Friday movie roundup: Not competing with the Oscars
Published: February 22, 2013 10:10AM
Updated: February 22, 2013 11:20AM
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Paul Giamatti plays Arnie, a journalist who doesn't buy the story being told by David (Chase Williamson) in the horror/science-fiction mash-up "John Dies at the End."

Oscar weekend is usually light on new releases — on the theory that Hollywood studios want to give everyone a last shot at the major nominees.

There are a couple studio films, which seem to further the theory that movie producers can hide bad films from critics anytime — but to hide them from their industry colleagues, nothing’s better than Oscar weekend.

“Snitch” is a message-heavy drama that promises to be action-packed — but delays all the action until the last 30 minutes. Dwayne Johnson stars as a construction company owner who tries to act when his son is caught in a DEA sting and faces 10 years in prison. After the movie’s long-winded screed against mandatory-minimum sentences, Johnson’s character makes a deal with an ambitious U.S. Attorney (Susan Sarandon) to go undercover and ferret out a drug dealer (Michael K. Williams) tied to a Mexican cartel boss (Benjamin Bratt). Johnson’s acting chops are wanting, and the movie’s action is too little, too late.

The other studio film, the horror-thriller “Dark Skies,” was not screened for critics. (Mike Ryan wrote a hilarious account of his thwarted attempt to see “Dark Skies” at a midnight public screening in New York last night.

The Tower has two new titles this weekend. One is “John Dies at the End,” a trippy and entertainingly bonkers horror/sci-fi mash-up about two slackers (Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes) who discover a street drug with supernatural connotations. The other is “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga,” a documentary co-directed and narrated by Werner Herzog, an uneven portrait of Siberian fur trappers using ancient techniques as they battle the elements.