2012 Summer Movie Preview


There was reason for optimism last year. The summer movie line-up on paper looked to be as strong as has ever been offered in the multiplexes in recent memory, maybe ever. Studio accountants looked forward to a strong and profitable summer.

Instead, the continuing erosion of box office numbers went on unabated. Other than established franchises (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover Part II) there was little joy at the box office as most of the movies underperformed. While Marvel Comics films did solid numbers, the highly anticipated Green Lantern failed to be the mega-blockbuster that would pave the way for an explosion of DC comic characters onscreen that Iron Man had been.

However, this year is a different story. The box office has been on the upswing, buoyed by hits like The Hunger Games and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. There is another strong line-up waiting for us in theaters, and quite frankly the quality looks to be a little bit better in general than last year. Hopefully better movies, strong franchises and big stars will help to continue to reverse the trend of box office erosion this summer.

We’ll be seeing old friends return and hopefully discovering a few new ones. Marvel has their first official release under the Disney banner this summer, and will be doing so with a bang – the long-anticipated The Avengers will unite most of the Marvel heroes onscreen in a single movie.

DC Comics will be bringing back Batman as Warner Brothers will present what is expected to be the biggest hit of the summer – The Dark Knight Rises. Columbia Pictures will have a Marvel hero of their own as they reboot their own superhero franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man. The same studio will also be bringing back another franchise based on a comic book series as Will Smith dons his familiar suit for Men in Black III.

Ridley Scott will return to the Aliens franchise that helped establish him as a filmmaker in the lavish prequel/not-a-prequel Prometheus. Broadway will be represented as the hit musical Rock of Ages brings it’s star-studded classic rock to the movie theaters. Pixar offers up their first non-sequel animated feature in three years with Brave. Also look to such sequels as Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted, The Expendables 2 and Ice Age: Continental Drift.

It will be a star-studded summer with such luminaries as Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., Will Smith, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meryl Streep, Christian Bale, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Ben Stiller, Ray Romano, Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler, Colin Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Charlize Theron all making appearances on the silver screen.

For a Premium Rush tell The Dictator on the Battleship just What to Expect When You’re Expecting to see The Apparition haunting The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. After all, you’ve got ParaNorman and Magic Mike exorcising The Possession and no Dark Shadows will faze Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter in the Cold Light of Day.

MAY

The summer season kicks off with the first big blockbusters and runs through the big Memorial Day weekend. Some of the biggest movies of the year are settled here, looking to be the first to get the big summer box office bite and get their season off to a roaring start. May has become Marvel month – nearly every year for the past several, a movie from Marvel Studios featuring one of their comic book icons has come out in May. This year they’ll be joined by movies based on a classic game and a classic soap opera, as well as new films from Sacha Baron Cohen and Oren Peli.

May 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

THE AVENGERS
RELEASE DATE: May 4, 2012
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard
STORY: When the planet is threatened by an alien race led by a vengeful god, the world must turn to the superheroes to protect – and perhaps avenge – them. The trouble is, they don’t all play well together.
PROSPECTS: This movie has been in the pipeline pretty much since the first Iron Man and the anticipation has been building for years. With fan favorite Joss Whedon at the helm, this may well be the ultimate Marvel movie!
OBSTACLES: Having this many characters to deal with may make it more difficult for the audience to connect with any of them.
FACTOID: This is the first Marvel Studios movie to be released by Disney ever since Paramount and Disney agreed to sign the franchise over to Disney, who owns Marvel Comics. Paramount will continue to receive a share of the profits.

SCORCHERS

MEN IN BLACK III
RELEASE DATE: May 25, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Jermaine Clement, Alice Eve, Nicole Scherzinger, Michael Stuhlbarg
STORY: Agent J of the MIB comes to work one morning to find the world changed and agent K dead for 40 years. Something has changed in the timeline and it is up to J to go back in time and make it right. However, he will find in the past that Agent K of the 60s hadn’t changed much from the guy who drove him crazy in the 21st century.
PROSPECTS: Will Smith is one of the biggest stars in the world and this is one of the franchises that made him one. Not only will it be a box office smash, HELL YEAH it will be a box office smash!
OBSTACLES: It’s been nearly a decade since the last one; can they recapture the magic?
FACTOID: This is Will Smith’s first movie appearance in three and a half years, the longest he’s gone between films since his film career began in 1993.

DARK SHADOWS
RELEASE DATE: May 11, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Eva Green, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Bella Heathcote
STORY: Barnabas Collins has it all, 18th Century-style. The love of a beautiful woman, wealth, control of a small Maine town – until he is cursed by a witch to be a vampire and then buried alive to await 200 years until he is inadvertently released in 1972. He finds his family fallen upon difficult times – and the same witch waiting for him.
PROSPECTS: Tim Burton, the ultimate cult director. Dark Shadows, the ultimate 60s cult series. The trailer looks amusing and fun.
OBSTACLES: Not many remember the gothic soap opera and those who are fans might just resent the more comic turn.
FACTOID: Cameos from the stars of the original series include Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby and Lara Parker.

BATTLESHIP
RELEASE DATE: May 18, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Asano Tadanobu, Peter MacNicol, Jesse Plemons
STORY: The Earth is under attack by aliens (again). However the invaders aren’t coming from the stars but from under the sea. Only a group of naval warships on training maneuvers stand in the way of the total annihilation of the human race.
PROSPECTS: Hasbro is also the makers of the Transformers series, which the trailer obviously resembles. People who love that best-selling series are going to go gaga for this one.
OBSTACLES: Alien invasion movies have been extremely low in quality and box office performance of late.
FACTOID: This is the feature film acting debut of singer Rihanna.

SUMMER STORM

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
RELEASE DATE: May 4, 2012
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Tena Desae, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle
STORY: An Indian hotel advertises itself as an ideal retreat for retirees wishing to live out their golden years in exotic India turns out to be not quite ready when the first guests show up.
PROSPECTS: Might make some inroads among art house habitués and senior moviegoers, a group often neglected by Hollywood. The trailer also made it look heartwarming and funny.
OBSTACLES: Probably won’t appeal much to younger audiences unless they’re incredibly open-minded.
FACTOID: Tom Wilkinson’s character is named Dashwood; this is the second time he’s played a character with that name (the first being Sense and Sensibility in 1995).

HEAT WAVE

May 4, 2012

LOL (Lionsgate/Mandate), opening in limited release, is concerned with the generation gap which one parent discovers when she reads her daughter’s racy diary. She realizes that she needs to find away to reconnect with her daughter before risking losing her forever. Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus star.

May 11, 2012

WHERE DO WE GO NOW? (Sony Classics) is set in a small village in Lebanon, isolated from the rest of the country which is in turmoil between Christian and Muslim factions. The village women have figured out a way to maintain the peace – but that peace is rapidly being threatened by outside forces. I saw this at the recent Florida Film Festival and it’s marvelous, funny and poignant. This is playing in limited release only. TRANSIT (After Dark) is about a camping trip taken by the Slidwell family to reconnect after the father has returned from a tax evasion conviction and imprisonment. He notices that they are being followed which turns from annoyance to terror when it turns out they aren’t being followed so much as hunted. Jim Caviezel stars in this limited release which is one of several being released to theaters that same day from After Dark before moving to home video.

May 16, 2012

THE DICTATOR (Paramount) stars Sacha Baron Cohen as the brutal but inept dictator of an Arab nation who rules his people with an iron fist – but forgot to pack one for his stay in New York City to address the United Nations.

May 18, 2012

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) is based on the best-selling book on pregnancy and stars an all-star ensemble cast including Chris Rock, Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz.

May 25, 2011

CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Brothers) is from Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli and like that film stars a cast of mostly unknowns as they are taken for a private tour of Chernobyl. Their fun and games turns deadly when their van breaks down, stranding them in the abandoned nuclear facility and they soon realize they aren’t alone. THE INTOUCHABLES (Weinstein) also opens in limited release and is the story of a wealthy but disabled man and his relationship with his black Muslim caretaker. This was one of last year’s box office champions in France and one more Cinema365 got to see at the Florida Film Festival this year.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

A look back at how last year’s previewed movies did at the box office. The budgets and box office numbers are courtesy of Box Office Mojo. My verdicts are based on the typical studio formula that for a movie to break even it must make twice its production budget; any movie that achieves that will be labeled as profitable. I define hit movies as those that make three times the production budget and blockbusters as anything that makes $200 million in domestic box office or more, or made five times the production budget with a minimum of $100 million in domestic box office. The first five movies listed are the five main previewed items; I’ve also chosen a selection of other major releases that made the preview issue as well.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (Disney) Budget: $250 Million. Domestic Gross: $241.1M Total: $1.044 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
THOR (Paramount/Marvel) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $181.0M Total: $449.3M Verdict: Hit.
THE HANGOVER PART II (Warner Brothers) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $254.5M Total: $581.5M Verdict: Blockbuster.
KUNG FU PANDA 2 (DreamWorks) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $165.3M Total: $665.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE TREE OF LIFE (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $32M. Domestic Gross: $13.3M Total: $54.3M Verdict: Flop.
BRIDESMAIDS (Universal) Budget: $32.5M. Domestic Gross: $169.1M Total: $288.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
PRIEST (Screen Gems) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $29.1M Total: $78.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
SOMETHING BORROWED (Warner Brothers) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $39.1M Total: $60.2M Verdict: Lost Money.
JUMPING THE BROOM (Tri-Star) Budget: $6.6M. Domestic Gross: $37.3M Total: $37.7 Verdict: Hit.

JUNE

June is the lull between Memorial Day and Independence Day. That’s not to say there aren’t big movies released this month – Pixar traditionally releases their movie in June and there are often blockbusters that sneak in but for the most part the big May movies rule the box office roost and this year should be no different. However, we can still look forward to a return to the Alien universe by Ridley Scott, a hit Broadway musical and a new movie from Wanted director Timur Bekmambitov based on a quirky best-seller.

June 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

PROMETHEUS
RELEASE DATE: June 8, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Patrick Wilson, Rafe Spall
STORY: A team of scientists journeys to a distant planet in hopes of discovering the answers to a mystery about the evolution of life on earth – and discover something terrifying that might just signal the end all life.
PROSPECTS: A terrific trailer has helped ratchet up the anticipation for this film, which has been high on the list of must-sees since it was announced. Director Ridley Scott is coy as to whether this is a prequel to Alien, stating only that it’s set in the same universe. Right.
OBSTACLES: No really big stars here to power the movie at the box office, but then again the first Alien didn’t have any either.
FACTOID: Scott tried to keep the use of CGI to a minimum using it mostly in the space travel sequences. Whenever possible, he used practical effects which brought costs down and gave the actors something more concrete to work with.

SCORCHERS

BRAVE
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2012
STUDIO: Disney*Pixar
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thomspon, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane
STORY: A feisty, determined young princess in ancient Scotland determines to make her own fate rather than marry someone she doesn’t wish to.
PROSPECTS: A new tale from the minds of Pixar and the first non-sequel release by the studio in three years. Pixar still means quality when it comes to computer animation.
OBSTACLES: Cars 2 performed less than satisfactorily both at the box office and in the critics reviews.
FACTOID: This will be the first Pixar movie to feature a female protagonist and will be the first Disney princess to come from a Pixar film.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson, Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell
STORY: Before he was the 16th President of the United States, Honest Abe was a Slayer. Yeah, his mom was killed by one and all so he went, like, mental. And he was like the first Scooby. Really.
PROSPECTS: Director Timur Bekmambitov has some pretty decent genre cred. The book this is based on was quite popular.
OBSTACLES: The title got plenty of titter at every movie it was screened before, not a good sign.
FACTOID: Robin McLeavy was originally considered for the role of Mary Todd (Lincoln’s eventual wife) before being cast in the role of his mother Nancy Lincoln.

ROCK OF AGES
RELEASE DATE: June 15, 2011
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Julianne Hough, Paul Giamatti, Mary J. Blige, Malin Akerman, Diego Boneta
STORY: A small town girl and city boy meet in a struggling nightclub on the Sunset Strip on the day the world’s biggest rock star is to appear, his appearance causing conservative women’s groups to protest.
PROSPECTS: Based on the Broadway musical featuring classic rock songs from the ’70s and ’80s, the movie has the star power the stage play lacked.
OBSTACLES: While a popular hit on the Great White Way, those don’t always translate well to the multiplex. Also the knock on the play is that the story is kind of trite.
FACTOID: Julianne Hough beat out Taylor Swift for the role of Sherrie.

SUMMER STORM

SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2012
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Gillian Jacobs, Derek Luke, Melanie Lynskey, Patton Oswalt, William Petersen
STORY: The world is ending in a few days. No getting out of it – we’re all goners. What do you do with the time you have left? Yeah, it’s a comedy.
PROSPECTS: Carell is one of the most reliable comics there is. The trailer looks funny and bittersweet all at once with a Ricky Gervais-esque quality to it.
OBSTACLES: Not really getting a big push and is smack up against a Pixar release and the anticipated Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
FACTOID: The production company is Indian Paintbrush, which is another name for the butterfly weed.

HEAT WAVE

June 1, 2012

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Universal) is a reimagining of the fairy tale, showing the Queen to be a supernatural creature who yearns to conquer the world and only the beautiful Snow White stands between her and her destiny. However, the resourceful Snow White has allied herself with the Huntsman, the man sent to kill her – and now it’s on, bee-yatch! PIRANHA 3DD (Dimension) is a sequel to the 2010 reboot of the fishy franchise. This time the prehistoric piranha .have made their way from Lake Victoria to an adjacent water park.

June 6, 2012

THE DO-DECA-PENTATHLON (Fox Searchlight) sees two ultra-competitive brothers going after one another in the ultimate family competition. This is the latest from indie darlings the Duplass Brothers and should be seeing a limited release, although at the moment it’s listed as wide.

June 8, 2012

MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (DreamWorks) has our favorite zoo escapees trying to make their way back to New York via Europe, only people aren’t exactly comfortable with a lion, zebra, hippo and giraffe (not to mention meerkats and penguins) running around free, so they hitch a ride with the circus. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (FilmDistrict) has a trio of cynical journalists from a Seattle weekly investigating a classifying ad recruiting fellow adventurers for time travel.

June 15, 2012

THAT’S MY BOY (Columbia) stars Adam Sandler as an irresponsible self-centered jerk who needs to get some cash to pay off a loan shark and hits upon the idea of attending his estranged son’s wedding to reconnect and maybe leach off of his success. Andy Samberg is featured as the son. THE TORTURED (IFC) is being released in limited markets and is about a pair of grieving parents whose son’s murderer gets off with a lighter sentence. Outraged by this injustice, they decide to take matters into their own hands. YOUR SISTER’S SISTER (IFC) is about a man, crushed by the death of his brother, who is sent to the family vacation home by his brother’s ex. There he meets the girlfriend’s sister and things look promising – until the ex arrives and things get complicated. Also scheduled for limited release.

June 22, 2012

TO ROME WITH LOVE (Sony Classics) is the latest from director Woody Allen and is his first film to be set in the ancient city of Rome. Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni, Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page star in this limited release.

June 27, 2012

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Fox Searchlight), opening in limited release, was one of the most talked-about films at Sundance this year and concerns a small girl whose world of natural balance and order is rocked by a terrible storm. Now, in order to save her dying father, she must find a way to restore the balance.

June 29, 2012

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (Paramount) finds the Joe’s betrayed from the place they least expected it to come from as Cobra takes over. It will take the Rock and Bruce Willis to save America from Cobra in this summer action movie. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ bout! MAGIC MIKE (Warner Brothers) stars Channing Tatum in a story based on his own life as a male exotic dancer. Steven Soderbergh directs. PEOPLE LIKE US (DreamWorks) is about a fast-talking salesman whose big deal collapses on the same day he learns his father died. Further revelations include that he has a sister he never knew he had, and that his father has left his money to her, even though he desperately needs the cash. However he determines to meet her, which complicates things further. Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks co-star. TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION (Lionsgate) brings back Perry’s wildly popular grandma as Madea hosts a wealthy CFO who is at the center of a Ponzi scheme and is in the Federal Witness Relocation Program when he testifies against his powerful higher-ups.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

GREEN LANTERN (Warner Brothers) Budget: $200 Million. Domestic Gross: $116.6M Total: $219.9 Verdict: Flop.
CARS 2 (Disney*Pixar) Budget: $200M. Domestic Gross: $191.5M Total: $559.9M Verdict: Made Money.
SUPER 8 (Paramount) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $127.0M Total: $259.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $160M. Domestic Gross: $146.4M Total: $353.6M Verdict: Made Money.
A BETTER LIFE (Summit) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $1.8M Total: $1.8 Verdict: Flop.
BAD TEACHER (Columbia) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $100.3M Total: $216.2 Verdict: Blockbuster.
MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $68.2M Total: $187.4M Verdict: Hit.
JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER (Relativity) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $15.0M Total: $15.0M Verdict: Flop.
BEGINNERS (Focus) Budget: $3.2M. Domestic Gross: $5.8M Total: $14.3M Verdict: Hit.

JULY

With the Independence Day holiday weekend kicking off the month, July is almost always one of the most anticipated months of the studio schedule. Smack dab in the middle of the summer, the schedule this month is normally packed with some of the year’s most anticipated movies and this year that trend will most certainly continue, as you can see below.

July 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
RELEASE DATE: July 20, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
STORY: Batman, now a hunted outlaw, must return to active duty when the twin threats of Bane and Catwoman threaten Gotham.
PROSPECTS: Very likely to be the biggest movie of the summer, it is to be the last Batman movie directed by Christopher Nolan and fans will be attending in droves.
OBSTACLES: Well, the world is supposedly coming to an end…
FACTOID: Nolan becomes the second director to complete a trilogy of superhero films (Sam Raimi was the first for Spider-Man).

SCORCHERS

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
RELEASE DATE: July 3, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Ifran Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, C. Thomas Howell
STORY: A teenage science nerd gets amazing powers, and discovers that those powers may be related to the death of his parents years earlier.
PROSPECTS: A reboot of the amazingly popular Spider-Man franchise with Garfield stepping in for Toby Maguire and Marc Webb for Sam Raimi. Spider-Man is arguably the most popular of the Marvel superheroes.
OBSTACLES: It remains to be seen if the moviegoing public will accept the changes in the franchise.
FACTOID: Sheen plays Uncle Ben, who was portrayed by the late Cliff Robertson in the original trilogy. Both actors also played John F. Kennedy in “Kennedy” and P.T.109 respectively.

NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH
RELEASE DATE: July 27, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn, Will Forte, Billy Crudup, Rosemarie DeWitt, Richard Ayoade, Doug Jones
STORY: A neighborhood watch patrol group in a suburban neighborhood gets in way over their head when they uncover a plot to destroy the world.
PROSPECTS: Three of the most popular comic actors in Hollywood team up in a big budget sci-fi action comedy? Cha-ching!
OBSTACLES: Big name casts don’t necessarily guarantee box office. There hasn’t been a lot of buzz for this movie which is a bit troubling.
FACTOID: Will Ferrell was originally slated for the lead but dropped out when original director David Dobkin left the project.

ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT
RELEASE DATE: July 13, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, Wanda Sykes, Keke Palmer, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Joy Behar, Nicki Minaj
STORY: Manny, Diego and Sid find themselves adrift after Skrat’s unrelenting pursuit of that acorn causes the Pangaea supercontinent to split apart.
PROSPECTS: One of the most popular animated feature franchises looks to be cruising along in its newest installment.
OBSTACLES: With Brave and Madagascar 3 the summer is a bit crowded on the animated feature front and the weakest entries may not survive; I would bet this one is pretty strong based on previous installments and the trailer though.
FACTOID: Jeremy Renner was originally set to voice a role but had to bow out because of his busy schedule.

SUMMER STORM

TED
RELEASE DATE: July 13, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale, Seth McFarlane (voice), Patrick Warburton, Jessica Stroup, Laura Vandervoort
STORY: A young boy’s wish for his cherished teddy bear to come to life has unforeseen consequences when the bear refuses to leave his side – even long after he’s an adult.
PROSPECTS: From the twisted mind behind “The Family Guy” comes this CGI/Live Action mix which should delight the legions of cultish fans of the TV show.
OBSTACLES: The trailer didn’t look particularly impressive and there isn’t a lot of buzz around this one. It might get lost among the bigger profile releases this month.
FACTOID: This is McFarlane’s first live action feature film as a director.

HEAT WAVE

July 5, 2012

KATY PERRY: PART OF ME (Paramount Insurge) follows the singer through her California Dreams tour last year and spends time with her onstage, offstage and with her fans. No telling whether her fans will have time to see this with Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 coming out though.

July 6, 2012

In SAVAGES (Universal), director Oliver Stone brings to life Don Winslow’s best-selling crime novel about a love triangle between two successful marijuana entrepreneurs and their mutual girlfriend and the Mexican drug cartel that exploited it. THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE (Magnolia), opening in limited release, stars Morgan Freeman as a writer who has lost his inspiration and goes to a beach house to find it. It’s always in the last place that you look.

July 11, 2012

EASY MONEY (Weinstein) is a crime thriller from Sweden opening in limited release. In it, the lives of three desperate people are going to collide over a multi-million stash of cocaine and a Yugoslavian hit man.

July 13, 2012

RED LIGHTS (Millennium) is about a pair of paranormal debunkers who investigate the reappearance of a blind psychic who had been off the grid for years. Of course, you know they’ll come face to face with something unexplainable, something they’d never thought would happen. Opening in limited release only.

July 25, 2012

RUBY SPARKS (Fox Searchlight) opens in limited release and is concerned about a novelist who breaks a dry spell with a story about a feisty young woman – and a week later is shocked to find the living, breathing woman he wrote about on his couch. Stranger Than Fiction anyone?

July 27, 2012

STEP UP REVOLUTION (Summit) is the latest in the urban dance franchise and is about…well, that really doesn’t matter now does it. CLOWN: THE MOVIE (Drafthouse) was one of the most acclaimed movies at the recent Florida Film Festival and comes out in limited release. This Swedish film is about a man who causes an accident that injures his brother, forcing him to take care of his nephew including taking him on a canoe trip that was planned before the accident. KILLER JOE (LD Distribution) is a limited release extreme crime film in which a paid hitman accepts the sister of his client as sexual collateral in exchange for arranging an accident for the client’s mother. Sounds delightfully twisted.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 (Warner Brothers) Budget: $250 Million (shared with first movie). Domestic Gross: $381.0M Total: $1.328 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (DreamWorks) Budget: $195M. Domestic Gross: $352.4M Total: $1.124B Verdict: Blockbuster.
COWBOYS AND ALIENS (Universal) Budget: $163M. Domestic Gross: $100.2M Total: $174.8M Verdict: Flop.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (Paramount/Marvel) Budget: $140M. Domestic Gross: $176.7M Total: $368.6M Verdict: Made Money.
HORRIBLE BOSSES (New Line) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $117.5M Total: $209.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
CRAZYSTUPID LOVE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $84.4M Total: $142.9M Verdict: Made Money.
THE SMURFS (Columbia) Budget: $110M. Domestic Gross: $142.6M Total: $563.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (Screen Gems) Budget: $35M Domestic Gross: $55.8M Total: $149.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
LARRY CROWNE (Universal) Budget: $30M Domestic Gross: $35.6M Total: $52.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
ZOOKEEPER (MGM/Columbia) Budget: $80M Domestic Gross: $80.4M Total: $169.9M Verdict: Broke Even.
MONTE CARLO (20th Century Fox) Budget: $20M Domestic Gross: $23.2M Total: $39.7M Verdict: Broke Even.

AUGUST

The last month of the summer season tapers off as the heat keeps people at the beach or indoors, but there is almost one or two last gasp blockbusters. Horror movies seem to do really well this month, as the final days of summer are replete with leftover blockbusters from the month’s before and less hyped movies hoping to sneak up on audiences and win the reward of box office gold.

August 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

TOTAL RECALL
RELEASE DATE: August 3, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy, Ethan Hawke, Will Yun Lee, Bokeem Woodbine
STORY: A man who gets memories of being a super-spy implanted for a mind-vacation goes on the run after government troops interrupt the procedure. He must find a rebel leader to find out who he is – and what is real.
PROSPECTS: The movie is based less on the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie than on the Phillip K. Dick novella it was taken from. The trailer looks surprisingly good – this could be one of the sleeper hits of the summer.
OBSTACLES: The movie could compare unfavorably to the Schwarzenegger movie in which case audiences might stay away in droves.
FACTOID: This is the first film that director Len Wiseman and his wife Kate Beckinsale have worked on together that wasn’t Underworld related.

SCORCHERS

THE EXPENDABLES 2
RELEASE DATE: August 17, 2012
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth
STORY: A new assignment goes horribly wrong and the Expendables need to not only make it right but to avenge a fallen brother.
PROSPECTS: The first all-star action flick got so-so reviews but big time box office love. The new one expands the roles of Schwarzenegger and Willis and adds Norris (who hasn’t acted since “Walker, Texas Ranger” went off the air) and van Damme.
OBSTACLES: The first one really didn’t live up to the hype; one has to wonder if this is the right vehicle for all these stars.
FACTOID: The filmmakers built a railway bridge over the Osam River in Bulgaria for the film; the bridge remained after filming and is now part of the Bulgarian railroad network.

THE BOURNE LEGACY
RELEASE DATE: August 3, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Albert Finney, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Oscar Isaacs, David Strathairn
STORY: Jason Bourne isn’t the only assassin to come out of Redstone and this is the story of one of them, whose life is directly affected by Bourne’s exploits in the first three films.
PROSPECTS: The high-octane spy series adds rising star Renner to the mix in what could well be a recharge of the franchise.
OBSTACLES: A Bourne film without Jason Bourne (or Matt Damon) sounds like a dicey venture at best. Renner has yet to prove himself as a box office draw.
FACTOID: Director Paul Greengrass, who helmed the last two Bourne films, passed on directing a third and Damon passed on doing another Bourne outing without Greengrass, so this film was used to potentially continue the franchise in case Damon never returns to the Bourne character.

THE APPARITION
RELEASE DATE: August 24, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton, Julianna Guill, Luke Pasqualino, Suzanne Ford, Rick Gomez, Anna Clark, Meena Serendib
STORY: A young couple begin to experience inexplicable and frightening phenomena in their home and slowly come to realize that the presence may have been one conjured accidentally during a university parapsychology experiment.
PROSPECTS: Scary movies in the dog days of August have a tendency to do pretty well.
OBSTACLES: Although Greene (the Twilight franchise) and Felton (Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter franchise) have face value, none of the cast has name value as of yet.
FACTOID: The story is supposedly based on actual events; Dark Castle, producers of the film, return to the horror genre after a bit of an absence.

SUMMER STORM

PARANORMAN
RELEASE DATE: August 17, 2012
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Starring the voices of Casey Affleck, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, Jodelle Ferland, John Goodman, Bernard Hill, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kodi Smit-McPhee
STORY: A small town becomes besieged by zombies and only a small boy who can speak with the dead can save them.
PROSPECTS: This is the latest project from LAIKA, the studio behind Coraline.
OBSTACLES: Looks a little bit too much like The Nightmare Before Christmas which may turn some people off.
FACTOID: The film is set in the fictional town of Blithe Hollow, a nod to Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow.

HEAT WAVE

August 3, 2012

In DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (20th Century Fox) Greg and friends come together for the worst…summer…ever.

August 10, 2012

HOPE SPRINGS (Columbia) stars Meryl Streep as a woman caught in a lifeless marriage who takes her unwilling husband (Tommy Lee Jones) to a week of marriage therapy with a famous couples specialist (Steve Carrell). The trailer looked pretty impressive for this one. THE CAMPAIGN (Warner Brothers) pits Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as challengers for a North Carolina congressional seat in an increasingly vicious campaign. It’s a comedy and not a documentary, by the way.

August 15, 2012

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (Disney) stars Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as a childless couple who pray for a miracle – and get one. This family-sized fantasy is meant to touch hearts and bring smiles.

August 17, 2012

SPARKLE (Columbia) is a remake of the 1976 musical roughly based on the story of the Supremes starring Irene Cara. This time, ex-“American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks stars and in her final film role, Whitney Houston as her mother. PREDISPOSED (IFC), opening in limited release, stars Jesse Eisenberg as a piano prodigy auditioning for a prestigious music program who must deal with getting his drug-addicted mother into rehab on the day of his audition. Melissa Leo co-stars.

August 24, 2012

HIT AND RUN (Open Road) stars Dax Shepard as a former mob getaway driver who busts out of the Federal Witness Relocation program in order to drive his girlfriend to Los Angeles so she can land her dream job – and must fend off both the Feds as well as his old gang. In PREMIUM RUSH (Columbia) a New York bike courier (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gets inadvertently involved in the business of a crooked cop (Michael Shannon) in this film re-scheduled from January.

August 31, 2012

7500 (CBS) is an ensemble thriller about a group of passengers on a Trans-Pacific flight to Tokyo who encounter a supernatural force en route. LAWLESS (Weinstein) is based on the true story of the Bondurant brothers, a group of bootlegging brothers who made it big during prohibition. The impressive cast includes Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain and Guy Pearce. THE POSSESSION (Lionsgate) is about a family that unwittingly brings a cursed box into their home after buying it on E-Bay, releasing a malevolent spirit that is called a dybbuk in Jewish folklore. Amazingly, the story is based on an actual case.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (20th Century Fox) Budget: $93M. Domestic Gross: $176.8M Total: $481.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN (Lionsgate) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $21.3M Total: $48.8M Verdict: Flop.
FRIGHT NIGHT (DreamWorks) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $18.3M Total: $41.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
FINAL DESTINATION 5 (New Line) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $42.6M Total: $157.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
APOLLO 18 (Dimension) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $17.7M Total: $25.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE HELP (DreamWorks) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $169.7M Total: $211.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE CHANGE-UP (Universal) Budget: $52M. Domestic Gross: $37.1M Total: $75.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD (Dimension) Budget: $27M. Domestic Gross: $38.5M Total: $78.0M Verdict: Made Money.
ONE DAY (Focus) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $13.8M Total: $56.7M Verdict: Hit.
30 MINUTES OR LESS (Columbia) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $37.1M Total: $40.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE DEBT (Focus) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $31.2M Total: $45.6M Verdict: Broke Even.
OUR IDIOT BROTHER (Weinstein) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $24.8M Total: $24.8M Verdict: Big Hit.

There are a whole lot of reasons to hit the multiplexes this summer, not the least of which is the air conditioned comfort. There literally is something for every kind of taste out there, be it big honkin’ action movies to tear jerkers to kid-friendly animated features. Hopefully a few of the previews here have piqued your interest. Please keep in mind that as always, release dates are rarely set in stone; some of the films in this preview will be delayed, shifted to different dates or even shelved altogether and/or exiled to Direct-to-Home Video hell. Still, there should be plenty here in any case to keep you busy all summer long. Don’t fret when August approaches however – there are some pretty intriguing movies looking to make their mark in the Fall, ranging from Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Quentin Tarantino’s take on a Western with Django Unchained, the end of the most polarizing series in movie history comes to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 while James Bond makes a long-overdue return in Skyfall. There is also an animated team-up of legendary characters like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny in Rise of the Guardians and a big screen version of the hit Broadway musical Les Miserables. That’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves however – we’ll be back with a more detailed preview at the end of August. Until then, Cinema365 will be here with our weekly previews of new releases, our monthly Four-Warned series and of course reviews every day (usually) to keep up on the cinematic goodies being served in theaters all over. Bon appétit!

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (San qiang pai an jing qi)


A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

Two out of three...

(2009) Comedy (Sony Classics) Honglei Sun, Xiao Shen-Yang, Ni Yan, Dahong Ni, Ye Cheng, Mao Mao, Benshan Zhao, Ran Cheng, Julien Gaudfroy, Shuo Huang, Wenting Li, Sisi Wang, Xiaojuan Wang, Na Wei. Directed by Zhang Yimou

People are fallible. We are prone to making mistakes and letting our hearts guide our actions when our heads should prevail. We often fail to recognize or foresee the consequences of those actions when we take them.

Wang (Dahong Ni) is the owner of a noodle shop in the middle of nowhere. Location being everything (even in ancient China), his clientele mainly consists of wanderers and nomads on their way to somewhere else – anywhere else but there. He has a comely wife (Ni Yan) who has been unable to give him children. Frustrated at both his wife and his lot in life, the miserly Wang takes out his frustrations on his wife and his staff, but mostly on the former whom he humiliates sexually whenever he can.

She responds by buying a gun from a Persian trader (Gaudfroy). Now, she exclaims, she has the most powerful weapon in the world at her disposal. She also has a lover, the cowardly and timid Li (Shen-Yang) who mostly wears pink and rarely does anything that his lover doesn’t approve of.

Wang doesn’t like this much, as you might imagine. So much so that he talks to the corrupt and jaded local magistrate Zhang (Honglei Sun) and persuades him to kill his wife and her lover, then make the bodies disappear – for a large fee. Zhang figures he can do better and so he kills Wang instead, hoping to get all of his loot – except he killed Wang before he could get the key to his safe…and Wang just won’t stay dead…

Yimou, the award-winning director of such movies as Raise the Red Lantern and Curse of the Golden Flower (not to mention the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics), remade this from the Coen Brothers 1984 cult classic Blood Simple and overlaid it with his stylish and colorful visual sense.

He also chose to take the dark, noir-ish thriller that the Coens made and turn it into a broad comedic thriller. Purists are going to be horrified about that, and a lot of critics who loved the original had a hard time with the remake.

It certainly is a different film, although it strikes all the right plot points as the original, only approaching them differently and adding a subplot about a rival gang of thieves. The darker tones of the original are gone though; this is far more light-hearted.

However, Yimou has that distinctive sense of color and scope that make his films so breathtaking and awe-inspiring and he uses it to his advantage here. Although the noodle shop is grim and colorless, those that live in it wear brightly colored robes and carry on in an epic vista that wouldn’t look out of place in a John Ford western.

Sun gets the most of my attention; Zhang is laconic and somewhat low-key but he has a vicious side that reminds me of a cobra. Sun gives him that sense that something dark and nasty hides just below the surface. Playing a man who is dangerous is a difficult proposition; doing it without giving much away emotionally is even harder but Sun pulls it off.

The comedy is very broad and exaggerated, which while common with Asian audiences might be out of step with more subtle American tastes. Think of it as a Hanna Barbera cartoon without the intellectual undertones. It’s not for children though – but some of the set pieces would definitely appeal to less sophisticated senses of humor.

There is some bloodshed though – this isn’t strictly comedy – but considering how sexual the situation is there is almost no sexuality, which again illustrates the cultural differences between the Americans and the Chinese. This gives the movie a curiously sexless feel, and the sex did add a certain amount of kick to the original like adding jalapenos to a salsa.

I’m a big fan of Yimou but this one misfired for me. I’m recommending it mainly because the man always knows how to make a great-looking movie and this isn’t an exception but be advised that American audiences might have a tough time with the humor and the tone. If you can overlook that, you will find yourself enjoying the movie on purely a visceral level, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

WHY RENT THIS: Yimou is one of the most striking visual directors of our time. Some broad laughs.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The noir tone of the original is sorely missed.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a bit of violence and some sexual themes.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: While the original was sent in modern (at the time) rural Texas, the remake is set in the remote desert Gansu province of ancient China.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: The making-of feature is longer than the actual movie, but there are parts of it which are fascinating.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $38M on a $12M production budget; the movie was a hit.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

NEXT: The Illusionist