A Million Ways to Die in the West


Only Charlize Theron knows what to do with the hordes of film critics who have turned their venom loose on this movie.

Only Charlize Theron knows what to do with the hordes of film critics who have turned their venom loose on this movie.

(2014) Western Comedy (Universal) Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson, Christopher Hagen, Wes Studi, Matt Clark, Evan Jones, Aaron McPherson, Rex Linn, Brett Rickaby, Alex Borstein, Ralph Garman, John Aylward, Gilbert Gottfried, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Lloyd, Ryan Reynolds. Directed by Seth MacFarlane

During the 1950s, Americans tended to idealize the Old West. Rugged cowboys rode the range, rescued pretty school marms from bandits and varmints, and generally saved the day with an “aw, shucks” modesty. Cowboys were real men, Indians were the enemy and things were pretty simple. Of course, it wasn’t really like that.

The Old West was in reality a brutal place where arguments were solved with guns, violence was rampant, sanitation was next to impossible and the only thing worse than contracting a disease was going to the doctor to get it cured. Albert (MacFarlane), a sheep farmer in hole-in-the-wall Old Stump, Arizona, knows it better than most. He is the sort of guy who would rather negotiate than fight, which makes him yellow in the Old West. That’s fine and dandy with Albert. He’d much rather be a live coward than a dead hero.

His girlfriend Louise (Seyfried) doesn’t necessarily agree with that philosophy. After a humiliation after being challenged to a gunfight, Louise decides she’s had enough and dumps Albert in favor of Foy (Harris), a successful shop owner who caters to moustache owners. Albert is devastated. Louise was one of the only things worth staying in the West for. San Francisco would be a much better place for him, much to the disdain of his father (Hagen). His close friends Edward (Ribisi) and Ruth (Silverman) commiserate but they have problems of their own. For one, they’ve been together and they want to have sex, but also want to wait until they get married and keep their purity. Until then, Ruth will continue working as a prostitute to help save up enough to get married. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

Into his life waltzes Anna (Theron), a gorgeous blonde who is new in town. She also happens to be a crack shot and when Albert loses his temper and challenges Foy to a gunfight, she offers to help Albert work on his marksmanship. Of course, they soon develop into something more than friends even though Albert still wants to win Louise back. However, Anna might have forgot to mention that she’s married – to Clinch Leatherwood (Neeson), one of the most vicious and deadliest gunfighters in the West.

The title is apt. MacFarlane’s character constantly grouses throughout about how dangerous it is out in the West and throughout the film people get killed by wild animals, shot by ornery bandits, crushed by blocks of ice and in a memorable sequence, fart themselves to death.

Fans of MacFarlane’s TV show Family Guy will no doubt feel right at home here. However, it should be said that the humor is pushes the envelope HARD and there are some things that you’re going to find offensive, like the shooting gallery gag that also serves as the fodder for an after-the-credits scene with a surprise cameo appearance. In fact, there are a ton of cameos to keep an eye out for.

Otherwise, this is one of those movies that throws as many jokes as it can into the mix and sees which ones you find funny and which ones you don’t. When the comedy works here, it’s sidesplitting. When it doesn’t, it’s groan-inducing. Fortunately, it works more than not.

MacFarlane is an appealing lead, although his character is a kind of neurotic nebbish, sort of like Woody Allen in chaps. MacFarlane, who co-wrote as well as directed and starred in this, has the characters act in fairly modern idioms, which allows 2014 audiences to relate better to the action in some ways while others might find this anachronistic and off-putting. It is part of the humor to hear someone from 1882 say “Oh, snap!” although again, there was some sniffing from critical quarters.

The supporting cast isn’t a bunch of straight men (and women) to MacFarlane as a lot of modern comedies tend to do; they all have their funny moments which you would want from a cast of talented actors like this. Only Neeson seems to be playing it straight, although he does give Clinch an outrageous Lucky Charms Irish accent which apparently he insisted upon before taking the part. I don’t know if a gunslinger with an Irish brogue rates laughs but okay.

MacFarlane references other Western comedies, notably Blazing Saddles and Django Unchained (which isn’t, strictly speaking, pure comedy) directly and otherwise. He makes use of Utah’s Monument Valley (subbing for Arizona) with some nifty cinematography, graphics and score right out of a 1950s epic screen Western. Visually speaking, he’s got the Western part down. However, the story doesn’t really support the length of the film and I got a little bit fidgety there towards the end.

This hasn’t been getting good reviews and I’ve also read some comments from non-reviewers that expressed how offended they were at this movie. There are those who tolerate offensive humor more than others and if you’re one of the others it wouldn’t be a good idea for you to check this out. I don’t think this is as good as MacFarlane’s previous movie Ted but that movie had its share of squirm-inducing moments. Use that as your guide as to whether you should see it or not. This isn’t for everybody, but the people that it is are going to love it.

REASONS TO GO: When it’s funny, it’s hysterical. Fun concept.

REASONS TO STAY: Overkill. Runs about 20 minutes too long. Those who don’t tolerate profanity and sex very well should stay the fuck away.

FAMILY VALUES: A cornucopia of profanity and sexual innuendo, some violence and drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Theron wore a wig throughout the shooting because she had shaved her head for the filming of Mad Max: Fury Road.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/3/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 33% positive reviews. Metacritic: 44/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Blazing Saddles

FINAL RATING: 6/10

NEXT: Maleficent

New Releases for the Week of May 30, 2014


MaleficentMALEFICENT

(Disney) Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, Kenneth Cranham. Directed by Robert Stromberg

A fairy with pure heart living in a peaceful forest kingdom has that peace disrupted by an invading army. She rises to become a fierce warrior for her people but an act of ultimate betrayal transforms her from a defender of good to an evil sorceress. She casts a curse on the invading king’s granddaughter Aurora but comes to realize that the girl may hold the key to peace in the kingdom and perhaps her own redemption. A live-action film based on the Disney animated classic Sleeping Beauty.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette and B-Roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D (opens Thursday)

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: PG (for sequences of fantasy action and violence including frightening images)

A Million Ways to Die in the West

(Universal) Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried.A cowardly sheep farmer in the old West becomes obsessed with how easy it is to buy the farm (not his sheep farm) in that place and time. Even his girlfriend has left him for another man because of his spineless behavior. When a mysterious woman comes to town, she helps him find that spine and the two begin to fall in love. However it turns out she’s married to a psychotic gunfighter who comes to town looking to kill somebody. Will the farmer’s new found courage help him stand up for his woman or will he be #263, 458 of a million ways to die in the West?

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy/Western

Rating: R (for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material)

Ida

(Music Box) Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik, Jerzy Trela. In communist Poland in the early 1960s, a novitiate prepares to take her vows as a nun when her Mother Superior sends her to spend time with her only living relative, a former judge for the Soviet courts with a reputation for harshness. From her the nun-to-be discovers that her past isn’t at all what she thought it was and that her future might not be either. This played at the Florida Film Festival this past April; read my review here.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, some sexuality and smoking)

Four-Warned: May 2014


X-Men: Days of Future PastEvery 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.

Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.

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. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (1.0)
2. GODZILLA (1.1)
3. A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (1.2)
TIE. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (1.2)
TIE.  MALEFICENT (1.2)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE DOUBLE (1.0)
2. THE IMMIGRANT (1.2)
3. DEVIL’S KNOT (1.3)
4. BLOOD GLACIER (1.4)

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

MAY 2, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (Columbia) Genre: Superhero. Spidey discovers that the villainous Oscorp is developing technology for evil purposes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.2 I’ve been a big fan of director Marc Webb ever since (500) Days of Summer.
THE BACHELOR WEEKEND (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. The bachelor party slash camping trip of a foppish groom-to-be turns ugly when his alpha male brother-in-law to be turns up. Release Strategy: Chicago only. RATING: 2.8 Stag party humor with an incomprehensible British accent.
BAD JOHNSON (Gravitas Ventures) Genre: Comedy. A philandering man unable to maintain a lasting relationship wakes up one morning to discover his penis has taken human form. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Cam Gigandet and penis humor at its finest.
BELLE (Fox Searchlight) Genre: True Life Drama. A young woman of illegitimate mixed race parentage grows up to influence the repeal of slavery in Great Britain. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like the Merchant-Ivory version of 12 Years a Slave.
BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY (Tribeca) Genre: Thriller. Two young friends yearn to buy a car and get out of their sleepy Maine town but one’s drug smuggling father may throw their plans into turmoil. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 The trailer doesn’t look as compelling as I thought it might.
BLOOD GLACIER (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A strange fluid from a melting glacier causes the wildlife to mutate in strange and terrifying ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Looks like incredible fun.
DECODING ANNIE PARKER (eOne) Genre: Drama. The relationship between a geneticist and a woman stricken with breast cancer whose family has been devastated by the disease leads to a groundbreaking discovery. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 An important film about an amazing true story that hasn’t gotten the coverage it deserves.
IDA (Music Box) Genre: Drama. In 1962 Communist Poland, a novice about to take her vows visits the aunt she never knew she had and discovers a troubling past and an uncertain future. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 1.6 Filmed in glorious black and white, this played the Florida Film Festival this past month. See the review here.
MR. JONES (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror. After relocating to a remote cabin to kickstart their artistic vision, a young couple run afoul of a reclusive artist who plunges them into his nightmares. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only.  RATING: 2.8 Another found footage horror flick; to be honest I’m getting a little tired of these.
THE PROTECTOR 2 (Magnet) Genre: Martial Arts. A man, searching for a stolen elephant, is implicated in a brutal murder and is chased by the police, the vengeful nieces of the murdered man and a ruthless crimelord.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 More Tony Jaa action goodness.
WALK OF SHAME (Focus) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After a one night stand, a budding news anchorwoman on the day of her most important interview ever finds herself across town without ID, money or a means of getting to where she has to be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I’ve always liked Elizabeth Banks; she deserves to be a bigger star than she is.
WHITEWASH (Oscilloscope) Genre: Thriller. When a snowplow operator accidentally kills a man during a drunken joyride, he flees to the Quebec woods to evade the authorities and his own conscience but you can’t run away from yourself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Thomas Haden Church is an underrated actor.

MAY 7, 2014

BREASTMILK (CAVU) Genre: Documentary. Tackles the somewhat polarizing debate over breastfeeding and the various permutations of the subject. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles May 16). RATING: 2.1 The obvious joke is “it’s a titillating subject” but it is no less important for all that.

MAY 9, 2014

CHEF (Open Road) Genre: Comedy. Jon Favreau stars as a fine dining chef tired of the overbearing owner of his restaurant who decides to open up his own food truck instead. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.9 Should be absolute catnip to foodies.
DEVIL’S KNOT (RLJ/Image) Genre: True Crime. The story of the West Memphis Three is dramatized in this the first of two movies on the subject. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 An amazing cast with terrific Canadian director Atom Egoyan with a compelling story spells one of this month’s must-sees.
THE DOUBLE (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. Based on Dostoyevsky’s story, a mild-mannered cubicle worker in a dystopian future that’s a cross between William Burroughs and Terry Gilliam finds his life taken over by an exact double.  Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The best film I saw at the Florida Film Festival this year.
FARMLAND (D&E) Genre: Documentary. A look at young farmers struggling to maintain a way of life in an era of corporate factory farms and high-tech agribusiness. Release Strategy: Limited.  RATING: 2.5 The future of farming has been bleak indeed but here are some folks who can change that.
FED UP (Radius) Genre: Documentary. New research in the midst of an obesity epidemic indicates that our conceptions of diet and exercise may be wrong. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Is childhood obesity the result of a sugar addiction that is as powerful as nicotine?
GOD’S POCKET (IFC) Genre: Drama. A construction worker whose stepson dies “accidentally” tries to hide the truth and the body but is having difficulty with both. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The directing debut of actor John Slattery and one of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last films.
LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN (Summertime Entertainment) Genre: Animated Feature. Dorothy returns to Oz to rescue her old friends, making new friends along the way: Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.3 The animation looks cheap and the filmmakers are not using an L. Frank Baum story but rather one by his great-grandson. Cheap again.
MOM’S NIGHT OUT (TriStar) Genre: Comedy. A group of frazzled moms, in need of a night of relaxation, leave their kids with their husbands and venture out for a night on the time, soon discovering they are really rusty at having fun and their husbands are an utter disaster with the kids. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Seems to me that this is the kind of movie that reinforces tired old stereotypes and likely will not be all that funny.
NEIGHBORS (Universal) Genre: Comedy. With a new baby, a blissful suburban couple have their peace and quiet shattered when a rowdy fraternity moves in next door. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 I usually love Seth Rogen so I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt.
PALO ALTO (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. At a suburban high school, relationships and emotions spiral out of control as desires are given into and bad choices are the order of the day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A paean to high school angst penned by James Franco and directed by Gia Coppola.
STAGE FRIGHT (Magnet) Genre: Horror Comedy. A serial killer stalks the summer showcase of a snooty performing arts summer camp. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks a little offbeat and just gory enough to satisfy fans of horror and comedy.

MAY 16, 2014

A NIGHT IN OLD MEXICO (Phase 4) Genre: Adventure. An elderly Texas rancher, forced off his land and on the eve of being sent to a retirement home, has one last hurrah with his grandson on a road trip South of the Border. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Robert Duvall goes all Gus McCrae on our ass.
A SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY (Paladin) Genre: Drama. A Brooklyn hipster summoned down to Florida to care for his elderly father finds the means of jump-starting his stalled writing career within grasp. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Any chance to see the great Linda Lavin at work is worth the effort.
AI WEIWEI: THE FAKE CASE (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. Conceptual artist Weiwei spends a year under house arrest by the Chinese government. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 The second documentary about Weiwei in two years.
CHINESE PUZZLE (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After his ex-wife leaves him and takes his kids to New York, a Parisian follows and tries to start over in the Big Apple. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 The conclusion of a trilogy begun by director Cedric Klapisch beginning with L’Auberge Espagnole.
THE DISCOVERERS (Quadratic) Genre: Dramedy. On the way to a conference to restart his moribund career and connect with his kids, a history professor has to change course when his father disappears on a trek to follow the path of Lewis and Clark. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Griffin Dunne looks special in it and I gotta give props to a movie with so much love for history.
GODZILLA (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. The arrogance of science comes back to haunt us in the form of gigantic, hideous creatures bent on world destruction. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 1.1 Since the trailer for this broke, it has become one of the most anticipated movies of the summer.
HALF A YELLOW SUN (Monterey Media) Genre: Drama. Two women endure the turbulent times of the short-lived Republic of Biafra in the late 60s.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 With Chiwetel Ejiofor in it, there is reason enough to seek this out right there.
THE IMMIGRANT (Radius) Genre: Drama. A woman immigrating from Poland to the United States in the early 20th Century is forced into prostitution but may find salvation through a stage magician who happens to be the cousin of her tormentor. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.2 A beautiful looking film with an amazing cast – Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix – wow!
MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Disney) Genre: True Sports Drama. Desperate for a high-profile client to save his business, a sports agent hits upon the scheme of sponsoring a competition among Indian cricketers to find the first Major League Baseball player from India. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Looks kind of charming with Jon Hamm starring but not intriguing enough to be a must-see.
WOLF CREEK 2 (RLJ/Image) Genre: Horror. Another tourist in the outback comes into the sights of a serial killer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like this one.

MAY 23, 2014

THE ANGRIEST MAN IN BROOKLYN (Lionsgate) Genre: Comedy. A normally disagreeable sort of man discovers he has 90 minutes to live and sets out to make amends to everyone he has ever hurt. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like the Robin Williams movie we’ve been waiting for.
BLENDED (Warner Brothers) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After a disastrous date leaves two single parents unwilling to ever see each other again, they both unknowingly sign up for the same African safari and they and their kids are forced to share the same luxury suite. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 The third on-screen pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore makes this far more intriguing than it otherwise might be.
COLD IN JULY (IFC) Genre: Thriller. When a homeowner investigating noises in his house one night and accidentally shoots and kills a lowlife burglar, he doesn’t count on having the thief’s father show up looking for revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Michael C. Hall from Dexter and Sam Shepard make for some good conflict.
GRAND DEPART (Rialto) Genre: Drama. Two brothers find their situation in life changing due to the declining health of their father. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 Looks like one of those films that has some serious sobs and some warm fuzzies as well.
THE LOVE PUNCH (Ketchup) Genre: Comedy. When their retirement nest egg is stolen, a divorced couple join forces to get their money back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 With the very likable Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson as the couple, there’s much to look forward to with this one.
STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Drama. The 13-year-old son of illegal immigrants wanders away from his parents and gets lost in New York City – just as Hurricane Sandy is about to hit. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Has a real New York vibe which might not appeal as much to those outside the city limits.
TRACKS (Weinstein) Genre: True Life Drama. A city-bred young woman determines to cross 2000 miles of Australian desert with nothing more than her dog and four mercurial camels. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 An Aussie film with an epic scope and Mia Wasikowska for good measure.
WORDS AND PICTURES (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romance. Two burned-out teachers, both wounded physically and psychologically, get into a debate over which is more important – words or pictures – and in so doing inspire their apathetic students unexpectedly. Release Strategy: Limited.  RATING: 1.9 Another Florida Film Festival entry, this time with Clive Owen and the fabulous Juliette Binoche top-lining.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (20th Century Fox) Genre: Superhero. The world devastated by gigantic robots gone amok, Wolverine is sent into the past by Professor X to convince his younger self to rally the X-Men and prevent the cataclysm from happening but the trouble is, his younger self isn’t inclined to help. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.0 Judging from the trailer, this might well be the best film in the series.

MAY 27, 2014

TAPPED OUT (Grindstone) Genre: Action. Ordered to do community service in a run-down Karate school, a teen with a chip on his shoulder enters an MMA tournament to face the man who killed his parents. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Sounds too hokey to be true. 

MAY 28, 2014

THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF DORIS PAYNE (IFC) Genre: Documentary. A charming and charismatic African-American woman in the 1930s takes to a life of crime to survive and manages to amass a fortune, continuing her nefarious ways into her 60s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Looks to be a fascinating documentary; looking forward to seeing it.

MAY 30, 2014

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (Universal) Genre: Comedy. A cowardly sheep rancher is transformed by a mysterious woman into a gunfighter to face down a notorious outlaw in a town where unusual fatalities are a way of life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Another irreverent but hysterical film from Seth MacFarlane.
DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN (The Collective) Genre: Horror. While a reality show documents a young couple’s pregnancy, the mother-to-be comes to believe that her unborn child is afflicted with demonic possession.  Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An intriguing premise but I must admit I’m a little burned out on found footage horror right now.
FILTH (Magnolia) Genre: Dark Comedy. An arrogant police detective believes that if he solves a murder that he’ll win the promotion he deserves and his estranged wife will return to him but things rarely go the way we expect them to. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 James McAvoy like you’ve never seen him before.
THE GRAND SEDUCTION (eOne) Genre: Comedy. A town desperate to attract a petrochemical plant needs to prove that there is a resident doctor, which they have none; when fate sends one their way, a pair of unemployed fishermen set out to prove to the doc that their tiny town is the paradise he’s been looking for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A charming comedy of the Canadian Maritimes.
LUCKY THEM (IFC) Genre: Romance. More interested in partying than reporting, an aging rock journalist is given an assignment – to find a reclusive rock legend who happens to be her ex-boyfriend. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Toni Collette and Thomas Haden Church are two of my favorite actors.
MALEFICENT (Disney) Genre: Fantasy. Disney’s most nefarious villain gets her story told as she changes from a young idealist to a hate-filled sorceress when her land is overrun by a corrupt king. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.2 Is it disrespectful to say that Angelina Jolie is perfect casting for this?
NIGHT MOVES (Cinedigm) Genre: Drama. When a trio of environmental activists plot to blow up a dam in Oregon, they don’t realize the consequences that their actions will be severe. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 From Kelly Reichardt, one of my favorite emerging directors.
WE ARE THE BEST! (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Three young misfits, in search of a cause in the 80s, decide to form an all-female punk band. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A joyous celebration of the punk spirit.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Ida, The Double, Mom’s Night Out, Neighbors, Godzilla, Million Dollar Arm, Blended, X-Men: Days of Future Past, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Maleficent

2014 Summer Movie Preview


summer movie preview 2014After a difficult winter and a spring that seemed to come too late, finally the summer is just around the corner and with it the big Hollywood blockbusters we’ve been waiting all year for. Summer movie fans are literally champing at the bit to sink their teeth into this year’s crop of blockbuster goodness. Before we get started looking at what the multiplex has to offer, a quick review of the summer of 2013 is in order.

Last summer, as expected, Iron Man 3 led the way with a total domestic box office take of $409M which translated to $1.2B worldwide. There was also Despicable Me 2 which was the number one family film of the summer, just beating out Monsters University. Fast and Furious 6 starring the late Paul Walker also did huge box office. A seventh film will be out although not this summer as his untimely death caused production to shut down. He’ll appear in the movie but the part will be rewritten to explain his absence. Man of Steel was a big hit for DC Comics and Warner Brothers and has led to a very much anticipated Batman vs. Superman movie, currently scheduled for 2016. World War Z did big numbers despite negative reviews and some fan backlash. Star Trek Into Darkness continued JJ Abrams box office hot streak as expected.

This year has its share of expectations, although many are pointing to next summer as the year to look forward to as far as big productions go. Even so, there are plenty of reasons to plunk down the cash and hit the theater rather than wait for it to appear on Netflix or another streaming service.

The net was all aflutter after the trailer for Godzilla showed up. The venerable Toho monster is making a return to the big screen and being given a modern update and the rubber lizard never looked better. While DC will be absent from theaters this year, Marvel continues to be well represented with Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past all looking to continue milking the cash cow that have been Marvel movies over the past decade.

Sequels will continue to get plenty of play this summer as we eagerly (or not so much) look forward to 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Think Like a Man Too, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Step Up: All In, The Expendables 3 and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Those looking for a laugh should get plenty with Neighbors, Chef, Tammy, The Fluffy Movie, Think Like a Man Too, 22 Jump Street, Sex Tape, Moms Night Out, Walk of Shame, Blended and A Million Ways to Die in the West to choose from. Those looking to be scared can get the heebie jeebies from Deliver Us From Evil, The Sacrament, The Purge: Anarchy, Godzilla, Stage Fright, Jessabelle and As Above So Below. Those looking for wonder can find their sci-fi fix in such as Transformers: Age of Extinction, Guardians of the Galaxy, Lucy, Edge of Tomorrow, Jupiter Ascending, Earth to Echo, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Giver. Those looking for fantasy will no doubt embrace Maleficent, Mood Indigo and Hercules while those looking to get their grooves on will flock to Get On Up, Jersey Boys, One Chance and Step Up All In. Those looking for family entertainment will be cheered that despite no Pixar offerings coming their way this summer (for the first time in a very long time) there will still be choices in How to Train Your Dragon 2, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Earth to Echo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.

The stars are always out in the summer as you can catch sightings of Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone, Melissa McCarthy, Adam Sandler, Jason Statham, Seth Rogen, Jamie Foxx, Channing Tatum, Kevin Hart, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Walken, Drew Barrymore, Mila Kunis, Andrew Garfield, Dwayne Johnson, Gary Oldman, Jason Segel, Peter Dinklage, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke, Cameron Diaz, Zoe Saldana, Dan Aykroyd, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Jay Baruchel, Jim Caviezel, Jon Hamm, Ian McKellen, Harrison Ford, Jeff Bridges, Patrick Stewart, Paul Giamatti, Bruce Willis, Megan Fox, Chris Pratt, Octavia Spencer, Eric Bana, Dane Cook, John Hurt, Halle Berry, Keira Knightley, Jonah Hill, Emily Blunt, Elizabeth Banks, Dane DeHaan, Jennifer Lawrence, Seth McFarlane, Sharlto Copley, Jet Li, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Dustin Hoffman, Rosario Dawson, Zac Efron, Wesley Snipes, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, James McAvoy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Pratt, Mel Gibson, Susan Sarandon, Anna Paquin, Ian McShane, Scarlett Johansson, Stanley Tucci, Taraji P. Henson, Hugh Jackman, Antonio Banderas Sofia Vergara, Liam Neeson and Emma Stone.

So there’s a lot of star-watching to be done and a lot of big thrills waiting for us in the multiplex. It’s time for shorts and tank top weather; it’s time for flip flops and ice cream and picnics. School’s out, vacations are on and the box office is open. What are you hanging around here for? Dig in!

MAY

Not one but two Marvel movies are likely to dominate the box office landscape as the Summer season kicks off. We can also look forward to a return of a classic movie monster, a look at a classic Disney villain and the reunion of two leads from a classic romantic comedy.

X-Men-Days of Future Past

BIG KAHUNA

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Peter Dinklage
STORY: In a future where mutants have been nearly wiped out to extinction, the surviving X-Men must find a way to send Wolverine into the past – to convince Professor X to unite the X-Men and stop the dystopian future from ever occurring.
PROSPECTS: One of the most acclaimed story arcs in comic history comes to the big screen and the Internet has been ranting and raving about the action-packed trailers as the casts of the original X-Men movies and the most recent X-Men: First Class are united.
OBSTACLES: We may be oversaturated with superhero movies as Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released in April and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 only three weeks before this one.
FACTOID: This will mark the seventh appearance as Jackman as Wolverine, the most any comic book character has been played by the same actor. Jackman is also the only actor to appear in every X-Men film.

TIKI GODS

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2014
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx, Campbell Scott, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore
STORY: As Spider-Man is fighting more powerful villains, Peter Parker slowly comes to the realization that Oscorp may be at the center of it – and that they have something quite sinister in mind.
PROSPECTS: One of the most successful film franchises of all time just keeps on swinging and while there are is still some grumbling about the franchise, that hasn’t translated into lost revenue as of yet.
OBSTACLES: There is some dissatisfaction among the fan community about Garfield and director Marc Webb. One can’t help but wonder too if the movie might have too many villains as was the main complaint about Spider-Man 3.
FACTOID: This is the longest Spider-Man film to date, clocking in at 2 hours and 22 minutes.

GODZILLA
RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Andy Serkis
STORY: A gigantic prehistoric creature re-surfaces to wreak havoc on modern civilization.
PROSPECTS: The trailer has absolutely blown the Internet’s collective mind and has fanboys, nerds, geeks and movie buffs all frothing at the mouth for the movie to open.
OBSTACLES: Other than the original Japanese film, there haven’t been any truly decent Godzilla movies and most American audiences may well only know the Roland Emmerich abortion that still plays on cable regularly.
FACTOID: This is the last collaboration between Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers before Legendary signed a new contract with Universal.

MALEFICENT
RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2014
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Brenton Thwaites
STORY: Betrayal turns a pure-hearted young woman into a foul enchantress who puts a terrible curse on the daughter of her betrayer. However, she eventually discovers that this cursed daughter may be the key to peace in the kingdom and relieve the darkness in her own heart.
PROSPECTS: Maleficent is one of Disney’s most iconic and popular villains. The trailer looks pretty durn spectacular and Disneyphiles are eagerly awaiting this.
OBSTACLES: Two Snow White movies and now a fantasy epic based on the villain from Sleeping Beauty? Might once again be saturating the market.
FACTOID: The film has the largest budget ever awarded to a first-time feature director.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST
RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2014
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Seth McFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman
STORY: A courage-challenged sheep farmer is buoyed by the appearance of a mysterious and beautiful woman to take on a wicked gunfighter in a showdown to protect his town.
PROSPECTS: McFarlane’s Ted was a huge hit and the trailer for this one looks as funny as any I’ve ever seen.
OBSTACLES: Westerns have been pretty much box office poison for some time with few exceptions.
FACTOID: Theron had to wear a wig as she had shaved her head for her role in Mad Max: Fury Road.

DARK HORSE

BELLE
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2014
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton, Matthew Goode
STORY: The true story of a mixed race illegitimate daughter of a Royal Admiral raised by his aristocratic great-uncle. She would go on to influence Lord Mansfield in his role of ending slavery in Great Britain.
PROSPECTS: Fox Searchlight has a track record with the subject of slavery with 12 Years a Slave to their credit and they’ve been promoting this heavily as limited release films go.
OBSTACLES: Big English period pieces have not fared well in the United States since the heyday of Merchant-Ivory.
FACTOID: Director Amma Asante is an English writer-director who is best known for her role on the British TV series Grange Hill.

SURF’S UP

May 2, 2014

WALK OF SHAME (Focus World) which opens in limited release concerns an ambitious TV news reporter who has a one-night stand on the eve of the most important job interview of her career who finds herself stranded across town without her wallet, ID or means of getting to the interview. It’s a comedy folks and stars Elizabeth Banks. Also opening in limited release IDA (Music Box) is a Polish film in black and white about a nun just prior to taking her vows in 1962 forced to spend time with a relative she didn’t know she had who drops the bombshell that she is in fact Jewish. This played the Florida Film Festival this past month; you can read the review here.

May 9, 2014

In NEIGHBORS (Universal) a suburban college town couple’s lives are disturbed when a frat moves in next door. Seth Rogen and Zac Efron star. MOM’S NIGHT OUT (TriStar) gives a group of frazzled moms an opportunity to put on high heels, drink adult beverages, eat out at a nice restaurant and enjoy a night of adult fun while their husbands watch the kids. Of course not everything goes according to plan. LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN (Summertime) is an animated feature set in the land of Oz but not based on the work of L. Frank Baum but on the books by his great-grandson. Parents, be warned. CHEF (Open Road) stars Jon Favreau as a fine dining chef who quits his job to escape an overbearing owner and decides to open up a food truck instead. It is opening in limited release but should expand wide later in the month.

May 16, 2014

MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Disney) is based on a true story about a sports agent, desperate to find a new client who has the scheme of sponsoring a competition in India to find the first major league baseball players from India. Jon Hamm stars.

May 23, 2014

BLENDED (Warner Brothers) reunited Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (The Wedding Singer) as two single parents who don’t much like each other but whose families are thrown together on a fabulous African vacation. WORDS AND PICTURES (Roadside Attractions) is opening in limited release after playing the Florida Film Festival in April and stars Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche as a couple of teachers at an exclusive prep school who motivate their students by creating a competition over what’s more important; words or pictures.

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.

IRON MAN 3 (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $200 Million. Domestic Gross: $409.0M Total: $1.21 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (Paramount) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $228.8M Total: $467.4M Verdict: Profitable.
THE GREAT GATSBY (Warner Brothers) Budget: $105M. Domestic Gross: $144.8M Total: $351.0M Verdict: Hit.
EPIC (20th Century Fox) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $107.5M Total: $268.4M Verdict: Profitable.
WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $166,243 Total: $166,243. Verdict: Likely Lost Money.
FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (Universal) Budget: $160M. Domestic Gross: $238.7M Total: $788.7M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE HANGOVER PART III (Warner Brothers) Budget: $103M. Domestic Gross: $112.2M Total: $362.0M Verdict: Hit.
AFTER EARTH (Columbia) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $60.5M Total: $243.8M Verdict: Lost Money.
NOW YOU SEE ME (Summit) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $117.7M Total: $351.7 Verdict: Big Hit.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER (CBS) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.3M Total: $1.3M Verdict: Likely Broke Even.
PEEPLES (Lionsgate) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $9.2M Total: $9.3M Verdict: Flop.

 

JUNE

While many of the May blockbusters continue to dominate the box office in June, there still are some potential sizzlers that come out as the days built towards the shortest of the year. Michael Bay brings back an 80s cultural icon that has become a 21st century blockbuster franchise, a return to a television cult favorite turned into a surprise comedy hit, a hit Broadway musical comes to the big screen and while Pixar is taking the summer off, one of DreamWorks’ hit animated features gets a sequel.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

THE BIG KAHUNA

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
RELEASE DATE: June 27, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Kelsey Grammer, Li Bingbing, Sophia Myles, Titus Welliver, T.J. Miller
STORY: A car mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that will bring the attention of the Autobots, the Decepticons and a paranoid government official directly on them.
PROSPECTS: Losing Shia LaBeouf and gaining Wahlberg is a trade up in the minds of many. The appearance of the Dinobots is also a welcome sight for fans of the original 80s television show. Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the most recent film in the franchise to date, was by far the best.
OBSTACLES: The enthusiasm for the film franchise seems to be waning somewhat.
FACTOID: Michael Bay originally intended to give up his director’s chair for further films in the series and remain on only in the role of a producer, but changed his mind after hearing the story idea for the new film.

TIKI GODS

EDGE OF TOMORROW
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Jeremy Piven, Ciaran Hinds, Noah Taylor, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Lara Pulver, Tony Way
STORY: A green military officer, going into his first combat action during an alien invasion, is killed almost immediately. However, that’s not the end of the story; he relives the incident over and over again, each time getting more adept and lasting longer. Soon he figures out that his newfound ordeal may be the key to ultimate victory.
PROSPECTS: Tom Cruise is usually a pretty safe bet for big box office. Director Doug Liman has some hits to his credit including the first Bourne movie.
OBSTACLES: Alien invasion movies have lacked both quality and box office appeal over the past few years. The movie trailer is unfortunately using the same music that the Godawful Battle: Los Angeles trailer used.
FACTOID: Based on a Japanese graphic novel entitled All You Need is Kill.

22 JUMP STREET
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2014
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Peter Stormare, Rob Riggle, Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, Richard Grieco, Amber Stevens
STORY: The misfit undercover cop duo turn their attentions to the college campus and a drug ring there.
PROSPECTS: The first movie was a surprise hit and Tatum and Hill made an effective comedy team. The creative team is all back as well as most of the actors.
OBSTACLES: The trailer was underwhelming and the buzz on this one is much less pervasive than on the first film.
FACTOID: No script revisions were done before filming due to directors Phil Lord and Chris Mille being busy with The LEGO Movie.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2014
STUDIO: DreamWorks Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harrington, Djimon Honsou, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
STORY: Vikings and dragons have learned to co-exist but the peace is threatened by the warlord Drago who wants all the dragons for himself. Help will come to Hiccup and Toothless from a most unexpected source.
PROSPECTS: With Pixar taking the summer off, that leaves the family film market essentially all to this movie. Even if it didn’t, the first movie was a wild success and kids have been eating up all the TV shows and direct-to-video releases.
OBSTACLES: Not many.
FACTOID: Dean Deblois, who co-directed the first film with Chris Sanders, will be going it alone this time as Sanders was concentrating on The Croods.

DARK HORSE

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern, Mike Brbiglia, Nat Wolff, Sam Trammell, Emily Preachey, Lotte Verbeek
STORY: Two teens stricken with cancer find love and meaning, vowing to make the most of their time whether they have all the time in the world or mere moments.
PROSPECTS: Based on a beloved young adult book, perceptive teen girls may wind up flocking to this. Elgort is a handsome young man who no doubt will set some hearts to fluttering.
OBSTACLES: This is a low-key film that will have to struggle to find space at the multiplex amid all the big loud blockbusters taking p screens.
FACTOID: Woodley and Elgort both appear in Divergent – that time playing brother and sister.

SURF’S UP

June 6, 2014

In OBVIOUS CHILD (A24) a standup comedian who has been trying to break through for years loses her job, gets dumped by her boyfriend and discovers she’s pregnant just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jenny Slate stars as a woman who finds herself having to take stock and be a grown-up for the first time in her life. THE SACRAMENT (Magnet) which opens in limited release concerns a pair of reporters and a photographer investigating a religious cult in Central America that takes a chilling turn as you might expect in a Ti West movie. Both films played at this year’s Florida Film Festival.

June 13, 2014

LULLABY (Relativity) is an ensemble drama about the last 48 hours of a patient who has determined to take himself off of life support and end his life with dignity while he still can, bringing home his estranged son who uses the opportunity to mend fences and make peace with his past. THE ROVER (A24) is set in a dystopian future where society has collapsed and lawlessness reigns; when a man’s car is stolen by a gang, he forces a wounded member of that gang to help him track down the gang and reclaim what is his. Sounds a bit Mad Max-y to me. In any case, this is opening up in limited release but is set to expand wider on June 20th. In THE SIGNAL (Focus), a trio of college students on a Southwestern road trip find themselves in a waking nightmare; the movie is scheduled to open in limited release and then gradually expand on June 20th and June 27th.

June 20, 2014

JEFSEY BOYS (Warner Brothers) is based on the hit Broadway musical based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Clint Eastwood directs. THINK LIKE A MAN TOO (Screen Gems) is the sequel to the surprise hit comedy with an all-star cast as a group of women and men try to outwit and outthink one another in the ongoing war between the sexes.

June 27, 2014

Opening in limited release, SNOWPIERCER (Radius) is set during the next Ice Age when all of humanity that remains lives aboard a train that travels the globe on which revolution is brewing.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

MAN OF STEEL (Warner Brothers) Budget: $225 Million. Domestic Gross: $291.1M Total: $377.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney*Pixar) Budget: $200M. Domestic Gross: $268.5M Total: $743.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
WORLD WAR Z (Paramount) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $202.4M Total: $540.0M Verdict: Made Money.
THIS IS THE END (Columbia) Budget: $32M. Domestic Gross: $101.5M Total: $126.0M Verdict: Hit.
UNFINISHED SONG (Weinstein) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.7M Total: $7.0M Verdict: Likely Made Money.
THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $43M. Domestic Gross: $159.6M Total: $229.9M Verdict: Blockbuster.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Columbia) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $73.1M Total: $205.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE PURGE (Universal) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $64.5M Total: $89.3M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE INTERNSHIP (20th Century Fox) Budget: $58M. Domestic Gross: $44.7M Total: $93.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE BLING RING (A24) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $5.9M Total: $19.2M Verdict: Made Money.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Roadside Attractions) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $4.3M Total: $4.3M Verdict: Likely Made Money.

JULY

While July is usually an imposing month for the box office, oddly enough this year looks a little tame. While the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise gets a new sequel, it joins the second installment of a new horror franchise, Disney’s sole animated feature of the summer, a new sci-fi film from the Wachowskis and the second of two big budget movies this year about a mythological hero.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

THE BIG KAHUNA

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Gary Oldman, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo
STORY: After a devastating virus decimates the human population, the surviving humans and genetically enhanced apes battle for supremacy to become the planet’s dominant species.
PROSPECTS: The box office numbers for Rise of the Planet of the Apes was impressive enough that not only a sequel was warranted but it was given a cushy spot on the release schedule. The competition is unusually weak for July.
OBSTACLES: James Franco has bowed out and there are no major stars to draw in a fan base here. A surprise blockbuster could really take away a good deal of audience for this.
FACTOID: Judy Greer’s husband is reportedly a huge fan of the series and pressured her to take the role when it was offered.

TIKI GODS

TAMMY
RELEASE DATE: July 2, 2014
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh
STORY: After the worst day ever – losing her car, her job and her husband in a single day – a road trip with her grandma to Niagara Falls might just be what Tammy needs.
PROSPECTS: McCarthy has become the queen of summer comedy and with obvious Thelma and Louise references in the offing, this could be the summer’s biggest hit comedy.
OBSTACLES: Haven’t really seen the publicity blitz that has accompanied other McCarthy movies which could be a telltale sign that the studio doesn’t have faith in the film.
FACTOID: Both Shirley MacLaine and Debbie Reynolds were considered for the part that Sarandon ultimately got; McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone directed.

JUPITER ASCENDING
RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Tuppence Middleton, Doona Bae, James D’Arcy, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Terry Gilliam
STORY: A Chicago cleaning woman discovers that she is heir to a fabulous fortune – in outer space. However, there are forces who would rather that she stayed not just on the Earth but under it.
PROSPECTS: The Wachowskis are among the most visionary directors today and have constructed what looks to be an epic space opera.
OBSTACLES: Their last two films have yielded disappointing box office returns.
FACTOID: This is the first film the Wachowskis have directed in 3D.

THE PURGE: ANARCHY
RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2014
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Frank Grillo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Michael K. Williams, Carmen Ejogo, Cortney Palm, Edwin Hodge, Amy Palfrath, Nicholas Gonzalez
STORY: A young couple find themselves trapped outside miles from home during the annual purge and must dodge roaming gangs of psychopaths to find safety.
PROSPECTS: The first film was a massive hit and a sequel was quickly greenlit and filmed.
OBSTACLES: None of the original cast returns and the sequel was put together so quickly that no box office names could be signed on.
FACTOID: Both films in the franchise were written and directed by James DeMonaco.

DARK HORSE

WISH I WAS HERE
RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2014
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Zach Braff, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Ashley Greene, Jim Parsons, Joey King, Mandy Patinkin, Donald Faison, Pierce Gagnon
STORY: A young man finds himself at the crossroads of his life, questioning his choices and looking to reinvent himself and change his future.
PROSPECTS: Braff has a fairly rabid cult following from Scrubs and Garden State was a big indie hit.
OBSTACLES: He’s never really had anything more than a cult following and his humor can be fairly dry.
FACTOID: Braff used a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. He had hoped to get $2 million but wound up raising $3 million instead.

SURF’S UP

July 2, 2014

DELIVER US FROM EVIL (Screen Gems) is based on the real-life cases of a New York City cop who investigated the strange and inexplicable – kind of an NYPD X-Files. Eric Bana stars. EARTH TO ECHO (Relativity) involves three young boys who receive cryptic messages on their cell phones that lead them to an extraterrestrial being that needs help returning to his distant planet. E.T. phone home, anyone?

July 4, 2014

In BEGIN AGAIN (Weinstein), a down on his luck ex-record company executive and a young singer just dumped by her rock star boyfriend get together to make records any way they can. Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo headline.

July 11, 2014

AND SO IT GOES… (Clarius) is the latest from Rob Reiner and stars Michael Douglas as a self-centered real estate agent whose life is turned upside-down by the arrival of a granddaughter he never knew he had. THE FLUFFY MOVIE (Open Road) presents comedian Gabriel Iglesias in one of his sold-out standup concerts. ROAD TO PALOMA (Anchor Bay), opening in limited release, stars Jason Momoa as a Native American on the run from the FBI after avenging the rape and murder of his mother. He joins forces with a hard luck musician as they travel the vast emptiness of the American West looking for redemption. Momoa also directed.

July 18, 2014

PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE (Disney) returns Dusty Crophopper whose racing days are likely over due to a damaged engine. Looking for a new career, he decides to join the wild and reckless crew of firefighting aircraft who patrol the National Parks. I ORIGINS (Fox Searchlight) is also opening in limited release and is about an oculist whose research into the human eye yields a new understanding not only scientifically but spiritually as well.

July 25, 2014

HERCULES (MGM/Paramount) stars Dwayne Johnson as the legendary hero. Let us only hope that this is better than The Legend of Hercules although I’m not holding out hope after seeing the miserable trailer. In SEX TAPE (Columbia) a couple looking to reignite the passion in their marriage makes a sex tape. When the footage is inadvertently uploaded to their Cloud, they realize their bedroom fun is no longer private; they will have to act quickly to make sure that video doesn’t end up laid bare for all to see. STEP UP ALL IN (Summit) is the latest in the dance franchise.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

PACIFIC RIM (Warner Brothers) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $101.8M Total: $411.0M. Verdict: Made Money.
THE WOLVERINE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $120M. Domestic Gross: $132.6M Total: $414.8M Verdict: Hit.
DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) Budget: $76M. Domestic Gross: $368.1M Total: $970.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
GROWN-UPS 2 (Columbia) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $133.7M Total: $247.0M Verdict: Hit.
BLUE JASMINE (Sony Classics) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $33.4M Total: $95.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE SMURFS 2 (Columbia) Budget: $105M. Domestic Gross: $71.0M Total: $347.6M Verdict: Hit.
TURBO (DreamWorks) Budget: $33M. Domestic Gross: $35.1M Total: $140.5M Verdict: Hit.
THE CONJURING (New Line) Budget: $20M Domestic Gross: $137.4M Total: $318.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE LONE RANGER (Disney) Budget: $215M. Domestic Gross: $89.3M Total: $260.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
RED 2 (Summit) Budget: $84M. Domestic Gross: $53.3M Total: $148.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) Budget: $900,000. Domestic Gross: $16.1M Total: $16.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Radius) Budget: $4.8M. Domestic Gross: $779,188. Total: $10.3M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $21.5M Total: $23.2M Verdict: Big Hit.

AUGUST

The hottest month of the year is rarely the same for the box office. Generally the big movies from previous months are still dominating the box office tallies although usually one or two movies break through to become big hits themselves. This year we’ve got a good shot with the latest Marvel release taking a more galactic view, a live action return of a beloved 80s kids show franchise, the latest installment in an all-star action franchise, the biopic of a soul legend and the sequel to a modern noir hit.

Guardians of the Galaxy

THE BIG KAHUNA

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2014
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper (voice), Vin Diesel (voice), Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Benicio del Toro
STORY: A brash egocentric thief and adventurer steals a mysterious orb coveted by the nefarious and persistent Ronan. To try and protect himself and his loot, the thief – who calls himself Star Lord (although nobody else does) – enlists the aid of a ragtag and disparate bunch of galactic outlaws who must make a final stand to protect the galaxy from the power of the orb.
PROSPECTS: It’s Marvel and it has almost no competition. What do you think?
OBSTACLES: This is a very different Marvel movie that relies on minor characters and no superheroes. It is uncertain whether a mainstream audience will buy into it.
FACTOID: Gillan wore a wig in Oculus because she had shaved her head for this film.

TIKI GODS

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Whoopi Goldberg
STORY: Four strange, mutated turtles with sick ninja skills living in the storm drains of New York City arise from the shadows to battle the evil that is the Shredder and his Foot Clan.
PROSPECTS: One of the most popular animated shows of all time is rebooted for the big screen for the second time. With a radical budget, you can bet that the turtles got gourmet Wolfgang Puck pizza in craft services.
OBSTACLES: The kids who loved the show during its height in the ’80s are now in their 30s and 40s. The movie has kind of fallen under the radar given that the Transformers are also showing up in the multiplex this summer.
FACTOID: There was an uproar among fans when the film was originally to be released as Ninja Turtles without the Teenage Mutant. The complete title was later restored.

THE EXPENDABLES 3
RELEASE DATE: August 15, 2014
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer
STORY: A ruthless arms dealer who co-founded the Expendables before leaving in an acrimonious split with Barney is determined to destroy his old team. Barney recruits a new generation of Expendables to take on their most personal battle yet.
PROSPECTS: It will be a hoot to see Snipes onscreen again, and the first two movies have brought a lot of butts into August multiplex seats.
OBSTACLES: Neither one of the first two Expendables films were particularly inspiring and the competition is a little bit stiffer this year.
FACTOID: Statham was almost killed in a car crash when the brakes on the truck he was in failed and the truck went into the sea.

INTO THE STORM
RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2014
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sumpter, Nathan Kress, Matt Walsh, London Elise Moore, Kyle Davis, Scott Lawrence, Jon Reep
STORY: In a single day, a town is ravaged by an onslaught of deadly tornadoes. While most of the town runs for shelter, the storm chasers run towards danger.
PROSPECTS: Tornadoes are a very visually dramatic natural disaster and as Twister proved, have big box office appeal.
OBSTACLES: There haven’t been a lot of disaster movies lately and the ones that have come along have been hot messes.
FACTOID: Extras on the set referred to actor Scott Lawrence as Obama due to his facial resemblance to the President.

FRANK MILLER’S SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2014
STUDIO: Dimension
STARRING: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Powers Boothe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Lloyd
STORY: A prequel to the last Sin City film.
PROSPECTS: Terrific cast and the original Sin City remains a cult favorite.
OBSTACLES: It’s been nine years since the last film and the sequel has bounced around the schedule a bit. That doesn’t mean as much however since this is a Weinstein film.
FACTOID: Eva Green recently starred as Artemesia in 300: Rise of an Empire which was also based on a Frank Miller graphic novel.

DARK HORSE

ONE CHANCE
RELEASE DATE: August 29, 2014
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: James Corden, Julie Walters, Mackenzie Crook, Colm Meaney, Jemima Rooper, Alexandra Roach, Stanley Townsend
STORY: The inspirational true story of Paul Potts, a shy and bullied shop keeper’s assistant who has a passion for opera. Despite having doors slammed in his face consistently, he perseveres and enters Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent show where he will capture the hearts of millions.
PROSPECTS: Potts overcomes such adversity that all of us can relate to no matter what sort of music you’re into or what country you’re from.
OBSTACLES: It is unlikely the U.S. will embrace a movie in which opera plays such a central role although you never know.
FACTOID: As has become somewhat standard for Weinstein, the movie has bounced around the schedule after being originally set to open last year.

SURF’S UP

August 1, 2014

CALVARY (Fox Searchlight) stars Brendan Gleeson as a good but troubled Irish priest whose parishioners are prone to all sorts of troubles, some comic and some less so. While this is currently listed for wide release, expect it to get a limited release instead. GET ON UP (Universal) is the biopic of soul legend James Brown with Chadwick Bozeman (42) in the title role.

August 8, 2014

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (DreamWorks) is the latest from director Lasse Halstrom and stars Helen Mirren in a clash of cultures between a classic French restaurant and an upstart Indian restaurant in a bucolic French village. In LUCY (Universal) an unwilling drug mule gains amazing powers when the drugs accidentally enter her system. Scarlett Johansson stars and Luc Besson directs.

August 13, 2014

LET’S BE COPS (20th Century Fox) sees two hard luck fellas dress as cops for a costume party, get mistaken for real cops and like the sensation so much they decide to take it a step further, getting them involved with dirty cops and mobsters in the process.

August 15, 2014

In AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (Universal/Legendary) a group of students making a trek through the catacombs of Paris meet an unspeakable horror that will take them to the very edge of sanity – and beyond. DESERT DANCER (Relativity) an young Iranian man risks everything to achieve his dream of being a dancer despite the obstacle that it is forbidden in Iran. Based on the true story of Afshin Ghaffarian. THE GIVER (Weinstein) posits a future in which all memory of the past rests with a single person. As a young man prepares to take on this responsibility, he discovers that the truth is not what he was taught it was. Based on the Newberry Award-winning young adult sci-fi novel. LIFE AFTER BETH (A24) is about a teenager, devastated by the sudden death of his girlfriend. When she miraculously returns, he is overjoyed but he soon discovers she isn’t the girl she used to be. THE TRIP TO ITALY (Magnolia) which opens in limited release reunited Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as loose versions of themselves who are taking a driving tour through Italy to review restaurants, eat great food and do hysterical celebrity impressions. This was the opening night film at this year’s Florida Film Festival and it was indeed terrific.

August 22, 2014

In IF I STAY (Warner Brothers/MGM) a young woman involved in a terrible car crash wakes up to find herself out of body and faced with a decision; to fight to stay alive or let go and move on to the next life. WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL (TriStar) chronicles the story of Bob Ladouceur, head football coach at De La Salle High School in Northern California who had the nation’s longest winning streak in sports history come to an end. Faced with that adversity as well as one even more dire, the school and team come together for a moment that shines beyond glory.

August 27, 2014

NOVEMBER MAN (Relativity) stars Pierce Brosnan as an ex-CIA operative pitted against his former pupil in a very personal mission. Based on the popular series of novels. UNDERDOGS (Weinstein) finds the Foosball players come to life from a table owned by a would-be hero. He will need their help in order to save his town and win back the woman he loves.

August 29, 2014

In JESSABELLE (Lionsgate) a young woman returns home to the Louisiana bayou to find a malevolent spirit waiting there for her – and this time it has no intention of letting her leave. THE LOFT (Universal) is where five married guys indulge their wildest fantasies away from the prying eyes of their wives. When they discover the dead body of an unknown woman, they realize that one of their number must be responsible. Opening in limited release, THE CONGRESS (Drafthouse) is an animated feature with Robin Wright playing an actress whose likeness is purchased by a film studio so that a portion of her appears in a variety of futures both dystopic and utopic.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

ELYSIUM (TriStar) Budget: $115M. Domestic Gross: $93.1M Total: $286.1M Verdict: Made Money.
KICK-ASS 2 (Universal) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $28.8M Total: $60.8M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (Screen Gems) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $31.2M Total: $90.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE WORLD’S END (Focus) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $26.0M Total: $46.1M Verdict: Broke Even.
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $68.6M Total: $199.9M Verdict: Made Money.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US (TriStar) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $28.9M Total: $68.5M Verdict: Hit.
WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) Budget: $37M. Domestic Gross: $150.4M Total: $270.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.
DISNEY’S PLANES (Disney) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $90.3M Total: $219.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
PARANOIA (Relativity) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $7.4M Total: $13.8M Verdict: Flop.
CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $5.8M Total: $6.2M Verdict: Probably Lost Money.
2 GUNS (Universal) Budget: $61M. Domestic Gross: $75.6M Total: $131.9M Verdict: Broke Even.
GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $10.5M Total: $10.5M Verdict: Flop.
THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) Budget: $1.5M. Domestic Gross: $3.5M Total: $3.6M Verdict: Broke Even.

So there it is, all wrapped up in a shiny bow just for you. The summer blockbuster season kicks off on Friday and from here on out it’ll be something to look forward to just about every week. Now, while I’m sure you’re already planning your moviegoing schedule for the summer, please do keep in mind as always that NO schedule is set in stone and that studios are wont to move movies to new dates without notice, particularly the farther out they are. There will be a good number of movies in this preview that will be bumped out to the fall or further and some may be removed from the schedule completely without explanation. Chances are within a week of this being posted there will already have been some changes. However, that shouldn’t stop you from making plans to see some or even many of the big summer flicks. After all, part of the ritual of summer is an air-conditioned multiplex, a big summer movie and a big tub of buttery popcorn with an ice-cold soda to wash it down with. You can get further details on films with our weekly previews and our monthly Four-Warned series and of course Cinema365 will be out on the front lines bringing you reviews of as many of these as we can get to. And it doesn’t end there – at the end of August look for our Fall/Holiday preview as we get set to take a look at the movies to see in the last four months of the year, which will include Interstellar (Christopher Nolan’s latest), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Paranormal Activity 5, the conclusion of the Tolkein trilogy The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Night at the Museum 3, a new version of the classic Broadway musical Annie and Paddington, bringing the beloved children’s book character Paddington Bear to life. Until then, we’ll be looking for you at the multiplex!