1. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Brothers, 3,470 Theaters, Rated PG): This is one of those “okay, we’ll call it a sequel” sequels. When 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth became an unexpected success (over #241 million worldwide), a sequel seemed likely but there was none in the works since financial success was anything but assured.
The script for this movie was intended to be a standalone film which was rewritten to take part in the franchise. Gone are Brendan Fraser and director Eric Brevig. Sticking around is Josh Hutcherson as Sean and the quest to find a missing relative (this time it’s grandpa, played by Michael Caine). New this time around is Dwayne Johnson as Sean’s mom’s boyfriend/adult chaperone (awkward!), animals who are either much bigger than they should be or much smaller than they should be, and Vanessa Hudgens as Sean’s love interest.
I guess it does come close enough to the first Journey to qualify as a sequel, but it probably would be better as a stand alone film.
Washington is playing Tobin Frost, an ex-CIA agent who has gone over to the dark side. When he is captured by his former employers, he is put in a safe house managed by Ryan Reynolds. When a group of bad guys storm the supposedly safe location, Washington and Reynolds must go on the run. They must trust in each other in order to save their lives, which is hard because neither one trusts the other at all.
Not that I know anything about the film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Washington’s character was a good guy all along or had run afoul of a criminal element in the CIA.
Regardless, even more interesting than that is seeing how Ryan Reynolds fares acting with Washington. I like Reynolds as an actor, but he’s not in the same league as Washington, one of the best actors of this generation.
3. The Vow (Sony/Screen Gems, 2,958 Theaters, 104 Minutes, Rated PG-13): I love the way they are marketing this film. “Starring Channing Tatum from Dear John. Rachel McAdams from The Notebook.” And there’s a lot of emphasis placed on that fact. It’s the producer’s way of saying, “Listen, these two actors have experience in sappy, romantic films about two, star-crossed lovers who try to get together despite whatever fate throws in their way, which is just the kind of thing that happens in this film. If past performance is any indication of future results, this should be the best movie ever! Come see it!” If it works, expect a cycle of other actors from other sappy romances to become interchangable within the genre. It will become mix and match cinema.
And what does fate throw at these to young lovebirds? A car accident, a coma and partial amnesia, all thrown directly at McAdams’ character. This causes her to forget that she is married to Tautm’s character, and he is forced to win her back. Supposedly based on a true story, but, really, if you have legal documents that state you are married to someone, pictures from a wedding, and friends and family telling you that you are married, are you just going to ignore all that and make your hubby woo you all over again?
4. Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace 3D (FOX, 2,655 Theaters, 136 Minutes, Rated PG): The wife and I were coming out of the movies the other day and we saw a poster for this film in a display case right next to one for the Titanic rerelease, and I said to her, “Why doesn’t Hollywood just stop making new films and rerelease all their classic films over and over again.” I mean, royalties and residuals have to be cheaper than paying new actors to do new stuff right? Andit’s not like Hollywood isn’t already being slammed for its lack of originality. That way at least they’d be up front about it.
Of course, I’m being sarcastic. But seeing those two posters right next to each other made me realize that the wave of the future is actually a wave to the past.
Anyhow, if there’s anyone who knows anything about wringing the most money out of a franchise, it’s George Lucas. And here he is, rereleasing the Star Wars franchise yet another time to theaters to capitalize on the moribund trend that is 3-D. And he’s starting with the weakest installment to boot. There are some good things (whenever Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are on screen alone, the opening battle, Darth Maul, the closing battle, the spry version of Yoda), but the bad (Jar Jar Binks, Jake Lloyd’s performance, Jar Jar Binks, the thinly veiled and insulting cultural stereotypes, Jar Jar Binks, the nonsensical plot points, and Jar Jar Binks) far outweigh them in such a way that no amount of 3-D can fix. My advice? Wait until they get to episode IV until you head back into the theaters. Wait until this version hits DVD and Blu-Ray, which will be the 573rd and 574th version of a Star Wars film to hit home video.