If you have yet to take notice, 2012 has gotten off to a very successful start in both box-office terms and with regards to critical acclaim. This year films made $115 million over Super Bowl weekend. That compares to $87 million last year. Each week’s winner has also brought in at or just under $20 million. With Valentine’s Day coming up next week, can this continue? The competition is thicker than usual with four unique offerings.
Now in Theaters
Directed by Brad Peyton
Written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn, Richard Outten, Jules Verne (novel)
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Dwayne Johnson, Vanessa Hudgens, Michael Caine
Summary: A young man (Hutcherson) convinces his mother’s boyfriend (Johnson) to take him in search of a mythical island that his grandfather always talked about.
The Word: Hutcherson is the only returning piece from “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if you had no idea this film was sequel to that 2008 summer blockbuster that was one of the first 3D offerings since the extra dimension rose back from the dead. Dwayne Johnson replaces Brendan Fraser, which is a fitting replacement when you consider Johnson’s strangely abundant family film credits. Unsurprisingly, the director is Brad Peyton of “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 45% (mixed)
My Thoughts: The original “Journey” somehow scrounged up $100 million domestically, but this is February and Jules Verne is very distantly connected to this one. The tiny elephants and giant bees will probably scare kids more than excite them, yet with a PG rating that’s exactly who Warner Bros. is going for. The lack of kid adventures in the winter gives this film its best chance to make money, but I wouldn’t expect any quality.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Written by David Guggenheim
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson
Summary: At a CIA safe house in Cape Town, aspiring CIA field agent Matt Weston (Reynolds) is charged with looking after Tobin Frost (Washington), a former operative that went violently rogue. But when the safe house is compromised, Weston finds himself in the mix of a possible mole situation.
The Word: The talents behind the camera might be amateur, but Washington is far from it. He does evil as good as anyone and he does ambiguous intentions better than everyone. With Reynolds as another recognizable draw, this one should have no problem at the box office.
Rotten Tomatoes: 52% (mixed)
My Thoughts: The trailer paints this one as reliable action/thriller material with a surefire twist, the kind of stuff that moviegoers crave in these less-than-dependable winter months. Yet moviegoers have been very patronizing of winter films so far, so will this one do any better? I think a solid take is in order.
Directed by Michael Sucsy
Written by Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Michael Sucsy
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Jessica Lange, Scott Speedman
Summary: A married couple is forced to start all over when a car accident causes the wife (McAdams) to lose all memory of her husband (Tatum).
The Word: This year’s big date movie is “The Vow,” which puts together an all-star rom-com tandem in McAdams (“The Notebook”) and Tatum (“Dear John”). Although both of those films were adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels, that’s not the case here, but creating that uncertainty seems to be the goal. Director Michael Sucsy won a Golden Globe for his fictional remake of the documentary “Grey Gardens,” while co-writer Katims won an Emmy for “Friday Night Lights” and co-writers Kohn and Silverstein helped pen “Valentine’s Day” and “He’s Just Not That Into You.”
Rotten Tomatoes: 33% (not good)
My Thoughts: I love McAdams, and I don’t think Tatum gets enough credit, but here’s a story that looks a bit too cookie-cutter to be taken seriously as a romance. Those talents will do their best to move the audience to tears and I suspect they’ll succeed because of previous romance successes, but let’s not confuse emotion for quality.
Written and Directed by George Lucas
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Jake Lloyd, Natalie Portman
Summary: In the first of “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, we meet Anakin Skywalker — the future Darth Vader — as a young boy. Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn (Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) discover him and try to convince Yoda and the Jedi Council that he is the “one who will bring balance to the force” as political unrest builds in the Galactic Republic.
The Word: ”The Phantom Menace” spawned the love-hate relationship between George Lucas and his fans, but it also introduced a younger generation to the “Star Wars” universe. The original trilogy was re-released in the late ’90s right before “Menace” in 1999 and now more than 10 years later, the prequels will get their own theatrical re-releases in 3D provided “Menace” makes a penny.
Rotten Tomatoes: 59% (mixed)
My Thoughts: As someone who fell in love with “Star Wars” as a kid thanks to the first wave of re-releases, I can’t condemn the notion here, even if the prequels are inferior and the 3D likely to do nothing to enhance the film. Lucas can do whatever he wants to tamper with these films; you won’t see me on the front lines of the verbal hatred or in line period to see this in theaters again.
Box Office Predictions
Romances don’t usually open up big, but when one is about to, you can sniff it. Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum have ladies jumping to get to theaters this weekend for The Vow. As corny as the films seems, it also feels reliable. If “Dear John” could make $30 million over Super Bowl weekend a couple years back, expect at least that much this weekend.
Denzel Washington remains one of the most reliable actors in terms of box-office figures. When he plays bad guys or ambiguous character, the effect is amplified. Toss in Ryan Reynolds and on any other weekend but Valentine’s Day you’d expect a No. 1 opening. Safe House should come in with at least $25 million
Many have scoffed at the 3D re-release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, but there are still many who relish the chance to see these films on the big screen, especially younger boys (like myself when the original trilogy was re-released … okay, and when “Phantom Menace” first came out, but I was in puberty already). It won’t do $30 million “The Lion King 3D” business, but expect $20 million. Right below it I think Journey 2: The Mysterious Island comes in, despite the widest release. It could finish even worse if “Star Wars” steels away the boys that the film targets. It definitely seems too scary for younger families. Then again, it’s doing quite well overseas right now.
In fifth, last week’s champion, Chronicle, should manage $10 million.