HERE’S WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE THEATERS THIS MONTH.
The big one: Jupiter Ascending
It isn’t exactly a promising sign that Andy and Lana Wachowski’s latest science-fiction fantasia, Jupiter Ascending, was bumped from summer to the chill of February. But then, the time when The Matrix’s creators were mainstream Hollywood hit-makers ended right around the time they shouted, “Go, Speed Racer, go!” Fans of the Wachowskis’ eye-popping, physics-bending pulp pastiches will just have to be happy that someone out there is still willing to write a nine-figure check to fund an original story about an unambitious janitor named Jupiter (Mila Kunis) who learns from a genetically perfected alien warrior (Channing Tatum) that she’s the rightful queen of the universe.
- Ballet 422*… Jody Lee Lipes, cinematographer for the fine-looking films Afterschool, Tiny Furniture, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, directs this behind-the-scenes documentary about choreographer Justin Peck.
- 1971*… Not to be confused with ’71 (also out this month… see below), this documentary tells the story of an activist organization that burglarized an FBI office more than 40 years ago, revealing embarrassing secrets about the agency’s invasions of privacy.
- Outcast*… Hayden Christensen and Nicolas Cage have a good old-fashioned overact-off, playing European warriors who’ve abandoned the Crusades to sell their skills in ancient China. Didn’t Cage get enough of abandoning the Crusades to sell his skills as a warrior in Season Of The Witch?
- Seventh Son… After burning through three release dates (one of which was in February 2013), two major studio distributors, and even a couple of composers, this long-awaited(ish) supernatural adventure arrives on American movie screens just in time to remind audiences what stars Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore looked like two years ago.
- Shaun The Sheep… Though not as ingenious as the Wallace & Gromit series that spawned it, Aardman Animation’s Shaun The Sheep shorts should be more than adorable enough to support a feature-film expansion.
- The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water… Purists will balk at how the latest movie version of Nickelodeon’s popular undersea do-gooder adds extensive live-action sequences and computer animation, but the trailer actually makes this look like it could be the freshest, funniest thing the SpongeBob name has been attached to in years.
- The Voices… Marjane Satrapi takes a sharp turn from her graphic-novel adaptations Persepolis and Chicken With Plums to direct an English-language, pitch-black comedy (written by Michael R. Perry) starring Ryan Reynolds as a mild-mannered shipping worker who receives dangerous instructions from his household pets.
And: Enter The Dangerous Mind, Love, Rosie, Matt Shepard Is A Friend Of Mine, One Small Hitch, On The Way To School*, The Other Man: F.W. de Klerk And The End Of Apartheid*, Pass The Light*
The big one: The Last 5 Years
Writer-director Richard LaGravenese doesn’t bring enough visual flair to his adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s cult musical The Last 5 Years, and his staging doesn’t do much to support Brown’s songs, which range from the funny and catchy to the tuneless and generic. But LaGravenese gets a best-of-the-year level performance from Anna Kendrick, playing a struggling New York actress who watches her husband (Smash’s Jeremy Jordan), eclipse her as his writing career takes off. The story is told via alternating songs from the two partners, with one plotline moving backward from the end of the relationship, and the other moving forward from the beginning. Kendrick is on-point throughout, playing hopeful, scorned, and frustrated, and nailing every note.
- Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus… Spike Lee turned to Kickstarter to raise funds for this offbeat vampire film, which has been compared to the indie horror classic Ganja And Hess.
- Fifty Shades Of Grey… Fingers crossed that this adaptation of E.L. James’ kinky bestseller begins with an onscreen title that reads “Shade one.”
- Gett: The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem*… As fans of the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man should know, a “gett” is a form of ritual divorce in Judaism; the heroine’s inability to get a gett drives this Israeli melodrama.
- Hits… Comedian David Cross makes his feature writing-directing debut with a satire about how social media and video-sites give people an inflated sense of self-importance.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service… No need to wait for the next James Bond picture to get a jolt of secret-agent gadgets and explosions, not when Matthew Vaughn has adapted Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ comic-book series The Secret Service into an action picture starring Colin Firth as a dapper spy who helps scout the next generation of underground heroes.
- The Rewrite… Hugh Grant reunites with his Two Weeks Notice/Music And Lyrics/Did You Hear About The Morgans? writer-director Marc Lawrence to play a philandering has-been screenwriter who falls for a single mom (Marisa Tomei) after reluctantly taking a teaching position.
- What We Do In The Shadows*… After playing seemingly every film festival around the world, Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s vampire mockumentary will finally be seen by ordinary film/comedy buffs.
And: Girlhouse, White Rabbit*, Wyrmwood*
The big one: Wild Tales*
After debuting at Cannes and playing at the Toronto and Sundance film festivals, Damián Szifrón’s Oscar-nominated black comedy Wild Tales arrives in U.S. theaters, where it stands a good chance of becoming the kind of word-of-mouth hit it’s been in its native Argentina. Szifrón compiles six short vignettes, each about an ordinary moment of conflict that escalates into something outrageous: two angry motorists get locked in a standoff on a remote stretch of road, a munitions expert loses his cool over a parking ticket, a bride is driven to a rage by her philandering groom, and so on. The stories don’t add up to any big statement, but each is expertly shot and paced, capturing the everyday frustrations that threaten on any day to turn us into criminals.
- Accidental Love*… Originally called Nailed, this political satire was meant to be David O. Russell’s follow-up to I Heart Huckabees when it started shooting in 2008. Now its unfinished cut is being released, but credited to “Stephen Greene.”
- Drunktown’s Finest*… Sydney Freeland’s writing-directing debut follows three eccentric Native Americans as they cope with life on the reservation.
- Hot Tub Time Machine 2… Through some kind of crazy temporal anomaly, the sequel to a hit 2010 comedy has apparently erased the existence of John Cusack, whose role is now filled by Adam Scott.
- McFarland, USA… In addition to casting Kevin Costner as an inspiring track coach at a primarily Latino high school, this based-on-real-life sports drama answers the question, “What has Whale Rider director Niki Caro been up to lately?”
- Queen And Country*… More than a quarter-century after writing and directing the poignant wartime coming-of-age story Hope And Glory, John Boorman makes the sequel, in which the boy who survived World War II goes off to fight in Korea as a young man.
And: All The Wilderness, Approaching The Elephant*, Digging Up The Marrow, The Duff*, My Way*, Treehouse
The big one: ’71*
Jack O’Connell follows up his attention-getting starring roles in Starred Up and Unbroken with another part that showcases his intensity and physicality. As a British soldier lost in Belfast in 1971, O’Connell plays the raw fear of a man in the wrong place at the wrong time, on the run from people who want to see him dead. And director Yann Demange and screenwriter Gregory Burke give O’Connell plenty to do, creating a breakneck chase picture that gains in resonance because the cats and the mice look so much alike.
- Everly… Salma Hayek plays a killer who fights off mob assassins. Need more be said?
- Focus… Will Smith plays a con man bedevilled by a former protegee (played by Margot Robbie) in the latest film from I Love You Phillip Morris/Crazy, Stupid, Love writer-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Sequa
- Maps To The Stars*… David Cronenberg teams up with writer Bruce Wagner for a brittle take on modern show-biz, starring Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, and Mia Wasikowska.
- My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn… Liv Corfixen directed this documentary about her experiences accompanying her daughters and her husband Nicolas Winding Refn to Thailand during the shooting of Only God Forgives.
- Seymour: An Introduction*… Ethan Hawke pays tribute to a beloved piano teacher in this docu-portrait.
And: Ana Maria In Novela Land*, Bluebird*, Deli Man*, Eastern Boys*, The Lazarus Effect, Little Boy, Out Of The Dark*, Young Bodies Heal Quickly