Embers


Lonely amidst the rubble.

Lonely amidst the rubble.

(2015) Science Fiction (Papaya) Jason Ritter, Iva Gocheva, Greta Fernández, Tucker Smallwood, Karl Glusman, Roberto Cots, Dominique Swain, Matthew Goulish, Silvan Friedman, Derrick Aguis, Brandon Bowens, Ryan Czerwonko, Nathaniel Andrew, Kirsten Kairos, Arianna Messner, Janice Culver. Directed by Claire Carré

Florida Film Festival 2016

It is said that we are really only the sum total of our memories, and there is some validity to that. But what happens when we take memory away? Are we still the same people we were with them?

In the not too distant future, a neurological epidemic has damaged the hippocampus of most human brains, leaving the survivors unable to form new memories. Everyone is forced to live in the present other than the privileged few like Miranda (Fernández) and her father (Cots) who live in a high-tech bunker with no other human contact.

Everyone else survives in a gutted wasteland, the crumbling ruins of a society no longer equipped to maintain itself. Wandering through are a girl (Gocheva) and a guy (Ritter) who are in love, but wake up every morning not knowing who the other one is, forced to fall in love all over again. There’s also a teacher (Smallwood) who is trying to find a cure, using logic and memory aids to help him remember what he is trying to do – and what he needs to do to survive. There’s also an angry, destructive teen (Glusman) who brings chaos wherever he goes. Finally there is a young boy (Friedman) who is trying to find someone to bond with, although he isn’t all that sure why.

For first time director Carré, this might have been a daunting prospect but she wisely tackled it in phases. I can’t say that it results in a cohesive whole – some of the stories simply do not mix with the others – but the results are impressive nonetheless. In fact, most of the characters don’t interact with others for the most part and the stories remain separate, rather than an anthology in which all of the threads end up coming together. Rather here, the threads are unraveling. Good science fiction isn’t necessarily about the technology (although the bunker sequences show some off nicely) but more about exploring who we are as individuals or a society. Our connections with other humans are largely based on memory; take that away and the anarchy depicted here is almost certain to result.

There is a tone here that can be likened to a malaise, although there are moments of action (particularly when Chaos is around) and conflict (between father and daughter). There is also some heartrending emotional sequences and even occasional bits of humor. Cinematographer Todd Antonio Somodevilla utilizes a lot of blues and grays in his palate, giving the film a feeling of further decay.  It also serves to make the mood a little more depressing and it is already not the most uplifting of films, if that’s what you’re looking for.

The performances here are tight and contained with a cast that is largely unknown (other than Ritter, who bears a resemblance to Ethan Hawke here, even more than to his own famous father). In this situation, even the adults become child-like, exploring the world for the first time. Carré elicits a good deal of pathos, but while there are moments of humor, there aren’t enough of them to give the movie the variety of tone it desperately needs.

This is more a movie for intellectual stimulation than emotional, which isn’t in itself a bad thing but sometimes the viewer needs a little of both. In some ways, the movie is terrifying – I can’t imagine anything worse than losing my memories and in the process, losing my self – and in some ways, it really does ask us to define who we are without the marker posts of our memory. I can’t complain about that to be fair – I do like to be challenged at the movies from time to time, and this movie certainly does that. All in all, this is a terrific debut from a promising talent.

REASONS TO GO: Fascinating concept. Excellent set design.
REASONS TO STAY: Far from uplifting.
FAMILY VALUES: Some sexuality, rape, violence and brief nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: While the events of the film theoretically occur in the same place, the movie was shot in three separate locations – Gary, Indiana, Lodz, Poland and upstate New York – in three separate sections, which were then interwoven during editing.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/29/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 71% positive reviews. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Blindness
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT: Newman

Eye in the Sky


The final onscreen performance of Alan Rickman is a good one.

The final onscreen performance of Alan Rickman is a good one.

(2016) Thriller (Bleecker Street) Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Phoebe Fox, Bakhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen, Richard McCabe, Monica Dolan, Kim Engelbrecht, Ebby Weyime, Babou Ceesay, Faisa Hassan, Aisha Takow, Armaan Haggio, Carl Beukes, Bob Chappell, Daniel Fox, Jessica Jones, Michael O’Keefe, Laila Robins, Lex King. Directed by Gavin Hood

Warfare is full of shades of grey. The morality of killing other people for political or economic purposes is shaky to begin with but in modern war, killing can be done with the touch of a button and with a change from armies facing each other in remote places into terrorists in urban places, war can come to the population. Of course, in the 20th century that had already taken place but now there is no place a military strike can’t take place, or at least very few places with the advent of drones.

A multi-national task force is tracking an English radicalized terrorist (King) with ties to Al Habaab in Kenya. In an operations center in Britain, Colonel Katherine Powell (Mirren) is coordinating with her superior, Lt. General Frank Benson (Rickman) as they observe her activities in a house in a terrorist-run part of the city. They have eyes on through the use of drones, piloted by American airman Steve Watts (Paul). On the ground in Kenya they have Jama Farah (Abdi) who is observing the house directly.

At first they think they hit paydirt when their target meets with some high-level terrorist officers, but their satisfaction turns to concern when they discover that a suicide bombing is being planned for and executed out of the house. That changes the color of the mission and frantic calls start going up the chain of command asking for and receiving an authorization to use a Hellfire missile to take out the terrorists. But things get further complicated when a little girl sets up a bread stand outside the terrorist house; the drone controller begins to have doubts and the calls up the ladder take a more urgent tone. Suddenly those who were eager to authorize the mission earlier are passing the buck, while time ticks away. Is the life of a single girl worth the dozens of lives that might be taken if the suicide bombers carry out their mission?

I don’t know that the movie really intends to answer that question; in fact, it can’t really be answered. From a strictly numbers viewpoint the answer is no – the people who might be killed by the suicide bomber are no less innocent and no less important than the life of a little girl. The question really is does knowingly ordering an airstrike that will be likely the death of a little girl more monstrous than allowing a bombing to take place when it could have been prevented. And that’s where the waters become a little bit murkier because we get into political territory then.

But that’s as may be. As a movie, Eye in the Sky does a credible job of keeping the tension high, although there are times when I thought they were being overly redundant in explaining that when you bring politicians into a military matter, things tend to get worse rather than better for while a soldier is more interested in accomplishing their particular mission, a politician is more concerned about covering their own derrieres.

And in conveying that message, Hood inserted some prestigious performers in key roles. Mirren is as gifted an actress as there is in the business, and her hawkish, shrill colonel is as stiff as a ramrod, as pitiless as a predator and as patient as a boiling teakettle. Colonel Powell is in many ways the epitome of a military mind, very centered and focused on completing the task at hand. Powell in and of herself is basically not very likable, but Mirren makes her human, a deceptively difficult job.

The late Alan Rickman, who passed away this past January and who will be much missed by this critic, never disappointed during his career and went out on a high note. In all honesty his General Benson is the epitome of a liaison, trying to balance the needs of the soldier with the needs of the politicians and having to stand on one leg while holding an umbrella over his back with a teacup balanced on the tip of his nose. Rickman gives the part some humanity as the one character who truly sees both sides of the argument.

Paul, who won three Emmys for Breaking Bad hasn’t really had a role in the movies that has utilized him as well as this one did. He is an airman with a conscience, one who doesn’t blindly follow orders but questions them when the orders appear to be morally ambiguous. In many ways, he had the most complicated role of the three main leads, but he shows that his award-winning performances were no fluke.

Is this manipulative? You bet it is. There is nothing more innocent than a little girl who is trying to help her family by selling the bread her mama baked to her neighbors going to market. That makes the moral issue a bit more focused, but it is a bit lazy – I don’t doubt that those in command of executing drone strikes find any civilian casualties wrenching, whether the victims are cute little girls or old alcoholic men. Taking the life of a non-combatant is not an easy thing for the military, as Rickman so eloquently expresses near the end of the film: “Don’t dare to presume that a military man doesn’t understand the cost of war.”

This is a movie that, if you’ll forgive an unintended pun, flew under the radar. However it is a crackerjack of a movie that should be sought out on VOD or in the near future, on home video. The performances here are scintillating and the questions raised timely and difficult. In many ways this is not only a thinking person’s war film, but a suspense film of the highest order.

Hood is not really trying to send a political message, or at least I don’t think he is. He is simply presenting the world as it is; that when killing comes down to the touch of a button, the morality of it becomes far murkier. And that’s a very powerful subject matter indeed.

REASONS TO GO: Edge of the seat suspense. Tremendous performances by most of the leads. Grapples with the morality of modern warfare.
REASONS TO STAY: Is guilty of being manipulative. Drags in places.
FAMILY VALUES: Violent images, adult themes and rough language, as well as children in peril.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Rickman’s final on-screen appearance; he also lends his voice to Alice through the Looking Glass.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/28/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 95% positive reviews. Metacritic: 73/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Good Kill
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT: Embers

The Spiderwick Chronicles


Who says kids don't listen?

Who says kids don’t listen?

(2008) Fantasy (Paramount) Freddie Highmore, Sarah Bolger, Mary-Louise Parker, David Strathairn, Nick Nolte, Joan Plowright, Martin Short (voice), Seth Rogan (voice), Andrew McCarthy, Jordy Benattar, Tod Fennell, Mariah Inger, Jeremy Lavalley, Lise Durocher-Viens, Ron Perlman (voice), Tyler Patrick Jones, Kyle Switzer, Stefanie Broos. Directed by Mark Waters

Young adult fantasy novels have fared poorly when given the cinematic treatment by various Hollywood entities, some worse than others. While studios are obviously eager to find the next Harry Potter or the next Katniss Everdeen, sometimes in an effort to make a franchise they overlook the simple solution of telling a good story well.

The Grace family has taken their share of blows lately. Mother Helen (Parker) has packed up and moved from New York City into “the middle of nowhere” to a decrepit estate she has inherited from her Aunt Lucinda (Plowright), who has been taken to a sanitarium after a suicide attempt. Her children are handling their situation differently. Mallory (Bolger), the oldest, clearly is behind her mother. She’s obsessed with fencing (the kind with swords, not pickets) and carries her sword with her nearly everywhere she goes. Younger brother Simon (Highmore) has become decidedly non-confrontational (perhaps in response to conflicts between his parents) and instead focuses on his love for animals.

It is Simon’s twin Jared (Highmore again) who is having the toughest time. Already burdened with anger control issues, he feels betrayed by his mother and is anxious to live with his father (McCarthy) instead. He lashes out at his siblings and mother, who tries very hard to be understanding but is obviously close to cracking herself.

It all starts with Jared hearing noises in the wall, banging on them with a broom. Eventually, Mallory accidentally uncovers a dumbwaiter, hidden in the walls behind plaster. In the dumbwaiter are trinkets, including some small items that have disappeared, such as Mallory’s fencing medals and Helen’s car keys, as well as a curious looking key with an old-fashioned letter “S” fashioned into it. Jared is blamed for this (it seems he is usually blamed for any mischief that occurs) and decides to see what is at the other end of the dumbwaiter.

He discovers the dusty old laboratory of his great grand-uncle Arthur Spiderwick (Strathairn), who disappeared years ago. Using the strange key to open up a trunk he finds in the room, he finds a hard-bound book that has been sealed with wax accompanied by a note warning the finder not to read the book upon peril of their lives. Of course, that only whets the boy’s curiosity and of course like any idiot Hollywood boy he opens it up and reads it.

What he finds is Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, with copious notes about magical creatures – fairies, trolls, goblins, griffons and ogres, to name a few – as well as means of performing all manners of magic. Unfortunately, the opening of the book has set into motion events that put the lives of the Grace family, as well as all the magical creatures in the book, in mortal danger. Young Jared will have to summon all the courage he can find to survive the perils of the Fantastical World.

A surprisingly solid cast for what is intended to be the first of series of movies which, I’m sure, Paramount was hoping to be successful along the lines of the Harry Potter novels. Children’s fantasy movies, however, have fared less than stellar other than the Potter and Narnia books – see The Golden Compass, The Last Mimzy and Eragon if you haven’t already.

Getting Highmore is a good first step. He’s done exceedingly well in such movies as Finding Neverland and August Rush. This isn’t, sadly, one of his better performances – I think it was a bit much to ask him to take two differing roles. He does OK with Jared, but Simon becomes washed-out and forgettable. The producers would have been better served to get another young actor to take the Simon role. Bolger is decent enough as the sister and Parker does some good work as the much put-upon mother.

Plowright nearly steals the movie as Aunt Lucinda; she is simply so much better than the rest of the cast. Strathairn is one of my favorite actors, but he doesn’t have a whole lot to do here. Even so, he makes the role of Arthur Spiderwick living and breathing.

As for the voice actors, Martin Short is decent as the brownie Thimbletack, but it is Rogan who is so much more entertaining as the easily distracted hobgoblin Hogsqueal. Nolte gets brief on-screen time as the shape-shifting Mulgarath but it is mostly his rumbling voice that we hear throughout.

As solid as the cast is, the talent behind the camera is impressive as well. Producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall have, among others, E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark to their credits. Legendary cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (father of Zooey and Emily) is responsible for the creepy atmosphere and gorgeous vistas. Oscar-winning composer James Horner has supplied some memorable theme music over the years, although his score doesn’t really hold up as well in this instance. Some Jim Dandy special effects here, mostly from ILM and Tippett Studios (Phil Tippett himself worked for ILM back in the Star Wars days). That’s a good thing, since the movie relies heavily on special effects.

The supporting performances are certainly worth noting. Some of the special effects are magnificent, although not groundbreaking. The creatures (particularly Hogsqueal) are all given a certain amount of individuality and come off realistically and holistically. The story is a little different from most children’s fantasies going on at the moment, although for God’s sake can’t the kids in these stories have two actual parents present? Ye Gods!

The kid actors can be kinda grating. Jared is not an easy character to like and at times, you wonder if everyone involved wouldn’t be much happier if Mulgarath would only eat him.  Occasionally, the effects work actually overwhelms the action. There are some instances in which the children are being chased by various nasty varmints and quite frankly, couldn’t possibly get away given the speed of the creatures and the distance behind the kids they are. After the third instance of this, you really begin to notice it.

It is very enjoyable for the whole family (except as delineated above). Sometimes, kid’s fantasy movies seem a bit too sanitized; this is most assuredly not that. The peril seems real and life-threatening, and while the effects aren’t eye-popping, they nevertheless are enjoyable. Think of Grimm’s Fairy Tales in a modern setting with all the viscera intact and you won’t be far from the mark here.

WHY RENT THIS: Impressive cast, impressive effects. Refreshingly original as recent young adult franchise novels go. The creatures, although frightening, are plenty imaginative.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Jared is intensely unlikable. Some of the physics don’t work.
FAMILY MATTERS: Some of the creatures are much scarier than the PG rating would indicate. There are also plenty of instances of kids in peril, and some of the thematic content is on the mature side.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: This is the first Nickelodeon branded film has been released in the IMAX format.
NOTABLE HOME VIDEO FEATURES: There are interviews with the book’s authors, as well as comparisons between the book’s illustrations and the creatures as they appeared in the film. These appear on both DVD and Blu-Ray editions.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $162.8M on a $90M production budget.
SITES TO SEE: Netflix (DVD/Blu-Ray only), iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, Fandango Now
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT: Eye in the Sky

Gone Fishin’


Gone FishinCinema365 is going to go on a little hiatus. It’s not you, it’s me – Da Queen and I are embarking on a much-needed vacation, headed to Europe on a Transatlantic cruise and then hanging around Spain, Tuscany and Versailles. All told, we’ll be gone for a full month starting tomorrow, so this will likely be the last post for awhile. The site will be back in full operation beginning Friday, May 27th. However, from time to time, I may publish some reviews from the road that I have written and are ready to go. I can’t predict when and how often, but I’ll do my best to put something in from time to time. Keep an eye out for it.

Let me take the opportunity to thank everyone who reads this whether every day or occasionally – or even just once. I’m going to miss you, even if we don’t interact as such. However, expect me to return relaxed and rejuvenated. There will be some further reviews from the Florida Film Festival that I haven’t gotten to publish yet, as well as a backlog of theatrical releases that I haven’t gotten to yet. There will not be a Pick of the Litter for June, as I simply won’t have the time to get one done adequately; I’ll have a lot of site updating to do, particularly the Coming Soon section, when I get back.

Until then, arrivederci and adios – you’ll see us again soon.

London Has Fallen


Gerard Butler is sick and tired of poor reviews.

Gerard Butler is sick and tired of poor reviews.

(2016) Action (Gramercy) Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Colin Salmon, Alon Aboutboul, Waleed Zuaiter, Adel Bencherif, Mehdi Dehbi, Shivani Ghai, Penny Downie, Deborah Grant, Nigel Whitmey, Andrew Pleavin, Julia Montgomery Brown, Elsa Mollien. Directed by Babak Najafi

What do you do when you’ve already foiled a hostile takeover of the White House? Why, for most of us it would be resting on our laurels. For any action hero worth his salt, that’s just the beginning.

But Mike Banning (Butler) has had enough. Despite the fact that he has the world’s best tough-guy name (just say it out loud over and over again – you’ll get what I mean), his wife (Mitchell) is having a rug rat and is due any day now. He wants to settle down and be a dad and a husband. He’s even writing out his resignation letter.

But when you’re a Secret Service Agent with a Special Forces background who goes jogging with the President every morning that’s not such an easy task. When the Prime Minister of Great Britain has a fatal heart attack, the world is coming to London to attend the funeral, and President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) is not one to miss the funeral of a world leader. So with Banning’s boss (Bassett) breathing down his neck to be in charge of the President’s security while he’s in London, he can’t really say no.

It’s a good thing he decides to go because bingo bango bongo five world leaders are assassinated and the President’s chopper is shot down by terrorists. Like most terrorists, they have an axe to grind with the United States, but unlike most terrorists they seem to be well organized, infiltrating nearly every stratum of security in Britain. Getting the President to the U.S. Embassy is job number one for Banning but he’ll have to negotiate the streets of London which are now overrun with bad guys impersonating cops, soldiers and Central Casting.

While I liked the predecessor Olympus Has Fallen just fine, this is a step backward from its predecessor. The first film was a wild ride in the vein of Die Hard; this one just dies hard. The action is on the pedantic side, never a good thing. Action junkies may end up yawning which is always a bad thing – there is a definite been there-done that feel to the action. I don’t expect them to reinvent the wheel but there needs to be a lot more passion invested than apparently was put in here.

The shame is that I have always really liked Gerard Butler as an actor and you can tell he’s really doing his best with a subpar script. Butler is one of those guys that you’d probably have a great time sharing a beer with and telling tall tales to in a pub. He’s what I call a working class actor; he’s not  the sort of guy who gets offered roles that win Oscars, but he gets the job done day in and day out and in the end comes off as a likable guy, even when he’s playing a real douchebag (as in Gods of Egypt). I think he doesn’t get the respect he deserves, either from critics or casting agents but that’s just me talking.

He has a decent supporting cast, but many of them are wasted in roles that feel like they mostly ended on the cutting room floor – Leo and Forster have both got Oscar nominations on their resumes but barely get a line or two in here. Morgan Freeman, maybe one of the most respected actors of this generation, has a little bit more to do but not by much; his role is essentially display dismay, frustration and once in awhile deliver a “we’re gonna kick your ass” zinger as is necessary in most action films. Like the previous one, there is a bit of a right wing dick swing vibe here as the President gets tough on terrorism directly – with a machine gun. Go, POTUS, Go!

I get that with most action movies you really don’t want to think about the plot too closely as there are often logical holes in them but there has to be at least a LITTLE bit of logic; most people understand that the President is protected by a virtual army and when he goes to a foreign country, he is literally surrounded at all times by Secret Service agents and if his helicopter was shot down in a friendly country like England, there would be a rescue operation already in place and scrambled even before the chopper hit the ground.

Still, even as mindless entertainment goes, there is a bit too much disbelief to suspend here. I’m one of those people who thinks that there is something noble about creating a vehicle for people to forget about their troubles for a couple of hours but this movie could have used a serious rewrite (and it got several, judging from the number of screenwriters credited) or more likely scrapping the project altogether. While I wouldn’t mind seeing the character Mike Banning again, I would rather see him in a much better movie than this. Check it out if mediocrity is your thing, but don’t make too much of an effort to do so.

REASONS TO GO: Some nifty action sequences. Butler is excessively likable.
REASONS TO STAY: Really hokey script. Lacks any sort of credibility and any sort of logic.
FAMILY VALUES: A ton of action, mayhem and violence and a smattering of profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Fredrick Bond was set to direct but dropped out due to creative differences.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/25/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 24% positive reviews. Metacritic: 28/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: White House Down
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT: TBA

Pick of the Litter – May 2016


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Captain America Civil War

Captain America: Civil War

(Disney/Marvel) Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen. Phase III of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off here and it’s off with a bang. Team Cap and Team Iron Man face off, as it’s Avenger vs. Avenger, friend vs. friend and in the aftermath the Marvel Universe will never be the same! When Captain America balks at government restrictions placed on the Avengers in order to ostensibly minimize collateral damage but also limiting the team’s effectiveness, he and Iron Man square off with Cap taking the unlikely role as renegade. May 6

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Mothers and Daughters

Mothers and Daughters

(Screen Media) Susan Sarandon, Mira Sorvino, Christina Ricci, Courtney Cox. The relationships between mother and daughter can often be rocky. This anthology piece examines those relationships as a group of women try to carve out their own lives and become their own person while defining their relationships with their mom. An all-star cast takes a close and often heartbreaking look at this very basic of relationships. May 6

A Beast with a Thousand Heads

A Monster with a Thousand Heads

(Music Box) Jana Raluy, Sebastián Aguirre, Hugo Albores, Emilio Echevarria. This timely Mexican thriller takes on the health insurance industry as a woman, frustrated at her insurance company’s denial of the treatment that would alleviate her terminally ill husband’s pain, snaps and gun in hand, goes up the chain of command to find answers and some kind of resolution. With a powerful performance by Jana Raluy, this film is based on the novel written by director Rodrigo Pla’s wife. May 11

Love and Friendship

Love and Friendship

(Roadside Attractions) Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Stephen Fry, Xavier Samuel. Director Whit Stillman, an Oscar-nominated director for such films as Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco takes on Jane Austen and her novella Lady Susan in this comedy of manners set in the Regency era. When a widow, known for her scandalous behavior, takes up residence at the home of her husband’s family, she turns the household upside down with her attempts to find a rich husband for her daughter – and herself. This played at the most recent Florida Film Festival.  May 13

Sunset Song

Sunset Song

(Magnolia) Agyness Deyn, Peter Mullan, Mark Bonnar, Kevin Guthrie. Based on a novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, a young farmer’s daughter in turn of the 20th century Scotland suffers hardship and heartache, as well as triumph and vindication. The circumstances of her life changes much over the course of the six years covered here but one thing doesn’t – her strong bond with the land itself. This comes to us from Terrence Davies, director of such films as Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Deep Blue Sea.  May 13

Weiner

Weiner

(Sundance Selects) Anthony Weiner. An inside look at the ill-fated mayoral campaign of Anthony Weiner, whose personal life scandal overshadowed his political message. However, more than being a salacious look at a sexting scandal, it is also a chilling look at modern politics; the insatiable appetite of the media for scandal fueled by the public’s unwillingness to accept issues rather than soundbites. May 20

Unlocking the Cage

Unlocking the Cage

(First Run) Steven Wise. From Oscar-nominated documentary filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker comes this extraordinary feature following animal rights activist and trial lawyer Steven Wise, who goes on a campaign to extend limited human rights – to animals. At first met with derision and dismay, he perseveres and as society’s attitudes begin to slowly change, files motions in court to give rights to certain animals to protect them from inhumane treatment and abuse.. May 25

2016 Summer Movie Preview


2016 Summer PreviewAfter a record-breaking summer blockbuster season last year, most pundits agree that this year will be a little bit less dramatic, although there will be plenty of movies that will likely earn north of $200M and a few that have a good shot to go better than $300M. With alternative viewing methods – online streaming, video-on-demand and other services competing with the traditional multiplex for audiences, things will continue to change as Hollywood goes kicking and screaming into the next decade.

Likely studio accountants are going to remember with some nostalgia big budget winners like Jurassic World which dominated the summer box office in 2015; Mad Max: Fury Road which not only did bang-up business but also ended up with several Oscar nominations (and wins, albeit for the technical end). Avengers: Age of Ultron was slightly disappointing from a critical standpoint but also from the box office, while Inside Out won the family film box office derby this past summer.

Superhero movies will continue to be the 900 lb gorilla of the box office, with Captain America: Civil War opening to great hype (and the introduction of new heroes not to mention the first appearance of fan favorite Spider-Man in the MCU) and the final installation in the most recent trilogy of mutant mania X-Men: Apocalypse representing the House of Ideas, while Suicide Squad continues the rolling out of the DC Cinematic Universe.

Sequels tend to play a major role in the summer line-up and things are no different this year with the aforementioned Captain America: Civil War, Star Trek Beyond, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, X-Men: Apocalypse, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Darkness, The Conjuring 2, Now You See Me 2, Finding Dory, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Purge: Election Year, Ice Age: Collision Course, Jason Bourne and Mechanic Resurrection. There will also be a fair share of reboots and remakes including Ghostbusters, Absolutely Fabulous, The Legend of Tarzan, Ben-Hur and Pete’s Dragon.

There are always films decked to tickle your funny bone and 2016 has a few in store for us, including  Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Central Intelligence, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Ghostbusters, Bad Moms, Sausage Party and War Dogs. If its scares you’re after, look no further than The Conjuring 2, Don’t Breathe, The Darkness, Ghostbusters, Lights Out and Spectral. There will be plenty of sci-fi and fantasy goodness on the summer schedule including Star Trek Beyond, Independence Day: Resurgence, Warcraft, Equals and The Space Between Us while the action quotient will be amped up with such fare as The Nice Guys, Captain America: Civil War, Kidnap, Central Intelligence, The Legend of Tarzan, The Purge: Election Year, Jason Bourne, Suicide Squad, Ben-Hur and Mechanic: Resurrection. Last year was a good year for family films and this year has an impressive slate including Finding Dory, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The BFG, Kubo and the Two Strings, Ice Age: Collision Course, The Angry Birds Movie, Pete’s Dragon and The Secret Life of Pets. There will also be enough drama for everyone as you can check out Money Monster, Free State of Jones, Me Before You, Equity and The Founder.

There’s no better time for star-gazing than the summer and the stars will truly be out again in force this year with Kevin Hart, Melissa McCarthy, Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Robert Redford, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Patrick Wilson, Chris Hemsworth, Ellen de Generes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Seth Rogen, Chris Pine, Anne Hathaway, Margot Robbie, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Sudeikis, Ray Romano, Matthew McConaughey, Jeff Goldblum, Oscar Isaac, Blake Lively, Christoph Waltz, Teresa Palmer, George Clooney, Jason Statham, Russell Crowe, Chris Evans, Kevin Bacon, Samuel L. Jackson, Daniel Radcliffe, Keanu Reeves, Bill Hader, Louis C.K., Zac Efron, Mark Rylance, Kristen Wiig, Simon Pegg, Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Lopez, Aubrey Plaza, Vera Farmiga, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Lawrence, Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Bill Murray, Mila Kunis, Anthony Mackey, Michael Keaton, Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia Wasikowska, Andy Samberg, Sam Claflin, Megan Fox , Jesse Eisenberg, Vivica A. Fox, Kristen Stewart, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, Alicia Vikander, Jeremy Renner, Jared Leto, Michelle Yeoh, Bryce Dallas Howard, Asa Butterfield, Nicholas Hoult and James McAvoy

While this probably won’t be the record-setting year that Hollywood enjoyed in 2015, there are still plenty of movies on that list that are bound to fill the cool air-conditioned multiplex on a hot summer day. So why not get to the meat and potatoes of this she-bang – let’s get to previewing!

MAY

As always, the summer movie season goes big to start off the year as not one but two Marvel superhero movies bookend the month. Also, we can expect a return to a classic magical land, a massively possible video game turned animated feature and a comedy in which a suburban couple finds that the people next door go from bad to worse.

Captain America Civil War

FIRST CHOICE

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2016
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
GENRE: Superhero
STARRING: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, William Hurt, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner
STORY: Given the collateral damage that results in the Avengers efforts to save humanity from aliens and robots, it was inevitable that there’d be some push back. With government oversight proposed for all superheroes, the new hero registration laws fracture the Avengers into two camps; one led by Captain America preferring the Avengers be free to protect humanity as needed, the other led by Iron Man welcoming regulations and restrictions. Something has to give.
PROSPECTS: Phase III of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off with a bang and it couldn’t be in better hands. The Russo Brothers last time up directed what many consider to be the best film in the franchise so far: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and their experiences here will allow them to take over the Avengers series more effectively from Joss Wheden.
OBSTACLES: The Avengers: Age of Ultron was disappointing albeit successful, both from a critical and box office standpoint. Could it be that Mighty Marvel has oversaturated the market?
FACTOID: This is the thirteenth official film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

SECOND CHOICE

THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE

RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia
GENRE: Animated Feature
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Kate McKinnon, Keegan-Michael Key, Josh Gad, Maya Rudolph, Danny McBride
STORY: An island of flightless but happy birds is visited by mysterious green pigs. It is up to a trio of outsiders to find out what the porcine invaders are up to.
PROSPECTS: One of the most popular mobile games of all time, the characters seem ready made for animated franchise-dom.
OBSTACLES: Features based on video games have traditionally not fared well.
FACTOID: The Angry Birds game has been downloaded more than a billion times since 2009.

NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING

RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
GENRE: Comedy
STARRING: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Rose Byrne, Selena Gomez, Dave Franco, Lisa Kudrow, Ike Bairnholz
STORY: Having weathered the fraternity next door, the Radners are getting ready to grow their family by one more, which will require a move to the suburbs. However, now they have a new neighbor that will make that impossible – a sorority full of girls out to prove they can be just as raunchy and badass as the boys.
PROSPECTS: The first Neighbors was a surprise hit and big comedies make excellent counterprogramming to big budget blockbusters that usually lead off the summer.
OBSTACLES: Might not have the star power to hang with other movies in the highly competitive May line-up.
FACTOID: Rogen’s first live-action sequel.

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

RELEASE DATE: May 27, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
GENRE: Fantasy
STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rhys Ifans, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman (voice), Michael Sheen
STORY: Alice discovers a magic mirror that allows her to return to Underland, only to discover that things have changed drastically since her last visit. The Mad Hatter is not himself any longer, his Muchness having disappeared. Alice goes on a desperate quest to save her friend, involving the use of a Chronsphere which will allow her to see her friends – and enemies – at different points of their lives.
PROSPECTS: Back in 2010 this was a huge hit for Disney and given the eye candy in the trailer and that much of the original cast has returned, there’s no reason to believe this won’t be too.
OBSTACLES: Tim Burton is only on board as a producer this time around and the competition might be a little too much to overcome.
FACTOID: Alan Rickman’s final film although he doesn’t appear onscreen; he passed away four months after shooting was completed.

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

RELEASE DATE: May 27, 2016
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Rose Byrne, Olivia Munn
STORY: The most powerful mutant in history has awakened and he doesn’t like what he sees. Determined to re-make the world in his own image he stirs up a war between mutants with only Professor Xavier’s X-Men standing in the way of a massacre of global proportions.
PROSPECTS: The latest X-Men trilogy has been both a critical and commercial success. The comic book Apocalypse storyline is one of the most successful in the history of that storied franchise.
OBSTACLES: As always, oversaturation of comic book movies.
FACTOID: The movie will take place in 1983, making this the third straight X-Men film that takes place in a different decade.

ALTERNATE CHOICE

MAGGIE’S PLAN

RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2016
STUDIO: Sony Classics
GENRE: Dramedy
STARRING: Greta Gerwig, Travis Fimmel, Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader, Wallace Shawn, Maya Rudolph, Kathleen Hanna
STORY: A young girl’s determination to have a baby on her own changed drastically when she falls in love with a married man, compromising his marriage.
PROSPECTS: Stellar cast including indie darling Gerwig should make this an indie standout.
OBSTACLES: Sounds like another typical Gerwig role, which her audiences may be tiring of.
FACTOID: This is director Rebecca Miller’s first film since 2009’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.

OTHER CHOICES

May 6, 2016

A BIGGER SPLASH (Fox Searchlight) stars Tilda Swinton as an international rock star recuperating on a Mediterranean island with her partner when their reverie is interrupted by the arrival than a larger-than-life producer (who happens to be an ex-lover of the rock star) and his daughter as nostalgia and desire threaten the relationship of the rock star and her man. This is opening up in limited release. Also opening in limited release is DARK HORSE (Sony Classics), a documentary about a group a group of working class blokes who decide to buy themselves a racehorse, entering a realm which has almost exclusively belonged to the very wealthy up until now.

May 13, 2016

THE DARKNESS (High Top/Blumhouse) stars Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell as the parents in a family just returning home from a family vacation to the Grand Canyon with an unwanted souvenir – a mysterious demonic force that preys on their darkest fears. HIGH-RISE (A24) is the first of three Florida Film Festival features debuting this week; this limited release, based on a J.G. Ballard novel, the residents of a luxury high rise find their social order breaking down as flaws in the building’s design and numerous power outages show that their high end dwelling may not be so high end after all. KIDNAP (Relativity) features Halle Berry as a mother whose son is kidnapped. As the situation grows more desperate, she mounts a rescue operation that proves that the worst possible thing you can do is come between a mother and her child. LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT (Broad Green) is a reimagined version of the encounter between Jesus and the Devil in the desert; Ewan McGregor plays both roles in this limited release. THE LOBSTER (A24) which was the opening night film at this year’s FFF, stars Colin Farrell as a man recently dumped by his wife who must now find a true love within 45 days or be turned into an animal and be released into the wild; this has been a hit on the festival circuit having won several prestigious awards. LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP (Roadside Attractions) which opens in limited release (and was also featured at this year’s Florida Film Festival) has a beautiful young widow of the titled class trying to find a husband for herself to ensure her daughter’s future, but runs into complications when she attracts the attention of several young men whose eligibility varies greatly.

May 20, 2016

Opening in limited release, HARD SELL (Momentum) is a teen dramedy about a high school student, struggling to help his ailing dog and his long-suffering mother who forms an unexpected friendship with a runaway. THE NICE GUYS (Warner Brothers) is a Shane Black-directed mystery/comedy set in the ‘70s starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as an enforcer and a detective respectively teaming up to find a missing girl who may have witnessed a mob hit.

May 27, 2016

PRESENTING PRINCESS SHAW (Magnolia), another entry at this year’s Florida Film Festival, is a documentary opening in limited release about a YouTube wanna-be sensation whose secret admirer all the way from Israel may turn her story into a happy ending after all.

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

THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $250 Million. Domestic Gross: $459.0M Total: $1.405B. Verdict: Blockbuster.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Warner Brothers) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $153.6M Total: $378.4M Verdict: Made Money.
TOMORROWLAND (Disney) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $93.4M Total: $209.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
SAN ANDREAS (New Line) Budget: $110M. Domestic Gross: $155.2M Total: $473.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (Fox Searchlight) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $12.2M Total: $30.2M. Verdict: Likely Hit
PITCH PERFECT 2 (Universal) Budget: $29M. Domestic Gross: $184.3M Total: $287.5M Verdict: Blockbuster
ALOHA (Columbia) Budget: $37M. Domestic Gross: $21.1M Total: $26.3M Verdict: Flop.
POLTERGEIST (MGM/Fox) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $47.4M Total: $95.4M Verdict: Made Money.
HOT PURSUIT (New Line) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $34.6M Total: $51.7 Verdict: Lost Money.
SLOW WEST (A24) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $229,094 Total: $229,094. Verdict: Likely Lost Money.

JUNE

Now that school is out and the May blockbusters are dominating the box office, in come the June contenders to make their own golden impressions. A new Pixar film bringing one of their beloved characters back, one of the most successful videogame franchises gets a live action cinematic go, the return of one of the most iconic alien invasion films of all time in a sequel three decades after the fact, an spy comedy teaming one of the hottest comedians in the world with one of the most popular action stars and the sequel to a hit supernatural horror film..

Finding Dory

FIRST CHOICE

FINDING DORY

RELEASE DATE: June 17, 2016
STUDIO: Disney*Pixar
GENRE: Animated Feature
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Diane Keaton, Idris Elba, Bill Hader, Michael Sheen, Dominic West, Ed O’Neill, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell
STORY: Dory, the forgetful Angelfish who aided Marlin in his quest to find his son Nemo, suddenly has remembered something – that she has a family. Nemo and Marlin are determined to help her find her family again, but a long and dangerous journey awaits them if Dory is to reunite with her family.
PROSPECTS: One of Pixar’s all-time most popular films is finally getting a sequel, particularly since DeGeneres has been publicly lobbying for one for years. With DeGeneres pimping the movie on her insanely popular daytime talk show, plus the built-in audience any Pixar film has with families anyway this should be the runaway family film box office champ this summer.
OBSTACLES: Many of the target audience for the movie were not even born when Finding Nemo was released and those that loved it may have grown out of animated features by now.
FACTOID: This is the third Disney film this year to have Idris Elba supplying his voice without appearing onscreen.

SECOND CHOICE

THE CONJURING 2

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2016
STUDIO: New Line
GENRE: Horror
STARRING: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Franka Potente, Frances O’Connor, David Thewlis, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Javier Botet, Sterling Jerins, Simon McBurney
STORY: The sequel to the blockbuster horror hit finds Ed and Lorraine Warren traveling to England to take on a supernatural threat that has put a single mum and her four children at risk.
PROSPECTS: The Conjuring was one of the most critically acclaimed horror hits of recent years, having already spawned a spin-off franchise. .
OBSTACLES: Horror films seem to do better at the end of the summer rather than at its beginning. The original was also released in October, a time more conducive to scary movies.
FACTOID: Director James Wan turned down a ton of money to direct Furious 8 in order to return to his horror roots.

WARCRAFT

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2016
STUDIO: Universal/Legendary
GENRE: Fantasy
STARRING: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Clancy Brown, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ruth Negga, Callum Keith Rennie
STORY: An ancient evil threatens the peace of a world filled with magic and monsters. In order to save their race, the Orcs must seek the help of their hated enemy the humans. But will it be enough?
PROSPECTS: One of the most popular videogames of all time hits the big screen in all its glory. Worlds of Warcraft has millions of players around the world addicted to their game. Director Duncan Jones is a genuine talent who might make that big splash everyone has been expecting here.
OBSTACLES: Videogames have, with rare exceptions, tanked both critically and commercially. The trailer didn’t make me any more hopeful that this would be one of those exceptions.
FACTOID: The movie was originally set to be released this past December but was moved to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

RELEASE DATE: June 17, 2016
STUDIO: New Line
GENRE: Action Comedy
STARRING: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Aaron Paul, Amy Ryan, Megan Park, Danielle Nicolet, Slaine, Ryan Hansen, Brett Azar
STORY: A mild-mannered accountant, missing the glory years of his “BMOC” days in high school, meets up with the most bullied boy in school – who is now a hunk who claims to be a spy. Quite against his will, the accountant gets drawn into the dangerous world of espionage by a man who may or may not be completely insane.
PROSPECTS: This is the kind of movie that tends to do well in the summer. Hart is the hottest comic actor on in Hollywood and Johnson one of the hottest action stars. The trailer got a ton of laughs.
OBSTACLES: Buddy cop movies have been on the downswing and the spy market has been oversaturated lately.
FACTOID: Johnson is exactly a foot taller than Hart.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

RELEASE DATE: June 24, 2016
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
GENRE: Science Fiction
STARRING: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Sela Ward, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Maika Monroe, Joey King
STORY: The war of 1996 was won and while heroes have fallen, the technology that was looted from the alien invaders was supposed to protect the planet. Now 20 years later, they’ve come back and if we’ve had 20 years to prepare, so have they…
PROSPECTS: One of the most beloved films of the 90s, this sci-fi action epic really set the bar for alien invasion films for the 20 intervening years.
OBSTACLES: 20 years is a long time between films and since this originally came out, alien invasion movies have fallen out of favor.
FACTOID: This is the first sequel that director Roland Emmerich has made.

ALTERNATE CHOICE

FREE STATE OF JONES

RELEASE DATE: June 24, 2016
STUDIO: STX Entertainment
GENRE: Historical Drama
STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Keri Russell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, Sean Bridgers, Jacob Lofland, Christopher Berry
STORY: During the Civil War, Confederate deserters, no longer wishing to fight so that slave owners could remain wealthy, returned to Jones County in Mississippi to create a slavery-free state, seceding from the Confederacy. And yes, this actually happened.
PROSPECTS: McConaughey is one of the biggest stars extant, having been on a roll lately.
OBSTACLES: This isn’t what you’d call a high-profile project and Civil War films as of late haven’t been very popular..
FACTOID: One of the extras in the film is a descendant of the main character in the story.

OTHER CHOICES

June 3, 2016

In ME BEFORE YOU (Warner Brothers) a plucky young English woman takes a job as caregiver to a wealthy man who has given up on life; her infectious attitude changes his mind – and his heart. POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING (Universal) comes to us from the maniacs at The Lonely Island, the acclaimed Internet comedy source. A humongously popular rapper sees his sophomore album tank, leaving everyone around him wondering what they’re going to do now that they’ve hitched their wagon to a man who is no longer the Dopest Star in Rap. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS (Paramount) is the sequel to the Michael Bay-produced reboot of the seminal comic book adaptation and brings to the screen villains and characters from the book that have never had live action versions before.

June 10, 2016

GENIUS (Roadside Attractions) which opens is set during one of the most exciting periods in the history of literature. It details the relationship between Editor Max Perkins and his mercurial but undoubted genius client Thomas Wolfe. Colin Firth and Jude Law play the two protagonists, respectively. NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (Summit) reunites Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Dave Franco (with Lizzy Caplan subbing for Isla Fisher) as the Four Horsemen, magicians and con-men who are facing a tech magnate who is holding one of their most dangerous secrets over their heads; it is up to them to turn the tables and find out who is really behind their dilemma.

June 17, 2016

CLOWN (Dimension) is a horror film about a devoted father who puts on a clown costume to entertain his son when the clown they hired for his birthday party is a no-show. But when the father is unable to remove the costume, he realizes that what he has donned is demonic…and it is changing him slowly into a creature that threatens the lives of those he loves most. SWISS ARMY MAN (A24) is a strange and magical film starring Paul Dano as a man marooned on an island who finds the body of Daniel Radcliffe washed up to shore. The corpse proves to be more lively than most and takes the castaway on a fantastic journey that looks like it could well be the most imaginative movie of the summer.

June 24, 2016

Opening in limited release, EAT THAT QUESTION: FRANK ZAPPA IN HIS OWN WORDS (Sony Classics) utilizes archival footage, rare performance video and rarely seen interviews to allow one of the most eclectic and influential musicians of his time tell his own story. THE SHALLOWS (Columbia) stars Blake Lively as a surfer who gets stranded on a shallow sandbar 200 yards from shore by a great white shark.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

JURASSIC WORLD (Universal) Budget: $150 Million. Domestic Gross: $652.3M Total: $1.7 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 (Focus) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $52.2M Total: $113.0M. Verdict: Big Hit.
INSIDE OUT (Disney*Pixar) Budget: $175M. Domestic Gross: $356.5M Total: $856.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
TED 2 (Universal) Budget: $68M. Domestic Gross: $81.5M Total: $216.7M Verdict: Made Money.
LOVE AND MERCY (Roadside Attractions) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $12.6M Total: $28.6M Verdict: Likely Hit.
DOPE (Open Road) Budget: $7M. Domestic Gross: $17.5M Total: $18.0M Verdict: Made Money.
ENTOURAGE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $32.4M Total: $49.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
SPY (20th Century Fox) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $110.8M Total: $235.7M Verdict: Hit.
MAX (Warner Brothers) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $42.7M Total: $44.0M Verdict: Made Money.
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $6.8M Total: $9.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
INFINITELY POLAR BEAR (Sony Classics) Budget: $6.7M. Domestic Gross: $1.4M Total: $1.4M Verdict: Flop.

JULY

The summer continues to heat up as one of the most iconic movies of the 80s is rebooted, popular sci-fi and spy film franchises are continued, a beloved children’s book is brought to life by Steven Spielberg, one of the most iconic pulp fiction characters returns to the big screen and a recent franchise with political overtones adds another installment to its thus-far successful run.

Ghostbusters

FIRST CHOICE

GHOSTBUSTERS

RELEASE DATE: July 15, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia
GENRE: Horror Comedy
STARRING: Melissa McCarthy, Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Wiig, Bill Murray, Kate McKinnon, Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Perkins, Andy Garcia, Charles Dance
STORY: A trio of paranormal scientists is investigating an upsurge in paranormal activity in New York City. They discover that someone has developed a machine that amplifies paranormal energy. So who ya gonna call?
PROSPECTS: Some of the most popular comic actors in the business are involved, as well as the director of some of McCarthy’s biggest hits (including last summer’s Spy). This is one of the most beloved movies of its era and resonates with a very large segment of the public.
OBSTACLES: Going with an all-female Ghostbusters team has outraged some of the fanboys, which might be counted as a good thing. Also, the original is over 32 years old, which is a very long time for a continuation.
FACTOID: In Ghostbusters II a psychic predicted the world would end on February 14, 2016. Fortunately, it didn’t, allowing the sequel (although it is being pitched as a reboot) to be released five months and a day afterwards.

SECOND CHOICE

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN

RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2016
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
GENRE: Adventure
STARRING: Margot Robbie, Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Ella Purnell, John Hurt, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent
STORY: Years after ruling the jungle as Tarzan, he has returned to England to live as Lord John Greystoke with his wife Jane. However, the machinations of an enemy bring him back to Africa, and when the murderous plot is revealed, those behind it don’t realize they’ve unleashed the Lord of the Jungle.
PROSPECTS: Tarzan is a timeless hero, known to virtually everyone. His exploits bring back a much simpler time to mind.
OBSTACLES: This kind of pulp hero has largely fallen out of favor. A big budget movie might not necessarily be the way to kickstart the genre.
FACTOID: This is the last film produced by Jerry Weintraub who passed away last July.

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS

RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
GENRE: Animated Feature
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Eric Stonestreet, Hannibal Buress, Dana Carvey, Steve Coogan
STORY: Max, a terrier certain that he is the apple of his owner’s eye, is disconcerted when she brings home Duke, a big sloppy mess of a dog. The two don’t get along well but when they find themselves alone on the streets of New York and the only two able to thwart the plans of a mad rabbit to unite ex-pets against humanity, they’ll have to work together…or miss supper.
PROSPECTS: From the same humans who made Despicable Me, Universal has been pimping the heck out of this as the summer’s potential biggest non-Pixar hit.
OBSTACLES: Comes out only three weeks after Finding Dory so there may be some overlap. Also this doesn’t have any familiar characters in it which makes it a tougher sell to the kiddies.
FACTOID: The song played on the stereo by the white poodle in the trailer is “Bounce” by System of a Down.

STAR TREK BEYOND

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2016
STUDIO: Paramount
GENRE: Science Fiction
STARRING: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Deep Roy
STORY: Kirk and the U.S.S. Enterprise are attacked by a strange swarm of fighter ships, destroying their starship and marooning them on a desolate world. At least, that’s what the trailer hints at – for the moment there has been no plot details released.
PROSPECTS: The reboot of the series has been one of the most successful ever and the powers-that-be at Paramount have made sure not to oversaturate the market with TV shows and other Trek product (although a TV show is on the way this fall).
OBSTACLES: Director J.J. Abrams has moved on to that “other” science fiction franchise, leaving the franchise in the hands of someone more known for earthbound action films. There has been some whispers that Paramount isn’t entirely happy with the film and gave it no push whatsoever at the recent CinemaCon for theater owners.
FACTOID: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise.

JASON BOURNE

RELEASE DATE: July 29, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
GENRE: Spy Action
STARRING: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh
STORY: The worst possible thing has happened; Jason Bourne has begun to remember his past. Fearing the worst, the powers that be want to take him out but as we all know that’s no easy task.
PROSPECTS: The Bourne franchise has redefined the espionage genre for the 21st century. With Paul Greengrass and Damon back aboard, there should be plenty of firepower for box office gold.
OBSTACLES: It has been almost ten years since the last Bourne movie with Damon and the younger audience may not be as excited for him to come back.
FACTOID: It was assumed that the title was going to be The Bourne Betrayal following the books in the John Le Carre series but when the teaser trailer was released the title had been changed.

ALTERNATE CHOICE

EQUITY

RELEASE DATE: July 29, 2016
STUDIO: Sony Classics
GENRE: Drama
STARRING: Anna Gunn, James Purefoy, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner, Craig Bierko, Margaret Colin, Nate Corddry, Nick Gehlfuss, Carrie Preston
STORY: A woman in the very male world of investment banking gets caught up in a controversial IPO in which ethical violations may have occurred. As betrayal and deception begin to cause her world to unravel, she begins to question her ambitions in this taut drama.
PROSPECTS: A very rare view of women in high finance, a viewpoint rarely seen in the movies.
OBSTACLES: Traditionally, movies depicting finance rarely do well (with a few exceptions) at the box office.
FACTOID: This is the first ever female-driven Wall Street film.

OTHER CHOICES

July 1, 2016

BUDDYMOON (Gravitas), opening in limited release, stars Grimm’s David Giuntoli as a man left at the altar. His German friend Flula Borg convinces him to take the honeymoon/camping trip he’d already paid for and as both of them are thoroughly unsuited for the wilderness, makes for an interesting week. This played at the 2016 Florida Film Festival. THE BFG (Disney) is a live action version of a beloved children’s book directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. In the classic Roald Dahl tale, a young English girl is befriended by a gentle giant and taken to the Land of Giants. EQUALS (A24) is a sci-fi film starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult as a couple, in a dystopian future in which emotion has been genetically engineered out of the human race, suddenly falls in love. OUR KIND OF TRAITOR (Roadside Attractions) which opens in limited release, is an adaptation of a John Le Carre novel about an English couple, vacationing in Antigua, who get involved with a Russian mobster looking to defect. THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (Universal) is the third installment in the franchise, with this time a Senator and her bodyguard forced onto the streets on Purge night trying to survive not only the usual array of unholy terrors but also being the targets of a government that wants to stop her from convincing the public and Congress to bring the Purge itself to an end.

July 8, 2016

Opening in limited release, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (Bleecker Street) stars Viggo Mortensen as a father who has raised his six kids in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, but is forced to bring them into the “real world,” with not always predictable consequences. In MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES (20th Century Fox), Zac Efron and Adam DeVine play a couple of brothers who always, in their exuberance, ruin every family get-together. With their sister about to get married, their father orders them to bring dates who will calm down their outrageous tendencies; however, the girls they do bring (Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick) are, unbeknownst to themselves, every bit as wild as themselves. OUR LITTLE SISTER (Sony Classics) which opens in limited release is a Japanese film about three sisters who, traveling to their estranged father’s funeral in the countryside, meet their shy half-sister and impulsively invite her to live with them.

July 15, 2016

THE INFILTRATOR (Broad Green) stars Bryan Cranston in the true story of the undercover drug enforcement agent who went deep undercover in Pablo Escobar’s cartel and facilitated the largest drug bust in U.S. history. PHANTOM BOY (GKIDS), which played at the Florida Film Festival, is about a young boy with powers who helps a skeptical detective solve a big case. This animated feature is opening in limited release.

July 22, 2016

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE (Fox Searchlight) brings the cast of the hit British sitcom to the silver screen in limited release. Just remember: no smoking in the theater. In ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE (20th Century Fox) Skrat’s obsessive quest for the elusive acorn sends a large chunk of space rock headed directly for Earth, which means that Manny and his friends will have to find a new home. INTO THE FOREST (A24) is the story of two sisters struggling to survive after the collapse of society. Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood both star. LIGHTS OUT (New Line) is about a woman whose visions after dark threatened her sanity as a girl, but she returns home when her younger brother starts seeing the same things – which may not be hallucinations.

July 29, 2016

In BAD MOMS (STX) a mom who is all about her family gets pushed beyond the breaking point and decides to teach the Alpha moms, her high-maintenance kids, her milquetoast husband and his idiot of a boss a lesson. INDIGNATION (Roadside Attractions), opening in limited release, stars Logan Lerman as a young man in 1951 who goes to a conservative college in Ohio and encounters Antisemitism and sexual repression.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

ANT-MAN (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $180.2M Total: $519.5M. Verdict: Big Hit.
TERMINATOR: GENISYS (Paramount) Budget: $155M. Domestic Gross: $89.8M Total: $440.6M Verdict: Hit.
MAGIC MIKE XXL (Warner Brothers) Budget: $14.8M. Domestic Gross: $66.0M Total: $122.5M Verdict: Big Hit,
MINIONS (Universal) Budget: $74M. Domestic Gross: $336.1M Total: $1.2B Verdict: Blockbuster.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (Paramount) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $195.0M Total: $682.3M Verdict: Big Hit
MR. HOLMES (Roadside Attractions) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $17.7M Total: $29.4M Verdict: Likely Made Money.
TRAINWRECK (Universal) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $110.2M Total: $140.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
PIXELS (Columbia) Budget: $88M Domestic Gross: $78.8M Total: $243.6M Verdict: Made Money.
THE GALLOWS (New Line) Budget: $100K. Domestic Gross: $22.7M Total: $43.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
PAPER TOWN (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $32.0M Total: $85.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE GIFT (STX) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $43.8M Total: $59.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
SELF/LESS (Focus) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $12.3M. Total: $30.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
SOUTHPAW (Weinstein) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $52.4M. Total: $91.7M Verdict: Hit.
VACATION (New Line) Budget: $31M. Domestic Gross: $58.9M. Total: $104.9M Verdict: Hit.
THE END OF THE TOUR (A24) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $16.2M. Total: $63.5M Verdict: Big Hit.

AUGUST

As summer winds down to an end there are usually one or two blockbusters left up Hollywood’s sleeve. Smart money is on the irreverent superhero tale about a team of villains, a reboot of a less familiar children’s movie from a bygone age, an anime about a Japanese folk tale and a remake of a classic swords and sandals epic.

Suicide Squad

FIRST CHOICE

SUICIDE SQUAD

RELEASE DATE: August 5, 2016
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
GENRE: Superhero
STARRING: Will Smith, Margo Robbie, Jared Leto, Ben Affleck, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, Adam Beach, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
STORY: Facing an insurmountable threat, a secret government agency proposes to send super-powered criminals up against it, a group of expendables who are promised freedom if they survive and death if they run. It might be another day at the office for the Justice League but for these guys it’s suicide.
PROSPECTS: Deadpool was an enormous success and this one seems to have a similar tone and irreverence. It could turn out to be one of the summer’s left field hits.
OBSTACLES: DC still continues to struggle with their cinematic universe, despite big numbers for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It needs an unqualified success that doesn’t revolve around Batman (although the Dark Knight does appear here).
FACTOID: Affleck is the first actor to play a cinematic Batman under two different directors. He is also the first to appear as Batman in two different films to be released in the same year.

SECOND CHOICE

PETE’S DRAGON

RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
GENRE: Family
STARRING: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, Oakes Fegley, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Oona Laurence, Craig Hall
STORY: An orphaned boy is found in the forest; he had survived there, alone, for six years. Except he wasn’t alone; he had the help of his best friend – a living, breathing dragon. Now he is back in civilization, a different kind of wilderness. But his dragon is not about to let him tackle that forest alone.
PROSPECTS: Disney has been on a roll lately, with their animation division continuing to do gangbusters but also their live action films based on theme park attractions, animated classics and children’s books.
OBSTACLES: Pete’s Dragon isn’t exactly the most beloved or well-known of Disney properties and it likely isn’t going to resonate with kids or their parents in the same way that, say, Maleficent did.
FACTOID: Michael C. Hall (Dexter) was originally cast in the role now filled by Karl Urban.

SAUSAGE PARTY

RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia
GENRE: Animated Feature
STARRING THE VOICES OF: James Franco, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Salma Hayek, Jonah Hill, Edward Norton, Bill Hader
STORY: After falling out of a shopping cart, a sausage and his friends make a dangerous journey to get back to their aisles before the 4th of July sale begins; but when they discover the truth of their existence, will they want to get there?
PROSPECTS: A truly all-star cast of comic actors, SNL veterans and comedians make this one to keep an eye out for if you’re a comedy fan.
OBSTACLES: This raunchy animated feature is definitely not for kids, so the question is will adults want to go see a cartoon?
FACTOID: This is the first animated film to be written by Seth Rogen.

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

RELEASE DATE: August 19, 2016
STUDIO: Focus
GENRE: Animated Feature
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Art Parkinson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, George Takei
STORY: A young boy named Kubo in a fantasy feudal Japan accidentally unleashes an ancient spirit with a vendetta against his family. On the run with only his magical music instrument and two friends to guide him, he must battle Gods and monsters if he is to save his family.
PROSPECTS: The LAIKA animation studio has consistently put out quality product that has progressively gotten more popular.
OBSTACLES: LAIKA still hasn’t had an out of the box hit yet, and this anime-style feature will have a tough time being the first.
FACTOID: The song that Kubo plays in the trailer is the Beatles’ classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

ALTERNATE CHOICE

THE FOUNDER

RELEASE DATE: August 5, 2016
STUDIO: Weinstein
GENRE: Biographical Drama
STARRING: Michael Keaton, Patrick Wilson, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, B.J. Novak, Kimberly Battista
STORY: Salesman Ray Kroc sees potential in a restaurant that serves burgers at a phenomenal rate. He sees potential and maneuvers himself to steal the company from the men who started it – the McDonald brothers.
PROSPECTS: Keaton has been nominated for an Oscar the last two years in a row; this might make it three straight, if the buzz is correct.
OBSTACLES: Does anyone really want to see a movie about how McDonald’s came to be?
FACTOID: The Coen Brothers initially expressed interest in directing the film but were unable to make it work due to conflicts with the filming of Hail, Caesar.

OTHER CHOICES

August 5, 2016

In NINE LIVES (EuropaCorp/Relativity) a workaholic dad becomes trapped in the body of a cat and is adopted by his own family, learning to see them in a new and unexpected light.

August 12, 2016

CAFE SOCIETY (Amazon) is the latest from Woody Allen and stars Jesse Eisenberg as a young starry-eyed man who comes to Hollywood in the 1930s to make it in the film industry, but finds love, heartache and some really good cafes instead. FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (Paramount) is the true story of the woman whose life was fictionalized in Marguerite – a society matron who was convinced she was an opera diva but truly couldn’t sing a note. THE HOLLARS (Sony Classics) which opens in limited release is the directorial debut of star John Krasinski as a New York City artist forced to go home to his Midwestern small town when his mother falls ill and finds himself sucked in to the same small town drama that sent him scurrying away to the big city in the first place. SPECTRAL (Universal/Legendary) follows a special Ops team trying to take down an unknown enemy – who may not be of this world.

August 19, 2016

BEN-HUR (MGM/Paramount) is a remake of a classic movie that follows the tale of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish noble who is betrayed by his Roman friend and sentenced to be a galley slave. Bent on revenge, he finds redemption through a gentle Nazarene and vindication in a chariot race. SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU (Miramax) is the story of our current First Lady and how she met an idealistic young man who persistently wooed her during the summer of 1989 – a young man named Barack Obama. This is opening in limited release. THE SPACE BETWEEN US (STX) is a young adult sci-fi story about a 16-year-old boy who was the first human born on Mars, coming back to Earth to try and piece together who is father was. WAR DOGS (Warner Brothers) stars Miles Teller and Jonah Hill as a pair of businessmen who exploit a loophole that allows small businesses to supply the U.S. Military and end up wait over their heads. This is based on a true story.

August 26, 2016

In DON’T BREATHE (Screen Gems/Ghost House) a group of young kids break into a blind man’s house, thinking it will be easy to take his stuff and get away with it. They’re dead wrong. HANDS OF STONE (Weinstein) is the story of boxer Roberto Duran, one of the most lethal punchers in the history of the sport who was on top of his career when he suddenly and mysteriously stopped boxing in mid-match against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, famously saying “No mas.” In MECHANIC: RESURRECTION (Summit) Arthur Bishop thought he’d left the assassination game forever, but is reluctantly brought back in to do a virtually impossible task; to take out some of the most dangerous men in the world.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

FANTASTIC FOUR (20th Century Fox) Budget: $120M. Domestic Gross: $56.1M Total: $168.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (Warner Brothers) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $45.4M Total: $109.8M Verdict: Lost Money.
SINISTER 2 (Focus) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $27.7M Total: $52.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
HITMAN: AGENT 47 (20th Century Fox) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $22.5M Total: $82.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (Universal) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $161.2M Total: $201.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
RICKI AND THE FLASH (TriStar) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $26.8M Total: $40.5M Verdict: Broke Even.
SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE (Lionsgate) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $19.4M Total: $83.5M Verdict: Hit.

That brings us to the end of this year’s summer preview. Hope you enjoyed it and found a few new movies to look forward to once school lets out. As usual, the caveat here is that the scheduled release dates are always subject to change, and it is likely that within a week or two of this being published there will be date changes, schedule shuffling or the outright removal of some films to be quietly released direct to home video months or even years from now. Until then, you can find out more about the movies in question and when they’ll be out near you by reading our Weekly Previews and monthly Pick of the Litter series for independent film picks. But the year isn’t over at summer’s end; there’s still a whole bunch of movies coming this fall and Cinema365 will be on it with our Fall/Holiday preview at the end of August. You can expect to see previews of films like the first stand-alone Star Wars film, the first in a new trilogy of films set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a Marvel film exploring the mystical side of the MCU, the cinematic returns of Bridget Jones, Jack Reacher and Robert Langdon, and much more. So until then, the multiplex awaits; grab your popcorn and ice cold soda, and settle down in the dark, air-conditioned movie palace of your desire. We’ll save a seat for you.