Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


Newt Scamander is about to make the 20s roar.

Newt Scamander is about to make the 20s roar.

(2016) Fantasy (Warner Brothers) Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Carmen Ejogo, Dan Hedaya, Jon Voight, Gemma Chan, Ron Perlman, Zoë Kravitz, Faith Wood-Blagrove, Jenn Murray, Peter Bretmeier, Kevin Guthrie, Ronan Raftery, Josh Cowdery, Ellie Haddington, Johnny Depp, Anne Wittman. Directed by David Yates

 

J.K. Rowling is a household name and for all the right reasons. A single mum living on the dole at one time, she wrote a fabulous book about a boy wizard named Harry Potter that while ostensibly for children was also well-written enough that adults got into it too. Seven books later, she was a billionaire and the wealthiest woman in Britain save for the Queen herself. Admirably, she gave much of her wealth away, returning it to the government whose assistance allowed her to survive while she wrote her books. Their investment in her paid off.

One of the textbooks that Harry Potter studied at Hogwart’s was Newt Scamander’s bestselling textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. He even had his own Chocolate Frog wizard card. So how did he get to be so famous?

Rowling – who wrote the script as the first of five movies – set this some seventy years before the Potter films and across an ocean. Scamander (Redmayne) arrives at Ellis Island in New York City in 1926 en route to Arizona. Newt is a magizoologist – an expert in magical creatures. He is carrying a ratty old suitcase with him, one with a latch that just won’t stay closed. Inside his TARDIS-like case is a whole ecology where specimens of the various creatures he has collected are residing. Some are being relocated to places where they have a better chance of surviving. None of them are allowed in the United States.

Rather than having a Ministry of Magic, the wizards in the New World are governed by the Magical Congress of the United States of America – MACUSA for short. They have recently emerged from a battle with the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Depp) and they are a bit by-the-book these days. When Newt’s case is accidentally switched with the case of Jacob Kowalski (Fogler), an aspiring baker and No-Maj (the American equivalent of a muggle, or person without magical skills), chaos ensues as several creatures escape.

Demoted MACUSA agent Tina Goldstein (Waterston) arrests Newt for being an unregistered wizard but when the case he is carrying is revealed to have baked goods in it, he is released. Tina and Newt end up joining forces to re-capture the beasts with the assistance of Tina’s sister Queenie (Sudol) who has precognitive powers, and Jacob. However, with Chief Auror (magical investigator) Percival Graves (Farrell) hot on their trail, they need to find the creatures quickly.

But that’s not all that’s going on. A malevolent magical force has been wreaking havoc on the city and there is a society of No-Maj activists led by Mary Lou Barebone (Morton) and her abused son Credence (Miller) and daughters Chastity (Murray) and Modesty (Wood-Blagrove) are helping to create an atmosphere in which the magical community is feeling threatened. Keeping the existence of wizards and witches may no longer be possible when Newt’s beasts begin to make their presence felt.

This has been justifiably one of the most hyped movies of the year and certainly one of the most eagerly anticipated. Does it measure up with the Potter franchise? Well, yes and no. From a sheer spectacle standpoint, the beasts themselves are entirely magnificent. Yates has also created a very living and breathing jazz age New York City and in many ways that’s being overlooked by those praising (and a few damning) the film. The environments both magical and real are visually compelling and inviting.

Part of the issue is that while millions are familiar with Hogwart’s and the world of Harry Potter, in essence Rowling is starting from scratch. The Wizarding World is distinct and different from the world being built in the Fantastic Beasts series. Sure, they name-check Albus Dumbledore (and he is due to appear in the second film of the series) and of course Scamander himself is name-checked in the very first Potter film but there is little overlap. Therefore there is a ton of exposition so the movie feels turgid at times.

Fogler as Jacob felt far more sympathetic and heroic to me than Redmayne did. Of course, Scamander is somewhat socially awkward and tends to isolate himself from people and wizards, being more comfortable around animals. Still, Redmayne is rather bland in his portrayal of the wizard and my attention is less on him than on Jacob who has no magical skills but has a ton of heart. His romance with Queenie is sweet and touching and the most emotional moment in the film belongs to Fogler and for my money, that is the moment that will stay with me from this particular movie.

While I’ve been perhaps a little overly critical of the movie, don’t think for a moment that this isn’t sheer entertainment. Yates is a veteran at creating magical spectacles and the movie retains the feel of the later-stage Potter films that Yates directed. Hopefully the succeeding movies won’t need to set up as much backstory and be able to just tell the story at hand.

REASONS TO GO: The fantastic beasts are enchanting as are the special effects. Fogler steals the show. The place and period is nicely captured.
REASONS TO STAY: Redmayne is actually rather vanilla here and doesn’t seem capable of bearing the weight of the franchise on his shoulders as Radcliffe did. There is a ton of exposition here which slows down the pacing.
FAMILY VALUES:  There is some violence of a fantasy nature.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT:  The grey and yellow scarf that Newt wears is a nod to his origins as a member of Hufflepuff house at Hogwart’s.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/20/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 74% positive reviews. Metacritic: 66/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Spiderwick Chronicles
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT: Loving

New Releases for the Week of November 18, 2016


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemFANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

(Warner Brothers) Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Ron Perlman, Jon Voight, Dan Fogler, Johnny Depp, Zoë Kravitz.  Directed by David Yates

Young magizoologist Newt Scamander is returning home to Hogwart’s after a global tour collecting and cataloging all manner of magical creatures but is stopping in New York City briefly before the final leg home. However, things go dreadfully wrong when a No-Maj (that’s the American term for Muggle) starts a chain reaction of events that leads to the escape of some of the creatures locked in Newt’s magic case which could lead to dire consequences for both the Wizarding and No-Maj worlds. This prequel to the Harry Potter series, penned by J.K. Rowling herself, is set in 1926.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D
Genre: Fantasy
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for some fantasy action violence)

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

(TriStar) Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund. A 19-year-old soldier becomes a hero after a harrowing battle in Iraq. Returned home for a victory tour, his story is told in flashbacks culminating in a spectacular halftime show at a Thanksgiving Day football game in which he and his fellow soldiers of the Bravo Company are meant to be an integral part. The movie has received some acclaim for the innovative filming techniques used by Oscar-winning director Ang Lee in immersing the viewer in the battle sequences like no other film before it.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: War Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for language throughout, some war violence, sexual content and brief drug use)

Bleed for This

(Open Road) Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds. The pride of Providence, RI, boxer Vinnie “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza is on top of the world. He has just won the world championship and everything is going according to plan. Then, he is involved in a near-fatal car accident and ends up with a broken neck. Surgery that will guarantee that he’ll be able to walk again will end his boxing career so Vinnie elects to go without the surgery, although he could end up in a wheelchair. Told by everyone around him that he can’t do it, Pazienza is determined to go back into the ring – less than a year after the accident took him out of it. This is based on the inspiring true story of a boxer who didn’t have any quit in him.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: True Sports Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for language, sexuality/nudity and some accident images)

The Edge of Seventeen

(STX) Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Blake Jenner. There’s nothing more awkward than high school, particularly when you aren’t one of the chosen few. However, when you’re golden boy older brother starts dating your best friend, awkward doesn’t even begin to describe it.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for sexual content, language and some drinking – all involving teens)

Gimme Danger

(Magnolia/Amazon) Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, James Williamson, Scott Asheton. The story of Iggy Pop and the Stooges who came out of Ann Arbor, Michigan in the 1960s and essentially created punk rock a decade before its time, and kicked a hole in rock music during an era when anything and everything went from a musical standpoint. Acclaimed filmmaker Jim Jarmusch takes us through the career of the Stooges and their front man, Iggy Pop, who continues to make relevant music today.

See the trailer and a clip here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Musical Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater (Friday, Saturday and Sunday only)

Rating: R (for drug content and language)

Loving

(Focus) Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas. The important story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple in Virginia at a time when living as man and wife was restricted to one’s own race. The two spent nine years fighting the draconian laws that would keep them separated and took their fight all the way to the Supreme Court. The landmark decision made interracial marriage the law of the land.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements)

The Take

(High Top/Focus) Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon, Kelly Reilly. A pickpocket inadvertently foils the plans of a powerful but corrupt group in the French government to steal millions from French banks. He is set up to look like a terrorist and finds himself on the run. A rogue CIA agent realizes what’s happening and the two must join forces in order to take down the conspirators before they’re taken down themselves.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Action
Now Playing: AMC Loew’s Universal Cineplex, AMC Disney Springs

Rating: R (for violence, language and some nudity)

Pick of the Litter – November 2016


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

(Warner Brothers) Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Colin Farrell. One of the most anticipated films of the year is here as we return to the Wizarding World created by J.K. Rowling – with a script by Rowling herself! Set in the 1920s, it involves Newt Scamander, a studier of magical creatures, is returning after a world tour seeking out rare and amazing creatures when he stops in New York City. There, his suitcase – carrying many of the beasties – is accidentally opened, releasing them into the Big Apple. Now, he must retrieve the creatures during a crisis in the American magical community and stay clear of the Muggles (in America called No-Mag) before finding a way home. David Yates, director of the last three Harry Potter films, is aboard. Incidentally, Rowling recently announced that the three-movie series would now be expanded to five. November 18

INDEPENDENT PICKS

The Ivory Game

The Ivory Game

(Netflix) Kief Davidson, Richard Ladkani. The largest mammal on Earth is being hunted into extinction. Poachers in Africa are killing the African elephant at a terrifying rate, taking their tusks for ivory and selling it to willing buyers in China. Animal activists go undercover to stop the ivory trade and save an entire species from the extinction that actually benefits the poachers in that it drives the price of their merchandise up the less elephants that remain. Leonardo di Caprio is the producer of this important documentary. November 4

Elle

Elle

(Sony Classics) Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling. A successful businesswoman, owner of a videogame development company, is sexually assaulted in her own home. When the perpetrator gets away without revealing anything about his identity, she is understandably upset. Determined not to let the criminal change her life, she determines to figure out who he is. However, she enters a game of cat and mouse in which the stakes are life and death. Renowned director Paul Verhoeven is behind the camera for this one. November 11

Notes on Blindness

Notes on Blindness

(Bond/360) Dan Skinner, Simone Kirby, Eileen Davies, Miranda Beinart-Smith. In the summer of 1983 shortly before the birth of his first son, writer/theologian John Hull lost his sight. Trying to make sense of the way his life has been irrevocably changed, Hull recorded an audio diary of his experiences and insights. Those audio cassettes with the voices of Hull and his wife Miranda are used as voiceovers for this amazing film which gives the sighted the closest thing to imagining what it’s like to be blind without actually losing their sight. November 16

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

(Roadside Attractions) Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler. Kenneth Lonergan, a writer/director of some renown, may have produced the movie he will be remembered for here. Affleck plays a janitor who has been estranged from his family; when his brother passes away suddenly, he is shocked to find out that his brother named him guardian of his only son in his will. At first he doesn’t want the responsibility of raising his nephew when he can barely take care of himself, but as time goes by he discovers that raising a man can be much more rewarding than he ever knew. November 18

Officer Downe

Officer Downe

(Magnet) Kim Coates, Alison Lohman, Lindsay Pulsipher, Mark Neveldine. In a city ruled by larger-than-life crime bosses, a superhero is needed to take them down. Well, this city doesn’t have one but it does have Officer Downe, a rough-and-tumble cop who won’t let a little thing like death get in the way of serving justice. This is based on the graphic novel of the same name and is produced by the same people who brought you Crank. November 18

Lion

Lion

(Weinstein) Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman. In this amazing but true story, a little boy accidentally gets on a train and ends up in Calcutta, thousands of miles from home. Lost in the streets of a brutal city, he is adopted by a kind-hearted Australian couple. Years later, now a young man, he longs to find the family he once knew that only exist now as scraps of memories he can barely identify. Despite having very little to go on and a vast country to search, he makes the journey to find himself – and the other family that he once had. November 25

Mifune: The Last Samurai

Mifune: The Last Samurai

(Strand) Toshiro Mifune, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Keanu Reeves. The Japanese icon Toshiro Mifune redefined what screen heroism was. Legendary director Akira Kurosawa routinely cast him in roles that required the attributes of a samurai warrior and Mifune responded. Without this team, American movies would never have been the same and yet outside of cinema buffs his name is little known in the States. This documentary with an all-star line-up of commentators seeks to rectify that injustice. November 25

2016 Fall/Holiday Preview


ThanksgivingAfter a record-breaking 2015, the summer of 2016 was a bit of a lull. There have certainly been a share of hits; Captain America: Civil War dominated the early part of the summer and Finding Dory dominated the middle; while Suicide Squad was the dominant force at summer’s end. Otherwise the summer was pretty marginal from a box office standpoint although there have been a few other films that have done some decent box office numbers: The Conjuring 2, for example, as well as The Angry Birds Movie, Independence Day: Resurgence, Central Intelligence, The Secret Life of Pets and X-Men: Apocalypse. However we’ve had our share of box office disappointments as well.

There are a goodly number of releases to eagerly anticipate this fall and holiday season. Of course, what has to be uppermost on every moviegoer’s mind is the first standalone Star Wars film ever – Rogue One which Disney is I’m sure hoping to keep the LucasFilm train roaring down the tracks. There’s also the next installment on Marvel’s license to print money, Dr. Strange and a new film from J.K. Rowling set in the Harry Potter Wizarding World, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

It is at this time of year that Oscar buzz begins to get generated. It’s a little early yet to get contenders firmed up, but I think we can safely say that Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk will be a contender, as likely will be the latest from Ben Affleck, The Accountant. We can also expect some Oscar voters taking a good, hard look at Loving, the newest from up-and-coming director Jeff Nichols. Birth of a Nation which was an early favorite after a triumphant Sundance debut, may be hampered in its bid for Academy love following the revelations that director and star Nate Parker was accused (and acquitted) of rape when he was a student at Penn State.

At the end of the year we’ll need all the laughs we can get, so expect a surfeit of comedies including Bad Santa 2 and the standup concert film Kevin Hart: What Now? Once that question is answered, we can also find some grins from Bridget Jones’ Baby as well as from Keeping Up with the Joneses, Office Christmas Party, The Greasy Strangler and Why Me. Speaking of sequels, we will not only get Bad Santa 2 and Bridget Jones’ Baby but also Ouija: Origin of Evil, Jack Reacher: Never Look Back, Rings and Inferno (while Rogue One: A Star Wars tale is ostensibly one, it is a stand-alone film in the Star Wars universe and thus not a true sequel).

There is a cornucopia of biographies this season, with Snowden finally set for release (we’ll believe it when it actually hits theaters), Deepwater Horizon, Masterminds, The Queen of Katwe and Sully. Families will get some diverse fare with Disney’s Moana, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Sing, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, The Wild Life, Trolls and Storks. Those who prefer scary to kids flicks (and kids flicks can be scary) will have plenty of nightmare-inducing movies to check out, including Rod Zombie’s 31, Rings, Morgan, Before I Wake, Incarnate, The Bye-Bye Man, Delirium, Ouija: Origin of Evil, The Ninth Life of Louis Drax and Keep Watching.

There will be plenty of science fiction to whet your appetite for space, with such movies as Passengers, The Space Between Us and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Action and adventure will go hand in hand with such films as Assassin’s Creed based on the popular videogame; also you can look forward to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Allied, Desierto, Inferno, The Magnificent Seven and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

The holidays always bring out the stars and those shining in 2016 will include Tom Hanks (Sully, Inferno), Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher: Never Look Back), Brad Pitt (Allied), Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange), Chris Pratt (Passengers, The Magnificent Seven), Michael Fassbender (The Light Between Oceans, Assassin’s Creed), Kristin Wiig (Masterminds), Lupita Nyong’o (Queen of Katwe), Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa 2), Vin Diesel (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), Jennifer Connelly (American Pastoral), Denzel Washington (The Magnificent Seven), Dwayne Johnson (Moana), Kevin Hart (Kevin Hart: What Now?), Ben Affleck (The Accountant), Zach Galifianakis (Masterminds, Keeping Up with the Joneses), Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon), Jennifer Lawrence (Passengers), Andy Samberg (Storks), Marion Cotillard (Assassin’s Creed, Allied), Emma Stone (La La Land), Bryan Cranston (Why Him?), Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’ Baby), Rachel McAdams (Dr. Strange), Alicia Vikander (The Light Between Oceans) and Owen Wilson (Masterminds). There are also some high-profile directors with projects big and small this season including Jeff Nichols, Oliver Stone, Ron Howard, Tim Burton, Ang Lee, Mira Nair, Rob Zombie and Denis Villeneuve.

Generally speaking, the release dates listed here will be obsolete the moment this is published. Studios have a habit of shuffling release dates, and the further out you go the more likely they are to change. Don’t be left in the cold; 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.

The Magnificent Seven

THE ONE TO WATCH

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

RELEASE DATE: September 23, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia/MGM
STARRING: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung Hun Lee, Vinnie Jones, Peter Sarsgaard, Matt Bomer
GENRE: Western
STORY: A desperate town, controlled by a ruthless industrialist, sends a plea for help which is answered by an unlikely ragtag group of outlaws, desperados, bounty hunters, gamblers and gunslingers. As they prepare for the final showdown with the ruthless mercenaries who have been hired as a private army by the industrialist, what began as a job for these seven men becomes something much more.
PROSPECTS: Pratt is on a major roll right now with two huge franchise films that he’s been a part of. Denzel continues to be one of the most popular actors in Hollywood, and this movie is a remake of one of the all-time classic Westerns that a fairly high percentage of modern audiences may be unfamiliar with.
OBSTACLES: Westerns are not super-popular. One has to wonder with a cast with this kind of star power why the movie got exiled to the doldrums of September.
FACTOID: This is a remake of a 1960 Western which itself is a remake of the 1954 Akira Kurosawa classic Seven Samurai.

THE OTHERS TO SEE

SULLY

RELEASE DATE: September 9, 2016
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Anna Gunn, Laura Linney, Aaron Eckhart, Autumn Reeser, Sam Huntington, Jerry Ferreira, Holt McCallany
GENRE: Biographical Drama
STORY: After landing his disabled plane on the frigid Hudson River and saving all 155 lives aboard, Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger became a national hero. However, behind the scenes, the accolades and the paparazzi an investigation was quietly launched that threatened to destroy his career, his reputation and his life.
PROSPECTS: Sullenberger remains an object of hero-worship throughout America, and Hanks is one of the most likable actors ever. Add director Clint Eastwood to the mix and you have a movie that is going to pique the interests of a very large demographic.
OBSTACLES: May be a little bit too much like Flight which may suck some of the box office thunder out of it.
FACTOID: Linney and Eckhart played a couple on an episode of Frasier.

DEEPWATER HORIZON

RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2016
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Ethan Suplee, Dylan O’Brien, Gina Rodriguez, Joe Chrest
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: The story of the events of April 20, 2010 when the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon suffered an explosion and a fire that would lead to one of the worst man-made disasters in history. The courage of the crew of the rig will finally get told to a worldwide audience.
PROSPECTS: People tend to have a morbid fascination with disasters and disaster movies. Wahlberg is a charismatic lead whose films tend to be solid performers.
OBSTACLES: Not getting a ton of buzz nor is it getting a lot of push from the studio which leads one to believe they don’t have a whole lot of confidence in the film.
FACTOID: This will be the first time that Kate Hudson has worked on the same movie with her stepfather Kurt Russell.

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2016
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Ella Purnell, Alison Janney, Samuel L. Jackson, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Dame Judi Dench
GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy
STORY: A young man stumbles into a deep mystery where children with amazing powers have found refuge in the home of the lovely Miss Peregrine. However, the children are threatened by enemies both secret and overt, who are equally powerful and who want to exploit them; the young man must stand and fight for them but also, in the process, discover who he himself is and what he is capable of.
PROSPECTS: Seems tailor-made for the talents of director Tim Burton. It’s based on a best-selling young adult novel series which gives it an instant audience.
OBSTACLES: Burton’s output has been uneven the last decade or so. Young adult bestsellers haven’t necessarily translated to box office gold overly much.
FACTOID: In the books the character of Dr. Golan was male, but here the character is played by Allison Janney.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

QUEEN OF KATWE

RELEASE DATE: September 23, 2016 (Limited; expands September 30, 2016)
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Madina Malwanga, Russel Salvadier, Charity Rose Pimer, Maurice Kirya
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: A little girl from a Ugandan slum discovers the allure of chess and quickly shows aptitude for the game. Supported by family and community, she develops the confidence needed to become a grandmaster.
PROSPECTS: Director Mira Nair is one of the most poetic directors in the business. While the subject matter may not be the stuff of blockbusters, this could garner some Oscar buzz come Awards season; certainly Oscar should be giving the actors of African descent a good hard look considering how they’ve been ignoring actors of color the past couple of years.
OBSTACLES: Chess isn’t exactly the most cinematic game there is. Disney seems to be hedging their bets a little in not planning a full wide release for the film.
FACTOID: Nair decided to do the film after directing a documentary based on the life of Ugandan chess icon Robert Katende.

WORTH A LOOK

SEPTEMBER 2, 2016

In THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX (Miramax/Summit), a young boy survives a fall off a cliff but in a coma. A neurologist tries a revolutionary new technique to enter the boy’s comatose mind to find out what really happened but unlocks a secret that not only explains how he has cheated death not just here but on eight previous occasions but also opens the door for something incredible…and possibly sinister. In KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE (RLJ) a fighter seeks revenge when his brother is brutally killed in the ring and seeks training from a legendary martial artist. Jean-Claude van Damme returns to this longtime franchise which opens in limited release. THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS (DreamWorks) is the latest from up-and-coming director Derek Cianfrance and concerns a lighthouse keeper and his heartbroken wife who, after she miscarries, discover a baby floating in a lifeboat with a dead man. Seeing this as a sign from heaven, they take the little girl as their own but eventually they realize that they know who the real mother is. MAX ROSE (Paladin) stars the legendary Jerry Lewis in his first onscreen role in 21 years, playing a retired jazz pianist who after his wife of 60 years passes away, discovers that his marriage isn’t what he thought it was. This is opening in limited release. Kate Mara stars in MORGAN (20th Century Fox) as a corporate troubleshooter who goes to a remote lab to investigate a mysterious accident. She discovers that at the center of it is a teenage girl with incredible powers who shows great promise – and great danger. Opening in limited release is Kevin Smith’s latest, YOGA HOSERS (Invincible), the second in his Canada trilogy and brings back two convenience store clerks and a somewhat rumpled Canadian detective from Tusk brought together to fight an incalculable evil from underneath the good Manitoban soil of Winnipeg.

SEPTEMBER 9, 2016

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (Rogue) is about a family that moves into a quaint New England home and discovers a small door in the attic that doesn’t appear in any blueprints. When they see the ghost of a child beckoning to them to open the locked door, they unleash a supernatural firestorm of spirits who want to ensure that door stays locked – and the secrets within kept hidden – forever. KICKS (Focus World) is a cautionary tale concerning a set of stolen sneakers, the status they confer on the wearer and how far a 15-year-old boy will go to get his shoes back. WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS (Screen Gems) stars Morris Chestnut and Regina King as an urban professional couple who have done everything to have a baby and are now trying surrogacy. The surrogate mom, however, turns out to be a lot more than they bargained for as her unhealthy obsession with the father threatens their very lives. THE WILD LIFE (Summit) is an animated feature that tells the Robinson Crusoe story – from the point of view of the animals on the island and it looks none too favorably on the famous castaway.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2016

BLAIR WITCH (Lionsgate) is a sequel to one of the most successful independent films of all time and finds another group of kids entering the woods which are said to be haunted by the Blair Witch, only to find that the tales are frighteningly true. BRIDGET JONES’ BABY (Universal) stars Renee Zellweger in one of her signature roles as the plucky British girl who after years of romantic misadventures is now trying motherhood on for size – with two different men who could be the father. Opening in limited release as well as on Hulu, EIGHT DAYS A WEEK: THE BEATLES – THE TOURING YEARS (Abramorama) documents the brief period that the Beatles toured from 1963 until their last concert in 1966 (excluding the impromptu show they gave on top of the building where their Apple Records was headquartered) and utilizes much behind the scenes footage as well as never-before-seen concert footage. MR. CHURCH (Cinelou) stars Eddie Murphy as a cook/handyman/housekeeper whose services are  paid for by the boyfriend of a dying mother for six months but whose relationship with her daughter keeps him working for the family for 15 years. This is opening in limited release. SNOWDEN (Open Road) is the oft-delayed Oliver Stone biopic of the notorious whistle-blower (some say traitor who alerted us to the NSA’s program that is in essence spying on the American people. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in the title role.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2016

In DIRTY 30 (Lionsgate) lifelong BFFs come together to throw a 30th birthday party for a third friend which turns into a This Is Your Life-kind of affair which quickly descends into chaos. This is opening in limited release. GOAT (Paramount) stars Nick Jonas in a movie that shows just how deadly fraternity hazing can be. It is getting a brief theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles while simultaneously opening on VOD, something unusual for a major studio. STORKS (Warner Brothers) is an animated feature about the birds noted for delivering babies to their parents but as that has proven unprofitable, they have become a delivery service. When an unauthorized baby is accidentally created, a resourceful stork and the only human on Stork Mountain must find a way to deliver it before the boss finds out.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2015

Opening in limited release, AMERICAN HONEY (A24) is about a rebellious adolescent from a troubled home who runs away and joins a crew of teen…magazine salesmen (I couldn’t make this up). Days of bending the law turn into nights of hard partying and maybe, young love. DENIAL (Bleecker Street) stars Rachel Weisz in the true story of a lawsuit brought about by an academic who claimed the Holocaust never happened against fellow academic Deborah Lipstadt who claimed that it did and led to her legal representatives being forced by English law having to prove that the Holocaust did indeed occur. MASTERMINDS (Relativity) is the (mainly) true story of an armored car driver who is seduced into helping a group of criminals steal $17 million from the armored car company only to be set up as the fall guy. On the run and dodging a hitman, he must find a way to turn the tables on the guys that betrayed him. Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis and Owen Wilson star.

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.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 (Columbia) Budget: $80 Million. Domestic Gross: $169.7M Total: $473.2M Verdict: Blockbuster.
MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $61M. Domestic Gross: $81.7M Total: $312.3M Verdict: Big Hit.
EVEREST (Universal) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $43.5M Total: $203.4M Verdict: Hit.
THE WALK (TriStar) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $10.1M Total: $61.2M Verdict: Made Money.
SICARIO (Lionsgate) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $46.9M Total: $84.9M Verdict: Made Money.
THE INTERN (Warner Brothers) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $75.8M Total: $194.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE VISIT (Universal) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $65.2M Total: $98.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
A WALK IN THE WOODS (Broad Green) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $29.5M Total: $36.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE PERFECT GUY (Screen Gems) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $57.0M. Total: $60.3M. Verdict: Big Hit.
THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED (Relativity/EuropaCorp) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $16.0M Total: $72.6M Verdict: Made Money.
PAWN SACRIFICE (Bleecker Street) Budget: $19M. Domestic Gross: $2.4M Total: $5.4M Verdict: Flop.
THE GREEN INFERNO (High Top) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $7.2M Total: $7.2M Verdict: Lost Money.

OCTOBER

As the weather grows cooler and kids minds turn to trick or treating, the local multiplex will have a pillowcase full of treats, including a new installment in the cinematic franchise of a bestselling cryptography series, the movie version of a Philip Roth novel, the return of a Tom Cruise action hero, the reboot of a series of films based on an iconic Japanese horror movie and a concert film from America’s most popular stand-up comedian.

Inferno

THE ONE TO WATCH

INFERNO

RELEASE DATE: October 28, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Ana Ularu, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ida Darvish
GENRE: Thriller
STORY: Professor Robert Langdon is once again called upon to solve a seemingly unsolvable puzzle but this time the stakes are much higher, involving a plague that could potentially wipe out half of the world’s population – and Langdon is one of the suspect’s in the investigation!
PROSPECTS: The first two installments in the cinematic franchise based on Dan Brown’s bestselling novels were box office blockbusters.
OBSTACLES: Neither of the films have exactly swept audiences and critics off their feet.
FACTOID: Sy and Khan both appeared in Jurassic World.

THE OTHERS TO SEE

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

RELEASE DATE: October 7, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans, Laura Prepon, Justin Theroux, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow
GENRE: Mystery
STORY: A woman who has been devastated by a recent divorce sees a “perfect couple” in a house that her commuter train passes every day and fantasizes wistfully about them. When she witnesses something truly shocking, she is caught in a nightmare in which she may not be an innocent bystander after all.
PROSPECTS: Blunt has been waiting for the right script to elevate her to the next level and this one might be it. The trailer is absolutely Hitchcock-ian.
OBSTACLES: The mystery genre has lately been out of vogue.
FACTOID: This is the first film directed by Tate Taylor in which Octavia Spencer does not appear.

THE ACCOUNTANT

RELEASE DATE: October 14, 2016
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, J.K. Simmons, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor, Cynthia Addai-Robinson
GENRE: Drama
STORY: A high-functioning math savant is a freelance accountant for some of the most ruthless criminal organizations in the world. When he takes on a legitimate client, it turns out that it could be far more dangerous than the crime bosses he’s used to dealing with.
PROSPECTS: Affleck is a hot commodity these days between his directing triumphs and his roles on-camera as well. Gavin O’Connor is a director who knows how to tell a good story properly.
OBSTACLES: There is a lot of competition for this type of film out there during the month.
FACTOID: The song playing over the trailer is “Everything in Its Right Place” by Radiohead off the Kid-A album. It also played during the opening scene of Vanilla Sky.

JACK REACHER: DON’T LOOK BACK

RELEASE DATE: October 21, 2016
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Robert Knepper, Aldis Hodge, Holt McCallany, Danika Yarosh, Wolfgang Stegemann
GENRE: Action
STORY: When a friend of Jack Reacher is arrested and charged with espionage, well, that’s just something he can’t let go. Where the law can’t go, Reacher kicks down the doors and takes names..
PROSPECTS: Cruise is still a big box office draw.
OBSTACLES: The first Jack Reacher film was only a middling success.
FACTOID: The first film was based on the ninth book in the Lee Childs novel series; the sequel is based on the eighteenth.

RINGS

RELEASE DATE: October 28, 2016
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Laura Wiggins, Aimee Teegarden, Johnny Galecki, Lizzie Brocheré, Bonnie Morgan, Alex Roe, Zach Roerig, Matilda Lutz
GENRE: Horror
STORY: When her boyfriend gets caught up in the urban legend about a videotape that kills you seven days after you view it, a young woman sacrifices herself to save him, but finds out something even more horrifying – that there is a movie within the movie.
PROSPECTS: This is a cult favorite among horror fans, particularly those who love Americanized J-horror. It is also the highest profile release of the Halloween season.
OBSTACLES: It has been eleven years since the sequel appeared, which is a long time for a franchise.
FACTOID: Although there were rumors that this would be a prequel, it was recently confirmed on Twitter by the film’s director that it is a sequel set in present day.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

THE BIRTH OF A NATION

RELEASE DATE: October 7, 2016
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Mark Boone Junior, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Gabrielle Union, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley
GENRE: Historical Drama
STORY: Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, is used by his financially strapped owner to subdue unruly slaves. A witness to countless atrocities, he is inspired to lead a slave revolt in the days prior to the Civil War.
PROSPECTS: One of the most anticipated indie films of the year drew rave reviews following a triumphant debut at Sundance this past January.
OBSTACLES: Parker, who also directed the film, has been embroiled in a scandal following an interview in which he discussed a 2003 trial when he was accused and acquitted of rape while still a student at Penn State. The outcry of this revelation may end up causing Fox to reassess their strategy with this film which is considered a likely contender for Oscars if released this year.
FACTOID: Fox paid $17.5 million for the rights to the film, a Sundance record.

WORTH A LOOK

OCTOBER 7, 2016

THE GREASY STRANGLER (FilmRise) which appeared at this year’s Florida Film Festival and is now opening in limited release is about a browbeaten son and his degenerate father who are vying for the same girl, right about the time an oily serial killer nicknamed “The Greasy Strangler” shows up to terrorize the women of Los Angeles. MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE (CBS) is based on a best-selling series of young adult books in which an authority-hating young tween boy finds himself in a middle school with a veritable cornucopia of rules. VOYAGE OF TIME (Broad Green) is director Terrence Malick’s ten-years-in-the-making treatise on the birth and death of the universe; it is opening in limited release and in IMAX in selected theaters.

OCTOBER 14, 2016

Opening up in limited release, CERTAIN WOMEN (IFC) is a Montana-set ensemble piece by acclaimed director Kelly Reichardt following three different women whose lives intersect in unexpected ways.  DESIERTO (STX) is a thriller from Mexican director Jonás Cuaron about a group of illegal aliens crossing the U.S./Mexican border who are stalked by a deranged Texan with a high powered rifle and a dog trained to kill. KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW (Universal) is the latest concert film from America’s most popular comedian Kevin Hart on his most recent tour; his historic sold-out stadium performance is bookended by a 007-like spy vignette.

OCTOBER 21, 2016

31 (Saban/Lionsgate) is Rob Zombie’s latest horror epic in which five carnival workers are kidnapped and forced to play a life or death game against an endless parade of homicidal maniacs. This is getting a brief limited theatrical run (including a special Fathom Events presentation which is followed by a live Q&A with the director) with a simultaneous release on VOD. AMERICAN PASTORAL (Lionsgate) is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Philip Roth regarding an American family shaken to the core when their rebellious daughter disappears after being accused of an unspeakable crime. BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN (Lionsgate) stars Tyler Perry as the popular character Madea as she takes on all manners of ghosts and ghouls and scariest of all – a group of uppity teens. All Hallows Eve will never be the same. Opening in limited release, THE HANDMAIDEN (Magnolia/Amazon) is the latest from South Korea’s most acclaimed director Park Chan-wook and tells the tale of a maid installed in a wealthy woman’s household staff who is secretly a con artist working with a heartless partner.  IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE (Focus World) stars John Travolta as a world-weary sheriff in a town in the Old West in which his troublemaking son picks a feud with a mysterious drifter who has a skeleton or two in his closet, which escalates into mayhem; it opens in limited release. KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES (20th Century Fox) stars Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher as a couple who become obsessed with a mysterious seemingly perfect couple who move in next door but turn out to be much more than they seem. OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (Universal) is a prequel to the surprise 2014 hit and establishes how the house and its accompanying Ouija board got haunted. It’s not a pretty story.

OCTOBER 28, 2016

Opening in limited release THE EAGLE HUNTRESS (Sony Classics) is a documentary chronicling the attempt of a 13-year-old Mongolian girl struggling to become the first female to become an Eagle Hunter, a prestigious position in which trained eagles are used to hunt.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

CRIMSON PEAK (Universal) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $31.1M Total: $74.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE MARTIAN (20th Century Fox) Budget: $108M. Domestic Gross: $228.4M Total: $630.2M Verdict: Blockbuster.
PAN (Warner Brothers) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $35.1M Total: $128.4M Verdict: Flop.
BRIDGE OF SPIES (DreamWorks) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $72.3M Total: $165.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS (Universal) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $2.2M Total: $2.3 Verdict: Flop.
SUFFRAGETTE (Focus) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $4.7M Total: $32.0 Verdict: Made Money.
STEVE JOBS (Universal) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $17.8M Total: $34.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
LEGEND (Universal) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $1.9M Total: $43.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
GOOSEBUMPS (Columbia) Budget: $58M. Domestic Gross: $80.1M Total: $150.2M Verdict: Made Money.
SCOUT’S GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (Paramount) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $3.7M Total: $14.9M Verdict: Flop.
THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (Summit) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $27.4M Total: $140.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
BURNT (Weinstein) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $13.7M Total: $36.6M Verdict: Lost Money.

NOVEMBER

As the cold weather begins to make its appearance in earnest, the cold hearts of studio accountants are warmed by the thoughts of potential blockbusters coming their way. This year, Marvel gets mystical with their second film of the year while J.K. Rowling makes a welcome return to the cinematic medium. Disney makes a bid for more animated income and director Ang Lee looks to garner Oscar gold with his latest film.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

THE ONE TO WATCH

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

RELEASE DATE: November 18, 2016
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Zoë Kravitz, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Gemma Chan, Katherine Waterston, Samantha Morton
GENRE: Fantasy
STORY: Newt Scamander is returning home to England in the 1920s after a global excursion in which he has been cataloguing and collecting magical creatures. A stopover in New York City proves disaster as a no-maj (American for muggle) inadvertently lets some of these creatures loose on an unprepared city.
PROSPECTS: The return of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World is being met with extreme anticipation; her Harry Potter series is one of the most profitable of all time.
OBSTACLES: Muggle cinema viewers may not be as eager to see a Wizarding World film without Harry Potter in it.
FACTOID: Rowling, who is making her screenwriting debut, has characterized the film as a spin-off or extension of the Potter universe without being a direct prequel or sequel; no characters from the Potter books appear here (although Scamander is mentioned as the author of the textbook of the same name and has his own chocolate frog card).

THE OTHERS TO SEE

DOCTOR STRANGE

RELEASE DATE: November 4, 2016
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Scott Adkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt
GENRE: Superhero
STORY: A gifted surgeon is badly injured in an auto accident and loses the use of his hands. Devastated by his loss, he discovers a secret world within our own, one of magic and mysticism. He must learn to put aside his ego and become the sorcerer supreme, protector of the mortal realm from threats from other planes.
PROSPECTS: This will be another very different Marvel movie, and much like Guardians of the Galaxy has the opportunity to defy expectations and once again break the bank at the box office.
OBSTACLES: May be a bit too much like Christopher Nolan’s non-Batman films to ignore.
FACTOID: The creators of the character, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, based the comic book appearance of Dr. Strange on Vincent Price. They even gave him the middle name of Vincent in tribute.

TROLLS

RELEASE DATE: November 4, 2016
STUDIO: DreamWorks Animation/Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Anna Kendrick, Zoey Deschanel, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, John Cleese, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, Christine Baranski, Ron Funches
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: When the Trolls are kidnapped from their village by the villainous Bergens, only the terminally optimistic Poppy and the equally as pessimistic Branch remain to save their fellow Trolls.
PROSPECTS: The voice cast is literally an all-star cast; while we didn’t have room to list everyone, there are a lot of familiar voices that will be in play.
OBSTACLES: The trailers for the movie have been underwhelming.
FACTOID: The original trolls were created by Thomas Dam in Gjøl, Jutland, Denmark in 1958.

MOANA

RELEASE DATE: November 23, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Dwayne Johnson, Auli’i Cravalho, Jemaine Clement, Alan Tudyk, Nicole Scherzinger, Temuera Morrison
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: A brave Pacific Islander teen girl must make a perilous voyage to save her people. Aided by the disgraced demigod Maui, she will battle impossible odds and terrifying creatures in the open ocean to fulfill an ancient quest and bring her people to a beautiful paradise.
PROSPECTS: Although the Pixar division gets the lion’s share of attention, Disney’s own animated division has been putting out some very nice films of their own as of late.
OBSTACLES: Anyone remember Lilo and Stitch?
FACTOID: Lin-Manuel Miranda, best known for his work for Hamilton, is the composer of the music and co-writer of the songs. Should he win an Oscar here, he will become just the third person ever to win a Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony (joining Marvin Hamlisch and Richard Rodgers).

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

BAD SANTA 2

RELEASE DATE: November 23, 2016
STUDIO: Miramax/Broad Green
STARRING: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly, Ryan Hansen, Jeff Skowron, Jenny Zigrino
GENRE: Comedy
STORY: Willie Soke returns with his angry sidekick Marcus as the two prepare to knock over a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. This time they’re joined by Willie’s horror show of a mother.
PROSPECTS: This is as cult film as it gets; the first Bad Santa remains a Christmas favorite for people who don’t particularly like Christmas.
OBSTACLES: It’s been 13 years since the original, and while it did decent box office and had a pretty good home video run, its popularity really hasn’t endured.
FACTOID: Bernie Mac co-starred in the original but has passed away since then; his role was not recast out of respect.

WORTH A LOOK

NOVEMBER 4, 2016

HACKSAW RIDGE (Summit) is the story of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector who ever received a Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. LOVING (Focus) is also a true story, this time regarding the interracial marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving which was deemed illegal by the state of Virginia. The couple fought this injustice and took it all the way to the Supreme Court, paving the way for anyone to marry whomever they love regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation.

NOVEMBER 11, 2016

ALMOST CHRISTMAS (Universal) is a Christmas comedy about a beloved family patriarch whose wish is for one more Christmas with the entire family together under one roof. However, if this dysfunctional family can manage to make it five days without killing one another it will be a miracle of Biblical proportions. ARRIVAL (Paramount) stars Amy Adams as one of the world’s most expert linguists who is brought in to do the most important work of her career – to help translate for an alien race that has landed in their spacecraft as mankind teeters on the brink of a global war. This is the latest from director Denis Villeneuve who is rapidly becoming one of the best in the business. BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK (TriStar) is director Ang Lee’s latest as an Iraqi War veteran who survived a harrowing battle is brought home temporarily for a victory tour, culminating in a spectacular halftime show for a Thanksgiving Day football game. As the pomp and circumstance unspools, we learn what really happened in Iraq – and how it differs from our own perceptions of the realities of war. ELLE (Sony Classics) which opens in limited release stars Isabelle Huppert as the ruthless CEO of a videogame company whose home invasion assault lands her in a vicious game with the man who attacked her. Also opening in limited release, SEASONS (Music Box) is a documentary about the seasons of the year and their effects on humans – and animals. SHUT IN (EuropaCorp/Relativity) stars Naomi Watts as a widowed child psychologist who lives an isolated, reclusive existence in New England. During a vicious winter storm she must find a way to rescue a young boy before he disappears forever.

NOVEMBER 18, 2016

In THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (STX) an awkward high school junior with enough self-respect issues to begin with is mortified when her “golden boy” brother starts dating her BFF. Drama, drama, drama! MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Roadside Attractions/Amazon) which is opening in limited release stars Casey Affleck as a troubled soul who is shocked to discover that when his older brother passes away unexpectedly that he has been made legal guardian of his nephew, forcing him to move back to the quiet Massachusetts fishing village where he grew up.

NOVEMBER 23, 2016

ALLIED (Paramount) comes to us from director Robert Zemeckis and stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as an Army intelligence officer and a French resistance fighter respectively who fall in love during a mission behind enemy lines and after being reunited in London find the pressures of war tearing them apart. BLEED FOR THIS (Open Road) is the story of boxer Vinny Pazienza, who suffered a broken neck in a car accident. Told he would never fight again, he risks everything to try and get back into the ring. This is opening in limited release on the 11th and then opening wide in time for Thanksgiving. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (Focus) opens in New York and Los Angeles on the 18th and then in a limited run here and stars Amy Adams as an art gallery owner whose ex-husband writes a novel whose violence and depravity she interprets as a veiled threat against her. Tom Ford directs this from an Austin Wright novel. In RULES DON’T APPLY (20th Century Fox) Warren Beatty stars as the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes who hires a new driver who in turn falls for a devout Baptist starlet that Hughes takes an interest in.

NOVEMBER 25, 2016

Opening in limited release, LION (Focus) stars Dev Patel as a young man who as a five-year-old wandered on a train and was transported across India to Calcutta where he was discovered wandering in the streets by an Australian couple who adopted him. Years later, armed only with a handful of vague memories and Google Earth he sets out to find his home and true parents and in the process discover who he is. This is based on a true story.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

SPECTRE (MGM/Columbia) Budget: $245M. Domestic Gross: $200.1Total: $880.7M Verdict: Hit.
THE PEANUTS MOVIE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $99M. Domestic Gross: $130.2M Total: $246.2M. Verdict: Made Money.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 (Lionsgate) Budget: $160M. Domestic Gross: $281.7M Total: $653.4M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE 33 (Warner Brothers) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $12.2M Total: $24.9M. Verdict: Flop.
TRUMBO (Bleecker Street) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $7.9M Total: $8.2M Verdict: Flop.
CREED (MGM/New Line) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $109.8M Total: $173.67M Verdict: Blockbuster.
BROOKLYN (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $11M Domestic Gross: $38.3M Total: $62.1M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE GOOD DINOSAUR (Disney) Budget: $200M Domestic Gross: $123.1M Total: $332.2M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE NIGHT BEFORE (Columbia) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $43.1M Total: $52.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (20th Century Fox) Budget: $40M Domestic Gross: $5.8M Total: $34.2M Verdict: Flop.
THE DANISH GIRL (Focus) Budget: $15M Domestic Gross: $11.1M Total: $64.2M Verdict: Big Hit.

DECEMBER

The last month of the year is often a profitable one as Hollywood counts on people hitting the multiplex while out Christmas shopping. This year should be no exception as we return to the land of Star Wars for a standalone tale that fills in the blanks for the very first film in the franchise, the cinematic debut of a videogame franchise, a star pairing between Jennifer Laurence and Chris Pratt and a new musical from the director of Whiplash.

Star Wars Rogue One

THE ONE TO WATCH

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

RELEASE DATE: December 18, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Diego Luna, James Earl Jones, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Warwick Davis, Ben Mendelsohn, Jimmy Smits
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: Have you ever wondered how those plans of the Death Star wound up in the hands of the Rebellion? Wonder no more.
PROSPECTS: Well, the Star Wars universe is alive and well after the reboot last year took the world by storm. While there are a few familiar faces here, this is again mostly an all-new cast and is the very first standalone Star Wars film.
OBSTACLES: It’s a new concept for the franchise and…oh, who are we kidding? Expect big box office pretty much no matter what.
FACTOID: Both Smits and Genevieve O’Reilly appeared in Star Wars Episode III: Return of the Jedi as Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, respectively and are reprising those roles here.

OTHERS TO SEE

LA LA LAND

RELEASE DATE: December 2, 2016 (New York/LA; opens limited 12/9 and wide 12/16)
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Finn Wittrock, J.K. Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Callie Hernandez
GENRE: Musical
STORY: A man and a woman come to Hollywood to find their dreams and instead find each other. However as they also find success, stardom threatens to rip them apart.
PROSPECTS: This is a unique spin on the old-time Hollywood musical by Whiplash director Damien Chazelle. The film has enormous buzz and may be an Oscar contender as his first film was.
OBSTACLES: Musicals have largely been hit and miss at the box office as of late, although they tend to have a better chance of success this time of year.
FACTOID: Stone and Simmons have experience in Spider-Man films; Simmons played J. Jonah Jameson in the original trilogy, Stone played Gwen Stacy in the Amazing-Spider Man films.

ASSASSIN’S CREED

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2016
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Michael Kenneth Williams, Brendan Gleeson, Ariane Labed, Callum Turner, Brian Gleeson
GENRE: Adventure
STORY: An executed criminal who has been resurrected discovers he is part of an ancient order of assassins and is sent back in time to occupy the body of an ancestor in order to stop a plot by an oppressive and ruthless order.
PROSPECTS: This is one of the most cinematic of the videogame franchises and the star power of Fassbender and Cotillard should be able to attract some non-gamers into the theaters.
OBSTACLES: “Based on the popular videogame franchise” hasn’t exactly been magic when it’s come to box office.
FACTOID: During the fabrication of a set in Malta, the island was struck by a hurricane and the set damaged, causing a slight delay.

PASSENGERS

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Jennifer Laurence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Aurora Perrineau, Kimberly Batista, Vince Foster
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: On a spaceship travelling to a distant planet on a 120-year journey, a malfunction wakes a mechanic a century early. Alone with only robots for company, he impulsively wakes a passenger. They fall in love but soon realize that something is very wrong with their ship.
PROSPECTS: Pratt and Laurence are two of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the moment.
OBSTACLES: There hasn’t been a lot of buzz about this and the studio has been a bit reticent to release a trailer or any footage, not a good sign.
FACTOID: This was originally developed as a star vehicle for Keanu Reeves with Rachel McAdams in the female lead.

SING

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2016
STUDIO: Universal/Illumination
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Taron Egerton, Nick Kroll, Leslie Jones, Nick Offerman, Seth MacFarlane, John C. Reilly
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: A desperate theater owner decides that the only way to save his struggling venue is to stage a major singing competition, which attracts other desperate sorts trying to seize a chance at a better life.
PROSPECTS: Illumination has released some of the most successful animated features of the last five years. The trailer is absolutely charming.
OBSTACLES: The fourth movie this year with anthropomorphic animals which might have worn out its welcome.
FACTOID: The first animation that MacFarlane has voiced that he didn’t have creative input for.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

THE SPACE BETWEEN US

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2016
STUDIO: STX Entertainment
STARRING: Asa Butterfield, Gary Oldman, Britt Robertson, Carla Gugino, BD Wong, Janet Montgomery, Colin Egglesfield
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: The first human to be born on Mars comes to Earth to discover who his father is, but finds that he can only live a short time on Earth.
PROSPECTS: A pretty decent cast and a solid premise will attract at least a little bit of attention.
OBSTACLES: Has more of a young adult romance novel feel more than science fiction which might put off sci-fi fans.
FACTOID: The first movie to film at New Mexico’s Spaceport USA.

WORTH A LOOK

DECEMBER 2, 2016

INCARNATE (High Top), opening in limited release, stars Aaron Eckhart as an exorcist confronted by the demons of his past – literally. In KEEP WATCHING (Screen Gems) two serial killers break into a family’s home, which is unbeknownst to them filled with hidden cameras documenting their every move. KIDNAP (Relativity) stars Halle Berry as a desperate mother willing to go to any extreme to get back her kidnapped son. MAN DOWN (Lionsgate) is about a war veteran trying to come to grips with his past and his present in a post-apocalyptic landscape.

DECEMBER 9, 2016

THE BYE-BYE MAN (STX Entertainment) is a horror film about an evil entity that possesses you when you think about his name – and then forces you to do unspeakable horrors. MISS SLOANE (EuropaCorp/Relativity) is about a ruthless lobbyist who will do anything it takes to win, even if it means hurting the ones she loves most. OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY (Paramount) features an all-star cast and is about a branch office that puts on an epic Christmas party in order to impress a would-be client and save all their jobs.

DECEMBER 16, 2016

COLLATERAL BEAUTY (New Line) stars Will Smith as an advertising executive who retreats from life after a profound tragedy. His colleagues devise a drastic plan to force him to confront his grief and return to the land of the living. Denzel Washington stars in FENCES (Paramount) as an African-American father trying to raise his family in the 1950s; the movie opens in limited release and gets a wide release on Christmas day. THE FOUNDER (Weinstein) is the story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who saw the potential in a regional restaurant chain and decides to take it national, trampling on the original founders of the restaurant whose name it bears; McDonalds. The movie is getting a limited Oscar qualification run before opening wide on January 20th..

DECEMBER 21, 2016

JULIETA (Sony Classics) opening in limited release is master Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s latest and is about a mother’s struggle to survive the uncertainty of parenthood. PATRIOT’S DAY (CBS) chronicles the events of the Boston Marathon bombing; it gets an Oscar qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles (also opening in Boston) before going to a wide release on January 13th.

DECEMBER 23, 2016

A MONSTER CALLS (Focus) is about a grieving little boy’s retreat into a world of the fantastic and how it teaches him to deal with faith, loss and love. Liam Neeson stars as the monster. The film is getting an Oscar qualifying run before opening everywhere on January 6th,

DECEMBER 25, 2016

GOLD (Dimension) stars Matthew McConaughey as a modern day prospector searching for his fortune in the jungles of Indonesia; the movie is opening in limited release. Also opening in limited release, TONI ERDMANN (Sony Classics) is a German comedy about a practical joker of a father trying to get the attention of his corporate daughter. WHY HIM? (20th Century Fox) features Bryan Cranston as a straight-laced dad whose daughter falls for a socially awkward Silicon Valley billionaire (James Franco) whom he despises.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Disney) Budget: $245M. Domestic Gross: $936.7M Total: $2.01B Verdict: Blockbuster.
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (Warner Brothers) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $25.0M Total: $93.9 Verdict: Flop
SISTERS (Universal) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $87.0M Total: $105.0M Verdict: Hit.
CONCUSSION (Columbia) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $34.5M Total: $48.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
JOY (20th Century Fox) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $56.5M Total: $101.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
MACBETH (Weinstein) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $1.1M Total: $16.3M Verdict: Flop.
KRAMPUS (Universal) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $42.7M Total: $61.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
DADDY’S HOME (Paramount) Budget: $69M. Domestic Gross: $150.4M Total: $240.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT (Weinstein) Budget: $44M. Domestic Gross: $54.1M Total: $155.8M Verdict: Hit.
THE REVENANT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $135M. Domestic Gross: $183.6M Total: $533.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: ROAD CHIP (20th Century Fox) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $85.9M Total: $234.8M Verdict: Made Money.
POINT BREAK (Warner Brothers) Budget: $105M. Domestic Gross: $28.8M Total: $133.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
YOUTH (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $2.7M Total: $24.0M Verdict: Lost Money.

Well, that will bring the movie release schedule for 2016 to a close. As always, there will be changes but most of the big ticket items are pretty much set where they are. As you can see there’s a lot of variety to choose from and a lot of great movies to look forward to. 2017 is going to be another engaging year as well with some long-awaited sequels and series installments. A number of movies originally scheduled for 2016 will be making their appearance in 2017 but we’ll get into all that – in our 2017 preview post which should be available at the end of December. In the meantime, we at Cinema365 hope you enjoyed our preview for the upcoming fall and holiday movies and hope you found a few here that have whet your appetite for the multiplex. We’ll see you there – don’t forget to bring the popcorn and soda!

2016 Preview


2016 PreviewHere it is, a bit late but better late than never. 2015 was looked forward to eagerly by Hollywood accountants as potentially a banner year for box office totals and so it has been, with three films finishing in the all-time top ten, two from their summer runs (Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens which is on course as of this writing to eclipse the records set by Titanic.

However with all that success – and those weren’t the only big hit movies this year – there were some flops last year, some of them spectacular. The studios have been up and down, depending on which one you’re talking about. Universal set box office records by mid-year with Furious 7, Minions and Pitch Perfect 2 bringing in big box office dollars as did Straight Outta Compton later on in the summer. Disney also had a banner year, with Inside Out and Ant-Man enjoying box office sunshine, while 20th Century Fox brought The Martian and Kingsman: The Secret Service to the table. Columbia and Warner Brothers both had subpar years but both have some light at the end of their tunnels, with Columbia bringing Ghostbusters back from the dead next year and Warner Brothers initializing their DC Comics Cinematic Universe as well as a new trilogy of films in the Harry Potter Universe written by J.K. Rowling herself. Paramount was solid last year, with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation heading up their box office charts. Lionsgate/Summit had a good year with their franchises in The Hunger Games and Divergent both doing good business and Sicario bringing in rave reviews.

There are a lot of big movies to look forward to with Marvel cranking out five movies for Disney and Fox while DC has two highly anticipated movies for Warners; the resurrection of the Star Wars franchise will continue with Star Wars: Rogue One being the first stand-alone film in the LucasFilm universe, and plenty of sequels, reboots, shared cinematic universes and franchise starters on the horizon but we’ll get to that in a moment.

This year Cinema365 has increased its coverage of independent and non-major films with both coverage of the Florida Film Festival as well as coverage of films from the festival circuit. That will continue this coming year as we bring you movies that you may not necessarily have heard of but may (or may not) be worthy of your attention, particularly if you’re a film buff like us here at Cinema365 headquarters. While the expansion of our beloved Enzian Theater will not take place in time for this year’s festival, plans are for the additional two screens to be added in late 2016 and hopefully as the fundraising continues for the ambitious Enzian Forever project continues they’ll be ready for the 2018 version of the FFF.

There have been changes here at Cinema365 but one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to covering the movies as best as we possibly can. That said, do remember that the release dates listed in this preview are very unlikely to remain static for every movie listed in our annual preview and in fact we can almost guarantee that there will be major changes; dates will be changed, projects will be shelved or sent direct to home video and titles will not stay the same. Our weekly preview will continue to inform you what’s opening in Orlando that week, whereas Pick of the Litter is our monthly look at the best independent movies opening in theaters across the United States. Our Coming Soon section will continue to be regularly updated with theatrical release dates. However, we will actually be taking a hiatus from coverage beginning in May for about five weeks so be aware that some films won’t get the coverage that you’re used to.

No doubt you’re ready to dive in and open up the presents for all you cinemaphiles out there that the studios and distributors have lined up for you next year. Enjoy the 2016 preview and look forward to seeing you at the multiplex next year!

JANUARY

The first month of any year is usually a quiet one after the cornucopia of holiday releases which will continue to dominate the box office in January. There are also some Oscar hopefuls that have had qualifying runs in New York and L.A. at the end of last year getting their wide release this year including much anticipated films from Quentin Tarantino and Alejandro González Iñárritu as well as a sequel to a hit buddy cop comedy, a threequel to a popular DreamWorks animated feature, a new alien invasion movie and true life dramas depicting one of the most daring Coast Guard rescues in history as well as one of the most controversial events of recent history.

The Hateful Eight

MUST- SEE

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

RELEASE DATE: January 1, 2016
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Channing Tatum, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, Damian Bechir, Zoë Bell.
GENRE: Western
STORY: A bounty hunter bringing in his bounty to hang in a Colorado town finds himself holed up in a mountain pass stagecoach stop to wait out a storm. There are eight strangers there doing the same thing, but as the night wears on the prospects of any of them making it to Red Rock become less and less likely.
PROSPECTS: Quentin Tarantino doesn’t make a lot of movies but when he does there’s a rabid following ready to embrace it. Weinstein seems to think that there’s some serious Oscar potential here, setting it up for an Academy qualifying run at Christmas before opening in wide release two weeks later.
OBSTACLES: Westerns aren’t exactly box office barnburners and while Tarantino brings in a fairly savvy film crowd, it’s not a large audience and this likely isn’t going to appeal to a lot of non-fans.
FACTOID: This is the first film since Khartoum (1966) to be filmed in the 70mm Ultra-Panavision process, a format that Tarantino – maybe the ultimate film nerd – is anxious to bring back.

SHOULD-SEE

THE REVENANT

RELEASE DATE: January 8, 2016
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Leonardo di Caprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Paul Anderson, Lukas Haas, Javier Botet, Brendan Fletcher, Kristoffer Joner, Dave Burchill
GENRE: Western
STORY: After a vicious bear attack, an explorer in the American West of the mid-1800s is left for dead. Betrayed by his best friend and confidante who steals from him his most precious possession, he survives a harsh winter fueled by the thirst for one thing – vengeance.
PROSPECTS: The last film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu was Birdman and won the whole kit and kaboodle at the last Oscars. With two legitimate stars in the line-up and a whole lot of buzz behind it, some say this might be the favorite to win Best Picture at the next Academy Awards.
OBSTACLES: Again, Westerns are very nearly box office poison these days. Iñárritu has yet to direct a blockbuster although Birdman did decent business.
FACTOID: Di Caprio, Hardy and Haas all appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

RIDE ALONG 2

RELEASE DATE: January 15, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, T.I., Tyrese Gibson, Nadine Velazquez, Tika Sumpter, Sherri Shepherd
GENRE: Action
STORY: This odd police partnership continues as the Brothers-in-Law head to Miami to track down the source of a drug infusion into their city and find that what got along in Atlanta won’t get along in the Big M.
PROSPECTS: The original film was a huge hit during the same time period in 2014.Hart and Cube make a compelling comedy team.
OBSTACLES: If the word of mouth isn’t good, it could be a very short ride for this sequel.
FACTOID: This is the second movie starring Ice Cube to be set in Miami; the first was All About the Benjamins.

KUNG FU PANDA 3

RELEASE DATE: January 29, 2016
STUDIO: DreamWorks Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: Po’s long-lost father arrives to take him to Panda Paradise to meet other lovable but clumsy panda pals. But when a supernatural scourge attacks all the kung fu masters in China, Po must figure out a way to train his village to become an army of Kung Fu Pandas.
PROSPECTS: One of the more successful animation franchises not from Disney.
OBSTACLES: January isn’t exactly the most fertile time for box office gold for family films.
FACTOID: Rebel Wilson was originally set to voice Mei Mei but had to drop out due to schedule conflicts and was replaced by Kate Hudson.

THE FINEST HOURS

RELEASE DATE: January 29, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Holliday Granger, Eric Bana, Casey Affleck, Kyle Gallner, Abraham Benrubi, Rachel Brosnahan, John Magaro
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: During one of the worst storms on record to hit the East Coast, an oil tanker breaks in half, stranding 30 sailors on board. The Coast Guard dispatches a crew aboard an inadequate wooden craft to mount a daring rescue that lives on still in the annals of American seafarers.
PROSPECTS: Has an epic quality to it plus an American pride aspect that will likely appeal to post-holiday crowds who are tiring of 2015 movies.
OBSTACLES: Being hidden in late January doesn’t auger well for the studio’s confidence in the movie’s ability to draw in big audience numbers.
FACTOID: The actual craft that was used in the rescue is still intact and maintained in perfect condition at Rock Harbor in Orleans, Massachusetts.

COULD-SEE

DIABLO

RELEASE DATE: January 8, 2016
STUDIO: Orion
STARRING: Scott Eastwood, Walton Goggins, Camilla Belle, Samuel Marty, Danny Glover, Adam Beach, Robert Franco, Diego Diablo Del Mar, Nesta Cooper
GENRE: Western
STORY: A Civil War veteran wakes up one morning to discover that his beautiful wife has been kidnapped by ruthless bandits. He goes out in search of those responsible and finds the line between being good and evil blurring. As the final showdown looms he must discover how much of himself he can lose in order to win back the woman he loves.
PROSPECTS: This has kind of been skirting the edges. Not many know about this film but judging on the trailer this could be a surprise hit.
OBSTACLES: Already too many Westerns out there..
FACTOID: Scott Eastwood’s first western despite getting 50 scripts a year to do one due to his father’s fame in the genre.

MIGHT-SEE

January 8, 2016

THE FOREST (Gramercy) stars Game of Thrones hottie Natalie Dormer as a woman who searches for her sister after she enters the mysterious Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan and disappears. Discovering that this is a place considered dangerous by the Japanese because so many people go there to commit suicide, she nonetheless hires an ex-pat American guide and goes into the forest searching for her sister and finding that the forest’s sinister reputation is well-earned. Opening in limited release,  LAMB (The Orchard) is about a man, shaken to the core after a bitter divorce and the death of his father, tries save an eleven-year-old girl from a life of apathy and emptiness by taking her on a road trip to the Rockies..

January 15, 2016

THE 5TH WAVE (Columbia) stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a young woman trying to save her younger brother in the aftermath of a devastating alien invasion. 13 HOURS (Paramount) is based on a true story about six American security operatives who during the attack of the American embassy in Benghazi came to the rescue during the 13 hours of the attack, keeping the death toll from being much worse. This is their account of the events of that night, much of which has never been revealed before now. NORM OF THE NORTH (Lionsgate) is an animated feature with a garrulous polar bear travelling to New York trying to keep his beloved Arctic Circle from being turned into condos and vacation rentals by an unscrupulous developer.

January 22, 2016

THE BOY (STX) stars Lauren Cohan, Maggie on The Walking Dead, as a young woman hired as a nanny to a small boy only to discover that the elderly couple that hired her have presented her with a creepy doll to watch over, a way of coping with the grief of the death of their actual son twenty years prior. However when she violates a list of written rules, a series of unexplained and increasingly disturbing events leads her to believe that the doll may actually be alive. A week from marrying his boss’ controlling daughter, a young man agrees to drive his DIRTY GRANDPA (Lionsgate) to Spring Break in Daytona, putting his upcoming nuptials in jeopardy. Zac Efron and Robert De Niro co-star. EXPOSED (Lionsgate) stars Keanu Reeves as a police detective trying to discover the truth behind his partner’s death as a mysterious woman who claims to have witnessed a miracle becomes the center for some unexplainable occurrences. In MOJAVE (A24), two men meet in the desert for a deadly game that only one – and maybe neither one – will walk away from. Oscar Isaac and Garret Hedlund play the two men.

January 29, 2016

JANE GOT A GUN (Weinstein) stars Natalie Portman as a frontier wife whose past dealings with a bloodthirsty gang comes back to haunt her and her family. Desperate to save them, she enlists the help of her one-time fiancée, a gunslinger who has a past with the gang of his own. This movie has been bouncing around the schedule for more than a year; it’s anybody’s guess whether this will actually see the light of day. If it does, it will likely be 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. These totals don’t include ancillary merchandising, home video sales or broadcast/cable sales, all of which are sure to push the bottom line beyond profitability. When production budgets aren’t available, I’ll be making a guess based on production values and star power. The first four movies listed are the four main previewed items; I’ve also chosen a selection of other major releases that made the preview issue as well.

TAKEN 3 (20th Century Fox) Budget: $48 Million. Domestic Gross: $89.3M Total: $326.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH (Relativity) Budget: $1M. Domestic Gross: $26.5M Total: $26.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
MORTDECAI (Lionsgate) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $7.7M Total: $47.3M Verdict: Flop.
PREDESTINATION (Vertical) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $68,372 Total: $4.3M Verdict: Probably Broke Even.
THE WEDDING RINGER (Screen Gems) Budget: $23M. Domestic Gross: $64.5M Total: $79.8M Verdict: Hit.
PADDINGTON (Dimension) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $76.2M Total: $259.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
BLACK SEA (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.2M Total: $1.2M Verdict: Probable Flop.
BLACK OR WHITE (Relativity) Budget: $9M. Domestic Gross: $21.6M Total: $21.6 Verdict: Made Money.
PROJECT ALMANAC (Paramount) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $22.4M Total: $33.2 Verdict: Made Money.
BLACKHAT (Universal) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $7.9M Total: $19.5 Verdict: Major Flop.
MAX (Warner Brothers) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $42.7M Total: $44.0 Verdict: Made Money.
THE BOY NEXT DOOR (Universal) Budget: $4M. Domestic Gross: $35.4M Total: $52.4 Verdict: Big Hit.
SPARE PARTS (Pantelion) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $3.6M Total: $3.6 Verdict: Probably Lost Money.

FEBRUARY

As 2016 is a leap year, there will be an extra day to enjoy some of the fruits of the year’s second month cinema offerings and as usual with most February offerings things begin to look up after the dead zone that is January. This year, we can expect to see the latest from the Coen Brothers, a sequel to a cult comedy that is 15 years in the making, a biopic of an American athlete who stood for something much more and the first of five Marvel movies to hit the multiplexes this year.

Deadpool

THE ONE TO SEE

DEADPOOL

RELEASE DATE: February 12, 2016
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Gina Carano, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, Brianna Hildebrand, Andre Tricoteux
GENRE: Superhero
STORY: A Special Forces hero turned mercenary, rogue experiments turn Wade Wilson into a hideously deformed Deadpool who is able to heal instantaneously. Now possessed of freakish accuracy and a dark, twisted, sense of humor, he’s going after the man who ruined his life.
PROSPECTS: Fans have been waiting for a Deadpool movie since his appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Deadpool, with his habitual breaking of the fourth wall, is one of Marvel’s most popular characters. The fanboy anticipation factor is through the roof with this one.
OBSTACLES: Fox stumbled big time with Fantastic Four, a film that was reportedly beset with studio interference, something Fox has become notorious for. There has been some fan backlash on the casting of Reynolds once again as Deadpool.
FACTOID: This is the first film in the X-Men franchise to receive an R rating,

NEXT IN LINE

HAIL CAESAR

RELEASE DATE: February 5, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand
GENRE: Comedy
STORY: A studio fixer in the 1950s has a day where he has plenty to fix, not the least of which is the kidnapping of the star of the studio’s biggest film of the year.
PROSPECTS: The latest from the Coen Brothers who always deliver something interesting. An all-star cast and a superb trailer are making film buffs salivate.
OBSTACLES: While the Coen Brothers deliver terrific films, that doesn’t always translate to superior box office.
FACTOID: This will be the fifth time Hill and Tatum have appeared together in the same movie although reportedly they didn’t share any scenes in this one.

ZOOLANDER 2

RELEASE DATE: February 12, 2016
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Will Ferrell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Kristen Wiig
GENRE: Comedy
STORY: Derek Zoolander and Hansel, the two hottest male super models of the 90s are forgotten men 20 years later. However, when beautiful people the world over are turning up dead bearing Zoolander’s signature “Blue Steel” look, the two are back – as spies in the modern world of super modeling, which they don’t understand anymore – not that they ever understood anything.
PROSPECTS: This is one of those movies that people quote from religiously. It may not have set the box office on fire but it is certainly a cult classic.
OBSTACLES: It’s been 20 years since the last Zoolander movie and it wasn’t exactly a big hit in the theaters; it grew into a cult classic on home video. And that might happen again this time.
FACTOID: The announcement of the film was made at a fashion show by Stiller and Wilson, in character as Zoolander and Hansel.

GODS OF EGYPT

RELEASE DATE: February 26, 2016
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Gerard Butler, Chadwick Boseman, Brenton Thwaites, Geoffrey Rush, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Courtney Eaton, Elodie Yung
GENRE: Swords and Sandals
STORY: Dissatisfied with the way Egypt is being run, the god Set usurps the throne and turns the once-peaceful kingdom into a maelstrom of chaos and combat. A mortal, in an attempt to save the love of his life, enlists the god Horus to help him save Egypt but first must retrieve the eyes of Horus, which are guarded by Set…oh, my head aches already.
PROSPECTS: Lots and lots of eye candy will certainly get some attention.
OBSTACLES: Movies like this – Immortals anyone? – didn’t keep that attention.
FACTOID: This is director Alex Proyas’ first feature in seven years.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

THE WITCH

RELEASE DATE: February 19, 2016
STUDIO: A24
STARRING: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Lucas Dawson, Ellie Grainger, Julian Ritchings, Bathsheba Garnett
GENRE: Horror
STORY: A family in 17th century New England is beset by strange and disturbing events. Suspicion falls on the teenage daughter of witchcraft but the truth may be far more terrifying than that.
PROSPECTS: Was considered one of the most terrifying films to screen on the festival circuit in years.
OBSTACLES: No-name cast and competition from TV shows like Sleepy Hollow which has similar themes.
FACTOID: Ineson and Dickie have both appeared in Game of Thrones.

AND THE REST

February 5, 2016

THE CHOICE (Lionsgate), based on yet another Nicholas Sparks novel, is about an unlikely couple who build a wonderful life together until an unexpected turn of events forces one to make a wrenching decision on their own. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (Screen Gems) is also based on a novel (although not by Nicholas Sparks). Here the Zombie Apocalypse is brought into Jane Austin territory. Opening in limited release, REGRESSION (Dimension) looks into the investigation of an unspeakable accusation by a daughter against her father which opens the door to a further mystery with national implications. SOUTHBOUND (The Orchard) which is also opening in limited release is a horror anthology of five tales set on the open road..

February 12, 2016

HOW TO BE SINGLE (New Line) stars Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson as a couple of single gals in New York City trying to navigate the dangerous waters of modern romance using all the means at their disposal. TOUCHED WITH FIRE (Roadside Attractions), which opens in limited release, stars Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby as a pair of bipolar poets who meet at a treatment facility and forge an instant chemistry which both inspires them and drives them even deeper into the darkness of their disorder. WHERE TO INVADE NEXT (Drafthouse) is the latest documentary from gadfly Michael Moore in which Moore visits a variety of other countries to steal their ideas which might solve a lot of problems here in the United States. This will be available in limited release.

February 19, 2016

RACE (Focus) is the story of Jesse Owens, one of the greatest athletes of his time who confounded the Nazis in the 1936 Olympics but faced prejudice and privation in the United States. Stephan James stars as Owens. RISEN (TriStar) tells the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection through the eyes of a non-believing Roman centurion. In VIRAL (Dimension) a teen whose town has been devastated by a deadly virus must survive the chaos of quarantine and somehow protect her sister who has become infected with it.

February 26, 2016

EDDIE THE EAGLE (20th Century Fox) is the story of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, Britain’s first Olympic ski jumper in almost 50 years who conquered the odds just by getting there. Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman star. TRIPLE NINE (Open Road)’s title refers to the police broadcast code for “officer down.” A group of corrupt cops, forced by the Russian mob to pull off an impossible heist attempt to use the shooting of one of their own as a distraction to perform the robbery but things go not just sideways but incredibly sideways.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

JUPITER ASCENDING (Warner Brothers) Budget: $176 Million. Domestic Gross: $47.4M Total: $183.9M Verdict: Lost Money.
50 SHADES OF GREY (Focus) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $166.2M Total: $570.5M Verdict: Blockbuster.
KINGSMEN: THE SECRET SERVICE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $81M. Domestic Gross: $128.3M Total: $414.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
MAPS TO THE STARS (Focus World) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $350, 741.Total: $1.3M Verdict: Flop.
THE DUFF (CBS) Budget: $8.5M. Domestic Gross: $34.0M Total: $43.5M Verdict: Hit.
MCFARLAND, USA (Disney) Budget: $17M. Domestic Gross: $44.5M Total: $45.7M Verdict: Made Money.
THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER (Paramount) Budget: $74M. Domestic Gross: $163.0M Total: $323.4M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE SEVENTH SON (Universal) Budget: $95M. Domestic Gross: $17.2M Total: $114.2M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE VATICAN TAPES (Lionsgate) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $1.7M Total: $9.0M Verdict: Flop.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 (Paramount) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $12.3M Total: $13.1M Verdict: Flop.
LITTLE BOY (Open Road) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $6.5M Total: $7.5M Verdict: Flop.
FOCUS (Universal) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $53.9M Total: $159.1M Verdict: Hit.
THE LAZARUS EFFECT (Relativity) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $25.8M Total: $64.1M Verdict: Big Hit.

MARCH

March can be another transitional month at the box office although this year it will have one of the most anticipated films of the year – the beginning of a new shared comic book universe to compete with Marvel. We’ll also be seeing a true story about a female reporter covering the war in Afghanistan, an adaptation of a beloved children’s book, the latest Disney animation, and the sequel to one of 2014’s most successful action films.

Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice

THE ONE TO SEE

 BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2016
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Lawrence Fishburne, Michael Shannon
GENRE: Superhero
STORY: In the fallout of Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne, the vigilante of Gotham city known as Batman, goes up against Superman, the savior of Metropolis whom the Dark Knight considers to be a major threat to humanity. Engineering this conflict is a maniac billionaire who stands to gain by the end of superheroes, but in his hubris he engineers something far more dangerous.
PROSPECTS: DC fans have been salivating for this for some time; this will be the beginning of a shared cinematic universe for DC heroes for the very first time, pitting their top heroes in the same film, also for the first time.
OBSTACLES: The DC superhero films have for the most part (i.e. the ones not directed by Christopher Nolan) not been well-received even by DC fandom.
FACTOID: Hans Zimmer composed a separate theme for each hero in the film which will be used in all their solo films (with the exception of Batman, who is using a theme from a previous film).

NEXT IN LINE

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT

RELEASE DATE: March 4, 2016
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Evan Jonigkeit, Josh Charles, Sheila Vand
GENRE: True Life Dramedy
STORY: Journalist Kim Barker wanted nothing more than to be a field correspondent, covering important news stories. She manages to finagle an assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan, one of the few women to do so.
PROSPECTS: Fey is one of the most popular comic actresses on the planet and has remained that way by being choosey about her projects.
OBSTACLES: Films about the Afghanistan conflict are notorious for generating lousy box office.
FACTOID: The title is a radio alphabetic code allusion to the abbreviation WTF, or What the F*ck.

ZOOTOPIA

RELEASE DATE: March 4, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Bonnie Hunt, Jenny Slate, Alan Tudyk, Octavia Spencer
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: In a world where animals live together in a single city where anyone can make whatever they are able to out of their lives, an ambitious bunny who longs to be a great police detective pairs up with a scam artist fox to solve a tough case that might be one nut too tough to crack.
PROSPECTS: Hey, it’s Disney. Keep Calm and Rake in the Cash.
OBSTACLES: While the merchandising opportunities are virtually endless, there hasn’t been a ton of enthusiasm from Disneyphiles for this one, which may be getting overlooked in favor of Finding Dory which opens in June.
FACTOID: Tudyk has appeared in four consecutive Disney Animated Studio features.

THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT

RELEASE DATE: March 18, 2016
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Naomi Watts, Miles Teller, Zoë Kravitz, Jeff Daniels, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Jonny Weston
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: Tris and Four lead their friends out of Chicago only to find a new menace in the wastelands beyond.
PROSPECTS: With The Hunger Games completed (at least for now), this is the pre-eminent young adult series with a strong female lead and it has been doing very strong box office for the first two movies of the four-film series.
OBSTACLES: The series has been doing moderately good business but not the sort of box office of Twilight or The Hunger Games.
FACTOID: Although the book series was a trilogy, the third book is being divided into two parts. The producers decided to avoid backlash from fans who have expressed displeasure that Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games all did the same thing with the final book in their series.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

RELEASE DATE: March 18, 2016
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard, Joel Edgerton, Sean Bridgers, Jaeden Lieberher, Dana Gourrier
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: A father and son are forced to go on the run with the boy develops extraordinary powers.
PROSPECTS: May end up being some clever counter-programming to the DC juggernaut debuting the following week.
OBSTACLES: A little bit like too many other kid-oriented sci-fi films that may feel a bit too dated for modern family audiences.
FACTOID: The fourth film for director Jeff Nichols that Shannon has starred in.

THE LITTLE PRINCE

RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2016
STUDIO: Paramount Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: James Franco, Paul Rudd, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro, Jeff Bridges, Paul Giamatti, Albert Brooks
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: An old pilot relays his story of the time he crashed in the Sahara desert and met an extraordinary young boy who claims to be the prince of an Asteroid going from world to world trying to discover what it means to be an adult.
PROSPECTS: Based on the classic children’s book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, this is the most lavish version of the book to appear on the silver screen.
OBSTACLES: The Saint-Exupéry book doesn’t have the same resonance with American children it once did which likely means the same for the animated feature based on it.
FACTOID: Although this is a French production, the original audio was recorded in English; Paramount wouldn’t allow the English version to be released in any other country before its U.S. release so the versions that have been screened in other countries are either in French or that country’s native language.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

THE BRONZE

RELEASE DATE: March 18, 2016
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Haley Lu Richardson, Thomas Middleditch, Sebastian Stan, Cecily Strong, Dale Raoul
GENRE: Comedy
STORY: A faded Olympian gymnast, still milking what fame she has left years after the Games came to an end, must coach an up-and-coming young prospect in order to receive a sizable inheritance which might jeopardize her status as the most famous person in town.
PROSPECTS: This received a huge buzz from last year’s Sundance.
OBSTACLES: The financial problems with Relativity, which originally owned the distribution rights, led to long delays for its release and its eventual sale to Sony Classics. What buzz it had will be long gone by the time it comes out.
FACTOID: Rauch co-wrote the film with her husband.

AND THE REST

March 4, 2016

In DESIERTO (STX) Gael Garcia Bernal plays a Mexican national trying to cross the border to reunite with his children in the US. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a psychotic anti-immigration sort who is hunting down illegals. A game of cat and mouse ensues. BLAMMO! BLAMMO! BLAMMO! But who shot who?  KNIGHT OF CUPS (Broad Green) is the latest from director Terrence Malick which means this will look sumptuous and make no sense to anybody. LONDON HAS FALLEN (Gramercy) stars Gerard Butler as a Secret Service agent once again trying to protect President Aaron Eckhart from terrorists, only this time across the pond. And they say originality is dead in Hollywood. ME BEFORE YOU (Warner Brothers), based on a best-selling novel, has a small-town girl hired by a wealthy industrialist who has been confined to a wheelchair as an attendant. The wealthy guy has given up; the plucky girl helps him find his spark of life again. But what are plucky girls for, if not for giving wealthy industrialists the will to live?

March 11, 2016

BARNEY THOMSEN (Gravitas) is a British comedy opening in limited release about a shy and ordinary barber whose life takes a change for the better when he becomes a serial killer. Robert Carlyle and Emma Thompson star. THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY (Columbia) stars Sasha Baron Cohen in this spy spoof about a superspy who in searching for his idiot brother, separated from him for 28 years, discovers that this brother may be all that’s standing between the world and a horrible terrorist plot. THE CELLAR (Paramount) is about a girl who after losing consciousness in her car wakes up in a strange cellar where a mysterious woman tells her that the rest of the world has been wiped out in a nuclear holocaust. Yeah, I wouldn’t believe her either. In EYE IN THE SKY (Bleecker Street) a British drone mission turns complicated when it becomes obvious that the terrorists are planning a massive attack that will kill many innocent civilians; however the pilot becomes aware that there are children present, putting the mission into a moral grey area. Opening in limited release, HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS (Roadside Attractions) stars Sally Field as an aging woman who falls for a man half her age. In trying to woo him, she finds herself in a world she never knew existed – and risks alienating her longtime friends who think she’s making a fool of herself. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR (20th Century Fox) is a horror film about a woman whose young son dies tragically and is willing to do just about anything to bring him back but the ritual that brings him back also brings a warning, one she disregards with horrible consequences. The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies stars. THE YOUNG MESSIAH (Focus) chronicles the largely untold story of Jesus Christ as a young boy and how he and his family eventually came to terms as to who he truly was.

March 18, 2016

KRISHA (A24) is about a Thanksgiving reunion in which a young woman’s appearance causes unaccountable tension but as the day goes on secrets are brought to light and the family is forced to face events that they thought they’d left behind. MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN (Sony) is based on the incredible story of a young girl whose life-threatening disease is miraculously cured, touching off a series of unexplainable events that leave her family, her medical doctors and the community at large baffled. Opening in limited release, TERM LIFE (Focus World) stars Vince Vaughn as a desperate man who has everybody after him to kill him. He takes out a term life insurance policy payable to his estranged daughter but it doesn’t take effect for 21 days and surviving that long may not be an option.

March 25, 2016

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (Relativity) stars Kate Beckinsale as a woman whose marriage is failing; she and her husband decide to move to a dilapidated old home on the Eastern Seaboard and restore it. However when she discovers a room that doesn’t appear on the blueprints, she uncovers a terrifying secret that forces beyond life and death will stop at nothing to protect. Opening in limited release, I SAW THE LIGHT (Sony Classics) stars Tom Hiddleston as the legendary country artist Hank Williams in this biopic that covers his meteoric rise to fame and his just as startling fall into a tragic end. MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 (Universal) is the sequel to the surprise indie hit that launched the career of Nia Vardalos. She returns along with the rest of her wacky Greek family, this time learning that her parents’ marriage wasn’t valid because the paperwork wasn’t signed properly. So what else is there to do but have another big fat Greek wedding?

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT (Summit) Budget: $110 Million. Domestic Gross: $130.2M Total: $297.3M Verdict: Made Money.
CINDERELLA (Disney) Budget: $95M. Domestic Gross: $201.2M Total: $542.7M Verdict: Blockbuster.
HOME (DreamWorks) Budget: $135M. Domestic Gross: $177.4M Total: $386.0M Verdict: Made Money.
CHAPPIE (Columbia) Budget: $49M. Domestic Gross: $31.6M Total: $102.1M Verdict: Made Money.
THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $33.1M Total: $86.0 Verdict: Big Hit.
GET HARD (Universal) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $94.0M Total: $111.7 Verdict: Made Money.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $10.2M Total: $14.4M Verdict: Flop.
MERCHANTS OF DOUBT (Sony Classics) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $308,156 Total: $308,156 Verdict: Likely Lost Money.
WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (A24) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $7.6M Total: $14.2M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE GUNMAN (Open Road) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $10.7M Total: $10.7M Verdict: Flop.

APRIL

As we swing into spring, the entries into the box office wars heat up, and this year is no exception as we can expect a sequel to a hit fairy tale-based fantasy, a new Disney live-action take on one of their iconic animated features, a new star vehicle for one of America’s favorite comic actresses and the latest nature documentary from DisneyNature.

The Jungle Book

THE ONE TO SEE

THE JUNGLE BOOK

RELEASE DATE: April 15, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley (voice), Scarlett Johansson (voice), Bill Murray (voice), Lupita Nyong’o (voice), Idris Elba (voice), Christopher Walken (voice), Saffron Burrows (voice)
GENRE: Family Adventure
STORY: A young boy, orphaned and raised by wolves, becomes the target for various jungle animals who want him eliminated because he’s human.
PROSPECTS: Director Jon Favreau’s track record as of late has been stellar, as has Disney’s been when it comes to live action remakes of their animated classics.
OBSTACLES: The Jungle Book is not as well known as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella nor are there any princesses involved.
FACTOID: All of Bill Murray’s movies for Disney to date have been released by the more adult-oriented Touchstone label; this is his first movie for Disney proper.

NEXT IN LINE

THE BOSS

RELEASE DATE: April 8, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Melissa McCarthy, Peter Dinklage, Kristen Bell, Kristen Schaal, Kathy Bates, Cecily Strong, Margo Martindale, Tyler Labine
GENRE: Comedy
STORY: After a stint in prison, America’s wealthiest woman has to start over from scratch and determines to rebrand herself as America’s sweetheart; however, not everyone she screwed over is quite ready to forgive and forget.
PROSPECTS: McCarthy is one of the most bankable comedy actors in Hollywood; now that Mike and Molly is coming to an end, she’ll be free to focus on her big screen career.
OBSTACLES: McCarthy’s films have varied in quality and she has a tendency to play roles that are all too similar in tone.
FACTOID: The film was co-written by McCarthy, her husband Ben Falcone (who also directed) and her friend from her Groundlings improv days Steve Mallory.

CRIMINAL

RELEASE DATE: April 15, 2016
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman, Kevin Costner, Gal Gadot, Alice Eve, Tommy Lee Jones, Amaury Nolasco, Antje Traue, Scott Adkins
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: In a desperate attempt to stop a plot that will take the lives of millions, the memories and skills of a dead CIA operative are implanted into an unpredictable and dangerous death row convict in the hopes that he can complete the mission of the dead agent.
PROSPECTS: A truly impressive cast will bring in at least their more devoted fans into the theater.
OBSTACLES: No trailer as of yet, which tells me that this is likely to be delayed or shelved.
FACTOID: Oldman, Costner and Jones all appeared in JFK.

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR

RELEASE DATE: April 22, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Sam Claflin, Sophie Cookson, Colin Morgan, Nick Frost, Sheridan Smith
GENRE: Fantasy
STORY: The Evil Queen Ravenna is dead, but her sister Freya – the Ice Queen – has managed to get her hands on the Magic Mirror and is able to resurrect her sister from its golden depths. The Huntsman must fight his way back to the side of the woman he loves – the warrior Sara – if the vicious army the sisters has raised is to be defeated.
PROSPECTS: No Kristen Stewart this time, which has its pros and cons; the trailer promises another special effects spectacle.
OBSTACLES: The first film did good business but didn’t really get the kind of rabid fanbase that makes sequel success guaranteed.
FACTOID: Originally this was to be a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman but it was decided to do a prequel instead and Snow White was dropped from the film.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

RATCHET AND CLANK

RELEASE DATE: April 29, 2016
STUDIO: Gramercy
STARRING THE VOICES OF: James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward, Sylvester Stallone, Rosario Dawson, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Armin Shimerman, Bella Thorne
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: Two unlikely heroes; a risk-taking last of his species and a brilliant but small robot, struggle to keep a vile alien from destroying the galaxy.
PROSPECTS: A very cool-looking trailer from the studio that has had lots of success with the equally offbeat animated features from Laika Studios.
OBSTACLES: Not exactly household name kind of stuff and videogame adaptations have tended to fail in epic fashion.
FACTOID: Based on a hit videogame series from Insomniac Games.

ALSO OPENING

April 1, 2016

In COLLIDE (Open Road) a young English couple is caught in the crossfire in a war between German criminal kingpins. Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley play the gangsters, Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones the couple. THE DARK HORSE (Broad Green) is about a man called to leadership who must overcome his own flaws in order to become a role model for the children of his community. Cliff (Fear the Walking Dead) Curtis stars. GOD’S NOT DEAD 2 (Pure Flix) is the sequel to the surprise hit faith-based classroom drama. In KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES (20th Century Fox), a couple move into a nice, quiet new neighborhood only to discover that their neighbors are undercover secret agents. John Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher and Gal Gadot head up the ensemble cast. Opening in limited release is MILES AHEAD (Sony Classics), written, directed by and starring Don Cheadle in this searing biopic of jazz legend Miles Davis. After a global plague wipes out most of the population in PANDEMIC (XLRator), a courageous doctor leaves New York for Los Angeles to find as many uninfected survivors as she can. This is opening in limited release as well as on VOD. In RINGS (Paramount) is a prequel to the successful J-horror remakes in which Samara’s deadly spree begins and the infamous videotape, which whoever watches it is fated to die within seven days, is created. It was bounced from the schedule from last October to April Fool’s Day; read into that what you will.

April 8, 2016

In BEFORE I WAKE (Relativity), a young couple adopts a boy who is terrified of falling asleep and they soon find out why; his nightmares manifest themselves in reality. Rescheduled after Relativity’s bankruptcy issues forced a temporary suspension of operations. Opening in limited release, DEMOLITION (Fox Searchlight) is about an investment banker (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who is reeling after the tragic death of his wife and writes an intensely personal letter of complaint to a vending machine company. The letter attracts the attention of a customer service rep (Naomi Watts) who is undergoing personal challenges of her own; the two form a connection that help both of them re-create their lives, starting with the demolition of their old ones.

 April 15, 2016

AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (Dimension) which will have been sitting on the shelf for more than a year by the time this has been released, sort of mashes up The Haunting in Connecticut with The Amityville Horror to form a whole separate film. BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT (New Line/MGM) is the third film in the series, taking place a decade after the last one in which Calvin’s barbershop now has a woman’s hair salon in it as well, changing the dynamic somewhat. Unfortunately, the neighborhood has changed too, for the worse and Calvin and crew are hell bent on doing something about it. EVERYBODY WANTS SOME (Paramount) is the latest from director Richard Linklater (Boyhood) in which a group of college freshman in the 80s try to navigate the changes in their lives while trying to make the baseball team. THE GREEN ROOM (A24) sees a diabolical club owner with some nasty little secrets squaring off against a resilient punk band who see something backstage they shouldn’t have. Patrick Stewart stars.

April 22, 2016

THE MEDDLER (Sony Classics) which opens in limited release stars Susan Sarandon as a recently widowed mom who moves from Jersey to L.A. to be closer to her daughter, which isn’t necessarily welcome news for her daughter.

April 29, 2016

A BEAUTIFUL PLANET (Disney) takes nature documentaries higher than ever as views from space show the beauty and fragility of our world in this IMAX presentation. MOTHER’S DAY (Open Road) comes from Garry Marshall and continues his series of holiday-themed romantic comedies. This time, Julia Roberts stars. NINE LIVES (EuropaCorp) follows the misadventures of a workaholic who through a strange set of circumstances finds himself trapped in the body of the family cat. In SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME (Paramount) an international art dealer whose marriage is falling apart has to develop a friendship with a dangerous homeless man, taking the trio on a remarkable journey.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

FURIOUS 7 (Universal) Budget: $190 Million. Domestic Gross: $353.0M Total: $1.515B Verdict: Blockbuster.
MONKEY KINGDOM (DisneyNature) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $16.4M Total: $17.1M Verdict: Likely Made Money.
THE AGE OF ADALINE (Lionsgate) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $42.6M Total: $42.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
TRUE STORY (Fox Searchlight) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $4.7M Total: $5.1M Verdict: Probably Lost Money.
EX-MACHINA (A24) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $25.4M Total: $36.8M Verdict: Made Money.
RUN ALL NIGHT (Warner Brothers) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $26.5M Total: $71.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
WOMAN IN GOLD (Weinstein) Budget: $11M Domestic Gross: $33.3M Total: $61.6M Verdict: Big Hit
PAUL BLART MALL COP 2 (Columbia) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $71.1M Total: $107.6M Verdict: Hit.
THE LONGEST RIDE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $34M. Domestic Gross: $37.5M Total: $62.9M Verdict: Lost Money.
CHILD 44 (Summit) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $1.2M Total: $13.0M Verdict: Flop.
UNFRIENDED (Universal) Budget: $1M. Domestic Gross: $32.5M Total: $62.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE WATER DIVINER (Warner Brothers) Budget: $22.5. Domestic Gross: $4.2M Total: $15.5M Verdict: Flop.

SUMMER

As usual, Cinema365 will be bringing you our annual summer movie preview at the end of April. Until then, also as usual, we’ll present a sneak preview of what you can expect this summer. As noted earlier, there is a good chance that a good many of these will change dates, change titles and even some will head direct to home video, skipping a theatrical release entirely. There will also be other films that haven’t been scheduled as of this publication that will show up and perhaps have a whole lot of impact on your box office dollar. In any case, this is what we know so far – I’m sure that some of these entries are apt to excite your anticipation for them.

Captain America Civil War

THE ONE TO SEE

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2016
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland
GENRE: Superhero
STORY: Iron Man and Cap find themselves on opposite sides as following an Avengers encounter that leaves significant collateral damage, government types want tighter oversight on superheroes and of course this becomes a political football with Shellhead siding with the government and Steve Rogers for freedom.
PROSPECTS: This is essentially the Marvel movie that many fans have been waiting for and maybe the most anticipated film in the series (until The Infinity War gets going). Bringing in characters from around the Avengers-verse and introducing a couple of new characters (including the new iteration of Spider-Man who will be part of the MCU from here on out), this is bound to be another billion dollar moneymaker for Disney.
OBSTACLES: While Avengers: Age of Ultron did big time box office, it was a little bit disappointing from both a creative and commercial standpoint. Could it be a sign of superhero overload?
FACTOID: The trailer for the film debuted on Jimmy Kimmel Live and broke a record for most views online in 24 hours set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

NEXT IN LINE

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

RELEASE DATE: May 22, 2015
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Olivia Munn, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Evan Peters
GENRE: Superhero
STORY: Set in the 1980s, the X-Men take on their greatest foe as an immortal mutant, worshipped throughout time as a God, seeks to cleanse the world of humankind with only a team of young, inexperienced X-Men along with a few survivors of the first two films of the trilogy to stop him.
PROSPECTS: Brian Singer returns to the director’s chair which is welcome news for fandom; Apocalypse is one of the most popular villains in the Marvel X-Universe.
OBSTACLES: Competing with a whole lot of superhero films this summer, and the public hasn’t been exactly warmed to the X-Men franchise as much as it has the MCU.
FACTOID: The wheelchair used in the teaser trailer was the same one Patrick Stewart used in the very first X-Men movie in 2000.

WARCRAFT

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2016
STUDIO: Universal/Legendary
STARRING: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Robert Kazinsky, Toby Kebbell, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga
GENRE: Fantasy
STORY: Orcs and humans, the deadliest of enemies for generations, must now unite to face down an evil so insidious that it threatens to destroy all life.
PROSPECTS: Director Duncan Jones has been a fan favorite since Moon and this is a franchise that has been just waiting to be made. Could well be the next Lord of the Rings.
OBSTACLES: Or not. Videogame adaptations have notoriously failed in the medium of film and epic fantasies have largely done the same. A lack of bankable stars may end up hurting this.
FACTOID: It has taken ten years from the time the film was announced for it to finally make it to the screen.

FINDING DORY

RELEASE DATE: June 17, 2016
STUDIO: Disney*Pixar
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Idris Elba, Ed O’Neill, Dominic West, Diane Keaton, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy, Hayden Rolence
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: The perpetually forgetful Dory is beginning to retain memories. She and her true friends Nemo and Marlin will go on a quest to find Dory’s family, along the way experiencing an adventure like nothing they’ve ever seen.
PROSPECTS: The sequel to one of the most beloved animated features of all time with much of the same voice cast.
OBSTACLES: 13 years will have passed between the first film and this one. Few franchises can withstand that kind of gap.
FACTOID: DeGeneres campaigned for a sequel for years on her talk show; the announcement that this was greenlit came on her show.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

RELEASE DATE: June 24, 2016
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Vivica A. Fox, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Brent Spiner, Joey King, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, Judd Hirsch
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: After repulsing the alien invasion 20 years ago, humankind has been adapting the technology from downed alien aircraft to upgrade their defenses. Now the aliens are coming back, bigger and badder than ever. Will it be enough?
PROSPECTS: One of the most beloved films of the 90s, a sequel had been called on by the studio right away and fans have been clamoring for it ever since.
OBSTACLES: No Will Smith this time as his salary demands were deemed too high. It’s been 20 years since the first film came out; will younger audiences embrace it the same way?
FACTOID: This is director Roland Emmerich’s first sequel.

GHOSTBUSTERS

RELEASE DATE: July 15, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Andy Garcia
GENRE: Horror Comedy
STORY: A whole new generation of Ghostbusters takes on a new spectral threat to New York City.
PROSPECTS: Who ya gonna call? Director Paul Feig has had plenty of success with McCarthy and with female-led comedy in general.
OBSTACLES: There has been much fan backlash over an all-female ‘busters crew. The original came out almost 30 years ago; is that too long a gap?
FACTOID: This is the fourth film McCarthy has been directed in by Feig.

STAR TREK BEYOND

RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2016
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Deep Roy, Sofia Boutella, Melissa Roxburgh
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: When the U.S.S. Enterprise is viciously attacked by a swarm of ships under the command of the nefarious Krall, the crew is marooned on a deadly world and must go to extreme lengths to survive.
PROSPECTS: The franchise is back on solid footing with a new TV series on the horizon and the movies as strong as they’ve ever been.
OBSTACLES: Director J.J. Abrams has gone on to a different sci-fi franchise and new director Justin Lin, who has done well with the Fast and Furious franchise, has never done this kind of effects-driven film before. There has also been a lot of fan dissatisfaction with the trailer.
FACTOID: This is the third film of the rebooted series and the twelfth overall and is being released in the year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original series.

BOURNE 5

RELEASE DATE: July 29, 2016
STUDIO:Universal
STARRING: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Julia Stiles, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Neve Gachev, Ato Essandoh, Scott Shepherd
STORY: Not much is known about the story other than Bourne apparently has gotten some of his memory back and has resurfaced after 12 years of being off the grid.
PROSPECTS: For awhile it was thought that the Bourne series was going to supplant James Bond as the pre-eminent spy franchise. With Damon back as well as director Paul Greengrass this could be a return to the critical and commercial success of the first three films in the series.
OBSTACLES: This has a very good chance of being delayed until the fall or even summer 2017. Although filming has commenced, almost no marketing has been done.
FACTOID: Although Jeremy  Renner’s Aaron Cross character from The Bourne Legacy isn’t appearing in this film, a sequel will be filmed for the character following the release of this film.

SUICIDE SQUAD

RELEASE DATE: July 10, 2015
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Ben Affleck, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
GENRE: Superhero
STORY: In order to stop a threat against humanity, the U.S. Government enlists the services of convicted criminals on a mission that will probably end in their deaths – or their crimes being pardoned if they survive.
PROSPECTS: The next chapter in the DC Cinematic Universe is an offbeat choice; rather than one of their signature heroes, they’re going with a team of villains. The buzz has been high on this one; this will end up either being a brilliant move…
OBSTACLES: …or a fatal mistake. Some of the characters on the team are fairly minor lights in the comic universe and may be unknown or at least not well-known to non-fans.
FACTOID: Ben Affleck is the first actor to play Batman in two different films in the same year.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

RELEASE DATE: August 19, 2016
STUDIO: Focus/Laika
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew McConaughey, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: A kindhearted storyteller unintentionally summons demons from his past and must battle gods and monsters with his magical musical instrument in a fantasy version of Japan.
PROSPECTS: Laika has become maybe the second-most respected animation house in the world; each of their films have gotten progressively better, more acclaimed and more popular.
OBSTACLES: A bit of a departure from the usual Laika style and coming out in the doldrums of summer.
FACTOID: This is the fourth film to come out from Laika and the first without an ostensible horror theme.

AND THE REST

A BIGGER SPLASH (Fox Searchlight) which opens in limited release has a glamorous couple whose idyllic vacation is thrown into disarray by the appearance of an old friend and his daughter (May 13). THE FREE STATE OF JONES (STX) is set in the Civil War and stars Matthew McConaughey as a farmer who leads a revolt against the Confederacy where slaves are freed and are treated as equals (May 13). KIDNAP (Relativity) stars Halle Berry as a mother determined to do whatever it takes to rescue her kidnapped son (May 13). LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT (Broad Green) is about Jesus’ 40 day ordeal in the desert as he is tempted by the Devil. Ewan McGregor plays both roles. (May 13). In MONEY MONSTER (Tri-Star) a financial TV show host and his crew are taken hostage live on-air by an irate investor whose stock portfolio crashed after he followed the recommendations of the host (May 13). SNOWDEN (Open Road) is Oliver Stone’s biopic about the notorious whistleblower (May 13). THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE (Columbia) is an animated feature telling us why the stars of Rovio’s hit game are so darn mad (May 20). NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING (Universal) is the inevitable sequel to the hit comedy in which an ordinary family gets new neighbors; this time it is a college sorority house (May 20).THE NICE GUYS (Warner Brothers) stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a hired thug and an incompetent private eye who are thrown together to find a missing girl in 1970s L.A. and find themselves sucked into a web of corruption that extends into the highest corridors of power (May 20). ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (Disney) follows Alice into new adventures in the Underworld in this sequel to the hit Tim Burton adaptation although Burton isn’t directing this time around (May 27). CONNER4REAL (Universal) is a feature film from the digital troupe Lonely Island starring Andy Samberg as a wannabe rapper (June 3). SAUSAGE PARTY (Columbia) is an animated feature about a sausage who is determined to find out the truth behind his existence. (June 3). TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS (Paramount) reportedly takes a darker turn in the franchise as familiar villain makes it to the live action series for the first time (June 3). THE CONJURING 2 (New Line) returns with another case from the files of Ed and Lorraine Warren – this time taking them to North London where a single mum and her four kids live in a house where malevolent spirits are growing increasingly violent (June 10). NOW YOU SEE ME 2: THE SECOND ACT (Summit) reunites the Four Horsemen from the first end as they take on even more elaborate and dangerous illusions as they take on a billionaire tech wizard (June 10). In CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE (New Line) Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart make the unlikeliest spies ever as they get involved in a case that might just be all in the head of one of them (June 17). THE BFG (Disney) sees Steven Spielberg make a live action version of the Roald Dahl classic children’s tale about a giant who takes a young girl on the adventure of a lifetime (July 1). THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (Warner Brothers) is the latest version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic pulp hero, this time hopefully developing an all-new franchise for an audience unfamiliar with the books and serials (July 1). In THE PURGE 3 (Universal) Frank Grillo returns in this continuation of the hit franchise in which one day a year is set aside where every crime is legal (July 1). MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES (20th Century Fox) is about two brothers who place ads to find dates for a wedding, only to see the ads go viral (July 8). THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS (Universal/Illumination) is an animated feature that shows us what our pets are up to while we’re away (July 8).LA LA LAND (Summit) is director Damien (Whiplash) Chazelle’s take on the movie musical in which a couple pursuing their dreams find those same dreams tearing them apart (July 15). ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE (20th Century Fox) sees Skrat’s pursuit of acorn nirvana lead to a cosmic calamity that threatens every creature on the planet (July 22). LIGHTS OUT (New Line) is a new horror film starring Teresa Palmer (July 22). Opening in limited release, GENIUS (Roadside Attractions) examines the real life relationship between author Thomas Wolfe and his editor Max Perkins (July 29). THE SPACE BETWEEN US (STX) is a sci-fi romance about a the first human born on Mars who returns to Earth to discover who his true father is with the aid of an incredibly smart girl named Tulsa (July 29). BEN-HUR (Paramount/MGM) is a remake of the classic swords and sandals film about a Roman noblemen falsely accused and sentenced to slavery, surviving all his tribulations only to come face to face with his former best friend who betrayed him and having to choose between vengeance and forgiveness (August 12). PETE’S DRAGON (Disney) is a remake of the classic live-action/animation mix about an orphan boy and his dragon (August 12). SPECTRAL (Universal/Legendary) pits a Special Ops team against a supernatural force that nobody can explain, but everyone knows must be stopped (August 12). ARMS AND THE DUDES (Warner Brothers) is based on a true story about two young men, good friends, who exploit a government program that allows small businesses to bid on military contracts. When they land a $300 million deal to arm the Afghan military, they realize they are in way over their heads (August 19). MECHANIC: RESURRECTION (Summit) returns Jason Statham as Arthur Bishop, the ice-cool contract killer who is brought out of retirement by someone from his past who forces him to assassinate a list of the most dangerous men in the world (August 26). THE INFILTRATOR (Broad Green) is the true story of Robert Mazur, an undercover agent in the shady world of drug cartel financing who brought the economics of drug dealing to its knees briefly in the 1980s (August 31).

FALL

Once again, a little taste to whet your appetite; Cinema365 will be presenting a brand new preview of all things 2016 Fall/Holiday at the end of August. Until then, this is probably the most fluid portion of the preview; as mentioned earlier, it is unlikely that the majority of these will remain in the slots that are posted here, and certainly there will be a lot of Festival favorites that will be making their debut, hungering for Awards and Box Office gold. Until then, this is what we know at the moment.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

THE ONE TO SEE

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

RELEASE DATE: November 18, 2016
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Jon Voight, Katherine Waterston, Ron Perlman, Samantha Morton, Gemma Chan, Dan Fogler
GENRE: Fantasy
STORY: Set 75 years before the first Harry Potter, the legendary Newt Scaramander – he of the essential textbook in the title – makes a brief stopover in New York while on a journey to catalog magical beasts and all chaos occurs when some of them escape.
PROSPECTS: Hello, it’s Harry Potter! We can’t get enough of the Wizarding World and with J.K. Rowling herself penning the scripts and an Oscar-winning actor leading the way, what could go wrong?
OBSTACLES: Neither Potter nor any of his companions make an appearance here. It’s an entirely new cast set in an entirely new environment.
FACTOID: Rowling wrote the book in 2001 as a spin-off from the Potter books with over 80% of the cover price of each book going to Comic Relief, helping poor and underprivileged children around the world.

NEXT IN LINE

DOCTOR STRANGE

RELEASE DATE: November 5, 2016
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Amy Landecker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Scott Adkins
GENRE: Superhero/Fantasy
STORY: An arrogant neurosurgeon whose life is shattered after a car accident, finds a realm of mystery and magic existing within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
PROSPECTS: Opens up the MCU to the mystical realms, of which Strange is the most well-known character, which is a strategy that worked for the cosmic realms which Guardians of the Galaxy brought to life.  
OBSTACLES: The mystical realm is somewhat esoteric and an acquired taste – certainly not a slam dunk for superhero fans.
FACTOID: Cumberbatch initially had to decline the role due to scheduling conflicts but when the release date was pushed back and consequently the production dates pushed back as well, Cumberbatch was able to accept the role.

MOANA

RELEASE  DATE: November 23, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Dwayne Johnson, Auli’i Cravalho, Alan Tudyk
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: A spirited teenager living in the islands of the South Pacific determines to prove herself a master wayfarer by setting out on a daring mission of exploration and fulfilling the ancient quest of her ancestors.
PROSPECTS: The Disney animated studios has had spectacular success with their autumn releases.
OBSTACLES: Not very much is known about this film, which leads one to wonder if it might not end up being delayed.
FACTOID: Moana will become the 14th Disney princess and the fifth of non-European origin.

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

RELEASE DATE: December 16, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Jonathan Aris, Wen Jiang
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: A band of resistance fighters attempt to smuggle plans of the Empire’s terrifying new weapon, the Death Star, to the rebellion in this story that takes place just prior to the events of Episode IV.
PROSPECTS: Considering The Force Awakens has broken nearly every box office record imaginable and that this is the first-ever stand-alone film in the history of the franchise, I’d say this is pretty much a slam dunk that you’ll need to get your tickets early.
OBSTACLES: The demand for tickets will likely exceed the supply of seats so expect lines and sell-outs for this one.
FACTOID: It is rumored that Peter Cushing will appear via archival footage as Grand Moff Tarkin despite the fact Cushing passed away in 1994.

ASSASSIN’S CREED

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2015
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, Ariane Labed, Michael Kenneth Williams, Matias Varela
GENRE: Fantasy
STORY: Through a revolutionary technology, a 21st century man is able to access the genetic memories of his ancestor, who turns out to have been a member of a secret society of assassins, to take on a rival organization in modern times.
PROSPECTS: This project has been gestating for awhile and has been generating a lot of positive buzz. A stellar cast and unique storyline may resonate with moviegoers.
OBSTACLES: And yet there’s always that bugaboo of videogames not translating well to cinema, and the hyper-critical gamer crowd not trusting moviemakers to make their favorite franchises right.
FACTOID: This is the first release from Ubisoft Studios, a cinematic entity created by the game publishers Ubisoft in order to create movie versions of their game franchises.

PASSENGERS

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Lawrence Fishburne, Inder Kumar, Jamie Soricelli, Vince Foster, Robert Larriviere, Barbara Jones
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: A passenger on an interstellar voyage to an outer colony wakes up 100 years early due to a malfunctioning hibernation pod; he decides to awaken a fellow passenger so as not to be completely alone. Both of them must face a possibly catastrophic failure in the starship itself.
PROSPECTS: Director Morten Tyldum has released a number of critically acclaimed features, and writer Jon Spaihts has written some high-profile scripts, plus of course the two leads are arguably the two biggest stars in Hollywood at the moment.
OBSTACLES: This is not the kind of sci-fi that sells in Hollywood; this is more of a thought-provoking piece.
FACTOID: At one point, Keanu Reeves and Rachel McAdams were cast in the lead roles.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

BAD SANTA 2

RELEASE DATE: November 23, 2016
STUDIO: Broad Green/Miramax
STARRING: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly
GENRE: Comedy
STORY: A mall store Santa with a despicable attitude once again faces the Yuletide season drunk and disorderly.
PROSPECTS: The 2003 original is something of a cult classic and remains one of Thornton’s most iconic characters.
OBSTACLES: Who the (f-bomb) remembers it?
FACTOID: Thornton, Cox and Kelly all return from the original film; both Bernie Mac and John Ritter, who were also in the original, have passed away since then and neither of their characters are supposedly being recast.

AND THE REST

PATIENT ZERO (Screen Gems) is the story of a global pandemic and the search for the originator of the devastating disease to find a potential cure (September 2). SOLACE (Relativity) stars Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell in this story of a doctor with psychic powers enlisted by the police to find a sadistic serial killer (September 2). SULLY (Warner Brothers) is the story of airline pilot “Sully” Sullenberger, the hero who safely landed his plane on the Hudson and saving the lives of all aboard, but who was the target of an investigation even as he was being lauded as a hero; Clint Eastwood directs and Tom Hanks stars (September 9). BRIDGET JONES’ BABY (Universal) brings back Renee Zellweger as the irrepressible British romantic who finds herself unexpectedly expecting (September 16). WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS (Screen Gems) is a thriller about a young urban professional couple who have tried and failed to conceive a child; when they go with a surrogate, too late they discover that she has become obsessively – and psychotically – fixated on the husband (September 16). In A CURE FOR WELLNESS (20th Century Fox), Dane DeHaan stars as a man sent to a Swiss Alpine treatment center to pick up his boss, only to find that he’s disappeared; he soon finds himself at the center of sinister events that may lead to his own disappearance as well (September 23). THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (MGM/Columbia) is a remake of the iconic Western, this time starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke, among others (September 23). STORKS (Warner Brothers) is an animated tale of the deliverers of babies who have moved on to becoming a different type of delivery service – until one of their number accidentally revives the baby-making machine (September 23). BESTIES (STX) is about a pair of best friends in high school, trying to make it through together – until one discovers the other has been dating her older brother behind her back (September 30). DEEPWATER HORIZON (Summit) is based on the events that led to one of the worst oil spills in history with catastrophic consequences for the Gulf Coast (September 30).In DELIRIUM (Blumhouse) a man recently released from a mental institution inherits the family mansion but as he takes up residence he comes to believe that the house may be haunted – but everybody already thinks he’s crazy (September 30). MASTERMINDS (Relativity) boasts an all-star cast in a tale of a boneheaded heist by the most half-witted criminals ever – all supposedly based on true events (September 30). In THE ACCOUNTANT (Warner Brothers) a mild-mannered accountant (Ben Affleck) moonlights as a lethal assassin (October 7). GAMBIT (20th Century Fox) is a solo film for one of the most popular X-Men in the franchise. Channing Tatum stars (October 7). THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (DreamWorks) is based on the best-selling thriller by Paula Hawkins (October 7). MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE (CBS) is the theatrical version of a best-selling, award-winning young adult series in which a young boy battles bullies, a tyrannical principal, hormones, her mother’s boyfriend and the mysteries of the opposite sex (October 7).In A MONSTER CALLS (Focus) a bullied boy escapes the torments of his life into a world of fantasy where monsters are real (October 14). THE BYE-BYE MAN (CBS) is a horror feature about a trio of college students who move into an off-campus residence and unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity by learning his true name (October 14). KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?  (Universal) is the latest concert film by the wildly successful comic actor and stand-up comic (October 14). UNDERWORLD 5 (Screen Gems) is the latest in the series that chronicles the hidden world of vampires and Lycans (werewolves) in their never-ending war that has humans caught in the middle (October 14). JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK (Paramount) has Tom Cruise revisit the role as the taciturn military detective who visits his old base in Virginia to have dinner with a friend – only to discover she’s been arrested for murder. Now he must clear her name and his own as he brings his own special brand of violence to the case (October 21). OUIJA 2 (Universal) is a sequel to the horror hit from 2014 in which a whole new group of friends unleashes the wrath of the spirit world through an innocuous toy (October 21). INFERNO (Columbia) is the latest in the trilogy of stories of Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon that began with The Da Vinci Code and returns star Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard (October 28). In BASTARDS (Warner Brothers) a pair of brothers who were told their father had died are surprised to discover he is very much alive; they set out to find him and in the process find out far more about their mom than they probably ever wanted. Owen Wilson and Ed Helms star (November 4). TROLLS (DreamWorks Animation) is an animated feature about the beloved toys that are far more alive than they seem (November 4). A MEYERS CHRISTMAS (Universal) is a heartwarming tale of an estranged family brought together for the first time since the passing of the family matriarch (November 11). BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK (Tri-Star) is based on the bestselling novel about a 19-year-old Army private whose company survives a harrowing battle and is brought back for a promotional tour of the States, culminating in an appearance in a halftime show of a Thanksgiving Day football day after which they’ll be sent back to the front lines (November 11). SLEEPLESS NIGHT (Open Road) stars Jamie Foxx as a seemingly corrupt Las Vegas cop whose son is kidnapped by a drug cartel as ransom for a drug shipment he stole; as he races to get his son back, he must avoid gangsters and cops alike all the while chased by an Internal Affairs officer who must ultimately determine which side of the law he’s actually on (November 11). In WHY HIM (20th Century Fox) a Midwestern dad visiting his daughter at Christmas finds that he must compete for her attention with her brash, arrogant tech billionaire boyfriend (November 11). THE GREAT WALL (Warner Brothers) is an epic adventure about a group of British soldiers who discover a hurriedly constructed wall wasn’t just to protect China against Mongol invaders but from something far more sinister – and inhuman (November 23). THE FOUNDER (Weinstein) is the story of Ray Kroc who went from a milkshake machine salesman to the CEO of McDonald’s, one of the most successful companies on the planet (November 25).  STRANGERS 2 (Relativity) is the sequel to the creepy 2008 home invasion horror tale (December 2). CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL (Warner Brothers) utilizes characters and stories from the acclaimed feel-good series of books to bring the heart-warming feel of the series to the screen (December 16). SING (Universal/Illumination) is an animated feature in which a group of animals struggle to save a fading theater by staging the world’s greatest singing competition in it (December 21). JUMANJI (Columbia) is a remake of the Chris von Allsburg children’s classic that Robin Williams headlined more than 20 years ago (December 25). MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (20th Century Fox) stars Asa Butterfield as a 16-year-old who discovers a crumbling home which once housed the titular institution whose children were more than peculiar – they may have had spectacular powers and they may still be alive. Tim Burton directs. (December 25).

*************************************************************************************

So that should get you caught up with 2016. As loaded as the schedule is with potential blockbusters, the bounty of cinematic goodness should continue into 2017 as that year will include four Marvel and two DC films, the next chapter in the Star Wars trilogy, the debut of new cinematic universes for Universal monsters and Legendary giant creatures, the first installment in an ambitious Stephen King adaptation in the Gunslinger series, sequels galore and new franchises in the offing. But before we get to those films, we still have plenty of multiplex goodness to enjoy and no doubt many of you are already making plans to buy tickets or watch at home. Thanks for reading the preview and Cinema365 is eager to review these and other movies that are on the horizon. In the meantime, we’ll catch you in the darkened theater, watching the latest miracles to hit the silver screen.