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February 17, 2012 - 2:28pm

Weekend Movie Guide: Nicholas Cage, Reese Witherspoon and other big names to make appearances at the weekend box office


Columbia Pictures

On the menu for this week: Nicholas Cage (“Drive Angry”) battling the devil himself, two oh-so-hot spies fighting over the eternally vivacious Reese Witherspoon (“Water for Elephants”), a family of four-inch-tall people secretly living in a human home and a sing-a-long event with the ever-beloved, “The Little Mermaid.” Yes, we’ve got ourselves our very own bag of movie Chex Mix!

Continuing in his recent spree of demon-hunting, magic-teaching sagas, Cage returns with the bound-to-be-crap sequel to 2007’s “Ghost Rider” as Marvel’s anti-hero Johnny Blaze. After a long hideout in Eastern Europe, Blaze must return to stop the devil from taking human form. We’re probably all thinking the same thing — throw “Season of the Witch,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and last year’s “Drive Angry” into a blender, and this film is the bitter smoothie you’ll get. With the potential for cool special effects and a dumb plot, it’s fair to say: Watch at your own peril.

But wait, there’s a way to make dumb, predictable plots look remarkably irresistible — hire Tom Hardy (“Inception”)! Competing with the soppy, cheesy “The Vow” in this year’s Valentine’s Day movie parade is “This Means War.” Hardy and Chris Pine (“Star Trek”) play two top CIA agents who share nothing but mutual respect. Until, of course, they find out that they’re both dating the charming Witherspoon. Who’s she going to choose? And who’s going to wage the dirtiest battle to win her over? This story is far from original, but who cares when you’ve got a cast like this?

Meanwhile, if you’ve been touched and enthralled by the animation of Hiromasa Yonebayashi in “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away,” check out his directorial debut in “The Secret World of Arrietty.” The film tells the tale of the four-inch-tall Clock family and their anonymous, secret life in a human residence. Their peaceful existence is perturbed, however, when their daughter, Arrietty, is discovered. The animator’s associations speak for themselves — most likely, this film is going to be awesome.

And that brings us to the movie event of the week: a sing-a-long version of “The Little Mermaid.” The Michigan Theater is offering this must-see Disney classic in a whole new way! Ariel dreams to live above the water and defies her father’s wish by swimming to the top and saving a shipwrecked prince’s life, only to fall hopelessly in love. It’s a story we all know well. But the promise of singing, costume parades and goodie bags should make this an exciting kid’s night out in Ann Arbor.