Winter Movie Guide: February 2012 – Week 4

Act of Valor

Written by Kurt Johnstad

Directed by Mike McCoy & Scott Waugh

Starring Active Duty Navy SEALs

“An elite team of Navy SEALs embark on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent.”

In what is proving to be a divisive, even controversial film, Act of Valor opens this weekend as an experiment in filmmaking.  With the recent rise in popularity of the SEALs program (mostly due to uncovered SEALs missions, like the killing of Osama Bin Laden) the average American’s interest in this type of super-soldier is piqued.  Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh decided to make a film highlighting the techniques and operating procedure of such soldiers, and when they pitched the idea, the Navy thought it was great and ordered a collection of SEALs to participate in the film.

What followed was something that’s never been done before:  A fiction film based around the real-life tactics of one of the U.S.’s most elite covert programs.  And that is where the line is drawn in the sand.  You’ll most likely fall into one of two categories:  A person that is impressed and amazed with such tactics, providing entertainment that you know is based in reality.  Or, you’ll find the whole thing to be a big “rah rah USA” promotional film designed to lure young men into service with its flashy style and pro-American military message.

Jeremy’s review has seemingly fanned these flames of passion, sparking a pages long debate about the intentions of the film.  Hollywood screenwriter Kurt Johnstad (who helped with the screenplays for both 300 movies) was hired to write the film, and directors Waugh and McCoy are Hollywood vets, Waugh has a long career as a stuntman, and McCoy is a motor sport enthusiast/stunt man, so they’re the right guys to get down and dirty with some Navy SEALs to make a crazy action film.  Borrowing techniques from people like Zack Snyder, they have pumped the action up to 11 and threw any sense of acting or story out the window.  If that’s what you’re looking for, this is probably the movie you’ve been waiting for since Jackie Chan last made a stunt-based film in Hong Kong.  Everyone looking for everything else that makes a good movie might want to look elsewhere.  Although, you’ll know which side of the fence you sit on as soon as you watch the trailer.

Rated R, this one gets a pretty wide release from Relativity Media this weekend.

Gone Written by Allison Burnett

Directed by Heitor Dhalia

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Wes Bentley, & Jennifer Carpenter

“When her sister disappears, Jill is convinced the serial killer who kidnapped her two years ago has returned, and she sets out to once again face her abductor.”

Amanda Seyfried has one of those faces where audiences seemingly love to watch her in constant peril.  Gone continues that tradition, putting her in the position of heroine who has to face off against a monster to save her sister.  With the PG-13 rating, we know there won’t be anything too hardcore, but it will be a good thriller to get the blood of teenage girls pumping, and it has enough interesting concepts in the trailer to grab some male viewers as well.

With that said, the film is sure to be front loaded, and it doesn’t look like it was screened for critics, indicating that Summit either knew their audience (which they do, the Twilight set) or they’re afraid of the word of mouth that would spread after preview screenings.  For those still wondering what it’s like, Jeremy’s review should be up this weekend.

Rated PG-13, releasing from Summit Entertainment this weekend.

Wanderlust

Written by Ken Marino & David Wain

Directed by David Wain

Starring Paul Rudd & Jennifer Aniston

“Rattled by sudden unemployment, a Manhattan couple surveys alternative living options, ultimately deciding to experiment with living on a rural commune where free love rules.”

The latest from Apatow Productions is more in line with their ‘older’ films like Role Models.  From the director of Role Models (and Wet Hot American Summer), co-scripted by Ken Marino (also from Wet Hot American Summer, so is Rudd) this one is about a Manhattan couple that gets sick of being ‘grown up’ when they find themselves out of work and unable to continue their urbane lifestyle they’ve gotten so used to.

When they go out of the city and begin to look for another way to live life, they stumble upon a commune of modern-day hippies who live by only one rule:  Free love.  A fish-out-of-water comedy may not be what fans of Rudd would like to see him doing, but it has a good supporting cast, and strong comedy pedigree.  It might not take off like past Apatow-produced films, but I have a feeling it will find its audience, like Role Models, even if it’s not a huge earner.

Rated R, releasing this weekend from Universal Pictures.

Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds

Written & Directed by Tyler Perry

Starring Tyler Perry, Gabrielle Union, and Thandie Newton

“Businessman Wesley Deeds is jolted out of his scripted life when he meets Lindsey, a single mother who works on the cleaning crew in his office building.”

The hard-working Tyler Perry is back with his quarterly film.  This time Perry leads the cast as a businessman who falls for a woman on the cleaning crew at his office building.  Perry has built himself a strong brand, and he makes his films cheap enough that they always turn a nice profit and afford him the chance to do another film.

Good Deeds is sure to continue that streak, and while his movies may not appeal to me in any way, he’s got a good pattern of  production going, and he satisfies a large demographic that doesn’t get enough movies aimed directly at it.  Perry has been able to take advantage of this fact, and continue to make films from his own vision, even if they’re incredibly front loaded and typically have to wait for video to really make Perry any substantial profit.  Still, he’s found a pattern that works, and he’s made it work for him.  His prolific output has been helpful in that fact, and the only way to reach that level of output is hard work, plain and simple.  The man deserves everything he gets.

Rated PG-13, releasing from Lionsgate Entertainment.

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