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12 Films to Watch in February 2012

Which February movie releases are actually worth your time and money? We've got the answers.

We all know that January is where Hollywood dumps its crapburgers – although we did better than usual this year, thanks to Haywire and The Grey – but February usually brings some of the more interesting genre films of the year, and each of them has an actual shot at finding an audience, thanks to the lack of mega blockbusters. This year is no exception. Even your Valentine’s Day offering has gunfights in it. Here are the top 12 films competing for your heard-earned dollars this month, and our advice on how to spend that currency wisely. Sneak preview: The Phantom Menace 3D doesn’t qualify.

 

Chronicle (Rated PG-13)

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Dane DeHaan

Directed by: Josh Trank

Opening: February 3
 

A new twist on the “Found Footage” genre: a group of teenagers develop psychic powers and document their attempts to master them. What starts out as some kind of superhero YouTube video gradually turns truly epic.

CraveOnline’s Call: We’ve already seen Chronicle, so we’re just going to say it. Go see this f*cking movie. The enigmatic marketing campaign is designed to avoid spoiling the film, but the unfortunate side effect has been that they’re withholding all the good parts. This movie is everything the American Akira remake should be, and almost definitely won’t.

 

The Woman in Black (Rated PG-13)

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds

Directed by: James Watkins

Opening: February 3

 

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe gets his first post-franchise role as a young lawyer terrorized by a vengeful spirit. Based on the novel by Susan Hill, which had previously been adapted into a Made-for-TV film directed by the venerable Herbert Wise (I, Claudius).

CraveOnline’s Call: When Hammer Film Productions started up again a few years ago, this is the kind of movie we all expected them to make:  nice spooky period piece with creepy houses and British character actors. We’re on board for that alone, but the fact that the screenwriter of Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class is involved is pretty reassuring too. But the real story here is whether Radcliffe can open a film that isn’t based on an existing pop culture phenomenon. We’re guessing not so much, but we have our own theories on why that is…

 

The Innkeepers (Rated R)

Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis

Directed by: Ti West

Opening: February 3
 

Two hotel workers (Paxton and Healy) spend their last few nights on the job trying to prove that the Yankee Peddler Inn is really haunted, aided by a actress/psychic played by Top Gun’s Kelly McGillis.

CraveOnline’s Call: Two haunted house movies in a single weekend? We’d say it was Christmas, but it’s clearly more like Halloween. The Innkeepers is a creepy treat of a horror film that actually makes you want to scream “Don’t go in there!” It doesn’t quite hold up to West’s last movie, the brilliant House of the Devil, but it does cement him as one of the most exciting young directors working in the horror genre. Oh, and Sara Paxton is destined for stardom. Just give her time.

 

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Rated PG)

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzman, Michael Caine

Directed by: Brad Peyton

Opening: February 10
 

The sequel to 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth very loosely adapts one of Jules Verne’s other fantasy novels, The Mysterious Island. A surprisingly impressive cast joins Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson as they explore a magical land of 3D CGI creations.

CraveOnline’s Call: So Journey to the Center of the Earth sucked pretty hard, but it made money so now we’re getting another one. We expect a contemporary Around the World in 80 Days is next, and involves some truly atrocious airport delays. It looks stupid as hell, but at least it clearly knows that. We’re passing, but it might be okay for the little kids in your life.

 

Safe House (Rated R)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Robert Patrick, Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard

Directed by: Daniel Espinoza

Opening: February 10
 

Young CIA agent Ryan Reynolds has an easy job: just watch over a fugitive Denzel Washington in a safe house. Well, it turns out it’s not so safe…

CraveOnline’s Call: No thanks. Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds are both great screen presences, but they have an unfortunate tendency to make films that aren’t worthy of their star power. Unless Daniel Espinoza directs the hell out of this generic-looking thriller, Safe House seems destined to go down as one of their lesser projects.

 

Rampart (Rated R)

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Sigourney Weaver, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Ben Foster, Steve Buscemi, Ice Cube, Ned Beatty

Directed by: Oren Moverman

Opening: February 10
 

Woody Harrelson stars as a Los Angeles beat cop whose life unravels after a police brutality charge brings his utter corruption to light.

CraveOnline’s Call: Another one we’ve had the pleasure of seeing, Rampart is Oren Moverman’s follow-up to 2009’s Oscar-nominated drama The Messenger, co-written by L.A. Confidential author James Ellroy. The material is pretty familiar to police drama enthusiasts – you’ll find a fair amount of The Shield in here – but it’s all just an excuse to watch Woody Harrelson give the best performance of his career. He didn’t get nominated for an Oscar, but he shoulda been a contender.


 

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (3D) (Rated PG)

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ahmed Best

Directed by: George Lucas

Opening: February 10
 

George Lucas reopens old wounds by re-releasing his critically-reviled Star Wars prequel, in Darth Vader, as a little kid, helps take down crooked capitalists who’ve teamed up with a pair of Sith Lords.

CraveOnline’s Call: Look, we don’t want to kick George Lucas when he’s down, but the only reason to see The Phantom Menace in theaters, 3D or no 3D, is to remind yourself why it deserves the terrible reputation it has today. It’s the same reason why we go to KFC every year or two. We don’t think the 3D conversion is a good idea, but if you’re going to support the process, at least do it by paying to see a decent re-release instead.

 

This Means War (Rated PG-13)

Starring: Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Chelsea Handler, Angela Bassett

Directed by: McG

Opening: February 14
 

Star Trek’s Chris Pine and The Dark Knight Rises Tom Hardy star as CIA agents who use all their resources to compete for the affections of the same girl, played by Reese Witherspoon.

CraveOnline’s Call: This must have been a tough pitch, if you think about it. “The Part of True Lies Nobody Liked: The Movie?” It looks like middle of the road high-concept nonsense to us, and the fact that it’s directed by McG – he who brought us Terminator Salvation – is less than encouraging too. Yeah, you can probably skip this one. And Tom Hardy? Even if this makes money, even if it's actually pretty good, you can do better than this.

 

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Rated PG-13)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Ciarán Hinds, Christopher Lambert

Directed by: Neveldine/Taylor

Opening: February 17
 

Resisting the urge to reboot Mark Steven Johnson’s first Ghost Rider, the makers of Crank and Gamer have instead given Marvel’s weirdest superhero – his superpower is he sends you to Hell – a much darker, even crazier sequel.

CraveOnline’s Call: Wow, we never thought we’d be saying this, but the sequel to Ghost Rider looks awesome. Spectacular action cinematography – the kind of thing we expect from Neveldine/Taylor by now – and a thoroughly f*cked up tone make the trailers of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance an exciting promise of ridiculous(-ly badass) good times.

 

The Secret World of Arrietty (Rated G)

Starring: Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Carol Burnett

Directed by: Hirosama Yonebayashi

Opening: February 17
 

Talk about your counter-programming. Opening opposite Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty, a children’s fantasy based on the popular book series The Borrowers by Mary Norton, about a family of really little people who survive by secretly mooching off of people just like you.

CraveOnline’s Call: It’s from Studio Ghibli, so even though it doesn’t have demons and boobies it’s probably going to be an absolutely amazing film. The Borrowers have been adapted several times already, most recently in the rather good 1997 John Goodman version, but with a script by co-written by Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro) and under the direction of his longtime collaborator Hirosama Yonebayashi (making his directorial debut), we’d be shocked if this isn’t the best one yet.

 

Wanderlust (Rated R)

Starring: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Malin Akerman, Ray Liotta, Alan Alda

Directed by: David Wain

Opening: February 24
 

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston – yes, it’s going to be one of those – play a Manhattan couple who are forced to move to a rural Hippie commune after the financial crisis.

CraveOnline’s Call: There’s only one thing that’s keeping us from writing this one off completely, and that’s director David Wain. The director of Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models is one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets, and with a script co-written by his The State compatriot Ken Marino, there’s a damned good chance that Wanderlust is a lot funnier than it looks. We’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest catching a matinee.

 

Act of Valor (Rated R)

Starring: Alex Veadov, Nestor Serrano, Roselyn Sanchez

Directed by: Mike McCoy & Scott Waugh

Opening: February 24
 

In one of the more interesting recent cinematic experiments, a team of Navy SEALs play themselves in a fictionalized account of their actual jobs. This time they have to save a kidnapped CIA agent and save the world from international terrorists.

CraveOnline’s Call: It’s a neat idea, but populating an action movie with even less experienced actors than usual is a dicey proposition that’ll probably result in a film with plenty of action and zero audience involvement. There are worse things to be, but unless the script is absolutely stellar this one has “rental” written all over it.


Disclaimer: Release dates (and our opinions) are subject to change.