The 2020 Film Release Calendar: March

This has been perhaps the strangest Release Calendar I’ve ever done. Because the Oscars were held a few weeks earlier than they usually are, I wasn’t able to fit in the majority of the calendar before them. Usually I get the whole thing done by late January. And now, we’re post-Oscars, and I’m only on March. And the only reason January and February got done is because I wanted to get them up before some of the films actually came out.

But, here we are, working our way through the rest of the calendar for all the films to look forward to. I think you all know how this works — I’m gonna preview everything that’s set to come out (and a lot more that isn’t), and then guess what I think I’m gonna rate them all when I do manage to see them. And then we’ll use this as evidence of my ineptitude come the December wrap-up articles. These are my own twenty-seven 8×10 colored glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall March:

March

Onward

Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there.

Pixar. That’s really all you need to know.

I’ve been seeing trailers for this for months, and normally I reserve a 4 star rating for an original Pixar film. But this one hasn’t looked great from the start and the more I see what the story’s about, I feel like it’ll have the requisite Pixar emotion but the subject matter won’t interest me all that much.

Plus the March release date is curious. This is the earliest a Pixar movie’s been released ever. Every other Pixar film has been released in either May, June or December. That’s it. Sure, Pixar’s got a June film scheduled and this has, I’m sure, been done for a while and that’s what it is, but they could have easily put this in June and put Soul in November. It’s not really gonna factor into my rating, but it is something I’m curious about.

I gotta go 3.5 stars with this. 4 feels like the ceiling on it, given what I’ve seen in all the trailers. 3.5 stars makes the most sense and feels like what I’m gonna get out of this. I’m feeling something more like Brave than something like Coco.

The Way Back

A former HS basketball phenom, struggling with alcoholism, is offered a coaching job at his alma mater. As the team starts to win, he may have a reason to confront his old demons. But will it be enough to set him on the road to redemption?

They pushed this out of October and into March. Not the worst push ever, especially given the March Madness tie-ins.

Ben Affleck stars, and I think we all understand the implications of that narrative/star combination. The film also reunites him with Gavin O’Connor, with whom he made The Accountant, which was a pretty solid film.

Gavin O’Connor, of course, is responsible for two very good sports films already, Miracle and Warrior. So on those two alone, it’s hard to go below 3.5 stars on this. The question is whether or not I wanna go 4 with it. The basketball/redemption story I’ve seen a bunch, so I know what I’m getting on that front. The question is how melodramatic the alcoholism stuff is gonna be.

Let’s stick with 3.5 stars and hope we get 4 stars out of it. 3.5 stars would still be a good result out of this, and given the three other movies Affleck has lined up for this year (Last Thing He Wanted, Deep Water, The Last Duel), this will be a good start to the overall redemption story the press is gonna start throwing out there (clearly en route to some sort of awards push for at least one of the four movies).

First Cow

A loner and cook has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory, though he only finds connection with a Chinese immigrant. The men collaborate on a business, although its longevity is reliant upon the participation of a wealthy landowner’s prized milking cow.

It’s Kelly Reichardt, which tells me most of what I need to know about it. Her movies have been exclusively either 3 stars or 3.5 stars for me, depending on how interesting they are, since none of them really have firm plots. Though the film of hers I did like most was Meek’s Cutoff, which was also a western.

I’m sticking with 3 stars, just because I need to see it win me over and get to 3.5. Her movies have overwhelmingly stuck to 3 stars for the most part even though I feel like they’re all really solid in different ways. So we’ll say 3 and hope we get a solid 3.5 star movie out of it.

Hope Gap

A couple’s visit with their son takes a dramatic turn when the father tells him he plans on leaving his mother.

Stars Annette Bening and Bill Nighy and is written and directed by William Nicholson, who wrote Shadowlands, Nell, Gladiator, Les Mis, Unbroken and Everest. Clearly he knows his way around a screenplay. But can he direct?

The trailer has big, sweeping music, but it seems like a fairly melodramatic movie. And given the stuff this guy has written, it feels like a movie that is a bit outdated. Which for some people sounds promising. For me, just feels like a cool 3 stars.

The Burnt Orange Heresy

Hired to steal a rare painting from one of most enigmatic painters of all time, an ambitious art dealer becomes consumed by his own greed and insecurity as the operation spins out of control.

Mick Jagger is in this! And Donald Sutherland! And Elizabeth Debicki!

I knew Debicki, but I didn’t know the rest when I put the trailer on, and it made me so happy.

Looks like a nice little mystery. The writer also wrote the novel and script for A Simple Plan and hasn’t really done much else of note. And the director has done mostly TV lately and foreign stuff a decade-plus ago.

Not seeing more than 3 stars here. I can hope for more, but I can’t guess more than that given what I see. The cast is one thing, but movies always find a way to get cool casts and not amount to much.

Sometimes Always Never

A detective fantasy / family drama where a love of words helps a father reconnect with a missing son.

First time director. Based on what the writer’s done (Goodbye Christopher Robin, Millions), I kinda get what this is.

Interesting premise. I’m wondering where it’s gonna go, but I think it can be good. Can’t guess more than 3 stars, but I’m hoping I can get 3.5 out of this.

Guns Akimbo

A guy relies on his newly-acquired gladiator skills to save his ex-girlfriend from kidnappers.

I’m seeing dueling release dates for this, one February 28th, one March 5th. But since we put up February’s article already, it’s going here. As long as it comes out, it all balances out in the end.

A VFX guy wrote and directed a movie that stars Daniel Radcliffe and is coming out on VOD in March. I don’t even have to watch a trailer to know that’s an automatic 3 star movie. But we’ll watch a trailer to confirm.

Oh, nice. Lotta guns, lotta action, fun-looking tone. Samara Weaving is a huge plus and almost makes me wanna go 3.5. I can’t, in good conscience, guess higher than 3, but I’m excited to watch it now. So that’s something.

The Banker

Story of one of the first African-American bankers in the United States.

This was supposed to come out in December for a pseudo-awards push, but mostly to get Apple TV+ put on the map as a streaming platform. Then there was some allegation about the father of the guy this is about, or something like that, and then they pulled it, but now they’re putting it out anyway, even though no one really knows what came of that whole other thing. It’s a very strange situation.

George Nolfi directs. He did The Adjustment Bureau, which is great, and Birth of the Dragon, which is not so great. Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson star.

I guessed 3.5 stars last year based on this same information, and all that happened is they pushed it a few months based on something totally unrelated to the movie itself. And now, having seen a trailer, I see no reason not to stick with that 3.5 star guess. Looks really solid to me.

Escape from Pretoria

In 1979 apartheid-era South Africa, two men imprisoned in Pretoria Prison plot to escape.

Hey, another Daniel Radcliffe movie! I like that the only features he seems to do now are these VOD movies where either he’s doing action or starving himself to death in the wilderness. Judging from the title and logline, this is the latter. And this time he gets an accent!

Oh, it’s a straight prison break movie. Interesting. 3 stars. Can’t guess higher than that. Not with that trailer. But prison movies are always interesting, so that’s good. So far this month’s looking pretty solid.

Spenser Confidential

Ex-felon and former police detective Spenser returns to Boston’s criminal underworld to unravel a twisted murder conspiracy.

What? This is a Mark Wahlberg/Peter Berg movie? Based on the title and the fact that it’s on Netflix, I just assumed it was some teen Nickelodeon show adaptation or something. Isn’t that what it sounds like? Some LA-based child actor in khakis and some colorful shirt and glasses — middle school student by day, secret agent by night. “Saving the world in time for algebra.”

OHH! I get it now. This used to be called Wonderland. And this was the movie where I couldn’t figure why they wouldn’t release it, because even the worst Peter Berg/Mark Wahlberg movie (and it’s the one they did last. Mile something. Mile 22, I think) got some sort of big theatrical release. But it’s Netflix. That makes sense.

This felt like 3.5 stars last year, but given the changes, I gotta watch a trailer to see if I can uphold that rating. Brian Helgeland wrote it too, which is a good sign.

Oh shit, this trailer looks fun. I’m sure the movie’s terrible, but fun trumps terrible. Cast looks great too. I’m 100% going 3.5 stars on this. Bring it on. What is it with March going hard this year?

Bloodshot

Ray Garrison, a slain soldier, is re-animated with superpowers.

So this is RoboCop meets Source Code but with Vin Diesel? Okay, then.

Director is a VFX guy making his first feature. Which, coupled with the March release date, tells me about everything I need to know about it.

3 stars. Hard to think it goes much higher than that. 3.5 stars is within the realm of possibility, but from where we’re starting, it’s hard to see this getting out of the 3-star hole, especially given the trailer basically told me the entire plot of the movie.

The Roads Not Taken

Follows a day in the life of Leo and his daughter, Molly, as he floats through alternate lives he could have lived, leading Molly to wrestle with her own path as she considers her future.

Sally Potter directs. I quite enjoyed The Party. Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning, Laura Linney and Salma Hayek star. Nice cast.

3 stars. It’s hard to tell just how melodramatic this is gonna be. 3 stars feels safe, because I know almost instinctively this can’t get to 4 stars unless it’s full stop great. And at best I think it’ll just be really solid, so that means either 3 or 3.5 almost exclusively.

Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always

A pair of teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania travel to New York City to seek out medical help after an unintended pregnancy.

This is by Eliza Hittman, who made Beach Rats a few years ago, a film I know a lot of people liked that I really did not particularly like all that much. Not that I thought it was bad, I just didn’t care. I’m curious to see how this one looks.

But it looks like a road trip movie as two girls travel to get an abortion. That sounds amazing.

3.5 stars. Bring this shit on. I’m concerned it might go a bit too indie, but if it’s a straight road trip/friendship movie, that should be enough for me. And bonus points the more they get in there how fucked up it is that states are making it harder for women to have control over their own bodies. I’m so ready for this movie to be good.

My Spy

A hardened CIA operative finds himself at the mercy of a precocious 9-year-old girl, having been sent undercover to surveil her family.

Every wrestler/bodybuilder/big-framed action star has to have one of these movies at some point, don’t they? Do I even need to see a trailer to know how this is gonna go? I guess so, it’ll be the difference between 2.5 and 3.

Oh, but it looks cute though. So 3 stars. Plus the director makes average family movies. Can’t imagine it’ll be good, but cute is enough.

I Still Believe

The true-life story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp and his journey of love and loss that looks to prove there is always hope.

OH SHIT IT’S A SHITTY FAITH-BASED MOVIE.

2 stars. This looks so awful. Oh my god, I almost can’t wait to hate this.

Stargirl

A boy becomes intrigued by a mysterious and quirky student named Stargirl and spends his time trying to know more about her.

I thought this was some superhero thing. Turns out it’s a coming of age movie. And it’s a Disney+ thing.

But it’s from Julia Hart, who did Fast Color, which was terrific. So I’m not totally writing it off.

I’m concerned it could be a bit treacly, based on the trailer. So I’m only going 3 stars, but with the right tone and the right writing, this could go higher. I can’t assume it, and because it’s Disney I’m not remotely expecting it, but this is the kind of movie I could very easily go all in for if it’s remotely smart or charming.

Lost Girls

When Mari Gilbert’s daughter disappears, police inaction drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where Shannan was last seen. Her search brings attention to over a dozen murdered sex workers.

Netflix movie. It’s from a documentarian (who is interestingly working on a Jacques Cousteau doc right now, which sounds awesome) and stars Amy Ryan and Thomasin McKenzie. Which is interesting. Thomasin McKenzie’s only made really good choices since Leave No Trace.

Let’s see a trailer though. That’ll tell the tale.

Oh, interesting. This is a tough thing to pull off. Movie trying to de-villainize sex workers and show their plights while also being a mystery about a mother looking for her daughter. I’m not sure this movie can fully do it, so I’m gonna say 3 stars, but more power to them for what they’re trying to do. I hope it works.

Blow the Man Down

While grieving for the loss of their mother, the Connolly Sisters suddenly find they have a crime to cover up, leading them deep into the underbelly of their salty Maine fishing village.

This was nominated for an Indie Spirit Award, which is how I first heard of it. They’re putting it out in VOD, and apparently it’s got an early Coen brothers feel. Which is enough for me to want to check it out.

Now of course, when they say that about a first feature that no one’s seen, it never actually has that feel and they’re just doing it to get people to see it. So I’m not taking the bait and guessing higher than 3 stars. But hey, this could be a cool little gem that I could champion. So I hope it’s great.

A Quiet Place Part II

Following the events at home, the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world. Forced to venture into the unknown, they realize the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats lurking beyond the sand path.

Oh great, more of this. Just what the world didn’t need. But when you made all that money, of course a sequel was gonna happen.

Is Krasinski back? Oh, he is. Okay, so he’s directing both. And now he doesn’t have to worry about also starring in it. Which already tells me what this movie is gonna be about — crazy cult people, either religious or otherwise, who are gonna look to capture the women for repopulation or whatever.

Let’s see how right I am in the trailer — Oh, good. They didn’t go all out on that cult shit, but they’re strongly hinting at it. And they bring in Cillian Murphy, to strengthen the 28 Days Later connection. And I saw Djimon in there too.

Honestly, Krasinski did some really smart things in how he directed the first one, so I’m hoping he can keep that up.

I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they can get to 3.5 stars again on the sequel. I know I should go 3, but I think they can pull it off for one more movie. Now, if they somehow end this on a cliffhanger and set up a final ‘part three’ big finale thing, then all bets are off after that and even this time. But saving that, I’m okay with assuming they can make this solid once more.

Deerskin

A man’s obsession with his designer deerskin jacket causes him to blow his life savings and turn to crime.

This is Quentin Dupieux, who made Rubber and Wrong and all these absurdist comedies that I enjoy the hell out of. Jean Dujardin stars, which is pretty cool.

This looks weird as hell and I can’t wait.

3.5 stars.

The Climb

A look at the friendship between two guys that spans over many years.

This is another Indie Spirit movie. I definitely remember seeing the title on their nominations list and not knowing what the hell it was.

3 stars. It looks exceedingly indie.

Vivarium

A young couple looking for the perfect home find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighborhood of identical houses.

Stars Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, which I like.

It looks strange as hell. And it looks like it’s got a hell of a social commentary beneath it.

3.5 stars.

I’m in for this.

Saint Maud

Follows a pious nurse who becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient.

It’s A24, which is really the only thing allowing me to give this a chance. Because it’s horror, and I can’t stand horror movies.

However, written and directed by a woman, which I hope turns out to be a good thing. Because the horror genre needs new voices and new angles, and introducing women to just about anything in film is always a good idea and a good way to bring new perspectives to stale genres.

3.5 stars. It looks like it could be really good, and I don’t want to underguess this. I’m fine if it’s only 3, but I can see this being 3.5, and if it’s really good, possibly 4. I don’t anticipate more than 3.5 at max, just because it is horror and the movies they’re selling this on (Hereditary and Midsommar) didn’t go higher than 3.5 for me, but I feel like I can get 3.5 out of this.

Mulan

A young Chinese maiden disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her father.

Well, we know what this one’s all about. Honestly, the one live-action Disney remake I want to see. Concerned about the CGI nature, but I like that they went traditional, cast all Asian actors and are even keeping traditional names in there and not forcing English all over it. That’s nice. And the score in the trailer, the orchestral “Reflection” — so dope. I’m all in on this movie.

3.5 stars. I hope it’s 4. I want this to be great. I want this to be the only worthwhile live action Disney remake there is. If this turns out to be great after all the others are just meh or okay for what they did in terms of visual effects… well, it won’t have been worth it, but it’ll feel slightly less shitty. And that’s really all we can hope for in these dying days before the Mouse owns us all.

Oh, and i should add, Niki Caro directed this. Whale Rider, North Country, McFarland USA, The Zookeeper’s Wife… she’s a great director and I have no doubt this is a 3.5 star minimum film. The only question is how legitimately good it can be. And with Disney being behind it… there’s a cap on that. So I’m thinking probably just 3.5 in the end, but it’s not gonna damper my excitement and hope for more.

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