The Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro starring Grudge Match opening Christmas day has visions of Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta in its story about two contenders who step back into the ring to settle a 30-year-old feud.
Apparently Grudge Match is testing well enough to be moved up a few weeks from its January 14th slush dump release to sparring with heavy weight Xmas day contenders Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), Ben Stiller (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and Josh Brolin/Kate Winslet (Labor Day).
Frequent Adam Sandler directing lackey Peter Segal (2008's Get Smart being his last non-Sandler production) returns from a self-imposed five year retirement to direct, guaranteeing that Grudge Match will be funny in all the right and wrong places.
The sepia tone posters try their best to generate a Rocky vs Raging Bull vibe, but the trailer released a few weeks ago clearly shows that Grudge Match is a sparring practice comedy rather than a remix of DeNiro's and Stallone's star-making dramatic turns.
The Grudgement Day reference to the Terminator movies in the posters may turn out to be a prophetic omen. The Stallone/Schwarzenegger Escape Plan underperformed coming in fifth place in this week's box-office race, showing Stallone doesn't have the star power and adoring fan base to carry a film by himself.
Still, Escape Plan could be more of a symptom of Arnie-fatigue, the whole governator, bedding maid and ate her scandal coming back to haunt Schwarzenegger.
Kevin Hart has made a career of being himself, always King of the Ring and bringing the bling. Matching him with Alan Arkin is sheer casting genius. Wise Ass vs Smart Ass is a bout I will watch for the full 15 rounds.
Alan Arkin has been making a career of generating Oscar buzz from thin on character dross. The trainer role with its faint echoes of Burgess Meredith Rocky role is tailor-made for stealing the Academy's heart. If he dies in the film he clinches a Best Supporting Actor nomination.