Fans of films old or new, plenty to flicks to look forward to in Philadelphia theaters this winter

Conventional wisdom has long looked at January and February as dead months on the movie calendar.But this year, there's plenty of intriguing stuff on the docket for Philadelphia moviegoers. And that includes two major movies that were filmed right here…

Conventional wisdom has long looked at January and February as dead months on the movie calendar.

But this year, there’s plenty of intriguing stuff on the docket for Philadelphia moviegoers. And that includes two major movies that were filmed right here in town.

WHAT’S TO COME IN FEBRUARY

The Upside stars local favorite Kevin Hart alongside Bryan Cranston and was shot mostly in Philadelphia in early 2017. The movie then sat on the shelf for an uncommonly long time, due to the Weinstein Company’s implosion, plus a later dispute over who exactly would distribute the film.  The film had its local premiere at the Philadelphia Film Festival last fall, and finally arrived in theaters last Friday. In this remake of the French film The Intouchables, Hart stars as an ex-con who is hired as the caregiver for a wealthy quadriplegic (Cranston.) The film has its moments – and has actually become a modest hit – but don’t expect to see a lot of Philadelphia in it, as most of the exteriors were shot in New York.

The other big release this month is not a Philadelphia film, but it’s the sequel to two other Philadelphia films. M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, which combines characters from 2000’s Unbreakable and 2015’s Split, was shot locally last year, and hit theaters on Jan. 18, with a cast that includes Bruce Willis, James McAvoy, and Samuel L. Jackson. This one is much anticipated, now that M. Night’s career is on the rise again.

A new thriller starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway called Serenity arrived on Jan. 25. In it, McConaughey plays a sea boat captain who’s asked by his ex-wife (Hathaway) to kill her abusive new husband (Jason Clarke.) There’s not much buzz about the film, but considering that it stars two A-listers and was supposed to come out last fall until it was delayed until late January, that’s probably not a great sign.

Feb. 9, offers a choice between a gender-swapped remake of What Women Want called What Men Want, with Taraji P. Henson stepping into Mel Gibson’s role, and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, the sequel to the surprisingly inventive original Lego Movie.

On Feb. 22, there’s Fighting With My Family, the directorial debut of Stephen Merchant, which stars a cast as diverse as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lena “Cersei Lannister” Headey, Vince Vaughn, and Nick Frost.

COMING IN MARCH

March, is when the blockbuster floodgates start to open. Captain Marvel, featuring Brie Larson’s debut in the superhero suit, arrives March 8, while the latest of Tim Burton’s remakes, Dumbo, bows on March 29. There’s also Richard Linklater’s latest film, Where’d You Go Bernadette, on March 22nd. And after Jordan Peele made the most electrifying directorial debut of the decade with Get Out in 2017, his follow-up, the Elizabeth Moss/Lupita Nyong’o thriller Us, arrives March 22.

But if you’re not so into new movies, there’s quite a lineup of repertory stuff headed our way this season, both the new Philadelphia Film Center (the former Prince Theater) and at other area theaters.  

Inside the Film Center, you can also see the greatest film of all time, per more than one survey: Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, which is showing in 35mm on Jan. 30. There’s another all-time classic screening the next night: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, which marks its 30th anniversary this year, will show at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute on January 31, following a seminar with instructor Usame Tunagur, Ph.D.

Also on Jan. 31, you can also check out the beloved 1993 Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day at the Ambler Theater. And over at the Bourse, they’re actually running a Facebook poll over which movie to screen at midnight that night, with contenders including Predator, The Exorcist, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, Superbad, and Mad Max: Fury Road. You can vote here.

On February 7, the Film Center is showing the 1993 Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy classic Sleepless in Seattle in the Black Box theater upstairs, as part of a Throwback Quizzo & Movie. And speaking of romantic classics, 1987’s Moonstruck, with Cher and Nicolas Cage, will show at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute on March 7.

In conjunction with a four-part class being taught on The Empathy and Ecstasy of Wes Anderson, several of that director’s early films are showing at BMFI: Rushmore on February 5, The Royal Tenenbaums on Feb. 12, and The Darjeeling Limited on Feb. 19. Meanwhile, Casablanca (1942) is getting a big-screen showing on February 24, at the Colonial. And at the other end of the quality spectrum, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room will have another of its regular midnight showings at the Bourse on March 8.

Grey Gardens, Albert Maysles and David Maysles’ famous documentary from 1975 about Kennedy relatives “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” and their adventures in a decaying Long Island mansion, will show at the Lightbox Film Center at International House on Feb. 6. And regardless of whether or not Kevin Hart ends up hosting, the Oscars are set for Feb. 24. If you don’t plan to let a little thing like Old Man Winter turn you into a homebody, the Film Center, Philadelphia Film Society, Hiway Theater and Ambler Theater all have plans to host Oscar watch parties.

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    Stephen Silver is a writer, film critic, podcaster and editor who has worked in the Philadelphia region since 2005. In addition to Philadelphia Weekly, his work has appeared in New York Press, Tablet, Philadelphia Magazine, Philly Voice, AppleInsider, The Jerusalem Post, Fox29.com, and Broad Street Review.