February. A month with one surprisingly good week, and three particularly bad ones. But after a lackluster January, at least a couple of good movies are a welcome change from nothing.
FEBRUARY 3, 2017
RINGS v. THE SPACE BETWEEN US v. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
Rings – Continuing 2017’s trend of rebooting quasi-popular-but-ultimately-forgotten franchises from a decade ago comes Rings, the soft reboot of the Naomi Watts-starring 2002 hit The Ring, which was an adaptation of the 1998 Japanese hit, Ringu. Horror movies are cheap and disposable and often successful, but it’s been 12 years since we last saw that TV hopping scamp Samara, and we’ve mostly moved onto far worse horror franchises. (Coincidentally enough, the XXX series also had its last two installments in 2002 and 2005.) However, unlike Blair Witch from last year, this movie seems to better stand on its own without prior knowledge of the world, plus I think The Ring has more of a staying power in the public consciousness than The Blair Witch Project. It’s currently at 5% on Rotten Tomatoes, which puts it well below most of the other stinkers in this critically despised genre.
The Space Between Us – Postponed from last December to avoid competition with the unexpectedly controversial Passengers is The Space Between Us – a love story between the kid from Ender’s Game (Asa Butterfield) and the girl from Tomorrowland (Britt Robertson) and written by Allan Loeb, the man behind the beloved holiday classic Collateral Beauty. Butterfield plays the first person born on Mars who Skypes with the Earth-bound Robertson and is desperate to visit the motherland for the first time to hang out with her, despite the medical ailments he might suffer due to being in a harsh, new environment. The trailer tries to make it look like a literally star-crossed lovers romance, but instead it seems like a selfish tale between two boring people. It also doesn’t help that the two main actors look nearly a decade apart with Butterfield purporting to be 16 and Robertson actually 26 years old. But it’s near enough to Valentine’s Day and Me Before You did well, so who knows? Presently at 13% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I Am Not Your Negro – Presently at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes is I Am Not Your Negro, the 2017 Academy Awards nominee for best feature documentary on the history (and present) of racial relations in America. Inspired by a barely completed manuscript of renowned writer James Baldwin, this documentary (from director Raoul Peck) is looking to be 2017’s first major critical success.
FEBRUARY 10, 2017 (The good week)
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE v. FIFTY SHADES DARKER v. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2
The LEGO Batman Movie – Of all of the elements of the unexpectedly beloved-by-all-ages The LEGO Movie to stand out, it was Batman who really shined. The Will Arnett-voiced Dark Knight somehow successfully combined elements of the Silver Age and the Modern Age to knock the increasingly morose Caped Crusader down a couple of pegs, while also building him up as a fun, enjoyable character. This marked contrast became especially clearer the following year when we saw his live action incarnation murder A LOT of people with zero remorse. Sometimes darker isn’t always better. Add to this film an already fully formed Justice League that seems to actually enjoy being together and a Superman who presumably likes to save people, and it only shines a light on how Zack Snyder and the rest of the DCCU keep failing.
Fifty Shades Darker – The worldwide phenomenon returns! But will anyone care? The original movie from 2015 made more than half a billion dollars worldwide, which is remarkable (even with the massive success of the franchise) – and somewhat shameful. But that movie came out when Fifty Shades mania was climaxing. Those of us who only knew the book by reputation were inundated by memes, jokes, and articles giving us genuine insight into its incompetence. Since the movie, the enthusiasm for the franchise has dwindled. Fans have disgracefully put the book away and must pretend never to have read it, while the uninitiated got the gist of what they were “missing” and have zero interest in going for a second round. Is there enough closet fans to make this (and its simultaneously-filmed sequel) a success again? Possibly. But they probably should have ended with just one.
John Wick: Chapter 2- A sleeper hit from 2014, John Wick was a surprisingly fun action movie that knew what it was and enjoyed playing around in a world of assassins and mobs. While the gun fights and violence were definitely selling points, it was the dark humor and the intricate-but-barely touched on mythology that really sold the first one as something more than action shlock. Reteaming Reeves with his Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne will probably garner some additional interest, but the first was good enough on its own to hopefully warrant a second chapter. Or it could collapse under its own expectations and repetition like most every other sequel. Curiously enough, the first one was released in October, while this one is being released in February, so it’ll be interesting to see how the opposite-year scheduling affects its box office potential.
FEBRUARY 17, 2017
THE CURE FOR WELLNESS v. THE GREAT WALL v. FIST FIGHT
A Cure for Wellness – Has Gore Verbinski risen to the level of “visionary director?” The trailers claim he has, but while the Pirates movies are successful, I don’t know if he’s earned that moniker. Regardless, A Cure For Wellness is his latest movie, and I’m growing increasingly more interested in it. While the first teaser with its dreary version of The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” (can we stop with the slow version of popular songs in trailer trend?) didn’t do much to sell it, the full-length trailer was actually impressive. Wellness looks like it could be a throwback to the slow, atmospheric, paranoia-based thrillers of the 1960s/1970s (and arguably going all the way back to 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), which have mostly fallen out of fashion. If the movie remains true to its origins by being strictly psychological horror, rather than culminating with a “take down the facility” action sequence, it could be an original property worth supporting.
The Great Wall – The story about how The Great Wall of China was built to keep out monsters instead of Mongolians, The Great Wall has received some controversy with its casting of Matt Damon as its lead character thus putting its historical accuracy into question. However, the why is obvious. China has spent the past couple of years breaking into the international movie marketplace by influencing movies such as Iron Man 3, Transformers, and Warcraft. However, primarily Chinese movies haven’t been able to break through. The 12th highest grossing movie of last year was The Mermaid, which made $526 million in China and only an additional $24 million total worldwide. With mostly Chinese producers and a Chinese director (Zhang Yimou), The Great Wall casting an internationally renowned actor with the stature of Matt Damon is the best way to bridge the gap.
Fist Fight – Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia vs. Ice Cube of XXX 2 and XXX 3 in a teacher vs. teacher match. Is school personnel in conflict making a comeback between this and HBO’s Vice Principals? The lead actors in this have proven themselves adept at comedy, but will Ice Cube of Ride Along fame do as well with Charlie as his sidekick rather than bonafide star Kevin Hart? I’m sure at the end they’ll learn to be friends, but sometimes a stupid comedy (especially a Rated R comedy) is a nice respite. Couldn’t be worse than Why Him?
FEBRUARY 24, 2017
GET OUT v. COLLIDE v. ROCK DOG
Get Out – Is Get Out the latest The Scares Are Coming From Inside The House! movie following the likes of Shut In and every other horror movie from last year, or is it something more? Directed by Key and Peele‘s Jordan Peele, Get Out (at least based on the trailer) seems to oscillate between straight horror, psychological horror, and satire maybe? It’s difficult to get a good gauge of the movie. Some bits seem to have a Stepford Wives-level satire about trying to take away a group’s identity and conformity; while at other times it seems to beat you over the head with an unsubtle WHITE PEOPLE ARE EVIL AND RACIST message; while at other times it seems to have a genuinely creepy dreamlike, Rosemary’s Baby vibe. Which of the three will end up being it’s ultimate mission statement? Early reviews are uniformly positive so maybe it’ll be decent.
Collide - “To pay for his girlfriend’s medical emergency while abroad, a man hatches a scheme to pull off a drug heist for an eccentric gangster.” That’s the plot. Despite it starring name actors Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins, and Ben Kingsley, this movie (or at least the plot) reeks of the type of film that would otherwise be buried on Netflix or VoD except the distribution guaranteed a theatrical release. (And none of those actors are strangers to buried films.) Even the horribly generic poster looks sub-Redbox quality.
Rock Dog – We almost went an entire month without a horrible kid’s movie (LEGO Batman doesn’t count. It doesn’t.) but luckily Rock Dog‘s here to save us. There’s really no avoiding animated movies, considering how they are easy money makers for studios – unless it’s Laika’s productions (e.g. Kubo and the Two Strings) that tend to be ignored in favor of Pop Songs: The Movie (e.g. Trolls, Sing). This time it’s Rock Dog! He has a hat! He has a guitar! And he has the backing of Chinese producers!
So that’s February. Between LEGO Batman, John Wick Volume 2, and maybe A Cure For Wellness and Get Out, there will be a couple of curious movies at least. Then we come to March, which actually might be the biggest month of the year with Logan, Kong: Skull Island, Power Rangers, Beauty and the Beast and many more reboot and re-imaginings. Like CHiPS! Remember that show? Or more appropriately, remember the 21 Jump Street movie? Well, Dax Shepherd tries to remake that.