2011 Spring Movie Preview: The Multiplex Starts to Heat Up

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If you've been feeling like there hasn't been much to check out at the movies lately, it's not just your imagination. In doldrums of January and February, studios tend to release their lowest-quality fare, sending out slapdash slashers, apathetic action flicks, and just plain lame comedies to little or no fanfare.

Luckily, those days are over. Starting in March, the multiplex slowly begins to heat up. In fact, spring can be the time for some of the best movies out there -- there are none of the brainless popcorn movies of summer, or the stodgy and self-serious Oscar-bait films of fall. Here are some of the flicks you can look forward to in the coming months.

March 4th

Synopsis: Pirates of the Carribean director Gore Verbinski takes on a CGI comedy, teaming up once again with Johnny Depp, who voices a cowardly chameleon who must help a beaten-down Western town fight off outlaws.
Good For: This seems like an across-the-board winner. Kids will love the creative creature design, adults will appreciate the sharp humor, and both will love the great looking animation.

The Adjustment Bureau
Synopsis: A mind-bending thriller in which a politician (Matt Damon) attempts to connect with a ballet dancer (Emily Blunt) and discovers that shadowy forces -- literally the agents of Fate -- are constantly rearranging events.
Good For: Those that enjoyed the twisty ways of movies like Inception or Dark City, or the cool retro vibe of shows like Mad Men (John Slattery, who Roger Sterling on the AMC hit, has a large part).

March 11th

Battle: Los Angeles
Synopsis: When Aliens invade Earth, Los Angeles does not fare too well in this cinema verite-styled sci-fi movie. Aaron Eckhart plays a grizzled Marine sergeant who leads his men in battle against the overwhelming odds.
Good for: Those that loved Independence Day, 2012 or other similar disaster flicks, mixed with the more hand-held and realistic cinematography of movies like District 9.

Jane Eyre
Synopsis: A soft-spoken governess (Mia Wasikowska)  and her employer (Michael Fassbender) slowly fall in love -- but they're both hiding their own secrets. Based on the classic Charlotte Brontë novel.
Good For: Lovers of costume drama will obviously line up, but even those who are normally turned off by corsets should give this a look for a few reasons. Director Cary Fukunaga was behind the frankly terrific Sin Nombre, and Wasikowska and Fassbender are both major talents on the rise.

March 18th

Synopsis: Bradley Cooper stars in this thriller about a slacker ad man who discovers an experimental drug that gives him vastly increased intelligence and drive. The side effects, however, are a killer.
Good For: Those that enjoy Living the Good Life montages as Cooper enjoys his new-found wealth, or thriller fans excited to see Robert De Niro do his thing on screen.

Synopsis: Permanerds Simon Pegg and Nick Frost travel across the U.S. in an RV before meeting an out-of-this-world visitor (voiced by Seth Rogen).
Good For: Those that enjoy the shambling wit of Pegg and Frost, fans who are still on board with Rogen's chuckling stoner routine, and anyone who has ever attended a Comic-Con (or any -Con, really).

March 25th

Sucker Punch
Synopsis: More ultra-stylized violence from 300 director Zack Snyder, this time featuring a whole bevy of young starlets, including Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Amanda Seyfried, Emma Stone, and Evan Rachel Wood, kicking tail in revealing outfits.
Good For: Fan boys, fan boys, and fan boys. Also: fan boys.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Synopsis: After killing it in the box office last year, the sequel to the popular children's book is back for more, with series star Greg Heffley battling it out with his older brother Rodrick.
Good For: Check your home. Are you currently in possession of children? Congrats! You will be seeing this movie.

April 1st

Source Code
Synopsis: Jake Gyllenhaal is a solider enrolled in a government program that sends people back in time, inhabiting other bodies, with just eight minutes to stop a terrorist attack. Gyllenhaal's task is made even harder when he begins to develop romantic feelings for an innocent victim, played by Michelle Monaghan.
Good For: Director Duncan Jones' follow-up to Moon should appeal to sci-fi fans who like their movies with a cerebral bent. Think 12 Monkeys meets Donnie Darko.

Synopsis: A family attempts to stop a gaggle of malevolent spirits from trapping their coma-bound child in a limbo known only as The Further.
Good For: Directed by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, better known for starting the Saw franchise, this looks like it could be this year's Paranormal Activity -- it was even produced by Paranormal director Oren Peli. Response out of the Toronto Film Festival was incredibly strong. Anyone who enjoys a good scare should check it out.

April 8th

Your Highness
Synopsis: King Arthur's Court takes the Pineapple Express in this fantasy/comedy starring James Franco, Danny McBride, and Zooey Deschanel.
Good For: While the trailer seems squarely pitched to a 420-friendly crowd, director David Gordon Green has promised that the movie is also a by-the-book homage to the fantasy films of the '80s. Those who've spent an Sunday afternoon with movies like Conan the Barbarian or Red Sonja may enjoy.

Synopsis: Raised in the wilderness by her father to be the perfect killing machine, 14-year-old Hanna (played by Saoirse Ronan) squares off against a coldblooded CIA agent (Cate Blanchett) in a battle to the finish.
Good For: While this is a no-duh choice for action fans, we think -- judging from the trailer -- that this could also appeal to a lot people who would perhaps skip this otherwise, thanks to what looks like amazing work from rising star Ronan and the always-reliable Blanchett.

April 15th

Scream 4
Synopsis: Neve Campbell reprises her role as Sidney Prescott, 10 years later, as she returns to her hometown. Unfortunately, so has a very familiar masked serial killer.
Good For: Anyone tired of the more straight-forward horror films of the past five years and prefer their slashers with a bit of a post-modern bite should enjoy this return to Woodsboro.

Soul Surfer
Synopsis: Based on a true story, a rising young surfing star (AnnaSophia Robb) loses her arm in a horrific shark attack and must find the courage -- with the help of her family and friends -- to return to the ocean she loves.
Good For: Those who enjoy feel-good flicks, and anyone curious to see Carrie Underwood in her big screen debut.

April 22nd

Water for Elephants
Synopsis: In the heart of the Great Depression, a young man (Robert Pattinson) drops out of veterinary school in order to travel with the circus, where he develops a bond with a difficult elephant. Trouble arises when he also falls for a performer (Reese Witherspoon) who is married to the ringleader, played by Inglourious Basterds villain Christoph Waltz.
Good For: Any Twilight fan worth their salt will be here on opening day, but couples looking for a decent date movie and anyone who enjoys a good period piece should check it out.

Madea's Big Happy Family
Synopsis: Family matriarch Madea, played by Tyler Perry, must gather together the disparate members of her family when their mother suddenly becomes ill.
Good For: Check your ticket stubs. Have you ever gone to see a Tyler Perry movie? Congrats! You will be seeing this movie.

April 29th

Fast Five
Synopsis: The creatively titled fifth film in the Fast and Furious franchise roars out of the gate, following the adventures of a federal agent (Dwayne Johnson) as he tracks underground racers Vin Diesel and Paul Walker.
Good For: Can you tell the difference between a Mustang and a Maserati? Meet your favorite movie of the year.

Synopsis: A group of very different high school students suffer through the days and weeks leading up to the biggest night of their lives. A who's who of young Hollywood talent, including Aimee Teegarden, Nicholas Braun, and Cameron Monaghan, star.
Good For: The current generation of teens still waiting for their own Breakfast Club or Can't Hardly Wait, and older audiences eager to remember the pains and pangs of youth.

A senior associate editor at Zimbio, writing about entertainment and current events.