Thank the Movie-Gods; we survived January, the most cinematically putrid month on the calendar. Although February isn’t brimming with must-see titles, we are free of critical fodder such as The Fifth Wave, Norm of the North, and Fifty Shades of Black. For the month of February, moviegoers can look forward to a diverse array of films, including a new Coen brothers‘ picture (Hail, Caesar!), a Marvel movie (Deadpool) and Robert Eggers’ much-hyped horror movie, The Witch.
Kung Fu Panda 3 walked away from last weekend’s movie scrum with the box office crown. Even though Kung Fu Panda 3’s $41,282,042 opening weekend is the lowest box office debut of the series, Dreamworks’ martial-arts infused family film still finished miles ahead of the second place movie, The Revenant ($12,779,530, down 20.2% from the previous week). In its seventh week in theatres, Star Wars: The Force Awakens brought in $11,116,684 (down 21.0%). The Finest Hours finished in fourth place with $10,288,932, roughly $70 Million shy of the movie’s estimated $80 Million dollar budget — ouch! Ride Along 2 closed out the top five with $8,426,610 (down 32.3%).
Here is a look at a couple of films that open on February 5, 2016.
Hail, Caesar! (PG-13) 106 mins. — Coen Brothers’ movies tend to be hit or miss with mainstream audiences, but for movie-nerds, they are always a huge deal. Hail, Caesar! has all the right ingredients for another classic Coen brothers’ picture; the movie’s IMDb page flaunts an embarrassment of riches: the movie boasts Hollywood superstars (George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum), Coen brothers’ movie alumnae (Josh Brolin, Frances McDormand), and top-flight actors capable of unleashing Oscar-worthy performances at the drop of a hat (Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes). In addition to the murderer’s row of talent, Hail, Caesar! takes place in the 1950’s, and period movies are the canvas for some of the duo’s best films.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PG-13) 108 mins. — Using Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as a measuring stick, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies title and premise will turn off far more viewers than it attracts. I am a fan of director Timur Bekmambetov’s film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, as well as the Seth-Grahame Smith novel that it’s based on (Smith also wrote the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies novel). Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’s story is a clever social-commentary that uses vampires to address the injustices placed upon African-American’s in the south. Many critics couldn’t get past the title, and chastised the film for not living up to its campy premise. Had the film been about a fictional American president instead of Honest Abe, I suspect that it would have received a warmer reception. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies doesn’t have the same uphill battle: it occurs in a fictional world and zombie fans admittedly enjoy camp, but mainstream audiences aren’t likely to flock to a zombie film that strays so far outside the zombie-movie box.
The Bottom Line — This is the first weekend in ages where I’m all-in on both new films. I’ve enjoyed far more Coen brothers’ movies than I’ve disliked, and I’m a fan of Seth-Grahame Smith, so for both of these movies, all-in is my default setting. Of the two films, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has the greatest chance of making me regret parting with my $12.95 (the lack of R-rating gives me pause), but it’s Hail, Caesar! that could prove the most disappointing — a terrible movie from the Coens would be a soul-crushing blow. I plan on heading to the theatre this weekend with a glass is half-full mentality. On one hand we have the Coen brothers satirizing Hollywood, and on the other, a zombie-infused period piece: it’s great to have choices!