Traditionally speaking, spring is something of a dump zone for film. Studio blockbusters drop during the summer, to net the herds of bored kids on summer break and family members in need of a break from one another while on vacation. The late-fall and early-winter releases tend toward Oscar fodder: studio films with a conscience and mid-budget films about social issues. This leaves the first few months of the year with the oddballs: passion projects from auteurs like Linklater or Wes Anderson (Budapest released in March) and films like Deadpool, that the studios feel will perform better if released months away from the blockbusters of late spring and summer, when school finally lets out.
Spring is filled with the type of films that I love. Films that may be misplaced, a little rough or just plain weird — but that, at their very best, make me feel for the characters in the film in a way that crowd-pleasers tend to water down. And at their very worst, I get to feel for the debt of that poor, lost filmmaker. As a warmup for the big releases of 2016 — Star Trek, Bourne and Suicide Squad — during summer, we rounded up 10 films we’re anxiously awaiting.
In theaters: March 18
What happens: After discovering his son has special powers, a father must protect him from religious sects and the government.
GP verdict: A candidate for the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, Nichols has produced quality (if under-the-radar) films for the past decade, and this is his most ambitious yet.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Who did: Mud, Take Shelter
Starring: Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Egerton
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
In theaters: March 25
What happens: First Batman fights Superman. Then Lex Luther unleashes Doomsday, forcing Batman and Superman to call a truce, team up with Wonder Woman and save the day.
GP Verdict: It’s the first time Batman and Superman have met on screen, all but guaranteeing a record-breaking release.
Director: Zack Snyder
Who did: Man of Steel, 300
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg
In theaters: May 27
What happens: The world’s first mutant, Apocalypse, returns to cleanse the Earth and begin a new world, unless he can be stopped.
GP Verdict: Bryan Singer directed all the good X-Men films, and this one is bound to follow the trend.
Director: Bryan Singer
Who did: X-Men, X-Men 2, The Usual Suspects
Starring: Olivia Munn, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac
In theaters: April 29
What happens: A punk band witnesses a violent murder in the remote wild of the Pacific Northwest and is forced to fight for their life as the murderers return to eliminate all witnesses.
GP Verdict: Blue Ruin raced to the top of a number of “best movies you missed” lists when it was released in 2014. Saulnier is doubling down on gritty, if gory, realism.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Who did: Blue Ruin
Starring: Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Anton Yelchin
In theaters: Originally March 11, but the date is in now up in the air
What happens: A man in search of love goes to a clinic for singles where, if he doesn’t find love, he’ll be turned into an animal. Hard to explain, better to just watch.
GP Verdict: Weird and slow at times, but hilarious in its own way. Leaves a lasting impression.
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Who did: Dogtooth
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly
Everybody Wants Some
In theaters: April 1
What happens: The college experience, through the eyes of a baseball team in the ’80s and through the lens of Richard Linklater.
GP Verdict: It’s Linklater. He’s the master of independent film. If it’s not great, it’ll at least make you think.
Director: Richard Linklater
Who did: Boyhood, Dazed and Confused
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin
In theaters: May 13
What happens: Oliver Stone’s take on Edward Snowden, with Harding’s The Snowden Files forming the source material.
GP Verdict: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is on top of his game, Stone is due for a hit and it’s bound to be controversial. What’s not to like?
Director: Oliver Stone
Who did: Platoon, Wall Street, Natural Born Killers
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Scott Eastwood, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
The Nice Guys
In theaters: May 20
What happens: A private eye (Gosling) teams up with some muscle (Crowe) to investigate the apparent suicide of an L.A. porn star in ’70s.
GP Verdict: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a surprise hit, with a good mix of violence, laughs and mystery. Black looks to repeat that success with the help of Gosling and Crowe, who are perfect for their roles.
Director: Shane Black
Who did: Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Russell Crowe
In theaters: June 17
What happens: Dory finally remembers her family, and goes on a quest to find them.
GP Verdict: While no one likes sequels, we hope that this followup to the fantastic Finding Nemo is more like Toy Story 2, and less like Cars 2.
Directors: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Who did: Finding Nemo and Wall-E
Starring: Idris Elba, Michael Sheen, Dominic West, Ellen DeGeneres
Already in Theaters, See at Home
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Who did: A Hijacking
Starring: Pilou Asbæk, Tuva Novotny, Dar Salim
In theaters: February 12 and VOD soon
What happens: Stationed in Afghanistan, a company of soldiers are caught in heavy crossfire and the company commander, with three kids and a wife waiting for him at home, must decide what to do.
GP Verdict: Nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year at the Oscars, this Denmark-centric view of war shouldn’t be overlooked.