January's over, and things at the movies are picking up

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 31, 2014 - 3:39 PM

After the January doldrums, these 10 movies promise appealing stars, compelling stories, action and intrigue.

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Joel Kinnaman and Abbie Cornish in “RoboCop.”

Photo: Kerry Hayes • Sony/Columbia Pictures,

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Midwinter is movieland’s equivalent of the supermarket dump bin where damaged goods are heaped to make way for appetizing new stock. There’s not a great deal of product worth braving the cold for at the moment, but as surely as spring will arrive, promising movies are on the way.

Here are 10 arriving in the next few weeks to tide you over. (Release dates subject to change.)

Feb. 7: Only a Playmobil fanatic could resist the idea of “The Lego Movie.” Sure, it’s a feature-length commercial for the snap-together building kits, but it has attracted a stellar vocal cast (Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett and Nick Offerman). Chris Pratt plays an average-guy manikin who must lead the charge against a despot determined to glue the Lego universe together.

Feb. 7: There’s a ton of talent lined up for George Clooney’s World War II adventure “The Monuments Men,” too. In a reverse-“Ocean’s Eleven” scheme, Clooney leads Bill Murray, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett and Jean Dujardin on a raid to recapture art treasures from Nazi thieves.

Feb. 12: It’s tough to top Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 classic “RoboCop” for imagination, subversive satire and visceral violence, but respected Brazilian action director José Padilha is willing to take the remake challenge. Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley and Gary Oldman play OmniCorp functionaries; Joel Kinnaman is their weaponized Frankenstein law enforcer.

Feb. 21: The Oscar-nominated thriller “Omar” opens with a sniper attack on an Israeli military base that traps three young Palestinians in a web of violence, paranoia, betrayal and revenge. With superb chase scenes through claustrophobic alleyways, tragic romance and resonant political themes, the film portrays the occupied West Bank as a trap from which no one emerges unharmed.

Feb. 21: The documentary “Tim’s Vermeer” follows Texas inventor Tim Jenison on his quest to discover — and duplicate — the complex optical processes that enabled Dutch master Johannes Vermeer to create paintings of almost photorealistic precision. It’s a real-life detective story of 17th-century art and 21st-century science. Narrated by magician Penn Jillette and directed by his ever-silent partner, Teller.

March 7: Another wiggy entry from whimsical Wes Anderson is “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” This time he gives us Ralph Fiennes as the snooty concierge of a five-star European hotel, embroiled in a murder trial and art heist when an older lover dies and bequeaths him a masterpiece. Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan and Jude Law are among the generously star-scattered cast.

March 14: Sassy, snarky TV sleuth Veronica Mars returns in a film (“Veronica Mars”), thanks to a historic Kickstarter campaign that raised almost $6 million from impassioned fans. Kristen Bell revives her role as the persistent P.I. (now “a big-shot New York lawyer”), with series creator/writer/director Rob Thomas promising to include as many favorite characters as possible.

March 14: The dark psychological chiller “Enemy” stars Jake Gyllenhaal in a dual role, an isolated university lecturer and his identical double, a manipulative film actor. When each becomes aware of the other’s existence they begin a fateful game of sabotage, revenge and identity transference. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”) creates a scary dreamscape of dark desires and deadly consequences.

March 21: “The Lunchbox” is a warmhearted and utterly irresistible Indian romantic comedy. A Mumbai office worker (“Life of Pi’s” Irrfan Khan) begins receiving home-cooked meals prepared by another man’s wife. The single man and neglected woman strike up a relationship through notes they pass to each other in a story that proves it’s never too late to open one’s heart.

 

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186

 

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