So it’s February, and as any frequent moviegoer knows, that means it’s the off-season for major Hollywood releases.
The big blockbusters, of course, usually get saved for summer, while holiday movies and last-minute Oscar contenders tend to roll out in December. Even most big thrillers and horror movies tend to be trotted out in September or October. Black Panther, Disney’s latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, drops in two weeks, but other than that, we’ll probably be waiting till at least May for any real tentpole movies. (And honestly, that February release date probably says a little something about how optimistic Disney execs are for the film’s prospects).
I actually sort of enjoy this time of year, however. You’re not going to see many hotly anticipated movies coming out – not the sort of thing you’ve been waiting for with baited breath for a year or more, in other words, anticipating each new trailer as if it were a new release all its own – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few pleasant surprises waiting out there for you, if you’re patient enough to look. I can be a bit of a picky moviegoer, myself: I like my franchise movies, my Avengers and my Star Wars spin-offs. The kind where you have to stay all the way through the credits, lest you miss the cool “easter eggs” hidden in the belated final scene. But I often challenge myself to go and see a movie at some point during the weekend, even if there’s nothing playing that I especially want to see. All those big, flashy blockbusters can blind you to some of Hollywood’s smaller pleasures.
Here’s just a couple of flicks I’ve seen in the last month or so, movies I probably wouldn’t have bothered with if they’d been released during the height of blockbuster season:
Den of Thieves
Like many big tentpole movies, this one’s probably nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s a heist movie: a seemingly innocent, small-time hood gets caught between a gang of bad guys planning to rob the Federal Reserve, and a gang of even badder cops – led by Gerard Butler, who was in, like, every other movie that came out five or six years ago – who want to use him as an informant, and aren’t really overly concerned about whether pulling that double duty gets him killed. This is the kind of movie where you just know someone’s going to end up crawling through some air conditioning ducts at some point; the kind with a twist ending, complete with a last-minute flashback montage that lays out how the filmmakers tricked you. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, however.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This one’s enjoying some, in my humble opinion, well-deserved Oscar buzz, despite seemingly not making the December 31 cutoff point for 2018 consideration. Frances McDormand – the pregnant sheriff from Fargo – plays a small-town woman whose daughter was murdered a year ago, and the crime is still unsolved. So she puts up a series of billboards on the road into town, taking the well-meaning, but understandably distracted, chief of police to task for not making any arrests. Throw in a racist beat cop played by Sam Rockwell and you’ve got enough quirky characters for a Cohen Brothers film. I highly recommend this one.
These movies may not blow your socks off, but you probably won’t be sorry you took the time to see them, either. So next time you feel like taking in a movie, look a little closer at the new ones being released that week. You may discover some hidden gems you’d never even have known you’d missed.
Tony Baker is an avid film, TV and (popular) literature buff, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to contact him with any opinions, complaints, or suggestions for future columns! Viewpoints expressed in the article are those of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.