February isn't necessarily a time just to fill the multiplex with throwaway genre movies. This weekend, for instance, it's a time when an amnesiac Liam Neeson, a 'Glee' cheerleader and two men in drag ponder the mysteries of identity.
'Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son' (PG-13)
Starring: Martin Lawrence, Brandon T. Jackson, Faizon Love, Jessica Lucas
Directed by: John Whitesell
What's It About?: In this threequel, drag-prone fed Malcolm Turner (Lawrence) and his nephew ('Tropic Thunder''s Jackson) go undercover at a girls' school to catch a killer.
Why Should You See It? Because you liked the first two 'Big Momma's House' comedies and can't believe you've had to wait five years for a third.
You Might Like It If You Like: Tyler Perry's Madea movies, Eddie Murphy's Klump movies
Watch Trailers, Clips and Reviews for All of This Week's New Releases
'I Am Number Four' (PG-13)
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Kevin Durand
Directed by: DJ Caruso
What's It About?: A high school girl ('Glee''s Agron) falls for a classmate (played by a pale English actor) who has unearthly gifts and whose small clan is at war with even more powerful others of their kind. It's aliens this time instead of vampires, but this sounds sorta familiar, doesn't it?
Why Should You See It? It's full of appealing young actors, including Pettyfer, who Hollywood hopes will be the next Robert Pattinson (he's also in 'Beastly' next month, opposite Vanessa Hudgens). Director Caruso does well with teen thrillers ('Disturbia'), and besides, you're a teenage girl and you already saw the Justin Bieber movie last week.
You Might Like It If You Like: 'Twilight,' 'Jumper,' TV's 'Roswell'
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Frank Langella, Aidan Quinn
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
What's It About?: Neeson wakes up after a car accident with some memory loss, but its everyone else, even his wife (Jones), who professes not to know him. Convinced he's being gas-lit, he scours the streets of a major European city looking for the conspirators who did him wrong. It's Berlin this time instead of Paris, but this sounds sorta familiar, doesn't it?
Why Should You See It? No one does righteous, two-fisted anger like Neeson. And Collet-Serra directed one of the creepier thrillers of recent years ('Orphan').
You Might Like It If You Like: 'Taken,' 'Frantic,' 'The Bourne Identity'
Read Leonard Maltin's review of 'Unknown' at indieWIRE
'I Am' is a documentary by Tom Shadyac, the successful director of such broad comedies as 'Bruce Almighty,' who, after a life-changing accident, gave away most of his possessions and decided to interview some of the world's top thinkers and philosophers to find out what it would take to make a better life for each of us on this planet.
Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
'The Chaperone' is a family comedy/drama that stars wrestler Triple H as an ex-con trying to go straight. To be closer to his daughter ('Modern Family's' Ariel Winter) and stay out of trouble, he agrees to drive the bus for a high school field trip, while an old partner-in-crime (Kevin Corrigan) tries to rope him back in as a getaway driver.
•'Just Go With It' -- Yes, Adam Sandler is way too old to be wooing Brooklyn Decker, but the comedy follows the reliable Sandler formula, so if you're a fan, follow the title's advice. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
•'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never' -- See the current version while you still can, before they re-edit it and re-release it in a couple weeks with new concert footage. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
•'Gnomeo & Juliet' -- Hey, kids, come for the inspired silliness, stay for the easy-to-swallow Shakespeare lessons. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
New on DVD: In 'Unstoppable,' it's aging man-of-action Denzel Washington (and young starship captain Chris Pine) versus a runaway train full of toxic chemicals. Who do you suppose will win? This marks Washington's fifth movie with thriller director Tony Scott (the last was another train-related tale, 'The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3'), and they have it pretty much down to a science by now. Buy the DVD | More New DVD Releases
Movie Homework: Like Washington, Liam Neeson is enjoying a surprising late-career surge as a pushing-60 action hero. In a way, Neeson has come full circle. Long before he was a middle-aged ass-kicker in movies like 'Taken' and 'Unknown,' and long before he was a serious thespian in movies like 'Schindler's List' and 'Kinsey,' he began his career as a young ass-kicker. The tall ex-boxer spent most of the '80s in action roles like the one in 'Excalibur,' where he's Gawain, the most muscle-bound of the Knights of the Round Table. If you ever wanted to see Neeson with armor and a broadsword, this one's for you. (Bonus points to director John Boorman for gorgeous visuals and for casting a young Helen Mirren as an evil sorceress.)
On Our Netflix Queue: The recent death of Maria Schneider prompts another look at her main claim to fame, 'Last Tango in Paris.' Forty years later, it's still shocking and powerful, not so much for Schneider and Marlon Brando's notorious sex scenes as for the couple's emotional rawness. All that hate-sex is only part of the way these two express their pain and grief; they prove there are other ways to be stripped bare than just taking your clothes off. Now that the film's on Blu-Ray, you can see every brutally honest moment in rich, buttery detail. Buy or rent the DVD | Watch It Streaming Online for Free
On TV: We bet most of the moviegoers who've made the new 'True Grit' such a huge hit have never even seen the original that won John Wayne his only Oscar, as drunken, one-eyed marshal Rooster Cogburn. Well, now's your chance, as the 1969 'True Grit' airs on AMC this weekend. (Friday, 8PM). Watch it and marvel at the big boots Jeff Bridges had to fill. Check your local listings
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter: @garysusman.