Top 10 of 2012


2012 Top 10

It is almost a given that any film critic worth their salt is going to do a year-end list of the best films of the year. It’s de rigueur; it’s expected; it’s standard; you don’t get to wear the film critics t-shirt unless you do one. As I’m particularly fond of mine, I guess I’d better go ahead and give it a shot.

Some critics have a kind of scientific method that they use to determine their list. Me, I’m much less formal. I look back over my ratings and choose the movies I gave 10s to at the top, ranking them basically by how I’m feeling about them now. Next comes the 9s, then the 8s if it comes to that (and this year it didn’t). I ignore the half points, so you might see a 9 ranked above a 9.5. I don’t stand on ceremony as you can see.

The story of 2012 is that there were three movies that were at the top of my charts basically the entire second half of the year – nothing that came out in the fall really challenged the top three. The thing is, none of the three really stood out head and shoulders among the others; you could say it’s a three way tie for first. I have ranked them from one to three for the purposes of this list but throughout the year I’ve generally waffled as to what order that I’ve placed them in. I’ve shuffled, re-shuffled and changed my mind a million times. Each one of them has been my favorite movie of the year at various times throughout the year.

In fact, the list (as most lists do) has a highly fluid quality to it. For the most part, I’m pretty satisfied with the ten movies on the list and I don’t think I’d change any of the movies on it, but you never know. For now, these are the top ten movies of 2012, although ask me again tomorrow and the order might change completely but I think you’d find all ten of these movies on the list.

Some of these movies remain in general release even as we speak; you can head right out to a theater and see them the way they were meant to be seen. Some are already out on DVD/Blu-Ray and you can enjoy them in the comfort of your own home – or they soon will be. Lag time between theatrical release and home video release has been shrinking of late plus many films are being released on VOD concurrently to their limited theatrical release, although none of those are on the top ten at the moment. For those whose interests are piqued about the movies from the snippets I publish here, click on the movie’s title to see my original review and if you’d like to find out more, click on the picture above the review to be taken to the film’s official website when available.

As with any list, I guarantee mine will differ with yours significantly. Although I don’t think anyone has ever taken issue (at least publically) with my list, feel free to leave a comment as to why I know nothing about movies and which movies should have been on it, or not on it. Why make a list after all if you’re not going to disagree with it?

HONORABLE MENTION

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

Craigslist Joe, Renee, Arbitrage, Argo, Headhunters, Turn Me On Dammit, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Bully, Thin Ice, God Bless America, Brave, Safety Not Guaranteed, Frankenweenie, The Salt of Life, Skyfall, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Bernie, The Secret World of Arrietty, The Avengers, Girl Model, Moonrise Kingdom, ParaNorman, A Late Quartet, Sleepwalk With Me, Goon, Life of Pi, The Sessions, A Bag of Hammers, Paul Williams: Still Alive, Chely Wright: Wish Me Away, Seven Psychopaths, Ted, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey10. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

(New Line) Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and a cast of thousands. Directed by Peter Jackson

Released December 16, 2012 After years of being held up by MGM’s financial issues, the classic novel by J.R.R. Tolkien finally made it to the screen and in typical Hollywood fashion, the shortest of his novels will now be three films by itself. Still, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a license to print money for WB so you know it was inevitable that they’d milk it for all it’s worth. We’ll be seeing another Hobbit movie every year through 2015. After that, Silmarillion anyone?
WHY IT IS HERE: An epic adventure on a grand scale. Jackson has made Middle Earth come to life, living and breathing and he does so once again here. Using high frame rate technology, the Shire never looked so beautiful or Rivendell so serene. While it didn’t impress me at the level of the first trilogy, this is still a very good movie.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: At Rivendell, Gandalf and Galadriel communicate telepathically, both revealing hidden secrets as they discuss the dwarf mission to Erebor and the presence of the Hobbit. Two great actors do almost the entire scene with just their eyes and body language while the dialogue is read voice over. Magnificent.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $267.9 million domestic (as of 1/11/13), $830.7 million total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

The Dark Knight Rises9. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

(Warner Brothers) Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman. Directed by Christopher Nolan

Released July 20, 2012 We knew in advance this would be Christopher Nolan’s last foray into Gotham and probably Christian Bale’s as well. After the major success that was The Dark Knight there was a great deal of anticipation although the inevitable backlash that comes after that kind of success was certainly lurking. The box office surely didn’t disappoint although one wonders if the competition from The Avengers didn’t keep this one from going a bit higher.
WHY IT IS HERE: A fitting end to the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan pulls out all the stops with multiple villains, new gadgets and potential nuclear holocaust. The action was as good if not better than The Avengers and we get to see Batman at his most heroic.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Joseph Gordon-Levitt faces down a group of cops on a bridge with the lives of a bus load of kids hanging in the balance.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $448.1 million domestic (as of 1/11/13), $1.1 billion total.
BUDGET: $250 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon/Blockbuster. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Blockbuster.

The Intouchables8. THE INTOUCHABLES

(Weinstein) Omar Sy, Francois Cluzet, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, Gregoire Oestermann, Josephine de Meaux, Dominique Daguier, Francois Caron, Thomas Soliveres. Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano

Released May 25, 2012 This was a box office record setter in France, capturing the imagination of French audiences as well as critical acclaim and major awards (including a Cleo for Sy as best actor). While overly sensitive politically correct American critics took pot shots at the relationship between Driss and Phillippe (white paraplegic employer, black attendant) it was based on an inspirational true story.
WHY IT IS HERE: I dare anyone to watch this all the way through and not feel better about life and the universe we live in. Da Queen will tell you I was in a terrible mood when I went to see this; when we left the theater I was a decent human being again. This should be mandatory viewing for depressives.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: When Driss gets to drive Philippe’s Mazerati for the first time. Priceless.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $10.2 million domestic (as of 1/17/13), $420.8M total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release on March 5.

Monsieur Lazhar7. MONSIEUR LAZHAR

(Music Box) Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nelisse, Emilien Neron, Danielle Proulx, Brigitte Poupart, Jules Philip, Daniel Gadouas, Seddik Benslimane, Marie-Eve Beauregard, Louis Champagne, Andre Robitaille, Francine Ruel, Helena Laliberte. Directed by Philippe Falardeau

Released April 13, 2012 As with the last feature on the top ten list, this was presented here in Orlando at the Florida Film Festival. It was, like the previous film, Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language film. The similarity stops there however; this is a much darker and dramatic film than the uplifting Intouchables.
WHY IT IS HERE: This deals with grief in several different ways, from the grief of children to the grief of adults. The snowy white Montreal backdrop gives the film a sense of insulation that is both warm and cold at once; it is no accident that the action begins in the winter and concludes in the spring. Fellag gives the kind of performance which would have attracted much more notice had he been working for a major distributor or for an American-made film. It’s a hard, hard film to watch at times but by the time it’s over chances are you’ll have learned something about yourself.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The courtroom scene in which Lazhar relives the tragic incident that drove him to Canada.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $2 million domestic (as of 1/17/13), $6.6M total..
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Netflix/iTunes.

Cloud Atlas6. CLOUD ATLAS

(Warner Brothers) Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Keith David, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Brody Nicholas Lee, Raevan Lee Hanan, Alistair Petrie. Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Released October 26, 2012 This is based on the David Mitchell novel that was widely thought to be unfilmable. The Wachowskis engaged their close friend Tykwer with each directing half of the sequences. Despite the all-star cast, marketing this epic work turned out to be nearly impossible and the movie made almost no box office impact whatsoever here in the States.
WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that talks about repression and personal responsibility in ways that we’re often not used to it. It shows that the ability of one human to force another to end to their will is timeless; so is the ability of one human to stand up and say no. There is an epic scope in each of the different segments – each set in a different era in history, three in the past, one in the present and two in the future. Cerebral science fiction, when done well can be as stimulating as any genre of movie extant but sadly, it isn’t generally cost-effective. This was overlooked by a lot of critics and granted, there were some flaws but such was its ambition that one can overlook them when admiring the whole.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Timothy Cavendish’ s break-out from the nuthatch in the 2012 sequence.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $27.1 million domestic (as of 1/19/13), $71.2 million total.
BUDGET: $102 million
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release in May 2013. It may still be seen in second-run theaters.

Chasing Ice5. CHASING ICE

(Submarine Deluxe) James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Louie Psihoyos, Adam LeWinter, Kitty Boone, Jeff Orlowski, Tad Pfeffer, Suzanne Balog, Dennis Dimick, Emily Balog, Simone Balog, Sylvia Earle, Jason Box, Synte Peacock. Directed by Jeff Orlowski

Released November 16, 2012 The growing climate change has become an issue everywhere else in the world, but here in the United States there is oddly no dialogue, unless it is to ridicule Al Gore for his attempts to bring it to the attention of Americans. This movie was an attempt by one of the world’s most passionate and respected nature photographers to document the erosion of the world’s glaciers. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Song but oddly, not for Best Documentary Feature.
WHY IT IS HERE: This documentary shows graphically the importance of glaciers to the global eco-system, the potentially catastrophic consequences of their continued erosion and shows measurably that it is happening right now. The movie is eerily beautiful as it terrifies.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scenes near the end of the film where the erosion of the glaciers is graphically shown. It’s beautiful and terrifying.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $970,721 domestic (as of 1/19/13), $970,721 worldwide.
BUDGET: Not available
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release in April 2013.

Lincoln4. LINCOLN

(DreamWorks) Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Peter McRobbie, Gloria Reuben. Directed by Steven Spielberg

Released November 9, 2012 This biography of America’s 16th (and perhaps best) president had long been in gestation as Spielberg meticulously researched his life and times, recreating his office down to the wallpaper. It has been something of a surprise hit, with Day-Lewis up to his usual standards of performance, garnering an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win to add to his trophy collection.
WHY IT IS HERE: This really gives you a sense of the man behind the majesty, a man who has carried the weight of a bloody civil war on his broad shoulders and is beginning to buckle. This Honest Abe is not above political chicanery and is not above shouting at his subordinates to get this vote done. And the great Mr. Lincoln drove the people around him crazy with his stories, like the long-winded uncle everyone avoids at family reunions. Not that I have a long-winded uncle.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The vote on the floor of the House of Representatives is gripping even though most Americans who know their history know how it turns out.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $156.6 million domestic (as of 1/18/13), $156.6 million total.
BUDGET: $65 million.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

Cabin in the Woods3. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

(Lionsgate) Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Sigourney Weaver, Brian White, Amy Acker, Tim De Zarn, Tom Lenk, Dan Payne, Jodelle Ferland, Dan Shea, Maya Massar, Matt Drake. Directed by Drew Goddard

Released April 13, 2012 This was a pretty good year for Joss Whedon who not only directed the biggest blockbuster of the year but produced this film as well. The movie actually had been languishing in the vaults of MGM during its bankruptcy woes and was picked up by Lionsgate who were sadly never really able to get across to the public what a great ride this movie is.
WHY IT IS HERE: Those who love Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (which itself is being remade later this year) are going to love this. Part horror spoof, part action flick, part Lovecraftian gorefest, part conspiracy flick and all of it fun, we get a solid cast, put them in a playground and watch them get mind raped. It has been a rare thing that I’ve had this much fun at a movie and although it starts off a bit slow, when it gets going it REALLY takes off! Just keep asking yourself this: Am I on speaker phone?
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The elevator ride down into the bowels of the complex.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $42.1 million domestic (as of 1/20/13), $66.5 million total.
BUDGET: $30 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Blockbuster.

The Lady2. THE LADY

(Cohen Media Group) Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett, Jonathan Woodhouse, Susan Wooldridge, Benedict Wong, Flint Bangkok, William Hope, Victoria Sanvalli, Danny Toeng, Nay Myo Thant. Directed by Luc Besson

Released April 11, 2012 This biopic of Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi was my favorite film from last year’s Florida Film Festival and a very real contender for my favorite of the year period. Oddly, it got extremely disappointing reviews which I found incomprehensible – but the box office figures were far more disappointing than the reviews.
WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that shows how resilient the human spirit is. Suu Kyi is one of the most courageous people of our time and yet her story is largely unknown in the West. Michelle Yeoh gives a performance that in a just world would have been considered for an Oscar – it’s at least on par with favorite Jessica Chastain’s. However because of the almost non-existent theatrical release and the critical shellacking it received, most people will never get a chance to see it.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene in which Aung proudly listens to her son Alexander give the acceptance speech for her Nobel Peace Prize, the ceremony for which she was unable to attend.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Domestic box office figures unavailable (as of 1/23/12), $3.4 million total.
BUDGET: $29.4 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Blockbuster.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel1. THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

(Fox Searchlight) Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel, Tena Desae, Lillette Dubey, Sid Makkar, Seema Azmi, Diana Hardcastle, Lucy Robinson, Paul Bhattacharjee. Directed by John Madden

Released May 4, 2012 General movie audiences notoriously find movies about the elderly to be anathema. It’s not hard to figure out why – moviegoers are mostly teens and young adults; that demographic doesn’t really care about the elderly and their issues because they simply aren’t there yet. This one, however, struck a chord with audiences of all age groups.
WHY IT IS HERE: I have to admit I wasn’t particularly interested in visiting India for most of my life. I’d heard about the noise, the smell, the crowded conditions and the heat – it didn’t sound like my particular cup of tea. That all changed after I saw this movie and saw India from a completely different viewpoint. Besides that, this is a movie about aging and living as an “old person.” You might look at aging differently when you see this.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Tom Wilkinson’s strolls through town were always full of joy.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $46.4 million domestic (as of 1/23/12), $134.4 million total.
BUDGET: $10 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes.

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Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax


 

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

Introducing the Lorax.

(2012) Animated Feature (Universal) Starring the voices of Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Betty White, Jenny Slate, Nasim Perdad, Stephen Tobolowsky, Elmarie Wendel, Danny Cooksey, Laraine Newman. Directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda

 

The world we live in is the only one we have. It is beautiful and full of life, a virtual paradise without any help from us. However, that world is also terribly fragile and if we succumb to greed and short-sightedness, we run the risk of losing it.

Thneedville upon first glance seems to be a great place to live. Everything is plastic, there are no living things anywhere save the people. Air is bottled for the most part; the mayor O’Hare (Riggle) has the air concession.

Ted (Efron) lives in this town and he doesn’t much care one way or the other. His attention is on Audrey (Swift) who he very much would like to get to know better. He contrives ways to get her attention – like crashing a radio-controlled plane into her yard. Once there, he sees that she’s painted some odd-looking things on the back of her house. She calls them “trees” and tells him that they used to be plentiful around there but nobody has seen one in years. She sighs and tells her that her fondest wish is to see a real live one – and that she would just about marry the man on the spot who could show her one.

That’s all the information that Ted needs. But where does one find a living tree in a place where there aren’t any? Ted’s granny (White) fortunately has the answer, one hastily whispered – the Once-Ler (Helms), who lies outside of town. Outside of town? Gulp! Nobody ever goes outside of town. But Ted is determined and so he goes.

The trip is perilous but at last he finds the Once-Ler’s lonely home in the wilderness of tree stumps and sunless barren desolation. The Once-Ler isn’t particularly interested in helping Ted out – he really wants to be left alone but at last he gives in and agrees to give Ted a tree – but first he must hear the story of how the trees went away.

You see, the Once-Ler is the one who is responsible for the disappearance of the trees. He had arrived in the area as an ambitious young man, looking to make his mark on the world with his own invention – the Thneed. However he needs raw materials to make his Thneeds and this place is perfect. It is filled with woodland creatures (mostly little bears and the occasional Sneetch) and smiling, singing fish – but most importantly, thousands upon thousands of beautiful truffula trees whose tut-like branches are softer than summer rain.

After chopping down a truffula tree to make his first Thneed, the Once-Ler is visited by the Lorax (DeVito), a mystical and slightly annoying (as the Once-Ler describes him) creature who is the advocate of the forest. He speaks for the trees, presumably since the trees have no mouths. And the Lorax warns of dire consequences if the Once-Ler continues on his path of destruction.

At first, the Once-Ler is spectacularly unsuccessful at selling his Thneed but pure happenstance demonstrates how useful the item is and suddenly everyone wants one. The Once-Ler promises the Lorax that he will use sustainable means of harvesting the truffula trees and the Lorax seems satisfied with that. The Once-Ler brings his family into the peaceful valley to help him ramp up his manufacturing operation. Instead, they convince him to clear-cut the forest to harvest more efficiently which he finally gives in to. The results are that the Once-Ler completely depletes the forest, he runs out of materials to make his Thneeds and his family deserts him. The Lorax takes the animals and goes, leaving behind a rock with the word “Unless” carved into it.

Can Ted stand up to the powers-that-be of Thneedville and bring back the trees and animals? Or are the inhabitants of Thneedville doomed to their plastic existence?

The Lorax has come under a lot of fire on both sides of the political fence. Conservatives decry its message which has been described as anti-capitalist and the indoctrination of children into super-liberal causes. Liberals have pointed out the hypocrisy of a film with a green message and over 70 product placements in the movie. The former is a crock; the message here is of acting responsibly and thinking globally rather than of short-term profit. There is nothing anti-capitalist about promoting responsibility. Those who think so have guilty consciences in my book.

The latter however is definitely an issue. It sends conflicting messages, to support environmental causes on the one hand and to embrace consumerism on the other. Now, I understand the economic realities of film making – these product placement help pay the bills – but couldn’t there have been other ways to get the sponsorship money?

The movie is otherwise fun and adheres to the spirit of Dr. Seuss. There are a trio of singing fish who act much as a Greek chorus, even if they aren’t always singing lyrics. They are, as the minions are in Despicable Me (whose animation studio produced the movie but the actual animation was done by the French Mac Guff Studios which Illumination recently purchased). They are sure to be big hits with both kids and adults alike.

DeVito makes an awesome Lorax, a little bit befuddled but possessed of great wisdom and love for the trees. He stands out most among the other voice actors who do their jobs pretty well, but are fairly innocuous compared to DeVito whose voice stands out anyway. We get the sense of who the Lorax is and the great pain he feels when the Once-Ler makes his wrong turn.

The animation itself is superb, keeping the distinctive Seussian style throughout. There are few straight lines (if any) in the movie and the bright colors will keep the littlest tykes happy, not to mention the cute little bears and the Rube Goldberg-like contraptions in Thneedville.

There are those who complained about the message being preachy but given the state of our environment and climate, this is a message that needs to be preached because apparently the grown-ups haven’t gotten it yet. Perhaps our kids will – and perhaps it won’t be too late when they get a chance to do something about it.

REASONS TO GO: Clever and irreverent, holding close to the style of Dr. Seuss. Inspired vocal casting. A good message for kids.

REASONS TO STAY: Excessive product placement subverts admirable message. Lags a bit in the middle.

FAMILY VALUES: There are a couple of mildly bad words.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Ted and Audrey are named after Dr. Seuss (real name Theodore Geisel) and his wife Audrey. This is also the first movie to feature Universal’s spiffy new 100th Anniversary logo and was released on what would have been the 108th birthday of Dr. Seuss.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/17/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 58% positive reviews. Metacritic: 47/100. The reviews are mixed.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Flushed Away

THEME PARK LOVERS: There is a scene where the Once-Ler’s bed is put in a river and floats off and winds up running some rapids – looks like Universal’s got a new Seuss Landing attraction in mind for Islands of Adventure…

FINAL RATING: 8.5/10

NEXT:Turning Green

New Releases for the Week of March 2, 2012


March 2, 2012

DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX

(Universal) Starring the voices of Danny De Vito, Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Rob Riggle, Stephen Tobolowski, Laraine Newman. Directed by Heitor Dhalia

A boy seeking to impress a girl who wants nothing but to see a real, living tree learns the tale of a mystical creature who was unsuccessful in protecting the trees against rampant greed and exploitation. He will find himself in a battle between those who love the planet and those who wish to profit from its exploitation. Hey, Bill O’Reilly hates this movie so there is reason plenty to go see it right there.

See the trailer, clips, promos, interviews and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D and IMAX 3D

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for brief mild language)

Pina 3D

(IFC) Pina Bausch, Ruth Amerante, Eddie Martinez, Julie Shanahan. The life of iconic modern dance choreography Pina Bausch is explored by legendary German film director Wim Wenders. Former dancers and peers wax poetic on what it was like to dance for her and her lasting contribution to the world of dance.

See the trailer, clips and an interview here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: PG (for some sensuality/partial nudity and smoking)

Project X

(Warner Brothers) Kirby Bliss Blanton, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Oliver Cooper, Alexis Knapp. A pair of high school losers make one last ditch effort for immortality by throwing the party of the century while their parents are out of town. Wanting to be legends, they document every moment of it from the first invite to the last guest and the aftermath. Found footage Weird Science if you ask me.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sex Comedy

Rating: R (for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem – all involving teens)

Rampart

(Millennium) Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Robin Wright, Sigourney Weaver.  A bigoted, brutal L.A. cop in the Rampart precinct is caught beating a suspect on tape and in the wake of a corruption scandal in the department refuses to change his ways and as a result faces bitter consequences. However, things begin to unravel further as a stream of women, investigators and an aging mentor are combining to send him to rock bottom. Is there redemption for a man like this?

See the trailer, clips, interviews and a promo or stream the full movie from Amazon here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Crime Drama

Rating: R (for pervasive language, sexual content and some violence)

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie

(Magnet) Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis.  A couple of would-be Judd Apatows squander a billion dollar movie budget and the evil Schlaaang Corporation wants it back. This will take them to the seediest mall in America – and a chance to be gazilliionaires. From the whack jobs who perpetrated the “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job” on an indifferent cable landscape.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, language, some violence and thematic material)

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!