How to Train Your Dragon 2


Hiccup and Toothless are flaming mad.

Hiccup and Toothless are flaming mad.

(2014) Animated Feature (DreamWorks) Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kit Harrington, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kieron Elliott, Philip McGrade, Andrew Ableson, Gideon Emery, Simon Kassianides, Randy Thom. Directed by Dean DeBlois

Becoming who we are is no easy proposition. It’s a search of discovery and the answers can be elusive, particularly when we’re not especially sure who we want to be.

The movie takes place five years after the first one. Hiccup (Baruchel) has been successful in integrating dragons into the daily life of Berk which has become a much happier place as Vikings and Dragons are living in harmony. Dragon riders show their stuff in highly contested dragon races (a kind of combination between Quidditch and Rollerball). While his father Stoick (Butler) is eager for his son to take over the family business and become chief, Hiccup spends much of his time making maps of the surrounding islands, expanding the world the Vikings have lived in into a much larger place. He is also continuing to invent things, in this case a flying suit so that he can soar with his best friend Toothless (Thom) as they explore.

Unfortunately, finding out what else is out there in that wider world can be a good and bad thing. For Hiccup, the good is in finding a Dragon Rider whose ice-riddled island hides many secrets including more dragons than anyone has ever seen in one place – and their human protector, Valka (Blanchett) who turns out to be Hiccup’s mother. This is something of a surprise since Hiccup had heard all his life that Valka had died protecting him from dragons when he was a baby but it turns out that Valka, who had always defended dragons to a Stoick who was deaf to her pleas had left in order to protect her family from the dragons – and vice versa.

On the bad side, Hiccup and his girlfriend Astrid (Ferrara) as well as their buddies Snotlout (Hill), Fishlegs (Mintz-Plasse), Tuffnut (Miller) and Ruffnut (Wiig) have also discovered a tracker named Erit (Harrington) who captures dragons for the villainous Drago (Hounsou) who wishes to create a powerful dragon army under the control of his gigantic Leviathan dragon who can control the dragons – and whom Drago controls through torture and violence. This is a challenge the likes of which Hiccup has never had to face and when a tragedy strikes Hiccup closer than he could have possibly imagined, he will have to find the strength to lead his people to overcome this threat – or else lose their dragons and their freedom forever.

In many ways, this isn’t a typical summer animated feature, although it appears to be the most likely to be the kidflick hit of the summer at first glance. The tone here is much darker with a main character being killed and the abuse of animals being a central theme. That may have made some parents wary to bring their kids to the multiplex for this one, which has underperformed at the box office although it seems likely to be profitable enough to warrant further sequels. I’m sure DreamWorks Animation executives were expecting windfall profits considering that there would be no animation competition this summer essentially other than from the sequel to Disney’s Planes which although a surprise hit didn’t look especially promising as a blockbuster.

Baruchel’s nasal, deadpan delivery is perfect for the character of Hiccup and while he isn’t nearly as awkward as he was in the first movie, continues to have a kind of gawky, outsider quality that is endearing. Butler endows Stoick with plenty of proud papa and – when he discovers that Valka is alive after all – tender love and caring. Craig Ferguson also returns as Gobber, mainly as comic relief.

While I thought the first film was really meant for smaller kids, this one isn’t so much. I get the sense that they wanted to grow up along with their core audience and while younger kids will still be delighted with the variety of dragons and their often goofy behavior as well as the cartoonish depiction of humans (this isn’t photorealistic CGI animation by any stretch), the kids who fell in love with the original will have matured some and the movie gives them credit for that and treats them accordingly. That’s a pretty refreshing point of view for a genre which often reads as a giant advertisement for toys and merchandise geared at kids.

I’m giving this a rating just a smidge under the first film because I think that parents may want to be wary about letting the more sensitive and immature young ‘uns in their brood see this – at least one little tyke at the screening we went to had a very adverse reaction to one of the darker scenes in the movie. I also thought the plot could have used a little more originality but essentially those who really like the first one will really like this one and those who didn’t care for the original will feel the same about the sequel. They’re essentially interchangeable in many ways but I will admit that I am much more intrigued to see How to Train Your Dragon 3 than I was to see this one.

REASONS TO GO: Some really beautiful moments.  Treats kids with respect.

REASONS TO STAY: The dragons are often too cartoonish. May be too dark for the impressionable.

FAMILY VALUES:  A bit of animated cartoon action and some rude (but not offensively so) humor. There is a moment in which a young man deals with an event that might be upsetting for really young kids.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: DeBlois, who co-directed the original, accepted the sequel on the condition that he be allowed to direct a third film to make up a trilogy. The third film is already scheduled for June 17, 2016.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/15/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 92% positive reviews. Metacritic: 76/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Battle for Terra

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

NEXT: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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New Releases for the Week of June 13, 2014


How to Train Your Dragon 2HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

(DreamWorks) Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harrington, Djimon Hounsou, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill. Directed by Dean DeBlois

Hiccup, the Viking who united Vikings and dragons, is faced with a new and darker challenge – a warlord who controls some fierce dragons of his own and wants all of them under his thumb. Hiccup will have to organize his own tribe with the aid of someone unexpected whom he literally never thought he’d see again – his mom.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, B-roll video and footage from the premiere here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D (opens Thursday)

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for adventure action and mild rude humor)

22 Jump Street

(Columbia/MGM) Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens. Fresh from their triumph of breaking up a high school drug ring, the two misfit cops go undercover – in college. However, their experiences there lead them to question their partnership as the two overgrown teenagers are dragged into manhood, kicking and screaming.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, footage from the premiere and B-Roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Action Comedy

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

Palo Alto

(Tribeca) Emma Roberts, James Franco, Val Kilmer, Nat Wolff. Four teens – a popular soccer player, a promiscuous loner who seeks validation through sex, an introspective artist and his increasingly reckless and irresponsible best friend, try to navigate through very complicated situations that may destroy their lives – or perhaps even end them. Based on a series of interlinked stories written by Franco. Gia Coppola, the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola, makes her directing debut.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for strong sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and pervasive language – all involving teens)

The Signal

(Focus)  Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp, Laurence Fishburne. Three college students on a Southwestern road trip make a harrowing detour into a waking nightmare that has them as the focus of a government investigation.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller

Rating: PG-13 (for some thematic elements, violence and language)

2014 Summer Movie Preview


summer movie preview 2014After a difficult winter and a spring that seemed to come too late, finally the summer is just around the corner and with it the big Hollywood blockbusters we’ve been waiting all year for. Summer movie fans are literally champing at the bit to sink their teeth into this year’s crop of blockbuster goodness. Before we get started looking at what the multiplex has to offer, a quick review of the summer of 2013 is in order.

Last summer, as expected, Iron Man 3 led the way with a total domestic box office take of $409M which translated to $1.2B worldwide. There was also Despicable Me 2 which was the number one family film of the summer, just beating out Monsters University. Fast and Furious 6 starring the late Paul Walker also did huge box office. A seventh film will be out although not this summer as his untimely death caused production to shut down. He’ll appear in the movie but the part will be rewritten to explain his absence. Man of Steel was a big hit for DC Comics and Warner Brothers and has led to a very much anticipated Batman vs. Superman movie, currently scheduled for 2016. World War Z did big numbers despite negative reviews and some fan backlash. Star Trek Into Darkness continued JJ Abrams box office hot streak as expected.

This year has its share of expectations, although many are pointing to next summer as the year to look forward to as far as big productions go. Even so, there are plenty of reasons to plunk down the cash and hit the theater rather than wait for it to appear on Netflix or another streaming service.

The net was all aflutter after the trailer for Godzilla showed up. The venerable Toho monster is making a return to the big screen and being given a modern update and the rubber lizard never looked better. While DC will be absent from theaters this year, Marvel continues to be well represented with Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past all looking to continue milking the cash cow that have been Marvel movies over the past decade.

Sequels will continue to get plenty of play this summer as we eagerly (or not so much) look forward to 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Think Like a Man Too, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Step Up: All In, The Expendables 3 and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Those looking for a laugh should get plenty with Neighbors, Chef, Tammy, The Fluffy Movie, Think Like a Man Too, 22 Jump Street, Sex Tape, Moms Night Out, Walk of Shame, Blended and A Million Ways to Die in the West to choose from. Those looking to be scared can get the heebie jeebies from Deliver Us From Evil, The Sacrament, The Purge: Anarchy, Godzilla, Stage Fright, Jessabelle and As Above So Below. Those looking for wonder can find their sci-fi fix in such as Transformers: Age of Extinction, Guardians of the Galaxy, Lucy, Edge of Tomorrow, Jupiter Ascending, Earth to Echo, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Giver. Those looking for fantasy will no doubt embrace Maleficent, Mood Indigo and Hercules while those looking to get their grooves on will flock to Get On Up, Jersey Boys, One Chance and Step Up All In. Those looking for family entertainment will be cheered that despite no Pixar offerings coming their way this summer (for the first time in a very long time) there will still be choices in How to Train Your Dragon 2, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Earth to Echo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.

The stars are always out in the summer as you can catch sightings of Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone, Melissa McCarthy, Adam Sandler, Jason Statham, Seth Rogen, Jamie Foxx, Channing Tatum, Kevin Hart, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Walken, Drew Barrymore, Mila Kunis, Andrew Garfield, Dwayne Johnson, Gary Oldman, Jason Segel, Peter Dinklage, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke, Cameron Diaz, Zoe Saldana, Dan Aykroyd, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Jay Baruchel, Jim Caviezel, Jon Hamm, Ian McKellen, Harrison Ford, Jeff Bridges, Patrick Stewart, Paul Giamatti, Bruce Willis, Megan Fox, Chris Pratt, Octavia Spencer, Eric Bana, Dane Cook, John Hurt, Halle Berry, Keira Knightley, Jonah Hill, Emily Blunt, Elizabeth Banks, Dane DeHaan, Jennifer Lawrence, Seth McFarlane, Sharlto Copley, Jet Li, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Dustin Hoffman, Rosario Dawson, Zac Efron, Wesley Snipes, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, James McAvoy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Pratt, Mel Gibson, Susan Sarandon, Anna Paquin, Ian McShane, Scarlett Johansson, Stanley Tucci, Taraji P. Henson, Hugh Jackman, Antonio Banderas Sofia Vergara, Liam Neeson and Emma Stone.

So there’s a lot of star-watching to be done and a lot of big thrills waiting for us in the multiplex. It’s time for shorts and tank top weather; it’s time for flip flops and ice cream and picnics. School’s out, vacations are on and the box office is open. What are you hanging around here for? Dig in!

MAY

Not one but two Marvel movies are likely to dominate the box office landscape as the Summer season kicks off. We can also look forward to a return of a classic movie monster, a look at a classic Disney villain and the reunion of two leads from a classic romantic comedy.

X-Men-Days of Future Past

BIG KAHUNA

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Peter Dinklage
STORY: In a future where mutants have been nearly wiped out to extinction, the surviving X-Men must find a way to send Wolverine into the past – to convince Professor X to unite the X-Men and stop the dystopian future from ever occurring.
PROSPECTS: One of the most acclaimed story arcs in comic history comes to the big screen and the Internet has been ranting and raving about the action-packed trailers as the casts of the original X-Men movies and the most recent X-Men: First Class are united.
OBSTACLES: We may be oversaturated with superhero movies as Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released in April and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 only three weeks before this one.
FACTOID: This will mark the seventh appearance as Jackman as Wolverine, the most any comic book character has been played by the same actor. Jackman is also the only actor to appear in every X-Men film.

TIKI GODS

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2014
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx, Campbell Scott, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore
STORY: As Spider-Man is fighting more powerful villains, Peter Parker slowly comes to the realization that Oscorp may be at the center of it – and that they have something quite sinister in mind.
PROSPECTS: One of the most successful film franchises of all time just keeps on swinging and while there are is still some grumbling about the franchise, that hasn’t translated into lost revenue as of yet.
OBSTACLES: There is some dissatisfaction among the fan community about Garfield and director Marc Webb. One can’t help but wonder too if the movie might have too many villains as was the main complaint about Spider-Man 3.
FACTOID: This is the longest Spider-Man film to date, clocking in at 2 hours and 22 minutes.

GODZILLA
RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Andy Serkis
STORY: A gigantic prehistoric creature re-surfaces to wreak havoc on modern civilization.
PROSPECTS: The trailer has absolutely blown the Internet’s collective mind and has fanboys, nerds, geeks and movie buffs all frothing at the mouth for the movie to open.
OBSTACLES: Other than the original Japanese film, there haven’t been any truly decent Godzilla movies and most American audiences may well only know the Roland Emmerich abortion that still plays on cable regularly.
FACTOID: This is the last collaboration between Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers before Legendary signed a new contract with Universal.

MALEFICENT
RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2014
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Brenton Thwaites
STORY: Betrayal turns a pure-hearted young woman into a foul enchantress who puts a terrible curse on the daughter of her betrayer. However, she eventually discovers that this cursed daughter may be the key to peace in the kingdom and relieve the darkness in her own heart.
PROSPECTS: Maleficent is one of Disney’s most iconic and popular villains. The trailer looks pretty durn spectacular and Disneyphiles are eagerly awaiting this.
OBSTACLES: Two Snow White movies and now a fantasy epic based on the villain from Sleeping Beauty? Might once again be saturating the market.
FACTOID: The film has the largest budget ever awarded to a first-time feature director.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST
RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2014
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Seth McFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman
STORY: A courage-challenged sheep farmer is buoyed by the appearance of a mysterious and beautiful woman to take on a wicked gunfighter in a showdown to protect his town.
PROSPECTS: McFarlane’s Ted was a huge hit and the trailer for this one looks as funny as any I’ve ever seen.
OBSTACLES: Westerns have been pretty much box office poison for some time with few exceptions.
FACTOID: Theron had to wear a wig as she had shaved her head for her role in Mad Max: Fury Road.

DARK HORSE

BELLE
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2014
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton, Matthew Goode
STORY: The true story of a mixed race illegitimate daughter of a Royal Admiral raised by his aristocratic great-uncle. She would go on to influence Lord Mansfield in his role of ending slavery in Great Britain.
PROSPECTS: Fox Searchlight has a track record with the subject of slavery with 12 Years a Slave to their credit and they’ve been promoting this heavily as limited release films go.
OBSTACLES: Big English period pieces have not fared well in the United States since the heyday of Merchant-Ivory.
FACTOID: Director Amma Asante is an English writer-director who is best known for her role on the British TV series Grange Hill.

SURF’S UP

May 2, 2014

WALK OF SHAME (Focus World) which opens in limited release concerns an ambitious TV news reporter who has a one-night stand on the eve of the most important job interview of her career who finds herself stranded across town without her wallet, ID or means of getting to the interview. It’s a comedy folks and stars Elizabeth Banks. Also opening in limited release IDA (Music Box) is a Polish film in black and white about a nun just prior to taking her vows in 1962 forced to spend time with a relative she didn’t know she had who drops the bombshell that she is in fact Jewish. This played the Florida Film Festival this past month; you can read the review here.

May 9, 2014

In NEIGHBORS (Universal) a suburban college town couple’s lives are disturbed when a frat moves in next door. Seth Rogen and Zac Efron star. MOM’S NIGHT OUT (TriStar) gives a group of frazzled moms an opportunity to put on high heels, drink adult beverages, eat out at a nice restaurant and enjoy a night of adult fun while their husbands watch the kids. Of course not everything goes according to plan. LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN (Summertime) is an animated feature set in the land of Oz but not based on the work of L. Frank Baum but on the books by his great-grandson. Parents, be warned. CHEF (Open Road) stars Jon Favreau as a fine dining chef who quits his job to escape an overbearing owner and decides to open up a food truck instead. It is opening in limited release but should expand wide later in the month.

May 16, 2014

MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Disney) is based on a true story about a sports agent, desperate to find a new client who has the scheme of sponsoring a competition in India to find the first major league baseball players from India. Jon Hamm stars.

May 23, 2014

BLENDED (Warner Brothers) reunited Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (The Wedding Singer) as two single parents who don’t much like each other but whose families are thrown together on a fabulous African vacation. WORDS AND PICTURES (Roadside Attractions) is opening in limited release after playing the Florida Film Festival in April and stars Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche as a couple of teachers at an exclusive prep school who motivate their students by creating a competition over what’s more important; words or pictures.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

IRON MAN 3 (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $200 Million. Domestic Gross: $409.0M Total: $1.21 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (Paramount) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $228.8M Total: $467.4M Verdict: Profitable.
THE GREAT GATSBY (Warner Brothers) Budget: $105M. Domestic Gross: $144.8M Total: $351.0M Verdict: Hit.
EPIC (20th Century Fox) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $107.5M Total: $268.4M Verdict: Profitable.
WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $166,243 Total: $166,243. Verdict: Likely Lost Money.
FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (Universal) Budget: $160M. Domestic Gross: $238.7M Total: $788.7M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE HANGOVER PART III (Warner Brothers) Budget: $103M. Domestic Gross: $112.2M Total: $362.0M Verdict: Hit.
AFTER EARTH (Columbia) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $60.5M Total: $243.8M Verdict: Lost Money.
NOW YOU SEE ME (Summit) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $117.7M Total: $351.7 Verdict: Big Hit.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER (CBS) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.3M Total: $1.3M Verdict: Likely Broke Even.
PEEPLES (Lionsgate) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $9.2M Total: $9.3M Verdict: Flop.

 

JUNE

While many of the May blockbusters continue to dominate the box office in June, there still are some potential sizzlers that come out as the days built towards the shortest of the year. Michael Bay brings back an 80s cultural icon that has become a 21st century blockbuster franchise, a return to a television cult favorite turned into a surprise comedy hit, a hit Broadway musical comes to the big screen and while Pixar is taking the summer off, one of DreamWorks’ hit animated features gets a sequel.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

THE BIG KAHUNA

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
RELEASE DATE: June 27, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Kelsey Grammer, Li Bingbing, Sophia Myles, Titus Welliver, T.J. Miller
STORY: A car mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that will bring the attention of the Autobots, the Decepticons and a paranoid government official directly on them.
PROSPECTS: Losing Shia LaBeouf and gaining Wahlberg is a trade up in the minds of many. The appearance of the Dinobots is also a welcome sight for fans of the original 80s television show. Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the most recent film in the franchise to date, was by far the best.
OBSTACLES: The enthusiasm for the film franchise seems to be waning somewhat.
FACTOID: Michael Bay originally intended to give up his director’s chair for further films in the series and remain on only in the role of a producer, but changed his mind after hearing the story idea for the new film.

TIKI GODS

EDGE OF TOMORROW
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Jeremy Piven, Ciaran Hinds, Noah Taylor, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Lara Pulver, Tony Way
STORY: A green military officer, going into his first combat action during an alien invasion, is killed almost immediately. However, that’s not the end of the story; he relives the incident over and over again, each time getting more adept and lasting longer. Soon he figures out that his newfound ordeal may be the key to ultimate victory.
PROSPECTS: Tom Cruise is usually a pretty safe bet for big box office. Director Doug Liman has some hits to his credit including the first Bourne movie.
OBSTACLES: Alien invasion movies have lacked both quality and box office appeal over the past few years. The movie trailer is unfortunately using the same music that the Godawful Battle: Los Angeles trailer used.
FACTOID: Based on a Japanese graphic novel entitled All You Need is Kill.

22 JUMP STREET
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2014
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Peter Stormare, Rob Riggle, Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, Richard Grieco, Amber Stevens
STORY: The misfit undercover cop duo turn their attentions to the college campus and a drug ring there.
PROSPECTS: The first movie was a surprise hit and Tatum and Hill made an effective comedy team. The creative team is all back as well as most of the actors.
OBSTACLES: The trailer was underwhelming and the buzz on this one is much less pervasive than on the first film.
FACTOID: No script revisions were done before filming due to directors Phil Lord and Chris Mille being busy with The LEGO Movie.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2014
STUDIO: DreamWorks Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harrington, Djimon Honsou, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
STORY: Vikings and dragons have learned to co-exist but the peace is threatened by the warlord Drago who wants all the dragons for himself. Help will come to Hiccup and Toothless from a most unexpected source.
PROSPECTS: With Pixar taking the summer off, that leaves the family film market essentially all to this movie. Even if it didn’t, the first movie was a wild success and kids have been eating up all the TV shows and direct-to-video releases.
OBSTACLES: Not many.
FACTOID: Dean Deblois, who co-directed the first film with Chris Sanders, will be going it alone this time as Sanders was concentrating on The Croods.

DARK HORSE

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern, Mike Brbiglia, Nat Wolff, Sam Trammell, Emily Preachey, Lotte Verbeek
STORY: Two teens stricken with cancer find love and meaning, vowing to make the most of their time whether they have all the time in the world or mere moments.
PROSPECTS: Based on a beloved young adult book, perceptive teen girls may wind up flocking to this. Elgort is a handsome young man who no doubt will set some hearts to fluttering.
OBSTACLES: This is a low-key film that will have to struggle to find space at the multiplex amid all the big loud blockbusters taking p screens.
FACTOID: Woodley and Elgort both appear in Divergent – that time playing brother and sister.

SURF’S UP

June 6, 2014

In OBVIOUS CHILD (A24) a standup comedian who has been trying to break through for years loses her job, gets dumped by her boyfriend and discovers she’s pregnant just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jenny Slate stars as a woman who finds herself having to take stock and be a grown-up for the first time in her life. THE SACRAMENT (Magnet) which opens in limited release concerns a pair of reporters and a photographer investigating a religious cult in Central America that takes a chilling turn as you might expect in a Ti West movie. Both films played at this year’s Florida Film Festival.

June 13, 2014

LULLABY (Relativity) is an ensemble drama about the last 48 hours of a patient who has determined to take himself off of life support and end his life with dignity while he still can, bringing home his estranged son who uses the opportunity to mend fences and make peace with his past. THE ROVER (A24) is set in a dystopian future where society has collapsed and lawlessness reigns; when a man’s car is stolen by a gang, he forces a wounded member of that gang to help him track down the gang and reclaim what is his. Sounds a bit Mad Max-y to me. In any case, this is opening up in limited release but is set to expand wider on June 20th. In THE SIGNAL (Focus), a trio of college students on a Southwestern road trip find themselves in a waking nightmare; the movie is scheduled to open in limited release and then gradually expand on June 20th and June 27th.

June 20, 2014

JEFSEY BOYS (Warner Brothers) is based on the hit Broadway musical based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Clint Eastwood directs. THINK LIKE A MAN TOO (Screen Gems) is the sequel to the surprise hit comedy with an all-star cast as a group of women and men try to outwit and outthink one another in the ongoing war between the sexes.

June 27, 2014

Opening in limited release, SNOWPIERCER (Radius) is set during the next Ice Age when all of humanity that remains lives aboard a train that travels the globe on which revolution is brewing.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

MAN OF STEEL (Warner Brothers) Budget: $225 Million. Domestic Gross: $291.1M Total: $377.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney*Pixar) Budget: $200M. Domestic Gross: $268.5M Total: $743.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
WORLD WAR Z (Paramount) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $202.4M Total: $540.0M Verdict: Made Money.
THIS IS THE END (Columbia) Budget: $32M. Domestic Gross: $101.5M Total: $126.0M Verdict: Hit.
UNFINISHED SONG (Weinstein) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.7M Total: $7.0M Verdict: Likely Made Money.
THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $43M. Domestic Gross: $159.6M Total: $229.9M Verdict: Blockbuster.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Columbia) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $73.1M Total: $205.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE PURGE (Universal) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $64.5M Total: $89.3M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE INTERNSHIP (20th Century Fox) Budget: $58M. Domestic Gross: $44.7M Total: $93.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE BLING RING (A24) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $5.9M Total: $19.2M Verdict: Made Money.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Roadside Attractions) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $4.3M Total: $4.3M Verdict: Likely Made Money.

JULY

While July is usually an imposing month for the box office, oddly enough this year looks a little tame. While the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise gets a new sequel, it joins the second installment of a new horror franchise, Disney’s sole animated feature of the summer, a new sci-fi film from the Wachowskis and the second of two big budget movies this year about a mythological hero.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

THE BIG KAHUNA

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Gary Oldman, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo
STORY: After a devastating virus decimates the human population, the surviving humans and genetically enhanced apes battle for supremacy to become the planet’s dominant species.
PROSPECTS: The box office numbers for Rise of the Planet of the Apes was impressive enough that not only a sequel was warranted but it was given a cushy spot on the release schedule. The competition is unusually weak for July.
OBSTACLES: James Franco has bowed out and there are no major stars to draw in a fan base here. A surprise blockbuster could really take away a good deal of audience for this.
FACTOID: Judy Greer’s husband is reportedly a huge fan of the series and pressured her to take the role when it was offered.

TIKI GODS

TAMMY
RELEASE DATE: July 2, 2014
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh
STORY: After the worst day ever – losing her car, her job and her husband in a single day – a road trip with her grandma to Niagara Falls might just be what Tammy needs.
PROSPECTS: McCarthy has become the queen of summer comedy and with obvious Thelma and Louise references in the offing, this could be the summer’s biggest hit comedy.
OBSTACLES: Haven’t really seen the publicity blitz that has accompanied other McCarthy movies which could be a telltale sign that the studio doesn’t have faith in the film.
FACTOID: Both Shirley MacLaine and Debbie Reynolds were considered for the part that Sarandon ultimately got; McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone directed.

JUPITER ASCENDING
RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Tuppence Middleton, Doona Bae, James D’Arcy, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Terry Gilliam
STORY: A Chicago cleaning woman discovers that she is heir to a fabulous fortune – in outer space. However, there are forces who would rather that she stayed not just on the Earth but under it.
PROSPECTS: The Wachowskis are among the most visionary directors today and have constructed what looks to be an epic space opera.
OBSTACLES: Their last two films have yielded disappointing box office returns.
FACTOID: This is the first film the Wachowskis have directed in 3D.

THE PURGE: ANARCHY
RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2014
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Frank Grillo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Michael K. Williams, Carmen Ejogo, Cortney Palm, Edwin Hodge, Amy Palfrath, Nicholas Gonzalez
STORY: A young couple find themselves trapped outside miles from home during the annual purge and must dodge roaming gangs of psychopaths to find safety.
PROSPECTS: The first film was a massive hit and a sequel was quickly greenlit and filmed.
OBSTACLES: None of the original cast returns and the sequel was put together so quickly that no box office names could be signed on.
FACTOID: Both films in the franchise were written and directed by James DeMonaco.

DARK HORSE

WISH I WAS HERE
RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2014
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Zach Braff, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Ashley Greene, Jim Parsons, Joey King, Mandy Patinkin, Donald Faison, Pierce Gagnon
STORY: A young man finds himself at the crossroads of his life, questioning his choices and looking to reinvent himself and change his future.
PROSPECTS: Braff has a fairly rabid cult following from Scrubs and Garden State was a big indie hit.
OBSTACLES: He’s never really had anything more than a cult following and his humor can be fairly dry.
FACTOID: Braff used a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. He had hoped to get $2 million but wound up raising $3 million instead.

SURF’S UP

July 2, 2014

DELIVER US FROM EVIL (Screen Gems) is based on the real-life cases of a New York City cop who investigated the strange and inexplicable – kind of an NYPD X-Files. Eric Bana stars. EARTH TO ECHO (Relativity) involves three young boys who receive cryptic messages on their cell phones that lead them to an extraterrestrial being that needs help returning to his distant planet. E.T. phone home, anyone?

July 4, 2014

In BEGIN AGAIN (Weinstein), a down on his luck ex-record company executive and a young singer just dumped by her rock star boyfriend get together to make records any way they can. Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo headline.

July 11, 2014

AND SO IT GOES… (Clarius) is the latest from Rob Reiner and stars Michael Douglas as a self-centered real estate agent whose life is turned upside-down by the arrival of a granddaughter he never knew he had. THE FLUFFY MOVIE (Open Road) presents comedian Gabriel Iglesias in one of his sold-out standup concerts. ROAD TO PALOMA (Anchor Bay), opening in limited release, stars Jason Momoa as a Native American on the run from the FBI after avenging the rape and murder of his mother. He joins forces with a hard luck musician as they travel the vast emptiness of the American West looking for redemption. Momoa also directed.

July 18, 2014

PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE (Disney) returns Dusty Crophopper whose racing days are likely over due to a damaged engine. Looking for a new career, he decides to join the wild and reckless crew of firefighting aircraft who patrol the National Parks. I ORIGINS (Fox Searchlight) is also opening in limited release and is about an oculist whose research into the human eye yields a new understanding not only scientifically but spiritually as well.

July 25, 2014

HERCULES (MGM/Paramount) stars Dwayne Johnson as the legendary hero. Let us only hope that this is better than The Legend of Hercules although I’m not holding out hope after seeing the miserable trailer. In SEX TAPE (Columbia) a couple looking to reignite the passion in their marriage makes a sex tape. When the footage is inadvertently uploaded to their Cloud, they realize their bedroom fun is no longer private; they will have to act quickly to make sure that video doesn’t end up laid bare for all to see. STEP UP ALL IN (Summit) is the latest in the dance franchise.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

PACIFIC RIM (Warner Brothers) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $101.8M Total: $411.0M. Verdict: Made Money.
THE WOLVERINE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $120M. Domestic Gross: $132.6M Total: $414.8M Verdict: Hit.
DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) Budget: $76M. Domestic Gross: $368.1M Total: $970.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
GROWN-UPS 2 (Columbia) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $133.7M Total: $247.0M Verdict: Hit.
BLUE JASMINE (Sony Classics) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $33.4M Total: $95.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE SMURFS 2 (Columbia) Budget: $105M. Domestic Gross: $71.0M Total: $347.6M Verdict: Hit.
TURBO (DreamWorks) Budget: $33M. Domestic Gross: $35.1M Total: $140.5M Verdict: Hit.
THE CONJURING (New Line) Budget: $20M Domestic Gross: $137.4M Total: $318.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE LONE RANGER (Disney) Budget: $215M. Domestic Gross: $89.3M Total: $260.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
RED 2 (Summit) Budget: $84M. Domestic Gross: $53.3M Total: $148.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) Budget: $900,000. Domestic Gross: $16.1M Total: $16.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Radius) Budget: $4.8M. Domestic Gross: $779,188. Total: $10.3M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $21.5M Total: $23.2M Verdict: Big Hit.

AUGUST

The hottest month of the year is rarely the same for the box office. Generally the big movies from previous months are still dominating the box office tallies although usually one or two movies break through to become big hits themselves. This year we’ve got a good shot with the latest Marvel release taking a more galactic view, a live action return of a beloved 80s kids show franchise, the latest installment in an all-star action franchise, the biopic of a soul legend and the sequel to a modern noir hit.

Guardians of the Galaxy

THE BIG KAHUNA

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2014
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper (voice), Vin Diesel (voice), Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Benicio del Toro
STORY: A brash egocentric thief and adventurer steals a mysterious orb coveted by the nefarious and persistent Ronan. To try and protect himself and his loot, the thief – who calls himself Star Lord (although nobody else does) – enlists the aid of a ragtag and disparate bunch of galactic outlaws who must make a final stand to protect the galaxy from the power of the orb.
PROSPECTS: It’s Marvel and it has almost no competition. What do you think?
OBSTACLES: This is a very different Marvel movie that relies on minor characters and no superheroes. It is uncertain whether a mainstream audience will buy into it.
FACTOID: Gillan wore a wig in Oculus because she had shaved her head for this film.

TIKI GODS

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Whoopi Goldberg
STORY: Four strange, mutated turtles with sick ninja skills living in the storm drains of New York City arise from the shadows to battle the evil that is the Shredder and his Foot Clan.
PROSPECTS: One of the most popular animated shows of all time is rebooted for the big screen for the second time. With a radical budget, you can bet that the turtles got gourmet Wolfgang Puck pizza in craft services.
OBSTACLES: The kids who loved the show during its height in the ’80s are now in their 30s and 40s. The movie has kind of fallen under the radar given that the Transformers are also showing up in the multiplex this summer.
FACTOID: There was an uproar among fans when the film was originally to be released as Ninja Turtles without the Teenage Mutant. The complete title was later restored.

THE EXPENDABLES 3
RELEASE DATE: August 15, 2014
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer
STORY: A ruthless arms dealer who co-founded the Expendables before leaving in an acrimonious split with Barney is determined to destroy his old team. Barney recruits a new generation of Expendables to take on their most personal battle yet.
PROSPECTS: It will be a hoot to see Snipes onscreen again, and the first two movies have brought a lot of butts into August multiplex seats.
OBSTACLES: Neither one of the first two Expendables films were particularly inspiring and the competition is a little bit stiffer this year.
FACTOID: Statham was almost killed in a car crash when the brakes on the truck he was in failed and the truck went into the sea.

INTO THE STORM
RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2014
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sumpter, Nathan Kress, Matt Walsh, London Elise Moore, Kyle Davis, Scott Lawrence, Jon Reep
STORY: In a single day, a town is ravaged by an onslaught of deadly tornadoes. While most of the town runs for shelter, the storm chasers run towards danger.
PROSPECTS: Tornadoes are a very visually dramatic natural disaster and as Twister proved, have big box office appeal.
OBSTACLES: There haven’t been a lot of disaster movies lately and the ones that have come along have been hot messes.
FACTOID: Extras on the set referred to actor Scott Lawrence as Obama due to his facial resemblance to the President.

FRANK MILLER’S SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2014
STUDIO: Dimension
STARRING: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Powers Boothe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Lloyd
STORY: A prequel to the last Sin City film.
PROSPECTS: Terrific cast and the original Sin City remains a cult favorite.
OBSTACLES: It’s been nine years since the last film and the sequel has bounced around the schedule a bit. That doesn’t mean as much however since this is a Weinstein film.
FACTOID: Eva Green recently starred as Artemesia in 300: Rise of an Empire which was also based on a Frank Miller graphic novel.

DARK HORSE

ONE CHANCE
RELEASE DATE: August 29, 2014
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: James Corden, Julie Walters, Mackenzie Crook, Colm Meaney, Jemima Rooper, Alexandra Roach, Stanley Townsend
STORY: The inspirational true story of Paul Potts, a shy and bullied shop keeper’s assistant who has a passion for opera. Despite having doors slammed in his face consistently, he perseveres and enters Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent show where he will capture the hearts of millions.
PROSPECTS: Potts overcomes such adversity that all of us can relate to no matter what sort of music you’re into or what country you’re from.
OBSTACLES: It is unlikely the U.S. will embrace a movie in which opera plays such a central role although you never know.
FACTOID: As has become somewhat standard for Weinstein, the movie has bounced around the schedule after being originally set to open last year.

SURF’S UP

August 1, 2014

CALVARY (Fox Searchlight) stars Brendan Gleeson as a good but troubled Irish priest whose parishioners are prone to all sorts of troubles, some comic and some less so. While this is currently listed for wide release, expect it to get a limited release instead. GET ON UP (Universal) is the biopic of soul legend James Brown with Chadwick Bozeman (42) in the title role.

August 8, 2014

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (DreamWorks) is the latest from director Lasse Halstrom and stars Helen Mirren in a clash of cultures between a classic French restaurant and an upstart Indian restaurant in a bucolic French village. In LUCY (Universal) an unwilling drug mule gains amazing powers when the drugs accidentally enter her system. Scarlett Johansson stars and Luc Besson directs.

August 13, 2014

LET’S BE COPS (20th Century Fox) sees two hard luck fellas dress as cops for a costume party, get mistaken for real cops and like the sensation so much they decide to take it a step further, getting them involved with dirty cops and mobsters in the process.

August 15, 2014

In AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (Universal/Legendary) a group of students making a trek through the catacombs of Paris meet an unspeakable horror that will take them to the very edge of sanity – and beyond. DESERT DANCER (Relativity) an young Iranian man risks everything to achieve his dream of being a dancer despite the obstacle that it is forbidden in Iran. Based on the true story of Afshin Ghaffarian. THE GIVER (Weinstein) posits a future in which all memory of the past rests with a single person. As a young man prepares to take on this responsibility, he discovers that the truth is not what he was taught it was. Based on the Newberry Award-winning young adult sci-fi novel. LIFE AFTER BETH (A24) is about a teenager, devastated by the sudden death of his girlfriend. When she miraculously returns, he is overjoyed but he soon discovers she isn’t the girl she used to be. THE TRIP TO ITALY (Magnolia) which opens in limited release reunited Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as loose versions of themselves who are taking a driving tour through Italy to review restaurants, eat great food and do hysterical celebrity impressions. This was the opening night film at this year’s Florida Film Festival and it was indeed terrific.

August 22, 2014

In IF I STAY (Warner Brothers/MGM) a young woman involved in a terrible car crash wakes up to find herself out of body and faced with a decision; to fight to stay alive or let go and move on to the next life. WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL (TriStar) chronicles the story of Bob Ladouceur, head football coach at De La Salle High School in Northern California who had the nation’s longest winning streak in sports history come to an end. Faced with that adversity as well as one even more dire, the school and team come together for a moment that shines beyond glory.

August 27, 2014

NOVEMBER MAN (Relativity) stars Pierce Brosnan as an ex-CIA operative pitted against his former pupil in a very personal mission. Based on the popular series of novels. UNDERDOGS (Weinstein) finds the Foosball players come to life from a table owned by a would-be hero. He will need their help in order to save his town and win back the woman he loves.

August 29, 2014

In JESSABELLE (Lionsgate) a young woman returns home to the Louisiana bayou to find a malevolent spirit waiting there for her – and this time it has no intention of letting her leave. THE LOFT (Universal) is where five married guys indulge their wildest fantasies away from the prying eyes of their wives. When they discover the dead body of an unknown woman, they realize that one of their number must be responsible. Opening in limited release, THE CONGRESS (Drafthouse) is an animated feature with Robin Wright playing an actress whose likeness is purchased by a film studio so that a portion of her appears in a variety of futures both dystopic and utopic.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

ELYSIUM (TriStar) Budget: $115M. Domestic Gross: $93.1M Total: $286.1M Verdict: Made Money.
KICK-ASS 2 (Universal) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $28.8M Total: $60.8M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (Screen Gems) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $31.2M Total: $90.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE WORLD’S END (Focus) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $26.0M Total: $46.1M Verdict: Broke Even.
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $68.6M Total: $199.9M Verdict: Made Money.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US (TriStar) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $28.9M Total: $68.5M Verdict: Hit.
WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) Budget: $37M. Domestic Gross: $150.4M Total: $270.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.
DISNEY’S PLANES (Disney) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $90.3M Total: $219.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
PARANOIA (Relativity) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $7.4M Total: $13.8M Verdict: Flop.
CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $5.8M Total: $6.2M Verdict: Probably Lost Money.
2 GUNS (Universal) Budget: $61M. Domestic Gross: $75.6M Total: $131.9M Verdict: Broke Even.
GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $10.5M Total: $10.5M Verdict: Flop.
THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) Budget: $1.5M. Domestic Gross: $3.5M Total: $3.6M Verdict: Broke Even.

So there it is, all wrapped up in a shiny bow just for you. The summer blockbuster season kicks off on Friday and from here on out it’ll be something to look forward to just about every week. Now, while I’m sure you’re already planning your moviegoing schedule for the summer, please do keep in mind as always that NO schedule is set in stone and that studios are wont to move movies to new dates without notice, particularly the farther out they are. There will be a good number of movies in this preview that will be bumped out to the fall or further and some may be removed from the schedule completely without explanation. Chances are within a week of this being posted there will already have been some changes. However, that shouldn’t stop you from making plans to see some or even many of the big summer flicks. After all, part of the ritual of summer is an air-conditioned multiplex, a big summer movie and a big tub of buttery popcorn with an ice-cold soda to wash it down with. You can get further details on films with our weekly previews and our monthly Four-Warned series and of course Cinema365 will be out on the front lines bringing you reviews of as many of these as we can get to. And it doesn’t end there – at the end of August look for our Fall/Holiday preview as we get set to take a look at the movies to see in the last four months of the year, which will include Interstellar (Christopher Nolan’s latest), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Paranormal Activity 5, the conclusion of the Tolkein trilogy The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Night at the Museum 3, a new version of the classic Broadway musical Annie and Paddington, bringing the beloved children’s book character Paddington Bear to life. Until then, we’ll be looking for you at the multiplex!

2014 Preview


2014 PreviewOnce again the box office pulled in record numbers for the second consecutive year as 2013 rolled in with a bang and out with one as well. While the quality of the summer blockbusters was disappointing, there were enough good movies out there to keep the ticket takers busy. This year was also the end of an era as Blockbuster shut the doors on the last of their video stores, confirming that streaming had become the home video delivery method of choice. While cable and satellite continued to do strong numbers, that was mainly due to original programming and less to Hollywood blockbusters.

This year Marvel continued to dominate with big numbers for Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. DC also finally got a non-Batman hit as Man of Steel did big enough numbers to warrant a sequel. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire looks to surpass the original’s box office frenzy and has become the newest major franchise for Hollywood to plant their flag in. Despicable Me 2 surprisingly became the highest grossing animated feature of the year, although Frozen may well surpass its total eventually but probably not until we’re into 2014 if it does at all. Alphonso Cuaron’s Gravity was also a surprise hit, although those who saw it were not surprised at all.

While most fanboys and studio execs are rubbing their hands in anticipation of 2015, that doesn’t mean that 2014 will be without some movies to look forward to. As always, Cinema365 will do our level best to see as many of the films that come to Orlando as our schedule will permit. We’ll also be reconfirming our commitment to cover the Florida Film Festival as completely as we’re able – the 2013 edition provided movies that were on independent release schedules for much of the rest of the year and popped up theatrically throughout 2013. We’ll also try to catch movies we’ve missed in the theaters on DVD, although our stated goal of one review every day falls under the category of best intentions.

Before we get to the good stuff, the usual words of warning. While we do our best to give you the most accurate information regarding release dates, Hollywood – like any good woman – frequently changes their mind. Literally within a few weeks of this being posted there will have already been several changes and the farther out in the preview the film appears, the more likely it is to have had its release date changed. Look back at the end of 2014 at the calendar here and you’re not likely to recognize it. Check our weekly preview for more accurate information about what is coming out in the Orlando area (which includes all wide releases) and our monthly Four-Warned feature for more detailed information about independent releases.

So let’s fire up the Delorean and take a trip into 2014. Buckle your seat belts – it’s likely to be an amazing ride!

JANUARY

The year begins with the holiday holdovers dominating the box office and the multiplex screens, although some films that have had Oscar-qualifying runs in December see wide release in January. Most of the rest are cast-offs and low-budget horror movies that the studios generally have low expectations for. However, there are generally a few movies (particularly towards the end of the month) that are known to be a cut above, either in quality or box office appeal. This year we’ll see an offshoot of a popular found footage horror franchise and a graphic novel interpretation of a classic literary character.

I, FrankensteinDON’T MISS

I, FRANKENSTEIN
RELEASE DATE: January 24, 2013
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovsky, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney, Socratis Otto, Caitlin Stasey, Mahesh Jadu.
STORY: A war has erupted between the demonic and the stone gargoyles who are vigilant over the affairs of men. Caught in the middle is a creature whose immortality is at the crux of the struggle and could tip the balance either one way or the other. The monster in question: none other than the legendary creation of Frankenstein.
PROSPECTS: The Underworld movies have done pretty well in the January slot and the involvement of the producers and creators of that franchise are likely to show stylistically in the movie. Fans of big effects-driven franchises will also likely be casting their eyes about for something new as the latest installments of The Hobbit and The Hunger Games will have about run their course by the time this comes out.
OBSTACLES: Eckhart really hasn’t had a breakout hit movie of his own yet to establish that he can shoulder a franchise on his shoulders, although he did well in The Dark Knight. The Frankenstein monster hasn’t really been the subject of a box office hit in nearly 70 years.
FACTOID: The movie was originally scheduled for release in August but Lionsgate moved it out to January to allow work on the extensive CGI to be completed properly.

SHOULD SEE

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES
RELEASE DATE: January 3, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Andrew Jacobs, Molly Ephraim, Richard Cabral, Carlos Pratts, Eddie J. Fernandez, Jorge Diaz, David Fernandez Jr., Kimberly Ables Jindra
STORY: A Latino family faces a demonic incursion with videocameras as they attempt to document the strange events happening to them.
PROSPECTS: The name recognition of the franchise should bring people into the theaters, enough to recoup the modest production costs quickly. That there wasn’t an installment of the main franchise this past Halloween may whet the appetites of devotees even further.
OBSTACLES: A complete offshoot of the original mythology of the series may be off-putting to some fans.
FACTOID: The lost tapes from Paranormal Activity 3 act as a linking device with this film.

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT
RELEASE DATE: January 17, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Peter Andersson, David Paymer, Colm Feore, Nonso Anozie, Gemma Chan
STORY: A young CIA analyst named Jack Ryan discovers a monstrous plot by a Russian terrorist to subvert the Western financial markets and throw the economies of the West into chaos.
PROSPECTS: The Tom Clancy series has enjoyed a great deal of success over the years and is popular with older audiences who tend to stay away from the multiplex in the summer.
OBSTACLES: This is a complete reboot of the film series with all-new actors in every role. This is the first Jack Ryan film in 11 years.
FACTOID: This is the first film in the franchise not to be based on a specific book written by Tom Clancy.

MIGHT SURPRISE

GIMME SHELTER
RELEASE DATE: January 24, 2014
STUDIO: Roadside Attractions
STARRING: Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, James Earl Jones, Ann Dowd, Dascha Polanco, Stephanie Szostak
STORY: A young homeless pregnant teen finds her way into a suburban shelter where she finds comfort, empowerment and a connection with her fellow residents. This enables her to find leadership capabilities and maturity that she never knew she had in her.
PROSPECTS: A strong cast and a fair amount of buzz make this a possible indie breakout hit in a month where there are few prospects for such.
OBSTACLES: May appeal more to the female filmgoer than the male. Has the star power but the subject matter may keep audiences away.
FACTOID: Has nothing to do with the Rolling Stones song or concert film of the same name.

ALSO

January 1, 2014

THE RAILWAY MAN (Weinstein) is based on a true story of a British Army officer who is tormented in a prisoner of war camp during World War II by a Japanese soldier. Decades after the war he discovers that soldier is still alive and sets out to confront him, but that confrontation doesn’t go the way he imagined it would.

January 3, 2014

OPEN GRAVE (Tribeca) stars Sharlto Copley as a man who wakes up in a pit full of dead bodies with no memory of how he got there. Fleeing to a nearby farmhouse, he discovers it is inhabited by others who have had exactly the same experience. As they try to discover what has happened to them, they find that there is an even greater threat that is hungrier than they could possibly imagine. Opening in limited release.

January 10, 2014

THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (Summit) is the first of two films on the mythological Greek hero. This one stars Kellan Lutz and is directed by Renny Harlin and is more of an origin story of the iconic legend.. HER (Warner Brothers) features Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely socially awkward man in the near future who develops a passion for his personalized operating system. Directed by Spike Jonze so you know it’s off-beat. LONE SURVIVOR (Universal) is based on a true story of four Navy SEALs who go on a mission to Afghanistan and wind up ambushed. Their mutual sacrifice for one another and their bravery under fire show how truly amazing our men and women in uniform are. Mark Wahlberg stars.

January 15, 2014

GENERATION WAR (Music Box) opens in limited release and explores five different people in Nazi Germany at the height of the Second World War. There are those full of patriotic fervor, those living in terror as Jews, those who have ambitions of stardom and those who are swept up in the tides of history.

January 17, 2014

In DEVIL’S DUE (20th Century Fox), a new husband obsessively documents his wife’s pregnancy but as the days count down to her due date, her actions become more and more disturbing and he soon realizes that sinister forces may well be at work. NUT JOB (Open Road) is an animated feature about an ambitious squirrel who after inadvertently destroying the winter food supply of his fellow squirrels seizes upon an idea to rob a nut store. In RIDE ALONG (Universal) a man who wants to marry the sister of a cop and aspires to be one himself must go on a ride along with his prospective brother-in-law to prove his worth – in the most dangerous neighborhoods of Atlanta. Kevin Hart and Ice Cube star in this comedy. JAMESY BOY (Phase 4/XLRator) which opens in limited release concerns a young street kid who ends up in jail. There he meets a convicted murderer who becomes his protector and mentor, turning his life around in the most unexpected way.

January 31, 2014

LABOR DAY (Paramount) is about a reclusive mother and her son, reeling from tragedy. Into their lives comes an escaped convict who turns out to be not what he seems. Originally coerced into harboring him, they find that in the brief span of a holiday weekend he is changing their lives forever. In THAT AWKWARD MOMENT (Focus) three friends in a show of support for one who’s been heartbroken determine to give up dating. However that turns out to be far more easier said than done.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

A look back at how last year’s previewed movies did at the box office. The budgets and box office numbers are courtesy of Box Office Mojo. My verdicts are based on the typical studio formula that for a movie to break even it must make twice its production budget; any movie that achieves that will be labeled as profitable. I define hit movies as those that make three times the production budget and blockbusters as anything that makes $200 million in domestic box office or more, or made five times the production budget with a minimum of $100 million in domestic box office. These totals don’t include ancillary merchandising, home video sales or broadcast/cable sales, all of which are sure to push the bottom line beyond profitability. When production budgets aren’t available, I’ll be making a guess based on production values and star power. The first four movies listed are the four main previewed items; I’ve also chosen a selection of other major releases that made the preview issue as well.

THE GANGSTER SQUAD (Warner Brothers) Budget: $60 Million. Domestic Gross: $46.0M Total: $105.2M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE LAST STAND (Lionsgate) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $12.1M Total: $48.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (Paramount/MGM) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $55.7M Total: $225.7M Verdict: Hit.
JOHN DIES AT THE END (Magnolia) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $141,951 Total: $141,951 Verdict: Probably Lost Money.
MAMA (Universal) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $71.6M Total: $146.4M Verdict: Big Hit.
TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $34.3M Total: $39.1M Verdict: Likely Broke Even.
BROKEN CITY (20th Century Fox) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $19.7M Total: $19.7M Verdict: Flop.
MOVIE 43 (Relativity) Budget: $6M. Domestic Gross: $8.8M Total: $29.9 Verdict: Hit.
PARKER (FilmDistrict) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $17.6M Total: $42.2 Verdict: Lost Money.
A HAUNTED HOUSE (Open Road) Budget: $2.5M. Domestic Gross: $40.0M Total: $59.9 Verdict: Hit.

FEBRUARY

After a first month of the year that is generally quiet, a few loud noises begin to emerge as a long weekend and the prospect of Valentine’s Day (this year falling on a Friday) make the studios start to put out some of their better releases. This year we can expect a reboot of an 80s classic, a Liam Neeson action movie, a franchise wanna-be on a hit young adult book series (where have we heard that before?), an epic disaster movie and a delayed but anticipated movie that was thought to be a leading Oscar contender this past year.

PompeiiCAN’T MISS

POMPEII
RELEASE DATE: February 21, 2014
STUDIO: TriStar
STARRING: Kit Harrington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paz Vega, Jessica Lewis, Jared Harris, Kiefer Sutherland
STORY: A slave turned gladiator falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant who is betrothed to a corrupt senator of Rome in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius whose eruption will wipe Pompeii from the map.
PROSPECTS: Harrington is an up-and-comer who impressed on Game of Thrones. Disaster movies always tend to pique the movie-going audience’s interest and swords and sandals movies are hot this year.
OBSTACLES: In addition to this there are two Hercules movies and a 300 sequel so some may wait for the two upcoming S&S entries to come out. Harrington is an unproven box office commodity.
FACTOID: The teaser trailer for the movie was released six months before the release date and on co-star Carrie-Anne Moss’ birthday.

SHOULD SEE

THE MONUMENTS MEN
RELEASE DATE: February 7, 2014
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville
STORY: Near the end of World War II a small group of art historians, architects and artists attempt to save Europe’s great works of art from being destroyed by the Nazis. Based on a true story.
PROSPECTS: Definitely has the star power to bring in some decent box office numbers. Damon has already done a successful movie set during the war in Saving Private Ryan.
OBSTACLES: Sad to say that general audiences might not care about saving art. Was originally scheduled for a Holiday release but pushed out to February which might lead one to wonder whether the studio has any confidence in it.
FACTOID: Daniel Craig was originally cast in the Matt Damon role but had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts.

ROBOCOP
RELEASE DATE: February 12, 2014
STUDIO: MGM/Columbia
STARRING: Joel Kinnaman, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Jay Baruchel, Jennifer Ehle
STORY: When a Detroit cop is critically injured in the line of duty, a robotics corporation seizes the opportunity to save his life and add some modifications. With new abilities, he has the ability to sweep crime from the streets but is he more machine than man?
PROSPECTS: A remake of a popular 1987 movie, the premise is even more timely given the drone technology that has become a recent controversy. Robot movies tend to do well these days.
OBSTACLES: What worked in 1987 may not necessarily work in 2014. Kinnaman is an unknown quantity as a lead actor.
FACTOID: Miguel Ferrer appears in both movies although in different roles.

MIGHT SURPRISE

THE WIND RISES
RELEASE DATE: February 28, 2014
STUDIO: Touchstone
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Mandy Patinkin, Stanley Tucci, William H. Macy
STORY: Jiro dreams of flying but his nearsightedness rules out being a pilot. Instead he becomes an engineer and designs incredible planes.
PROSPECTS: The latest and last film from the legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki. Considered a favorite to win an animated feature Oscar at the next Oscar ceremony.
OBSTACLES: Anime has not yet found a large general audience in America.
FACTOID: Most of the sound effects were created with human voices.

ALSO

February 7, 2014

THE LEGO MOVIE (Warner Brothers) brings the play toy, long a staple of direct-to-video animation, to the big screen with classic characters from the playset, ONE CHANCE (Weinstein) which opens in limited release is the unlikely story of opera singer Paul Potts who went from being an unknown shop assistant to a national sensation in the UK after winning the TV show Britain’s Got Talent.

February 14, 2014

ABOUT LAST NIGHT (Screen Gems) is an updated version of the classic 80s romantic comedy. Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy and Regina Hall star. ENDLESS LOVE (Universal) is not an updated version of the classic 70s romantic adventure. Instead, it’s the story of a beautiful young woman from a wealthy family who falls in love with a working stiff against the wishes of her father who tries everything in his power to keep the two separated. Good luck with that. VAMPIRE ACADEMY (Weinstein) is based on the bestselling young adult book series about a vampire princess and her human protector in an exclusive private school for bloodsuckers. Shouldn’t this be on the CW? WINTER’S TALE (Warner Brothers) stars Colin Farrell and Jennifer Connelly in a story of an ageless man who spans generations in New York City and the star-crossed love he holds for a desperately sick young woman.

February 21, 2014

3 DAYS TO KILL (Relativity) features Kevin Costner as a brilliant spy and assassin who yearns to spend more time with his family but must complete one last assignment before retiring – which unfortunately coincides with his promise to watch his teenage daughter while his wife is out of town. IN SECRET (Roadside Attractions) is the latest version of the Emile Zola novel Therese Raquin to hit movie theaters. A sexually repressed housewife embarks on an illicit affair that has far-reaching and tragic consequences. An all star cast headlines this limited release.

February 28, 2014

In NON-STOP (Universal) an Air Marshal tries to foil an extortionist’s plot on board a Transatlantic flight only to discover that he himself is being framed for the crime. Liam Neeson stars. SON OF GOD (20th Century Fox) comes from The Bible producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett and covers the life of Jesus Christ. WELCOME TO YESTERDAY (Paramount) is a found footage thriller about some teens who discover a time machine. Their innocent messing around will lead to catastrophic consequences. Damn kids!

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (20th Century Fox) Budget: $92 Million. Domestic Gross: $67.4M Total: $304.7M Verdict: Hit.
IDENTITY THIEF (Universal) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $134.5M Total: $174.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.
BULLET TO THE HEAD (Warner Brothers) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $9.5M Total: $9.5M Verdict: Major Flop.
NO (Sony Classics) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $2.3M Total: $2.3M Verdict: Probably Made Money.
WARM BODIES (Summit) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $66.4M Total: $117.0M Verdict: Hit.
ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH (Weinstein) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $57.9M Total: $71.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
SNITCH (Summit) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $42.9M Total: $42.9M Verdict: Broke Even.
DARK SKIES (Dimension) Budget: $3,5M. Domestic Gross: $17.4M Total: $26.4M Verdict: Hit.
SAFE HAVEN (Relativity) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $71.4M Total: $71.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (Warner Brothers) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $19.5M Total: $60.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
SIDE EFFECTS (Open Road) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $32.2M Total: $32.2M Verdict: Lost Money.

MARCH

As we hop into spring the studios hope that audiences will find films worth hopping into theaters over. There are some impressive offerings this year including the big screen debut of a beloved small screen cartoon, a big budget videogame adaptation, the sequel to a Frank Miller classic graphic novel, a Biblical epic and a young adult science fiction franchise kicking off.

DivergentCAN’T MISS

DIVERGENT
RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2014
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ray Stevenson, Mekhi Phifer, Maggie Q, Zoe Kravitz, Ashley Judd, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney
STORY: In a future where people are divided into factions by their personality traits, a courageous young woman who doesn’t fit into any single faction threatens the entire order of things. She meets up with an underground movement and starts up a revolution against insurmountable odds.
PROSPECTS: Has many of the elements that made the Hunger Games series a major success – a popular book series, an up-and-coming young actress, a plucky heroine and a dystopian future. Could well be the next big film franchise.
OBSTACLES: So many young adult book series don’t translate into box office numbers. Last year’s The Host should be a warning to filmmakers who don’t believe that.
FACTOID: Woodley and Ansel Elgort played sister and brother here. In The Fault in Our Stars scheduled to come out later in 2014 they’ll play girlfriend and boyfriend.

SHOULD SEE

NOAH
RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Marton Csokas
STORY: A devout man is chosen by God to build an ark that will save his family and the animals on the Earth before an apocalyptic flood destroys everything.
PROSPECTS: Biblical epics are coming back into style as Christian audiences are exerting more clout at the box office.
OBSTACLES: Not sure how much director Darren Aronofsky will play to religious audiences.
FACTOID: Crowe and Connelly played husband and wife previously in A Beautiful Mind.

MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN
RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2014
STUDIO: DreamWorks Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Ty Burrell, Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Max Charles, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Stanley Tucci, Patrick Warburton, Lake Bell
STORY: A precocious talking dog invents a time machine which his boy promptly takes out on a joyride to impress his friend, causing a hole to rip in time. Mr. Peabody will have to fix the damage or risk the entire universe vanishing into the hole.
PROSPECTS: Parents will remember fondly the Jay Ward cartoon from the ’60s. Their kids will only see the talking dog.
OBSTACLES: Kids who are less familiar with the classic cartoon may be less excited to see this. The 3D animation might put off purists.
FACTOID: Robert Downey Jr. was considered for the voice of Mr. Peabody.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE
RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING : Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro, Hans Matheson, Jack O’Connell, Callan Mulvey
STORY: After his victory at Thermopylae, King-turned-God Xerxes turns loose his vengeance-crazed admiral Artemesia on the Athenians. The odds overwhelming against the Greeks, General Themistocles devises a bold plan.
PROSPECTS: 300 was a game-changer and a box office blockbuster. Although Zach Snyder isn’t directing he is producing and Frank Miller will be involved again as well.
OBSTACLES: Eight years have passed since 300 was released and there’s no telling if audiences are all that eager to see the sequel at this point.
FACTOID: Gym Jones who trained the actors who played Spartans in the first film had the same function for the sequel.

NEED FOR SPEED
RELEASE DATE: March 14, 2014
STUDIO: DreamWorks
STARRING: Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper, Ramon Rodriguez, Rami Malek, Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, Michael Keaton, Dakota Johnson
STORY: An underground race driver set up and jailed for manslaughter is released from prison, intent on clearing his name but more importantly getting revenge.
PROSPECTS: Based on a hit videogame franchise.
OBSTACLES: Based on a hit videogame franchise.
FACTOID: The drive-in theater depicted in the film is a real working drive-in movie theater in Georgia, one of only four left in the state.

MIGHT SURPRISE

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2014
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Matthieu Almaric, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray
STORY: The world’s best concierge takes a mere lobby boy under his wing amidst the scandal of a stolen painting in pre-War central Europe.
PROSPECTS: Wes Anderson’s last film, Moonrise Kingdom, was a critical and commercial hit.
OBSTACLES: Wes Anderson is also a very acquired taste.
FACTOID: This marks the seventh occasion Bill Murray has been cast in a Wes Anderson film.

ALSO

March 7, 2014

In GRAND PIANO (Magnet) Elijah Wood plays a concert pianist who hasn’t performed for years due to acute stage fright. Making his first concert appearance since the onset of his illness, he finds himself literally in the sights of a crazed sniper who will kill him at the first wrong note. Talk about a critic! HAUNT (IFC Midnight) is a haunted house movie with a twist; the sexual awakening of the teenage son of the family living there triggers the opening of an alternate dimension. Pretty much how it works in real life, right? Both of these horror flicks are opening in limited release and VOD.

March 14, 2014

TYLER PERRY’S SINGLE MOMS CLUB (Lionsgate) finds a group of single moms from all walks of life uniting after a disturbing incident at their children’s school. Perry headlines a star-studded cast. GRACE OF MONACO (Weinstein) features Nicole Kidman in the title role of the beautiful actress who became the fairy tale princess of a dashing young heir to the throne of Monaco, but behind the scenes all is not necessarily a happily ever after. VERONICA MARS (Warner Brothers) brings the cult hit TV show to the big screen in limited release. Famously the recipient of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, the new film finds Veronica in law school and still up to her detective tricks. Kristen Bell and most of the rest of the original cast returns.

March 21, 2014

NYMPHOMANIAC PART ONE (Magnolia) is the first part of Lars von Trier’s latest film (opening in limited release) about a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac discovered by a bachelor badly beaten on his doorstep. As he nurses her back to health she recounts her erotic escapades. Part Two opens on April 18th. MUPPETS MOST WANTED (Disney) finds Kermit the Frog mistaken for a world famous criminal and only his fellow Muppets will be able to clear his name. He’s clearly in big trouble. In STRETCH (Universal) a limo driver trying to pay off a big debt gets a stroke of luck – a reclusive billionaire in the back of his car. However the rich man’s somewhat bizarre tastes may turn this savior fare into a final nightmare. A BIRDER’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING (Screen Media) stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as an obsessive 15-year-old birdwatcher who believes he’s found the discovery of a lifetime. Eager to cement his place in birding history, he runs away on the eve of his father’s remarriage to seal the deal. Opens in limited release.

March 28, 2014

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 (Open Road) is the second round of the Marlon Wayans-pended horror spoof. CESAR CHAVEZ (Pantelion) chronicles the early years of the legendary labor leader’s career organizing the largely Latino farm workers of California. Michael Pena stars in the title role. In limited release is THE RAID 2 (Sony Classics) which picks up where the hit Indonesian action film left off with supercop Rama going undercover in one of Jakarta’s most notorious criminal gangs.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (Disney) Budget: $215 Million. Domestic Gross: $234.9M Total: $493.3M Verdict: Made Money.
THE CROODS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $135M. Domestic Gross: $187.2M Total: $587.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (Paramount) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $122.5M Total: $375.7M Verdict: Hit.
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (New Line) Budget: $195M. Domestic Gross: $65.2M Total: $197.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE HOST (Open Road) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $26.6M Total: $48.2 Verdict: Lost Money.
STOKER (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $1.7M Total: $12.1 Verdict: Lost Money.
TYLER PERRY’S TEMPTATION: CONFESSIONS OF A MARRIAGE COUNSELOR (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $52.0M Total: $53.1M Verdict: Likely Made Money.
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (FilmDistrict) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $98.9M Total: $161.0M Verdict: Made Money.
THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $22.5M Total: $22.5M Verdict: Flop.
ADMISSION (Focus) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $18.0M Total: $18.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (Focus) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $21.4M Total: $35.5M Verdict: Made Money.
21 AND OVER (Relativity) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $25.7M Total: $45.6M Verdict: Hit.
DEAD MAN DOWN (FilmDistrict) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $11.0M Total: $18.1M Verdict: Flop.
THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (CBS) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $15.2M Total: $15.2M Verdict: Hit.

APRIL

As the weather warms up and the rebirth of spring paves the way for the advent of summer, Hollywood begins to allow some early blockbusters to lead the charge. Marvel starts out early this year with the third film in their Phase II film slate and Johnny Depp stars in a thriller about artificial intelligence. Also look for the latest DisneyNature film and the sequel to a hit animated feature.

Captain America: The Winter SoldierCAN’T MISS

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2014
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones
STORY: Trying to adjust to life in the modern world, Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America finds himself facing a shadowy enemy in Washington DC who has set out to destroy SHIELD and with it, the United States and discovers that a familiar face is now a foe.
PROSPECTS: The Marvel cinematic universe train shows no signs of slowing down. Captain America: The First Avenger was one of the best movies of the franchise thus far.
OBSTACLES: The Russo Brothers have replaced Joe Johnston as director. Part of the appeal of the first movie was how well it got the period right; now we’ll see Cap in an entirely modern venue.
FACTOID: A deleted scene from The Avengers in which Cap finds out the fates of Peggy Carter and his commando team has been included here.

SHOULD SEE

RIO 2
RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, will.i.am, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Jamie Foxx, Kristin Chenoweth, Andy Garcia
STORY: Blu, Jewel and their three kids are torn from their beloved Rio de Janeiro into the wilds of the Amazon rainforest and must learn to cope with the most terrifying life form of all – the father-in-law.
PROSPECTS: The original Rio was one of Fox’s most popular animated films, particularly among Latinos which is recently proving to be a moviegoing force. Not a lot of competition in theaters for family films.
OBSTACLES: Lacks the marketing support found for Disney and DreamWorks animated films.
FACTOID: The species of Blu and Jewel is based on the Spix’s Macaw which is believed to be extinct in the wild and of which less than 100 are known to exist in captivity, although Brazilian authorities have initiated an aggressive breeding program in hopes of bringing the species back from the brink of extinction.

TRANSCENDENCE
RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cole Hauser, Cillian Murphy, Clifton Collins Jr.
STORY: A scientist eager to take the next leap forward in artificial intelligence is forced by circumstances to have his own personality placed in a computer with potentially devastating results.
PROSPECTS: Depp provides star power and there are some parallels to the first Iron Man film which might resonate with fans.
OBSTACLES: These sorts of “thinking person” science fiction films have not tended to do well at the box office and there is an unusual amount of competition this month.
FACTOID: This is the directing debut of Wally Pfister, cinematographer for (among others) most of Christopher Nolan’s films.

SABOTAGE
RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2014
STUDIO: Open Road
STARRING: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Williams, Mireille Enos, Sam Worthington, Harold Perrineau, Terrance Howard, Joe Manganiello, Max Martini
STORY: An elite DEA task force begins to get picked off and murdered on by one. After it is discovered that there is a substantial amount of money missing from their last bust, the survivors are being chased by their own government as well as the bad guys – or might be the same people.
PROSPECTS: It’s Arnold, after all. A pretty decent supporting cast and some good action moments in the trailer.
OBSTACLES: Arnold doesn’t have the box office pull he once had. In fact, he’s desperately in need of a hit.
FACTOID: Enos’ role was originally given to Malin Akerman who had to drop out due to pregnancy and Enos was given the part.

MIGHT SURPRISE

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2014
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright, Carter Logan
STORY: An underground musician reunites with his lover amid a world spiraling down into chaos in a story that has taken centuries to write.
PROSPECTS: Director Jim Jarmusch is one of the original independent directors and has a fairly passionate cult following.
OBSTACLES: A passionate cult following doesn’t necessarily translate to box office numbers. Also this is one of Jarmusch’ most mainstream offerings which might alienate some of his fan base.
FACTOID: The house next door to the bar where much of the action was filmed was torched for the insurance money shortly after filming ended.

ALSO

April 5, 2014

ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR (Warner Brothers) takes us to one of the largest islands in the world and to the indigenous lemur colony that lives there. This one is coming to us in IMAX. DOM HEMINGWAY (Fox Searchlight) is an English crime caper about a safecracker who after a stint in prison looks to even the score after he gets out. Jude Law stars in this limited release.

April 11, 2014

It’s DRAFT DAY (Summit) for the hapless Cleveland Browns (art imitates life) and the GM of the club, which possesses the top draft pick in the upcoming NFL draft is under enormous pressure to make a splash. Kevin Costner stars. ST. VINCENT (Weinstein) stars Bill Murray as a hedonistic war veteran who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young boy suffering through his parents’ divorce.

April 14, 2014

ALAN PARTRIDGE (Magnolia) opens in limited release and features Steve Coogan in his signature role from English television as an opinionated DJ who finds himself held hostage when a fellow DJ takes over the station after learning he’s being let go.

April 16, 2014

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL (Tri-Star) is based on the incredible true story about the toddler who had a near death experience and came back claiming he went to heaven and knowing things that he couldn’t possibly know. His father, a small town pastor and volunteer firefighter, is tested in ways he never could have predicted by his son’s notoriety.

April 18, 2014

BEARS (DisneyNature) is the fifth in the annual Earth Day series of nature films, this time concerning itself with a family of grizzlies in Alaska. In OCULUS (Relativity) a woman attempts to exonerate her brother who was convicted of murder by proving that the crime was actually committed by a supernatural power. Good luck with that.

April 25, 2014

In EARTH TO ECHO (Relativity) three young boys start receiving strange messages on their cell phones. Further investigation leads them to discover an alien being who needs their help. E.T., phone home!!! THE OTHER WOMAN (20th Century Fox) stars Cameron Diaz as a woman who discovers her boyfriend is married to another woman. When she meets the wife, she finds out to her surprise that they have a lot more in common than the two-timer – he’s cheating on the both of them with yet another woman. The three of them decide to get their revenge and no guys, it won’t be pretty. THE QUIET ONES (Lionsgate) is loosely based on actual events in which an unorthodox professor of physics sets his students the task of creating a poltergeist – and they do. WALK OF SHAME(Focus) has a beautiful young reporter who has aspirations for the big time left stranded in L.A. after a one-night stand with a handsome stranger with no car, no cash, no wallet and just eight hours to make it to the interview for her dream job.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

OBLIVION (Universal) Budget: $120 Million. Domestic Gross: $89.1M Total: $286.2M Verdict: Broke Even.
42 (Warner Brothers) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $95.0M Total: $95.0M Verdict: Made Money.
PAIN AND GAIN (Paramount) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $49.9M Total: $86.2M Verdict: Hit.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP (Sony Classics) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $5.1M Total: $19.4M Verdict: Probably Broke Even.
THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $43M. Domestic Gross: $159.6M Total: $229.9M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $21.8M Total: $21.8M Verdict: Flop.
SCARY MOVIE 5 (Dimension) Budget: $20M Domestic Gross: $32.0M Total: $78.4M Verdict: Hit.
EVIL DEAD (TriStar) Budget: $17M. Domestic Gross: $54.2M Total: $97.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE LORDS OF SALEM (Anchor Bay) Budget: $1.5M. Domestic Gross: $1.2M Total: $1.2M Verdict: Lost Money.

SUMMER

It might not seem like it now as we head into the dead of winter but on the horizon is the hot weather and hotter blockbusters of summer. This will be the first year in quite a while that there will be no Pixar movies in the multiplexes but there will be three different movies from Marvel, several big budget sci-fi epics, a legendary movie monster and movie villain both getting reboots, action films and comedies galore and of course family movies to keep the kids excited and their parents losing their minds to get the new merchandise and movie tickets all summer long. We’ll have a more detailed preview in April for the summer but here’s a taste.

Edge of TomorrowCAN’T MISS

EDGE OF TOMORROW
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Jeremy Piven, Ciaran Hinds, Noah Taylor, Lara Pulver, Charlotte Riley, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Kick Gurry, Tony Way
STORY: An inexperienced soldier, killed within minutes in a suicide mission against a superior alien invading force, is caught in a time loop, improving his skills with each replay until he is within grasp of the key to winning the war.
PROSPECTS: Cruise still has plenty of box office magic. Science fiction remains a box office force.
OBSTACLES: Alien invasion movies have typically been of shoddy quality of late. The general public will be unfamiliar with the source material, a Japanese novel.
FACTOID: The Jeremy Piven character wasn’t added until re-shoots.

SHOULD SEE

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Chris Cooper
STORY: The emergence of Spider-Man has brought new villains to New York City and at last the inevitable happens; Peter Parker must fight a villain that is far more powerful than he is.
PROSPECTS: The Spider-Man franchise has been successful throughout all its incarnations and it shows no sign of slowing down now. With the main Marvel movies (how do you like that alliteration Stan Lee?) opening in April and August, ASM2 has the first week of the summer blockbuster season all to itself.
OBSTACLES: With no less than five Marvel movies (including the animated Big Hero 6) coming out this year there may be some burnout.
FACTOID: Shailene Woodley was cast as Mary-Jane Watson and filmed scenes but it was decided to make Gwen Stacy the main love interest and hold out Mary-Jane until Amazing Spider-Man 3 currently scheduled for 2016.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult
STORY: The X-Men of two generations fight for the survival of their species across time as Wolverine must travel into the past to stop an apocalyptic future from transpiring.
PROSPECTS: Brian Singer is back at the helm of the X-Men and has one of the most popular storylines from the comic book to work with and two sets of X-Men from the original trilogy and from X-Men: First Class to play with. The trailer looked absolutely fantastic.
OBSTACLES: See The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
FACTOID: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine has appeared in every X-Men movie, the only actor to have done so. This, his seventh appearance as the character is the most that the same actor has played a single character from a comic book in movie history.

MALEFICENT
RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2014
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Kenneth Cranham
STORY: A pure-hearted and beautiful young enchantress is ruthlessly betrayed in her fierce protection of the forest kingdom and swears vengeance on the King who betrayed her and his descendants.
PROSPECTS: Maleficent is one of Disney’s most iconic villains and Jolie is a perfect fit for the role. Again, the trailer looked compelling.
OBSTACLES: Storybook fantasy has been somewhat overexposed lately with ABC-TV’s Once upon a Time and Wonderland.
FACTOID: The actress playing Princess Aurora as a young girl is Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, the daughter of Jolie and Brad Pitt.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
RELEASE DATE: June 27, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Li Bingbing, Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles, T.J. Miller, Titus Welliver, Peter Cullen
STORY: Following the final battle in Chicago in which it seemed the Decepticons were defeated for good, Optimus Prime is faced with a new Decepticon threat.
PROSPECTS: There is still a lot of love out there for the Transformers. Mark Wahlberg is a step up from Shia LaBeouf.
OBSTACLES: An entirely new cast but Michael Bay is still the director which might make for some continuity problems for some fans.
FACTOID: The Dinobots will make their first appearance in the film series.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2014
STUDIO: DreamWorks
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Djimon Honsou, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig
STORY: Hiccup the Viking and his dragon Toothless take on the power-hungry Drago who means to end the human-dragon cooperation that began in the first movie.
PROSPECTS: With Pixar not having a release this summer, this sequel to the hugely popular How to Train Your Dragon essentially has Pixar’s early summer spot all to itself.
OBSTACLES: The popular cartoon series based on the original movie may make this sequel a little bit less of an event than it might have been.
FACTOID: The first DreamWorks movie to use their proprietary software “Primo” and “Torch” for an entire production. These programs allow for more realistic movement and more subtlety in facial movement as well as better consistency in lighting.

JUPITER ASCENDING
RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Doona Bae, James D’Arcy, Tim Pigott-Smith
STORY: A young woman with a larger destiny is tracked down by a genetically-enhanced hunter and brought out to a larger existence among the stars.
PROSPECTS: The Wachowskis are some of the most inventive directors out there and their vision is always interesting.
OBSTACLES: Their last two movies have been less compelling and successful than the Matrix trilogy.
FACTOID: This will be the first film directed by the Wachowskis to be released in 3D.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2014
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro, Djimon Honsou, Karen Gillan
STORY: An unlikely group of heroes band together to face a cosmic force of epic proportions – and epic evil.
PROSPECTS: As the lead-in to Avengers: Age of Ultron and the final film of Marvel: Phase II this will certainly have the attention of Marvel fans. Has a definite Star Wars look to it.
OBSTACLES: This is based on one of Marvel’s less successful books and may not have the name recognition other characters have.
FACTOID: Tyler Bates wrote some of the score before filming began so that director James Gunn could set the pacing of the scenes to music.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2014
STUDIO: Dimension
STARRING: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaimie King, Jamie Chung, Dennis Haysbert, Clive Owen, Alexa Vega, Michael Madsen
STORY: Marv and Dwight team up to help out an old flame of Dwight’s get out of a sticky situation, only to discover they’ve been set up as patsy’s for the murder of her rich husband.
PROSPECTS: The first film was a fan favorite and the sequel has been eagerly awaited for more than a decade now.
OBSTACLES: Movies that wait this long to get made rarely generate the same interest.
FACTOID: Three characters from the first film had to be recast; Devin Aoki due to her pregnancy and Brittany Murphy and Michael Clark Duncan due to their untimely deaths.

MIGHT SURPRISE

TAMMY
RELEASE DATE: July 2, 2014
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Dan Aykroyd, Allison Janney, Kathy Bates, Toni Collette, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass
STORY: A woman going through a very tough time goes on a road trip to Niagara Falls – with her grandmother.
PROSPECTS: Melissa McCarthy is ridiculously hot right now. Her last two movies were among the highest-grossing comedies of the year.
OBSTACLES: McCarthy is essentially carrying the movie herself; in her past two movies she had Jason Bateman and Sandra Bullock to assist although Sarandon is a formidable actress she’s not really well-known for her comedy.
FACTOID: Sarandon has gone off on a road trip with another woman before – in Thelma and Louise.

ALSO

CHEF (Open Road) stars Jon Favreau as a highly regarded who loses his job and starts a food truck business to recalibrate his career and open the doors to reconnecting with his estranged family (May 9). LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN (Summertime) is an animated feature that has Dorothy…well, returning to Oz. Shocker. When she gets there her friends the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion are all missing so it is up to her and her new friends to find them (May 9). NEIGHBORS (Universal) has a newlywed couple moving in next door to a frat house which starts a war of nerves between the two homes (May 9). GODZILLA (Warner Brothers) reboots the legendary Japanese lizard and brings him to the West Coast of the United States (May 16). MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Disney) is based on a true story about a sports agent, desperate to save his business, who hits upon the idea of bringing Indian cricketers to play Major League baseball (May 16). BLENDED (Warner Brothers) reunites Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore as two single parents who don’t like each other with kids who don’t like each other forced to bring both of their broods on the same African safari of a lifetime (May 23). A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (Universal) is the latest from Seth MacFarlane, here a comedy set in the old west about a cowardly sheep farmer forced to find his courage to save his love (May 30). In THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (20th Century Fox) two extraordinary teens meet in a cancer support group and fall deeply in love (June 6).22 JUMP STREET (Columbia) sends Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill to college (June 13). JERSEY BOYS (Warner Brothers) is the film version of the Tony Award-winning Broadway music of the story of the Four Seasons pop group; Clint Eastwood of all people directs (June 20). THE PURGE 2 (Universal) takes place a year after the first film as America gears up for the next Purge (June 20). THINK LIKE A MAN TOO (Screen Gems) brings back the couples from the acclaimed film inspired by Steve Harvey’s best-seller for a wedding in Las Vegas where further romantic shenanigans threaten to derail the event (June 20). In DELIVER US FROM EVIL (Screen Gems) a New York Cop joins forces with a renegade priest to battle supernatural forces terrorizing the city (July 2). DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (20th Century Fox) picks up the story of the intelligence-enhanced ape Caesar after a devastating war between men and apes (July 11). PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE (Disney) follows the further adventures of Dusty Crophopper as he joins the aerial firefighting crew (July 18). HERCULES (Paramount/MGM) stars Dwayne Johnson as the titular Greek demigod in the second of two movies about him this year (July 25). SEX TAPE (Columbia) is a comedy about a suburban PTA couple who frantically try to recover a sex tape they made of themselves to reinvigorate their marriage when it gets accidentally lost (July 25). STEP UP ALL IN (Summit) is the newest installment in the inexplicably popular dance series (July 25). GET ON UP (Universal) is the biopic about the great R&B pioneer James Brown (August 1). THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY (DreamWorks) stars Helen Mirren in a charming tale against an upstart Indian restaurant at war against a snooty traditional French restaurant in a quaint village in the south of France (August 8). INTO THE STORM (New Line) tells the remarkable story of a plucky town Midwestern town in the maw of an unprecedented run of tornadoes (August 8). LUCY (Universal) is the latest from French action film maestro Luc Besson and stars Scarlett Johansson as a woman held captive who turns into a merciless unstoppable killer (August 8).TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (Paramount) is a live action reboot of the hugely popular comic book/animated TV show from the 80s (August 8). THE EXPENDABLES 3 (Lionsgate) brings back the all-star action team with some new additions and subtractions facing their most vicious foe yet (August 15). THE GIVER (Weinstein) is set on a distant world where history isn’t written down but held by a single Receiver of Memory which is passed down to an adolescent boy; based on the Newberry Award-winning young adult novel (August 15). In WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL (TriStar) stars Jim Caviezel as legendary high school football coach Bob Ladouceur who took an obscure Northern California high school and took it to heights unparalleled in the annals of high school football (August 22). In JANE GOT A GUN (Relativity/Weinstein) a woman must ask a gunslinger, her ex-lover, to help save her outlaw husband from a brutal criminal gang who wants to kill him (August 29). JESSABELLE (Lionsgate) is a horror movie about a young woman following a horrible accident in which her fiancée was killed recuperates in her father’s crumbling Louisiana mansion discovers a gift from her long-dead mother but also that there is a strange and sinister presence in the mansion that wants to destroy her (August 29). In THE LOFT (Universal) five married men who secretly own a loft where they can carry out their illicit affairs are shocked to discover the body of a dead woman there – and one of them is almost certainly the killer (August 29).

FALL

As the weather turns colder, Hollywood moves from big noisy blockbusters to Oscar contenders and smaller, more intimate films. While this is the portion of the preview that is most subject to change, we can still reasonably expect the conclusion of Peter Jackson’s second MIddle Earth trilogy, a sci-fi epic from Christopher Nolan, the penultimate chapter of a smash hit sci-fi franchise, the first Marvel animated feature and plenty of adaptation of children’s and young adult books.

InterstellarCAN’T MISS

INTERSTELLAR
RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace
STORY: A group of intrepid explorers make use of a newly discovered stable wormhole to visit the furthest reaches of space.
PROSPECTS: Nolan is box office gold. McConaughey is fresh off of a likely Oscar-nominated performance and is in maybe the best stretch of his career. The buzz on this film is already extraordinary.
OBSTACLES: The glut of sci-fi films might have the general moviegoing population weary of space travel by the time November rolls around.
FACTOID: The movie was originally to have been directed by Stephen Spielberg but when he moved on to other projects, the film’s writer Jonathan Nolan suggested the project to his brother Christopher.

SHOULD SEE

THE HOBBIT: THERE AND BACK AGAIN
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2013
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Jed Brophy, Graham McTavish, Benedict Cumberbatch
STORY: The conclusion of the epic trilogy as Bilbo Baggins assists Thorin and his band of dwarves in their final confrontation with the dragon Smaug.
PROSPECTS: The second film was considerably better than the first and leaves a ton of hope that this one will be the best of the three.
OBSTACLES: The Hobbit trilogy just hasn’t generated the same enthusiasm as The Lord of the Rings trilogy did.
FACTOID: Lee Pace kept his Elven sword from the film which he keeps in his umbrella stand.

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2
RELEASE DATE: November 26, 2013
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Charlie Day, Kevin Spacey, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz
STORY: The three mistreated cubicle cowboys from the first film decide to set out on their own and start their own business but a slick investor with no scruples throws a monkey wrench in their plans.
PROSPECTS: The first film not only did strong box office but got a very high score from critics and audiences alike.
OBSTACLES: Sequels don’t always live up to the originals.
FACTOID: The Jason Sudeikis character lauded Applebee’s in the first film; Sudeikis later became a spokesman for the restaurant.

HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART ONE
RELEASE DATE: November 21, 2014
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
STORY: The series moves into its final confrontation as Katness Everdeen leads the people in revolt against the corrupt Panem regime of President Snow.
PROSPECTS: The series has taken off and become a huge hit across the board. There’s no reason to expect that the next to last film in the series won’t do the same.
OBSTACLES: Once again, heavy competition might hurt it’s box office chances….yeah, right.
FACTOID: To keep security on the set tight the production filmed under the alternate title “Seashore.”

EXODUS
RELEASE DATE: December 12, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley. Hiam Abbass
STORY: The Biblical story of Moses the Lawgiver who would lead his people from Egypt to the Promised Land and establish the laws of Yahweh in Israel.
PROSPECTS: Ridley Scott knows spectacle and while this may not be Cecil B. DeMille it certainly looks epic.
OBSTACLES: Christian Bale…as Moses?!?
FACTOID: Joel Edgerton found out he got his role as Ramses from friends who’d seen it leaked online before he was officially notified.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 3
RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Dan Stevens, Brennan Elliott, Skyler Gisondo, Anjali Jay, Patrick Gallagher, Matthew Harrison
STORY: The third installment takes the story to London.
PROSPECTS: A very popular series for families.
OBSTACLES: It’s been a while since the last one.
FACTOID: Writer Robert Ben Garant used to be on Reno 911! as an actor.

MIGHT SURPRISE

BIG HERO 6
RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2014
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Not yet announced.
STORY: A genius in robotics and a team of reluctant first-time crimefighters must save the megalopolis of San Fransokyo from a criminal plot.
PROSPECTS: The Marvel name goes a long way to bringing in crowds and so does the Disney name. Could bring in younger and older audiences alike much like The Incredibles did.
OBSTACLES: The comic book the film is based on isn’t very well-known. Anime/manga which Marvel tried to emulate here hasn’t really risen above cult status here in the States.
FACTOID: The first Marvel film to be theatrically released through Walt Disney Animation Studios.

ALSO

ADDICTED (Lionsgate) is the true story of a successful author who nearly lost everything due to her sex addiction (September 5).THE GREEN INFERNO (Open Road) follows a group of activists trying to save a dying tribe in the Amazon who end up being taken hostage by the very tribe they were sent to save (September 5). In NO GOOD DEED (Screen Gems) a charming stranger enters the home of a mom and her kids and terrorizes them (September 12). RESIDENT EVIL 6 (Screen Gems) may be the violent conclusion to the successful horror videogame adaptation series but as almost nothing is known about the plot, it wouldn’t surprise me if this got pushed out a year (September 12). SEARCH PARTY (Universal) is a comedy about a groom lost in the Mexican jungle who must rely on his bumbling friends to rescue him (September 12). THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (Warner Brothers) has four grown siblings forced to share the same house after their father passes away; also in the dwelling is their over-sharing mother, assorted spouses, exes and the potential for chaos (September 12). DOLPHIN TALE 2 (Warner Brothers) follows the amazing story of Winter and of her new companion Hope (September 19). In THE MAZE RUNNER (20th Century Fox) a young boy must discover the secrets locked deep in his own mind if he is to ever escape the mysterious enclosure known by his fellow memory-challenged inhabitants as the Glade (September 19). THE BOXTROLLS (Focus) is the latest animated feature from stop-motion experts Laika, set in the world of trolls who live in boxes and dwell in the shadows (September 26). THE EQUALIZER (Columbia) is the new big screen version of the classic 80s TV hit with Denzel Washington taking the lead role (September 26). GONE GIRL (20th Century Fox) is the latest from director David Fincher and stars Vince Vaughn in a thriller about a seemingly distraught husband whose wife has disappeared but may know more about the disappearance than he is letting on (October 3). ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (Disney) stars Steve Carell in a big screen version of the illustrated children’s classic (October 10). In THE INTERVIEW (Columbia) a talk show host and his producer get sucked into a plot to assassinate the leader of North Korea; Seth Rogen stars (October 10). THE JUDGE (Warner Brothers) stars Robert Downey Jr. as a hotshot lawyer returning home for his mother’s funeral and to discover the truth behind the fact that his estranged father, the town judge, is the prime suspect in her murder (October 10). THE BEST OF ME (Relativity) is the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation(October 17). BOOK OF LIFE (20th Century Fox), produced by Guillermo del Toro, is an animated feature set against a Mexican Day of the Dead backdrop (October 17). DRACULA UNTOLD (Universal) tells the story of Vlad Tepes, the man who would become Dracula (October 17). BUSINESS OR PLEASURE (20th Century Fox) features Vince Vaughn as a workaholic small business owner whose business trip to close an extremely important deal in Europe goes sideways (October 24). In PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 5 (Paramount) the paranormal activities continue after a year off (October 25). In BLACKBIRD (Relativity) a promising singer is saved from committing suicide by a cop and the two fall in love, earning the disapproval of her parents who are more concerned about their daughter’s career than her happiness (November 14). DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Universal) brings back Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as Harry and Lloyd, possibly the dumbest people who ever lived (November 14). FURY (Columbia) stars Brad Pitt as the leader of a tank crew caught behind enemy lines in the waning days of World War II (November 14). In MCFARLAND (Disney) Kevin Costner stars as a track coach who transforms a group of athletes in a small California town into championship contenders (November 21). HOME (DreamWorks) is an animated feature about the most annoyingly optimistic alien in the galaxy forced to go on the run from his own race (November 26). PADDINGTON (Dimension) brings the beloved children’s books of Paddington Bear to life (December 12). ANNIE (Columbia) takes one of the beloved Broadway musicals of the last 30 years and turns it urban (December 19). INTO THE WOODS (Disney) turns Grimm’s Fairy Tales into a modern story; based on the Stephen Sondheim-penned Broadway musical (December 25). UNBROKEN (Universal) is the true story of an Olympic athlete who survived a World War II plane crash and a 47 ordeal in a raft only to be captured by the Japanese as a prisoner of war (December 25).

And with that, our preview comes to an end. 2014 promises to have its fair share of memorable times at the multiplex and we haven’t even scratched the surface; there will be hundreds of foreign and independent movies making their way onto VOD or local art houses as well as major studio releases that haven’t yet been assigned a date. Keep an eye on this space for further details. In the meantime, 2015 promises to be perhaps the biggest year at the movies of all time as near-slam dunk blockbusters are already filling up that schedule, including the first installment in the new Star Wars trilogy, the sequel to The Avengers as well as the first film in Marvel’s Phase III. We’ll also be seeing among other movies the long-awaited Superman/Batman team-up which promises to kick DC comics filmed franchise into overdrive, new movies or reboots in the Mad Max, Fantastic Four, Fast and Furious, Terminator, Jurassic Park, Insidious, Paranormal Activity, James Bond, Bourne, Hunger Games, and Kung Fu Panda franchises while the Minions of Despicable Me and the Penguins of Madagascar get movies of their own. There will also be live action versions of Disney classics Cinderella and the Jungle Book as well as the Assassins Creed videogame and the wildly popular erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey while the Peanuts comic strip gets its first full length movie in 44 years and that’s just scratching the surface. So if you can keep your appetites whet that long, you’ll have to make do with the many offerings of 2014 which should tide you over nicely. Cinema365 will continue to cover the big major releases as well as a goodly amount of indie and foreign releases and with our Four-Warned and New Releases features keep you up to date as to what’s coming out here in Orlando and around the country. Happy New Year and see you at the multiplex!