With the dust still settling from last months Academy Awards, April sees the last of the big Oscar nominees getting their Japan release and the beginning of the onslaught of the summer blockbusters.

Previews by Christopher O’Keeffe

Iron Man 3 (Japan release April 26)

After the incredible success of last year’s The Avengers, Marvel returns to the first character it released under its own production company, ushering in a new era of comic book heroes on the big screen. The success of Iron Man, and of the subsequent Marvel movies, was due in large part to the successful casting and huge charisma of Iron Man himself, aka Tony Stark, aka the wonderfully eccentric Robert Downey Jr. It was his charm that grounded an unbelievable concept in a colourful reality and helped sell the story to non-comic book fans.

The one-time Hollywood bad-boy managed to stand out from the crowd, even amongst the likes of The Hulk and Captain America in the ensemble cast of the Avengers. The first sequel in the franchise was seen as something of a disappointment, more an extended trailer for the Avengers than a standalone film in its own right, so this third outing will be looking to restore the old Shell-head’s name.

With a change in director – action veteran Shane Black is taking over from Jon Favreau – and cast additions in the form of Guy Pearce and Sir Ben Kinglsey, early signs are looking good. Sir Ben plays the villainous ‘Mandarin’, a terrorist intent on destroying Tony Stark’s world, forcing him to reevaluate and rebuild his life in order to defeat the formidable foe.

Lincoln (April 19)

Directed by Steven Spielberg and with an outstanding cast led by a powerful, Oscar winning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln is a film that was seemingly destined for awards glory, an epic historical drama based around the 16th President of the United States and his efforts to outlaw slavery..

Day-Lewis was given particular accolades for his work on the great man’s accent: no recording of Lincoln speaking exists, of course, but he really did his homework to capture a voice described as surprisingly ‘high-pitched’ and imbues it with the required gravitas. The film focuses on the period, in 1865, between Lincoln’s second election and his inauguration, where he faces a tough decision amid civil war.

Sally Fields stars as Mary Todd Lincoln and Tommy Lee-Jones – who we’ve all seen glaring at us from posters on the train as the face of ‘Boss’ coffee – is Thaddeus Stevens, the Republican Congressional leader. Both received Best Supporting Actor nominations for their work in the roles.

Killing them Softly (April 26)

Brad Pitt, who has been making more serious fare of late with heavy hitting dramas Moneyball and The Tree of Life, returns to fast-paced and violent filmmaking with Killing Them Softly, a mafia based crime thriller.

Director Andrew Dominik is no stranger to the criminal world – he made his debut with Chopper, a biopic of notorious Australian hard man Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, and followed it up with the beautiful Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Pitt stars as Jackie Corgan, an enforcer hired to track down some young guys who were stupid enough to rob a mafia protected card game, causing the local criminal economy into freefall.

Brad Pitt in 'Killing Them Softly'

Black comedy peppers the tale, giving Pitt chance to revel in what looks an enjoyable role for the star and legendary screen gangsters Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini look to bring a touch of Goodfellas and The Sopranos respectively to the tale.

Hitchcock (April 5)

Hitchcock is possibly one of the most famous names in the world of cinema, and in this new work Sir Antony Hopkins is stepping into the great man’s shoes to shed some light on what made him tick. Covering the period in which the great director was making what would become one of his greatest works, Psycho, the film looks at the problems in production and the pressures it put upon his marriage in what is, essentially, a love story.

‘Behind every Psycho is a great woman’ goes the tagline on the poster, and behind the woman is a great actor in Helen Mirren, who plays Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville. Scarlett Johannsson gets a go at recreating that infamous and terrifying shower scene as actress Janet Leigh.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (April 26)

This picked up a string of nominations at last months Academy Awards, including a Best Actress nod for youngest ever nominee, nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis – we met Wallis at the Okinawa International Movie Festival: interview coming soon… While the young lady failed to take home the prize, she gives a performance not to be missed in this widely regarded fantasy drama.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

The film was directed and co-written by newcomer Benh Zeitlin with considerable skill, considering it’s his first feature length movie. The story follows six-year-old Hushpuppy, who lives with her father in a poverty stricken Louisiana Bayou community. With her hot-tempered father’s health failing and a storm approaching the isolated community, Hushpuppy’s imagination takes over as she attempts to deal with the situation around her. This is a stirringly beautiful coming of age tale.

Rust and Bone (April 6)

Another film to earn high praise and award nominations around the world is French/Belgian drama, Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os). It stars Marion Cotillard, who appeared in last year’s The Dark Knight Rises and Midnight in Paris, and Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts.

The film tells the story of Alain, who relocates from his home in Belgium to southern France after receiving sole custody of his five-year-old son. The unemployed father soon gets a job as a bouncer at a local club, where he meets Stephanie, a killer whale trainer who later suffers a terrible accident, robbing her of the use of her legs. Jacques Audiard directs this, his first film since 2009’s outstanding A Prophet.