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February Film Preview — What To See and What to Skip

February 3, 2010

This February will be a month with many decent DVD releases that everyone should check out and, although it seems to be a bit of a slow month for film releases, there are a couple movies hitting the theaters that appear to have some potential.

As we approach the Oscars, we’re really just starting to wrap up the 2009 film year and it’s almost to the point where it does actually feel like a new year. By the end of the month, you can expect to see my favorites list for 2009, my top 30 of the last decade, and the remaining sections of my 6-part preview of the upcoming year.

For now, click Read More to move on and read the February preview for both movies coming to theaters and movies coming to DVD.

Just a quick reminder before you read the previews… Remember that these are only my opinions on the films based upon everything I have gathered without actually seeing the films. So while I will take credit for being able to predict the quality of films fairly well, I don’t pretend to be a flawless expert in the field and I guarantee I won’t always be right. Therefore, if you disagree with anything that I say, then that is simply your opinion and I don’t intend to prove you wrong. I am simply providing judgment and recommendation on movies to help readers determine which films they feel they would most like to see and which films appear to be more likely to satisfy them. Likewise, I’m extremely sorry if I persuade anyone to go shell out your weekly paycheck (since that’s just about what it costs these days) to see a movie that ends up being utter crap. If anything, I’d hope you direct your anger to the filmmakers of said movie in such a situation. But if you feel that you really must come after me with a bloody pitchfork, I only ask that you give me fair warning and enough time to skip town. Thank you.

In Theaters

WHAT TO SEE

From Paris with Love (IMDB link)

  • SUMMARY: In Paris, a young employee in the office of the US Ambassador hooks up with an American spy looking to stop a terrorist attack in the city.
  • Directed by Pierre Morel. Screenplay by Adi Hasak. Story by Luc Besson. Starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.
  • Release: Feb. 5 (Wide)
  • WHY: Luc Besson is famous for writing movies like The Transporter, León the Professional, The Fifth Element, and Taken. They’re all action-packed thrillers with a certain atmosphere that just makes them cooler than most of the other action crap out there. The trailer for From Paris with Love makes it look entertaining enough and it’s sure to be one you’ll want to break out the popcorn for. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers could be a big reason it’s good. Hopefully John Travolta won’t be too laughably awkward. If you ask me, he could be the one reason it sinks. It’ll either be very average or maybe slightly better. Either way, it’s not gonna blow you away, but it should be good if you’re just looking for some fresh entertainment.

Dear John (IMDB link)

  • SUMMARY: A romantic drama about a soldier who falls for a conservative college student while he’s home on leave.
  • Directed by Lasse Hallström. Screenplay by Jamie Linden. Adapted from the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Starring Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried.
  • Release: Feb. 5 (Wide)
  • WHY: I have a hard time promoting this movie without losing so many man points that I fall over unconscious, so I’m gonna do it fast. Dear John will certainly be loved by the same people that loved The Notebook and it’s almost the same kind of film. The females will gush about it for a good while and will drag the guys to see it, who may or may not enjoy it but either way, when asked what they thought, will just shrug indifferently in order to preserve their masculinity. It’s getting far too many positive reviews from people at screeners for the majority not to like it. It’s far enough down my priority list that I’ll wait and see it a while after it comes out on DVD, but if romantic couple movies are your kind of thing, then go for it.

The Wolfman (IMDB link)

  • SUMMARY: Upon his return to his ancestral homeland, an American man is bitten, and subsequently cursed by, a werewolf.
  • Directed by Joe Johnston. Screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self. Starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, and Emily Blunt.
  • Release: Feb. 12 (Wide)
  • WHY: Seems to be a different horror/thriller than most and for once, it looks like the cinematography might have been done pretty well. It’s got a good writing pair (Walker wrote Se7en, Self did Road to Perdition) a decent director, and a great cast list. Overall, I’m sure most will enjoy it. Several who saw screenings have said the action and everything in the horror department was there, but the story line was a bit lacking. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised by this. I get the feeling that I’ll be one of the ones disappointed by it, while the general public will rave about it. But I can imagine it’ll receive mostly positive reviews though and it certainly seems to at least be worth a viewing.

Shutter Island (IMDB link)

  • SUMMARY: Drama is set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island.
  • Directed by Martin Scorsese. Screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane. Starring Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kinglsey, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer.
  • Release: Feb. 19 (Wide)
  • WHY: Martin Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio. Done deal. It’s very difficult to believe that this could go wrong with the two of them at the helm. Actually, no, it’s almost impossible. I’ve been waiting for this film for a while and ever since I saw how phenomenal the trailer looks, it’s hard to wait much longer. This won’t be another Taxi Driver or Goodfellas masterpiece, but it’s great to see Scorsese trying something in a little bit different direction and everything seems to be indicating that it’ll be a hit. The only problem might be the immense expectations that have been placed upon it, but even then, it’s sure to be at least an entertaining ride. If you see one movie this February, I’d recommend you choose Shutter Island.

A Prophet (Un prophète) (IMDB link)

  • SUMMARY: A young Arab man is sent to a French prison where he becomes a mafia kingpin.
  • Directed by Jacques Audiard. Screenplay by Thomas Bidegain and Jacques Audiard. Starring Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, and Adel Bencherif.
  • Release: Feb. 12 (Limited)
  • WHY: It debuted at Cannes back in May of last year and made quite an impact, winning the Grand Prize of the Jury, and then went on to win the Best Film Award at the London Film Festival and be nominated for 6 European Film Awards. It’s one of the biggest foreign hits of the year and I have yet to hear anything negative about it. If you enjoy seeing foreign films and you’ve got the opportunity, check this one out for sure.

The Ghost Writer (IMDB link)

  • SUMMARY: A ghostwriter hired to complete the memoirs of a former British prime minister uncovers secrets that put his own life in jeopardy.
  • Directed by Roman Polanski. Based on the novel by Robert Harris. Adapted by Robert Harris. Starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams.
  • Release: Feb. 19 (Limited)
  • WHY: For nearly 3 years now, Roman Polanski and Robert Harris have been trying to make a film together. And now, after abandoning one project and being arrested in Sweden on a 31 year-old warrant, Polanski has finally completed his next film. With a decent cast and a unique thriller storyline, The Ghost Writer will more than likely prove to be successful with Polanski running things. Hopefully, it will at least surpass the quality of his last real work, Oliver Twist. Again, most won’t have a chance to see this one anytime soon, but if you do, I’d say it’s worth seeing as long as you don’t absolutely hate the kind of artsy-er films that Polanski tends to make.

WHAT TO SKIP

The Crazies (IMDB link)

  • SUMMARY: As a toxin begins to turn the residents of Ogden Marsh, Iowa into violent psychopaths, sheriff David Dutton tries to make sense of the situation while he, his wife, and two other unaffected townspeople band together in a fight for survival.
  • Directed by Breck Eisner. Screenplay by Scott Kosar and Ray Wright. Based on original film The Crazies (1973) by George A. Romero. Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, and Preston Bailey.
  • Release: Feb. 26 (Wide)
  • WHY: I’m on the fence about this one. Recent trends have shown that horror films like this one just aren’t worth it anymore. There is something about the trailer that makes me think that maybe this one might be a little different. But the factors against it are too overwhelming. The original itself is widely considered one of George A. Romero’s worst films in the first place. Breck Eisner’s only major work was for Sahara, a film that most deemed mediocre. Ray Wright has no major writing experience and Scott Kosar, while he did write spectacular thriller The Machinist, has a history of writing extremely weak horror remakes such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and The Amityville Horror (2005). If you’re not afraid to risk your cash for the possibility of a decent thriller, check this one out for sure. But there are several other films in theaters that would be much better choices at this point. Wait to hear the reviews and maybe rent this if you really want to see it.

Valentine’s Day (IMDB link)

  • SUMMARY: Int ertwining couples and singles in Los Angeles break-up and make-up based on the pressures and expectations of Valentine’s Day.
  • Directed by Garry Marshall. Screenplay by Katherine Fugate. Starring Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Carol Jenkins, Joe Jonas, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Brooklynn Proulx, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Bryce Robertson, and Taylor Swift.
  • Release: Feb. 12 (Wide)
  • WHY: Well, now that my hands are tired from typing out that cast list… You can rest assured that this movie will do well at the box office, for one thing. With enough eye-candy for anyone of any gender and the advantage of being the only romantic comedy out on Valentine’s Day, it’s sure to put a dent in the box office charts (although i’m willing to bet The Wolfman will top it). While it may be hard to resist if some of your favorite actors are on board (hopefully, if you’re reading this blog, none of the above actors are any of your favorites), the film itself just looks bad. Too many actors and too many clichés, I guarantee you. Everything about this film seems to scream bad filmmaking and obsessive mainstream marketing. Essentially, this is Love, Actually with a plethora of far too many second-rate actors. I hate to say it, but it’s just not a good sign when you have a list of nearly 25 well-known actors and the most stand-out quality comes from Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, and Jennifer Garner. Skip it unless you’re absolutely dying to see a romantic comedy on Valentine’s Day. And in this case, I have a good feeling the ensuing boredom might kill you anyway.

Cop Out (IMDB link)

  • SUMMARY: A comedy about two cops whose adventures include locating a stolen baseball card, rescuing a woman, and dealing with gangsters and their laundered money.
  • Directed by Kevin Smith. Screenplay by Robb and Mark Cullen. Starring Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Sean William Scott, Michelle Trachtenberg, Rashida Jones, and Jason Lee.
  • Release: Feb. 26 (Wide)
  • WHY: I may have listed this in my Movies to Watch For article, but given the other films that are being released this month, this seems to be one of the less promising ones and so I would suggest skipping it and waiting to rent it. Again, Bruce Willis in a cop comedy is just not very appealing and while Tracy Morgan is hilarious in 30 Rock, his addition to the cast just makes it seem more and more like a bad Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour remake. Kevin Smith and Sean William Scott are probably the only two redeeming qualities, and even then, Kevin Smith isn’t doing his normal directing/writing combo. So unless you just laughed uncontrollably like an idiot for several minutes after the trailer ended, I’d suggest waiting for the DVD or just forgetting about it altogether.

On DVD

Top 5 to Rent

  • The Informant! (Feb. 23)
  • Zombieland (Feb. 2)
  • The Damned United (Feb. 23)
  • A Serious Man (Feb. 9)
  • More Than a Game (Feb. 2)

Honorable Mentions: Law Abiding Citizen (Feb. 16), Everybody‘s Fine (Feb. 23), The Time Travelers Wife (Feb. 23)

Top 5 to Skip

  • Amelia (Feb. 2)
  • Love Happens (Feb. 2)
  • The Stepfather (Feb. 9)
  • Couples Retreat (Feb. 9)
  • The Box (Feb. 23)
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One comment

  1. Ok, first of all, Camp Julia Roberts and Camp Jennifer Garner are going to put you on their hit list for calling them ‘2nd rate’. They probably are the only two in Valentine’s Day NOT 2nd rate.

    You have piqued my interest in Ghost Writer, I admit. I am with you about Cop Out, and, after reading your opinion about ‘The Crazies’ it sounds like a cross between The Mist and Shaun of the Dead to me.

    We will be there on Feb. 19 for Shutter Island or at least that weekend.

    Good to see you at least ‘man up’ a bit and admit that a romance movie may be worth seeing.

    Good job.



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