2007 Winter Movie Preview: February
If January is where movies go to die, and March marks the beginning of the big spring push, what does that make February? Well, traditionally, not much other than a dumping ground for God-awful Valentine's Day romantic comedies and various horror flicks. This February is no exception, but lo, all may not be lost: we've got Mandy Moore in her skivvies, Eddie Murphy taking cheap shots at Asians and fat people, and Samuel L. Jackson chaining Christina Ricci to a wall. If you squint hard enough, you can't even see "Ghost Rider"!
The Pitch: An overprotective mom (Keaton) meddles
in the love life of her youngest daughter (Moore).
The Buzz: Okay, so this is awfully standard fare, but Keaton has been known to do more with much less, and...did we mention Mandy Moore, Piper Perabo, and Lauren Graham are in it?
Trailer Highlight: I see London, I see France, I see Mandy's underpants.
Bottom Line: Keaton has been on a winning streak lately, and though this has "chick flick" written all over it, the view looks good from here.
Official Web Site: http://www.becauseisaidsomovie.com/
The Messengers (Columbia, February 2)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, John Corbett
Director: Oxide Pang, Danny Pang
The Pitch: After her family moves to a dilapidated
old house in the middle of nowhere, a teenage girl (Stewart) realizes
the place is haunted by pissed-off ghosts that only she and her baby
brother can see.
The Buzz: Been there, done that. But little kids always make everything scarier, and the film's central idea -- that babies can see ghosts -- might be enough to keep this interesting.
Trailer Highlight: When Stewart tells her dad (McDermott) she wants to go home, and he responds, "This is home."
Bottom Line: If babies are so smart, why do they like the goddamn Wiggles?
Official Web Site: http://sonypictures.com/movies/themessengers/index.html
Rogue (Dimension, February 2)
Starring: Michael Vartan, Radha Mitchell, Stephen Curry, John Jarratt, Heather Mitchell, Mia Wasikoska, Sam Worthington
Director: Greg McLean
The Pitch: An Australian tour guide (Mitchell) unwittingly leads her group into a crocodile's den, stranding everyone on a tiny island. And then the tide comes in.
The Buzz: Even if this is all being played for camp -- and given McLean's penchant for gore, there's no guarantee -- it seems pretty ridiculous.
Trailer Highlight: None available.
Bottom Line: Rent "Night of the Lepus" instead.
Official Web Site: N/A
Hannibal Rising (MGM, February 9)
Starring: Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, Richard Brake, Kevin McKidd
Director: Peter Webber
The Pitch: The formative years of Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (Ulliel).
The Buzz: Think of it as Lecter's "Wonder Years," only with less Winnie Cooper and more acts of horrible, depraved violence.
Trailer Highlight: The shot of Ulliel drowning a victim/future meal is pretty creepy.
Bottom Line: "The Silence of the Lambs" was good and everything, but really, Thomas Harris needs to find a new idea. Movies like this one are what the direct-to-DVD market was made for.
Official Site: http://www.weinsteinco.com/hannibalrising
Norbit (DreamWorks, February 9)
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Cuba Gooding Jr., Eddie Griffin, Terry Crews
Director: Brian Robbins
The Pitch: Eddie Murphy stars as Norbit, a geek roped into marrying a repulsive, overweight woman (also played by Murphy). This complicates things after he meets the woman of his dreams (Newton).
The Buzz: As with every other Murphy comedy released since...oh...1985, the jokes are broad and offensive more often than actually funny -- but Murphy's nothing if not an old pro, and you can count on his delivery being good for at least a handful of chuckles.
Trailer Highlight: Murphy's subtly nuanced portrayal of Norbit's adoptive Chinese father.
Bottom Line: Better than "Metro." Probably.
Official Web Site: http://www.meetnorbit.com/
I Could Never Be Your Woman (MGM, February 14)
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd, Tracey Ullman, Fred Willard, Henry Winkler
Director: Amy Heckerling
The Pitch: A mom (Pfeiffer) falls for a much younger guy (Rudd) as her daughter is also falling in love for the first time. Mother Nature (Ullman) screws with them 'cause she can.
The Buzz: Okay, yes, it's a romantic comedy being released on Valentine's Day. There's plenty of talent here, however, and the last time Heckerling directed Rudd, it was in a little movie called "Clueless."
Trailer Highlight: Jon Lovitz reminding us that he actually can be something -- anything -- other than unbearably annoying .
Bottom Line: This could be a date movie everyone can agree on.
Official Web Site: N/A
Music and Lyrics (Warner Bros., February 14)
Starring: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston, Haley Bennett, Aasif Mandvi, Campbell Scott
Director: Marc Lawrence
The Pitch: A washed-up '80s pop star (Grant) is approached by a popular teen diva (Bennett) who wants to record a duet with him. She also wants him to write the song, which turns out to be a problem, because he hasn't written anything in years. He turns to Sophie (Barrymore) for assistance and, this being a romantic comedy, they start falling in love.
The Buzz: Grant has a knack for self-loathing which makes him an ideal choice for the character -- in fact, the whole cast looks pretty solid -- but this looks awfully, you know, cute.
Trailer Highlight: The song that was the big '80s hit for Grant's character is pretty spot on.
Bottom Line: This looks like a chalky old piece of Valentine's Day candy.
Official Web Site: http://www.musicandlyrics.com/
Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls (Lionsgate, February 14)
Starring: Gabrielle Union, Idris Elba, Tasha Smith, Gary Sturgis, Tracee Ellis Ross, Lou Gossett, Jr., Malinda Williams, Terri J. Vaughn, Cassie Davis, Juanita Jennings, LaVan Davis
Director: Tyler Perry
The Pitch: A single father (Elba) turns to a successful lawyer (Union) for help in hanging onto custody of his three daughters. Love blooms...but he's a mechanic! And she's a lawyer! What will they do?
The Buzz: Lou Gossett, Jr. is in it, so it probably can't be all that bad.
Trailer Highlight: The few seconds that Gossett is in.
Bottom Line: A lot of people can't understand why Tyler Perry's movies are so popular -- but a lot more people are buying tickets to these films. Whether you'll want to see this depends on which type of person you are.
Official Web Site: http://www.daddyslittlegirlsmovie.com/
Breach (Universal, February 16)
Starring: Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert, Kathleen Quinlan, Gary Cole, Caroline Dhavernas, Bruce Davison, Mary Jo Deschanel, Gary Cole
Director: Billy Ray
The Pitch: A young FBI agent (Phillippe) is promoted into the position of his dreams -- but as he soon discovers, he's expected not to learn from, but spy on, his new boss (Cooper), who is a suspected double agent. Oh, and it's based on a true story.
The Buzz: Cooper has been running at the top of his game for years now, and Phillippe's petulant baby face -- frequently irritating in other movies -- might be perfect for this role.
Trailer Highlight: "I don't like being scrutinized. I'll have to do something about that."
Bottom Line: Standard cat-and-mouse espionage stuff, and the wimpy PG-13 rating doesn't help, but it's got promise.
Official Web Site: http://www.breachmovie.net/
Bridge to Terabithia (Walden Media, February 16)
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Anna Sophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, Robert Patrick
Director: Gabor Csupo
The Pitch: Two kids (Hutcherson and Robb) find adventure and peril in the magical world of Terabithia.
The Buzz: It's based on Katherine Paterson's Newbery Award-winning novel, and is being made by the folks at Walden Media, who brought you "Chronicles of Narnia" -- so, despite the fact that it's about magic and wonder, etc., it might actually be pretty darn good.
Trailer Highlight: A big, scary tree comes to menacing life.
Bottom Line: Kids pestering you to take them to a movie? This is the one.
Official Web Site: http://www.disney.com/terabithia
Ghost Rider (Columbia, February 16)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Wes Bentley, Eva Mendes, Matt Long, Sam Elliott, Peter Fonda, Donal Logue, Mathew Wilkinson, Daniel Frederiksen
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
The Pitch: Stunt cyclist Johnny Blaze (Cage) sells his soul to the devil in order to save his dying father and, in the process, becomes the flaming skeleton of justice known as Ghost Rider.
The Buzz: Films adapted from comic books tend to fall somewhere between terrible and awful, and not only does "Ghost Rider" look like no exception, it might actually lower the bar for Marvel-derived suck.
Trailer Highlight: The line "A man who sells his soul for love has the power to change the world," delivered -- without a hint of irony -- by poor old Sam Elliott.
Bottom Line: Remember "Daredevil"? It looks like Academy Award material by comparison.
Official Web Site: http://www.ghostrider-movie.com/
Amazing Grace (Samuel Goldwyn, February 23)
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Gambon, Romola Garai
Director: Michael Apted
The Pitch: The life and times of William Wilberforce, the 18th century British anti-slavery pioneer who earned the animosity of the king for his efforts.
The Buzz: Wilberforce was certainly at the vanguard of British abolition, but he ultimately didn't play much of a role in the emancipation movement, and died before the Slavery Abolition Act was passed. Also, period films like this one are for chicks.
Trailer Highlight: The song. It never gets old.
Bottom Line: Looks like an absorbing historical dra...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Official Web Site: http://www.amazinggracemovie.com/
The Astronaut Farmer (Warner Bros., February 23)
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Willis, Virginia Madsen, Bruce Dern, J.K. Simmons, Matthew Kimbrough
Director: Michael Polish
The Pitch: An astronaut (Thornton) is forced into retirement in order to save his family farm. Unable to surrender his dreams of space flight, he begins building a rocket of his own, despite NASA's strenuous objections.
The Buzz: Wait...you're kidding, right?
Trailer Highlight: Thornton telling the NASA inquiry board that they can rest safe knowing he isn't building a WMD because if he were, they wouldn't have found it.
Bottom Line: Seriously. An astronaut farmer? Did we mention his last name is Farmer?
Official Web Site: http://www.theastronautfarmermovie.com/
Black Snake Moan (Paramount, February 23)
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, John Cothran Jr., Justin Timberlake, S. Epatha Merkerson, Brandon Raines, Michael Raymond-James, Leonard L. Thomas
Director: Craig Brewer
The Pitch: A nymphomaniac (Ricci) requires the, um, "forcible aid" of a bluesman (Jackson) to scratch her itch.
The Buzz: This could literally go either way. We're willing to err on the side of enthusiasm, though; Jackson's got some powerful mojo, and Ricci has continued to do quality work even as her profile has diminished.
Trailer Highlight: "God put you in my path, and I aim to cure you of your wickedness."
Bottom Line: That sound you hear? The skulls of Klansmen everywhere exploding.
Official Web Site: http://www.moanmovie.com/
The Number 23 (New Line, February 23)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, Logan Lerman, Danny Huston, Maile Flanagan, Patricia Belcher, Lynn Collins, Rhona Mitra, Mark Pellegrino, Tara Karsian
Director: Joel Schumacher
The Pitch: A man (Carrey) picks up a book whose main character spirals into paranoia and insanity because of the number 23. Convinced the book is really about him, Carrey follows suit.
The Buzz: Movies with this sort of dark-'n-freaky vibe often seem promising, and almost as often, they totally blow. Carrey's no champ in the script-choosing department, particularly when it comes to dramas; this could either be "Eternal Sunshine" good or "The Majestic" bad.
Trailer Highlight: "You'd never hurt anyone." "How do you know?"
Bottom Line: Looks like it could be in and out of theaters in 23 days, and 23 copies should be readily available on the shelf at your local video store soon after.
Official Web Site: http://www.number23movie.com/
Reno 911!: Miami (20th Century Fox, February 23)
Starring: Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney, Cedric Yarbrough, Carlos Alazraqui, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Niecy Nash, Mary Birdsong, Paul Rudd, Nick Swardson
Director: Ben Garant
The Pitch: The inept cops from Comedy Central's "Reno 911!" series head to Miami for a national law enforcement convention; predictably, they wind up in a seedy motel, without passes to the conference, which is why they're the city's only hope when a terrorist threat traps the conventioneers inside the center.
The Buzz: Smells a little like "Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise," which sucked twenty years ago. The trailer is full of the type of cheap laughs and sight gags that go over well on TV, but when you're forking over ten bucks for a ticket? Another story.
Trailer Highlight: "Reno's a lot like Mayberry on the TV, except everyone's on drugs and prostitution is legal."
Bottom Line: TiVo two hours of the show -- it'll be cheaper and you'll probably get more laughs out of it.
Official Site: http://www.reno911movie.net/