Weekend Movie Preview (1.20.12)

Things get action-packed this weekend with three diverse action films entering theaters. “Underworld: Awakening” gets the widest release but might have the smallest potential audience, albeit a devoted one. George Lucas-produced “Red Tails” gives Civil Rights history the VFX treatment as a unique alternative while Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded action thriller “Haywire” tries to make ass-kicking look better than ever.

Then there are two expansions of anticipated dramas. Oscar favorite “The Artist” expands to over 600 theaters while Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock weeper “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” expands to theaters everywhere in hopes of piggybacking on all the awards season buzz despite not likely contending for any Oscars.


Now in Theaters

Underworld: Awakening

Directed by Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Written by Len Wiseman, John Hlavin
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Theo James

Summary: Vampire Death Dealer Selene (Beckinsale) awakens in the future to find humans have discovered the existence of vampires and lycans. She leads the battle against the human race, which seeks to eradicate both species.

The Word: Beckinsale returns to the franchise that helped make her a cult star after stepping out for the prequel “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.” Her husband Len Wiseman continues as a producer for this fourth go but keeps distance from the director’s chair, giving the Swedish duo of Mårlind and Stein (“Shelter” starring Julianne Moore) a shot. Beckinsale remains the franchise’s biggest as Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy have all come and gone.

Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

My Thoughts: I lost interest in the franchise after the first sequel, “Underworld: Evolution.” At first we weren’t being inundated with vampire and werewolf films — obviously things have changed. Glossy action, 3D and Beckinsale in skin-tight clothing might be enough to entertain the series’ devoted fans (see the “Resident Evil” franchise), but it will be hard to claim new ones, especially in a weekend full of action releases.


Red Tails

Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, David Oyelowo, Bryan Cranston

Summary: Based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a team of U.S. Air Force fighter pilots kept grounded due to segregation and prejudice, who rise to the challenge when given the chance to escort bombers to and back from targets.

The Word: George Lucas produces this action-oriented take on this Civil Rights story, which features an all-star black cast. Longtime TV director Hemingway (“C.S.I – NY”) and writers Ridley (“Three Kings”) and McGruder (“The Boondocks” TV series) worked on bringing this story of heroism to the big screen.

Rotten Tomatoes: 33% (not good)

My Thoughts: Based on the marketing, Lucasfilm and Fox want this historical action epic to appeal to a younger audience who might be less inclined to see a film about Civil Rights and more inclined to watch visually stunning aerial dogfights. With Industrial Light & Magic behind the VFX, expect that part to at least be worth the admission. The originality of the storytelling, however, might be another story.



Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Lem Dobbs
Starring: Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas

Summary: Covert operative Mallory Kane is hired for government dirty work, but when she’s double-crossed, she must escape an international hunt for her head, return to the U.S. and exact her revenge.

The Word: Rarely does a name like Soderbergh come up in January, but you can bet many have their eyes on this star-studded cast in addition to a natural curiosity as to whether former MMA fighter Gina Carano can be the next big female action star (or the first, depending on who you ask).

Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (great)

My Thoughts:  Revenge films have become a motif for the winter months, and with so much talent behind it, one has to think if any film has a chance of being a rare January gem, it’s “Haywire.” Originality might be lacking, but the delivery could well be pristine. The breadth of talent compares equally to the depth with proven vets such as Douglas and Banderas to rising stars such as Fassbender and Tatum.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Directed by Stephen Daldry
Written by Eric Roth, Jonathan Safran Foer (novel)
Starring: Thomas Horn, Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Max von Sydow

Summary: A single father decides he and his kids need a change, so they move away and end up buying a home with a zoo attached to it, but the zoo needs upkeep or they risk losing the animals.

The Word: Sandra Bullock stars in her first role since winning the Oscar for “The Blind Side” along with Tom Hanks and boy-genius Jeopardy winner Thomas Horn. If you think that screams Oscar bait, then you should either be assured (or repulsed by this information): Oscar-winning writer Eric Roth adapted the story and Stephen Daldry, whose three feature films have landed him three Best Director nominations (“Billy Elliot,” “The Hours,” “The Reader”), directs.

Rotten Tomatoes: 48% (mixed)

My Thoughts: I’m still in utter disbelief that this has gotten such a mixed reception and has not been an awards contender this year. At the same time, Warner Bros. has promoted it exceptionally well and it could indeed make some cash. From browsing Rotten Tomatoes, it would seem that some people will take well to the way it goes straight for the heartstrings, and others will find that off-putting.


The Artist

Written and Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Beho, John Goodman, James Cromwell

Summary: In 1927 Hollywood, silent film star George Valentin confronts the realization that talking pictures might put an end to his career, just as he hits it off with an emerging young dancer named Peppy Miller.

The Word: A silent film (that’s right, no dialogue in this one) in black and white will be a hard sell to the public, especially without big-name star, but Hazanavicius’ film has won over audiences during its festival circuit and been nominated for the top prize in a couple instances, including the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Dujardin won for Best Actor at Cannes, so as silent as the film might be, its awards run will not.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97% (excellent)

My Thoughts: In a year for feel-good films, “The Artist” ranks among the best. Hazanavicius reminds us of some of the simple powerful truths of movie-making and storytelling in this overall solid film. Read my review.



Box Office Predictions

The “Resident Evil” and “Underworld” franchises can continue going on as long as they like considering how much of a guarantee they deliver at the box office for the sake of my predictions. Underworld: Awakening should earn the top spot just north of $20 million. There’s something about tightly clad butt-kicking femmes that seems to work.

Although I wouldn’t normally give much credit to a film like Red Tails being period action and all (ask the makers of “Flyboys” how that did), the black-skewing audience and George Lucas’ press rounds seem to be doing well for this one. It looks to finish with more than $15 million and could give “Underworld” a run for its money.

In third I’m going with the other Kate Beckinsale film, Contraband. Marky Mark worked the mojo last weekend despite lots of action competition this weekend, it should hold up with $14 million or so.

Next I have Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. There’s definitely a buzz for this, but 9/11 movies seem to make people uncomfortable and the reviews aren’t splendid. South of $15 million is likely, perhaps even closer to $10 million.

Now I know I already made mention of the allure of girls kicking ass, but it seems Relativity Media isn’t so optimistic about “Haywire.” I think Beauty and the Beast 3D has a good chance at outdoing it with about $10 million whereas Relativity has said it expects $8.5 million.

1. Underworld: Awakening
2. Red Tails
3. Contraband
4. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
5. Beauty and the Beast 3D


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment