What I’d Watch 1/17/14


We’ve got our Oscar nominations, so we’ll start seeing some of the contenders go back into semi-wide release to take advantage of the buzz.  The studios had a pretty good idea which of their films were going to be in the mix, so it’s not like there was some last-minute scramble after the announcements yesterday morning; there’s no way Gravity gets on over 900 3D screens today without a little bit of foresight.  Now’s the chance to score some more box office as people turn out to see what all the fuss was about.  There have been plenty of instances of films earning more money after their Oscar nominations than in their initial release, so there’s still gold in them thar hills. You won’t see Gravity or 12 Years a Slave fighting for the top spot, but they’re definitely on the landscape this week.

nutjob_posterUnfortunately, that landscape has a lovely view of a landfill.  The Nut Job boasted one of the most stunningly inept trailers I’ve ever seen, every minute of it filled with obvious, uninspired gags that made me long for the glory days of stuff like Dreamworks’ Shark Tale.  They’ve managed to rope in some decent voice talent like Will Arnett and Liam Neeson, but really, pretty much any animated film can get some recognizable names to come in for the fairly easy paycheck of a few weeks’ work in front of a microphone.  It’s going to rise and fall on the script and the visuals, and nothing about either of those really seems to stand out here.  And with Frozen still raking in the money, it’s not like the family movie market is exactly devoid of other options.  I think these squirrels are going to be awfully hungry.

devilsdue_posterAnd now for the broken record portion of this post:  low-budget horror films make money.  Devil’s Due cost all of $7 million.  They’d have to release this thing solely on cross-country red-eye flights not to make their money back and then some.  Plus, it had the benefit of a hot viral video making the rounds earlier this week that honestly was the first time I’d ever heard of the film, wherein the film’s devil baby popped out of a carriage to scare passersby.  Granted, “hot viral video” implies the lifespan of a fruit fly these days, but it got people talking about the movie right before its release, which can’t be anything but good.  Anything but good likely describes the film itself, but hey, devil baby.  That’s already better than CGI squirrels by a long shot.

ridealong_posterKevin Hart surprised a lot of people with the strong showing of his concert film Let Me Explain last summer.  It didn’t have a huge opening or total gross, but its per-screen revenue was routinely up there with the blockbusters, meaning that in the places it was actually playing, it did huge business.  His presence didn’t do much to help Grudge Match over Christmas, but he was just a supporting character there, one the studio started leaning on heavily after the film’s release in hopes he could generate some interest.  Now he’s front and center in Ride Along, a film I swear I’ve been seeing trailers for since last year, so you can’t say nobody knows it’s coming.  If it opens well, it could cement Hart as the next comedy superstar, something we seem to be lacking these days.  Will Ferrell flirted with the crown for a while, and Melissa McCarthy is trying to stake a claim now, but we haven’t anything like Jim Carrey or Eddie Murphy in a while.  A good run from Ride Along could put Hart there.

jackryan_posterIt’s hard to believe we’re on our fourth cinematic Jack Ryan already.  Alec Baldwin was the best, Harrison Ford the most successful, and Ben Affleck the weirdest (that The Sum of All Fears happened at all is sort of mind-boggling to me).  Now Chris Pine takes over the role in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a title so convoluted, I’m honestly surprised it doesn’t have Tyler Perry’s in front of it.  On the one hand, the revived success of James Bond and the recent success of the Jason Bourne films makes it a natural to go back to the Tom Clancy well.  On the other hand, we’ve got those films already, so why add another to the mix?  Especially one whose heyday rested with the Cold War angst of the 80s.  Clancy’s novels got more and more ludicrous as time passed after the fall of Soviet Russia, sorely missing the easy icy villainy it provided.  The presence of Kenneth Branagh both in front of and behind the camera raises a little bit of hope here though.  And as many times as we’ve gone to this well, I’m a sucker for some spy shenanigans.  It certainly won’t be any Hunt for Red October, but I’m just hoping for some twisty intrigue and decent action.

And again, no CGI squirrels.  Always a plus.

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