2015 Fall/Holiday Preview


2015 Fall-Holiday Preview2015 was touted as being an eagerly anticipated year by both movie fans and studio accountants alike and the summer hasn’t disappointed. Jurassic World has been one of the biggest successes of all time worldwide, smashing box office records left and right. It likely won’t reach Avatar levels but it has already reached third place on the all-time domestic box office charts. Avengers: Age of Ultron is also top ten on the all-time charts, in the eighth position. Not bad for a single summer; two movies in the all-time domestic box office top ten. It’s also been a great year for family movies as Inside Out battled Jurassic World for box office supremacy throughout June  It is currently the third biggest Pixar film and sixth animated feature overall. However, Minions had a record breaking opening weekend and is the third movie to pass $300 million in box office this summer. There have been some other big winners as well; Pitch Perfect 2, San Andreas, Spy, Mad Max: Fury Road and Ant-Man have all been big winners and while many of the August releases have been disappointing, Straight Outta Compton has been a huge success. There have been a few genuine flops – Fantastic Four, Entourage, Aloha and Self/Less among them but fewer than last year for sure.

Although there are no blockbusters on the level of Guardians of the Galaxy to end the summer on a high note with, there are several movies on the horizon that look like sure-fire hits. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is the much-hyped conclusion to that monster hit franchise and while there are hints that there may indeed be some prequels or further sequels in the pipeline, nonetheless you can be sure that this one will dominate the holiday box office charts. That is, until Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens opens at Christmas; although generally that one will be more of a box office force in the new year, it may well be the most-anticipated film of the year in a year when there have been a lot of eagerly awaited releases.

Holiday time is Oscar time and there are several movies already generating some buzz for the biggest prize in movies. The Danish Girl touts current Oscar Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne in a part that is likely to garner him another nomination while Oliver Stone brings the story of Snowden to the screen which may attract some notice. Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea was moved to December to give it a better chance at nominations, and other films, including Suffragette, the David O. Russell film Joy, Hitchcock/Truffaut and Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight could get a look by Academy voters.

Comedies are a big part of autumn and holiday scheduling and we can expect some big ones with the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler opus Sisters, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg re-teaming in Daddy’s Home, the musical comedy Rock the Kasbah, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Seth Rogan Christmas Eve comedy The Night Before, and the Anne Hathaway/Robert De Niro workplace laugher The Intern. Another big part of the post-summer schedule is sequels and there are plenty of those with the aforementioned Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens but also the latest James Bond epic Spectre, the final installment of the hugely successful Paranormal Activity series as well as a reboot of another horror series in Rings, bringing back the J-horror remake The Ring back to life. There will also be sequels to Hotel Transylvania, The Maze Runner and The Transporter, sans Jason Statham.

With all the choices this summer for great family movies, the hits should keep on coming with such family fare as Peanuts, The Good Dinosaur, Pan and Hotel Transylvania 2. On the opposite end of the spectrum, horror film fans have a bumper crop this year with the eagerly anticipated Guillermo del Toro-directed ghost story Crimson Peak along with the aforementioned Rings and Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension. In addition, we can look forward to the much-delayed The Green Inferno, Krampus, Cooties, The Visit, The Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, The Last Witch Hunter, Victor Frankenstein and Tales of Halloween all in the pipeline.

Space isn’t always the final frontier when it comes to the holidays and there will be plenty of movies to quell the appetites of even the most voracious sci-fi junkies with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, The Martian, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. For those into independent cinema there are always some choice cuts with The Danish Girl, Wolf Totem, A Walk in the Woods, Truffaut/Hitchcock, Sleeping with Other People, The Keeping Room, Suffragette, Beasts With No Nation, The Secret in Their Eyes, He Named Me Malala, Labyrinth of Lies, Brooklyn, Trumbo, The 33 and I Saw the Light in store. Drama will not be in short supply this fall with such efforts as Joy, In the Heart of the Sea, The 33, Creed, By the Sea, Bridge of Spies, The Walk and Black Mass. There is an unusual number of biographical films this fall as well, including Suffragette, Snowden, Black Mass, Steve Jobs and Concussion. Finally, action fans will have cause to rejoice with Everest, Dragon Blade, Wolf Totem, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II, The Hateful Eight, Point Break, The Last Witch Hunter and Spectre.

The night sky in the fall and holidays always glitter with stars and in 2015 that means Matt Damon (The Martian), Brad Pitt (By the Sea), Robert Redford (A Walk in the Woods), Julia Roberts (Secret in Their Eyes), Harrison Ford (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens), Robert De Niro (The Interns), Johnny Depp (Black Mass), Leonardo di Caprio (The Revenant), Amy Poehler (Sisters), Kirsten Wiig (Masterminds), Bradley Cooper (Joy), Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Meryl Streep (Suffragette), Jake Gyllenhaal (Everest), Jackie Chan (Dragon Blade), Benicio del Toro (Sicario), Mel Brooks (Hotel Transylvania 2), Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed), Nicole Kidman (Secret in Their Eyes), Chris Hemsworth (In the Heart of the Sea), Anne Hathaway (The Interns), Adam Sandler (Hotel Transylvania 2), Hugh Jackman (Pan), Tina Fey (Sisters), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Antonio Banderas (The 33), Tom Hardy (Legend and The Revenant), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk, The Night Before and Snowden), Daniel Craig (Spectre), Keira Knightley (Everest), Vin Diesel (The Last Witch Hunter), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II and Joy), Oscar Isaac (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens), Will Smith (Concussion), Benedict Cumberbatch (Black Mass), Ryan Reynolds (Mississippi Grind), Nicolas Cage (Snowden), Bruce Willis (Rock the Kasbah), Kate Beckinsale (The Disappointments Room), Nick Nolte (A Walk in the Woods), Christoph Waltz (Spectre), John Cusack (Dragon Blade), Josh Brolin (Sicario and Everest), Kevin James (Hotel Transylvania 2), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs), Angelina Jolie Pitt (By the Sea), Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak and I Saw the Light), Tobey Maguire (Pawn Sacrifice), Mark Wahlberg (Daddy’s Home), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Secret in Their Eyes), Emma Thompson (A Walk in the Woods), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) and Daniel Radcliffe (Victor Frankenstein). There are also some high-profile directors with projects big and small this season including Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino, Ron Howard, Sam Mendes, J.J. Abrams, David O. Russell, Guillermo del Toro, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Robert Zemeckis, Danny Boyle, Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve, Eli Roth, M. Night Shyamalan, Edward Zwick, Nancy Meyers, Jean-Jacques Arnaud and Tom Hooper

As with all previews, there are almost always changes that the studios make as the studios jockey for position or production delays cause movies to be moved to different slots, so check out your local listings to make sure that the movie you’re dying to see is indeed opening the week it says it is here. Be aware that the recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Relativity Media makes the release of films distributed by them somewhat dicey; some of their films will eventually be picked up by other distributors but others will be delayed for awhile, go directly to home video or disappear forever. To be on the safe side, check our weekly previews for movies opening in Central Florida, our monthly Pick of the Litter feature for previews of especially deserving films or our Coming Soon section for regular updates of the release schedule for movies with budgets big and small. Until then, you’ve got a preview to read – better get cracking!

SEPTEMBER

As summer wanes and Labor Day signals the end of the blockbuster and barbecue season and the beginning of school and football season, the studios tend to take a deep breath and program movies here that are not quite so exciting, although there are often a few gems among the rocks. This month we’ll be looking at a true-life mountain adventure, the sequel to a hit Halloween-themed animated feature, the biography of a notorious American criminal and the sequel to a surprise hit young adult sci-fi novel adaptation.

Hotel Transylvania 2

DEANS LIST

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2

RELEASE DATE: September 25, 2015
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Mel Brooks, Andy Samberg, David Spade, Fran Drescher
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: Dracula’s daughter Mavis has a son who is the light of Drac’s eyes but she yearns to leave the hotel for a safer place for her human husband and half-human son. With the boy not exhibiting any vampiric traits, Dracula is desperate for him to show his fangs and give Mavis no reason to leave. In order to help he’ll have to turn to the one place he didn’t want to – his father, Vlad.
PROSPECTS: Animated features, after a year off, are back and this one is the sequel to a pretty successful original. One thing that I found interesting – the director is Genndy Tartakovsky, director of the critically acclaimed Star Wars: The Clone Wars series and the writer is SNL favorite Robert Smigel so the pedigree is good.
OBSTACLES: Sandler has been on a bit of a rough patch as of late. It might be a tad early for Halloween-themed entertainment.
FACTOID: Cee-Lo Green was unable to voice Murray the Mummy due to an arrest; Keegan-Michael Key stepped in to voice the role.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

THE MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS

RELEASE DATE: September 18, 2015
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Giancarlo Esposito, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: Having conquered the maze, Thomas and the other survivors from The Glade are brought into a society of humans in an underground bunker trying to survive some sort of apocalypse. The intrigue involving the mysterious organization called WCKD forces the survivors into the wasteland called The Scorch which may do what the Maze couldn’t – kill Thomas and his friends.
PROSPECTS: The original movie’s success, which exceeded expectations, put the sequel onto a fast track so that it appeared only a year after the first movie.
OBSTACLES: Young adult novels have been, with few exceptions, box office bonanzas. The hurried manner in which the movie got made may come back to haunt the studio.
FACTOID: Brodie-Sangster along with Scorch Trials cast members Aiden Gillan and Nathalie Emmanuel all appeared in Game of Thrones.

BLACK MASS

RELEASE DATE: September 18, 2015
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Dakota Johnson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Juno Temple, Corey Stoll, Joel Edgerton, Adam Scott, Peter Sarsgaard
GENRE: Biographical Drama
STORY: Whitey Bulger, a Boston mobster, becomes one of the most powerful crime bosses in history. He becomes an FBI informant to help take down a crime family that rivaled his own and went on the lam for 11 years as one of the ten most wanted by the FBI.
PROSPECTS: Star-studded cast and a fascinating true crime story generally spell at least decent box office.
OBSTACLES: Depp has been on an extended cold streak and this movie doesn’t show signs of being any less likely to break the streak.
FACTOID: The movie was temporarily shelved when Depp walked away from the role over salary issues; when he was convinced to return, the film was greenlit once again.

EVEREST

RELEASE DATE: September 25, 2015
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson, John Hawkes
GENRE: Adventure
STORY: The true story of two different expeditions stranded on the world’s tallest mountains by one of the most vicious and harshest snowstorms ever recorded.
PROSPECTS: Epic mountain climbing-themed adventures have traditionally done pretty well during the latter portion of the year.
OBSTACLES: Although the cast is strong, none of them have displayed an ability to carry a film of this nature (although Worthington and Knightley have had success in the action genre).
FACTOID: Clarke has replaced Christian Bale in two different films; this one and in Terminator Genisys.

THE WALK

RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2015 (limited and IMAX; opens October 9 wide)
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Schwartz, Steve Valentine, Sergio Di Zio
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: In 1974 French high wire artist Phillippe Petit is inspired to attempt to cross between the World Trade Center twin towers on a wire. He assembles a clandestine team to set up the wire and to run interference. There can be no nets; one false step and he will plummet to his death.
PROSPECTS: The movie has been pushed by Universal since the spring; it’s an inspiring true story (anyone who saw the documentary on the subject Man on Wire will tell you) and with Robert Zemeckis behind the director’s chair, it should be very entertaining.
OBSTACLES: The twin towers remain a very open wound for many and while this did actually happen, what happened to the buildings 37 years afterwards is still a fresh and painful memory.
FACTOID: The movie is based on Petit’s autobiography To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers, published in 2002.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

SICARIO

RELEASE DATE: September 18, 2015 (Limited; opens wide September 25, 2015)
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Emily Blunt, Jon Bernthal, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Trujillo, Maximilliano Hernandez, Daniel Kaluuya
GENRE: Spy Action
STORY: An idealistic FBI agent is brought aboard a task force to aid in the war on drugs against the Mexican cartels. Aided by a consultant with a questionable past, the agent finds herself in a situation where nothing is as it seems and the motives of her superiors is suspect. Survival will not be easy with the vicious cartel and an untrustworthy government liaison to deal with.
PROSPECTS: Director Denis Villeneuve is highly regarded by film buffs; his movie Prisoners was a surprise success and his latest could very well advance his career a step forward.
OBSTACLES: Not a lot of star power here and the government corruption angle in regards to Mexican drug cartels may turn off some from coming.
FACTOID: Sicario means “hitman” in Spanish.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

SEPTEMBER 2, 2015

A WALK IN THE WOODS (Broad Green) stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as two old but estranged friends who decide to walk the Appalachian Trail from the southern terminus to the northern top despite having little or no hiking experience. Based on Bill Bryson’s bestselling account of his incredible journey.

SEPTEMBER 4, 2015

BEFORE WE GO (Radius) stars Chris Evans and Alice Eve as two strangers stuck in New York overnight whose unexpected adventures cause them to take stock of their lives – and their loves. Evans directed this film which is opening in limited release. Also opening in limited release, DRAGON BLADE (Lionsgate Premiere) is an epic action film starring Adrien Brody as a corrupt Roman emperor, Jackie Chan as a Chinese general trying to protect his people and John Cusack as a noble Roman general tired of the greed and corruption staining the honor of Rome; the three will collide on a small but significant portion of the Silk Road. THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED (EuropaCorp) resurrects the Jason Statham franchise with Ed Skrein taking over the role of Frank Martin. This time it gets personal as Frank gets caught in the middle of a feud between a quartet of femme fatales and a ruthless Russian druglord, with Frank’s father being held hostage.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

THE PERFECT GUY (Screen Gems) stars Sanaa Lathan as a woman reeling from a painful breakup. She gets involved with a charming stranger and seems to be picking up the pieces when her ex-boyfriend re-enters the picture and she soon finds herself in a position of trying to figure out which one of the two handsome men she can trust, and which she should fear. Opening in limited release, SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE (IFC) stars Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis as two monogamy-challenged people who reconnect by chance 12 years after a college one-night stand. They both have trouble maintaining relationships and decide to stay friends despite their attraction to one another. This proves to be much easier said than done.  THE VISIT (Universal) is the latest from M. Night Shyamalan in which two teens are sent to stay with their grandma and grandpa in rural Pennsylvania for a week. They discover the old folks are into something sinister and that their chances of getting home to Mom grow more dim the longer that they stay. In WOLF TOTEM (Columbia) a Chinese student is sent to live among the nomadic tribesman of Inner Mongolia in 1967. As civilization begins to encroach from the South and the tribesmen’s traditional enemies the wolves pressing in from the North, the student and his new friends must figure out how to survive in a changing world. This is the latest from acclaimed director Jean-Jacques Annaud.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2015

COOTIES (Lionsgate Premiere) is a horror spoof in which contaminated cafeteria food turns kids into ravenous zombies. The teachers must gather in the lounge to do more than drink coffee; they have to band together to defend themselves or die trying (much more likely). Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer and Jorge Garcia star in this limited release. PAWN SACRIFICE (Bleecker Street) stars Tobey Maguire as the mercurial but legendary American chess master Bobby Fischer as he goes from child prodigy to grand master to extremely disturbed. While this is opening in limited release, it is likely to play pretty much everywhere eventually.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2015

THE GREEN INFERNO (Blumhouse Tilt) is Eli Roth’s horror opus that has been awaiting release for awhile as it has gone through the distributor hop game. A group of American student activists head down to the Amazon to do some good; unfortunately they end up in a part of the Amazon where doing good means feeding the natives – with their own flesh. Sounds like Cannibal Holocaust to me. It doesn’t say that this is limited release but it may be. THE INTERN (Warner Brothers) is a comedy with Robert De Niro as an older man starting his life over again as an intern at a large tech company; Anne Hathaway is the young and lonely CEO. Together they will make a formidable team. MISSISSIPPI GRIND (A24) opens in limited release about a veteran gambler who is in the throes of an epic losing streak; with a younger man in tow, he sets out on a road trip through the Gulf Coast to take one last stab at changing his luck.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2015

In LABYRINTH OF LIES (Sony Classics) West Germany, 20 years after the war, is finally recovering from the economic catastrophe of rebuilding their nation. In a small town, when a teacher on is identified by a journalist as a former guard at Auschwitz, an ambitious prosecutor decides to take on the case. However, he encounters a West Germany that as a nation, wants to put the past behind them and in fact, erase the really unpleasant parts of it that reminds them of what they allowed to happen. Opens in limited release.

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

THE EQUALIZER (Columbia) Budget: $55 Million. Domestic Gross: $101.5M Total: $192.3M Verdict: Big Hit.
A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (Universal) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $26.3M Total: $53.2M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE MAZE RUNNER (20th Century Fox) Budget: $34M. Domestic Gross: $102.4M Total: $340.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE BOXTROLLS (Focus) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $50.8M Total: $108.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE SKELETON TWINS (Roadside Attractions) Budget: $1M. Domestic Gross: $5.3M Total: $5.7M Verdict: Profitable.
THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (Warner Brothers) Budget: $19.8M. Domestic Gross: $34.3M Total: $41.04M Verdict: Broke Even.
DOLPHIN TALE 2 (Warner Brothers) Budget: $36M. Domestic Gross: $42.0M Total: $52.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
NO GOOD DEED (Screen Gems) Budget: $13.2M. Domestic Gross: $52.5M Total: $54.3M Verdict: Big Hit.
TUSK (A24) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $1.8M. Total: $1.8M. Verdict: Flop.
HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS (Relativity) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $1.1M Total: $4.0M Verdict: Flop.
PRIDE (CBS) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.4M Total: $7.5 Verdict: Likely Made Money.

OCTOBER

It’s a time for jack o’lanterns, goblins, and trick or treating, and as the weather grows cooler the offerings at the multiplex heat up. This year, we can expect a long-awaited passion project by fan favorite director Guillermo del Toro, a sequel to a memorable action film from two summers ago, the final installment in the most profitable found footage horror franchise in history, a new Steven Spielberg film and a live action version of a beloved 80s cartoon.

Crimson Peak

DEANS LIST

CRIMSON PEAK

RELEASE DATE: October 16, 2015
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Charlie Hunnam, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Doug Jones, Burn Gorman, Jim Beaver, Leslie Hope
GENRE: Horror
STORY: A young newlywed enters a Gothic mansion which is full of secrets. Possessed of an affinity for seeing ghosts, she becomes the focal point for the more sinister inhabitants of her new home.
PROSPECTS: Perhaps the most anticipated horror movie of the year by fans of the genre and for those same fans director Guillermo del Toro can literally do no wrong.
OBSTACLES: It has taken a very long time to get this movie made. Gothic ghost stories are not exactly the most beloved of sub-genres of late among horror fans.
FACTOID: Hunnam, Gorman and del Toro all previously worked together on Pacific Rim.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

THE MARTIAN

RELEASE DATE: October 2, 2015
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Matt Damon, Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kristin Wiig, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: The first manned mission to Mars ends abruptly when a gigantic storm forces the astronauts to leave, unfortunately having to leave one of their own behind when he is presumed dead. However he is very much alive and with a meager amount of supplies and food, he must figure out a way to survive and communicate to Earth to send a rescue mission – which will still take two years to get there even if he is successful in calling home.
PROSPECTS: This is the second straight autumn in which Damon has played an astronaut; this film seems to be pretty cerebral but with a lot more action. Could be a big hit if it’s done right.
OBSTACLES: Lone survivor movies are inherently not too cinematic. Unless the filmmakers and marketers are dead on, this one might fall by the wayside.
FACTOID: In order to use NASA as part of the movie, the filmmakers had to submit the script for review and make the necessary changes to ensure the most possible accuracy; over 50 pages in the script are strictly NASA material.

PAN

RELEASE DATE: October 9, 2015
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Levi Miller, Rooney Mara, Cara Delevingne, Amanda Seyfried, Nonso Anozie, Paul Kaye
GENRE: Fantasy
STORY: An orphaned boy is spirited away to the magical Neverland. There he becomes embroiled in a war between the dread pirate Blackbeard and the denizens of Neverland, led by the fierce Princess Tiger Lily and the ne’er-do-well Jim Hook.
PROSPECTS: The family film schedule is generally crowded this time of year, but this looks to be the most lavish and kid-friendly film of the early fall. Familiarity with the beloved J.M. Barrie character Peter Pan will certainly help sell this.
OBSTACLES: Purists are going to shudder at this re-imagining of Peter Pan’s origin story.
FACTOID: As a 5-year-old, Miller played Pan in a local stage production and won an award for it. Pan is one of his favorite fictional characters.

BRIDGE OF SPIES

RELEASE DATE: October 16, 2015
STUDIO: DreamWorks
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Mark Rylance, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson, Sebastian Koch, Michael Gaston
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: At the height of the Cold War, James Donovan, a Brooklyn lawyer, is given the task of negotiating for the release of a captured American U-2 pilot from the Soviet Union while defending an accused Soviet spy in the States.
PROSPECTS: Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by the Coen Brothers, credits that are bound to get at least an eyebrow raise from the film buff community.
OBSTACLES: It’s a little bit early for Oscar bait.
FACTOID: While this is the fourth time Hanks has been in front of the cameras while Spielberg has been behind them, this is the first time in eleven years the two have collaborated.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS

RELEASE DATE: October 23, 2015
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Molly Ringwald, Juliette Lewis, Aubrey Peeples, Haley Kiyoko, Ryan Guzman, Stefanie Scott, Nicholas Braun, Aurora Perrineau
GENRE: Musical
STORY: When a small town teen girl’s home-made music video becomes an Internet sensation, she is signed to a deal by a high-powered record company who wants to make her into an image that can be sold. She falls prey to the seductive call, only to realize she is losing those she loves the most.
PROSPECTS: Certain demographics might well go bonkers over this; the pre-teen and young teen female audience and their moms.
OBSTACLES: While this was a hit animated series in the 80s, girls the age that this will appeal to won’t remember the show and other audiences might ignore this totally.
FACTOID: The filmmakers announced open casting auditions over the Internet; however, it was later established that this was a marketing ploy as the movie had already been cast before the audition call was sent out.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

SUFFRAGETTE

RELEASE DATE: October 23, 2015
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Romola Garai, Anne-Marie Duff, Samuel West
GENRE: Drama
STORY: A working British woman at the turn of the 20th Century is recruited by outlaw feminist Emmeline Pankhurst to become part of the British suffragette movement.
PROSPECTS: An amazing cast and subject that is almost certain to attract some Oscar notice.
OBSTACLES: Unlikely to attract large audiences despite the presence of Streep unless critical notices turn out to be extravagant.
FACTOID: This is the first movie that the English Houses of Parliament have allowed to film within their hallowed halls.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

OCTOBER 2, 2015

HE NAMED ME MALALA (Fox Searchlight) is the inspiring story of Malala Yousafzal, the teenage girl from Pakistan who stood up to the Taliban and for the education of girls and got shot. Recovering for her wounds didn’t dampen her resolve; she continues to advocate to this day and has won a Nobel Peace Prize for her courage and passion. This documentary was directed by Oscar-nominated director Davis Guggenheim and opens in limited release. Also opening in limited release is LEGEND (Universal), the story of London’s notorious Kray twins, Ronald and Reggie, who are maybe the most notorious gangsters in the history of Great Britain. Tom Hardy plays both roles in a performance that may be one of the early Oscar contenders this year.

OCTOBER 9, 2015

In THE KEEPING ROOM (Drafthouse) a trio of women – one a former slave – try to protect their farm and themselves in the waning days of the Civil War. This limited release screened at this year’s Florida Film Festival; my review can be found here. STEVE JOBS (Universal) stars Michael Fassbender in the title role as the tech visionary who turned Apple into one of the leading tech providers and innovators – twice.

OCTOBER 14, 2015

BEASTS OF NO NATION (Netflix/Bleecker Street) concerns a young boy torn from his Nigerian family and used as a child soldier in an unspecified nation’s civil war; Idris Elba stars as a warlord who takes an interest in the boy. This is the first release from the streaming giant’s feature film division; it will get a brief limited theatrical release simultaneously with its appearance on Netflix. FREEHELD (Lionsgate) is based on the true story of a New Jersey police detective, diagnosed with terminal cancer, who wants to leave her pension to her domestic partner but the county officials and townspeople stand in the way. GOOSEBUMPS (Columbia) stars Jack Black as R.L. Stine, the author of the beloved young adult horror series of the same name in a fanciful tale of the inadvertent release of the monsters he created into the real world. TRUTH (Sony Classics) which opens in limited release is based on the true story of producer Mary Mapes and journalist Dan Rather whose broadcast of a story about a sitting president’s military record turns out to be false and nearly takes down an entire network because of it.

OCTOBER 23, 2015

BURNT (Weinstein) stars Bradley Cooper as a once-rising star in French cuisine who lost everything; now he is trying to start anew – but in the cutthroat world of high end dining that can be much more dangerous than it sounds. THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (Summit) has been cursed with immortality, which comes in handy when the Queen of Witches is resurrected and threatens the world. Vin Diesel stars. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: GHOST DIMENSION (Paramount) wraps up the one of the most profitable franchises in movie history with a story that ties up all of the previous entries together.  ROCK THE KASBAH (Open Road) is about a rock road manager, stranded in Kabul during a USO tour who discovers an amazing talent that might just take him back to the big time – if he can get the both of them out of Kabul. The latest from Barry Levinson stars Bill Murray.

OCTOBER 30, 2015

In OUR BRAND IS CRISIS (Warner Brothers) American spin doctors take on the task of getting an unpopular Bolivian president re-elected. An all-star cast highlights this David Gordon Green movie based on a documentary of the same name. SCOUT’S GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (Paramount) takes the motto of “Be Prepared” to new heights as a trio of Boy Scouts and the most badass cocktail waitress ever take on a zombie invasion of  a heretofore peaceful town.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

GONE GIRL (20th Century Fox) Budget: $61M. Domestic Gross: $167.8M Total: $368.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
OUIJA (Universal) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $50.9M Total: $102.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE JUDGE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $47.1M Total: $83.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $42.3M Total: $103.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
DRACULA UNTOLD (Universal) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $56.3M Total: $215.5 Verdict: Hit.
FURY (Columbia) Budget: $68M. Domestic Gross: $85.8M Total: $211.8 Verdict: Made Money.
THE BOOK OF LIFE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $50.2M Total: $97.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
NIGHTCRAWLER (Open Road) Budget: $8.5M. Domestic Gross: $32.4M Total: $38.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
ANNABELLE (New Line) Budget: $6.5M. Domestic Gross: $84.3M Total: $255.3M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE BEST OF ME (Relativity) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $26.8M Total: $35.9M Verdict: Flop.
ST. VINCENT (Weinstein) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $44.1M Total: $54.8M Verdict: Hit.
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (Disney) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $67.0M Total: $100.7M Verdict: Hit.

NOVEMBER

This is the month when the studios give thanks to the first wave of Holiday hits which make their way to the theaters this month. Included among them is the final installment in a massive young adult sci-fi franchise, the return of an iconic sports character, the latest in one of the most iconic film franchises of all time and two much-anticipated animated features – one from Pixar, the other based on one of the most beloved comic strips of all time.

Spectre

DEANS LIST

SPECTRE

RELEASE DATE: November 6, 2015
STUDIO: MGM/Columbia
STARRING: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris
GENRE: Spy Action
STORY: James Bond discovers some cryptic messages from his own past that lead him to discover the existence of a criminal organization, much more insidious and further reaching than Quantum. The daughter of an old nemesis is the key to finding the man behind this organization which is known only as Spectre.
PROSPECTS: Skyfall was the all-time box office champion of the Bond films, and anticipation for this installment is at a fever pitch. Director Sam Mendes returns and continues to work in elements of the classic Bond stories in a new and modern way.
OBSTACLES: With Spectre being the sixth major espionage-centered movie of 2015, audiences may be suffering a bit from spy fatigue.
FACTOID: Jesper Christensen reprises his role as Mr. White, the nemesis from the first two Daniel Craig bond films.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

THE PEANUTS MOVIE

RELEASE DATE: November 6, 2015
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Noah Schnapp, Alexander Garfin, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Francesca Capaldi, Mariel Sheets, Noah Johnston
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: While his dog Snoopy battles the Red Baron in the skies above France and teaches him to tango as Joe Cool, good ol’ Charlie Brown tries to change his image and overcome his own shortcomings when a new red-headed girl moves into town.
PROSPECTS: The Charles Schultz comic strip remains one of the most beloved and iconic of all time. It continues to be run in syndication and every year the animated TV specials are broadcast like clockwork. This year, the Peanuts gang gets a 3D animated CGI treatment to bring them into a new, modern audience.
OBSTACLES: Purists may be put off by the CGI 3D and younger kids may not be familiar enough with the original to push their parents into taking them to see it.
FACTOID: The script was created by Schultz’ son and grandson, and the film is the first theatrically released animated feature based on Peanuts in 35 years – and the first to be released since Schultz’ death in 2000.

THE 33

RELEASE DATE: November 13, 2015
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Cote de Pablo, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Gabriel Byrne, Naomi Scott
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: 33 miners go to work as usual in the San Jose Copper Mine in Chile when a massive explosion and collapse of the mine traps them deep in the heart of the mountain. With world attention turning to the plight of the miners, a race against time begins to get the miners out alive.
PROSPECTS: The trailer is really moving and the story one that is a tribute to the resilience and courage of the human spirit.
OBSTACLES: It has been five years since the incident and some audiences might turn away from the film because the miners are Chilean rather than American.
FACTOID: This is composer James Horner’s final film. He died in a small plane crash less than two months after he finished work on it.

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2

RELEASE DATE: November 20, 2015
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: With Panem in full revolt, Katniss Everdeen along with a team of her closest friends makes a daring raid on the Capital to assassinate President Snow, but will have to undergo a gauntlet of fiendish traps in order to get to him.
PROSPECTS: As this is the final film in the franchise (although reportedly Lionsgate may do a prequel or all-new sequel to the series) the likelihood is that this will draw big box office numbers. North of $300 million is certainly very obtainable.
OBSTACLES: Not everyone in the fan base liked the first Mockingjay installment and that might put a dent in the numbers some.
FACTOID: There are three Oscar-winning actors in the movie; Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

TRUMBO

RELEASE DATE: November 6, 2015
STUDIO: Bleecker Street
STARRING: Bryan Cranston, Elle Fanning, Diane Lane, Alan Tudyk, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg
GENRE: Biographical Drama
STORY: Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was one of the most honored and respected writers in Hollywood during the 1940s. However, when he is accused by Senator Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee of being a Communist sympathizer, his career comes to a crashing halt. However, a man for whom words are so precious will not give his freedom of speech away so easily.
PROSPECTS: Some Oscar buzz is being generated for Cranston as best actor. One of the best casts you’re likely to see in a single movie this fall.
OBSTACLES: Distributor Bleecker Street is fairly new to the game; it’s possible the movie won’t get the push it needs to get on the radar of most moviegoers.
FACTOID: Gary Oldman was originally considered for the title role which eventually went to Cranston.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

NOVEMBER 6, 2015

BROOKLYN (Fox Searchlight) which opens in limited release takes an Irish girl immigrating to New York City in the United States, trading the comfort of her mother’s home for a new life, and that life is beginning to become intoxicating with a new romance – until her past may be calling her back to the Emerald Isle..

NOVEMBER 13, 2015

In A MEYERS CHRISTMAS (Universal) a family that has been torn apart must find a way to reunite for the first time since the death of their beloved matriarch. BY THE SEA (Universal) is the latest film from Angeline Jolie-Pitt in the director’s chair and reunites her with her offscreen husband Brad Pitt for the first time since Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Here, a couple whose marriage is falling apart goes to a peaceful French resort by the sea, hoping to find a way out of their troubles. RINGS (Paramount) is a prequel to the previous Ring movies which explores the origins of Samara and how her reign of terror and the infamous videotape came to be.

NOVEMBER 20, 2015

SPOTLIGHT (Open Road) opens in wide release after a gradual expansion from a limited opening two weeks prior. It is about the investigation by the Boston Globe that uncovered the pedophilia scandal in the Roman Catholic church and stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and an all-star cast. SECRETS IN THEIR EYES (STX) is a remake of an Oscar-winning foreign film and details the stubborn determination of a cop (Julia Roberts), her partner (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and an assistant district attorney (Nicole Kidman) in bringing to justice the murderer of the cop’s daughter.

NOVEMBER 25, 2015

CREED (MGM/New Line) continues the Rocky saga with the son of his greatest opponent Apollo Creed trying to make it in the boxing world. His father’s great nemesis – and great friend – Rocky Balboa – will need to come to his aid as Adonis Creed will take on a tougher opponent than any he’s ever faced before. THE GOOD DINOSAUR (Disney*Pixar) posits an alternate world where the dinosaurs never went extinct and begin interacting with humans. THE NIGHT BEFORE (Columbia) reunites Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as two friends whose annual Christmas Eve reunions have been legendary occasions of debauchery. Now realizing that they are growing too old and too responsible for it, they determine to have one final fling – at the legendary, almost mythical, Nutcracka Ball, the pinnacle of all debauched Christmas parties. VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (20th Century Fox) is a reimagining of the iconic horror story, with James McAvoy as the mad doctor and Daniel Radcliffe as his brilliant assistant who may be the only chance for the good doctor to stay sane – and alive.

NOVEMBER 27, 2015

Opening in limited release, THE DANISH GIRL (Focus) stars reigning Best Actor Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegener, a Danish painter who realizes that he is a man trapped in a woman’s body and determines to change, despite being happily married. Early buzz says this biopic might get Redmayne another nomination and quite possibly another statuette. I SAW THE LIGHT (Sony Classics) is also a biopic, this time of legendary country singer Hank Williams with Tom Hiddleston in the role of the icon. This also opens in limited release.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

INTERSTELLAR (Paramount) Budget: $165M. Domestic Gross: $188.0Total: $675.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
BIG HERO 6 (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $165M. Domestic Gross: $222.5M Total: $657.8M. Verdict: Big Hit.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 (Lionsgate) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $337.1M Total: $752.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR (DreamWorks) Budget: $132M. Domestic Gross: $83.4M Total: $373.6M. Verdict: Made Money.
FOXCATCHER (Sony Classics) Budget: $24M. Domestic Gross: $12.1M Total: $15.9M Verdict: Flop.
HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (New Line) Budget: $42M. Domestic Gross: $54.5M Total: $107.7M Verdict: Broke Even.
ROSEWATER (Open Road) Budget: $10M Domestic Gross: $3.1M Total: $3.2M Verdict: Flop.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus) Budget: $15M Domestic Gross: $35.9M Total: $12.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $91.1M Total: $227.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Universal) Budget: $40M Domestic Gross: $86.2M Total: $169.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
BEYOND THE LIGHTS (Relativity) Budget: $7M Domestic Gross: $14.6M Total: $14.6M Verdict: Broke Even.

DECEMBER

All good things come to an end and 2015 is no exception. Things will come to end with a bang as we will have an opportunity to see the year’s most anticipated film – a return to a galaxy far, far away. In addition we’ll get to see a reunion between Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, a biopic of one of the most controversial figures of recent years, a remake of a beloved Patrick Swayze film and a new collaboration between the Oscar-winning quartet of David O. Russell, Jennifer Laurence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

Star Wars The Force Awakens

DEANS LIST

STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS

RELEASE DATE: December 18, 2015
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Oscar Isaac, Simon Pegg, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Max von Sydow, John Boyega, Peter Mayhew, Warwick Davis, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Daisy Ridley
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi the Empire, despite their losses, is still as evil and as dangerous as ever. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2 return along with a group of new heroes to battle the latest threat.
PROSPECTS: After the prequel trilogy turned a lot of fans off, the new trilogy overseen by Disney (who have done a fine job on the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and especially by director JJ Abrams who rebooted the Star Trek cinematic franchise so well, have fans living in a state of new hope.
OBSTACLES: The taste of the last trilogy may have soured the entire franchise in a good deal of fans; bad word of mouth could really hurt them at the box office.
FACTOID: Abrams is the first director to do both a Star Wars film as well as a Star Trek film.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

RELEASE DATE: December 11, 2015
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Holland, Cillian Murphy, Charlotte Riley, Frank Dillane, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Benjamin Walker, Michelle Fairley
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: Before Moby Dick there was the true tale of the whaling vessel Essex whose encounter with a nearly demonic whale would inspire Herman Melville to write what many believe to be the masterpiece of American literature.
PROSPECTS: Hemsworth is a hot commodity and director Ron Howard knows how to put a true life adventure story together with Oscar connotations.
OBSTACLES: For many, Moby Dick isn’t going to inspire a whole lot of people to go to the theater; Warners will have to mount a savvy campaign to get Millennials and the less adventurous into the multiplex.
FACTOID: The movie was originally scheduled for release in March but the studio felt it to be a legitimate Oscar contender, so they moved it to the middle of prime Oscar season.

SISTERS

RELEASE DATE: December 18, 2015
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, John Cena, John Leguizamo, James Brolin, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, Dianne Wiest, Madison Davenport, Rachel Dratch
GENRE: Comedy
STORY: Two very different sisters – one an uptight career-oriented woman, the other a party hearty woman child – return to their childhood home to clean out their rooms as their parents are selling the property. They decide to throw one last party to recapture their glory days – and maybe fix the issues that are plaguing them.
PROSPECTS: Poehler and Fey have been a dynamic and successful comedy team stretching back to their Saturday Night Live days but also including their hit film Baby Mama.
OBSTACLES: It’s been seven years since the two have done a film together which is a long time in Hollywood terms.
FACTOID: Screenwriter Paula Pell (SNL, 30 Rock) wrote the script specifically with Poehler and Fey in mind for the lead roles.

CONCUSSION

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2015
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Stephen Moyer, Eddie Marsan, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Morse, Albert Brooks, Bitsie Tulloch
GENRE: Sports Drama
STORY: Neuropathologist  Dr. Bennet Omalu made the discovery of football-related brain trauma in pro players and fought to make his discoveries public. Fought tooth and nail the entire way by the NFL, politicians and corporate interests, the doctor doggedly sticks by his guns and fights to protect the players who are at risk.
PROSPECTS: A compelling story that could net Smith another Oscar nomination.
OBSTACLES: Smith’s career has been on a bit of a downturn of late. Football-based films haven’t really translated to box office gold and the competition will be fierce this season. Chances are the NFL won’t give this film a whole lot of support.
FACTOID: The film is based in Pittsburgh and Baldwin, who plays an area doctor, studied and spent time with several prominent Pittsburgh doctors to prepare for his role.

JOY

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2015
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Jennifer Laurence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Elisabeth Rohm, Isabella Rossellini, Virginia Madsen, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd
GENRE: Dramedy
STORY: A young woman intent on founding a business dynasty faces sexism, heartache and triumph in a human comedy of capitalism and family.
PROSPECTS: The quartet of Laurence, Cooper, De Niro and director David O. Russell have done two highly acclaimed and Oscar-nominated films in the past few years.
OBSTACLES: Hasn’t generated the buzz that American Hustle or The Silver Lining Playbook did.
FACTOID: Based on the true story of Joy Mangano, the woman who developed the Miracle Mop in 1990 – the same year Laurence, who plays her, was born.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

MACBETH

RELEASE DATE: December 4, 2015 (limited)
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, Elizabeth Debicki, David Thewlis, Jack Reynor, Paddy Considine, David Hayman
GENRE: Shakespeare
STORY: A Scottish lord, urged on by his devious and manipulative wife, stops at nothing to gain the throne of the King of Scotland in the 11th century.
PROSPECTS: Fassbender has gotten some Best Actor Oscar buzz for his performance in the title role.
OBSTACLES: Shakespeare and big box office? Bitch, please!
FACTOID: The X-Men franchise has contributed four Macbeths to the screen; both Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy, who played Charles Xavier, as well as Ian McKellen and now Fassbender, who played Magneto, have now played the role; of the four, only Fassbender hasn’t tackled the part in a stage production.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

DECEMBER 2, 2015

HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT (Cohen Media Group), opening in New York City, gathers a group of filmmakers ranging from Wes Anderson to Martin Scorsese and discusses the legendary French director Francois Truffaut’s book Cinema According to Hitchcock and how it influenced their filmmaking.

DECEMBER 5, 2015

KRAMPUS (Universal) resurrects an ancient Yuletide legend of a demonic presence who punishes unbelievers at Christmastime. This year on his naughty list is a fractured family whose non-believing son is the cause for the return of Krampus. In YOUTH (Fox Searchlight) Harvey Keitel and Michael Caine star as a pair of lifelong friends contemplating the end of their careers while vacationing at a beautiful lodge in the Swiss Alps. It opens in limited release.

DECEMBER 11, 2015

THE DARK HORSE (Broad Green) which opens in limited release stars Fear the Walking Dead‘s Cliff Curtis as a community leader trying to overcome his own adversities to leave a legacy for the children of his community.

DECEMBER 18, 2015

Opening in limited release, SON OF SAUL (Sony Classics) is the heart-wrenching tale of a Jewish worker in Auschwitz who discovers the body of what he believes to be his son in the crematorium. Against all odds he rescues the body from the flames and tries to find a way of giving his boy a proper Jewish burial.

DECEMBER 23, 2015

In ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: ROAD CHIP (20th Century Fox) Alvin and the Boys head to New York City to stop Dave from proposing to his girlfriend, dumping them and in the process putting them under the care of the step-brother from hell.

DECEMBER 25, 2015

DADDY’S HOME (Paramount) is the competition between a mild-mannered radio executive stepdad and the freewheeling freeloader ex-husband for the affection of the children. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star. THE HATEFUL EIGHT (Weinstein) is the latest from director Quentin Tarantino which stars a high-end all-star cast in a Western about a bounty hunter trying to haul a woman to her execution through mountainous terrain in a blizzard, taking refuge in a haberdashery/stagecoach stop where others are waiting for them – who have agendas of their own. Opening Christmas Day for an Oscar qualifying run, it opens in wide release January 8th. POINT BREAK (Warner Brothers) is a remake of the Patrick Swayze/Keanu Reeves thriller about an undercover FBI agent trying to nail a group of extreme athletes who have been masterminding a group of daring robberies using their skills to make nearly impossible crimes a reality. THE REVENANT (20th Century Fox), also undergoing an Oscar qualifying run before opening wide on January 8th, is the true story of explorer Hugh Glass, mauled by a bear and left for dead by his own hunting party, surviving an extraordinary chain of events to get back to his family; Leonardo di Caprio stars and noted director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu behind the camera. SNOWDEN (Open Road) is Oliver Stone’s biopic of one of the most notorious figures of our time – whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (New Line) Budget: $250M. Domestic Gross: $255.1M Total: $956.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (20th Century Fox) Budget: $127M. Domestic Gross: $113.8M Total: $360.4 Verdict: Made Money.
INTO THE WOODS (Disney) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $128.0M Total: $212.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
ANNIE (Columbia) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $85.9M Total: $133.8M Verdict: Broke Even.
BIG EYES (Weinstein) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $14.5M Total: $29.3M Verdict: Made Money.
WILD (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $13.2M Total: $52.5M Verdict: Hit.
SELMA (Paramount) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $52.1M Total: $66.8M Verdict: Hit.
PADDINGTON (Dimension) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $76.2M Total: $259.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $140M. Domestic Gross: $65.0M Total: $268.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
INHERENT VICE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $8.1M Total: $14.7M Verdict: Flop.
UNBROKEN (Universal) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $115.6M Total: $161.5M Verdict: Made Money.
AMERICAN SNIPER (Warner Brothers) Budget: $59M. Domestic Gross: $350.1M Total: $547.3M Verdict: Blockbuster.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 (Paramount/MGM) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $12.3M Total: $12.3M Verdict: Flop.

So believe it or not, that’s a wrap for the movie schedule for 2015. It’s already been a heady year and there are sure to be some more big waves made by releases in the last third of the year’s schedule. Even with the impressive list of films waiting for us during the fall and holiday seasons, some are already looking ahead to 2016 which has an impressive line-up of its own. Perhaps most anticipated of all is Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice which not only brings two of DC’s most hallowed superheroes onscreen together for the first time but also marks the first cinematic appearance of such heroes as Wonder Woman and Aquaman; but DC is also banking on Suicide Squad to help launch their own cinematic universe to compete with Marvel’s. However, Marvel isn’t resting on their laurels; they have Captain America: Civil War waiting as well as Dr. Strange ready for our consumption, as well as the much-ballyhooed X-Men: Apocalypse, Gambit and Deadpool all coming from Fox. A sequel to Independence Day and a reboot of Ghostbusters with a female lead cast are also high on the list. Videogame fans are looking to see if versions of Warcraft. Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed can finally show videogames as a viable source for big budget movies. The resurgence of the Star Wars universe continues with the first of several projected stand-alone films Rogue One and Eddie Murphy returns as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop 4. Universal is launching a shared universe line of their own based on their classic monsters with a new version of The Mummy while sequels to Finding Nemo, Now You See Me, Alice in Wonderland and Divergent will all appear sometime during the year. You can read more about it in our 2016 preview, scheduled to be published in late December. Until then, you’ve got plenty of 2015 to enjoy yet; we suggest you make your plans to catch a bunch of these in a theater near you. See you at the multiplex!

2014 Fall/Holiday Preview


fallnholiday2014

It has been by all accounts a rough summer for Hollywood and theater owners in particular. The box office is down and the responsibility for that has to lie with the filmmakers; to wit, the product hasn’t really been as exciting as previous summers. Sure there have been some exceptions – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was one of the pleasant surprises, while Guardians of the Galaxy got off to a record start in August and shortly before this was published became the year’s number one hit. People flocked to see the sub-mediocre Transformers; Age of Extinction in droves, particularly overseas where record crowds pushed the movie over the billion dollar mark at the box office. With no Pixar film in the theaters this summer, the family audience stayed away from theaters for the most part this summer – even a fairly good quality How to Train Your Dragon 2 made disappointing numbers considering the lack of competition. For the most part, movies underperformed and reviews were pretty dismal for such non-blockbusters as Blended and Planes: Fire and Rescue. Even films that were blockbusters – like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Maleficent – didn’t get the kind of numbers the studios were expecting.

With Guardians and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles giving the box office a needed boost going into the football season which traditionally is fairly weak for the box office right up until the Holidays, we can look forward to a few guaranteed hits – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 for example looks to continue the hot streak of this young adult hit series. The Hobbit trilogy from Peter Jackson concludes with The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar will make Thanksgiving box office bells ring. Given all the publicity that the musical Annie has been getting from Columbia, I wouldn’t be surprised if this also made big bank.

We can look forward to some Oscar contenders as well, with early word touting Foxcatcher with Steve Carell generating Oscar buzz for the first time in his career in a dramatic role. Tim Burton’s Big Eyes will bring some attention for Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams and probably for Burton himself, while the World War II epic Fury with its ensemble cast may get Brad Pitt some face time with the Academy.

But all is not serious at the multiplex this season. Seth Rogen and James Franco re-team in The Interview, St. Vincent stars an irascible Bill Murray. Horrible Bosses 2 is bound to bring some belly laughs and Hot Tub Time Machine 2 will take us back to the future while Dumb and Dumber To reunites Jeff Daniels and Jim Carey. The sequels don’t stop there however as Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Dolphin Tale 2,The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies brings old favorites back to the screen for another go-round.

Families who might have been disappointed with the offerings this past summer will have more than a few reasons to head back to the multiplex, with Paddington, The Boxtrolls, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, Book of Life, Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, The Penguins of Madagascar, Dolphin Tale 2, Big Hero 6 and Annie all beckoning kids to drag their parents to the theaters. Those who prefer a little horror in their motion picture diet will have a cornucopia of selections, from Annabelle (a spinoff from The Conjuring), Ouija, Demonic, Jessabelle, Dracula Untold, The Canal, The Pyramid, Horns and Tusk all there looking to scare our socks off. There will also be plenty of action with The Equalizer, Kill the Messenger, A Walk Among Tombstones and Fury giving action junkies their fix.
Music fans will also have reasons to brave the chilly weather and hit the theaters as Annie, Into the Woods, One Chance and Beyond the Lights which will all hopefully have audiences tapping their toes. Indie film fans will also have some excuses to patronize their local art houses with such acclaimed fare as Foxcatcher, Escobar: Paradise Lost, Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Wild, One Chance, Birdman, TuskLeviathan, The Zero Theorem, Laggies, Frontera and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby all lining up for the film buff dollar. Science Fiction is always a presence at the end of the year and this year is no exception with such futuristic goodies as Interstellar, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, The Maze Runner, The Congress, The Zero Theorem and The Scribbler on tap. Those who like their movies on an epic scale can look forward to The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies and Exodus: Gods and Kings. Finally, you can always find plenty of drama in the fall and holiday lineup and with Nightcrawlers, Gone Girl, The Judge, Rosewater and Big Eyes audiences will get their share of serious.

The stars always come out in the fall and 2014 is no exception as you’ll get to do some star-gazing with the late Robin Williams (Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Merry Friggen’ Christmas), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1), Amy Adams (Big Eyes), Ed Harris (Frontera), Morgan Freeman (Dolphin Tale 2), Reese Witherspoon (Wild, The Good Lie), Billy Bob Thornton (The Judge), Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins), Jason Bateman (This Is Where I Leave You, Horrible Bosses 2), Liam Neeson (A Walk Among Tombstones), Daniel Radcliffe (Horns), Christoph Waltz (The Zero Theorem, Big Eyes), Denzel Washington (The Equalizer), Ben Affleck (Gone Girl), Simon Pegg (Hector and the Search for Happiness), Steve Carell (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and Foxcatcher), Seth Rogen (The Interview), Robert Downey Jr., (The Judge), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawlers), Bill Murray (St. Vincent), Jeremy Renner (Kill the Messenger), Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar), Jim Carrey (Dumb and Dumber To), Brad Pitt (Fury), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1), Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses 2), Jamie Foxx (Annie), Ben Stiller (Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies), James Franco (The Interview),Keira Knightley (Laggies), Kirsten Wiig (The Skeleton Twins), Robert Duvall (The Judge), Michael Caine (Interstellar), Cameron Diaz (Annie) and Christian Bale (Exodus: Gods and Kings). There will also be plenty of talent behind the camera with Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott, Alexandre Aja, Christopher Nolan, Tim Burton, Kevin Smith, Terry Gilliam, Rob Marshall and David Fincher all directing films this season.

This of course is just a start as there will be additions (and deletions) from what you see here before all is said and done. Most of the fairly high-profile films though are pretty much set in stone barring disaster. So does this whet your appetite for what’s going on this fall? Hope so. If you want more, be sure and check out our monthly feature Four-Warned for a listing of everything opening both in limited and wide release that month and our weekly preview for what’s coming to the Central Florida multiplexes that week. Otherwise, let’s stop all this blather and get into the good stuff!

SEPTEMBER

Generally September is a month that serves as a segue from the summer blockbusters to the autumn harvest of Oscar contenders. While it is a month that usually has lower profile movies and films the studio has little faith in, there are often some gems among the debris. Hoping to make some box office hay while the sun still shines will be a reboot of an ’80s TV show, an adaptation of a beloved young adult novel, a sequel to an inspirational family hit and the latest from the stop-motion animation studio Laika.

The Equalizer

DEANS LIST

THE EQUALIZER
RELEASE DATE: September 26, 2014
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Robert Wahlberg, Johnny Messner
STORY: A man with a set of particular skills is trying to put his past behind him and live a quiet life working in a Home Depot-like store. When he meets a young girl who is being abused at the hands of the Russian mobsters who control her, he cannot stand by and do nothing. Russian mafia, look out – the Equalizer is on your tail!
PROSPECTS: A very different take on the 80s TV classic with Edward Woodward in the title role. Washington is more of an ass kicker. He has been more selective about what movies he makes than a lot of other stars, so certainly his fans will be eager to see this.
OBSTACLES: Theatrical attendance tends to be pretty lackluster in September with the start of the football season, school returning to session and the fall TV premieres all happening.
FACTOID: Leo guest starred in an Equalizer telefilm back in 1985.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES
RELEASE DATE: September 19, 2014
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour, Boyd Holbrook, Sebastian Roche, Stephanie Andujar, Whitney Able, Mark Consuelos
STORY: An unlicensed private eye who is ex-NYPD reluctantly takes on a job from a heroin trafficker whose wife was kidnapped and murdered. He soon learns that this isn’t the first time the perpetrators have committed this crime nor will it be the last – and they are aware of his presence in the game.
PROSPECTS: Neeson has become one of the most reliable action stars of the past ten years. This has a suitably creepy vibe to it. Neeson’s films tend to perform well in off months.
OBSTACLES: His last movie was a bit disappointing commercially and critically.
FACTOID: Neeson’s character in this movie is actually taken from a series of 17 novels by author Lawrence Block of which this is the tenth; the character also appeared in the movie 8 Million Ways to Die played by Jeff Bridges.

THE MAZE RUNNER
RELEASE DATE: September 19, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Ami Ameen, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper
STORY: A young man wakes up in a mysterious maze with no memories of who he is or where he’s from. The only escape is to become a runner and try to find a way out of the maze which nobody has ever done. However when a young girl arrives who seems to have her memories and knows who the young man is, everything changes.
PROSPECTS: One of the most iconic and beloved young adult novels finally makes it to the big screen.
OBSTACLES: A cast of mostly unknown young actors. Not a good deal of hunk factor to bring the teenage girls.
FACTOID: Catherine Hardwicke was originally set to direct this.

THE BOXTROLLS
RELEASE DATE: September 26, 2014
STUDIO: Focus/Laika
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Isaac Hempstead-Wright
STORY: A group of mischievous subterranean creatures have raised a human child as their own are threatened by the villainous Archibald Snatcher who vows to rid the world of the Boxtrolls. The human ventures above ground and finds a spirited young girl as an ally and together they put together an audacious plan to save the boy’s family.
PROSPECTS: Laika has been responsible for some of the quirkiest and most beloved animations of recent years.
OBSTACLES: The Laika films have tended to appeal more to adults than to kids.
FACTOID: Based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

THE SKELETON TWINS
RELEASE DATE: September 12, 2014
STUDIO: Roadside Attractions
STARRING: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ty Burrell, Luke Wilson, Boyd Holbrook, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Joanna Gleason, Ian Hyland, Jennifer Lafleur
STORY: A pair of estranged twins whose lives have turned out not just disappointing but a downright disaster are unexpectedly forced into a reunion. They are forced to confront their own mistakes and failures and discover that repairing their relationship might well be the key to turning their lives around.
PROSPECTS: Has everything in the formula for indie circuit success; a terrific cast with a few well-known names, a truly funny trailer and a distributor that has gotten behind the movie after showing success with recent releases.
OBSTACLES: Since Bridesmaids Wiig really hasn’t shown she can carry a movie and Hader, while being a terrific support guy, is an unknown quantity when in a leading role.
FACTOID: Anna Farris was originally cast in the lead role, but an unusually long development period forced her to drop out of the project, eventually to be replaced by Wiig.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

SEPTEMBER 5, 2014

Opening in limited release, FRONTERA (Magnolia) examines the fallout when a rancher’s wife is killed while riding in her own ranch property and the most likely suspect is a Mexican national crossing into this country illegally.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2014

In THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY (Weinstein) a once-happy couple struggles to maintain their relationship in the wake of a tragedy as they discover that the people they once loved are literally strangers to one another now. DOLPHIN TALE 2 (Warner Brothers) returns to the inspirational story of Winter, the dolphin in a Florida aquarium whose tail fluke was replaced by an artificial device to allow her to continue swimming and her new friend Hope, rescued by the same aquarium in 2010. NO GOOD DEED (Screen Gems) stars Idris Elba as an escaped convict who gains entry into the home of housewife Taraji P. Henson by pretending he’s the victim of a car accident and proceeds to terrorize the woman and her children who must fight back against the intruder. In SEARCH PARTY (Universal) a new groom is taken hostage and ends up wearing nothing but a pair of gold leggings in the Mexican desert while his best friends bumble around trying to find him.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS (Relativity) stars Simon Pegg as a psychiatrist whose advice isn’t really making his patients any happier; he determines to go out and experience life and find out what it is that truly makes people happy. PRIDE (CBS) is based on the true story of a mining strike in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain which inspires a group of London gay and lesbian activists to raise money for the striking workers who are initially leery of taking money from the group but as they eventually learn to find common ground they discover that strength comes from standing strong together. THE SCRIBBLER (XLRator) which opens in limited release is a sci-fi tale about a disturbed young woman who uses an experimental treatment to eliminate her multiple personalities one at a time, but begins to worry that one of the personalities to be eliminated might be her true one THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (Warner Brothers) has an all-star cast and is about a dysfunctional family that has dispersed all over the country only to be brought back together under one roof for a week to fulfill the dying wish of their father. In TUSK (A24), a journalist falls into the story of a lifetime as he interviews a reputed explorer with a penchant for walruses and a dark, disturbing secret. Kevin Smith directs this quirky horror tale. THE ZERO THEOREM (Amplify) is visionary director Terry Gilliam’s latest and stars Christoph Waltz as an eccentric agoraphobic computer genius working on a project delegated to him by an equally mysterious Matt Damon in an effort to find a meaning of life – or lack thereof. The movie got a special screening at the Enzian earlier this year; you can read my review of it here.

SEPTEMBER 24, 2014

JACK AND THE CUCKOO CLOCK HEART (Dada) is a whimsical animated feature for adults and set in a wondrous world of fantastic inventions and unforgettable characters. While it is listed as a wide release, it is possible this might end up getting a limited release instead.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2014

On the other hand, THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY (Magnolia) most definitely is opening in limited release and stars Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst as an American couple traveling in Greece in the early ’60s who encounter Oscar Isaac as a Greek-speaking American tour guide who scams tourists on the side. He becomes infatuated with the wife and when the couple invite him to dinner, it turns out neither the couple nor the tour guide are exactly what they seem to be.

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

RIDDICK (Universal) Budget: $38 Million. Domestic Gross: $42.0M Total: $98.3M Verdict: Made Money.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 (Columbia) Budget: $78M. Domestic Gross: $119.8M Total: $274.3M Verdict: Hit.
RUSH (Universal) Budget: $38M. Domestic Gross: $27.0M Total: $90.3M Verdict: Made Money.
DON JON (Relativity) Budget: $6M. Domestic Gross: $24.5M Total: $30.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 (FilmDistrict) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $83.6M Total: $161.9M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE FAMILY (Relativity) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $36.9M Total: $78.4M Verdict: Made Money.
PRISONERS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $46M. Domestic Gross: $61.0M Total: $122.1M Verdict: Made Money.
BAGGAGE CLAIM (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $8.5M. Domestic Gross: $21.6M Total: $22.5M Verdict: Made Money.
WINNIE MANDELA (Image) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $80,634. Total: $80,634. Verdict: Likely Flop.
METALLICA: THROUGH THE NEVER (Picturehouse) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $3.4M Total: $8.0 Verdict: Flop.

OCTOBER

As autumn leaves swirl in the streets and Halloween decorations begin to appear everywhere, there will be plenty of scares coming our way this month with a board game that opens a portal for something truly evil, a spinoff from a smash hit horror film from recent years, a new take on a classic horror icon and an animated feature set in the land of the dead. For those not looking to be scared, there’s a quirky comedy with an SNL legend, mysteries involving an estranged father and son and a husband who may or may not have murdered his missing wife, the reboot of a hit Christian book series and a bestselling children’s book getting the Disney treatment.

Gone Girl

DEANS LIST

GONE GIRL
RELEASE DATE: October 3, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Missi Pyle, Boyd Holbrook, Scoot McNairy, Sela Ward
STORY: On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, a man reports his wife missing. His portrayal of a perfect marriage begins to crumble under intense police scrutiny and his bizarre behavior and outright lies make him suspect number one.
PROSPECTS: October has been Affleck’s month as of late, with such films as Runner Runner, The Town and Argo released during that month of the year. While he didn’t direct this effort, he is certainly front and center here.
OBSTACLES: Affleck tends to do better in movies he directs himself. However, this time he finds himself under the tutelage of David Fincher, so that might well give him a leg up. However, the subject matter is something of a downer.
FACTOID: Although the movie is set in North Carolina, it was actually filmed in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

OUIJA
RELEASE DATE: October 24, 2014
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Darren Kagasoff, Bianca A. Santos, Douglas Smith, Matthew Settle, Vivis Colombetti, Robyn Lively, Lin Shaye, Bill Watterson
STORY: A group of young people start messing around with a Ouija board, but this one happens to be not just any Ouija board and the place that they do the messing not just any place.
PROSPECTS: Ouija boards are a large part of our supernatural culture and while they have played a part in horror movies over the years, there have been surprisingly few dedicated to them.
OBSTACLES: The trailer didn’t particularly stand out, and with a fairly unknown cast and crew behind the camera this may have to come out of left field to be successful.
FACTOID: Hasbro’s film division has been working on a Ouija board film for more than five years.

THE JUDGE
RELEASE DATE: October 10, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Billy Bob Thornton, Balthazar Getty, Dax Shepard, Denis O’Hare, David Krumholtz
STORY: A high-powered big city defense lawyer returns to his rural Indiana home on the occasion for his mother’s funeral and encounters his estranged father, a respected judge. When the father is accused of murder, the son becomes his attorney in a case that looks indefensible.
PROSPECTS: Downey and Duvall are two of the most respected actors in the business. With a fine supporting cast, this could be an early Oscar contender.
OBSTACLES: Nothing indicates in the trailer or through internet buzz that this is being considered as anything more than studio fall filler.
FACTOID: Farmiga beat out Elizabeth Banks for the female lead.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

BIRDMAN
RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2014
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, Naomi Watts, Lindsay Duncan
STORY: An actor famous for portraying an iconic super hero in a movie franchise attempts to mount a Broadway play in order to rescue his career and help him restore his humility when his out-of-control ego threatens to derail everything.
PROSPECTS: Big Internet buzz on this one. Word of mouth says this Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed effort could be a sleeper hit.
OBSTACLES: Inarritu is better known for directing ensemble dramas rather than comedies. Keaton hasn’t really carried a hit movie in decades.
FACTOID: Although there is a Hanna-Barbera character of the same name, the Birdman character of this movie has no relation to the cartoon character.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

OCTOBER 3, 2014

ANNABELLE (New Line) is a spinoff from the horror hit from last year, The Conjuring and follows the demonic doll Annabelle’s history as she wreaks havoc in the lives of her owners, a nice kickoff to the Halloween season. THE GOOD LIE (Warner Brothers) stars Reese Witherspoon in a story based on true events in which orphans of the Sudan’s brutal civil war find asylum in the United States and how a courageous social worker fought an American bureaucracy frozen by the events of 9/11 to reunite them with their sister. This opens in limited release. In THE HERO OF COLOR CITY (Magnolia) a box of heroic crayons must save Color City from a monster accidentally released from a child’s drawing. This is an animated feature and while it is currently listed for wide release, I would bet money that it will wind up being a platform limited release when all is said and done. LEFT BEHIND (Stoney Lake) reboots the Christian rapture book series with Nicolas Cage in the lead role. THE LIBERATOR (Cohen Media Group), opening in limited release, stars Edgar Ramirez in the title role in this biopic of Simon Bolivar, one of the most revered and beloved figures in South America, who liberated thousands from the colonial powers of the 19th century.

OCTOBER 10, 2014

In ADDICTED (Lionsgate) a married woman with a dream life embarks on a dangerous affair with a hunky young artist, a path which may be too tempting for her to resist. ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (Disney) stars Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner in this comedy about a family having the kind of day that makes all other bad days look idyllic in comparison. KILL THE MESSENGER (Focus) is opening in platform limited release, with Jeremy Renner starring as Gary Webb, the San Jose Mercury News reporter whose investigation of the link between crack cocaine smuggling, the CIA and arms for Nicaraguan rebels would win him a Pulitzer but cost him far more. ONE CHANCE (Weinstein) is the much-delayed biopic of Paul Potts, the unlikely operatic winner of the hit Britain’s Got Talent and the overwhelming odds he overcame to do it.

OCTOBER 17, 2014

THE BEST OF ME (Relativity) is the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation and follows a couple who were once high school sweethearts but whose relationship fell apart. 20 years later, they are reunited at a funeral for a friend and the old sparks are rekindled, but also present are the forces that tore them apart the first time around. THE BOOK OF LIFE (20th Century Fox) is a colorful and unique animated feature produced by Guillermo del Toro set in Mexico as well as in the World of the Dead. Two men battle for the heart of a beautiful young woman but one must overcome immense odds to win that sacred heart. DRACULA UNTOLD (Universal) is a new take on the legend of Vlad Tepes, also known as Dracula as he must sacrifice everything to protect his family and his country – and the cost of that sacrifice may be much more than he bargained for. FURY (Columbia) stars Brad Pitt and is set in the waning days of World War II as a tank crew battles to survive the furious last days of the war. NIGHTCRAWLER (Open Road) is the tale of a driven, ambitious young man who enters the breakneck world of L.A. crime journalism. Jake Gyllenhaal stars.

OCTOBER 24, 2014

JOHN WICK (Lionsgate) stars Keanu Reeves in a story about a retired hit man who is forced back into the game by a sadistic young thug who wants to take him down. It’s one of those “be careful what you ask for” tales. Opening in limited release is the Sundance hit LAGGIES (A24) with Keira Knightley as a 20-something who is having trouble growing up, hiding out in the home of a 16-year-old friend and her world-weary single dad. ST. VINCENT (Weinstein) is the latest tour de force for Bill Murray as an irascible old man and unrepentant reprobate who decides to earn some extra cash for his gambling and drinking habits by babysitting a neighbor’s kid. This leads to an unexpected friendship. STONEHEARST ASYLUM (Millennium) opens in limited release and is a British horror film about a medical school grad who is assigned to a mental institution and eventually falls for one of his colleagues, but a change in staffing may bring about unspeakable terror for them both.

OCTOBER 31, 2014

HORNS (Radius) stars Daniel Radcliffe in an unusual horror film directed by Spanish master Alexandre Aja about a man accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend and who starts to grow horns on his head that have the power to force people to confess their darkest secrets and give in to their deepest desires, and decides to use his new-found power to find and exact revenge upon the real killer.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (Columbia) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $107.1M Total: $218.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
GRAVITY (Warner Brothers) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $274.1M Total: $716.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
ESCAPE PLAN (Summit) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $25.1M Total: $137.3M Verdict: Made Money.
THE FIFTH ESTATE (Touchstone) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $3.3M Total: $8.6M Verdict: Flop.
BAD GRANDPA (Paramount) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $102.0M Total: $151.8 Verdict: Blockbuster.
12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $56.7M Total: $187.7 Verdict: Big Hit.
RUNNER RUNNER (20th Century Fox) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $19.3M Total: $62.7M Verdict: Broke Even.
MACHETE KILLS (Open Road) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $8.0M Total: $15.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE COUNSELOR (20th Century Fox) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $16.9M Total: $71.0M Verdict: Made Money.
ROMEO AND JULIET (Relativity) Budget: $24M. Domestic Gross: $1.1M Total: $1.1M Verdict: Flop.

NOVEMBER

As the weather grows colder, the multiplex starts heating up as new blockbusters arrive along with early contenders for Oscar gold. This year we can count on a new sci-fi spectacle from Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, the first animated feature of a Marvel comic, sequels to a megahit young adult science fiction franchise and an over-the-top workplace comedy, a spin-off from a hit animated franchise and the reunion of one of the dumbest comic duos ever.

Interstellar

DEANS LIST

INTERSTELLAR
RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Topher Grace
STORY: The Earth is dying, unable to support the human race or any other race for that matter. In desperation, we look to the stars and build a craft that might take us there. Time is of the essence and the toll that is taken on the astronauts and those who love them will be terrible indeed.
PROSPECTS: Christopher Nolan once again goes the sci-fi route and with Inception under his belt, this one is more of a traditional science fiction film with starships and alien worlds. With the super hot McConaughey headlining, this is a sure winner.
OBSTACLES: There has been a glut of science fiction on both the big screen and the small; the public might be more in the mood of a Guardians of the Galaxy-type movie which this is not. With the exception of Blade Runner most cerebral science fiction has failed to do well at the box office.
FACTOID: Steven Spielberg was originally intended to direct this and while he was attached he hired Jonathan Nolan to write a draft of the script. When Spielberg moved on to other projects, Nolan suggested this project to his brother Christopher.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR
RELEASE DATE: November 26, 2014
STUDIO: DreamWorks Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Peter Stormare, John Malkovich, Werner Herzog
STORY: The penguins, perhaps the most accomplished spies the world never heard of, join forces with a spy agency the world has never heard of to stop Dr. Octavius Brine, a megalomaniacal would-be world dictator the world has never heard of.
PROSPECTS: Like the Minions of the Despicable Me films, the penguins have been the best thing about this animated film franchise. They get their own movie and hopefully, will run – or waddle – with it.
OBSTACLES: This has not exactly been the year of the family film. The Penguins also have their own TV show so the thought of shelling out hard-earned cash to go see them in a theater might not be so attractive for parents.
FACTOID: The filmmakers wanted Robert Stack to voice Skipper but he passed away before filming began.

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1
RELEASE DATE: November 21, 2014
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore
STORY: Katniss is forced to flee to District 13 after her triumph in Catching Fire. From there she becomes the face of the rebellion as she fights to save Peeta, the ones she loves and the innocent of Panem from the ruthless President Snow.
PROSPECTS: Another slam dunk. This is one of the most successful film franchises of this decade and doesn’t look to slow down any with one more film left after this.
OBSTACLES: Can’t really see any.
FACTOID: Hoffman passed away with one week left of shooting for both of the Mockingjay films. Rather than recast the role, his part was finished with some rewriting as well as digital special effects.

BIG HERO 6
RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2014
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, T.J. Miller, Genesis Rodriguez, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell
STORY: A young robotics genius in the high-tech city of San Fransokyo in the future discovers a criminal plot to take over the city. With his faithful but mostly harmless robot companion Baymax, he leads a team of reluctant crimefighters on a mission to save the city.
PROSPECTS: The first animated Marvel feature from Disney. Given that it is opening in the same successful weekend slot as Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, there’s a good chance that this will be the big animated feature winner this year in terms of box office.
OBSTACLES: Marvel and Disney can be disparate audiences.
FACTOID: While based on a Marvel property, this doesn’t take place inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

FOXCATCHER
RELEASE DATE: November 14, 2014
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller, Anthony Michael Hall, Tara Subkoff
STORY: The true story of Olympic wrestling hopeful Mark Schultz, his brother Dave and Mark’s benefactor John Du Pont who founded a wrestling facility dedicated to preparing athletes for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but led instead to tragedy.
PROSPECTS: Carell is getting huge Oscar buzz in what is said to be the performance of his career. Director Bennett Miller has been involved with two Oscar nominated films previously; Capote and Moneyball.
OBSTACLES: Olympic wrestling is much less popular than the professional sort practiced by the WWE and fans of the latter might not take well to the wrestling style of the former.
FACTOID: The actual Foxcatcher Farm where the training facility was located was sold off after the events of this film; a private school and a development of multi-million dollar homes stand there now.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

NOVEMBER 7, 2014

JESSABELLE (Lionsgate) is a Southern Gothic horror flick opening in limited release in which a young woman returns to her decaying Louisiana home to recuperate from a horrific car accident, only to discover that the horror awaiting her back home is far more deadly. MERRY FRIGGIN’ CHRISTMAS (Phase Four), opening in limited release, is one of Robin Williams’ final films. He plays a kooky dad whose estranged son finally relents and agrees to spend Christmas with his old man. However when the son discovers he left all of the Christmas gifts at home, Dad, son and younger brother take off on an epic road trip. OPEN WINDOWS (Cinedigm) is an unusual thriller from acclaimed director Nacho Vigalondo in which a superfan wins a date with his favorite actress. When she balks at actually going on the date, her sleazy manager instead gives the fan the option of access to hidden camera feeds originating from her home. This puts her – and him – in unexpected danger. Opens in limited release. Also opening in limited release. ROSEWATER (Open Road) is based on the true story of journalist Maziar Bahari who was captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard while there working for the BBC and held and tortured. Comedian/political commentator Jon Stewart directed. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus) stars Eddie Redmayne as the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking as he copes with a devastating illness to become one of the most honored living scientists. While it is listed in limited release, expect that this will be fairly widely available.

NOVEMBER 14, 2014

BEYOND THE LIGHTS (Relativity) is kind of a new take on The Guardian as a global pop superstar falls for a cop and aspiring politician who works her security detail. Despite attempts to keep the two separated, true love lives on in the end, yadda yadda yadda. DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Universal) reunites Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels as the most brain-dead comedy team ever as they and the Farrelly brothers, once one of the hottest comedy directors on the planet, take a spin down the comeback trail.

NOVEMBER 21, 2014

Opening in limited release, EXTRATERRESTRIAL (IFC) comes from director Colin Minihan, one half of the Vicious Brothers who directed Grave Encounters. Here, friends taking a break at a remote mountain cabin witness the crash of an alien spacecraft, which signals the beginning of a fight for survival. THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) is the story of prickly mathematician Alan Turing who broke the Enigma code in World War II but was later persecuted for his homosexuality. Benedict Cumberbatch stars. VHS: VIRAL (Magnolia) is the latest in the horror anthology series, with top young directors in the genre filming a series of short videos related to a group of teens’ obsessive pursuit of Internet fame. Like the first two movies in the series, this will be released in limited markets.

NOVEMBER 26, 2014

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (New Line) reunites Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as three put-upon employees who decide to start their own business. Hoodwinked by a slick investor, they come up with a hare-brained scheme to kidnap his son and ransom control of the company back to themselves.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

ENDER’S GAME (Summit) Budget: $110M. Domestic Gross: $61.7Total: $125.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $170M. Domestic Gross: $206.4M Total: $644.8M. Verdict: Big Hit.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $424.7M Total: $864.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
FROZEN (Disney) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $400.7M Total: $1.3B. Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Paramount) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $116.9M Total: $392.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
OLDBOY (FilmDistrict) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $2.2M Total: $4.9M Verdict: Flop.
THE DELIVERY MAN (Touchstone) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $30.7M. Total: $51.2M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE BOOK THIEF (20th Century Fox) Budget: $19M. Domestic Gross: $21.5M Total: $76.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
ABOUT TIME (Universal) Budget: $12M Domestic Gross: $15.3M Total: $87.1M Verdict: Big Hit.
HOMEFRONT (Open Road) Budget: $22M Domestic Gross: $20.2M Total: $43.1M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus) Budget: $5M Domestic Gross: $27.3M Total: $55.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $8.3M Total: $27.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
BLACK NATIVITY (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $17.5M Domestic Gross: $7.0M Total: $7.5M Verdict: Flop.
LAST VEGAS (CBS) Budget: $28M Domestic Gross: $63.9M Total: $134.4M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE BEST MAN’S HOLIDAY (Universal) Budget: $17M Domestic Gross: $70.5M Total: $71.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
FREE BIRDS (Relativity) Budget: $55M Domestic Gross: $55.8M Total: $110.4M Verdict: Broke Even.

DECEMBER

The last month of the year tends to send the box office out with a bang as big budget blockbusters vie with Oscar contenders for screens. This year we’ll be taking our last trip to Middle Earth, watch Ridley Scott get Biblical, see new re-imaginings of two hit musicals, watch a beloved children’s book character come to life and see the life story of a genuine American hero that you may never have heard of until now.

The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies

DEANS LIST

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
RELEASE DATE: December 17, 2014
STUDIO: New Line/MGM
STARRING: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm
STORY: The Dwarves having reclaimed Erebor, Smaug wreaks havoc on Lake-town while an Orc army makes its stealthy way to Lonely Mountain. Human, Elf and Dwarf armies must unite to face the darkness or perish separately forever.
PROSPECTS: This being the last visit to Middle Earth possibly ever (although director Peter Jackson has reportedly been mulling over The Silmarillion as a future project) should get the fans out in droves. The last installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was also the biggest hit.
OBSTACLES: The Hobbit trilogy has disappointed both at the box office and in the hearts of the Middle Earth faithful.
FACTOID: Although Cate Blanchett appears in all three films, she was only on set for eight days of the more than 266 days of shooting (not including the additional shoots in the summer of 2013).

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB
RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson, Ben Kingsley, Dan Stevens, Rami Malek, Dick van Dyke
STORY: The magical…um, serving tray or whatever it is, has been brought to London to the British National Museum along with some other artifacts from the New York Museum of Natural History. However the…um, bedpan or whatever it is no longer functions correctly and it will be up to Larry the Security Guard to find a way to restore it before all his friends are lost forever.
PROSPECTS: The first two films did monster box office despite lukewarm reviews. This one will be one of the great Robin Williams’ final film roles which is certainly going to bring people out in droves.
OBSTACLES: This hasn’t exactly been the kind of franchise that people have fallen in love with despite the box office numbers. Weak word of mouth could really hurt it.
FACTOID: Not only is this Williams’ final major studio film, it is also the last film for the late Mickey Rooney who has a cameo.

ANNIE
RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2014
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Quvenzhané Wells, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannevale, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Zayas, Mike Birbiglia
STORY: A cheerfully optimistic foster kid with an obscenely positive attitude enters the life of a New York City mayoral candidate (and billionaire) and becomes something of a good luck charm for him. While he uses her to further his pursuits, he may not realize that she is changing him in ways he never expected.
PROSPECTS: This has been a perennial Broadway musical favorite, and has already been a big hit on the big screen. Columbia has been pushing the movie very hard.
OBSTACLES: Purists might object to some of the changes in this movie version from the original musical and the source comic strip.
FACTOID: Producer Will Smith originally envisioned this as a starring role for his daughter Willow (talk about a stage dad!) but by the time production was ready to get underway, she had grown too old to play Annie and Wells, fresh off her success in Beasts of the Southern Wild got the job instead.

BIG EYES
RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2014
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp, Jon Polito, Andrew Airlie
STORY: Walter Keane was one of the most successful painters of the late 50s and early 60s but he hid a staggering secret; the paintings were actually done by his wife Margaret and he was taking credit for her work.
PROSPECTS: A really fascinating story that few people know anything about. Could be a big awards contender come Oscar time.
OBSTACLES: Tim Burton is not exactly box office gold as directors go. Weinstein hasn’t really promoted this at all to date and this may end up being moved to another date next year.
FACTOID: The second biographical film that Burton has directed, the first being Ed Wood.

INTO THE WOODS
RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2014
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Lucy Punch
STORY: A story uniting the characters of Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a baker and his wife, desperate to have a baby, are cursed by a witch and find themselves entwined in the tales of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel.
PROSPECTS: One of Stephen Sondheim’s most beloved musicals which has inexplicably never made it to the big screen until now.
OBSTACLES: Will face heavy competition from Annie.
FACTOID: Sondheim wrote two original songs for the production, both of which were cut from the final film.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

WILD
RELEASE DATE: December 5, 2014 (limited)
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Gaby Hoffman, Michael Huisman, W. Earl Brown, Kevin Rankin, Keene McRae
STORY: After her marriage disintegrates and she embarks on a decade of reckless and destructive behavior, Cheryl Strayed decides to walk the thousand mile Pacific Crest trail on her own despite having no experience with hiking.
PROSPECTS: This true story looks like a legitimate Oscar possibility for Witherspoon who has become one of those actresses who seems to have an Oscar-worthy performance every year.
OBSTACLES: Limited release and a very inwardly-focused narrative may not exactly lead to box office bonanza, although the same studio had big success with 12 Years a Slave last year.
FACTOID: The screenplay was written by noted British novelist Nick Hornby.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

DECEMBER 5, 2014

THE PYRAMID (20th Century Fox) is a horror film in which modern day explorers discover a new pyramid buried in the sands of Egypt and then discover up close and personally the realities of an Egyptian curse.

DECEMBER 12, 2014

DEMONIC (Dimension) is about the investigation of a massacre in an abandoned house in which five college students were brutally murdered; one of the survivors explains that they were paranormal investigators whose ghost hunting woke up something truly terrifying. EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (20th Century Fox) is the retelling of the legend of Moses and Ramses from director Ridley Scott, with Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton in the respective roles. INHERENT VICE (Warner Brothers) features an all-star cast in a Paul Thomas Anderson film of a Thomas Pynchon novel set in the swinging ’60s.

DECEMBER 19, 2014

Opening in limited release, MR. TURNER (Sony Classics) stars Timothy Spall as British painter J.M.W. Turner, an eccentric who lived a colorful life and produced paintings that still divide the art world between acclaim and vilification.

DECEMBER 25, 2014

AMERICAN SNIPER (Warner Brothers), which opens in limited release and then expands to wide release on January 16, is the latest from director Clint Eastwood and tells the story of legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who has recorded more confirmed sniper kills than any U.S. military man in history. HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 (Paramount/MGM) returns most of the cast of the first film (sans John Cusack) who this time go back to the future to keep one of them from premature death. THE INTERVIEW (Columbia) received some controversy when North Korea threatened to go to war with the United States if this was to be released. It stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as a dimwitted talk show host and his producer who nab an interview with Kim Jong Un and are recruited by the CIA to assassinate him. It just makes one wonder; why would anyone go to war over Seth Rogen? PADDINGTON (Weinstein) is a live action/animated hybrid of the beloved children’s book character Paddington Bear and the second trailer for it looks like it may well be the best family film of the year. SELMA (Paramount), opening in limited release but expanding to a wide release on January 9, is the account of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama which sparked outrage at the tactics that the Alabama state troopers and locals used to stop the march and eventually led President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965. UNBROKEN (Universal) is the incredible but true story of Louis Zamperini, an American Olympian who during World War II survived a plane crash in the Pacific and 47 harrowing days in a raft at sea, only to be picked up by a Japanese warship and face internment in a harsh Japanese prisoner of war camp.

DECEMBER 31, 2014

LEVIATHAN (Sony Classics) opens in limited release and is a Russian film about a land dispute in a remote Russian village that ripples through the family and community involved and exposes the corruption in the Russian judicial system. This was one of the most acclaimed movies to come out of Sundance this year.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Paramount) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $125.2M Total: $173.7M Verdict: Hit.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (New Line) Budget: $225M. Domestic Gross: $258.4M Total: $958.4M Verdict: Big Hit.
JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT (Paramount) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $50.6M Total: $135.5M Verdict: Broke Even.
SAVING MR. BANKS (Disney) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $83.3M Total: $112.5M Verdict: Hit.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (CBS) Budget: $11M. Domestic Gross: $13.2M Total: $32.9M Verdict: Hit.
THE MONUMENTS MEN (Columbia) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $78.0M Total: $155.0M Verdict: Made Money.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (20th Century Fox) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $58.2M Total: $188.1 Verdict: Broke Even.
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $36.1M Total: $126.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
OUT OF THE FURNACE (Relativity) Budget: $22M. Domestic Gross: $11.3M Total: $14.1M Verdict: Flop.
47 RONIN (Universal) Budget: $175M. Domestic Gross: $38.4M Total: $151.0M Verdict: Flop.
GRUDGE MATCH (Warner Brothers) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $29.8M Total: $44.9M Verdict: Lost Money.
TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA CHRISTMAS (Lionsgate) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $52.5M Total: $52.5M Verdict: Broke Even.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (Weinstein) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $37.7M Total: $74.2M Verdict: Hit.

So there you have it, the last preview of the year and hopefully we’ll go out with a bang with some box office hits and some great movies that will keep the Oscar buzz going into the new year. As always; release dates are always subject to change, especially the farther out you go so be sure and check your local listings before heading out to your local multiplex.

There is a lot to look forward to next year which has studio accountants quivering with excitement – and film buffs and fanboys as well. A crowded schedule of movies that are already on a lot of people’s radars include the return of Star Wars to theaters, the new Avengers movie as well as the beginning of Marvel’s third cinematic phase, new installments in the Jurassic Park, Mad Max, Terminator, Fast and Furious, Divergent and The Hunger Games franchises, adaptations of Assassin’s Creed and The Jungle Book as well as a return of Pixar with Inside Out as well as the lovable Minions from Despicable Me getting their own movie – and a lot more. There are those who are whispering that 2015 may well be the greatest year in movies in decades and we’ll talk about all of it in the 2015 preview coming at the end of December. Until then, thanks for reading our Fall/Holiday preview edition and we’ll see you at the movies.

Fall/Holiday 2012 Preview


As summer winds down and school beckons, it is nice to look back upon the laid back days of summer and remember the good times; the warm summer nights, the barbecues, family vacations, beach days and concerts beneath the stars. For many of us, summer is defined by the movies that come out and there have been some big hits as well as some duds.

With The Avengers leading the way, the box office has been an improvement over the moribund numbers of 2011. Not only is it the biggest summer blockbuster in history (the two James Cameron movies ahead of it were both released in the fall) but it was also well-reviewed and audiences were enthusiastic in their praise. This is a movie that appealed to virtually everyone and led the way for more hits that kept studio coffers nice and full this year.

The Oscar race will be in full swing this fall and while the independent release Moonrise Kingdom is already garnering some Oscar buzz, it will have to contend with such films as Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Clint Eastwood’s new baseball movie Trouble With the Curve (although he is only acting in this one, not directing) and Quentin Tarantino’s deconstructed western Django Unchained.

There will also be blockbusters lest you think the summer season has exhausted them all. Look for box office lines for Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Jack Reacher and Skyfall. While there are no Christmas movies currently on the schedule, Santa makes an appearance in the oddball animated feature Rise of the Guardians which might be, by default, the family movie of the holidays.

Those who love to be scared at the cinema will have plenty of opportunities, particularly around Halloween. Some of the titles for you to get your scream on are Paranormal Activity 4, The House at the End of the Street, Sinister and videogame adaptations Resident Evil: Retribution and Silent Hill: Revelation. If you’d rather laugh than scream there’s always Here Comes the Boom, Parental Guidance, The Guilt Trip and This is Forty. If you’re looking for thrills that can only be found in action and adventure movies you can look forward to Dredd, Red Dawn, Argo and Looper. The kids won’t be ignored either with such family-friendly fare as Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweenie and Wreck-It Ralph on the schedule.

The fall and winter are a great time for star-gazing and 2011 will have its share. You’ll be able to see Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher), Leonardo di Caprio (Django Unchained), Daniel Craig (Skyfall), Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom), Bill Murray, (Hyde Park on Hudson), Tyler Perry (Alex Cross), Denzel Washington (Flight), Ben Affleck (Argo), Tom Hanks (Cloud Atlas), Liam Neeson (Taken 2), Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Bruce Willis (The Cold Light of Day and Looper), Jennifer Lawrence (The House at the End of the Street and The Silver Linings Playbook), Chris Hemsworth (Red Dawn), Billy Crystal (Parental Guidance), Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained), Russell Crowe (The Man With the Iron Fists), Bette Midler (Parental Guidance) and Barbra Streisand (The Guilt Trip). We’ll also see our fair share of great directors, including Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, Judd Apatow, Sam Mendes and Tim Burton, among others.

So hopefully there are a few films here that will pique your interest as you prepare for the cold weather months to begin. Further details can be found in our weekly Previews and monthly Four-Warned features, and many of the movies you see listed here will eventually make their way to our daily reviews. So don’t be afraid to try a few new movies on for size; there’s more than one that’s bound to meet your standards, particularly if you took the time to read this far.

SEPTEMBER

The first month of the fall is essentially a buffer between the summer movies and the splashier films of the holiday season. Sometimes there are a few gems that make it into the mix among all the also-rans the studios usually schedule. Some of the likelier choices include an animated feature starring some of moviedom’s most famous monsters, a baseball drama starring Clint Eastwood, a film version of an iconic British science fiction comic book and the latest entry in the most successful film franchise to be based on a videogame franchise.

CHRISTMAS

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA
RELEASE DATE: September 28, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia/Sony Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Cee-Lo Green, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, Jon Lovitz
STORY: These days Dracula runs a five-star resort for monsters so that they can relax away from humankind who are strictly forbidden from the property. Then, when one comes along his headstrong daughter falls in love – with one of them!! You know that’s not going to sit well with the King of Vampires.
PROSPECTS: The only family competition at this time of year will be the re-release of Finding Nemo in 3D. Has a kind of “Spooky Tales” vibe for kids, an all-star voice cast for big kids.
OBSTACLES: The late September release date might be a week or two too early to properly cash in on Halloween.
FACTOID: This is the first feature film by Genndy Tartakovsky, who is best known for the “Star Wars: Clone Wars” show as well as other Cartoon Network mainstays.

THANKSGIVING

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION
RELEASE DATE: September 14, 2012
STUDIO: Screen Gems
STARRING: Milla Jovovoich, Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, Kevin Durand, Shawn Roberts, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li BIngbing
STORY: As the dreaded T-virus overruns the world, the mainly indestructible Alice goes to the source – the Umbrella Corporation – with the intention of taking the fight to them and making those responsible pay. However, the further she gets into the fight, the more revelations she will discover – altering her view of things forever.
PROSPECTS: The most successful translation of videogames to movies thus far, the Resident Evil franchise shows no signs of slowing down. The last movie was one of the best (if not the best) in the franchise to date.
OBSTACLES: The comparable Underworld franchise didn’t do very well when their latest film was released earlier this year.
FACTOID: Jensen Ackles of “Supernatural” was considered for the role of Leon Kennedy but his TV filming schedule conflicted with filming for this, so the role went to Johann Urb instead.

LOOPER
RELEASE DATE: September 28, 2012
STUDIO: Tri-Star
STARRING: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Garret Dillahunt, Tracie Thoms
STORY: In the future after time travel has been invented, the mob sends people back to 2012 to be killed and disposed of by Loopers, assassins hired and well-paid for the privilege. However when one Looper’s target turns out to be his future self, things go a bit haywire.
PROSPECTS: Gordon-Levitt is a star on the rise and Willis remains one of the most bankable action stars in the business.
OBSTACLES: Sci-fi hasn’t traditionally done well in September and time travel movies have a tendency to be confusing to mass audiences.
FACTOID: Levitt wore prosthetics and his eyes digitally altered so that he would resemble Willis more closely.

HALLOWEEN

THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY
RELEASE DATE: September 7, 2012
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Echegui, Joseph Mawle, Jim Piddock, Caroline Goodall, Rafi Gavron, Emma Hamilton, Michael Budd, Oscar Jaenada
STORY: A family sailing vacation in Spain turns into a nightmare for an American family who are kidnapped by a counter-intelligence agency looking for a mysterious briefcase. The eldest son must recover the case while sifting through the lies and the deception that was the life he knew in order to save them.
PROSPECTS: An intriguing premise and a pretty decent trailer promise a respectable action film.
OBSTACLES: The studio has shifted around its release date and relegated it to a limited release run, never a good sign.
FACTOID: Director Mabrouk El Mechri is a French director of Tunisian origin who is best known in this country for directing JCVD.

LABOR DAYS

SEPTEMBER 7, 2012

BRANDED (Roadside Attractions) is set in a dystopian future where corporations control the political environment and the population is kept happy through a campaign of disinformation and mind control. Sounds vaguely familiar but will nonetheless be opening in limited release. In THE WORDS (CBS) a writer finally finds success with an acclaimed best-selling novel. The trouble is, he didn’t actually write it.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

FINDING NEMO 3D (Disney) is a re-release of the beloved Disney classic in 3D and IMAX formats for the first time. Cha-ching! THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Summit) stars Logan Lerman and Emma Watson as a shy young prep school student finds some solace among a group of outsiders like himself. This was recently changed from a wide to limited release.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

In HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (Relativity) Elisabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence are a mother and daughter who move into a house on the street where a gruesome murder occurred. Strange incidents begin to point at the previous murders just being the tip of the iceberg. DREDD 3D (Lionsgate) is based on the iconic British comic. In an irradiated future, Dredd is a Judge – a combination police officer, judge and executioner. He and psychic Judge Anderson take on a psychotic slumlord in a war for survival in which only one side will be left standing. KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Weinstein) stars Brad Pitt as an enforcer investigating a heist during a high-stakes mob-protected poker game. This is based on a novel by George V. Higgins. WAR OF THE BUTTONS (Weinstein) is set in occupied France during World War II when rival gangs of kids from neighboring villages must put aside their conflict to save a Jewish girl. This is also opening in limited release.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

In END OF WATCH (Open Road) two hot-shot cops and partners run afoul of the cartels after a routine bust yields up a large chunk of their cash. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena star. TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (Warner Brothers) stars Clint Eastwood as an aging baseball scout whose sight is failing. He enlists the help of his daughter as he takes a last trip to Atlanta to evaluate a young phenom. WON’T BACK DOWN (20th Century Fox) stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as a couple of ordinary women who take on the system to improve education in their neighborhood.

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

APOLLO 18 (Weinstein) Budget: $5 Million. Domestic Gross: $17.7M Total: $25.6M Verdict: Hit.
CONTAGION (Warner Brothers) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $75.7M Total: $135.5M Verdict: Made Money.
DREAM HOUSE (Universal) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $21.3M Total: $38.5M Verdict: Flop.
DRIVE (FilmDistrict) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $35.1M Total: $76.1M Verdict: Big Hit.
MONEYBALL (Columbia) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $75.6M Total: $110.2M Verdict: Broke Even.
DOLPHIN TALE 3D (Warner Brothers) Budget: $37M. Domestic Gross: $72.3M Total: $95.4M Verdict: Made Money.
ABDUCTION (Lionsgate) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $28.1M Total: $82.1M Verdict: Made Money.
I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT (Weinstein) Budget: $24M. Domestic Gross: $9.7M Total: $30.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
STRAW DOGS (Screen Gems) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $10.3M Total: $10.3 Verdict: Flop.
50/50 (Summit) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $35.0M Total: $39.2 Verdict: Big Hit.

OCTOBER

The tenth month of the year is a time of spooks and shadows as the weather starts to turn cool. The smell of burning leaves fills the neighborhood as the sounds of college football on Saturday afternoon televisions. School is in full swing and the Holiday season is right around the corner. Hollywood tends to pack this month with autumnal offerings, mainly with horror which will be well represented by the fourth installment of the most popular found footage series in history, the tale of a boy and the dog he resurrected, the terrifying home movies of a serial killer and the sequel to one of the scariest movies based on a video game ever. For those who are squeamish, there’s a new one from director Ben Affleck, the return of a popular detective, a sequel to one of Liam Neeson’s biggest hits and the latest from the directors of The Matrix.

CHRISTMAS

CLOUD ATLAS
RELEASE DATE: October 26, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhou, Keith David, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant
STORY: Four different lives in four different eras create a ripple effect that can be felt throughout all four eras all the way through the end of time.
PROSPECTS: A very ambitious effort that unites respected German director Tom Twyker (Run, Lola, Run) and the Wachowskis (The Matrix trilogy). The trailer looks absolutely spectacular and the movie has Hanks to pull in a fairly sizable opening night crowd.
OBSTACLES: The Wachowski’s last – Speed Racer – was a flop. The multi-era arc reminds me a little bit of another artistic science fiction film – Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain and that was a flop as well.
FACTOID: The entire film was shot with two parallel production units; one helmed by Twyker, the other by the Wachowski’s with completely different crews. Only the cast was shared between production teams.

THANKSGIVING

ARGO
RELEASE DATE: October 12, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Kerry Bishe, Zeljko Ivanek, Richard Kind
STORY: During the Iranian hostage crisis, six Americans escape the embassy and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. It is up to an American extraction specialist for the CIA to get them out and he comes up with a plan so ludicrous and outrageous that it had to be true.
PROSPECTS: Taken from recently de-classified documents. Affleck’s last film as director and star (as he is here) was The Town which was a big hit. A solid cast here as well.
OBSTACLES: Most teens and young people weren’t alive for the Iranian hostage crisis and lack interest in it. Affleck isn’t the box office slam dunk he once was.
FACTOID: The CIA allowed the filmmakers to film some scenes at their Langley, VA headquarters – a very unusual honor as the CIA rarely allows any sort of filming on their premises.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4
RELEASE DATE: October 19, 2012
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Katie Featherston, Brady Allen, Matt Shively
STORY: While the plot is being kept under serious wraps, the trailer indicates that a strange mother and son move into a neighborhood and eerie things begin happening.
PROSPECTS: The most successful horror franchise currently in production, this looks to be the big moneymaker come Halloween.
OBSTACLES: People may well be getting tired of the found footage conceit. It might be time to give this one a rest.
FACTOID: Featherston is the only actor to appear in all four films in the franchise.

HALLOWEEN

THE PAPERBOY
RELEASE DATE: October 5, 2012
STUDIO: Millennium
STARRING: Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray, John Cusack, Nicole Kidman, Scott Glenn
STORY: In 1960s Florida, a prominent family of journalists are torn apart by the investigation of a sheriff-killing murderer on death row.
PROSPECTS: Lee Daniels’ follow-up to his Oscar-nominated turn in Precious has a pretty respectable cast and a steamy, sexy story that boasts Nicole Kidman and Macy Gray in the center of it.
OBSTACLES: Millennium is not a big distributor, so this will see a very limited number of screens.
FACTOID: Mariah Carey recorded the movie’s theme song.

LABOR DAYS

OCTOBER 5, 2012
BUTTER (Weinstein) explores the rarified air of one of America’s underrated sports – competitive butter carving. Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Garner star. In FRANKENWEENIE (Disney), a young boy resurrects his recently deceased pooch with unexpected results. This is based on Tim Burton’s short which basically led to his career being established here; expanding it into a feature is Burton’s way of saying thanks. PITCH PERFECT (Universal) is a kind of take on “Glee.” OK, it’s essentially a rip-off but who cares? You know the Gleeks will be all in. SINISTER (Summit) stars Ethan Hawke as a crime novelist who finds a box of home movies taken by a serial killer, but the film hides something far more terrifying. TAKEN 2 (20th Century Fox) finds Liam Neeson taking on the father of the kidnappers who tried to take his daughter in the first film. You think that father knows best but noooooooo. THE ORANGES (ATO) finds long-time neighbors thrown into upheaval when the teenage daughter of one family falls in love with the father of the other. Opening in limited release, WUTHERING HEIGHTS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) is the most recent version of the Emily Bronte classic. Ah, Heathcliff and Catherine – together again at last.

OCTOBER 12, 2012
ATLAS SHRUGGED PART II (Atlas) is the concluding chapter in this independently made Tea Party-approved version of the Ayn Rand classic. Kevin James stars in HERE COMES THE BOOM (Columbia), a movie about a high school gym teacher who in order to secure funds for his school takes up MMA wrestling. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (CBS) stars Colin Ferrell as a Hollywood screenwriter whose friends Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu, putting our hero quite solidly in the spotlight he doesn’t want to be in.

OCTOBER 19, 2012
ALEX CROSS (Summit) reboots the mystery franchise handled so ably by Morgan Freeman, putting Tyler Perry in the title role. This time the brilliant detective takes on a sadistic serial killer (played by Matthew Fox) who intends to get personal with Detective Cross. KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Weinstein) features Brad Pitt as an enforcer who investigates the robbery of a mob-protected poker game in New Orleans.

OCTOBER 26, 2012
During THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate), the divorced parents of the groom (Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton) must pretend to still be together in order not to alienate the hyper-Christian parents of the bride. The spectacular cast includes Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Katherine Heigl and Ben Barnes. CHASING MAVERICKS (20th Century Fox) is about Jay Moriarty, who would go on to be a surfing legend, and his chase to surf the biggest, most dangerous wave – and the mentor who put him in the position to survive it. FUN SIZE (Paramount) is a teen comedy about a girl who finally gets the big invite to THE Halloween party of all time but is forced to babysit her kid brother – whom she promptly loses on Halloween night. SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D (Open Road) is the sequel to the video game-based original which was one of the most genuinely creepy (and damned scary) movies of the last ten years. The surviving husband who is raising their daughter now alone is on the run from unexplainable forces – which eventually catch up with him.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

REAL STEEL (Warner Brothers) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $85.5M Total: $295.5M Verdict: Made Money.
FOOTLOOSE (Paramount) Budget: $24M. Domestic Gross: $51.8M Total: $62.7M Verdict: Made Money.
ANONYMOUS (Sony Classics) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $4.5M Total: $15.4M Verdict: Flop.
THE IDES OF MARCH (Columbia) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $41.0M Total: $76.0M Verdict: Hit.
IN TIME (20th Century Fox) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $37.5M Total: $173.9 Verdict: Big Hit.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (Paramount) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $140.0M Total: $205.7 Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Summit) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $20.4M Total: $132.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
WANDERLUST (Universal) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $17.3M Total: $21.5M Verdict: Flop.
THE THING (Universal) Budget: $38M. Domestic Gross: $16.9M Total: $27.4M Verdict: Flop.
THE RUM DIARY (FilmDistrict) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $13.1M Total: $24.0M Verdict: Flop.
THE BIG YEAR (20th Century Fox) Budget: $41M. Domestic Gross: $7.2M Total: $7.5M Verdict: Flop.

NOVEMBER

The Holiday release season usually starts heating up here. While one franchise wraps things up, the Bond films continue to go strong and several other candidates vie to create new franchises including an animated feature about our great childhood legends teaming up to fight a new evil and another set in the world of classic videogames. Films from Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and rapper RZA also head up the list of anticipated releases.

CHRISTMAS

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2
RELEASE DATE: November 16, 2012
STUDIO: Summit Entertainment
STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Billy Burke, Maggie Grace, Lee Pace, Elizabeth Reaser, Rami Malek
STORY: Having had her baby, Renesmee, Bella’s troubles aren’t over yet. She has to face a pack of bloodthirsty…movie critics.
PROSPECTS: The last movie of the series which will bring some pre-pubescent hearts to tears and others to profound relief, like always this will be a phenomenon the first weekend and quickly taper off.
OBSTACLES: The only obstacles for this film is going to be fighting your way through screaming Team Edward and Team Jacob fans and their equally frantic moms to get tickets for this.
FACTOID: At $75 million, this film had the largest production budget of any of the Twilight films.

THANKSGIVING

SKYFALL
RELEASE DATE: November 9, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia/MGM
STARRING: Daniel Craig, Dame Judy Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Berenice Marlohe, Ben Whishaw, Helen McCrory, Ola Rapace
STORY: M’s past comes back to haunt her, and MI-6 comes under direct attack from forces that James Bond will have to take on – at the possible cost of his life.
PROSPECTS: Bardem has always been a Bond villain waiting to happen. Fan anticipation is high for this one.
OBSTACLES: It has been four years since the last Bond film which was generally considered as a disappointment by most Bond fans, leading Mendes and the producers to change gears from continuing the Quantum storyline
FACTOID: This is the first Bond film to be directed by an Oscar-winning director (Sam Mendes); it is also being released in the U.S. days before the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No.

FLIGHT
RELEASE DATE: November 2, 2012
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, Brian Geraghty, Tamara Tunie
STORY: A commercial airline pilot becomes a hero after saving most of the passengers on his flight with an unorthodox maneuver. His heroism, however, is called into question.
PROSPECTS: A compelling trailer makes this look gut-wrenching. With Robert Zemeckis making a return to live-action filming and Denzel Washington in the lead, this is a likely candidate for a big fall hit
OBSTACLES: There’s a good portion of the population who are still uneasy with movies about airplane crashes. Zemeckis’ track record with motion capture movies has been less than stellar.
FACTOID: This is the first live-action feature film for Zemeckis since Cast Away in 2000.

HALLOWEEN

JACK AND DIANE
RELEASE DATE: November 2, 2012
STUDIO: Magnolia
STARRING: Juno Temple, Riley Keough, Kylie Minogue, Cara Seymour, Dane DeHaan, Michael Chernus, Lou Taylor Pucci
STORY: Two girls meet in New York and begin kissing. A lot. Then, when one of them has to move it leads to unexpected changes in the body of the other.
PROSPECTS: Has quietly received some online buzz. Although listed as a horror film, it is actually an amalgam of genres.
OBSTACLES: May be a little too Kafka-esque for general movie audiences.
FACTOID: Originally meant for Juno co-stars Olivia Thirlby and Ellen Page but they proved to be unavailable.

LABOR DAYS

NOVEMBER 2, 2012
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (Focus) brings Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA into a martial arts epic, which was not only bound to happen but is long overdue. Also starring Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Pam Grier, Cung Le, Rick Yune and a host of others, a blacksmith makes a home in a Chinese village and when threatened by evil warring clans turns himself into a human weapon. THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (Weinstein) stars Sean Penn as a retired rock star living off his royalties who returns to the United States for the funeral of his estranged father. This prompts him to take a journey across the country to do one last thing to try to get to know his dad. WRECK-IT RALPH (Disney) is an animated feature about a classic video game baddie who longs to be a good guy – and decides to leave his game to find his inner hero elsewhere. A LATE QUARTET (EntertainmentOne) follows a world famous string quartet on the occasion of their 25th anniversary amid great drama, heartbreaking tragedy and formidable lust. Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman star.

NOVEMBER 9, 2012
LINCOLN (DreamWorks) stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th President in an epic film about the Great Emancipator by Steven Spielberg which is bound to be counting up the Oscar nominations come January.

NOVEMBER 16, 2012
Opening in limited release, ANNA KARENINA (Focus) stars Keira Knightley in the title role of Tolstoy’s epic novel in which a well-off woman married to an aristocrat falls in love with a dashing Russian cavalry officer as sweeping changes begin to overwhelm the nation.

NOVEMBER 21, 2012
LIFE OF PI (20th Century Fox) is the latest from director Ang Lee in which the survivor of a shipwreck must co-exist with the only other survivor of the disaster – a Bengal Tiger. One of the most visually impressive trailers of the year makes this a movie I’m anticipating intently. In RED DAWN (FilmDistrict) a small Colorado town copes with the invasion of the United States by the Chinese, while a group of the town’s high school football heroes forms an underground resistance . Based on the 1984 film classic. RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (DreamWorks) is an animated feature in which Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy must team up to save the children of the world from an evil spirit. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Weinstein) features Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as a couple of emotionally challenged people who agree to help each other with extremely important tasks but find an unexpected relationship developing. Robert De Niro also stars.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 (Summit) Budget: $110M. Domestic Gross: $281.3Total: $705.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
HUGO (Paramount) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $73.9M Total: $184.7M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
THE MUPPETS (Disney) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $88.6M Total: $158.4M Verdict: Hit.
IMMORTALS (Relativity) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $83.5M Total: $226.9M Verdict: Hit.
PUSS IN BOOTS (DreamWorks) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $149.3M Total: $554.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $82.6M Total: $177.2M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (Columbia) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $46.5M Total: $147.4M Verdict: Likely broke even or even lost money.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $24.2M Total: $80.6M Verdict: Likely broke even.
J. EDGAR (Warner Brothers) Budget: $35M Domestic Gross: $37.3M Total: $79.0M Verdict: Broke Even.
HAPPY FEET TOO (Warner Brothers) Budget: $N/A Domestic Gross: $64.0M Total: $150.4M Verdict: Likely a Flop.
TOWER HEIST (Universal) Budget: $75M Domestic Gross: $78.1M Total: $152.9M Verdict: Broke Even.
JACK AND JILL (Columbia) Budget: $79M Domestic Gross: $74.2M Total: $149.6M Verdict: Flop.

DECEMBER

The last month of the year goes out with a bang instead of a whimper as Oscar candidates vie for holiday blockbusters for space at the multiplex and for the dollars in your wallet. This year Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth, fellow Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow returns to the Middle East and Hollywood returns to Broadway, while Tom Cruise assays one of his darkest roles yet.

CHRISTMAS

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
RELEASE DATE: December 14, 2012
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Sylvester McCoy, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, Luke Evans
STORY: Bilbo Baggins, a respectable Hobbit of the Shire, is swept up into an adventure in which a band of dwarves attempt to retake their kingdom with the help of an eccentric wizard named Gandalf from the terrifying dragon Smaug.
PROSPECTS: Will almost certainly wind up in the top three box office films of the year. Peter Jackson returning to Middle Earth has got all the fanboys salivating and the recent announcement that there will be three films taken from the J.R.R. Tolkein classic was almost too good to be true.
OBSTACLES: The Hobbit was meant more as a children’s book and some might find it childish.
FACTOID: Was originally going to be directed by Guillermo del Toro who wound up dropping out when pre-production was put on hold while MGM (who originally had the rights) went through bankruptcy proceedings.

THANKSGIVING

ZERO DARK THIRTY
RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Joel Edgerton, Jessica Chastain, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Nash Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Harold Perrineau, Frank Grillo
STORY: American intelligence forces search for the world’s most wanted criminal – Osama bin Laden. Based on the actual search and eventual assassination of the 9/11 mastermind.
PROSPECTS: Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for The Hurt Locker. The assault on bin Laden’s compound remains one of the most talked about events of recent years – but few people know many details about it.
OBSTACLES: Movies about the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns have not done well.
FACTOID: Edgerton was originally cast in the lead and then had to drop out due to scheduling difficulties. However when those conflicts were resolved, he returned to the part and Jason Clarke, who had been set to take his part, was given a different role.

THIS IS 40

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Melissa McCarthy, Albert Brooks, Charlene Yi, Jason Segel, Lena Dunham, Johnny Pemberton
STORY: A couple who have traded in their youth for parenthood cope with the oncoming soul-crushing 40s as they transition from youth into middle age.
PROSPECTS: Loosely spun off from Knocked Up, the trailer looked hysterically funny and might well be Judd Apatow’s best film yet.
OBSTACLES: Apatow has not been as prolific lately and his films haven’t been pulling the same numbers a they were five or six years ago.
FACTOID: Neither Katherine Heigl nor Seth Rogen who starred in Knocked Up appear in this film (according to IMDb anyway).

LES MISERABLES
RELEASE DATE: December 14, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Aaron Tveit
STORY: Jean Valjean, convicted of stealing bread to eat, violates his patrol and is chased by the relentless Inspector Javert. In the meantime, Valjean agrees to care for Cosette, the daughter of factory worker Fantine. This act will end up having unforeseen consequences for both men.
PROSPECTS: This is the longest-running musical in the entire world and was a contemporary of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera. With a stellar cast – all practiced in music and musicals – and some of the finest songs ever written for the stage this one might well be the event of the holiday season.
OBSTACLES: Musicals, even well-made ones have had a checkered past lately at the box office. Les Mis might not have the cachet of Phantom or Cats.
FACTOID: Hathaway’s audition was so raw and emotional that it reportedly had the producers in tears.

HALLOWEEN

AMOUR
RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2012
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud, William Shimell, Ramon Agirre, Rita Blanco, Carole Franck
STORY: A couple in their 80s, both retired from teaching music, enter their golden years content and still deeply in love. Their daughter, also a musician, lives abroad. When one of them gets seriously ill, their bonds are tested in ways they never imagined.
PROSPECTS: Michael Haneke might be the greatest director you’ve never heard of but to film buffs his latest films are greeted with the same enthusiasm as a new Twilight film would be by that fanbase – only without the screaming.
OBSTACLES: Haneke isn’t well-known in the United States and films about the elderly are generally death at the box office as most young people would rather have their cell phones and iPads taken away from them forever than watch a movie about older people.
FACTOID: Haneke is one of just eight directors whose films have won two Palme d’Or awards at Cannes, Francis Ford Coppola among them.

LABOR DAYS

DECEMBER 7, 2012
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (Focus) stars Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt entertaining the King and Queen of England at his Hyde Park manor in a visit that would turn to be a turning point for both countries; all as seen through the eyes of his young cousin (Laura Linney). In PLAYING FOR KEEPS (FilmDistrict), Gerard Butler plays a down-on-his-luck ex-soccer star who becomes a youth soccer coach which brings him to the attention of a number of predatory soccer moms, which marks the most times I’ve used the word “soccer” in a single preview.

DECEMBER 19, 2012
MONSTERS, INC 3D (Disney*Pixar) brings the beloved animated feature to 3D and IMAX screens in advance of the prequel coming out next May.

DECEMBER 21, 2012
Based on the popular Lee Child-penned books, JACK REACHER (Paramount) stars Tom Cruise in the title role of an ex-military investigator trying to get a friend off the hook for murders he didn’t commit. THE IMPOSSIBLE (Summit), opening in limited release, recounts the true story of a family’s survival during the Christmas 2004 tsunami. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star. NOT FADE AWAY (Paramount Vantage), also opening in limited release, follows three Jersey boys played by James Gandolfini, Brad Garrett and Christopher McDonald, who inspired by a TV appearance by the Rolling Stones decide to form a band of their own. CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WORLDS AWAY 3D (Paramount) places amazing athletic and acrobatic performances from a variety of the shows in the Cirque du Soleil repertoire and adds special effects and amazing 3D photography.

DECEMBER 25, 2012
DJANGO UNCHAINED (Weinstein) is Quentin Tarantino’s version of a Western as a bounty hunter (Christolph Waltz) utilizes a slave (Jamie Foxx) to help him nab some real bad guys in exchange for liberating the slave’s wife from the plantation owner from Hell. Leonardo di Caprio co-stars. THE GUILT TRIP (Paramount) stars Seth Rogen as an inventor taking his mom – played by the legendary Barbra Streisand – on a cross-country road trip as he tries to not only sell his new invention but also reunite her with her long-lost love as well. PARENTAL GUIDANCE (20th Century Fox) stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as a couple of grandparents brought on board to care for their grandkids, but their old school methods clash with the kids’ modern sensibilities and ordered, highly scheduled lifestyle.

DECEMBER 28, 2012
Opening in limited release, PROMISED LAND (Focus) follows a slick corporate salesman (Matt Damon) trying to get the inhabitants of a hard-hit rural town to sell the drilling rights, but he doesn’t count on a grass roots campaign to oppose him. THERESE (LD Entertainment) is a new version of the Emile Zola novel Therese Raquin starring Elizabeth Olsen in the title role.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Paramount) Budget: $145M. Domestic Gross: $209.4M Total: $694.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE ADVENTURES OF TIN-TIN (Paramount) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $77.6M Total: $374.0M Verdict: Probably Broke Even.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $N/A. Domestic Gross: $186.9M Total: $543.9M Verdict: Hit.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Columbia/MGM) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $102.5M Total: $232.6M Verdict: Made Money.
THE IRON LADY (Weinstein) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $30.0M Total: $114.9M Verdict: Hit.
WAR HORSE (DreamWorks) Budget: $66M. Domestic Gross: $79.9M Total: $177.6M Verdict: Made Money.
NEW YEAR’S EVE (New Line) Budget: $56M. Domestic Gross: $54.5M Total: $142.0M Verdict: Made Money.
YOUNG ADULT (Paramount) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $16.3M Total: $22.7 Verdict: Lost Money.
THE ARTIST (Weinstein) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $44.7M Total: $133.4M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE SITTER (20th Century Fox) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $30.4M Total: $34.9M Verdict: Lost Money.
WE BOUGHT A ZOO (20th Century Fox) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $75.6M Total: $120.1M Verdict: Probably Made Money.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED (20th Century Fox) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $133.1M Total: $342.7M Verdict: Big Hit.

So that’s it for the Fall and Holiday preview. I hope at least a few of these little snippets caught your attention and maybe you’re looking at a movie you might not necessarily have been planning to see. Remember; release dates are always subject to change, particularly the farther out you go so be sure and check your local listings before heading out to the theater. This brings the 2012 preview season to a close but that isn’t the end; 2013 is already filling up with some amazing films that I can’t wait to see and you can check out some of them in our 2013 preview, due out at the end of December. Next year, we’ll begin the next phase of the Marvel films, continue with The Hobbit and The Hunger Games franchises and see a plethora of sci-fi and fantasy films eager to establish franchises of their own. Thank you for reading, and until the next time, catch you at the multiplex!

Fall/Holiday Preview


Fall PreviewFall means back to school, the start of football season and new television programs on the networks. For the movie industry, it means the end of the summer blockbuster season and the beginning of releases seriously vying for Oscar gold. That doesn’t mean there won’t be its share of blockbusters; after all, James Cameron’s first movie since Titanic is bound to sell a whole lot of tickets, particularly when it’s as hyped as Avatar is. There is also a re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes and a new Disney full-length animated feature to keep the cash registers ringing.

September tends to be a dumping ground for movies that don’t quite fit into the Summer or Fall movie seasons, and with the exception of 9 and The Informant! probably don’t merit consideration in this feature; since we’re already into September we’re just going to skip the month altogether for the purposes of this preview and start with October (you can see previews for each week in September however on the blog and in the newsletter) and run through December.

There are always a few movies that open in Los Angeles and New York City for Oscar consideration but don’t get a general release until January or sometimes even February; those will be covered in our 2010 preview, scheduled for the end of December. As per our usual modus operandi, we will stick to wide-release movies scheduled to open in Orlando, along with a few high-profile limited release films that have a decent chance to show up either the Enzian or the Regal Winter Park. As always, these dates are very subject to change, and some may turn from general releases to limited markets. Things are very fluid when it comes to studio release schedules. In any case, check out what’s going to be on your list of must-sees this fall!

OCTOBER

Amelia_3

TOUCHDOWN

AMELIA

RELEASE DATE: October 23, 2009

STUDIO: Fox Searchlight

STARRING: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan MacGregor, Mia Wasikowska, Christopher Eccleston, Joe Anderson

STORY: She was a small-town girl who just wanted to fly to exotic places around the world. She became the heroine of a nation for being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic by herself. She became the darling of society for her breezy, natural charm. She became a legend for her mysterious, tragic final flight. She is Amelia Earhart and this is her story.

PROSPECTS: In a very weak month of releases, this has the best chance of Oscar buzz and with the right kind of push might hit box office gold as well.

OBSTACLES: Going up against the popular Saw franchise is going to be a tough sell to general audiences, particularly younger audiences who may have less interest in the Amelia Earhart story than older viewers.

FACTOID: While director Mira Nair was born in India, she has spent most of her career making movies in the United States.

FIELD GOALS

SAW VI

RELEASE DATE: October 23, 2009

STUDIO: Lionsgate

STARRING: Costas Mandylor, Mark Ralston, Betsy Russell, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Peter Outerbridge, Larissa Gomes

STORY: The studio has kept details of the movie close to the vest, but apparently the grand design behind Jigsaw’s handiwork is going to be revealed in this entry of the highly successful horror franchise.

PROSPECTS: The Saw franchise has been among the most successful in horror film history.  Despite the onscreen death of the main villain of the first movies, the franchise has shown no signs of slowing down and has become a fixture in the October line-up.

OBSTACLES: This is the sixth installment in the franchise and horror fans are notoriously fickle. It’s quite possible they will have grown tired of it.

FACTOID: Tanedra Howard won her role in the film on the “Scream Queens” reality series.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

RELEASE DATE: October 16, 2009

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, Max Records, Lauren Ambrose, James Gandolfini, Chris Cooper, Catherine O’Hara, Forrest Whitaker

STORY: The beloved book by Maurice Sendak is brought to life by director Spike Jonze. A young boy, misunderstood at home, finds a strange island populated by the Wild Things, a race of unpredictable creatures longing for a ruler. When they elect the young boy as their king, he finds that being a ruler is not all it’s cracked up to be.

PROSPECTS: Sendak’s book has delighted generations of kids, and given that the highly inventive Jonze is directing, this may have broad appeal with families as well as adult moviegoers.

OBSTACLES: Jonze can be a bit avant garde at times; general audiences may not warm to that.

FACTOID: The Wild Thing costumes were designed by the Jim Henson Company.

EXTRA POINT

A SERIOUS MAN

RELEASE DATE: October 2, 2009

STUDIO: Focus Films

STARRING: Michael Stuhlbarg, Fred Melamed, Richard Kind, Aaron Wolf, Sari Wagner, Jessica McManus, Adam Arkin

STORY: A Jewish physics professor is having a tough time in 1967. His wife is leaving him for a pompous colleague, his son is a discipline problem, his career is being threatened by an anonymous letter-writer, his daughter is filching money from his wallet to save for a nose job, and his attractive next-door neighbor sunbathes in the nude. He turns to three different rabbis to help him be a mensch – a serious man.

PROSPECTS: This is the latest from the Coen brothers, who have Fargo and No Country for Old Men on their resume.

OBSTACLES: The subject matter may not appeal widely to a non-Jewish audience. The trailer is, shall we say, a tad unconventional.

FACTOID: This is Stuhlbarg’s first lead role as a professional actor.

HAIL MARYS

October 2, 2009

THE INVENTION OF LYING (Warner Brothers) finds comedian Ricky Gervais writing, directing and starring in this comedy set in a world where people only tell the truth. Gervais’ character tells the first lie – and discovers that he can manipulate his alternate reality to his own reality. However, things quickly get out of hand as things will whenever you lie, kids. WHIP IT (Fox Searchlight) is also the directorial debut of someone better known in front of the camera, in this case actress Drew Barrymore. It’s a coming-of-age movie set in the world of the roller derby. ZOMBIELAND (Columbia) is a comedy in a George A. Romero world; one taken over by flesh-eating zombies, where hapless losers like Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg become the hope of humanity. Disney is also re-releasing TOY STORY/TOY STORY 2 (Disney/Pixar) in Disney 3-D for the first time, in anticipation of the May release of the long-awaited Toy Story 3.

October 9, 2009

COUPLES RETREAT (Universal) is a Vince Vaughn comedy about four Midwestern couples who go to a luxurious Tropical resort ostensibly for a vacation. When it turns out to be a couple’s therapy resort, all four are forced to face the problems in their relationship, whether they admit to it or not. MORE THAN A GAME (Lionsgate) follows five talented young basketball players from the Akron, Ohio area – including the great LeBron James – as their friendship is tested by the pressures brought on by a looming state high school championship game and the exploding popularity and notoriety of James. AN EDUCATION (Sony Classics) comes from writer/director Nick Hornby concerning the coming-of-age of a young girl in 1961 Britain. She is forced to choose between her long-held dream of going to Oxford or a glittering, sensual jet-set life with her thirtysomething boyfriend.

October 16, 2009

THE STEPFATHER (Screen Gems) is a remake of a 1987 thriller that featured “Lost” star Terry O’Quinn. Dylan Walsh takes his role as a new suitor for a widow whose teenaged son begins to suspect that his prospective stepfather has a far more sinister agenda. LAW ABIDING CITIZEN (Overture) stars Gerard Butler as an upstanding family man whose wife and daughter are brutally murdered. He goes on a rampage against the city fathers and legal system that let one of the murderers get off with a light sentence. It’s up to the prosecutor who initially worked his case and is now in the crosshairs of the grieving man. BLACK DYNAMITE (Apparition) is a spoof of blaxploitation crime dramas from the ‘70s. It was one of the big hits of the Sundance Film festival. It’s getting a limited release but may expand if the numbers warrant it.

October 23, 2009

ASTRO BOY (Summit) is a feature-length animated film starring the venerable Japanese robotic superhero who has been thrilling audiences all over the world for almost 50 years. Based on the popular young adult series of novels, CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT (Universal) is about a normal, bored teenager who is sucked into the world of freaks and monsters after being turned to a vampire by a traveling sideshow, promptly getting embroiled in a war between rival vampire clans. Sounds familiar, no? ANTICHRIST (IFC), opening in limited release, is the latest from maverick Danish director Lars van Trier, concerning a couple whose marriage has been brought to the brink by tragedy going to an isolated cabin in the woods to try and save it, but find something far more sinister instead. Finally, ONG BAK II: THE BEGINNING (Magnet) is the prequel to the astonishing Thai martial arts hit starring Tony Jaa, this time as a warrior fighting for justice in ancient Thailand.

October 28, 2009

MICHAEL JACKSON: THIS IS IT (Columbia) features rehearsal footage taken from April 2009 until the King of Pop’s untimely death this summer as he prepared for a series of concerts in London. This gives his fans a unique look at the creative process of the pop superstar as he perfects the music, dancing and spectacle that may well have heralded his return to the spotlight after years of legal issues. This documentary will only be out for a two-week limited run, so if you haven’t seen enough of Michael Jackson on “Entertainment Tonight,” Access: Hollywood” or the E! Network, here’s your chance.

October 30, 2009

YOUTH IN REVOLT (Dimension) stars Michael Cera in dual roles as a somewhat spineless twerp and as the confident ladies man he wants to become in a filmed version of a cult novel. THE BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAY (Apparition) is the sequel to Troy Duffy’s cult hit with Duffy and much of the original cast returning in this limited release. The brothers MacManus return to Boston from Ireland after a priest is murdered to administer a little justice, Saint-style.

NOVEMBER

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TOUCHDOWN

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON

RELEASE DATE: November 20, 2009

STUDIO: Summit Entertainment

STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning, Michael Sheen, Ashley Greene, Rachelle Lafevre, Billy Burke.

STORY: When Edward Cullen and his family leave Forks, Washington to protect Bella Swan from the dangers of their supernatural world, Bella is heartbroken, but finds solace in a budding new romance with childhood friend Jakob Black. She soon discovers that Jakob has secrets of his own, and Edward’s departure may not have been all that it seemed.

PROSPECTS: The first was a major box office smash last year, prompting mini-major Summit to immediately greenlight the next two installments in the series of young adult novels for release now and in the summer. Tweener girl hearts are already a-flutter over the prospects of the new movie, which promises more romance, more danger and more….just more.

OBSTACLES: A new director (Chris Weitz) is helming the sequel, and there may be some backlash to the highly successful franchise. Chances are, however, not enough to keep the freight train that is the Twilight Saga from roaring all the way to the bank.

FACTOID: Director Chris Weitz’ brother Paul is directing Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (see above), also based on a best-selling young adult novel involving vampires.

FIELD GOALS

DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL

RELEASE DATE: November 6, 2009

STUDIO: Disney (duh)

STARRING: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes, Michael J. Fox (voice).

STORY: Yes, it’s that Christmas Carol. The one in which a crabby old miser is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve and is transformed. God bless us, every one.

PROSPECTS: Given Carrey’s track record with holiday movies and Disney’s mighty promotional machine, this has a good chance at box office gold, if not holiday classic-ness.

OBSTACLES: This is a bit of a leap of faith. While director Robert Zemeckis hit a home run using the motion capture system on The Polar Express, it didn’t do the box office it deserved. Its follow-up, Beowulf was less well-received either by critics or audiences. I’m not 100% convinced that audiences have warmed up completely to motion capture yet.

FACTOID: This is the first Disney film that Jim Carrey has been involved with.

NINE

RELEASE DATE: November 25, 2009

STUDIO: Weinstein

STARRING: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Dame Judy Dench, Kate Hudson, Stacey Ferguson, Sophia Loren.

STORY: Not the animated feature that opened on September 9 but rather the big screen version of the Tony-winning Broadway musical based on Federico Fellini’s masterpiece 8 ½. The story concerns a world-famous director and his relationships with his wife, his mother, the movie star that is his muse, his confidant/costume designer, a fashion journalist and a prostitute he knew in his youth.

PROSPECTS: Director Rob Marshall brought another Tony-award winning Broadway musical to the screen. You might have heard of it; Chicago. Given the success of Mamma Mia last summer, Broadway musicals are definitely in.

OBSTACLES: This is less obviously a slam-dunk than Mamma Mia was, but perhaps more so than Chicago so who knows? Day-Lewis is not known for his singing voice, and a movie based on a stage production that was itself based on a Fellini movie might be a bit of a hard sell for mainstream audiences.

FACTOID: Javier Bardem was originally cast in the role eventually played by Day-Lewis; both men won Oscars in 2007. Catherine Zeta-Jones was initially set to play the role that Kidman wound up playing; they both won Oscars in 2002.

EXTRA POINT

THE ROAD

RELEASE DATE: November 25, 2009

STUDIO: Weinstein

STARRING: Viggo Mortensen, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Garret Dillahunt.

STORY: Based on the best-selling Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, a man and his son embark on a journey through a dangerous, post-Apocalyptic world trying to survive by any means necessary.

PROSPECTS: Mortensen is an actor who has mass appeal as well as indie cred, so he walks easily in both worlds. Australian director John Hillcoat last did the critically acclaimed The Proposition, so he knows a thing or two about desolate landscapes.  

OBSTACLES: This movie has been delayed for more than a year, rarely a good sign. The dense narrative was considered unfilmable by some. Post-apocalyptic road movies haven’t traditionally fared well, box office-wise (remember The Postman?), although if it’s a good one, people might buy tickets.

FACTOID: In order to simulate a post-apocalyptic world, filming was done in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged sections of New Orleans, an abandoned stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and in empty buildings in Pittsburgh.

HAIL MARYS

November 6, 2009

THE BOX (Warner Brothers) features Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a couple in serious financial difficulties who are approached by a disfigured man who hands them a wooden box who will give them (insert Dr. Evil impression here) one MEEEELLION dollars if they press the red button within. The caveat is that if they do, a total stranger will die. THE FOURTH KIND (Universal) stars Milla Jovovich as a psychotherapist in Nome, Alaska interviewing several patients who have disturbingly similar experiences revolving around alien abduction. Based on actual events, with archival video footage integrated into the overall movie, my son pronounced the trailer as the most disturbing he’s ever seen. THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (Overture) stars George Clooney as a man who claims to be part of an elite but shadowy military unit that possesses psychic powers, including the ability to pass through solid walls, read the thoughts of the enemy and kill goats with the power of their mind. Inspired by a non-fiction article on U.S. military attempts to harness psychic abilities, the movie takes a reporter through a war between rival psychic units – and yes, it’s a dark comedy.

November 13, 2009

2012 (Columbia) is how director Roland Emmerich tops The Day After Tomorrow. Here, the auteur of Independence Day and 10,000 B.C. John Cusack stars in this examination of the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar and several prominent scientists – including Albert Einstein. If you like special effects-stuffed disaster epics, your ship has definitely come in. PIRATE RADIO (Focus) takes place in an era when the BBC played only two hours of rock and roll per week and British pop music was exploding in the wake of the Beatles. Most Brits got their rock fix from pirate radio stations, broadcasting from international waters off the coast of the UK. An outstanding ensemble cast takes on the man, man. WOMEN IN TROUBLE (Screen Media) is an ensemble drama about ten disparate women all dealing with various crises in their lives. While this is listed as a general release, chances are this won’t be getting the number of screens that 2012 will. THE YOUNG VICTORIA (Apparition) is the story of the romance between the young queen of England and Prince Albert (who is not in a can, as it turns out) in this limited release.

November 20, 2009

PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE (Lionsgate) may well have the worst title of any movie this year, but was the talk of Sundance this year, nominated for awards in every major category. This is the story of an African-American girl named Precious, who has had two children by her own father and although possesses a great intelligence and serenity, has fallen through the cracks of the system. It’s a harrowing look at a life in the pits of despair but it’s a movie that has hope and self-betterment at its core. Arriving in limited release, THE MESSENGER (Oscilloscope) stars Ben Foster as a soldier who is given the worst assignment in the Army with a partner he can’t stand. Complications arise when he falls in love with the widow of a soldier. THE BLIND SIDE (Warner Brothers) is the amazing true story of football star Michael Oher, who was a homeless young African-American boy taken in by a well-to-do white family in Texas and blossoms into an All-American. Directed by John Lee Hancock, who first dipped his toe in the true sports underdog waters with The Rookie. PLANET 51 (Tri-Star) is a science fiction animated feature about the invasion of a strange, malevolent creature on a peaceful but xenophobic planet. That strange, malevolent creature happens to be a human – there goes the neighborhood. Seeing limited release is RED CLIFF (Magnet), John Woo’s first Chinese movie since 1982. The acclaimed action director depicts the epic Battle of Red Cliff, in which a force of 50,000 triumphed over an army one million soldiers strong. The battle determined the course of ancient China nearly two thousand years ago.

November 25, 2009

UP IN THE AIR (Paramount) is the latest from director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You for Smoking) and stars George Clooney as a corporate consultant who specializes in firing people in a humane manner. He literally lives in airports, hotels, and planes but is faced with the horrifying process of living (gulp!) at home just as he approaches a major frequent flier milestone. THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX (Fox Searchlight) is an animated feature starring the voice of…George Clooney (sheez, the guy gets around) and is the brainchild of the late author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and quirkmeister director Wes (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). In it, a clever fox tries to outwit three dim-bulb farmers out to do away with Mr. Fox and his family. NINJA ASSASSIN (Warner Brothers) is about an assassin trained by the nearly mythic Ozunu clan who has trained assassins for generations. When one of their number leaves the clan after the brutal execution of his friend, he is tracked down by merciless and relentless killers throughout the streets of Europe and must use all of his skills to stay alive. OLD DOGS (Disney) stars John Travolta and Robin Williams as a pair of old friends whose lives are turned upside down when one of them discovers that he is the father of twins and is forced to care for them on the eve of the biggest business deal of their lives.

November 27, 2009

BROOKLYN’S FINEST (Overture) opens in limited release the day after Thanksgiving and is three interweaving stories, each involving a police officer in Brooklyn.

DECEMBER

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TOUCHDOWN

AVATAR

RELEASE DATE: December 18, 2009

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Stephen Lang.

STORY: A former Marine finds himself in the middle of hostilities between humans and alien races on a planet full of exotic life forms. He takes the role of an Avatar, a human mind in an alien body. However, as he learns more about the alien race he is observing, he begins to see his loyalties towards his own species waver.

PROSPECTS: This is James Cameron’s first non-documentary movie since 1997 when he did a little movie called Titanic. The CGI and 3D technology are said to be game-changers in the movie industry, completely revolutionizing the way big special effects movies will be done. There has been serious buzz about this movie for almost a decade and fanboys the world over have been salivating for it for some time.

OBSTACLES: The first trailer for the movie was less than overwhelming, although given the expectations surrounding the movie, it might be very difficult to live up to them. Cameron has also been busy with his oceanographic pursuits rather than filmmaking – even given that his last movie was the largest-grossing movie of all time, a decade is a long time to be out of the game by Hollywood standards.

FACTOID: Cameron originally slated this to be his follow-up to Titanic back in 1999, but special effects technology at the time drove the budget up to prohibitive levels. It was only after seeing Gollum in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers that Cameron felt technology had progressed to the point that made making the film feasible.

FIELD GOALS

SHERLOCK HOLMES

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2009

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, James Fox, Hans Matheson

STORY: The Arthur Conan Doyle character receives a new makeover as he takes on a new nemesis threatening England with utter ruin.

PROSPECTS: Downey has been on a critical and commercial hot streak with Iron Man and Tropic Thunder under his belt. The trailers have received a lot of positive buzz.

OBSTACLES: Sherlock Holmes as an action hero? Purists might cringe but modern audiences may be more accepting of a makeover than in years past. Also Downey’s last film, The Soloist, performed below expectations.

FACTOID: The set for Sherlock Holmes’ residence was also used in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as the home of Sirius Black.

INVICTUS

RELEASE DATE: December 11, 2009

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Scott Eastwood, Langley Kirkwood, Robert Hobbs, Bonnie Henna, Grant Roberts

STORY: Based on a true story about the early days of Nelson Mandela’s presidency, when he struggled at healing the racial divides of apartheid and used the national rugby team’s unlikely run for the world championship as a means of uniting his country.

PROSPECTS: Clint Eastwood directed this so it is guaranteed Oscar scrutiny based on that alone. Damon is extremely marketable and Freeman one of the most respected actors of his generation.

OBSTACLES: There has been almost zero publicity on this movie; it may wind up flying too far below the radar. Also the cast is largely unknown besides the two leads and movies about apartheid haven’t fared well in recent times.

FACTOID: It’s based on the John Carlin-penned book “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation.”

EXTRA POINT

THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2009

STUDIO: Sony Classics

STARRING: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, Lily Cole, Vern Troyer, Johnny Depp, Colin Ferrell, Jude Law

STORY: Dr. Parnassus makes a bet with the devil for immortality, and then gives it up for true love. Now, fighting to save the soul of his daughter, he offers her hand in marriage for anyone who can help him defeat the devil.

PROSPECTS: This has been getting quite a bit of buzz on the internet. It reunites director Terry Gilliam with his Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen screenwriter Charles McKeown.

OBSTACLES: Gilliam has always been a bit of an acquired taste and while his movies are exceedingly imaginative, he hasn’t achieved commercial success since 1981’s Time Bandits.

FACTOID: This is Heath Ledger’s final performance, completed shortly before his death.

HAIL MARYS

December 4, 2009

ARMORED (Screen Gems) is about a seemingly foolproof plan by armored car guards to rob their own company going awry, causing the loyalties of the men involved to be severely tested. BROTHERS (Lionsgate), from director Jim Sheridan, has the ne’er-do-well brother of a decorated Marine moving in to assume his role in the family when he is listed as killed in action. But when those reports turn out erroneous, the return of the hero leads to tension, suspicion and confrontation. EVERYBODY’S FINE (Miramax) stars Robert DeNiro as a widower who discovers that his relationship with his adult children had been through his late wife, and decides to visit his children during the holidays to establish the bond he had been missing. This is currently scheduled for a limited run.

December 18, 2009

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS? (Columbia) stars Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker as a bickering couple on the verge of divorce. They witness a mob killing and are forced to go into the FBI Witness Relocation Program together when they can’t stand each other. To make matters worse, the certified city-dwellers are sent to a small town in the Rockies and put a new spin on the term “fish out of water.” 

December 25, 2009

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKUEL (20th Century Fox) returns Jason Lee as David along with his lovable CGI rodent friends, who now take on a female trio of Chipmunks, the Chipettes. Those of you with small children will probably be forced to see this one. Our condolences. IT’S COMPLICATED (Universal) is the latest comedy from director Nancy Meyers. This time, a divorced Alec Baldwin tries to woo a new sweetheart – his ex-wife Meryl Streep, who may not be completely against the idea.  

That’s it. It’s a pretty lean season, due mostly to the writer’s strike of a couple of years ago forcing a drastic rearrangement of the movie schedule. However, we can look forward to a lot of promising new arrivals in 2010.