February is normally another slow winter month, although there’s been a lot of big movies over the past couple of years with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ still holding the record with an $83.8 million opening, but lots of other movies opening in the $30 to 40 million and higher range.
The one this month that looks the most likely to join them is Bruce Willis’ fifth movie as Sgt. John McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard (20th Century Fox – Feb. 14) which takes the always-in-trouble police detective to Russia to help his son Jack, played by hot up n’ comer Jai Courtney from the popular show “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.” Directed by one of Fox’s go-to directors John Moore, the movie is opening over Presidents’ Day weekend with a Thursday opening on Valentine’s Day for good measure, and it’s easily one of the strongest movies of the month, being the next installment in a franchise that has grossed over a billion worldwide.
But that’s only the second action movie of the month as before Willis kicks it old school, we have a new movie from Sylvester Stallone, teaming him with veteran filmmaker Walter Hill, of The Warriors and 48 Hours fame, for the buddy action film Bullet to the Head (Warner Bros. – Feb. 1), which has Sly teaming with Fast Five co-star Sung Kang, as well as fellow 80s vet Christian Slater and “Game of Thrones” star Jason Momoa. It’s opening Super Bowl weekend so one can probably expect that guys will be out on Friday and Saturday to see it.
The last of the February action movies is a real-life crime drama called Snitch (Summit – Feb. 22), which stars Dwayne Johnson as a father of a kid imprisoned for drug possession who agrees to go undercover for the feds to help them capture the higher ups in the drug chain. Based on a true story, it’s written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh, the former stuntman whose indie drama Felon was really impressive, and we expect this to be more than your usual Dwayne Johnson action movie.
This month sees two movies that have been dubbed “the next Twilight” (or is that “next Hunger Games” at this point?) although the zombie comedy Warm Bodies (Summit – Feb. 1), starring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer and directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50), seems to be finding its own identity as one of those rare zombie comedies that finds mainstream appeal. The film’s precursors Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland remain two of the funniest movies of the last decade, so we can only hope that Levine is bringing his A-Game to this one as well.
The other movie that’s being compared to “Twilight” is the Southern supernatural romantic drama Beautiful Creatures (Warner Bros. – Feb. 14) based on the young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, which stars newcomers Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert, joined by Emmy Rossum, Thomas Mann, and veteran actors Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis and Emma Thompson. It’s adapted and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Richard LaGravenese and opening on Valentine’s Day should help it do well among the teen and tween girls the movie is targeting if they can convince their boyfriends to take them to see instead of seeing the new “Die Hard” movie.
Really, the only straight comedy of the month is Seth Gordon’s R-rated Identity Thief (Universal – Feb. 8), which pits Jason Bateman, star of Gordon’s blockbuster comedy Horrible Bosses, against Melissa McCarthy, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids. It’s another funny high concept road comedy pairing that looks like it could be as funny as Planes, Trains and Automobiles Or at least Todd Phillips’ Due Date, and it should fare well with few other strong comedies this month.
Director Steven Soderbergh releases his last theatrical film for a while, reteaming with Contagion writer Scott Z. Burns for Side Effects (Open Road Films – Feb. 8), a psychological thriller starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones that takes place within the world of psychiatry and pharmaceuticals. Without giving anything away, the general premise involves Mara’s character taking an experimental drug for depression and things going horribly wrong with Jude Law being the psychiatrist who prescribed them.
This month we FINALLY get a new family film and it’s the long-delayed 3D animated film Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company – Feb. 14), which features the mixed bag voice cast of Jane Lynch, Craig Robinson, George Lopez, Sofia Vergara, Steve Zahn, Chris Parnell, Brendan Fraser, Rob Corddry, Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker and William Shatner. This one seems to be a cross between Monsters vs. Aliens, Planet 51 and Mars Needs Moms, and while The Weinstein Company hasn’t released too many family films, the animated Hoodwinked remains one of their first big hits and this one’s opening over Presidents’ Day weekend with schools off on Monday which should allow it to do decently.
Valentine’s Day will also see the release of the latest movie based on a Nicholas Sparks book with Safe Haven (Relativity Media – Feb. 14), pairing Julianne Hough (Footloose, Rock of Ages) with rom-com regular Josh Duhamel, and directed by Lasse Hallstrom, who helmed the 2010 hit Dear John, also based on a Sparks novel.
We don’t know too much about the thriller Dark Skies (Dimension Films – Feb. 22) except that it’s the latest movie from Legion and Priest director Scott Stewart and it involves an alien invasion and stars Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton and Dakota Goyo. It’s also produced by Jason Blum, the man responsible for the “Paranormal Activity” movies, Insidious and Sinister, so we’re going to guess that it’s pretty scary.
We also want to quickly mention two great limited releases we’ve seen already and are likely to be deemed “Chosen One(s)” in the respective weeks in which they’re released – the Oscar-nominated Chilean political drama No (Sony Pictures Classics – Feb. 15), starring Gael Garcia Bernal, and the documentary KOCH (Zeitgeist Films – Feb. 1), which looks at the career of one of New York City’s most famous mayors, Ed Koch, who led the city for three terms between 1977 and 1989.
We’ll be back next month for a look at the March releases, and of course we’ll have the normal weekly previews where we go into all of the above in more detail.