It’s been a typically lean February on the movie front. How bad? Well, of the 16 movies that have opened this month, only four have received positive reviews from CityBeat writers, two of which are opening at The Esquire this week (Untitled and The White Ribbon), and only one of which is a true multiplex release (Shutter Island). I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise then that only two of the 16 had a local promo and/or critics' screening before our print deadline — no advanced viewing lessens the possibility of a buzz-killing review (especially given our pretentious, film-snob tendencies), or so goes the Hollywood studio thinking. (To see this thinking in action check the "Not screened for review" tag on several of this week's opening films below).
On the other hand, how many people actually care about a review of something like Dear John or this week’s Cop Out, disposable entertainments that neither need nor merit extensive critical attention? Yes, instead of a full-length review of The Crazies or Percy Jackson & the Olympians, we here at CityBeat’s Film section like to give you something more substantial and/or unique to chew on — hence the occasional essay or trend piece like Steven Rosen’s intriguing look at how Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington might have influenced the partisan gridlock that is currently plaguing Capitol Hill.
Along those reader-pleasing lines, we’re going to start running weekly DVD reviews again — check Phil Morehart’s take on Bronson, a strong British film whose recent theatrical stay in the Queen City went largely unnoticed.
Now on to this week's oddball roundup, a collection that features a little bit of everything: a buddy comedy; a horror thriller; a Christian-themed coming-of-age drama; a low-budget indie satire; and a high-minded German film shot in black and white.
COP OUT — Bruce Willis plays off his longtime bread-and-butter character — the Die Hard series’ John McClane — in this comedic buddy picture with Tracy Morgan as his polar-opposite partner. Kevin Smith works from a script by Robb and Mark Cullen, which gives us hope that Cop Out won’t be as lame as Smith’s last entry as a writer/director, 2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno. The well-padded cast also includes Kevin Pollak, Adam Brody, Fred Armison, Michelle Trachtenberg, Seann William Scott, Jason Lee, Rashida Jones and, oddly, Michael Pitt. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Not screened for review
THE CRAZIES — The parade of mid-budget studio horror flicks continue to invade multiplexes, the latest being this story of a small Iowa town plagued by a mysterious toxin that contaminates its water supply. The result? Various townspeople suddenly become violent and scary. Breck Eisner directs a cast that includes Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell and Danielle Panabaker. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated R.) Not screened for review
THE SECRETS OF JONATHAN SPERRY — Produced by the Christiano Film Group, distributed by Resurrection Pictures and directed and co-written by Rich Christiano, this Christian film centers on a trio of 12-year-old boys whose lives are forever changed when they meet a 75-year-old guy (The Love Boat’s Gavin MacLeod) at a Christian church. Given the people involved, we’re assuming Sperry’s secrets are fairly innocuous. (Opens today at multiple Danbarry Cinemas.) — JG (Rated PG.) Not screened for review
(UNTITLED) — Adam Goldberg embodies Adrian Jacobs, a pretentious avant-garde composer and leader of an experimental musical trio called New Sound Ensemble, in Jonathan Parker's send-up of Manhattan’s art world. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Not Rated.) Grade: B
THE WHITE RIBBON — Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, German filmmaker Michael Haneke’s latest is yet another look at the evil that men (and women and children) do. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — JG (Rated R.) Grade: B