Friday, February 18, 2011

Movie Openings: Week of February 18th, 2011 - Are You #4?

As the winter season meanders along, so does the current crop of new movies. Yet again, nothing really stands out this week. We have a sci-fi action thriller about special humans with powers and the mysterious aliens who hunt them, a Liam Neeson thriller in the vein of Taken, another Martin Lawrence playing dress-up film, an apocalyptic sci-fi thriller about creatures that live in the dark and finally a great horror film about a family of cannibals.

Last weekend, which also happened to be sort of a long Valentine's Day weekend, the only romantic movie to open in wide release, "Just Go With It," romanced its way to the top of the box office with an impressive take of $30.5M. I guess all the lovebirds were out in full force, doing the dinner and a movie thing. Coming up a close second was the Justin Bieber movie with $29.5M, which I had expected to top the list. Romance wins over the Biebster! The other two new release movies, "Gnomeo and Juliet" ($25.3M) and "The Eagle" ($8.7M) rounded up top four while last week's number one, "The Roommate" dropped to the fifth spot. Oscar contenders, "True Grit," which came in at number 9, breached the $160M milestone while "The King's Speech" stayed strong at number 6, bringing its total gross to over $93M.

Here are the highlights of this week's new movie releases:

Alex Pettyfer (Tormented), who played teen secret agent Alex Rider in the Anthony Horowitz novel-turned-movie, Stormbreaker in 2006, is now older and helming his first action sci-fi thriller. Together with Dianna Argon (one of the stars of Glee) and Timothy Olyphant (HitmanDeadwood), Pettyfer plays the titular character in "I Am Number Four." Directed by D.J. Caruso (DisturbiaEagle Eye), "I Am Number Four" is based on a young adult sci-fi novel by Pittacus Lore, which is the pen name of author James Frey (yes, the same one that was called out by Oprah years ago). This film has been berated by many critics as being yet another cookie-cutter action film that the filmmakers hope might just catch on with Twilight's tween crowd. The story trolls familiar territory: an outsider comes to town, falls for the most beautiful girl there, discovers his latent powers and finds out his true destiny of saving, maybe the world? "I Am Number Four" is treading water at the moment, rated at a dangerously low 32% by critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Here is the synopsis:

Three are dead. He is Number Four. D.J. Caruso ("Eagle Eye," "Disturbia") helms an action-packed thriller about an extraordinary young man, John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), who is a fugitive on the run from ruthless enemies sent to destroy him. Changing his identity, moving from town to town with his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant), John is always the new kid with no ties to his past. In the small Ohio town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events-his first love (Dianna Agron), powerful new abilities and a connection to the others who share his incredible destiny. John (Alex Pettyfer) is an extraordinary young man, masking his true identity and passing as a typical student to elude a deadly enemy seeking to destroy him. Three like him have already been killed...he is Number Four.

Liam Neeson is back on the big screen in a familiar edgy role as a man pushed to the brink of insanity by the events that surround him. If you have seen Neeson's previous action flick, Taken, then "Unknown" falls into that same mold. Not that it is a bad thing as I kind of enjoyed Taken. Although the plausibility meter may have been cranked down somewhat, it was an enjoyable action romp, much like many of the Jason Statham movies (CrankThe Transporter). "Unknown" gives Neeson a chance to show off his action movie chops. We all know he can act and now we know he can kick some ass too! And it looks like most critics like it as well. "Unknown" has been rated at a commendable 53% on RT, proving that movies don't have to be based on reality, just convincing enough to entertain us. Here is the synopsis:

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) awakens after a car accident in Berlin to discover that his wife (January Jones) suddenly doesn't recognize him and another man (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity. Ignored by disbelieving authorities and hunted by mysterious assassins, he finds himself alone, tired and on the run. Aided by an unlikely ally (Diane Kruger), Martin plunges headlong into a deadly mystery that will force him to question his sanity, his identity, and just how far he's willing to go to uncover the truth.

Remember Hayden Christensen? He of the pivotal but much maligned role of Anakin in the Star Wars prequels? Well, Christensen redeemed himself with his next movie Shattered Glass but has been pretty quiet ever since, taking on roles in lesser known films. With this film, "Vanishing on 7th Street," that may change. Also starring John Leguizamo and Thandie Newton, "Vanishing" is a sci-fi thriller that teases us with apocalyptic scenes in its trailers and the appearance of strange beings that attack in the shadows. This looks like it could be a good thrilling movie to watch. Most critics agree as well, rating it at 53% on RT. Here is the synopsis:

From director Brad Anderson (Session 9, Transsiberian, The Machinist) comes VANISHING ON 7TH STREET, a terrifying, apocalyptic thriller that taps into one of humankind's most primal anxieties: fear of the dark. An unexplained blackout plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, and by the time the sun rises, only a few people remain-surrounded by heaps of empty clothing, abandoned cars and lengthening shadows. A small handful of strangers that have survived the night (Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo and newcomer Jacob Latimore) each find their way to a rundown bar, whose gasoline-powered generator and stockpile of food and drink make it the last refuge in a deserted city. With daylight beginning to disappear completely and whispering shadows surrounding the survivors, they soon discover that the enemy is the darkness itself, and only the few remaining light sources can keep them safe. As time begins to run out for them, darkness closes in and they must face the ultimate terror.

I have a confession. I can't stand movies where guys dress in drag for laughs. Tyler Perry is a big culprit and Martin Lawrence has done it so many times, especially in his Big Momma's House series of films. The third film in that series, "Big Mommas: Like father, Like Son" makes it debut this weekend and all I can say it, if that is your thang, go for it. With a total of 21 reviews in, "Like Father, Like Son" has scored 0% on RT. Yes, a big goose egg. And you know what's the sad thing about this? This film will actually do pretty good business in the coming weeks. Come on people, let's not encourage them to make even more crappy comedies, OK? Here is the synopsis:

Big Momma is back - and this time he has big backup: his teenage stepson Trent (Brendan T. Jackson). Martin Lawrence returns as FBI agent Malcolm Turner and as Turner's deep-cover alter-ego Big Momma. Turner is joined by Trent, as they go undercover at an all girls performing arts school after Trent witnesses a murder. Posing as Big Momma and as hefty coed Charmaine, they must find the murderer before he finds them.

Opening in limited theaters this week is a creepy horror film, "We Are What We Are" by newcomer Mexican writer/director Jorge Michel Grau. If you like movies about dysfunctional families, boy, is this movie right up your dark alley. It is macabre and grisly, featuring some stomach-churning violence that stands tall with any other cannibal-infested films. It has earned a great 78% score on RT and should be on every horror film buff's list of movies to watch. Here is the synopsis:

A middle-aged man dies in the street, leaving his widow and three children destitute. The devastated family is confronted not only with his loss but with a terrible challenge -how to survive. For they are cannibals. They have always existed on a diet of human flesh consumed in bloody ritual ceremonies... and the victims have always been provided by the father. Now that he is gone, who will hunt? Who will lead them? How will they sate their horrific hunger? The task falls to the eldest son, Alfredo, a teenage misfit who seems far from ready to accept the challenge... But without human meat the family will die. Shocking, bloody and deeply moving, WE ARE WHAT WE ARE is a remarkable reinvention of the horror genre - a visceral and powerfully emotional portrait of a family bound by a terrible secret and driven by monstrous appetites.

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