2016 got off to a pretty dire start last month, but thankfully, Hollywood has put together one hell of an apology with what is quickly shaping up to be the most promising February in a very long time – if ever. Though there are still a few duds littered throughout the month (here’s looking at you, “Gods of Egypt”), there are also some really exciting new releases, including the long-awaited Deadpool movie and the latest from directors Joel and Ethan Coen and John Hillcoat.
Who: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes and Scarlett Johansson What: A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line. When: February 5th Why: It’s been awhile since the Coen brothers made a straight-up comedy, instead focusing on more dramatic fare like “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “True Grit,” but the writing/directing duo appears to be back to their screwball best with this period piece set during the latter years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Though the Coens’ goofier films have always been hit-and-miss (for every “Raising Arizona,” there’s an “Intolerable Cruelty”), the footage released thus far has been pretty encouraging, particularly an extended clip with Ralph Fiennes and Alden Ehrenreich squabbling over a line of dialogue that perfectly encapsulates the farcical tone of the movie.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”
Who: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Lena Headey and Charles Dance What: Jane Austen’s classic tale of tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge: an army of undead. When: February 5th Why: How do you make “Pride and Prejudice” exciting? Add zombies. That was the secret sauce in Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling mashup novel, which transformed the literary classic into a blood-stained horror comedy. But that was seven years ago, so it’ll be interesting to see whether anyone still cares now that it’s finally being adapted for the big screen. After all, the last Grahame-Smith novel to receive the Hollywood treatment, 2012’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” was a massive flop, and although “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” has a cleverer concept, it’s just as one-note, which doesn’t bode well for its audience, whoever that’s supposed to be.
It may only be February, and half of the country may still be buried under a foot of snow, but there’s a decidedly pre-summer feel to this month’s releases – the time of year when studios unleash a barrage of popcorn-friendly movies on audiences that aren’t deemed important enough for the summer season. Delayed blockbusters with big-name stars? Check. Unnecessary sequels to cult comedies? Check. Edgy comic book adaptations with breakout potential? Check and check. In fact, the February slate is so different from what we typically expect that instead of the usual hoard of Valentine’s Day shlock, women get a film about BDSM instead. How kinky.
Who: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, James D’Arcy and Sean Bean What: A lowly caretaker who is actually intergalactic royalty teams up with a genetically engineered warrior to stop a tyrant from taking control of Earth. When: February 6th Why: It’s never a good sign when a movie gets postponed, especially one as big as “Jupiter Ascending,” but what really set off alarm bells was the decision to move it from a prime summer release date to the dead zone of February. The studio claims that the delay was to provide the Wachowskis with extra time to polish the visual effects, but that’s just Hollywood talk for covering up a deeper issue. Whether it’s because “Jupiter Ascending” isn’t very good, or because the sibling duo’s last film (“Cloud Atlas”) performed so poorly at the box office, there’s a reason why Warner Bros. suddenly lost confidence in the movie. And when you have Channing Tatum playing a half-werewolf bounty hunter, that’s bound to happen.
Who: Ben Barnes, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander What: A young man is apprenticed to the local Spook to learn to fight evil spirits, and his first great challenge comes when the powerful Mother Malkin escapes her confinement. When: February 6th Why: If you thought the delay of “Jupiter Ascending” was bad, that’s nothing compared to “Seventh Son,” which has seen its release date change three times over the past two years. Originally scheduled for early 2013, the fantasy film – which is based on the first book in Joseph Delaney’s young adult series – actually boasts a really good cast, including Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Olivia Williams and Kit Harrington of “Game of Thrones” fame. Unfortunately, this looks like pretty standard sword-and-sorcery fare, with Bridges basically playing a variation of the Rooster Cogburn character from “True Grit” and “R.I.P.D.” Fans of the genre will probably get a kick out of it, but it’s unlikely that “Seventh Son” will have much life beyond that.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service”
Who: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong and Michael Caine What: A veteran secret agent takes a young upstart under his wing just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius. When: February 13th Why: After satirizing the superhero genre with “Kick-Ass,” the creative team behind that film (director Matthew Vaughn, co-writer Jane Goldman and comic book writer Mark Millar) returns with an equally over-the-top take on spy films. Developed separately from the Millar-penned comic on which it’s loosely based, Vaughn’s big screen adaptation looks a lot more fun, bursting with the energy and humor that was lacking in Millar’s version. It’s incredible to think that Colin Firth was never considered for the James Bond gig, because he’s perfectly cast as the badass super-spy, while newcomer Taron Egerton is already garnering acclaim for his debut role. Early buzz for this one is through the roof, and if you’ve seen the trailer, then you can understand why.
If this past January proved anything, it’s that the movies weren’t nearly as bad as those from previous years. Unfortunately, I highly doubt the same will be true of February’s line-up when all is said and done. Though there are certainly a couple movies to look forward to (including the latest John McClane adventure and only the second rom-zom-com in existence), the pickings are even slimmer and less promising than last month.
Who: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich and Rob Corddry What: After a zombie named R saves Julie from an attack, they form a relationship that sets in motion a series of events that might transform the entire lifeless world. When: February 1st Why: If there’s one movie that I’m actually looking forward to this February, it’s the big screen adaptation of Isaac Marion’s clever YA novel. Director Jonathan Levine has already tackled some pretty ballsy material between “The Wackness” and “50/50,” but this is probably his most adventurous and challenging project yet, if only because the subject matter is about as outside-the-box as you can get. Vampires are one thing (and though the “Twilight” comparisons are inevitable, they’re completely unwarranted), but the idea of doing a romantic comedy where a zombie falls in love with a human is ripe for exactly the kind of dark humor that “Warm Bodies” will hopefully deliver in spades.
“BULLET TO THE HEAD”
Who: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa and Christian Slater What: After watching their respective partners die, a New Orleans hitman and a Washington D.C. detective team up to bring down their common enemy. When: February 1st Why: Arnold Schwarzenegger may be back to reclaim his action hero title, but Sylvester Stallone never gave it up, and though his latest movie doesn’t look very good, you have to respect the guy for grinding away all these years. Though director Walter Hill has made his share of fun buddy action films (including “48 Hours” and its sequel), that formula has been run so far into the ground that only a dinosaur like him would think it’s still relevant. It’s always nice to see Sung Kang getting work, because he’s probably one of the best Asian-American actors in the business, but if the cheesy dialogue from the trailer is any indication, “Bullet to the Head” is destined for the Wal-Mart bargain bin.
Who: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet and Morris Chestnut What: When a mild-mannered businessman learns his identity has been stolen, he hits the road in an attempt to foil the deceptively harmless-looking thief. When: February 8th Why: Jason Bateman reteams with “Horrible Bosses” director Seth Gordon for a new film co-starring Hollywood It Girl Melissa McCarthy. On paper, “Identity Thief” sounds like it should be comedy gold, but go watch the trailer again and count how many times you laughed. Did you get zero too? It’s not entirely surprising considering the film was written by the same guy behind a trio of spoof movies and “RocketMan,” but I’ve come to expect better from Bateman. McCarthy, on the other hand, continues to overact the only way she knows how, and though some people seem to find her funny, I’m not one of them. In other words, unless you’re a fan, you can probably wait for it to hit home video.
For as much abuse as January receives for being a bad movie magnet, February isn’t any better, especially when you factor in the bombardment of cheesy chick flicks being unloaded in time for Valentine’s Day. In fact, with the exception of maybe one or two releases, there isn’t anything even worth getting excited about – unless you’re a really big “Star Wars” fan, in which case, keep reading. January was by no means a great month for moviegoers, but it was a heckuva lot better than what February has in store.
“THE WOMAN IN BLACK”
Who: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds and Emma Shorey What: A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals. When: February 3rd Why: There’s no way in hell that I’m going to see this movie – not because it doesn’t look like it might be good, but rather because there are few things that scare me as unconditionally as creepy old ghost women from horror movies. (Despite really enjoying last year’s “Insidious,” I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterwards.) And that’s a shame, because “The Woman in Black” looks like it might actually rise above the typical horror trash that populates this time of year (see: “The Devil Inside”). Adapted from Susan Hill’s novel of the same name (which was also turned into a successful stage play), the script was written by Matthew Vaughn’s go-to scribe Jane Goldman and stars Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role. The actor undoubtedly had plenty of offers on the table, so the fact that he chose this Hammer horror film certainly speaks of its potential.
Who: Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Dane DeHaan and Michael Kelly What: Three friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery, only for their friendship to be tested when one of them embraces his dark side. When: February 3rd Why: I didn’t even know about this movie until a few months ago when a friend sent me a link to the trailer, but consider me cautiously intrigued. Though I’m just as sick of the whole found footage fad as everyone else, “Chronicle” is set up in a way that it doesn’t have to adhere to the normal rules of the genre. For starters, since the main characters have superpowers (namely, telekinesis), they can put the camera pretty much anywhere they want, allowing for a more dynamic range of shots beyond the trademark shaky cam. The trailer also seems to suggest that there will be a healthy dose of action, so as long as the story isn’t a complete mess and director Josh Trank can keep the movie’s mystery a secret, this superhero “Cloverfield” could be the first surprise hit of the year.