February is a shitty month for movies.
Apparently spent from months of pimping dozens of Oscar-season hopefuls — several of which were among the Academy’s typically questionable nominees for Best Picture — the big studios try to hide their creatively challenged, largely retread releases in the annual cinematic dumpster known as February. Only 11 studio films are currently scheduled for release this month, including such uninspiring fare as Friday the 13th (yes, Jason’s back), Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail, Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. What’s left? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vs. Freddy?
For more discerning movie-goers, there's often new art-house fare at the Esquire and Mariemont theaters, as well as a handful of locally-based film events like tonight’s screening of the engrossing documentary Corso — The Last Beat at UC (read my interview with filmmaker Gustave Reininger here.) Yet, for the fourth week in a row, the Esquire’s and Mariemont’s lineups remains unchanged (The Wrestler and Last Chance Harvey don't really count since both are playing a local multiplexes), leaving the status of several rumored upcoming releases in question: Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire thriller Let the Right One In; Ari Folman’s stellar animated war documentary Waltz with Bashir; the long-delayed (and thus aptly titled) local release of I’ve Loved You So Long; and Kelly Reichardt’s minimalist masterpiece Wendy and Lucy.
Meanwhile, we’re stuck with Pink Panther 2, a curiously cast romantic comedy that didn’t have an advanced screening (never a good sign) and yet another graphic-novel adaptation.
On the up side, if the review below is any indication, stop-motion master Henry Selick’s Coraline might be an unexpected February treat.
CORALINE — If you embrace movies as works of art and not just as works of commerce, then here’s why you should embrace Coraline: Not a frame of it looks like it was crafted with a thought to who might actually want to buy a ticket. I mean that as a compliment, and not a backhanded one. In contemporary Hollywood, there’s only one paradigm for selling any kind of feature animation, and that’s selling it to families. But this grim fairy tale — based on an award-winning book by Neil Gaiman — is far more disturbing than it is charming, funny or otherwise kid-friendly. The textures of its stop-motion world make it feel even more physically threatening, especially in 3D. (Read full-length review here). (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated PG.) Grade: B
HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU — Modern dating mores are explored in Ken Kwapis’ Baltimore-set romantic comedy based on the best-selling book by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. The intertwining narrative features an ensemble cast of well-known actors — Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson and Justin Long — that brings to mind an update of Love Actually. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon
PINK PANTHER 2 — Steve Martin’s hit-and-mostly-miss movie career continues with this sequel to the lame but audience-generating original, with Martin reprising his role as the bumbling, egocentric Inspector Clouseau. John Cleese, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina and Lily Tomlin are also on board — presumably to earn a paycheck. Netherlands native Harald Zwart directs. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG.) Review coming soon
PUSH — Scottish director Paul McGuigan (of the reasonably entertaining Lucky Number Slevin and Wicker Park) guides the latest graphic-novel adaptation to hit the big screen. Push centers its sci-fi thriller narrative in the world of psychic espionage where paranormal operatives have the ability to move objects with their minds. The cast includes Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle and Djimon Hounsou. (Opens wide today.) — JG (PG-13.) Review coming soon