February is always a tricky month: like January, there’s a lot of “release this now and hopefully nobody will notice it” garbage, but sometimes you get lucky. And my gut tells me that this year, we’re due: there are not, admittedly, any films on the immediate horizon that appear to be particularly great, but I dearly do hope that at least a couple of them might be good enough, which is often the only thing you can hope for.
And here’s one of those maybe good-enough films right up top: The Woman in Black, a haunted house picture starring a newly post-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe. Now, there’s nothing as easily fucked-up as a horror picture (unless it is a romantic comedy, an awards-baiting biopic, or a summertime action movie), but the trailer has a good amount of old-fashioned creepiness to it; and ghost stories have been doing well these days. Anyway, on the curve that we are obliged to use for the first third of the calendar year, it strikes me as being a good bet.
It is, at any rate, the only film of the weekend that I’m expecting good things from at all: Big Miracle, or Dolphin Tale 2: With Whales This Time, is transparently the kind of feel-good animal story that I, at least, have never been able to abide, though it has a heck of a cast; and Chronicle, a found-footage teen sci-fi thriller… is a found-footage teen sci-fi thriller. With a cutesy-poo “mysterious” marketing campaign that has not, as yet, made it look any less terrible.
An unusually well-balanced mix of three films, from action to romantic drama to kid’s adventure movie. That all three of them look pretty damn bad is incidental to the elegance of the marquees they shall produce.
Firstly, there’s Safe House, which looks for all the world like Tony Scott film shot by Paul Cameron, up to and including Denzel Washington as the morally ambiguous co-lead; and yet it was neither directed by Tony Scott, nor shot by Paul Cameron at all. Which sets it fully in the world of rip-off and knock-offs, though I have to wonder how many people in the target audience are actually aware of what’s being ripped off. Next (I don’t know why I’m saying these are in any particular order, but still, next) is Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which I can’t get my head around at all: first because a sequel to the 2008 Journey to the Center of the Earth makes absolutely no sense, second because setting a sequel to a modern-day Jules Verne adaptation inside a completely unrelated Jules Verne novel make sense in the most excitingly sick way. Then is The Vow, which looks for all the world like a Nicholas Sparks adaptation that isn’t, and in this case I suppose the target audience knows that and doesn’t care.
There’s one other wide release, and it even keeps the balance in order: it is, I am sad to say, the 3-D re-release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The first in what, we are threatened, is to be a six-year plan to squeeze every last drop of money from the films, on the back of what appears (from the trailers) to be an unusually shitty conversion job, and a film that is more or less hated by everybody. I remain entirely unclear why George Lucas didn’t see fit to begin with the actual first Star Wars, but he acts like he knows what he’s doing. Incidentally, if this goes to #1 at the box office – which I do not anticipate – I’m not going to see it; partially because I don’t see the point of another pan of The Phantom Menace, partially because I vowed six and a half years ago not to watch any of the Star Wars films until such time as Lucas releases the unaltered version of the original films, because he obviously cares what I do or say.
Happy Valentine’s Day, courtesy of Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy, and the romantic spy comedy This Means War! Hell, that’s at least one-third of a cast worth paying attention to, and I admire the obviousness of combining things girls like (romantic comedies) with things boys like (spies) in what shall undoubtedly be a spirited comedy that doesn’t feel blandly focused-grouped at all.
If there is one safe bet all month, it is the U.S. release of the two-year old Studio Ghibli feature (their 17th), The Secret World of Arrietty, which may well be from a first-time director, Yonebayashi Hiromasa, and may well be sort of cheap-looking, if we are to trust the trailers, but goddammit, Studio Ghibli. Let us not dwell on the fact that the last one released in the States was the weak Tales of Earthsea. At any rate, it is based upon solid source material, and until Takahata’s Tales of the Bamboo Cutter finally shows up, we’ll have to take what we can get.
Also, there is a sequel to Ghost Rider, and it is called Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, in case you give a shit. At the very least, dropping the director of Daredevil for the directors of Crank feels like a step in the right direction.
This Tyler Perry kick I’ve been on comes to a close with the punningly-titled Good Deeds, in which a certain Wesley Deeds, played, of course, by Perry, probably doesn’t end up with a huge sum of money and thereafter is forced to defend his sanity in a court of law and prove that country folk can be just as smart as city dwellers. He probably does, though, learn to be a better man with Jesus. Just guessing.
Amanda Seyfried tries to jumpstart that career that just stubbornly refuses to pick up, this time as an action heroine, with the paranoia thriller Gone, which at least has a tremendously straightforward title to its credit. Over here, we have Wanderlust, a new David Wain comedy, starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd and a “hippies are silly!” concept from 1973. And lastly, we have Act of Valor, which is advertising itself with special emphasis on the fact that the whole cast is made up of non-actors from the NAVY Seals, as though that was actually a good thing; and maybe for people for whom the military matters more than art, it is