Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Movie Review: “Wanderlust”

Kool-Aid worth drinking. Director David Wain just keeps getting better with age.

**** out of 5
98 minutes
Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use
Universal Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Wanderlust (2012) on Blogcritics.

It can really mean something about a film’s quality based on the amount of note taking involved. During one’s scant 52 minutes (the so-called “documentary,” “Taylor Swift: American Beauty”), I may write down three pages of scathing hatred. Where as with this past weekend’s new release, “Wanderlust,” I jotted down exactly seven things. I guess that says a lot when one film is a glorified PowerPoint presentation and the other is from producer Judd Apatow and the crew behind comedic specialties like “Role Models” and TV’s “The State.”

An Apatow production used to mean big bucks at the box office after the onslaught of everything from his own “40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” to “Anchorman,” “Superbad,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and, of course, last year’s brilliant “Bridesmaids.”

Another thing most of those films had in common was the use of the same cast members. While you wouldn’t say they consisted of a particular comedy troupe per se, it adds to the charm when you see all of the cast members you love having a ball every time together. The same can be said for the films of director David Wain. He too uses many of the same recurring actors, but they’re nowhere near as instantly recognizable as Apatow’s friends; save for star Paul Rudd, of course. It’s also a reunion of sorts for real-life friends Rudd and co-star Jennifer Aniston after having appeared together in “The Object of My Affection” and her long-running TV show “Friends.”

While Rudd was never a household name for much of his career, he’s been around since way back in 1995 when he showed up as Cher’s step-brother Josh in “Clueless.” Any time I rewatch it, it’s completely obvious that Rudd has always been the comedic genius he’s finally getting recognized for. After stealing scenes for years in most of Apatow’s collection, he’s finally maintaining his own star status after the successes of Wain’s own “Role Models,” “I Love You, Man,” “Our Idiot Brother,” and even “Dinner for Schmucks” to some degree. While he’s best known for showing up in all those Apatow movies, he’s also been in every single Wain film as well. Although “Wet Hot American Summer” and “The Ten” are nowhere near the laugh riots that “Role Models” and “Wanderlust” are, those still have their moments that remind us exactly why Wain has stuck around for so long and he just keeps getting better with age.

In “Wanderlust,” we meet George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston), about to sign the dotted line for their new micro-loft in New York’s Greenwich Village. Moving into a one room with a view, they think they’ve both made it to the big time. Until the day that George walks into his office under siege by the FBI. Meanwhile, Linda is off trying to sell her documentary, labeled a cross between “An Inconvenient Truth” and “March of the Penguins.” While the HBO execs don’t bite, she comes home to find George on the couch where he informs her that he was just fired.

Now they’re off to find solace in Atlanta, Georgia, where George is taking a job offer under his brother Rick (co-writer Ken Marino). While Rick led George to believe he’s in the construction industry, turns out his business is in the toilet, literally. Rick actually provides portapotties for a living, making six figures, owns a mansion of a house, and may or may not be cheating on his wife Marissa (Michaela Watkins, one of the funniest women to get bumped off “Saturday Night Live”). Before making it to Rick’s first, they wind up hitting a speed bump at the Elysium Bed & Breakfast, “Where dreams are dispensed daily, bring your own container.” Turns out that Elysium is actually a commune, or as “leader” Seth (Justin Theroux) calls it: an “intentional community.”

Seth is the epitome of the hippy lifestyle and is stuck in an ’80s themed arrested development. The founder of Elysium is actually Carvin (Alan Alda), who can’t remember where he left the deed which Big Business wants to get their grubby hands on in order to use the land to build a new casino. After George and Rick get in a fight and George decides he likes the pot smoking, free loving lifestyle more than Rick’s emotionally bankrupt scenario, he convinces Linda that they should try out Elysium for at least two weeks, and if they decide it’s not for them, they’ll head back to Atlanta and deal with the real world once again. It’s only a matter of time before they both realize that their new living situation may be more than they bargained for, and a few drug addled nights may wake them up to reality more than they ever thought it would.

Hilarity abounds in what is easily one of the year’s best films so far. One liner after one liner spills its way out of the screen and into your collective vocabulary. This is one of those films that is so easily quotable, but you’ll want to see it more than once because you’ll be laughing too hard to hear them all. As hilarious as everyone in the cast is, the most surprising aspect may be how much of a scene-stealer Watkins turns out to be. She has the most hilarious delivery in a long time. But don’t let that sound like I’m putting anyone else down as everyone is bringing their A-game. Including Aniston, who’s finally getting to let loose in her current string of R-rated fare as of late.

The only issue may be with some of the pacing as some sections almost play like extended montages, some scenes literally are montages, and then some sequences tend to run on and on like a “Family Guy” joke, only making it funnier in the process of course. So go ahead, drink the Wain Kool-Aid and spend some time with the misfits of Elysium and muster up some “Wanderlust” of your own this weekend.

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

Movie Review: “Act of Valor”

For anyone who ever wanted a live-action “Call of Duty” movie may I present to you "Boom, Head-Shot!: The Movie."

** out of 5
111 minutes
Rated R for strong violence including some torture, and for language
Relativity Media

Article first published as Movie Review: Act of Valor on Blogcritics.

Having just finished off another year of the Sundance Film Festival, another independent film getting released at the end of February doesn’t lend itself to high hopes. Add to that the fact of having two directors (Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh) making their big screen debut, you hope that they at least have the passion to pull off the project.

With the decision to cast their film “Act of Valor” with active duty Navy SEALs in a plot to stop an act of terrorism against the United States, you hope things don’t turn into a live action version of “Team America.” Unfortunately, however, as unintentionally hilarious as that would have been, it might have actually helped things out in the long run. The biggest culprit may be Kurt Johnstad’s obnoxious script. Why these SEALs won’t shut up and shoot somebody constantly runs through your mind during a way too long 111 minute run time.

“Act of Valor” opens with a monologue from monotone main character Dave (none of the SEALs real names are disclosed in the film’s credits). He’s writing a letter which sounds an awful lot like foreshadowing. Soon enough, we find out that his friend Rourke has a baby on the way (bom bom bom). Meanwhile, in the Philippines, a U.S. Ambassador has just been assassinated, and CIA officer Morales (Roselyn Sanchez) has been taken hostage by Christo (Alex Veadov), our token Russian bad guy. Now Navy SEAL Team 7 (including Dave and Rourke) are sent in to rescue Morales, after which it is discovered that Christo is working with another terrorist to bring suicide bombers into the U.S. undetected. Christo hollowly points out that it will make “9/11 look like a walk in the park, Central Park,” unless Team 7 can stop them first.

I understand that directors McCoy and Waugh apparently had a great time working with the SEALs on their last project, the documentary short “Navy SWCC.” But these two know nothing about staging an action scene, especially considering they wanted to use the real SEALs in this film in order to show off their use of live ammunition and true Navy artillery in action. All this shows are real SEALs now even more out of their element as they are not actors. Just goes to show why it took the directors eight months to convince them to even star in this.

Meanwhile, sitting in the audience, we still know that it’s all just another day in Hollywood. We’re still watching just another fictional dramatization based on “true acts of valor.” And the biggest problem of all is that it’s shot so amateurishly that there’s not even any excitement to make you able to turn off your brain and enjoy the show. Just because one truck blows up real good, doesn’t justify an “Act of Valor” on the filmmakers’ parts.

Photo courtesy Relativity Media

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Movie Review: “Taylor Swift: American Beauty”

Taylor Swift does not endorse this product and neither should you. Labeled a "documentary," only false advertising at its worst.

Article first published as Movie Review: Taylor Swift: American Beauty on Blogcritics.

It can say a lot about a film based on how many notes I jot down while watching it. If I ramble on for three pages of notes, apparently there was more going on in my head than there was on screen. When you consider “Taylor Swift: American Beauty” only has a runtime of 52 minutes that says even more. And so is the case with this supposed “documentary.” While some documentaries manage to get under your skin based on their subject, the only thing that managed to get under my skin here was the ineptitude of the so-called filmmaking. Director Jason Boritz has managed to cobble together what can only be described as a Wikipedia page brought to life. While some may have thought the same thing about “J. Edgar,” at least we got to watch something far more interesting.

All we get in this “Unauthorized Documentary” (as it says on the cover plastered with a giant photo of Taylor Swift), is essentially an hour length PowerPoint presentation sprinkled throughout with interviews of fans and re-enactments of periods from Swift’s life story. The re-enactments would make even the producers of Lifetime movies cringe. Let alone that there’s some interesting bodily inconsistencies between the twelve year old version of Swift (Shannon Prior) and the sixteen year old version (Madi May Tindall).

The film grazes over all the highlights of Swift’s rise to fame. Including but not limited to: everything from her misfortune at RCA Records; being swooped up by Big Machine Records after being discovered at The Bluebird CafĂ© in Nashville by Scott Borchetta; to her infamous breakup with Joe Jonas; and Kanye West’s shameful 2009 MTV Music Video Awards interruption. If all you want is a highlight reel of facts from Taylor Swift’s life, that’s all you’ll get.

Unfortunately, you also get to suffer through scenes where random girls are walking down the street supposedly listening to Swift on a set of earphones, but obviously they couldn’t get clearance to use any of her music. The closest thing you get here are static shots of Prior and Tindall sitting around, strumming guitars, and not even so much as humming something that at least sounds like a Taylor Swift song.

The whole film plays like a fan-made love letter gone wrong. Toward the end of the film, it gets discussed how Taylor Swift “took down vendors who were selling counterfeit merchandise with her name and picture on it.” But that’s all this is as well. They then immediately follow this up with one fan saying, “It’s tough to say I gotta sue somebody. But you gotta do what you gotta do.” As such, Taylor Swift should aim her powers that be at this insipid piece of fansploitation and do the exact same thing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Movie Review: “This Means War”

Hopefully “This Means War” declares its own on the box office.

98 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sexual content including references, some violence and action, and for language
**** out of 5

Article first published as Movie Review: This Means War on Blogcritics.

Chris Pine and Tom Hardy are hardly household names. While fanboys may be more inclined to know Pine as J.J. Abrams’ Captain Kirk in his “Star Trek” universe, they also know Hardy as Bane, Batman’s arch nemesis in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming “The Dark Knight Rises.” Hardy has also popped up in everything from “Warrior” to “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” to “Inception” and “Bronson.” Now Pine and Hardy, along with the help of writer Simon Kinberg (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Sherlock Holmes,” the upcoming “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”), are keeping bromance alive and well in this weekend’s “This Means War.”

Tuck (Hardy) and FDR (Pine) are CIA operatives who are supposed to be on a covert operation in Hong Kong to capture the Heinrich brothers. After FDR flings one of the brothers off the roof of a skyscraper, the still living Heinrich brother (Til Schweiger, the criminally underused Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz of “Inglourious Basterds”) is now out for revenge. Back in Los Angeles, Collins (Angela Bassett), points this out to Tuck and FDR, grounding them in the process. Now the two have more time on their hands than they know what to do with. Tuck bides his time taking his son Joe (John Paul Ruttan) to karate school and trying to woo back his ex-wife Katie (Abigail Spencer).

Meanwhile, FDR prowls the local video store looking for “one night rentals.” It’s after Tuck joins an online dating site that he meets Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). FDR tries to warn Tuck that the girls on those dating sites “either pee standing up or are on our watch list.” But Lauren works at a consumer reports style office and has absolutely zero luck in the dating pool, probably largely due to the advice of her best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Of course Tuck and Lauren immediately hit it off but not before she heads off to the video store around the corner where she runs into FDR. Now Tuck and FDR are in a gentleman’s agreement to take down Lauren’s heart while Heinrich may be lurking about in the shadows.

Originally settling for Valentine’s Day weekend, strong word-of-mouth got the film bumped up to a well deserved Valentine’s Day release. Unfortunately, it has now been held back to today, February 17. Director McG may be known for his bombastics (both “Charlie’s Angels” films and “Terminator Salvation”), but I’ve always preferred his stylized form compared to someone else we all know who loves to blow stuff up every five minutes. McG lets the comedy reign supreme and the rapport between Pine and Hardy is immense. They almost have more chemistry together than either of them with Witherspoon. Thankfully, that’s what the film is actually all about. And a seemingly steady finger on the pulse of releasing studio Twentieth Century Fox’s current slate of immediate releases. There’s references to both “Star Wars” and “Titanic” which are seeing re-releases (both in 3-D no less), but there’s also a few great nods to both Star Trek and “Inception.” Timothy Dowling (“Role Models”) may be credited first, but this thing has Kinberg’s relationship-psychosis fingerprints all over it.

“This Means War” was originally deemed an R-rating but was sent back with no edits for appeal and garnered the more box office friendly PG-13. A well deserved rating here as there’s nothing within to make it any worse than any other film with this rating. While Handler may be the one spouting off some of the more profane moments, the film has a whole lot of heart. A few trips to Nana’s (Rosemary Harris) house make sure of that. And it’s sure nice to see Witherspoon earning back her crown as one of America’s sweethearts. Who wouldn’t want to fight over her in a movie? In the end, bromance thankfully wins the day. And in a film that could have been geared more towards the female crowd, ala “The Vow,” it’s nice to see something like “This Means War” infiltrating the Valentine’s Day weekend, giving everyone something to see without feeling obligated.

Photos courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Friday, February 10, 2012

Movie Review: “Safe House”

The first of two great action films this month. “Safe House” is a safe bet.

**** out of 5
115 minutes
Rated R for strong violence throughout and some language
Universal Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Safe House on Blogcritics.

Welcome back, Universal Pictures. If this is how you’re going to start making up for 2011, then way to kick it off with a bang. In my February preview, I mentioned that I hoped Swedish director Daniel Espinoza’s “Safe House” was more than just a Hollywood cash grab. And that the pairing of “Malcolm X” and “Green Lantern” (Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds) seemed like a match made in action heaven. With a swift script courtesy of David Guggenheim (making his big screen writing debut), it looks like they all set out to make sure we were safe to return to theaters this weekend.

Tobin Frost (Washington) is paying a visit to an old friend from the MI6, Alec Wade (Liam Cunningham). Frost is there to buy intel because someone outside wants Frost dead. Instead, they only manage to kill off a decoy while Frost and Wade attempt a getaway. Very quickly do they put a bullet in Wade and Frost makes an escape, but not before he can inject himself with the intel chip and walk straight into the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town, South Africa. Back at the CIA, Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) and David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson), are trying to figure out what to make of the fact that Frost just walked into the consulate off the street after being rogue for nine years.

Matt Weston (Reynolds) is a safe house keeper who hates getting passed over time and again. He just wants the chance to prove himself to the CIA and is getting tired of being holed up. He’s stuck staring at four walls all day waiting for someone to get brought in and feels guilty for having to lie to his girlfriend, Ana (Nora Arnezeder), about his late nights of being stuck at the “office.” When the T-1000, err… Daniel Kiefer (Robert Patrick), walks in with Frost’s head under a bag, he realizes that he may be getting a little more than he wants as they start to waterboard Frost before his beloved safe house goes under attack. Now Weston may get to finally prove himself after all if he can keep Frost safe but it may be a little more than Weston was bargaining for.

While Guggenheim’s screenplay may play with a few too many coincidences, director Espinoza keeps everything moving along at a relentless pace. Be forewarned though, Oliver Wood is on the scene as Director of Photography which of course means lots of shaky-cam. While some may complain about the need for Dramamine, I’ve come to the conclusion that no one does it “better” than Wood — even if there happens to be one instance of getting to pull off a classic John Woo shot, ala his work on “Face/Off.”

Composer Ramin Djawadi is slowly sneaking onto my radar as one of the next great action composers. Having been around for almost a decade now, he’s got a mixed bag of titles on his resume but after this, and his scores for “Fright Night” and “Iron Man,” he looks to be standing right alongside my current favorite, Michael Giacchino. It’s of no coincidence that they also dabble in television video game composing. On a final note, if it weren’t for the blood-riddled violence and intensity, “Safe House” is surely within the PG-13 realm and deserves to make plenty of money at the box office. There’s a total of one use of the forsaken f-word and almost no other profanity to be heard (which is really saying something considering the two leads). Maybe the MPAA is starting to take their violence a little more seriously for a change in their ratings game after all.

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

Monday, February 6, 2012

Movie Review: “Chronicle”

A film that jumps its own shark.

** ½ out of 5
83 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Expectations can be everything walking into a film. When all you know is that the film is a found footage exercise into the superhero genre, it makes you hope for the best. But what starts out as obnoxious, starts to get better before the ending comes along to completely ruin everything. You’ve seen this movie before, and it was called both “Spider-Man” and “Cloverfield.” However, I’m sure those comparisons will be more than enough to pique the target audience’s interest. And so it is, that where so many have gone before, comes “Chronicle,” to try to top them all.

Poor Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is this episode’s bullied teen at school. When not getting harassed there, he’s also abused at home by his unemployed, alcoholic, ex-fireman father, Richard (Michael Kelly). Andrew’s mother Karen (Bo Peterson) is sick and bedridden because the insurance money his father is collecting doesn’t leave them with enough to cover Karen’s medication. Andrew rides to school every day with his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) who also talks him into attending a rave. While there, Andrew gets punched in the face for filming someone’s girlfriend dancing and is found outside crying by Class President hopeful, Steve (Michael B. Jordan).

Steve was sent by Matt to find him; however, because they want to use the camera he carries everywhere to check out a huge hole they came across in a field. Of course the three venture into the hole where they find a huge pulsating energy mass and eventually they’re all back at home where they start to realize they’ve gained new superpowers. While at first wanting to keep their new found powers under wraps, sure enough, things slowly start to go from playful to serious. Everything reaches its boiling point at an after party for the school talent show as Andrew’s life situation (and sanity) begins to unravel while his mother’s illness goes from bad to worse causing the film to ultimately turn into “Pity Me: The Movie.”

Walking out of the theater, a fellow press member coined the story as “Peter Darker,” and he’s right. It’s just that as far as the found footage genre goes, this one winds up breaking its own fourth wall. One character, Casey (Ashley Hinshaw), is completely extraneous and only used to introduce another camera into the mix, which is basically cheating the formula. But things get drastically worse as director Josh Trank starts implementing footage from everywhere from security cameras to spectators phones, which makes you wish Trank and writer Max Landis had just gone the traditional filmmaking route. Hopefully, “Chronicle” will wind up as a standalone feature as the well has already been run dry. But we all know that’s never the case.

Photos courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

Movie Review: “The Woman in Black”

While Radcliffe doesn't get to venture far enough from his "Potter" persona, director James Watkins has fun with the PG-13.

*** ½ out of 5
95 minutes
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and violence/disturbing images
CBS Films

Article first published as Movie Review: The Woman in Black (2012) on Blogcritics.

As much as everyone says comedy is subjective, so to is the horror genre. Everyone has their guilty pleasures and just can’t help themselves. For better and worse, I sit through tons of horror movies every year, hoping that some will be great (“Insidious”), while most wind up being atrocious (“The Devil Inside”). Somewhere in the middle is where one’s guilty pleasures would probably fall, where you know it’s not a great movie, but it sure was effective on you. This week’s case in point, Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-“Potter” venture: “The Woman in Black.”

Coming across as trying to be kindred spirit to films like “The Others” or even “Skeleton Key,” the film opens with the suicide of three little girls. Next, we are introduced to young solicitor Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe). Arthur has just being sent to look after the estate of recently deceased Mrs. Drablow (Alisa Khazanova) in a remote village with a pesky ghost problem of their own. Mrs. Drablow’s sister Jennet (Liz White) is making the rounds about town in the afterlife, making the townsfolk’s children off themselves. All she wants is revenge for the death of her own son causing her to take her own life, while Arthur is on the case to find out the truth behind the Drablow estate.

Director James Watkins (“Eden Lake”) makes great use of cinematographer Tim Maurice-Jones and Marco Beltrami lets loose another creepy score. Jane Goldman (“Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class”) adapts author Susan Hill’s novel with all the bells and whistles of a fun house. There may be lots of things popping out of nowhere, but hey, they’re ghosts, it’s what they do. The film does venture into trying to take things to a new level for PG-13, mainly one scene involving one of Jennet’s latest victims. While Hill’s novel has also been in production as a stage play for awhile now, it was also a TV movie back in 1988. Being a UK production makes me wonder if the tale has always been a favorite of Goldman’s.

The film’s marketing team could make bank on making the creepy toys in the film available for purchase. While Arthur just wants Jennet to find release by reuniting with her dead son, the ending seems full of climaxes going unfulfilled leaving the movie with a cinematic case of blue balls. And another movie (“Drag Me to Hell”) managed to pull off the same style of ending far better. I can’t help but feel like Watkins feels the same way but is hindered by the assuredly studio demanded rating. What kind of film would star Daniel Radcliffe that his core audience would have to sneak into? As I said before, what works for some, doesn’t work for others, and for me “The Woman in Black” was a nice throwback to the Hammer Films of yore as they continue to try making a comeback.

Photos courtesy CBS Films

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Movie Preview: February 2012

Things start finally looking up with January under our belt.

Article first published as Movie Preview: February 2012 on Blogcritics.

Wow, aren’t we glad January is finally over? Hollywood is done slumming and the Sundance Film Festival has come to another close. Let’s take a look at what February will be bringing us before we get to start easing back into the good stuff.

February 3

At first glance, “Big Miracle” may look like it’s just trying to ride the coattails of the dreadful “Dolphin Tale”. On the plus side, this one features at least a better cast including Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, and Tim Blake Nelson. Yes, the true story to save a family of gray whales trapped by ice in the Arctic Circle just makes for an even fishier comparison. But at least now we know why Kristen Bell puts forth all that effort to cover up those unsightly tattoos before she throws on a parka.

And it wouldn’t be February without the assortment of genre films, right? First is Daniel Radcliffe out to show he’s more than just super wizard Harry Potter as he faces off against “The Woman in Black.” Coming from director James Watkins (of the awesome “Eden Lake”) and screenwriter Jane Goldman (Matthew Vaughn’s right-hand wo-man: “Stardust,” “Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class”) things are looking mighty creepy for this adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel.

Along with horror, we also get treated to a fresh take on the superhero genre in “Chronicle.” Three high school teens (Michael B. Jordan, Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell), gain superpowers and start learning how to use them. Of course the trailer shows one of them winding up as the villain, but the trailer boasts some pretty sweet effects and the found footage angle just makes things look even more fun. Let’s just hope that Josh Trank doesn’t tank his big screen debut. Either way, I can’t wait.

February 10

After a pretty bad 2011, it appears that Universal is looking to pick things up for their 100th Anniversary. With a spiffy new logo, lots of Blu-ray catalog releases forthcoming, and plenty of action fare headed our way, it looks like they’re about to give us what we’ve been craving. In “Safe House,” Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington square off as they take cover from an attack upon the titular location. Both have PhDs in wise-assery, and that’s hopefully the tone they bring to the table as it could make for a spectacular pairing for an action flick. Here’s hoping that Swedish director Daniel Espinosa’s Hollywood debut doesn’t take any easy outs just to make some easy money stateside.

Meanwhile, the power of February compels them to thrust a new “rom-com” on us and a sequel with a much better lead than the original had. In “The Vow,” Rachel McAdams (yay) gets in a car wreck and gains amnesia, forgetting she’s married to Channing Tatum (nay). So far, Tatum has been pretty amusing when he’s in comedy mode, and McAdams is great in everything so here’s hoping they can make this more than “Regarding Henry 2”-lite. At least that one had a screenplay from J.J. Abrams along with Mike Nichols in the director’s chair and starred Harrison Ford and Annette Benning. Maybe this one doesn’t stand a chance after all.

Now for the sequel that no one wanted, but was bound to happen: “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.” I’ll be honest, when I heard the title, I thought, “When the hell was there a Journey 1?” But alas, it’s a sequel to “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” now in a different location, and only Josh Hutcherson is returning. Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens (cast for the eye candy), and The Rock joining him on this 3D adventure. Let’s hope The Rock can “peck pop of love” us with his one-liners. Unfortunately, this installment happens to come from director Brad Peyton whose last cinematic atrocity was “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” so let’s not hold our breath.

Oh, and let’s not forget that “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” is bringing Jar Jar Binks into the third dimension today as well.

February 14

Sometimes casting is everything. Reese Witherspoon stars alongside the new Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Batman’s possible downfall, Bane (Tom Hardy), playing CIA agents both out to win her heart in “This Means War.” Things are helped along by action vet director McG (both “Charlie’s Angels” films and “Terminator Salvation”) and screenwriter Simon Kinberg (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) with Timothy Dowling (“Role Models”) adding some comedy to the mayhem. Hopefully it all comes tied together with a pretty bow as the word-of-mouth got the film moved up to a standalone Valentine’s Day release date. No matter how good or bad this will wind up, at least it’s not “Valentine’s Day 2” (unfortunately, somewhere in Hollywood, a producer’s head just exploded).

February 17

Sony sure seems like they know they have a lot to make up for regarding their “Ghost Rider” sequel. The subtitle, “Spirit of Vengeance,” just makes it sound like it even more. Alas, this time they’re filming in 3D (of course) but have brought along the directors of the classic “Crank” franchise to spruce things up. They’ve also scrapped Mark Steven Johnson (of “Daredevil” “fame”) and brought in comic aficionado David S. Goyer to help breath new fire into the series. While some may balk at the sight of Nicolas Cage pissing flames, it only sets my geekness on fire.

Meanwhile, Disney is thankfully treating us to another stateside Studio Ghibli release with “The Secret World of Arrietty.” While Hayao Miyazaki may only have written and produced the feature, that just makes room for him to leave his fingerprints all over it. The story sounds ripe for potential as the four-inch Clock family tries to live their life unbeknownst amongst regular sized humans until daughter Arrietty is discovered. With a U.S. voice cast consisting of Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, and Carol Burnett, things are just looking even sweeter.

February 24

Four flicks bombard the end of the month today. First up is from Apatow Productions. Director David Wain (“Role Models”) returns with writing partner-in-crime Ken Marino to bring us a true Apatow film with “Wanderlust.” Let’s be truthful, “Role Models” already had the Apatow-vibe going on and Paul Rudd is a long-time friend of both so it was only a matter of time before everyone joined forces. Here we find Rudd with Jennifer Aniston (who also worked together on “Friends”) playing a married couple who decide to take up residence at a rural commune after unemployment reigns supreme. The trailer only seals the deal that hilarity will ensue.

In “Gone,” Amanda Seyfried tries her hand at the thriller genre once again. With costar Jennifer Carpenter on board, let’s hope this doesn’t turn into “When Praying Mantis Attack” as their wide eyes duke it out on the big screen or “Attack of the Killer Caterpillar” with Wes Bentley’s giant eyebrows in tow under the direction of Heitor Dhalia (“Adrift”). Seriously though, Seyfried plays a woman convinced the same serial killer who kidnapped her two years ago has returned after her sister goes missing. Meanwhile, Tom Clancy is giving his full endorsement to “Act of Valor” about Navy SEALs on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent. Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh know the drill here after making their Documentary Short “Navy SWCC.” Also, there have been reports of another Tyler Perry movie opening called “Good Deeds.”

So there you have it. Things are looking a little better than January but we still have to wait it out for March before things start to look fun again. In the meantime, choose wisely dear readers.

Photos courtesy Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Screen Gems