Winter Movie Guide: February 2012 – Week 1

OPENING NATIONWIDE

Big Miracle

Based on the book by Thomas Rose

Screenplay by Jack Amiel & Michael Begler

Directed by Ken Kwapis

Starring John Krazinski & Drew Barrymore

“In small town Alaska, a news reporter recruits his ex-girlfriend – a Greenpeace volunteer – on a campaign to save a family of gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle.”

The perfect movie for not only families, but the elderly and the religious groups as well.  I’m sure the film is harmless, but with the amount of propaganda that it represents, manipulating heart strings, I don’t have much hope that it will be anything more than what most of these “feel good” movies turn out to be, which is pandering, inconveniently convenient endings.  We can only hope that’s not the case here, but director Ken Kwapis (a veteran of The Office and director of License to Wed with Krazinski) isn’t the best comedy director on the  planet, but he’s proven to at the very least be serviceable if the other elements are working.

This is a sub-genre of feel good film making, the type that involves animals, which evoke strong sentiment among movie-going audiences, guaranteeing butts in seats.  While the families will flock to it, and old people will eventually check it out, this one has the chance at a big crossover audience because of the cast.  Drew Barrymore might not be the draw she used to be, but she’s still a well known name, and John Krazinski has gotten himself a respectable following on The Office,  so there’s a good chance at broad appeal akin to Disney films like Dreamer.

See what Courtney thought of the film right here.

Chronicle

Written by Max Landis

Directed by Josh Trank

“Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides.”

Unique in the fact that it’s the first found footage superhero film, we can only hope that there is more to the film, more emotional weight than the simple story of how a super villain is created.  The cast is full of unknowns, as with a lot of found footage films, to make it seem that much more believable.  Surely, no one is really buying Will Smith as a super hero in a faux documentary.

Trank is in talks to take on the Fantastic Four reboot that is percolating, but in the meantime, he’s promoting this, a $250,000 film before advertising costs.  Writer Max Landis is indeed the son of horror favorite John Landis, and since this script hit it big on the black list a few years back, he’s been a hot hand, writing the next Ron Howard film, the Pied Piper film for Fox, and setting up a spec script with Mark Wahlberg and Jonah Hill attached to star.   I’m curious to see the reaction to the overall change in found footage style for a film like this, taking a different angle like Cloverfield did a few years back with their take on the Godzilla films.

Read Jeremy’s review of Chronicle.

The Woman in Black

Based on the novel by Susan Hill

Screenplay by Jane Goldman

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTier, & Cirian Hinds

“A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.” The latest entry in the resurgence of Hammer Films, who created some classic horror films from the 50’s to mid-70’s.  The Woman in Black looks to be a return to the company’s roots that made the successful.  Instead of crazy jump scares, the gothic atmosphere and foreboding mystery is what will help it float.  However, with one of Radcliffe’s few non-Harry Potter roles, no one really knows exactly what to expect.

The art direction, costumes, and period setting all looks great, and while it’s strange to see a flashy film from the notoriously low-budget Hammer Films, it is just something we have to get used to.  So far, their track record the past few films has been good both commercially and critically, so we’ll see if this one is the next in line for the revitalization of the classic Hammer style as were The Resident, Wake Wood, and Let Me In, showing their classic roots in material choice, but a huge step up in technical proficiency. In the meantime, Radcliffe will be closely watched.  

Even though he’s done work outside Harry Potter while those films were being shot, they will always fall into “HP-era” Radcliffe, and everything from here out will either be regarded as terrible, or he’ll eventually gain respect as an adult actor via his talent and project choice, so this will be the real jumping off point to the rest of his career.  Or it’s the beginning of the end of it.  Only time, box office returns, Netflix options, VOD orders, and Blu Rays sold will tell that. Jeremy and Anthony both saw the film this week, see what Jeremy thought or see what Anthony thought.

OPENING IN LIMITED CITIES

Kill List

Written by Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump

Directed by Ben Wheatley

Starring Neil Maskell & Harry Simpson

“Nearly a year after a botched job, a hitman takes a new assignment with the promise of a big payoff for three killings. What starts off as an easy task soon unravels, sending the killer into the heart of darkness.”

An uneasy mash of revenge horror, hitman’s remorse, and a fierce loyalty to family, Kill List is not a nice film you sit to watch with your family.  It’s a sick portrait of a man 0n the edge, the definition of a ticking time bomb.  Director Ben Wheatley blends genres nicely, creating a serious portrait of a man via classic crime and horror conventions that he eventually has to turn upside down.  The film doesn’t waste much time, and the mystery of it all will suck you in.

Kill List will ultimately leave anyone that watches it talking about it.  Whether you think it’s an amalgamation of a few other movies with limited new ideas, or a revolution to the mixing of genres, it doesn’t really matter.  It’s a unique film in style, and the two leads, partners Jay (Neil Maskell) and Sam (Harry Simpson) are very dynamic, their situation believable, and the character arcs true-to-life.  There is a point where the film runs off the rails a bit, and it’s so deeply connected to the story, that it can’t be forgiven.  However, some were impressed by it, and I suppose people talking about the film is all they are really looking for.

Read my review of the surprising Kill List right here.

The Innkeepers

Written and Directed by Ti West

“During the final days at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, two employees determined to reveal the hotel’s haunted past begin to experience disturbing events as old guests check in for a stay.”

Ti West has become a staple of “new horror”, the breed of original horror films that is coming back to mainstream pop culture.  His first film, the creepy indie hit The Roost garnered him a distribution deal and enough confidence to make Trigger Man, which largely went under the radar.  It was 2009’s The House of the Devil that got West strong acclaim for it’s brooding style, slow burn ending, and insane ending.

Ever since, West has found a strong foothold in the indie horror scene, or at least a good enough one to get to shoot the sequel to the 2002 hit, Cabin Fever.  Editing issues led to West petitioning to get his name off the film, but the producers refused, and they released their own cut.  West has protested that other people should see his cut as well, but that may never happen.  Now, his latest film, The Innkeepers was shot inside the charming hotel West and Co. stayed in while shooting The House of the Devil and it gave him the idea to make a haunted hotel flick, incorporating popular culture’s obsession with EVP and general energy reading/recording devices into the lives of their characters.  Leads Claire (Sarah Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are a likable pair, and they are soon running their investigation with former actress Leanne (Kelly McGillis in a laughably appropriate role), who warns Claire to leave the hotel.  Another slow burn ghost story in the style 0f classic Hammer films, if you can, see this ghost story this weekend before you see Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black.

Read my review of the film right here.


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