Winter Movie Preview 2011: Action

The few memorable January films of the last few years have all been related to action or the thriller genre to some extent. As for February, last year had a couple of poorly received action comedies which (thank God) there seem to be less of already for 2011 with exception of the one you see pictured above. The slate for 2011 looks better and as it should.

6. Season of the Witch (Jan. 7)

Directed by Dominic Sena
Written by Bragi F. Schut
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy

The Word: Cage and Sena (“Gone in Sixty Seconds”) re-team 10 years later only instead of boosting cars, they’re transporting supposed witches. As both roman and medieval era action becomes more popular (albeit no recent entry has been a runaway hit), “Witch” hopes to capitalize on the epic battles and the supernatural. Cage stars as a crusader who comes home to the Black Plague. Believing sorcery responsible, he’s been commanded to bring a woman believed to be such to an abbey in hopes that a ritual will end the plague. When they arrive, all hell breaks loose.

My Thoughts: Apparently this film has been on the back-burner since last spring, which isn’t the least bit surprising. Cage will act in just about anything. Wigging it up this time with the long locks, this one’s bound to be one of his “off” movies, but could be redeemed with some exciting action and special effects.

5. The Mechanic (Jan. 28)

Directed by Simon West
Written by Richard Wenk, Lewis John Carlino (screenplay and story)
Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland

The Word: Jason Statham always seems to star as the big name in all his action films. “The Mechanic” casts the Brit as a hitman yet again in this remake of the 1972 film starring Charles Bronson. When his mentor is killed, an elite “mechanic” (Statham) vows to take his revenge on those responsible, but he must work with the mentor’s son who demands to learn the hitman trade and avenge his father’s death.

My Thoughts: Honestly, watch this trailer and pretend instead of “The Mechanic” they slapped “The Transporter 4” as the title card at the end. Would you have even blinked? No, but that doesn’t mean Statham isn’t very good or at the least consistent at being a likable hitman. With Simon West (“Con Air”) at the helm, “Mechanic” looks to indulge action junkies on the explosions they crave and the clean-cut Statham will likely deliver.

4. Drive Angry 3D (Feb. 25)

Directed by Patrick Lussier
Written by  Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner

The Word: Longtime horror film editor-turned “My Bloody Valentine 3D” director Patrick Lussier has thrown together yet another gimmicky 3-D flick, this one however with a playful tone. Considering “Valentine” was one of the first of the new wave of 3-D films, Lussier’s been thinking in as many dimensions for years. This simple concept blends fast cars, revenge and 3D and stars Cage as a man out of hell (literally) who gets a chance to get back at the men who killed his daughter. He teams up with Amber Heard and he’s also got one of the devil’s men (Fichtner) on his tail.

My Thoughts: I’m glad that Lussier does not appear to take this film seriously and therefore pairing him up with Cage, an actor who’s often hard to take seriously, seems like a match made in heaven. This film offers car chases, explosions and operates on the ever-dependable revenge story, so it’s very clear who and what “Drive Angry 3D” is for. Considering this film was okayed to shoot in 3D and marketed to feed off of 3-D ticket sales, it will be interesting to see how audiences respond.

3. The Eagle (Feb. 11)

Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Written by Jeremy Brock, Rosemary Sutcliff (novel)
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong

The Word: Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”), helms one of a growing number of roman occupation period action films (see last year’s “Centurion”), this one based on “The Eagle of the Ninth,” a novel by Rosemary Sutcliff. Tatum, in his first to-be-taken-seriously action role (“G.I. Joe” doesn’t count), stars as the son of a disgraced soldier who 20 years prior disappeared with the entire Ninth Legion somewhere in Scotland. To prove himself and win back his family’s honor, the son sets forth with his slave (Bell) to find the legion’s emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth, but soon he finds the tables turned on him.

My Thoughts: I’ve loved everything Macdonald has done thus far (including last spring’s thriller “State of Play”), although I’ve not seen his Oscar-winning documentary on the Palestinian terrorist attack at the Munich games (the basis of Spielberg’s “Munich”). The Scottish-born director had to certainly be attracted to this interestingly Scotland-based story that uniquely emphasizes the slave vs. master dynamic. Jamie Bell will get his chance to shine here and Tatum the chance to prove he’s not just a pretty boy.

2. I Am Number Four (Feb. 18)

Directed by D.J. Caruso
Written by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Marti Noxon, Jobie Hughes and James Frey (novel)
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron, Teresa Palmer

The Word: This sci-fi superpowers young adult action film stars Alex Pettyfer (“Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker”) as one of nine alien fugitives living on Earth, constantly on the move with his guardian (Olyphant) because the enemies that killed the rest of his race want to finish the job. He is the fourth of his kind living on Earth and his pursuers can only kill them in order. The first three are dead. “Glee” star Dianna Agron stars in her first major film role as Number Four’s human love interest. Teresa Palmer (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) plays Number Six.

My Thoughts: This film was certainly placed in good hands. It was produced by Michael Bay and executive produced by Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks. Director D.J. Caruso (“Eagle Eye”) knows how to do on-the-run action and no two writers know how to write teenagers struggling to live with secret superhuman identities like “Smallville” creators and “Spider-Man 2” writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. With a cast of up-and-comers and a seemingly dark tone, “Number Four” certainly ranks higher on the list of winter action films.

1. The Green Hornet (Jan. 14)

Directed by Michel Gondry
Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, George W. Trendle (radio series)
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz

The Word: A film based on the popular “Green Hornet” radio and TV series about a crime fighter and his sidekick Kato has been in the works a long time. At first, Kevin Smith was attached to the project and over the years, comedian Seth Rogen finally got his hands on it. He and buddy Evan Goldberg collaborated for this humorous take on the superhero genre for which Rogen dropped a ton of weight. Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou fills the shoes of Bruce Lee as Kato and Christoph Waltz makes his Hollywood follow-up to his Oscar-winning role in “Inglourious Basterds.”

Rogen stars as Brett Reid, slacker son of media mogul James Reid, who suddenly dies and leaves his estate to Brett. Along with Kato, his father’s confidant, they team up to fight crime by posing as bad guys to get close enough to take them down.

My Thoughts: Some films get dumped in January and some strategically plan it. For quite some time now, “The Green Hornet” has decided the best move would be to be the film with the biggest appeal in the worst movie month. Marketing-wise, they’ve done just that. After the holiday season left us hungry, I’m awaiting “The Green Hornet” as a carefree humorous action romp. I have little memory of the TV series, so I’m not worried about the Rogen/Goldberg comedy butchering my chance at nostalgia. The trailer makes the film seem very hit-and-miss, but it’s without question the biggest draw of the winter season.


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