February is upon us and we are still trudging through a relative dearth of good movie releases. Last month turned out as poorly as many had expected. In our January Flashforward we highlighted Her, Lone Survivor, I, Frankenstein, and Labor Day as our most anticipated films. While we stand by our choices…not all of them turned out so hot. Fortunately, Her was as good as advertised with a 94% Rotten Tomatoes score (check out Jordan and Eddie’s review or ours for more details. For a quick synopsis, check out SNL’s spoof with Jonah Hill. I almost like it more than the actual film). Lone Survivor received mostly positive reviews coming in at 74% on RT. The film is centered around a failed US Navy Seals operation in Afghanistan and Three Rows Back’s review describes it as an “an intense, if overly patriotic, experience.” Things turned south with our last two films. Labor Day was panned by critics and racked up a lousy 31% on RT, which seems like Oscar love compared to the 5%RT I, Frankenstein “earned.” My favorite quote about I, Frankenstein comes from Vultural’s review: “the film just exists, and that is all there is to say about it.” For anyone thinking, “well…5% isn’t memorably bad…that’s not atrociously bad,” I’ll mention that it shares company with Gigli (6%), Catwoman (9%) and The Last Airbender (6%). Luckily for January’s Flashforward, our least anticipated movie The Legend of Hercules, fared even worse, with a 3% on RT, matching Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill in terms of percentage awfulness.
To be fair, we never claimed any of those movies would be spectacular or even any good. Other than Her, January was largely forgettable, and the February forecast is predicting more of the same.
1. The Monuments Men
Release Date: February 7, 2014
Director: George Clooney (directed Good Night, and Good Luck, Leatherheads, The Ides of March)
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Juan Dujardin, and Bob Balaban
George Clooney leads a band of civilians into the front lines to protect works of art from Nazi destruction in late World War II. Hype around this movie has been whipped up mainly due to the cast involved. The plot offers the relatively straightforward “good guys vs bad guys” and “old and wise but inexperienced characters join the fight” (aka “old dogs learn new tricks”). Overall, the movie looks interesting, if not groundbreaking and likely will not be memorable in a few years. Looking at the big picture, the film is reminiscent of Ocean’s 11. In both films Clooney leads a band of characters, each with unique talents (artists and architects vs conmen) against an overpowering and intimidating villain (Hitler and the Nazis vs the casinos). Both films feature solid ensemble casts, engaging imagery and likeable characters working to outsmart and outwit each other. Even the trailers are similar. Clooney spends most of the time in both trailers making the rounds with various characters convincing them his scheme will work while they try to convince him of the opposite. Matt Damon in Monuments Men: “So you want to go into a warzone with a bunch of architects and artists and tell our boys what they can and can not blow up?” and later “Aren’t we a little old for that?” Brad Pitt in Ocean’s 11: You want to knock over a casino? Three casinos?…You’d need at least a dozen guys doing a combination of cons.” and later Carl Reiner; “We’re just supposed to walk out of there with $150 million in cash without getting stopped?” Ocean’s 11 received positive reviews and enormous box office success, which Monuments Men is very unlikely to match. The movie has already received poor reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with a 41% based on a small sample size, but we’re still looking forward to seeing it for ourselves.
Release Date (US): February 12, 2014
Director: Jose Padilha (Elite Squad series, Secrets of the Tribe)
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, and Abbie Cornish
One of 2014’s most anticipated films is a remake of the 1987 ultra-violent classic. The story is likely familiar to most and focuses on Detective Alex Murphy who is re-engineered into a crime fighting cyborg after being nearly killed in the line of duty. The original has been praised for it’s dark themes, over the top violence and satirical criticism of American culture. This year’s remake likely will keep the gloves on and avoid delving into the realm of controversy and be a shell of the film from which it was engineered. Visually, the movie will probably be a massive upgrade to the original, but may also veer too far into standard Hollywood imagery and lack the originality and uniqueness of the original. Sadly, we will likely have near-identical comments when we write our Flashforward for the new Mad Max reboot Fury Road.
3. A Fantastic Fear of Everything
Release Date (US): February 7, 2014 (previously released in June, 2012)
Director: Chris Hopewell and Crispian Mills
Starring: Simon Pegg, Claire Higgins, Amara Karan, and Paul Freeman
Add this to the list of “movies we look forward to…even though we know they’ll be terrible.” this movie was released in the U.K. back in 2012 but is finally making it’s debut in the U.S. this month. Normally that delayed release is an ominous sign for a movie and the initial reaction here has not been overly positive. Still, Simon Pegg’s presence provides reason enough to see this British comedy/horror in which Pegg stars as a children’s author who turns to crime fiction and must deal with his inner demons. We’re excited to see Pegg take on the awkward and skiddish character, which many have cited as their reason to leave the film behind, reporting that his acting is overly quirky and clumsy. We loved Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Pegg’s work in the Mission Impossible and the Star Trek series but we’ll admit his most recent comedic work from The World’s End was his most disappointing. We’ll still seek out this movie. Maybe we’re too loyal (after getting hooked by The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs we stuck with M. Night Shymalan until The Last Airbender when we realized he was too far-gone. Even after that awfulness, which Roger Ebert described as an “agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented,” we still paid to see Devil and After Earth. I think I just realized I have an M. Night addiction, no matter how bad his movies are I still keep coming back. Full price for After Earth? Really?).
Least Anticipated: Winter’s Tale
Release Date (US): Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2014
Director: Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jennifer Connelly, and Russell Crowe
This movie has been assaulting me at the theaters for months. It seems like every movie I’ve shelled out the cash to see in theaters has been poisoned with this trailer. Seeing Colin Farrell’s hideous haircut and the cheesy lines throw a dull mood over my cherished movie time. I may be exaggerating, but it doesn’t feel like it. The trailer is filled with terrible lines, not the least of which is “well I suppose the polite thing to do would be to offer you a cup of tea.” No lady. This guy just broke into your house. Don’t heat up the Earl Grey. Get out of there. This movie looks like Cloud Atla‘s cousin. Both deal with the question “is it possible to love someone so completely they simply can’t die?” That sort of content may work in books, but Cloud Atlas and The Fountain haven’t really sold us on throwing the idea up on screen. And those two movies had more than competent directors at the helm. Winter’s Tale is Akiva Goldsman’s directorial debut (although he has won an Oscar for screen-writing). Also, let’s take a moment to realize that Russell Crowe is starring in this and Noah this year, both of which look awful. Okay, we’re done, we’re done.
Thanks for reading!
Let us know what movies you are looking forward to this month in the comments.