Thursday, February 4, 2016

Movie Preview: February 2016

Thanks in part to some very strong December holdovers and expansions (namely Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Revenant, and Daddy's Home), the first month of the year was quite a success as it became the second straight January to earn over $1 billion at the box office. Now we're onto February, which is historically one of the lower-grossing months of the year as it actually has to rely on its own new releases as opposed to holiday holdovers. Generally the first two months of the year aren't where studios release their biggest films, thus is why this time of year is typically known as the dumping ground for Hollywood. However, recently Hollywood has learned that movies can actually make money in February as The LEGO Movie was a huge hit just two years ago and last year had three movies released this month that went onto make over $100 million at the domestic box office. This revelation added to the fact that it is Valentine's Day this month has made it so this February is actually fairly busy as there are several titles that should appeal to a lot of people. So let's dive in and take a look!

February 5th - 7th-

First up this month is a movie that probably would be getting a lot of Oscar buzz if it was released at the end of the year instead of the beginning. Hail, Caesar! is that movie. Joel and Ethan Coen are two of the most well-known filmmakers as they have written and directed many beloved films for movie fans such as No Country for Old Men, FargoThe Big Lebowski, and the True Grit remake. Not only are they known as great directors, but they've also done a whole lot of producing, writing, and editing for a huge number of films. All this work has earned them a whopping 14 Oscar nominations. Hail, Caesar! is the whole package for them as they wrote, directed, produced, and edited the movie. They also had Roger Deakins on board as the cinematographer and a huge cast that includes Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johannson, Tilda Swinson, Frances McDormand, Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill. Like I said, the Oscars would be all over this if this was released at the end of the year. We'll see if it can pull off what The Grand Budapest Hotel did at last year's Oscars. The movie is a comedy about the making of a 1950's movie called Hail, Caesar! and what the crew has to do when their lead star goes missing.

It wouldn't be February without a romance drama would it? Even better, a Nicholas Sparks movie? This year's edition is The Choice, which is the 11th Nicholas Sparks movie. They started with A Message in a Bottle in 1999 and have been almost an annual thing since 2010. I don't need to really tell you what the movie is about. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl experience a falling out that almost causes their relationship to end. Boy and girl overcome whatever problem and live happily ever after. That accurately describes every Nicholas Sparks romance drama ever made. The difference is the leader actors and a slight variation in the setup. This year's boy and girl are Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer. Typically these movies have had a good track record at the box office, especially the ones that actually get released around Valentine's Day. But the last two have actually completely bombed. Are people finally getting tired of these movies or is a resurgence in store this month?

Speaking of romance dramas, arguably the most popular movie or book in the genre is Pride and Prejudice. Most girls you talk to know and love this story and for good reason. This month the story is back on the big story. This time around there's a huge twist, though. All you have to do is look at the title to know what it is: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This comes from the same author that penned Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and is another ridiculous action comedy that will obviously appeal more towards the male gender than the female gender. Do females really want to see a movie that adds zombies to their beloved story? Targeting males this weekend does pose two major problems. The first is that most guys will be preoccupied with Super Bowl 50 this Sunday, which will affect this movie much more than the other two this weekend as people don't necessarily rush out to see a Coen Brothers film on opening weekend and a Nicholas Sparks movie appeals more to teenagers and females. The other problem is that the male audience are probably much more interested in next weekend's Deadpool than this. At the same time, though, this does have a built in audience because of the book which could give it a chance to beat out the other two this weekend.

February 12th - 15th-

The second weekend of February houses both Valentine's Day and Presidents in the same four-day weekend, which will make this a very lucrative weekend, especially with the three movies that are on the table. The biggest of these three is none other than Fox's highly anticipated Deadpool. A while back, Deadpool test footage was "leaked" onto the internet. I put that into quotation marks because you wonder if that was secretly done on purpose to see how audiences would react. Well, purposely done or not, people nearly lost their minds with how excited that made them, which gave Fox the confidence to move forward. Deadpool is a very popular comic book character in Marvel comics and a very unique one at that. Not only does he break the fourth wall all the time, but he's also a very foul-mouthed, raunchy superhero. Doing him justice requires a very strong R, hence the hesitation for the studio. R-rated superhero movies don't usually go over too well in the box office. There's a reason most are only PG-13. It's very risky to go higher, but Fox is taking that risk and based on reactions from fans, it's looking like a nice reward will be in play. This will help many erase the bad memory of X-Men Origins: Wolverine's version of Deadpool, which is a big part of the reason why many didn't like that movie.

The weekend's second release is another highly anticipated movie and that is Zoolander 2. Looking at the numbers, it might not seem like a Zoolander sequel is a great idea. Zoolander only made $45 million at the box office, it's been 15 years since it's release, and reviews weren't that great in the first place. However, since its release Zoolander has become a bit of a cult classic as its audience has grown quite a bit in the last 15 years. So a sequel actually does make sense and many people are excited. It will definitely have competition from Deadpool, but the movies are different enough that they both should play well. The whole crew is back for this sequel as Ben Stiller is on as director and star again and Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson join him as co-stars. There's also several newcomers to the cast as well as a huge list of big cameos that should make this a very fun outing for Zoolander fans.

The final release of the weekend is a very timely comedy called How to Be Single. Valentine's Day is usually a great day for people that have a significant other, but it can be a depressing day for those who are single. Hollywood always gives movies around this time for the former, but rarely is there a movie that panders to the latter, which is what this comedy is. It's a comedy that where a bunch of people need to learn how to be single in a world with a constantly changing definition of love. This is a premise that could work very well, but yet it is a raunchy comedy that is definitely targeted towards adults and not teenagers, which could limit its potential on this Valentine's Day weekend. Raunchy comedies do have a good track record as of late and this has a great cast led by Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnston, and Leslie Mann, all of whom are fairly popular as of late. It just has a lot of competition to fight through, so we'll see how this all shapes up.

February 19th - 21st-

Valentine's Day holdovers will most certainly dominate this third weekend, Deadpool especially. But three more movies will make their way to theaters this weekend, giving people plenty of options. First up is Risen. In the last couple of years, faith-based films have been doing very well. At around this time two years ago, Son of God, God's Not Dead, and Heaven is for Real all did amazing. Having faith-based films in the market isn't enough anymore to get huge box office results as there have been plenty of failures. These studios need to give people unique, quality films in order to convince people to keep coming out, which is what Risen is attempting. The story of Christ has been told a thousand times. But Risen is taking a unique angle as it tells the story of the resurrection of Christ from the angle of a Roman Soldier who doesn't believe in Christ. This specific angle is one that hasn't been explored too deeply, so this definitely could attract an audience. Ralph Fiennes' younger brother Joseph Fiennes, who recently has been put in the media spotlight for being cast as Michael Jackson in an upcoming TV movie, is the star here. Tom Felton will co-star with him as the two will be out to disprove the rumor of a resurrected Messiah.

Next up we get a biopic of a very important figure in sports history. Race tells the story of track and field legend Jesse Owens as he competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. He was a black athlete competing on the world stage during Hitler's reign in Nazi Germany. A few years back, the movie 42 was another sports biopic tackling similar themes as it told the story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. That movie played very well both with critics and at the box office, so there is potential here. Although sports dramas of late haven't been the biggest box office drama. Disney struggled to find an audience with both Million Dollar Arm and McFarland, USA despite positive reviews, the latter being released at this same exact time last year. We'll see if Focus Features can have better luck here with Race.

And finally, we have a horror movie that wowed audiences at Sundance in January of 2015 and that is The Witch. Getting praise at Sundance doesn't always equate to huge box office numbers, though. Last year's other big Sundance hits, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Dope, only earned $6.8 million and $17.5 million respectively. Brooklyn was another big Sundance hit from 2015 and even with a few huge Oscar nominations (best picture and best actress), it's only managed to get to $30.8 million. Most general audiences won't see The Witch as a Sundance hit they need to see. They'll just see it as another horror movie and with so many being released recently, it might be hard for The Witch to find an audience, especially with no name brand attached to it. Last month The Forest and The Boy both barely cracked $10 million in their opening weekends. If The Witch can get to that mark, that'll be a win. It'll have to rely on positive word of mouth to earn its money, which could be the case. This is a horror movie that goes back to witchcraft in New England in the 1600's, which isn't your typical backdrop for a horror movie these days.

February 26th - 28th-

In the final weekend of February, we start with a big-budget fantasy adventure that could have a bit of a rough ride and that is Gods of Egypt. The production budget for this movie is reported to be $140 million, which means it hopes to have a box office run similar to that of Clash of the Titans, another movie about ancient mythical gods. Although the Greek gods like Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades are probably more recognizable than what this movie is presenting, so it's at a disadvantage there. Gods of Egypt has also received a fair share of backlash for casting mostly white actors and actresses to play ancient Egyptian characters, so that's another disadvantage. Finally, the marketing has been strong, but people don't seem to treating this is as a movie that they really need to see in theaters. All this equates to this movie having a huge uphill battle to climb, which will be especially hard with how crowded March is. I'm guessing that this will need a lot of help from international markets in order to make a profit, which is actually where the aforementioned Clash of the Titans made most of its money, so it's possible that could happen here as well.

Speaking of sports dramas, we have two in two weeks this month as Eddie the Eagle hits theaters a week after Race does. Neither seems to be in for a super box office run, but Eddie the Eagle seems to be the lesser of the two as it's a movie about Great Britain's first ski jumper, Michael "Eddie" Edwards, to enter the winter Olympics. It's a much less intriguing story than Jesse Owens running in the Olympics during Nazi Germany. How many people interested in a movie about a ski jumper? On the flip side, though, what the movie does have going for it is the cast. Taron Egerton broke out in a huge way last February as he starred in Kingsman: The Secret Service. He plays the lead role of Eddie in this movie. He'll have Hugh Jackman as a co-star, which also helps. Although it remains to be seen if Egerton can be a box office draw after just one huge hit and Jackman isn't immortal when it comes to the box office as he starred in two huge duds last year in Chappie and Pan. Fox did purchase a Super Bowl spot to advertise this movie, so they're certainly hoping for the best.

As our final wide release of the month, we have the crime thriller Triple 9. This movie boasts quite the big cast which includes, but is not limited to, Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, and Kate Winslet. Triple 9 is a heist movie where a gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan to murder a certain police officer in order to pull off a huge heist. A lot of craziness will ensue with double-crossing, revenge, and greed playing a huge role it what will be quite the action-packed movie. Adults wanting a straight-up action movie don't have a whole ton of options this month, so with this premise in mind added to the loaded cast, this one has the potential to become a bit of a sleeper hit. But potential is the big word there. A lot of action movies, especially ones with a strong rating, come and go without being noticed, especially when it comes to the beginning of the year. Something like Kingsman: The Secret Service is more of the exception than the rule and Triple 9 seems to be targeting even more of a niche audience, which will definitely limit it's potential.

Netflix is becoming even bigger right now as straight-to-Netflix is becoming a popular platform to release both new TV shows and new movies. Thus it's definitely worth mentioning the straight-to-Netflix release Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny as the final movie this month. Recently TV shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones became huge Netflix releases. Fuller House is an example of another highly anticipated TV show that will be debuting on Netflix this month. On the movie front, Beasts of No Nation is an example of a major movie that debuted on Netflix at the end of last year and was thought to be a huge Oscar contender (although it got completely snubbed). This year there will be several movies debuting on Netflix as both Netflix and Amazon were at the Sundance Film Festival this past month purchasing movies. A sequel to the huge 2000 hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has been in talks for a while now and recently the Weinstein Company made a deal to release the sequel on Netflix. The initial idea was to release it in IMAX theaters in addition to Netflix, but a lot of theaters dropped out of that. It still might get a small theatrical release, but the streaming service release is the big draw here. Different director and mostly different cast with this sequel, but it does bring back star Michelle Yeoh, so there is a connection there.

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