Coming Soon: A springtime of spin-offs

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The Independent Culture

If this spring's biggest new releases don't seem particularly new, that's because almost every major film that's coming soon to a cinema near you has already come to a bookshop near you or a television that's even nearer. The most obvious example is Star Trek (8 May), a prequel to the original TV series which could have been subtitled When Kirk Met Spock. A troupe of young actors take over the iconic roles, including Simon Pegg as Scotty.

Another TV spin-off, State of Play (24 April), is a Hollywood remake of Paul Abbott's six-part BBC thriller, starring Ben Affleck as a politician mired in a scandal, alongside Russell Crowe as a reporter friend of his who's digging the dirt. There are more political conspiracies, but with laughs too, in Armando Iannucci's big-screen version of his BBC4 cult favourite The Thick of It. In the grand tradition of British sitcoms which are turned into films, In the Loop (17 April) transplants its characters from a domestic setting to an international one, as a bumbling government minister flits between Whitehall, New York and Washington. Peter Capaldi is back as Malcolm Tucker, one of the greatest swear-word deliverers in TV history.

There are also two literary adaptations in the pipeline. The Damned United (27 March) is based on David Peace's novel about Brian Clough's 44-day tenure as Leeds United coach. Clough is played by Michael Sheen, and the script is by Peter Morgan, who wrote roles for Sheen in The Deal, The Queen and Frost/Nixon. Coraline (8 May) is adapted from Neil Gaiman's children's fantasy story. It's a wonderful stop-motion animation from Henry Selick, the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Not every release this spring is a spin-off, though: you can also choose between two very different ensemble comedies from famous screenwriters turned writer-directors. The Boat That Rocked (3 April) is the first film from Richard Curtis since 2003's Love Actually, and Synecdoche New York (15 May) is the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, the surrealist scripter of Being John Malkovich. They both star Philip Seymour Hoffman, but one is a saucy romp set on board a 1960s pirate radio station; the other is a mind-bending exploration of morbid depression. You can probably guess which one's which.