Box Office Preview: Yippee Ki-Yay, It’s Valentine’s & Presidents’ Day!

It’s Presidents’ Day weekend, but more than that, it’s also a weekend that starts somewhat early as the Hallmark holiday of Valentine’s Day lands on Thursday, which means a lot of couples will be going out on dates that night, going back to school or work on Friday and then some will have off on Monday. There’s quite a variety of movies including the first family movie in quite some time, and some movies may take better advantage of Valentine’s Day and be more frontloaded then others. Either way, this could be the weekend where movies take advantage of the generally slow weeks in January so that we see one or two big openings as movies do better than expected.

A Good Day to Die Hard (20th Century Fox)

Starring Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yulia Snigir, Cole Hauser, Amaury Nolasco, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Anne Vyalitsyna

Directed by John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Flight of the Phoenix, Max Payne); Written by Skip Woods

Genre: Action!

Rated R

Tagline: “Yippee Ki-Yay, Mother Russia” (Yes, I wish I came up with that one)


It’s been five years since the last “Die Hard” movie and considering how successful that was at making money, Bruce Willis is back to go for one more cash grab before he gets too old for this kind of thing. This one mostly takes place in Russia where his policeman John McLane travels to get his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) out of jail after he killed someone in the name of Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), who we first meet when he’s in jail for causing some trouble for a high-ranking politician. That’s the basic plot in a movie that has some of the laziest writing imaginable as if screenwriter Skip Woods–who should be embarrassed to have his name on this–watched a couple other “Die Hard” movies and decided that one doesn’t have to put too much effort to create something that follows the formula of the other movies. That includes a secret file, which is why everyone wants to get Yuri, drawing his own daughter into the chase.

The whole “novelty” of the movie is that it’s all about the tense relationship between John and his estranged son Jack, played by Jai Courtney, a worse actor than most professional wrestlers, especially in the heart to heart dialogue scenes where he and Willis stop shooting and jumping off buildings and crashing cars to do a bit of bonding. Willis is so obviously phoning it in to collect a check, throwing half-hearted quips including a recurring joke of him “being on vacation” which doesn’t really work since we saw him very specifically going to Russia to save Jack.

The main villain Alik, played by Radivoje Bukvic, has absolutely zero personality so they give him odd traits like having him munching on a carrot and doing a tap-dance routine. Other than breaking Yuri out from the courthouse, he actually kills fewer people than the combined forces of John and Jack. On top of that, they pull every single Russian cliché in the book including the obligatory Russian dance club and all of it culminates at Chernobyl, an area so radioactive that they have to wear hazmat suits until they pull out a special gas that nullifies radiation to get inside a vault. That of course doesn’t explain how the two heroes can wander around without one and the bad guy who is running around without a shirt for no apparent reason. Throughout the movie, there’s enough subtitles that Fox could probably get away submitting this for a foreign language movie.

That brings us to the action, made up of a couple of shootouts in halls full of unbreakable chandeliers and a car chase in Russia’s already-established awful traffic with nothing particularly imaginative or impressive. And the R rating is ridiculous since the only reason it’s used is so that Willis can say “motherf*cker” twice rather than once. Ridiculous beyond belief, this movie wouldn’t even have been entertaining in the ’80s and ultimately it’s just a good way to ruin the “Die Hard” franchise. Terrible.

Rating: 4/10

It may be hard to believe, but it’s been five years since we last saw Bruce Willis playing Sgt. John McLane, the iconic film role he took on for the 1988 action-thriller Die Hard, but that may be since Bruce Willis has been highly prolific as an actor, appearing in between four and five movies a year. Now he’s back playing the role for which he’ll be remembered for the rest of his career and one wonders whether there’s still any sense of nostalgia for it considering how poorly retro action movies have been faring in recent weeks. The last movie, Live Free or Die Hard, grossed the most of the series (not accounting for inflation) with $134.5 million after opening in the weekend preceding the 4th of July in 2007, but for whatever reason, Fox have decided to release the follow-up in February, hoping to take advantage of the Presidents’ Day weekend.

After being placed in director’s jail for five years following the awful video game adaptation of Max Payne, John Moore is back working with 20th Century Fox again to direct the movie, which teams Bruce Willis with up ‘n’ coming star Jai Courtney from “Spartacus: War of the Damned,” who was last seen in Jack Reacher. It also stars Cole Hauser and a lot of hot actresses with Russian names. Oh, wait, did we not mention that the movie brings McLane to Russia? It does.

The movie is being released at an odd time, following three old school action movies featuring Bruce Willis’ “Expendables” co-stars, all of which bombed, although none of the movies were sequels in a very popular franchise like this one. Opening the movie over Presidents’ Day weekend rather than the summer may seem like a strange choice by Fox, but there have been a number of decent-sized action hits including Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, and Ghost Rider, with Nicholas Cage, which earned $45 and 52 million, respectively, over the four-day weekend.

The catch with A Good Day to Die Hard is that they intentionally went back to the R rating of the first three movies after the backlash for the PG-13 Live Free or Die Hard, the only movie in the franchise with that rating. The problem is that releasing an R-rated action movie over Presidents’ Day may already be limiting the movie’s audience to guys over 17, rather than bringing in the fathers with 10 to 13 year old boys that will often go see PG-13 movies. How this movie fares could also have an effect on Willis’ next movie, which is a small role in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, but more importantly, it also will determine whether they make another “Die Hard” since Willis seems so keen to keep making them.

The movie should do fine this weekend although with it opening on Wednesday night at 10 p.m., it might be slightly frontloaded since guys might try to see it before being forced to go see other things on Valentine’s Day.

Thursday Est: $8 to 10 million; Four-Day Weekend Est.: $37 to 40 million; Est. Total Gross: $95 to 100 million

Safe Haven (Relativity Media)

Starring Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, David Lyons, Cobie Smulders

Directed by Lasse Hallström (Dear John, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Chocolat, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules and more); Written by Dana Stevens (City of Angels, Life or Something Like It, For Love of the Game), Leslie Bohem (Dante’s Peak)

Genre: Drama, Romance

Rated PG-13

Tagline: “You Know It When You Find It” (as someone who regularly loses things, I concur.)

I can probably just pretend I know what this movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel is about and make up some plot and I’ll probably be half right. That’s because the popular romance novelist has created a formula that’s won over millions of women readers and that success has followed through into movie theaters as women of all ages have transcended the former myth that movies targeted towards them don’t fare as well as movies for guys. This was first seen with the movie based on The Notebook, starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

This one stars former “Dancing with the Stars” dancer Julianne Hough as a “young woman struggling to love again”… yup, Nicholas Sparks…following her appearances in 2011’s Footloose and last year’s Rock of Ages. She’s joined by Josh Duhamel, a hunky male actor who has appeared in quite a number of romantic comedies over the years, although no real breakouts. His biggest movies are still appearing in Michael Bay’s “Transformers” films.

The movie is directed by Lasse Hallström, the Swedish filmmaker who was nominated for three Oscars before winding up in a special kind of directing hell with 2001’s The Shipping News where his movies were being delayed and released straight to DVD. He directed 2010’sDear John, also based on a Nicholas Sparks novel and starring super-hot Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, which opened with over $30 million in early February before grossing slightly less than The Notebook‘s $81 million. A few months later, Miley Cyrus and real-life boyfriend Liam Hemsworth starred in The Last Song, which opened with roughly half that amount but still grossed $60 million.

The thing is that it doesn’t seem like the pairing of Hough and Duhamel is as strong as previous Sparks pairings, and we can’t neglect the fact that this is the first Sparks movie distributed by Relativity who don’t have the marketing clout and budget of a Disney or Sony or Warner Bros. The good thing is that the book is fairly recent, coming out just two years ago, and enough of Sparks’ fans should have read it and have it fresh in mind and will want to see the movie. Wisely, Relativity also held a big event for the movie in January and oddly, the movie seems to be playing well to teenage girls rather than older women with a strong presence on Twitter for weeks.

Of course, on Valentine’s Day, women call all the shots, so husbands and boyfriends will probably bring their significant others to the movie either on Thursday or Friday, and it looks like a much stronger choice for women over 20 than Beautiful Creatures, so we it should have a strong showing both days and possibly tail off over the weekend. It should be neck-and-neck with last week’s breakout comedy hit Identity Thief for second place.

Thursday Est: $7 to 8 million; Four-Day Weekend Est.: $19 to 22 million; Est. Total Gross: $65 million

Beautiful Creatures (Warner Bros.)

Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Thomas Mann, Emma Thompson

Written and directed by Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You, Freedom Writers, writer of Water for Elephants, The Bridges of Madison County, The Horse Whisperer and more)

Genre: Drama, Romance, Supernatural

Rated PG-13

Tagline: “Dark secrets will come to light.” (I’d have preferred, “They’re beautiful, they’re creatures. Together, they’re Beautiful Creatures” but I’m not in marketing, so what do I know?)


Video Interview with Richard LaGravenese

Video Interview with Alden Ehrenreich & Alice Englert

The post-“Twilight” desire to adapt young adult novels to the screen in hopes it will create a similar craze among teen girls continues just a few weeks after the success of Warm Bodies with Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment venturing into that world with a movie based on the series of novels by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Four books have been published, all doing decently among its prospective audience but not quite crossing into the mainstream consciousness as have “The Hunger Games” books, but you have to imagine those who’ve read and loved the books that involves a romance between a Southern boy and a witch will be interested in the movie.

Starring as the two main characters Ethan and Lena are young actors Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert, both whom have worked with filmmaking auteurs in Francis Ford Coppola and Sally Potter, but who will probably make a bigger mark if this movie proves successful. Joining them are veteran actors like Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson, as well as Viola Davis, who received an Oscar nomination last year for The Help and Emmy Rossum, who has gotten a lot of attention for her role on Showtime’s “Shameless.” It’s adapted and directed by Richard LaGravenese, who has been involved with many a romantic film including Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King (for which he received an Oscar nomination), Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces, Clint Eastwood’s The Bridges of Madison County and most recently, Warner Bros.’ romantic comedy hit P.S. I Love You, starring Hilary Swank.

Despite the high pedigree of everyone involved, we don’t expect reviews to be great, but we also don’t expect the young female audience interested in seeing the movie to care much for reviews and their basic choices will either be this or Safe Haven, both romances set in the South. Even so, this is probably a movie that few guys will have any interest in regardless of their age although some may be dragged to the theater by their girlfriends, so expect younger teen couples to try to see this on Thursday or Friday to do something romantic over Valentine’s Day. It may have some appeal for teen and ‘tween moviegoers off of school on Monday to allow it to maintain business over the weekend but right now, we see it taking third place to the known commodities.

Thursday Est: $4 to 6 million; Four-Day Weekend Est.: $14 to 16 million; Est. Total Gross: $50 million

Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company)

Starring (the voices of) Jane Lynch, Craig Robinson, George Lopez, Sofia Vergara, Steve Zahn, Chris Parnell, Jonath Morgan Heit, James Corden, Brendan Fraser, Rob Corddry, Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker, William Shatner

Directed by Cal Brunker; Written by Cal Brunker, Bob Barlen, Tony Leech, Cory Edwards

Genre: Animated, Comedy, Family

Rated PG

Tagline: “Earth’s Greatest Secrets Are About to Break Out!”

It’s been quite a few years since The Weinstein Company released an animated family film, 2011’s Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, a sequel which failed to find the success of the 2006 animated movie which became one of the distributor’s first big successes by grossing $100 million worldwide. Their latest offering isn’t the first animated movie featuring aliens as it’s following in the footsteps of DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens, TriStar’s Planet 51 and Disney’s failed Mars Needs Moms, although it’s been a number of years since the last of those and it’s been a long time since there’s been a family film. That definitely could be good news for a movie that was delayed for a number of years and even got caught up in a lawsuit between the filmmakers and TWC in late 2011 due to the delays and is finally seeing the light of day.

Despite the problems, they’ve assembled quite an impressive voice cast that includes Jane Lynch, George Lopez, Sofia Vergara, Ricky Gervais, Brendan Fraser, Rob Corddry, Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker, William Shatner and Craig Robinson, and they’re all being featured prominently in the ads in hopes of getting parents interested in bringing their kids to see it. Considering how long it’s been since the last family movie, those kids are probably clamoring for something to see and parents will be more than happy to get them out of the house after what’s been a fairly cold winter. With schools out Monday, they’ll have more time on Sunday to see the movie as well which should help the movie fare well.

Unlike the other three movies, this one is opening on Friday, probably since school and work on Thursday wouldn’t amount to enough business to open it earlier. While it probably will have a soft opening on Friday and be well behind the other three new movies, expect a big bump on Saturday and a decent Sunday and Monday for it to end up in fourth place for the weekend.

Four-Day Weekend Est.: $15 to 17 million; Est. Total Gross: $48 million

This weekend last year was somewhat slower only because it followed a weekend with four $20 million openings and in fact, three of the movies stayed on top with Denzel’s Safe House (not to be confused with this week’s Safe Haven) moving into the #1 spot with $27.5 million over the four-day weekend as the romance drama The Vow (which only LOOKED like a Nicholas Sparks movie unlike Safe Haven) dropped to #2. Nicholas Cage relit his head on fire to play Marvel’s supernatural cyclist Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Sony), but it failed to find the success of the original movie, opening with just $25.5 million in 3,174 theaters over the four days to take fourth place. The Reese Witherspoon romantic action movie This Means War (20th Century Fox), which paired her with Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, brought in $20 million for fifth place. Studio Ghibli delivered the weekend’s one new family movie with The Secret World of Arriety (Disney), which didn’t fare well against the returning Journey 2, opening in eighth place with $8.7 million. The Top 10 brought in $165 million over the four day holiday and we don’t think that even this week’s four offerings will bring in enough business to best that.

This Week’s Predictions

All predictions are for four days including Presidents’ Day Monday

1. A Good Day to Die Hard (20th Century Fox) – $38.7 million N/A

2. Safe Haven (Relativity Media) – $21.5 million N/A

3. Identity Thief (Universal) – $21.0 million -35%

4. Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company) – $16.0 million N/A

5. Beautiful Creatures (Warner Bros.) – $14.8 million N/A

6. Warm Bodies (Summit Entertainment) – $7.7 million -33%

7. Side Effects (Open Road Entertainment) – $6.3 million -34%

8. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $6.0 million -7%

9. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount) – $3.5 million -39%

10. Mama (Universal) – $2.7 million -36%

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is Pablo (Tony Manero) Larrain’s Oscar-nominated Chilean drama No (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Gael Garcia Bernal, which takes place during the last days of General Pinochet as the country’s leader. You can read more on the “CHOSEN ONE” by clicking here.

Just in time for Presidents’ Day and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday comes Salvador Litvak’s Saving Lincoln (Saving Lincoln LLC) which takes a look at the long-time friendship between the 16th President (played by Tom Amandes) and his law partner and confidant Ward Hill Lamon (Lea Coco) and how their relationship evolves over the course of Lincoln’s Presidency as Lamon becomes his personal bodyguard. Using an innovative technique called CineCollage, the scenes are played out by actors in front of actual Civil War era photographs. It opens at select cities including the Quad Cinemas in New York on Friday.

Exclusive Clip

Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (Certified Copy) returns with Like Someone in Love (IFC Films), a film set in Japan that centers around a young college co-ed sent by her boss to spend time with an elderly scholar to keep him company, but their relationship grows over a platonic evening, leading to tension when her violent boyfriend questions their friendship. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

The new film from South Korea’s premiere action director Ryoo Seung-wan is The Berlin File (CJ Entertainment), a film set in Germany that involves intrigue between North and South Korean agents, played by Jung-woo Ha and Suk-Kyu Han, respectively, with the former’s translator wife (Gianna Jun) being caught in the middle as a North Korean assassin (Director Ryoo’s brother Seung-bum) is assigned to test their loyalty to the leader. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

Steve Feinartz’s doc The Bitter Buddha takes a look at veteran stand-up comic Eddie Pepitone, who has created a huge fanbase with the alternate comedy scene while never quite attaining the fame of those who followed him, including Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, Patton Oswalt and Marc Maron, all of whom appear in the film giving testimonials about Pepitone. It opens in New York at Brooklyn’s IndieScreen, as well as Los Angeles and Houston on Friday.

Leone Marucci’s action flick The Power of Few (Steelyard Pictures) stars Christopher Walken, Christian Slater, Anthony Anderson and Jesse Bradford as four of five characters caught up in a smuggling operation. It opens in select cities Friday.

Released on Valentine’s Day is Vishesh Bhatt’s Bollywood erotic thriller Murder 3 (FIP), which involves a relationship between a fashion and wildlife photographer (Randeep Hooda) and his new girlfriend (Aditi Rao Hydari) who moves into his palatial country home with him and starts discovering secrets about his past including his missing girlfriend. Going by the film’s title, I’m going to take a wild guess I know what happened to her…

Next week, the shortened month of February ends with Dwayne Johnson in the action-drama Snitch (Summit) and the alien invasion thriller Dark Skies (Dimension Films).

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas


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