FEBRUARY 19 ― Outside of aspiring Oscar bait movies, January and February have generally been known as the months major Hollywood studios release movies deemed not good enough to become blockbusters.
Or just outright disasters that they feel have no hope of making their money back.
So, even armed with that knowledge, it’s still not exactly a surprise to see a big budget movie like Moonfall getting released in February, even if it’s the latest film from the man who brought us such huge blockbusters like Independence Day, Godzilla (the 1998 one) and The Day After Tomorrow, considering how many of his recent films have more or less been considered box-office bombs.
Still, don’t let that deter you from checking out Hollywood flicks in January and February these days because since the pandemic, Hollywood has even more places to dump their releases, especially since almost every major studio now has their own streaming platforms.
Like most businesses that have needed to adapt to the way the pandemic has changed our way of living and doing business, you simply never know what to expect these days.
Maybe they can now just dump a lot of their crap on their own streaming platforms any time they want and dispense with the costs of making DCP (Digital Cinema Package) copies and advertising.
Or maybe they’ll still stick with the normal January and February dumping pattern even after the pandemic.
Judging from the films I did manage to catch in local cinemas this month, it’s starting to look like there simply is no pattern any more, with only one outright disaster (I’m looking at you, Moonfall) of the three movies I saw last weekend.
Released simultaneously in cinemas and on the Peacock streaming platform on February 11, just in time for Valentine’s Day, I didn’t have any high expectations whatsoever for this new rom-com starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, especially after seeing its totally unpromising trailer.
It’s about a singing superstar, Kat Valdez (a very natural role for J-Lo), who impulsively asks a random guy in the crowd (math teacher Charlie played by an irresistibly dorky Owen Wilson) holding a “marry me” sign to marry her on the spot, after finding out that her superstar singer fiancé cheated on her just mere moments before a planned on-stage marriage proposal during her concert while they sing their duet hit song Marry Me.
So, basically this one’s a sort of remix of Notting Hill, only instead of a superstar actress we get a superstar singer slowly falling in love with a dorky nobody, with all the obstacles that kind of relationship might have neatly laid out for the pair of lovers to navigate.
But like all good/great rom-coms, they do not live or die on this flimsy premise, but what they do live or die on is the sheer charisma and likability of their stars, and Marry Me is quite simply lucky, blessed even, to have Owen Wilson and J-Lo as its stars, as they alone made this movie such an irresistible and worthwhile watch.
There’s a mature sweetness here that we don’t see too often in rom-coms, especially modern rom-coms, and to even see actors pushing 50 starring in a rom-com is already a privilege nowadays, but to see something so formulaic being pulled off with such effortless grace and ease like this makes it even more so.
Death On The Nile
I won’t go into the debate of whether the world needs another set of Agatha Christie movie adaptations, because with the kind of commercial success that Kenneth Branagh’s first Christie movie adaptation, Murder On The Orient Express, had, it’s simply inevitable that Hollywood would ask for another, which arrives in the form of Death On The Nile.
Right out of the gate, I’ll say that Knives Out is still a better, wittier and more entertaining murder mystery movie than Branagh’s two Christie adaptations can ever hope to be.
And while I may not remember much about Murder On The Orient Express, the first feeling I got while I was watching Death On The Nile was how much more interesting and involving the whole murder mystery is this time.
It still, of course, stars Branagh as the world-famous detective Hercule Poirot, and he’s of course surrounded by a glittering array of Hollywood stars, the most famous being Gal Gadot and the most infamous being Armie Hammer (a now cancelled Hollywood star thanks to cannibalism accusations surrounding him).
But the film’s bite and energy comes exclusively from the decision by Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green to bring the book’s class consciousness to the forefront with its story of love as class warfare, and it’s just a lot of fun to witness the characters from the lower rungs of the class structure not only rub shoulders with the moneyed elite, but also plan and exact their revenge on them.
A warmer and more entertaining experience than Murder On The Orient Express, that’s for sure, but will it survive having a cancelled leading man in terms of box-office success? I guess we’ll know in a few weeks’ time.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.