Beware the Ides of March! Which, in cineplex terms, means an odd couple of releases set in different (but equally violent) eras of Russia; an outstanding Israeli film about grief; and not one, not two, but three sci-fi-inflected blockbusters. (Warning: Only one of them features Oprah.) Plus Wes Anderson makes a welcome return with stop-motion figurines in tow and a pair of deliciously disturbing indie releases find women in various perils. Here’s what’s coming to a theater (hey, remember those?!) near you this March.
The Death of Stalin (Mar. 9th)
Bad news, comrade: The fearless leader has died. Veep creator Armando Iannucci’s blistering new comedy of errors begins with a heart attack that loosens Joseph Stalin’s iron grip on Russia; his cabinet members promptly rush to fill the power vacuum left in his wake. A uniformly stellar ensemble cast including Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin and Jeffrey Tambor all scramble to connive, manipulate, lie and murder their way into the seat of authority, all while slinging the writer-director’s signature eloquent insults. It’s the best political satire of 1953 and 2018.
Foxtrot (Mar. 2nd)
In Tel Aviv, an upper-crust couple receive the news that their son (Yonaton Shiray) has died while serving in the Israeli national army. We watch them as they’re bulldozed by grief – then the movie flashes back to the private’s tedious stint guarding an abandoned outpost in the desert, staving off boredom and doing an extended dance number in which his rifle plays the Ginger to his Fred. Samuel Maoz’s festival favorite has won raves for the sensitivity it extends to people in the most vulnerable state of their lives while criticizing his home country’s attitude about military service and subservience. It’s worth it for the soft-shoe alone.
Isle of Dogs (Mar. 23rd)
Nine years out from Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Wes Anderson is getting his stop-motion groove on once again. With fondest regards to Akira Kurosawa, the dean of American quirk imagines a future Japan with a cataclysmic excess of garbage and an outbreak of canine flu. A corrupt Mayor Kobayashi (voiced by the film’s cowriter Konichi Nomura) solves both problems with one fell swoop by exiling all pooches to the derelict Trash Island. His 12-year-old nephew Atari (Koyu Rankin) nonetheless ventures to the forbidden zone to rescue his beloved pet Spots (Liev Schreiber). Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Great Gerwig, Edward Norton and Scarlett Johansson also lend their dulcet tones to the proceedings. Anderson fans (Fandersons?) will gobble this up like so much puppy chow.
Pacific Rim: Uprising (Mar. 23rd)
One decade (five years in real-world time) has passed since the mighty robo-suits known as Jaegers beat back the Kaiju menace and saved Earth as we know it. And now, both because the Breach portal has reopened – and the first movie did crazy numbers overseas! – the terrible monstrosities from beneath the waves are back. This time, John Boyega takes the lead as fearless warrior Jake Pentecost – the son of Idris Elba’s character in the previous installment – leads his team into the fray against the giant beasts and a colleague who’s gone rogue. Guillermo del Toro is AWOL this time around, having ceded the sequel’s directorial seat to original Daredevil showrunner Steven S. DeKnight. But the trailer has promised that, at the very least, there will be giant electrified spike-maces.
Ready Player One (Mar. 29th)
Do you smell that, the faint wafting aroma of money? That’s Steven Spielberg getting his hands on another best-seller. He directed this adaptation of Ernest Cline’s cult sci-fi novel, in which inhabitants of the year 2045 spend most of their leisure time in a virtual-reality paradise. Our hero is regular kid Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a gamer on the lookout for an Easter Egg hidden somewhere in the simulation by its deceased creator (Mark Rylance). The first person to find it inherits the late eccentric’s staggering fortune and control over the 1980s-fixated game’s universe. The flashy trailer promised an anything-goes pop-culture mashup, where Freddy Krueger can scrape the Iron Giant while Goku beats on Sonic the Hedgehog.
Red Sparrow (March 2nd)
No better time than the present for a brutal, paranoid account of a new Cold War percolating between Russia and the United States! This adaptation of the popular espionage paperback centers on a cell deep in the Ruskies’ spying program in which cadets are trained to use sexuality as a weapon. Back in blockbuster gear but operating in a far darker register, Jennifer Lawrence reunites with her latter-installment Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence to portray a sultry ballerina-turned-assassin. Her big assignment is to seduce and destroy an American operative (Joel Edgerton). Love, of course, gets in the way. Both allegiances and expensive lingerie will be torn.
Thoroughbreds (Mar. 9th)
Two alienated girls come into each other’s lives at just the right time to tear a bloody swath through upper-middle-class suburbia: Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) has finally had it with her abusive stepdad; and junior sociopath Amanda (Olivia Cooke) is just merciless enough to float the idea of killing him. Their best-laid plans to farm the job out to a local lowlife (the late Anton Yelchin, excellent in his final performance) go awry and lead to a bloody, shocking climax. Bullies and prom preparations are the least of these girls’ problems.
Tomb Raider (Mar. 16th)
Alicia Vikander takes up Angelina Jolie’s mantle as the living avatar for the most academically accomplished and slobbered-over archaeologist in all of video gaming. Lara Croft gets a new life with this reboot, raiding what we may safely presume will be several tombs while on the hunt for any traces of her missing father (Dominic West). Evading booby-traps and all manner of hostile beasts, Croft runs, jumps and spear-throws her way through a big-scale action adventure in line with the franchise gameplay we all know and love. Watch your back, Indiana Jones.
Unsane (Mar. 23rd)
A young woman named Sawyer (Claire Foy) becomes suspicious that she’s being stalked by a face from her past; soon, she starts to fear she’s losing her mind. Chances are good, however, that this psychological thriller will be forever known as “The Secret Steven Soderbergh iPhone Movie,” given the career maverick went low-tech and shot his latest post-retirement project with a lower profile than usual. Juno Temple and Saturday Night Live alum Jay Pharaoh also star, though this is one of those special films best served by an absolute minimum of knowledge going in. Consider instead where Soderbergh may be headed next; could he legitimize the Snapchat motion picture?
A Wrinkle in Time (Mar. 9th)
Make way for the first major-league studio tentpole with a woman of color at the helm, as director Ava DuVernay invites audiences into her singular adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle canonical kids’ book. Through a wondrous, surreal dimension filled with leaf-creatures and disappearing mirror-stairs treks Meg (newcomer Storm Reid), tracking her wayward dad (Chris Pine) with the aid of three metaphysical mistresses of the astral plane (Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon). Expectations are huge for this one. It’s not every day that Oprah descends from her celestial throne to play a fictitious celestial being.