Best New Movie Bets: February

"Vampire Academy" starring Zoey Deutch

Based on the best-selling young adult novels of the same name, it follows Rose (Zoey Deutch) a vampire-human hybrid as she attends boarding school. Coming on the heels of vampiric saturation at the hands of the “Twilight” franchise, vampire fatigue might be setting in. Aside from the Stephenie Meyer franchise there hasn’t been much success for similarly themed movies. The “Fright Night” reboot for instance, was met with an underwhelming box office performance. 

“Vampire Academy” is banking on attracting the same fierce female audience. Tracking on this one has been difficult to gage. The fandom has been a little quieter than others and whether it can attract outsiders, remains to be seen. There is an exciting mix of rising talent including, Zoey Deutch, of the short-lived “Ringer” and last year’s box office letdown “Beautiful Creatures”.

Her impressive performance on “Ringer” is indicative of leading potential. The supporting cast is comprised of the commanding Gabriel Byrne (“Vikings”) and Olga Kurylenko (“Oblivion”). With the director of pop-culture sensation “Mean Girls” and the writers of “Heathers” at the helm, having a beat on this generation’s girl troubles should be a cinch. Release Date: Feb.7

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"The Attorney" (Byeon-ho-in, Original Title)

South Korea’s commercial film effort, also known as “The Counsel”, is a legal drama about a money-motivated tax attorney, Song Woo-Seok (Song Kang-ho) whose personal journey is changed when he is faced with the injustice suffered by a student activist, Park Jin-woo (Im Siwan), who is put on trial for his democratic efforts as an advocate.

Deciding to act, Song Woo-Seok embarks on a passionate defense and is confronted with his personal responsibilities to the cause of civil liberties. The film has already been met with a warm reception in South Korea both in box office and reviews. Western audiences will soon have a chance to learn more about South Korea and that is an opportunity worth capturing. Release Date: Feb.7

"The Pretty One"

Zoe Kazan who made her delightful screenwriting debut with 2012’s off-beat “Ruby Sparks”, returns with this dark-ish dramedy. A “Parent Trap” of sorts, “The Pretty One” centers on Laurel Audrey (Kazan), one-half of an identical twin duo. When the more successful “other” twin dies, Laurel is mistaken for her and doesn’t correct the misnomer, soon taking over her life.

The story mainly seems to beg the question of if, living the life of another, can actually help clarify, one’s own personal perspective. Written and directed by Jenee LaMarque, it will be interesting to see what answer “The Pretty One” comes too. Release Date: Feb.7

"Beauty and the Beast" (La Belle et la Bete, Original Title)

Debuting in France on the aforementioned release date, this is a title that can’t go international quick enough. Lea Seydoux (“Blue is the Warmest Color”) and Vincent Cassel (“Trance”) star as the respective Beauty and Beast. The casting is spot on, Seydoux, a strong actress and Cassel possessing a rare charisma that allows even his most roguish incarnations to be seen with heart.

The trailer was a thrilling glimpse into what appears to be a big, fantastical production that will be visually mesmerizing. The effects look sensational and the story is being classically approached, a true telling apparently afoot. Since production was announced, I have been following this project and it appears expectations will be satisfied. Release Date: Feb

"RoboCop"

Remakes can be hit or miss and seldom offer anything new to the narrative, albeit there might be technological advances depending on the subject. In this case, the story seems to be remaining close to the original concept. The main difference being in this version, Alex Murphy/RoboCop (Joel Kinnaman) is a husband and father, along with being a cop.

As the story goes, he is nearly killed and given an experimental way to continue life, as a robo-man, family complications ensue. Personally, Kinnaman’s involvement is what gives this project an edgy boost.

Hailed as Hollywood’s possible new go-to-guy, after his breakout turn on AMC’s “The Killing”, international film fans might recall his fantastic performance in 2010’s “Snabba Cash”, more on that below. For Kinnaman this is Hollywood’s hurried test to see if he has the right stuff to draw major audiences in a big budget venture. He has the talent, whether this project is deserving of it, is the true test. Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton co-star. Release Date: Feb. 12

"Winter’s Tale" starring Colin Farrell

Ah, Valentine’s Day how you entice movie romance. In this adaptation of Mark Helprin’s novel of the same name, Colin Farrell stars as a man, gifted with reincarnation. He soon sets about using his skills to save his true love, played by Jessica Brown Findlay (“Downton Abbey”), after her untimely demise.

The trailer enticed quite a quiver of personal excitement with intense emotional moments on display and the sensational Birdy’s “Wings” playing in the background. It appears promising and Farrell, who reminded audiences of his unique gift for emotive sensitivity in last year’s “Saving Mr. Banks”, is a huge draw for this sweeping romance. This movie looks sweet and Russell Crowe is perfectly cast as the villain ready to thwart it all. Release Date: Feb. 14

"Endless Love"

This movie looks like it might be a guilty pleasure, heavy emphasis on guilty. A remake of the 1981 Brooke Shields teen drama, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, it is unclear if this adaptation will stay closer to Scott Spencer’s novel. The original film was critically ill-received, its sole redemption resting with Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’ Oscar winning duet as the film’s theme song.

So why remake this movie? It is clearly an attempt, at yet another starring vehicle for Alex Pettyfer and a launching point for Gabriella Wilde, who starred in last year’s drab “Carrie” remake, in a supporting role.

The trailer was inconclusive as to whether they have the chemistry to make this memorable. Shana Feste is at the helm and her previous effort, “Country Strong” was forgettable. All in all, if expectations are low enough, this might be slightly surprising. Release Date: Feb. 14

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"Easy Money II: Hard to Kill"

The sequel to the 2010 Swedish crime thriller “Snabba Cash”, Joel Kinnaman returns as JW, the ambitious business student whose desire for a grander existence, led him into a life as a drug dealer and at the center of a seedy underworld. Dealing with the consequences of the first film, JW is looking to turn things around. “Hard to Kill” is the second in a trilogy, the last of which has already premiered in Sweden.

The first film set the bar high and an American remake starring Zac Efron has been in the works for a while now. It’s impossible to imagine a remake capturing the nuanced grit of the original. As for the sequel, it’s a gamble, in terms of quality and with original director Daniel Espinosa, having moved on, replicating the feel of the first, might prove difficult. It is definitely worth giving a shot though. Release Date: Feb. 14

"Pompeii" starring Kit Harington

“Game of Thrones” star Kit Harington (Jon Snow) is ready for his feature film debut, in this emboldened, sword and sandal epic, directed by the effects loving Paul W.S. Anderson of the “Resident Evil” franchise. Harington plays a gladiator faced with the task of saving his true love (Emily Browning) from a loveless marriage to an evil Roman Senator (Kiefer Sutherland).

What could best be described as a “historical” disaster film, “Pompeii” is heavily reminiscent of 2008’s “10,000 BC” with the temperature in reverse. Anderson’s last directorial effort “The Three Musketeers” was better than anticipated, he might surprise again. Albeit the trailer has greatly dulled optimism, it might turn out better than anticipated. Release Date: Feb. 21

"3 Days to Kill"

Kevin Costner continues his career comeback in this action-thriller, written by Luc Besson of “Taken” fame and directed by McG (“This Means War”). Costner stars as a dying agent who is offered a possible cure-all drug, in return for one last assignment. Similar stories have been done before, 2012’s “Erased” quickly comes to mind.

After last year’s dismal “Paranoia”, Amber Heard is looking for a comeback film, herself. Hopefully this gives her a chance to prove what she already has on lesser known projects. That she has an unbridled star quality and is need of a deserving outlet for her talents. At this point, it is make-or-break for her career wise, with any luck this is will be the former. Release Date: Feb. 21

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"In Secret"

Elizabeth Olsen and Jessica Lange star in this foreboding gothic thriller. Olsen stars as Therese Raquin, a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage. Feeling isolated, she makes a dangerous bid for liberty in a torrid affair with her husband’s friend (Oscar Isaac).

A clandestine and volatile affair, set amidst the backdrop of 1860’s Paris has all of the makings for a tantalizing, if not all too revolutionary, morality tale. Based on the revered novel by Emile Zola; the film, which saw many casting changes and a title change since production started; finally arrives. Release Date: Feb. 6

"Non-Stop"

Liam Neeson is back and this time he will not be “taken”. Neeson plays an air marshal who must save a plane-full of people being held air-hostage by a maniac who communicates via text message, demanding $150 million from the airline, or else.

This is a high-octane action-film that is elevated by Neeson’s presence. His intensity is always palpable and he presents as a rare breed of action hero, as he was a celebrated thespian first.

Carrying the weight of action isn’t always weaponry and fight scenes, as his most credible action moments have come in the form of his exquisitely, threatening monologues. Without raising a fist, he manages to throw down the gauntlet, like no other. I’m ready to go “non-stop”, are you? Release Date: Feb. 28
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