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Well, at least January is over. A few of us were fans of The Green Hornet, but beyond that, just mediocre reviews for everything else. Will February be any better? A few films hold promise, but there's a lot of cautious optimism coming from us Player Affinity Movies staffers. Check out the 12 offerings we're featuring and let us know which ones you think will surprise us this month.
College is a scary place, sure. Away from home, new location, bigger classes and above all, making new friends. If The Roommate is any indication, you are to fear college, as it’s likely your new dormitory roommate wants to possess you all to him or herself and kill you if you don’t comply.
That’s the synopsis of The Roommate in a nutshell: a college freshman, Sara (Minka Kelly, of Friday Night Lights fame), is randomly assigned to a dorm room with a stranger named Rebecca (Leighton Meester, of Gossip Girl fame). They start off as friends, but things turn dark as Sara learns she is Rebecca’s only friend while Rebecca begins to obsess over Sara, who harms any that threatens to come between them.
Cheap (literally – the film has an estimated budget of $8 million) thrills involving coeds never seem to go out of style but rarely have any substance, hence the Super Bowl weekend release date. The Roommate is likely to bring in a number of Meester’s Gossip Girl fanbase, who enjoy being scared while equating the character of Rebecca to girls they know in real life (and probably despise). The respective boyfriends being dragged to the film may be happy to know that, if the trailer is any indication, there will be some less-than-subtle lesbian subtext between Sara and Rebecca. Then again, in this day and age of Internet porn, why spend the money on a ticket? Wait, that’s right: your girlfriend wants to see it. Sucks to be you, man. ~Max
You would think James Cameron had something really special to do with this film, given the excessive use of his name in advertising. That is why it is surprising that the underwater thriller he executive produced is premiering Super Bowl weekend. For a bit of perspective, the highest grossing movie to capture the weekend is Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour. Considering Cameron’s last film, Avatar if you didn’t know, is the highest grossing movie ever, it is funny the record for the weekend is a mere $31 million. That happens to be the figure the producer spent to create the 3-D spectacle.
Sanctum captures thrilling events inspired by actual events experienced by writer Andrew Wight. A team of underwater cave divers on an expedition to the largest and least accessible cave system on Earth are forced deep into the cave system when a storm hits. The preview navigates the fears and fight for survival as father challenges son, women scream, and some unlucky fellow gets lit on fire.
It is hard to put a finger on Sanctum. Early reviews call the thriller plotless and predictable. Perhaps Cameron is out of luck until Avatar 2 comes around in 2014. ~Dinah
Just Go With It
Adam Sandler and director Dennis Dugan always bring us a yearly Happy Madison film, but this year we’re fortunate enough to get two (Jack and Jill shows up later this year with Sandler playing both titular characters …). If you detected the sarcasm, you were right. In recent years, especially after Grown Ups, I’ve tabled most of my Sandler optimism.
But first things first: this Valentine’s Day offering pairs the comedian with Jennifer Aniston. Sandler plays a bachelor whose “angle” to score chicks is pretending he’s married. When he meets the girl of his dreams (supermodel Brooklyn Decker … yes), she accidentally discovers his prop wedding ring and he must lie that he’s getting divorced in order not to lose her. He recruits his secretary (Aniston) and her kids to be his family.
I tend to like it when Sandler goes for the romance angle on occasion (50 First Dates is underrated), but we all know exactly how these elaborate hoax movies go from start to finish. You also have to wonder for how much longer audiences will believe that all the overweight middle-aged Jewish characters that Sandler plays (this one’s named Danny Maccabee) can land hotties like Decker. Needless to say, your girlfriend won’t be thrilled that this movie presents her best V-Day option. ~Steven
Last year we saw one film about the Ninth Legion of Rome’s failed invasion of Scotland in Neil Marshall’s Centurion. Now we have The Eagle looking at the same subject. A rare cinematic coincidence for sure.
Based on the historical fiction novel The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff, Kevin Macdonald directs. Macdonald is a director who has proven a legitimate genre hopper from documentaries (Touching the Void), drama (The Last King of Scotland) to thrillers (State of Play). He is a talented director and it seems with The Eagle he is following the Ridley Scott school of historical filmmaking. Not a bad role model.
Made with a surprisingly low budget of $20 million, Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) lead the film with Donald Sutherland and Mark Strong (who seems to be enjoying roles in historical film (Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood)) offering support.
Set in 140 A.D., 23 years after the Ninth Legion disappeared, Marcus Aquila (Tatum) is now a young centurion in the Roman army. His father had led the legion into the mysterious territory known as Scotland and they never came back. With his Scottish slave Esca (Bell), Marcus goes on a dangerous mission to recover the legion’s eagle standard to restore his father’s reputation from a Pict tribe. ~Kieran
Gnomeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare’s tragic romance Romeo and Juliet will stand the test of time. If one looks through the entirety of cinema, there are probably endless versions of it, but the traditional, Best Picture-nominated take in 1968 and Baz Luhrmann’s modernized 1996 spin probably serve as the two most notable adaptations.
Touchstone’s Gnomeo and Juliet joins the already bulging plethora of adaptations when it hits theaters on Feb. 11. This retelling features the music of Sir Elton John and puts another new twist on the classic tale by using garden gnomes as the characters. Yes, you read that correctly – garden gnomes.
James McAvoy and Emily Blunt voice the respective lead characters; other talents in the voice cast include Little Britain’s Matt Lucas, Jason Statham, and Academy Award winners Sir Michael Caine and Dame Maggie Smith. While those names boast great promise, some well-intentioned performances don’t necessarily make for a great film. The concept is dull and flimsy at best, and while Sir Elton John’s discography contains its fair share of terrific music, the idea of it in this particular context is baffling to say the least. ~Julian
Gnomeo and Juliet
Cedar Rapids (Limited Release)
Fresh off the heels of its premiere at Sundance, Cedar Rapids will go into wide release on February 11 with some good buzz. Ed Helms plays another goofy innocent nerd named Tim Lippe, and if the trailer and available reviews are any indication, he does it again successfully. His character travels to an insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he encounters a healthy variety of loosely wound individuals, including John C. Reilly in another anticipated wacky comic role.
Pssssh, you may be thinking. What can happen in Iowa, right? Well, a lot apparently. In the midst of what appears to be a boring insurance convention in a boring town, Tim manages to get himself into all kinds of hilarious drunken debauchery. Helms’ track record with The Office and The Hangover, combined with Reilly’s entire filmography practically ensure a rich cinematic experience. It’s sure to be a bright spot in this otherwise dreary time of year for Hollywood. ~ Joseph
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Written by Phil Johnston
Starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche
I Am Number Four
Initially dismissed as Twilight with aliens, I Am Number Four has started to grow on audiences of late. With a cast of lesser-known actors, the film based on the teen sci-fi novel tells the story of a handsome but nonhuman male masquerading as a high school student to evade a dark force which has killed three of his comrades (apparently the killer must destroy the brood in order). The focal point of the film is alien Number Four (Alex Pettyfer), but he is soon joined by Number Six (Teresa Palmer) in a battle to outwit alien bounty hunters. This is all while some human girl (Dianna Agron of Glee) makes googly eyes at our protagonist of course.
Director D.J. Caruso isn’t necessarily a household name but he has decent credits. His recent films include Eagle Eye, Disturbia, and hit cable cop show The Shield. Moreover, Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg produced, which is a definite plus in the clout column. The sci-fi adventure holds the President’s Day weekend timeslot. The current record for that release window is $63 million for Valentine’s Day. This movie however, is more comparable to Jumper, which pulled off $32 million. ~Dinah
I Am Number Four
Liam Neeson has always been able to prove he kicks some serious ass when it comes to acting. With such recent hits as Batman Begins and Taken, he’s proven to a new generation of filmgoers that he can also kick some literal ass, a trend he looks to continue with Unknown, based on the novel Out of My Head by Didier van Cauwelaert.
Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris, a man on vacation in Berlin with his wife Elizabeth (Mad Men’s January Jones). Shortly after arriving, Martin is involved in a taxi accident, leaving him in a coma for four days. Upon awakening, he tracks down Elizabeth, only to discover she has no memory of who he is and another man (Aiden Quinn) is posing as Dr. Martin Harris. Questioning his sanity and identity, Harris enlists the help of Gina (Diane Kruger), the taxi driver involved in his accident, in an attempt to uncover the truth behind his accident, who is responsible and why he was chosen to be replaced.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s prior film credits (Orphan, House of Wax) don’t inspire the most confidence. However, like The Rite having Anthony Hopkins, a film can be sub-par while retaining a strong lead performance from a respected actor. That could be the case with Liam Neeson being front and center in Unknown. The trailer inspires confidence that the film will provide it’s fair share of action and bolstered by a supporting performance from the always-awesome Frank Langella, Unknown could be February’s answer to conspiracy-action fans. ~Max
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
Well, even though you probably didn’t ask for it, Big Momma, the badass cop in drag, is back now with a son who must also go undercover thanks to a witnessed murder (Isn’t that always the case?). Little Momma is played by Brandon T. Jackson, who proved his comedic chops as a closeted rapper in Tropic Thunder. However, with the material at hand, even Daniel Day-Lewis would have his work cut out for him.
In 2000, Big Momma’s House became a surprise $170-million hit and established comedian Martin Lawrence as a star. Six years after Lawrence first donned his fat suit, the sequel to the cross-dressing comedy had an even bigger opening weekend and found its way to a solid $140 million despite middling reviews. Having not seen either of the initial two entries, and even though I try to go into every movie with at least partially level expectations, you will likely not see me in theatres opening night. ~Simon
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
Drive Angry 3D
Though this supernaturally themed actioner has evoked more than one comparison to Ghost Rider thanks to the appearance of the devil and an undead-ish Nic Cage, a straight-up, campy 3-D shoot-em-up looked like a cure for the January blues. Though I witnessed questionable use of the additional dimension during the previews for The Green Hornet, I will place my qualms about the use of the illusion aside. Cage looks pissed as a vengeful father and if he can bring his usual manic swagger to this flick then color me intrigued.
Cage stars as Milton (not the most threatening of names I must say), a pissed-off dad who breaks out of hell to hunt down the men who killed his wife and kidnapped his daughter. In addition to Cage, we have the fantastic William Fichtner as the devil’s right-hand man tasked with returning the escapee to the underworld, and any movie he graces with his presence always seems to be a classier production. With director Patrick Lussier at the wheel, so to speak, his horror background should lend well to the supernatural themes at play, though he has never produced a straight action feature. Consider this entire production an intriguing toss-up. ~Simon
The Farrelly brothers are often hit or miss with me. Obvious classics like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary clash with clunkers like Stuck on You and The Heartbreak Kid. I have reason to believe that Hall Pass will belong in the former category. Its premise, that two married men (Owen Wilson and Jason Sedeikis) get free reign to bone whoever they want for a week, has potential for good humor, especially as tension mounts when their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) start fooling around too.
Expect the characters to embrace their freedom at first, but realize how lucky they are to have their wives, probably at the same time they fall into a situation where some hottie is taking their clothes off and about to seduce them. Though I don’t foresee my mind being blown by the awesomely original story of the film, I believe I will laugh plenty while I’m watching it. ~ Joseph
Like last year’s Case 39, Shelter is a horror film that has a prominent female lead (Julianne Moore) and was released in many other parts of the world before it reached the shores of North America. Swedish filmmakers Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein helm this film that was scripted by Michael Cooney (Identity) and produced by Neal Edelstein (American The Ring). These are men who should know a little something about horror. The wonderful Moore who has a great filmography, stars with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who has yet to fulfill his potential after Bend it Like Beckham, though he has The Tudors to fall back on.
Moore plays Cara, a psychiatrist who discovers one of her patients (Rhys Meyers), has based his multiple personalities on people who have been brutally murdered. With time running out, Cara has to unlock the dark secrets within the patient’s mind to stop another murder: but doing this put her daughter and herself at risk.
Mårlind and Stein’s next film should be Underworld 4: New Dawn, which is currently in pre-production. ~Kieran