February is a kind of special month for movies, I think. Hold on with me. See, January is a washout. We all know that. If it opens in January, it’s shit, end of story. But February, see, every so often, you get really lucky, and something absolutely outstanding opens in February. And I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing quite as intensely happy as when you’re in the middle of absolute nowhere, cinematically, and then along comes something that’s actually great and brilliant and all. I much prefer great films in February to any other month of the year. Fingers crossed and knock on wood, there’s actually a film this February that I think is going to be pretty amazing, too.
But that movie doesn’t come out yet. First we have to muck through what looks like it might be one of the most awful prestigey movies in history: starring Channing Tatum (a pretty slab of anti-acting), Amanda Seyfried (a talented actress who gets no good parts whatsoever), and directed by Lasse Halström (an epically bad filmmaker), Dear John is also, saints preserve us all, a story about The Days After 9/11. The nicest thing I can think to say is that it’s virtually impossible for this movie to be even a quarter as bad as I’m expecting from all of what I just typed.
There’s only one other wide release, From Paris with Love, which I am almost excited about: director Pierre Morel’s Taken was probably my favorite action movie of 2009. But that starred Liam Neeson as an angry revenge-seeking ass-kicker; the new one is John Travolta, looking his very silliest, with a bald head and a terribly unfortunate goatee.
Speaking of Morel, one of the limited releases this day is District 13: Ultimatum, a sequel to his directorial debut, District 13. And for its other flaws, that film had a mind-blowing opening sequence, so I can get behind that. Other limited releases: Jackie Chan in The Shinjuku Incident, because we love seeing Jackie Chan being old onscreen, and Frozen, which I would cynically describe as “Open Water on a ski lift”, but hey, maybe you liked Open Water more than I did.
The slate of three wide releases opening this weekend fascinates me. It’s a cross-section of three very different kinds of desperation, all mingling together, and it sort of feels like everything is counter-programming to everything else.
The likeliest box-office winner, I’d guess, is The Wolfman, a remake directed by the slick high-concept hack Joe Johnston; I’d also guess it will be the relative best of the three, but all I’m really hoping for is that Anthony Hopkins is every bit as crazed as he seems in the trailer. The other two releases are Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, the latest doomed-to-failure attempt to find a new Harry Potter series, and this one even happens to be led by Chris Columbus, the man who got that other franchise off to such a grim start with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Finally, we have another Love Actually clone, this one monolithically titled Valentine’s Day: this sounds desperately anonymous, maybe, until you realise how very few movies are actually flat-out named after holidays, and those disproportionally horror pictures. Anyway, it re-teams Garry Marshall with Julia Roberts, if you’re the sort of person likely to care about that sort of thing.
Finally, after a completely inexplicable postponement from October, 2009, comes Shutter Island, Martin Scorsese’s return to warped psycho-horror-thrillers, almost 20 years after Cape Fear, featuring Leo DiCaprio’s Looney Tune version of a Boston accent. Four months of added waiting have only made me more excited about a movie that was already one of the most exciting films of the last quarter of 2009; I can’t imagine, with the director involved, that this was some sign of poor quality on the film’s part, and I still assume that the Oscar season would have been way more interesting with this film a part of it, but no matter. Better late than never.
So much does everybody obviously agree with me, that the film isn’t getting any wide-release competition – though one of the weekend’s limited releases happens to be the latest (last?) film by Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer. Cue the hand-wringing about whether it’s an immoral act to pay money to see this film or not!
A nice easy weekend of boring crap to usher us out of the month: the first-ever film directed by, but not written by, Kevin Smith, Cop Out; because clearly, his skills lie more in his direction than his writing, you know? I mean, how much better would Clerks have been with some funny dialogue to match the coruscating visuals? Also, Breck Eisner – Michael Eisner’s son, who is plainly getting work for his talent and not his connections – is remaking The Crazies, and as long as that means a nice new Blu-Ray edition of George A. Romero’s 1973 original, I am more than happy to keep my mouth shut about the necessity of 1970s horror remakes.