With the turn of the century cinema has seen the unrivaled rise of the superheroes. When Marvel released “Iron Man” in 2008, the genre’s fate was sealed and the MCU (the Marvel Cinematic Universe) was born. Since that time, comic book heroes have taken over the box office and ushered in a new era of geek-driven pop culture. So far, Marvel’s dominance has been assured while the attempts of long-term rival publisher DC to start their own franchises have stumbled and fallen. But DC has always had a couple of aces up their sleeve: Batman and Superman. On the big screen together for the first time after years of lucrative solo ventures, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” casts a colossal cape over the entire month. Already burned out by superheroes? That’s not all on offer; look elsewhere and there’s a huge selection of intelligent, sensitive and thought-provoking cinema with some towering performances from the likes of Eddie Redmayne and Ian McKellen. Read on for the Weekender guide to March movies.
By Christopher O’Keeffe
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – March 25
Batman and Superman: pop-cultural titans who have cast their capes across every form of media imaginable since their inception in the 1930’s. Not even Spider-Man can trump the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight in terms of enduring popularity and global impact. Now these two iconic figures are going head-to-head on our cinema screens for the first time ever, whilst also setting the groundwork for a sprawling new DC film universe to rival that of the all-conquering Marvel. Ben Affleck dons Batman’s dark cowl for the first time and he’s got serious questions about the intentions of the seemingly benign, yet staggeringly powerful alien interloper who’s appeared among us. Henry Cavill returns to his “Man of Steel” role as Clark Kent/Superman, along with Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Jesse Eisenberg will be pulling our heroes’ strings as arch-nemesis Lex Luther. Even Woman Wonder, in the form of Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot, makes her first big-screen appearance. Zack Snyder, a director known more for flashy visuals than substance and storytelling, takes the reins of a film that puts the fate of the entire world, and a new film franchise, at stake.
The Big Short – March 4
The housing and credit collapse that lead to the financial crisis at the end of the last decade may not seem like a laughing matter but that’s exactly how director Adam McKay has approached it. Focusing on the Wall Street moneymen who saw the bubble’s impending burst, “The Big Short” zips along at a frenetic pace as Ryan Gosling narrates much of the financial wheeling and dealing going down. Hollywood big shots Brad Pitt, Steve Carell and Christian Bale play some unquestionably smart men of extremely questionable moral character who saw the system’s weakness and exploited it. Picking up five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, the film deals with a complex subject matter but it’s delivered in such a way as to make it both palatable and blackly comic.
The Good Dinosaur – March 12
It’s extremely rare that ace animation house Pixar ever put forth a wrong foot (here’s looking at you “Cars”) but it seems that putting out two smash-hit animations in one year is too much even for them. After the staggering success, both critically and commercially, of “Inside Out,” their next release has struggled to reach the same towering heights. That being said, what may not be a Pixar classic is still a solid and thoroughly entertaining piece of family entertainment. In “The Good Dinosaur” the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs missed the Earth, leading to a world in which dinosaurs and cavemen coexist. Enter misfit, long-necked Apatosaur, Arlo. One day, Arlo’s timidity results in him being separated from his family and an eventual journey across the land with an adorably feral cave boy at his side. Arlo must learn to overcome his fear in order to find a way home.
What a Wonderful Family! – March 12
If this film’s English title means nothing to you, its Japanese name, “Kazoku wa Tsurai Yo!,” might. The “Otoko Wa Tsurai Yo!” (“It’s Tough Being a Man!”) series has been a Japanese staple for over forty years. Starring Kiyoshi Atsumi as the hapless Tora-san, the films hold the record for the longest-running series featuring the same actor, having run from 1969 until the sad death of the star in 1995. Whereas the classic series centered on just one softhearted character and his comedic quest for love, “What a Wonderful Family!” captures the antics of an entire family. Isao Hashizume and Kazuko Yoshiyuki star as a husband and wife who, after 50 years of marriage, find their family thrown into turmoil after the wife asks for a divorce. 84-year-old film legend and writer-director of most of the 48 “Tora-san” movies, Yoji Yamada, helms this comic story of family life.
Mr. Holmes – March 18
London’s most notorious super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years, epitomized by the BBC series “Sherlock,” which catapulted Benedict Cumberbatch to stardom. While Sherlock and many other recent works place the character in a modern setting, “Mr. Holmes” treads a different path. By 1947, the world famous detective is now reaching the end of his storied years. Retired and living a life of relative seclusion, the old investigator is bitter at the sensationalized take on his exploits and tormented by the memory of the one case that he couldn’t solve. Much admired thespian Ian McKellen heads the cast in an exceptional turn as the tortured old genius.
The Danish Girl – March 18
Eddie Redmayne won a Best Actor Oscar last year and he’s in with a good shout at this year’s ceremony for a similarly transformative role. In “The Theory of Everything” the actor was outstanding as internationally renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. In “The Danish Girl” Redmayne once again provides a strikingly physical performance to tell the story of Lili Elbe, one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Einar Wagnar and his wife Gerda are painters. When Gerda has her husband step in for an absent female model, the Lili Elbe persona is revealed. Redmayne’s costar Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”) puts in an equally sensitive performance in a film from “Les Miserables” director Tom Hooper.
Best of the Rest
Assassination Classroom: Graduation (March 25) – Follow-up to last year’s hit manga adaptation featuring a smiley-faced homicidal alien school teacher and the class of students learning how to kill their sensei.
Ricki and the Flash (March 5) – Meryl Streep plays an aging rock-star returning home to make amends with a family she neglected for a life on the road. Real life rocker Rick Springfield co-stars as a member of the band.
The Lobster (March 5) – In a dystopian future, single people are given 45 days to find a partner or they are transformed into an animal of their own choice. Colin Farrell chooses a lobster.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (March 5) – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and company are back to build on their success in the rustic Indian hotel.
Iris (March 5) – The final work of revered documentarian Albert Maysles follows 93-year-old New York fashion icon Iris Apfel.
Sailor Suit and Machine Gun: Graduation (March 5) – Belated follow-up to a 1981 cult youth flick sees a high school senior drawn into trouble thanks to her former life in the yakuza.