Weekend Forecast for February 5-7, 2016
By Reagen Sulewski
February 5, 2016
It's kind of a head-scratching trio of films for the first weekend of February, each of which are theoretically wide-appealing, but with a odd aspect to them that inherently limits their audience. All of it leads to a fairly typical mid-winter weekend, with not a big reason to leave the house.
With star power to spare both in front of and behind the camera, Hail, Caesar! should, on paper, be a solid candidate for a strong opening weekend. The Coen Brothers direct George Clooney for the fourth time, placing him in the role of a somewhat clueless 1950s matinee idol kidnapped off the set of a studio's big epic picture (the title), sending a studio fixer (Josh Brolin) into emergency mode to get him back before the whole film falls apart.
We're clearly in “wacky” Coens territory, with rapid patter from the Hudsucker era mixing with their Hollywood satire of Barton Fink, which if you might notice, are two of the most alienating films of their entire catalog. It's also a difficult film to really sum up and explain in a coherent manner. Thus, its attractive supporting cast of Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton won't make much of an impact. It actually reminds me a fair bit of the weird “middle period” of the Coens with The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading, all of which fumbled their star power away into awkward comedy. They do at least appear to have something to say with this film beyond the zaniness on the surface, and reviews are strong, but the Coens can be a tough sell in this mode. It'll be mostly Coen fanatics this weekend, as it opens to about $13 million.
With a title that's simultaneously dull and off-putting, The Choice marks the ever diminishing empire of films based on (ugggghgghghhghgh) Nicholas Sparks movies. Having peaked long long ago with The Notebook, Sparks' novels have continued to come out at a fairly regular pace with the same tired formula, but less and less with notable actors in the starring roles. The Choice leads with Australian actress Teresa Palmer, chewing on a southern accent torn between the hunky doctor (Tom Welling) and the hunky free spirit (Benjamin Walker) who both love her and oh please kill me. These films are like the cinematic equivalent of wallpaper – nice to look at for a little bit until you ultimately forget they're there, and eventually just get annoyed that you ever put up with them in the first place. Previously hitting a bottom point with The Best of Me at a $10 million opening, The Choice could throw under that thanks to an unimpressive cast and the worst reviews yet for a Sparks movie. I expect about $8 million here.
The latest in the run of genre bending films based on novels, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is a record scratch of a movie, mixing up the flowery prose of Jane Austen's novels with the grim and gore of zombie movies, with the operation of stitching them together appearing to be about as successful and desired as adding a third arm in the middle of one's chest – possible, one supposes, but why?