Ah, the summer movie season! Fun, exciting…and still a few months away. However, as movie-lovers wait patiently for Iron Man 2, Robin Hood, and Twilight: Eclipse, rest assured that the gears have not ground to a halt in Hollywood. There is plenty to keep moviegoers entertained in the meantime, including a few gems of February’s own.
1. District 13: Ultimatum (Feb. 5)
District 13: Ultimatum, sequel to the highly regarded French action insta-classic District B13, returns once again to the crime-ridden streets of Paris’s 13th district. This time supercop Damien Tomasso and vigilante Leito must team up to save D13 from being wiped off the map by a nuclear air-strike set in motion by the city’s corrupt government officials. The plot should be just ridiculous enough to frame the action set pieces, which-if the first film is any indication-will feature plenty of literally death-defying stunts and intense fight scenes.
Written and produced by French luminary Luc Besson, director of The Professional and The Fifth Element, and featuring parkour originator David Belle and master martial artist Cyril Raffaelli, D13-U (as the cool kids call it) should be the equivalent of crack for an action fan. My sole reservation comes in the form of new director Patrick Alessandrin. Can he match the inspired results of Pierre Morel? One must have a little faith in situations such as this.
Rated R for strong violence, some drug content and language.
2. The Wolfman (Feb. 12)
Question: What do Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, and Hugo Weaving all have in common? This film, apparently. Color me surprised that Universal Pictures was able to pull together such a strong cast of Oscar winners and capable veterans to headline this loose remake of the 1941 horror classic, but alas, such is the case.
Del Toro plays 19th century nobleman Lawrence Talbot, who returns from America to his family’s English estate after the mysterious disappearance of his brother. Upon arrival, he learns that something feral has been tormenting the villagers…and also discovers a darkness that lives inside himself. Throw in an ancient curse, Elrond from Lord of the Rings as a Scotland Yard investigator, and plenty of finely dressed actors speaking in British accents and it should be the perfect recipe for genre fun.
Rated R for bloody horror, violence and gore.
3. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (Feb. 12)
What a title!
Based upon the first book in The New York Times bestselling series by author Rick Riordan, the film tells the story of high school student Percy Jackson who, upon discovering that he is actually a demigod and the son of Poseidon, suddenly has to do battle with a handful of creatures from Greek mythology. He stands accused of stealing Zeus’s lightning bolt, which has recently gone missing, and to make matters worse his mother has also disappeared. Embarking on a cross-country journey he seeks to reveal the lightning bolt’s true thief, save his mother, and prevent a war between the gods.
Directed by Chris Columbus, director of the first two Harry Potter films, Percy Jackson features impressive special effects, a solid fantasy storyline, and a supporting cast that includes Uma Thurman and Sean Bean.
Rated PG for action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language.
4. Shutter Island (Feb. 19)
Martin Scorsese returns with this decidedly unScorseseian film. Not content to stick with crime dramas and biopics, he dips his toe into thriller waters in this tale about a young U.S. marshal who is assigned to investigate a missing persons case at a remote mental hospital. Before long he begins to uncover secrets that the doctors would rather remain concealed and a mystery begins to unravel.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and I expect another over-the-top yet thoroughly entertaining performance from the superstar. Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, and Oscar Winner Ben Kingsley round out the cast. With so much talent surrounding a single film, this one should do very respectable numbers at the box office. Expect it to impress.
Rated R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity.
5. The Crazies (Feb. 26)
In a small mid-western town, people have been infected…with insanity! Before long, sides are taken and the remaining uninfected townspeople are locked in a fight for survival against their mild-mannered-turned-psychopathic neighbors who are eager to kill them. Essentially a new era zombie movie, The Crazies falls squarely in line with other films of its ilk, such as Dawn of the Dead, Resident Evil, and its most obvious influence, 28 Days Later.
After five years away from the director’s chair of a major motion picture, Breck Eisner brings us his take on the horror genre. His last film, 2005’s Sahara, failed to make a splash with critics or audiences, and for good reason. It was an incoherent, muddled mess that, according to scientific studies done in 2006, was 78% full of fail. Why then do I suggest taking a chance on this one? Every man deserves a second chance, and besides, it just looks good. I wouldn’t expect anything revolutionary, but for the horror fan with a thirst for blood, it should satisfy your appetite…at least for the moment.
Rated R for bloody violence and language.