Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 01-28-13

Alcon Entertainment’s PG-13 fantasy drama “Beautiful Creatures”

Alcon Entertainment’s PG-13 fantasy drama “Beautiful Creatures”

“Bullet to the Head” – In theaters Feb. 1st

“Bullet to the Head” – In theaters Feb. 1st

Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer

Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer

February films: February may bring us icy cold winter weather, but temperatures at the boxoffice could be much warmer.

The month should benefit from nearly a dozen wide openings plus continuing interest in best picture Oscar nominees like “Argo,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Lincoln,” “Django Unchained,” “Life of Pi” and “Les Miserables” that are still in wide release.

As Feb. 24’s telecast of the 85th annual Academy Awards approaches, many moviegoers will try to catch up with contenders they haven’t already seen before placing bets on the outcome in their office Oscar pools.

In particular, last weekend’s Producers Guild of America best picture award and Screen Actors Guild best ensemble cast award to Warner Bros. and GK Films’ thriller “Argo” should prompt moviegoers who haven’t already seen it to do so before the Oscars. “Argo’s” already grossed about $118 million in domestic theatres, but can still sell many more tickets.

The PGA’s been a solid bellwether for the best picture Oscar race since the guild started giving awards in 1990. Of 22 previous PGA best picture winners, 16 went on to win best picture Oscars. Over the past five years, all five PGA winners also won best picture Oscars. SAG isn’t quite as good a predictor of Oscar gold. SAG’s ensemble cast award and Oscar’s best picture winner have matched up eight times over the past 17 years. Last year SAG voted for “The Help,” but Oscar went for “The Artist.”

“Argo’s” PGA win Saturday night was enough to catapult it to front-runner status in the best picture Oscar race. Picking up SAG’s best ensemble cast award the next day was truly the icing on the “Argo” cake.

Those twin guild wins should give Affleck an enviable boost with the Directors Guild of America, whose awards will be announced Feb. 2. What these victories can’t do is help Affleck in the Academy’s best directing competition because he was snubbed by the directors branch and isn’t in the race. The DGA polls are open until Friday (Feb. 1) so many DGA voters will cast their ballots knowing how the producers and actors guilds voted.

DGA members might feel that not only are they applauding Affleck and “Argo,” but that they’re also voicing disapproval of the Academy’s directors branch for snubbing Affleck.

Previously, many Hollywood handicappers were betting the farm on PGA and SAG wins for DreamWorks, Fox, Reliance Pictures, Participant Media and Disney’s biographical drama “Lincoln” from Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg. With 12 Oscar noms, “Lincoln” has the most Academy branches supporting it and in the past that’s often translated into a best picture victory.

Sunday night’=s SAG victory for “Argo” could be another nail in “Lincoln’s” Oscar coffin, but surprises are always possible where Oscar’s concerned. Nonetheless, SAG’s endorsement of “Argo” is important because actors make up the Academy’s largest branch. With SAG having honored “Argo” it’s logical to anticipate similar support from the Academy’s actors branch.

Besides showcasing Oscar’s best picture contenders, February will also feature a wide range of new films. Here’s a quick weekend by weekend look at what’s on the horizon.

FEB. 1: Warner Bros., Dark Castle Entertainment and IM Global’s R rated action crime thriller “Bullet to the Head” will kick off the month. Directed by Walter Hill (“48 Hrs.”), it stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater and Sung Kang.

After their partners are viciously murdered, a hitman (Stallone) and a young New York cop (Kang) team up as an unlikely pair to seek revenge in a high-stakes investigation leading to the power corridors of New Orleans.

“Bullet’s” tracking best and equally well with men under and over 25.

Summit Entertainment and Mandeville Films’ PG-13 zombie action romantic comedy “Warm Bodies” is directed by Jonathan Levine (“50/50”) and stars Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer and John Malkovich.

“Bodies” is about the unlikely romance between a beautiful human teen (Palmer) and a sensitive undead slacker (Hoult) that sets off a chain of events with the power to transform the world. Based on the Isaac Marion’s best-selling novel, the film provides an unusually romantic look at the lighter side of the zombie apocalypse.

“Bodies” is tracking best and very strongly with women under-25.

FEB. 8: February’s second weekend will see three wide openings competing for moviegoers’ time and money.

Universal Pictures and Stuber Productions’ R rated crime comedy “Identify Thief” is directed by Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses”) and stars Jason Bateman, “Bridesmaids” superstar Melissa McCarthy and John Cho.

“Thief” revolves around Sandy (Bateman), a mild-mannered Denver businessman, who’s forced to extreme measures to clear his name after his identity’s stolen by Diana (McCarthy). She’s living it up in Miami with her new all-access pass to Sandy’s life.

“Thief” is tracking best and really well with 25-plus women and nearly as well with women under-25.

Open Road Films and Di Bonaventura Pictures’ R rated crime thriller “Side Effects” is directed by Steven Soderbergh (“Contagion”) and stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum.

The dangers of pill popping are apparent in this story of a woman (Mara) who turns to prescription drugs from her sinister doctor (Law) to cope with anxiety over her husband’s (Tatum) impending prison release.

“Effects’ is tracking best with women over-25.

Paramount is bringing back its 1986 blockbuster “Top Gun” with a special six day 3D run at 300-plus IMAX theatres starting Feb. 8. The wide IMAX release will help focus attention on the action classic’s Feb. 19 3D Blu-ray release. Directed by Tony Scott and produced by Don Simpson & Jerry Bruckheimer, the romantic action drama stars Tom Cruise Kelly McGillis and Val Kilmer. “Top’ grossed nearly $177 million domestically and was a major milestone in building Cruise’s superstar career.

FEB. 14: With an eye on attracting couples for Valentine’s Day movie dates, Hollywood’s opening four films Thursday (Feb. 14) rather than Friday (Feb. 15).

But with Valentine’s Day falling on Thursday and President’s Day being a no-school national holiday on Monday (Feb. 18), Hollywood has a long five day holiday period in which to sell movie tickets. Understandably, there’s something for everyone.

Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment’s PG-13 fantasy drama “Beautiful Creatures” is directed by Richard LaGravenese (“P.S. I Love You”) and stars Alice Englert, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Irons and Alden Ehrenreich.

Ehrenreich’s character Ethan longs to escape his small Southern town. When he meets a mysterious girl, Lena (Englert), he uncovers dark secrets about their families, their town and themselves.

“Creatures” is tracking best with under-25 women and nearly as well with women over-25, which means lots of boyfriends and husbands are likely to find themselves seeing it Valentine’s Day!

Romance and fear are at the heart of Relativity Media’s PG-13 romantic mystery “Safe Haven,” directed by Lasse Hallstrom (“Dear John”) and starring Cobie Smulders, Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel. Like “John,” which grossed $80 million domestically in 2010, “Haven” is based on a best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks.

“Haven’s’ story centers on Katie (Hough), a mysterious young woman whose unexpected arrival in a small North Carolina town prompts questions about her past. After reluctantly falling in love with Alex (Duhamel), a widower with children, she finds herself struggling with a dark secret that still terrifies her.

As it’s tracking best with under-25 females, “Haven’ should also see its share of male moviegoers dragged along by dates and wives to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Couples seeking thrills from action rather than romance will find that, as well, this weekend thanks to 20th Century Fox and Dune Entertainment’s R rated crime thriller “A Good Day to Die Hard.” Directed by John Moore (“Max Payne”), it stars Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

In this latest episode in the blockbuster “Die Hard” franchise, whose previous four titles grossed over $435 million domestically, John McClane (Willis) goes to Moscow to help his wayward son (Courtney), What McLane doesn’t know is that Jack’s a CIA operative trying to prevent a nuclear weapons heist.

“Day’s” already tracking huge with over-25 males and next best with under-25 males. It’s been about six years since the series’ previous episode, “Live Free or Die Hard,” which grossed $134.5 million in 2007. But with Willis back in the saddle, Fox still has what audiences have always liked best about the “Die Hard” movies.

Also in the weekend’s mix is a PG rated family film from The Weinstein Company that should help parents keep young kids occupied over the long holiday weekend. The 3D animated comedy adventure “Escape From Planet Earth” from first time feature director Cal Brunker stars such voices as Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jessica Alba.

Fraser voices Astronaut Scorch Supernova, who’s a big hero on the planet Baab. A master of daring rescues, Scorch finds himself in big trouble after answering a distress call from a dangerous alien world.

“Earth” is tracking best and equally well with under and over-25 men and over-25 women, which should include lots of parents who will bring youngsters to see it.

FEB. 22: The Weinstein Company’s Dimension Films label and Blumhouse Productions (the “Paranormal Activity” franchise) will help end February on a scary note with the PG-13 supernatural thriller “Dark Skies.” Directed by Scott Charles Stewart (“Priest”), it stars Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton and Dakota Goyo.

The action here revolves around Daniel and Lacey Barret (Hamilton and Russell), a suburban couple whose peaceful life is suddenly destroyed by nightly invasions of their home as a deadly alien force goes after their children.

Summit Entertainment and Participant Media’s PG-13 action thriller “Snitch” is directed by Ric Roman Waugh (“Felon”) and stars Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, Susan Sarandon and Jon Bernthal.

Johnson plays a father who agrees to work undercover for the Drug Enforcement Agency in order to help free his son, who’s in prison after being set up in a drug deal.

Bottom line: It may be cold outside, but February could see a boxoffice heat wave.