April, a certain famous poet maintains, is the cruelest month. What did he know? Clearly he was never a movie critic and he never had to sit through a January or a February at the multiplex. In fact, from here, April is looking pretty darned good!
The films of spring usually sound an optimistic note; they're not ,, the leftovers from the year before, launched desultorily into theaters to satisfy contractual obligations; and they're not filler thrown up there to bridge the gap between the collapse of the Christmas pictures and the arrival of the spring ones. They're real movies -- except, of course, when they're not.
Here's a look at what's coming up with the roses in the next several weeks, through the end of May, with the usual proviso that the schedules are fluid and apt to change at any moment.
Next weekend will be hectic, with four films. "If Looks Could Killrepresents the big-screen debut of the little screen's Richard Greico, a Johnny Depp cohort on "21 Jump Street" and his own man on "Booker." Greico plays a high school student on a trip to Europe who is, in classic Hitchcock wrong-man fashion, tabbed as a CIA guy. Complications follow. Another actioner introduces ken-po karate to the big screen and a new top kicker in Jeff Speakman, who is getting the same kind of buildup accorded most recently to Steven Seagal, who lept to stardom in exactly one movie. The film is called "The Perfect Weapon."
Then Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio do legal battle across the generation gap (they're father and daughter, liberal and conservative) in "Class Action," a comedy-drama. A drama undiluted by comedy brings Robert De Niro to the screen in "Guilty by Suspicion," a look at the days of the blacklist in 1951 Hollywood. De Niro plays a director at the top of his craft who loses it all in a single weekend, when he's "named." Longtime producer Irwin ("Rocky") Winkler wrote it and makes his directing debut.
On March 22, the movie we've all been waiting for appears. I know I've been waiting, that's for sure. It's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze." (By the way, for turtlefreaks who can't wait, there's a benefit performance of the film March 16 at 10 a.m. to assist the Children's House at Johns Hopkins Hospital; for ticket info, call Grant-A-Wish at 242-1549). The other opening is "The Long Walk Home," which documents the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott of the mid-'50s. The stars are Sissy Spacek as a middle-class woman and Whoopi Goldberg as her maid, who are driven apart, then unified by the crisis.
March 29 is dry, probably to allow room for the previous Monday night's Oscar winners to sputter back into the theaters for a few million extra bucks of take-ola. Into April, the first weekend (April 5) yields "Defending Your Life," the first film Albert Brooks has written and directed since "Lost in America." In this one, the hysterical Brooks plays a yuppie called to meet his maker at an inconvenient moment; he's horrified to discover that he is expected to go through his entire existence and justify it, as a way of staying out of the Hot Place. See, he never ever figured that Hell was real. . . . Meryl Streep co-stars. Also on the date, "FX-2" opens, reuniting Australian Bryan Brown, as a genius-level stuntman, and the husky American Brian Dennehy, as a genius-level New York cop. Little else is known.
On April 12, the scary-tough Steven Seagal chops his way through his fourth film, this one called "Out for Justice." He plays an Italian-American cop out to bring down his childhood chum, now evolved into a drug kingpin and killer. William Forsythe, an engaging presence in a number of films as a character actor, gets the promotion to main villain. Also on April 12 is "The Marrying Man," with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, from the prolific pen of Neil Simon. It's billed as a "Pretty Woman" variation, about a millionaire who marries a Vegas lounge singer. Jerry Rees directed.
On April 19, the much-maligned but ever game Blake Edwards returns, after the critical drubbing he received for his most recent film, "That's Life." Clearly he wasn't listening to us. This one, titled "Switch," has an intriguing cast, with Ellen Barkin and Jimmy Smits. It's about a chronic womanizer who goes to heaven where he must answer for his sins. He's sent back to earth as a woman (Barkin), charged with the effort of finding one decent woman friend. Life is different, he learns, when you're a she.
"Mortal Thoughts" has attracted a lot of prerelease attention: it's about a couple of hairdressers who cooperate in the murder of one of their husbands. There's some amusing role-playing here, with Demi Moore getting to off her real-life mate Bruce Willis. Glenn Headley is the third star. Look for lots of funk, angst, spitting and lowlife violence in this one.