The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    New year brings eclectic plethora of films

    It’s sometimes hard for a film fan to look ahead soberly at the beginning of a new year. The awards fervor of last year’s releases is just now hitting critical mass, and Oscar hopefuls of all breeds are still trickling into theaters and will be until probably late February. This means that some of last year’s best films haven’t even made it to Starkville yet, and still others, one can be assured (say, “Volver” or “The Painted Veil”), never will.
    Also, the first two months of the new year are notoriously used by studios as dumping grounds for films they know don’t stand much of a chance connecting with audiences or critics. It’s a graveyard for long-shelved pictures past their primes, stillborn star vehicles and cheap horror hokum.
    Yet through all the catching up with last year, the annual release year confusion gap (one-city, Oscar-qualifying theatrical runs can pre-date a film’s wide release by as much as two months) and the lowered expectations of an experienced filmgoer about to slough through another bad winter of wasted celluloid, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
    Looking ahead over the spring months reveals a release schedule with something to please nearly every ilk of film fan, even Werner Herzog enthusiasts.
    Comedy lovers will probably get a kick out of “Blades of Glory” (March 30), the Will Ferrell/Jon Heder-headlined professional figure-skating comedy. Ferrell seems on a quest to farcically conquer every sport in the American repertoire, and why not? The trailer scores giggles with Craig T. Nelson’s ridiculous, long-locked Euro-mullet and real-life couple Amy Poehler and Will Arnett’s smarmy preening as long-reigning skating champs.
    “Reno 911!: Miami” (Feb.23) finds the hit Comedy Central mockumentary on the big screen, irreverence and too-tight shorts intact, and Keystone Kops from across the pond aim for the funny bone in “Hot Fuzz” (April 13), with “Shaun of the Dead” creators Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright looking to do for over-baked police procedurals what they did for zombie films a few years back.
    If you want a star vehicle, try “Norbit” (Feb.9), with Eddie Murphy slipping deep into character roles as a meek, bespectacled nerd and the obnoxious, obese wife he can’t muster the courage to confront. Or “Wild Hogs” (March 2), with John Travolta, William H. Macy, Martin Lawrence and Tim Allen as a quartet of mid-life crisis friends trying to recapture some youth on motorcycle road trip. Yes, the preview makes this look like an uncomfortable, scatological marriage of “Easy Rider” and “RV,” but with this much talent onboard, it could be a surprise blast.
    “The Comebacks” (March 23) is typical screwball stuff about a ragtag football team’s rise above mediocrity, but isn’t it nice that the hilarious David Koechner finally gets an overdue lead role as the sure-to-be ornery coach? “Epic Movie” (Jan.26) hopes to tickle the funny bones of the five people worldwide that thought “Date Movie” warranted a sequel, and the awful-sounding spoof “Superhero!” (March 23) looks to sap whatever remains of Leslie Nielsen’s dignity.
    For those who like their comedies with a splash of romance, there’s the Valentine’s preprogrammed “Music and Lyrics” (Feb.14), with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore falling in movie love as a mismatched pair of songwriters; “Catch and Release” (Jan.26), with Jennifer Garner and Kevin Smith, losing cool points exponentially as Garner’s funny, supportive, overweight friend; and “Because I Said So” (Feb.2), with mother Diane Keaton and daughters Mandy Moore, Lauren Graham and Piper Perabo bickering and triumphing as could only be conceived by the writers of “Stepmom.”
    More serious-minded filmgoers may opt for “Breach” (Feb.16), the true story of a career FBI man who leaked intelligence secrets to foreign governments. On paper it’s a standard political thriller, but a great cast (Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillipe, Dennis Haysbert, Laura Linney, Gary Cole) and good director (Billy Ray of the splendid “Shattered Glass”) should elevate it.
    Terrence Howard, Billy Bob Thornton and Eric Bana should also elevate their own star vehicles: Howard as a swim coach trying to reach inner-city kids in the fact-based “Pride” (March 23), Thornton as the title character in the family fable “The Astronaut Farmer” (Feb.23) and Bana as a gambler trying out his poker face against card sharp Robert Duvall in director Curtis Hanson’s “Lucky You” (March 16).
    “Reign Over Me” (March 9) is Mike Binder’s follow-up to his criminally underappreciated “The Upside of Anger,” this time with Don Cheadle as a successful family man whose life is shaken up by the insinuation into his life of a damaged college roommate (Adam Sandler, all mumbles and disconcertingly cold stares). Watching the preview for the film, you won’t have any clue what it’s about, but you’ll probably want to see it to find out.
    Grimmer fare can be found in “Trade” (April 13), an examination of human trafficking across the US/Mexican border, and “Rescue Dawn” (March 30), a Werner Herzog-directed (!) hard sell with Christian Bale as a POW during the Vietnam War.
    For kids, there’s “Meet the Robinsons” (March 30), which looks like Disney’s best animated film since its split with PIXAR, and “Bridge to Terabithia” (Feb.16), an adaptation of the classic youth novel about two friends’ escapist adventures in a magical realm of their own imaginations. Hopefully, the film will keep the pathos and downer ending of the novel intact, though previews stress the visual effects and play it up as the next “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
    For bigger kids, there’s mayhem and gore aplenty, in everything from the creepy “The Hitcher” (Jan.19) to the frenetic killshots of competing hitmen in Joe Carnahan’s star-filled “Smokin’ Aces” (Jan.26) to the outer space chills of Danny Boyle’s sci-fi “Sunshine” (March 16). Sandra Bullock sees the future in “Premonition” (March 16), Mark Wahlberg saves the president in “Shooter” (March 16) and more lost travelers get mutilated in “The Hills Have Eyes II” (March 2).
    Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan ride the lonely trail in the chase western “Seraphim Falls”(Jan. 26), Jim Carrey tries his best horror scream as a man increasingly obsessed with “The Number 23” (Feb.23, tee hee), a virus-spreading mutant lays waste to Seoul in the Internet-buzzed Korean monster mash “The Host” (Jan.26) and the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (March 23) get a second wind with a kid-centric computer-animated reboot.
    Marvel would love to start a new franchise with “Ghost Rider” (Feb.16), the maiden voyage of Nicolas Cage donning the leather jacket of stunt cyclist turned vessel of the devil Johnny Blaze, but the trailers make it look more unintentionally comic than the comic book. Sam Elliot adds another crusty sage to his resume as a chatty gravedigger, and writer-director Mark Steven Johnson (of “Daredevil,” however that makes you feel) has to be given some props for resurrecting the long-AWOL Wes Bentley for a villainous turn as a suave demon (is there any other kind?).
    For a more established franchise, check out prequel “Hannibal Rising” (Feb.9), the origin story of everyone’s favorite mad doctor/cannibal/gourmet. Response to Thomas Harris’s novel of the same name was merely lukewarm, and director Peter Webber (the classy “Girl with a Pearl Earring”) has assembled an ace cast (Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, Kevin McKidd, Dominic West), but with no real stars in the mix. And, honestly, without Anthony Hopkins eating his (and others’) heart(s) out in the lead role, is anyone really clamoring to see this?
    Five films to clamor sincerely for are “300” (March 9), “The Nanny Diaries” (April 20), “Black Snake Moan” (Feb.23), “Zodiac” (March 2) and “Grindhouse” (April 6).
    Zack Snyder made a splashy (and splattery) debut with 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead,” and he’s back to spread more grisly cheer with “300,” a loud, visually stunning adaptation of graphic novelist Frank Miller’s interpretation of Sparta’s fateful stand at the ancient battle of Thermopylae. This one looks like “Troy,” only on steroids and off its Ritalin and, you know … good.
    An adaptation of the bestselling light novel “The Nanny Diaries” is, by itself, no cause for great excitement. But casting Scarlett Johansson in the lead and Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti in support is a step toward a more refined “The Devil Wears Prada.” Putting the directors of “American Splendor” behind the camera may be a stroke of genius.
    Craig Brewer follows up the Memphis-flavored “Hustle and Flow” with more deep Southern smolder. In “Black Snake Moan,” Samuel L. Jackson plays a paunchy, God-fearing loner trying to exorcise the devilish ways out of a hardluck party girl (slinky Christina Ricci in a dozen different forms of undress) — by any means necessary. The trailer couldn’t be more unique or enticing, and the title couldn’t be more discreetly lewd.
    David Fincher seems the perfect choice to direct “Zodiac” (March 2), a stylish take on the manhunt for the still-at-large San Francisco serial killer (where’s Dirty Harry when you really need him?). With a more buttoned-down visual style than the director’s previous efforts and bloody great cast, “Zodiac” could be the return to form Fincher fans have been waiting for since “Fight Club.”
    And if there’s only one film to see between now and May, it would have to be “Grindhouse,” the psycho-pulp double feature from directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino’s contribution is “Death Proof,” with seedy stunt man Kurt Russell mowing down buxom babes in his skull-and-crossbones decaled hot rod, and Rodriguez’s is “Planet Terror,” with Rose McGowan and Freddy Rodriguez on the run from flesh-hungry zombies. This collaboration should be the epitome of style over substance and a fanboy’s dizzying delight, complete with nerd-tastic cameos and fake movie trailers between the features. Whether it’s good crap, bad crap or crap of absolute genius, this should easily be the spring’s big event film for anyone lucky enough to be over the age of 17.

    Leave a Comment
    More to Discover

    Comments (0)

    All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Activate Search
    The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
    New year brings eclectic plethora of films