Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Movie Preview: February 2015

Thanks mostly due to a historical run by American Sniper, this January became the best January since 2009 when Avatar was still in the process of taking over the world. This huge boost from American Sniper also helped start 2015 in an excellent way by notching up the first billion dollar month of the year. This presents a fairly good omen for the rest of the year, a year that is full of huge movies that should make this a very healthy year for the box office. However, outside of American Sniper there weren't a whole lot of movies to write home about, especially when you only look at the new 2015 releases (this would exclude American Sniper and Selma which are both considered 2014 releases). Outside Paddington, all the new releases ended up below 40% on Rotten Tomatoes and over half of them below 20%. Even Paddington (which is at 98% right now) could be removed from this conversation due to the fact that it was initially intended as a Christmas movie before being postponed due to heavy competition. This just cements the idea that January is seen as a dumping ground for studios. February is usually a little better. You could say it's a combination of January and March in that it has several movies that studios are just dumping there in hopes to earn a bit of cash as well as some bigger movies that could draw a lot of interest. This is definitely the case for this February as it has quite the variety of films, both good and bad, big and small. So let's dive in!

February 6th - 8th-

The final weekend of January saw the failure of a movie in Project Almanac that went through a whole lot of production issues. Production issues don't always equate to failure, just ask World War Z, but nonetheless this first weekend we get two such movies are being thrown on the schedule. Before we get to those, though, one of the most popular cartoons is getting another shot at the big screen and that is The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water. SpongeBob has a pretty big following as it first aired on Nickelodeon back in 1999 and went for nine seasons with rumblings of a tenth coming soon. This time around, SpongeBob is going where no other SpongeBob movie or TV episode has gone before. Into the human world. A pirate has stolen something valuable, so they have to follow him and find it. A live-action SpongeBob movie with the classic characters being CGI is a bold move for sure that may or may not work out for SpongeBob fans. They like their classic cartoon SpongeBob and doing this could upset many. Or it could be seen as a genius move that sets this SpongeBob movie apart from all the other SpongeBob material in a good way.

Now to talk about the two movies that have gone through production issues. First off is the movie by the Wachowski siblings, Jupiter Ascending. This was supposed to come out back in June, but got delayed because the Wachowski's said they needed to polish it up, which is respectable. But going from big summer month to a quiet off-month doesn't show a whole lot of confidence. Or perhaps they are just trying to release in a quieter month where they can dominate. Which, if true, turned out to be an unlucky choice because this February is turning into a very competitive month. Early word on Jupiter Ascending is that the visual effects are top notch while the rest of the movie leaves a lot to be desired for, so that's not a good sign. However, what it does have on its side is an excellent cast that includes Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

In a lot more trouble is the fantasy movie Seventh Son. This is based on a popular book series, but as history has shown us, that isn't all that's needed to have success. This movie was originally scheduled to come out in February of 2013. That's two years ago. I can't even begin to describe all the reasons why it kept being pushed back again and again and again. Let's just say that it's had a whole bunch of issues and now it seems like it's just being thrown on the schedule so that they can get this over with. Are there are enough fans of the book series to help this do well? Better yet, do the fans of the book series know it's even coming out? Doesn't seem like there's been a huge marketing push. But Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son can't succeed this weekend and it's going to be hard for either of them to do well against Kingsman: The Secret Service coming up on the weekend of Valentine's Day. It seems like Seventh Son will be the odd one out.

February 13th - 15th-

Friday the 13th is happening this month and it comes the day before Valentine's Day. That seems like a bad omen for many. But not for the box office. Valentine's Day always seems to have a romance movie for the girls and an action movie for the guys. That way those wanting a happy lovey movie for Valentine's Day will be happy while those who want to boycott romance will also be happy. This Valentine's Day definitely follows that trend with two very high profile movies from each genre. To the chagrin of many, the romance movie this Valentine's Day is in fact the very controversial Fifty Shades of Grey. Controversy sparks publicity, which in many cases sparks curiosity. So those who are passionately against this movie and voice their opinions on it might be unintentionally helping its cause, if that makes any sense. Speaking of curiosity, that's the tagline on a lot of the marketing. Curious? Come take a peak. How many are going to give into this? A lot actually. Love it or hate it, this is a popular book with a lot of fans that has had a huge marketing push, so it looks to be quite successful. Those who do know exactly what they are getting into as it got its R-rating (yes R -- not NC-17 or PG-13) for "strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language."

Those not wanting to dive into the sexually charged Fifty Shades of Grey movie have the option to dive into the high profile action movie Kingsman: The Secret Service. This is also an adaption, although of a comic book, not a novel. Those who love action movies are certainly in for a treat because this looks like it is loaded with a whole bunch of crazy, physics-defying action-packed scenes throughout. The purpose of this is to provide a whole lot of fun for its audiences and it looks like it will do just that. Helping that is that this is also a comedy, so its definitely not taking itself seriously. Finally, this has quite the cast as it stars Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Hamill, and Michael Caine among others and also has Matthew Vaughn on board to direct, who previously directed Kick-A--, X-Men: First Class, and Stardust. Action? Comedy? Cast? Director? This is a big recipe for success.

February 20th - 22nd-

After what should be a fairly solid first two weekends this month, the third one looks like it may slow things down a bit, allowing for the holdovers from Valentine's Day to dominate once again. There are three new releases to talk about, though, the first of which being Hot Tub Time Machine 2. This was originally supposed to come out on Christmas, but it shied away due to all the press from The Interview, which ended up not getting much of a theatrical release. February was probably a better time for this, anyways, because the last couple of years have shown us that February is a decent time to release an adult-themed comedy. Last year About Last Night did decent business while Identity Thief was the biggest February hit from two years ago. So this sets up nicely on paper. The issue here is did people really want a sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine? Since its release in 2010, there have been a ton of adult comedies that have been huge hits that have already had successful sequels. But this was only a decent hit in the first place and it wasn't extremely well-received. They also probably waited too long to get this out, which will often hurt a sequel even if the first was liked.

Next up we have Kevin Costner doing what Kevin Costner does best. Starring in a sports movie. This time around he's a track coach in McFarland, USA. Sports movies are a tricky thing to do sometimes because there's really only so many ways you can go with the story before coming off as cliche and repetitive. At the same time, if you have a good cast with a good enough story, then people going into the sports movie will be ready for a happy, feel good story. But still, in order to attract huge audiences, you need to stand out. Can McFarland, USA stand out? Can Kevin Costner put the movie on his shoulders if it doesn't stand out. Costner's sports movie last year was Draft Day and that wasn't super impressive and neither was Disney's sports movie from last year in Million Dollar Arm. In fact, both ended with around $30 million, which seems like a fair place for this to end up in.

Speaking of comedies that people might not be interested in, our final movie of the weekend is The DUFF. This is definitely a comedy aimed at teenage girls as this is about a girl in high school being labeled as the "DUFF," which stands for "Designated Ugly Fat Friend." I didn't know that being a DUFF was a thing, but yet it's been a while since I've been to high school, so maybe that's a new thing for high school. Either way, self image is a pretty big thing for high school girls, so this seems like it could be relevant for that crowd, but are they actually going to show up to see it? It doesn't have a known director and it's biggest actor is Robbie Amell, star of CW's The Tomorrow People and The Flash. That's not the best sign.

February 27th - March 1st-

The final weekend of February, which includes one day of March, gives us two new titles, one including one of Hollywood's biggest stars in Will Smith. This movie is Focus. Given Will Smith's box office track record, it's hard to bet against him, especially in this one where he is teamed up with The Wolf of Wall Street star Margot Robbie. In Focus, Will Smith plays a con artist who takes Margot Robbie under his wing as a partner, but things get complicated when he starts losing... uhh.. focus. Because, you know, it's really easy to fall in love with Margot Robbie, so you can't blame the man. The movie is part crime drama and part comedy, so it looks like it has a very good balance. While betting on Will Smith to succeed just because it's Will Smith isn't a bad strategy, it's worth noting that his last big movie, After Earth, was a big failure, so even the best can fall short.

Last and possibly least, February rounds thing off by delivering us another horror movie with The Lazerus Effect. Horror movies are a dime a dozen and recently have been very poorly received. Recently being last year of course as there were many different horror movies that ended up on peoples' worst movies of 2014 lists. Is The Lazerus Effect going to change the genre's luck around by giving horror fans something can cheer for? Director David Gelb previous work includes.... documentaries? Nope. No feature length films. Nothing horror related. But if it can provide scares, then that's all that matters, right? The premise here is that a group of researchers finds a way to bring people back to life. Hence the Lazerus effect. And of course you know things are going to go wrong. This is only PG-13, so perhaps it's trying to attract the teenage crowd?

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