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Jason Wallis During winter lull, Wes Craven, Zack Snyder offer decent flicks

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Jason Wallis

Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011 9:47 am

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had much of an interest in movies this week, as I’ve been spending most of my down-time enjoying some imported Venezuelan rum while I watch the world come apart at the seams on CNN. Violent clashes, Anderson Cooper getting attacked by a mob, and maniacs on horses and camels ransacking the streets of Cairo? Far more riveting than any moviegoing experience I can think of.

(I don’t know — something about the increasingly real possibility of complete global destabilization just makes me care even less than usual about the latest Ashton Kutcher or Kevin James flick. Guess I‘m just cynical.)

But at some point (hopefully) all the crazy crap going on in Egypt will end and our news media will revert back to covering things like Obamacare lawsuits and Charlie Sheen’s blow-fueled porn-star harem, and the siren call of the movies will once again draw me off my couch — perhaps against my better judgment.

After an awesome past six weeks that saw the release of the majority of 2010’s best films, we now find ourselves in that dreaded no-man’s-land of February through April — the period in which studios dump all their lesser efforts into theaters ahead of the pre-summer season. Things should start getting good around the beginning of May, but until then, it’s a bit of a wasteland. Still, there’s bound to be some bright spots. So here’s a look ahead to some of the films that should make the few months weeks somewhat bearable (listed in order of release).

“The Eagle” (Feb. 11)

Normally I’d pass, but this sword-and-sandals epic is brought to us courtesy of Kevin Macdonald (“Touching the Void,” “The Last King of Scotland,” “State of Play”). So I think I’ll take it, even if it is rated PG-13.

“Unknown” (Feb. 18)

Again, under normal circumstances, I would steer clear of this standard-looking stolen identity thriller. But Liam Neeson is headlining this one, and if he’s able to bring the awesome like he did in “Taken,” then that energy should compensate for some potential narrative issues.

“Rango” (March 4)

An animated reworking of Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo,” featuring the voice of Johnny Depp as a scrappy chameleon who must protect a small town from roving bandits. Depp is incredibly over-exposed at this point, but I’d be lying if I said this didn’t look like a fair bit of fun.

“Paul” (March 18)

Directed by “Superbad’s” Greg Mottola and — more importantly — written by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (the delightful duo from “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”), “Paul” looks like something out of the ’80s: an unapologetically dumb alien-buddy comedy about two idiots going to Area 51. Again, good fun.

“The Beaver” (March 23)

Don’t quite know what to make of this one. If it strikes just the right note, this tender tale of the friendship between a man and his beaver puppet could mark a triumphant return to the screen for everybody’s favorite dangerous lunatic, Mel Gibson. Or it could be earnest and horrible. Either way it should be surreal, and that’s enough for me.

“Sucker Punch!” (March 25)

Zack Snyder, currently working on the “Superman” relaunch after being hand-picked for the project by creative consultant Christopher Nolan, will get a prime opportunity to strut his stuff with this ultra-stylized girl-power fantasia of violence and mayhem. Those geek-senses are tingling.

“Insidious” (April 1)

Director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell, who collaborated on the first “Saw” before it turned into a trashy torture-porn franchise, reteam for a supernaturally themed, PG-13-rated thriller starring Patrick Wilson as a man trying to save his daughter from evil spirits. Might be a dud, but you never know…

“Arthur” (April 8)

I’m starting to come around a bit when it comes to Russell Brand, and I’m finding that his boundless comic energy translates very well to the big screen. He stars in this remake of the Dudley Moore/John Gielgud comedy classic opposite Helen Mirren, and the two could potentially play very well off each other.

“Your Highness” (April 8)

David Gordon Green was responsible for a string of ghastly art-house dramas in the early 2000s, but he appears to found his true niche in comedy. He brought an admirable indie spirit and avant-garde eccentricity to the near-masterpiece “Pineapple Express,” and here he reteams with James Franco and Danny McBride for another pot comedy -- this one set in medieval times. The red-band trailer provides a wealth of absurdist laughs.

“Scream 4” (April 15)

I have faith that Wes Craven can pull this off. The series gradually descended into unintentional self-parody after the crackerjack first entry 15 years ago, but now that some time has passed since the underwhelming third chapter, I’m hopeful that a healthy bit of genre reflection will yield witty and creative results.

Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at jasonwallis@comcast.net.

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