Top 10 of 2011


The annual ritual of choosing the movies that thrilled, chilled, affected and otherwise dug into the critical consciousness with hooks of steel during 2011 is upon Cinema365 and while our list is posted a bit later than most others, think of it as being a labor of love rather than a necessary evil, a particularly unliked chore.

This is the part where I mention that like any other list, this one is completely arbitrary. There’s no scientific basis, nothing quantitative that I can point to and say “this movie deserved to be on this list because of this.” No, it’s completely from the gut my friends and like any gut this big change is constant. The list you see here today is not the list I would make tomorrow. That’s why it always takes me so long; I hem, I haw, I prevaricate. At last, I assign.

Generally speaking, this list reflects my tastes as I saw the movie. I take all the movies I gave an 8 or greater score to, put the 10s at the top, the 9s below and so on. The half points I generally don’t take into consideration. Therefore you might see an 8 ranked above an 8.5. See what I mean about arbitrary?

So this is all about whether I liked the movie or not. 2011 didn’t see any real game changers in terms of movies that will rank as all-time bests. It is somewhat telling that perhaps the most critically acclaimed movie of the year was a silent movie whose style harkened back to the films of that era. Still, even if none of them may end up as classics that withstand the test of time (and I think a few of them will), all ten of these and the honorable mentions as well, should provide at least a good starting point if you want to take a cinematic  year in review viewing party and stock it up with really good movies instead of just really popular ones.

Some of these movies remain in general release even as we speak; you can head right out to a theater and see them the way they were meant to be seen. Some are already out on DVD/Blu-Ray and you can enjoy them in the comfort of your own home – or they soon will be. Lag time between theatrical release and home video release has been shrinking of late. There are two films on this list that you may find difficult to find either in home video or theaters. Check your local film festival to see if they will be around, or the websites that I have included with the original reviews – you can access those by clicking on the movie title and you can read what I wrote about them way back when.

This is meant to invite discussion or perhaps a heated argument or two. Feel free to submit your own top ten, or harangue me about mine. My skin is thick and I don’t bruise easily. I welcome hearing why my list is full of crap and yours is so much better. That’s why lists are fun.  

HONORABLE MENTION

There are a number of movies that didn’t quite make the cut of the top ten. I thought I’d add them here so you can get an idea of which ones came close, were considered and ultimately not chosen. Again, I will stress that all of these are quality films worth seeking out if you’re looking for entertainment, enlightenment or insight. I didn’t include links here but if you want to read my reviews of any of these, simply type in the title into the search field and have at it. So,  in no particular order;

In a Better World, Hugo, War Horse, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Company Men, The Descendants, Margin Call, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I Saw the Devil, Thor, J. Edgar, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Holy Wars, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Double Hour, Win Win, Bridesmaids, Young Goethe in Love, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Adventures of Tintin, The Happy Poet, The Whistleblower, In Time, Apollo 18, Submarine, Drive.

And with no further ado, let us get on with the countdown:

10.  HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2

(Warner Brothers) Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Felton, Alan Rickman, David Thewlis, Everyone in England. Directed by David Yates

Released July 15, 2011 The end of an era finally came to pass as nearly a decade of Pottermania had its final moments and the series went out with a glorious bang. Harry and his friends Hermione and Ron would take on the forces of evil in an epic battle that would shake the very foundations of magic itself as Harry and Lord Voldemort finally had the face-off that everyone had been waiting for.

WHY IT IS HERE: There are those who proclaimed it the best film in the series and in many ways they weren’t wrong. This was an emotional rollercoaster that had heroism, villainy, pathos and even a hint of comedy here and there. After the first part of the last book seemed to be all exposition and no action, this movie made for a wonderful payoff. Not everyone would survive but this was a more than satisfactory ending to a series many people grew up with. There were a lot of misty eyes in the theater when the final credits rolled, not the least of which were the Warner Brothers accountants who would see their biggest moneymaking series ever fade into history.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Harry prepares for certain death as he goes into the black forest to compose himself. There he meets the shades of his parents as well as those in the series who had passed on. It was remarkably moving and I for one had tears literally streaming down my face when I saw it. In fact, I’m a bit misty right now just writing about it.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $381 million domestic (as of 1/17/12), $1.3 billion total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Available on HBO/Cinemax. Download/stream from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Blockbuster.

9. INCENDIES

(Sony Classics) Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulim, Maxim Gaudette, Remy Girard, Abdelghafour Elaaziz, Allan Altman, Mohamed Majd, Nabil Sawalha, Baya Belal, Yousef Shweihat. Directed by Denis Villanueve

Released April 22, 2011 This was nominated for a Foreign Language Film Oscar, representing Canada but very little of it was set in the Great White North. It didn’t win but many thought it should have. A woman follows the path of her mother as she makes a search for the man who is her father, starting in the small village her mother came from in the Middle East. The more she looks the deeper the mystery becomes as she discovers her mother was caught in a vicious civil war between Christian and Muslim factions in that country, leading to a shocking revelation that turns her daughter’s life upside down.

WHY IT IS HERE: There is no movie on this list that will grab your guts quite as much as this one does. While many explore the depths of man’s cruelty to man, here is a movie that takes that cruelty head-on and exposes the ugliness for all to see. Yet even with all this ugliness, there is still lingering hope that tinges the entire film and makes it ultimately an uplifting experience, despite the horror. Forgiveness trumps hatred every time.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: A scene in which a busload of Muslim women meet a horrible end is one that will stay with you for a very long time.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $2.1 million domestic (as of 1/17/12), $3.6M total.

BUDGET: $6.8 million.

STATUS:Currently available on home video. Available on Starz. Download from iTunes/Amazon/Blockbuster. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Streaming unavailable.

8. BUCK

(Sundance Selects) Buck Brannaman, Mary Brannaman, Reata Brannaman, Betsy Shirley, Robert Redford, Bibb Frazier, Betty Staley, Ali Cornish, Shayne Jackson, Smokie Brannaman, Ray Hunt. Directed by Cindy Meehl

Released June 17, 2011 Buck Brannaman is an archetype, a modern day cowboy who is equal parts Roy Rogers and Dr. Phil. His journey from being a trick roper for an abusive father to one of the top consultants to ranchers about horse behavior and horse training (the character of The Horse Whisperer is largely based on him) is a moving one. One look at the trailer which preceded it convinced me that this was going to be a special film and when I got to see it in San Francisco with Da Queen, I found it to exceed those expectations and Da Queen agreed – if you were to ask her, this would undoubtedly be one of her favorite movies of the year as well.

WHY IT IS HERE: This documentary won the Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival last January and it’s easy to see why. Few films – and even fewer documentaries – have as much heart and compassion as this movie does and the reason for it is Brannaman. He is self-effacing, quiet and has a connection to horses that is rare as it is beautiful. He has challenged traditional methods of training for one that is more effective and less traumatic for the horse. These days it can be difficult to be proud to be an American but this movie will allow you to do so, at least for a few hours.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Buck comforts a rancher who realizes that her inexperience and poor decisions regarding her horse have led to the injury of one of her hands and the eventual termination of the horse.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $4 million domestic (as of 1/18/12), $4M total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS:Currently available on home video. Available on Showtime. Download from Amazon/iTunes. Stream on Netflix. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Blockbuster/Netflix.

7. FANNY, ANNIE AND DANNY

(Self-Released) Jill Pixley, Carlye Pollack, Jonathan Leveck, Colette Keen, George Killingsworth, Nick Frangione, Anne Darragh, Suzanna Aguayo, Nancy Carlin, Don Schwantz. Directed by Chris Brown

Released April 16, 2010 There are some movies that you will not see outside of a film festival. They are labors of love, made on shoestring budget by filmmakers who are often just learning their craft. Sometimes those movies are learning experiences for the filmmakers; they will go on to bigger and better things eventually but sometimes, you run into quality that stands on its own merit and doesn’t need any sort of qualifier, be it low-budget or inexperience. These films stand proudly with movies that have studio backing and/or indie distribution to be among the year’s best.  

WHY IT IS HERE: Brown’s third feature is an often poignant, generally funny and entirely too human portrayal of a dysfunctional family imploding over the course of a Christmas dinner. On paper it sounds awkward and uncomfortable and there are a few moments where those emotions are present but for the most part you just saw the damage done by years of digging, disappointment and disability. Well-acted (particularly Pixley, Keen and Killingsworth) and droll when it needs to be, this movie should be sent to every studio mogul and director as a primer in how great films can be done on microscopic budgets.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene near the end of the film when Danny’s departure brings down the facade from his mother and shows her to be what she truly is. It’s a marvelous piece of acting by Keen.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Not available.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS:The movie worked the film festival circuit last year, culminating in a brief run at New York’s ReRun Gastropub Theater in December. The film’s website doesn’t mention any plans for the movie to be released on DVD; hopefully someday it will be available in that formula or for digital download somewhere. Check the movie’s website for updates.

6. THE HELP

(DreamWorks/Disney) Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Ahna O’Reilly, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Mike Vogel, Anna Camp, Brian Kerwin, Mary Steenburgen, David Oyelowo, Aunjanue Ellis, Nelsan Ellis. Directed by Tate Taylor

Released August 10, 2011 Based on a bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, this movie shot to big box office after its release. The amount of success was a bit of a surprise given the subject matter but the quality wasn’t, given the excellent cast. Spencer has already won a Golden Globe for her performance and has received an Oscar nomination, along with Davis. The movie is also up for Best Picture.

WHY IT IS HERE: Some of the strongest ensemble work of any casts this year, for one thing. The writers and director Taylor could have taken the route in which Emma Stone’s Skeeter character was the brave white girl standing up for the oppressed minority (which has been done in other films) but that isn’t the case here; Stone is portrayed as much a cog in the wheel as the axel turning it. This is clearly Davis’ and Spencer’s movie. It’s funny, heartbreaking in places and insightful throughout.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene in which Hilly discovers the truth about the “terrible awful.”

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $169.6 million domestic (as of 1/23/12), $205.3 million total.

BUDGET: $25 million

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from Amazon/iTunes. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Blockbuster/Netflix.

5. BARNEY’S VERSION

(Sony Classics) Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike, Scott Speedman, Minnie Driver, Bruce Greenwood, Rachelle Lefevre, Saul Rubinek, Mark Addy, Macha Grenon, Paul Gross, Anna Hopkins, Jake Hoffman, Thomas Trabacchi, Cle Bennett. Directed by Richard J. Lewis

Released January 14, 2011 While it’s true Giamatti would win a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the title character, it was at last year’s Golden Globes. This Canadian film was based on a Mordechai Richler, author of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. For whatever reason it was released in early January instead of late December, effectively ending any shot it had at Oscar contention.

WHY IT IS HERE: Amazing performances from an amazing cast, to be blunt. Giamatti as I mentioned won a Golden Globe and the rest of the cast, from the irrepressible Dustin Hoffman to the breezy Speedman to the gruff Addy to the lustrous Pike all did bang-up jobs. Barney’s journey isn’t an easy one and at times the movie is so heartbreaking you want to run out of the theater – or as the case may be your living room – but staying until the final credits roll is so very worth your while.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Basically, the last 20 minutes of the movie is something special. I was very, very moved.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $4.4 million domestic (as of 1/23/12), $8.5 million worldwide.

BUDGET: $30 million

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Available on Starz. Download from Amazon/Blockbuster/iTunes. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Blockbuster/Netflix.

4. TROLL HUNTER (TROLLJEGEREN)

(Magnet) Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Morck, Knut Naerum, Robert Stoltenberg, Glenn Erland Tosterud. Directed by Andre Ovredal

Released June 10, 2011 We saw this at the Florida Film Festival and have been a huge fan ever since. While this is one of the “found footage” films subgenre that has been getting overused over the past couple years, it may very well be the best of them, better even than the one that started it – The Blair Witch Project.  

WHY IT IS HERE: Irreverent and fun, this is a theme park ride disguised as a movie. The trolls themselves are obviously CGI but they look exactly how you’d expect them to. Definitely the humor is low-key which some might have trouble with. This is one of those hidden treasures that nobody knows about, but when you get a friend to see it they become instant fans.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Hans filling out paperwork after his latest successful troll hunt.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $253,444 domestic (as of 1/25/11), $4.2 million total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Available on Showtime starting February 23rd. Download from Amazon/Blockbuster/iTunes. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Blockbuster/Netflix. Stream on Amazon/Netflix.

3. THE ARTIST

(Weinstein) Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Malcolm McDowell, Missi Pyle, Penelope Ann Miller, Beth Grant, Ed Lauter, Bitsie Tulloch, Joel Murray, Ken Davitian, Basil Hoffman. Directed by Michael Hazanavicius

Released November 25, 2011 After a good showing at the Golden Globes, The Artist is an odds-on favorite at the Oscars, with ten nominations including Best Picture (which it won at the Globes) and Best Actor for Dujardin (which he also won). This is probably the most critically acclaimed film of the year.

WHY IT IS HERE: This isn’t just an homage to silent cinema but an excellent example of the style of silent films. The humor is a bit broad and the pathos a bit maudlin but the movie works on every level. Even though there is almost no dialogue (there is music on the soundtrack and some sound effects) the acting gets across every nuance of the screenplay without fail. Dujardin, a French comic actor and Bejo, an Argentine actress, make a great team. This is the kind of movie that those who ordinarily wouldn’t choose to go see it are made believers after they’ve given it a shot.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: George’s suicide attempt is a heartbreaker.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $12.4 million domestic (as of 1/25/11), $33.4 million total.

BUDGET: $15 million.

STATUS: Still in wide release.

2.  THE WAY

(ARC Entertainment) Martin Sheen, Yorick von Wageningen, Deborah Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, Emilio Estevez, Tcheky Karyo, Spencer Garrett, Angelina Molina, Carlos Leal, Antonio Gil, Simon Andreu, David Alexanian, Eusebio Lazaro. Directed by Emilio Estevez

Released October 7, 2011 Walking the Camino de Santiago has always held a fascination to me. I’m way too out of shape to do it myself; this is as close as I’m going to come to doing it myself. I wasn’t impressed by the trailer or the concept originally but was blown away when I saw the film. It is insightful, emotionally authentic and yes it will make you laugh and cry.

WHY IT IS HERE: I am not the most Catholic of Catholics, but this movie gave me a nostalgic twinge in my ecumenical muscle. I also must admit that James Michener’s travelogue Iberia is a book that I’ve read and re-read a dozen times in my life; the chapter about the Camino always sung to me. No movie released this year afforded the opportunity for self-discovery as this one did and much of the responsibility for that goes to Martin Sheen’s dignified but realistic performance, making me realize how much I miss President Josiah Bartlett. Movies this powerfully moving should get as much praise as can be heaped on them.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene where Sara confesses to Tom about her abusive background.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $4.4 million domestic (as of 1/26/12), $4.4 million total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Scheduled for home video release on February 21.

1. KINYARWANDA

(AFFRM) Edouard Bamporiki, Cassandra Freeman, Marc Gwamaka, Zaninka Hadidja, Mursari Jean, Cleophas Kabasita, Hassan Kabera, Mazimpaka Kennedy, Assumpta Micho, Kena Onyenjekwe, Edouard B. Uwayo. Directed by Alrick Brown

Released December 2, 2011 Some movies aren’t seen so much as experienced. This film tells several stories about the Rwandan genocide, from a teenager girl who comes home after sneaking out to attend a party to find her parents murdered, to a courageous priest who tries to save as many of his Tutsi flock as he can, to a pair of soldiers who have varying reasons to want to put themselves at risk in Rwanda. Each story has an enormous emotional resonance and is based on a survivor’s actual experiences.

WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that doesn’t seem like a first feature. Indeed, I have not seen a better film this year. Few films will affect you as deeply as this one; but while it is set during one of the darkest moments in human history, it is not a story of darkness. Rather it is a film about reconciliation and hope, of the extraordinary ability of the human spirit to give the divine gift of forgiveness no matter how heinous the crime, how egregious the transgression. If the Tutsi can forgive the Hutu and move to becoming a single nation after what happened in Rwanda, there is hope for us as a species if we can, as the Rwandans are doing, appeal to our own higher natures. When a movie can provide that for its audience, it is an extraordinary film indeed.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: A scene where one of the soldiers who committed murder in the genocide realizes what he has participated in and what it has cost his soul – with tragic results.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $21,097 domestic (as of 12/4/11), $21,097 total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Kinyarwanda has had a limited release mostly in large cities. It is listed on the Netflix site with an as-yet unscheduled DVD release date, indicating that there are plans to release it in that format.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Lisabeth Salander has Mikael Blomkvist in stitches.

(2011) Thriller (MGM/Columbia) Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Yorick van Wageningen, Joely Richardson, Geraldine James, Goran Visnjic, Donald Sumpter, Ulf Friberg, Julian Sands, Moa Garpendal, Embeth Davidtz. Directed by David Fincher

 

Sometimes a movie is so good when it is originally made that it seems virtually unthinkable that it be remade. Most of the time, those remakes fall far short of the mark. Once in awhile however, the remake comes out with a voice of its own that offers something to the original, enhances it even.

Purists were aghast when the hit Swedish film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was set for an American remake. There was some comfort in that Fincher, whose pedigree includes Se7en and Fight Club would be behind the camera but still there were shudders to think of what liberties and watering down Hollywood would do to the source material, the late Stieg Larsson’s novel (the first in a trilogy, all of which have been translated to film in Swede and all of them reviewed elsewhere on the site) which was grittier and more brutal than Hollywood tends to be.

Mikael Blomkvist (Craig), a crusading journalist and co-publisher of the left-leaning Millennium magazine has been convicted of libel against a wealthy Swedish venture capitalist named Hans-Erik Wennerstrom (Friberg). The judgment against Blomkvist essentially empties out his savings and puts Millennium at risk of failing. His co-publisher and lover Erika Berger (Wright) confesses that the magazine may have three months of life left at best.

Wennerstrom isn’t the only one looking into Blomkvist. A security firm is hired by lawyer Dirch Frode (Berkoff) to investigate Blomkvist and the operative of the security firm, Lisbeth Salander (Mara) is asked to turn in her report in person, something that makes her uncomfortable. It turns out that her report is pretty thorough and the few things that are missing are best left that way.

Berkoff represents reclusive industrialist Henrik Vanger (Plummer) who wants to hire Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance of his grand-niece Harriet (Garpendal) whom he believes was murdered by a member of his family 40 years earlier. There are certainly plenty of suspects; ex-Nazis who may not be as ex as they might have you believe; bitter, jealous and greedy, grasping money-grubbers, torturers, rapists and pederasts. Makes for quite a Christmas list.

At first Blomkvist is met with hostility from nearly everyone other than Martin (Skarsgard), Harriet’s brother who is skeptical that Blomkvist will find out anything new. Martin is running the family business now and not running it with much success. The once-vast Vanger empire is shrinking; once a great steel and railway manufacturer, they make most of their profits from fertilizer these days. Considering all the BS that is fed to Blomkvist, I’m quite certain he must have thought that appropriate.

As Blomkvist discovers that his e-mail was hacked by Salander (whose identity he doesn’t yet know), he is infuriated but begrudgingly realizes he needs a research assistant as he is making a little bit of progress but needs someone who can help him dig things up from corporate records at Vanger Industries. He meets Salander who proves to be skittish but intrigued; she isn’t very fond of men in general, having been raped brutally by her state-appointed guardian Nils Bjurman (van Wageningen). She did get her revenge however and proved herself someone not to mess with in the process.

Blomkvist and Salander turn out to make a formidable team and the lies and prevarications of 40 years of silence begin to slip away and they discover Harriet’s disappearance may be the gateway into a much more hideous secret – and that Harriet may not be the only victim. Worse yet, the killer is fully aware of their discoveries and has them both firmly in their sights.

When I found out about this remake, I was like most fans of the books and the Swedish versions somewhat troubled. I couldn’t see Hollywood allowing a movie to include scenes of graphic rape and torture, all of which were at the heart of the previous versions. I fully expected something sanitized and vapid. Then I heard that it was Fincher directing, and to be honest my reaction was “He’s probably the only director in Hollywood who could pull it off,” but I thought he might have difficulty getting the studio to allow him free rein to make the movie he wanted.

Surprisingly he did and we might have The Social Network to thank for it. The runaway commercial and critical success of that film has given Fincher greater clout than he’s had previously and might have allowed him to shut down studio interference in the project. Certainly the rape sequence and the torture sequence late in the film are as disturbing as those in the Swedish film and the book.

Craig was only able to do this film because of the delay in filming the latest James Bond. Here he plays a man unused to action, one more cerebral than some of the heroes he’s played lately and quite frankly Craig is up to the task. It is as different a role from Bond as you can get but equally as heroic, and if this franchise is successful will really put up Craig among the elite stars working today.

Mara is the breakout star here. One had to worry if she could fill the shoes of Noomi Rapace, who was so very central to the success of the Swedish trilogy.  Not only does Mara fill those shoes, she may well surpass them and will herself into stardom; this is a star-making performance to say the least. Salander is a tortured soul and certainly Mara captures that, but she’s also no longer willing to be a victim and the inner strength that makes Salander one of the most interesting heroines of all time is very much evident here as well. She may wear outlandish hair styles, provocative t-shirts and smoke far too much but she is also brilliant as well.

The movie is a bit longer than three hours long which was nearly more than my poor bladder could take – theater sodas are so darn large these days! It also fleshes out the Swedish film quite nicely, although the Swedish version ends with the death of the killer more or less with a brief coda showing a television report that covers the denouement between Blomkvist and Wennerstrom. The American version plays that out a bit further which frankly was unnecessary for my taste.

Still, this is some terrific filmmaking buttressed by some great performances, particularly in the case of Mara (Plummer and Skarsgard, both veteran actors, also deliver solid performances). It may be too intense for some, a bit too long for its own good but by and large this is a really good movie that doesn’t disgrace its source material in the least; if anything, it enhances it nicely and makes for a worthy addition to Larsson’s legacy.

REASONS TO GO: Mara does a star-making turn here. Based on one of the best-written thrillers in recent years. Great cast and production values.

REASONS TO STAY: The violence and sexuality can get very intense. Doesn’t measure up to the original in several critical areas. Overly long.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some very disturbing content here, including graphic rape and torture. There is also plenty of nudity and sexuality and a surfeit of naughty words.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The piercings that Rooney Mara sports as Lisabeth Salander are real; none of them are cosmetically or digitally enhanced. Mara got them for the movie.

HOME OR THEATER: Some of the empty vistas of Northern Sweden seem best on the big screen but it might not be a bad thing to see this at home in front of a roaring fire on a cold night.

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

TOMORROW: The Artist

New Releases for the Week of December 23, 2011


December 23, 2011

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL

(Paramount) Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Josh Holloway, Michael Nyqvist, Michelle Monaghan, Lea Seadoux, Anil Kapoor, Tom Wilkinson, Ving Rhames. Directed by Brad Bird

Although this has been out since last week it’s only been available in the IMAX format and is just now being released to regular theaters. In the fourth installment in the franchise, the IMF is faced with its darkest crisis ever – the agency has been implicated in a global terrorist bombing plot and the entire agency has been disavowed. It is up to Ethan Hunt and his team to discover who’s really behind the threat and clear the IMF from blame, or else be captured and tried as terrorists.

See the trailer, clips, featurettes, a promo and an interview here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX

Genre: Spy Action

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense action and violence)

The Adventures of Tintin

(Paramount) Jamie Bell, Simon Pegg, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis. One of the most beloved comic characters in Europe gets a motion capture film of his own directed by none other than Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson. In this, the first of a projected franchise, the intrepid boy reported Tintin chases after the mysterious cargo of the legendary shipwreck the S.S. Unicorn which may yield untold power but also hunting for the wreck is the nefarious Red Rackham (NOTE: This movie opened today and is now playing in theaters everywhere).

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Family Adventure

Rating: PG (for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking)

The Artist

(Weinstein) Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, Malcolm McDowell, John Goodman.  As the silent movie era begins to fade away with the advent of the talkies, a silent movie star sees his stardom slip away from him. Even as he does, a young ingénue he discovered sees her own star rise into the heavens. Their destinies intersect in this charming, bittersweet and ultimately triumphant love story that has earned all sorts of critical awards and may have the loudest Oscar buzz of any film out there.

See the trailer, a clip and web-only content here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romance

Rating: PG-13 (for a disturbing image and a crude gesture)

The Darkest Hour

(Summit) Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor. Five young people visiting Moscow find themselves trapped there when the city is attacked by aliens invisible to the human eye who destroy people using a deadly electrical current. Their situation is further compromised when they find out that Moscow isn’t the only city under attack and they must find a way to survive the superior technology of the invaders. This is the latest from Timur Bekmambetov who brought us Wanted (NOTE: This movie is opening on Sunday, December 25).

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Science Fiction Horror

Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence and some language)

Don 2

(Reliance Big Picture) Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani, Lara Dutta. An Indian crime boss having taken over most of the Asian crime syndicates sets his sights on Europe. Known for his ruthlessness and cunning, he sets out to beat out his European counterparts at their own game.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Crime Thriller

Rating: R (for language and some sexual content)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

(Columbia) Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard. A disgraced Swedish journalist is hired to investigate a 40-year-old murder by a reclusive old industrialist whose family includes Nazis and sadists. He is assisted by a brilliant young hacker who has been the victim of sexual and physical abuse. This is the remake of a Swedish film that is based on an international best seller; many folks were concerned that the Americanization of the film might ruin the source material, but it appears those fears were needless; the movie is being touted as one of the best of the year and a likely Oscar contender (NOTE: This movie opened on Tuesday and is currently playing in theaters everywhere).

See the trailer, promos and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity and language)

War Horse

(DreamWorks) Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irvine. The journey of a horse from bucolic English countryside to the trenches of the First World War is chronicled by master storyteller Steven Spielberg in one of two movies from the director to open this week. Based on a book by Michael Morpurgo (which was also adapted into a stage play), the movie is geared strongly towards family audiences but word has it that older audiences will appreciate it too (NOTE: This movie is opening on Sunday, December 25).

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: War Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of war violence)

We Bought a Zoo

(20th Century Fox) Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Elle Fanning. A family, reeling from a tragedy, buy a dilapidated zoo in an effort to make a fresh start. With the help of an eccentric staff, a lot of elbow grease and a willingness to make mistakes, they plough through a series of misadventures that aren’t always learning opportunities.  Their goal is to make the zoo an exciting, fresh place once again but is it possible they have bitten off way more than they can chew?

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Life Drama

Rating: PG (for language and some thematic elements)

Four-Warned: December 2011


December 2011Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.
The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE

1. EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (1.0)
2. SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (1.3)
3. THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (1.5)
4. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (1.6)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)

1. THE LADY (1.3)
2. THE BIG FIX(1.4)
TIE. CARNAGE (1.4)
4. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (1.8)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

DECEMBER 2, 2011

A WARRIOR’S HEART (Xerxes) Genre: Sports Drama. A young man grieving over his father’s death in Iraq finds solace in a lacrosse camp run by a Native American soldier who served with his dad. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Was the world really waiting for a lacrosse movie?
ANSWERS TO NOTHING (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. A missing child investigation has different effects on several Los Angelenos hiding their own secrets. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Stellar cast led by Dane Cook in an unusually dramatic role.
THE BIG FIX (Green Planet) Genre: Documentary. Exposes the myth that the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been cleaned up, and shows the troubling control that Big Oil has on our political system. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.4 Could wind up being one of the most important documentaries of the year.
CORIOLANUS (Weinstein) Genre: Documentary. A Roman general, expelled from his city, allies himself with his mortal enemy to take revenge. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (opening in limited release January 20). RATING: 2.0 Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays.
I AM SINGH (Reliance Big Pictures) Genre: Thriller. In the wake of 9-11, Sikhs are discriminated against and beaten by Americans thinking they are terrorists. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A fascinating idea for a movie but the trailer looks a bit overwrought.
LADS & JOCKEYS (Music Box) Genre: Documentary. The lives of three inhabitants of a school for horse racing jockeys in Chantilly, France is profiled. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.2 Will definitely appeal to those who love horses and horse racing, not so much to everyone else.
THE LADY (Cohen Media Group) Genre: True Life Drama. Aung San Suu Kyi fights for democracy and peace in Burma against the despotic regime there at the cost of her family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 One of the most compelling stories of our time with one of the most compelling actresses (Michelle Yeoh) of our time starring in it.
OUTRAGE (Magnet) Genre: Crime Thriller. Rival clans vie for position in the Japanese yakuza. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 An ultra-violent Japanese mobster flick looks to be one of the best of its genre in a very long time.
SHAME (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Drama. A man with a sex addiction has his life thrown completely out of kilter when his wayward younger sister moves into his apartment, sparking painful memories of the past. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Michael Fassbender reunites with Hunger director Steve McQueen in a very sexually explicit drama.
SLEEPING BEAUTY (IFC) Genre: Drama. A reckless university student takes a job as a sex worker, allowing old men to have erotic experiences with her as she sleeps; her work eventually commences to bleed into her waking life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A very sensuous, intriguing trailer.

DECEMBER 9, 2011

CATCH .44 (Anchor Bay) Genre: Action. A seemingly straightforward assignment to pick up a drug shipment at an isolated diner turns into a free-for-all orgy of violence and betrayal. Release Strategy: New York City/Charlotte. RATING: 2.9 A great cast including Bruce Willis and Forest Whitaker but a kind of weak trailer.
I MELT WITH YOU (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Four college buddies go off for an annual weekend in Big Sur but the debauchery leads to some revelations about their dissatisfaction with their lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Cast includes Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven and Thomas Jane, three actors who are always worth seeking out.
IN DARKNESS (Sony Classics) Genre: Biographical Drama. Leopold Socha, a sewer worker and petty thief whose only loyalty is to money, hides Jews in his sewer in World War II Poland. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles one week qualifying run (Opening in limited release January 27). RATING: 2.0 A compelling story from an amazing director.
KNUCKLE (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Documentary. A pair of feuding families in the Irish Traveler bare knuckle fighting underground society are portrayed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Kind of looks fascinating but kind of doesn’t; I’m not quite sure which.
LADIES VS. RICKY BAHL (Yash Raj) Genre: Bollywood. A slick con artist who uses his good looks to charm women out of their money gets his comeuppance when his victims unite to take him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Lighthearted, effervescent and disposable, this is what Bollywood is all about.
MY PIECE OF THE PIE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. An out of work single mom takes a job as a housekeeper for a ruthless financial magnate in Paris. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Cedric Klapisch is one of the best filmmakers you’ve never heard of.
NEW YEAR’S EVE (New Line) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A group of people in varying romantic situations converge on New York City for New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Along the same lines as 2010’s Valentine’s Day.
THE SITTER (20th Century Fox) Genre: Comedy. A slacker college student living with his mom is forced to babysit three precocious kids, bringing on the chaos in triplicate. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 It’s Adventures in Babysitting with Jonah Hill and if that sounds appealing to you by all means have at it.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (Focus) Genre: Spy Thriller. A British spy comes out of retirement to smoke out a double agent in the ranks of the British Secret Intelligence Agency. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (Opening in limited release December 16). RATING: 2.3 One of the greatest novels from one of the greatest espionage thriller writers ever (John Le Carre) finally makes it to the big screen.
W.E. (Columbia) Genre: Romance. A modern romantic looks into the lives of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, whom he gave up his throne for and discovers their relationship wasn’t as perfect as she thought. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (one week Oscar qualifying run; opening in limited release February 3). RATING: 2.9 Madonna’s the director; don’t judge.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Psychological Thriller. When her son turns out to be sociopathic, a mother’s culpability comes under scrutiny. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles 1 week Oscar qualifying run (Opening in limited release January 27). RATING: 1.8 One of the creepiest and most disturbing trailers I’ve seen in a long while.
YOUNG ADULT (Paramount) Genre: Black Comedy. An amoral writer of children’s books returns home for a high school reunion with one eye turned towards the prospect of stealing her high school crush from his wife. Release Strategy: Limited (opens wide December 16). RATING: 2.1 Looks like one of those comedies where you laugh hard and then feel ashamed, but in a good way.

DECEMBER 12, 2011

DAGUERREOTYPES (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. The shops and shopkeepers on the Rue Daguerre in Paris are profiled. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 Acclaimed documentarian Agnes Varda takes a loving look at the street on which she has lived for fifty years.

DECEMBER 16, 2011

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS – CHIPWRECKED (20th Century Fox) Genre: Family. While on a cruise, Alvin and the gang are shipwrecked on an island that isn’t as deserted as they thought. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.7 I still can’t figure out how they took a one-joke movie and turned it into a franchise – or why.
CARNAGE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. Two New York white collar couples gather to discuss a playground incident in which one child was injured by another, when things break down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 The latest from Roman Polanski boasts an outstanding cast and a wonderfully tense trailer.
CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (Anchor Bay) Genre: Documentary. One of the greatest producers of “B” movies in history is paid tribute as filmmakers and stars try to recount his rightful place in movie history. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Corman is one of my heroes but the trailer looked a bit like a hodgepodge.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Paramount) Genre: Spy Action. After the IMF is shut down after being implicated in a global terrorist bombing plot, it is up to Ethan Hunt and his team to ferret out the truth or die trying! Release Strategy: Opening wide in IMAX only (opening in Wide Standard on December 21). RATING: 1.8 This is supposed to be the passing of the torch for the franchise from Tom Cruise to Jeremy Renner.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Action Suspense. Holmes and Watson are back and this time they’re up against the evil Professor Moriarty in a plot to throw Europe into chaos. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 The first film might have irritated Holmes purists but I found it extremely entertaining and satisfying.

DECEMBER 21, 2011

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (Paramount) Genre: Adventure. An intrepid boy reporter searches for the wreck of a sailing vessel that might have contained a device of unimaginable power. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.5 Already a huge hit overseas, this is motion capture which hasn’t done well here – except it’s never been done by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson before either.
ALBERT NOBBS (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Period Drama. A woman posing as a man in 19th Century Ireland is trapped by her own charade. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Starring and written by Glenn Close, looks awfully intriguing.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Columbia) Genre: Thriller. A disgraced journalist joins forces with a gifted but troubled hacker to solve a 40-year-old murder. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 An Americanization of an extremely well-made Swedish moviemight ordinarily not be welcome but it is David Fincher directing.
PINA (IFC) Genre: Documentary. Choreographer Pina Bausch revolutionized 20th century dance. Release Strategy: New York City only (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.6 Wim Wenders directs Germany’s official entry for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

DECEMBER 23, 2011

DON 2 (Reliance Big Picture) Genre: Crime Thriller. The overlord of Asian crime bosses has his sights set on the European market. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Perhaps an allegory for modern economics.
IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY (FilmDistrict) Genre: War Drama. A Serbian man and a Bosnian woman find each other on opposite sides of the civil war, even though they once were lovers. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A gut-wrenching trailer bodes well for the directorial debut of Angelina Jolie.
WE BOUGHT A ZOO (20th Century Fox) Genre: True Life Drama. A single dad buys a zoo and moves his family there in an effort to bring them closer together. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 From the look of the trailer, Matt Damon is well-cast here.

DECEMBER 25, 2011

THE DARKEST HOUR (Summit) Genre: Science Fiction. An American tourist in Moscow is stranded when the city is attacked by aliens. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.7 The trailer looks intriguing although hopefully there will be some better eye candy than what we saw.
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Drama. A young boy who lost his dad in 9-11 is convinced that his father left him a final message hidden somewhere in the city. Release Strategy: Limited (Opens Wide January 20). RATING: 1.0 One of the most emotionally affecting trailers I’ve ever seen; they had me at Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.
WAR HORSE (DreamWorks) Genre: War Drama. Steven Spielberg directs the journey of a horse from its bucolic English farm through the trenches of World War I in France. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Could be wonderful, but the trailer looked a bit treacly.

DECEMBER 26, 2011

NEWLYWEDS (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. A newly married couple have to put up with the interference and antics of their somewhat deranged siblings. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 The newest from actor/director Edward Burns, and it looks like one of his best ones yet.

DECEMBER 28, 2011

EL SICARIO: ROOM 164 (Icarus) Genre: Documentary. A hitman for a Mexican drug cartel is interviewed in a hotel room, revealing disturbing details about the drug trade and its political ramifications. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A compelling subject which may not translate into a visually compelling film.
PARIAH (Focus) Genre: Urban Drama. An inner city African-American teen slowly begins to embrace her sexuality as a lesbian. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A big hit at Sundance, now finally hitting theaters in time for Oscar consideration.

DECEMBER 30, 2011

A SEPARATION (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. An Iranian man whose wife is divorcing him because he won’t leave his Alzheimer’s-ridden father is accused of a heinous crime by the maid his daughter hires. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks interesting.
ANGEL’S CREST (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. A young father’s moment of thoughtlessness results in tragedy; when the local prosecutor decides to zealously pursue the matter, the small town is torn apart. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The trailer looked plenty harrowing.
THE IRON LADY (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of England during the Reagan era. Release Strategy: Limited (Expands January 13). RATING: 3.1 Meryl Streep might be looking at another Oscar nomination.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
New Year’s Eve, The Sitter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Adventures of Tintin, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, In the Land of Blood and Honey, We Bought a Zoo, The Darkest Hour, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, War Horse, The Iron Lady

Fall/Holiday 2011 Preview


It is a bittersweet time as the lazy days of summer come to an end and for Hollywood, the annual orgy of blockbusters and event movies winds down. It is back to school for the kids, the end of the hot weather and the beginning of cool fall breezes, football and shorter days. Winter is right around the corner but before then, Hollywood still has the end of the year films to tempt your wallets.

The box office figures for this summer can only be termed as disappointing; this summer was one of the most anticipated in years. As I write this, the final box office figures have yet to be determined but it feels like numbers are actually down from last year, both in terms of box office dollars and in theater attendance. Much of that can be attributed to the rise of video streaming and on-demand video through home computers and cable/satellite television services. One can only assume that box office numbers will continue to erode somewhat over the next few years as theater-goers tire of high ticket prices and upcharges for 3D and IMAX screens.

The Fall seasons is also the time of the Oscar watcher. Generally this is when Hollywood releases their films most likely to strike gold at the Academy Awards next year and while it is still too early to determine which movies are going to be the ones to beat this year, you can bet that as the summer comes to an end, movies like The Iron Lady, The Descendants, In the Land of Blood and Honey, We Bought a Zoo, the David Fincher remake of the Swedish hit The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Coriolanus are on Oscar’s radar early on.

The movies that look to be most likely to hit the box office jackpot are Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Muppets, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I and Arthur Christmas. There might be some love for Puss in Boots, a spin-off from the highly successful Shrek series.

We’ll see horror movies, particularly at Halloween, and on tap at the moment are Paranormal Activity 3, 11-11-11 and the new reboot of The Thing. For those looking for comedy there’s always Jack and Jill, Tower Heist, New Year’s Eve, The Sitter and What’s Your Number. Action/adventure junkies can take heart in movies like Immortals, The Adventures of Tin-Tin, Real Steel, The Three Musketeers and In Time. Those looking for something more family friendly will have Happy Feet 2, Dolphin’s Tale and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked to choose from, among others.

The fall and winter are a great time for star-gazing and 2011 will have its share. You’ll be able to see Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), George Clooney (The Descendants), Daniel Craig (Dream House and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), Robert Downey Jr., (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Adam Sandler (Jack and Jill), Ben Stiller (Tower Heist), Hugh Jackman (Real Steel), Robert De Niro (Killer Elite and New Year’s Eve), Matt Damon (Contagion and We Bought a Zoo), Jodie Foster (Carnage), Colin Firth (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), George Clooney (The Ides of March and The Descendants), Kate Winslet (Contagion), Leonardo di Caprio (J. Edgar) and Johnny Depp (The Rum Diary). Those fond of director Steven Spielberg will get a double dose this December with The Adventures of Tin Tin and War Horse, as of this writing slated to come out within a week of one another, although the two films couldn’t be more different.

So there are plenty of movies out there that will be competing for your interest; hopefully this guide will help you find a few. Further details can be found in our weekly Previews and monthly Four-Warned features, and many of the movies you see listed here will eventually make their way to our daily reviews. In the meantime, grab the keys, pack up the kids (if you have any), find that special someone to snuggle in the dark with and enjoy!

SEPTEMBER

September is usually a down time at the box office as kids head back to school and the new fall premieres come out on TV. Generally Hollywood uses the month to sneak in movies that they have less faith in that would get lost in the crush of summer or Holiday movies. Once in awhile there’s a break-out hit, but that’s fairly unusual. There are also occasionally some quality movies amongst the chaff however.

AUTUMNAL EQUINOX

APOLLO 18

RELEASE DATE: September 2, 2011

STUDIO: Weinstein

STARRING:

STORY: Ever wonder why we stopped sending men to the moon? This footage of the Apollo 18 mission, which NASA denies ever took place, explains it all.

PROSPECTS: Found footage films are relatively inexpensive to produce and have often been slam dunk winners at the box office, from The Blair Witch Project to Cloverfield to Paranormal Activity seeing box office success and Troll Hunter critical acclaim. This one takes an intriguing premise and with little box office competition, could make an impressive dent.

OBSTACLES: There’s no telling whether the moviegoing audience has grown tired of the genre, and Weinstein apparently doesn’t have much faith in the film either, moving it all over the schedule from a prime spring slot to a lucrative fall slot to the kiss of death September slot.

FACTOID: This is Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s first American feature.

DRUID RITES

CONTAGION

RELEASE DATE: September 9, 2011

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Gwynneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, John Hawkes, Sanaa Lathan, Elliott Gould

STORY: The scientific community races against the clock to find the cure for a lethal airborne virus while outside their walls society is rapidly disintegrating into chaos.

PROSPECTS: Steven Soderbergh is the man behind the Oceans 11 trilogy. Medical dramas like Outbreak when done correctly can capture the imagination of the moviegoing audience.

OBSTACLES: These sorts of killer virus movies have been done to death and one wonders if Soderbergh has anything new to add to the mix.

FACTOID: In March, Soderbergh announced that he would be retiring from the movie business following the completion of the films he is currently attached to.

DREAM HOUSE

RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2011

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, Marton Csokas, Jane Alexander, Elias Koteas, Lynne Griffin, Fernando Lara, Chris Owens

STORY: A New Yorker relocating to New England with his family discovers that the house he’s moved into was the site of the grisly murders of a mother and her children at the hands of the husband, who survived – and may not be pleased that there is a new family living there.

PROSPECTS: Suburban horror with a stellar cast has been known to strike box office gold from time to time. Craig is one of the more bankable stars in Hollywood at the moment.

OBSTACLES: Might hit a little too close to home for more timid audiences, and one of the major twists in the plot may have been revealed in the trailer.

FACTOID: Craig won the leading role over Christian Bale and Brad Pitt.

SKYCLAD

DRIVE

RELEASE DATE: September 16, 2011

STUDIO: FilmDistrict

STARRING: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks

STORY: A Hollywood stunt driver moonlights on the side as a getaway car driver for hire. When he takes a job for the husband of a neighbor, things get dangerously out of control.

PROSPECTS: This is a brand new studio that’s already had some success with Insidious. There has been some enormous buzz on this since its debut at Cannes earlier this year. The action-packed trailer has only served to fuel appetite.

OBSTACLES: Sounds uncomfortably close to Jason Statham’s Transporter series. Also Gosling has yet to prove himself able to pull in decent box office numbers.

FACTOID: When original director Rob Marshall left, followed by original star Hugh Jackman, Gosling was brought on board and hand-picked Dutch director Nicholas Winding Refn to direct.

CHANTS

SEPTEMBER 2, 2011

SHARK NIGHT 3D (Relativity) finds a group of young people partying on a Louisiana salt water lake one weekend only to discover that the lake has been stocked with sharks. Hungry ones, too – and that can ruin anybody’s weekend.

SEPTEMBER 9, 2011

BUCKY LARSON: BORN TO BE A STAR (Columbia) is a comedy starring Nick Swardson (30 Minutes or Less) as the hapless son of two 70s porn stars who seeks out his fortune in Hollywood’s adult film industry, armed with a tool that isn’t exactly the largest in the shed. Nor the sharpest, I’d wager.  WARRIOR (Lionsgate) pits two brothers against one another in the unforgiving arena of a Mixed Martial Arts championship match. You knew there’d have to be an MMA movie sooner or later.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2011

I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT (Weinstein) stars Sarah Jessica Parker as a frazzled mom trying to balance career and family, which is not unlike juggling land mines while blindfolded. However, Miss Parker looks a lot better doing it than most. THE LION KING 3D (Disney) is a re-release of the beloved Disney classic in 3D and IMAX formats for the first time. Hakuna Matata that, jerkweed. RESTLESS (Sony Classics) is the latest from director Gus Van Sant and is based on the stage play “Of Winter and Water Birds” by Jason Lew. It’s about a couple of outsiders who become drawn to one another because of – or maybe despite – their many quirks. This one is getting a limited release so it won’t be playing everywhere. STRAW DOGS (Screen Gems) is a remake of the controversial 1971 Sam Peckinpah film and stars James Marsden and Kate Bosworth as a pacifist couple who move into a remote version and are eventually pushed further and further into violence.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2011

PEARL JAM TWENTY (Vinyl) is Cameron Crowe’s documentary on the 20 year career of Pearl Jam. They emerged from the Seattle grunge scene to outlive their own genre of music. Utilizing home video footage, concert appearances and rare interviews with the band, audiences will get a rare glimpse at one of America’s most acclaimed rock bands.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2011

ABDUCTION (Lionsgate) stars Taylor Lautner from the Twilight series as a young man who discovers that the life he’s been leading is a lie when he discovers his picture on a missing child website. The more he digs into his past, the more danger he unearths and soon he is on the run from federal operatives and mysterious forces. DOLPHIN TALE 3D (Warner Brothers) is based on the true story of Winter the dolphin whose tale had to be amputated after she was caught in a lobster trap. Through the courage, inventiveness and resourcefulness of a team of volunteers, veterinarians and engineers, a prosthetic is constructed for Winter, allowing her to survive. KILLER ELITE (Open Road) pits Clive Owen against Jason Statham in a deadly battle for survival. Statham is an ex-Special Ops assassin lured out of retirement to rescue his mentor from captivity, but must first take down Owen’s elite team of assassins to get there. MONEYBALL (Columbia) stars Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane who revolutionized the game of baseball a decade ago, using undervalued players to create a championship team.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2011

50/50 (Summit) stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man who is diagnosed with cancer and with his good friend (Seth Rogen) decides to use humor to help him fight the disease. Anna Kendrick also stars. COURAGEOUS (Tri-Star) is about a group of law enforcement officers grappling with a tragedy that brings on a crisis of faith. WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER (20th Century Fox) features Anna Faris in a comedy about a woman who decides she will sleep with no more men until she finds out if one of the ones she’s been with previously – and there are a lot of them – might just be The One.

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 four movies listed are the four main previewed items; I’ve also chosen a selection of other major releases that made the preview issue as well.

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $80 Million. Domestic Gross: $55.7M Total: $140.1M Verdict: Flop. THE AMERICAN (Focus) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $35.6M Total: $67.9M Verdict: Hit. WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $72.5M Total: $134.8M Verdict: Made money. MACHETE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $10.5M. Domestic Gross: $26.6M Total: $44.1M Verdict: Hit. GOING THE DISTANCE (New Line) Budget: $32M. Domestic Gross: $17.8M Total: $42.1M Verdict: Flop. THE TOWN (Warner Brothers) Budget: $37M. Domestic Gross: $92.2M Total: $154.0M Verdict: Hit. DEVIL (Universal) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $33.6M Total: $62.7M Verdict: Hit. YOU AGAIN (Disney) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $25.75M Total: $32.0M Verdict: Flop. RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (Screen Gems) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $60.1M Total: $296.2 Verdict: Blockbuster. EASY A (Screen Gems) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $58.4M Total: $75.0 Verdict: Blockbuster.

OCTOBER

October brings fall weather in more properly, as baseball begins its World Series, football is in the midst of their schedule and hockey and basketball are both getting their seasons underway. At the multiplex, the month is usually dominated by horror movies meant to compliment the Halloween festivities, although there are often some counterprogramming moves going on to get audiences that aren’t looking to be frightened into coronaries at the cinema.

AUTUMNAL EQUINOX

REAL STEEL

RELEASE DATE: October 7, 2011

STUDIO: DreamWorks

STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis, James Rebhorn, Olga Fonda, Karl Yune

STORY: A former boxer whose sport ceased to exist when robots took over boxing, makes a last chance comeback with a broken-down sparring ‘bot and the trust of a child motivating him.

PROSPECTS: In a fairly weak month of releases this one stands out as having the broadest audience appeal. Robots beating the crap out of each other have made box office gold for the Transformers series.

OBSTACLES: Jackman has yet to prove he can pull in an audience playing someone who isn’t Wolverine. Some snide remarks about Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots have been showing up in comments about the movie.

FACTOID: Based on a short story by The Twilight Zone author Richard Matheson.

DRUID RITES

FOOTLOOSE

RELEASE DATE: October 14, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Andie McDowell, Dennis Quaid, Miles Teller, Ziah Colon, Ray McKinnon, SerDarius William Blain

STORY: A transplant from the big city to a small town fights an ordinance that bans dancing and loud music.

PROSPECTS: If this sounds familiar it’s because it is. Everyone over the age of 30 remembers the original movie with Kevin Bacon; the casting of “Dancing With the Stars” winner Julianne Hough is sure to bring some of the audience of that massive hit show.

OBSTACLES: Not sure a modern audience is going to go for what was a hit back in 1984; remember Fame?

FACTOID: The movie has been oft-delayed, with problems retaining directors (Kenny Ortega was at one time scheduled to direct this) and male leads (both Zac Efron and Chace Crawford came and went in the lead role).

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3

RELEASE DATE: October 21, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Zayd Jaber, Katie Featherston (rumored), Molly Ephraim (rumored)

STORY: A prequel to the first two Paranormal Activity movies shows the curse as it originally took over the family.

PROSPECTS: With the Saw franchise at an end, this looks to take its place as the newest Halloween tradition. The first two movies made enormous profits off of tiny budgets and there’s no reason to think this won’t be the same.

OBSTACLES: Prequels aren’t the most popular things among moviegoers. Ask George Lucas.

FACTOID: The newest installment in the series is being directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the auteurs of Catfish.

SKYCLAD

ANONYMOUS

RELEASE DATE: October 28, 2011

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Derek Jacobi, Xavier Samuel, Rafe Spall.

STORY: One of the great debates of intellectuals is whether or not the plays of William Shakespeare were actually written by the man named William Shakespeare. All sorts of theories have been advanced, ranging from Christopher Wren to Christopher Marlowe as the true authors. However, this movie posits a more sinister political agenda and machinations of the royal court.

PROSPECTS: A rare non-genre movie directed by Roland Emmerich (2012, The Day After Tomorrow), the studio is taking a very low-key marketing approach. Fans of Shakespeare in Love might well go for this one.

OBSTACLES: The subject is a little highbrow for general audiences. No big stars to anchor this and Emmerich isn’t known for this kind of movie; whether or not he can pull it off is a mystery in itself.

FACTOID: Rafe Spall is the son of veteran character actor Timothy Spall (the Harry Potter films, Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman).

CHANTS

OCTOBER 7, 2011

DIRTY GIRL (Weinstein) is about a schoolgirl whose sexual misconduct lands her in a remedial class where she’s paired with the school loner in a parenting project. She convinces him to help her run off to California, which is probably not the best of ideas. In THE IDES OF MARCH (Columbia), Ryan Gosling stars as the press secretary for George Clooney’s presidential election team. He believes in the candidate’s cause but is torn between serving a candidate he believes in and one that he thinks can actually win. WANDERLUST (Universal) is the latest comedy to be produced by Judd Apatow and stars frequent Apatow collaborator Paul Rudd who is married to Jennifer Aniston. When they are forced for economic reasons to move into the apartment of Aniston’s brother in Atlanta, they take a detour to a small town name Elysium where clothing is optional and ideas are plentiful.

OCTOBER 14, 2011

THE BIG YEAR (20th Century Fox) stars Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson as three rival birdwatchers determined to outdo one another in their year’s birding checklist. THE SKIN I LIVE IN (Sony Classics) is the latest from legendary Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, and stars Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon determined to create a synthetic skin that would be burn resistant, something that might have saved his wife’s life. His zeal will lead him to some questionable moral decisions. THE THING (Universal) is a prequel of sorts to the 1982 John Carpenter movie, showing what happened at the Norwegian arctic camp that discovered the alien being and its space craft buried under the ice.

OCTOBER 21, 2011

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (Fox Searchlight) is the sensation from Sundance now making an appearance as a limited release. It’s about a girl who escapes from a cult but finds that what is real and what is being generated from her paranoia isn’t always easy to tell aprart. MARGIN CALL (Roadside Attractions) charts the goings on in an investment bank during the 2008 financial crisis. Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany and Demi Moore star in this limited release. THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Summit) is yet another screen version of the beloved Alexandre Dumas classic, with Christoph Waltz – the best baddie in the biz right now – assaying the role of Cardinal Richelieu.

OCTOBER 28, 2011

IN TIME (20th Century Fox) posits a future in which we stop aging at age 25, but in order to stay alive we must earn every additional minute. Time becomes a new currency, one which Justin Timberlake will go to extreme lengths to redistribute. In JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN (Universal) Rowan Atkinson reprises his role as a suave but bumbling British superspy returns from retirement to save us all from a global conspiracy. THE RUM DIARY (FilmDistrict) is set for limited release and is based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Johnny Depp stars as a reporter who discovers a massive conspiracy in the Puerto Rico of the 1950s. SAFE (Lionsgate) is the latest Jason Statham action movie (no further plot details were available at present). 

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

HEREAFTER (Warner Brothers) Budget: $50 Million. Domestic Gross: $32.8M Total: $105.2M Verdict: Broke Even. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (Columbia) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $97.0M Total: $224.9M Verdict: Blockbuster. SECRETARIAT (Disney) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $59.7M Total: $60.3M Verdict: Flop. BURIED (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.0M Total: $19.2M Verdict: Profitable. RED (Summit) Budget: $58M. Domestic Gross: $90.4M Total: $199.0 Verdict: Hit. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (Paramount) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $84.8M Total: $177.5 Verdict: Blockbuster. SAW 3D (Lionsgate) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $45.7M Total: $136.2M Verdict: Blockbuster. JACKASS 3D (Paramount) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $117.2M Total: $170.3M Verdict: Blockbuster. LET ME IN (Overture) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $12.1M Total: $24.2M Verdict: Flop.

NOVEMBER

Thanksgiving weekend is a major Hollywood seasonal barometer, and usually there are several movies that Hollywood has high hopes for box office success. This is usually when we start to see some of the more anticipated movies, usually with at least one major blockbuster arriving before Turkey Day.

AUTUMNAL EQUINOX

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1

RELEASE DATE: November 18, 2011

STUDIO: Summit Entertainment

STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Billy Burke, Maggie Grace, Lee Pace, Elizabeth Reaser, Rami Malek

STORY: Teen romance. Werewolves. Vampires that sparkle. Soulful looks. Shirtless hunks. Brooding Byron-like bloodsuckers. Do they really need a plot? Would anyone care if they didn’t have one?

PROSPECTS: Like the Harry Potter saga, the final book in the series is being split up by the studio so that they can make twice the oodles of dollars they’re going to make with the movie. As with all of the other movies in the saga, this is going to do gangbusters the first weekend and then quickly lose steam en route to ginormous box office numbers.

OBSTACLES: A very narrow audience base limits the box office appeal, and this is a movie whose fans lose interest quickly. If it doesn’t have a spectacular opening weekend, it might be in trouble.

FACTOID: Sofia Coppola expressed interest in directing this but only wanted to commit to one of the two movies and the studio wanted to have the same director for both movies so that they could be filmed back-to-back in order to cut expenses.

DRUID RITES

THE MUPPETS

RELEASE DATE: November 23, 2011

STUDIO: Disney

STARRING: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Alan Arkin, Jack Black, Billy Crystal, Zach Galifianakis, Kathy Griffin, Ricky Gervais, Emily Blunt

STORY: The World’s Biggest Muppets Fans try to reunite the Muppets for the World’s Biggest Muppet Telethon ever when a greedy oilman wants to raze the Muppets Theater to get at the oil beneath it. The trouble is getting the Muppets, who have all moved on to new lives, to agree to it.

PROSPECTS: The Muppets are cultural icons who appeal to a whole bunch of different generations of kids who are grown up now and have lots of disposable income of their own.

OBSTACLES: The Muppets have been out of the public eye for much of the 21st century and one wonders if they have enough cachet to appeal to a whole new generation.

FACTOID: This is the first commercially released Muppets movie not to feature Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson as “muppeteers.”

HUGO

RELEASE DATE: November 23, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Emily Mortimer

STORY: A young boy who lives in the walls of a Paris train station discovers a mysterious heart-shaped lock which may hold the key to a mystery that has already cost him his father.

PROSPECTS: Reading the story summary would you have guessed Martin Scorsese? Me neither…but anything the master sets his sights on is bound to be quality work.

OBSTACLES: Scorsese directing young adult fantasy? No guns, no mobsters, no De Niro? Is the public ready for this?

FACTOID: This is the first feature film by Scorsese in seven years in which Leonardo di Caprio didn’t star.

SKYCLAD

THE IMMORTALS

RELEASE DATE: November 11, 2011

STUDIO: Relativity

STARRING: Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Isabel Lucas, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz, John Hurt, Mickey Rourke

STORY: The legend of Theseus, who stands up against a power-mad Greek king in a war that may signal not only the end of mankind but the end of the Gods as well.

PROSPECTS: This will be a preview of Cavill’s much anticipated turn as Superman in next year’s Man of Steel feature. Tarsem Singh is a visually arresting director.

OBSTACLES: Singh has been guilty of too much style over substance in his films and has yet to really knock one out of the park. Cavill as a lead is an unknown quantity.

FACTOID: The movie was initially titled Dawn of War before being changed to War of the Gods with the final name finally chosen last year during filming.

CHANTS

NOVEMBER 4, 2011

A VERY HAROLD AND 3D KUMAR CHRISTMAS (New Line) features America’s favorite stoners trying to save the holidays after accidentally killing Santa and lighting Harold’s Christmas tree on fire. Another ill-advised journey to New York becomes necessary to find the only man that can save them…Neil Patrick Harris! PUSS IN BOOTS (DreamWorks) is a spin-off from the Shrek series in which the beloved feline’s story is told, with one of his greatest pre-Shrek adventures – how Puss stole the goose that lays the golden eggs. TOWER HEIST (Universal) stars Ben Stiller and an all-star cast including Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda and Matthew Broderick as a group of staff members at an upscale posh Manhattan apartment complex who resolve to steal back their life savings from a Bernie Madoff-like financier who absconded with their pension funds.

NOVEMBER 11, 2011

11-11-11 (Not Available) is a horror film from Saw series director Darren Lynn Bousman about an author who heads to Spain to be with his dying father, whose impending fate seems wrapped up in the number 11, a coincidence that turns far more sinister than you can imagine. JACK AND JILL (Columbia) stars Adam Sandler in dual roles as a successful ad executive and his twin sister who drives him crazy. She’s the one who always turns up at Thanksgiving and turns everyone’s life upside-down. Don’t you have a relative like that? J. EDGAR (Warner Brothers) is the story of the notorious FBI director who became one of the most powerful men on Earth. Leonardo di Caprio stars in the title role and Clint Eastwood directs this film which opens in a limited run two days before it opens everywhere.

NOVEMBER 18, 2011

HAPPY FEET TWO (Warner Brothers) carries on with the series. This one focuses on the son of Mumbles, the hero and dancin’ fool of the first movie. Here, his son turns out to have two left feet, not something you want to have when a crisis is hitting Antarctica that will require everyone’s help. TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (Focus) is an adaptation of the John Le Carre spy novel with an all-star cast that includes Oscar winner Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Ciaran Hinds and Tom Hardy.  

NOVEMBER 23, 2011

A DANGEROUS METHOD (Sony Classics) explores the real-life love triangle between Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud and Freud’s patient Sabrina Spielrein. The schism that rises between them would eventually give rise to modern psychiatry. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (Sony Animation) comes from the people who gave us Wallace and Gromit, and is about Santa’s younger son . He’s kind of a screw-up and in fact his love for the holiday is actually turning out to jeopardize Christmas entirely. THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight) stars George Clooney as an indifferent husband and father who must step up to the plate when his wife is critically injured in a boating accident. This is opening in limited release and is the latest from director Alexander Payne, who also gave us Sideways. PIRANHA 3DD (Dimension) brings our razor-toothed fishy friends to a waterpark. More blood, more boobs…and all in the magic of 3D.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 (Warner Brothers) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $295.0Total: $955.4M Verdict: Blockbuster. MEGAMIND (DreamWorks) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $148.4M Total: $321.9M Verdict: Made Money. BURLESQUE (Screen Gems) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $39.4M Total: $89.5M Verdict: Flop. LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $32.4M Total: $102.8M Verdict: Hit. TANGLED (Disney) Budget: $260M. Domestic Gross: $200.8M Total: $590.7M Verdict: Broke Even. THE KING’S SPEECH (Weinstein) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $138.8M Total: $414.2M Verdict: Blockbuster. DUE DATE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $100.5M Total: $211.8M Verdict: Hit. MORNING GLORY (Paramount) Budget: $40M Domestic Gross: $30.0M Total: $58.8M Verdict: Flop. UNSTOPPABLE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $100M Domestic Gross: $81.6M Total: $167.8M Verdict: Flop.

DECEMBER

The month of December brings fierce competition for the box office dollar, as Hollywood usually releases their big guns. Christmas Day is almost always a big one for movie releases although with it falling on a Saturday this year, there is far more activity going on the preceding Wednesday. Nothing goes with Holiday shopping like an evening at the movie theater as a way to blow off the stress of hitting the malls. Studios are also very well aware that they have to release their films at least in New York and Los Angeles before the end of the month to qualify for Oscar contention, and some of these will hit general release in January.

AUTUMNAL EQUINOX

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Lea Seydoux, Josh Holloway, Vladimir Mashkov, Anil Kapoor, Tom Wilkinson, Ving Rhames

STORY: The IMF is closed down after a bombing of the Kremlin is blamed on them. Ethan Hunt and his team must go deep underground to find out what really happened and clear the IMF’s name before they are captured and executed as terrorists.

PROSPECTS: The first three movies in the series have all been big box office bonanzas. This is the closest to an American James Bond as we’ve ever gotten and while the movies don’t have the suave coolness of either Bond or the original TV series, the quick pacing and spectacular action scenes pack in the crowds. Producer J.J. Abrams is a hot commodity right now.

OBSTACLES: Cruise no longer has the box office draw he once did, and is getting a little long in the tooth for these sorts of roles besides.

FACTOID: Director Brad Bird is better known as a director of animated features for Pixar such as The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

DRUID RITES

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN

RELEASE DATE: December 23, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Cary Elwes, Alex Hyde-White

STORY: Teen reporter Tintin finds himself having the adventure of a lifetime when he discovers a map to a lost  treasure ship.

PROSPECTS: Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg together? Talk about a dream team! The Tintin comics by Herge are beloved the world over.

OBSTACLES: Motion capture has simply failed to catch on. Tintin is not a well-known commodity inside the United States.

FACTOID: Although the movie once carried the subtitle “The Curse of the Unicorn,” it is actually an amalgam of four different Tintin stories.

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS

RELEASE DATE: December 16, 2011

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Eddie Marsan, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Rachel McAdams, Geraldine James, Kelly Reilly

STORY: The great detective goes up against his arch-nemesis, Professor James Moriarty in a lethal game of murder and intrigue. Holmes must find a way to win this game or the very course of history may be changed.

PROSPECTS: Downey is rapidly becoming one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. The first Holmes opus was one of the highest grossing movies of 2009. Adding the Swedish star of the Millennium trilogy (i.e. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) adds cachet.

OBSTACLES: I don’t get a sense that there is a great deal of anticipation for this movie the way I did with the first one. Movies that mess with history can really turn audiences off.

FACTOID: Downey and Harris both appeared together in the Oliver Stone film Natural Born Killers.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2011

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson, Embeth Davidtz, Joel Kinnaman, Goran Visnjic, Geraldine James, Julian Sands

STORY: A disgraced journalist preparing to begin a jail sentence after being convicted of libel undertakes the investigation of the disappearance of a young girl forty years earlier at the behest of her Uncle, the head of a powerful industrial family in Sweden. The journalist is aided by a computer hacker and security specialist who has quite a few skeletons in her own closet..

PROSPECTS: The books and resulting films were wildly popular in Europe and critically acclaimed here. Given some of the twisted aspects of the plot, David Fincher is the perfect choice to direct..

OBSTACLES: The book is more raw than American audiences are used to, with a graphic rape and twisted familial relationships that push the boundaries. How these will translate to an American holiday audience is a bit of a gamble.

FACTOID: The stars of the Swedish version of the film, Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, are appearing in competing films opening this month (Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol respectively). Interestingly enough, both films are sequels.

SKYCLAD

THE IRON LADY

RELEASE DATE: December 16, 2011

STUDIO: Weinstein

STARRING: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Roger Allam, Anthony Head, Richard E. Grant, Harry Lloyd, Olivia Colman, Susan Brown

STORY: The story of Margaret Thatcher, the steely British Prime Minister of the 1980s, comes to life on the screen.

PROSPECTS: Streep’s performance is said to be Oscar-worthy. Last year, Weinstein opened The King’s Speech in a limited run (as they are here) and it didn’t do too badly.

OBSTACLES: Does anyone really want to see a movie about Margaret Thatcher? Director Phyllida Lloyd is better known for directing musicals and stage productions. Is she up for the challenge of a major Oscar contender?

FACTOID: To prepare for the role, Streep attended a session of the House of Commons, visited Lady Thatcher’s childhood home and spoke with her daughter.

CHANTS

DECEMBER 2, 2011

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Oscilloscope Laboratories) is about a mother (Tilda Swinton) trying to cope after her 15-year-old son commits a heinous act. While this is currently listed as a wide release, please note that this particular distributor has never opened a film in anything other than a limited release so do take that into account. CORIOLANUS (Weinstein), opening in limited release, is an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays and stars and is directed by Ralph Fiennes.

DECEMBER 9, 2011

NEW YEAR’S EVE (New Line) is a companion piece to Valentine’s Day. Like in that holiday-themed romantic comedy, a number of different characters prepare for the oncoming celebration, only this time in New York City and in particular Times Square. An all-star cast headlines.  THE SITTER (20th Century Fox) will remind some of Adventures in Babysitting as a college dropout slacker, living at home with mom, is talked into babysitting a trio of wild, spunky kids next door. The aforementioned slacker is played by Jonah Hill.

DECEMBER 16, 2011

YOUNG ADULT (Paramount) is the latest from screenwriter Diablo Cody. Here, a successful writer of young adult fiction returns home to relive her glory days and maybe, persuade the happily married love of her life to turn his attentions to her. This is opening in limited release the previous weekend. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS – CHIPWRECKED (20th Century Fox) is yet another reason I’m so very grateful our son is grown and childless for the moment. CARNAGE (Sony Classics) opens in limited release. It is the newest film from legendary director Roman Polanski and depicts two sets of parents whose children got into an altercation, getting together to discuss the matter. Unfortunately, events spiral out of control and descend into something more horrible.

DECEMBER 23, 2011

IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY (FilmDistrict) is directed by Angelina Jolie and is an unblinking, unromantic view of the Bosnian War of the 1990s and is enacted entirely with local performers. WE BOUGHT A ZOO (20th Century Fox) is a true account of how a family bought a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. It’s a difficult enough task to refurbish the zoo for re-opening that becomes doubly hard when the mother contracts brain cancer. Matt Damon stars.

DECEMBER 25, 2011

THE DARKEST HOUR (Summit) stars Emile Hirsch as an American tourist trapped in Moscow when an alien invasion of strange electric creatures decimates the city. Timur Bekmambetov, the visionary Russian director of Wanted and Night Watch, produced.

DECEMBER 28, 2011

WAR HORSE (DreamWorks) chronicles the adventures of a horse during World War I as he changes the lives of all he encounters, from a trainer on a bucolic English farm to an English cavalry officer, a German soldier, a French farmer and his granddaughter. Steven Spielberg directs.

DECEMBER 30, 2011

A SEPARATION (Sony Classics), opening in limited release, examines an Iranian couple who are torn apart by the strife in the country and by the grandfather’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease..

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

TRON: LEGACY (Disney) Budget: $170M. Domestic Gross: $172.1M Total: $400.1M Verdict: Made a little money. THE FIGHTER (Paramount) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $93.6M Total: $129.2M Verdict: Blockbuster. GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $112M. Domestic Gross: $42.8M Total: $237.4M Verdict: Broke Even. SOMEWHERE (Focus) Budget: $7M. Domestic Gross: $1.8M Total: $13.4M Verdict: Broke Even. TRUE GRIT (Paramount) Budget: $38M. Domestic Gross: $171.1M Total: $250.9M Verdict: Blockbuster. LITTLE FOCKERS (Universal) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $148.4M Total: $310.7M Verdict: Hit. THE TOURIST (Columbia) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $67.6M Total: $278.4M Verdict: Made Money. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (Fox Walden) Budget: $155M. Domestic Gross: $104.4M Total: $415.7 Verdict: Made Money. HOW DO YOU KNOW (Columbia) Budget: $120M. Domestic Gross: $30.2M Total: $48.7M Verdict: Flop. YOGI BEAR (Warner Brothers) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $100.3M Total: $201.6M Verdict: Made Money.

So that’s our fall preview. As you can see, there are plenty of different choices competing for your entertainment dollar, so choose wisely. As always, be aware that release dates are subject to change, particularly the farther out you go so be sure and check your local listings before going out to the multiplex. So even though 2011 is grinding to a close, there are some interesting projects going on scheduled for release next year and you can check out some of them in our 2012 preview, due out at the end of December. Thanks for reading and see you at the movies!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Man som hatar kvinnor)


The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo

This is not the girl you want to mess with.

(2009) Thriller (Music Box) Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber, Peter Andersson, Marika Lagercrantz, Ingvar Hirdwall, Bjorn Granath, Ewa Froling, Annika Hallin, Georgi Staykov, Tomas Kohler.  Directed by Niels Arden Oplev

My wife was often heard to say to my son (and she heard this herself often as a child) that the truth will find you out. It usually does, too – although sometimes it can take many years before it finally shows up at your door.

Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist) is the publisher of Millennium, a left wing magazine in Sweden that goes after corporate and government officials mostly of the right wing variety. Blomkvist has just lost a libel trial against a wealthy Swedish industrialist and in six months time, will be sent to jail for it. He has temporarily stepped down from his position because of the scandal.

In the midst of this, he gets an intriguing offer from an aging Swedish industrialist. Henrik Vanger (Taube) is in his 80s, the patriarch of a wealthy Swedish family living in isolation on an island near Stockholm. 40 years previously, his niece Harriet (Froling) disappeared and is presumed dead. Nobody knows what happened to her although everyone assumes she was murdered. Who done it? Well there’s a whole family of suspects.

As it turns out, Mikael isn’t the only one investigating. Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) was hired to investigate Blomkvist and as she checks up on him, gets drawn in to his own investigation. She is one of Sweden’s best hackers and she has no trouble finding information Mikael can’t access. As time goes by, they discover that the Vangers have a couple of not-so-closet Nazis in the family tree. Salander turns out to have some dangerous secrets of her own and as Mikael closes in on the truth, nothing is what it seems – and it seems there may be something rotten in Sweden.

This is from the first book of the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy which is wildly popular in Scandinavia and more recently worldwide. The motion pictures based on the trilogy are among the most popular ever in Sweden and are due to be remade by Hollywood, the first due out at Christmas directed by Oscar winner David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

So should you see these before seeing the remakes? I say yes. This is a world class movie, right up there with the best of Hitchcock and De Palma. The bleak Swedish winter landscapes create the perfect mood, with just the right number of twists – not too many, not too few.

The leads couldn’t be more different. Nyqvist is understated as Blomkvist. He is capable and intellectual but not what you’d call the typical heroic sort. He is more heroic in his convictions and ideals rather than as a physical purveyor of derring-do. He is a decent man caught in a situation that is way over his head, one he’s not nearly mean enough to handle.

Rapace however delivers a star turn as Salander. Lisbeth is a bundle of contradictory characteristics. Quiet and withdrawn in many ways, she also dresses in outlandish punk hairstyle and leather which inevitably calls attention to herself. There is a rage in her that’s just below the surface, a rage that comes out brutally when she’s raped graphically early in the movie. It’s a brutal scene that’s not for the sensitive and is anything but sexual. There are those who are disturbed by it, but considering the importance of the event in the series, it is a necessary scene.

I like the mood the movie weaves; it is a mood that contains the comfort of Scandinavian homes, the overwhelming fog of uneasy dread, the air of mysteries buried deep in the Swedish soil. While there is an Agatha Christie-like vibe to the first act, this is definitely the work of a mind whose roots are deep in the land of the Northern climes, where winters are deep, bone-chilling and soul-sucking. One can almost hear “Finlandia” playing on the soundtrack.

Even more to the point, these are characters that are real and compelling. Even the evil neo-Nazi bastards aren’t caricatures; there is flesh on all of these bones.  Lisbeth Salander may be one of the most interesting heroines to come along since Ellen Ripley in Alien. She has demons deep within her, most of them barely hinted at. She’s not always an easy character to like, but she’s always an easy character to be fascinated by.

There are people who won’t see this because it’s subtitled. That’s a shame; those who love thrillers will love this one. It’s not the most original plot; it’s just done in an original style. There’s a realism to it that works, as well as an air of melancholy that makes it Swedish. It’s not Hitchcock, but as this style of movie goes, it’s as good as anything that’s come along in the last decade.

WHY RENT THIS: Well-acted, well-filmed and well-structured – nearly an ideal mystery-thriller.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The story is not really ground-breaking and the ending is not too hard to figure out.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a lot of violence and some grisly images. There’s also a graphic rape, nudity, some sexual material and a bit of bad language (in Swedish but nonetheless).

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Noomi Rapace got her eyebrow and nose pierced for the film. She also learned kickboxing and lost weight. Incidentally, the actress playing her mother in the movie is also her mom in real life.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a Vanger family tree that may prove helpful in keeping up with the plot. There’s also an interesting interview with Rapace in which she discusses how she came aboard.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $104.4M on a $13M production budget; the movie was a blockbuster.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

TOMORROW: The Girl Who Played With Fire

2011 Preview


2010 will in all likelihood not be remembered fondly by studio executives in years to come. While there were several movies that did big business  it was a year full of disappointments.

But there’s always next year, and 2011 looks to be the most eagerly anticipated line-up of movies in recent memory. In addition to the final movie in the Harry Potter franchise, we can expect the first movie in the Twilight finale, a barrage of superhero movies including Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, Thor, The Green Hornet and Captain America: The First Avenger, a spin-off from the Shrek universe and new installments in the Sherlock Holmes, Cars, Transformers, Mission: Impossible, Planet of the Apes, Spy Kids and Paranormal Activity series, just to name a few.

All signs point to a record year at the box office and while there isn’t anything with Avatar-like potential, there are enough movies that have the promise of $300 Million plus box office receipts that studio accountants should have their work cut out for them this year.

Of course, what that means to you and me is more time at the multiplex, more 3D upcharges, more popcorn and soda, and of course, more great movies to review. Many of them will show up on the blog as new releases and as always, those we can’t get to during their theatrical run will show up later when they make it to DVD/Blu-Ray.

It’s been a good year for Cinema365; site hits are at an all-time high and hopefully will continue to grow exponentially. Our Top 5 series has been very successful, and the Six Days of Darkness campaign did very well indeed; both will be back in 2011. We have added box office performance numbers to both our DVD reviews and preview articles; we hope to add additional content that will enhance your enjoyment of our reviews.

In the meantime, we have a preview to get to so just a few words of business before we get started; as always, release dates are extremely subject to change. Plenty of the movies that show up in the preview will wind up coming out on a date other than the one listed here and maybe some may not be released at all. Others may change their titles and come out as something else entirely. The farther out the movie is scheduled for, the more likelihood for change there is. The information we present here is as accurate as we can make it when it was written but I’m sure that within a few days of publication there will already be changes. For more accurate release dates, consult our weekly previews which contain the movies being released nationwide, as well as those that are coming out in limited release here in Orlando. By all means, consult your local theater listings to make sure the movie you’re interested in seeing is playing in your area before heading out to the multiplex. If you’re looking for further information about a movie that grabs your fancy, you can find it at either iMDB or ComingSoon.net; the links to both of those sites are available on the front page of Cinema365.

That’s about it. So buckle your seat belts, grab your popcorn and get ready for what promises to be a great ride. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present 2011 in all its cinematic glory. Enjoy!

JANUARY

 

January is usually the time of holiday holdovers, movies that debuted during the Holiday season and remain in theaters. Most of the movies released during this month are those the studio has little confidence in although occasionally there will be one that connects with the audience. This year, with the schedule full of potential blockbusters all year long, there are a few exceptions, like a masked avenger seeking justice, a man who finds out unpleasant information about his best friend’s wife and an exorcism movie starring Hannibal Lecter…well, the guy who plays him.

January 2011

THE 400 LB. GORILLA

THE GREEN HORNET

RELEASE DATE: January 14, 2011

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Jay Chou, Christoph Walz, Tom Wilkinson, Edward James Olmos, David Harbour, Edward Furlong

STORY: The indolent son of a crusading newspaper publisher takes on the persona of a costumed crime fighter after his father is murdered. Aided by his father’s friend, confidante and employee Kato and many glorious gadgets, Britt Reid will become the Green Hornet.

PROSPECTS: The trailers look like the movie is taking a fairly serious view with a light edge without being an out-and-out comedy. I wouldn’t have thought Rogen to be a first choice for a costumed crime fighter but he seems to work well here.

OBSTACLES: Michel Gondry wouldn’t have been my choice as director nor Rogen my choice as the lead. If it veers too much into comedy, hard core fans of the character will turn their back on the film.

FACTOID: Rogen lost thirty pounds to prepare for the role.

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THE DILEMMA

RELEASE DATE: January 14, 2011

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, Queen Latifah, Channing Tatum

STORY: A man discovers that his best friend and business partner’s wife is cheating on him. He wrestles with the idea of telling him about her infidelity, discovering that his friend is not without his own secrets. Now on the eve of the biggest presentation of their careers, he must decide how, when and even if he is going to reveal the truth.

PROSPECTS: The film received a lot of negative publicity for the use of the word “gay” as a pejorative in its trailer and, as they say, any publicity is good publicity. With Ron Howard in the director’s seat and Vaughn and James in front of the camera, this could be a big hit if it’s any good.

OBSTACLES: There is almost sure to be some backlash from the gay community and if the movie isn’t any good it will end up on a quick trip to the DVD cut-out bin.

FACTOID: This is director Ron Howard’s first comedy since How the Grinch Stole Christmas back in 2000.

THE RITE

RELEASE DATE: January 28, 2011

STUDIO: New Line

STARRING: Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Colin O’Donoghue, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer, Franco Nero

STORY: A skeptical seminary student is assigned to the Vatican’s School of Exorcism and assigned to an unorthodox priest, with whom together they discover a terrifying secret about the dark side of the faith.

PROSPECTS: Hopkins in a horror film is almost certain to bring in the fanboy segment into the theaters.

OBSTACLES: Exorcism movies have not been box office barnburners as of late.

FACTOID: The trailer made its debut at the Scream Awards 2010, introduced by Anthony Hopkins himself.

UNDERDOG

RABBIT HOLE

RELEASE DATE: January 14, 2011

STUDIO: Lionsgate

STARRING: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenney, Patricia Kalember, Sandra Oh, Miles Teller, Mike Doyle

STORY: A happy family is turned upside-down when a tragedy changes their dynamic forever. Caught in a maelstrom of grief, memory, suspicion and rage, they try to escape the storm before it tears them apart.

PROSPECTS: Highly acclaimed out of the Toronto Film Festival, the movie has gotten a huge amount of Oscar buzz and is getting a limited run in December before opening wide in January.

OBSTACLES: These types of dramas rarely get the big box office numbers, although from time to time one breaks out.

FACTOID: The movie is based on a Tony Award-winning play and will be the first movie that Kidman will act in as well as produce.

ALSO IN THEATERS

January 1, 2011

SINBAD THE FIFTH VOYAGE (Giant Flick), opening in limited release only, is a special effects-heavy production putting the Arabian hero on a desperate journey to save the sultan’s spirited daughter. Hey, isn’t that pretty much every Sinbad story?

January 7, 2011

SEASON OF THE WITCH (Relativity) stars Nicolas Cage as a hero of the Crusades tasked to escort a convicted witch to a faraway castle for execution. There’s just one hitch – she actually is a witch. This has been bouncing around the release schedule for more than a year, never a good sign.

January 14, 2011

ONG BAK 3 (Magnet) is the third and final installment in the Thai martial arts series. Tony Jaa returns in an epic confrontation with Demon Crow (played by fellow Thai martial artist Dan Chupong), a supernatural warrior of evil inclinations. Opening in limited release.  

January 21, 2011

In NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Paramount), a pair of friends with benefits find themselves falling for each other despite their agreement to keep things strictly physical. Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman star. THE COMPANY MEN (Weinstein) stars Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper as three men who are downsized from their corporate jobs and must find ways to redefine themselves. While the trailer has looked intriguing, the movie has been rescheduled several times and now has been exiled to the wasteland that is January which doesn’t bode well.

January 28, 2011

 FROM PRADA TO NADA (Pantelion) is Jane Austin’s ”Sense and Sensibility” given a Latina spin. Camilla Belle and Alexa Barger are two spoiled sisters forced to move in with their impoverished aunt in East L.A. after their father passes away, with a resultant fish out of water scenario that is both comic and dramatic. This will be opening in limited release. THE MECHANIC (CBS) is based on a 1972 Charles Bronson film and stars Jason Statham as an assassin who takes on the son of an old friend as an apprentice after his old friend is assassinated by his own company. The two are out for vengeance, but can never know who to trust – including each other.

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. These totals don’t include ancillary merchandising, home video sales or broadcast/cable sales, all of which are sure to push the bottom line beyond profitability. When production budgets aren’t available, I’ll be making a guess based on production values and star power. The first four movies listed are the four main previewed items; I’ve also chosen a selection of other major releases that made the preview issue as well.

THE LOVELY BONES (DreamWorks) Budget: $65 Million. Domestic Gross: $44.0M Total: $93.5M Verdict: Flop.

BOOK OF ELI (Warner Brothers) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $94.8M Total: $157.1M Verdict: Broke Even.

EDGE OF DARKNESS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $43.3M Total: $81.0M Verdict: Flop.

EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES (CBS) Budget: $31M. Domestic Gross: $12.1M Total: $15.1M Verdict: Flop.

LEAP YEAR (Lionsgate) Budget: $19M. Domestic Gross: $25.9M Total: $32.6M Verdict: Lost Money.

THE SPY NEXT DOOR (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $24.3M Total: $43.5M Verdict: Profitable.

LEGION (Screen Gems) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $40.2M Total: $67.9M Verdict: Profitable.

WHEN IN ROME (Touchstone) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $32.7M Total: $43.0 Verdict: Hit.

FEBRUARY

Hollywood likes to keep the Valentine’s Day weekend stocked with date movies but this is really when the 2011 release schedule gets serious with some fairly anticipated movies, including a Justin Bieber concert film, a James Cameron-produced underwater adventure, another stab at a young adult sci-fi franchise and a supernatural action film among those vying for the box office championship.

February 2011

THE 400 LB. GORILLA

SANCTUM

RELEASE DATE: February 4, 2011

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Allison Cratchley, Christopher Baker, John Garvin

STORY: Based on actual events, this James Cameron-produced thriller follows the exploration of the Esa-ala Caves in the South Pacific by one of the most respected explorers in the world who has a contentious relationship with his son. When flash floods block their only exit, they must fight the rising waters and their own panic to find a way out to the sea.

PROSPECTS: Utilizing 3D technology developed for Avatar, the movie also has the magic name of James Cameron to draw in crowds. While the underwater spelunking brings vision of Descent to mind, the trailer looks phenomenal.

OBSTACLES: For one thing, Cameron is producing and not directing. Cave exploration movies have done only marginal business at best and there are no name stars in this one.

FACTOID: Andrew Wight, whose story this movie is partially based upon, is credited with being one of the co-writers of the script.

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DRIVE ANGRY 3D

RELEASE DATE: February 25, 2011

STUDIO: Summit Entertainment

STARRING: Nicolas Cage, William Fichtner, Amber Heard, Billy Burke, Simona Williams, Katy Mixon, David Morse, Pruitt Taylor Vince

STORY: A hardened criminal breaks out of Hell to save his infant granddaughter from the evil cult that murdered his daughter. Accordingly, Hell sends its own private bounty hunter to retrieve the wayward soul. Things are going to get a whole lot of hot before too long!

PROSPECTS: The trailer looks, for lack of a better term, kickass. Director Patrick Lussier is mostly known for reboots of horror classics (My Bloody Valentine) and sequels (Prophecy 3: The Ascent) but he did helm the very underrated White Noise 2.

OBSTACLES: Cage has had a string of missteps in his career with only the lucrative National Treasure series really having any success. Kickass movies may look fine in theory but at the box office they haven’t fared very well lately.

FACTOID: The lead character is named Milton for John Milton, author of “Paradise Lost.”

I AM NUMBER FOUR

RELEASE DATE: February 18, 2011

STUDIO: DreamWorks

STARRING: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Kevin Durand, Callan McAuliffe, Jake Abel, Emily Wickersham

STORY: Three teenagers have been killed by a mysterious, evil force. A fourth is on the run to a quiet Ohio town where he lives with his guardian. Raging hormones trigger the development of powerful abilities, but will these be enough to save him when the killer comes calling?

PROSPECTS: This is based on a popular young adult sci-fi novel. Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg are executive producing, D.J. Caruso (Suburbia) is directing and Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, creators of the “Smallville” TV series, are writing the screenplay.

OBSTACLES: This is the latest in a series of attempts to take a popular young adult novel or series of novels and turn it into a franchise a la Harry Potter and Twilight. Many have tried and all have failed.

FACTOID: Sharlto Copley was originally supposed to play the guardian but had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts.

UNDERDOG

GNOMEO AND JULIET

RELEASE DATE: February 11, 2011

STUDIO: Touchstone

STARRING THE VOICES OF: James MacAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Maggie Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ozzie Osbourne, Julie Walters

STORY: Shakespeare was never anything like this. Warring clans of garden gnomes – the porcelain sort – engage in lawnmower races until one of the blue gnomes falls in love with one of the red gnomes. A tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme.

PROSPECTS: The co-director of Shrek 2 is responsible for this epic madness. It’s just so out there that it might just work. I mean, Patrick Stewart and Ozzie Osbourne in the same cast? Someone had to be on crack.  

OBSTACLES: Unless this is staggeringly good, this might go down as an epic fail. The trailer wasn’t terribly inspiring.

FACTOID: This is the first animated feature to be released by Disney’s Touchstone imprint. Previously, all other animated films had been released by Disney or Pixar.

ALSO IN THEATERS

 

February 4, 2011 

THE ROOMMATE (Screen Gems) stars Leighton Meester as a deranged college freshman who becomes obsessed with her roommate. Single White Female, anyone? WAITING FOR FOREVER (Freestyle) is about a guy content to live without a job, but who can’t live without his girlfriend, a young actress. Rachel Bilson, Blythe Danner and Richard Jenkins star in this limited release.

February 11, 2011

THE EAGLE (Rogue) concerns a young centurion of ancient Rome whose father disappeared with the Ninth Legion in Briton. Years later, the son returns to the British Isles to find out what happened, and takes his slave, a Briton, with him. JUST GO WITH IT (Columbia) stars Adam Sandler as a man who entreats his friend Jennifer Aniston to pose as his ex-wife so that he can woo another woman, in this case Nicole Kidman. Some guys are just lucky that way. JUSTIN BEIBER: NEVER SAY NEVER (Paramount) is a concert film and semi-biographical documentary about the current flavor of the weak in pop music. I’m sure your screaming, crying pre-teen daughter will force you to take her to see this, so if you missed the Hannah Montana or Jonas Brothers phenomena you aren’t off the hook just yet. IN HER SKIN (IFC) is based on a true story about the body of a missing 15-year-old girl found in Australia whose murderer was determined to be her best friend, who had then tried to change her identity. Although listed as a wide release, films for this distributor are generally released on a limited basis so keep that in mind.

February 18, 2011

BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (20th Century Fox) is the third installment in the Martin Lawrence comedy series. Here, he goes undercover in an all-girl performing arts school to find a murderer but this time he’s not alone – his son will be masquerading as a student. UNKNOWN (Warner Brothers) is about a physician who awakens from a coma after a car accident to find that his wife doesn’t know him, another man has assumed his identity and mysterious assassins are after him. Talk about a bad day! However, when the physician is played by Liam Neeson, you know that some serious butt-kicking can’t be far behind.

February 25, 2011

HALL PASS (New Line) is the latest from the Farrelly Brothers (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber). Here, two best friends (Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis) are given a one week free pass from their wives to do anything they want – no recriminations, no questions asked. However, the single life they both so crave has changed quite a bit since they got married. SHELTER (Weinstein) stars Julianne Moore as an expert on multiple-personality disorders who has put several murderers away with her testimony. As she examines a new patient, she begins to realize that he may be much more than human in this supernatural horror thriller.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

SHUTTER ISLAND (Paramount) Budget: $80 Million. Domestic Gross: $128.0M Total: $294.8M Verdict: Hit.

PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF (20th Century Fox) Budget: $95M. Domestic Gross: $88.8M Total: $226.4M Verdict: Profitable.

FROM PARIS WITH LOVE (Lionsgate) Budget: $52M. Domestic Gross: $24.1M Total: $52.8M Verdict: Flop.

COP OUT (PREVIEWED AS A COUPLE OF DICKS) (Warner Brothers) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $44.9M Total: $55.5M Verdict: Flop.

VALENTINE’S DAY (New Line) Budget: $52M. Domestic Gross: $110.5M Total: $213.0M Verdict: Hit.

DEAR JOHN (Screen Gems) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $80.0M Total: $115.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.

THE CRAZIES (Overture) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $39.1M Total: $54.6M Verdict: Hit.

THE WOLFMAN (Universal) Budget: 150M. Domestic Gross: $62.0M Total: $139.8M Verdict: Flop.

MARCH

 

With the summer film schedule becoming more and more crowded, the studios often put movies that might otherwise get lost in the summer binge here; 2010 saw box office gold go to Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans and How to Train Your Dragon. This year there are several movies that hope to achieve that kind of success, including the latest from director Zach Snyder, an alien invasion movie, a couple of off-beat animated features from Paramount and Disney and a re-imagining of a classic fairy tale.

March 2011

THE 400 LB GORILLA

SUCKER PUNCH

RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2011

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Jamie Chung, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn, Oscar Isaac

STORY: A young woman is locked away in an asylum with a terrible fate awaiting her. In a fantasy world of her own imagining, she does battle with monsters, samurais, dirigibles and biplanes as she fights to save herself and her friends.

PROSPECTS: Director Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole) is known for his imaginative vision and it is saying something when I assert that this might be his most fantastic film yet. The trailer looks off the hook and fans have been buzzing about this since footage was first screened at Comic Con last summer.

OBSTACLES: This looks to be a bit eclectic and mainstream audiences don’t always appreciate eclectic. Although Jon Hamm is thought to be an up and coming talent, there are no real names in the cast other than Hudgens who is associated with the High School Musical series more than anything.

FACTOID: This is Snyder’s first movie not based on a different medium (all of his other films are based on graphic novels, children’s books or previously released horror movies).

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RANGO

RELEASE DATE: March 4, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Ray Winstone, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, Alfred Molina

STORY: A chameleon with an identity crisis wanders the Southwest trying to stay out of the jaws of certain death, which isn’t easy.

PROSPECTS: This is Paramount’s first foray into the lucrative animated feature market and they have been marketing this movie big time. Director Gore Verbinski did the first three films in the Pirates of the Caribbean series and was able to nab some big names for his voice cast.

OBSTACLES: While the trailer looked good to a certain extent, it also looked a bit too much like a low-budget Robert Rodriguez film which might turn some would-be viewers off.

FACTOID: This is also the first animated feature for Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects company George Lucas created for the Star Wars films that became the most famous effects house in Hollywood.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES

RELEASE DATE: March 11, 2011

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ne-Yo, Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena, Joey King, Lucas Till

STORY: An alien invasion takes over the cities of the world one by one. Los Angeles is the last human city standing and its survival hinges on the actions of one Marine staff sergeant and his platoon.

PROSPECTS: The trailer looked mighty impressive and alien invasion movies are the Hollywood trend du jour.

OBSTACLES: The poor reception of Skyline might deter some from heading directly to the box office, which means this will likely require a good word of mouth in order to be successful.

FACTOID: The movie was mostly filmed in Louisiana because of tax incentives; streets resembling Los Angeles were built there for the crew to film in.

UNDERDOG

JANE EYRE

RELEASE DATE: March 11, 2011

STUDIO: Focus

STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Holliday Grainger, Judi Dench, Tamzin Merchant, Imogen Poots, Sophie Ward

STORY: Yet another filmed version of the Charlotte Bronte classic, as a young governess flees the employ of the wealthy Edward Rochester, having to come to terms with the horrible secret he hides and that she has uncovered.

PROSPECTS: Director Cary Fukunaga last made the acclaimed Sin Nombre and has produced a very lush-looking version of the novel. This is opening in limited release only.

OBSTACLES: Does the world need yet another remake of the classic novel? And with all the choices out there, will a Victorian morality play make much of a dent in the box office?

FACTOID: This is the eleventh big screen version listed on iMDB of the classic dating back to the silent era, not to mention the countless versions that have appeared in TV movies, mini-series and ongoing series over the years.

ALSO IN THEATERS

March 4, 2011

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (Universal) is based on a Philip K. Dick short story and stars Matt Damon as a Senatorial candidate who falls in love with a dancer and thus runs afoul of those who control individual destiny. This was originally scheduled to be released last fall. APOLLO 18 (Weinstein) is a “found footage” horror film that is taken from the allegedly canceled moon mission and shows that there’s a reason we haven’t been back. TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT (Relativity) is the story of a wild Labor Day party wherein a recent college grad pursues the girl of his dreams and runs smack dab into the responsibilities of being grown up.

March 11, 2011

MARS NEEDS MOMS (Disney) is a motion capture animation from the folks that gave you The Polar Express. Based on the Berkeley Breathed book of the same name, a young nine-year-old who’s tired of being bossed around by his mom finds out how much he really needs her when Martians kidnap her. RED RIDING HOOD (Warner Brothers) is a re-imagining of the classic fairy tale by Twilight director Catherine Hardwick. In it, Amanda Seyfried stars in the title role as a young heroine living in a village that has a werewolf prowling the woods around it, a werewolf that has suddenly, inexplicably begun to attack humans after years of accepting animal sacrifices once a month from the villagers.

March 18, 2011

BEASTLY (CBS) is a re-imagining of the Beauty and the Beast fable, set in modern times with high school kids. Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer star in this release that was previously scheduled for last fall but has found a spot in the March line-up.  LIMITLESS (Relativity) is a sci-fi thriller about a discovery that allows men to use 100% of their brains. When a writer becomes the first person to use the experimental drug, he becomes a target for sinister forces. Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro star. DESERT FLOWER (National Geographic) is the dramatization of the story of Waris Dirie, the author and supermodel who escaped a life of poverty in Somalia to become an outspoken opponent of the practice of Female Genitalia Mutilation. Although listed as a wide release, this might wind up getting a limited release instead. THE LINCOLN LAWYER (Lionsgate) is based on a Michael Connelly novel. It stars Matthew McConaughey as a criminal defense lawyer who operates out of the back seat of a Lincoln Continental. His latest case turns from the opportunity of a lifetime into a deadly game of survival. PAUL (Universal) reunites Shaun of the Dead’s Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as a couple of sci-fi geeks pick up an illegal alien, only this one is from a lot farther away from Mexico. This smart-aleck space traveler leads the two on a merry chase that turns the Hope-Crosby road movies on their ear. Seth Rogen voices the alien being.

March 25, 2011

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 2: RODRICK RULES (20th Century Fox) is the sequel to last year’s hit middle school comedy and is based on the second book of the juvenile illustrated novel series. MIRAL (Weinstein) opens in limited release and is about a defiant orphan in war-torn Jerusalem in 1948 who goes on to become a teacher in refugee camps who must decide between fighting the same battle that has defined that region for decades, or choose a path of using education to bring a lasting peace. THE LION OF JUDAH (Animated Family Films) is an animated feature with a biblical setting, as a group of stable animals attempt to rescue a lamb that is to be sacrificed at an upcoming festival. They see out the King, who was born in the same stable 30 years prior. Expect a number of Sunday school field trips for this one.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Disney) Budget: $200 Million. Domestic Gross: $334.1M Total: $1.0B Verdict: Blockbuster.

CLASH OF THE TITANS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $163.2M Total: $493.2M Verdict: Hit.

GREEN ZONE (Universal) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $35.0M Total: $94.8M Verdict: Flop.

CHLOE (Sony Classics) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $3.1M Total: $10.4M Verdict: Flop.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (DreamWorks) Budget: $165M. Domestic Gross: $217.6M Total: $493.2 Verdict: Hit.

THE BOUNTY HUNTER (Columbia) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $67.1M Total: $136.3 Verdict: Hit.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (MGM) Budget: $36M. Domestic Gross: $50.3M Total: $64.4M Verdict: Flop.

SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE (PREVIEWED AS HARD 10) (Paramount) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $31.6M Total: $48.4M Verdict: Profitable.

APRIL

As the weather begins to warm, the multiplexes also begin to heat up with movies that are out to pave the way for the big summer blockbusters. While last year turned out to be a disappointing box office month mostly dominated by films released in March, this year looks hopeful with the return of a horror franchise, a pair of animated features that look to keep kids happy, a new Disney nature film, a sci-fi flick from the acclaimed director of Moon and the latest in the Madea and Fast and Furious franchises.

April 2011

THE 400 LB. GORILLA

SCREAM 4

RELEASE DATE: April 15, 2011

STUDIO: Dimension

STARRING: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panattiere, Rory Culkin, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Mary McDonnell, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Nico Tortorella

STORY: The gang from the first three films, including writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven, get together for a grand reunion of sorts, with new meat for the grinder as well as old favorites and a whole new set of rules for survival in a horror film.

PROSPECTS: With a nice mixture of horror and comedy, the first three Scream movies were among the most popular of the genre in the 90s. Many of the actors (whose characters survived) the first three movies are back, and there are rumors that if this is successful it will be the first of a new Scream trilogy.

OBSTACLES: It has been eleven years since Scream 3 and fifteen years since the first one. Younger generations might confuse this with the Scary Movie films which were a spoof of the Scream movies and not nearly as good.

FACTOID: Craven decided to make a cameo in the movie, asking his followers on Twitter to come up with an idea as to how to do it.

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RIO

RELEASE DATE: April 8, 2011

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Leslie Mann, will.i.am, George Lopez, Rodrigo Santoro, Carlos Ponce

STORY: A rare blue macaw leaves Minnesota for Brazil to meet with the last female blue macaw. It turns out that the flight-challenged and somewhat timid American and the high-flying fiercely independent Brazilian aren’t exactly the perfect match, but they embark on an adventure that will force them to depend on one another.

PROSPECTS: A new animated feature from the Blue Sky team that gave us the Ice Age series (and yes, there’s another one of those planned for 2012). Think of this as being a (literally) polar opposite in tone.

OBSTACLES: The competition for the family entertainment dollar is getting fierce and I’m not 100% sold that the trailer has given families a reason to see this more than once…or twice.

FACTOID: There are no species of macaws that are completely blue. The closest is the Hyacinth Macaw which are blue all over except under the wing where they are black.

SOURCE CODE

RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2011

STUDIO: Summit

STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Russell Peters, Michael Arden, Susan Bain

STORY: A young soldier is forced to relive a train catastrophe over and over again in order to find out who’s responsible and prevent a much larger disaster from occurring.

PROSPECTS: A very intriguing time travel premise from director Duncan Jones (Moon) that has elements of 12 Monkeys and Timecop. The science fiction community is looking at this project with great interest.

OBSTACLES: Time travel movies are notoriously difficult to make work, and even more difficult to sell. While Jones has gotten critical plaudits for his work on Moon, he has yet to really make a serious box office splash.

FACTOID: Topher Grace was originally considered for the lead role before it went to Gyllenhaal.

UNDERDOG

MEEK’S CUTOFF

RELEASE DATE: April 8, 2011

STUDIO: Oscilloscope Laboratories

STARRING: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson, Paul Dano, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Rod Rondeaux, Neal Huff

STORY: A story of the ill-fated expedition from Fort Laramie to Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1845 led by Stephen Meek.

PROSPECTS: The film has been getting some plaudits on the festival circuit, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, one of the most prestigious festival awards there is.

OBSTACLES: It’s a Western and about a fairly grim set of circumstances to boot.

FACTOID: Director Kelly Reichardt last directed Wendy and Lucy; this is her first Western.

ALSO IN THEATERS

April 1, 2011

HOP (Universal) stars the voice of Russell Brand as the Easter Bunny who is injured by a slacker who then must not only take the injured icon in but perform his duties as well. MOTHER’S DAY (Gigapix) has a trio of not-too-bright criminal brothers who head home to mama’s only to find strangers living in her house, giving a birthday party. Things take a turn for the worse when mother comes home in this horror romp. INSIDIOUS (Film District) is the first release from a new genre studio concerning a young comatose boy whose body becomes a magnet for malevolent entities while his consciousness resides in a mysterious realm.

April 8, 2011

BORN TO BE WILD (Warner Brothers) is a nature documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman that tells the story of caring humans who take orphaned orangutans and elephants and prepares them for life in the wild, training them in much the same way their parents would have. HANNA (Focus) stars Saoirse Ronan as a young girl who has been trained as an assassin by her CIA operative father (Eric Bana) and whose training makes her a target for shadowy agency figures with an agenda of their own. YOUR HIGHNESS (Universal) stars Danny McBride as the ne’er-do-well younger brother of a heroic prince who embarks together on a quest to rescue the fiancé of the heir apparent from an evil wizard. You say Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman are both in this? I’m there! ARTHUR (Warner Brothers) stars Russell Brand in the perfectly-cast title role in this remake of the 1981 hit comedy. Arthur is a rich kid who excels at drinking and womanizing, but little else. When he falls in love with a poor girl, his world is thrown upside down. THE BEAVER (Summit) stars Mel Gibson as a man suffering from depression who learns to get past his affliction through a raggedy beaver puppet who does his talking for him. This is directed by Jodie Foster who also plays his wife.

April 15, 2011

SOUL SURFER (TriStar) is the true story of a teen surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. Far from letting that stop her, she determines to do what it takes to become a surfing champion.

April 22, 2011

AFRICAN CATS (DisneyNature) is the third film from the new nature documentary arm of Disney, this time focusing on lions and tigers and bears…without the bears. And cheetahs instead of tigers. But definitely lions…for sure. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (20th Century Fox) is based on the bestselling novel and concerns a gentle veterinary student working in a circus from a bygone age who becomes attracted to the wife of a charismatic but cruel lion tamer. Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz star. BORN TO BE A STAR (Columbia) is about a small-town Iowa boy who discovers that his parents were porn stars in the ‘70s. His world turned upside down, he decides to head out to Hollywood to find out if his genetic predisposition towards porn star superstardom will pan out. TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY (Lionsgate) is the eleventh Tyler Perry film for Lionsgate, and this one returns the straight-shooting matriarch. Paired opposite her this time is Isiah Mustafa, the guy in the Old Spice commercials. Wanna bet his shirt comes off during the course of the movie?

April 30, 2010

PROM (Disney) is an ensemble piece about the various dramas that intersect and come to a head at the senior prom. I don’t know if it’s just me but this sounds more like a Disney Channel kind of thing to me. FAST FIVE (Universal) returns Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster to the fast car franchise, this time with the crew being chased by Dwayne Johnson, who intends to lay the smack down on the lot of them. WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER? (20th Century Fox) stars Anna Faris as a woman who goes back through all her sexual partners to find out if the right one is among them. This is based on a book by Karyn Bosnak.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

DATE NIGHT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $55 Million. Domestic Gross: $98.7M Total: $152.3M Verdict: Hit.

WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (PREVIEWED AS WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS) (20th Century Fox) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $52.4M Total: $130.6M Verdict: Lost money.

KICK-ASS (Lionsgate) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $48.1M Total: $96.1M Verdict: Hit.

BABIES (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $7.1M Total: $9.5 Verdict: Might have broken even but probably lost money.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (20th Century Fox) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $64.0M Total: $75.7 Verdict: Blockbuster.

THE LOSERS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $23.6M Total: $29.3 Verdict: Flop.

MAC GRUBER (Universal) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $8.5M Total: $9.3M Verdict: Flop.

REPO MEN (Universal) Budget: $32M. Domestic Gross: $13.8M Total: $18.4M Verdict: Flop.

SUMMER

This is the season that most film fans look forward to with anticipation and a little bit of drool. While last year was a disappointment in terms of overall box office appeal as well as the quality of the films that were released, there were some gems that managed to make their way into the multiplexes. This year looks to be the opposite; director Jon Favreau compared it to the invasion of Normandy with wave after wave of highly anticipated movies hitting theaters on a weekly basis. There is going to be some carnage as weaker films will die by the wayside, but it looks very likely that we’ll see record box office numbers this summer. We’ll be presenting a full preview of the summer movie season in April, but here’s a sneak peak at what’s coming now.

Summer 2011

THE 400 LB. GORILLA

GREEN LANTERN

RELEASE DATE: June 17, 2011

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Temuera Morrison, Jay O. Sanders, Jon Tenney

STORY: A cocky and irresponsible test pilot receives a device of incredible power from a dying alien and determines to use that power for good.

PROSPECTS: One of the most anticipated movies of 2011 is getting some pretty solid buzz at this point. It is quite likely to be one of the box office bonanzas this summer.

OBSTACLES: The Green Lantern’s power ring manifests whatever the wearer is thinking; the comic book used gigantic fists and hammers to do battle, something which may look hokey on the big screen, plus he would be considered one of DC’s second-tier heroes behind Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

FACTOID: Rather than wearing a latex suit, the Green Lantern corpsmen will wear motion capture suits onto which computer generated images will be imposed, making the suit (theoretically) look more realistic.

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TRANSFORMERS: THE DARK OF THE MOON

RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount/DreamWorks

STARRING: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Frances McDormand, Ken Jeong, Alan Tudyk, Patrick Dempsey, John Turturro

STORY: The Space Race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. hid an enormous secret that the presence of new Transformers will threaten. In the meantime, Sam Witwicky takes his first tentative steps into self-reliance while remaining a reluctant human ally of Optimus Prime. 

PROSPECTS: The first two movies have made north of $1.5 billion. The creative team of director Michael Bay, producer Steven Spielberg and star Shia LaBeouf remain intact.

OBSTACLES: The second film was universally panned and another subpar film might alienate the core audience. In addition, Megan Fox is not on board for the third movie which might give some of her fans reason to stay away.

FACTOID: The concept of American astronauts being connected to the initial discovery of the Transformers as is depicted in the trailer was first put out in the prequel novel “Ghosts of Yesterday.”

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2

RELEASE DATE: July 15, 2011

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, David Thewlis, Julie Walters

STORY: The final battle between good and evil is upon us as the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix’s battle has escalated into all-out war. Nobody is safe and in order to preserve the wizarding world, Harry may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice.

PROSPECTS: This is the last of the lucrative series and by all indications it means to go out with a bang. Certainly all those who grew up with the boy wizard will be in line to say their final farewells.

OBSTACLES: The first part was almost an endurance test and was so grim that it may have put off some of the more casual fans from seeing the finale.

FACTOID: A fire set by explosive devices used during a battle scene on a Hogwart’s set did some minor damage to the set. No actors, crew or stunt persons were injured during the mishap.

COWBOYS AND ALIENS

RELEASE DATE: July 29, 2011

STUDIO: DreamWorks

STARRING: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, Noah Ringer, Keith Carradine, Clancy Brown, Abigail Spencer

STORY: A town in the Arizona Territory, an amoral cattle baron, Apache warriors and a mysterious stranger with an unusual shackle on his wrist and no memory of how he got there must unite to battle an implacable foe from the stars.

PROSPECTS: Director Jon Favreau is a fan favorite at the moment. The reaction to the initial trailer for the movie has been extremely positive.

OBSTACLES: First of all, it’s a western science fiction mash-up – and neither westerns nor mash-ups have done particularly well at the box office. The title of the movie made some audience members titter when the trailer screened.

FACTOID: The movie is based on the Platinum Studios comic by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.

THOR

RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgaard, Kate Demmings, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Colm Feore

STORY: The arrogant Norse god Thor, the God of Thunder, is cast out from Asgard for reigniting an ancient war. For his crimes, his father Odin banishes him to Earth, stripped of his powers. However, when the war spills over to Earth, Thor must take up his mantle as a warrior-God once again in order to save both heaven and earth.

PROSPECTS: The first new Marvel hero to get his own movie since Iron Man (not counting Wolverine who had previously appeared in the X-Men movies) and quite frankly, the trailer looks good.

OBSTACLES: While Thor is one of Marvel’s longtime heroes, he has never been one of their major players. While Hemsworth was awesome in Star Trek, he hasn’t shown the ability to carry a major tentpole franchise as of yet.

FACTOID: The movie was teased in an Easter egg post-credit scene at the end of Iron Man 2.

UNDERDOG

SUPER 8

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso

STORY: Not much is known about this project but it supposedly involves “found footage,” a train wreck and an alien.

PROSPECTS: The last time J.J. Abrams did a found footage movie, the plot of which was kept tightly under wraps, the results were Cloverfield which made a ton of money.

OBSTACLES: This has far more competition than Cloverfield did and there are quite a few found footage movies on the horizon.

FACTOID: The teaser trailer for the movie debuted with Iron Man 2 last year, even though it had been greenlit literally a few weeks earlier.

ALSO IN THEATERS

 PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (Disney) returns Captain Jack Sparrow, this time on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth before Blackbeard does, while a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz) complicates matters. Johnny Depp returns as the good captain (May 20). In BRIDESMAID (Universal), two women battle to plan their friend’s wedding party. Kristen Wiig stars (May 13).  PRIEST (Screen Gems) is a comic book adaptation about a warrior priest who goes against the church to track down a gang of vampires that has kidnapped his sister in an alternate world where men and vampires have been at war for centuries (May 13). THE HANGOVER PART II (Warner Brothers) reunites the gang from the first movie, this time on an expedition to Bangkok. Don’t laugh (May 26). KUNG FU PANDA 2 (DreamWorks) is the sequel to the smash animated hit with Jack Black reprising his role as the title character. This time, a new villain surfaces with a weapon that threatens the serenity of China and its noodles. Oh, the horror (May 27)! SOMETHING BORROWED (Warner Brothers) is a comedy about best friends, one of whom sleeps with her best friend’s fiancé after having had too much to drink, leading to a comic romp of misunderstanding, secrets between friends and of course sex (May 6). BEGINNERS (Focus) stars Ewan McGregor as a man who discovers his terminally ill father is actually gay and has a much younger lover (June 3). X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (20th Century Fox) is a prequel to the Marvel mutant superhero series, this time directed by Matthew (Kick-Ass) Vaughn. It depicts the initial friendship and eventual falling out between Magneto and Professor X  (June 3).  BAD TEACHER (Columbia) centers on a foul-mouthed, irreverent and bitter middle school teacher from director Jake (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) Kasdan (June 17). CAESAR: RISE OF THE APES (20th Century Fox) is a prequel to the Tim Burton reboot of the classic sci-fi series and if that doesn’t confuse you, I don’t know what will (June 24). CARS 2 (Disney/Pixar) brings back Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, this time getting caught up in an international spy ring with a suave British agent some may recognize watching their backs…err, fenders (June 24). LARRY CROWNE (Universal) features Tom Hanks as a middle aged man who returns to college after being downsized, and discovers a whole new outlook on life as well as a new love, in the form of Julia Roberts (July 1). MONTE CARLO (20th Century Fox) stars a trio of Disney Channel-esque girls who go on a vacation to Paris where one is mistaken for an heiress and winds up getting the three of them a dream vacation to Monte Carlo. They just don’t make ‘em like Princess Grace anymore (July 1). ONE FOR THE MONEY (Lionsgate) stars Katherine Heigl as a divorced, broke, unemployed and desperate woman who joins her slimy cousin’s bail bondsman company and gets involved in a big case of murder, deceit and romance (July 8). ZOOKEEPER (Columbia) is about a group of caged animals who give Kevin James romantic advice. That’s about who Kevin James would normally get that kind of advice from anyway (July 8). THE SITTER (20th Century Fox) headlines Jonah Hill as a slacker who is coerced into watching the kids next door, turning his otherwise boring night into one to remember. Adventures in Babysitting anyone? I thought so (July 15). WINNIE THE POOH (Disney) brings back the silly ol’ bear and his beloved friends in the 100 Acre Wood back for some all-new adventures (July 15). CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (Paramount) stars Chris Evans as the star-spangled superhero who erupts from World War II into modern times; this movie sets up the much anticipated Avengers movie for next summer (July 22). FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (Screen Gems) boasts Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake as a couple who decide to keep things strictly physical which as we all know in Hollywood never works (July 22). In CRAZY STUPID LOVE (Warner Brothers), Steve Carell’s wife cheats on him and then asks for a divorce, turning his comfortable suburban live into chaos. Simply unprepared for the modern dating scene, he is taken under the wing of a playa friend (Ryan Gosling) who shows him the joys – and pitfalls – of modern love (July 29). THE SMURFS (Columbia) is a live-action and animated mix that brings back the beloved animated characters of the 80s and plops them down in 21st century Manhattan (August 3).  In THE CHANGE-UP (Universal) an irresponsible man-child (Ryan Reynolds) changes bodies with a family man (Jason Bateman) and much hilarity ensues (August 5). THE DARKEST HOUR (Summit) is when five young people find themselves stranded in Moscow after an alien attack. Those who think this is a documentary about the Republican win in the mid-term elections, that’s the second-darkest hour (August 5). 30 MINUTES OR LESS (Columbia) is about a pizza delivery guy and a junior high history teacher who are forced to rob a bank when one of them is strapped to a bomb vest. Incidentally, this is a comedy (August 12). In THE HELP (Disney) Emma Stone turns a small Mississippi town in the 1960s upside down when she decides to interview the servants of prominent white families for a book she’s writing . Incidentally, this is a drama (August 12). MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (20th Century Fox) is based on the Newberry Award-winning children’s book in which the title character becomes obsessed with penguins, until he finally gets his own troupe which cause mayhem and chaos, much like star Jim Carrey does (August 12). CONAN THE BARBARIAN (Lionsgate) resurrects the fantasy franchise, with Jason Momoa taking the title role. This version is said to be more faithful to the Robert E. Howard books than was the Schwarzenegger version (August 19). FRIGHT NIGHT (DreamWorks) is a remake of the 1985 horror flick in which a young boy suspects that the new neighbor across the street is a vampire and, along with a very timid horror movie show host, goes out to save his town – and his mom – from the embrace of the non-sparkling bloodsucker (August 19). SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD (Dimension) is a new installment in the Robert Rodriguez kid spy series, this one with a mostly new cast including Jessica Alba and Jeremy Piven, although Antonio Banderas makes an appearance (August 19). FINAL DESTINATION 5 (New Line) marks the fifth installment in the series of Rube Goldberg-designed deaths. It is what it is, folks (August 26). THE WHISTLEBLOWER (Goldwyn) stars Rachel Weisz in the true story of a Nebraska cop who goes to Bosnia as part of a UN peacekeeping team and ultimately exposes a sex-trafficking ring that has been covered up by the United Nations itself (August TBA).

FALL

This part of the schedule is the most fluid at the moment as Hollywood studio heads jockey for position, putting out movies that are legitimate contenders for Oscars as well as a few more blockbusters for the holidays. 2010 had its share of winners and losers and the jury is still out for the most part. As with the summer, we will be presenting a full Fall/Holiday film preview in August that will be somewhat more detailed and much more accurate in terms of scheduling, but this is what Hollywood has penciled in for now.

Fall 2011

THE 400 LB. GORILLA

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN

RELEASE DATE: December 23, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Cary Elwes, Tony Curran

STORY: The beloved comic book character by the French author Herge gets a motion capture animated treatment. Tintin, an intrepid reporter, goes on the trail of a mythical beach and comes up against the nefarious Red Rackham as a cornucopia of unusual characters assist or oppose our young hero.

PROSPECTS: Steven Spielberg is directing this, and although he hasn’t had a megahit for awhile, his name will at least guarantee a certain amount of curiosity. Early looks at the movie have been astonishing.

OBSTACLES: The Tintin stories are far more popular overseas than they are in North America, and younger audiences may not be familiar with the character. Plus motion capture in general hasn’t fared well at the box office.

FACTOID: Steven Moffat, who penned the first draft of the script, later went on to become the Executive Producer of the BBC “Doctor Who” series.

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SHERLOCK HOLMES 2

RELEASE DATE: December 16, 2011

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Eddie Marsan, Stephen Fry, Gilles Lellouche, Kelly Reilly, Geraldine James

STORY: The world’s most brilliant detective takes on his arch-nemesis, criminal genius Professor Moriarty. Holmes is aided by his trusted right hand man Dr. Watson and his genius of a brother Mycroft.  

PROSPECTS: The first movie made over half a billion dollars worldwide and re-imagined the great detective as an action hero. The funky and somewhat irreverent attitude of the first movie helped earn it box office gold, and with Downey still bringing in big audiences, there’s no reason to believe the second one won’t either.

OBSTACLES: Holmes purists bemoaned the first movie’s liberties, and may not be back to support the second.

FACTOID: Downey and Harris both worked together on Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN PART 1

RELEASE DATE: November 18, 2011

STUDIO: Summit

STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Jackson Rathbone

STORY: The fourth and final book in the Stephenie Meyer series is split into two parts (the second arriving in 2012) as Bella’s romantic triangle moves to a resolution and the world of the vampires, werewolves and Forks, Washington become forever changed.

PROSPECTS: The fanbase for this series is rabid and loyal; they have made the first three movies of the series blockbusters. With the series coming to a close, I don’t imagine they will be any less rabid or loyal.

OBSTACLES: The movies have had considerable backlash from non-fans and critics and generally make nearly all their box office in the first couple of weekends; with fiercer competition, the box office might suffer.

FACTOID: Sofia Coppola was reportedly very interested in directing, but balked at doing two movies consecutively.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2011

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgaard, Robin Wright, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Joely Richardson, Steven Berkoff

STORY: The long-unsolved disappearance of an heiress is investigated by a disgraced journalist and a young computer hacker. Along the way they stir up a hornet’s nest of intrigue, corruption and cover-up. This is the remake of the first book in the Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, which was made into a very successful film in its native Sweden as well.

PROSPECTS: The Swedish films of all three books in the trilogy did spectacular business in Europe and decent numbers here in limited release. Director David Fincher has a long resume full of offbeat, disturbing thrillers as this one is.  

OBSTACLES: Those who loved the first movies may be a little put off at the “Hollywood-izing” of the trilogy. There are already grumblings that original star Noomi Rapace is irreplaceable in the movie. 

FACTOID: Daniel Craig originally declined the role due to scheduling conflicts with the next Bond film. When MGM’s financial difficulties caused filming on it to be delayed, he was able to accept the role. 

UNDERDOG 

IMMORTALS

RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2011

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Mickey Rourke, Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, John Hurt, Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz, Isabel Lucas, Stephen McHattie

STORY: The power-mad King Hyperion seeks an ancient weapon that will unleash the Titans that could threaten both the Gods and mankind. The peasant Theseus is all that stands between the world and total annihilation.

PROSPECTS: Clash of the Titans did astounding box office and may well signal a renewed interest in Greek mythology at the box office. Director Tarsem Singh is a highly visual director well-suited to this kind of thing.

OBSTACLES: Singh has yet to make a hit movie. The fact that Immortals is being released in 3D will raise questions about the process and bring up memories of the notoriously bad 3D that Clash of the Titans employed.

FACTOID: This is the first movie based on a DC Comic book character to be made at a studio other than Warner Brothers.

ALSO IN THEATERS

 

COLUMBIANA (Columbia) is the latest action flick from French producer Luc Besson, this one set in Columbia as the daughter of murdered parents who is raised as an assassin to work for her uncle, while investigating her parents’ murder in her off time (September 2). THE APPARITION (Warner Brothers) is about a couple who discover that they are the targets of supernatural forced feeding on their fears stemming from a parapsychological experiment in college (September 9). JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN (Universal) returns Rowan Atkinson as the suave but bumbling spy (September 16). WARRIOR (Lionsgate) is a mixed martial arts saga about two brothers on a collision to fight in the finals of a brutal tournament (September 9). PIRANHA 3DD (Dimension) is the sequel to the surprise hit remake from last fall (September 16). DRIVE (Film District) stars Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for the criminal underworld (September 16). STRAW DOGS (Screen Gems) is Rod Lurie’s remake of the Sam Peckinpah domestic violence film from 1971 (September 16). ABDUCTION (Lionsgate) is about a teenager who discovers that the parents who raised him aren’t his biological parents – and his real parents didn’t give him up willingly (September 23). MONEYBALL (Columbia) is the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane who assembled a competitive club on a shoestring budget using a computer program to draft players. Brad Pitt stars in a movie that could well be 2011’s The Social Network (September 23). ANONYMOUS (Columbia) opines that the plays of William Shakespeare were actually written by somebody else. This is directed by Roland Emmerich who usually does big budget action/disaster thingies so this is something new (September 30). COURAGEOUS (TriStar) is about four police officers who must deal with a tragedy at home which, judging from the studio synopsis, has to do with their children (September 30). DREAM HOUSE (Universal) stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz as a couple who move into a suburban house that may or may not be haunted (September 30). NOW (20th Century Fox) is a sci-fi thriller starring Justin Timberlake in a world where the aging process stops at 25, but in order to survive you must literally buy time (September 30). DOLPHIN TALE (Warner Brothers) is the remarkable true story about a dolphin named Winter and the people who banded together to save her (September 16). REAL STEEL (DreamWorks) stars Hugh Jackman as the manager of a fighter – in a future world where robots do battle (October 7). WANDERLUST (Universal) is about a spoiled upper middle-class couple who lose everything and take refuge in a commune (October 7). FOOTLOOSE (Paramount) is a remake of the 1984 film that made Kevin Bacon a star, with all-new tunes complimenting some of the songs from the original movie (October 14). THE THING (Universal) is a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter version of the movie, showing us what happened to the Swedish research base that is only alluded to in the original movie (October 14). THE THREE MUSKETEERS 3D (Summit) is a new version of the tale filmed entirely in 3D by director Paul W.S. Anderson; his musketeers are Ray Stevenson, Matthew Madfadyen, Luke Evans and Logan Lerman, although the supporting cast of Christolph Waltz, Milla Jovovich, Orlando Bloom, Mads Mikkelsen and Til Schweiger are far more impressive (October 14). CONTAGION (Warner Brothers) is like Outbreak on steroids – a deadly airborne pathogen that kills within days throws the world into a panic as authorities race to find a cure while struggling to maintain order as society breaks down (October 21). PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (Paramount) is the third installment of the very profitable Halloween series of found footage of suburban hauntings (October 21). DIBBUK BOX (Lionsgate) concerns a wooden box bought on eBay from a holocaust survivor that has hidden within it a terrible curse (October 28). PUSS IN BOOTS (DreamWorks) is a spin-off from the Shrek series and stars the voice of Antonio Banderas as the cavalier kitty (November 4). TOWER HEIST (Universal) stars Ben Stiller as the overworked manager of an exclusive high-rise residence who plots with members of his staff to steal back money they were defrauded from by a Bernie Madoff-type financier who swindled it from them (November 4). JACK AND JILL (Columbia) stars Adam Sandler in a comedy about…well, we’re not quite sure yet (November 11). HAPPY FEET 2 (Warner Brothers) is the sequel to the 2006 animated feature about dancing, singing penguins (November 18). ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (Columbia) is the newest animated feature from Aardman Studios, the British group that made their name with the Wallace and Gromit series. This one concerns the son of Santa Claus; a teaser trailer for this is already out (November 23). THE MUPPETS (Disney) is a star-studded affair as a telethon is put together in a desperate attempt to save the Muppets Studio (November 23). PROJECT X (Warner Brothers) is an ensemble comedy about a group of teenagers documenting a house party that goes terribly wrong (November 23). HUGO CABRET (Columbia) is Martin Scorsese’s first foray into juvenile fantasy as a young boy living in the walls of a Paris train station encounters unique, strange characters and embarks on a mysterious, magical adventure (December 9). NEW YEAR’S EVE (New Line) is from the makers of Valentine’s Day and is much along the same lines; an all-star cast copes with the ramifications of the holiday in Los Angeles (December 9). ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED (20th Century Fox) is the third installment in the live action-computer generated series that has yet to really captivate me (December 16). MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE GHOST PROTOCOL (Paramount) returns Tom Cruise into the IMF team as he undertakes a mission that just well be his last. Pixar director Brad Bird makes his first foray into live action directing (December 16). WE BOUGHT A ZOO (20th Century Fox) is the charming account based on the true story of a family that buys a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside in order to save 200 exotic animals from destruction. Matt Damon is the star (December 23). WAR HORSE (DreamWorks) is an epic adventure by director Steven Spielberg about a horse and its master during the First World War (December 23). 

MOVIES CURRENTLY WITHOUT RELEASE DATES BUT LIKELY TO OPEN

HORRIBLE BOSSES (New Line) is a comedy with an all-star cast about three working stiffs who concoct a clever and convoluted plan to rid themselves of their nemeses – their overbearing bosses – once and for all. GATCHAMAN (Warner Brothers) is an animated feature based on a Japanese anime TV series that is wildly popular worldwide. Although this has already come out in Japan, it is awaiting an American release date. HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (Magnet) is the second movie to be based on a trailer that aired with the 2007 movie Grindhouse. JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (New Line) is the sequel to the 2008 hit 3D movie although it only returns Josh Hutcherson from that cast. This time, Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine are among those who take a voyage to another place that was thought to be an invention of Jules Verne’s fertile imagination. DOROTHY OF OZ (Summertime Entertainment) is the first of several planned Oz-related movies to come out, this one an animated feature with an all-star vocal cast including Martin Short, Oliver Platt, Kristin Chenoweth, Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi. THE TROLL HUNTERS (Magnet) is a Norwegian movie that got tremendous acclaim on the festival circuit, about a group of students who set out to document the existence of trolls and wind up with much more than they bargained for. ONE DAY (Focus) chronicles the relationship between two friends (Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess) by checking in on them every July 15th – the anniversary of the day they met. RESTLESS (Columbia) is the latest from director Gus van Sant and concerns a couple of misfits who meet, fall in love and take on a world that is not particularly forgiving of misfits. RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT (Paramount) stars Jim Carrey as Robert Ripley, a man who travels the world in search of oddities and winds up finding the human being in all of us.

All I can say is wow! This might well be the most promising slate of movies for a single year in a very long time. The moviegoing public is going to have a lot of hard choices to make – or else will be going out and spending a whole lot more money than they ever have before, a scenario that I’m sure the studio heads would be more than happy with. Even so, things are already gearing up for another big year in 2012, when the latest installments in the Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and Men in Black series are scheduled to be released, as well as the much-anticipated Avengers not to mention the finale in the Twilight saga. Also, don’t forget the return of Peter Jackson to Middle Earth in The Hobbit. Hopefully this preview can help you make your plans for 2011; I know I have. See you in the multiplex!