Top 10 of 2014


Top 10 of 2014For most of the year, I asserted that this was kind of a down year for movies in terms of quality and to a lesser degree, of box office as well. Although there have been some really good movies that would be contenders for the best movie of the year in any year, I still think that overall there were fewer movies that had the slam dunk quality overall of years past.

Still, the movies on this top 10 list were all of very high quality and you won’t go wrong in watching any of them. I was pleased to see that there were a number of indie movies that really stepped up the game; in fact, I think it’s a safe bet to call this the Year of the Indie. While some of these are indies in name only, distributed by major studios who have developed distribution arm for foreign films and smaller scale American films produced outside of the studios (i.e. Fox Searchlight, Sony Classics and Paramount Vantage), plenty are true indies with no financing or distribution from a major.

We continue to see a migration of traditional distribution in which movies received a theatrical release, followed about six months later by a home video release and ending up with a premium cable release about a year after the initial theatrical release. That is no longer the case as people are more and more watching films at home rather than in theaters. Some of the major indie distributors like Magnolia and IFC are releasing their films in On-Demand format concurrently with their theatrical release (and often ahead of it) which makes good fiscal sense for them. Mid-majors like Weinstein and Lionsgate have begun to follow suit. Universal even decided to release the acclaimed Joe Carnahan film Stretch into on-demand without a theatrical release which is a bit disturbing but sensible as well. We might see marginal studio films going that route more often in the future.

As with previous years, you can learn more about each movie on the top 10 list by clicking on the title to access my initial review, or clicking on the photo of the movie to go to the movie’s website or Facebook page when available. The information given should be self-explanatory. This year we’re also adding the top 10 films’ Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores as of the date I write the blurbs.

As always, the list is entirely arbitrary. How I rank these movies today isn’t necessarily how I would rank them tomorrow. I am also ignoring half-points from the initial ratings so you might see a 9.0 ranked ahead of a 9.5. It’s my list. Deal with it. In any case, at the end of the day the order the films are ranked in is unimportant save for the number one movie of the year. The thing to remember is that all of these films including the honorable mention films are all of the highest quality and you can’t go wrong seeing any of them. Hopefully this list will suggest a few to you that you might have missed during the year or didn’t get distribution in your home town. Many of them will be already out on home video or VOD, while a few may still be in your local theaters. Do yourself a favor and try and see as many of these as you can. You won’t regret it.

HONORABLE MENTION

There are a number of movies that didn’t quite make the cut of the top ten. I thought I’d add them here so you can get an idea of which ones came close, were considered and ultimately not chosen. Again, I will stress that all of these are quality films worth seeking out if you’re looking for entertainment, enlightenment or insight. I didn’t include links here but if you want to read my reviews of any of these, simply type in the title into the search field and have at it. So, in no particular order;

The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Wind Rises, The Babadook, Before I Disappear, Ida, The Trip to Italy, Doomsdays, Tim’s Vermeer, Copenhagen, Chef, Bad Words, The Final Member, The Zero Theorem, The Devil’s Knot, The Railway Man, Cold in July, Blue Ruin, The Fluffy Movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Interstellar, The Boxtrolls, The Good Lie, Birdman, Foxchaser, Wild, Slingshot, Ernest and Celestine, The Lunchbox, Jodorowsky’s Dune, The LEGO Movie, Locke, Force Majeure, Life Itself.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier10. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

(Disney/Marvel) Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, Toby Jones, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell. Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Released April 3, 2014 Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America fresh from saving New York City from an alien invasion is an integral part of SHIELD, protecting the world and particularly the United States, from threats too powerful for local law enforcement to handle. But something is attacking SHIELD from within and Rogers, who knows nobody from this era after having been frozen in the Arctic for nearly half a century, doesn’t know who to trust or what to believe. He’s a black and white kind of guy in a shades of grey world.
WHY IT IS HERE: Hearkens back to the political thrillers of the 1970s coupled with a modern special effects-laden action film. Was the box office champion for much of 2014 until a Marvel mate came to take the crown from Cap. But more importantly, people began to see that Marvel movies could be a lot more than superhero films.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Cap takes out an elevator full of would-be assassins.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 89% positive reviews. Metacritic: 70/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $259.8 million domestic, $714.1M total (as of 1/13/15).
BUDGET: $170 million
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Vudu/Amazon. Stream on Vudu/iTunes. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray on Netflix.

Whiplash9. WHIPLASH

(Sony Classics) Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey, Damon Gupton, Suanne Spoke, Max Kasch, Charlie Ian, Jayson Blair, Kofi Siriboe, Kavita Patil. Directed by Damien Chazelle

Released October 10, 2014 A driven young jazz drummer attending a prestigious music conservatory in New York City yearns to be the best, and in order to do that will have to make sacrifices. Taken under the wing of a stern taskmaster of an instructor, the two strong wills meet head on as Chazelle asks us to consider at what point the price of greatness becomes too dear.
WHY IT IS HERE: Newcomer Chazelle has delivered a taut, engaging movie in which two performances take front and center. Teller proves that he can be a compelling lead actor, while veteran character actor Simmons delivers the performance of his career for which he has already won a Golden Globe and is the odds-on favorite for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar next month.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Andrew’s drum solo in a situation in which he had been set up to fail, yet ends up triumphing despite the adversity.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 95% positive reviews. Metacritic: 88/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $6.2 million domestic, $7.1M total (as of 1/13/15),.
BUDGET: $3.3 million
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release on February 24. Digital download pre-order available on Vudu.

Gone Girl8. GONE GIRL

(20th Century Fox) Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Patrick Fugit, Carrie Coon, David Clennon, Lisa Barnes, Missi Pyle, Emily Ratajkowski, Casey Wilson, Lola Kirke, Boyd Holbrook, Sela Ward. Directed by David Fincher

Released October 2, 2014 When his wife disappears, Nick Dunne fears the worst – maybe she’s been kidnapped or possibly, given the blood at the scene of the crime – murdered. But when signs point to Nick being the killer, suddenly the sympathy he’d been receiving turns to something else. Almost nobody believes him. However, even Nick doesn’t suspect what’s going on and who’s behind it.
WHY IT IS HERE: One of the big box office hits of 2014 took a lot of people by surprise. Fox did a masterful job of marketing the film without revealing its twists and turns. Fincher directs it masterfully, making sure that everything that happens onscreen has a reason for it. Pike got a Golden Globe nomination for her star-making performance and may well net an Oscar nom as well.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: I can’t reveal too much about the scene without spoiling the surprises but let’s just call it “NPH gets lucky…or does he?”
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 89% positive reviews. Metacritic: 79/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $167.2 million domestic (as of 1/14/15), $365.4M total.
BUDGET: $61 million
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon/Vudu/Target Ticket. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Vudu/iTunes/Target Ticket.

The Imitation Game7. THE IMITATION GAME

(Weinstein) Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Alan Leech, Matthew Beard, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, James Northcote, Tom Goodman-Hill, Steven Waddington, Ilan Goodman, Jack Tarlton. Directed by Morten Tyldum

Released November 28, 2014 The story of Alan Turing wasn’t a particularly happy one. A brilliant mathematician with a lifelong passion for cyphers, he was enlisted by the British Army during the Second World War to crack what was then thought to be an unbreakable code – Enigma. The Germans used it for all their communication and the Allies were losing the war largely because of it. The socially awkward Alan has a secret of his own – and that secret might just lose the war for the Allies altogether.
WHY IT IS HERE: Well-acted throughout, with an Oscar-worthy performance by Cumberbatch in the lead role, with Knightley giving some fine support. The movie is told as something of a wartime thriller, but it’s so much more. The agonizing decisions that Turing had to make in order to make his machine work and then on keeping their progress hidden from the Germans is truly heart-wrenching.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: An a-ha moment that leads to a breakthrough.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 90% positive reviews. Metacritic: 72/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $41.0 million domestic (as of 1/14/15), $81.9M total..
BUDGET: $14 million.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

Mission Congo6. MISSION CONGO

(C-Colony) Pat Robertson, Robert Hinkle, Jessie Pott. Directed by David Turner and Laura Zizic

Released April 5, 2014 A compelling documentary that looks at televangelist Pat Robertson and his humanitarian aid program Operation Blessing. Ostensibly sending medical supplies and personnel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire) to help aid the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Rwanda which was then in the throes of a civil war and genocide, the filmmakers contend that Robertson’s prime focus was mining diamonds and not saving lives.
WHY IT IS HERE: While decidedly one-sided (Robertson was invited to be interviewed but declined – he’s steadfastly denied the charges) the evidence is presented in an organized and thoughtful manner. Using tax returns, archival footage and eyewitness accounts, the filmmakers put together a pretty damning case against the preacher.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The footage showing the real places supposedly helped by Operation Blessing and how the reality differs greatly from how Operation Blessing portrays things.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: No information available.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Not available. May still be playing the festival circuit.

The Kill Team5. THE KILL TEAM

(Oscilloscope Laboratories) Adam Winfield, Jeremy Morlock, Justin Stoner, Andrew Holmes, Chris Winfield, Emma Winfield, Eric Montalvo. Directed by Dan Krauss

Released April 6, 2014 Some may remember a few years back a squadron of soldiers that was brought up on charges of unjustifiably murdering Afghan civilians and keeping human remains as souvenirs of their misdeeds. This is a documentary about the men in that squadron, how they were hung out to dry by the Army who denied the atrocities that they were later to have proven that they committed had actually happened.
WHY IT IS HERE: A very gripping look at one of the less savory incidents of the war. We focus mainly on Winfield, who tried to blow the whistle on what was happening but instead ended up in prison. This illustrates how officers are treated differently than enlisted men, how CYA is a military code in and of itself and how innocents get caught in the middle. The very best documentary of 2014, a year in which great documentaries were the norm and a Florida Film Festival favorite.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The aftermath of the sentencing of Adam Winfield.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 90% positive reviews. Metacritic: 72/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $18,983 domestic (as of 1/16/14), $18,983 worldwide.
BUDGET: Not available
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Vudu/Amazon. Rent DVD from Netflix. Stream from iTunes/Vudu/Amazon.

Guardians of the Galaxy4, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

(Disney/Marvel) Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel (voice), Bradley Cooper (voice), Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Rooker, Benicio del Toro, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin. Directed by James Gunn

Released August 1, 2014 A group of misfits, criminals and genetic mistakes are all that stands between the universe and a power-mad fanatic who has hold of one of the most powerful artifacts in reality. Led by the displaced human Peter Quill – who prefers to be called Star Lord – the beautiful and deadly assassin Gamora, the sentient tree Groot, the genetically enhanced Rocket Raccoon and the vengeful strong man Drax the Destroyer, these five will stand against Ronan the Accuser and the machinations of the evil Thanos – and the Infinity Gem.
WHY IT IS HERE: Spectacle, action, comedy, pathos – this film has it all. The box office champion of 2014 (although that will have likely changed by the time this is published, or at least shortly thereafter), this proves that Marvel can take some of their most obscure properties and make huge box office hits out of them. Some have said this will end up being the Star Wars for this generation. Okay, well, that was me that said it. In any case, Da Queen would kill me if this didn’t at least make my Top 5.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: One of the Guardians mourns a fallen comrade.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 91% positive reviews. Metacritic: 76/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $333.2 million domestic (as of 1/20/15), $772.8 million total.
BUDGET: $170 million.
STATUS: Available on home video. Download from Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Target Ticket. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Target Ticket.

Her3, HER

(Warner Brothers) Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson (voice), Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara, Kristen Wiig (voice), Bill Hader (voice). Directed by Spike Jonze

Released January 10, 2014 In the near future, we rely on computers more than ever and it takes a powerful operating system to keep up with demand. When a new OS with the capacity for learning debuts, it hits some people like a ton of bricks. For Theodore Twombly is in love – with his operating system.
WHY IT IS HERE: Although it came out for an Oscar qualifying run in December 2013, most of the country didn’t get to see it until January. Shaply funny in places with a wit and an eye for our modern social media obsessed culture. This would have ended up on last year’s even harder to crack top 10 if we’d had the opportunity to see it in December.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Theo and Samantha have a steamy bedtime conversation.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 94% positive reviews. Metacritic: 90/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $25.6 million domestic (as of 1/20/15), $47.4 million total.
BUDGET: $23 million.
STATUS: Available on home video and on HBO. Download from Amazon/iTunes/Flixster/Vudu. Stream from iTunes. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix.

The Double2. THE DOUBLE

(Magnolia) Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor, James Fox, Cathy Moriarty, J. Mascis. Directed by Richard Ayoade

Released May 9, 2014 Simon is a mousy but hard-working office drone has an existence of invisibility; people forget that he’s worked there for seven years and the girl of his dreams won’t even give him a second glance. All that changes when James starts working in the office. James is everything that  Simon is not – self-confident, charismatic and irresistible to women. However, James is also everything that Simon is – an exact physical double. And, to Simon’s despair, he is taking over Simon’s life.
WHY IT IS HERE: Yeah, I know that the retro-futurist look is nothing new but few movies take advantage of it as well as this one, and none since Brazil in an office environment. Eisenberg delivers the kind of performance that serves notice that he’s not a nebbish-y kid anymore. This was the best narrative film from this year’s Florida Film Festival and my favorite overall.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Some cops talk to Simon about the chances he’ll commit suicide.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 82% positive reviews. Metacritic: 68/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $200,406 (as of 1/21/15), $1.7 million total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Available on home video. Download on Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Target Ticket. Stream on Netflix/Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Target Ticket. Rent Blu-Ray/DVD on Netflix.

Boyhood1. BOYHOOD

(IFC) Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Steven Prince, Bonnie Cross, Marco Perella, Libby Villari. Directed by Richard Linklater

Released July 11, 2014 We capture the life of a young boy growing into a young man over a 12-year period. Young Mason, his single mom, his sister Samantha and his dad cope with the vagaries of being a divorced family, through abusive stepdads, periods of acting out, attempts to find himself as he goes through high school and prepares for college. Filmed over a period of 12 years with the same cast and much of the same crew makes the aging process natural and believable.
WHY IT IS HERE: If Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were still alive, I believe they’d both likely vote this the film of the decade or at least one of them. This is the ultimate slice of life film and Linklater deserves all the accolades he’s received for this movie. There are no mysteries, no explosions, no contrived romances – but nonetheless this movie pulls you in and affects you deeply, thanks to some wonderful performances and Coltrane’s natural abilities. Sometimes the universe lines up in such a way that everything works the way you hope it would – this is one such instance.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: There are several but there’s a conversation between Mason and his dad at a graduation party which is priceless.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 98% positive reviews. Metacritic: 100/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $24.6 million domestic (as of 1/21/15), $43.8M total.
BUDGET: $4 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Flixster. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Flixster.

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Interstellar


To infinity and beyond.

To infinity and beyond.

(2014) Science Fiction (Paramount) Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Bill Irwin (voice), Ellen Burstyn, Timothee Chalamet, David Oyelowo, Collette Wolf, William Devane, David Gyasi, Topher Grace, Josh Stewart (voice), Matt Damon, Leah Cairns. Directed by Christopher Nolan

Physics is a fascinating and maddening field of study. The wonder of the universe is written in the language of physics but so too are its rules and regulations. There are those that see the handwriting of God in physics but there are also those who see it as a frustratingly difficult to coalesce glimpse of the infinite simply because we are still learning to understand the language. In that sense, we are as children trying to speak in a language we only know a few words of.

Reality is a bit less hard to fathom. The Earth is dying. Something called the blight has killed most of the crops and, it seems, the animal life on Earth other than the human species. Only corn remains and when that goes, humanity starves. America has become a gigantic dust bowl straight out of the Depression, covering everything in dust and despair.

Cooper (McConaughey) is a farmer who once had higher aspirations. A test pilot and engineer who’d worked for NASA until a crash had taken him out of the ballgame, he grouses to father-in-law Donald (Lithgow) that whereas once mankind looked up at the stars and wondered at our place in the universe, these days mankind looks down at the ground and wonders at our place in the dirt. As with most intelligent people, he can read the writing on the wall but still he labors to try and get his crop in as best he can while raising his 15-year-old son Tom (Chalamet) and his 10-year-old daughter Murph (Foy) in a world of frequent dust storms and a malaise where technology is no longer worshiped or seen as the answer to our problems (where in fact technology is largely seen as the source of our problems) and nations no longer bother to field armies because, well, why bother?

Murph and Cooper have a special relationship. Whereas Tom seeks only to follow in his father’s boots as a farmer, Murph is smart, inquisitive and a bit of a firecracker. When she says she’s haunted by a ghost, Cooper gently tells her that ghosts aren’t real from a scientific standpoint, and yet books get knocked off of her bookcase without explanation, and dust that blows into her room settles into a strange patter which turns out to be a binary code of co-ordinates.

Intrigued, Coop drives to the location of the co-ordinates and finds a secret base where NASA still functions. Led by his old mentor Professor Brand (Caine), the facility is constructing one final rocket. It turns out that a wormhole has opened up near the rings of Saturn and have made accessible a dozen planets that are potentially capable of supporting human life. Probes have been sent as well as brave human astronauts. One last mission is planned; to choose between three of the most promising locations and either set up a human colony there or if Professor Brand is able to solve an equation that will allow him to do it, to relocate the remainder of the human race from dying Earth to a new home. However, human astronauts would be needed to make decisions a computer or robot cannot and the journey would be a long one – two years just to make it to Saturn. Coop, being a test pilot and an engineer would be the perfect choice to lead the mission, particularly since he was apparently led to NASA by divine providence – or an alien fifth-dimensional beings who might have a benevolent interest in the human race.

This doesn’t sit too well with Murph who is furious that her father is abandoning her but Coop knows that if he doesn’t go his children will be the last generation of humanity left. Along with Professor Brand’s super-smart daughter (Hathaway), astronauts Doyle (Bentley) and Romilly (Gyasi) as well as a couple of military robots named TARS (Irwin) and CASE (Stewart). In a ring-shaped ship the astronauts enter the wormhole for a system dominated by a giant black hole to find a new home for humanity but the mission becomes even more critical as the relative aging of the crew is drastically affected by the proximity of the black hole. Hours spent exploring a planet will pass in decades on Earth. This means that even if the spaceship is able to return home, Coop will be the same age as Tom (Affleck) and Murph (Chastain) when he returns. While Murph has grown up to assist Professor Brand at NASA, Tom – who thinks all of this is foolishness – continues to farm despite the mounting odds against human survival.

This is as epic a movie as you could hope to make about human survival. It is not an action-packed apocalypse with roaming outlaws and thunderdomes, but one of resignation and despair. It depicts a human race going out essentially with a whimper largely, although there are those fighting to try and make it a bang. Seems reasonably accurate to me.

In fact, the accuracy of the science is one of the film’s selling points. Physicist Kip Thorne, one of the most honored in the field, is a producer and has vetted the science. While some of what is onscreen is conjecture, it is based on real scientific theorem about the nature of wormholes, black holes and relativity. This is science fact, not science fantasy.

McConaughey continues his career renaissance with not only a high profile role but a fine performance in it. His Cooper is extremely conflicted, motivated not so much to save the world but his two children which really is what heroism boils down to – saving those closest to us. It isn’t the kind of stunning Oscar-worthy work that was Dallas Buyers Club but it is memorable nonetheless. Also worthy of mention is Chastain’s performance as the adult Murph. She’s angry but also open-minded and eventually comes to believe in the mission and her dad. Lithgow also is impressive in a brief role as the curmudgeonly father-in-law who is absolutely devoted to his grandkids.

The visuals here are breathtaking, from the majestic black hole to the rings of Saturn to the psychedelic wormhole. As with Gravity before it, you get a real impression of space flight and while no human being has witnessed a lot of the wonders depicted here, again the science is carefully sound so that even physicists have written papers based on the science and images of the film. I don’t think you can get a better testimonial when it comes to authenticity than that.

The one sour note in the symphony are the last 20 minutes. I won’t discuss specifics other than to say that of all the potential doors that the writers could have chosen to go through to end the movie, it felt like they chose the closest one. I won’t say easiest because it requires a bit of explanation but it felt like they painted themselves into a corner and then bent space and time to extricate themselves. Most people who dislike the movie do so because of this sequence.

However, I won’t discount the two and a half hours of magnificent filmmaking that preceded it because of essentially a poor choice of finishes. Perhaps that makes the movie all the more worthwhile to remind us that even Christopher Nolan is human, and even smart humans can make questionable calls.

This is the kind of movie that can be discussed endlessly. Like Stanley Kubrick’s iconic opus which in many ways influences Nolan here, there is plenty of room to figure out What It All Means. This is a movie which rather than staring at the ground and wondering about our place in the dirt looks up at the sky and wonders at our place in the universe. While the filmmaking here does have a major flaw which keeps it from a higher score, it nonetheless is worthwhile filmmaking that deserves your attention and can be recommended wholeheartedly not only to film lovers but to science geeks as well.

REASONS TO GO: Epic sci-fi filmmaking on a grand scale. A rare scientifically accurate sci-fi movie.
REASONS TO STAY: Last 20 minutes are disappointing.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a little bit of rough language and some fairly intense sci-fi peril.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In the original screenplay for the movie, Murph is a male.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/30/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 73% positive reviews. Metacritic: 74/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: 2001: A Space Odyssey
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I

New Releases for the Week of November 7, 2014


InterstellarINTERSTELLAR

(Paramount) Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck. Directed by Christopher Nolan

The Earth is dying. It will soon be unable to support life as all our ecological chickens are coming home to roost. Desperate to preserve our species, an expedition is sent through a newly-discovered wormhole to find habitable planets that one day may be our new homes, but the trip will be full of perilous unknowns and those who are sent to the stars will be separated from everyone and everything they love.

See the trailer, interviews, a featurette and a promo here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard, IMAX (opened Tuesday)
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for some intense perilous action and brief strong language)

Big Hero 6

(Disney/Marvel) Starring the voices of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung. In a future megalopolis, a young boy stung by a family tragedy gets involved with his brother’s inflatable robot Baymax who was programmed to heal the sick. However, the boy, his robot and his friends get caught up in the machinations of an evil villain who was at the core of the boy’s pain. The boy will transform himself, his robot and friends into high tech heroes to fight the madman who threatens to destroy everything – and everyone – he loves. Sound familiar?

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard, 3D
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements)

 

Birdman

(Fox Searchlight) Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone. An actor best known for playing a costumed superhero decades before is making one last comeback on Broadway in the hopes of reviving a moribund career as well as to reconnect with a family that has given up on him. Getting in the way is his own ego and an encroachment of his fantasy life into his reality.

See the trailer, a clip and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Dark Comedy/Fantasy
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: R (for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence)

The Blue Room

(IFC/Sundance Selects) Matthieu Amalric, Lea Drucker, Stephanie Cleau, Laurent Poitrenaux. A torrid extramarital affair between a successful family man and a beautiful woman ends with the man being question by the police. What happened to their relationship? And what is the man accused of doing? This stylish and sexy thriller was directed by Amalric, one of France’s most accomplished actors.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for sexual content including graphic nudity) 

Elsa and Fred

(Millennium) Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Marcia Gay Harden, Scott Bakula. A curmudgeonly man who wants only to live out his remaining years with as little human contact as possible moves into a seniors apartment complex in New Orleans. However, a gregarious neighbor absolutely refuses to let him give up on life and the two strike up a friendship that deepens unexpectedly. Now treading in an emotional minefield, the two struggle to make it through without everything blowing up in their faces.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Downtown Disney
Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language)

Laggies

(A24) Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell, Jeff Garlin. 26 and not ready for adulthood quite yet, a young woman panics when her boyfriend proposes and goes to live with her new 16-year-old friend and her friend’s damaged dad. Dragging herself kicking and screaming into adulthood is one thing but arriving there wiser than when you left childhood is a whole other thing.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Select Theaters
Rating: R (for language, some sexual material and teen partying)

 

Mr. Pip

(Freestyle Releasing) Hugh Laurie, Kerry Fox, Eka Darville, Xzannjah Matsi. During the brutal civil war in Bougainville in the 1990s, an English teacher – the last Englishman in the village – makes a connection with his students through the reading of Dickens’ Great Expectations. A wildly imaginative young girl begins to believe that Pip, whom the young girl calls “Mr. Pip” is her friend and he takes her into the fantastic world of Dickens’ London. However her belief in her friend Mr. Pip inadvertently puts the entire village in mortal peril.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Touchstar Southchase
Rating: PG-13 (for disturbing situations involving violence and threat, and for some mature thematic material and brief language)

On Any Sunday, The Next Chapter

(Rd Bull Media House) Travis Pastrana, Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Doug Henry. The 1971 documentary film On Any Sunday helped popularize motorcycle racing in the United States. More than four decades later, the oldest son of the original film’s director revisits the sport, showing its acceptance as an Extreme Sport and becoming more popular than ever.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Select Theaters
Rating: PG-13 (for disturbing situations involving violence and threat, and for some mature thematic material and brief language)

Whiplash

(Sony Classics) Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist. An ambitious jazz drummer, wanting to become elite at his chosen profession, is tutored by an autocratic teacher who continues to push him to the breaking point. Either the student will crack like a walnut and lose everything or he’ll reach his potential and become one of the best drummers in the world.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for strong language including some sexual references)

Four-Warned: November 2014


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

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

Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

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

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

FOUR TO SEE
1. INTERSTELLAR (1.0)
2. THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART I (1.3)
3. BIG HERO 6 (1.5)
4. HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (1.6)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. FOXCATCHER (1.0)
2. BEFORE I DISAPPEAR (1.2)
3. THE BETTER ANGELS (1.3)
TIE. THE HOMESMAN (1.3)

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

NOVEMBER 4, 2014

WORST FRIENDS (Level 33) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Badly injured in a car accident, a prankster has only a childhood friend and a physical therapist to help him recover – until his friend’s high school crush moves back in to town. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks mildly interesting.

NOVEMBER 5, 2014

INTERSTELLAR (Paramount) Genre: Science Fiction. With the Earth no longer able to support life, a desperate attempt is made to use a wormhole to find us a new home. Release Strategy: IMAX (expands Standard Wide November 6). RATING: 1.0 The latest from Christopher Nolan looks like an epic science fiction experience.
NATIONAL GALLERY (Zipporah) Genre: Documentary. A fascinating glimpse backstage at London’s National Gallery as administrators argue (politely), docents wax rhapsodic and restorers…erm, restore. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 The love that goes into a major museum like this is evident but so is all the work.

NOVEMBER 7, 2014

21 YEARS: RICHARD LINKLATER (Gravitas) Genre: Documentary. The career of the Godfather of Independent Films is examined through interviews and animation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Interest in the director is high after the success and likely Oscar nominations of Boyhood.
A MERRY FRIGGIN’ CHRISTMAS (Phase 4) Genre: Comedy. After realizing he left his son’s gifts at home, Boyd takes an 8 hour road trip back home with his eccentric father to make sure his son has a Christmas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 One of Robin Williams’ last films.
ACTRESS (The Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. Brandy Burre, who gave up a role on The Wire to start a family, decides to resume her career even though it might cost her that same family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I can’t say as this doesn’t have some fascination but I don’t know that I’m especially eager to see a portrait in narcissism.
THE BETTER ANGELS (Amplify) Genre: Drama. Preparing him for future greatness, the childhood of Abraham Lincoln was difficult and tragic. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Filmed in black and white and produced by Terrence Malick, the movie looks gorgeous and has an impressive cast, enough to make this worth keeping an eye out for.
BIG HERO 6 (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. In a future megalopolis a boy inventor adapts his robot to take on an insidious menace, joining like-minded teens in a team of high-tech heroes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.5 Marvel’s first animated feature for Disney looks charming and fun.
ELSA AND FRED (Millennium) Genre: Comedy. After his daughter puts a grieving widower into a small apartment, he meets a sassy and vivacious woman who teaches him that however much life he has left deserves to be lived to the fullest. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 With a cast that includes Oscar winners Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer and Marcia Gay Harden, how can you go wrong?
FUGLY! (Paladin) Genre: Comedy. Following a near-death experience, a Latino comic is forced to re-evaluate his life and accomplishments. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 John Leguizamo is one of those guys who is always compelling no matter how good the material.
JESSABELLE (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. Jessabelle returns home after a serious car accident to recuperate only to discover that a malevolent entity there has been waiting for her and doesn’t intend for her to leave – ever. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Very much a Southern Gothic looking movie has been release date shuffled and moved from a wide release to a limited one, making me wonder how much faith the studio has in the film.
THE LOOKALIKE (Well Go USA) Genre: Comedy Thriller. A drug lord’s obsession with a young woman puts in jeopardy a big drug deal when she dies inadvertently, causing his associates to frantically find a lookalike to keep things from going sideways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Intriguing cast, kind of a goofy premise…this one’s a wait-and-see for me.
ON ANY SUNDAY, THE NEXT CHAPTER (Red Bull Media House) Genre: Documentary. This sequel 30 years after the original shows that motorcycle racing is still a grand passion not only in America but abroad. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.7 The Red Bull logo is EVERYWHERE in the trailer which gives me a good deal of pause when recommending this.
OPEN WINDOWS (Cinedigm) Genre: Thriller. When an actress refuses to honor a commitment to a win-a-date contest, her unscrupulous manager gives the disappointed winner the option of unlimited access to her via hidden webcams, putting both him and her at terrifying risk. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 From promising up-and-coming horror director Nacho Vigalondo comes this modern riff on Rear Window.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus) Genre: Biographical Drama. Stephen Hawking went from a promising British student to a man in the throes of an insidious disease to one of the most brilliant minds of our time. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Could be a career-making role for Eddie Redmayne.
THE WAY HE LOOKS (Strand) Genre: Drama. Fed up with bullying and his over-protected mom, a blind kid determines to study abroad much to the consternation of his best friend but when the student reconsiders after meeting a young man in town, things get even more complicated. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A Brazilian coming-of-age film set to a soundtrack of Belle and Sebastian; how much more indie can it get?
WEST (Main Street) Genre: Drama. After the mysterious death of her boyfriend, an East German escapes to the West with her young son, only to discover that her past is catching up to her on the other side of the wall. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Sounds intriguing but unable to locate a trailer online.
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? (Drafthouse) Genre: Action Comedy. In the midst of a yakuza war an ambitious film crew view for the chance to film a live battle to the death. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A deranged Japanese self-parody over the obsession to make movies.

NOVEMBER 14, 2014

ALWAYS WOODSTOCK (Gravitas) Genre: Musical. An aspiring singer after losing her job and her fiancée pawns her ring and goes home only to find her muse and the love of her life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Seen this before in other films, although a good young cast including James Wolk, Alison Miller and Rumer Willis gives it one on the plus side.
BAD TURNS WORSE (Starz Digital Media) Genre: Crime Drama. Three teens, partying on stolen money, end up indebted to a sociopathic criminal who forces them to steal from his vicious boss – at which time things go from bad to worse. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Mark Pellegrino makes for a charismatic villain but rest of trailer looked a bit bland.
BEYOND THE LIGHTS (Relativity) Genre: Musical. The latest R&B diva/superstar is crumbling under the pressure until she falls for a local cop assigned to her detail. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.5 A version of The Guardian without Whitney Houston seems kind of pointless.
DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Universal) Genre: Comedy. Lloyd and Harry return after a 20 year absence to find Harry’s daughter – did anyone miss them? Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 The Farrelly Brothers, once the toast of Hollywood comedies, now find themselves in sore need of a hit.
FOXCATCHER (Sony Classics) Genre: True Life Drama. An initially supportive but deeply disturbed multi-millionaire sets up a wrestling training center for the Olympics but his efforts only end in tragedy. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.0 Said to be a sure thing Best Actor nomination for Steve Carell.
THE HOMESMAN (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Western. Three women on the edge of the American frontier who have been driven mad by the harsh life must be transported to Iowa where a kindly minister will take them in but the journey is a dangerous one. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 The latest from Tommy Lee Jones has a cast that includes Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank; will Oscar look past their general disdain for Westerns?
MISS MEADOWS (eOne) Genre: Action. Beneath the refined exterior of a school teacher lies a gun-toting vigilante who believes in correcting bad behavior the hard way. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A modern revision of a vigilante film with a patina of quirky humor.
OCCUPY THE FARM (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. Urban farmers in the Berkeley area take on the University of California to protect prime farmland from being sold for development. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles November 21). RATING: 2.2 Asks the very pertinent question who gets to decide what public land is used for.
RED ARMY (Sony Classics) Genre: Sports Documentary. The Red Army hockey team is one of the best in history; their impact on social change in the Soviet Union is largely unknown in the West but is immeasurable. Release Strategy: New York City (expands January 2015). RATING: 1.7 I love hockey but this isn’t strictly speaking about hockey.
ROSEWATER (Open Road) Genre: True Life Drama. A reported for Newsweek is arrested in Iran and held as a spy, tortured but refuses to break. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 An inspiring story of personal courage and the triumph of will from director Jon Stewart – yes, THAT Jon Stewart.
SAVING CHRISTMAS (Goldwyn) Genre: Faith-Based Drama. During an office Christmas party, a man realizes his brother-in-law who is unenthusiastic about the holiday needs to be shown the true meaning of Christmas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Strictly for conservative Christians, a present from Kirk Cameron.
WOLVES (Ketchup) Genre: Horror. Fleeing after the brutal murder of his parents which he’s accused of, a popular high schooler searches for answers about who he is and where he comes from. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Not so sure this brings anything new to the werewolf genre.

NOVEMBER 19, 2014

BAD HAIR (Cinema Tropical/FIGA) Genre: Drama. As school picture day approaches, a nine-year-old Venezuelan boy fears he has “bad hair” and wants his frizzy hair straightened. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.0 The TIFF trailer is a bit incoherent but it would be interesting to get a glimpse into the slums of Caracas.
PULP: A FILM ABOUT LIFE, DEATH AND SUPERMARKETS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Musical Documentary. One of the smartest and quirkiest bands to come from the Britpop movement, they prepare to say goodbye after 25 years with a final concert in their hometown of Sheffield. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 Criminally overlooked in the U.S. they are cult favorites in their native Britain.

NOVEMBER 21, 2014

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (Kino Lorber) Genre: Horror. In a small Iranian village the people living there are oblivious that there is a vampire in their midst. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 A VERY different take on the traditional vampire film and an unfiltered look at small town Iran.
EXTRATERRESTRIAL (IFC Midnight) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. A young woman goes to her parents vacation cabin to cope with their divorce, bringing along a group of friends to keep her company when they witness the crash of an alien ship – and soon realize that the occupant is still alive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 While the idea doesn’t seem particularly innovative the execution seems pretty strong judging on the trailer.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 (Lionsgate) Genre: Science Fiction. Panem erupts into civil war and Katniss becomes a symbol for the resistance but President Snow will stop at nothing to keep her out of this larger game. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Maybe the best of the young adult book franchises except for Potter.
THE MULE (XLRator) Genre: Crime Comedy. Based on actual events, an Australian drug mule captured by the police decides to retain the product in his stomach in order to conceal the evidence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Just. Friggin. Weird.
REACH ME (Millennium) Genre: Drama. When a motivational book by a mysterious author goes viral it affects a disparate group of people in different ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 An impressive cast but movies about self-help books that revolutionize people’s lives always seem to end up being a bit of a circle jerk.
VHS: VIRAL (Magnolia) Genre: Horror Anthology. A group of fame-obsessed teens unwittingly become the stars of a viral video that they may not survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 In all honesty some of these anthologies can be real hit or miss but this one looks to be honest-to-God scarier than hell.

NOVEMBER 26, 2014

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (New Line) Genre: Comedy. The three losers from the first movie have gone into business for themselves only to find that business has been stolen out from under them, forcing them to turn back to a criminal act to set things right. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Somehow doesn’t look quite as funny as the first film but given the talent onscreen am still optimistic this might be worth checking out.
PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR (DreamWorks Animation) Genre: Animated Feature. The lovable title creatures go on an adventure of their own, filled with mystery, intrigue and snacks. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.4 The best part of the Madagascar franchise might be way better than those movies if we’re lucky.

NOVEMBER 28, 2014

THE BABADOOK (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A mother struggles with her six-year-old boy but the sinister presence of a storybook monster may turn out to be real and threatening them both. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 One of the most acclaimed films to come out of this year’s Florida Film Festival.
BEFORE I DISAPPEAR (IFC) Genre: Drama. In the midst of committing suicide, a junkie gets an urgent call from his sister to babysit her daughter. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 One of my favorite films from this year’s Florida Film Festival, you can read my review of it here.
THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. During World War II, genius mathematician Alan Turing is called upon to break the unbreakable code – Enigma. Release Strategy: Limited . RATING: 1.9 More possible Oscar consideration for Benedict Cumberbatch.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Interstellar, Big Hero 6, The Theory of Everything, Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Horrible Bosses 2, The Penguins of Madagascar

2014 Fall/Holiday Preview


fallnholiday2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEPTEMBER

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

The Equalizer

DEANS LIST

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

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

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

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

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

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

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

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

SEPTEMBER 5, 2014

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

SEPTEMBER 12, 2014

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

SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

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

SEPTEMBER 24, 2014

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

SEPTEMBER 26, 2014

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

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

OCTOBER

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

Gone Girl

DEANS LIST

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

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

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

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

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

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

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

OCTOBER 3, 2014

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

OCTOBER 10, 2014

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

OCTOBER 17, 2014

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

OCTOBER 24, 2014

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

OCTOBER 31, 2014

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

NOVEMBER

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

Interstellar

DEANS LIST

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

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

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

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

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

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

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

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

NOVEMBER 7, 2014

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

NOVEMBER 14, 2014

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

NOVEMBER 21, 2014

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

NOVEMBER 26, 2014

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

DECEMBER

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

The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies

DEANS LIST

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

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

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

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

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

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

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

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

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

DECEMBER 5, 2014

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

DECEMBER 12, 2014

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

DECEMBER 19, 2014

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

DECEMBER 25, 2014

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

DECEMBER 31, 2014

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

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

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

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!