Hollywood’s Top 10 Most Curious Valentine’s Day Releases of the Last 30 Years

It’s easy for some to forget that Valentine’s Day isn’t the cheerful, amorous love-binge that Hallmark and Hershey would like the world to embrace en masse.  Yes, as nice as it would be for everyone of an appropriate legal and emotional bearing to get laid or stroked just once a year, it simply will never come to pass.  No, some of us are too ugly, awkward, unstable, or so fabulously surly that finding lasting happiness would be akin to discovering a real pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  Perhaps this is why movie studios sometimes throw the public a curious curve-ball when Valentine’s Day rolls around.  A calculated risk though it may be, the potential for rewards is high when banking on a film capturing the disgruntled single crowd’s favor.  Today’s list recognizes those studios that took a chance on just such an audience: one so burned or otherwise disillusioned that a full-bore action and/or horror bloodbath seemed like just the ticket.  Some leeway was given on the release date, for if a film came out the day before Valentine’s Day, this list considered it worthy.  To get a look, the film had to be so comically unromantic to literally force a double-take, as if to say, “Wait, what?  That came out on Valentine’s Day?  Are you sure?”  Yes, quite sure, actually.  As just stated, the following films all came out on Valentine’s Day, or the day before due to calendar scheduling (nobody wants to release on a Saturday, despite the ridiculous romantic significance).  Our #10 choice inspired today’s list, for its release this week seems to illustrate Hollywood’s curious proclivity to run up against the grain from time to time…

Good_Day_to_Die_Hard10.) A Good Day to Die Hard, a.k.a., Die Hard 5 (2013) –

You ever notice that studios don’t tack on numbers to sequels much anymore?  It’s true, with the exception of a few cheesy, shameless horror franchises who probably assume (rightly) that it won’t hurt their brand, studios don’t number their sequels any longer.  This makes sense, for some industry focus group probably clued Hollywood into the fact that an audience’s perception of a film’s quality is inversely proportionate to the higher numerical figure attached to the title’s ass-end.  Again, except for the Saw fans of the world, who seemingly demand this standard of cinematic filth, serious movie folk seem to shy away from pictures with big numbers at the end.  Big-name franchises with sprawling sequel installments (see Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc.) seem to have received this note, and have named their films individually (usually for the source-book’s title) instead of chaining all of them together under a franchise tag’s installments.  Die Hard is yet another of this ilk, and since the release of its third picture, Die Hard With a Vengeance, it has discarded numbers for long, only half-ironic titles.  Thus, while the title seems to follow convention, the release date seems to do everything but, for what is usually a raucous summer (or sometimes Christmas) outing with the bloodthirsty John McClane is now set for Valentine’s Day?  Yeah, kinda weird.  Still, it’s got nothing on this next film, one that had the gung-ho, testosterone crowd figured into its release base, yet with none of the cinematic pedigree to truly dazzle them…

Jumper movie poster onesheet9.) Jumper (2008) –

This one’s release on Valentine’s Day almost makes sense in a twisted, psycho-stalker kind of way.  The production of Jumper was rumored to be so troubled and sideways that when the stinking pile of dog shit was indeed released, the studio probably felt like they were giving themselves a break.  “Everyone wants to like the movie they see on Valentine’s Day, right?”  Who knows for sure, but it probably went something like that at 20th Century Fox, the distributor of Jumper, who had to have known how bad their thrice-rewritten, once re-casted stinker of a flick truly was.  Oh, and that re-cast lead was Hayden Christensen, who by 2008 had sufficiently pissed off Jumper’s proposed fan-base via Star Wars crimes against humanity to ensure that nobody would see Jumper except a few random couples who couldn’t get into Definitely, Maybe.  A half-assed sci-fi adventure pic about teleporting mutants and the shadowy agency trying to exterminate them, Jumper didn’t make any more sense as a date movie than it did on-screen, as ANY kind of movie.  Still, it at least had that studio sympathy thing going for it, and the overflow possibilities in its corner.  This next one still confuses me, however…

waynes_world_ver28.) Wayne’s Word (1992) –

To be fair, this one was at least a romantic comedy, of sorts, yet Wayne’s World was really a hetero-driven love story about two men who overcame the tribulations of a suddenly introduced female presence.  Seriously, while there was some stuff going on about a business mogul buying Wayne and Garth out, really, this was about how “Cassandra” (Tia Carrere) went all Yoko on the boys.  Despite this glaring finger to half the proposed demographic, the movie also smothered its audience with a series of gags and jokes that, even in 1992, were hovering around the eighth grade level.  Yet maybe that’s it, eh?  The people who were born when this movie was released are of drinking age by now, so who’s to say what would have been good for a romantic evening back in 1992?  Surely, nowadays, a guy wouldn’t get too far if he took his lady out on the most romantic night of the year to watch Dana Carvey air-hump everything in sight whilst Mike Myers made sphincter jokes.  And while the times they are a-changin’, one might hold out hope that they are evolving towards better things, towards a world where Mike Myers and other past-their-prime hacks like Sylvester Stallone no longer demand the attention of the masses…

overthetop7.) Over the Top (1987) –

One of today’s technicality entries, for this one came out on February 13th, 1987, Over the Top definitely qualified for consideration in our discussion.  Like Wayne’s World, although there were faint traces of a date movie resting beneath the surface, this was nothing more than a smoke-and-mirrors ploy to get couples in the theaters.  In Over the Top, Sylvester Stallone played “Lincoln Hawk,” a long-haul trucker who was given the opportunity to get to know the son he’d ditched about a decade earlier while his –ex slowly succumbed to cancer (or some damn thing).  Although this might sound like something a couple could enjoy on a date, the film was actually a plug for the then (as now) under-appreciated “sport” of professional arm-wrestling.  Seriously!  Over the Top was 93 minutes of Stallone arm wrestling huge stacks of men while his whiney, mousey son looked on.  It’s actually humorous to think about how many relationships were ruined by this film, for countless dates must have been made where enthusiastic boyfriends cheered the greasy, hulking monsters on-screen while girlfriends pondered the wisdom of their life’s romantic decisions.  It’s an interesting thought, and one that will have to be shelved so we might discuss…

friday-the-13th-poster-19806.) Friday the 13th (2009) –

Yet another last-minute technicality entry, one has to give this flick a little leeway since it was actually released on (you guessed it) Friday the 13th, 2009.  Yet as a Valentine’s Day-weekend offering, it certainly fit the mold for those included in today’s discussion, and stands out as a head-scratcher of nearly the same ilk.  A franchise reboot, 2009’s Friday the 13th could have never been considered appropriate date-night fare except for the most hearty, gore-infatuated sub-sects out there.  This crowd is usually better for little more than a million dollars or so in the best of circumstances, and while the cache’ of having a hack-fest option as a happy alternative to Confessions of a Shopaholic must have been pleasing to consider, it’s insane to think that this release was anything more than a desperation Hail Mary.  Studios routinely dump their garbage in the early winter months, and the kitsch value of dropping an unapologetic horror standard on America’s favorite date night must have seemed like too juicy of a proposition to pass on when factoring the two-birds-with-one-stone bonus this choice presented..  Still, it didn’t make the decision any more sensible on the surface, where an unholy demon of the night and his murderous deeds carried a film released during Cupid’s busy season.  Still, with Friday the 13th, there was at least that: SOMETHING, albeit gruesome, going on.  This next film didn’t even have that…

sphere_ver25.) Sphere (1998) –

Ugh…what a slog.  One long, unnecessarily complicated mind-fuck, Sphere actually had all kinds of things going on, yet didn’t really provide the structure to give any of it real meaning.  Although it began as a simple Abyss rip-off, Sphere quickly devolved into something far worse, and eventually saw Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sharon Stone in a three-way pissing match to see who could over-act the most.  In case you haven’t seen it, the results were as terrifying as that short description might imply.  Yet what was most baffling about this one was its release on February 13th, 1998, albeit one day before Valentine’s Day, yet still in the meaty portion of that weekend (the 14th fell on a Saturday that year).  Although there was a little spark between Stone and Hoffman in the film, really, this was just two hours of underwater terror populated by spaceships, giant squid, and murderous sea nettles.  Who the hell would want to take a date to that?  If pulled off well, it might make for something a boyfriend could explain his way out of, yet sadly, Sphere offered no such consolation.  For shame.
DareDevilPosterSHITTY-5004.) Daredevil (2003) –

With all the hoopla surrounding Argo right now, it’s easy to forget that Ben Affleck was once a Hollywood leper whose box office potential could be measured on one hand.  This was due in large part to a number of questionable career moves that began with Phantoms, and finally crested with 2003’s Gigli.  One should keep in mind that 2003 saw the release of not just the career-busting Gigli, but also Daredevil, a film so wretchedly God-awful that only a Jennifer Lopez pairing in perhaps the worst movie of all time could keep it from the truly legendary status it deserved.  Affleck’s superhero offering landed on Valentine’s Day if you can believe it, and actually turned a pretty profit, something that was largely due to the sudden resurgence in interest in comic book film adaptations ten years ago.  It’s hard to imagine how the date-night crowd demographic played into the hefty $100 million-plus domestic take, however, for any boyfriend dumb enough to drag his date to this one would have likely been surfing eHarmony that very night.  It likely had more to do with the fact that the early winter months are, as just mentioned, traditionally the dumping ground for sub-par cinematic fare, and 20th Century Fox figured its stinker of a pic had a better chance in February than in May and June, when the big-boys traditionally come out to play.  It worked, kinda, in that Daredevil made its budget back and then some, yet it was done in a backwards sort of way that demonstrated a lack of trust in the picture, for this was hardly a romantic flick.  Speaking of which…

absolute_power_ver43.) Absolute Power (1997) –

That this one was dropped on Valentine’s Day is a total fucking mystery to me, for Absolute Power was about high-end larceny, Presidential scandals, murder, and rough-sex gone bad.  With no romantic sub-plots or anyone under the age of forty, for that matter, it’s a wonder what the studio thought they were gonna get with this one.  It starred a grizzled, steely eyed Clint Eastwood as “Luther Whitney,” a seasoned thief who accidentally happened upon a murder during a job.  Since the President of the United States was the one involved in the killing, ol’ Luther found himself in a whole heap of trouble with both the cops and the Secret Service, something that made the thief’s life all sorts of complicated.  An interesting movie with a decent cast (the supporting players included Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Scott Glenn, and Dennis Haysbert), it just didn’t connect with the mid-February crowd looking to settle in for a romantic evening.  And while some films on today’s list might have gotten away with a Valentine’s Day release because they went against the market’s expectations, and thus opened the path for a niche’ audience, it’s hard to figure what in the hell the studio was thinking with this one.  Yet at the very least, Absolute Power could claim to be a film that two people in a relationship might enjoy, if on a serious, non-romantic level.  This next film could claim nothing of the sort…

TheDeltaForce_onesheet_USA-1-500x7552.) The Delta Force (1986) –

Yeah, Chuck Norris went there.  No, don’t take my word for it, go to imdb.com and check it out for yourselves.  The Delta Force came out on February 14th, 1986 to what must have been a stupefied public entirely unprepared for something this fantastically manly.  The film starred Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin, a pairing so masculine that it needed George Kennedy to calm things down a bit.  Still, as a no-holds-barred action extravaganza, it did its job.  Somewhat ahead of the curve in terms of its use of seemingly-heartless Middle Eastern bad guys, The Delta Force started with a bang, and didn’t let up until the final runway climax (when Chuck Norris had to stand-ride a motorcycle for some reason).  As unapologetically awesome as all of this was, it certainly didn’t fit the mold for the traditionally light-hearted Valentine’s Day fare.  True, The Delta Force went on to make an ass-load of money, and spawned something like nine sequels, yet it was hardly a traditional opening for that weekend (it went up against Goldie Hawn in Wildcats, and Kevin Bacon in Quicksilver).  Yet if one is going to discuss the all-time, king-shit anti-romantic Valentine’s Day release, the one that floored everyone during its release and kept them coming back for more months after its initial landing, we’d have to discuss…

silence_of_the_lambs_ver2_xlg1.) The Silence of the Lambs (1991) –

Wow, right?  Yeah, there’s an interesting story behind this one’s release on Valentine’s Day, actually.  The Silence of the Lambs was distributed by Orion, which also shopped Dances With Wolves around at the end of 1990.  The story goes that Orion was so busy pimping Costner’s neo-western out to Academy voters and critics in advance of the ’91 award season that Lambs found itself pushed back to the infamous January-February graveyard.  In what turned out to be a shock to pretty much everyone (including those involved with Lambs), the little thriller that could opened on Valentine’s Day and made its own budget back in a week.  The reason was simple: The Silence of the Lambs was so well made and exquisitely cast that people, including those on dates, simply couldn’t stay away.

The film had an amazing theatrical life, and even lingered in the minds of critics and Academy voters long enough to get its due at the Oscars a year later, where it swept the five major categories (Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor, and Screenplay [Adapted]).  Still!  A movie that prominently featured not one, but TWO serial killers, along with extended scenes where a young woman was tortured in one of the most horrifying ways imaginable?  Yeah, not your traditional date night offering.  Still, it worked because the movie was so damn good, and what’s more, The Silence of the Lambs went on to inspire lesser films (see #6’s Friday the 13th entry) that tried to re-capture this lightening in a bottle: this scary alternative to a traditionally mushy holiday.  For blazing a new path, and having the balls to do so (even if mostly due to a studio half-assed management), The Silence of the Lambs got the top nod.

by Warren Cantrell

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