In just a couple of days, UR students will receive a week-long respite from the slew of classes and exams that have begun piling up in anticipation of the impending finals week. Spring break comes as a blessing in the dreaded home stretch before May, offering a time to recharge, reprioritize — and reconsider the vitality and joy of the movies. Lost in a miserable labyrinth of WebWork, research papers, and three-hour workshops, students are missing out on the visceral kick of the political thriller, the heartfelt exhilaration of romance, the rollicking nostalgia of the teen comedy, and the mind-boggling high delivered by the avant-garde trailblazers of our generation. It’s time to rethink the movies in a major way.
What better way to start than to map out the next month of cinema to help students make their choices? The following list marks all notable March releases. As used in this particular context, “notable” can be defined as any film that looks promising, looks to make a major splash at the box office, or aims to incite controversy. Keep in mind that some of the movies will only be released in select theaters and therefore might prove more difficult to find, which isn’t to say you shouldn’t try. And now the movies:
“Oz: The Great and the Powerful”
Director and cult favorite Sam Raimi (“Spider Man”) returns with a lavishly mounted, revisionist prequel to Victor Fleming’s fantasy classic. The film looks to be a pure, visual spectacle, and though early reviews fall short of the Oz of the title, the possibility of unabashed escapist fun may crown “Oz” box office king, for at least a week.
“Dead Man Down”
The director, Niels Arden Oplev, is the reason to keep an eye on “Dead Man Down,” a revenge thriller that appears to be rooted in the same abyss of human darkness that made Oplev’s original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” adaptation a thrilling, toxic blast of cinema. Its story traverses familiar territory, but the trailer suggests a genre riff charged with atmosphere and dramatic intensity.
The ads have been scandalous, the trailer even more so. It’s “Girls Gone Wild” meets “Breaking Bad,” shot with the kind of seedy visual aesthetic that made Tony Scott’s “Domino” a whirlwind acid trip and a half. Perhaps the film’s most inflammatory quality is the way it sleazes up the public image of former Disney stars Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, effectively sending them to the frontlines of the oversexed world of media sensationalism. The movie may very well be an exemplary piece of stylish filmmaking, but as of now, cinematic artistry is hardly among “Spring Breakers”’ most touted assets.
“G.I. Joe: Retaliation”
There’s a good chance this one will crash and burn harder than its wantonly explosive trailer, but the appeal of “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is obvious. Buff male leads, high-tech ninjas, action-hero quips, and endless arsenals of impossibly destructive weaponry — all comprise a 12-year old’s wet dream, and let’s face it: beneath all the newfound poise and maturity, many college students still have a side to them that relishes in that kind of cinematic anarchy. At its best, “G.I. Joe” will be a self-parodying glorification of action-movie mayhem. At its worst, it will be just another numbing entry into the depressing annals of contemporary action movies. Either way, at the end of a long and studious week, there’s nothing quite like watching Bruce Willis unload an automatic weapon from the back of a speeding El Camino.
Based on Stephenie Meyer’s (yes, the novelist behind “Twilight”) bestselling young adult series, this one caters first and foremost to a very specific audience of adolescent girls, but its sleek, action-heavy trailer will probably draw moviegoers from both sexes. Its box-office prospects look moderate to strong, riding on the same two facets that blessed “The Hunger Games” with such a lucrative turnout: a cast of young, attractive stars and a pre-established fanbase that will stop at nothing to see their beloved novel manifested on the silver screen.
“The Place Beyond the Pines”
March 29 (limited)
Derek Cianfrance brought painful intimacy and an astute sense of character to 2010’s “Blue Valentine,” and his latest film promises to infuse the crime genre with the same emotional heft. Reuniting with heartthrob and powerhouse Ryan Gosling, the film seems to reprise the small-town grit and human drama that made “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” so compelling. Better yet, Bradley Cooper, who gained prestige for his edgy, excellent performance in “Silver Linings Playbook,” stars opposite Gosling as a straight-arrow cop out to apprehend Gosling’s family-minded criminal. Two ace actors, standing toe-to-toe on different sides of the law? Sounds like Michael Mann’s “Heat,” and with the talent on display in “The Place Beyond the Pines,” Cianfrance just might match that legendary film.
Jeng is a member of the class of 2016.