By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 1, 2013 at 1:57PM
Synopsis: The lives of a married couple unravel when her new psychiatrist prescribes her an experimental drug.
What You Need To Know: Undoubtedly the major movie event of the month is the release of the final theatrical release by Steven Soderbergh, the sexy psychological thriller "Side Effects," penned by his "Contagion" and "The Informant!" collaborator Scott Z. Burns. Starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones, expectations were certainly high, and while Drew Taylor acknowledges in our review that its place as Soderbergh's final theatrical movie (for now...) places "an almost unfair amount of pressure" on the movie, it's also "stylistically unparalleled, totally gripping and occasionally devastating in its emotional presentation." Packed with surprises and twists, the film "plays within genre parameters, but is grounded deeply inside the corporate machinations on which the story is founded." It's a touch bleak, and towards the end faces "some occasionally abstruse leaps in logic that gnarl the narrative," but the performances are excellent, with Mara "once again demonstrating why she's one of the most exciting female leads onscreen," while Law "makes for an unexpectedly compelling and complicated lead." It's perhaps not the most significant film that Soderbergh ever made, but also "an engaging sexy little whodunnit directed by one of the great American auteurs of the past couple of decades."
When? February 8th
Synopsis: The fifth entry in the "Die Hard" series, John McClane travels to Moscow to meet his errant son Jack, only for the pair to come up against nuclear terrorists.
What You Need To Know: After 2009's "Live Free And Die Hard," we're not sure anyone was really chomping at the bit for a new John McClane movie, given that Len Wiseman's film was, bloated, CGI-heavy, joyless, and essentially "Die Hard" in name only. So expectations were fairly minimal for the fifth film, "A Good Day To Die Hard," especially with competent-but-workmanlike director John Moore ("Max Payne"), and screenwriter Skip Woods ("Hitman," "The A-Team") as the men in charge. But is it just us, or does "A Good Day To Die Hard" like a step up from the last film? The premise seems to be less ludicrous, and the tone a little more reminiscent of the original film, while the addition of Jai Courtney (who was impressively charismatic as the villain in "Jack Reacher") as McClane Jr. seems to introduce a sort of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"-type dynamic that could be a lot of fun. There's still cause for concern, however. The CGI-happy money shot the trailers end on seems more suited to superhero movies than "Die Hard," and villains Sebastian Koch and Radivoje Bukvic are, from what we've seen, less than inspiring. But we're certainly more optimistic than we were expecting to be.
When? February 14th|
Synopsis: In the deep south, high schooler Ethan is drawn to a newcomer in town, Lena, only to discover that she's from a magically-gifted family, and that on her 16th birthday she'll be claimed for either the light or the dark.
What You Need To Know; The coming year is stuffed with films hoping to fill the gap left by the recently wrapped-up "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" franchises, some looking more promising than others, mentioning no names (*cough* "Mortal Instruments"). But on the more promising side of the equation is "Beautiful Creatures." Based on the novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, it might have a somewhat generic set-up, but the talent involved is significantly better than average, from Oscar-nominated writer-director Richard LaGravanese ("The Fisher King") to the likes of Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis backing up promising new talents Alice Englert ("Ginger & Rosa") and Alden Ehrenreich ("Tetro"). There's a nice Southern Gothic feel to the footage so far -- like Tennessee Williams doing "Twilight" -- and backers Warner Bros feel pretty bullish about it. It could still turn out to be dreadful (LaGravanese's directorial efforts, including "P.S. I Love You," aren't so hot), but it looks like as far as teen supernatural romance fare goes, you could do a lot worse.
When? February 14th
Synopsis: The Japan-set tale of the relationship between a student, who works as a prostitute on the side, and her elderly professor/client.
Verdict: Any nervousness as to whether Abbas Kiarostami's brilliance would continue when he started making films outside his native Iran was swiftly quashed when "Certified Copy" premiered at Cannes in 2010 – the film was rapturously received and became a fixture on Top 10 lists in 2011. The Japan-set "Like Someone In Love" was billed as something of a companion piece, but Kevin Jagernauth found diminishing returns when he reviewed it in Cannes last year. The film "toys with ideas of image and identity, but unfortunately 'Like Someone In Love' lacks the intellectual depth and forward momentum of 'Certified Copy'... there are only so many scenes of characters driving around in a car we can take." Perhaps most crucially, none of the Japanese actors (mostly unknowns) are a match for the leads of the earlier film; "here, the actors more often than not seem as if they're reading from a textbook, never moving past Kiarostami's cerebral, soulless dialogue to take it to another level." Ultimately, Kevin found it "enigmatic and dull to a maddening degree," with the great Iranian filmmaker "spinning the wheels," but maybe his hardcore fans will find more to enjoy here.
Release Date: February 15th
Synopsis: An ad man in Chile in the 1980s is enlisted to head up the campaign to get rid of dictator General Pinochet in an upcoming referendum.
Verdict: Unsurprisingly for an election year, last year saw a host of politically-themed pictures, from "Argo" to "Lincoln" to "Zero Dark Thirty." But one film that deserves to stand with all of those is finally seeing the light of day this month, having knocked our correspondent James Rocchi's socks off at Cannes last year. Pablo Larrain's Gael Garcia Bernal-starring "No" is, according to James, "exciting, funny, moving... superbly shot, full of human characters" and was "one of the breakout films of Cannes." The central performance, from Bernal, "is superb, and gives the film a human heart," and ultimately the film is "extraordinarily well-made, superbly acted, funny, human, warm, principled and, yes, as enthrallingly entertaining as it is fiercely moral and intelligent."
Release Date: February 15th
Also Released: Also in theaters this week are Walter Hill's actioner "Bullet To The Head," which Jessica Kiang enjoyed more than she thought she would when she saw it for us, and "Stand Up Guys," which very few people seemed to have enjoyed, despite featuring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in the cast. Today also saw the release of documentary "Koch," coming on the day that its subject, former mayor Ed Koch, passed away.
Next week sees the mostly disappointing "A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III," the second film from Roman Coppola, graduate from VOD to theaters, while "Top Gun" also gets a brief 3D re-release on a limited number of screens. Valentine's Day also sees the release of questionable-looking Weinstein Company animation "Escape From Planet Earth," and Nicholas Sparks factory output "Safe Haven" with Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough, while the end of the month sees terrible-looking horror film "Dark Skies" and The Rock in serious mode in "Snitch."