Sunday, January 4, 2015

Movie Preview: January 2015

It's the new year, which means it's now time to look at what the month of January has to offer. January is always an interesting month. The first part of January is always dominated by the holiday holdovers. This year will be no different on that front as The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into the Woods, Unbroken, and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb will be remaining towards the top of the box office at least for the first couple of weeks. Then in the middle of January we'll have the Oscar nominations revealed, which will see all these award-contenders taking advantage of the the newly found attention to earn some more cash. Selma, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything are examples of movies that will be taking advantage of this opportunity this time around. As far as the rest of the month's releases goes, January is typically seen as a dumping ground. While there are new movies from January that people will like, studios save their more promising releases for later in the year, leaving movie-goers who have already seen the holiday and award-contending movies to suffer a bit. So without further ado, let's jump into this month and take a closer look at these movies.

January 2nd - 4th-

The first weekend of January is a weekend that studios mostly avoid as the holiday holdovers dominate. This year is no different as The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is poised to win its third straight weekend. The Hobbit will be closely followed by Into the Woods and Unbroken with Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb not too far behind. However, throwing itself into the mix will be The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. The past three years has actually seen a new trend take place during the first weekend of January. While it's still true that this weekend is generally avoided, studios have found that throwing in a horror movie into the mix has proved to provide great counter-programming. The Devil Inside, Texas Chainsaw 3D, and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones all opened north of $15 million on this weekend in the past three years with The Devil Inside getting as high as $33 million. The first Woman in Black came out in February 2012 and was a surprise hit, both in terms of box office totals and reviews. With no Daniel Radcliffe this time around and reviews reaching basement level, this one has the recipe of a dud. However, it appears that the Woman in Black brand is apparently stronger than thought as based on early box office totals it is actually following the trend of the previously mentioned January horror movies. While not quite as has as those others, it is posed to open north of $15 million, which is a lot higher than some were expecting. It's likely to fall hard, though. By the middle of January, this will probably be a forgotten movie.

Sneaking into four theaters on Wednesday (New Year's Eve), thus officially being called a 2014 release, was A Most Violent Year. As suggested by the title, this is about a really violent year. Specifically it's about New York City during the year 1981. Director J.C. Chandor is fairly new on the scene, but he did get a Oscar nomination for best original screenplay in 2012 with Margin Call. Last year he directed the Robert Redford movie All is Lost, which was thought to be an awards contender, but got almost completely left out, getting nothing but a sound editing nomination. A Most Violent Year was thought of as the movie that would redeem Chandor, but early predictions suggest that this will  follow the trend of All is Lost. Oscar Isaac is a potential for best actor here, but that's looking like a long shot, so the best chance at an award will be Jessica Chastain for supporting actress. She picked up the Golden Globe nomination, which is a plus, but whether or not she gets the Oscar nomination is in question right now.

January 9th - 11th-

The second weekend of January has Selma and Inherent Vice expanding to additional theaters, with Selma being the big contender out of the two. With very strong reviews (100% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this post -- that's after 76 reviews), a timely release around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and many Oscar nominations to come once they are announced on the 15th, Selma is likely to be a huge player in January. However, I've already talked about both of these movies in my December preview, so check that out here.

The new movie of the weekend here is Taken 3. Back in January 2009, Taken became a surprise hit as it made just under $150 million in the US box office. Taken 2 opened twice as high in October 2012, but wound up just below Taken's total. Now the third installment goes back to January as it hopes to replicate the success of the first two. If you saw the first two Taken movies, you'll know exactly what to expect with this third movie. This time around, Liam Neeson's character Bryan Mills is accused of murder and is being chased by the government, so he heads out to find the true killer and clear his name. The rest should be pretty self-explanatory. It's Liam Neeson kicking everyone's butt in the over-the-top style of the first two.

January 16th - 19th-

Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend is usually the busiest movie weekend of January. This year that is especially the case as not only do we have a movie about the man out that you would think would get special attention, but also there's a couple of big movies that should help dominate as well. The first of those is another movie I talked about in my December preview, and so I won't spend much time on it again. But this is the nationwide expansion of American Sniper, which was already poised to have Lone Survivor-esque numbers from last year. The movie has been huge in limited release. In only four theaters, it's already earned nearly $2 million, which is insane. If it gets any Oscar nominations to go along with that, we could be looking at the new January record-holder.

The new challenger to face-off against Selma and American Sniper is the new Kevin Hart comedy  The Wedding Ringer. Speaking of that January record, it is currently held by Kevin Hart himself, having set the record on this exact weekend last year with Ride Along. Hart later went on to help two other movies from last year open up north of $25 million with About Last Night and Think Like a Man Too. So it's safe to say that Kevin Hart's brand is really strong right now. The Wedding Ringer co-stars Josh Gad (voice of Olaf from Frozen) and The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco and is a wedding comedy that has Kevin Hart in charge of a company that provides best men for those who can't get any and Josh Gad's character is in that exact position. In fact, he requests seven best men. There's a lot of popular wedding comedies, so this has the potential to join that club.

Joining the crowded weekend as yet another movie that has potential to do good business is Paddington. This was originally supposed to come out on Christmas, but backed out because of too much competition. So this goes from one crowd to another crowd, but the big difference is the number of family movies. On Christmas there was Annie, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and Into the Woods fighting for family audiences. Adding Padding to the mix would've made it so one of those movies would've been ignored, which most likely would've been Paddington. So this is a really good move since Paddington has zero competition. This movie is a British comedy as Paddington Bear has been an classic character in English children's literature since the 1950's and has also made his way onto TV several times. Now he gets his first movie. Paddington already came out in the U.K. back in December and they loved him, so the bear has done his job already. Us Americans will be late to the party due to the release date change. This movie doesn't need to be huge here to be considered successful as its already made $85 million internationally, but it probably will be anyways.

Last but not least is the crime drama Blackhat. It might be hard for this to completely breakout because of the competition, but this does have the fire power to make it the fifth movie of the weekend to do good business. Blackhat stars Chris Hemsworth in what will be a very busy first half of the year for him alongside. The premise of the movie centers around a cyber criminal that American and Chinese authorities are trying to track down. Chris Hemsworth's character is the one they release from prison to get to help them stop this cyber criminal. With a good cast and a subject matter that feels quite relevant given recent cyber attacks and threats, this could be a decent sleeper hit that gets people's attention.

January 23rd - 25th- 

After a very busy Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, the fourth weekend in January will deliver a bunch of duds, which means whichever movie ends up taking the top spot over the long weekend will most likely rule for this weekend as well. The best of the likely duds will be Johnny Depp's Mortdecai. This movie is based on a series of four comic thriller novels written back in the 1970's by Kyril Bonfiglioli, an English author. Front and center of all the advertising is Johnny Depp doing what he does best, acting weird and kooky. That at one point could've been considered a big draw, but at this point a lot of people are really tired of Johnny Depp's shtick, so there is a good chance that this backfires instead of helps this movie.

Next up is Lucasfilm Animation's Strange Magic. At one point of time, the idea of a story by George Lucas would've been considered a big deal. Not so much here. Lucas' idea was to have a story with elves and goblins that is about finding beauty in strange places. The story is inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and has been in production for quite some time, well before Lucasfilm was purchased by Disney. While the story does come from George Lucas, Lucas himself has not been involved with any of the screenplay, writing, or directing, for better or for worse. While the film is called Strange Magic, the word strange is what best describes people's reactions to the trailer. In theory this could pull off what The Nut Job did last January, being a surprise hit that everyone thought was going to tank, but that seems less likely.

The final movie of the weekend is The Boy Next Door. Jennifer Lopez' career was resurrected when she became a judge on American Idol, but that success has been strictly on the music side of things. It's been a long time since we've seen Jennifer Lopez as a lead star in a movie that has been a big hit, which is what the attempt is here. Lopez stars as a recently divorced high school teacher who has a one-night stand with a young boy living next door, who quickly develops a very unhealthy obsession with her, turning from what might look like a romance movie in the first part of the trailer into a psychological thriller. The "young" boy next door that stars along side J-Lo is 27-year-old Ryan Guzman.

January 30th - February 1st-

We've made it to the final weekend of January, which happens to include one day of February. If you've read up on my movie previews, you'll know that if a weekend is split between months, I always include it in the month that started the weekend, which is January here. This weekend has a huge disadvantage as Sunday February 1st is the Super Bowl. Movies don't do well that weekend. In fact, the only two movies that opened north of $30 million on Super Bowl weekend were movies that were directed towards females. No coincidence there. So essentially these movies this weekend have to rely solely on Friday and Saturday. The one with that will probably have the most success will be Project Almanac. This is a movie that has gone through a lot of production issues. It was supposed to come out last February, but got pulled nearly last second and put off for a whole year. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you may know the movie better as Welcome to Yesterday, because that was the original title before they changed it. If you are still drawing a blank, then just know that this is a found footage style time travel movie involving teenagers. Found footage was once a really popular genre thanks the the Paranormal Activity movies, but people quickly got sick of it after it got over-used, so it's a disappearing genre. This movie won't resurrect the genre at all, but it might be a decent hit. You can make a lot of comparisons to Chronicle, another teenage found footage movie that came out at the beginning of February a few years back. Chronicle became a surprise hit and if Project Almanac gets anywhere near that level, the makers of this film will be ecstatic.

Next up is Kevin Costner's Black or White. When the trailer for this first showed up in theaters, I thought that this was a movie starring Kevin Costner and Quvenzhane Wallis. I thought this was a good idea. However, it is not Quvenzhane Wallis at all. Instead it's a little girl named Jillian Estell. Anwho, this is a movie where Kevin Costner is in a custody battle over his granddaughter who he helped raise for her entire life. Along with Coster and Estell is Octavia Spencer. This seems like the type of movie that would get at least a bit of attention during awards season if it was released at the end of the year instead of in January. If for some reason it actually was eligible for this year and I missed that, it got zero awards buzz. As of now it's just a drama at the end of January that will get ignored by most.

The final movie of the month is one that I have not seen advertised at all. If there have been attempts to advertise this movie, I have totally missed them. This movie is The Loft. In fact, I had not even heard about this movie until I went to do this preview. Now it's very possible that it just flew under my radar. That's happened before, believe it or not, but I think they are going to have to do a bit of marketing for this if they are wanting to make money. The Loft is a thriller that is about a group of friends who own this loft for their extramarital affairs. One day a dead woman shows up in that loft and of course crazy things happen from there. This is definitely not the type of movie that would appeal to general audiences, which makes me feel like it'll be just another January movie that won't even show up on many people's radars.

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