So here we are again. This column features my individualized rundown of each month’s theatrical releases, with a quick synopsis and a quicker explanation of why I color-coded each title the way I did. My color-coding is explained as follows:
PURPLE – Can’t wait.
GREEN – Worth a look, or better.
YELLOW – Use caution.
RED – Bound to be disappointing, or worse.
BROWN – Crap. Guaranteed.
Please note: Release dates are subject to change. (Especially towards the second half of the year.)
Please also note: Occasionally my opinions change. I’m not too proud that I can’t admit to be wrong sometimes. In fact, when it’s a negative opinion, I welcome having my mind changed. (However, if your name is Justin Timberlake or Kevin James, your work is officially cut out for you there.)
As always, I encourage everyone reading to be an independent thinker. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone discourage you from liking what you like (that’s generally speaking – some things genuinely don’t deserve to be liked.)
What you get from me, as ever, is just one opinion, but from a guy who happens to have seen more movies than most anybody, who has studied this stuff and thought about it more often than is healthy to do, and who has just enough first-hand experience to have seen something about how it works, and therefore has a bit more informed of an opinion than many other dorks elsewhere on the internet.
So let’s go, February.
Sanctum (February 4)
Avatar ubermind James Cameron produced (but did not write or direct) this re-enactment of a true story of an underwater-diving expedition gone wrong. Most of the advance reviews seem to suggest that the 3D visuals are better than we usually get from the format, but that the story and acting are somewhat lacking. Sound familiar? I like man-vs.-the-elements stories, and this does make me think of Cameron’s underrated underwater epic The Abyss, but haven’t felt the need to run out and see this one, and considering that the theatrical experience is at least half the draw here, that’s not a good sign.
The Roommate (February 4)
It’s a college-girl version of Single White Female. The director is named Christian E. Christiansen. Billy Zane is in the movie. Amazingly, this did not go straight to Cinemax. With Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Aly Michalka, and Danneel Harris (Google them all, fellas), this movie has a higher caliber of PYT than most of its type, but that’s really the only reason to ever look at a movie like this. Wait for cable, if you must.
Frankie and Alice (February 4)
Halle Berry plays a stripper with multiple-personality disorder, one of whom is racist. I’m sorry, but in one sentence I just convinced myself that I totally need to see this movie. That is an amazing premise, potentially brilliant and hilarious, although I’m sure that the movie treats it with deadly seriousness. Halle Berry has such a weird career – she either makes forgettable studio garbage or serious dramas that are not as good as they desperately want to be (Monster’s Ball being one of the more egregiously rewarded ones). Like every other man with a pulse, I love Halle Berry onscreen, but I also feel that in almost twenty years of stardom, no filmmaker has really figured out how to use her as much more than am incredible visual spectacle who just happens to speak. I wouldn’t bet that Frankie & Alice is the flick that cracks the code.
Just Go with It (February 11)
Lazy title, first of all. Now let’s look at that premise: Adam Sandler plays a middle-aged plastic surgeon who goes around telling much-younger women that he’s married so that they’ll sleep with him. When he finally meets one (Sports Illustrated cover model Brooklyn Decker) who he wants to marry, rather than just fuck, he convinces his “less-hot” assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as his wife in order to back up the lies he told. That’s misogynist for a couple different reasons, but it actually offends me more that this movie will inevitably present Sandler with a choice – the younger, bouncier swimsuit model, or the “older,” “less attractive” woman. Well boys, I’m a grown-ass man, so I’d go with Jennifer in a heartbeat – not least because of appearances like this one. But this movie isn’t meant for me, obviously; it’s meant for teenage boys and twenty-something chronic masturbators. It’s just sad that those poor kids are being sent ugly messages about dating and relationships on top of their spank-fodder. Then again, it’s also sad that this movie will make more money than Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People put together: Sandler is still capable of so much better, yet he keeps settling for doing so much less.
Gnomeo and Juliet (February 11)
A computer-animated movie – not one of the ones made by Pixar, Dreamworks, or Universal, mind you – that finds Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet being re-enacted by lawn gnomes, to the music of Elton John. You know, if you’re out of ideas, it’s okay to admit it. Really.
Cedar Rapids (February 11)
Ed Helms from The Office and The Hangover encounters a lot of Midwestern eccentrics at an insurance convention. This one is probably worth a look, as director Miguel Arteta’s last film was last year’s Youth In Revolt, which was seriously underrated. Cedar Rapids also has a deep bench of supporting players, including John C. Reilly, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Root, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. I haven’t liked any of the TV commercials, where Whitlock (best known as Clay Davis on The Wire) makes easy Wire references and Reilly indulges in heavy slapstick, but sometimes TV commercials lay on the simpler elements of a movie in order to sell it. Stay positive!
The Eagle (February 11)
Kevin Macdonald last made The Last King Of Scotland and State Of Play, both solid movies. Here he brings us a movie about Roman legionnaires, starring the unlikely Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott) and model-turned-actor Channing Tatum. A lot of film geeks dislike Tatum, for all sorts of reasons (his name, his wooden performances in movies like GI Joe), but I saw him in a movie called A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints where he was very effective. A good director can get good work out of just about anybody, and a string of good directors can give an actor a career. Kevin Macdonald is a good director, so we’ll see how Channing Tatum acquits himself. Is he the next Mark Wahlberg? The Eagle is one of the movies that will answer the question.
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (February 11)
A concert film and documentary about how a young kid from Canada became a worldwide phenomenon by the age of sixteen. There’s a place for this stuff, and that’s certainly not in front of my eyes. But I have been subjected to the trailer more times than zero, and I’ve heard Justin Bieber rapping from the stage about how no one should let anyone tell them that they can’t follow their dreams, and now I have a question: Who is telling all these kids that they can’t follow their dreams? Are there really jerks out there who are so low that they are putting down little kids and their aspirations? Or is Justin Bieber just exaggerating? I expect it’s the latter, but I get it: What else is Justin Bieber going to talk about? Most people don’t have much to say at sixteen. And it’s really not that hard to be a pretty, talented, white kid in this country. It just isn’t. I really don’t mind Justin Bieber, because I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about him, but I don’t like to encourage empty platitudes about dreams and struggles in infomercials, which is what this thing is going to be. Let me know if I’m wrong.
I Am Number Four (February 18)
From a young-adult novel co-written by James Frey, the guy who everybody hated a few years ago, comes this huge-budgeted high-school alien love story (the commercial prospects of which prove this statement to be absolutely correct). The presence of cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and never-bad character actors Timothy Olyphant and Kevin Durand are encouraging; the involvement of Michael Bay and Smallville creators Millar and Gough are not. This clearly wants to be the next Twilight. I’m not interested, but other people surely will be.
Unknown (February 18)
After the surprise success of Taken in 2009, Liam Neeson is getting back to screens with another late-winter thriller. You’ll keep seeing these as long as people want to see them, which is cool by me – Liam Neeson is great. I was underwhelmed by Taken but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see Liam Neeson out there, kicking ass, a couple times a year at least
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (February 18)
This isn’t even a movie title. “Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son” is not a movie title. It’s a crushingly stupid prefix, tacked in front of the name of a 1987 Dudley Moore/ Kirk Cameron body-switch comedy. The premise is that Martin Lawrence will eventually get too old to dress up in a fat suit and muumuu, so a new younger shouting transvestite needs to be introduced. For one thing, I doubt that Martin Lawrence will ever stop making movies like this, so the new character is unnecessary, and for another thing, there’s no question that this movie is unreleasably bad. Not that that stopped anyone.
Vanishing on 7th Street (February 18)
I’m interested in this set-up, where a citywide blackout sends a bunch of strangers to seek refuge in a bar, but I don’t think anyone can blame me for some trepidation at the idea of Hayden Christensen (from the Star Wars prequels) in a lead role.
Drive Angry 3D (February 25)
I had a great time with My Bloody Valentine 3D, the previous movie from this producing team, and this new movie features the ever-crazy Nic Cage, the crazy-hot Amber Heard, and the great William Fichtner as an agent of hell. This looks like trashy, silly fun. I’m so very much into that notion. Here’s the trailer.
Hall Pass (February 25)
Two guys (Owen Wilson and SNL’s Jason Sudeikis) get a “hall pass” from their wives (Christina Applegate and The Office’s Jenna Fischer) for one week, where they’re allowed to try to have an affair. I really like the cast, but I really hate the premise – emotionally insincere bullshit concocted around a passingly relevant slang phrase – so I wouldn’t recommend paying to see this. See if you can get a hall pass from the ticket office so you don’t have to waste your money.
Shelter (February 25)
This movie stars the usually-a-good-sign Julianne Moore as a psychiatrist who notices that her patient’s multiple personalities have been murder victims. It was already released in the UK, where it bombed notoriously. So it’s been sitting on the shelf for a while. Those are not good signs. You never know, but sometimes you do. (That’s going to become a recurring phrase for this column, by the way.)