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February movies, February films

Bullz-Eye Winter Movie Preview: February
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FEBRUARY: Don’t worry, pitchers and catchers report to camp soon.

Such are the times that try movie critics’ souls. Thank goodness for Tommy Lee Jones (we think) and a South African gangster. Otherwise, this might be the worst month in movie history. “When a Stranger Calls”? “Final Destination 3”? We think we know why the box office is sucking so much wind, and it has nothing to do with ticket prices, bit torrents, or the cost of refreshments at the counter.

Not everybody loves Jill, it appears.

When a Stranger Calls (Screen Gems February 3)
Actors: Camilla Belle, John Bobeck, Tommy Flanagan
Director: Simon West
Rating: PG-13
Read our review

The Pitch: A college-age babysitter (Belle) gets increasingly harassed by a mysterious caller.
The Buzz: When did February suddenly become the new October? And if you’re going to make a scary movie, shouldn’t it look, well, scary? It’s probably a stretch to call Simon West (“Con Air,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”) mighty, but oh, has he fallen.
Trailer Highlight: Well, um, it’s a really nice house that she’s staying in.
Bottom Line: If you want to see a girl get harassed on the phone, watch the first 20 minutes of “Scream.”
Official Web Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/whenastrangercalls/

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Sony Pictures Classics, February 3)
Actors: Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Dwight Yoakam, Julio Cedillo, Melissa Leo, January Jones
Director: Tommy Lee Jones
Rating: R

The Pitch: The friend of a rancher (Jones) dies at the hands of a border patrolman (Pepper), and the rancher kidnaps the patrolman, digs up the body and takes them all to Mexico to give his friend a proper burial.
The Buzz: This lit up the festival circuit, earning a slew of nominations – as well as a few wins – for Jones’ acting and direction, and the script by Guillermo Arriaga.
Trailer Highlight: Jones dragging Pepper across a stream by a rope around his neck.
Bottom Line: The title doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but we’d rather see Jones do this than, say, another “Man of the House.”
Official Web Site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/threeburials/

(February 10: A date which will live in movie infamy.)

Funny, movie-goers forced into the theater to see "FD3" had similar looks on their faces.

Final Destination 3 (New Line, February 10)
Actors: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman
Director: James Wong
Rating: R
Read our review

The Pitch: When the survivor of a rollercoaster accident (Winstead) has a vision that Death is coming for her, she teams up with a fellow survivor (Merriman) to try and save their lives, along with the other survivors.
The Buzz: The trailer induced gales of laughter at a recent screening, so that isn’t good news. They even brought back James Wong, the writer/director of the original (he’s an “X-Files”/”Millennium” veteran), which would normally be a good sign, but…rollercoasters?
Trailer Highlight: The person in the tanning bed getting zapped, since it’s impossible to feel sympathy for anyone who uses tanning beds.
Bottom Line: We’re seeing it, but only because we have to.
Official Web Site: http://www.fd3movie.com/

Curious George (Universal February 10)

Actors: Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, Eugene Levy, David Cross
Director: Matthew O’Callaghan
Rating: G

The Pitch: An inquisitive monkey in the jungle follows a tourist (Ferrell) back to the States, where his, um, curiosity lands him in all sorts of trouble.
The Buzz: The movie’s a month away, and this is honestly the first we’ve heard about it. From looking at the trailer, we’re pretty sure we know why: Retro old school animation! It was certainly the smart choice over some bloated CGI affair, but by going the cheap route, they went really cheap. And is there anything scarier than the words, “Songs by Jack Johnson”?
Trailer Highlight: George swallows a soap bubble, which pops in his mouth and results in a Bill Cowher yuck-mouth expression.
Bottom Line: Kids will probably love this. Really small kids.
Official Web Site: http://www.curiousgeorgemovie.com/index.php

"Get off my, um, server! Man, I need to fire my agent."

Firewall (Warner Bros., February 10)
Actors: Harrison Ford, Virginia Madsen, Paul Bettany, Robert Patrick
Director: Richard Loncraine
Rating: PG-13
Read our review

The Pitch: Jack (Ford), an IT specialist for a bank, must circumvent his own programming to steal a wad of cash for a guy (Bettany) who is holding Jack’s wife (Madsen) and kids hostage as collateral.
The Buzz: Ford comes out of semi-retirement to do this? Between “Hostage” and “Ransom,” wasn’t the whole I’ll-kill-your-family-if you-don’t-commit-a-crime-for-me trend exhausted? This just looks like a high-tech excuse to get cheap thrills out of exploiting the lives of children.
Trailer Highlight: There was one nifty bit towards the end, but in the interest of not blowing the movie for you (the trailer gives up waaaaaay too much information), we’re keeping mum.
Bottom Line: By our estimation, it’s been almost 12 years since Ford has made a movie that we liked. That trend doesn’t end here.
Official Web Site: http://firewallmovie.warnerbros.com/

The Pink Panther (MGM/Sony, February 10)

Actors: Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Jean Reno, Beyoncé Knowles, Emily Mortimer
Director: Shawn Levy
Rating: PG
Read our review

The Pitch: After a soccer coach is murdered at a game, it is up to one Inspector Clouseau to solve the crime and track down the coach’s Pink Panther diamond.
The Buzz: This was bumped from August, and to Sony’s credit, they couldn’t have picked weaker competition to open against. The trailer is scary bad, with Martin looking embarrassingly off his game. Pretending to walk and read the paper, only to walk down subway steps? Are you kidding us?
Trailer Highlight: Anytime Reno is onscreen. He’s poised to steal the movie. Granted, that won’t take much effort.
Bottom Line: Think bad, like “Sgt. Bilko” bad.
Official Web Site: www.pinkpantherthemovie.com

Becoming the role model for role-playing introverts everywhere.

Failure to Launch (Paramount, February 10)
Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Kathy Bates, Terry Bradshaw, Bradley Cooper
Director: Tom Dey
Rating: N/A (we’re guessing PG-13)

The Pitch: The parents of a 35-year-old (McConaughey) who still lives at home hire a motivator (Parker) to seduce him into leaving the nest.
The Buzz: Quiet, but don’t expect that to last for long. While McConaughey has tried time and again to do romantic comedy (“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “The Wedding Planner”), it looks like he finally found the right vehicle. While Parker is no match for Hudson or Lopez in the looks department, she’s much funnier. And isn’t that the point of a romantic comedy?
Trailer Highlight: At the Japanese restaurant, where Parker tells McConaughey, “I’m going to order something really expensive, drink too much, and start talking about my past boyfriends.” McConaughey, terrified, sends his sushi flying across the room.
Bottom Line: For once, a romantic comedy that we want to see.
Official Web Site: http://www.failuretolaunchmovie.com/

Night Watch (Fox Searchlight, February 17)
Actors: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Mariya Poroshina
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Rating: R
Read our review

The Pitch: The forces of light and darkness fight over Moscow.
The Buzz: Looks like “Underworld” done right to us. Very strong word of mouth on this; a sequel, “Day Watch,” is almost finished, and the third installment is about to begin production. Clearly, there’s something good here.
Trailer Highlight: The battle on the bridge, frozen in time.
Bottom Line: We’re intrigued. But why did they bump this from July?
Official Web Site: http://www2.foxsearchlight.com/nwnd/

Date Movie (Fox Searchlight, February 17)
Actors: Alyson Hannigan, Adam Campbell, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, Eddie Griffin
Director: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Rating: PG-13
Read our review

The Pitch: This is exactly what you think it is, a “Scary Movie” send-up of romantic comedies (from two “Scary Movie” scribes, no less), where no joke is too easy or too obvious. The wedding planner has a gigantic butt, har dee har har, and Hannigan dons a Paltrow-esque fat suit. Ye gods.
The Buzz: We would assume that someone had compromising photographs of Hannigan and blackmailed her into doing this movie, but those “pictures” have been on the Web for years now. Why, Willow, why?
Trailer Highlight: As stupid, and as fake, as it looked, the cat using the toilet.
Bottom Line: If we wanted our brains sucked out of our heads, we’d get a lobotomy.
Official Web Site: http://www.datemoviethemovie.com/

Freedomland (Columbia/Revolution, February 17)
Actors: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore, Edie Falco, Ron Eldard, William Forsythe
Director: Joe Roth
Rating: R
Read our review

The Pitch: When a woman (Moore) discovers that her son is missing and presumed dead, she blames a black man from the projects. The ensuing investigation, which involves a detective (Jackson) and an expert at finding missing children (Falco), asks more questions than it answers.
The Buzz: Didn’t Moore just do this movie (“The Forgotten”)? She’s got a couple of little ones of her own; why does she continue to torture herself by making these movies about mothers losing their children? And for that matter, why does she torture us by making them?
Trailer Highlight: The child in the chair in the police office, disappearing, seemingly before their very eyes.
Bottom Line: They’re not playing up any supernatural elements here, which means it’s a the-one-you-least-suspect whodunit. Yawn.
Official Web Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/freedomland/

Ultraviolet (Screen Gems, February 24)
Actors: Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, William Fichtner, Sebastien Andrieu
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: At the turn of this century, a new race of man emerges that is faster, stronger and smarter than regular humans. It is up to one of these evolved beings (Jovovich) to prevent mankind from a worldwide civil war.
The Buzz: Using Pitch Meeting Math, this would be: “X-Men” thematic elements + “Resident Evil” shooter. Did we miss anything?
Trailer Highlight: Trailer not available at press time.
Bottom Line: Don’t worry, Milla, we’re sure that Luc Besson would put you in one of his movies again if you just asked him nicely enough.
Official Web Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/ultraviolet/

"Man, I wish I were back on the beach with Jessica Alba and her rockin' bod."

Running Scared (New Line, February 24)
Actors: Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Chazz Palminteri, Johnny Messner, Vera Farmiga
Director: Wayne Kramer
Rating: R
Read our review

The Pitch: A low-level Mob drone (Walker) is asked to dispose of a gun that was used to kill a cop. Now the police and the Russian Mob are hot on the trail of this gun, putting the drone’s family at risk.
The Buzz: No, this isn’t a remake of the lame buddy cop flick starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. This is the follow-up from the director of “The Cooler,” the William H. Macy casino flick, and if it’s as good as his debut, it won’t be long before the majors come a-callin’.
Trailer Highlight: As gruesome as it sounds, the torture scene on the hockey rink.
Bottom Line: We’re not keen about the Walker casting, but still interested.
Official Web Site: http://www.runningscaredthemovie.com/

Tsotsi (Miramax, February 24)
Actors: Presley Chweneyagae, Mothusi Magano, Israel Makoe
Director: Gavin Hood
Rating: R

The Pitch: A week in the life of a Johannesburg thug (Chweneyagae).
The Buzz: A big time festival favorite, comparisons to “City of God” have already begun.
Trailer Highlight: The scene Tsotsi is playing dice, and he doesn’t even know what he’s rolled because he can’t read.
Bottom Line: Similar to “City of God”? Count us in.
Official Web Site: http://www.tsotsi.com/






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