It’s a special Thursday edition of What I’d Watch, as Hollywood jumps all over Valentine’s Day and gets the new releases out a day early. Only two of them could really be called date movies, unless your idea of a romantic evening out is Bruce Willis blowing up half of Moscow. But hey, love takes all kinds. If explosions and Beethoven’s 9th are what it takes, who am I to judge?
The aliens of Escape from Planet Earth are actually holding off until Friday, probably because the Weinstein Company realized just how out-of-place their film was. And probably because it was likely to get lost in the shuffle, because it doesn’t look very good, something having Friday all to itself isn’t going to cure. The film looks like something from the early days of DreamWorks Animation: a raft of B-list stars providing voices, uninspired visual design, and the usual pop culture references. Not surprising, since the film has been in some stage of development since 2007, a long incubation period even for an animated film. Still, it’s really the only kid-oriented film on the landscape right now, which, sadly, will probably be enough to get parents to send the tykes off to it.
Next, the never-ending quest to make Nicholas Sparks wealthier than he deserves to be marches on with his newest book-to-film adaptation, Safe Haven. Yes, more pretty people trying to make us convinced they’re really tortured souls unable to find love. Clearly I’m not the target audience for this kind of thing, and the fact that Sparks has seventeen novels and eight adaptations under his belt shows that audience eats this up. But that doesn’t make it any less maddening when another one comes rolling off the assembly line.
Beautiful Creatures is another love story, but at least it’s got something of a twist to it, as the object of desire is a witch. Oh, I’m sorry, “caster.” And it’s a supernatural romance that doesn’t involve vampires, another notch in its favor. Add to that Jeremy Iron’s continuing all-scenery diet he’s been on for most of the last half of his career and a languid Southern gothic vibe and this looks like it could be campy fun. Not “good,” necessarily, but certainly more entertaining than the dreary Sparksian alternative if you’re looking for romance at the movies.
But who needs romance when you’ve got a drunken hook-up waiting for you after the bar closes? A Good Day to Die Hard comes barreling in full of testosterone and disappointment, if the early reviews are any indication. But as the final competitor in the Battle of the 80s Action Stars, Bruce Willis is likely to clean the collective clocks of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. The franchise is still a beloved one — the last installment raked in almost $400 million worldwide six years ago — even if it’s ballooned so far beyond its original concept that John McClane is now more Superman than everyman. It’s that enduring fondness that’ll give Willis the win over his musclebound competition. And what will have my single ass sitting in a seat watching this while everyone else is out on their dates. Not that I’m bitter or anything.