And here we are in February. Not just a surprisingly decent month for movies, but also the month for the Oscars. Yes, the Oscars, not just the most racist thing since Jim Crow laws, but also the most shameful thing in America’s history. (On a personal note, I am fond of Ice Cube’s view on the controversy.) But while we wait for the outrage to pass onto some random person’s innocuous Twitter comment, let’s talk movies!
FEBRUARY 5, 2016
The Big: HAIL, CAESAR!
The Coen Brothers return with their first movie since 2013’s underappreciated Inside Llewyn Davis with another period piece – Hail, Caesar! Set in 1950’s Hollywood, Hail boasts an all star cast of Coen regulars (including George Clooney and Josh Brolin) and newcomers (including Jonah Hill and Ralph Fiennes (who thankfully discovered the joys of comedy thanks to Wes Anderson)). While the mid-20th century studio system is the setting of one of the Coen Brothers all time greatest works (Barton Fink), Coen slapstick can be hit or miss – especially those starring Clooney (e.g. Intolerable Cruelty). Regardless, the brothers are arguably the best filmmakers working today, and a movie from them is always a welcome experience.
The Also Big: THE CHOICE and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES
The Choice – Valentine’s Day approaches, and you know what that means – another high brow action-adventure inspired by the literary brilliance of Nicholas Sparks. Do you like seaside towns? Love triangles and/or unrequited love? Medical catastrophes? Old dudes who hang around the hot young couple? Well, you’re in luck because all of those tropes are back! This Sparkstravaganza stars Benjamin Walker of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter infamy; Tom Welling, the Superman who never was; Teresa Palmer, the Talia Al Ghul who never was; and Alexander Daddario, of True Detective fame.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Speaking of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith’s second unreasonably popular novel gets a big screen adaptation. Transforming Jane Austen’s unreasonably classic novel into a zombie tale, the movie stars some of Britain’s greatest stars who have become popular in the United States thanks to their work on TV such as Game of Thrones‘ Lena Headey and Charles Dance, Doctor Who‘s Matt Smith, and Downton Abbey‘s Lily James. It’s also directed by Burr Steers who tried and failed twice to turn Zac Efron into a star with 17 Again and Charlie St. Cloud.
FEBRUARY 12, 2016
The Big: DEADPOOL
Deadpool – Yes, we have Batman v. Superman (v. everyone else) in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Yes, we have Captain America v. Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War. Yes, we have X-Men v. Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse. And yes, we have Channing Tatum v. Audience Expectations in Gambit. And even though 2016 has such a ridiculous glut of superhero movies that we’ll probably want the genre dead by the end of the year, it might also provide a number of (hopefully) ‘alternative’ options with the likes of Doctor Strange, Suicide Squad, and kicking it all off – Deadpool.
In development for years, but never officially announced until 2014/2015 (to get a sense of time, Batman v. Superman released its first teaser at the same ComicCon that the Deadpool leaked footage finally inspired FOX to take a chance on the Merc with the Mouth). The hard R rating plus an inspired marketing campaign for SkullPoopL (though the ‘green band’ trailers are quite awkwardly edited) makes this a potentially new, cleverer route for superhero movies to take. Heavy cursing, violence, and humor? Let’s hope it shows the potential, rather than the box office pitfalls, of more adult takes on superheroes.
The Also Big: ZOOLANDER 2, HOW TO BE SINGLE
Zoolander 2– The first Zoolander probably ranks among the best comedies of the 2000s, if only because of Ben Stiller’s amazing performance as intellectually challenged fashion model Derek Zoolander. (And while Derek Zoolander is an idiot, Stiller’s intense commitment to the role makes the character rise well above the typical Fool being Foolish.) Will Zoolander 2 work as well? Probably not. Comedy sequels rarely succeed. But Stiller’s a talented filmmaker, Benedict Cumberbatch seems like a good addition, and it’s always nice to root that a comedy is actually funny. It’s just too bad that it’s going head to head against Deadpool.
How to be Single– Just in time for Valentine’s Day, comes what I’m sure will be marketed as the anti-Nicholas Sparks alternative for women. With a title like How to be Single, it’s almost assured that this trying-to-be-a-female empowerment movie will end with at least one of its main characters (probably lead Dakota Johnson of 50 Shades of Grey) discovering that the key to happiness is being in a stable, committed relationship. But maybe this movie will finally be the thing that makes everyone realize that Rebel Wilson is just not going to happen.
FEBRUARY 19, 2016
The Big: RACE
Race – A period piece biopic entitled Race that comes out around the time of the Academy Awards that’s about African-American Olympian Jesse Owens … and Nazis?!? This deserves all the Oscars! I’m sure the Jesse Owens (played by Stephan James) story is interesting to tell, but there is a big problem in this movie. Unfortunately, it’s Jason Sudeikis. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like Jason Sudeikis. As a film actor, he definitely has the ability to be a comedy star as the standout in movies like The Campaign, Horrible Bosses, and We’re The Millers. But in a biopic drama? From the trailer, he seems like the smug, cocky Jason Sudeikis we all like, but not for this role. I definitely think he has the ability to branch out from straight comedies (and hopefully not into overly twee dramedies like The Skeleton Twins), but this doesn’t seem like the wisest first leap into legitimate drama.
The Small: RISEN
Risen – This month’s big faith-based movie, Risen actually has an interesting premise – if only because it seems to have a plot other than ‘heathens learn to repent, stretch for two hours’. (Not to deride God’s Not Dead 2, coming this April!) Risen stars Joseph Fiennes (the new Michael Jackson) as Clavius, a Centurion chosen to investigate the disappearance/possible resurrection of Jesus following his crucifixion. It’s directed by Kevin Reynolds of Waterworld and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves infamy, but he doesn’t have another religious movie to his name, so this might actually be an actual film rather than a poorly developed conversion tool.
The Witch – Also of note is The Witch. Yes, another horror movie beginning with ‘The’ (after The Forest and The Boy), except this 17th century film about a witch haunting a New England farm has something the rest of its ilk doesn’t have – acclaim. The recipient of the Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic category at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, The Witch is presently sitting at a remarkable 88% positive (7.4/10) on Rotten Tomatoes, possibly making it this year’s It Follows.
FEBRUARY 26, 2016
The Big: GODS OF EGYPT
Alex Proyas. Oh, Alex Proyas. 1994’s The Crow is still beloved. Sure, maybe it’s just because the makeup of the main character is iconic, but it’s still a reference point 22 years later. 1998’s Dark City has become a genuine modern sci-fi classic, even with an ‘eh’ third act. Of all those late-1990s reality bending movies, it’s probably the only one that comes close in recognition to The Matrix, and many people (myself included) would argue that it’s the superior film. And visually, it still looks outstanding.
After that? The weird thing is, his follow-up movies were never career-killing bad. I, Robot and Knowing aren’t terrible – even Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter director Timur Bekmambetov has a chance to redeem himself with the upcoming Ben-Hur remake (why is this a thing?) – but as a director, he has never been able to capitalize on his amazing style. Even now, I’d love to see him take charge of a superhero property based solely on the strength of Dark City alone, and that movie’s nearly 20 years old. So after a seven year absence from theaters he returns with…Gods of Egypt.
Starring Gerard Butler trying to resemble Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau poorly trying to be someone other than Jaime Lannister, and Brenton Thwaites as Audience Proxy Boy, Gods of Egypt looks like a movie designed to be a bomb just for the tax write off (and with a reported production budget of $140 million, it very well might be). While I’m the first to want to see new franchises/ideas wrest control away of the megafranchises whose brands we all know (I even held out hope for Transcendence), unfortunately, this just looks bad. The best is to hope that it is weird enough to earn cult fandom, but the overall feel seems closer to a forgettable SyFy-esque catastrophe. Plus, it must overcome all the controversy surrounding casting, because when it comes to the guy from 300 fighting CGI monsters, we demand accuracy!
The Also Big: EDDIE THE EAGLE
While Hugh Jackman and Guy From Kingsman (Taron Egerton) have more clout as actors than the stars of Race, this movie – about the first British ski jumper to compete in the Olympics in the 1980s- coming so soon after the earlier movie about a far more renowned Olympic athlete threatens its viability. Plus it must contend with the inevitable Cool Runnings comparisons, which may help. I don’t know if that movie is beloved, ironically referenced, or if ironic derisiveness has turned it into something beloved. Speaking of which, Top Gun 2 everybody.
So, that’s February. Now onto March, where Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will either surprise us all, or be more disappointing than we can possibly imagine. And after that Doomsday reveal, we can imagine a lot.