Dark Shadows


Dark Shadows

You’d be grinning too if you had a sex scene with Johnny Depp that ended up trashing a set.

(2012) Gothic Comedy (Warner Brothers) Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Helena Bonham Carter, Bella Heathcote, Christopher Lee, Gulliver McGrath, Ray Shirley, Alice Cooper. Directed by Tim Burton

 

Sometimes without meaning to we cause harm to people. We never know exactly who we’ve created an enemy of, or what they’re capable of doing though even if we’re innocent of any real wrongdoing.

Barnabas Collins (Depp) was living the high life, 18th century style. His family owns a wildly successful fishing fleet in Maine; the town built around their enterprise, Collinsport, is thriving; they’ve built an extravagant mansion overlooking the town and the Atlantic that would be the equivalent of a castle. And Barnabas is deeply in love with Josette duPres (Heathcote).

This is bad news to Angelique Bouchard (Green). She and the handsome Barnabas had a fling which meant much more to her than it did to him. She was a maid, he the master of the house; a relationship between them would not be appropriate if it were even possible. Scorned, Angelique resolves to get even and since she happens to be a rather powerful witch, that’s even worse news for Josette. Angelique casts a spell on her, causing her to throw herself off a cliff into the sea despite Barnabas’ desperate attempts to save her. Heartbroken, he throws himself off the same cliff but fails to die. You see, he’s been cursed as well – to become a vampire, a hideous creature of the night.

The implacable Angelique lets the good citizens of Collinsport know they have a monster in their midst and Barnabas is dragged out into a remote field where he is chained up and buried alive. There he remains, deep in the ground in the woods far outside of town.

That is, until he is dug up some 200 years later by contractor. It is now 1972 and two centuries without a meal can make one…peckish as the workers find out to their dismay. He longs to find his estate and get his bearings. When he gets there, he is overjoyed to find that the family still survives (although it’s never explained quite how, since he apparently was the only son – perhaps some other Collins’ emigrated from England to take over the family business). However, they are definitely down at heel. Their fishing business is a shadow of its former self. The mansion is crumbling and what was once a vast army of servants is down to two – the elderly Mrs. Johnson (Shirley) and the booze-addled Willie Loomis (Haley) who does most of the heavy lifting.

The family is down to four members – matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Pfeiffer), widowed mother of rebellious teen Carolyn (Moretz). Her brother Roger Collins (Miller) who is also a widower and a womanizer, not to mention somewhat useless. The last is his son David (McGrath) who talks to and sees his dead mother. This tendency to dwell on his late mother has alarmed Elizabeth who has opened her penurious pursestrings and hired Julia Hoffman (Carter), a psychiatrist who seems more interested in drinking and smoking than therapy and Victoria Winters (Heathcote), a governess who bears a remarkable resemblance to Josette.

They welcome Barnabas with mostly open arms although Elizabeth alone is aware that Barnabas is that Barnabas rather than a distant English relation (the cover story they use for Barnabas’ unusual and sudden appearance). Elizabeth wants to regain the family name and glory and she knows that his keen business acumen can only help (it doesn’t hurt that as a vampire he can use his mind to control others to do his will). However, they have a long ways to go to catch up with Angel Bay, the corporate entity that has taken over the fishing business in Collinsport. However, Barnabas is dismayed to find out that at the head of Angel Bay is an old nemesis (emphasis on the old) – Angelique (going by Angie these days) who hasn’t aged a day. Like as not, their old quarrel is going to resurface and there’s going to be fall-out and only one of them will be left standing.

On the surface this seems like a perfect fit – Burton, one of the quirkiest directors in Hollywood but one who knows how to tell a good story and the iconic gothic soap opera from the 60s and 70s. He has chosen to go the cheeseball route, not just by setting the movie (mostly) in the 70s but by changing its original dark, gothic tone to one that is more comedic. In all honesty it doesn’t work as well as I would have hoped.

It’s not Depp’s fault. He takes the late Jonathan Frid’s (who played Barnabas in the series) mannered, courtly vampire and takes that to the extreme, playing up the fish out of water angle a great deal more. In the original, Barnabas seemed to adjust much more quickly and readily to his new time. Frid was a sex symbol in his time albeit not to the same degree Depp is now. Depp’s Barnabas seems sexier more by accident than by artifice; indeed, the original Barnabas was far more evil and dangerous than Depp who is almost apologetic when he feeds. In fact, Frid seems to revel in his undead status more than Depp who would just as soon be rid of his curse.

The supporting roles vary wildly. Pfeiffer is always magnificent and although she seems a bit young to play the matron, she pulls it off here well. Green is the most impressive; with her carefree grin, she sees to be having the most fun of everybody (she does get to have a hot and somewhat violent sex scene with Depp so I suppose she comes by her smile honestly) and it translates into making her character more attractive to audiences. She may be vindictive and cruel but she’s a woman scorned – they’re supposed to be vindictive and cruel.

Personally I think the filmmakers missed an opportunity there. She was supposed to be desperately in love with Barnabas despite his rejection, but as he noted she saw him as more of a possession than a partner. I think if she had shown real love towards Barnabas it would have been much more poignant, but then it might have ruined the comic tone which I also think may have been a misstep – the film rarely achieves more than being amusing which is not what you want in a summer comedy.

The movie looks impressive with Collinswood being an amazing set, full of nautical touches that are gratifying in their detail and fully understandable given the family’s source of income. However, as lavish as the film looks and as well as Green and Depp do, it doesn’t hide the fact that there isn’t really a whole lot of passion displayed by the filmmakers; at least, I never feel inspired by the movie to do much more than smile occasionally. The movie felt to me almost workmanlike which is a shame because I had high hopes for it. Despite a lot of nice little touches it doesn’t add up to a satisfying film overall; but those touches are enough for me to recommend it with the caveat that it isn’t going to remain in your memory as long as the original series did.

REASONS TO GO: Depp inhabits his role well. Green has fun with her part. Nicely Gothic sets.

REASONS TO STAY: Most of the funniest bits are in the trailer. Purists will bemoan the comedic tone.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some comic violence, a fairly bizarre sex scene, some drug use and smoking and a bit of bad language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: To prepare for his role as Barnabas, Depp subsisted on a diet of green tea and low-sugar fruits in order to slim down to 140 pounds.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/20/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 42% positive reviews. Metacritic: 55/100. The reviews have been mixed although leaning more towards the negative side.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Vampires Suck

DARK SHADOWS LOVERS: Original series cast members Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, David Selby and Jonathan Frid (in his last onscreen role before his death earlier this year) have cameos as guests at a party at Collinswood.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT:The Pirates! Band of Misfits

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New Releases for the Week of May 11, 2012


May 11, 2012

DARK SHADOWS

(Warner Brothers) Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Eva Green, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote, Christopher Lee. Directed by Tim Burton

Young Barnabas Collins, an 18th century wastrel and scion of a wealthy New England family, makes the dreadful mistake of breaking a witch’s heart and is cursed therefore to vampirism and is consequently buried alive to think about the error of his ways. By the time he is released (inadvertently I might add) it is 1972 and the world is a far different place. He returns to his beloved Collinwood manor to discover the family has fallen upon hard times and the house is a ruin. He sets out to restore both, although there are forces conspiring that wish to keep the Collins family low.

See the trailer, featurettes, clips, interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX

Genre: Gothic Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

(Fox Searchlight) Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith. A group of English  retirees answer an ad for a resort in India that is meant to cater to the needs of golden age residents with all of the lushest amenities and scintillating service. However when they arrive, they find a hotel and staff with grand ambitions but little else as the resort fails to meet even minimal standards. As the hotel begins to transform around them, the seniors discover that they themselves are being transformed.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and language)  

The Cup

(Myriad) Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Curry, Daniel McPherson, Alice Parkinson. The Oliver brothers, sons of a family that is legendary in the Australian horse racing world, are at the top of their game, considered among the favorites to win the upcoming Melbourne Cup – the most prestigious horse race in Oz, the equivalent to the Kentucky Derby. However when one dies in a tragic accident mere days before the Cup, the other is heartbroken and considers leaving horse racing for good. However a respected trainer will encourage him to run the race in his brother’s honor, leading to an event that caused the entire horse racing world to hold it’s breath as one.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Sports Drama

Rating: NR

Dangerous ISHHQ

(Reliance Big Picture) Karisma Kapoor, Jimmy Shergill, Rajiniesh Duggall, Divya Dutta.  A business tycoon and a supermodel are one of India’s most celebrated couples. When he is kidnapped, the crime becomes front-page news. But the police believe that even if the extravagant ransom is paid that he will not be returned alive anyway. With time ticking away, the supermodel must put herself in harm’s way to bring home the man she loves.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: NR

Girl in Progress

(Pantelion) Eva Mendes, Matthew Modine, Patricia Arquette, Cierra Ramirez. A single mom, robbed of her teen years by pregnancy, is spending all of her focus on her own needs and gives little to none to her daughter who desperately needs a mom. As her daughter becomes engaged in coming-of-age stories, she becomes convinced that the way to adulthood is through sex.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic elements, sexual content including crude references, and drinking – all involving teens)  

God Bless America

(Magnet) Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr, Mackenzie Brooke Smith, Melinda Page Hamilton  A man, fed up with the venal nature of Americans, the trash quotient of reality TV and the general celebration of rude behavior, goes on a murderous rampage. He is cheered on by a teenage girl who becomes his willing accomplice, although reluctantly on his part. This is the new movie from comedian/director Bobcat Goldthwait and played at the recent Florida Film Festival. You can find the review here.

See the trailer and stream the movie online here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Black Comedy

Rating: R (for strong violence and language including some sexual sequences)

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

(Magnolia) Jiro Ono, Yoshikazu Ono, Takashi Ono, Masuhiro Yamamoto. The world’s foremost sushi chef – and the only one in the world to be honored with three Michelin stars – operates from a tiny ten-seat restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. At 85, he works harder than most a quarter of his age. His sons are being prepared to succeed him but can anyone live up to the daunting legacy he has built? Another film screened at this year’s Florida Film Festival; you can read the review here.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR 

Four-Warned: May 2012


May 2012Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

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

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

FOUR TO SEE
1. MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (1.0)
2. MEN IN BLACK 3 (1.4)
3. THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (1.8)
4. DARK SHADOWS (1.9)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE INTOUCHABLES (1.2)
2. POLISSE (1.3)
3. DEATH OF A SUPERHERO (1.5)
4. 5 BROKEN CAMERAS (1.6)
TIE. HYSTERIA (1.6)

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

MAY 4, 2012

A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN (Millennium) Genre: Romance. An irreverent young woman with health issues falls in love with her doctor. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds like a lot of different movies, but this one has the great Peter Dinklage in it.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. Seven English retirees lured to an Indian resort with the promise of posh amenities arrive to find it not quite ready for occupancy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks charming and fun from the trailer with a solid cast.
DEATH OF A SUPERHERO (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A young boy with a brilliant future as a graphic novelist discovers his life is in danger from a real life enemy. Release Strategy: Seattle only. RATING: 1.5 Andy Serkis is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors; I hope this sees a more general or at least a limited release.
FIRST POSITION (IFC) Genre: Documentary. Filmmakers follow six young ballet hopefuls through the trials and tribulations of one of America’s most prestigious ballet competitions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Kids chasing their dreams in the arts; haven’t we seen this before?
JANNAT 2 (FIP) Genre: Crime Thriller. A streetwise gun runner infiltrates a vicious gun smuggling ring to help the cops take it down but when he falls in love with a beautiful doctor everything is thrown into chaos. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Trailer was a little disjointed; kinda looks cheesy.
LAST CALL AT THE OASIS (Participant/ATO) Genre: Documentary. Looks at the very real and grim possibility that in the not too distant future there may not be enough water to sustain life on this planet. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks very grim and haunting.
LOL (Lionsgate) Genre: Dramedy. A mother reads her daughter’s diary and realizes she doesn’t know her at all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Nice cast but a little bit heavy on the teen angst.
MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Superhero. The world’s most powerful heroes must take on an alien invasion led by a disgraced god. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Long anticipated, finally here.
MEETING EVIL (Magnet) Genre: Thriller. A depressed unemployed family man offers to help a stranger with his car and becomes involved in a murder spree. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 They had me at Samuel L. Jackson.
MOTHER’S DAY (Gigapix) Genre: Horror. A sadistic mom and her bank robbing sons take control at a birthday party held at their former home, terrorizing the new residents. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 I don’t think this has anything to do with the 80s slasher film of the same name.
THE PERFECT FAMILY (Variance) Genre: Drama. A matriarch up for the Catholic Woman of the Year award tries to get her dysfunctional family to pull it together. Release Strategy: New York City (Opens in Los Angeles May 11). RATING: 2.2 Kathleen Turner gives what looks to be a marvelous performance.

MAY 9, 2012

PATIENCE: AFTER SEBALD (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A group of artists and writers interpret the work of W.G. Sebald, one of the 20th century’s most challenging writers. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.8 Black and white images and music pass by while the text is being read; just shoot me now.

MAY 11, 2012

A BAG OF HAMMERS (MPI Media Group) Genre: Caper Drama. A pair of charming con artists find themselves “adopted” by a neglected young boy and consequently their world view begins to change. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks very indie but not in a good way.
THE CUP (Myriad) Genre: True Sports Drama. A rising star in the Australian horse racing world must decide whether to participate in the prestigious Melbourne Cup race days after his brother dies in a tragic accident. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.8 Even though this put goosebumps on me, I still couldn’t help thinking “Gee, another inspirational sports story.”
DANGEROUS ISHHQ (Reliance Big Picture) Genre: Thriller. A supermodel whose wealthy industrialist boyfriend has been kidnapped must rescue him before time runs out – and the clues to his freedom lay in her past lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Not typical Bollywood fare but definitely shows some visual flair.
DARK SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Gothic Comedy. A vampire is inadvertently released from captivity in the 1970s after centuries of imprisonment. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.9 The legendary 60s gothic soap opera as reinvented by Tim Burton – what’s not to love?
DRAGON EYES (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A town ruled by gangs and corrupt police vie for the services of a newly arrived martial arts phenom, but he has another agenda in mind. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 While it does have the great JCVD, the trailer makes him look like more of a cameo and the film like a B movie Walking Tall clone.
EL GRINGO (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A violent thief crosses the border into Mexico with his ill-gotten gains, intending to live out his life on a beach with the rest of it but the townspeople have other ideas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Certainly a riff on El Mariachi but why not take from the best?
GIRL IN PROGRESS (Pantelion) Genre: Coming of Age. A single mom immersed in her career and in the affections of a co-worker fails to notice her own teen daughter’s move into adulthood. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The tagline “Lessons in motherhood – taught by a kid” sure doesn’t help this movie’s cause any.
GOD BLESS AMERICA (Magnet) Genre: Black Comedy. A man, tired of rudeness, crudeness and the cult of personality goes on a killing spree aided by an eager teen. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Caught Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest at the Florida Film Festival – read my review here.
HICK (Phase 4) Genre: Dramedy. A small town girl with big dreams hitchhiking to Las Vegas runs into some shady characters on the way there. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Sounds like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Neal Cassady.
I WISH (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. A young Japanese boy separated from his brother by divorce dreams of a miracle that he believes will happen when bullet trains on a new line pass each other at full speed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 From acclaimed director Hirokazu Kareeda comes this look at fractured families and faith.
NESTING (Steele) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A 30-something couple, fearing the loss of their relevance, squats in their old apartment with unforeseen consequences. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Kind of like John Hughes in reverse.
THE PHILLY KID (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A former wrestling champion, fresh out of prison, takes up underground MMA fighting to help his best friend get out of debt and winds up in more trouble than he bargained for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Another *yawn* underground fighting movie.
PORTRAIT OF WALLY (Seventh Art) Genre: Documentary. Egon Schiele’s painting Portrait of Wally, the pride of the Leopold Gallery in Austria, becomes the focus of a legal battle which brings light to bear on Nazi art looting and the ramifications of private collectors vs. public museums. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 A very complex case that deserves a serious examination which I hope this documentary gives it.
THE ROAD (Freestyle) Genre: Horror. When a cold case of three teenagers who disappeared on a country road is re-examined, it’s discovered that there is more to that stretch of road than meets the eye. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks deliciously creepy and sensationally scary.
SLEEPLESS NIGHT (Tribeca) Genre: Crime Thriller. A previously honest cop steals a bag of cocaine from a vicious drug dealer who kidnaps his son and demands the drugs back in exchange. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like a non-stop top notch action film.
SMALL BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS (Long Shot Factory) Genre: Comedy. An anxious pregnant technophile goes on a road trip to meet her technophobic mom. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 The trailer has some wonderful heart; this is inspired by the syndicated web series “Sparks.”
STASH HOUSE (After Dark Action) Genre: Suspense. A family moves into a new home only to discover that a stash of heroin is stored in its walls – and the criminals want it back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Generic home/fortress action flick.
TONIGHT YOU’RE MINE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romantic Comedy. During a big music festival, a star performer is handcuffed to a brand new performer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Could have an excess of indie preciousness.
TRANSIT (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A man returns home after serving out a tax evasion sentence goes on a camping trip to reunite his family, but discovers that they are being pursued by four ruthless killers after the stolen money they hid in his family’s car. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Jim Caviezel is moving higher on my list after his work on “Person of Interest” this year.
UNDER AFRICAN SKIES (A&E Indie) Genre: Musical Documentary. Paul Simon in making the album Graceland defied a UN ban to work with South African artists; 25 years later he returns to South Africa and discusses the fallout of his actions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Has the potential to examine an art vs. politics question that rarely gets examined.
WHERE DO WE GO NOW? (Sony Classics) Genre: Dramedy. A group of women in a Lebanese village of Muslims and Christians try to hold on to peace when tensions threaten to bring violence back to the village. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 Charming and heartrending at once.

MAY 16, 2012

THE DICTATOR (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. A heavy-handed dictator of an Arab nation goes to New York City to address the UN. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.0 I’ve never really been a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen but this one looks like it could have potential.
ELENA (Zeitgeist) Genre: Thriller. A golddigging Russian wife hatches a scheme to maintain her inheritance. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 Looks veritably Hitchcockian and the Philip Glass score doesn’t hurt.

MAY 18, 2012

AMERICAN ANIMAL (Screen Media) Genre: Fantasy. A young man whose roommate is moving out tries to get him to stay in one night of partying. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.3 From the trailer, seems to promote the idea that crazy is better. Crazy is just crazy.
BATTLESHIP (Universal) Genre: Science Fiction. Naval vessels are trapped in an ocean-based alien invasion. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Alien invasion films have been remarkably bad of late; this doesn’t seem to be much better based on what I’ve seen.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (Magnet) Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery. A young woman in the 1980s undergoes experimental therapy that opens up new vistas but threatens her sanity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks a bit avant garde.
CROOKED ARROWS (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Sports Drama. A coach at a primarily Native American school leads the lacrosse team to a State championship game against their prep school rivals. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Meant to be an allegory on the treatment of aboriginals in South America.
DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. The story of one of fashion’s most influential figures of the 20th century. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 As I’ve said before, fashion is a subject that I’m absolutely not interested in.
FOLLOW ME: THE YONI NETANYAHU STORY (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. The tale of the young soldier who led the Israeli commandos on the Raid on Entebbe. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Sounds kind of interesting but at the same time maybe has a bit of an agenda.
HYSTERIA (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. The story of the guy who invented the vibrator, a man whom many lonely housewives should bless. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks hysterically funny (pun intended) and has a great cast.
LOVELY MOLLY (Image) Genre: Thriller. A young newlywed returns to her childhood home only to have the memories of her past abuse creep back – and maybe something else as well. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The newest from The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez – but it’s nothing like that film.
MANSOME (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Morgan Spurlock takes a look at modern male grooming in the age of metrosexuality. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The newest from the suddenly prolific Morgan Spurlock looks kind of irreverent and fun.
POLISSE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. This intense Cesar-nominated film follows the daily lives of the police Child Protection Unit in Paris. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Gritty, heartbreaking, intense and funny – could be one of the best films of the year judging from the trailer.
THE SAMARITAN (IFC) Genre: Action. A grifter trying to make a new life after a 25-year prison stint is ensnared by his old life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 With Samuel M*****F****** L. Jackson in the house, that’s all I need to hear.
VIRGINIA (EOne) Genre: Drama. A single mom’s life gets harder when her affair with the married sheriff threatens to become exposed in an election year. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks kinda offbeat but with Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly in the cast, you can’t go wrong.
WHAT TO EXPECT IF YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Five couples discover that their lives become much more complicated once they get pregnant. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 A strong ensemble cast but looks kinda weak in the humor department.

MAY 25, 2012

THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Brothers) Genre: Horror. A group of “extreme tourists” visit Chernobyl and when their van breaks down quickly discover that the town and plant aren’t quite as deserted as they were led to believe. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 From the creators of the Paranormal Activity series this looks balls-out scary.
COWGIRLS ‘N ANGELS (Goldwyn) Genre: Family. A little girl searching for her absent dad (a rodeo rider) is brought into the Sweethearts of the Rodeo after displaying skills as a trick rider. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 A little bit – shall we say – over-sweet.
HIDE AWAY (MMC Joule) Genre: Drama. A broken once-successful businessman tries to turn his life around by refurbishing a dilapidated boat in an idyllic seaside village. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds kinda maudlin but SXSW doesn’t usually book maudlin.
THE INTOUCHABLES (Weinstein) Genre: Limited. A disabled French man develops an unexpected bond with his caregiver, an ex-con with an unusually upbeat attitude. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 A box office record-holder in France, this was a big hit at the recent Florida Film Festival.
MEN IN BLACK 3 (Columbia) Genre: Science Fiction. Agent J must go back in time and save Agent K and correct the time line or the Earth is doomed. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.4 Looks like one of the big hits of the summer.
MIGHTY FINE (Adopt) Genre: Dramedy. A man relocates his family from Brooklyn to New Orleans in the 1970s in search of a better life. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.8 Why cast Chazz Palminteri as a Jewish man? Aren’t there enough Jewish actors?
MOONRISE KINGDOM (Focus) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A New England town in 1965 is turned upside down when a pair of kids run away into the woods when a big storm is brewing. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.0 Doesn’t sound like a romantic comedy but with Wes Anderson in the director’s chair anything can happen.
OSLO, AUGUST 31 (Strand) Genre: Thriller. An alcoholic gets a day pass out of rehab in order to go to a job interview in Oslo but the pressures of the day and of family and friends puts his sobriety in jeopardy. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Looks like another home run from Norway.

MAY 30, 2012

5 BROKEN CAMERAS (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. A documentarian and a farmer together decide to document five years in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.6 The title refers to five cameras during the course of the filming of the documentary that were shot or broken by Israeli soldiers.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Marvel’s The Avengers, Dark Shadows, Where Do We Go Now?, Battleship, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, Lovely Molly, The Intouchables, Men in Black 3

2012 Summer Movie Preview


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAY

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

May 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

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

SCORCHERS

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

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

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

SUMMER STORM

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

HEAT WAVE

May 4, 2012

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

May 11, 2012

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

May 16, 2012

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

May 18, 2012

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

May 25, 2011

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

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

JUNE

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

June 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

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

SCORCHERS

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

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

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

SUMMER STORM

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

HEAT WAVE

June 1, 2012

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

June 6, 2012

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

June 8, 2012

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

June 15, 2012

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

June 22, 2012

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

June 27, 2012

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

June 29, 2012

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

JULY

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

July 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

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

SCORCHERS

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

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

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

SUMMER STORM

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

HEAT WAVE

July 5, 2012

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

July 6, 2012

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

July 11, 2012

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

July 13, 2012

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

July 25, 2012

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

July 27, 2012

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

AUGUST

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

August 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

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

SCORCHERS

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

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

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

SUMMER STORM

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

HEAT WAVE

August 3, 2012

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

August 10, 2012

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

August 15, 2012

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

August 17, 2012

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

August 24, 2012

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

August 31, 2012

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

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

2012 Preview


The box office slide that began in 2010 continued in 2011, much to the chagrin of exhibitors and studios alike. With increasing home viewing options coming from Video On-Demand, streaming from services such as Netflix, Hulu and Epix as well as Blu-Ray and DVD viewing (although that market is shrinking as well as movies follow the lead of the music industry and move to an increasingly digital format), theaters were unable to compete with home viewing in a strained economic environment. High ticket prices and upcharges for 3D and IMAX viewing kept audiences away towards more economical formats; it costs less for one month of unlimited streaming on Netflix than it does for a single non-matinee ticket at the average first-run theater. When your audience is pinching pennies, it doesn’t make sense to make your product less affordable.

There are no signs that this particular downturn is going to be changing anytime soon. 2011 had been a very anticipated year for blockbusters, but for the most part the numbers were down all around. While Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 sent the franchise out with a bang (and with arguably the best film in the series), The Help made a bundle unexpectedly while Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger continued Marvel’s winning ways at the box office. While there are some movies that are very much on everyone’s radar (The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises come to mind), the schedule once again looks crowded as would-be franchise-starters jockey for position with established names.

Don’t weep too much for the studios however; they’ll be fine as licensing agreements, cable and broadcast television rights, DVD and Blu-Ray sales and fees from streaming services and video on-demand will continue to augment their box office receipts. If things were that bad for the studios, you wouldn’t see nearly as many nine figure budgets being approved.

Once again Cinema365 will be in the thick of the fray, reviewing as many new releases as we can get to (that make it to the Orlando market anyway) and as many DVD reviews that we can fit in between. We’ll continue to be a presence at the Florida Film Festival this year, as well as a voice for independent films and non-major releases while at the same time reviewing major films without stooping to leveling zingers at the expense of fair and impartial information for readers to make informed decisions about what movies they want to spend two hours of their lives seeing, either at home or at the multiplex.

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

So enough of the sizzle; it’s time for some steak. Dig in to our 2012 Preview and we at Cinema365 sincerely hope you find it a satisfying meal. Enjoy!

JANUARY

Usually the first month of any new year is mostly the province of the Holiday movies, remaining strong in the theaters, plus the debuts of a one or two Oscar hopefuls that opened in New York and Los Angeles before the end of the year to qualify for an Academy Award nomination. Generally the rest are those films exiled to the gulag that is January, movies that have shifted release dates and that the studios have little confidence in. Once in awhile, there are movies that come out that are critically acclaimed or box office winners or both. While there is a new war film from George Lucas on the schedule as well as what looks to be an Oscar contender for Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, the rest don’t inspire a whole lot of confidence.

GOLD MEDAL

RED TAILS

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Tristan Wilds, Cliff Smith, Lee Tergesen, Ne-Yo
STORY: Based on the inspirational true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots, take on the most dangerous missions in the European theater of World War II as well as the prejudices of their own commanders.
PROSPECTS: Some of the action sequences look astonishing and with George Lucas producing you know that this is going to look good if nothing else.
OBSTACLES: Produced by George Lucas. That alone would be enough to have audiences show up in droves a decade ago, but after the debacle of his last three Star Wars films, Lucas doesn’t have the cachet he once had.
FACTOID: Cuba Gooding Jr. also had a role in the acclaimed TV movie The Tuskegee Airmen.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

CONTRABAND

RELEASE DATE: January 13, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Caleb Landry Jones, Lukas Haas, Diego Luna, J.K. Simmons
STORY: Once a smuggler, a family man is forced back into the life when his brother-in-law botches a delivery and now in order to save the life of his brother-in-law and of his own family, the contraband runner must rely on his old crew and his best instincts to get him through the ordeal or else his family may wind up paying the price.
PROSPECTS: A good-looking little action adventure film that benefits from a good trailer, positive buzz and little competition in its Friday the 13th slot.
OBSTACLES: Wahlberg has blown hot and cold as a lead in terms of box office; still waiting for that break-out role to take him to the next level and this likely isn’t it.
FACTOID: Director Baltasar Kormakur, although raised in Iceland (and has directed such films as 101 Reykjavik) is the son of the Spanish painter Baltasar Samper.

UNDERWORLD AWAKENING

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2012
STUDIO: Screen Gems
STARRING: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Charles Dance, Sandrine Holt, Kris Holden-Ried, Marvin Duerkholz
STORY: Selene, the vampire-warrior heroine of the first three Underworld films, has been captured and placed into suspended animation by humans who have discovered the existence of both vampire and Lycan. When she is awakened, she finds the world has changed almost completely – and a new creature menaces human, vampire and Lycan alike.
PROSPECTS: Beckinsale in skin-tight leather is still a sight that makes fanboys drool. While the series hasn’t been the most spectacularly successful vampire series ever, it’s lack of competition and name recognition should be enough to keep it profitable..
OBSTACLES: Since the first movie, the series hasn’t had a blockbuster hit and given the economic situation and the fact that theater attendance is in a severe decline, this isn’t likely to break out either.
FACTOID: The first film in the series to be filmed in 3D.

UNDERDOG

THE DIVIDE

RELEASE DATE: January 13, 2012
STUDIO: Anchor Bay
STARRING: Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Courtney B. Vance, Lauren German, Ivan Gonzalez, Michael Eklund, Abbey Thickson, Ashton Holmes
STORY: Nine residents of a New York highrise escape the effects of a nuclear holocaust by hiding out in the bunker-like basement of their building but as the food and water supply dwindles, their most dangerous foes might be each other.
PROSPECTS: An awesome trailer, terrific premise and good word-of-mouth make this a possible breakout hit.
OBSTACLES: Only receiving limited release by Relativity’s direct-to-video arm.
FACTOID: Filming was delayed by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano which prevented some of the cast from travelling to the United States from Europe.

ALSO RUNNING

January 6, 2012

THE DEVIL INSIDE (Paramount) is about the daughter of a mother who murdered three people. The daughter goes to visit her mother in an Italian insane asylum to discover whether her mom is insane or demonically possessed. Of course, the answer should be obvious…but the exorcism that is to be performed leads to some shocking revelations.

January 13, 2012

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D (Disney) follows in the footsteps of Disney’s 3D re-release of The Lion King earlier this year which was one of the more successful releases of any studio film in terms of profit. You know that the hits are going to just keep on coming. JOYFUL NOISE (Warner Brothers) stars Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton as rival songbirds in church choir whose daughter and grandson respectively fall in love, further fanning the flames of a rivalry which threatens to derail their choir’s shot at winning the Joyful Noise Gospel Competition.

January 20, 2012

In HAYWIRE (Relativity) when a covert ops specialist is betrayed during a routine mission, she will stop at nothing to find out why she was set up – and who stabbed her in the back. MMA superstar Gina Carano makes her film debut alongside Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton and Michael Douglas.

January 27, 2012

THE GREY (Open Road) stars Liam Neeson as the survivor of a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness who must lead fellow oil roughnecks to safety. This is complicated by a snowstorm as well as a pack of hungry rogue wolves. MAN ON THE LEDGE (Summit) begins with a man standing out on the ledge of a New York highrise. Is he suicidal, or a diversion for a crime? Chances are, it’s neither one; Sam Worthington headlines. ONE FOR THE MONEY (Lionsgate) is potentially a new franchise, this one starring Katherine Heigl as Janet Evanovich’s heroine Stephanie Plum. In it, she is a Jersey girl driven by desperation to take a job at her cousin’s bail bond business. Her first job is to bring a louse who dumped her in high school which ordinarily would bring her great pleasure, but the case isn’t as cut and dried as it looks – and there’s a lot or complications of the life-threatening kind involved.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

A look back at how last year’s previewed movies did at the box office. The budgets and box office numbers are courtesy of Box Office Mojo. My verdicts are based on the typical studio formula that for a movie to break even it must make twice its production budget; any movie that achieves that will be labeled as profitable. I define hit movies as those that make three times the production budget and blockbusters as anything that makes $200 million in domestic box office or more, or made five times the production budget with a minimum of $100 million in domestic box office. These totals don’t include ancillary merchandising, home video sales or broadcast/cable sales, all of which are sure to push the bottom line beyond profitability. When production budgets aren’t available, I’ll be making a guess based on production values and star power. The first four movies listed are the four main previewed items; I’ve also chosen a selection of other major releases that made the preview issue as well.

THE GREEN HORNET (Columbia) Budget: $120 Million. Domestic Gross: $98.8M Total: $227.8M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE DILEMMA (Universal) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $48.5M Total: $69.7M Verdict: Flop.
THE RITE (New Line) Budget: $37M. Domestic Gross: $33.1M Total: $96.1M Verdict: Broke Even.
RABBIT HOLE (Lionsgate) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $2.1M Total: $3.4M Verdict: Flop.
SEASON OF THE WITCH (Relativity) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $24.8M Total: $91.6M Verdict: Profitable.
NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Paramount) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $70.7M Total: $147.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE COMPANY MEN (Weinstein) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $4.4M Total: $4.9M Verdict: Flop.
THE MECHANIC (CBS) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $29.1M Total: $51.1 Verdict: Flop.

FEBRUARY

Some of the year’s anticipated releases begin to trickle out as Valentine’s Day and the President’s Day long weekend give Hollywood a wake-up call from winter doldrums. This year there is a theme of second chances; a supernatural comic book hero makes a big budget return, Daniel Radcliffe goes Victorian in a spooky English movie, a couple get a second chance at love and the makers of Journey to the Center of the Earth take another crack at a Jules Verne classic, among other releases.

GOLD MEDAL

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Fergus Riordan, Violante Placido, Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert
STORY: Stunt cyclist Johnny Blaze is hiding out in Eastern Europe, trying to deal with the curse of the Ghost Rider by avoiding it. However when a secret sect of the Church approaches him to save a young boy from the clutches of the devil, Blaze must put everything on the line to save the boy – including his immortal soul.
PROSPECTS: The competition is pretty weak this month and if the story is halfway decent the movie’s got a chance. Also, fan favorites Neveldine and Taylor are directing, so that’s definitely a step in the right direction.
OBSTACLES: The first Ghost Rider did decent business but got a critical whacking and fan expectation has been pretty low, although Columbia is doing its best to create a buzz.
FACTOID: Eva Mendes declined to reprise her role for the film.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

THE VOW

RELEASE DATE: February 10, 2012
STUDIO: Screen Gems
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Sam Neill, Scott Speedman, Jessica Lange, Dillon Casey, Lucas Bryant, Kristina Pesic
STORY: A newlywed couple is involved in a serious car accident, sending the wife into a coma. When she awakens, her short-term memory is gone to the time when she was with an ex-boyfriend and she doesn’t recognize her husband at all. He will have to get her to fall in love with him all over again or else he’ll lose her forever
PROSPECTS: Definitely a tearjerker and like many of the best tearjerkers is based on a true story. This will be one a lot of women are going to want their men to take them to on Valentine’s Day and men, be prepared to be compared unfavorably to this guy.
OBSTACLES: Neither Tatum nor McAdams has hit a box office home run yet. This is definitely a big time date movie and will not bring in a lot of single men or teens into the theater.
FACTOID: Many of the handbags in the movie were designed by Imperfect Impudence, a Canadian custom handbag designer.

THIS MEANS WAR

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Angela Bassett, Til Schweiger, Abigail Spencer, David Koechner, Jenny Slate
STORY: Two deadly spies for the CIA who are partners and also best friends pull out all the stops when they discover that they are both in love with the same woman, who is stringing the both of them along. Fur is gonna fly, people!
PROSPECTS: The trailer reminded me a little bit of the old Sergio Aragones Spy vs. Spy cartoons in Mad magazine. A very attractive cast of up-and-coming young hunks as well as the ever-gorgeous Witherspoon equals some good reason to go to the theater if you’re into ogling beautiful people.
OBSTACLES: Sounds a bit like Salt, Knight and Day and Mr. and Mrs. Jones and the track record for these films is uneven, so it’s definitely a crap shoot.
FACTOID: Both Pine and Hardy have appeared in Star Trek films; Hardy was Shinzon in the last Next Generation film Star Trek: Nemesis and Pine played the young Captain Kirk in the reboot.

UNDERDOG

ACT OF VALOR

RELEASE DATE: February 24, 2012
STUDIO: Relativity
STARRING: Active Duty Navy SEALs, Roselyn Sanchez, Alex Veadov, Jason Cottle, Nestor Serrano, Timothy Gibbs, Carla Jimenez
STORY: A team of Navy SEALs rescues a kidnapped CIA operative which leads to the uncovering of a massive global terrorist plot. With each mission the SEALs uncover more intelligence that leads them to realize that a deadly attack on the United States is imminent.
PROSPECTS: The conceit here is that the movie uses actual active duty SEALs performing tasks with equipment they use daily. Much of the script is taken from actual SEAL missions.
OBSTACLES: Could be more gimmick than entertainment, or a gigantic recruiting video for the Navy.
FACTOID: Because they are on active duty, none of the names of the actual SEALs could be used in the end credits.

ALSO RUNNING

February 3, 2012

BIG MIRACLE (Universal) is based on the true story of three whales trapped by ice in Alaska, while a small town works feverishly to free them; they eventually enlist the aid of the U.S. Navy and when that proves ineffective, the Soviet Navy. Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski star. CHRONICLE (20th Century Fox) is a found footage film chronicling three high school students who develop super powers. Being teenagers, they also run amuck and not in a good way. Sounds like a good movie but the found footage thing should have been ditched. In THE WOMAN IN BLACK (CBS) a 19th century lawyer goes to an isolated home to sort out a deceased client’s affairs. Instead, he runs into a supernatural experience that is far more sinister than he could have imagined. Daniel Radcliffe plays the lawyer. W.E. (Weinstein) has a modern woman obsessed with the romance between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VII of England, which led to the King’s abdication. The further research she does leads her to discover that their love wasn’t necessarily as idyllic as she always believed. Pop star Madonna directed, taking a page from her ex-husband Guy Ritchie.

February 10, 2012

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (New Line) continues the 3D adventures of the family which went to the center of the earth but now is off to plunder another one of Jules Verne’s books – Mysterious Island. Brendan Fraser is gone and in his place is Dwayne Johnson as Josh Hutcherson’s new stepdad, and Michael Caine as his grandfather. SAFE HOUSE (Universal) stars Ryan Reynolds as a safe house “housekeeper” who yearns to be a field agent for the CIA whose world turns upside down when the top of the CIA’s most wanted list – an former agent gone rogue played by Denzel Washington – is brought to the safe house and promptly attacked; now on the run, the two must figure out who wants them dead and more importantly, how to stay alive long enough to take the bad guys down. STAR WARS: EPISODE I THE PHANTOM MENACE 3D (20th Century Fox) leads me to ask the question nobody has the guts to ask – do we really need to see Jar Jar Binks in 3D? UNDEFEATED (Weinstein) is a documentary that follows the 2009 Manassas High School football team as they go from perennial losers to poised on the brink of winning the school’s first playoff game in their 110 year history. Chances are this will end up getting a limited release.

February 17, 2012

THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY (Disney) is the latest from the Oscar winning animation company Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away) and is based on the beloved children’s book series The Borrowers. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first Studio Ghibli film to get a wide release in this country.

February 24, 2012

GONE (Summit) is a thriller starring Amanda Seyfried as a young woman who had escaped from a kidnapper the year before. She comes home to find her sister missing and becomes convinced that the same guy that took her now has her sister and means to kill her. When the police prove to be unsympathetic and worse still, unbelieving, she heads out to rescue her sister herself. TYLER PERRY’S GOOD DEEDS (Lionsgate) stars Perry as a businessman who has always lived the life that’s been expected of him. When he encounters a single mom who works as a cleaning lady in his building, he is moved to do something to help her which ignites a different kind of passion in him – to lead the life he chooses to. In WANDERLUST (Universal) a materialistic New York City couple are forced to move to the South when the husband loses his job. The two wind up on a commune which jolts them out of their complacency, perhaps too far from their complacency. Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

SANCTUM (Universal) Budget: $30 Million. Domestic Gross: $23.2M Total: $108.6M Verdict: Hit.
DRIVE ANGRY 3D (Summit) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $10.7M Total: $28.9M Verdict: Probably lost money.
I AM NUMBER FOUR (DreamWorks) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $55.1M Total: $144.5M Verdict: Made Money.
GNOMEO AND JULIET (Disney) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $100.0M Total: $194.0M Verdict: Potentially a Hit.
JUST GO WITH IT (Columbia) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $103.0M Total: $215.0M Verdict: Profitable.
THE EAGLE (Focus) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $19.5M Total: $27.1M Verdict: Flop.
HALL PASS (New Line) Budget: $36M. Domestic Gross: $45.1M Total: $83.2M Verdict: Profitable.
THE ROOMMATE (Screen Gems) Budget: $16M. Domestic Gross: $37.3M Total: $40.5M Verdict: Profitable.

MARCH

Studios hope March and St. Paddy’s Day will bring them the luck of the Irish. Lionsgate hopes to raise their flagging fortune with a potential blockbuster franchise, while Disney is hoping Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series will yield big money as Pixar goes live action. A sequel to the Clash of the Titans reboot, a new Dr. Seuss animated feature and an animated film from Aardman round out the months box office hopefuls.

GOLD MEDAL

THE HUNGER GAMES

RELEASE DATE: March 23, 2012
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
STORY: In a dystopian corporate-controlled future, “tributes” from each of the twelve districts of the shattered United States fight one another until only one is left standing. Most of the “tributes” train all their lives for the Games but Katniss must rely on her instincts and the training of a former winner who is now a hopeless drunk to help her make it through, only to leave her faced with impossible choices.
PROSPECTS: This young adult series by author Suzanne Collins has a rabid Twilight-like following that may propel this film to those types of numbers. The anticipation for this movie is among the highest for any film in 2012, and that includes the fanboy favorites The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.
OBSTACLES: You have to wonder why a movie like this isn’t opening in the fall or the summer where it might get a much bigger box office; does the studio want to hedge its bets on a movie it doesn’t have faith in?
FACTOID: Hemsworth and Lawrence, natural blondes both, dyed their hair brown for the movie; Hutcherson, normally a brunette, dyed his hair blonde.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

JOHN CARTER

RELEASE DATE: March 9, 2012
STUDIO: Disney*Pixar
STARRING: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Bryan Cranston, Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe
STORY: A Civil War officer is inexplicably transported to the dying planet Barsoom where he becomes embroiled in a conflict there as well – and the survival of the planet rests in his hands alone.
PROSPECTS: Pixar’s first foray into live action has the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars as it’s starting point. The trailer hints at some stunning visuals and polls for Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 list this among the top five.
OBSTACLES: Hopefully the writers left some of the dated hokum of the novel behind. Will audiences get behind 12-foot-tall blue-skinned Martians?
FACTOID: The property has been in development for 79 years, starting when the original rights were purchased by Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett with the intention of making an animated feature. Since then the rights have passed through nearly every studio in Hollywood, some more than once.

THE RAVEN

RELEASE DATE: March 9, 2012
STUDIO: Relativity
STARRING: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Pam Ferris, Brendan Coyle, Kevin McNally, Dave Legeno
STORY: A string of murders in 19th Century Baltimore bear more than a passing resemblance to the works of struggling writer and pariah Edgar Allen Poe. A young detective joins forces with the writer to discover who is behind the bloody deeds.
PROSPECTS: A great concept and casting Cusack as Poe is absolutely inspired.
OBSTACLES: The movie has yet to really generate any kind of buzz which doesn’t bode well; Relativity’s track record to date is checkered.
FACTOID: Noomi Rapace and Jeremy Renner at one time both had offers to do this movie, but they declined to do other projects instead; Alice Eve and Luke Evans were eventually cast in the roles that had been offered.

DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX

RELEASE DATE: March 2, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Zac Efron, Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Betty White, Jenny Slate, Sherry Lynn
STORY: A young boy out to win the heart of a girl he’s sweet on hears the story of the Lorax, a strange woodland creature who alone can grant him the very thing that he needs to get the girl.
PROSPECTS: From the studio that brought Despicable Me to life comes this mighty fine-looking version of a beloved Dr. Seuss tale.
OBSTACLES: As a whole the animated feature market has become saturated and the numbers have as a result dipped a bit. The competition for family films is pretty stiff at this point and modern kids are less savvy about Dr. Seuss than they might be about, say, SpongeBob.
FACTOID: The characters of Ted and Audrey are named for Dr. Seuss and his widow Audrey.

WRATH OF THE TITANS

RELEASE DATE: March 30, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Danny Huston, Lily James
STORY: Perseus gets caught in the middle of a war between the Gods and the Titans that is being engineered by Hades. The mortal must rescue Zeus from Hades’ underworld for the Gods to survive the onslaught.
PROSPECTS: The trailer looks much better than the first movie; Worthington is rapidly becoming a bona fide star.
OBSTACLES: The first movie was slammed for its inferior 3D look and rumor has it that the producers are once again using a post-conversion process rather than going the more expensive rote of filming in 3D.
FACTOID: Alexa Davalos was unable to return to the role of Andromeda due to scheduling conflicts; Rosamund Pike took over the part instead.

UNDERDOG

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

RELEASE DATE: March 9, 2012
STUDIO: CBS
STARRING: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Rachael Sterling, Catherine Steadman, Tom Mison, Pippa Andre
STORY: A zealous Yemeni sheikh wants to bring fly-fishing to the desert and enlists the help of a skeptical British fisheries expert who doesn’t think it can be done. When an ambitious press secretary latches onto the story and brings pressure to bear on the expert to take a crack at it, he will soon discover a world of possibilities in the impossible.
PROSPECTS: Director Lasse Hallstrom is one of the most consistently excellent directors of our time. The movie got buzz at the Toronto Film Festival and the trailer shows a quirky, gentle sense of humor, a nice antidote to the loud over-the-top comedies that dominate the screen these days.
OBSTACLES: Hallstrom has never been much of a box office bonanza and the studio has yet to deliver a hit.
FACTOID: This is based on a novel of the same name by Paul Torday.

ALSO RUNNING

March 2, 2012

HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (Paramount) stars hot up-and-comers Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the titular siblings, 15 years after the gingerbread house incident having now become heavily armed badass assassins of all things witchy. PROJECT X (Warner Brothers) is about a group of kids who take one last stab at high school immortality by throwing an epic party. The movie looks like it’s taking the “found footage” route, sort of like Porky’s on digital video. Yipes. TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE (Magnet) is the latest project from Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, auteurs of the Adult Swim series “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”. Here they are given a billion bucks to make a movie and squander every last penny. Desperate to pay the money back to the pissed-off corporate thugs who invested it, the two hatch a scheme that is as irreverent as it is unlikely. Coming out in limited release only.

March 9, 2012

THE BULLY PROJECT (Weinstein) is a documentary that follows five families for an entire school year. The families range from those who have had children driven to suicide over bullying to those who have children in the family who have bullied other children. While it is listed as being scheduled for Wide release, Weinstein is notorious for changing their release plans and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this wind up coming out in limited release. PLAYING THE FIELD (FilmDistrict) stars Gerard Butler as a former professional soccer player who couldn’t resist temptation which prematurely ended his career. Now he is stuck coaching his son’s soccer team, but is sorely tempted by the restless and sometimes aggressively needy soccer moms of his players. JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME (Paramount) is the latest comedy from the Duplass brothers, this time starring Jason Segel as a man drifting through life looking for signs from the universe to help him find his path. Boy is he surprised when the universe actually answers. SILENT HOUSE (Open Road) is a remake of a Spanish horror film in which a young woman is locked in a lake house she and her father are renovating. She begins to panic as she experiences unexplainable events that drive her further and further past the brink of terror. THINK LIKE A MAN (Screen Gems) references the Steve Harvey bestselling book in which he instructs women how to figure out what men are thinking. Four women buy the book and use it against the men who are pursuing them. Feeling betrayed by one of their own, the men get together to conspire to use the insider information against the women and teach them a lesson of their own.

March 16, 2012

21 JUMP STREET (Columbia) reboots the old Fox TV show as a comedy with new cops going back to school and one of them looks suspiciously like Jonah Hill. Those who want their 80s teen cop show fix on can look no further. BUTTER (Weinstein) covers one of the most competitive sports ever, one in which cutthroat tactics are the norm and whose history is littered with the carcasses of those who weren’t good enough. I’m referring of course to butter carving. Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Garner are among those going for the gold. CASA DE MI PADRE (Pantelion) is Will Ferrell’s Spanish-language film which depicts how an honest Mexican rancher gets sucked into a war with a drug lord. The movie is coming out in limited release. Also in limited release is DETACHMENT (Tribeca) which stars Adrien Brody as a substitute teacher who goes from school to school, rarely staying long enough to form any attachments. However, he comes to one school where he might truly make a difference. MIRROR MIRROR (Relativity) is the first of two Snow White films this year; this one is directed by Tarsem Singh and stars Julia Roberts as the evil Queen and Lily Collins as Snow. From the way the trailer looks, they’re playing it for laughs.

March 23, 2012

A THOUSAND WORDS (Paramount) is about a fast-talking literary agent who pisses off a New Age guru and, perhaps, the universe as well and finds a bodhi tree growing in his back yard. Each word he speaks causes a leaf to fall. When the last leaf falls, so will the agent. Eddie Murphy stars.

March 30, 2012

THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (Columbia) is the latest animated feature from Aardman Studios (the mad geniuses behind Wallace and Gromit) about a group of bumbling pirates vying for the Pirate of the Year award. Looks rather droll. GOON (Magnet) is opening in limited release and stars Seann William Scott as a bartender plucked out of obscurity to be an enforcer with a minor league hockey team. Slap Shot much?.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

SUCKER PUNCH (Warner Brothers) Budget: $82 Million. Domestic Gross: $36.4M Total: $89.8M Verdict: Flop.
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (Columbia) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $83.6M Total: $211.8M Verdict: Hit.
RANGO (Paramount) Budget: $135M. Domestic Gross: $123.3M Total: $245.2M Verdict: Lost Money.
JANE EYRE (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $11.2M Total: $31.5M Verdict: Probably Made Money.
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (Universal) Budget: $50.2M. Domestic Gross: $62.5M Total: $127.9 Verdict: Made Money.
MARS NEEDS MOMS (Disney) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $21.4M Total: $39.0 Verdict: Major Flop.
LIMITLESS (Relativity) Budget: $27M. Domestic Gross: $79.3M Total: $161.9M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER (Lionsgate) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $58.0M Total: $75.0M Verdict: Lost Money.

APRIL

Spring break presages the summer and normally there are a few teases for the summer blockbuster season but this April looks unusually quiet. The American Pie franchise gets one last hurrah (unless it does big box office, then you can expect a whole lot of hurrahs), a horror spoof series gets a new installment, an oft-delayed Josh Whedon horror flick finds a home and yet another Nicholas Sparks novel gets a screen treatment.

GOLD MEDAL

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT

RELEASE DATE: April 27, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, Mimi Kennedy, David Paymer, Brian Posehn, Dakota Johnson
STORY: A newly engaged couple is forced to put off their wedding when the bride gets a job she always wanted out of town. As she becomes more successful in her career, the wedding continues to get postponed for one reason and another.
PROSPECTS: Yes, it’s Judd Apatow and Jason Segel together again. The trailer looks hysterical and this could very well be the funniest Apatow film of the past few years.
OBSTACLES: Apatow’s kind of fallen off of his pedestal of late. Comedies in general have taken a bit of a bump at the box office.
FACTOID: Director Nicholas Stoller previously worked with Segel and Apatow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

AMERICAN REUNION

RELEASE DATE: April 6, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy
STORY: The group from East Great Falls High returns for a high school reunion, giving them a chance to reconnect, reminisce and perhaps right the things in their lives that have gone wrong as the kids from American Pie have all grown up. But is the universe ready for…Stiffler’s mom and Jim’s dad together?
PROSPECTS: This is how they used to do sex comedies and the nostalgia market is bigger than ever. Reuniting the original cast will certainly rekindle the old magic.
OBSTACLES: The original is more than a decade removed and the franchise has been direct-to-video for quite awhile.
FACTOID: The movie filmed in the Atlanta area, standing in for Michigan.

SCARY MOVIE 5

RELEASE DATE: April 20, 2012
STUDIO: Dimension
STARRING: Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Anthony Anderson (all rumored)
STORY: Well, ummm…
PROSPECTS: It’s been a very successful series thus far.
OBSTACLES: The movie’s cast hasn’t even been announced yet. It’s a good bet that the movie will be delayed if it comes out at all.
FACTOID: This is the fifth movie in the horror spoof franchise. Hey, there really isn’t much out there about it…

UNDERDOG

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

RELEASE DATE: April 13, 2012
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker, Jodelle Ferland
STORY: A group of friends go for a weekend at a remote cabin in an old forest, but get far more than they bargained for.
PROSPECTS: This is a Joss Whedon film and that’s enough to get my butt into a seat.
OBSTACLES: It’s been sitting on a shelf for quite awhile due to the bankruptcy issues at MGM. The premise seems awfully familiar.
FACTOID: This is one of the last movies developed by MGM as an independent studio; since the movie was completed MGM filed for bankruptcy and was consequently bought by Spyglass Entertainment.

ALSO RUNNING

April 6, 2012

THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY (Summit) stars future Superman Henry Cavill and Bruce Willis; Cavill is a young man whose family is kidnapped in Spain. He has only a few short hours to discover what their disappearance has to do with his father’s secrets. TITANIC 3D (Paramount) seeks to add a bit more to James Cameron’s bank account as his blockbuster is given the 3D conversion treatment.

April 13, 2012

BULLET TO THE HEAD (Warner Brothers), based on a graphic novel, stars Sylvester Stallone in a gritty story of a professional assassin and a New York City cop who make a pact to bring down the killers of their respective partners. MOVIE 43 (Relativity) is a series of short films on a variety of subjects with an all-star cast. We’ll try to be a little more vague next time. THE THREE STOOGES (20th Century Fox) stars Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso and Sean Hayes as the titular trio in a new updated adventure set in modern times and directed by the Farrelly Brothers. This could be a big mistake, folks. What’s next, Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter as Laurel and Hardy?

April 20, 2012

CHIMPANZEE (DisneyNature) is this year’s Earth Day Disney nature film. I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (Relativity) stars Jennifer Lawrence who moves into a new house with her mom only to discover that the house next door was the site of a double murder; and that the only survivor of the bloody night is her new friend. THE LUCKY ONE (Warner Brothers) is the newest screen version of a Nicholas Sparks novel and stars Zac Efron as a soldier on his third tour of Iraq whose life is saved when he wanders away from his platoon to pick up a photo of a woman he’s never seen before. When his tour is over, he determines to find out who the woman is. MS ONE: MAXIMUM SECURITY (FilmDistrict) is a sci-fi tale about a wrongly convicted prisoner who is offered a pardon if he can rescue the president’s daughter from a high-tech space prison that has been taken over by the violent inmates. Escape from New York much? SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Focus) is a comedy about two people who find each other just as the world is about to end. Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley star in what could probably not be the feel-good comedy of the year. THE WETTEST COUNTY (Weinstein) is the true story of the Bondurant brothers, bootleggers who made it big during prohibition. The cast is pretty respectable, including Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hardy and Mia Wasikowska.

April 27, 2012

SAFE (Lionsgate) stars Jason Statham as a broken man who witnesses members of the Russian mafia, who were responsible for the murder of his family, chasing a young Chinese girl and decides that he will protect her as he couldn’t protect his family. Being a mixed martial arts champion doesn’t hurt either. HEADHUNTERS (Magnolia), opening in limited release, is a Swedish film about a corporate headhunter who determines to obtain a painting owned by a former mercenary.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

SCREAM 4 (Dimension) Budget: $40 Million. Domestic Gross: $38.2M Total: $97.1M Verdict: Made Money.
RIO (20th Century Fox) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $143.6M Total: $484.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
SOURCE CODE (Summit) Budget: $32M. Domestic Gross: $54.7M Total: $123.3M Verdict: Hit.
MEEK’S CUTOFF (Oscilloscope) Budget: $2M. Domestic Gross: $977,772 Total: $977,772 Verdict: Flop.
FAST FIVE (Universal) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $209.8M Total: $626.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
HOP (Universal) Budget: $63M. Domestic Gross: $108.1M Total: $184.0M Verdict: Hit.
ARTHUR (Warner Brothers) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $33.0M Total: $45.7M Verdict: Flop.
HANNA (Focus) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $40.3M Total: $63.8M Verdict: Made Money.
WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER? (20th Century Fox) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $14.0M Total: $30.4M Verdict: Flop.
YOUR HIGHNESS (Universal) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $21.6M Total: $24.9M Verdict: Flop.

SUMMER

Summer is the movie fan’s Nirvana as the big blockbusters muscle their way into theaters. There is much to look forward to here as the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy hits theaters, the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise makes the grade, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones make a long-awaited return as the agents of MIB, Ridley Scott brings up an epic sci-fi classic (and when the maker of Alien and Blade Runner does sci-fi, we pay attention), Marvel’s superheroes team up and much, much more. Cinema365 will present our annual summer preview at the end of April but for now here’s a quick look at some of the movies anticipated for this Olympic summer.

GOLD MEDAL

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

RELEASE DATE: July 20, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Juno Temple
STORY: After the events of The Dark Knight Batman is an outlaw but must once again take the mantle of a hero on as Gotham City is threatened by the Catwoman and the most lethal villain yet – Bane.
PROSPECTS: This is quite likely to be the biggest movie of 2012. It is already slated to be the last Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman movie, and the studio is pulling out all the stops.
OBSTACLES: Overexposure might cause some backlash and should the movie get poor reviews it might not get the repeat business the last two movies in the trilogy have received.
FACTOID: This is the fifth film in a row that Caine and Nolan have worked together in; the three Batman movies, Inception and The Prestige.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

THE AVENGERS

RELEASE DATE: May 4, 2012
STUDIO: Marvel/Disney
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgard
STORY: The greatest heroes of the Marvel Movie Universe must unite to save the Earth from a dire threat, but uniting these heroes and getting them to work as a team may not be as easy as it sounds.
PROSPECTS: This is the big one. Marvel’s movies usually are among the summer’s biggest moneymakers and there’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case here. If director Josh Whedon does his job right, this might be the biggest moneymaker in Marvel history.
OBSTACLES: This is a big budget movie that both Marvel and Disney have a lot riding on. Over-promotion might sour audiences before the show even opens.
FACTOID: This is the first Marvel movie to be distributed by Disney who bought Marvel Comics a couple of years ago. Paramount, who had an agreement with Marvel Studios, retains a share of the profits in exchange for an early termination of their agreement; the Paramount logo also appears on the movie’s poster.

MEN IN BLACK III

RELEASE DATE: May 25, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Jermaine Clement, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg, Nicole Scherzinger
STORY: Agent J must travel back in time when he discovers that time has been altered, with his partner Agent K dead for forty years.
PROSPECTS: The first two movies are among Columbia’s most profitable ever. Even though it’s been awhile since the last movie, the interest in it seems to remain high.
OBSTACLES: It has been teen years since the last movie which is an awfully long time between sequels and it will have some pretty fierce competition this summer.
FACTOID: This is the first Will Smith film in three and a half years, the longest he’s gone in his career without making a film.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

RELEASE DATE: July 3, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Embeth Davidtz, C. Thomas Howell
STORY: A young teenager is bitten by a radioactive spider and develops incredible powers. He is matched up against a brilliant scientist who in order to regenerate a missing arm injects himself with the concentrated DNA of a lizard and ends up becoming one.
PROSPECTS: The Spider-Man franchise has made literally billions of dollars for Sony. Adding fresh faces to the mix should serve to reinvigorate the franchise which some hits after the third movie.
OBSTACLES: This is a reboot of the series and appears to be going the origin route again, putting it in direct competition with Spider-Man which it will be compared to inevitably.
FACTOID: Martin Sheen is playing Uncle Ben Parker, which was played by Cliff Robertson in the first three films. Both men also played the late President Kennedy, Sheen in “Kennedy” and Robertson in P.T. 109.

PROMETHEUS

RELEASE DATE: June 8, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Patrick Wilson, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pearce, Rafe Spall
STORY: A team of scientists travels to the farthest reaches of space to find out the answers to some of the deepest questions mankind has ever asked. The answers turn out to be quite dangerous.
PROSPECTS: Ridley Scott is back directing a movie that was widely believed to be an Alien prequel but has turned out to be a stand-alone film that is set in the same universe. Ever since the trailer came out the buzz has been ratcheted up to 11 on a scale of 1 to 10.
OBSTACLES: Will be up against The Avengers and Men in Black III which might hurt its box office chances some.
FACTOID: Theron beat out Angelina Jolie for her role.

UNDERDOG

DARK SHADOWS

RELEASE DATE: June 11, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Moretz
STORY: Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire, is awakened in 1972 and finds his family, once one of the most prosperous in New England, fallen upon hard times.
PROSPECTS: The legendary Gothic horror soap opera is given the Tim Burton treatment. Having Depp as Barnabas only makes this a more likely candidate for box office success.
OBSTACLES: While the show is available on DVD, it still remains mostly a cult favorite. Whether it can emerge from that remains to be seen.
FACTOID: Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker and David Selby from the original series all have cameos in the film.

ALSO RUNNING

THE DICTATOR (Paramount) stars Sacha Baron Cohen as a middle eastern dictator who comes to America (May 11). WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) is based on the bestseller of the same name and follows five families as they experience the joys of pregnancy – and yes, it’s a comedy (May 11). BATTLESHIP (Universal) is based on the Hasbro board game and pits the U.S. Navy versus an invading alien force. Hoping this Battleship doesn’t get sunk (May 18). THE ROCK OF AGES (New Line) is an adaptation of the hit Broadway musical using classic rock songs. Can Rock of Ages 2 be far behind (June 1). SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Universal) is the second Snow White film of 2012 and takes on a more action-adventure spin. Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth play the titular characters (June 1). MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (DreamWorks) finds the animals trying to get back to New York City, but having to go after the penguins in Paris. Having caused an international incident, they have to go on the lam but they do so in style – pretending to be circus performers (June 8). I HATE YOU, DAD (Columbia) is the latest from Adam Sandler as he plays a dad moving in with his adult son on the eve of his marriage to a woman that dad promptly begins to feud with (June 15). JACK THE GIANT KILLER (New Line) takes the Jack and the Beanstalk fable and turns it into an action-adventure fantasy. Bryan Singer (X-Men) directs (June 15). ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (20th Century Fox) opines that the 16th President had a secret life – as a slayer of fanged fiends. Based on the Seth Grahame-Smith novel, it is to be directed by Timur (Wanted) Bekmambatov (June 22). BRAVE (Disney/Pixar) is the first non-sequel Pixar has produced in three years. Here, they go to Scotland to catch up with a courageous young woman determined to set her own place in a man’s world (June 22). G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (Paramount) is a sequel to the 2009 hit with an almost entirely-new cast, including Dwayne Johnson; hopefully they got some new writers as well (June 29). MAGIC MIKE (Warner Brothers) stars Channing Tatum and is based largely on his experiences as a male stripper. Steven Soderbergh directs (June 29). ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (20th Century Fox) brings cataclysmic upheaval to the world (thanks to Skrat’s single-minded acorn pursuit) which will create overwhelming odds for Manny, Diego and Sid to get back home (July 13). TED (Universal) comes from the warped mind of “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane and stars Mark Wahlberg as a man who’s cherished childhood teddy bear came to life as a result of a childhood wish – and now won’t leave his side (July 13). NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH (20th Century Fox) is a comedy about a bunch of men in a suburban neighborhood who form a neighborhood watch as an excuse to engage in male-bonding activities but come up against a plot to destroy the world (July 27). STEP UP 4 (Summit) is the latest in the dance series (July 27). TYLER PERRY’S THE MARRIAGE COUNSELOR (Lionsgate) is yet another Perry-directed movie, this time about a female marriage counselor who violates her own code and has an affair with one of her clients, realizing that she’s made a terrible mistake possibly too late to save her own marriage (July 27). THE BOURNE LEGACY (Universal) is a Bourne movie without Jason Bourne. Jeremy Renner plays a completely different character that is set in the Bourne universe and, eventually, may pave the way for the return of Jason Bourne (August 3). DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (20th Century Fox) takes Greg and his best friend Rowley into the worst summer of all time. And here I thought Bummer Summers were sooooo 2011. (August 3). TOTAL RECALL (Columbia) is a remake of the 1990 Schwarzenegger film that was in turn based on a short story by Philip K. Dick; this new version is said to be closer to the source material and stars Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid (August 3). DOG FIGHT (Warner Brothers) stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as rival politicians in the same South Carolina congressional district. South Carolina? Makes me wonder if Nicholas Sparks is somehow involved (August 10). SPARKLE (Columbia) stars Jordin Sparks as the titular character, the youngest member of a sibling trio singing group in Detroit of the 60s. She will climb and claw her way up the fame ladder, not nearly ready for what awaits her there (August 10).In WARM BODIES (Summit) the world is turned upside down when a zombie rescues a human girl from the ravages of his fellow zombies, leading to a very unlikely romance (August 10). THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (Disney) is about a loving couple who have been unable to have children. When they play a game to create “the perfect child,” one shows up at their door, setting off a chain reaction of unlikely, magical events (August 15). THE EXPENDABLES 2 (Lionsgate) is the sequel to the all-star action picture from 2010 and adds Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude van Damme (August 17). In PARANORMAN (Focus) a town is overrun by zombies and must turn to a young boy who can speak with the dead in order to have a prayer to break the curse that is destroying the town. From the people that brought you Coraline (August 17). In THE APPARITION (Warner Brothers) a young couple discovers that they are being haunted by a presence that might have been summoned during a parapsychology experiment they participated in college, a presence that feeds on their fears (August 24). In OUTRUN (Open Road) a getaway car driver violates his Witness Protection Program to drive his girlfriend to California so she can get her dream job. In between them and their destination are the Feds, the Mob and all manner of eccentric characters (August 24). PREMIUM RUSH (Columbia) stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bike messenger who gets caught between corrupt cops and some very nasty killers, literally putting his life on the line for this rush delivery (August 24). In SINISTER (Summit) a true crime novelist finds a box of home videos that apparently depict entire families being butchered. He soon realizes that there may be a supernatural element involved that is placing his own family into the crosshairs. Ethan Hawke stars (August 24). 7500 (CBS) has a group of passengers on a Transatlantic flight encounter a supernatural force that threatens their lives (August 31). THE POSSESSION (Lionsgate) stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick as a couple who unwittingly bring a cursed box into their home and release a malevolent spirit, a dybbuk from Jewish folklore.(August 31)

FALL

This is the portion of the 2012 schedule that is the most likely to change quite a bit, although there are a few movies we can pretty much expect to see barring unexpected delays. Peter Jackson will return to Middle Earth, Daniel Craig will return to MI-6, Bella and Edward will return to giving each other meaningful soulful looks, and Zombies will return to…well, doing what it is that Zombies do. At the end of August, the annual Cinema365 Fall Preview should hit the site with more a more detailed look at all things Fall/Holiday cinematic.

GOLD MEDAL

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

RELEASE DATE: December 14, 2012
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Cate Banchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy
STORY: The book that preceded The Lord of the Rings finally gets a live action big screen treatment courtesy of Rings director Peter Jackson. Here, Bilbo Baggins, an adventurous young hobbit, is recruited by the wizard Gandalf to aid a group of dwarves in a fight against the great dragon Smaug.
PROSPECTS: The Lord of the Rings series generated huge bucks and fan love all over the world and there’s no reason to believe this won’t do the same. The first trailer is already out and the acclaim has been near-universal.
OBSTACLES: The Hobbit was meant as more of a children’s story; one wonders if adults will embrace the film version as much as Rings.
FACTOID: The movie has overcome many obstacles just to get made; it awaited in development hell while MGM emerged from its bankruptcy problems, then shooting was delayed for some time while union issues in New Zealand were ironed out and again later while Jackson was recovering from perforated ulcer surgery.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

SKYFALL

RELEASE DATE: November 9, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia/MGM
STARRING: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Helen McCrory, Ola Rapace, Berenice Marlohe
STORY: A ghost from M’s past comes back to haunt her and as her sins come back to attack MI-6, Bond must track down and eliminate the threat, regardless of the fallout.
PROSPECTS: Hey, it’s Bond. Even the least successful films in the series still made money. With Sam Mendes in the director’s chair, interest is higher than usual in the latest installment of the series.
OBSTACLES: The MGM bankruptcy proceedings delayed this movie more than two years, and the last film in the series was a bit of a disappointment.
FACTOID: The movie’s premiere date is within a few days of the 50th anniversary of the release of the first James Bond movie, Dr. No.

TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN PART 2

RELEASE DATE: November 16, 2012
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Jackson Rathbone
STORY: The fourth and final book in the Stephenie Meyer series is split into two parts (the first arriving in 2011) as Bella’s romantic triangle moves to a resolution and the world of the vampires, werewolves and Forks, Washington become forever changed.
PROSPECTS: The fanbase for this series is rabid and loyal; they have made the first four movies of the series blockbusters. With this being the final movie in the series, interest is bound to be off the charts. If it follows a similar course to Harry Potter, this could conceivably challenge The Dark Knight Rises for biggest box office numbers of the year.
OBSTACLES: Breaking Dawn Part 1‘s box office numbers declined about $50M from Eclipse and unless there’s a real jump in the overall quality of the franchise I don’t see much of an appeal beyond the established fan base.
FACTOID: Stephenie Meyer wrote that she wanted the baby of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan to have a unique name; she couldn’t find one that stood out so she made one up – Renesmee.

WORLD WAR Z

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2012
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Brad Pitt, Matthew Fox, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, David Morse, Eric West, David Andrews, Katia Bokor
STORY: A United Nations functionary travels around the world in an effort to stop a global zombie pandemic.
PROSPECTS: This one has been gestating awhile, but has finally got off the ground with superstar Pitt behind it. The buzz on this one is huge.
OBSTACLES: Are zombie movies becoming passé? There are a lot of them out there and more in the pipeline. Time will tell…
FACTOID: Max Brooks, author of the book the movie is based on, is the son of legendary filmmaker Mel Brooks and actress Anne Bancroft.

UNDERDOG

DJANGO UNCHAINED

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2012
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Sacha Baron Cohen, Kurt Russell, Dennis Christopher, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kerry Washington, Don Johnson, Anthony LaPaglia, Gerald McRaney, RZA, Tom Wopat, James Remar, M.C. Gainey
STORY: A freed slave and a German bounty hunter team up to liberate his wife from an evil plantation owner.
PROSPECTS: It’s Quentin Tarantino, man! His first outing since Inglourious Basterds has an incredible cast and looks to take Tarantino’s manic pulp attitude into Mandingo territory.
OBSTACLES: The subject matter may be a bit sensitive for some. Tarantino’s style isn’t for everybody, although Basterds made a mint.
FACTOID: Although the movie is technically a Western, Tarantino refers to it as a “Southern” due to it’s setting.

ALSO RUNNING

ARGO (Warner Brothers) is Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort, this time concentrating on a truth-based story about a rescue during the Iranian hostage crisis of six Americans hiding at the Cambodian embassy in Teheran, a story that has been kept secret until now (September 14). RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (Screen Gems) is the fifth in the successful video game adaptation series, one which brings characters not seen in the series yet from the video game to life (September 14). DREDD (Lionsgate) is a reboot of the popular British comic series Judge Dredd (previously made into a movie in 1995 with Sylvester Stallone) with Karl Urban the taciturn, remorseless police officer, judge, jury and executioner (September 21). HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (Columbia) is an animated feature about a resort run by Count Dracula for all the monsters to relax, free from the meddling of humans. Chaos ensues when a normal human stumbles onto the hotel and proceeds to fall in love with Dracula’s daughter Mavis (September 21). LOOPER (TriStar) stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a mob contractor of the future who kills his victims and sends them back 30 years into the past in order to cover up the evidence of the crime. When he is given a target that he discovers is a future version of himself, he may have to change the past in order to save his future. Highly regarded indie director Rian Johnson sits in the big chair for this one (September 28). SAVAGES (Universal) is Oliver Stone’s latest movie, this time about a ruthless Mexico drug cartel that moves in on an idyllic marijuana operation. It’s based on a bestselling novel by Don Winslow and stars an all-star cast anchored by John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek (September 28). FRANKENWEENIE (Disney) was Tim Burton’s classic stop-motion animation short that helped establish his career back in the 80s. Now, he has returned to it, making a full-length feature film in glorious black and white about a boy who brings his beloved pet back from the grave by stitching a new body from spare dog parts and superior science. When Sparky gets loose, it touches off a firestorm of consequence (October 5). TAKEN 2 (20th Century Fox) is the sequel to the 2008 Liam Neeson action hit that reverses the circumstances; now it is the father and mother who are in the hands of the kidnappers and the daughter who must save them, but she learned more than a few things from daddy (October 5). TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3D (Lionsgate) is a new version of the classic horror story as a young woman travels to a small Texas town to claim her inheritance, property who already has a tenant – Leatherface (October 5). FUN SIZE (Paramount) has been described as a cross between Adventures in Babysitting and Superbad set on Halloween (October 12). HERE COMES THE BOOM (Columbia) stars Kevin James as a high school biology teacher who moonlights as a Mixed Martial Arts fighter to raise money for the high school’s music program (October 12). PARKER (FilmDistrict) is based on the Donald Westlake series, and stars Jason Statham in the title role as a thief who lives by a Robin Hood-like code to never steal from people who need it more than he does. That cuts out a whole lot of people (October 12). THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate) stars Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro as a happily divorced couple who must pretend to still be married for their son’s wedding (October 19). In THE GANGSTER SQUAD (Warner Brothers) mobster Mickey Cohen does battle with the LAPD. This one has an amazing cast, including Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone (October 19). HALLOWEEN 3D (Dimension) is the third in the rebooted series with director Patrick Lussier taking over for Rob Zombie (October 26). OF MEN AND MAVERICKS (20th Century Fox) is the story of iconic surfer Jay Moriarty, directed by the Oscar-nominated Curtis Hanson (October 26). In MY MOTHER’S CURSE (Paramount) an inventor invites his mom on a cross-country road trip to sell his new product and things go far from according to plan. You’d expect that when son and mother are played by Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand (November 2). RED DAWN (FilmDistrict) is that remake of the 1984 Commie invasion movie that was made two years ago but has been sitting on the shelf pending the outcome of MGM’s bankruptcy. New distributor FilmDistrict picked it up and has finally given it a release date. Hope it’s worth the wait (November 2). WRECK-IT RALPH (Disney) is an animated feature which features a video game villain trying to change his image, but unleashing unmentionable evil in the process. Just thought we’d mention it (November 2). 47 RONIN (Universal) stars Keanu Reeves in an epic fantasy adventure in which a group of masterless samurai band together and take on the vicious overlord who betrayed and murdered their master (November 21). GRAVITY (Warner Brothers) is a sci-fi thriller from director Alfonso Cuaron starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as a pair of astronauts stranded in space when their spacecraft is destroyed (November 21). PARENTAL GUIDANCE (20th Century Fox) stars Bette Midler and Billy Crystal as a pair of grandparents called in to help care for their daughter’s kids; their old school methods collide with the modern kids, forcing the grandparents to change their methods so that their grandkids get a chance to act like…well, kids (November 21). RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (DreamWorks) is an animated feature about a team of childhood legends – Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and so on – rising to meet a terrible threat, using their special powers to save the day (November 21). In THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Weinstein) a man released from a mental institution into the care of his mother doesn’t realize that four years have passed instead of a few months. He sets out to woo back his estranged wife, attempting to become the man she always wanted – not realizing that things have changed with her as well. (November 21). LES MISERABLES (Universal) brings the hit Broadway musical to the screen. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway star (December 7). GREAT HOPE SPRINGS (Columbia) stars Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep as a couple who travel to a small town for a week of intensive marital and sex therapy with a famed relationship guru played by Steve Carrell. Something tells me this trip could potentially do their marriage more harm than good (December 14). UNTITLED KATHRYN BIGELOW FILM (Columbia) is about Osama bin Laden and is her first film since winning the Oscar for The Hurt Locker (December 19). In LIFE OF PI (20th Century Fox) a young man survives the wreck of a freighter, sharing a lifeboat with a tiger, a hyena, a zebra and an orangutan (December 21). HUNTER KILLER (Relativity) stars Gerard Butler and Sam Worthington, as an untested sub captain must team up with a team of Navy SEALs to rescue the kidnapped Russian President (December 21). THIS IS 40 (Universal) is the latest from Judd Apatow and includes characters from Knocked Up (December 21). THE GREAT GATSBY (Warner Brothers) is director Baz Luhrmann’s (Moulin Rouge) version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic. Leonardo DiCaprio stars (December 16).

MOVIES CURRENTLY WITHOUT RELEASE DATES BUT LIKELY TO OPEN

PIRANHA 3DD (Dimension) is the sequel to the surprise hit remake from last fall, this time in 3D. Ooooh. Aaaah. ANNA KARENINA (Focus) gives Leo Tolstoy the big screen lush production treatment. Joe Wright (Hanna) Keira Knightley stars in the title role. STRETCH ARMSTRONG (Universal), the popular ’80s action figure, is hitting the big screen with Twilight star Taylor Lautner in the title role. GODZILLA (Warner Brothers) brings back the giant lizard to menace Tokyo, or wherever the filmmakers care to put him. The producers have said that there will be other monsters that Godzilla is set to battle, although which ones haven’t been revealed yet. NERO FIDDLED (Sony Classics) is Woody Allen’s follow-up to Midnight in Paris, his most successful movie since the ’70s. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Summit) is the coming-of-age story of a 15-year-old boy who copes with his first love, the suicide of his best friend and his own mental illness. Harry Potter’s Emma Watson stars. BEYOD THE BLACK RAINBOW (Magnet) played at the Tribeca film festival earlier this year and got raves. It’s a sci-fi psychedelic thriller about a telekinetic young girl being studied (read: imprisoned) at a futuristic scientific facility. PITCH PERFECT (Universal) follows the cut-throat world of collegiate choir competitions.

There are a lot of reasons to head over to the multiplex, even though many of us are not doing that nearly as often – box office numbers continue to decline, partially due to the bad economy but also due to the availability of video streaming, video on demand and other ways to see movies without leaving the comfort of our own home. Still, we will never entirely lose the need to slip into a dark theater, a bag of popcorn in one hand and a large cold drink in the other. 2013 is going to have a lot of reasons to do that, including sequels in the Thor, Iron Man, The Hobbit and Despicable Me franchises, as well as a return of Superman, a number of highly anticipated science fiction films including Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim and the Governator’s return to the movies. Until then, there’s a whole lot of 2012 to look forward to and Cinema365 will be doing just that with a plethora of new reviews, previews and features to keep you busy all year long. See you at the movies!