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Friday movie roundup: Not competing with the Oscars

Published February 22, 2013 10:10 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

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.