Ten February film releases – and a mini ‘The Muppets’ review

Ten February film releases

You can never judge a film by its trailer, or indeed the pre-release hype, so there is a chance that some of the films heading to cinemas this month – across the UK – could be utter tripe. After the Oscar nominations have all been released, there is often an absence of quality at the multiplexes at the start of the year; studios tend to release films they have been holding on to for a while.
In short, February is not always a great month for film, but this February there are some films that definitely have potential or intriguing reasons to motivate potential cinemas goers into paying money for the increasingly expensive movie tickets.

The following films released this February do look interesting. If you’ve seen any of them, please feel free to leave – a non-spoiler – comment. And refreshingly, there is a complete absence of 3D.

Discounting of course yet another shameless attempt from George Lucas to extort even more money out of dutiful Star wars fanatics: inexplicably, there is a 3D release of the much reviled Star Wars: The Phantom menace. Who in their right mind would want to be taken up close and personal to one of the most annoying characters in cinema history, Jar Jar stinks? With that badly misjudged character just two inches away from your nose, how could you not resist the urge to repeatedly attempt to punch him in his stupid wobbly face, summoning all the gusto of a person playing Wii boxing? Can you imagine that? Walk into a screen of the 3D Phantom menace this month and you will no doubt see a crowd of people repeatedly punching the air in front of them – it will be surreal carnage and you are to blame Mr Lucas. Perhaps that is why Lucas has commissioned yet another project to milk even more money out of Star wars: to get people to satisfy their hatred of the character by punching Jar Jar like he is an attraction at a fair-ground ride.  Why don’t you come up with another film idea Lucas? I have an idea for you: a talentless, has-been washed-up filmmaker, hatches an evil plan to extort money out of deluded film fans. Now that’s a film I’d like to see in 3D – I’d happily punch the air in front of me during that screening. Ignore the Phantom menace and maybe Lucas will go away. Tangential rant over – here are some films that look promising this month.

Chronicle (12A)

Release date: February 3rd

Director Josh Tank

Starring: Ashley Hinshaw, Alex Russell, Michael B Jordan, Dane Dehaan, Michael Kelly

The awful Apollo 18 seemed to have sucked the life out of the found footage film template, but this intriguing release from Twentieth Century Fox has potential to revive the format as the subjects of this documentary-style drama, applies realistic camera work to a subject more commonly associated with the superhero genre, looking to ground the fantasy ideas behind superheroes in a reality you can relate to. The idea behind it seems to be to convey a sense of what it would be like if real people were lucky enough to find something that gave them superhero powers. What would you do if you had them? Would you use them for, noble but boring hero type stuff, or would you decide to have some fun with them? That is the setup, this has potential to make the superhero idea, even more tangible than Kick-ass, and pose the murky ethical questions regarding the potential for abuse of power that Hollow man did.  If 27-year-old director Josh Trank can pull this off, Chronicle could have people leaving the cinemas, pondering the question, if I had superpowers, what would I use them for?

Martha Marcy May Marlene (15)

UK release date: Friday 3 February 2012

Director: Sean Durkin

Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes

This American independent psychological thriller was received rapturously at both The Cannes film festival and The Sundance film festival. At the risk of sounding like a film poster, some of the adjectives used in conjunction with this sinister exploration of cult deprogramming are: disturbing; frightening; unnerving; hypnotic; outstanding. I don’t know about you, but when those kind of adjectives are used in conjunction with a film, I want to see that film. A film exploring the murky and sinister brain manipulation of sinister cults definitely seems like an original horror film. The first part of Kevin Smith’s horror Red State showed that there is great horror potential in setting a film deep in the heart of dogmatic religious fanaticism  Both figurative and literally, Martha Marcy May and Marlene looks to be a cult classic.

Young Adult (15)

UK release date:  Friday 3 February 2012

Director: Jason Reitman

Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt

From Jason Reitman, the director of the misjudged and overrated Up in The air and perfectly judged Juno, comes this indie comedy about a fiction writer, Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), returning to her home in Minnesota after a messy divorce, with a plan to snag her high-school sweetheart. Said high school sweetheart – played by the always likeable Patrick Wilson – is now happily married, but that isn’t enough to deter a borderline sociopathic attempt from Gary to win back her former beau. Given it’s penned by one of the most idiosyncratic dialogue writers around Diablo Cody – she wrote Juno and Jennifer’s body – we should expect funny off-kilter exchanges and quirky dialogue. Charlize Theron has her work cut-out to pull off a character that is playing for laughs, but has dubiously dark intentions.

A Dangerous method (15)

UK release date:  Friday 10 February 2012

Director: David Cronenberg

Starring: Keira Knightly, Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen

Former master of demented bodily horror David Cronenberg, has moved into subject matter more of a psychological nature in the last ten years. It seems a logical step for the director to make a film exploring the origins of psychology then. Seeing a director as astute as David Cronenberg examining the relationship between the founding fathers of psychology Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung seems like the perfect match between subject matter and director. David Cronenberg has always managed to bring credence to ‘mad scientist’ – just watch Jeremy Irons in Dead ringers or Oliver Reed in The Brood – to see the Cronenberg method of madness. So his take on two of the most leftfield thinkers in science, has got to be a film of substance hasn’t it? Viggo Mortensen has become a really great actor post Lord of the rings, this is his third collaboration with Cronenberg. One further reason to see this is it also stars Michael Fassbender who has been great in everything he has been in from The hunger, to X-Men: first class and recently in Shame.

The Muppets, (U)

UK release date: Friday 10 February 2012

Director: James Bobin

Starring: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Animal, Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Walter

I’ve seen The Muppets and I can tell you that our long lost felt friends put a big satisfied smile on my face. This entertainment institution is given a fresh post-modern reworking by a team who clearly have a lot of affection for Kermit and Company. Jason Segel is one of the most likeable and funny everyman guys around; he stars and is the main writer of this new screen-play; the film has a feel of a screenplay written by a life-long fan, who wants to make his passion for the old gang infectious – he really succeeds. The film is an entertaining balance between winsome and innocent old school comedy and a clever, arch and inventive new direction for the colourful group. The Jason Segel character is related to a new Muppet which is amusingly left unexplained as he hasn’t yet discovered that he is different from his older, taller, less rainbow coloured brother. They go off to Hollywood – with the delightful Amy Adams – to discover that The Muppets have broken up and their old studio is being sold to a greedy oil tycoon, a lively performance by Chris Cooper. Seeing what such seasoned old muppet pros as Kermit; Fozzy; bear Gonzo; Miss piggy and Animal have been up to since The Muppets went off air is pretty funny; they all still have more character; personality and charm then any number of CGI animated characters; and seeing actors inter-act with objects that are actually there rather than inserted later, still has a place in cinema. There is also a great little line in satire poking fun at just how nasty television has become. It’s funny, it’s beguiling’ it’s winsome it’s got a sunshine charm; it’s colourful; it’s vibrant; it’s worth the admission fee alone for the hilarious sing-a-long musical number are you a man or a muppet? I’ll resist the urge to say that if you didn’t like the film the chances are that the answer to that question is, you are a muppet! 8/10

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (12A)

UK release date: February 17th 2012

Director: Stephen Daldry

Starring: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow, James Gandolfini

I’m reluctantly suggesting this surprise Oscar nominated film as the trailer made it look sentimental and trite. The Academy were clearly won over by it hence its Oscar nomination over Drive and We need to talk about Kevin. It will have to be some film to be better than those two, but given that there is a petition out there to remove it from the Oscar list, the chances are nominating this for an Oscar at the expense of some great films might have been a woeful error on behalf of The Academy. I’ll reserve judgement until I see it though. It’s one of the first dramatic narratives to be set on the day and in the aftermath of September 11th and it involves a boy who has found a key belonging to his Dad; his father was tragically in the world trade centre on the day of the attacks and he is hoping the key will unlock something which will comfort him. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock play the boy’s parents. Eighty-two-year old legendary actor Max Von Sydow has a best supporting actor nomination in this. It’s the last Oscar nominated film to get a release. If it isn’t any good, the Academy will look even more ridiculous.

Rampart (15)

UK release date: February 24th 2012

Director: Oren Moverman

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Cynthia Nixon, Steve Buscemi

Woody Harrelson is an actor who always seems loose around the edges and delightfully unhinged on-screen. Casting him as a demented, corrupt, dirty cop seems like a great recipe for some on screen lunacy. This is set to be a dark, perverse morally murky hard-boiled cop drama, as an unashamedly out-of-control L.A cop is caught on camera doing things more commonly associated with the criminals he is supposed to be detaining. Films exploring the fine line between the crime underworld and law-breaking law upholders, are always pretty gripping. It will be great to see Harrelson turn dark, menacing, and put a sinister twist on his borderline bat-shit crazy on-screen persona.  It’s written by legendary crime fiction writer James Ellory, the man who wrote the magnificent L.A Confidential so expect some majorly gripping drama. There is a great supporting cast in this too Sigourney Weaver; Steve Buscemi and um,  Ice Cube.

The Woman in Black (12A)

UK release date: 10th February 2012

Director: James Watkins

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Liz White

If anyone was unfortunate to see the boring and entirely perfunctory The Inn keepers you would think that the final nail was in the coffin of the haunted house ghost story.  Attempting to prise that coffin back open and  revive a dead genre is this film version of a West end play, The women in Black. This is notable for being the first post Harry Potter film for the now manly looking Daniel Radcliffe who play s a young lawyer investigating a vengeful ghost terrorizing a local village in some long lost century. Can Radcliffe break-out away from the Harry Potter franchise? It he can’t shake off Harry in this, you  might have expect him to pull out his wand and shout EXPELLIARMOS!!! Every-time a door slams or a chair creaks. It’s notable for resurrecting a long deceased hammer horror studio, but will it be a horror show for the wrong reasons?

Blood car

Cert 18  UK release date: 24th February

Director: Alex Orr

Starring: Anna Chlumskey, Mike Brune

Think oil and petrol prices have gone through the roof? This is a perverse, black comedy horror set in a very near future, in which oil prices have sky-rocketed to such a level that nobody drives anymore, instead, they just create carnage and havoc on the streets, until one man invents a new machine that runs on something, well lets just say we have an infinite supply of it. It seems to be a wry new comedic twist on the post-apocalypse film, which takes a very serious concern – the Western dependency on a resource that is running out – and has a little warped, crazy fun with it. If it is has a similar left-field tone as the film about a killer tyre, Rubber then, it should be a brilliantly bonkers alternative fresh black comedy horror.

Black gold (12A)

12a UK release date: 24th February

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaund

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Tahar Rahim, Mark Strong, Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Liya Kebede

Billed as the most expensive film backed by Arab funds, Black gold is hoping to be an epic aiming to have a similar grandiose feel to something as classic as Laurence of Arabia. The film is set in 1930s Arabia against the back-drop of the emerging oil industry, as a young princess is torn between pledging allegiance two father figures with distinctly different political backgrounds. It looks to have the grand feel of a David Lean film with the attention to character of say Sergio Leone’s masterpiece Once upon a time in the West. Is this once upon a time in the middle east? We will find out this month.

If you have any recommendations, feel free to leave them below and I will endeavour to check them out. Thanks – @filmfelladarren

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About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

3 Responses to Ten February film releases – and a mini ‘The Muppets’ review

  1. Nice rundown of February’s movies. I can’t let The Muppets mini review slide without comment. I just want to point out that I did not dislike the movie. I gave it a very fair 5.5 out of 10.

    Sure, it was nice to see The Muppets back on the screen, absolutely; but the narrative was lacking. And yes it was evident that Segal has a real passion for these puppets, but passion for a project doesn’t make a great movie. Some of it was funny. Most of it was fluff – just easy watching. The movie isn’t going to generate a new fan base, but it will give fans some kind of reminscing value.

    Man of Muppet is a good song; the only good song. I was very disappointed that Flight of the Conchords’ Brett wasn’t given a little more freedom with his songs. They could’ve incorporated the same quirkiness, without the adult nature of the songs from the T.V show. And why didn’t Jack Black sing?! Amy Adams was completely underused too, which was a real shame.

    The Muppets is not a 8/10 movie, by a long shot.

  2. FilmfellaDarren says:

    Fluff? Fluff Lozz? The only fluff in The Muppets movie was on Fozzy bear’s chest, or maybe his whoopie cushion shoes. I disagree that the plot was fluff. It was a simple enough plot sure, but the ideas Segel brought to the table were really inventive; It’s interesting to see a life-long fan give an old institution a fresh twist. The idea that his brother was an undiscovered muppet but didn’t know was funny and the film quite boldly addressed the idea of whether there is a place for The Muppets in the contemporary climate of television hostility. The film was quite self-depricating towards the Muppets; I like the idea that Jack Black is in the movie against his will and the only way a group of old tv characters can get back on air is hijack a show and kidnap a celebrity. If Jack Black sung a song it would have ruined the idea he didn’t want to be in the movie; unless that is, he sung a song about escaping or killing Muppets or something which would have been funny, amybe i’ll write that one. I did think the collection of stars was a little random though. I don’t always like The Muppets movies; I hated the pirate movie with Tim Curry. The best Muppets movie was A Christmas Carol, but that story is an age-old story. I thought the narrative in The Muppets was fresh and clever, particularly the section showing what the Muppets have been doing since they went off air. Fair enough, it would have been nice to see more of Amy Adams since she has such a sunshine charm about her, but it would have ruined Segel’s story about neglecting his girlfriend which would have taken away the great chance for him to sing the ingenious song about being a muppet of a man. I am smiling about the fact two grown men are arguing about the merits of the Muppets, separated by hundreds of miles! Good corresponding with you again about film Lozz.

    • Fluff is needed to make other stuff appear better or worse. What I mean is that it was just mediocre. I applaud Segal for the effort that’s gone into this movie, absolutely. But there was very little in it that appealed to an adult audience. With modern kids’ movies, there’s always some adult conotation, in-jokes etc, that adults can enjoy and find amusing. This didn’t have any of that. Most children who watch this are probably too young to even remember Treasure Island and Christmas Carol, so why appeal to them?! Target the original audience; get some good jokes in there. Jack Black didn’t have to play role that he did, see. If he was at all interested in being in it, why didn’t they have him sing?! It just didn’t make any sense not to. Most of the cameos children wouldn’t even know, and if the only reason these celebrities were in it was to cater to the adults in the audience, that was poor way to entertain them. It didn’t entertain me. I think the movie proved that The Muppets aren’t actually that relevant any more. But due to lots of people and critics liking it (which I don’t understand), there will no doubt, be more Muppets on the way. I like to think of it as healthy debate rather than us arguing – and as we both know, opinion cannot be wrong…however, on this basis, I’m willing to make exception for you!!
       

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