M: It seems like we say this about a lot of months when doing these previews, but February is not traditionally a powerhouse month for movies.
E: Well, there are what, five powerhouse months for movies in the year? So it follows that some of them will be lame.
M: Yeah, and looking back over a few boxofficemojo lists, February’s a pretty sad slate. Of the biggest opening weekends in February in history, the top 10 includes such cinematic masterpieces as Valentine’s Day (3rd), Madea Goes To Jail (8th), and Daredevil (10th).
C: Classy! I had forgotten Daredevil existed.
M: I’m pretty sure Ben Affleck, who had a great showing at the Golden Globes a couple weeks ago and the SAG last weekend, is hoping everyone has forgotten Daredevil existed. Looking at the top February movie of each year, in the mid 2000’s you had The Passion and Hitch (not movies that are often mentioned in the same sentence!) in back-to-back years, but before that you have to go back to a string of movies in the early to mid 90’s that included Silence of the Lambs, Ace Ventura, Groundhog Day and Wayne’s World to find movies of note. Heck, in 1997 the biggest hit in February was the re-release of The Empire Strikes Back. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the other movies that year.
E: Not that Empire isn’t a great movie, but a re-release? Yeah.
C: The other movies are all good though (except Ace Ventura), so maybe it was in the 2000s that February officially became a graveyard. Huh!
M: Hey, the first Ace Ventura was very funny! But no, February was a graveyard in the years before that; they are outliers.
E: Is he really defending Ace Ventura?
M: Yes, he is.
E: Ew. Personally, I’m just as happy if there are no must-see movies released in February because I’m still so busy seeing the Oscar movies that were released back in November and December (or just arriving on DVD).
M: Well, for those of us that don’t watch every movie that was nominated for any category, this year we have a strange slate of movies that run from comedy to drama, action to horror. Maybe we get something that bucks the usual February trend? Let’s look.
M: I have to say, when I heard the concept of this zombie love story, and when I saw the first poster, I was unimpressed.
E: Yes. Zombie falls in love with girl after eating her boyfriend’s brains? Lame. And gross.
M: Then I saw the trailer, and I’m not sure exactly what it was, but something really interested me.
E: Yes! I hate zombies, so I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but I think it could be kind of cute.
C: Are you crazy? You are. You’ve drunk some sort of Kool-Aid, and you didn’t share with me. Which I’m thanking my lucky stars for, because guys, this is Twilight With Zombies!
M: No no, I don’t think so. You need to watch the trailer.
E: C, I would have said exactly the same thing before watching the trailer.
M: There was nothing in either commercials for or parts of the Twilight movies I’ve been forced to suffer through that even perked a tiny bit of my interest. With Warm Bodies, maybe it was the subtle humor of things like the zombie kid’s inner monologue saying “Say something human,” then out loud “Aaauuuugh,” then inner monologue “Nailed it.”
E: Maybe it was when the zombie (About a Boy‘s Nicholas Hoult) grunts “too much” when the object of his desire overdoes her pretense of being a zombie when trying not to be eaten by his compatriots.
M: Maybe it’s John Malkovich. I don’t know, but what I do know is I want to see it, which is very rare for a me with a zombie movie.
E: Yes. What he said. Exponentially, since I’ve never said that about a zombie anything.
M: Not even Shaun of the Dead? That was good.
E: Maybe, if I could bring myself to see it, what with the zombies.
M: It’s the movie that made Simon Pegg a star, and it’s really funny. You should.
E: Maybe, if I like this movie? I keep hearing how funny Shaun of the Dead is…
C: I’m persuaded something’s snacked on both your brains.
M: (Type a witty comeback…) Aaauuuuugh (Nailed it).
Bullet To The Head
M: Oddly enough, between Last Stand, this and Feb 15th’s Die Hard 5 (we’ll get to that), we have a Stallone-Schwarzenegger-Willis action movie stand off. I wonder, if any of them are successful whether will that will revive the fortunes of Planet Hollywood, which according to Wikipedia is down to only four U.S. locations. As for the movie, um, yeah… let’s just say that I’m a lot more interested in the zombie love story we already discussed.
E: I like Sarah Shahi…
M: As have Mrs M and I, ever since her days on Life (the show with Homeland‘s Damien Lewis, not the Eddie Murphy movie)
E: …but I can’t even look at Sylvester Stallone these days. He’s such a grotesque caricature of his former self.
C: His former self being so un-caricature-like?
M: Agreed, he was a caricature before. Now he looks like, I don’t know, a wax-museum version of himself?
E: Back in the first two Rocky movies he was at least authentically himself. Or someone, a real character. Now he’s playing the role of Sylvester Stallone in a really bad mask.
M: That’s fair. Not good for him, but fair.
C: It does seem a little funny that the action stars of today are the action stars of twenty years ago. I suppose in a way, it’s nice.
M: Which way would that be?
E: Yeah, how so? And you’re being a little kind to say 20 years, rather than 30. Or even 40.
M: 40’s a stretch. 35 is about as far as you can go. Anyway, C?
C: Well, in an off-with-the-old, on-to-the-next-hot-thing entertainment culture, I like to see people have long careers.
M: Fair enough!
Stand Up Guys
M: This is an interesting twist on mob movies. An old mobster (Al Pacino) is let out of prison after 60 years. His best friend (Christopher Walken) is supposed to kill him. Pacino knows, so they decided to pull in another old pal (Alan Arkin) and have some fun before the deed is done. It looks like it could either be fantastic, or boring beyond belief.
C: So… it’s basically The Bucket List, only the one friend murders the other friend at the end. Admittedly, that is a twist.
M: Oh, and The Good Wife‘s Julianna Margulies is in it, so I will now turn things over to E, who will try to convince the entire world to go see it. E…
E: Well, okay. I hadn’t heard anything about this, and I was pretty terrified that Margulies would be forced to play one of these guys’ love interest, which was making me want to barf. Mercifully she appears to be Arkin’s daughter, so that’s okay, and the trailer looks pretty good. It’s not something I’d see in the theater (murderous 80 year olds, the mob, whatevs), but very much looks worth a rental.
M: But… but…. The Good Wife herself is in it! Who are you?
C: Bizarre. The zombies really did a number on her.
E: I’m someone with a little more nuance than you give her credit for, obviously.
M: Nope, that’s not it. Maybe C was right about the brain munching, at least for you.
C: You can’t have missed a commercial for this one, if you watch TV at all.
M: I’ve managed to avoid it, but I almost exclusively watch DVR’d things. Still, I know a bunch of people that are thinking this is going to be really funny, and a pretty good sized hit. I like Melissa McCarthy, she’s absolutely hilarious. Bridesmaids was good (though not as great as it was sold to me as being), and Mrs M will be glad to hear I think that Mike and Molly is actually pretty good. I also think Jason Bateman is highly under-rated. He plays a great straight-man, and his role in Dodgeball was stupendous. Unfortunately, I’m just not feeling this one. It seems too forced.
E: Well, right. I liked Bridesmaids, but didn’t flat out love it. I think this movie could be a big hit, too, and will end up on next year’s “wow, that premiered in February?” list, but it’s similarly a little broad for me. I did laugh at the preview, though – and so did the entire theater full of people I saw it with.
M: Steven Soderbergh directs what would likely be billed as a stellar cast (Jude Law, Rooney Mara, the suddenly omnipresent Catherine Zeta-Jones) were it not for Channing Tatum being the lead.
C: Oy! Who keeps giving that lump leading roles, and why?
E: Well, Soderbergh clearly likes him, but generally I think we’re not going to keep Channing Tatum from happening, guys. He’s happened.
C: Sigh. Why don’t we have more clout?
M: We should! Now, we’ll see if the lump’s recent string of successes can transition over to more serious films than Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street. The movie itself looks like a taut thriller, centering around a woman, her husband and her therapist, and the side effects of a drug she’s on for anxiety. There may or may not be an affair, there certainly appears to be a murder.
C: So stay away from drugs, kids!
M: Even prescription ones. Now, most importantly for E, there is a Good Wife alum, Mamie Gummer. Seriously, though, I think that this movie’s success will rest on two things: the script, and Tatum. If both are up to par, it could be good. If either are not up to the task, it could be disaster. Given that Soderbergh’s directing, I have a lot more faith in the script.
E: Well, given that Gummer isn’t in the trailer and doesn’t even have a character name on the imdb page, I’m not sure she’s a reason to see the film even for fans of her work.
M: WHAT?!?!?! But…. but…. she was on The Good Wife at least once! That’s twice in this post! Traitor!
E: Traitor to what, your annoying misunderstanding of me?
M: Well, uhhh, yes.
C: To be fair, that “misunderstanding” is based on your commentary in every one of these previews we’ve done before…
E: So M can be a fan of the actors from Life, and that’s normal, but when I do it, it’s somehow immoral?
M: Excuse me, was I pushing Bullet to the Head on anyone because of the fact that Sarah Shahi is in it? No. Month after month you push projects with TGW alum (going back at least as far as the debut of Martha Plimpton’s horrid sitcom that’s somehow still on).
E: I will say, I got a huge kick out of the writing on the trailer. “Academy Award Nominee Jude Law. Academy Award Nominee Rooney Mara. Academy Award Winner Catherine Zeta-Jones. And Channing Tatum.”
M: Exactly! At least they get it.
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
M: Charlie Sheen, Ben Vereen, shrink to the size of a Lima bean!
E: Or, Roman Coppola, trying to be Wes Anderson crossed with 70s era Woody Allen.
M: Sheen, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman in what looks like an acid trip. Or maybe an entire movie based around when John Malkovich went into his own mind in Being John Malkovich. Admittedly, that was by far the best part of that movie, but that’s like saying that the in-flight snack was the best part of flying on the Hindenburg. I think I’m going to pass.
C: You had me convinced to pass after you said “Charlie Sheen.”
M: Twilight with witches! Wooo hooo!!! Oh wait, as previously discussed, Twilight sucked (pun intended).
E: I actually read these books…
M: …and in other shocking news, water is wet…
E: …which are much better than Twilight. Not Hunger Games good, or even near it, but still, this could make an interesting movie.
C: I’m not going to say this looked great to me from the trailer, but I don’t think the fact that it’s from a YA paranormal novel should immediately make people reject it, because Twilight was too. If there’s the germ of a good story to be found you can make a good movie out of just about anything – even a theme park ride, apparently. Plenty of adaptations totally eclipse the source. (Twilight pun not intended.)
E: Thank you! I will agree, sort of, that reading the book gives me a better impression of this project than the trailer. Actually, I only saw the first one, but Twilight the movie was much better than the book. And as an adaptation from source material, I immensely prefer it to the offensive drek that comprised the Transformers movies (based on the cartoon which holds a warm, cherished place in my memory). So I agree, the success of a film depends as much on the filmmakers as the source material.
M: How dare you besmirch the quality films of Michael Bay! But hold on a moment, I need to go back to C’s comment that “plenty of adaptations totally eclipse the source.” Sis, you’re gonna have to back that up, because I’m now thinking you’re the one whose brains have been snacked on. Leaving out Twilight (because the movies and books are both horrible, just to lesser degrees), please provide some examples.
E: The Bridges of Madison County is a famous one. As C noted, there’s Pirates of the Caribbean. How to Train Your Dragon is a terrific film which almost completely ignores its differently enjoyable source material.
M: I can’t really comment on Bridges, but didn’t people love that book?
E: What, the masses can’t love something that actually sucked? The movie totally elevated that story.
C: Yeah M, in case you’ve forgotten, people love the Twilight book series. Including your wife.
M: No bringing my wife into this, especially when her irrational liking of something hurts my argument! As for Pirates, there was no source material, so that’s not a fair comparison. And you said yourself that Dragon is different, but both are enjoyable. We’re looking for something that “totally eclipses” the source material. If you want to go with “different, but good” that’s an entirely separate post, which we should totally write.
C: But M, this is a battle you’re going to lose. How about children’s classics like Mary Poppins, One Hundred and One Dalmations or Shrek, which are based on books nobody remembers? And this is true for tons of kid things, like The Rescuers and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (based on a novel by Ian Fleming, no less!). How about Miracle on 34th Street? For that matter, how about The Princess Bride? Does anyone remember that The Graduate, Jaws or Psycho were based on novels?
E: Right – and there’s The Godfather!
M: The book of which was hugely successful!
C: How about the tons of films out there based on short stories/novellas – like The Shawshank Redemption, Brokeback Mountain, 2001: A Space Odyssey or Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Nobody reads short stories. Whether or not you personally like those films, they’re classics. I could go on and on.
M: Okay, but now you’re making two arguments, one that there are scores of movies that are vastly better than their dreck-ish source material, and the other that many are far more popular than their perhaps ill-marketed source material.
C: Actually, if anyone scrolls aaaaall the way up to the start of this debate, you’ll see I said “plenty of adaptations totally eclipse the source,” which works for both cases.
M: I’m not sure it does. However, I fear this discussion is going on far too long, let’s get back to the silly movie that calls witches “casters” or something like that.
E: Fine, we’ll spare you further humiliation. All of this was to say that I would rather see Beautiful Creatures than the upcoming Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, a film is based on a book I like far more but cannot expect to enjoy judging by the miserable version of the first book that team produced.
M: Wait, they’re actually making Sea of Monsters? Whoa. Please not with the same cast. I mean, Percy’s only supposed to be 16 at the end of the 5 books, and Logan Lerman is already 21. It’s the same cast, isn’t it. Shoot, looked it up, it is. Ugh.
C: Groan. Why couldn’t they have let bad enough alone?
E: Back (again) to the actual movie we’re discussing, the talent here – Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Alfre Woodard – is weirdly impressive. Even Emmy Rossum’s a good actress.
C: Yeah, the cast of Beautiful Creatures is excellent; strangely excellent. It makes you wonder if they saw something in the script that drew them in… or if they just needed a payday?
M: I think they all think it’s the next big YA franchise, a potential cross between Twilight and Harry Potter. So, in other words… my vote is on the paycheck.
C: Yes, but even the later Twilight films didn’t draw in this caliber of actors.
E: Yeah, and Emma Thompson doesn’t usually make those kind of mistakes.
M: That’s true, point to you.
E: To argue against the film, though… the trailers give away a surprisingly large element of the plot. Bad marketing, very bad.
C: That does seem dumb. Not knowing the books, the one thing in the trailer that really puzzled me was how not Edward Cullen-y the actor playing the boy love interest is. He looks like he just wandered onto the set.
E: Agreed. The character is supposed to be a regular guy caught up in problems that seem like they shouldn’t concern him. Perhaps that was the idea?
Escape From Planet Earth
M: Let’s keep this one short to make up for that last one. This month’s animated offering, this time from the Weinsteins, as opposed to a successful animation studio like Pixar, Disney or Dreamworks. It looks an awful lot like Monsters vs Aliens. I’d be surprised if it’s anything better than a Redbox rental.
A Good Day to Die Hard
M: I am totally the target audience for this movie, and even I’m not sure about going back to the John McClane well for a fifth time. But like I said above, Planet Hollywood needs reviving!
E: Yeah, that’s so not going to help.
C: And you know they reeeeeally wanted to use the tagline on the posters: “Yippee-Ki-Yay, Mother Russia.” I bet some producer thought of it, probably in a conversation about Indy 4, and that’s why they made the movie.
M: I will give them that the tagline is pretty funny. But I think you’re wrong about one thing. They were probably just coming off of pitching Indy 5, or maybe Rocky 7. For those who actually are interested, this time the irrepressible everyman-hero John McClane teams up with his *spoiler alert* CIA agent son to foil some baddies plotting to steal nukes in Russia, or something like that. And with no offense to Sebastian Koch, who plays the villain, if the early rumors had been true and Patrick Stewart was taking on the villain role, I would have been a LOT more interested in this.
E: But the fact that Patrick Stewart passed just makes me less interested in the pathetic money grubbing wrong these producers do continuing a fantastic story which should never have had one sequel, let alone – what number is this anyway?
M: That you can’t remember, even though I mentioned it above, pretty says it all.
M: I could not be further from the target audience of this, or any other Nicholas Sparks book-turned-movie.
C: Seriously, are they up to adapting three of his books every year now? Will they ever run out?
M: One can only hope!
E: Ha. I’m not the target either, although I did read this book on vacation, because I ran out of books and they had it at the villa we were staying in.
C: You and these elegant vacations!
M: Did she really just throw that in our faces? Oh, “the villa you were staying in” had it? Well la dee da.
E: Jeez, guys. Like you’ve never gone on vacation?
M: None that included a villa.
E: It was a vacation rental house, does that make you feel better?
M: Not really, does it help you feel less hoity-toity?
C: I’m getting more entertainment from this conversation than I’d expect to get from the film.
E: Hush. This would have been a fine Lifetime movie (which is to say, it belongs where mediocrity rules); I don’t really see how it rises to the stature of a theatrical release, even with Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough as the (generically appealing) leads.
E: I saw the preview for this in the theater. Poltergeist looking plot about a generically nice family in a haunted house.
M: So, American Horror Story, the movie? Or does the “nice” part of that not make that a good corollary?
E: Much too nice, yes.
E: Why is Susan Sarandon in a movie with The Rock?
C: Um, what? For real?
M: Because he knows he needs to up his game, maybe? The rest of the supporting cast seems better than any of his typical films. Benjamin Bratt, Barry Pepper, Melina Kanakaredes, LOST‘s Harold Perrineau, The Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal… not exactly the cast of Side Effects (minus Channing Tatum, of course), but not your usual WWE-turned-action-star cast, either.
E: Or maybe someone’s been snacking on her brains…