MONTHLY HIGHLIGHT: March 2014

March is the month we can finally live in this year, in more ways than one. The Oscars are over – so are the often barren wastes of January and February, this year livened up by a refreshing mainstream batch and some well interspersed indies (more in Monday’s Quick Takes) – so we can prepare a deep inhale of quality cinema this month. Most of it is of the independent variety, with action-adventure debuts from Aaron Paul (Need for Speed), Shaileene Woodley (Divergent) and Jack O’Connell (300: Rise of an Empire) still drawing skepticism. That’s not to say the month doesn’t end on an explosive (and implosive) note of bombast, and there are many surprises coming our way on the indie front.

Top 10 Films to See in March

Jodorowsky's Dune10. Jodorowsky’s Dune (Limited Release; March 7th)

I suspect we’ll be waiting a long agonizing wait if we just sit expecting a documentary of the intense caliber we reached numerous times last year, but it won’t be for lack of looking. One doc which had quite a favorable reception in its festival play last year was this behind-the-scenes look into a film production that never was, which is scrumptious candy for hard-core cinephiles. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s films may not be recognizable on a first name basis, but his style is, the same ludicrous, high-fantasy sci-fi look being adopted by many a 70s flick. Certainly the concept of a film eventually made by David Lynch being made by a different, yet in its own way distinct directorial vision, is interesting enough to lure us in. What, though, is the film going to bring cinematically to the table to keep us there? (Trailer)

Honey (Miele)9. Honey (Limited Release; March 7th)

Among last year’s wide array of Cannes Un Certain Regard contenders that may have balanced the Competition lineup’s male-to-female director ratio, Honey (or Miele in its native language) is the directorial debut of Italian actress Valeria Golino. It’s tough to know exactly what it’s about, as neither its vague synopsis or trailer give much to go on – the synopsis reads “Irene, nicknamed ‘Honey’, has devote herself to people looking for help, and tries to alleviate their suffering even when they make extreme decisions. One day she has to cope with Grimaldi and his invisible malaise.” Yeah, totally vague and illusive, but the appealing sensual details of its style has us wanting. (Trailer)

Sabotage8. Sabotage (Wide Release; March 28th)

David Ayers is set to become a recognizable name this year, though not necessarily in a good way. His past work has included Street Kings and End of Watch, the latter of which was met pretty divisively amongst critics. He has two films coming this year, and you’d think November release Fury, starring Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman and Shia Labeouf, would be the one to hold out hope for, but something seems so damn attractive about Sabotage. Yes, it’s a late Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, but boasting an ensemble meaty enough to include Olivia Williams, Mireille Enos and Joe Manganiello. It’s also loosely based on Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None (once itself titled Ten Little N***ers), implying even more literary meat on its bones. On top of that, the trailer ends with a literal explosion of money, and I’m already obsessed with the theoretical implications of that shot. (Trailer)

In Fear7. In Fear (Limited Release; March 7th)

It’s taken a while for this Sundance 2013 chiller to make it to our screens, perhaps just so that Alice Englert’s breakthrough stream of performances could linger with us a bit longer. She was a crucial presence in Ginger & Rosa and a spunky charismatic one in Beautiful Creatures, but with In Fear she’s given main billing, if not as much to go on in the way of character. No matter, because this film’s chief goal is suspense, and the trailer hints at a minimalist, art-house approach to conjuring terror. Less could very well mean more in this case, so this may probably be a more effective horror outlet for genre enthusiasts than most of the mainstream studios have to offer us this year. (Trailer)

Hide Your Smiling Faces6. Hide Your Smiling Faces (Limited Release; March 28th)

Remember when I didn’t really buy Mud, a film about rural masculinity which felt more indulgent than investigative? Well it may have helped to have a Hide Your Smiling Faces in those moments, because this seems more my speed when it comes to rigorous tales of boyhood. It’s also setting himself up as a rarer-than-you’d-think film about brotherhood, an aspect of life without as rich a cinematic history as you’d suppose for it. It’s an interesting, fierce dynamic that this film seems to have an interesting insight on, and it may be one of the better surprises of the year. (Trailer)

The Missing Picture5. The Missing Picture (Limited Release; March 19th)

The big blind spot on nearly everyone’s Oscar docket was yet another Cannes Un Certain Regard standout, though this one is a peculiar one to see nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Approaching the Khmer Rouge injustices from a perspective of personal history, it tells its director Rithy Panh’s very personal experiences of the period in a very unique way. It’s not a stop-motion film in the way you’d expect, but it’s an unorthodox approach to retelling and reanalyzing history that could storm Top 10 lists in 2014 the way The Act of Killing did in 2013. (Trailer)

Enemy4. Enemy (Limited Release; March 21st)

Denis Villenueve may be in a position to grow on me. Incendies was a pretty bloated, gross-looking and gross-feeling film, and early films of his like Maelstrom, while admirable for their chutzpah, were all too stomach-churning without much to endear us. Prisoners represented a step forward, focusing his noirish genre inclinations to an atmospherically rich environment, aided very much by ace cinematographer Roger Deakins. Enemy submits to an even broader noir-tinted tale, with Jake Gyllenhaal playing two identical-looking men who find themselves sinisterly at odds. All the film’s marketing lets on is that the boundaries of their lives merge and overlap as you’d expect they would do. It’s exactly the kind of story that Villenueve’s talents are tailored to, so this may just be career-affirming effort we’ve been waiting for from him. (Trailer)

The Grand Budapest Hotel3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Limited Release; March 7th)

Don’t get too excited, but for the first time in my film-going life, I’m really excited to see a Wes Anderson film. Mind you, his films always look delightful, but I’ve often had difficulty handing myself over to their worlds. They’ve just been realized a bit too preciously for my tastes, but that novelty aspect may be what’s amplified the passion of many of his most ardent fans. For my own tastes, though, The Grand Budapest Hotel looks delicious, and not just for the set-design looking like a stack of pastries. It also feels like his mad-cap caper antics could finally be let free to run joyously wild. On top of that, I suspect this may be more than just an appealing-looking trifle, offering something in the way of emotional meaning. That’s our hope for any Wes endeavor, so here’s hoping Grand Budapest Hotel puts him on a good foot and keeps him on that sure footing. (Trailer)

Noah2. Noah (Wide Release; March 28th)

The biggest question mark on our March calendar is Darren Aronofsky’s intensely anticipated biblical epic (that’s only 2 hours, but do we really want our biblical epics so bloated?) Noah, partly because it’s a proposition so daft that it could go either way. You get that from the trailer, with demon snakes and flaming swords suggesting that there’s more to this journey than a bunch of animals on a boat. Still, it’s a story that could well sink into patriarchal syrup if not well tended to in the artistic department. Given Aronofsky’s history both on the art-house front and his own financial failure at a science-fiction epic with The Fountain, I trust he’s being mindful of all the factors on this one. We’ll just have to wait to see if that trust is well placed. It’s all about the cinematic experience, and I’ve yet to have a flat one from Aronofsky. (Trailer)

Nymphomaniac1. Nymphomaniac (Limited Release; Vol. 1: March 21st/Vol. 2: April 4)

Okay, technically we only get half of Lars von Trier’s latest this month, but given how soon we’ll have the back-end of it, why not bench our anticipation on the whole thing? After all, this isn’t a Kill Bill situation of each half working completely well on its own, as Volume I ends just as abruptly as Volume II picks up. This really is something best viewed in quick succession of one another, even if the themes it deals are dense both in the moment and in their gradual collection. I wouldn’t call this Lars’ magnum opus, its tone perched more on the impishly playful side than the solemnly fatalistic work he did on Antichrist and Melancholia. It is however undeniably an opus (*wink*), dishing on themes of sexuality’s role in social structures in morally precarious, visually precocious ways. I could imagine similar glorification/condemnation arguments being thrown around Nymphomaniac as were tossed at Wolf of Wall Street, but the key difference may be that Lars von Trier’s film will still come round to haunt and delight me at the end of the day. (NSFW Trailer)

300 - Rise of an EmpireOther Film Things Releasing in March

300: Rise of an Empire (March 7th)
Mr. Peabody and Sherman (March 7th)
Need for Speed (March 14th)
Tyler Perry’s Single Moms Club (March 14th)
Bad Words (March 14th)
Le Week-End (March 14th)
Veronica Mars (March 14th)
Divergent (March 21st)
Muppets Most Wanted (March 21st)
Mistaken for Strangers (March 28th)
The Raid 2 (March 28th)

What are you most anticipating in the month of March? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Jose

    For me, the most anticipated films of March are Grand Budapest Hotel, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1, Muppets Most Wanted, In Fear (which I haven’t heard of until I read this, so thanks for the heads-up!) and Sabotage.

    I know that the Veronica Mars movie is supposed to be a big deal because of its kickstarter history, but since I haven’t seen the show, and the ads make it seem as if it’s mainly for fans with no intention of attracting newcomers, I probably won’t get into it until after I watch the series.

  • I watched Nymphomaniac earlier and I liked it.

    My most anticipated films from this list would be The Grand Budapest Hotel, Enemy, Jodorowsky’s Dune and Noah.

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