A movie fan's hopes sprout anew in March. It's post-Oscars but past the bad movies (I, Frankenstein; Pompeii) that studios dump during the first months of each year.
March and April bring thoughtful thrillers, blockbusters based on young-adult novels, and the odd independent gem.
Unlike the summer movie season, which usually starts on the first Friday in May with a comic-book film (this year, it's The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on May 2), spring rarely is remembered at the end of the year.
Spring movies do not top the yearly box office chart nor draw much consideration the following January, when Oscar nominations are announced. They're too low-key, and too early in the year, for that.
Yet they make an impact. The Hunger Games came out in spring 2012, drew rave reviews, made a bundle and paved the way for this year's Divergent, also based on a dystopian YA novel and opening Friday.
Mud, released last April, started a wave of 2013 goodwill toward Matthew McConaughey that culminated in his Oscar win last week for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club.
Here are five spring movies to look for.
Bad Words (currently in limited release). Jason Bateman stars as Guy, a foul-mouthed, child-taunting 40-year-old who finds a loophole in national spelling bee rules that allows him to compete against 10-year-olds. Bateman makes his feature directing debut with Bad Words.
Veronica Mars (currently in limited release): Fans of the cult TV series have missed their teen detective (Kristen Bell) since her show left the air in 2007 so much that they chipped in $5.7 million during a 30-day Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign so Warner Bros., which owns the show, would make a film. It picks up Veronica's story nine years after the UPN/CW series' third and final season. Veronica is now a New York City attorney. But her seaside hometown of Neptune, and bad boy Logan (Jason Dohring), keep pulling her back in.
Noah (March 28). Director Darren Aronofsky epic tale stars Russell Crowe as the ark builder whom God appoints to save good people and animals from a flood meant to wipe out the wicked. Jennifer Connelly plays Noah's wife, and Emma Watson is his daughter. They will share the ark, as Crowe elucidates in his distinctive baritone in the film's trailer, with "all that crows, all that slithers."
Directors getting biblical in 2014 has drawn attention from Christian groups who do not like their Bible stories too Hollywood-ized. Paramount reportedly will attach disclaimers to forthcoming "Noah" ads that distinguish the film as an interpretation, not a retelling.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4). Within the Marvel movie universe, Captain America (Chris Evans) still seems like the eager little brother to Thor and Iron Man. But the first Captain America movie, which followed frail Steve Rogers' transformation into a World War II fighting machine, was a throwback to when comic books were a primary source of entertainment. Winter, in which Rogers is adjusting to modern life, boasts a bigger-name cast than the first movie. Scarlett Johansson plays Avenger Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, and Robert Redford plays a senior S.H.I.E.L.D leader.
Transcendence (April 18). Johnny Depp plays an artificial-intelligence researcher for whom things go screwy: He gets sick and his consciousness is downloaded into a computer. Depp gets the ghostly pallor and electrode-covered head that allow him to dig into a character, and we get a sci-fi cautionary tale directed by Wally Pfister, a talented cinematographer making his directing debut after shooting Christopher Nolan films (The Dark Knight, Inception).