Flight


Flight

It rains on the just and the unjust equally.

(2012) Drama (Paramount) Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly,  Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, Brian Geraghty, Melissa Leo, Tamara Tunie, Nadine Velazquez, Charlie E. Schmidt, Peter Gerety, Boni Yanagisawa, Garcelle Beauvais, Justin Martin, Rhoda Griffis. Directed by Robert Zemeckis

 

We take flying for granted. You are far more likely to be killed in a car wreck than you are in the friendly skies. We trust our pilots to be sharp and skilled, highly trained to handle any situation and get us to our destination in one piece.

Whip Whitaker (Washington) is such a pilot. He is cool calm and in command on the outside, his aviator shades and uniform inspiring confidence. He is piloting a short flight from Orlando to Atlanta. The weather is frightful; a severe storm making the take-off anything but routine. But that’s not the worst of it; mid-flight, the plane goes inexplicably into a nosedive and nothing the crew can do can pull them out. Whitaker pulls off an incredible maneuver involving lying the plane upside down and manages to set down in a field. There is loss of life (four passengers and two crew die in the incident) but compared to what might have happened the landing was nothing short of miraculous.

Whip wakes up in the hospital barely remembering what happened. He’s being hailed as a hero and the press is in a frenzy, eager to get an interview with him. His good friend Charlie Anderson (Greenwood), a fellow pilot and head of the pilot’s union, flies to Atlanta to navigate him through the NTSB and other procedures that occur after a crash with fatalities.

Then everything falls apart. It turns out that the blood drawn from him routinely after the crash showed that he had alcohol and cocaine in his system. Which, in fact, he did – the night before the crash he had partied all night with a sexy stewardess (Velazquez) who had somewhat conveniently been one of the fatalities. They’d drank like fish, snorted coke and had lots of sex. In fact, Whip had even mixed himself a little cocktail of orange juice and vodka during the fatal flight.

In fact Whip has quite a problem; he could face jail time and lawsuits. A lawyer is hired for him by the union, the whip-smart (couldn’t resist the pun) Hugh Lang (Cheadle) who is charged with getting Whip off the hook because should he be found liable, so would the airline that hired him which would effectively put it out of business and put a good many pilots in the unemployment line, which the union decidedly doesn’t want.

But Whip’s biggest problem is his own demons. He can’t seem to stop drinking, although he tells everyone around him he can quit on his own, no problem. He resents even the thought of being called an alcoholic and yet his binges seem to come at the worst possible times as if he himself is crashing far worse than the jet he had previously piloted.

His estranged wife (Beauvais) and son (Martin) want nothing to do with him, but all isn’t hopeless – he has taken up with the recovering addict Nicole (Reilly) who seems to be serious about her recovery. Maybe this hook-up which was a result of his own kindness might turn out to be his salvation. With an NTSB hearing which will determine his future approaching, Whip is most assuredly his own worst enemy.

Despite all appearances to the contrary, this isn’t a movie about a plane crash although the crash sequence, which lasts twelve minutes at the beginning of the movie, is flat-out amazing and horrifying at once – so much so that if you’re planning to travel by air anytime soon, you may want to hold off on seeing this until after you’ve fulfilled your travel plans.

What this really is about is addiction and as harrowing as the plane crash sequence is, the rest of the movie following Whip’s fall from grace is far more so. It really isn’t very easy to watch as Whip gulps down liquor as if it were Kool-Aid and he continues to deny that there is a problem.

Very few actors could pull this part off properly – we need to be repelled by Whip’s actions even as we are compelled by his compassion. Washington is so likable and charismatic that we root for him throughout even though his character’s self-destructive streak is so profound that deep down we know he’s going to let us down. I imagine it’s much the same living with an alcoholic in real life.

The supporting cast is pretty stellar as one. Reilly, an Irish accent, is pixie-like and has an odd vulnerability that is laced with gravitas. Cheadle, one of my favorite actors, comes through again as a competent professional who is nevertheless out of his depth with Whip and the frustration becomes very apparent soon. Goodman, as a party animal who is Whip’s supplier, is marvelous and Tunie as a stewardess is amazing.

But it is Denzel who steals the show and simply put, this is one of the best performances of his storied career. He has to be considered an early front-runner for the Best Actor Oscar race, and I almost guarantee that he’ll nab a nomination early next year. It would be a major miscarriage of justice if he did not.

There are plenty of movies that show the horrors of alcoholism but few have captured it this well. This might be a good primer for those who suspect someone they care about is an alcoholic, but for those who already know someone they love is this might be a little too close to home. Just fair warning.

REASONS TO GO: Nothing like what you think it’s going to be. Oscar-caliber performance from Denzel.

REASONS TO STAY: Those expecting an action film might be put off by the drama. May be too close to home for those who are alcoholics or have someone in the family who is.

FAMILY VALUES:  The depiction of alcohol and drug abuse is pretty graphic; so too is the crash scene that opens the film. There is also plenty of bad language, a good deal of sexuality and nudity.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is only the second R-rated film Zemeckis has directed (the first was Used Cars in 1980.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/23/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 77% positive reviews. Metacritic: 76/100. The reviews are solidly strong.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Days of Wine and Roses

AIRPLANE LOVERS: A very realistic look inside the cockpit of a jetliner, and you get a real sense of what it’s like to fly a commercial airplane.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

NEXT: Mission to Mars

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New Releases for the Week of November 2, 2012


November 2, 2012

WRECK-IT RALPH

(Disney) Starring the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Ed O’Neill, Mindy Kaling, Adam Corolla, Horatio Sanz, Dennis Haysbert, Edie McClurg. Directed by Rich Moore

Ralph is a videogame villain who for decades has been overshadowed by Fix-It Felix who always gets to save the day. Ralph longs to be a good guy but will never be one as long as he is overshadowed by Felix, so he decides to find a game where he can do good. Unfortunately, in his quest he inadvertently releases an evil that threatens the entire arcade. Can Ralph be the hero he dreams of being and save the arcade? It’s a Disney film so I’m thinking “yes.”

See the trailer, promos, clips and an interview here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for some rude humor and mild action/violence)

Flight

(Paramount) Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood. An airline pilot becomes a national hero when he pulls off an impossible maneuver to land a crippled plane. That adulation quickly turns to something different when his blood work taken from the accident site reveals that he had alcohol in his system during the fatal flight.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence)

The Man With the Iron Fists

(Universal) Russell Crowe, RZA, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune. A mysterious stranger arrives in a remote Chinese village to become the village blacksmith. Rival clans within the village force him to forge elaborate weapons of war. When the simmering feud goes nuclear over a shipment of gold, the stranger forges a weapon of his own, channeling an ancient power to fight alongside iconic heroes against soulless villains. The fate of the village rests on his ability to harness that power and control it.

See the trailer, clips, featurettes and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Martial Arts

Rating: R (for bloody violence, strong sexuality, language and brief drug use)

Four-Warned: November 2012


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

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

Each entry is broken down as follows:

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

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

FOUR TO SEE
1. SKYFALL (1.0)
2. LIFE OF PI (1.3)
3. FLIGHT (1.4)
4. LINCOLN (1.5)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1.0)
TIE. CHASING ICE (1.0)
3. THE BAY (1.3)
TIE. CALIFORNIA SOLO (1.3)
TIE. HIGH GROUND (1.3)

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

NOVEMBER 2, 2012

A LATE QUARTER (EntertainmentOne) Genre: Drama. When a member of a renowned string quartet receives grave news, the groups fragile dynamic threatens to explode prior to their 25th Anniversary Concert. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The amazing cast includes Christopher Walken, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener.
A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Brainstorm) Genre: Animated Feature. The late Graham Chapman of Monty Python reads his life story set to animation created by 14 different animators. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The closest thing we’ll ever get to a final Monty Python film.
A MAN’S STORY (Trinity) Genre: Documentary. The story of Ozwald Boateng, one of the UK’s most innovative and influential clothing designers of the past 20 years who struggles to balance his family life and career. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 Once again, fashion documentaries really don’t float my boat much.
THE BAY (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Horror. A quiet Maryland bayside town undergoes a metamorphosis when insidious parasites invade the bodies and the minds of the town’s residents. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 The latest from Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson looks to be maybe the most terrifying film of the year.
BONES BRIGADE (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. The story of skateboarders Tony Hawk, Stevie Caballero and Stacy Peralta whose amazing exploits revolutionized the sport in the 1980s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.7 Interesting from a historical perspective but only if you’re into the lifestyle.
CAFE DE FLORE (Adopt) Genre: Drama. Two people – one in 1960s Paris the other in modern day Montreal – are connected through time in profound and mysterious ways. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles on Nov. 9). RATING: 2.9 Looks kinda trippy.
THE DETAILS (Radius) Genre: Comedy. A suburban man goes to war with a pack of raccoons that have invaded his yard. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks full of genuine weirdness and human frailty all in one delightful crap sandwich.
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS (Self-Released) Genre: Drama. A troubled teenager in 1980s New York City dreams of reuniting with her father in Guyana. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 A compelling subject but a curiously passionless trailer.
FLIGHT (Paramount) Genre: Drama. A pilot hailed as a hero for saving a passenger jet from certain holocaust is suddenly viewed differently once he’s put under the media microscope. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 The return of director Robert Zemeckis to live-action features is marked by an outstanding cast including Denzel Washington.
HIGH GROUND (Red Flag) Genre: Documentary. Eleven veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan aided by veteran mountain climbers make an ascent up one of the highest mountains in the Himalayas (Mount Lobuche) in order to find some healing from their ordeals. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.3 How many documentaries about war are actually about healing? This is a must-see.
JACK AND DIANE (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. Two young women hook up in New York and find a deep, fulfilling relationship but when it threatens to break up it triggers terrifying changes in one of their bodies. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 It looks kind of out there but in a good way.
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (Universal) Genre: Martial Arts. A shipment of gold in 19th Century China ignites a long-simmering clan war with a blacksmith who makes incredible weapons of war caught in the middle. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.9 The directing debut of RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan reminds me of Quentin Tarantino’s (who also produced) Kill Bill.
MIAMI CONNECTION (Drafthouse) Genre: Martial Arts. Florida, circa 1987, is controlled by vicious motorcycle ninja gangs who incur the ire of martial arts rock band, determined to take back the Sunshine State for the people. Release Strategy: (New York City; opens in Los Angeles Nov. 9). RATING: 2.2 Exceedingly retro and campy; will either be serious fun or seriously annoying.
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (Weinstein) Genre: Dramedy. A somewhat addlepated rocker who is estranged from his father returns to New York for his dad’s funeral and decides to take on his father’s crusade to find the man who humiliated him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Sean Penn is the only reason you need to go see this one.
VAMPS (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror Comedy. Two single party girls who happen to be vampires must choose between love and eternal life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 From director Amy Heckerling, stars her clueless star Alicia Silverstone, Kristin Ritter and Sigourney Weaver among others but trailer looks a bit cutesy-pie
WRECK-IT RALPH (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. An arcade videogame villain decides he wants to be a good guy and leaves his game to find another that will accept his inner hero. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.7 A definite must-see for anyone who loves classic arcade videogames.

NOVEMBER 6, 2012

FIRE WITH FIRE (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. A firefighter, in witness protection for testifying against the mob after witnessing a murder, must go into places he couldn’t have imagined to protect those he cares about when his identity is compromised. Release Strategy: On Demand. RATING: 2.8 Josh Duhamel and Bruce Willis make an intriguing pair.

NOVEMBER 9, 2012

A ROYAL AFFAIR (Magnolia) Genre: Romance. The true story of a scandalous love triangle in the 18th Century between a German Doctor, the Queen of Denmark and her deranged king. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A florid historical epic that might well be more interesting than the trailer suggests.
CHRISTMAS IN COMPTON (Barnholtz) Genre: Comedy. When the son of a beloved Christmas tree lot owner tries to make some improvements and jeopardizes the business, a miracle will be needed to make things right – the kind of miracle only found in Compton. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks a little corny but with an extra heaping helping of heart.
CITADEL (Cinedigm/Flatiron) Genre: Horror. An agoraphobic dad raising his daughter alone tries to protect her from an invading gang of mysterious hooded thugs hell bent on kidnapping her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The trailer is legitimately frightening; got raves at SXSW this year.
THE COMEDY (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. An aging Brooklyn hipster finds himself getting restless with his life and yearns to move into something more meaningful. Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Featuring Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, looks decidedly more cerebral and artsy than what they’re known for.
DANGEROUS LIAISONS (Well Go USA) Genre: Drama. A womanizer must choose between the sensuous socialite and the chaste humanitarian he loves Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A sumptuous new version of the classic French novel, transplanted to 1930s Shanghai.
IN THEIR SKIN (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. A friendly evening among friends turns into a terrifying struggle to survive when one of the men, obsessed with perfection, turns to violence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks twisted in a good way and a decent cast (albeit not household names) sweetens the pot.
LINCOLN (DreamWorks) Genre: Biographical Drama. America’s 16th President leads his country through the bloodiest war in its history. Release Strategy: Limited (Opening Wide November 15). RATING: 1.5 The latest from director Steven Spielberg takes on Daniel Day-Lewis as the Great Emancipator; might be an Oscar contender.
NATURE CALLS (Magnet) Genre: Comedy. A pair of brothers become at odds over a group of boys in the elder brother’s scouting troop. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Even with Patton Oswalt, this looks mind-numbing.
SKYFALL (MGM/Columbia) Genre: Spy Action Thriller. Indiscretions in the past of M, the starchy head of MI-6 will lead the agency to come under attack by a ruthless madman whom even James Bond cannot stop. Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX opening Nov. 8). RATING: 1.0 The most successful franchise in cinematic history returns after a brief leave of absence with one of the most anticipated films in the 50 year history of the Bond films.
STARLET (Music Box) Genre: Drama. A young woman who lives to get high befriends an elderly woman in the San Fernando Valley after a confrontation at a yard sale. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.2 The trailer is a pretty sweet one with plenty of L.A. heart.

NOVEMBER 13, 2012

JAB TAK HAI JAAN (Yash Raj) Genre: Bollywood. A former soldier relocated to London is living a double life. When his two lives collide he must choose between them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The latest from legendary Bollywood director Yash Chopra.

NOVEMBER 14, 2012

BUFFALO GIRLS (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Two eight-year-old girls in rural Thailand become professional Muay Thai fighters to provide for their families. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles Dec. 7). RATING: 3.1 This practice isn’t uncommon; a moving look at what two little girls will go through to help their families escape abject poverty.
THE LAW IN THESE PARTS (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A look at the laws created in the wake of the Six Days War that relegate the West Bank and Gaza Strip as occupied territories and how those laws are used to promulgate injustice even today. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.8 A very powerful examination of a situation that modern Israeli’s grapple with, and with the soul of a nation at stake.

NOVEMBER 15, 2012

BARRYMORE (Image) Genre: Drama. As he rehearses a play that must be a do-or-die comeback performance, legendary stage actor John Barrymore looks back at the events of his storied life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 With Oscar winner Christopher Plummer in the title role this could be one for the ages.

NOVEMBER 16, 2012

ANNA KARENINA (Focus) Genre: Drama. A Russian woman of the upper class, married to a member of the aristocracy, falls in love with a common soldier. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Based on the Leo Tolstoy classic and from the director and actress of Pride and Prejudice.
CHASING ICE (National Geographic) Genre: Documentary. A heroic National Geographic photographer captures the erosion of the Arctic Ice in an effort to move the debate from whether there is climate change to what to do about it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 A movie that should be shown to everyone – policy makers, citizens – we are all affected.
FUNERAL KINGS (Freestyle) Genre: Comedy. A couple of irresponsible teenage altar boys open a locked trunk and get far more than they bargained for. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.9 Irreverent and foul-mouthed – might well give you another reason to despise certain teens.
HITLER’S CHILDREN (Film Movement) Genre: Documentary. The descendents of the leadership of the Nazi party struggle today with the legacy of their family shame. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.7 Riveting stuff; how does one live down that sort of family name?
MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD (HBO) Genre: Documentary. Four courageous young men try to get justice for the systematic abuse of children by priests of the Catholic Church. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 This may very well be the Church’s lowest moment.
PRICE CHECK (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A suburban man working for a supermarket chain gets a new boss whose attraction to him turns his life upside down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 I’m always up for watching Parker Posey go ballistic.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2 (Summit) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. The series concludes with the Cullens battling the Morituri for their very survival. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 The last two films in the series have been dreadful; no reason to expect a change here.

NOVEMBER 21, 2012

LIFE OF PI (20th Century Fox) Genre: Adventure. A young man survives a disaster at sea and forms an unlikely bond with the other sole survivor – an irritable Bengal tiger. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Director Ang Lee looks like he’s crafted yet another beautifully shot masterpiece.
RED DAWN (Film District) Genre: Action. When the Chinese invade the United States, a small group of teenage boys and girls fight as an American resistance . Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 I’m not sure why this movie needed to be remade but it has been sitting on the shelf for a very long time.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. Jack Frost, Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman stand united to protect the children of the world against an evil nightmare spirit named Pitch. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.1 Although I love the concept and think the animation is crackerjack, I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach for this one.
WAR OF THE BUTTONS (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. Two rival gangs from neighboring French villages must band together to save a Jewish girl from the Nazis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Courage comes in all shapes and sizes.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012

THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Documentary. The story of five teenagers wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape of a woman in central park whose lives were irrevocably changed and the fight to see justice – albeit delayed – done. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A feature length documentary by PBS mainstay Ken Burns.
HITCHCOCK (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of how the greatest director of his time put up his own personal funds to make a picture that nobody thought he should make – a little film called Psycho. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock makes me think this movie is going to gain a little bit of attention come Oscar time.
RUST & BONE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A whale trainer who loses her legs in a horrific accident is nursed back to health – physically and spiritually – by a struggling single father. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks absolutely enthralling and emotionally powerful; Marion Cotillard may need room on her mantle for another Oscar.

NOVEMBER 28, 2012

BEWARE OF MR. BAKER (SnagFilms/Insurgent) Genre: Music Documentary. Legendary rock drummer Ginger Baker of Cream remembers his success, his excess and his inner wild child. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A fascinating look at one of rock and roll’s most difficult – and talented – musicians ever.

NOVEMBER 30, 2012

CALIFORNIA SOLO (Strand) Genre: Dramedy. A former Britpop artist turned organic farmer and podcaster faces deportation and must face past demons with his estranged ex-wife and daughter to stay in the U.S. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles.. RATING: 1.3 Looks really, really good and Robert Carlyle is at the top of his game here.
THE COLLECTION (LD Entertainment) Genre: Horror. When a wealthy man’s daughter is kidnapped by a sadistic serial killer and put in a maze of deadly traps and torture, he hires mercenaries who in turn enlist the only man to escape the maze who returns – reluctantly. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Looks kind of like a Saw rip-off – and with the writers of the last four films of that series in charge of this film it’s not surprising.
DRAGON (Radius) Genre: Martial Arts. When a village craftsman saves a shopkeeper from notorious gangsters, the village detective suspects he may be more than who he seems. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Not many martial arts films get a showing at Cannes – this one earned it.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Weinstein) Genre: Crime Comedy. A hit man is called in to investigate the robbery of a mob-protected poker game. Release Strategy: Limited.. RATING: 2.0 Pretty nifty cast includes Brad PItt, Sam Rockwell, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta.
KING KELLY (See Think) Genre: Comedy. An aspiring Internet star does webcam stripteases and surfs social networking sites. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 Recorded entirely on phone cams, shows a media-obsessed self-absorbed youth culture. Rawr.
TALAASH (Reliance Big Pictures) Genre: Thriller. A cop investigating the drowning death of a popular film star is embroiled with a housewife and a prostitute in a tangled web. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks like it could hang with the best of the Chinese cop dramas.
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (Magnolia) Genre: Science Fiction. After waking up to find his family slaughtered, a family man discovers that he may have more to do with the Universal Soldiers who he believes were involved than he could have thought. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 The last few direct-to-video films in this franchise have been downright awful but this one looks at least somewhat better.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Flight, The Man With the Iron Fists, Miami Connection, This Must Be the Place, Wreck-It Ralph, Skyfall, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Red Dawn, Rise of the Guardians, The Silver Lining Playbook, Killing Them Softly

Fall/Holiday 2012 Preview


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEPTEMBER

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

CHRISTMAS

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

THANKSGIVING

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

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

HALLOWEEN

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

LABOR DAYS

SEPTEMBER 7, 2012

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

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

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

SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

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

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

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

OCTOBER

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

CHRISTMAS

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

THANKSGIVING

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

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

HALLOWEEN

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

LABOR DAYS

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

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

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

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

NOVEMBER

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

CHRISTMAS

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

THANKSGIVING

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

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

HALLOWEEN

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

LABOR DAYS

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

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

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

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

DECEMBER

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

CHRISTMAS

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

THANKSGIVING

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

THIS IS 40

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

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

HALLOWEEN

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

LABOR DAYS

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

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

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

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

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

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

Chicken Run


Chicken Run

There's something fowl going on here.

(2000) Animated Feature (DreamWorks) Starring the voices of Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Miranda Richardson, Jane Horrocks, Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Tony Haygarth, Benjamin Whitrow, Phil Daniels, Lynn Ferguson, John Sharian, Penelope Cruz. Directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park

From the studio that brought the amusing – nay, hysterically funny – “Wallace and Gromit” shorts comes this marvelously charming – and hysterically funny – modern-day retelling of The Great Escape.

Life on Tweedy’s Chicken Farm is bleak, indeed. Hens who don’t lay their daily quota of eggs end up on the chopping block, and eventually on the Tweedy’s dinner table. Ginger (Sawalha), a dare-I-say-it plucky little bird, dreams of better things; a paradise beyond the distant hills. Sadly, her escape plans always seem to go terribly awry, often due to the incompetence of her fellow fowl, and she winds up taking the rap for it and being sentenced to solitary for a few days.

Her fellow chickens are colorful and big-hearted, but don’t have a lot of material above the beak, if you get my drift. Still, they’re all behind her 100% (more or less), starting with the empty-headed, perpetually knitting Babs (Horrocks) to the stiff-upper-lip ex-RAF fryer…I mean, flyer…Fowler (Whitrow) and up to the feisty Bunty (Staunton).

Into the frying pan lands Rocky (Gibson) who flies into the pen quite unexpectedly. He is, as he puts it, the Lone Free Ranger, a true cock of the walk with a devil-may-care charm. In exchange for shelter (he’s on the lam from the circus he used to work in), he agrees to teach the cooped-up chickens how to fly ignoring the rather difficult obstacle that chickens can’t actually fly, aerodynamically speaking.

In the meantime, the bitter and mean-spirited Mrs. Tweedy (Richardson) has determined that egg production just doesn’t generate enough revenue to allow the Tweedys to do more than subsist. The solution is a monstrous chicken pie making machine. It’s simple, she tells her henpecked husband (Haygarth); “Chickens go in, pies come out.” The stalag has suddenly become a death camp.

There is a tremendous amount of wit and good-natured charm. The humor is a bit droll, and may go over the heads of kids that have been spoon-fed Rugrats, Pokémon and other truly wretched and poorly-drawn excuses for animation on the Cartoon Network. Still, the lil’ tykes will go for the panicky, somewhat silly chickens and the outlandish devices that Ginger and her penned-up mates come up with. Mel Gibson makes for a charming rogue. He’s carefree, cocky even but in the end he has a gizzard of pure gold.

Peter Lord and Nick Park, who produced, wrote, and directed Chicken Run, have a marvelous style. You get the distinct impression that these fellers both believe that their audience has at least half a brain cell in between them. They poke fun at British middle class life, while at the same time showing a genuine affection for it. This was the first animated feature from Aardman Studios and it set the bar pretty high, which they have since equaled and occasionally exceeded.

Some of the reference and the sometimes difficult to understand accents may go right over the heads of audiences (especially the tots) but most of the humor is universal. I found myself grinning maniacally throughout and Da Queen remarked at how cute she found the chickens. This is a winner, folks. Kids may find the flick’s Britishness a bit hard to fathom, but they’ll muddle through. I like this one far better than a lot of the animated features that flood the market in the second decade of the 21st century and I think that you will, too.

WHY RENT THIS: Clever and well-animated (even if you don’t like Claymation).

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Might be a little bit too British for American audiences, particularly for the younger set.

FAMILY MATTERS: Perfect for all audiences

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Rocky and Ginger are named for the childhood chicken pets of co-director Nick Park.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: There is a read-along version for younger viewers, as well as a fascinating featurette on the Claymation process itself.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $224.8M on a $45M production budget; the movie was a blockbuster.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

TOMORROW: Hey Hey, It’s Esther Blueburger

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

Harry and Hermione share a rare tender moment in a dark and dismal place.

(2010) Fantasy (Warner Brothers) Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Tom Felton, Jason Isaacs, Helena Bonham Carter, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Alan Rickman . Directed by David Yates

As someone who’s been with the Harry Potter series from the beginning, I had always thought it a young adult fantasy series but I was wrong. This has always been a series for adults; we just didn’t know it at the time.

After the events of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry (Radcliffe), Hermione (Watson) and Ron (Grint) are on the run. No longer is Hogwarts a safe place – in fact, it only puts in a cursory appearance in the movie. Instead, the three are on the run, chased by Deatheaters who are looking for Harry specifically.

Lord Voldemort (Fiennes) and his cohorts, including Lucius Malfoy (Isaacs), his son Draco (Felton) and cousin Bellatrix Lestrange (Carter) have taken over the Ministry of Magic as well as Hogwarts itself and have launched a campaign to stamp out Muggles, using propaganda and fear. The overall impression is of a totalitarian Nazi-like state with Voldemort a Hitler-like figure at the top.

Harry is seeking the horcruxes, special items in which Voldemort has placed parts of his soul. Harry has found several of them but there still remain several to go. The stress and weariness are getting to Ron, who notices that Harry and Hermione are getting close. Into this mix comes the Deathly Hallows, but what exactly are they and how are they the key to victory over Voldemort?

This is movie is dark, dark, dark. If Half-Blood Prince was dark, this is pitch-black. This is serial killer-dark. This is your mom is dead-dark. You get the picture. In fact, the mood is so unrelenting in its grimness that you actually feel it weighing on your soul as you exit the theater.

I have tried to avoid reading the books before I see the movies so I can’t really say how closely this follows the book, which the studio has ultimately decided to split into two movies ostensibly at author J.K. Rowling’s request but, I suspect, also as a way of wringing out twice the revenue from the same book which will be the final installment in the series. Along the way it has become the most successful film series of all time on a per-film basis (the Bond series has brought more money in overall but has had 22 films to do it in) and more or less a license for Warner Brothers to print money. It’s not hard to see why they’re disappointed that the cash cow is coming to a close.

Part of my issue with the movie is that there is just so much information being crammed into it, and so many characters – nearly everyone from the first six books who haven’t died either in the series or in real life is here. It’s very difficult to keep everybody straight and by the time the two and a half hour movie comes to a close, you feel a very real sense of overload.

And yet there is much going for the movie. Radcliffe, Watson and Grint have become fine actors and have essentially grown up with their roles. Harry is showing the heroism that his character has always threatened to be, while Hermione is not only a charming and beautiful young woman but brilliant and resourceful as well, every bit Harry’s equal. Ron is the most human of the three, filled with doubts and flaws, but yet in his own way more courageous than either of them. The three make a formidable team, three terrific friends who are stronger together than they are separately.

The special effects are jaw-dropping at times, particularly an early broomstick and motorcycle sidecar battle, as well as a wonderful animation that introduces the Deathly Hallows into the film (the animator Ben Hibon has recently been rewarded with a feature film of his own). While a dark and terrifying place, the wizarding world is no less dazzling than it has been all along.

One gets the impression that the second film of the two Deathly Hallows movies will be much better in the sense that the resolution that is approaching like a bullet train is going to be something special. Much of that has to do with Rowling, who may sometimes not get her due simply because the books appeal to children. She is simply put one of the best writers of our age, regardless of genre or audience.

This is still a movie worth seeing – it is in many ways the weakest movie in the series simply because it feels so incomplete and yet it is the equal of all of them, but that is a function of the split. It is a movie of putting aside childish things and stepping into a frightening world. It is a movie of accepting responsibility and standing up for what is good and what is right. It is a movie that while on the surface may seem to be about running away and hiding is in reality about acting in the face of overwhelming odds and terrible penalties. Bad things happen to good people in this series – not everyone comes out of the movie alive and many come out badly injured at least. It is a movie about conquering fear, and what better lesson can we give to young people than that?

REASONS TO GO: Simply put, this is marvelous to look at and all the threads of the first six movies are beginning to draw together into a recognizable tapestry.

REASONS TO STAY: Dark, dark, dark – this is not your older brother’s Harry Potter. There is a good deal of information crammed into this movie which will probably all be necessary for the second but it sure does slow the pacing down quite a bit.

FAMILY VALUES: This is dark, dark, dark – the wee ones are going to be plenty scared by the violence, both on-screen and implied. The evil of Voldemort and his Deatheaters becomes much more realized and I would have a serious talk with any younger kid before seeing it to make sure they understand it’s just a movie. If they are prone to nightmares or particularly sensitive, I’d really think twice about taking my kids to see it.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: After escaping the attack at the wedding, Harry, Hermione and Ron end up in a London diner, where one of the posters on the wall is for the West End production of “Equus” which star Daniel Radcliffe starred in.

HOME OR THEATER: You will see this on the big screen, if you haven’t already.

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

TOMORROW: The Last Legion