Kick-Ass 2


Kick-Ass and Hit Girl are nonplussed to discover that they're not getting action figures made after all.

Kick-Ass and Hit Girl are nonplussed to discover that they’re not getting action figures made after all.

(2013) Superhero (Universal) Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Clark Gregg, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison, Claudia Lee, Amy Anzel, Augustus Prew, Olga Kurkulina, Steven Mackintosh, Monica Dolan, Garrett M. Brown, Lindy Booth, Robert Emms, Chuck Liddell, Yancy Butler, Lyndsy Fonseca, Sophie Wu. Directed by Jeff Wadlow

Although I have it labeled as a superhero movie (and indeed that is how this movie is essentially classified nearly everywhere), it’s not quite accurate. You won’t find a single superhero in this movie. What you will find is a movie about people who love and regard superheroes as idols to emulate.

Taking place a couple of years after the original Kick-Ass, the sequel finds Mindy Macready a.k.a. Hit Girl (Moretz) is cutting classes to go work out with Dave Lizewski a.k.a. Kick-Ass (Taylor-Johnson) who after an entire movie of getting beaten to a bloody pulp by bad guys wants to better be able not only to defend himself but to inflict some damage as well.

Seething in the background is Chris D’Amico, formerly the Red Mist (Mintz-Plasse) whose father was blowed up real good by Kick-Ass at the end of the first movie. He wants his revenge although his mother (Butler) doesn’t take him all that seriously. His bodyguard Javier (Leguizamo) does and when Chris – after an untimely accident – decides to become the first supervillain, Javier is not thrilled with the idea but supports him nonetheless.

When Mindy’s guardian Marcus (Chestnut), a cop, discovers what she’s been up to, he makes her promise to stop being Hit Girl. She starts hanging out with Brooke (Lee) and the other popular girls, trying on a normal life on for size. She finds out quickly that it doesn’t quite fit.

In the meantime Dave has found a new superhero team led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Carrey), a born again ex mobster. The roster includes Insect Man (Emms), Dr. Gravity (Faison), Night Bitch (Booth) with whom Kick-Ass strikes up a – ahem – physical relationship, and Battle Guy (Gregg) who turns out to be Dave’s friend Marty. Eventually they bring in the other member of Dave’s high school circle, (Prew) so that he doesn’t feel left out but he seems unable to be anything but derivative of Kick-Ass’ name and costume.

For his part D’Amico, going by the name of the Motherf*cker, has assembled a team of villains of his own including Mother Russia (Kurkulina), an ex-KGB agent who is a walking, talking advertisement for steroid abuse. He means to take things up a notch and bodies are going to hit the floor. With Hit Girl on the sidelines and only amateur heroes to stand at his side, can Kick-Ass survive the assault?

First off, the level of violence in this movie is fairly extreme and occasionally graphic, particularly in the third reel. People get hurt, people get maimed and people get killed. The kind of game that Kick-Ass was playing in the first movie is over; the stakes are way higher. There are consequences to putting on the costumes and they are illustrated here.

The movie has gotten a bad rap for that violence and I can only say this; if you’re squeamish about such things, this really isn’t a movie you should be seeing. However, I do believe the violence in the film isn’t as gratuitous as critics – including star Jim Carrey who has famously disowned the film – would lead you to believe. The violence here has a purpose and while you may agree or disagree with that purpose, it nonetheless does have a reason for being.

While Taylor-Johnson has yet to impress me in either Kick-Ass movie, Moretz is amazing here. She is a terrific young actress who captures all of Mindy’s adolescent self-doubts and yearning for acceptance and love. She is a lonely little girl who misses her daddy and that aspect is played up well by Moretz.

Leguizamo does a good job too as the bodyguard/mobster with a heart of gold. I also quite liked Mintz-Plasse who really captures the evil of  Chris D’Amico, driven to the dark side with mad thoughts of revenge. Chris might be a bit of a joke but that doesn’t make him any less evil.

I will say that I found this entertaining enough, but not enough to stand out which isn’t a good thing in one of the most mediocre summer blockbuster seasons in recent memory. Like most of the other movies I’ve seen this summer, Kick-Ass 2 isn’t bad – it just isn’t any more than that.

REASONS TO GO: Entertaining and funny. Moretz is fabulous and so is Leguizamo.

REASONS TO STAY: Unrelentingly brutal, particularly in the final reel.

FAMILY VALUES:  A buttload of violence and a shitload of profanity. There’s also some sexual content and a bit of nudity.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Carrey bought his own props and costume in an effort to look more like the comic book version of his character – which, in the comic book, was actually two characters: brothers Colonel Stars and Lieutenant Stripes.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/4/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 28% positive reviews. Metacritic: 41/100

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Super

FINAL RATING: 6/10

NEXT: The World’s End

Advertisements

New Releases for the Week of August 16, 2013


Kick-Ass 2

KICK-ASS 2

(Universal) Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison, Jim Carrey. Directed by Jeff Wadlow

The exploits of Kick-Ass and Hit Girl have inspired a new generation of costumed vigilante heroes of varying competence to patrol the streets of the city. This proves intolerable for Red Mist, the turncoat hero whose father was killed by Kick-Ass; reborn in a new guise, he assembles his own team of costumed villains who hunt down the heroes one by one. Only the bravery of Kick-Ass and the blades of Hit Girl can stop the carnage.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Superhero

Rating: R (for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity)

The Butler

(Weinstein) Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Robin Williams. The true story of an African-American White House employee – a butler if you will – who served for more than three decades and for seven presidents. These decades represent some of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history when civil rights were topic A and relations between races in this country changed forever. These changes not only affected our country but caused a deep divide in the butler’s family as well.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Biographical Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for some violence and disturbing image, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking)

Ghost Graduation

(Fox Searchlight) Raul Arevalo, Alexandra Jimenez, Andrea Duro, Jaime Olias. A high school teacher has Haley Joel Osment syndrome – he can see dead people. In his case, a group of teenagers at his high school who died in a 1986 fire. They are doomed to remain there unless they can pass their final course. The teacher of course volunteers – nobody ever said your students had to be among the living and quite frankly most of them aren’t anyway, right? Complications ensue when one of the dead and one of the living fall in love.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Supernatural Adventure

Rating: R (for sexual content, nudity and language)

Jobs

(Open Road) Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas. Steve Jobs was a revolutionary and his ideas changed the way we live. Under his guidance, Apple and Pixar revolutionized entertainment and technology and produced such devices as the personal computer, the iPhone, the digitally animated feature, the iPod and the iPad among other things. This is his story.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Biographical Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for some drug content and brief strong language)

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara

(Ramesh Sippy) Akshay Kumar, Imran Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonali Bendre . A sequel to the popular Bollywood film Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, the action begins as a new criminal don runs the city of Mumbai. He has become a popular folk hero for his suave charismatic manner and womanizing. His best friend oversees the criminal side of his empire. However a rift grows between them when they both fall in love with the same starlet.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Paranoia

(Relativity) Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard. An ambitious young engineer gets caught in a war between two rival CEOs who will stop at nothing to destroy each other. Forced into the world of corporate espionage, he soon discovers that not only everything that he’s worked for is at risk, so is his very life. In too deep to stop, he must figure out a way to survive and protect those he loves.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Thriller

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

Four-Warned: August 2013


Elysium

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

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

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (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. ELYSIUM (1.0)
2. THE WORLD’S END (1.2)
3. THE BUTLER (1.6)
TIE. KICK-ASS 2 (1.6)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. EUROPA REPORT (1.1)
2. THE GRANDMASTER (1.2)
3. OFF LABEL (1.3)
4. YOU WILL BE MY SON (1.5)

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

August 2,2013

2 GUNS (Universal) Genre: Action. A DEA agent and a Naval Intelligence Officer, both working undercover, discover that they have stolen money from the CIA. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 I can’t imagine a movie with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in it can be all bad.
THE ARTIST AND THE MODEL (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. An old French sculptor in 1943 tired of war is working on his final masterpiece when a Spanish refugee knocks on his door, throwing his plans into chaos. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 Looks beautiful and stars the great Jean Rochefort and Claudia Cardinale.
THE CANYONS (IFC) Genre: Thriller. When a film director finds out about his actress girlfriend’s infidelity, he plays a deadly game to get redemption – or revenge. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles August 9). RATING: 2.8 Hmmm…directed by Paul Schrader, written by Bret Easton Ellis and starring Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen; it’s either high camp or high art.
COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES (Shout! Factory) Genre: Horror Comedy. An invasion of zombies on East London sends a group of cockney bank robbers to team up with pensioners to fight off the undead. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 One of those Florida Film Festival flicks that I didn’t expect to love but I did – read my review here.
DRIFT (Wrekin Hill) Genre: Sports Drama. A pair of Australian brothers build a surfing empire from a small town. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 I’m not a big fan of surfing movies, but that’s just me.
EUROPA REPORT (Magnolia) Genre: Science Fiction. A privately-funded manned venture to Europa to discover the possibility of life there ends in both tragedy and triumph. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 Looks like it could be the great science fiction movie of the year in a year that has been to date filled with merely good or mediocre ones.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW (A24) Genre: Teen Romance. When a charming high school playa falls for “the good girl” things don’t go exactly as expected. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 I honestly expected to be unimpressed but a good young cast and talented writers make this a movie to be taken seriously.
TOP CAT (Viva) Genre: Animated Feature. A new police chief sics a robot police force on Top Cat and his gang. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Yes, it’s the Saturday morning cartoon from before I was a kid; question is, do modern kids want to see this?

August 7,2013

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Fantasy. When their home comes under attack only the legendary Golden Fleece can save the demigods; however they’ll have to retrieve it from the Bermuda Triangle. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 The first Percy Jacksonwas a bit of a hot mess.
WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) Genre: Comedy. In order to pay off a debt, a pot dealer must go to Mexico to pick up a shipment of dope; to throw suspicion off, he recruits a “family” to help him get across the border. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Jennifer Aniston is one of my favorite comic actresses at the moment so I’ll give this one a go even though it looks sketchy.

August 9,2013

BLOOD (RLJ) Genre: Thriller. Two brothers who are cops have lived under the shadow of the police chief father their entire careers; now they find themselves in a position to have to cover up their own excesses. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks extremely intense and with Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham, Mark Strong and Brian Cox, an intense cast as well.
CHENNAI EXPRESS (UTV) Genre: Bollywood. A man traveling by train to scatter his grandfather’s ashes falls in love with an exuberant girl on the same train. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks like it has all the life and heart that make Bollywood films so much fun.
DISNEY’S PLANES (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. From the world of Cars comes anthropomorphic airplanes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.5 Why is Disney pushing the weakest of the Pixar properties so hard?
ELYSIUM (Tri-Star) Genre: Science Fiction. In the future when life is separated into the haves who live on a space station and the have-nots who live on Earth, a desperate man must risk everything to get into the heavily fortified space station Elysium. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.0 From the makers of District 9comes something new that looks amazing on the trailers.
THE GOOD SON (SnagFilms) Genre: Documentary. The story of Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini, the promising young boxer whose fight with Duk Koo Kim changed boxing and the lives of both their families forever. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks emotionally charged – not just your typical sports biopic.
I GIVE IT A YEAR (Magnolia) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Nobody thinks that the marriage of a mismatched couple will last and as they approach their first anniversary, they have their doubts as well. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Why are British rom-coms so much better than American ones?
IN A WORLD… (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Comedy. The daughter of a voice-over legend tries to follow in his footsteps in a male-dominated industry. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks pretty damn funny and Lake Bell could be the next big comic actress.
JUG FACE (Modern Distributors) Genre: Horror. A backwoods community that keeps an entity in a pit at bay with sacrifices sees the entity unleashed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Doesn’t really grab me with the originality of its premise.
LOVELACE (Radius) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of Linda Lovelace who went from abused porn star to feminist anti-porn crusader. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Amanda Seyfried is kind of an odd choice but could be a good one if she can pull this off.
OFF LABEL (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Documentary. A look at our culture’s over-reliance on medication and Big Pharma’s role in getting us that way. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.3 An important topic that is one we should be looking at with great scrutiny.
PRINCE AVALANCHE (Magnolia) Genre: Dramedy. An unlikely pair of guys who don’t like each other much are sent to repaint traffic lines on a country road and in the process bond. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch make an engaging duo and director David Gordon Green is one of the most promising talents in Hollywood.

August 13, 2013

LAST PASSENGER (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Action. A commuter train speeds towards certain doom when a sociopath sabotages the brakes, intending to take the remaining passengers with him to the grave. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Sounds like a nifty concept but in light of recent events wouldn’t be surprised to see this release delayed several months or more.

August 14,2013

THE PATIENCE STONE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. An Afghan woman vents all her pain and frustration to her abusive but comatose husband. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks to be a very moving and powerful story.

August 16,2013

AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (IFC) Genre: Romance. A young Texas outlaw escapes from prison and seeks his wife and newborn child. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks lyrical and impressive, gorgeously photographed and well-written dialogue; a big hit at Sundance.
AUSTENLAND (Sony Classics) Genre: Comedy. An American woman obsessed with Jane Austen and the Regency-era gentlemen she wrote about goes to a resort that caters to women such as she and finds her fantasies fulfilled – so does that mean the beginning of a new reality? Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.5 Droll but heartwarming – the best of English and American comedy styles.
THE BUTLER (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. A White House butler serving eight presidents over three decades observes the social changes that swept America through the office he served and in his own family. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Amazing cast directed by Lee Daniels, one of the brightest directors in Hollywood.
CUTIE AND THE BOXER (Radius) Genre: Documentary. Two artists of Japanese descent married for 40 years prepare for the husband’s crucial show even as the wife seeks recognition for her own work. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A look at how the artistic process works within a long-term relationship (hint: it doesn’t always).
DREW: THE MAN BEHIND THE POSTER (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Drew Struzan designed some of the most iconic movie posters of the late 20th Century; this is his story. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 For true movie buffs like myself this is almost like catnip.
JOBS (Open Road) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of the man who co-founded Apple and Pixar as well as revolutionized all our lives with the Apple Personal Computer, the iPod and the iPhone. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Is likely to be a much more interesting movie than it sounds.
KICK ASS 2 (Universal) Genre: Superhero. As Kick-Ass and Hit Girl’s costumed hero mystique grows, new heroes rise to join their team but this gives rise to a team of super-villains as well. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 I liked the firstmovie; I’m hoping this one exceeds it.
PARANOIA (Relativity) Genre: Thriller. An ambitious young man is forced to go undercover at a rival corporation to steal corporate secrets and quickly discovers he’s in way over his head. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Any movie that has Harrison Ford in it can’t be all bad.
SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. The week-long festival of art, music and the counterculture is profiled. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 It’s one of those things that every young person should do at least once.
WE THE PARENTS (Go For Broke) Genre: Documentary. Parents in California utilize new legislation to improve the education of their children. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Sounds like an interesting and worthwhile documentary but couldn’t find a trailer anywhere.
YOU WILL BE MY SON (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. A French vineyard owner toys with the idea of leaving his legacy to the son of his estate manager rather than his own flesh and blood. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.5 Looks like a wrenching look at familial bonds and fatherly expectations.

August 21,2013

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (Screen Gems) Genre: Fantasy. A teenage girl discovers that she is a half-angel, half-human warrior bred to fight demons and keep them from destroying our world . Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.9 Another popular young adult fantasy series gets a shot at becoming a film franchise.

August 23,2013

DRINKING BUDDIES (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. Two employees of a craft brewery who are with other people discover their friendship might run deeper when they unexpectedly find themselves together alone. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The latest from prolific indie director Joe Swanberg looks to be maybe his funniest comedy yet.
THE FROZEN GROUND (Lionsgate) Genre: Thriller. An Alaskan cop tries to stop a serial killer who has gone unnoticed for 13 years before he can kill again. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Nice cast including Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and Vanessa Hudgens.
THE GRANDMASTER (Weinstein) Genre: Martial Arts. The story of the legendary fighter who would eventually train Bruce Lee. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Beautifully filmed throughout China.
PARADISE: FAITH (Strand) Genre: Drama. When a woman who has been doing zealous missionary work to bring Austria closer to Catholicism has her Muslim husband, confined to a wheelchair and absent many years come home, her life is thrown upside down. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 The boundary between faith and the need for human love can be a difficult one to navigate.
SAVANNAH (Ketchup) Genre: Biographical Drama. In the early 20th century, a man born to plantation and privilege gives it all up for a life on the river. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An impressive cast including Jim Caviezel, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sam Shepard in a biography that I’m not sure I need to see.
SCENIC ROUTE (Vertical) Genre: Thriller. Two best friends stranded on a remote road begin to attack each other psychologically and then physically. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Looks pretty much like an unabashed shark-jumper despite the presence of Josh Duhamel.
SHORT TERM 12 (Cinedigm) Genre: Drama. A young woman working at an at-risk kids facility is particularly drawn to a girl who reminds her of herself, but must weigh this against a sudden opportunity that might change her entire future. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.8 Looks like one of those movies that just gets under your skin and stays there.
THERESE (MPI) Genre: Drama. In 1920s France, a stifled housewife yearns for the love her husband is incapable of giving her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Acclaimed director Claude Miller’s final film starring the exquisite Audrey Tatou.
THE WORLD’S END (Focus) Genre: Science Fiction. A group of friends reunite to complete a legendary pub crawl they failed as young men, nor realizing the world is literally at stake. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.2 The third in the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg series of film that includes Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
YOU’RE NEXT (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. When a family reunion is interrupted by masked axe-wielding assailants, one of the guest proves to be more dangerous than the rest. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Up-and-coming horror film director Adam Wingard is at the helm here.

August 28,2013

CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) Genre: Legal Thriller. Two former lovers are tested when they are assigned to defend a terrorism suspect together. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 While I’m a big fan of Eric Bana, this one hasn’t gotten any sort of push from the studio which makes me nervous.

August 30,2013

AFTERNOON DELIGHT (The Film Arcade) Genre: Dramedy. A stay-at-home mom becomes obsessed with saving a stripper and hires her as a nanny, causing shock waves in her community and her marriage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Looks like Kathryn Hahn has finally gotten a vehicle to show off her considerable talents.
AMERICAN MADE MOVIE (Variance) Genre: Documentary. The film examines way American manufacturing is still going strong and how even ordinary citizen can contribute to revitalizing our economy. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles September 6). RATING: 3.0 I’m not quite sure if this is a love letter to the working man or a right wing polemic; could be either, could be both.
GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) Genre: Thriller. A former race car driver is forced to steal a car and drive in order to keep his kidnapped wife alive. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 I generally like Ethan Hawke but this definitely has the air of a stopgap movie to fill theater screens until the big fall movies come out in November.
I DECLARE WAR (Drafthouse) Genre: Drama. Kids playing at war find the line between fantasy and reality beginning to blur. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 This unique film screened at the Florida Film Festival last April; read my review here.
THE LIFEGUARD (Screen Media) Genre: Dramedy. A 30-year-old woman whose career and love life crash and burn returns home to lick her wounds, taking her old high school job as a condo complex lifeguard. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US (Tri-Star) Genre: Musical Documentary. A horribly overrated band is followed along on a world concert tour. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 No desire to see this, even if it was made by the great Morgan Spurlock.
OUR NIXON (Cinedigm) Genre: Documentary. The presidency of the 20th century’s most notorious political figure is examined through home movies taken by his closest confidantes. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 A very different look at a man much maligned and hated; it is always a good idea to revisit one’s opinions and see if they are still standing strong.
PASSION (eOne) Genre: Thriller. Two women – a mentor and her protégé – fight for corporate dominance and for a shared lover. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A remake of the French thriller Love Crime with Brian DePalma at the helm and Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in front of the camera – sounds like a winner to me.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
2 Guns, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, We’re the Millers, Disney’s Planes, Elysium, The Butler, JOBS, Kick-Ass 2, Paranoia, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The World’s End, Closed Circuit, Getaway

2013 Summer Movie Preview


Summer Movie Preview 2013

Last year, the word was “optimism.” With a box office on the upswing and some heavy hitters waiting and eager to get a share of the summer box office, Hollywood looked for a record year – and they got one.

Led by The Avengers, Hollywood reeled off some big earners – like The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man and Brave – as well as establishing some pretty fair hits in Ted, Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus. While there were a few misfires, there was enough business in the multiplexes to carry Hollywood on to a record box office year.

The line-up this year is frankly less gaudy than 2012 – or even 2011 for that matter and the lead-in is less strong – to date there really haven’t been any major blockbusters leading in to the summer of 2013 and that is becoming of increasing importance on the modern Hollywood landscape as traditional thinking as to how to approach summer movies – indeed, of how to approach marketing ALL movies – is changing with the advent of more readily available product through on-demand video, streaming and made-for-internet videos.

There are no movies as anticipated as the two big money-makers from last year, although Iron Man 3 is expected to do well and the sequel to the Star Trek reboot – Star Trek Into Darkness – looks to continue JJ Abrams’ hot streak at the box office.

Speaking of reboots, Man of Steel will take a darker tone with the Superman franchise as DC Comics tries to somehow find some hits that don’t involve the Caped Crusader. There will be plenty of sequels as The Wolverine takes the X-Men’s popular mutant and puts him into one of his most iconic locations – Japan, where some of the character’s most memorable comic book adventures took place. Kick-Ass 2 will follow up the underground hit and RED 2 will bring the geriatric superspies to the big screen.

Families will get plenty to do this summer with Epic, Planes, Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University. For those looking for a sci-fi fix, in addition to the new Star Trek there’s After Earth, Pacific Rim, Europa Report, The Colony and Elysium. Horror fans can expect plenty of scares from Aftershock, Byzantium, World War Z, V/H/S 2, You’re Next, Satanic, The Conjuring and R.I.P.D. Those looking for a laugh will undoubtedly find them in The Hangover Part III, The Internship, The Heat, Grown-Ups 2 and This is the End. Action junkies will get all they crave with The Lone Ranger, Now You See Me, Fast and Furious 6, White House Down, 300: Rise of an Empire and 2 Guns. If you are of a literary bent, you can see your books on screen with The Great Gatsby, Much Ado About Nothing, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

The stars will be out as you can catch films with such stars as Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Don Cheadle, Billy Crystal, Sandra Bullock, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Farrell, Dwayne Johnson, Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, Melissa McCarthy, Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Kevin Costner, Robert Downey Jr., Vince Vaughn, Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, Leonardo di Caprio, Kevin James, Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Channing Tatum, Vin Diesel, James Franco, Tobey Maguire, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Ben Kingsley, Helen Mirren, Jason Sudeikis, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Neil Patrick Harris, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Simon Pegg, Ethan Hawk, Emma Roberts, Andy Samberg, Eric Bana, John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer, Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges, Armie Hammer, Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Salma Hayek, Kevin Bacon, Christoph Waltz, Pierce Brosnan, Paul Giamatti, Al Pacino, Maya Rudolph, Will Smith, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Woody Harrelson and Gwynneth Paltrow.

In addition, a good number of independent and mid-major distributors will be making their movies available on VOD for those people who don’t have access to art houses, or live in cities where smaller distributors can’t get the screens to show their films. This is a bit of a double-edge sword; on the one hand, it does make a wider range of movies available so films that might not otherwise be seen can get at least some sort of audience. However, it does continue the trend away from theaters and more towards home viewing. While I suspect there will always be big blockbuster movies in theaters (which the summers are made for), it does seem to point at people seeing films more and more through other sources. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion – it’s just something older generations such as mine will have to get used to as time goes on.

You don’t have to be a Man of Steel to be one of The Kings of Summer. You don’t have to be a Lone Ranger to beat The Heat either; just Getaway into an air-conditioned multiplex and Purge your cares away. This is the End of your worries if you do. Put this on your To-Do List and you’ll be a Grown-Ups 2. Now You See Me doing the same thing so you know You’re Next. Just sit down, relax and enjoy your movie – it’s better than a Closed Circuit prizefight or even a One Direction concert. Especially that.

MAY

Phase Two of the Marvel Universe kicks off this year as May once again has a Marvel hero headlining. In addition we’ll see the latest in a beloved sci-fi franchise while one of the most successful comedy film franchises comes to a close and an action franchise turns six and director Baz Luhrmann weighs in with a new screen version of a literary classic.

Iron Man 3

 

SUMMER LOVE

IRON MAN 3
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2013
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Ben Kingsley, Gwynneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale, Rebecca Hall, Wang Xuequi
STORY: Tony Stark is having trouble adjusting after the events of The Avengers. He is worried that he’s losing his identity as Tony Stark in favor of Iron Man. It’s probably not a good time therefore that his greatest comic book enemy – the Mandarin – makes an appearance.
PROSPECTS: Anticipation is very high for the first post-Avengers Marvel movie as fans are eager to see the direction the franchise is going in. Downey is a big fan favorite and the buzz on this movie is that the franchise hasn’t lost any steam whatsoever.
OBSTACLES: Jon Favreau has exited the director’s chair and while Shane Black is a capable writer and director, his ability to handle a big effects-driven film like this is unknown. One wonders as well if there will be any post-Avengers backlash.
FACTOID: Following the success of The Avengers Disney approved a budget increase from $140M to $200M to allow Black to make the best movie he could to maintain Marvel’s momentum.

SUMMER ROMANCE

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
RELEASE DATE: May 17, 2013 (opening on IMAX screens two days earlier)
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin, Alice Eve, Peter Weller
STORY: The crew of the Enterprise is stunned by a shocking act of terrorism that was perpetrated from within Starfleet. Now Captain Kirk must lead a manhunt to capture a nearly unstoppable force and bring those responsible to justice – but that chase may cost him his ship and his crew.
PROSPECTS: JJ Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise was wildly successful back in 2009. There’s no reason to believe given the amount of buzz and judging from the footage that has been shown so far in the trailers that this will be any less successful.
OBSTACLES: Some are whispering that this has some parallels to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that may be too steep to ignore.
FACTOID: Benicio del Toro was initially cast in the role of the villain but eventually declined due to monetary issues; Cumberbatch (who was recommended to Abrams by Steven Spielberg) was eventually given the part.

THE GREAT GATSBY
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Leonardo di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan, Adelaide Clemens
STORY: A war veteran from the Midwest aspiring to be a writer moves to New York and ends up living next door to Jay Gatsby, a pampered rich man whose lavish parties and epic lifestyle mask demons and dark deeds, ultimately leading to tragedy.
PROSPECTS: Baz Luhrmann knows how to make eye-popping visuals and looks to have recreated Jazz Age New York City to a near-perfect extent. With di Caprio in the lead, there is enough star power here to attract at least some interest from the moviegoing public.
OBSTACLES: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s source material isn’t necessarily going to connect with di Caprio’s fan base. The movie was delayed from December due to production delays which might cause some negative buzz.
FACTOID: As is typical with Luhrmann’s films, the period-set movie will use modern artists and music on the soundtrack.

EPIC
RELEASE DATE: May 24, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler
STORY: A teenage girl finds herself caught in the middle of a battle between good and evil raging in the depths of a nearby forest at a tiny level. She must find a way to save both that world and our own and return to her original size or risk losing her family forever.
PROSPECTS: The first big family movie of the summer and the only one between The Croods and Monsters University which means it will have the first part of summer essentially to itself.
OBSTACLES: Lacks star power in the voice cast. Forest battle animated features have not done well at the box office.
FACTOID: This is based on William Joyce’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. Joyce and director Chris Wedge previously worked together on Robots which Wedge directed and Joyce produced.

SUMMER FLING

WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS
RELEASE DATE: May 24, 2013
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo, Nick Davies, James Ball, Smari McCarthy, Iain Overton, J. William Leonard
STORY: The story of the controversial website which exposes governmental and business secrets and shenanigans to the light of day.
PROSPECTS: Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney knows how to put together a compelling documentary. The story is kind of a sexy one which got lots of media attention with little context.
OBSTACLES: Assange is a polarizing figure who some consider irresponsible. He also declined any involvement in the film.
FACTOID: The film’s title is not meant to characterize WikiLeaks’ method of operation but rather is a quote from former CIA director Michael Hayden who was trying to explain the function of his agency.

SUMMER CAMP

May 3, 2013

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (Sony Classics), opening in limited release, stars Pierce Brosnan in Oscar-winning director Suzanne Bier’s new romantic comedy about a group of people who are seeking love in Sorrento, Italy who find it in surprising ways. This recently played the Florida Film Festival, although I was unable to get to the screening for it.

May 10, 2013

In AFTERSHOCK (Radius) an American tourist is caught in an underground nightclub in Chile during a major earthquake. Getting through to the surface is only the beginning of the horror. This is playing in limited release only. PEEPLES (Lionsgate) has an working man crashing the family reunion of a wealthy family in the Hamptons to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Of course, things don’t go exactly as expected. Isn’t this more or less a Fokker thing?

May 17, 2013

Opening in limited release FRANCES HA (IFC) is the latest from acclaimed director Noah Baumbach (Greenberg) starring indie darling Greta Gerwig (Lola Versus) as a free spirited young girl in New York who doesn’t mind dreaming dreams no matter how impossible they might be to achieve.

May 24, 2013

FAST & FURIOUS 6 (Universal) brings back Dwayne Johnson into the revitalized Vin Diesel/Paul Walker underground car racing series; this time the feds need Dom’s crew to help stop an international criminal who uses cars like military weapons; and the person running the show is one of their own. THE HANGOVER PART III (Warner Brothers) returns the Wolf Pack to Las Vegas for one final showdown – and supposedly this will bring the film franchise to a conclusion.

May 31, 2013

AFTER EARTH (Columbia) stars Will and Jaden Smith as a father and son whose space ship crashes on a hostile planet. With the father injured the son must retrieve a beacon from a different part of the ship whose wreckage is miles away but is he ready to face an environment that has evolved to kill humans? NOW YOU SEE ME (Summit) has a trio of stage magicians (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Isla Fisher) being chased by the authorities after pulling off a string of daring bank robberies; but is this the real thing or is it just an illusion? Morgan Freeman co-stars. THE KINGS OF SUMMER (CBS) has a trio of high school buddies who decide to give their parents the ultimate f you by building their own home in the woods and living off the land. Kind of. This is opening in limited release but it should be playing more or less nationwide.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

THE AVENGERS (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $220 Million. Domestic Gross: $623.4M Total: $1.5 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
MEN IN BLACK III (Columbia) Budget: $225M. Domestic Gross: $179.0M Total: $624.0M Verdict: Hit.
BATTLESHIP (Universal) Budget: $209M. Domestic Gross: $65.4M Total: $303.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
DARK SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $79.7M Total: $239.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $46.4M Total: $136.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE DICTATOR (Paramount) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $59.7M Total: $177.6M Verdict: Hit.
CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Brothers) Budget: $1M. Domestic Gross: $18.1M Total: $37.2M Verdict: Hit.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $41.2M Total: $84.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE INTOUCHABLES (Weinstein) Budget: $12.4M. Domestic Gross: $10.2M Total: $426.6 Verdict: Blockbuster.

JUNE

June tends to be a bit calm after the summer blockbuster kickoff in May. While there are always some big budget hits on the schedule, there tends to be less anticipation for the movies that are released between Memorial Day and Independence Day. Still, Pixar always releases a movie in June and this year is no different as they bring in a long-awaited prequel to one of their most beloved films ever, Superman gets a new look from respected fan favorite director Zach Snider, Brad Pitt takes on the zombie apocalypse, Will Smith and his son Jaden crash land on a hostile planet and Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson team up for the first time since The Wedding Crashers.

Man of Steel

SUMMER LOVE

MAN OF STEEL
RELEASE DATE: June 14, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni
STORY: A young boy discovers that he has amazing powers and that he isn’t of this Earth. Concerned that if he’s discovered that he’ll be feared and mistrusted, he hides from sight until evil from his home planet threatens his new home, forcing him to reveal himself to be the hero he was always meant to be.
PROSPECTS: The buzz is that this is the Superman movie that will revive the franchise in the way The Dark Knight revived Batman. DC, needing a franchise now that Christopher Nolan has exited Batman have utilized Nolan as a consultant here and that alone has been enough to get fans excited.
OBSTACLES: Director Zach Snyder’s last, Sucker Punch was an artistic and commercial failure. Superman hasn’t had the cache that Batman has for more than 40 years.
FACTOID: Brandon Routh who played Superman in Superman Returns was contracted to return in the role and was willing to do it but Snyder chose to do a clean break from every other previous cinematic incarnation of the character and create his own vision for the story.

SUMMER ROMANCE

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY
RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Disney*Pixar
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Dave Foley, Helen Mirren, Julia Sweeney, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza, John Krasinski, Alfred Molina
STORY: Before they became the best of friends Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan went to college and couldn’t stand the sight of one another. This is how they learned to overcome their differences, work together and become better for it.
PROSPECTS: Like all Pixar movies this one is being shrewdly marketed and Monsters, Inc. is one of their stronger films.
OBSTACLES: While Brave did gangbusters, there hasn’t been as much cache for the studio of late. This doesn’t appear to be the kind of movie that will carry mega-success with it, and the competition on both ends will be fierce with Epic and Despicable Me 2 bookending the movie.
FACTOID: This is Pixar’s first prequel.

WORLD WAR Z
RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Eric West, Elyes Gabel
STORY: When a pandemic turns humans into flesh-eating ghouls, a United Nations employee must traverse the world in order to stop the disease that has already toppled governments before it wipes out the human race.
PROSPECTS: The Max Brooks novel on which this is based has become one of the more acclaimed and beloved books of the last ten years. Pitt is one of the most dependable stars in Hollywood right now. Zombies are also super hot as the success of Warm Bodies and The Walking Dead attest.
OBSTACLES: There might be some zombie apocalypse oversaturation going on. Most zombie films have been low-budget affairs; it is yet to be proven that there is an audience to justify the budget that World War Z carries.
FACTOID: The original novel was in fact a sequel to the satirical The Zombie Survival Guide.

THIS IS THE END
RELEASE DATE: June 12, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart
STORY: A group of Hollywood stars are trapped in a house as strange apocalyptic events befall Los Angeles. As cabin fever and dwindling supplies begin to create conflict within the group, they realize that in leaving their safe haven may be the key to their redemption.
PROSPECTS: The prospect of Hollywood stars playing themselves in an impossible situation is appealing and the trailer was funny as hell.
OBSTACLES: Could be all concept and no substance. None of these guys with the exception of Segel and Rogen have a history of carrying major studio films up until now.
FACTOID: There were rumors that Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe had been cast but they were only half-right – his co-star Emma Watson actually has a cameo.

SUMMER FLING

UNFINISHED SONG
RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: Terrance Stamp, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Vanessa Redgrave, Anne Reid, Elizabeth Counsell, Ram John Holder, Calita Reinford
STORY: A curmudgeonly old man is transformed by joining the seniors choir his wife belonged to as he and the choir director develop a friendship that lifts them both up.
PROSPECTS: Saw this at the Florida Film Festival and the performances in the film elevate it right up there with some of the year’s best.
OBSTACLES: Some will look askance at a film about the elderly especially one which tugs on the heartstrings as this one does.
FACTOID: Among the songs the choir performs are Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex.”

SUMMER CAMP

June 7, 2013

In THE INTERNSHIP (20th Century Fox) The Wedding Crashers’ Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are reunited as a couple of hard-sell salesmen who, after their employers go belly-up, wind up working for an internship at Google. Knowing nothing about technology, they do know that this might be their last chance – and if they know one thing, it’s selling themselves. THE PURGE (Universe) is set in a near future where for 12 hours every year crime goes unpunished and uninvestigated. A family settling in for the night behind the fortress-like walls of their home find that their impregnable fortress isn’t so safe when they take in a stranger who has a vicious group of thugs after him. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Roadside Attractions), opening in limited release, is a modern re-telling of the Bard’s classic romance as interpreted by ultrahot Joss Wheden and to make it further unmarketable, shot in glorious black and white.

June 14, 2013

THE BLING RING (A24) is the latest from Oscar-winning director Sofia Coppola and is based on the true story of a group of teenagers who targeted celebrities in a series of burglaries. This is also opening in limited release.

June 21, 2013

A HIJACKING (Magnolia) is also opening in limited release and displays the deadly game being played between a shipping magnate and the Somali pirates who have taken his ship. Another movie opening in limited release, MANIAC (IFC Midnight) is a remake of the 1980 horror classic about a serial killer who stalks random women in New York City with ex-hobbit Elijah Wood playing the title role.

June 28, 2013

THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) teams up Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as an uptight FBI agent and an out-of-control Boston cop who are forced to team up in pursuit of a vicious drug cartel. WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Columbia) stars Channing Tatum as a cop taking his daughter on a tour of the White House when it is overrun by terrorists. Now he must not only protect his daughter but also the President, played by Jamie Foxx. Now that’s a candidate I can get behind! BYZANTIUM (IFC) is about a mysterious pair of women who seek shelter at a rundown resort and confess their secret – they’re vampires. Veteran director Neil Jordan was behind the camera for this one, which is also scheduled for limited release.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

PROMETHEUS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $130 Million. Domestic Gross: $126.5M Total: $403.4 Verdict: Hit.
BRAVE (Disney*Pixar) Budget: $185M. Domestic Gross: $237.3M Total: $538.8M Verdict: Hit.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER (20th Century Fox) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $37.5M Total: $116.5M Verdict: Broke Even.
ROCK OF AGES (New Line) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $38.5M Total: $56.4M Verdict: Flop.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Focus) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $7.1M Total: $9.6M Verdict: Flop.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Universal) Budget: $170M. Domestic Gross: $155.3M Total: $396.6 Verdict: Made Money.
THAT’S MY BOY (Columbia) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $36.9M Total: $57.7M Verdict: Flop.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (DreamWorks) Budget: $145M. Domestic Gross: $216.4M Total: $742.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $1.8M. Domestic Gross: $12.8M Total: $19.7M Verdict: Hit.
TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION (Lionsgate) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $65.7M Total: $65.7M Verdict: Hit.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (FilmDistrict) Budget: $750K. Domestic Gross: $4.0M Total: $4.0M Verdict: Hit.

JULY

Usually July is like a firecracker in the middle of summer with the Independence Day weekend kicking off some of the more anticipated movies of the season. This year, Guillermo del Toro brings a long-awaited giant robot alien invasion movie to the screen, a beloved hero whose pedigree goes back to the days of radio gets a cinematic reboot, Belgium’s bluest return in a sequel to their hit kid’s movie, one of Marvel’s darkest superheroes gets a new solo film that may finally adequately reflect that darkness, the police force of the dead leap from the pages of the comic books onto the summer screens and one of the biggest animated hits of the past few years gets a sequel.

Pacific Rim

 

SUMMER LOVE

PACIFIC RIM
RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Robert Kazinski, Max Martini, Clifton Collins Jr., Burn Gorman, Brad William Henke
STORY: Gigantic alien invaders from the deep are fought with giant robots. However the aliens are winning and mankind’s only hope comes from an obsolete robot, an untested rookie and a burned out former pilot.
PROSPECTS: Guillermo del Toro is a big favorite among the fans and has enough cache to get butts into seats. Not a lot of footage has come out but what has looks striking.
OBSTACLES: Giant robots are more of a Japanese thing than an American thing and it could come out looking a bit ridiculous to the general American public.
FACTOID: Hunnam and Perlman also star in the biker TV drama Sons of Anarchy.

SUMMER ROMANCE

THE WOLVERINE
RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Brian Tee
STORY: Logan, given an opportunity to become somewhat normal has his healing ability stripped fro him only to find himself in the middle of a war involving the Yakuza.
PROSPECTS: The Wolverine’s Japanese-set adventures are among the most popular in his comic book history. Fans are still pretty down with Jackman as Logan.
OBSTACLES: The origins story didn’t garner much love among the fans although it generated enough revenue to warrant further Wolverine solo adventures.
FACTOID: The movie is a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand. Jackman consulted with Dwayne Johnson on how to bulk up for the movie.

DESPICABLE ME 2
RELEASE DATE: July 3, 2013
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Al Pacino, Steve Coogan, Ken Jeong, Moises Arias
STORY: Gru is recruited by a anti-supervillain league to help them take on the baddest and most diabolical supervillain since…Gru.
PROSPECTS: The Minions are some of the most beloved animated characters of the past ten years and each time they came onscreen during the previews, kids cheered.
OBSTACLES: Well, if it isn’t that good parents won’t be as willing to bring their kids to see it two and three times.
FACTOID: Wiig is playing a different character than she did in the original Despicable Me.

GROWN UPS 2
RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Dennis Spade, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Nick Swardson, Steve Buscemi, Jon Lovitz
STORY: After the first Grown Ups, Lenny has moved his family back to the small town he and his friends grew up in. On the last day of school, he and his friends are taught a lesson by their kids.
PROSPECTS: A big hit, the first film was only waiting for the schedules of all the stars to free up simultaneously to get made.
OBSTACLES: Adam Sandler could certainly use a hit. The first movie was critically pounded; most of the buzz surrounding the sequel is pretty negative.
FACTOID: Rob Schneider had to bow out of the sequel due to scheduling conflicts.

SUMMER FLING

BLUE JASMINE
RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2013
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg
STORY: A fashionable New York City housewife is in a crisis and things are boiling to a head in this the latest comedy from Woody Allen.
PROSPECTS: Allen returns to New York City after having set most of his films in Europe recently. His last two films were among the best of his career.
OBSTACLES: Allen is one of those love him or hate him directors and while he’s had success of late, he still remains very much an acquired taste.
FACTOID: Louis C.K. originally auditioned for the role that Andrew Dice Clay got; Allen liked the audition but felt Louis was too nice for the part so he assigned him another role.

SUMMER CAMP

July 3, 2013

THE LONE RANGER (Disney) is a re-imagining of the classic adventure series with Armie Hammer in the title role and Johnny Depp as Tonto – yes, the focus of the movie will most likely be on the latter although the trailer suggests that there might be more on the Ranger than at first thought – the stunts look pretty incredible on the trailer though.

July 5, 2013

In THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight), a young teen having a miserable summer due to his mom’s overbearing boyfriend and her daughter finds solace in an unexpected friendship with the owner of a small waterpark. With a cast like Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell on board, how can you go wrong?

July 12, 2013

THE HUNT (Magnolia) is opening in limited release but is one to keep an eye out for. Having played at the Florida Film Festival, it concerns a schoolteacher who is accused of the most heinous act imaginable and despite his protestations to the contrary, becomes an outcast in his small town. Read my review here for more details.

July 17, 2013

TURBO (DreamWorks) is an animated feature about a snail that dreams of being a NASCAR racer. If I find out this one is about coming out of your shell, I swear I’ll get violent.

July 19, 2013

THE CONJURING (New Line) is bound to send chills up more than a few spines. Based on a case by actual paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, a family calls for help when they discover the farmhouse they live in is inhabited by a malevolent force. R.I.P.D. (Universal), based on the comic book series of the same name, stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as a pair of dead lawmen who continue to ply their trade hunting down dead souls that violate the rules and threaten the living. RED 2 (Summit) brings back retired superspies Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich as a portable nuclear device goes missing and the retirees are blamed for it. Not only do they need to find the dang thing to clear their names but they must avert a catastrophe in order to do so. ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Radius) stars Ryan Gosling as a former gangster and kickboxer living in Thailand whose brother is murdered by a corrupt police officer. Knowing that he’ll receive no justice under the law he goes out to get vengeance the old-fashioned way. This new film by Nicholas Winding Refn is opening in limited release.

July 26, 2013

FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) was a big hit at Sundance and is based on actual events. A young African-American trying to better his life becomes the victim of a transit cop shooting at an Oakland BART station that turns his community upside-down. This will likewise be opening in limited release.

July 31, 2013

THE SMURFS 2 (Columbia) brings back the little blue buggers back to our world as the evil wizard Gargamel creates copycat creatures called the Naughties. Neil Patrick Harris is in this so it can’t be all bad, can it? It can..

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Warner Brothers) Budget: $250 M. Domestic Gross: $448.1M Total: $1.084 B. Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Columbia) Budget: $230M. Domestic Gross: $262.0M Total: $752.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE WATCH (NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH) (20th Century Fox) Budget: $68M. Domestic Gross: $35.4M Total: $68.3M Verdict: Flop.
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $95M. Domestic Gross: $161.3M Total: $877.2M Verdict: Blockbuster.
TED (Universal) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $218.8M Total: $549.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
SAVAGES (Universal) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $47.4M Total: $83.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
STEP UP REVOLUTION (Summit) Budget: $33M. Domestic Gross: $35.1M Total: $140.5M Verdict: Hit.
KATY PERRY: PART OF ME (InSurge) Budget: $12M Domestic Gross: $25.3M Total: $32.4M Verdict: Made Money.
RUBY SPARKS (Fox Searchlight) Budget: N/A Domestic Gross: $2.5M Total: $9.1M Verdict: A Likely Hit.

AUGUST

The last month of the summer season tapers off as the heat keeps people at the beach or indoors, but there is almost one or two last gasp blockbusters. Horror movies seem to do really well this month, as the final days of summer are replete with leftover blockbusters from the month’s before and less hyped movies hoping to sneak up on audiences and win the reward of box office gold.

Elysium

 

SUMMER LOVE

ELYSIUM
RELEASE DATE: August 9, 2013
STUDIO: Tri-Star
STARRING: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, William Fichtner, Wagner Moura, Talisa Soto, Michael Shanks, Carly Pope
STORY: With humanity divided between the Haves on the heavenly space station Elysium and the Have-Nots on an overpopulated, depleted and dangerous planet Earth, one man must penetrate Elysium’s stringent security in order not only to save himself but those dwelling in misery below.
PROSPECTS: From the director of District 9 comes a much more ambitious sci-fi epic. Damon is a good box office draw and has opened eyes as an action star in the Bourne trilogy.
OBSTACLES: This is the last of a lot of similarly-themed movies coming out this summer and the public maybe burned out on them by August.
FACTOID: Was originally scheduled for March but moved to August so as not to compete with Oz the Great and Powerful.

SUMMER ROMANCE

KICK-ASS 2
RELEASE DATE: August 16, 2013
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison
STORY: Kick-Ass and Hit Girl find themselves joining a new “superhero” team who are opposed by the Red Mist, now reborn as the Mother F*cker who has a team of his own – and it’s going to be a smackdown to end all smackdowns.
PROSPECTS: The first Kick-Ass was successful and the producers are going with the more is better philosophy. An August release seems about perfect – still in the summer but not up against bigger budgeted bullies.
OBSTACLES: Director Matthew Vaughn is gone replaced by Jeff Wadlow. The first film made money but not sure if it was enough to warrant a bigger-budgeted sequel.
FACTOID: It was rumored that Mark Millar, who wrote the original comic book would write the screenplay for the sequel but director Wadlow wound up doing that.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE
RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, David Wenham, Mark Killeen, Hans Matheson, Jack O’Connell
STORY: The invading Persian force, fresh off of decimating the Spartans in 300 approach Athens and their commander Themistocles must find a way to unite the disparate Greek forces in order to save their culture and their lives.
PROSPECTS: Zach Snyder’s 300 changed the epic forever, and this – based on the sequel to the original graphic novel also by Frank Miller – continues the story.
OBSTACLES: Snyder is involved only as a producer and a writer of one of the versions of the script. Other movies as similarly dependent on green screen CGI haven’t fared as well.
FACTOID: Snyder was originally set to direct but had to bow out due to his commitment to Man of Steel.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2013
STUDIO: Screen Gems
STARRING: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, CCH Pounder, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jared Harris, Kevin Durand
STORY: A teenage girl discovers she is the descendant of a half-angel, half-human race crucial to a war against evil demons.
PROSPECTS: Based on one of the biggest selling young adult fantasy series since Harry Potter, the studio is marketing this carefully.
OBSTACLES: There are a slew of young adult fantasy series carcasses that have thought of being franchise material that have become cinematic roadkill.
FACTOID: Alex Pettyfer was proffered the male lead but turned it down after his experiences on I Am Number Four.

THE WORLD’S END
RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2013
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, David Bradley, Julian Seager
STORY: A group of childhood chums re-create a failed epic pub crawl, hoping to reach The World’s End pub, slowly figuring out that reaching their goal may be the only way to save the world from total annihilation.
PROSPECTS: The third in the trilogy from Pegg, Frost and director Edgar Wright that includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz which should get fans of those two cult faves into theaters even in August.
OBSTACLES: Cult favorite is the key phrase here. The above-mentioned films have done well but not super well and in a summer where the apocalypse is upon us (or beyond us) several times over, it may get lost in the shuffle.
FACTOID: Mainly filmed in and around Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire, England in actual pubs (renamed for the film).

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS
RELEASE DATE: August 7, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Missi Pyle, Nathan Fillion, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Head, Yvette Nicole Brown, Douglas Smith, Mary Birdsong
STORY: The half-God, half-human kids of Percy Jackson’s world must journey into the Bermuda Triangle and retrieve the legendary Golden Fleece.
PROSPECTS: Yet another young adult book series that has sold impressive numbers.
OBSTACLES: The first Percy Jackson film didn’t exactly set the world on fire, box office-wise.
FACTOID: Daddario dyed her hair blonde for the movie even though she was a brunette in the first film; in the books her character is a blonde.

SUMMER FLING

ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US
RELEASE DATE: August 30, 2013
STUDIO: Tri-Star
STARRING: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson
STORY: The British pop sensation, discovered on the X-Factor TV program, embark on their sophomore album concert tour and lucky us, we get backstage passes.
PROSPECTS: This is the modern equivalent of Hansen and NKOTB. Screaming adolescent girls will pack the auditoriums.
OBSTACLES: The rest of us will likely stay away.
FACTOID: The band became the first UK band whose debut album entered the Billboard album charts at number one.

SUMMER CAMP

August 2, 2013

2 GUNS (Universal) stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as a couple of operatives from competing bureaus who are forced to go on the run together despite a healthy distrust and a healthier dislike for one another. Based on a graphic novel. EUROPA REPORT (Magnet) is a thought-provoking account of a mission to the Jovian moon to discover the possibility of extraterrestrial life there. Developed with the co-operation and collaboration with NASA, JPL, Space-X and other leaders in the scientific community, this is opening in limited release.

August 9, 2013

DISNEY’S PLANES (Disney) is an off-shoot of the Pixar Cars movies, only set up in the clouds – and not from Pixar but from Disney’s animation arm. Make of that what you will. In WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) a small-time pot dealer must put together a fake family in order to smuggle a big score out of Mexico without raising suspicion. Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and Ed Helms star. LOVELACE (Radius) is the harrowing biography of the iconic porn star who went from a wannabe actress to an anti-porn activist. This opens in limited release.

August 16, 2013

PARANOIA (Relativity) is set in the shadowy world of corporate espionage as a ruthless CEO sends an entry-level drone to spy on a rival which turns into much more than anyone bargained for. Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Liam Hemsworth headline. THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) stars Aubrey Plaza as an update high school valedictorian who decides to do all the things she missed out on doing in high school before she arrives at the prestigious university she will be attending in the fall. Loosely based on the actual experiences of first-time writer-director Maggie Carey. AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (IFC), opening in limited release, tells the story of a couple of young outlaws who are hunted down in the desolate hill country of Texas. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara star. AUSTENLAND (Sony Classics) stars Keri Russell as a Jane Austen-obsessed New York who goes to a resort that caters to women who have similar fantasies and finds that the reality is a lot different than the fantasy. This comedy is also opening in limited release. HAUTE CUISINE (Weinstein) is loosely based on the true story of French Prime Minister Francois Mitterand’s personal chef and chronicles her struggles to establish herself in a kitchen whose politics are as vicious as France’s own. Again, this will be opening in limited theatrical release.

August 23, 2013

YOU’RE NEXT (Lionsgate) turns the conventions of the home invasion horror film on its ear as ruthless masked killers invading a family reunion didn’t count on one of the guests being an even more ruthless and creative killer than they. THE COLONY (RLJ), opening in limited release, is a post-apocalyptic thriller in which one of the last human outposts remaining on a planet overrun by ice and cold loses contact with the others.

August 28, 2013

CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) stars Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall as two ex-lovers who parted on an acrimonious note who are forced to work together as defense attorneys on a high-profile terrorism trial.

August 30, 2013

In GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) a race car driver is forced to use his skills to fulfill a series of tasks given to him by an unseen voice monitoring his every move through a dash-mounted camera – or else his kidnapped wife may die. SATANIC (Weinstein) stars Haley Bennett as a college student staying on campus during the Thanksgiving holidays becoming the target for a vicious and sadistic gang.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

TOTAL RECALL (Columbia) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $58.9M Total: $198.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE EXPENDABLES 2 (Lionsgate) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $85.0M Total: $300.4M Verdict: Hit.
FRIGHT NIGHT 3D (DreamWorks) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $18.3M Total: $41.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE BOURNE LEGACY (Universal) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $113.2M Total: $276.1M Verdict: Made Money.
THE APPARITION (Warner Brothers) Budget: $17M. Domestic Gross: $4.9M Total: $9.6M Verdict: Flop.
PARANORMAN (Focus) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $56.0M Total: $107.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE CAMPAIGN (Warner Brothers) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $86.9M Total: $104.9M Verdict: Probably Profitable.
PREMIUM RUSH (Columbia) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $20.3M Total: $31.1M Verdict: Flop.
SPARKLE (Tri-Star) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $24.4M Total: $24.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
LAWLESS (Weinstein) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $37.4M Total: $53.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
HIT AND RUN (Open Road) Budget: $2M. Domestic Gross: $13.8M Total: $14.5M Verdict: Hit.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $22M. Domestic Gross: $49.0M Total: $77.1M Verdict: Hit.
HOPE SPRINGS (Columbia) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $63.5M Total: $114.3M Verdict: Hit.
THE POSSESSION (Lionsgate) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $49.1M Total: $85.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (Disney) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $51.9M Total: $51.9M Verdict: Broke Even.

While this year doesn’t look to be the same kind of slam dunk that last summer was, there is still a lot of summer blockbuster goodness to look forward to. For some film buffs, it is their favorite time of year as one big potential hit comes out after another. Still, when the dog days of August herald the rapid approach of September, school and fall, that doesn’t mean the end of movies to look forward to. We’ve still got another visit to Middle Earth in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the girl power sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the unexpected and welcome return of Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: The Legend Continues. The Marvel cinematic universe Phase 2 continues with Thor: The Dark World while Tom Clancy’s most memorable character returns in Jack Ryan. We’ll also see Vin Diesel get serious in Riddick, the return of comics noir in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and a reimagining of an American classic in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Now, while I’m sure you’re already planning your moviegoing schedule for the summer, please do keep in mind as always that NO schedule is set in stone and that studios are wont to move movies to new dates without notice, particularly the farther out they are. There will be a good number of movies in this preview that will be bumped out to the fall or further and some may be removed from the schedule completely (anyone ever find out what happened to 7500?) without explanation. Chances are within a week of this being posted there will already have been some changes. However, that shouldn’t stop you from making plans to see some or even many of the big summer flicks. After all, few things are more fun than sitting in a cool air-conditioned movie theater on a hot summer day, popcorn and ice cold soda in hand, being amazed by eye-popping special effects, unbelievably crazy stunts or amused by big summer comedy laughs. It’s all there waiting for you – you just have to get out and go. I know I will be, and will continue to review the big films, write up weekly previews and of course the monthly Four-Warned series that will give you a better idea of what’s opening across the land. See you at the multiplex!