Winter Movie Preview:
Movies you can't miss...
Well, kids, it's that time again. Old man winter is kicking up his heels and dancing with glee, which means that the theatres will be packed with moviegoers trying to escape the cold. But this is generally the time when studios "dump" unwanted movies, and usually the ones that have been sitting on the shelves for quite a while. So it's slim pickings as we preview some of the best and worst movies coming out this season. Psst: Movie release dates are subject to change. ¤ C.Ho.
Along Came Polly
Polly tries to convince Reuben to not be a square.
Release: January 16
Directed by: John Hamburg (Safe Men)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Debra Messing, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hank Azaria
Plot: Ben Stiller stars as Reuben Feffer, a guy who's afraid to draw outside the lines. His new wife (Messing) ends up cheating on him, leaving Reuben devastated. When he encounters Polly (Aniston), an adventurous friend from high school, things start looking up.
Extras: This movie was produced by Danny De Vito. Director Hamburg also produced Meet the Parents and Zoolander.
Why You Should See It: Stiller is comedic gold, and the previews don't look half bad. Aniston has always been a great actress, and now she can exercise her acting chops alongside Stiller. It has shades of There's Something About Mary, but hey, if it ain't broke.
Post-Release Verdict: Fun film, but not very memorable. Stiller is at his finest, but Aniston - as quirky as she might try - kind of annoys after an hour. See DVD details here.
50 First Dates
Release: February 13
Directed by: Peter Segal (Anger Management, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps)
Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin, Rob Schneider
Plot: Henry Roth (Sandler) is a playboy veterinarian who meets his match in Lucy (Barrymore). Unfortunately, Lucy was involved in a car accident which has rendered her short term memory almost non-existent, so Henry has to get her to remember him each time they meet - hence the title of the movie.
Extras: Cameron Diaz and Julia Roberts were in talks to co-star, until Barrymore signed on. This marks the second movie that Barrymore and Sandler have done together, the first being The Wedding Singer.
Why You Should See It: It's nice to see Sandler back in his element (not that he didn't put in a mighty fine performance in Punch Drunk Love), and he's already proven that he and Barrymore have more than enough on-screen chemistry.
Post-Release Verdict: Disappointing for Sandler/Barrymore fans. The chemistry just isn't there, and the comedy falls flat most times. Better movies than this: Never Been Kissed, The Water Boy. Worst movies than this: Little Nicky. See DVD details here. And don't forget the soundtrack here, which strangely has Nicole Kea covering UB40, and UB40 covering The Police.
Against the Ropes
Release: February 20
Directed by: Charles S. Dutton (debut)
Starring: Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Joe Cortese, Tim Daly, Tony Shalhoub
Plot: This is based on the true story of Jackie Kallen (Ryan), a Jewish woman from Detroit who became a boxing manager and launched several high-profile careers. The major focus will be on the relationship between Kallen and one particular boxer, played by Epps.
Extras: The real Jackie guided middleweight champ James Toney, Bronco McKart and Thomas Hearns to world championships. She eventually retired from managing and become the commissioner of the International Female Boxers Association.
Why You Should See It: I was lukewarm about the movie when I first saw the trailers, and I'm not sure what changed. Was it because Meg Ryan was back to playing a quirky, strong-willed woman rather than a druggie/prostitute hybrid à la In the Cut? Was it because there really is a lack of good movies out this month? Was it because the more I saw the trailer (since September, mind you) the more it brainwashed me into recommending this movie? Oh, and if Dutton's directing is as good as his acting, then this should be a surprise hit.
Post-Release Verdict: Was this movie even out? See DVD details here.
Kill Bill Volume 2
Does the title ring true in the movie? We can all find out February 20.
Release: February 20
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill Volume 1)
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Julie Dreyfus, Daryl Hannah, Samuel L. Jackson
Plot: The movie picks up where the first one left off, as The Bride (Thurman) seeks revenge on Bill (Carradine) and those that tried to kill her at her wedding back in October 2003.
Extras: The Japanese animators responsible for the O-Ren origin sequence are the same masterminds behind the Ghost in the Shell sequel. Tarantino is in talks to direct two more movies in this series - the first being an anime prequel, and the latter being a sequel that will follow the offspring of some of these characters.
Why You Should See It: Duh.
Post-Release Verdict: Holy crap, Bill is the chattiest villain EVER. This sequel trails behind its predecessor in terms of action, but it does tie up loose ends nicely. The last twenty minutes of the film are gratuitious Tarantino at script-writing at its best. See DVD details here.
Starsky and Hutch
Release: March 5 Directed by: Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Vince Vaughn, Fred Williamson, Carmen Electra
Plot: Set in the 1970s, Starsky and Hutch follows the titular characters (Stiller and Wilson, respectively) as they fight crime on the streets of the fictional Bay City. In their first big case, they're in hot pursuit of a former college drug dealer (Vaughn) who is now swimming with bigger fishes.
Extras: Based on the ABC show of the same name, which ran from 1975-1979. The budget reportedly ran over $60 million dollars.
Why You Should See It: Stiller and Wilson are way too underrated as a comedic duo (remember Zoolander? I nearly pissed my pants, I did). We'll forgive them for casting Carmen Electra. I'm sure they ran over budget and had to make some cutbacks.
Post-Release Verdict: I normally love Ben and Owen, but this film was trying. Not enough wit and too many throwaway, low-brow one liners. Suprisingly, Electra didn't grate, but Snoop Dogg kind of did. See DVD details here.
Dawn of the Dead
The last survivors in the city gather for some rooftop grafitti fun.
Release: March 19
Directed by: Zack Snyder (debut)
Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phifer, Michael Barry, Lindy Booth
Plot: Earth is overwrought with flesh-eating zombies, and a group of mismatched survivors is forced to board themselves up in a shopping mall while planning an escape. Polley will play a young nurse, while Rhames is a cop.
Extras: Based on the 1979 George Romero film, Dawn of the Dead, which was the second in a zombie trilogy. Romero still plans to make a fourth film in the series, tentatively titled Dead Reckoning (or Twilight of the Dead, as some rumours have suggested). Make-up wizard Tom Savini, who was part of the original trilogy, will appear in a cameo.
Why You Should You See It: See, I used to be a horror movie buff, and so I've seen Romero's classic trilogy. Now, zombies are creepy and weird and flesh eating, but Romero worked an angle not seen in many horror movies - he actually paid attention to character development and plot. In his original, there was much to be said about the symbolism of the shopping mall, and the fact that the zombies flock to the mall is an obvious commentary on the consumerism that is engulfing the world today. Before I start a dissertation on the topic, I will say that if this is as good as the original, it's worth checking out.
Post-Release Verdict: This was a very decent remake, and it managed to chill without reverting to false scares and other horror gimmicks evoked when there is hardly any plot to pick apart. And the little girl at the beginning of the film was very creepy. I kind of wish Sarah Polley had thrown her out the window. See DVD details here. The fourth instalment by Romero, as we later found out, is actually called Land of the Dead.
Release: March 26
Directed by: Joel Coen (Fargo, Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans, Irma P. Hall, Ryan Hurst, Tzi Ma
Plot: Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr (Hanks) is a criminal mastermind who plans the biggest casino heist New Orleans has ever seen. He and his three accomplices decide to dig a tunnel to the casino from a boarding house, but unfortunately their plans are thwarted by the little old landlady - and getting rid of her is harder than they expected.
Extras: This is a remake of the 1955 British comedy of the same name, starring Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (the team behind Fargo, The Man Who Wasn't There, and Intolerable Cruelty) rewrote the script from scratch when they signed on to the project.
Why You Should See It: When I first read the synopsis of the movie, it reminded me of an old Billy Crystal and Danny De Vito comedy, Throw Mama Form the Train (1987). In fact, I have no idea as to the size and age of the landlady, but my residual memory wants me to think she is small and frail. Hanks hasn't done comedy in a while, so it's nice to see him go back to his roots. And the Coens always manage to turn out interesting projects, even if they flop at the box office.
Post-Release Verdict: I think I saw about two commercials for this film, and then it went straight to DVD. See DVD details here.
Release: Spring 2004
Directed by: Peter Pau (debut)
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Brandon Chang, Ben Chaplin, Dane Cook, Richard Roxburgh
Plot: A Chinese family of acrobats (Yeoh being among them) search for a stolen mystical arifact. Chaplin plays Yeoh's love interest.
Extras: Oops! This film was submitted for consideration to the Foreign Language category of this year's Academy Awards, but was rejected because it's mostly in English. Director Peter Pau is a prolific cinematographer, and has already won an Oscar for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Why You Should See It: Yeoh is a very underrated Asian actress (come on, do you really think Lucy Liu is the only Asian actress out there?), not to mention that she's talented and beautiful. The action is sure to be good.
Post-Release Verdict: It's very hard to find this film, although it was actually made in 2002. And I think I should have said that Chaplin plays Yeoh's "adopted brother," not "love interest," although the two could very well be interchangeable. There are no DVD details, but you can read a review here.
[ See what you should avoid. Part II of the article. ]