While the last few weekends only saw one wide release debut, this weekend is slammed with four titles claiming a collective total of more than 11,000 screens across the nation. Among them are another found-footage horror flick, Kevin Hart’s debut as a comedic leading man, an animated feature hoping to steal some thunder from ‘Frozen’, and the rebirth of Tom Clancy’s most famous character.
Because I’m a huge fan of the previous four Clancy films (‘The Hunt for Red October‘, ‘Patriot Games‘, ‘Clear and Present Danger‘ and ‘The Sum of All Fears‘), I’m most excited to see ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit‘. Chris “Captain Kirk” Pine takes on yet another beloved franchise role, picking up the character’s legacy after Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Unlike the prior movies, ‘Shadow Recruit’ is not based on a specific book from Clancy’s canon. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars as the story’s Russian villain, the film is a reboot origin story. We see why Ryan went into the military, how he and future wife Cathy (Keira Knightley) met, how he became involved with the CIA, and what leads him on his career path as the nation’s most patriotic and important analyst. Considering all the action shown in the trailers, it’s safe to assume that we’re getting a bit more ‘Mission: Impossible’ infused into the new Jack Ryan, and that’s just fine by me. If you need a refresher on the franchise, now’s a perfect time to pick up the ‘Jack Ryan Collection‘ on Blu-ray!
Surprisingly, ‘Jack Ryan’ isn’t the widest release of the weekend. Instead, that would be Open Road’s ‘The Nut Job‘. The family flick appears to have the exact same story as 2006’s ‘Over the Hedge’, in which a bunch of talking animals are led by a selfish friend into the biggest animal-related heist ever. Their plan is to collectively rob a large nut store in order to get more than enough food to get them through winter. When my own daughters refused to join me for this press screening because “It doesn’t look fun,” I don’t know if ‘The Nut Job’ has what it takes to defeat the long-lasting ‘Frozen’, which they’ve seen several times.
An R-rated found-footage horror movie called ‘Devil’s Due‘ opens just two weeks after the ‘Paranormal Activity’ spin-off ‘The Marked Ones’ tanked at the box office (in comparison to that franchise’s previous titles). Perhaps this one stands a chance at success, but given that I haven’t seen a single poster, TV spot or trailer for the film, the lack of advertising might keep it off viewers’ radar. ‘Devil’s Due’ follows a man who decides to document his new wife’s pregnancy, noticing that this baby might not be what they’re expecting.
Finally, the fourth widest release of the weekend is Universal’s test of Kevin Hart’s star power. ‘Ride Along‘ offers the popular comic his first shot at a leading role. If the movie performs half as well as his stand-up concert films, we’ll probably see a lot more of him in the future. If not, he may be stuck in supporting parts. What bums me out is that, even though I think the movie has a chance of being a decent comedy (the TV spots made me laugh), the studio seems to be marketing it like a niche film solely for black audiences. Why do I say that? Because I live in region that has never screened a “black movie.” I’ve never seen a Tyler Perry movie. ‘The Best Man Reunion’ wasn’t screened near me. If it features a mostly black cast, it won’t be shown to critics here, plain and simple. Since Hart has a huge following, I’m certain that the studio screened the hell out of ‘Ride Along’ in other regions, but didn’t bother showing it where I live.