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With spring, green appears on trees and in celebrity pockets

The temperature is rising and cinema executives across the country are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that the spring season will come in their favorite shade: green. With very few early heavy hitters in the box office for the first quarter of the year, Hollywood looks to heat things up with a grab bag of big-name stars leading the way. So read on as we take a look into the crystal ball once again to see what you’ll be seeing soon enough.

Comic book fans have had plenty to boast about over the past few years. One of the bigger graphic novels in recent years is finally given the green light on April 1 in the form of noir (in layman’s terms, black-and-white) pulp classic “Sin City.”

Before I predict anything, can someone please ask Robert Rodriguez to tell me his secret? Listen to this high-voltage cast: Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Michael Clarke Duncan, Benicio DelToro … All of these stars will light up the screen to tell the story of a city torn apart by corruption where even the just have a hard time staying alive. The trailers for this movie are among the most intriguing I’ve seen in a while and while the task of combining three complex stories is arduous, if anyone is the right consultant to help with this, it’s “Sin City” scribe Frank Miller. Crystal ball prediction: four stars.

Looking for something a little less gritty? The Jimmy Fallon-Drew Barrymore comedy “Fever Pitch” (to be released April 8) chronicles the conflict between a Boston Red Sox fan’s obsession with his team (Fallon) and his hopes to date the baseball-oblivious Barrymore. As a baseball fan, I shudder at the thought that the makers of this film actually were allowed to capitalize on the Red Sox World Series victory by shooting scenes on the field. Fallon, who I believe is a Yankees fan, should be ashamed of himself. However, Barrymore’s last romantic comedy (“50 First Dates”) did fairly well at the box office and you can be sure that there are plenty of girls who can relate to this story. As a Yankee fan, count me out on this one. Crystal ball (aside from baseball affiliation): two-and-a-half stars.

Since the Spielberg/Lucas/Ford production of “Indiana Jones IV” has been put on hold, Hollywood has pushed its backup choice for a globetrotting, scruffy adventurer in the form of marine archaeologist Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey), star of the April 8 release “Sahara.” This isn’t Pitt’s first foray from page to screen. A little-known, widely panned version of the classic Clive Cussler novel “Raise the Titanic” sunk to the box office abyss back in the early 1980s and author Cussler swore off movie rights for his characters. Apparently Cussler was persuaded to change his mind. However, if the reports of Cussler’s dissatisfaction with changes made to his story and characters are true, this could bode badly for Sahara. It also has the unfortunate question mark in its director: Breck Eisner, son of Mickey Mouse’s soon-to-be former boss, Michael. Pitt’s biggest challenge in “Sahara” won’t be the toxins that are polluting the water nor the assassins targeting love interest Penelope Cruz. “Sahara” and Pitt have to survive the critics. Crystal ball says: three stars.

The following week features “The Amityville Horror,” a highly anticipated remake from the horror genre. Ryan “Don’t Call Me Van Wilder” Reynolds and former “Alias” cast member Melissa George play a couple who purchase a suburban home. But what kind of horror movie would this be if nothing terrible or demonic occurred? The homeowners soon learn that there are more terrifying things than property rates and taxes. The concept of a possessed house may seem laughable, but this film (and the house that the story is based on) is legendary for its fright factors. I’m not exactly a fan of remakes for horror movies unless they get really creative or scare the heck out of me. This hasn’t happened a lot recently. Still, I’ll give this one a shot because Reynolds is a rising star. Crystal ball says: three stars.

I’m not a fan of Orlando Bloom. I loved “Pirates of the Carribean,” but not his character. Girls drool over his good looks. But is Bloom as good of an actor as he is (apparently) good looking? Director Ridley Scott is banking on Bloom’s abilities to steal the screen in “Kingdom of Heaven,” a Crusades-era picture. Muslims are denouncing this film and historians are already tearing their hair out undoubtedly. Bloom plays a Jerusalem-based blacksmith who must defend his people from invaders. While “Gladiator” caught me off guard (in a good way), I doubt that this film will be able to capture the magic the way that the Coliseum did. Crystal ball says: two-and-a-half stars.

April 29 is a date geeks worldwide have waited for for more than 20 years. No, don’t panic. It’s not an early release of a new “Star Wars.” After years of development, the Douglas Adams comic sci-fi creation “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” hits the big screen. With a hip young cast (Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell), the film has the acting chops, and the huge fan base of Adams devotees will surely show up. This is one of the more unique genre-bending films I can think of in recent years and while I’m really interested in seeing the film, I wonder how many casual moviegoers will want to see this quirky galaxy quest. The silly sojourn into the stars should get a stamp of approval from me! Crystal ball says: three- and-a-half stars.

Then comes May, and the movement away from college and the feeling of summer … and the haunting, echoing breathing of Darth Vader on May 20. But I’ll have more on that when the time draws near. Until next time, see you at the movies!


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