Local film festivals. Spring plays host to the two biggest and best film festivals in the Bay area: Tampa’s Gasparilla International Film Festival (March 19-24), which will have dozens of screenings (and some unique events) spread across Tampa Theatre, CineBistro in Hyde Park, the Muvico Centro Ybor and Ybor’s Italian Club, and the Sarasota Film Festival (April 5-14), which is now entering its 15th year and is generally regarded as the best film fest on the west coast of Florida. Details on both fests are sketchy at this point, but keep your eyes peeled for announcements at gasparillafilmfestival.com and sarasotafilmfestival.com. Also Festing: The Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival (March 7-19) celebrates its 17th year with screenings across the Bay (venues include St. Pete’s Baywalk, USF Tampa, Tampa Theatre and Eckerd College) of films that highlight the diversity of the Jewish people. More info at Tbjff.org.
Whatever comes out of Sundance. This spring’s slate of scheduled releases is tepid at best. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are still plenty of under-the-radar flicks just waiting for a distributor to pick them up. That’s where the annual Sundance Film Festival comes in. The fest has long been a launching pad for smaller indie films trying to break into the mainstream consciousness. Last year’s Sundance smash Beasts of the Southern Wild is now an Oscar nominee for Best Picture and Best Director. What will this year’s breakthrough be? Sundance is now underway (it runs Jan. 17-27), so look for breathless reports out of Park City, Utah in the next few weeks.
Aging blockbusters in 3D. The remastering of films like Titanic and Star Wars: Episode 1 into 3D has so far left me cold, the technique seeming like a modern incarnation of the “colorizing” of classic films that got Ted Turner in trouble back in the ’80s. This year, however, two titles from the past have me genuinely excited. First up is Top Gun (Feb. 18), the 1986 smash in which dogfighting F-14s (remember those?) and Tom Cruise will now fly right off the screen. Following Top Gun into three dimensions is Jurassic Park (April 5), which director Steven Spielberg has said will be his only foray into “upconverted” 3D. Digital effects tend to transfer better to 3D than practical ones, which means the rampaging dinos should look fabulous.
Also on the radar…
Side Effects. The latest from director Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike, Erin Brockovich) stars Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum as a couple whose lives are turned upside down after Mara’s psychiatrist (Jude Law) puts her on a new drug that does more than just cure the blues. (Feb. 8)
Koch. A documentary about the life of Ed Koch, the mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, which happens to be the exact period when I was a kid growing up on Long Island. I’m fascinated by how my childhood perceptions of Koch will be confirmed or punctured by this doc. (February, limited)
Stoker. Nicole Kidman, Jodie Foster, Carey Mulligan and Mia Wasikowska star in the story of girl who sees an unknown-to-her uncle move into her family after the death of her father. (March 1, limited)
Captain Phillips. Tom Hanks stars in the true story of a man abducted by Somali pirates. Action heavyweight Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum) directs. (March 22)
jOBS. The first of two biopics of now-deceased Steve Jobs stars Ashton Kutcher as the revered Apple CEO and takes what looks like a standard route through Jobs’ life. (April 19)
The Heat. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy star in a chick buddy cop flick from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. Can they make this rote material fly? (April 5)
42. Director Brian Helgeland takes on the true story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) breaking baseball’s color barrier. Harrison Ford co-stars as legendary Dodgers GM Branch Rickey. (April 12)
The Evil Dead. The hotly anticipated remake of Sam Raimi’s horror classic. (April 12)
Oblivion. Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman star in this sci-fi epic with growing buzz — potentially a badass hybrid of Wall-E, Minority Report and I Am Legend. (April 19)
Iron Man 3. Robert Downey Jr. suits up yet again, this time doing battle with Ben Kingsley. And with that, we’ve arrived at the 2013 summer blockbuster season. Please check your brain at the door until fall. (May 3)