It's been a long, cold winter so far at the box office, but there are more than a few films opening this weekend that look to generate some heat...albeit one of which is mired in controversy. Yes, the long-awaited sequel to "The LEGO Movie" opens Friday, but so does the latest Liam Neeson film...and if you've been paying attention at all, you'll know that Neeson has been in the press lately for all the wrong reasons. Many are predicting that the negative buzz will all but kill the chances that "Cold Pursuit" does well, which could open the door for an R-rated comedy to have a good weekend.
There are a few smaller films premiering as well, and here are reviews of all the new films seeing release on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019:
"The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part"
Hey, what happened? Everything used to be awesome, and then "The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part" came around.
This imminent but unnecessary sequel continues the story of the wholesome Emmet (Chris Pratt), his gal Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and the whole cast of supporting characters like Batman (Will Arnett) who were once endearing but whom now feel mostly annoying. Where the first LEGO Movie succeeded in getting to the heart of what makes people...connect...with the famous toys, this film attempts to explore the relationship between siblings and what it means to share, co-exist and make nice with one another.
The problem is baked into this premise. Where the first movie had universal appeal, this film's focus is a bit narrower, and if you didn't have siblings, or a younger sister specifically, you're not going to get the "feels" in the same way you did watching the first film.
In some ways, "The Second Part" was destined to feel like a failure, just because the first one was so surprisingly fresh. The sequel is still written by the power-pair of Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, but instead of directing this one they hand that duty off to Mike Mitchell, director of less-than-spectacular kid movies like "Chipwrecked" and "Trolls." You can't quite put your finger on it, but you can just tell that there was someone different at the helm this time around.
There are some laughs, some clever moments, but "The Second Part" doesn't quite build on the first movie in any meaningful way. Not only are things no longer "awesome," they're all the way down to just "meh."
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy. Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes.
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell, Jadon Sand, Brooklynn Prince.
Directed by Mike Mitchell ("Trolls," "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo").
Liam Neeson hasn't been able to escape the controversy of some of his recent comments, just like his prey in "Cold Pursuit" can't escape his vengeful character. Also in need of escape? Anyone trapped in a theater who paid money to watch this awful dreck.
Perhaps playing off of the expectations of the audience - or perhaps toying with them - "Cold Pursuit" is not just another Liam Neeson action piece, set in the cold north. It is instead a black comedy disguised as revenge porn. Oddly, it is a remake of a 2014 Norwegian film, "In Order of Disappearance," a film that was directed by the same guy, Hans Petter Moland, and you rarely see a foreign film adapted for American audiences, directed by the same director. It's not clear if something was lost in translation.
Neeson goes on a killing streak as he tries to find the drug dealer responsible for his son's death. Everyone in the film has some sort of moniker or nickname, like the main bad guy, "Viking," played by Tom Bateman in what has got to be one of the worst, odd, mismatched performances of the year already...this one has a "Razzie" just waiting for it with Bateman's name on it. He is laughably bad, in a film that doesn't quite know what it wants to be.
"Cold Pursuit" doesn't get a gold star just because it feels different, and in some ways, refreshing. The sum of it is that it contains very little substance, and very little to like. It may not do well at the box office, but don't solely blame Neeson's recent bad press...this one is a frozen turd.
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller. Run Time: 1 hour 58 minutes.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Laura Dern, Domenick Lombardozzi.
Directed by Hans Petter Moland ("In Order of Disappearance," "The Beautiful Country").
"What Men Want"
Who knew that Taraji P. Henson - known for playing so bad - could be so charming and good? In "What Men Want," she provides an emotional center to a film that is sure to be pleasing...for both men, and women.
Henson plays Ali Davis, a strong business woman on the verge of a promotion. When she is passed over - again - by a male colleague, she fights to figure out her place in corporate America. That's when the "gimmick" kicks in: She bumps her head (and tries some laced tea...) and when she awakes, she realizes she has the ability to hear the inner-thoughts of every male walking the planet.
This film of course is flipping the premise of the 2000 comedy, "What Women Want," starring Mel Gibson. Stereotypically (and quite accurately), women are much less predictable than men, so you would think at first that Ali would just hear the same few thoughts when delving into the male brain. This film could have gone in many different directions, but it smartly focuses on Ali's ability not to hear what others are saying, but to finally come to terms with her own inner-voice as to who she is, and just where she fits in.
All comedies should be judged on how funny they are, and there are many laughs to go-around in "What Men Want." It's helped out tremendously by a great ensemble cast that all add in, from Josh Brener to Tracy Morgan, to make this a somewhat surprising, effective comedy.
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance. Run Time: 1 hour 57 minutes.
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Josh Brener, Tracy Morgan, Brian Bosworth, Max Greenfield, Richard Roundtree, Aldis Hodge.
Directed by Adam Shankman ("Rock of Ages," "Bedtime Stories," "Hairspray," "The Pacifier").
"The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot"
"The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot" may win the award for best title of the year, but the awards will stop there.
Sam Elliott plays an old soldier who once was tasked with killing Hitler...late in life, he searches for meaning. What could have been an interesting exploration into old age, or having self-worth, ends up being a dud of a drama that is way more on the nose that you might expect...we actually learn very little about this character or anyone else, other than what we can gather from the film's title.
A guy kills Hitler, then Bigfoot. Tell me again why we should care?
Genre: Drama, Adventure. Run Time: 1 hour 38 minutes.
Starring: Sam Elliott, Aidan Turner, Ron Livingston, Ellar Coltrane, Larry Miller.
Written and Directed by Robert D. Krzykowski (feature-film debut).
"High Flying Bird"
This movie was not reviewed and is now available on NETFLIX.
Genre: Drama, Sport. Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Starring: Michelle Ang, Farah Bala, Zazie Beetz.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh ("Magic Mike," "Contagion," "Traffic," "Erin Brokovich").
All of these movies open Friday, Feb. 8th, 2019. Check here for show times.
Movies opening next weekend include: "Alita: Battle Angel," "Isn't It Romantic," "Happy Death Day 2U."