle, as several films were overshadowed last summer by all the hype surrounding "The Avengers."
"Jack the Giant Slayer" (March 1)
Retellings of famous fairy tales seem to be a trend in Hollywood right now, from this winter's "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" to last year's dueling "Snow White" films, "Mirror Mirror" and "Snow White and the Huntsman." "Jack the Giant Slayer" joins this tradition, offering a new look at the tale of a boy named Jack (Nicholas Hoult) who grows a magic beanstalk that takes him to a giant's fortress in the clouds.
The film has a good cast — including Ewan McGregor, Bill Nighy and Stanley Tucci — and I'm hoping it will be a fun, adventurous take on this favorite fairy tale. However, my main concern, based on some of the scenes in the trailer, is that the film could end up being a little too "silly," as "Mirror Mirror" did last year. It doesn't necessarily have to be as gritty as "Snow White and the Huntsman," but I'm afraid if the film doesn't take itself seriously enough, it could end up being a flop.
"Oz the Great and Powerful" (March 8)
Years before Dorothy dons her ruby slippers and travels the yellow brick road through Oz, the magical land receives another unlikely visitor: a circus magician from Kansas named Oscar Diggs (James Franco). Set before the events of the 1939 movie musical "The Wizard of Oz," "Oz the Great and Powerful" follows Oscar's journey as he meets three witches, all of whom may not have Oz's best interests at heart.
Directed by Sam Raimi (who also directed the Spider-Man trilogy featuring Franco), "Oz the Great and Powerful" will likely be a slightly darker take on the books of L. Frank Baum. While it's always risky to attempt a prequel or a sequel to a well-loved classic, I think "Oz the Great and Powerful" will be a fresh, creative take that will still pay homage to the original.
"Olympus Has Fallen" (March 22)
Last year brought us dueling "Snow White" films, and this year, there's another case of Hollywood "deja vu." "Olympus Has Fallen" is the first of two films slated for release this year about terrorist groups taking over the White House and holding the president hostage. In this version, Aaron Eckhart plays the president and Gerard Butler plays a disgraced former Secret Service agent. "White House Down," which opens this summer, stars Jamie Foxx as the president and Channing Tatum as the Secret Service agent who has to save him.
It's a bit unusual to have two films with almost identical plots being released so close together, and it will be interesting to see which is more successful. "Olympus Has Fallen" has the advantage of coming out first, but Channing Tatum has become one of the most buzzed-about Hollywood stars recently, so that could give "White House Down" an edge. I think the concept of these films is an interesting one, and I hope at least one of these movies turns out to be a tense, well-made political thriller in the style of "Air Force One."
"G.I. Joe: Retaliation" (March 29)
First, I have to make a confession. Although the first G.I. Joe film, released in summer 2009, took quite a bit of flak from fans and critics (it received only a 34 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), I quite enjoyed the movie (don't judge me!). ;) It isn't deep, and it's not a work of cinematic greatness. However, it is a guilty pleasure, and it reminded me of the cheesy, light-hearted fun of the 1980s cartoon. I think the sequel could be an entertaining popcorn flick, as well.
The sequel originally was slated for release last summer but was delayed. Although officially the studio said they wanted to delay the film's release in order to add 3D, according to rumors the delay was more about including additional scenes with Channing Tatum's character "Duke." Supposedly Duke was going to be killed off early in the film, but Tatum's increasing star power has perhaps made film makers rethink that choice. Action movie veterans Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson also will both be joining the sequel.
"Jurassic Park 3D" (April 5)
Although it's no secret 3D re-releases of classic films are probably just shameless attempts to earn more money, ;) it is nice for fans to have another chance to see favorite films on the big screen. Although Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" is one of my favorite movies, I never got a chance to see it in theaters. Now 20 years old, the film still holds up as a fun action/adventure film, and — no matter how many times I see it — it's still a tense experience. This is one of Spielberg's best films and is well worth a re-release.
"Oblivion" (April 19)
Out of all the films slated for release this spring, this film may be the one I'm most excited about. Starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko ("Quantum of Solace") and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ("Game of Thrones"), this science fiction film is about an ex-Marine commander named Jack Harper (Cruise) who is stationed on Earth in the year 2073, years after the planet was almost destroyed in an alien invasion. When he rescues a mysterious stranger from a wrecked spacecraft, she causes him to question everything he assumed he knew about the invasion.
The trailer for this film is tense and intriguing, and many of the plot details remain a secret. I'm excited because one of the script writers is Michael Arndt, who also is working on the script for the 2015 "Star Wars" film. "Oblivion" will give us a taste of how Arndt handles science fiction and perhaps an idea of what we can expect from the new "Star Wars."
What films are you most looking forward to this spring? Do you think any of them have the potential to become blockbusters?