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I don’t want to say that January 2014 was a bad month for cinema, but the last time I saw something that rotten, I was arrested for desecrating 13 cemeteries. Luckily, I got out on good behavior just long enough to celebrate with readers how superlative February’s theatrical releases will be in comparison. No matter how many of them end up falling short of their potential, at least all of them have potential to begin with.

But we put that snarky hindsight behind us in anticipation for the shortest month of the year, which will feature baffling remakes, hilarious animation, novel adaptations, a volcanic Paul W.S. Anderson movie and an all-star historical drama getting an early jump on the next awards season. Plus, February is the month that practically requires you to watch Groundhog Day again, so everyone wins.


The LEGO Movie
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller only have two features behind them, but their personalities are so profoundly strong that the negative stigma attached to "toy brand films" immediately washed away once they took over Warner Bros.’ The LEGO Movie. Ordinary Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) finds himself mistaken as the LEGO world’s Master Builder savior and teams up with Batman (Will Arnett), a street tough hero (Elizabeth Banks), a wizard (Morgan Freeman) and more to take down the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell), who plans for redecoration include taking apart the entire universe and recreating it in his vision. The cast is filled out by Liam Neeson, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Charlie Day and Alison Brie. The previews are fun, the imagination is boundless, and everyone involved is a winner, which is the recipe for two plastic thumbs up.

Director: Phil Lord & Chris Miller
Stars: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks
Release Date: February 7

The Monuments Men
When it comes to actors and directors who give historical dramas a good name, George Clooney fits squarely in both lists. The Monuments Men, based on Robert M. Edsel’s 2009 book of the same name, is Clooney’s take on a World War II film where the soldiers are art historians and the battles are for paintings rather than land or gold. The cast Clooney rounded up, including Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, and Bill Murray, are as much of a treasure as the masterpieces the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program was founded to retrieve, following mass Nazi lootings. Expect a few laughs to make their way into the tense drama. I wonder if they’ll eventually find any golden statues hiding in that art.

Director: George Clooney
Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman
Release Date: February 7

Vampire Academy
Aiming to capitalize on the attention spans of those interested in supernatural fantasy and YA novel adaptations, Mark Waters’ Vampire Academy is the first in a potentially long line of features based on the bestselling series by author Richelle Mead. This initial film will tell of Damphirs (half-human/half-vampires), Moroi (peaceful and mortal vamps) and the Strigoi (the vicious undead vamps), as two best friends discover the danger lurking behind the scenes of their boarding school, St. Vladimir’s Academy, while one experiences a blossoming romance with her mentor. Expect a lot of catty comments from fanged mouths to accompany the drama and minimal bloodshed.

Director: Mark Waters
Stars: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne
Release Date: February 7

RoboCop
Remakes will almost always polarize audiences, but José Padilha’s upcoming RoboCop modernization has been especially successful at drawing skepticism, with the black costume redesign and the PG-13 rating standing out as potential warning signs. But it still has the ability to be a decent action flick, even if it isn’t necessarily the most faithful of reboots. Joel Kinnaman stars as Alex Murphy, the half-man/half-robot saving Detroit from itself and the out of control police force set up by OmniCorp, with things getting really intense once Murphy realizes his morals didn’t disappear with the rest of his body. The cast is filled with A-listers old and new, so we’re hoping the story utilizes their characters at least as much as the barrage of CGI gunplay. Having a few clever one-liners wouldn’t hurt either.

Director: José Padilha
Stars: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson
Release Date: February 12

About Last Night
When the span of human history is complete, I predict About Last Night will serve as the only thing possibly allowing people to use Kevin Hart and "adaptation of a David Mamet play" in the same sentence. A modernized version of that play and subsequent 1986 film, this romantic comedy from Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine) moves the bedroom antics from Chicago to L.A. and follows its leads as their assumed one-night-stands last longer than anyone intended. Will this usher in an era of remakes starring mostly black casts? Fatal Attraction is just begging for that kind of adaptation, so let’s hope so.

Director: Steve Pink
Stars: Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant
Release Date: February 14

Endless Love
If you’d prefer your Valentine’s Day weekend to feature less romance and more lurid PG-13-style sex and melodrama, then you’ll be filling the theater seats for Shana Feste’s upcoming Endless Love, a remake of the non-fondly remembered 1986 original from Franco Zeffirelli. The central plot of reckless teenagers falling in love and defying parental authority appears to be the same, only with Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde filling in for Martin Hewitt and Brooke Shields. There’s no word on whether this update will take things to the mental asylum, or if it’ll aim for a higher plateau of ridiculousness. Considering "pretty people in love" long ago broke free from just the romance genre, Endless Love has its work cut out in crafting a story we haven’t seen a million times before. Getting Lionel Richie and Diana Ross back for the theme would be a plus.

Director: Shana Feste
Stars: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Robert Patrick
Release Date: February 14

Winter’s Tale
Though it’s an adaptation of Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel, Winter’s Tale is possibly the most unique film in this list, combining dark historical fantasy with romance and criminals. Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) makes his directorial debut with this tale of a 1916 New York burglar (Colin Farrell) who finds both love, a dying victim of his thieving ways, and hate, with an insane gangster, all while helped along by his magical guardian angel that arrives in the form of a flying white horse. It’s hard to tell from the outset whether this story of life and death will be surprisingly powerful or gorgeously silly, but it’s one of the only films where you’ll see Will Smith show up for a supporting role. So there’s that.

Director: Akiva Goldsman
Stars: Colin Farrell, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Russell Crowe
Release Date: February 14

3 Days to Kill
Otherwise known as "the movie where Kevin Costner tries to emulate Liam Neeson," 3 Days to Kill is the latest high-concept action idea from the mind of Luc Besson, who co-wrote the screenplay. Costner stars as a dying Secret Service agent who is leaving the job behind to reacquaint himself with his estranged wife and daughter. But he has one more mission, natch, which could grant him access to an experimental drug that could help his condition; he just has to take down the most dangerous terrorist on Earth while taking care of his unassuming daughter for the first time in over a decade. Besson’s name alone means big action with a wry twist, and director McG is not one to shy away from fist fights and explosions. Let’s hope this romp is good enough to last longer than three days in the theater.

Director: McG
Stars: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Amber Heard
Release Date: February 21

Pompeii
Though it appears at first as a punchline without a set-up, director Paul W.S. Anderson will soon allow viewers to experience one of the worst natural disasters in human history with the action adventure Pompeii. Set in the titular Roman town, the film will follow an English slave who fights to save his Australian beloved from an evil English senator. We’re assuming they got an actual Roman volcano to sit in on the role of Mount Vesuvius, but we can’t be sure. A love story that unfolds while lava spews into the sky doesn’t sound like a bad time at the movies, but Anderson has a penchant for making films that excel in cult appeal more than dramatic impact. Pompeii is thankfully utilizing large-scale sets and more physical effects than CGI, so it’s up to the script to retain the genuineness.

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Stars: Kit Harington, Keifer Sutherland, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Browning
Release Date: February 21

Non-Stop
Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra reteams with star Liam Neeson for some high-flying conspiratorial action with the mystery thriller Non-Stop. An air marshal is on what he assumes is an ordinary flight when a series of text messages kick off a plot that forces the marshal to put his fellow travelers at risk for a $150 million account transfer. The slick direction is coupled with the gimmick of reading text messages as they pop up on the screen. And I thought people wanted less texting in theaters. Beyond another super-smooth performance from Neeson, this will also be our second look at the Oscar-nominated actress Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave). It’s a win-win for anyone who isn’t Non-Stop’s villain.

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Stars: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Lupita Nyong’o
Release Date: February 28

Son of God
Blessed are the filmmakers…In what is arguably a truly genius marketing maneuver, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have taken their 10-hour History miniseries The Bible and edited it down to the Jesus-centric feature Son of God. As not to simply repackage something a lot of people have already seen, given its massive ratings, several of the miniseries’ deleted scenes have been edited into the film. This deepens the titular role, since Jesus only appeared through the second half of the telecast. That this will be a success is a no-brainer, as even a modest return would likely cover the minimal costs of the cinematic update.

Director: Christopher Spencer
Stars: Roma Downey, Diogo Morgado, Amber Rose Revah
Release Date: February 28

Welcome to Yesterday
This directorial debut from director Dean Israelite first made waves as "Michael Bay’s time travel movie," as his production company Anchor Bay produced along with Paramount. It seems to have more going against it than for it, as it’s a found-footage thriller that follows a group of power-hungry teenagers who figure out a way to both travel through time and make money from it. But time travel movies always have the possibility to be great, and Welcome to Yesterday may offer the lofty storytelling that transcends its reductive genre label. If not, it had better offer up a real formula to allow us to go back to the past and tell them to stop making it.

Director: Dean Israelite
Stars: Jonny Weston, Ginny Gardner, Sofia Black-D’Elia
Release Date: February 28

The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki makes animations that often appear more real than its live-action counterparts, while still remaining rich in imagination and scope. The Wind Rises is no different, and is a beautiful swan song in the career of the Oscar-winning filmmaker. Based on the Tatsuo Hori short story The Wind has Risen, this drama is a fictionalized biography of engineer and designer Jiro Horikoshi, who is followed from a young idealistic boy into an adult airplane designer invested in a tragic relationship. The English-dubbed version (sadly) will hit theaters less than two weeks before audiences find out if it takes home the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci
Release Date: February 21 (limited) February 28 (wide)

Watch Elizabeth Banks Play 'Kiss, Marry, Kill' With Chris Pratt's LEGO Figures

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