Sylvester Stallone: The star of nearly 50 movies in a career spanning 4 decades, over $2 billion in domestic box office, nearly $4.5 billion worldwide and a personal rags to riches story that is the stuff of Hollywood legend. He is indelibly identified with iconic characters such as Rocky and Rambo, has made some of the most successful action movies ever — but also made some really bad choices. Remember Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Judge Dredd and Paradise Alley? Still, you have to give him credit for casting his vanity (and 5% body fat) aside for his brilliant turn as the shy and troubled cop Freddy Heflin in 1997's Copland.
And then this Super Bowl weekend, his latest action film, Bullet to the Head manages only a sixth place finish taking in a mere $4.5 million for the weekend and in the process he joins his Expendables co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand (9th place debut with $6.3M) and his other buddy Jason Statham's Parker (5th place $7M debut) in action movie jail. Perhaps these guys should only make movies with each other? Expendables 3 anyone? At least the first installment released in 2010 gave Stallone the biggest opening weekend of his career with an impressive $34.8 million and Expendables 2 delivered a solid $28.6 million in its 2012 launch.
To be fair, the first 32 days of 2013 were not kind to R-rated action movies in general with Gangster Squad (a 3rd place debut of $17.1M) and Broken City (a 6th place debut of $8.3M) also taking a punch to the fiscal solar plexus in the time frame. Furthermore, Super Bowl weekend was tough on pretty much everyone this weekend with one of the slowest such time frames on record. On the other hand, we can't just blame it on the time of year. For example, last year's $24.3M/$28.5M 4-day January MLK weekend debut of Mark Wahlberg's R-rated action yarn Contraband which impressively earned nearly $70 million in North America.
So we say it is time for Bruce Willis as John McLane to save the day and redeem his action star brethren and prove that the genre is not dead on Valentine's Day when A Good Day to Die Hard will hopefully open like a good old-fashioned R-rated action movie should: with a bang, not a whimper!
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
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Columbia Pictures announced today that Bruce Willis has signed on to star in Five Against a Bullet, an action thriller about five elite bodyguards hired to protect a Mexican politician against vicious drug cartels as he competes in an especially contentious election. Alex Litvak (Predators, The Three Musketeers) is penning the screenplay, with Lorenzo DiBonaventura, Jordan Schur, and David Mimran producing.
Five Against a Bullet represents the latest high-profile action project for Willis, who, as he nears the age of 60, is showing no signs of slowing down. He's currently at work prepping A Good Day to Die Hard, his fifth turn as everybadass John McLane, and can next be seen in alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the summer sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which opens June 29. A few months later, he'll join fellow aging action heroes Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the inexplicably PG-13-rated Expendables sequel.
Click on the above photo for more Bruce Willis pics.
Based on H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger's bestselling book of the same name Friday Night Lights tells the true story of the dusty West Texas town of Odessa where nothing much happens until September rolls around. That's when the town's 20 000 or so denizens pour into Ratliff Stadium the country's biggest high school football field every Friday night to watch the Permian Panthers Odessa's "boys in black " take to the field. All the town's hope and dreams are pinned on the padded shoulders of these young gridiron heroes--including insecure quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black); cocky self-assured running back Boobie Miles (Derek Luke); headstrong self-destructive tailback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund) who must contend with an overbearing abusive dad (Tim McGraw--yes that Tim McGraw the country singer); and the team's spiritual leader middle linebacker Ivory Christian (newcomer Lee Jackson). The Panthers begin their season with one thing on their minds--winning their fifth straight championship for the first time in the team's 30-year history--but for their coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) it also means instilling a love and joy of the game in the boys' hearts amidst tremendous pressures and expectations. Easier said than done.
There isn't a false note in any of the performances and no one falls back on clichéd versions of their characters as is so easy to do in rah-rah sports movies. Thornton does a particularly good job as Gaines keeping you guessing whether he's going to be a hardass insensitive to his players' emotional needs (like so many movie football coaches before him) or if he truly means to coach his boys in a fair and decent way. Gaines too has to deal with his own pressures especially from the townsfolk who are likely to string him up if the team loses the championship. As for Gaines' players Black (the oh-so-serious kid from Thornton's Sling Blade) is all grown up and buffed out and still very serious. It works for the young actor though as the beleaguered Winchell struggles with the love-hate relationship he has with his chosen sport. Other standouts include Luke (Antwone Fisher) as the star player Boobie whose cocksureness leads him to an injury; Hedlund as the volatile Billingsley trying desperately to please his father; and McGraw making his film debut as the father a former Permian Panther champion who sure hasn't given up his competitive spirit basically beating it into his son. First Faith Hill (McGraw's real-life wife) in The Stepford Wives and now McGraw--who knew country singers could act?
From All the Right Moves to Varsity Blues to Remember the Titans Friday Night Lights unfortunately doesn't completely distinguish itself from the pack of football movies before it--like those this is all about how the young players--be they underdogs second-string nobodies or stars--rising above the mounting pressure and playing the best they can bless their hearts. Still there's no question the sports genre--particularly football--always gets the juices pumping with FNL being no exception. It might have something to do with our sick fascination with watching bone-crunching hits and body-punishing tackles. It's dangerous out there for these guys; no other sport (besides maybe hockey) can elicit such wince-inducing emotion and actor/director Peter Berg (The Rundown) exploits that. Obviously influenced by Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday Berg effectively paints his own gritty documentary-style picture of the competitive sport without relying on too many trite gushy over-the-top moments. And to give it credit the film does not necessarily have a feel-good "let's win one for the Gipper" ending; it is based on a true story after all and as we know real life isn't all sunshine and roses especially in the bloodthirsty world of Texas high school football.
In the late 19th century Dr. Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) a misunderstood monster hunter is summoned to Transylvania to ferret out Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and kill him once and for all. When Van Helsing gets to the small village where the vampire was last spotted he discovers he also must contend with Dracula's three seriously twisted vampire brides Dracula's angry henchman/werewolf--and a lovely gypsy princess named Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) who is hell-bent on eradicating Dracula and his bloodsucking kind for slaughtering her entire family. Oh and let's not forget Frankenstein's Monster (Shuler Hensley) who holds the key to Dracula's evil master plan--something about releasing his minions of unborn bat-like children from their goo-filled cocoons so they can wreck havoc on the world. Yuck. Sounds like our resident monster stomper and his sword-swinging gal pal have their work cut out for them. If Van Helsing does manage to kill all his monster foes does that mean he's out of a job?
Jackman has the whole antihero thing down pat. He adequately embodies the younger more virile Van Helsing dishing out as much pain and torture as he can on the undead--but the Aussie actor isn't given nearly as much meat to chew on as he did say delving into the complicated Wolverine in X-Men. Instead the monster hunter is relegated to carrying big weapons wearing a big hat and muttering something about having bad dreams to a past he can't remember. Same goes for Beckinsale. The British actress was oh-so-cool on the other side of the fence playing the chic vampire Selene in Underworld cutting her way through a myriad of werewolves. As Van Helsing's heavily accented female counterpart Anna however she just runs around with her sword blurting out such pathetic dialogue such as "Dracula took everything away from me and now I'm alone in the world" while Roxburgh's Dracula--who can't hold a candle to other far more charismatic Draculas before him--wails about being so very alone as his luscious brides hang upside down in front of him. Give me a break. At least Australian actor David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings) provides much-needed comic relief as Van Helsing's sidekick Carl a Catholic friar who doesn't much like playing hero.
With the requisite dark mood and tone action sequences and snazzy CGI-creations including the winged vampire brides and formidable werewolves you can see exactly where writer/director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) spent Van Helsing's nearly $150 million budget. But even all the bells and whistles can't tie together the film's vacuous nonsensical mumbo jumbo as Sommers attempts to bring classic movie monsters together in the same movie. Maybe in a tongue-in-cheek Abbott and Costello movie it could work but as a serious action-packed thriller clearly Dracula Frankenstein and the Wolf Man do not need to meet. On top of that Sommers steals from other movies as well such as recent films Underworld (the whole vampire vs. werewolf conflict) and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (Van Helsing defeats a rather familiar-looking Mr. Hyde at one point). Whatever originality there is in the film leaves you either scratching your head--Dracula has kids?--or rolling your eyes--Anna needs to kill Dracula so her nine-generations of family can reunite in Heaven? Please.