New year, new movies. The Oscars are mere days away, but the regular box office is still chuggin’ along, and in February, that means it’s time for the traditionally derided time of year where genre films run rampant and studios are just hoping to make some money to pad their pockets before summer blockbuster season.
Technically, the season’s already started with the release of last month’s “Underwater,” the under-the-sea riff on “Alien” with Kristen Stewart. It didn’t make much money, but I still want to check that one out.
Anyway, this year’s spring slate is full of the usual mix of genre films and studio tentpoles. Will some of them be duds? Will some be wild successes? Let’s find out together.
“Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)”
Honestly, this looks fun, a rarity for a DC property. I liked the cheesy charm of “Aquaman” and “Shazam!” so I hope this will maintain the fun streak DC has going for it. I still haven’t seen “Suicide Squad,” but one thing this trailer has over that movie is this doesn’t automatically sexualize Margot Robbie right off the bat. Probably ’cause this one’s directed by Cathy Yan.
Moody, snowy, isolated horror featuring Riley Keough and vaguely religious themes? Where do I buy tickets?
Lots of Valentine’s Day choices here.
“Sonic the Hedgehog”
The fans have spoken. Sonic is back and he looks more computer-animated than ever, after countless hours of labor and anywhere from $5 million to $35 million depending on which story you read. The February 2020 release date still doesn’t bode well for the property. This movie has now become a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” prospect. I’ve seen a lot of discussion about how fans now owe it to the animators to go see this movie, since their outcry was what led to this redesign. If it flops, it’s the fans’ fault. If it’s a success, then it sets a dangerous precedent for how fans can manipulate studios to their will. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out. There’s no way this will be remembered for its plot and not the controversy it’s caused.
Horror studio Blumhouse is heading up this feature-length adaptation of the TV show “Fantasy Island” that stars Michael Peña as the enigmatic Mr. Roarke. The show often went into some dark places, so this horror treatment isn’t totally unexpected, but it’s definitely a new spin. It looks like a quintessential Blumhouse flick: cheap budget, semi-recognizable cast, ironic release date, new plot spin. This is what “The I-Land” could have been.
Issa Rae’s first film on this list involves a romance with LaKeith Stanfield while she finds out more about her photographer mother.
This “Force Majeure” remake stars Will Ferrell and Julia-Louis Dreyfuss as a couple struggling to pick up the shards of their marriage on a family vacation. Things don’t go as planned when an avalanche only exacerbates their feelings toward each other. This has gotten pretty decent early reviews. I haven’t seen the film it’s based on but am looking at rectifying that soon.
Aiming for the older crowd with this one from Liam Neeson and Leslie Manville about a couple fighting a breast cancer diagnosis.
“Call of the Wild”
Disney’s already done “White Fang,” so this was imminent. It’s been a long time since I read Jack London’s novel about Buck and his adventures, but this looks like it sanitizes the tale a little bit. And that dog is definitely computer-generated, which is great for the ethical treatment of animals but uncanny-lookin’ on screen. Ah, who am I kidding, that dog looks like a very Good Boy, so I’m going to see this. The question is: Since this was originally a 20th Century Fox property that is now technically a Disney film, how soon will it be until you can watch this in a double feature with “Togo” on Disney+?
“The Invisible Man”
In which Leigh Whannell (“Saw,” “Insidious,” “Upgrade”) puts a contemporary spin on Universal’s “The Invisible Man” that focuses on the Invisible Man’s wife and leans into the insanity plot from the original. Into it. (Also, for the YouTube commentors on this video who are complaining about “spoilers” about if the Invisible Man is real or is a figment of the imagination — y’all know the original film came out in 1933 and settled that already, right?)
I’m not sure if we need another take on Peter Pan, but this at least looks like a fresh spin on the story. Hopefully there’s no pirate sea-shanty set to Nirvana in this one. (Also, peep the Fox logo. Disney now has another Peter Pan movie in its vault.)
Originally filmed in 2016 and released at Sundance in 2018, this year might be when “Burden” finally gets a wide release date. It stars Garrett Hedlund as a Klan member who tries to leave the group when his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough) wants to run away for a better life. The Klan seeks revenge, and the two white people are taken in by a black Baptist pastor (Forest Whitaker) and his congregation.
This may be the movie this spring I’m most excited about. It looks like it’s full-on insane and reveling in its simply wild premise: Daniel Radcliffe has guns bolted to his hands and if he doesn’t kill people, he will die. This looks like “Crank” on steroids.
Pixar’s next film is about two elf brothers (Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) who find a way to magically reincarnate their dad — but just the pants part. This is easily one of the weirdest story pitches for a Pixar movie, and I can’t wait to see how this one plays out.
“The Way Back”
Imagine “Hoosiers,” but if Shooter were allowed to coach basketball instead of Norman Dale. That being said, I’m a sucker for redemption stories in real life and on-screen, and this looks like both. Affleck filmed this right after getting out of rehab. Even in this trailer, it looks like he’s putting his heart and soul into this role. The movie looks like it’s exactly what you think it is, which for me is a feature and not a bug. These types of sorts movies are all the same tune, but the joy for me is watching the director and actors play their riff on the song. Gavin O’Connor has done that beautifully before, with 2011’s “Warrior,” and if “The Way Back” is half as good as this “Warrior” scene, it’ll be a success in my book.
“Burnt Orange Heresy”
“Widows” resident Tall Woman Elizabeth Debicki is back in another heist film, only this time, she’s stealing art. Mick Jagger is also involved.
“Sometimes Always Never”
Not to be confused with March’s “Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always,” this film with a title made up of theoretical time constraints is about a father who searches tirelessly for his missing son.
Kelly Reichardt returns with an A24 joint about immigrant farmers during the 1820s.
Dave Bautista dutifully taking over in the “action star works with kids” film genre that John Cena, The Rock, Vin Diesel, Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger prepared before him.
Now that that whole Spider-Man/Sony spat with Marvel is over (for now, at least), it looks like Sony is just getting ready to unleash all the franchises it owns. If this leans into the absurdity of its premise — a soldier dies, is brought back to life by scientists and is then memory-wiped after each new mission he completes — Vin Diesel can make this work. The “xXx” films work the best when Diesel plays Xander Cage like he knows how crazy he is. This looks like it insists upon itself a bit much with the over-acting and the slowed-down Johnny Cash cover, but that shot of Diesel’s face reconstructing itself looks really cool.
“Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always”
Any confusion with the above, similarly-named film should be put away when you compare the two synopses: This one is about a teenage girl in rural Pennsylvania who hops on a Greyhound bus to New York City to find an abortion clinic.
“I Still Believe”
This spring’s Christian film offering is a biopic of Jeremy Camp, starring Archie himself, KJ Apa. Shania Twain is also in this! Sign me up.
“The Roads Not Taken”
Leo (Javier Bardem) and daughter Molly (Elle Fanning) wander the streets of New York as Leo wonders about the lives he could have had, with the film taking an increasingly hallucinatory tone as the runtime goes on. Looks trippy.
“A Quiet Place Part II”
Emily Blunt and her quiet children are back, and this time it looks like there are other survivors. Hopefully this will not go along the “man is the greatest monster of them all” route, but who knows.
This may be one of the only Disney remakes I’m looking forward to. It looks great and looks like they actually put effort into embracing the fact that it’s live action, instead of trying to transfer animation over to live action. They may have gotten rid of Mushu, but they got Donnie Yen, Jet Li and Yifei Liu as Mulan. Hopefully this doesn’t go the way of “Aladdin.”
“The New Mutants”
It’s finally happening! Maybe! I won’t believe it until I see it on a theater marquee!
The second Issa Rae film on this list. Another romance, but this time a romcom in the vein of “Date Night” and “Game Night” with costar Kumail Nanjiani. “Game Night” snuck up on me and became one of my favorite comedies of the last few years. Hopefully this will be good, too.
“No Time To Die”
Daniel Craig is back in his last film as Bond, James Bond.
“Charm City Kings”
Adapted from a documentary, this fictional tale is a look into the Philly dirt-bike scene.
If all trailers were shot like this, I wouldn’t complain. No voiceover, no dialogue, no mini-trailer beforehand. Just visuals and music. I have no idea what this is about (wendigos, maybe?) but I’m intrigued. I love Guillermo del Toro’s work, but Scott Cooper’s a bit hit-or-miss for me. I love “Crazy Heart” but “Black Mass” and “Out of the Furnace” felt conflicted and excessive. Maybe del Toro’s influence will win out on this one.
“Promising Young Woman”
Early reviews of this film about a traumatized woman who seeks revenge on her rapist and anyone else who crosses her path have been mostly positive, while audience reaction has ben wildly divergent. This trailer also reminds me a lot of “Teeth.”
Janelle Monáe stars in this thriller from Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions that looks like a cross between “12 Years a Slave” and “Get Out.” This trailer plays its cards close to its vest but still looks intriguing and scary.
An Easter season entry from Portugal about the Our Lady of Fátima sightings in Portugal in 1917, starring Harvey Keitel. No trailer yet.