Your guide to the cinematic wastelands of the new year! We’ll be running through the notable film releases of February, sussing out the truly awful and hopefully finding some worthwhile fare along the way. Let’s go!
February 7th, 2014
Film: The Lego Movie
Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Humans: Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Channing Tatum, Alison Brie, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders, Charlie Day
Synopsis: An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together. (Via IMDB)
CHUD Prognosis: After Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, I trust the directing duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller to deliver something fun and unexpected out of a property for which I have little interest. And if the trailer is any indication, it looks like these guys were able to bring the right kind of goofy, visual invention needed for a film populated with little, plastic people. Yeah, it’s The Lego Movie, and yeah, it’s sad that this won’t be the only toy-commercial-as-film we’ll see this year (Transformers: Age of Extinction), but watching that Lego guy do jumping jacks makes me giggle. And come on! Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Abraham Lincoln, The Ninja Turtles and more all in the same movie? In a way that makes sense and doesn’t require five prior films to explain why they’d all be hanging out together? Yes. Please.
CHUD Pull Quote: “Phil Lord and Chris Miller have built a better movie.”
Film: Monuments Men
Director: George Clooney
Humans: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Cate Blanchett
Synopsis: An unlikely World War II platoon are tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners. (Via IMDB)
CHUD Prognosis: Another movie lost in last year’s awards season shuffle, which gives us two ways to look at this. 1) We get a prestige film dropped in the middle of a fallow period for quality filmmaking or 2) this got dumped for a reason. I can’t see this being a disaster; rather, I’m guessing this is closer to a film like American Hustle (a good-not-great movie), albeit without the extra Oscar push. Clooney’s worst film is still Leatherheads and while it teeters on the edge of watchability, it’s real problem is that it’s wildly uneven. This film seems to be reaching for fish-out-of-water comedy, paired with WWII pathos and I’m guessing the results are a cocktail where one of the two sinks to the bottom. The cast is great (Bob Balaban, guys!) and seem to be game for the material, it’ll just be a question of how well Clooney juggles the many, many elements required to make something like this work. The worst case scenario is a self important film that preaches to the converted about the value of art. I’m worried that’s the film we’re getting.
CHUD Pull Quote: “The Nazis can have this movie if they’re still interested.”
February 12th, 2014
Director: José Padilha
Humans: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Jay Baruchel, Abbie Cornish, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Kenneth Williams, Aimee Garcia, John Paul Ruttan, Miguel Ferrer, Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Synopsis: MGM digs up the corpse of one of its best films and retrofits it with an all-new CGI exoskeleton in order to evade bankruptcy.
CHUD Prognosis: AIBO shit. From the look of this, they removed the guts and heart of the original, leaving only an empty, metal shell. Sam Jackson’s future TV show is a major red flag when it comes to the thinking behind this project. The fake shows and commercials in the original bore some resemblance to real television at the time, which is a major key to any satire. I can’t place what they’re trying to make fun of with Jackson’s contribution, other than giving him Ronald Regan hair because, hey, the original movie was from the 80s! I’m also not seeing a villain. No Clarence Bodiker to spit bile and blood. And if Alex Murphy’s transition to Robocop begins with a car bombing rather than being brutally gunned down, helpless and alone, well…I don’t know what to say about that. Gun violence is a problem in this country, but omitting it from our art is a major mistake (and actually makes whatever violence the movie actually offers up all the worse for it). This looks like a toothless automaton of the original, and I can’t in any way support it.
CHUD Pull Quote: “The future of law enforcement is elsewhere.”
February 14th, 2014
Film: Vampire Academy
Director: Mark Waters
Humans: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne, Dominic Sherwood, Olga Kurylenko, Sarah Hyland, Cameron Monaghan, Sami Gayle, Ashley Charles, Claire Foy, Joely Richardson, Shelley Longworth
Synopsis: Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, half human/vampire, guardians of the Moroi, peaceful, mortal vampires living discretely within our world. Her legacy is to protect the Moroi from bloodthirsty, immortal Vampires, the Strigoi. This is her story. (Via IMDB)
CHUD Prognosis: It’s a female-centric YA story about vampires going to school. The question is not whether you or I are going to like it, but how well it’s going to play on your daughter’s iPad a year from now. The film is being sold as “From The Director of Mean Girls,” rather than, “From The Director of The Spiderwick Chronicles and Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” But hey, I get it. You want to put your best foot forward and Mean Girls is that foot. The problem is Tina Fey is commonly regarded as the MVP of that film, while Mark Waters made Ghosts of Girlfriends Past AND Just Like Heaven, two movies about men being haunted by dead girlfriends. Neither seem particularly interested in creating well rounded female characters for young women to look up to, which doesn’t bode well for this film. That said, when the trailer isn’t bombarding your brain with pink fluorescence, it’s giving its female lead quippy things to say, so who knows? Probably not me, because again, I’m not the target audience.
CHUD Pull Quote: “The My Boyfriend’s Back for a new generation.”
Film: Winter’s Tale
Director: Akiva Goldsman
Humans: Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jennifer Connelly, Will Smith, Matt Bomer, William Hurt, Eva Marie Saint
Synopsis: Set in 1916 and present-day Manhattan, A New York Winter’s Tale follows the story of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell). Peter Lake is a thief who falls in love with Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a dying girl who has tuberculosis and occupies one of the houses he breaks into. Lake is saved from the insane Irish gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) and his henchmen by Athansor, a mysterious white horse who becomes his guardian angel. (Via Wikipedia)
CHUD Prognosis: Love is in the air, guys! Again, this is not the kind of movie I imagine most readers of this site will be interested in, but maybe some of you have girlfriends you’ve upset in some way? Maybe taking them to a Valentine’s Day release starring Colin Farrell is going to cheer them up (you’re going to want to work on your relationship as a whole if that’s the case, by the way)? Maybe, just maybe, I’m writing up this movie to illustrate how bad things have gotten this month. Because, guys? It’s gotten pretty bad. There is nothing for you this weekend. I’m sorry.
CHUD Pull Quote: “One divorced father of two for ‘Winter’s Tale’ please.”
February 21st, 2014
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Humans: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Jared Harris, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas, Paz Vega, Joe Pingue
Synopsis: A slave turned gladiator finds himself in a race against time to save his true love, who has been betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts, he must fight to save his beloved as Pompeii crumbles around him. (Via IMDB)
CHUD Prognosis: Titanic, as directed by Paul “Widescreen” Anderson, under an active volcano! That seems good, right? Ha! I tricked you! It does not! Anderson made half of a good movie with Event Horizon, but that happened so long ago you’d literally need to fold space to remember a time when he had any promise as a director. But while it seems extremely unlikely that the central romance will come across as anything other than a player piano of cliches, there could maybe, possibly, hopefully be some interesting action set pieces when the volcano decides it’s had enough of Kit Harrington and co. Speaking of which, let’s luxuriate in Harrington’s luscious locks for a moment and remember that his character is both a slave and a gladiator. I’m also excited for the scenes of Harrington and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (my Wi-Fi password) breaking down the barriers of race with their cagey banter in the arena. Honestly, the best case scenario is this film nursing you through a hangover when it plays on the SyFy channel a few years from now.
CHUD Pull Quote: “It’s a disaster!”
Film: 3 Days To Kill
Humans: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen
Synopsis: A dying Secret Service Agent trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment. (Via IMDB)
CHUD Prognosis: You know what? Good for Kevin Costner for jumping on the “dad movie” train. It’s a growing industry of films for men with daughters who still believe that could’ve been great spies, despite managing a Red Robin or whatever. The nice thing about “dad movies” is how easy they are to watch and sometimes you get a Taken, which works well enough to make you forget how silly it really is (or that no one is driving the boat). It also took me two viewings of the trailer to realize just how often Costner’s character mentions his daughter to bad guys. She’s not kidnapped or anything, he just thinks the Italian guy he’s torturing should know he’s a dad. Maybe the plot juice he gets injected with is making him loopy?
As for the rest of it? Well, this is a McG McJoint so it probably won’t be very good. His last movie was This Means War, which squandered Chris Pine and Tom Hardy in a troubling story about how homeland security makes it easier to find out if your girlfriend is fucking other spies. And then, you know, there’s Amber Heard… Listen, she’s actually not terrible, but I think the longer she goes without becoming a movie star, the worse her choices as an actress become. We’re on the Nth failed attempt and she looks like Dakota Fanning in a disco wig. If that’s not the bottom of the barrel, then we’ll probably see that in her next film, “The Barrel’s Bottom.” Oh yeah, and this was co-written and produced by Luc Besson, but he hasn’t written anything as good as “EVERYONE!!!!!” since 1994 (by the way, old people, The Professional is 20 this year), so that means what it means. And if you ask McG, that means war. Anyway, this looks fine. Just fine.
CHUD Pull Quote: “Liam Neason was busy.”
February 28th, 2014
Film: Son Of God
Director: Christopher Spencer
Humans: Diogo Morgado,Roma Downey, Greg Hicks, Darwin Shaw, Sebastian Knapp, Amber Rose Revah, Andrew Brooke, Louise Delamere, Adrian Schiller, Matthew Gravelle
Synopsis: The life story of Jesus is told from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection. (Via IMDB)
CHUD Prognosis: Whatever I say here will likely seem blasphemous to someone, so I’m going to avoid talking about The Bible or Jesus and focus on the commercialization of a text that’s sacred to many, many people around the world and how gross I think that is. For example, how would you like it if someone took all of the Harry Potter books and made movies out of them just because there was money to be made? Or if someone butchered The Great Gatsby on film not once but twice? How about if Sony pushed Sam Raimi into fitting Venom into an already-stuffed Spiderman sequel, all because they thought it would make them a little extra money? Or what about seeing the rich, inner lives of the Transformers lost to the silver screen, all in the name of selling a movie? My point is this: without creator involvement, I’m not interested in this particular adaptation.
CHUD Pull Quote: “Filmed in amazing technicolor dreamcoat.”
Film: Welcome To Yesterday
Director: Dean Israelite
Humans: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia
Synopsis: A self absorbed teen videotapes himself watching a video of his own birthday party and can’t help but notice something handsome and engaging in the mirror. But can it be? Is it…himself? Fascinated by the process of documenting everything he does (for future weekends where he and a mirror will curl up on the couch and watch this footage, excitedly waiting for moments in which he appears on screen), he inadvertently invents time travel, which is great, because it gives him plenty more time to film.
CHUD Prognosis: Again, just to make this clear, the engine of the plot is driven by a teenager filming himself watching old videos from his birthday parties. This may actually be the most accurate depiction of the YouTube-channel-era I’ve ever heard. I’m not kidding. That this is also a time travel movie only cements the idea of people nostalgic for the recent past at an age where they shouldn’t really be nostalgic about anything at all. Why reminisce about what you filmed yourself doing yesterday when you could go back and do it again, only better! This may be a work of mad, aggravating genius.
CHUD Pull Quote: “Shane Caruth’s double is spinning in his attic grave.”
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Humans: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore,Nate Parker, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Bar Paly
Synopsis: Liam Neeson is an air marshall who doesn’t like flying and Julianne Moore is a very famous actress who shows up briefly at the start of the trailer, only to recede into the background as bad things begin to happen. Wait, why did I even phrase it that way? I’m sure it’s nothing. Anyway, someone (probably not Julianne Moore) is making it look like Liam has highjacked the flight. I hope they find out who it is…
CHUD Prognosis: Okay, hang on a second, did Julianne Moore just say that she likes flying because it’s six hours in one seat and “nobody can get to you”? That’s really ominous, right? Also, it seems like she’s watching Liam Neeson after he gets that text on his secure line. Like she’s checking on him, even! Oooh, I bet it’s her!
Okay, enough of that. This comes from the man who directed Orphan and House of Wax, so I’m all in. The man makes the most entertaining b-movies around right now (ignore Unknown, won’t you?) and he has a knack for turning a stock premise into something fun and unexpected. This may be my most anticipated movie of the month. No shit.
CHUD Pull Quote: “Ignore Julianne Moore, because she’s definitely not the villain, okay?”
So how was that month? A little better? A little worse?
“How’s My Spring Lookin’?” is on its way and should be here a little closer to Spring. See you then.