The Dark Tower (2017)


Good vs evil goes nose to nose.

(2017) Fantasy (Columbia) Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, Tom Taylor, Dennis Haysbert, Ben Gavin, Claudia Kim, Jackie Earle Haley, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Katheryn Winnick, Nicholas Pauling, Michael Barbieri, José Zuñiga, Nicholas Hamilton, Inge Beckmann, Alfredo Narciso, Eva Kaminsky, Robbie McLean, Mark Elderkin, Matthew Thomson, Karl Thaning, Charlize Churcher. Directed by Nicolaj Arcel

 

There are few who will accuse Stephen King of being a brilliant writer but it is true that when it comes to telling a story he is without peer. His most ambitious story is the eight-book Dark Tower saga featuring Roland Deschain (Elba) as the last of an honorable caste of warriors known as the Gunslingers. He is tasked to protect The Dark Tower, a structure at the intersection of all reality that keeps chaos at bay. It is in the process of failing thanks to an evil wizard named Walter O’Dim (McConaughey) a.k.a. The Man in Black and we’re not talking Johnny Cash. Walter wants the tower to fall and all worlds to fall apart in the process.

Jake Chambers (Taylor) is a powerful psychic who has visions of Roland and the Man in Black, the latter of whom wants to harness Jake’s power in order to bring the Dark Tower down. Jake lives on our Earth, the so-called Keystone which is the last holdout, the last world that has yet to “move on,” as the Gunslinger terms it. Jake escapes the minions of Walter and finds a portal into Mid-World, the Earth of Roland. Although Roland is disinterested in saving the universe, he is very much interested in taking down Walter who has killed everything that Roland loves. There is going to be some gunslinging you can be sure.

Elba and McConaughey are both terrific performers. Elba in particular excels; he seems literally born to roles like this one. He gives the role gravitas and a certain stoic nobility that made the role so compelling in the books. It’s the kind of character that was much more prevalent in the past than it is now; these days we like our heroes to be pure but Roland is riddled with impurities.

Sadly, these two performances are all there really is to recommend the movie. Opinion on the books is sharply divided; some believe that they are a case of King’s reach exceeding his grasp while others consider it a terrific read. Count me among the latter believers. However, trying to boil down eight books into a 90 minute movie is like trying to figure out a way to condense the Manhattan phone book into two names. You might get the gist of the series but you won’t get the flavor. There are some dynamic creature effects but they are so dimly lit that you can’t really make out the details. The pacing is all over the map; sometimes it seems rushed; other times it’s painfully slow. This has all the earmarks of a studio putting its grubby hands all over a project.

So the consensus is that this is a mess and not even a hot one. The books deserve better attention than this gives it; a full series would have done it more justice. I can’t imagine King himself is satisfied with what was done to a work he put so much time and effort into. I know that I, as a fan of the books, certainly am not.

REASONS TO GO: Idris Elba is perfectly cast for this role.
REASONS TO STAY: This film is a disappointment on nearly every level.
FAMILY VALUES: There is violence particularly using guns and some adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The eight-book Dark Tower series by Stephen King was inspired at least in part by Robert Browning’s epic poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Fios, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Sony, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/26/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 16% positive reviews. Metacritic: 34/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Stand
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Sunset Park

Jodorowsky’s Dune


Space...the way-out frontier...

Space…the way-out frontier…

(2013) Documentary (Sony Classics) Alejandro Jodorowsky, Chris Foss, Michel Seydoux, Brontis Jodorowsky, Richard Stanley, Gary Kurtz, Nicolas Winding Refn, Drew McWeeny, Devin Faraci, Diane O’Bannon, Christian Vander, Jean-Pierre Vignau, Amanda Lear, Dan O’Bannon (archival audio). Directed by Frank Pavich

Getting a film made in Hollywood is a treacherous, heartbreaking process. For every movie that makes it to your multiplex, dozens more fall by the wayside, victims of escalating budgets, script issues or studio indifference – or any of a thousand different reasons. Some movies that might have been great just never get beyond the dreams of a filmmaker.

Alejandro Jodorowsky, a Chilean filmmaker, became famous in the early 70s for El Topo and Holy Mountain, a pair of surrealist epics that essentially created the midnight movie market. Both were successes in the United States which, given the modern more pedestrian tastes in movies, seems almost impossible. We did a lot of drugs back then though.

His success was such that French producer Michel Seydoux gave him carte blanche to do whatever project he wished and when asked what he wanted to do, he famously blurted out Dune even though he’d never read the Frank Herbert classic science fiction novel. One of the biggest-selling sci-fi novels of all time, Dune was everything that would seem to guarantee box office success; a rabid following, epic scope, sex, violence, monsters and intelligence. Okay, maybe the latter doesn’t guarantee box office success quite so much.

Jodorowsky set out to assemble a crew of geniuses both in front of the camera and behind it. To set his landscapes and draw up the overall look of the film, he enlisted Jean Giraud, better known as Mobius of the underground science fiction comic magazine Heavy Metal. To design his creatures, he called upon then relatively unknown Swiss artist H.R. Giger who would go on to design the title creatures in Alien. The spaceships would be designed by well-known book cover painter Chris Foss. One of his designs graces this review, above.

For the script he picked up Dan O’Bannon, who at the time had finished Dark Star and would later be known for writing Alien among others. He also added Douglas Turnbull for special effects. Jodorowsky wanted a frame by frame storyboard which he collected in a huge book which eventually became legendary throughout Hollywood.

Jodorowsky was no less eclectic for his choices in front of the screen. For the pivotal role of Duke Leto, he cast David Carradine, then at the height of his fame for Kung Fu. The Machiavellian emperor Shaddam IV would be played by painter Salvador Dali, who wanted to be the highest-paid actor in Hollywood for the privilege, demanding the then-unheard of sum of $100,000 an hour. That was a lot more than the budget that Seydoux had envisioned could tolerate, but he figured out a way around it by asking Jodorowsky how much onscreen time the emperor would get. When Jodorowsky told him three minutes, Seydoux went back to Dali and said “we’ll pay you $100,000 for every minute of time your character is onscreen!” which satisfied Dali.

He also enlisted the great Orson Welles as the corpulent villain Baron Harkonen, promising him that they would secure the services of his favorite French chef to be his personal chef during the shoot. He got Mick Jagger to take the part of Feyd Ruatha after running into him at a party. He cast his son Brontis as Paul Atreides, the Messianic hero of the tale put him through extensive martial arts and sword training – six hours a day for two years. That his son still talks to Jodorowsky today is something of a minor miracle.

The movie was at last ready to shoot. When it came time to get a studio to finance and distribute the movie however, every single one balked. They were concerned with the psychedelic nature of the movie and worried that it wouldn’t recoup its high for its time budget ($15 million). The movie wasn’t just stillborn, it died in the womb.

At 84, Jodorowsky remains lively, engaging and intelligent. He still speaks passionately about the project even though it must have disappointed him terribly that it was never made. Watching him speak about the project and about the events surrounding it is worth the price of admission alone but on top of that we get to see the amazing production art that was created for the film by Mobius, Foss and Giger. Some of the images would go on to influence other films in the genre from Alien to The Terminator to Blade Runner to Prometheus to the David Lynch version of Dune that followed (and that Jodorowsky proclaimed to be “terrible,” with some relief).

If the documentary has some drawbacks, there are at least two. First, the electronic score by Kurt Stenzel is annoying. Yes it sounds like the electronic film music of the 70s and is somewhat appropriate given the subject matter but I found it overly loud and unpleasant, which also signifies that I’m turning into my dad.

Secondly, there is a tendency for artists to be a little bit egotistical which is understandable given the nature of what they do but when you throw in condescending into the mix it becomes like nails on a chalkboard to me. It is art with a capital A to some people and they speak of art as essentially license to do and say as they please because, well, it’s Art. I get that this might well have been an amazing film had it been made but it might just as well have been virtually unwatchable. One of the talking heads (I think it was Faraci, an internet movie critic) mused that the movie business might have been changed forever had Jodorowsky’s version of Dune been made before Star Wars, believing that movie blockbusters would have wound up being more intelligent and more adult in general than they became because of the impact of George Lucas.

It is a bit arrogant to presume anything. It’s possible that this version of Dune could have become as influential and as game-changing as Star Wars  became but let’s be frank here: it’s likely that Star Wars would have been made anyway and even more likely that it would have been as big a hit. The era of the ’70s was already on its way out by the time “A long time ago…in a galaxy far, far away” first crawled across movie screens. The temperature of the nation was changing too. One movie wasn’t going to make a difference in that regard. The movies don’t change America; the movies reflect America. Anyone who believes differently is delusional.

These gripes aside, this is a fascinating look at a movie that never got made. It doesn’t really give us any sort of insight into the film business – this was being made far outside of Hollywood both literally and figuratively. It does give us insight into a madman slash dreamer who had the audacity and the will to chase his vision even though it never made it into the kind of fruition he wanted it to be. Some things are not meant to be but that doesn’t mean we don’t pursue them as far as we can take them. You never know what unexpected tangents may come of the pursuit and that is always worthwhile to find out.

REASONS TO GO: Jodorowsky is a fascinating interview. Production art is stunning. Definitely has some “what if” moments.

REASONS TO STAY: Occasionally gets a bit condescending to its audience.  Annoying soundtrack.

FAMILY VALUES:  A little bit of swearing, some drug references and some violent and/or sexual images.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: While filming the movie, Seydoux and Jodorowsky reunited and decided to make another movie together. That film, La Danza de la Realidad, was Jodorowsky’s first in 23 years and made its debut at Cannes in the same year as this film.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/8/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 99% positive reviews. Metacritic: 79/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Kid Stays in the Picture

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

NEXT: 21

Epic


Another oblivious, bumbling dad stumbling in just in time for Father's Day.

Another oblivious, bumbling dad stumbling in just in time for Father’s Day.

(2013) Animated Feature (20th Century Fox) Starring the voices of Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis, Aziz Ansari, Steven Tyler, Beyonce Knowles, Pitbull, Blake Anderson, Judah Friedlander, Chris O’Dowd, Dan Green, Allison Bills, John DiMaggio, Troy Evans, Kelly Keaton, Malikha Mallette. Directed by Chris Wedge

The natural world is nothing like what we think it is. Yes, there are flora and fauna, rocks and trees and water but there are also tiny little creatures who are waging a war for the very survival of the forest. Don’t believe me?

Dr. Bomba (Sudeikis) does. He’s been searching the forest outside his home for years, convinced that these creatures exist. He’s managed to find some artifacts of them but thus far, no concrete proof of their existence. His obsession cost him his standing in the scientific community and eventually, his family.

His ex-wife has recently passed away and his estranged daughter Mary Katherine (Seyfried) has come to live with him. She’s a rebellious teen now however, mourning her mother and wishing to go by the name MK. As in MK Ultra, maybe. Anywho, she trusts her distracted dad about as far as she could throw him – although he’s kind of scrawny and she’s kind of tough sot that could be a considerable distance.

When she arrives she’s not sure of what’s going to happen but the worst essentially does – she discovers dear old dad hasn’t changed any and the same craziness that drove her mother out is still present and accounted for, thank you. She desperately needs to talk things out with him but every time she tries to get him to sit down, one of his camera sensors starts beeping and off he goes, with an outlandish helmet that Wayne Szalinski of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids would probably find stylish.

She means to leave and make her own way but on her way out the door her dad’s (and her childhood pet) Ozzie, a three legged dog, gets out and MK goes out into the woods to find him. What she finds is something else entirely.

You see, her dad was right – there are tiny little creatures battling it out in the woods. On the side of good are the Leaf Men, valiant and noble warriors who ride hummingbirds, are able to leap tremendous distances and insure the safety and tranquility of the woods. They are ruled over (and are charged to protect) Queen Tara (Knowles) who that very day as it so happens is partaking in a ceremony that will transfer her powers to a new heir who is yet to be chosen.

The evil Boggans don’t want that to happen. They are ruled over by the nefarious Mandrake (Waltz) whose minions are charged with spreading rot and decay, destroying the green woods forever. Tara keeps them at bay, able to regenerate any damage they do. However, Mandrake has figured out a plan to stop her from passing on her powers, which would allow he and his Boggans to take things over and turn the woods into a lovely dead stretch of rotted vegetation.

Tara seems to think there isn’t much of a threat, much to the consternation of Ronin (Farrell), her captain of the guards, or leader of the Leaf Men. He’s in charge of her security and he knows the Boggans are up to something. Of course nobody listens to him, particularly Nod (Hutcherson), the reckless young man who is the son of Ronin’s best friend who was killed in battle. Ronin has raised Nod as his own, which clearly shows it must suck to be his kid. In any case, Nod chafes under Ronin’s rough discipline and takes a powder, leaving the Leaf Men.

They should have listened. The Boggans interrupt the ceremony and send everyone scurrying in all directions. Tara, alone and desperate, is forced to transfer all her powers into a seed pod as she lays dying on the forest floor. MK (remember her?), wandering out on the forest looking for Ozzie, stumbles onto the dying Tara instead. Tara hands her the pod which magically shrinks MK down to Leaf Man size. Before the Boggans can get there, Ronin arrives in time for the Queen to die in his arms, turning into mulch and scattering to the four winds as she passes. At least, it would be mulch if mulch was sparkly.

This is a lot of plot to take in and we’re talking only the first 20 minutes or so here. The rest of the movie is spent with the small group of Leaf Men – Ronin, MK, Nod and the caretakers of the pod – slug Mub (Ansari) and snail Grub (O’Dowd) – and their attempts to get the pod from point A to point B so it can be in the proper place when the moon is at its height and, well, yadda yadda yadda. Mub and Grub provide comic relief – Mub a kind of ladies man slug, and Grub who desperately yearns to be a Leaf Man. They are neither cute enough to be kiddy favorites. I don’t care how funny the voice actors are, kids are just not going to warm up to slugs and snails. Are you listening, makers of Turbo?

Wedge, who had a hand in Ice Age and Robots, is given a beautiful palette to work with. The animated forest is realistic and beautiful. However, the trailer made the place look incredible, with small cities and fairy-like creatures turning up under every flower and twig. The finished film shows some of that but those scenes are few and far between. The sense of wonder that the trailer had is missing from the final film and how ironic is that?

Kids aren’t going to care much that there are huge lapses in internal logic. For example, the Leaf Men and Boggans are said to be too small for the human eye to see but they are large enough to ride hummingbirds and bats. They are also moving too fast for us to see or hear but what happens when they’re sleeping?

This is the kind of movie that tries to look superficially green without offending conservative families. The message is at least on the surface about being a caretaker to the planet which is admirable but then the buck is passed. It’s not OUR responsibility to care for the planet – it’s these little Leaf Men. Carry on with your carbon footprint kiddies, you’re off the hook (and by the way, the rot that the Leaf Men are so afraid of is actually beneficial for the forest, acting as fertilizer, mulch and clearing space to allow things to grow). At least The Lorax sent a message that it is our personal responsibility to take charge of our own behavior in regards to the environment.

This is a movie trying to offend nobody and winds up being offensive because of it. I wish the filmmakers had the courage of their convictions but I can’t imagine Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch, sending out an eco-friendly kid-film under any circumstances so perhaps we can’t blame them overly much. We can blame them for a convoluted plot, however and an over-abundance of characters who flit in and out of the movie, many of which without any real need to be there.

The movie liberally borrows from too many other movies. There’s a bit of Neverending Story here, a bit of The Secret of NIMH there, a little more The Secret World of Arrietty over there. There’s even a bit of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (there are pod races and a bullfrog with more than a little resemblance to Jabba the Hut). This is a mish mash that will probably do good business (at least until Monsters University opens) but is a big disappointing. The very young might be enchanted by some of the beautiful visuals but they aren’t sustained long and it turns into more fluff than substance. Even a kid can recognize a bad movie when they see it.

REASONS TO GO: Some lush animation. Farrell’s Ronin is terrific.

REASONS TO STAY: Disappointing overall; lacks a sense of wonder. Suffers from Green Hippie disease.

FAMILY VALUES:  There are a couple of watered down action sequences which shouldn’t be too much for the kiddies, mild bad language and a scary image or two.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The first film produced by Blue Sky Animation Studios to feature a female protagonist and the first animated feature overall from Fox to do so since Anastasia in 1997.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/30/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 61% positive reviews. Metacritic: 52/100; I’d call them mildly positive reviews overall.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Secret of NIMH

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: Scream 3

New Releases for the Week of May 24, 2013


Fast and Furious 6

FAST & FURIOUS 6

(Paramount) Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, Luke Evans, Michelle Rodriguez, Gina Carano, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang. Directed by Justin Lin

Dom, Brian and their crew have all scattered around the world living the good life after the last film but they feel incomplete, never being able to go home again. However, the rise of a new villain sends Hobbs to seek Dom out because he will need his special skills. At stake is full pardons for all of them but something even more personal for Dom – the reappearance of someone he thought was dead.

See the trailer, clips, promos and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout, some sexuality and language)

At Any Price

(Sony Classics) Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, Heather Graham, Kim Dickens. A farmer who has spent his entire lifetime expanding and improving his farm is eager to see his son follow in his footsteps. The impetuous youth however wants nothing to do with farming – he wants to race cars. However as the farmer’s less than ethical methods prompt an investigation, the two men will be pushed into an unexpected situation that will threaten everything they’ve built and dreamed of becoming.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for sexual content including a strong graphic image, and for language)  

Epic

(20th Century Fox) Starring the voices of Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Josh Hutcherson. A young girl whose father believes that there are tiny beings living in the forest is shrunk down to their size, discovering her dad was right in the process. However now she’s caught in a war between good and evil with both worlds hanging in the balance.

See the trailer, promos, featurettes and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language)

The Hangover Part III

(Warner Brothers) Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong. The Wolfpack take one last trip to Vegas, brought together not by a wedding this time but because Chow owes some heavy hitters a lot of money and in order to get Doug back (he’s been kidnapped for real this time) they will have to find Chow which is never a laughing matter.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (Opening on Thursday May 23)

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence and drug content, and brief graphic nudity) 

2013 Summer Movie Preview


Summer Movie Preview 2013

Last year, the word was “optimism.” With a box office on the upswing and some heavy hitters waiting and eager to get a share of the summer box office, Hollywood looked for a record year – and they got one.

Led by The Avengers, Hollywood reeled off some big earners – like The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man and Brave – as well as establishing some pretty fair hits in Ted, Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus. While there were a few misfires, there was enough business in the multiplexes to carry Hollywood on to a record box office year.

The line-up this year is frankly less gaudy than 2012 – or even 2011 for that matter and the lead-in is less strong – to date there really haven’t been any major blockbusters leading in to the summer of 2013 and that is becoming of increasing importance on the modern Hollywood landscape as traditional thinking as to how to approach summer movies – indeed, of how to approach marketing ALL movies – is changing with the advent of more readily available product through on-demand video, streaming and made-for-internet videos.

There are no movies as anticipated as the two big money-makers from last year, although Iron Man 3 is expected to do well and the sequel to the Star Trek reboot – Star Trek Into Darkness – looks to continue JJ Abrams’ hot streak at the box office.

Speaking of reboots, Man of Steel will take a darker tone with the Superman franchise as DC Comics tries to somehow find some hits that don’t involve the Caped Crusader. There will be plenty of sequels as The Wolverine takes the X-Men’s popular mutant and puts him into one of his most iconic locations – Japan, where some of the character’s most memorable comic book adventures took place. Kick-Ass 2 will follow up the underground hit and RED 2 will bring the geriatric superspies to the big screen.

Families will get plenty to do this summer with Epic, Planes, Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University. For those looking for a sci-fi fix, in addition to the new Star Trek there’s After Earth, Pacific Rim, Europa Report, The Colony and Elysium. Horror fans can expect plenty of scares from Aftershock, Byzantium, World War Z, V/H/S 2, You’re Next, Satanic, The Conjuring and R.I.P.D. Those looking for a laugh will undoubtedly find them in The Hangover Part III, The Internship, The Heat, Grown-Ups 2 and This is the End. Action junkies will get all they crave with The Lone Ranger, Now You See Me, Fast and Furious 6, White House Down, 300: Rise of an Empire and 2 Guns. If you are of a literary bent, you can see your books on screen with The Great Gatsby, Much Ado About Nothing, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

The stars will be out as you can catch films with such stars as Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Don Cheadle, Billy Crystal, Sandra Bullock, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Farrell, Dwayne Johnson, Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, Melissa McCarthy, Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Kevin Costner, Robert Downey Jr., Vince Vaughn, Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, Leonardo di Caprio, Kevin James, Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Channing Tatum, Vin Diesel, James Franco, Tobey Maguire, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Ben Kingsley, Helen Mirren, Jason Sudeikis, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Neil Patrick Harris, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Simon Pegg, Ethan Hawk, Emma Roberts, Andy Samberg, Eric Bana, John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer, Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges, Armie Hammer, Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Salma Hayek, Kevin Bacon, Christoph Waltz, Pierce Brosnan, Paul Giamatti, Al Pacino, Maya Rudolph, Will Smith, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Woody Harrelson and Gwynneth Paltrow.

In addition, a good number of independent and mid-major distributors will be making their movies available on VOD for those people who don’t have access to art houses, or live in cities where smaller distributors can’t get the screens to show their films. This is a bit of a double-edge sword; on the one hand, it does make a wider range of movies available so films that might not otherwise be seen can get at least some sort of audience. However, it does continue the trend away from theaters and more towards home viewing. While I suspect there will always be big blockbuster movies in theaters (which the summers are made for), it does seem to point at people seeing films more and more through other sources. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion – it’s just something older generations such as mine will have to get used to as time goes on.

You don’t have to be a Man of Steel to be one of The Kings of Summer. You don’t have to be a Lone Ranger to beat The Heat either; just Getaway into an air-conditioned multiplex and Purge your cares away. This is the End of your worries if you do. Put this on your To-Do List and you’ll be a Grown-Ups 2. Now You See Me doing the same thing so you know You’re Next. Just sit down, relax and enjoy your movie – it’s better than a Closed Circuit prizefight or even a One Direction concert. Especially that.

MAY

Phase Two of the Marvel Universe kicks off this year as May once again has a Marvel hero headlining. In addition we’ll see the latest in a beloved sci-fi franchise while one of the most successful comedy film franchises comes to a close and an action franchise turns six and director Baz Luhrmann weighs in with a new screen version of a literary classic.

Iron Man 3

 

SUMMER LOVE

IRON MAN 3
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2013
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Ben Kingsley, Gwynneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale, Rebecca Hall, Wang Xuequi
STORY: Tony Stark is having trouble adjusting after the events of The Avengers. He is worried that he’s losing his identity as Tony Stark in favor of Iron Man. It’s probably not a good time therefore that his greatest comic book enemy – the Mandarin – makes an appearance.
PROSPECTS: Anticipation is very high for the first post-Avengers Marvel movie as fans are eager to see the direction the franchise is going in. Downey is a big fan favorite and the buzz on this movie is that the franchise hasn’t lost any steam whatsoever.
OBSTACLES: Jon Favreau has exited the director’s chair and while Shane Black is a capable writer and director, his ability to handle a big effects-driven film like this is unknown. One wonders as well if there will be any post-Avengers backlash.
FACTOID: Following the success of The Avengers Disney approved a budget increase from $140M to $200M to allow Black to make the best movie he could to maintain Marvel’s momentum.

SUMMER ROMANCE

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
RELEASE DATE: May 17, 2013 (opening on IMAX screens two days earlier)
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin, Alice Eve, Peter Weller
STORY: The crew of the Enterprise is stunned by a shocking act of terrorism that was perpetrated from within Starfleet. Now Captain Kirk must lead a manhunt to capture a nearly unstoppable force and bring those responsible to justice – but that chase may cost him his ship and his crew.
PROSPECTS: JJ Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise was wildly successful back in 2009. There’s no reason to believe given the amount of buzz and judging from the footage that has been shown so far in the trailers that this will be any less successful.
OBSTACLES: Some are whispering that this has some parallels to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that may be too steep to ignore.
FACTOID: Benicio del Toro was initially cast in the role of the villain but eventually declined due to monetary issues; Cumberbatch (who was recommended to Abrams by Steven Spielberg) was eventually given the part.

THE GREAT GATSBY
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Leonardo di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan, Adelaide Clemens
STORY: A war veteran from the Midwest aspiring to be a writer moves to New York and ends up living next door to Jay Gatsby, a pampered rich man whose lavish parties and epic lifestyle mask demons and dark deeds, ultimately leading to tragedy.
PROSPECTS: Baz Luhrmann knows how to make eye-popping visuals and looks to have recreated Jazz Age New York City to a near-perfect extent. With di Caprio in the lead, there is enough star power here to attract at least some interest from the moviegoing public.
OBSTACLES: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s source material isn’t necessarily going to connect with di Caprio’s fan base. The movie was delayed from December due to production delays which might cause some negative buzz.
FACTOID: As is typical with Luhrmann’s films, the period-set movie will use modern artists and music on the soundtrack.

EPIC
RELEASE DATE: May 24, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler
STORY: A teenage girl finds herself caught in the middle of a battle between good and evil raging in the depths of a nearby forest at a tiny level. She must find a way to save both that world and our own and return to her original size or risk losing her family forever.
PROSPECTS: The first big family movie of the summer and the only one between The Croods and Monsters University which means it will have the first part of summer essentially to itself.
OBSTACLES: Lacks star power in the voice cast. Forest battle animated features have not done well at the box office.
FACTOID: This is based on William Joyce’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. Joyce and director Chris Wedge previously worked together on Robots which Wedge directed and Joyce produced.

SUMMER FLING

WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS
RELEASE DATE: May 24, 2013
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo, Nick Davies, James Ball, Smari McCarthy, Iain Overton, J. William Leonard
STORY: The story of the controversial website which exposes governmental and business secrets and shenanigans to the light of day.
PROSPECTS: Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney knows how to put together a compelling documentary. The story is kind of a sexy one which got lots of media attention with little context.
OBSTACLES: Assange is a polarizing figure who some consider irresponsible. He also declined any involvement in the film.
FACTOID: The film’s title is not meant to characterize WikiLeaks’ method of operation but rather is a quote from former CIA director Michael Hayden who was trying to explain the function of his agency.

SUMMER CAMP

May 3, 2013

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (Sony Classics), opening in limited release, stars Pierce Brosnan in Oscar-winning director Suzanne Bier’s new romantic comedy about a group of people who are seeking love in Sorrento, Italy who find it in surprising ways. This recently played the Florida Film Festival, although I was unable to get to the screening for it.

May 10, 2013

In AFTERSHOCK (Radius) an American tourist is caught in an underground nightclub in Chile during a major earthquake. Getting through to the surface is only the beginning of the horror. This is playing in limited release only. PEEPLES (Lionsgate) has an working man crashing the family reunion of a wealthy family in the Hamptons to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Of course, things don’t go exactly as expected. Isn’t this more or less a Fokker thing?

May 17, 2013

Opening in limited release FRANCES HA (IFC) is the latest from acclaimed director Noah Baumbach (Greenberg) starring indie darling Greta Gerwig (Lola Versus) as a free spirited young girl in New York who doesn’t mind dreaming dreams no matter how impossible they might be to achieve.

May 24, 2013

FAST & FURIOUS 6 (Universal) brings back Dwayne Johnson into the revitalized Vin Diesel/Paul Walker underground car racing series; this time the feds need Dom’s crew to help stop an international criminal who uses cars like military weapons; and the person running the show is one of their own. THE HANGOVER PART III (Warner Brothers) returns the Wolf Pack to Las Vegas for one final showdown – and supposedly this will bring the film franchise to a conclusion.

May 31, 2013

AFTER EARTH (Columbia) stars Will and Jaden Smith as a father and son whose space ship crashes on a hostile planet. With the father injured the son must retrieve a beacon from a different part of the ship whose wreckage is miles away but is he ready to face an environment that has evolved to kill humans? NOW YOU SEE ME (Summit) has a trio of stage magicians (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Isla Fisher) being chased by the authorities after pulling off a string of daring bank robberies; but is this the real thing or is it just an illusion? Morgan Freeman co-stars. THE KINGS OF SUMMER (CBS) has a trio of high school buddies who decide to give their parents the ultimate f you by building their own home in the woods and living off the land. Kind of. This is opening in limited release but it should be playing more or less nationwide.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

THE AVENGERS (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $220 Million. Domestic Gross: $623.4M Total: $1.5 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
MEN IN BLACK III (Columbia) Budget: $225M. Domestic Gross: $179.0M Total: $624.0M Verdict: Hit.
BATTLESHIP (Universal) Budget: $209M. Domestic Gross: $65.4M Total: $303.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
DARK SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $79.7M Total: $239.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $46.4M Total: $136.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE DICTATOR (Paramount) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $59.7M Total: $177.6M Verdict: Hit.
CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Brothers) Budget: $1M. Domestic Gross: $18.1M Total: $37.2M Verdict: Hit.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $41.2M Total: $84.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE INTOUCHABLES (Weinstein) Budget: $12.4M. Domestic Gross: $10.2M Total: $426.6 Verdict: Blockbuster.

JUNE

June tends to be a bit calm after the summer blockbuster kickoff in May. While there are always some big budget hits on the schedule, there tends to be less anticipation for the movies that are released between Memorial Day and Independence Day. Still, Pixar always releases a movie in June and this year is no different as they bring in a long-awaited prequel to one of their most beloved films ever, Superman gets a new look from respected fan favorite director Zach Snider, Brad Pitt takes on the zombie apocalypse, Will Smith and his son Jaden crash land on a hostile planet and Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson team up for the first time since The Wedding Crashers.

Man of Steel

SUMMER LOVE

MAN OF STEEL
RELEASE DATE: June 14, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni
STORY: A young boy discovers that he has amazing powers and that he isn’t of this Earth. Concerned that if he’s discovered that he’ll be feared and mistrusted, he hides from sight until evil from his home planet threatens his new home, forcing him to reveal himself to be the hero he was always meant to be.
PROSPECTS: The buzz is that this is the Superman movie that will revive the franchise in the way The Dark Knight revived Batman. DC, needing a franchise now that Christopher Nolan has exited Batman have utilized Nolan as a consultant here and that alone has been enough to get fans excited.
OBSTACLES: Director Zach Snyder’s last, Sucker Punch was an artistic and commercial failure. Superman hasn’t had the cache that Batman has for more than 40 years.
FACTOID: Brandon Routh who played Superman in Superman Returns was contracted to return in the role and was willing to do it but Snyder chose to do a clean break from every other previous cinematic incarnation of the character and create his own vision for the story.

SUMMER ROMANCE

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY
RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Disney*Pixar
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Dave Foley, Helen Mirren, Julia Sweeney, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza, John Krasinski, Alfred Molina
STORY: Before they became the best of friends Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan went to college and couldn’t stand the sight of one another. This is how they learned to overcome their differences, work together and become better for it.
PROSPECTS: Like all Pixar movies this one is being shrewdly marketed and Monsters, Inc. is one of their stronger films.
OBSTACLES: While Brave did gangbusters, there hasn’t been as much cache for the studio of late. This doesn’t appear to be the kind of movie that will carry mega-success with it, and the competition on both ends will be fierce with Epic and Despicable Me 2 bookending the movie.
FACTOID: This is Pixar’s first prequel.

WORLD WAR Z
RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Eric West, Elyes Gabel
STORY: When a pandemic turns humans into flesh-eating ghouls, a United Nations employee must traverse the world in order to stop the disease that has already toppled governments before it wipes out the human race.
PROSPECTS: The Max Brooks novel on which this is based has become one of the more acclaimed and beloved books of the last ten years. Pitt is one of the most dependable stars in Hollywood right now. Zombies are also super hot as the success of Warm Bodies and The Walking Dead attest.
OBSTACLES: There might be some zombie apocalypse oversaturation going on. Most zombie films have been low-budget affairs; it is yet to be proven that there is an audience to justify the budget that World War Z carries.
FACTOID: The original novel was in fact a sequel to the satirical The Zombie Survival Guide.

THIS IS THE END
RELEASE DATE: June 12, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart
STORY: A group of Hollywood stars are trapped in a house as strange apocalyptic events befall Los Angeles. As cabin fever and dwindling supplies begin to create conflict within the group, they realize that in leaving their safe haven may be the key to their redemption.
PROSPECTS: The prospect of Hollywood stars playing themselves in an impossible situation is appealing and the trailer was funny as hell.
OBSTACLES: Could be all concept and no substance. None of these guys with the exception of Segel and Rogen have a history of carrying major studio films up until now.
FACTOID: There were rumors that Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe had been cast but they were only half-right – his co-star Emma Watson actually has a cameo.

SUMMER FLING

UNFINISHED SONG
RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: Terrance Stamp, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Vanessa Redgrave, Anne Reid, Elizabeth Counsell, Ram John Holder, Calita Reinford
STORY: A curmudgeonly old man is transformed by joining the seniors choir his wife belonged to as he and the choir director develop a friendship that lifts them both up.
PROSPECTS: Saw this at the Florida Film Festival and the performances in the film elevate it right up there with some of the year’s best.
OBSTACLES: Some will look askance at a film about the elderly especially one which tugs on the heartstrings as this one does.
FACTOID: Among the songs the choir performs are Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex.”

SUMMER CAMP

June 7, 2013

In THE INTERNSHIP (20th Century Fox) The Wedding Crashers’ Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are reunited as a couple of hard-sell salesmen who, after their employers go belly-up, wind up working for an internship at Google. Knowing nothing about technology, they do know that this might be their last chance – and if they know one thing, it’s selling themselves. THE PURGE (Universe) is set in a near future where for 12 hours every year crime goes unpunished and uninvestigated. A family settling in for the night behind the fortress-like walls of their home find that their impregnable fortress isn’t so safe when they take in a stranger who has a vicious group of thugs after him. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Roadside Attractions), opening in limited release, is a modern re-telling of the Bard’s classic romance as interpreted by ultrahot Joss Wheden and to make it further unmarketable, shot in glorious black and white.

June 14, 2013

THE BLING RING (A24) is the latest from Oscar-winning director Sofia Coppola and is based on the true story of a group of teenagers who targeted celebrities in a series of burglaries. This is also opening in limited release.

June 21, 2013

A HIJACKING (Magnolia) is also opening in limited release and displays the deadly game being played between a shipping magnate and the Somali pirates who have taken his ship. Another movie opening in limited release, MANIAC (IFC Midnight) is a remake of the 1980 horror classic about a serial killer who stalks random women in New York City with ex-hobbit Elijah Wood playing the title role.

June 28, 2013

THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) teams up Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as an uptight FBI agent and an out-of-control Boston cop who are forced to team up in pursuit of a vicious drug cartel. WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Columbia) stars Channing Tatum as a cop taking his daughter on a tour of the White House when it is overrun by terrorists. Now he must not only protect his daughter but also the President, played by Jamie Foxx. Now that’s a candidate I can get behind! BYZANTIUM (IFC) is about a mysterious pair of women who seek shelter at a rundown resort and confess their secret – they’re vampires. Veteran director Neil Jordan was behind the camera for this one, which is also scheduled for limited release.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

PROMETHEUS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $130 Million. Domestic Gross: $126.5M Total: $403.4 Verdict: Hit.
BRAVE (Disney*Pixar) Budget: $185M. Domestic Gross: $237.3M Total: $538.8M Verdict: Hit.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER (20th Century Fox) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $37.5M Total: $116.5M Verdict: Broke Even.
ROCK OF AGES (New Line) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $38.5M Total: $56.4M Verdict: Flop.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Focus) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $7.1M Total: $9.6M Verdict: Flop.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Universal) Budget: $170M. Domestic Gross: $155.3M Total: $396.6 Verdict: Made Money.
THAT’S MY BOY (Columbia) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $36.9M Total: $57.7M Verdict: Flop.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (DreamWorks) Budget: $145M. Domestic Gross: $216.4M Total: $742.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $1.8M. Domestic Gross: $12.8M Total: $19.7M Verdict: Hit.
TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION (Lionsgate) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $65.7M Total: $65.7M Verdict: Hit.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (FilmDistrict) Budget: $750K. Domestic Gross: $4.0M Total: $4.0M Verdict: Hit.

JULY

Usually July is like a firecracker in the middle of summer with the Independence Day weekend kicking off some of the more anticipated movies of the season. This year, Guillermo del Toro brings a long-awaited giant robot alien invasion movie to the screen, a beloved hero whose pedigree goes back to the days of radio gets a cinematic reboot, Belgium’s bluest return in a sequel to their hit kid’s movie, one of Marvel’s darkest superheroes gets a new solo film that may finally adequately reflect that darkness, the police force of the dead leap from the pages of the comic books onto the summer screens and one of the biggest animated hits of the past few years gets a sequel.

Pacific Rim

 

SUMMER LOVE

PACIFIC RIM
RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Robert Kazinski, Max Martini, Clifton Collins Jr., Burn Gorman, Brad William Henke
STORY: Gigantic alien invaders from the deep are fought with giant robots. However the aliens are winning and mankind’s only hope comes from an obsolete robot, an untested rookie and a burned out former pilot.
PROSPECTS: Guillermo del Toro is a big favorite among the fans and has enough cache to get butts into seats. Not a lot of footage has come out but what has looks striking.
OBSTACLES: Giant robots are more of a Japanese thing than an American thing and it could come out looking a bit ridiculous to the general American public.
FACTOID: Hunnam and Perlman also star in the biker TV drama Sons of Anarchy.

SUMMER ROMANCE

THE WOLVERINE
RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Brian Tee
STORY: Logan, given an opportunity to become somewhat normal has his healing ability stripped fro him only to find himself in the middle of a war involving the Yakuza.
PROSPECTS: The Wolverine’s Japanese-set adventures are among the most popular in his comic book history. Fans are still pretty down with Jackman as Logan.
OBSTACLES: The origins story didn’t garner much love among the fans although it generated enough revenue to warrant further Wolverine solo adventures.
FACTOID: The movie is a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand. Jackman consulted with Dwayne Johnson on how to bulk up for the movie.

DESPICABLE ME 2
RELEASE DATE: July 3, 2013
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Al Pacino, Steve Coogan, Ken Jeong, Moises Arias
STORY: Gru is recruited by a anti-supervillain league to help them take on the baddest and most diabolical supervillain since…Gru.
PROSPECTS: The Minions are some of the most beloved animated characters of the past ten years and each time they came onscreen during the previews, kids cheered.
OBSTACLES: Well, if it isn’t that good parents won’t be as willing to bring their kids to see it two and three times.
FACTOID: Wiig is playing a different character than she did in the original Despicable Me.

GROWN UPS 2
RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Dennis Spade, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Nick Swardson, Steve Buscemi, Jon Lovitz
STORY: After the first Grown Ups, Lenny has moved his family back to the small town he and his friends grew up in. On the last day of school, he and his friends are taught a lesson by their kids.
PROSPECTS: A big hit, the first film was only waiting for the schedules of all the stars to free up simultaneously to get made.
OBSTACLES: Adam Sandler could certainly use a hit. The first movie was critically pounded; most of the buzz surrounding the sequel is pretty negative.
FACTOID: Rob Schneider had to bow out of the sequel due to scheduling conflicts.

SUMMER FLING

BLUE JASMINE
RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2013
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg
STORY: A fashionable New York City housewife is in a crisis and things are boiling to a head in this the latest comedy from Woody Allen.
PROSPECTS: Allen returns to New York City after having set most of his films in Europe recently. His last two films were among the best of his career.
OBSTACLES: Allen is one of those love him or hate him directors and while he’s had success of late, he still remains very much an acquired taste.
FACTOID: Louis C.K. originally auditioned for the role that Andrew Dice Clay got; Allen liked the audition but felt Louis was too nice for the part so he assigned him another role.

SUMMER CAMP

July 3, 2013

THE LONE RANGER (Disney) is a re-imagining of the classic adventure series with Armie Hammer in the title role and Johnny Depp as Tonto – yes, the focus of the movie will most likely be on the latter although the trailer suggests that there might be more on the Ranger than at first thought – the stunts look pretty incredible on the trailer though.

July 5, 2013

In THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight), a young teen having a miserable summer due to his mom’s overbearing boyfriend and her daughter finds solace in an unexpected friendship with the owner of a small waterpark. With a cast like Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell on board, how can you go wrong?

July 12, 2013

THE HUNT (Magnolia) is opening in limited release but is one to keep an eye out for. Having played at the Florida Film Festival, it concerns a schoolteacher who is accused of the most heinous act imaginable and despite his protestations to the contrary, becomes an outcast in his small town. Read my review here for more details.

July 17, 2013

TURBO (DreamWorks) is an animated feature about a snail that dreams of being a NASCAR racer. If I find out this one is about coming out of your shell, I swear I’ll get violent.

July 19, 2013

THE CONJURING (New Line) is bound to send chills up more than a few spines. Based on a case by actual paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, a family calls for help when they discover the farmhouse they live in is inhabited by a malevolent force. R.I.P.D. (Universal), based on the comic book series of the same name, stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as a pair of dead lawmen who continue to ply their trade hunting down dead souls that violate the rules and threaten the living. RED 2 (Summit) brings back retired superspies Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich as a portable nuclear device goes missing and the retirees are blamed for it. Not only do they need to find the dang thing to clear their names but they must avert a catastrophe in order to do so. ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Radius) stars Ryan Gosling as a former gangster and kickboxer living in Thailand whose brother is murdered by a corrupt police officer. Knowing that he’ll receive no justice under the law he goes out to get vengeance the old-fashioned way. This new film by Nicholas Winding Refn is opening in limited release.

July 26, 2013

FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) was a big hit at Sundance and is based on actual events. A young African-American trying to better his life becomes the victim of a transit cop shooting at an Oakland BART station that turns his community upside-down. This will likewise be opening in limited release.

July 31, 2013

THE SMURFS 2 (Columbia) brings back the little blue buggers back to our world as the evil wizard Gargamel creates copycat creatures called the Naughties. Neil Patrick Harris is in this so it can’t be all bad, can it? It can..

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Warner Brothers) Budget: $250 M. Domestic Gross: $448.1M Total: $1.084 B. Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Columbia) Budget: $230M. Domestic Gross: $262.0M Total: $752.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE WATCH (NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH) (20th Century Fox) Budget: $68M. Domestic Gross: $35.4M Total: $68.3M Verdict: Flop.
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $95M. Domestic Gross: $161.3M Total: $877.2M Verdict: Blockbuster.
TED (Universal) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $218.8M Total: $549.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
SAVAGES (Universal) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $47.4M Total: $83.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
STEP UP REVOLUTION (Summit) Budget: $33M. Domestic Gross: $35.1M Total: $140.5M Verdict: Hit.
KATY PERRY: PART OF ME (InSurge) Budget: $12M Domestic Gross: $25.3M Total: $32.4M Verdict: Made Money.
RUBY SPARKS (Fox Searchlight) Budget: N/A Domestic Gross: $2.5M Total: $9.1M Verdict: A Likely Hit.

AUGUST

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

Elysium

 

SUMMER LOVE

ELYSIUM
RELEASE DATE: August 9, 2013
STUDIO: Tri-Star
STARRING: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, William Fichtner, Wagner Moura, Talisa Soto, Michael Shanks, Carly Pope
STORY: With humanity divided between the Haves on the heavenly space station Elysium and the Have-Nots on an overpopulated, depleted and dangerous planet Earth, one man must penetrate Elysium’s stringent security in order not only to save himself but those dwelling in misery below.
PROSPECTS: From the director of District 9 comes a much more ambitious sci-fi epic. Damon is a good box office draw and has opened eyes as an action star in the Bourne trilogy.
OBSTACLES: This is the last of a lot of similarly-themed movies coming out this summer and the public maybe burned out on them by August.
FACTOID: Was originally scheduled for March but moved to August so as not to compete with Oz the Great and Powerful.

SUMMER ROMANCE

KICK-ASS 2
RELEASE DATE: August 16, 2013
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison
STORY: Kick-Ass and Hit Girl find themselves joining a new “superhero” team who are opposed by the Red Mist, now reborn as the Mother F*cker who has a team of his own – and it’s going to be a smackdown to end all smackdowns.
PROSPECTS: The first Kick-Ass was successful and the producers are going with the more is better philosophy. An August release seems about perfect – still in the summer but not up against bigger budgeted bullies.
OBSTACLES: Director Matthew Vaughn is gone replaced by Jeff Wadlow. The first film made money but not sure if it was enough to warrant a bigger-budgeted sequel.
FACTOID: It was rumored that Mark Millar, who wrote the original comic book would write the screenplay for the sequel but director Wadlow wound up doing that.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE
RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, David Wenham, Mark Killeen, Hans Matheson, Jack O’Connell
STORY: The invading Persian force, fresh off of decimating the Spartans in 300 approach Athens and their commander Themistocles must find a way to unite the disparate Greek forces in order to save their culture and their lives.
PROSPECTS: Zach Snyder’s 300 changed the epic forever, and this – based on the sequel to the original graphic novel also by Frank Miller – continues the story.
OBSTACLES: Snyder is involved only as a producer and a writer of one of the versions of the script. Other movies as similarly dependent on green screen CGI haven’t fared as well.
FACTOID: Snyder was originally set to direct but had to bow out due to his commitment to Man of Steel.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2013
STUDIO: Screen Gems
STARRING: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, CCH Pounder, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jared Harris, Kevin Durand
STORY: A teenage girl discovers she is the descendant of a half-angel, half-human race crucial to a war against evil demons.
PROSPECTS: Based on one of the biggest selling young adult fantasy series since Harry Potter, the studio is marketing this carefully.
OBSTACLES: There are a slew of young adult fantasy series carcasses that have thought of being franchise material that have become cinematic roadkill.
FACTOID: Alex Pettyfer was proffered the male lead but turned it down after his experiences on I Am Number Four.

THE WORLD’S END
RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2013
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, David Bradley, Julian Seager
STORY: A group of childhood chums re-create a failed epic pub crawl, hoping to reach The World’s End pub, slowly figuring out that reaching their goal may be the only way to save the world from total annihilation.
PROSPECTS: The third in the trilogy from Pegg, Frost and director Edgar Wright that includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz which should get fans of those two cult faves into theaters even in August.
OBSTACLES: Cult favorite is the key phrase here. The above-mentioned films have done well but not super well and in a summer where the apocalypse is upon us (or beyond us) several times over, it may get lost in the shuffle.
FACTOID: Mainly filmed in and around Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire, England in actual pubs (renamed for the film).

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS
RELEASE DATE: August 7, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Missi Pyle, Nathan Fillion, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Head, Yvette Nicole Brown, Douglas Smith, Mary Birdsong
STORY: The half-God, half-human kids of Percy Jackson’s world must journey into the Bermuda Triangle and retrieve the legendary Golden Fleece.
PROSPECTS: Yet another young adult book series that has sold impressive numbers.
OBSTACLES: The first Percy Jackson film didn’t exactly set the world on fire, box office-wise.
FACTOID: Daddario dyed her hair blonde for the movie even though she was a brunette in the first film; in the books her character is a blonde.

SUMMER FLING

ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US
RELEASE DATE: August 30, 2013
STUDIO: Tri-Star
STARRING: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson
STORY: The British pop sensation, discovered on the X-Factor TV program, embark on their sophomore album concert tour and lucky us, we get backstage passes.
PROSPECTS: This is the modern equivalent of Hansen and NKOTB. Screaming adolescent girls will pack the auditoriums.
OBSTACLES: The rest of us will likely stay away.
FACTOID: The band became the first UK band whose debut album entered the Billboard album charts at number one.

SUMMER CAMP

August 2, 2013

2 GUNS (Universal) stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as a couple of operatives from competing bureaus who are forced to go on the run together despite a healthy distrust and a healthier dislike for one another. Based on a graphic novel. EUROPA REPORT (Magnet) is a thought-provoking account of a mission to the Jovian moon to discover the possibility of extraterrestrial life there. Developed with the co-operation and collaboration with NASA, JPL, Space-X and other leaders in the scientific community, this is opening in limited release.

August 9, 2013

DISNEY’S PLANES (Disney) is an off-shoot of the Pixar Cars movies, only set up in the clouds – and not from Pixar but from Disney’s animation arm. Make of that what you will. In WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) a small-time pot dealer must put together a fake family in order to smuggle a big score out of Mexico without raising suspicion. Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and Ed Helms star. LOVELACE (Radius) is the harrowing biography of the iconic porn star who went from a wannabe actress to an anti-porn activist. This opens in limited release.

August 16, 2013

PARANOIA (Relativity) is set in the shadowy world of corporate espionage as a ruthless CEO sends an entry-level drone to spy on a rival which turns into much more than anyone bargained for. Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Liam Hemsworth headline. THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) stars Aubrey Plaza as an update high school valedictorian who decides to do all the things she missed out on doing in high school before she arrives at the prestigious university she will be attending in the fall. Loosely based on the actual experiences of first-time writer-director Maggie Carey. AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (IFC), opening in limited release, tells the story of a couple of young outlaws who are hunted down in the desolate hill country of Texas. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara star. AUSTENLAND (Sony Classics) stars Keri Russell as a Jane Austen-obsessed New York who goes to a resort that caters to women who have similar fantasies and finds that the reality is a lot different than the fantasy. This comedy is also opening in limited release. HAUTE CUISINE (Weinstein) is loosely based on the true story of French Prime Minister Francois Mitterand’s personal chef and chronicles her struggles to establish herself in a kitchen whose politics are as vicious as France’s own. Again, this will be opening in limited theatrical release.

August 23, 2013

YOU’RE NEXT (Lionsgate) turns the conventions of the home invasion horror film on its ear as ruthless masked killers invading a family reunion didn’t count on one of the guests being an even more ruthless and creative killer than they. THE COLONY (RLJ), opening in limited release, is a post-apocalyptic thriller in which one of the last human outposts remaining on a planet overrun by ice and cold loses contact with the others.

August 28, 2013

CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) stars Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall as two ex-lovers who parted on an acrimonious note who are forced to work together as defense attorneys on a high-profile terrorism trial.

August 30, 2013

In GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) a race car driver is forced to use his skills to fulfill a series of tasks given to him by an unseen voice monitoring his every move through a dash-mounted camera – or else his kidnapped wife may die. SATANIC (Weinstein) stars Haley Bennett as a college student staying on campus during the Thanksgiving holidays becoming the target for a vicious and sadistic gang.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

TOTAL RECALL (Columbia) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $58.9M Total: $198.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE EXPENDABLES 2 (Lionsgate) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $85.0M Total: $300.4M Verdict: Hit.
FRIGHT NIGHT 3D (DreamWorks) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $18.3M Total: $41.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE BOURNE LEGACY (Universal) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $113.2M Total: $276.1M Verdict: Made Money.
THE APPARITION (Warner Brothers) Budget: $17M. Domestic Gross: $4.9M Total: $9.6M Verdict: Flop.
PARANORMAN (Focus) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $56.0M Total: $107.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE CAMPAIGN (Warner Brothers) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $86.9M Total: $104.9M Verdict: Probably Profitable.
PREMIUM RUSH (Columbia) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $20.3M Total: $31.1M Verdict: Flop.
SPARKLE (Tri-Star) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $24.4M Total: $24.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
LAWLESS (Weinstein) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $37.4M Total: $53.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
HIT AND RUN (Open Road) Budget: $2M. Domestic Gross: $13.8M Total: $14.5M Verdict: Hit.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $22M. Domestic Gross: $49.0M Total: $77.1M Verdict: Hit.
HOPE SPRINGS (Columbia) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $63.5M Total: $114.3M Verdict: Hit.
THE POSSESSION (Lionsgate) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $49.1M Total: $85.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (Disney) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $51.9M Total: $51.9M Verdict: Broke Even.

While this year doesn’t look to be the same kind of slam dunk that last summer was, there is still a lot of summer blockbuster goodness to look forward to. For some film buffs, it is their favorite time of year as one big potential hit comes out after another. Still, when the dog days of August herald the rapid approach of September, school and fall, that doesn’t mean the end of movies to look forward to. We’ve still got another visit to Middle Earth in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the girl power sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the unexpected and welcome return of Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: The Legend Continues. The Marvel cinematic universe Phase 2 continues with Thor: The Dark World while Tom Clancy’s most memorable character returns in Jack Ryan. We’ll also see Vin Diesel get serious in Riddick, the return of comics noir in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and a reimagining of an American classic in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Now, while I’m sure you’re already planning your moviegoing schedule for the summer, please do keep in mind as always that NO schedule is set in stone and that studios are wont to move movies to new dates without notice, particularly the farther out they are. There will be a good number of movies in this preview that will be bumped out to the fall or further and some may be removed from the schedule completely (anyone ever find out what happened to 7500?) without explanation. Chances are within a week of this being posted there will already have been some changes. However, that shouldn’t stop you from making plans to see some or even many of the big summer flicks. After all, few things are more fun than sitting in a cool air-conditioned movie theater on a hot summer day, popcorn and ice cold soda in hand, being amazed by eye-popping special effects, unbelievably crazy stunts or amused by big summer comedy laughs. It’s all there waiting for you – you just have to get out and go. I know I will be, and will continue to review the big films, write up weekly previews and of course the monthly Four-Warned series that will give you a better idea of what’s opening across the land. See you at the multiplex!

2013 Preview


2013 banner - final

Theater owners were buoyed by a year that set a new box office record, reversing the decline begun in 2010. However, much of the revenue is coming from upcharges for IMAX and 3D tickets; the actual number of tickets sold is still down. That said there were a fair share of box office bonanzas to be had and while on-demand streaming through services like Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, Blockbuster and SnagFilms seems to be the wave of the future, there are still plenty of reasons to go and see movies in a theater.

Picking up a new trend, several chains are following the lead of Alamo Drafthouse and our own Enzian by offering table service for food in the theater, giving moviegoers a one-stop shopping option for nights out. Expect to see more options in that direction as theater owners try to attract more bodies out of their homes and into the multiplex. However some major studios, led by Weinstein, are hedging their bets and joining the major indies (such as IFC and Magnolia who have been doing this for years) by releasing their movies in limited theatrical release and on Video On-Demand simultaneously.

The box office charge was led by The Avengers which rocketed to the number three box office champion of all time, behind only two James Cameron films. Not far behind was The Dark Knight Rises which closed out Christopher Nolan’s and in all likelihood Christian Bale’s involvement with the franchise and rose to number seven on the domestic box office list. Also in the top 20 was The Hunger Games which claimed the number 13 spot and established a brand new franchise to capture the hearts and minds of pre-pubescent girls everywhere, replacing the last of the Twilight series that also came out in 2012.

As with every year, we here at Cinema365 have high hopes for what’s in store for 2013. We will be out there on the front lines, checking out  the major new releases as well as as many independent films as we can see in the Orlando area as we can get to. To that end we will continue to cover the Florida Film Festival as best we can, with reviews of as many films as we can get to see without our brains exploding. DVD releases will continue to play an important part of our coverage as we strive to maintain our stated goal of one review every day, although being human we do falter some days.

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 what are you waiting for? There’s a whole year of previews for you to get through and you won’t do it by reading all this fluff. Enjoy your glimpse into 2013!

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. This year, we can look forward to the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to a leading role in an action movie and a gangster movie that was set to be a summer fixture that was delayed due to a tragedy.

The Gangster Squad

DON’T MISS

GANGSTER SQUAD

RELEASE DATE: January 11, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi
STORY: Loosely based on actual events, Los Angeles in the ’30s is in the complete control of mobster Mickey Cohen. Realizing conventional methods won’t work in dealing with the crime boss, a small cadre of cops puts aside the rule books and takes the law into their own hands in an all-out war against Cohen.
PROSPECTS: The movie gained notoriety when its release date was pushed out from last summer and its trailer pulled from theaters after the Aurora, Colorado theater massacre (a scene from the trailer showed mobsters opening fire with Tommy guns in a crowded movie theater). With an all-star cast and a certain amount of infamy the movie will have theater goers curious.
OBSTACLES: Gangster movies haven’t exactly been burning up the box office receipts over the past 25 years.
FACTOID: Amy Adams and Kate Winslet were considered for a role that eventually went to newcomer Mireille Enos.

SHOULD SEE

THE LAST STAND

RELEASE DATE: January 18, 2013
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, Jaime Alexander, Rodrigo Santoro, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Genesis Rodriguez, Harry Dean Stanton, Johnny Knoxville
STORY: The sheriff of a small border town faces catastrophe when a drug lord from the Mexican cartel is broken out from an American prison and is headed back to Mexico with the firepower of a small army – and this one town in his way.
PROSPECTS: This is the Governator’s first lead role since entering the political arena. Having retired from office, this is the first of several films coming out in the next year that Schwarzenegger will headline and there will be a curiosity factor that should make for a pretty decent draw.
OBSTACLES: It’s a mystery whether Schwarzenegger has the same appeal that he did before his political career. The trailer doesn’t do him any favors as the movie looks little better than a direct-to-home video action thriller although how good it is remains to be seen.
FACTOID: Most of the action was filmed in and around New Mexico.

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS

RELEASE DATE: January 25, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Derek Mears, Thomas Mann, Zoe Bell, Robin Atkin Downs
STORY: Fifteen years after the incident in the Gingerbread House, the siblings Hansel and Gretel have become deadly hunters of witches and warlocks. They are contracted to take down a powerful witch who intends to sacrifice many children during a blood moon ritual two days hence; they not only have to contend with her coven but with a brutal sheriff who is conducting a witch hunt of his own.
PROSPECTS: Renner is superhot after stints in the Bourne and Avengers franchises. Looks like there are some jaw-dropping eye candy in this one as well.
OBSTACLES: I am reminded inescapably of Van Helsing, a similarly-themed movie that looked marvelous but left critics and audiences flat, failing to become the expected franchise film that Universal hoped it to be and as Paramount clearly hopes this will be.
FACTOID: In interviews, Janssen stated she did the film for financial reasons alone; troubles with Bringing Up Bobby, a film she directed and produced, forced her to raise cash in order to pay her mortgage off and keep her own film above water.

MIGHT SURPRISE

JOHN DIES AT THE END

RELEASE DATE: January 25, 2013
STUDIO: Magnolia
STARRING: Paul Giamatti, Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck, Angus Scrimm, Fabianne Therese, Jimmy Wong, Allison Weissman
STORY: Users who take a designer drug that gives them an out-of-body experience don’t come back as human and soon it becomes apparent that an alien invasion is underway. Mankind’s only hope comes down to a couple of college dropout slackers. In other words, we’re screwed.
PROSPECTS: A festival favorite (including an appearance at the Florida Film Festival last year), this is the latest from legendary horror auteur Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep) who has a rabid underground following.
OBSTACLES: More likely destined for cult status, the parasitical alien invasion is getting a bigger budget big studio treatment later in the year with The Host.
FACTOID: Based on a comic horror novel by David Wong which originally was serialized on the Internet back in 2001.

ALSO

January 4, 2013

ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE (Image) puts a trio of superheroes in a position where their super powers are no longer working. An evil mastermind puts them through challenges that are virtually impossible to overcome; in order to survive they’ll have to work together – as humans – or die powerless. You will find this in limited release. TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (Lionsgate) is the second reboot of the iconic Tobe Hooper horror classic. While a whole new generation of nubile young teen sorts queue up to get eviscerated, veterans from original Gunnar Hansen, Bill Moseley and Marilyn Burns all put in an appearance in this new one. And you can watch the chainsaw coming through the screen in senses-shattering 3D! Wheee!

January 11, 2013

A HAUNTED HOUSE (Open Road) is a spoof of the Paranormal Activity films courtesy of Marlon Wayans and his wacky crew. QUARTET (Weinstein) is Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut and stars Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connelly and Michael Gambon as residents of a retirement home for British opera singers whose lives are thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a diva on the eve of a crucial fund raising concert in which she refuses to sing. This is opening in limited release.

January 18, 2013

BROKEN CITY (20th Century Fox) stars Mark Wahlberg as an honest cop trapped and framed by the corrupt mayor (Russell Crowe) of an even more corrupt city. To get his life back, he’ll have to use all his street smarts and toughness to overcome the most ruthless of foes. In MAMA (Universal), a pair of young girls are found in a decrepit cabin five years after they disappeared from their suburban neighborhood. Their uncle and his girlfriend take the girls into their home, unaware they have also invited a malevolent spirit in as well. Jessica Chastain and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau from the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones” star.

January 25, 2013

MOVIE 43 (Relativity) takes 12 directors including some pretty well-known names and lets ’em loose on some of the most raunchy, debauched and disturbing vignettes and challenges them to make the stories intertwine. Good luck. PARKER (FilmDistrict) stars Jason Statham in the title role as a thief double-crossed by his crew and left for dead. He aims to even the score and recruits Jennifer Lopez to help him do it. Again, good luck.

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.

RED TAILS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $58 Million. Domestic Gross: $49.9M Total: $49.9M Verdict: Flop.
CONTRABAND (Universal) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $66.5M Total: $96.3M Verdict: Hit.
UNDERWORLD AWAKENING (Screen Gems) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $62.3M Total: $160.1M Verdict: Profitable.
THE DIVIDE (Anchor Bay) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $130,839 Total: $130,839 Verdict: Flop.
THE DEVIL INSIDE (Paramount InSurge) Budget: $1M. Domestic Gross: $53.3M Total: $101.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE GREY (Open Road) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $51.6M Total: $77.3M Verdict: Hit.
HAYWIRE (Relativity) Budget: $23M. Domestic Gross: $18.9M Total: $33.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
ONE FOR THE MONEY (Lionsgate) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $26.4M Total: $36.9 Verdict: Flop.
MAN ON THE EDGE (Summit) Budget: $42M. Domestic Gross: $18.6M Total: $46.2 Verdict: Lost Money.

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. 2013 brings us the return of Bruce Willis into his signature role, a comic book-based action film starring Stallone, a comedy with Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman and a medical industry thriller from director Stephen Soderbergh.

A Good Day to Die Hard

CAN’T MISS

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD

RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Cole Hauser, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Yulia Snigir, Amaury Nolasco, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Anne Vyalitsyna
STORY: When a rogue Russian general is broken out of prison, John McClane finds himself in the middle of it, this time protecting his son who has been caught up in the event. Father and son, long estranged, will have to learn to fight together to survive.
PROSPECTS: The preceding four films in the franchise have all done big box office. There’s no reason to believe this one won’t follow along, considering that it has almost zero competition and most of the holiday movies will have made their way out of the theaters by now.
OBSTACLES: Willis is getting a little long in the tooth for the character. It’s not certain that these sorts of movies still can carry the kind of numbers they have in the past.
FACTOID: This is the first script to be written specifically for a Die Hard film; the first was originally meant to be a sequel to a Frank Sinatra movie; the second was originally meant to be a sequel to Commando; the last two were both original scripts that the character of John McClane was written into. This script was always meant to be a part of the Die Hard franchise.

SHOULD SEE

IDENTITY THIEF

RELEASE DATE: February 8, 2013
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Genesis Rodriguez, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Eric Stonestreet
STORY: A mild mannered Coloradan discovers that his credit cards have been racking up charges in Florida, a state he’s never been in. Realizing his identity has been stolen, he treks out to the Sunshine State to get his name and credit back, not realizing this will be a whole lot tougher than he thinks.
PROSPECTS: A real all-star comedy which should pull people into the theaters on its own. Might get a Bridesmaids-like push.
OBSTACLES: The overall theme of identity theft might hit a little too close to home; it’s a subject a lot of people are paranoid about and a comedy with this premise might leave people cold.
FACTOID: Gordon’s directorial debut was King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, an excellent documentary which will soon be reviewed here.

BULLET TO THE HEAD

RELEASE DATE: February 1, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christian Slater, Holt McCallany, Jason Momoa, Sarah Shahi, Jon Seda
STORY: A DC cop and a New Orleans-based hitman must form an uneasy alliance to take out the killers of their respective partners.
PROSPECTS: Based on an acclaimed graphic novel, Stallone is hot these days thanks to the Expendables films. Looks awfully gritty from the trailer.
OBSTACLES: May be too gritty for mainstream audiences. Comic book adaptations haven’t tended to do well if they don’t have superheroes in them.
FACTOID: Director Walter Hill, best known for the cult classic The Warriors is making his first film in ten years.

MIGHT SURPRISE

NO

RELEASE DATE: February 15, 2013
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers, Marcial Tagle, Nestor Cantillana, Jaime Vadell, Pascal Montero, Diego Munoz, Luis Gnecco
STORY: The incredible but true story of an advertising executive tasked to run a campaign for a referendum election that may either legitimize Chilean dictator Agustin Pinochet’s regime or end it. Under constant scrutiny from Pinochet’s thugs, he devises a bold plan to win the election.
PROSPECTS: Was one of the most acclaimed films to come out of last year’s Sundance Festival.
OBSTACLES: America rarely embraces subtitled foreign films.
FACTOID: Is Chile’s official entry into the 2013 Foreign Language Film Oscar competition.

ALSO

February 1, 2013

WARM BODIES (Summit) is set during the coming zombie apocalypse and finds a young zombie boy developing feelings for a human teenage girl. This sets off a chain reaction amongst the zombies and pisses off her dad to no end. Opening in limited release, THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA (Lionsgate) continues the big screen versions of the TV show which re-creates actual hauntings, in this case a Southern gothic mansion in the Peachtree State.

February 8, 2013

SIDE EFFECTS (Open Road) is the latest from director Steven Soderbergh. In it the lives of a New York couple are turned upside down when the wife’s psychiatrist prescribes her a brand new drug which has some unanticipated complications. Jude Law, Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum star. A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III (A24) stars Charlie Sheen as the titular character whose perfect life goes careening into despair when his girlfriend dumps him. Using his inner circle of friends and family as sounding boards, he tries to resolve his feelings for her while attempting to move on in a kind of oddball version of Los Angeles. TOP GUN 3D (Paramount) gives us this live action video game in glorious 3D. Permission to lose that loving feeling again SIR!!! THE PLAYROOM (Roadside Attractions) has a teenage girl who becomes the surrogate parent to her three younger siblings in the 1970s as her parents drink themselves into oblivion. This limited release was one of the most talked-about films from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and stars the extremely hot John Hawkes. THE SORCEROR AND THE WHITE SNAKE (Magnet) is based on an ancient Chinese legend about an herbalist who falls in love with a thousand-year-old white snake disguised as a woman. A wizard discovers her ruse and battles her potent magic to save the soul of the good herbalist. Jet Li stars in this limited release.

February 13, 2013

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (Warner Brothers) is a Romeo and Juliet-esque teen love story with a twist; the families have some extremely dark secrets that threaten to tear their small Southern town apart. Definitely one for the Twi-hards.

February 14, 2013

In SAFE HAVEN (Relativity), a mysterious young woman arrives in a small Carolina town. Despite her initial resistance, she starts to fall in love with the hunky widower who has plainly got goo-goo eyes for her. Then her mysterious past catches up with her. Could this have been written by anyone other than Nicholas Sparks? Of course it could have! Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough star. ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH (Weinstein) is a 3D animated feature in which a heroic astronaut travels to a dangerous planet in response to an SOS signal. This turns out to be a fiendish trap. His nerdy by-the-book brother must travel to this planet of hideous creatures and break his brother out but this will be no easy feat – Area 51 is, after all, one of the most closely guarded military installations on Earth.

February 22, 2013

DARK SKIES (Dimension) is an alien abduction thriller from the producer of such horror hits as the Paranormal Activity series, Insidious and Sinister. SNITCH (Summit) is loosely based on actual events and stars Dwayne Johnson as a father whose teenage son is wrongly accused of being a drug dealer and is looking at a heavy prison sentence. In order to get his son off the hook, the dad agrees to go undercover in a notorious drug ring.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (Columbia) Budget: $57 Million. Domestic Gross: $51.8M Total: $132.6M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE VOW (Screen Gems) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $125.0M Total: $196.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THIS MEANS WAR (20th Century Fox) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $54.8M Total: $156.5M Verdict: Made Money.
ACT OF VALOR (Relativity) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $70.0M Total: $81.3M Verdict: Big Hit.
CHRONICLE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $64.6M Total: $126.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (New Line) Budget: $85M. Domestic Gross: $126.2M Total: $325.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
SAFE HOUSE (Universal) Budget: $85M. Domestic Gross: $126.2M Total: $207.9M Verdict: Made Money.
WANDERLUST (Universal) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $17.3M Total: $21.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
BIG MIRACLE (Universal) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $20.2M Total: $24.7M Verdict: Flop.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK (CBS) Budget: $N/A. Domestic Gross: $54.3M Total: $127.7M Verdict: Big Hit.

MARCH

Studios hope March and St. Paddy’s Day will bring them the luck of the Irish. The year really heats up this year as we return to one of the most beloved places in the annals of fantasy, we see a Stephen King classic remade, we see a re-imagining of one of the world’s most well-known fairy tales and DreamWorks animation takes us back to the Stone Age.

Oz The Great and Powerful

CAN’T MISS

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2013
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Joey King, Bruce Campbell, Abigail Spencer, Bill Cobbs
STORY: A magician and charlatan performing for the rubes in Kansas is swept away by a twister into the magical land of Oz where he gets caught in a struggle between good and easy. At first mistaken for a wizard, he needs to identify who is good, who is evil and which side he will fall on.
PROSPECTS: Director Sam Raimi has moved on from the Spider-Man trilogy and takes on a different kind of franchise. The trailers for the CGI-heavy production look like a new take on the beloved fantasy series that is different yet strangely familiar.
OBSTACLES: There’s always the specter of The Wizard of Oz hanging over films about Oz. Nothing can compare to it and if this movie attempts to it will fail.
FACTOID: This is Disney’s second Oz-related film, the first being Return to Oz in 1985.

SHOULD SEE

THE CROODS

RELEASE DATE: March 22, 2013
STUDIO: DreamWorks
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman
STORY: A Stone Age family which has survived by staying in their cave is forced into the world and discovers it a more wonderful – and dangerous – place than they could have possibly imagined.
PROSPECTS: Really the first major full-length animation feature of 2013 (OK, there’s the Escape From Planet Earth thing but nobody’s really expecting big numbers rom that) and Fox is getting some serious promo going for this. The kids are going to be frantic to see this.
OBSTACLES: It looks pretty good thus far but kids have more entertainment choices these days and a bad movie will not get the kind of box office they have in the past.
FACTOID: This will be the first DreamWorks Animation film to be distributed by Fox after years of being distributed by Paramount.

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION

RELEASE DATE: March 29, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Park, Channing Tatum, D.J. Cotrona, Ray Stevenson
STORY: When the Joes are ambushed and massacred, they realize that they were betrayed at a very high level within the government. To make matters worse they have been set up to take the fall for actions they didn’t commit and the surviving members are now fugitives. While they know Cobra is the source of their troubles, extricating themselves from this mess may be more than even the Joes can handle.
PROSPECTS: Johnson and Willis are big stars who can put a lot of butts in seats. The toy franchise has a great deal of name recognition and the first film in the franchise was a big hit.
OBSTACLES: The first movie took a critical bashing and audiences didn’t regard it too highly either. Nearly the entire cast and creative team has been replaced and the movie was delayed from last summer to the spring to convert to 3D which might worry some about the quality of the movie.
FACTOID: Johnson plays Roadblock who in the comics was once a chef. One of Johnson’s trademark lines for the WWE is “Can you smell what the Rock is cooking!”

THE HOST

RELEASE DATE: March 29, 2013
STUDIO: Open Road
STARRING : Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Frances Fisher, Bokeem Woodbine, Chandler Canterbury
STORY: In a future when the Earth has been conquered by parasitical aliens that inhabit our bodies, the parasite inside one human body falls in love with a young man who carries no parasite. .
PROSPECTS: This is the newest potential film franchise from Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight books. From what I understand, it takes a lot of the traits from that series and transfers it to a sci-fi setting.
OBSTACLES: Can they capture lightning in a bottle again? Part of the reason the film franchise succeeded was the attraction of the pre-teen audience (and their mums) to Robert Pattinson and Tyler Lautner, as well as their identification with Kristen Stewart. Without leads who connect with their audience in the same way, this franchise will be dead in the water.
FACTOID: The movie was primarily filmed in Louisiana and New Mexico.

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER

RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2013
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, Eddie Marsan, Warwick Davis, Ewen Bremner, Ralph Brown
STORY: When a young farmboy unwittingly opens a gateway into a dimension inhabited by a race of fearsome, ruthless giants bent on the destruction of humanity, he must find his inner hero to help stop the coming armageddon. Inspired by a feisty princess, he just might do it.
PROSPECTS: The latest from Bryan Singer whose work on the X-Men franchise has been stellar.
OBSTACLES: The movie was delayed nearly a full year; that kind of thing tends to send out the wrong kind of buzz.
FACTOID: Hoult played Dr. Hank “The Beast” McCoy in X-Men First Class. Singer directed the first two movies in the franchise and is gearing up to direct the sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Passed.

MIGHT SURPRISE

STOKER

RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2013
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Brown
STORY: After her father dies in an auto accident, his orphaned daughter goes to live with her uncle and her emotionally unstable aunt. Soon it appears that his motives might not be altruistic and that she might not be altogether unfavorable to the idea..
PROSPECTS: The English language debut of acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-Woo which is going to get a lot of film geeks salivating at the prospect.
OBSTACLES: The undercurrent of incest might just drive audiences away.
FACTOID: The original cast was Carey Mulligan, Jodie Foster and Colin Firth in the roles that eventually were re-cast with Wasikowska, Kidman and Goode respectively.

ALSO

March 1, 2013

In 21 AND OVER (Relativity) a young man celebrating his 21st birthday the night before a critical med school interview turns debauchery into an art form. Drunken orgy, here we come! THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (CBS) picks up where the last one left off where the only surviving member of the Sweetzer family is found wandering the woods with entire chunks of her memory of the last few months missing. Soon it becomes apparent that her previous exorcism would not be her last. PHANTOM (Magnet) stars David Duchovny and Ed Harris as crew members on a Soviet submarine which may be the key to World War III but the strange goings on in the sub suggest it might be haunted. Opening in limited release and VOD only.

March 8, 2013

ADMISSION (Focus) stars Tina Fey as an uptight admissions officer for an Ivy League school who discovers that the brilliant but unconventional applicant may actually be the son she gave up for adoption years ago. DEAD MAN DOWN (FilmDistrict) has a heartless assassin and the right hand man of a vicious crime boss seduced and eventually blackmailed by a crime victim seeking revenge. Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace star. Opening in limited release, THE ABC’S OF DEATH (Magnet) is an anthology film by 26 of the world’s most acclaimed horror directors tasked with creating a chapter of the movie about death each of which starts with a different letter of the alphabet..

March 15, 2013

CARRIE (Screen Gems) is a remake of the classic Brian DePalma interpretation of one of Stephen King’s most chilling novels. Chloe Grace Moretz stars in the title role as a teenage girl heavily sheltered by her religious fanatic mom but as the girl reaches puberty, starts to develop incredible telekinetic powers. THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (New Line) stars Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi as a pair of Las Vegas magicians whose long-time partnership disguises the fact they can’t stand each other. They are forced to close ranks when an arrogant street magician threatens their livelihood on as Kings of the Strip. K-11 (Breaking Glass) comes out in limited release and is about a high-powered record executive who wakes up from a drug-induced blackout in a maximum security prison wing for gay and transgendered prisoners without any idea how he got there or how he can regain his freedom.

March 20, 2013

EDEN (Phase 4) is based on a true story of a Korean-American teenager who is kidnapped from a New Mexico bar and put to work as a sex slave in Las Vegas. Jamie Chung stars in this limited release thriller.

March 22, 2013

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (FilmDistrict) stars Gerard Butler as a former Secret Service agent who was forced to leave in disgrace who is called back to active duty when the White House is taken over by terrorists. In limited release is LOVE AND HONOR (IFC) which is set during the Vietnam War. Liam Hemsworth stars as a soldier who tries to help his best friend reclaim his girlfriend’s heart during while AWOL during a time of social upheaval and protest.

March 29, 2013

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (Focus) follows the footsteps of Crime and Punishment and Les Miserables as a police officer and a motorcycle rider are entwined in a years-long struggle when the cyclist commits a crime in order to support his child. TYLER PERRY’S TEMPTATION: CONFESSIONS OF A MARRIAGE COUNSELOR (Lionsgate) is about a woman whose decision to leave an existing relationship for another man has unforeseen consequences for her life.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE HUNGER GAMES (Lionsgate) Budget: $78 Million. Domestic Gross: $408.0M Total: $686.5M Verdict: Blockbuster.
JOHN CARTER (Disney) Budget: $250M. Domestic Gross: $73.1M Total: $282.8M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE RAVEN (Relativity) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $16.0M Total: $26.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX (Universal) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $214.0M Total: $348.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
WRATH OF THE TITANS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $83.7M Total: $302.0 Verdict: Broke Even.
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (CBS) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $9.1M Total: $34.6 Verdict: Probably Made Money.
21 JUMP STREET (Columbia) Budget: $42M. Domestic Gross: $138.5M Total: $201.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
MIRROR MIRROR (Relativity) Budget: $85M. Domestic Gross: $64.9M Total: $166.2M Verdict: Broke Even.
PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (Columbia) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $31.1M Total: $121.6M Verdict: Made Money.
A THOUSAND WORDS (DreamWorks) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $18.5M Total: $20.6M Verdict: Flop.
THINK LIKE A MAN (Screen Gems) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $91.6M Total: $96.1M Verdict: Big Hit.
PROJECT X (Warner Brothers) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $54.7M Total: $100.9M Verdict: Probable Hit.
BULLY (Weinstein) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $3.5M Total: $3.7M Verdict: Probably Made Money.

APRIL

Spring break presages the summer and normally there are almost always at least a hint of the upcoming summer blockbuster season and this year is no exception. Director Sam Raimi remakes one of his iconic horror films, one of America’s greatest sports heroes gets a biopic, Tom Cruise stars in a groundbreaking sci-fi film and Michael Bay takes time out from the Transformers franchise with a somewhat smaller-in-scope crime action film.

Oblivion

CAN’T MISS

OBLIVION

RELEASE DATE: April 12, 2013 on IMAX; April 19 as a Wide release
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Leo, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Zoe Bell
STORY: Mankind has won their war against an alien invader. However the surface of the planet is rendered nearly uninhabitable. Drones are removing the last of the resources for human habitations in the sky. However when one of the last drone repairmen finds a beautiful stranger in a downed spacecraft, he sets in motion events that will call into question everything he thought was true.
PROSPECTS: This has gotten enormous Internet buzz for a few years. It is director Joseph Kosinski’s follow-up to TRON: Legacy and when he couldn’t get it made quickly enough, fashioned it as an illustrated novella which got enough interest to secure financing and get Cruise involved.
OBSTACLES: Sci-fi can be rather dicey without a lot of space battles and a convincing universe to play in.
FACTOID: While the illustrated novella that Kosinski and artist partner Andree Wallin has been completed, Radical Publishing (which owns the rights) delayed the publishing of it in order to coincide with the release of the movie.

SHOULD SEE

42

RELEASE DATE: April 12, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Harrison Ford, Chadwick Boseman, Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, Brad Beyer, Alan Tudyk, Lucas Black, John C. McGinley
STORY: A visionary baseball executive recognizes that in order for his club to be competitive, he’ll have to go outside the box to get the best players available. Billy Bean? No, Branch Rickey and the player he’s after will change baseball – and American society – forever. The player’s name; Jack Roosevelt Robinson, better known as Jackie.
PROSPECTS: One of the greatest stories in sports. While some might remember Robinson starring in his biopic The Jackie Robinson Story it’s high time he got his story done right. He remains one of the most iconic figures not only in sports but in civil rights as well.
OBSTACLES: Baseball movies, reflecting the status of the sport as the no-longer-national pastime, haven’t done particularly well lately. Boseman, who’ll play Robinson, is an unknown and the movie will largely stand or fall based on how well he handles being the lead.
FACTOID: Rickey was initially meant to be played by Robert Redford but he had to turn down the part due to scheduling issues.

PAIN AND GAIN

RELEASE DATE: April 26, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Tony Shalhoub, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong
STORY: Based on an actual incident, a group of bodybuilders get involved in kidnapping, extortion and murder in the Miami of the late 80s.
PROSPECTS: Director Michael Bay has a pretty good track record although you’d have to go back to Bad Boys to find a movie of this sort on his résumé. Wahlberg and Johnson are both poised to have extremely good years with some high profile projects for each on the horizon.
OBSTACLES: I’m not sure whether the movie means to be a comedy, a crime drama or a mix of both. If the latter, it’s going to take some delicate tightrope walking to pull it off.
FACTOID: This is the lowest budget Bay has had to work with since Bad Boys – which was his feature debut.

MIGHT SURPRISE

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2013
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Shia LaBeouf, Robert Redford, Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins, Susan Sarandon, Stephen Root, Sam Elliott, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, Anna Kendrick
STORY: A young reporter encounters a man with a hidden secret; he’s been a fugitive from the law for over 30 years and is one of the last members of the Weather Underground still free.
PROSPECTS: An amazing cast with Redford – who may well be as good a director as he is a star – behind the lens.
OBSTACLES: Redford is a national treasure but I suspect the politics of this may keep older, conservative audiences out of theaters.
FACTOID: This is the seventh film to be directed by Redford.

ALSO

April 5, 2013

THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) is a buddy cop flick with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as a straight-laced by-the-book FBI agent and a boorish street-smart Boston cop respectively chasing down a Beantown drug ring. JURASSIC PARK 3D (Universal) seeks to add a bit more to Steven Spielberg’s bank account as his blockbuster is given the 3D conversion treatment.

April 12, 2013

EVIL DEAD (Tri-Star) is a remake of Sam Raimi’s legendary horror film as a group of vacationing young people find the Book of the Dead in a remote mountain cabin and in doing so unleash hell on Earth. SCARY MOVIE 5 (Dimension) takes on Black Swan but this time without Anna Farris. This time Ashley Tisdale stars. DISCONNECT (LD Entertainment) interweaves three different tales of people searching for human connection in a digital age that discourages it. Opening in limited release.

April 24, 2013

THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST (IFC) is about a young man of Pakistani descent who at a crucial time in his career finds himself contending with the demands of his chase for the American dream, a hostage crisis and his own cultural identity. Opening in limited release.

April 26, 2013

THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate) commands a high-powered ensemble cast (including Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams, Katherine Heigl and Amanda Seyfried. Here the divorced adoptive parents of the groom must pretend to be still together when the ultra-conservative biological mother decides to attend unexpectedly. In AT ANY PRICE (Sony Classics) a father and son clash over the son’s future; dad wants him to rule the family farming empire while junior wants to race cars. Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron star in this limited release. Also in limited release, THE LORDS OF SALEM (Anchor Bay) is Rob Zombie’s latest epic horror extravaganza as a comely DJ gets involved with a new rock band only to discover that they are not what they seem.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT (Universal) Budget: $30 Million. Domestic Gross: $28.7M Total: $53.8M Verdict: Lost Money.
AMERICAN REUNION (Universal) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $56.8M Total: $234.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $42.1M Total: $66.5M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
THE THREE STOOGES (20th Century Fox) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $44.3M Total: $53.0M Verdict: Lost Money..
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD(Focus) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $7.1M Total: $9.6M Verdict: Flop.
SAFE (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $17.1M Total: $40.4M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
THE LUCKY ONE (Warner Brothers) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $60.5M Total: $92.5M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
LOCKOUT (PREVIEWED AS MS-ONE: MAXIMUM SECURITY) (FilmDistrict) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $14.3M Total: $28.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
CHIMPANZEE (DisneyNature) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $29.0M Total: $29.0M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (Relativity) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $31.6M Total: $36.4M Verdict: Hit.

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 first film in the post-Avengers Marvel filmed universe makes its appearance, DC tries to reboot an iconic superhero, JJ Abrams returns to where no man has gone before and Guillermo del Toro attempts to take on the alien invasion genre with giant robots. 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 the upcoming summer.

Iron Man 3

CAN’T MISS

IRON MAN 3

RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2013
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Gwynneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, Jon Favreau, Wang Xuequi, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale
STORY: Phase 2 of the Marvel filmed universe begins as an unknown enemy attacks and destroys Tony Stark’s personal life. His suit is of little or no help as he tries to find out who is behind the attack and whether or not he is more than the suit he designed.
PROSPECTS: The first Marvel movie post-Avengers is bound to get plenty of box office love.
OBSTACLES: This is the first film in the series not to be directed by Jon Favreau and while Shane Black is an esteemed screenwriter, his skills as a director have never been tested.
FACTOID: One of the scenes was filmed inside Epic Games, a videogame development company responsible for The Gears of War franchise among others.

SHOULD SEE

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

RELEASE DATE: May 17, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Peter Weller
STORY: After a terrorist act from within Starfleet forces the Enterprise to return home, Captain Kirk is faced with an unstoppable weapon that he must capture at any cost – even the lives of his own crew.
PROSPECTS: The franchise is back big time and is teasing elements of the biggest Star Trek movie of the first incarnation.
OBSTACLES: There is always backlash after a successful franchise re-launch. The same fanboys who were singing the praises of JJ Abrams after the first movie will be trashing him before the second.
FACTOID: Weller previously appeared in the TV series “Star Trek: Enterprise” as John Frederick Paxton.

MAN OF STEEL

RELEASE DATE: June 14, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Russell Crowe, Christopher Meloni, Ayelet Zurer
STORY: The Superman story gets rebooted with a new Man of Steel, a new origin and familiar villains – General Zod for one.
PROSPECTS: Zack Snider is at the helm, the same fella who did the acclaimed Watchmen adaptation. The trailers have looked much darker than previous films in the franchise, which has in the past translated to box office gold.
OBSTACLES: Superman is not nearly as hot as Batman among comic book fans. Snider’s last movie, Sucker Punch, tanked.
FACTOID: The character of Whitey Fordman was not in the comics but was created for the “Smallville” TV series.

WORLD WAR Z

RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Eric West, Abigail Hargrove, Mustafa Harris
STORY: An employee of the UN races around the world to try and stop the zombie apocalypse as a pandemic topples governments and threatens the survival of the human race.
PROSPECTS: Brad Pitt is always a plus. The book this is based on is a bestseller and one of the most talked-about books of the last ten years. Zombies are hot thanks to “Walking Dead.”
OBSTACLES: Too many zombies spoil the broth? A definite potential for overkill here.
FACTOID: Scenes were filmed on the flight deck of the British Royal Navy helicopter carrier RFA Argus.

PACIFIC RIM

RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Robert Kazinsky, Max Martini, Brad William Henke
STORY: When Earth is invaded by gigantic creatures emerging from the ocean, giant robots are created to battle the monsters but even so the human race is losing the war. Everything will hinge on a single, outdated robot and the unlikely pilots driving it.
PROSPECTS: Guillermo del Toro is much loved among the fanbase and this has been on an awful lot of radars since it was first announced. Early pictures and the trailer have done nothing to dispel the buzz, which is a good sign.
OBSTACLES: Giant robots have been much more of a box office winner in other parts of the globe than they have here.
FACTOID: Tom Cruise was once considered for the role Idris Elba was eventually cast in.

EPIC

RELEASE DATE: May 24, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Knoxville, Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler
STORY: A young girl is accidentally transported into a hidden world within the forest outside her own home, one in which good and evil battle in the guise of fantastic creatures and where she becomes the turning point in the war that may destroy this world – and our own.
PROSPECTS: A very compelling trailer has even non-animated feature fans frothing at the mouth for this one. The voice cast is kinda quirky but there is enough star power to put butts in seats.
OBSTACLES: Very heavy competition for family movies this summer; will this one stand out?
FACTOID: The second Blue Skies Studios animated feature to be based on a William Joyce story (the first was Robots; this one was based on his book Leaf Men).

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE

RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, Jack O’Connell, Igal Naor
STORY: While the Persians were winning a costly battle at Thermopylae, they were also simultaneously meeting an army led by the Athenian general Themistocles.
PROSPECTS: 300 is still a big favorite among both movie buffs and fanboys alike. It changed the look of movies forever.
OBSTACLES: A completely different creative team could make this a second-rate summer film and a box office dud if it gets bad word of mouth.
FACTOID: Joel Edgerton was offered the role of Themistocles but he turned it down. Relative unknown Stapleton was then given the part.

MIGHT SURPRISE

ELYSIUM

RELEASE DATE: August 9, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Michael Shanks, Carly Pope
STORY: In the future the haves live on a luxurious space station while the have-nots live on a ruined, broken Earth barely able to subsist. A man with his back against the wall undertakes a daring mission that might bring equality at last to the human race.
PROSPECTS: Director Neil Blomkamp was, with Copley, responsible for the success of District 9 He gets Damon and Foster, not to mention a budget, this time around.
OBSTACLES: Science Fiction with a social conscience hasn’t traditionally done well at the box office.
FACTOID: Was originally scheduled for release in April but was pushed out to October following some necessary reshoots.

ALSO

ABOUT TIME (Universal) is a romantic comedy with elements of time travel from director Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and stars Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy (May 10). THE GREAT GATSBY (Warner Brothers), originally supposed to be released this past Christmas was bumped up to the summer. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, it has been converted to 3D and stars Leonardo Di Caprio in the title role of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic (May 10). TYLER PERRY PRESENTS WE THE PEOPLES (Lionsgate) is an urban romantic comedy in which a hapless working class fella attempts to propose to his upper crust girlfriend only to fall afoul of her snooty family (May 10). BLACK ROCK (LD Entertainment) has three childhood friends taking a girls weekend on an island off the Maine coast which turns into a grueling fight for survival (May 17). FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (Universal) is the latest in the franchise and returns most of the cast and behind the camera talent from the fifth film (May 24). THE HANGOVER PART III (Warner Brothers) puts the Wolf pack on a road trip to Vegas. No bachelor party, no wedding to go to, just three guys spending some time in Sin City together. What could go wrong, right? Plenty (May 24). THE PURGE (Universal) posits a society in which any sort of crime including murder is legal for 12 hours once a year, and what one family will do to survive those 12 hours (May 31). AFTER EARTH (Columbia) stars Will and Jaden Smith as a father and son who crash land on Earth a thousand years from now to find it an even more dangerous place than it is now, and time ticking down on their chances of survival (June 7).THE INTERNSHIP (20th Century Fox) reunites The Wedding Crashers‘ Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as a couple of salesmen who try to reinvent themselves as a couple of interns at a tech company (June 7). NOW YOU SEE ME (Summit) combines four of the world’s greatest illusionists as they rob from corrupt corporate vaults and give back to those who were most hurt by those corporate shenanigans, all while being chased by the FBI’s best and brightest (June 7). THIS IS THE END (Columbia) has five actors, all playing themselves, dealing with a post-Apocalyptic L.A. Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and James Franco star (June 14). MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney*Pixar) is a prequel to the animated hit Monsters, Inc. (June 21). KICK-ASS 2 (Universal) ups the stakes from the original as Kick-Ass assembles a “super-team” to deal with the Red Mist, who plots revenge against Kick-Ass and Hit Girl for the death of his father (June 28). WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Columbia) tells what happens when a paramilitary group takes over the White House. Channing Tatum stars (June 28). DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) has Gru and his minions taking on something even more terrifying than evil geniuses – little girls (July 3). THE LONE RANGER (Disney) is a re-imagining of the classic western tale by the producers of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise with Armie Hammer in the title role and Johnny Depp as Tonto, his faithful companion (July 3). GROWN-UPS 2 (Columbia) is the continued mis-adventures of childhood friends turn grown children Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider, this time taking on a group of frat boys (July 12). THE CONJURING (Warner Brothers) is based on the true stories of Ed and Lorraine Warren, considered the leading experts on possession and hauntings (July 19). R.I.P.D. (Universal) is based on the Dark Horse comic book series and has zombie cops policing the undead. Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Bacon lead the all-star cast (July 19). TURBO (DreamWorks) is an animated feature about a snail who longs to be an Indie 500 champion (July 19). THE WOLVERINE (20th Century Fox) returns Hugh Jackman into his best-known role, this time taking on the Yakuza in Japan in one of the best-known story arcs from the comic series (July 26). In THE SMURFS 2 (Columbia) the evil wizard Gargamel creates some creatures called the Naughties meant to lead Smurfette astray, forcing her fellow Smurfs to Smurf off to Paris where they can Smurf the day…oh this is so Smurfed (July 31).In RED 2 (Summit) reunited the retired CIA operatives as they battle a group of vicious killers across Europe and possibly into the AARP (August 2). PLANES (Disney) is a 2D airborne spin-off of the Cars film which was originally intended for direct-to-video but is getting a theatrical release instead. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad (August 9). WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) stars Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston as a couple of people forced by circumstances to masquerade as a family in order to bring in a pot shipment from Mexico (August 9). In 2 GUNS (Universal) a DEA agent and a US Navy Intelligence officer who despise each other are forced to rely on each other when their undercover operation in a vicious Mexican drug cartel goes south and their superiors leave them dangling in the wind. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg star (August 16). PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th Century Fox) continues the young adult fantasy series as the son of Poseidon is forced to seek out the Golden Fleece in order to save his home and training ground (August 16). THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) stars Aubrey Plaza as an over-achieving high school graduate who wants to achieve a wish list of all the fun stuff she missed out in high school before embarking on her college career (August 16). THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (Screen Gems) comes from another young adult fantasy series looking to hit it big in Hollywood, this time staring Lily Collins as a young girl who discovers she is of half-angel descent caught up in a battle between good and evil (August 23). In YOU’RE NEXT (Lionsgate) family members at a reunion celebrating the wedding anniversary of the parents turns deadly when those attending start getting picked off one by one (August 23). CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) is a courtroom drama in which two ex-lovers who parted on less than friendly terms forced to co-operate as members of the defense team in a terrorism trial which turns out to be far more dangerous than they could have possibly imagined (August 28). In GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) a former race car driver is forced to get back behind the wheel of a car by a mysterious kidnapper who has his wife. If the driver doesn’t complete the increasingly dangerous mission he’s been given, his wife will die – and his every move is being watched by dashboard-mounted cameras (August 30). In ONE DIRECTION CONCERT MOVIE 3D (TriStar) the popular British pop group play songs from their first two albums (August 30). SATANIC (Weinstein) is about a college student remaining on campus over Thanksgiving break only to be stalked by a vicious gang (August 30). INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 (FilmDistrict) continues the story of the surprise hit as the demons possessing a young boy are not quite done with his family yet (August 30).

FALL

This is the portion of the 2013 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. We’ll be looking for a big-budget version of Orson Scott Card’s space warfare classic, Peter Jackson continuing his Hobbit trilogy, new installments in the Hunger Games and Sin City franchises and a reboot of Tom Clancy’s bestselling (and box office champion) spy series. 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.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug

CAN’T MISS

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

RELEASE DATE: December 13, 2013
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Jed Brophy, Graham McTavish, Benedict Cumberbatch
STORY: The second film in the trilogy has the band of heroes navigating the dangerous Desolation of Smaug on their way to Erebor. Here the band will find that their foe no longer slumbers – and that the dangers on the way to their goal may be more than even they can overcome.
PROSPECTS: Tolkien fans turned out in huge numbers as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey set a December opening weekend record.
OBSTACLES: The reviews were less than spectacular and word of mouth was that the movie was a bit of a disappointment which may hinder the chances of the second installment in the trilogy to build on that momentum.
FACTOID: Both Ian Holm and Christopher Lee for reasons of health were unable to fly out to New Zealand so all their scenes were filmed at Pinewood Studios in London.

SHOULD SEE

ENDER’S GAME

RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2013
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Nenso Anozie, Andrea Powell, Brendan Meyer
STORY: During a war with a vicious enemy alien race, humanity’s hope may rest with a young boy who shows extraordinary abilities in battle school.
PROSPECTS: The series of books on Ender Wiggin by Orson Scott Card are considered by many to be a modern sci-fi classic. Having Ford and Kingsley with up-and-coming young stars like Steinfeld, Breslin and Butterfield can only be a good thing.
OBSTACLES: Not a slam dunk and a fairly large budget will make it a rough go to make a profit on this one.
FACTOID: The movie originated as a short story published in the August 1977 issue of Analog Magazine, which was then expanded into a novel which then was turned into a comic book which then turned into a series of novels and then a film.

JACK RYAN

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Peter Anderson, Kenneth Brannagh, David Paymer, Colm Feore, Gemma Chan
STORY: A young CIA analyst uncovers a plot to destabilize the American economy from within.
PROSPECTS: Clancy’s Ryan has always done well at the box office and with the all-star cast in front of the camera and Brannagh behind it, there’s no reason to believe this one won’t as well.
OBSTACLES: The character of Jack Ryan no longer has the box office cache he once had. It’s been eleven years since the last Jack Ryan film and that’s an eternity by Hollywood standards.
FACTOID: This is the first film in the series not to be directly based on the plots of one of the books.

HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

RELEASE DATE: November 22, 2013
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanly Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
STORY: After Katness wins the 74th Hunger Games, she embarks on a Victory Tour of the provinces as PanEm gears up for the 75th edition, which will change the nation – and Katness – forever..
PROSPECTS: The first movie exceeded even the most wildest expectations and the void left by the end of the Twilight series will no doubt be filled by this one.
OBSTACLES: Moving the release date from March to November will give the film more competition to go up against and who knows how that will affect the box office receipts.
FACTOID: Director Gary Ross was asked to return but declined; after considering a short list of A-list directors, Francis Lawrence was given the nod.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR

RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2013
STUDIO: Dimension
STARRING: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaimie King, Jamie Chung, Dennis Haysbert, Clive Owen, Alexa Vega, Michael Madsen
STORY: Marv and Dwight team up to help out an old flame of Dwight’s get out of a sticky situation, only to discover they’ve been set up as patsy’s for the murder of her rich husband.
PROSPECTS: The first film was a fan favorite and the sequel has been eagerly awaited for more than a decade now.
OBSTACLES: Movies that wait this long to get made rarely generate the same interest.
FACTOID: Three characters from the first film had to be recast; Devin Aoki due to her pregnancy and Brittany Murphy and Michael Clark Duncan due to their untimely deaths.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

RELEASE DATE: November 8, 2013
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins
STORY: When the Dark Elves return to the realm of Asgard, not even the might of Odin and the Asgardian knights can withstand their foe. To save his realm and ours Thor may be called upon to sacrifice everything.
PROSPECTS: The second film in Marvel Phase 2 shows no signs of slowing down the machine-like success of the studio.
OBSTACLES: Is the mighty Marvel movie machine overdue for a flop? While director Alan Taylor did a great job with the HBO series “Game of Thrones” he has almost no feature film experience, having helmed only Palookaville in 1995.
FACTOID: Josh Dallas played Fandral in the first film but was unable to appear in this one due to his schedule on the TV show “Once Upon a Time.” His place was taken by Zachary Levi who originally was supposed to get the part for the first film but whose schedule on the TV show “Chuck” prevented him from taking the role.

MIGHT SURPRISE

THE WORLD’S END

RELEASE DATE: October 25, 2013
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Julian Seager, Paul Kennington, Mark Fox
STORY: A group of friends who failed an epic pub crawl 20 years previously reunite to attempt it once again, ending at the legendary World’s End pub. However what they fail to realize is that the world really is ending and they may very well have the fate of the world in their own incapable hands.
PROSPECTS: The third in the so-called “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy” has been having fans salivating for a year since the film was first announced.
OBSTACLES: None of the first two films in the series have risen above cult film status.
FACTOID: Pegg, Frost and director Edgar Wright first worked together on the British sci-fi TV series “Spaced.”

ALSO

RIDDICK (Universal) takes the mercenary to the deadliest planet he’s been to yet, pursued by bounty hunters who are his ticket off-world – assuming he can survive (September 6). BATTLE OF THE YEAR (Screen Gems) takes us to the Break Dancing Olympics, an event the United States hasn’t won in 15 years but a b-boy wants to put a change to all that (September 13). I, FRANKENSTEIN (Lionsgate) is the first of several major studio re-imaginings of the Mary Shelley masterpiece although this one is based on an acclaimed comic series (September 13). THE LITTLE MERMAID 3D (Disney) gives yet another Disney classic the 3D treatment. Sigh (September 13). PRISONERS (Warner Brothers) stars Hugh Jackman as a carpenter whose daughter has been kidnapped. When local cops are unable to help, he takes the law into his own hands, running him up against an arrogant big city detective (September 20). RUSH (Universal) is the much-anticipated Ron Howard-directed true story about the Grand Prix rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda (September 20). STAR WARS: EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES 3D (20th Century Fox) continues the 3D enhancement treatment of the George Lucas epic space opera (September 20). In CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 (Columbia) Flint Lockwood discovers that his invention that converts rainwater into food is still operating but turning the rain into mutant food-animal hybrids that are threatening the Earth once again (September 27). RUNNER RUNNER (20th Century Fox) is set in the world of online gambling as the owner of a gaming site and his protégé clash (September 27). In THE TOMB (Summit) Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone team up to break out of the most fortified prison in the world (September 27). DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks) stars Vince Vaughn as a man in debt to the mob who discovers that his sperm donations have fathered 533 children (October 4). PARANOIA (Relativity) stars Liam Hemsworth as an intern ordered by a ruthless CEO to spy on a rival within the company. He soon realizes that he is a pawn in a much larger game (October 4). STAR WARS: EPISODE III REVENGE OF THE SITH 3D (20th Century Fox) completes the prequel 3D conversion treatment (October 4). CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (Columbia) is the story of the courageous sea captain who offered himself up as a hostage to Somali pirates in exchange for his crew. Tom Hanks stars in the title role (October 11). HAUNTS (20th Century Fox) is a supernatural thriller that Fox is hoping will be a Halloween franchise starter (October 11). OLDBOY (FilmDistrict) is based on an acclaimed Korean thriller re-imagined by Spike Lee. In it Josh Brolin is released from captivity for 20 years and is given just three days to discover why he was imprisoned (October 11). MALAVITA (Relativity) is the latest action film from Luc Besson and stars Robert De Niro as the patriarch of a mob family who is relocated to Normandy under the Witness Protection Program, but old habits die hard (October 18). NO GOOD DEED (Screen Gems) tells what happens when a stay-at-home mom and former D.A. allows a handsome man to come into her home to wait for help after his car is run off the road and it turns out he has less than good intentions (October 18). In SEVENTH SON (Warner Brothers) an unspeakable evil is about to be unleashed on the world and only the seventh son of a seventh son may stop it. Jeff Bridges and Ben Barnes star (October 18). PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 5 (Paramount) continues the found video franchise where it left off (October 25). MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN (DreamWorks) is based on the classic Jay Ward cartoon in which the world’s smartest person – a dog named Peabody – invents a time machine which his pet boy Sherman uses to cause havoc and hilarity (November 1). In FROZEN (Disney) a courageous young girl teams up with a mountain man and his reindeer to free a kingdom trapped in eternal winter; yes it’s an animated feature (November 25). ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Paramount) looks to stay classy in San Diego one more time – depending on what your definition of classy is (December 20). LAST VEGAS (CBS) has a group of friends throwing a big Vegas-style bachelor party for the only one in the group who’s remained single. The all-star cast includes Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Cline (December 20). MONUMENTS MEN (Columbia) is the amazing true story of a group of art historians and museum directors who attempt to save some of Europe’s most precious art from the Nazis (December 20). SAVING MR. BANKS (Disney) tells how Walt Disney managed to convince curmudgeonly author E.L. Travers to let him make a film based on her book Mary Poppins (December 20). WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (20th Century Fox) takes over where the Discovery Channel series left off, creating an immersive 3D atmosphere for audiences to see and feel what the world was like in the age of the dinosaur (December 20). In 47 RONIN (Universal) a group of outcast samurai seek revenge on the merciless overlord who slew their lord. Keanu Reeves stars (December 25). THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (20th Century Fox) has Ben Stiller re-imagine the James Thurber classic about a man who daydreams about amazing adventures while his own life drifts into the mundane (December 25).

MOVIES CURRENTLY WITHOUT RELEASE DATES BUT LIKELY TO OPEN

TRANCE (Fox Searchlight) is the latest from Oscar-winning (and Olympic opening ceremonies) director Danny Boyle returning to his crime drama roots as an art auctioneer double crosses a gang of art thieves he’d been working for and is badly injured. When he revives, his memory is gone – and the gang forces a beautiful hypnotherapist to retrieve it so they can find their stolen loot…or else. LABOR DAY (Paramount) stars Kate Winslet as a single mom who while driving her son home gives a wounded, desperate man a ride which quickly becomes a nightmare. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Warner Brothers) resurrects the massively popular post-apocalyptic series with Tom Hardy in the title role. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (Weinstein) has a family torn apart when their alcoholic patriarch disappears. HIDDEN (Warner Brothers) is about a family that takes refuge in a fallout shelter during an epidemic only to discover that their safety might be an illusion. MOCKINGBIRD (Universal) is a horror flick about a family given a camera with explicit instructions they must follow or someone will die. WINTER’S TALE (Warner Brothers) is a fantasy set in a both the 19th century and present-day Manhattan involving a thief, a dying girl and a flying white horse and no, they don’t walk into a bar. EMPIRE STATE (Lionsgate) is about a pair of childhood friends intent on robbing an armored truck and the cop who might thwart their plans. NOT SAFE FOR WORK (Universal) has a man trapped in an office building while a killer is loose inside. BLACK SKY (Warner Brothers) is about a group of high school students documenting the aftermath of a devastating tornado. FOXCATCHER (Columbia) is about the murder of Olympian David Schultz by wealthy patron John DuPont. MACHETE KILLS (Open Road) is the sequel to the cult hit and has the former Federale taking on a maniacal arms dealer at the behest of the U.S. government. 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. 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.

As you can see, there is plenty to look forward to in 2013 for movie fans and this doesn’t even count the hundreds of indie and foreign films yet to be scheduled from the smaller distributors, or the many major projects that have yet to set a release date but will be appearing sometime during 2013. And if that wasn’t enough, 2014 has plenty of goodies in store with the conclusion of the Hobbit trilogy, sequels to the Transformers, X-Men, Hunger Games and Spider-Man franchises, remakes of Godzilla and Robocop, a new take on the Disney villain Maleficent and the Marvel Phase Two films continuing with the Captain America sequel and a surprising heroic team known as the Guardians of the Galaxy setting the stage for the next Avengers film in 2015. But those are for another preview on another day. Until then, keep an eye out for our weekly, monthly and seasonal previews and our daily reviews right here on Cinema365 and we’ll keep an eye out for you at the multiplex.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World


Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Russell Crowe wonders where the grog has gone off to.

(2003) Adventure (20th Century Fox) Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, James D’Arcy, Edward Woodall, Chris Larkin, Max Pirkis, Billy Boyd, Jack Randall, Max Benitz, Lee Ingleby, Richard Pates, Robert Pugh, Richard McCabe, Ian Mercer, David Threlfall . Directed by Peter Weir

 

After years of fan clamoring, Patrick O’Brian’s revered Master and Commander saga finally made it to the big screen, and was given the royal treatment in Hollywood as befitted the beginning of a potential major franchise. It didn’t quite make it there but was that because the movie wasn’t up to snuff?

Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey (Crowe), master of the HMS Surprize, is given orders by the admiralty to track down the French warship Acheron in the waters off of the Americas and track it as far as Brazil, with the orders to take her if possible, and sink her if not. He commands a crew including the ship’s surgeon, Stephen Maturin (Bettany), who is an amateur naturalist as well as Aubrey’s best friend. The two often end their evenings by playing duets on violin and cello.

The Acheron proves to be a superior ship in size, firepower and speed, and creates havoc for the Surprize, which barely escapes sinking in battle. Aubrey must use all his wits to outwit his clever adversary, but also wrestles with his own motivations; does he chase the Acheron out of loyalty, duty or pride? And what price will he pay to find the answer to that question?

The Master and Commander books are very well researched. The 20-novel series features detailed accounts of life in the British Navy in the Napoleonic era, as well as battle tactics, the political climate of the times and life in general at the dawn of the 19th century.

That a movie was to be made of it was met not only by the anticipation I mentioned but also a healthy amount of skepticism as well. Fans of the series (and they are a rabid lot) were concerned that the careful, meticulous research O’Brian put into the novels might be washed away in a storm of Hollywood clichés and shortcuts.

Well, there was reason to celebrate (and reason for dirges — more in a moment). Although Russell Crowe is perhaps too Hollywood-handsome for the role of Aubrey (he is described in the books as being a bit on the pudgy side and Crowe’s casting in the role made purists howl), he carries the charisma of a leader of men. His performance is such that you believe he is the kind of man you yourself would follow without hesitation to the gates of Hell and back. In that sense, he caught the essence of the character if not the physical embodiment.

The movie also captures the brutal and cramped conditions in which swabbies of the British Navy lived and worked. Better still, the raw courage it took to fight a naval battle is noted, as cannon fire obliterates hulls and decks, causing wood to splinter in a thousand directions, acting as lethal darts. Rarely are the cannonballs themselves seen by the naked eye, but the damage they inflict to vessel and flesh is well in evidence. The battle scenes are absolutely terrifying to behold.

The movie is well-cast even down to the extras who possess faces that have the look of the 19th century; most bear scars of battle, or the more insidious scars of years of toil on a tiny vessel in the midst of the unforgiving ocean, imperiled by both the elements and merciless foes. Whether those scars were put there by make-up or were there to begin with, they go a long way in establishing the film’s authenticity, which I have to say overall seemed pretty believable to my admittedly inexpert eye.

Aubrey is a decent sort but a stern taskmaster as captain; he knows the crew’s ability to perform amid hellish cannon fire and terrible storms will mean the difference between returning home or taking a long nap in Davey Jones’ locker. The discipline was by necessity brutal and if anything is understated here.

Weir filmed on the Galapagos Islands, one of the most remote and fascinating places on earth. It is where Charles Darwin was motivated to formulate his Theory of Evolution, and remains today, due to preservationist efforts, nearly pristine. The scenes with Maturin on the island are priceless and are among the movie’s highlights.

But there are a few marks against the film. In the novels, the American Navy was Aubrey’s adversary. Here, perhaps so that the American audience isn’t offended, Aubrey fights the French. Also, some of the expository scenes drag, leading to the audience shifting in its seats uncomfortably during the two and a half hour movie. Audiences are more ADHD than ever these days; I can’t imagine one sitting through this without whipping out cell phones to check for messages and texts at least once.

Crowe is in my opinion one of the most compelling stars in Hollywood; at this point in his career he’d hit his stride not only as an actor but as a screen presence, the very definition of stardom. The movie is much better when he’s onscreen than when he’s offscreen. Also, his chemistry with Paul Bettany as Maturin is undeniable; they bicker, but they are still the closest of friends, and the two play well off each other.

Weir walks a tightrope over a pool of hungry sharks just in making this movie and I think he does as good a job as it’s possible to do under the circumstances. The ship’s interior is made to feel cramped without making the audience too claustrophobic. The emptiness of the ocean and the isolation of the English vessel on it is noted but not overdone. And while he did compress some of the action, eliminate scenes and beloved novel characters, he makes the movie lively for most of the running time.

Master and Commander: Far Side of the World is an epic piece of filmmaking in every sense of the word. While the storyline may not be new, it is well-told. It is a combination action movie, adventure flick and history lesson all rolled into one neat package. Students of history will love this one, as much if not more so than lovers of action. It’s a shame that this franchise never made it past the first movie.

WHY RENT THIS: Epic battle sequences. Crowe at the top of his game. Combination action movie/adventure/history lesson.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: About half an hour too long. Drags in places. Differs in critical places from the book.

FAMILY MATTERS: Some of the battle sequences are intense and gruesome. There are a few bad words now and then.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: The first movie ever to film in the Galapagos Islands.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO FEATURES: The two-disc DVD Collector’s Edition has a wealth of features including a look at the historical accuracy of the books and the film’s endeavors to follow as closely as possible in accuracy, including getting authentic period props. This is oddly missing from the Blu-Ray edition, which does have a trivia track and a map overlay which shows you the positions of the Suprize and the Archeron at various points in the film.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $212.0M on a $150M production budget; the movie wasn’t financially successful.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Captain Horatio Hornblower, RN

FINAL RATING: 8/10

NEXT: The Expendables 2