The last week has been rather weak in terms of new movie releases, so I thought we'd take a moment to look ahead at some of the more promising films slated for wide and limited release over the next couple months as we build up to a busy summer movie season. Here are the 10 I'm most looking forward to:
1. "Kick-Ass" (April 2, wide)
I've haven't been this psyched to see a movie since "Inglourious Basterds," and anybody who's seen one of the many "red-band" trailers floating around on the Internet should see why. Creative superhero-riff storyline? Check. Nicolas Cage looking and acting irretrievably insane? Check. Adorable little 10-year-old girl running around saying the "c-word" and blowing bad guys' heads off? Baby, you better believe that's a check. All this, plus McLovin. All things considered, there's absolutely no way this one will disappoint.
2. "Iron Man 2" (April 2, wide)
The first "Iron Man" may not be the best superhero movie ever made, but it is certainly the most naturally, effortlessly fun comic book adaptation I've ever seen. Hopefully the sequel — co-starring none other than Mickey freakin' Rourke as Whiplash, a crazed Russian scientist out for revenge against Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark — will deliver more of the same. Superhero franchises seem to have a have a knack for producing superior sequels ("X-Men," "Spider-Man," "The Fantastic Four" and "Batman Begins" all had follow-ups that were marked improvements over their predecessors), so I'm bracing for one heck of a fist-pumping adrenaline rush.
3. "Leaves of Grass" (April 2, limited)
Here's an oddity: The latest film by Tim Blake Nelson ("O," "The Grey Zone"), starring Edward Norton in a dual role as twin brothers — one an Ivy League professor, the other a tweeker — who become embroiled in a plot to take down a drug dealer. It's been getting rave reviews, and the trailer suggests that Norton has no trouble selling himself in such an oddball role.
4. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (April 2, wide)
Jackie Earl Haley as Freddy Krueger? I know a casting director that deserves a gold star. Haley appears to have abandoned Freddy's trademark comic sensibility, opting instead for straight-up terror, and even as a lifelong Freddy fan, I approve of the approach. Another switch-up for the franchise re-launch: This Freddy is not a former child killer, but rather a falsely accused innocent out for righteous revenge against the kids who accused him and the parents who burned him alive. For once, it's morally acceptable to be squarely on Freddy's side — an intriguing twist.
5. "The Square" (April 2, limited)
An unhappily married man takes a mistress, who one day presents him with a bag full of cash from her criminal husband's most recent score. The plan: Take the money and run. It's a great hook for a low-profile thriller that has been generating buzz as one of those perfectly assembled genre pieces that fans go nuts for. I'm a sucker for psychological thrillers, so I'll be first in line if it ever opens within 100 miles.
6. "The Good Heart" (April 2, limited)
Normally, I'd be rolling my eyes at this low-key character drama, which charts the unlikely friendship between a grizzled bartender and a homeless youth he takes under his wing to teach the tricks of the trade. The catch here is that the mentor is played by Brian Cox, and the kid is Paul Dano (the star of "Little Miss Sunshine" and "There Will Be Blood" who will undoubtedly win an Oscar or two some day). It doesn't happen often, but sometimes a stellar cast is enough to elevate a mediocre movie to the level of "must-see," and I've a suspicion that this is one of those instances.
7. "Clash of the Titans" (April 2, wide)
This one has "badass" written all over it. Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Mads Mikkelsen (an immensely talented Dane who I fully expect to become a full-fledged breakout star as a result of this movie) headline this remake of the '80s cheese classic, and considering the cast and the awesome previews that have been released, I'm not sure if tacked-on 3-D effects were necessary in order to sell the film to pre-summer audiences. I'll be seeing the 2-D version, and I trust it will still knock my socks off.
8. "Robin Hood" (April 2, wide)
Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe seem like the logical choices to bring us the definitive version of this story, but the trailers don't have me completely convinced. The PG-13 rating doesn't help, either. Still, it's a Robin Hood movie made by an actual filmmaker, starring one of the best living actors, and featuring the goddess of truth and beauty Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian. So overall I'm very cautiously optimistic, but still optimistic enough to be there opening weekend.
9. "Date Night" (April 2, wide)
Another "iffy" pick, but how can you say no to Tina Fey? She is magic incarnate, and everything she touches turns out to be roughly 70 times better than it would have been without her involvement. So, this screwball throw-back about a married couple who gets caught up in a dangerous case of mistaken identity may look like your typical cobbled-together mess, but I've every confidence that Fey will be there to pick up the pieces and turn the movie into something worthwhile.
10. "Death at a Funeral" (April 2, wide)
This one could go either way. On the one hand, this remake of Frank Oz's 2007 indie is directed by Neil LaBute ("In the Company of Men," "Your Friends & Neighbors," "Lakeview Terrace") and sports one of the most charming trailers I've seen in a while. On the other hand, it stars Martin Lawrence. Your mileage may vary, but I'll take my chances.
Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.