Rabbit Hole


Even comic books won't cheer Miles Teller up.

Even comic books won’t cheer Miles Teller up.

(2010) Drama (Lionsgate) Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Miles Teller, Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard, Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenney, Stephen Mailer, Mike Doyle, Roberta Wallach, Patricia Kalember, Ali Marsh, Yetta Gottesman, Colin Mitchell, Deidre Goodwin, Julie Lauren, Rob Campbell, Jennifer Roszell, Marylouse Burke. Directed by John Cameron Mitchell

In the initial throes of grief there is much screaming and sobbing. It’s what happens eight months after the initial shock of loss that is the concern here of playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and director John Cameron Mitchell. Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Eckhart) are still grieving the loss of their four-year-old son in a tragic traffic accident and the grief is less immediate but no less sharp and painful, so much so that their marriage is beginning to crumble. While Howie turns to a fellow member (Oh) in a grief counseling group for solace, the fragile and shrewish Becca has surprisingly found the teenager driver (Teller) of the car that killer her boy. So painful that it is at times nearly unwatchable, fine performances from the leads (Kidman particularly) overcome an occasionally contrived script.

WHY RENT THIS: Kidman’s performance is extremely strong. The relationship between Howie and Becky is surprisingly authentic.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Occasionally the dialogue and some of the plot points feel contrived.
FAMILY VALUES: The themes are definitely mature; there is some brief drug use and some foul language as well.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This was Teller’s film debut.
NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: None listed.
SITES TO SEE: Netflix (DVD/Blu-Ray rental only), Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $5.1M on a $5M production budget.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Collateral Beauty
FINAL RATING: 7/10

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New Releases for the Week of January 14, 2011


January 14, 2011
Laugh at my jokes or my friend will shoot you.

THE GREEN HORNET

(Columbia) Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, Tom Wilkinson, Edward James Olmos, David Harbour. Directed by Michel Gondry

Britt Reid, the son of a crusading publisher, has disappointed his father all his life. When his father is murdered, Britt’s aimless life takes focus. He wants to make a difference. As Britt Reid, ne’er do well and party animal, he is powerless. Aided by his father’s confidante Kato, Britt takes on the persona of the Green Hornet, a crime fighter armed with amazing weapons and cruising the town in the Black Beauty, a car that puts the Q Division to shame.

See the trailer, promos, interviews, featurettes, clips and a web-only animation here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D and IMAX 3D

Genre: Comic Book Action

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content)

The Dilemma

(Universal) Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly. When a man sees his best friend’s wife cheating on him, he’s stuck with a terrible choice to make. Does he tell him and put him into a place of misery and pain? Or does he keep it to himself. The problem is the more he tries to make things better, the worse the situation gets.

See the trailer and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard,

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic elements involving sexual conduct)

 

The Heart Specialist

(Freestyle) Zoe Saldana, Wood Harris, Brian White, Marla Gibbs. A group of first year residents discover the joys and perils of medicine at a shabby hospital in South Florida, learning not just about being a doctor but being a caretaker as well. All this happens under the aegis of a kindly Chief Resident, who has a skeleton in his closet that threatens to undo all the good he’s done.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Urban Drama/Thriller/Comedy

Rating: R (for some sexual content and language)

Made in Dagenham

(Sony Classics) Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Rosamund Pike, Miranda Richardson. At the Ford Plant in Dagenham, England in the mid-60s, a group of spirited women decide that no longer are they going to accept less pay for equal work as the men. A one day walk-out turned into something a lot more important as the women go up against their union, their company, their community and ultimately the British government in their effort to get justice for all women in the workplace. Based on a true story.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama Based on a True Story

Rating: R (for language and brief sexuality)

Rabbit Hole

(Lionsgate) Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard. In the new movie from acclaimed indie director John Cameron Mitchell, a couple is shattered when the worst thing that can happen to a family occurs. Neither one knows how to navigate their way back home from the labyrinth that is the rabbit hole. This won great acclaim at Toronto and was thought to be a leading Oscar contender this year, although the buzz has died down since then.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic elements, some drug use and language)

2011 Preview


2010 will in all likelihood not be remembered fondly by studio executives in years to come. While there were several movies that did big business  it was a year full of disappointments.

But there’s always next year, and 2011 looks to be the most eagerly anticipated line-up of movies in recent memory. In addition to the final movie in the Harry Potter franchise, we can expect the first movie in the Twilight finale, a barrage of superhero movies including Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, Thor, The Green Hornet and Captain America: The First Avenger, a spin-off from the Shrek universe and new installments in the Sherlock Holmes, Cars, Transformers, Mission: Impossible, Planet of the Apes, Spy Kids and Paranormal Activity series, just to name a few.

All signs point to a record year at the box office and while there isn’t anything with Avatar-like potential, there are enough movies that have the promise of $300 Million plus box office receipts that studio accountants should have their work cut out for them this year.

Of course, what that means to you and me is more time at the multiplex, more 3D upcharges, more popcorn and soda, and of course, more great movies to review. Many of them will show up on the blog as new releases and as always, those we can’t get to during their theatrical run will show up later when they make it to DVD/Blu-Ray.

It’s been a good year for Cinema365; site hits are at an all-time high and hopefully will continue to grow exponentially. Our Top 5 series has been very successful, and the Six Days of Darkness campaign did very well indeed; both will be back in 2011. We have added box office performance numbers to both our DVD reviews and preview articles; we hope to add additional content that will enhance your enjoyment of our reviews.

In the meantime, we have a preview to get to so just a few words of business before we get started; as always, release dates are extremely subject to change. Plenty of the movies that show up in the preview will wind up coming out on a date other than the one listed here and maybe some may not be released at all. Others may change their titles and come out as something else entirely. The farther out the movie is scheduled for, the more likelihood for change there is. The information we present here is as accurate as we can make it when it was written but I’m sure that within a few days of publication there will already be changes. For more accurate release dates, consult our weekly previews which contain the movies being released nationwide, as well as those that are coming out in limited release here in Orlando. By all means, consult your local theater listings to make sure the movie you’re interested in seeing is playing in your area before heading out to the multiplex. If you’re looking for further information about a movie that grabs your fancy, you can find it at either iMDB or ComingSoon.net; the links to both of those sites are available on the front page of Cinema365.

That’s about it. So buckle your seat belts, grab your popcorn and get ready for what promises to be a great ride. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present 2011 in all its cinematic glory. Enjoy!

JANUARY

 

January is usually the time of holiday holdovers, movies that debuted during the Holiday season and remain in theaters. Most of the movies released during this month are those the studio has little confidence in although occasionally there will be one that connects with the audience. This year, with the schedule full of potential blockbusters all year long, there are a few exceptions, like a masked avenger seeking justice, a man who finds out unpleasant information about his best friend’s wife and an exorcism movie starring Hannibal Lecter…well, the guy who plays him.

January 2011

THE 400 LB. GORILLA

THE GREEN HORNET

RELEASE DATE: January 14, 2011

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz, Jay Chou, Christoph Walz, Tom Wilkinson, Edward James Olmos, David Harbour, Edward Furlong

STORY: The indolent son of a crusading newspaper publisher takes on the persona of a costumed crime fighter after his father is murdered. Aided by his father’s friend, confidante and employee Kato and many glorious gadgets, Britt Reid will become the Green Hornet.

PROSPECTS: The trailers look like the movie is taking a fairly serious view with a light edge without being an out-and-out comedy. I wouldn’t have thought Rogen to be a first choice for a costumed crime fighter but he seems to work well here.

OBSTACLES: Michel Gondry wouldn’t have been my choice as director nor Rogen my choice as the lead. If it veers too much into comedy, hard core fans of the character will turn their back on the film.

FACTOID: Rogen lost thirty pounds to prepare for the role.

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THE DILEMMA

RELEASE DATE: January 14, 2011

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, Queen Latifah, Channing Tatum

STORY: A man discovers that his best friend and business partner’s wife is cheating on him. He wrestles with the idea of telling him about her infidelity, discovering that his friend is not without his own secrets. Now on the eve of the biggest presentation of their careers, he must decide how, when and even if he is going to reveal the truth.

PROSPECTS: The film received a lot of negative publicity for the use of the word “gay” as a pejorative in its trailer and, as they say, any publicity is good publicity. With Ron Howard in the director’s seat and Vaughn and James in front of the camera, this could be a big hit if it’s any good.

OBSTACLES: There is almost sure to be some backlash from the gay community and if the movie isn’t any good it will end up on a quick trip to the DVD cut-out bin.

FACTOID: This is director Ron Howard’s first comedy since How the Grinch Stole Christmas back in 2000.

THE RITE

RELEASE DATE: January 28, 2011

STUDIO: New Line

STARRING: Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Colin O’Donoghue, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer, Franco Nero

STORY: A skeptical seminary student is assigned to the Vatican’s School of Exorcism and assigned to an unorthodox priest, with whom together they discover a terrifying secret about the dark side of the faith.

PROSPECTS: Hopkins in a horror film is almost certain to bring in the fanboy segment into the theaters.

OBSTACLES: Exorcism movies have not been box office barnburners as of late.

FACTOID: The trailer made its debut at the Scream Awards 2010, introduced by Anthony Hopkins himself.

UNDERDOG

RABBIT HOLE

RELEASE DATE: January 14, 2011

STUDIO: Lionsgate

STARRING: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenney, Patricia Kalember, Sandra Oh, Miles Teller, Mike Doyle

STORY: A happy family is turned upside-down when a tragedy changes their dynamic forever. Caught in a maelstrom of grief, memory, suspicion and rage, they try to escape the storm before it tears them apart.

PROSPECTS: Highly acclaimed out of the Toronto Film Festival, the movie has gotten a huge amount of Oscar buzz and is getting a limited run in December before opening wide in January.

OBSTACLES: These types of dramas rarely get the big box office numbers, although from time to time one breaks out.

FACTOID: The movie is based on a Tony Award-winning play and will be the first movie that Kidman will act in as well as produce.

ALSO IN THEATERS

January 1, 2011

SINBAD THE FIFTH VOYAGE (Giant Flick), opening in limited release only, is a special effects-heavy production putting the Arabian hero on a desperate journey to save the sultan’s spirited daughter. Hey, isn’t that pretty much every Sinbad story?

January 7, 2011

SEASON OF THE WITCH (Relativity) stars Nicolas Cage as a hero of the Crusades tasked to escort a convicted witch to a faraway castle for execution. There’s just one hitch – she actually is a witch. This has been bouncing around the release schedule for more than a year, never a good sign.

January 14, 2011

ONG BAK 3 (Magnet) is the third and final installment in the Thai martial arts series. Tony Jaa returns in an epic confrontation with Demon Crow (played by fellow Thai martial artist Dan Chupong), a supernatural warrior of evil inclinations. Opening in limited release.  

January 21, 2011

In NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Paramount), a pair of friends with benefits find themselves falling for each other despite their agreement to keep things strictly physical. Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman star. THE COMPANY MEN (Weinstein) stars Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper as three men who are downsized from their corporate jobs and must find ways to redefine themselves. While the trailer has looked intriguing, the movie has been rescheduled several times and now has been exiled to the wasteland that is January which doesn’t bode well.

January 28, 2011

 FROM PRADA TO NADA (Pantelion) is Jane Austin’s ”Sense and Sensibility” given a Latina spin. Camilla Belle and Alexa Barger are two spoiled sisters forced to move in with their impoverished aunt in East L.A. after their father passes away, with a resultant fish out of water scenario that is both comic and dramatic. This will be opening in limited release. THE MECHANIC (CBS) is based on a 1972 Charles Bronson film and stars Jason Statham as an assassin who takes on the son of an old friend as an apprentice after his old friend is assassinated by his own company. The two are out for vengeance, but can never know who to trust – including each other.

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 LOVELY BONES (DreamWorks) Budget: $65 Million. Domestic Gross: $44.0M Total: $93.5M Verdict: Flop.

BOOK OF ELI (Warner Brothers) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $94.8M Total: $157.1M Verdict: Broke Even.

EDGE OF DARKNESS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $43.3M Total: $81.0M Verdict: Flop.

EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES (CBS) Budget: $31M. Domestic Gross: $12.1M Total: $15.1M Verdict: Flop.

LEAP YEAR (Lionsgate) Budget: $19M. Domestic Gross: $25.9M Total: $32.6M Verdict: Lost Money.

THE SPY NEXT DOOR (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $24.3M Total: $43.5M Verdict: Profitable.

LEGION (Screen Gems) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $40.2M Total: $67.9M Verdict: Profitable.

WHEN IN ROME (Touchstone) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $32.7M Total: $43.0 Verdict: Hit.

FEBRUARY

Hollywood likes to keep the Valentine’s Day weekend stocked with date movies but this is really when the 2011 release schedule gets serious with some fairly anticipated movies, including a Justin Bieber concert film, a James Cameron-produced underwater adventure, another stab at a young adult sci-fi franchise and a supernatural action film among those vying for the box office championship.

February 2011

THE 400 LB. GORILLA

SANCTUM

RELEASE DATE: February 4, 2011

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Allison Cratchley, Christopher Baker, John Garvin

STORY: Based on actual events, this James Cameron-produced thriller follows the exploration of the Esa-ala Caves in the South Pacific by one of the most respected explorers in the world who has a contentious relationship with his son. When flash floods block their only exit, they must fight the rising waters and their own panic to find a way out to the sea.

PROSPECTS: Utilizing 3D technology developed for Avatar, the movie also has the magic name of James Cameron to draw in crowds. While the underwater spelunking brings vision of Descent to mind, the trailer looks phenomenal.

OBSTACLES: For one thing, Cameron is producing and not directing. Cave exploration movies have done only marginal business at best and there are no name stars in this one.

FACTOID: Andrew Wight, whose story this movie is partially based upon, is credited with being one of the co-writers of the script.

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DRIVE ANGRY 3D

RELEASE DATE: February 25, 2011

STUDIO: Summit Entertainment

STARRING: Nicolas Cage, William Fichtner, Amber Heard, Billy Burke, Simona Williams, Katy Mixon, David Morse, Pruitt Taylor Vince

STORY: A hardened criminal breaks out of Hell to save his infant granddaughter from the evil cult that murdered his daughter. Accordingly, Hell sends its own private bounty hunter to retrieve the wayward soul. Things are going to get a whole lot of hot before too long!

PROSPECTS: The trailer looks, for lack of a better term, kickass. Director Patrick Lussier is mostly known for reboots of horror classics (My Bloody Valentine) and sequels (Prophecy 3: The Ascent) but he did helm the very underrated White Noise 2.

OBSTACLES: Cage has had a string of missteps in his career with only the lucrative National Treasure series really having any success. Kickass movies may look fine in theory but at the box office they haven’t fared very well lately.

FACTOID: The lead character is named Milton for John Milton, author of “Paradise Lost.”

I AM NUMBER FOUR

RELEASE DATE: February 18, 2011

STUDIO: DreamWorks

STARRING: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Kevin Durand, Callan McAuliffe, Jake Abel, Emily Wickersham

STORY: Three teenagers have been killed by a mysterious, evil force. A fourth is on the run to a quiet Ohio town where he lives with his guardian. Raging hormones trigger the development of powerful abilities, but will these be enough to save him when the killer comes calling?

PROSPECTS: This is based on a popular young adult sci-fi novel. Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg are executive producing, D.J. Caruso (Suburbia) is directing and Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, creators of the “Smallville” TV series, are writing the screenplay.

OBSTACLES: This is the latest in a series of attempts to take a popular young adult novel or series of novels and turn it into a franchise a la Harry Potter and Twilight. Many have tried and all have failed.

FACTOID: Sharlto Copley was originally supposed to play the guardian but had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts.

UNDERDOG

GNOMEO AND JULIET

RELEASE DATE: February 11, 2011

STUDIO: Touchstone

STARRING THE VOICES OF: James MacAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Maggie Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ozzie Osbourne, Julie Walters

STORY: Shakespeare was never anything like this. Warring clans of garden gnomes – the porcelain sort – engage in lawnmower races until one of the blue gnomes falls in love with one of the red gnomes. A tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme.

PROSPECTS: The co-director of Shrek 2 is responsible for this epic madness. It’s just so out there that it might just work. I mean, Patrick Stewart and Ozzie Osbourne in the same cast? Someone had to be on crack.  

OBSTACLES: Unless this is staggeringly good, this might go down as an epic fail. The trailer wasn’t terribly inspiring.

FACTOID: This is the first animated feature to be released by Disney’s Touchstone imprint. Previously, all other animated films had been released by Disney or Pixar.

ALSO IN THEATERS

 

February 4, 2011 

THE ROOMMATE (Screen Gems) stars Leighton Meester as a deranged college freshman who becomes obsessed with her roommate. Single White Female, anyone? WAITING FOR FOREVER (Freestyle) is about a guy content to live without a job, but who can’t live without his girlfriend, a young actress. Rachel Bilson, Blythe Danner and Richard Jenkins star in this limited release.

February 11, 2011

THE EAGLE (Rogue) concerns a young centurion of ancient Rome whose father disappeared with the Ninth Legion in Briton. Years later, the son returns to the British Isles to find out what happened, and takes his slave, a Briton, with him. JUST GO WITH IT (Columbia) stars Adam Sandler as a man who entreats his friend Jennifer Aniston to pose as his ex-wife so that he can woo another woman, in this case Nicole Kidman. Some guys are just lucky that way. JUSTIN BEIBER: NEVER SAY NEVER (Paramount) is a concert film and semi-biographical documentary about the current flavor of the weak in pop music. I’m sure your screaming, crying pre-teen daughter will force you to take her to see this, so if you missed the Hannah Montana or Jonas Brothers phenomena you aren’t off the hook just yet. IN HER SKIN (IFC) is based on a true story about the body of a missing 15-year-old girl found in Australia whose murderer was determined to be her best friend, who had then tried to change her identity. Although listed as a wide release, films for this distributor are generally released on a limited basis so keep that in mind.

February 18, 2011

BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (20th Century Fox) is the third installment in the Martin Lawrence comedy series. Here, he goes undercover in an all-girl performing arts school to find a murderer but this time he’s not alone – his son will be masquerading as a student. UNKNOWN (Warner Brothers) is about a physician who awakens from a coma after a car accident to find that his wife doesn’t know him, another man has assumed his identity and mysterious assassins are after him. Talk about a bad day! However, when the physician is played by Liam Neeson, you know that some serious butt-kicking can’t be far behind.

February 25, 2011

HALL PASS (New Line) is the latest from the Farrelly Brothers (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber). Here, two best friends (Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis) are given a one week free pass from their wives to do anything they want – no recriminations, no questions asked. However, the single life they both so crave has changed quite a bit since they got married. SHELTER (Weinstein) stars Julianne Moore as an expert on multiple-personality disorders who has put several murderers away with her testimony. As she examines a new patient, she begins to realize that he may be much more than human in this supernatural horror thriller.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

SHUTTER ISLAND (Paramount) Budget: $80 Million. Domestic Gross: $128.0M Total: $294.8M Verdict: Hit.

PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF (20th Century Fox) Budget: $95M. Domestic Gross: $88.8M Total: $226.4M Verdict: Profitable.

FROM PARIS WITH LOVE (Lionsgate) Budget: $52M. Domestic Gross: $24.1M Total: $52.8M Verdict: Flop.

COP OUT (PREVIEWED AS A COUPLE OF DICKS) (Warner Brothers) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $44.9M Total: $55.5M Verdict: Flop.

VALENTINE’S DAY (New Line) Budget: $52M. Domestic Gross: $110.5M Total: $213.0M Verdict: Hit.

DEAR JOHN (Screen Gems) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $80.0M Total: $115.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.

THE CRAZIES (Overture) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $39.1M Total: $54.6M Verdict: Hit.

THE WOLFMAN (Universal) Budget: 150M. Domestic Gross: $62.0M Total: $139.8M Verdict: Flop.

MARCH

 

With the summer film schedule becoming more and more crowded, the studios often put movies that might otherwise get lost in the summer binge here; 2010 saw box office gold go to Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans and How to Train Your Dragon. This year there are several movies that hope to achieve that kind of success, including the latest from director Zach Snyder, an alien invasion movie, a couple of off-beat animated features from Paramount and Disney and a re-imagining of a classic fairy tale.

March 2011

THE 400 LB GORILLA

SUCKER PUNCH

RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2011

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Jamie Chung, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn, Oscar Isaac

STORY: A young woman is locked away in an asylum with a terrible fate awaiting her. In a fantasy world of her own imagining, she does battle with monsters, samurais, dirigibles and biplanes as she fights to save herself and her friends.

PROSPECTS: Director Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole) is known for his imaginative vision and it is saying something when I assert that this might be his most fantastic film yet. The trailer looks off the hook and fans have been buzzing about this since footage was first screened at Comic Con last summer.

OBSTACLES: This looks to be a bit eclectic and mainstream audiences don’t always appreciate eclectic. Although Jon Hamm is thought to be an up and coming talent, there are no real names in the cast other than Hudgens who is associated with the High School Musical series more than anything.

FACTOID: This is Snyder’s first movie not based on a different medium (all of his other films are based on graphic novels, children’s books or previously released horror movies).

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RANGO

RELEASE DATE: March 4, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Ray Winstone, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, Alfred Molina

STORY: A chameleon with an identity crisis wanders the Southwest trying to stay out of the jaws of certain death, which isn’t easy.

PROSPECTS: This is Paramount’s first foray into the lucrative animated feature market and they have been marketing this movie big time. Director Gore Verbinski did the first three films in the Pirates of the Caribbean series and was able to nab some big names for his voice cast.

OBSTACLES: While the trailer looked good to a certain extent, it also looked a bit too much like a low-budget Robert Rodriguez film which might turn some would-be viewers off.

FACTOID: This is also the first animated feature for Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects company George Lucas created for the Star Wars films that became the most famous effects house in Hollywood.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES

RELEASE DATE: March 11, 2011

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ne-Yo, Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena, Joey King, Lucas Till

STORY: An alien invasion takes over the cities of the world one by one. Los Angeles is the last human city standing and its survival hinges on the actions of one Marine staff sergeant and his platoon.

PROSPECTS: The trailer looked mighty impressive and alien invasion movies are the Hollywood trend du jour.

OBSTACLES: The poor reception of Skyline might deter some from heading directly to the box office, which means this will likely require a good word of mouth in order to be successful.

FACTOID: The movie was mostly filmed in Louisiana because of tax incentives; streets resembling Los Angeles were built there for the crew to film in.

UNDERDOG

JANE EYRE

RELEASE DATE: March 11, 2011

STUDIO: Focus

STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Holliday Grainger, Judi Dench, Tamzin Merchant, Imogen Poots, Sophie Ward

STORY: Yet another filmed version of the Charlotte Bronte classic, as a young governess flees the employ of the wealthy Edward Rochester, having to come to terms with the horrible secret he hides and that she has uncovered.

PROSPECTS: Director Cary Fukunaga last made the acclaimed Sin Nombre and has produced a very lush-looking version of the novel. This is opening in limited release only.

OBSTACLES: Does the world need yet another remake of the classic novel? And with all the choices out there, will a Victorian morality play make much of a dent in the box office?

FACTOID: This is the eleventh big screen version listed on iMDB of the classic dating back to the silent era, not to mention the countless versions that have appeared in TV movies, mini-series and ongoing series over the years.

ALSO IN THEATERS

March 4, 2011

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (Universal) is based on a Philip K. Dick short story and stars Matt Damon as a Senatorial candidate who falls in love with a dancer and thus runs afoul of those who control individual destiny. This was originally scheduled to be released last fall. APOLLO 18 (Weinstein) is a “found footage” horror film that is taken from the allegedly canceled moon mission and shows that there’s a reason we haven’t been back. TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT (Relativity) is the story of a wild Labor Day party wherein a recent college grad pursues the girl of his dreams and runs smack dab into the responsibilities of being grown up.

March 11, 2011

MARS NEEDS MOMS (Disney) is a motion capture animation from the folks that gave you The Polar Express. Based on the Berkeley Breathed book of the same name, a young nine-year-old who’s tired of being bossed around by his mom finds out how much he really needs her when Martians kidnap her. RED RIDING HOOD (Warner Brothers) is a re-imagining of the classic fairy tale by Twilight director Catherine Hardwick. In it, Amanda Seyfried stars in the title role as a young heroine living in a village that has a werewolf prowling the woods around it, a werewolf that has suddenly, inexplicably begun to attack humans after years of accepting animal sacrifices once a month from the villagers.

March 18, 2011

BEASTLY (CBS) is a re-imagining of the Beauty and the Beast fable, set in modern times with high school kids. Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer star in this release that was previously scheduled for last fall but has found a spot in the March line-up.  LIMITLESS (Relativity) is a sci-fi thriller about a discovery that allows men to use 100% of their brains. When a writer becomes the first person to use the experimental drug, he becomes a target for sinister forces. Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro star. DESERT FLOWER (National Geographic) is the dramatization of the story of Waris Dirie, the author and supermodel who escaped a life of poverty in Somalia to become an outspoken opponent of the practice of Female Genitalia Mutilation. Although listed as a wide release, this might wind up getting a limited release instead. THE LINCOLN LAWYER (Lionsgate) is based on a Michael Connelly novel. It stars Matthew McConaughey as a criminal defense lawyer who operates out of the back seat of a Lincoln Continental. His latest case turns from the opportunity of a lifetime into a deadly game of survival. PAUL (Universal) reunites Shaun of the Dead’s Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as a couple of sci-fi geeks pick up an illegal alien, only this one is from a lot farther away from Mexico. This smart-aleck space traveler leads the two on a merry chase that turns the Hope-Crosby road movies on their ear. Seth Rogen voices the alien being.

March 25, 2011

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 2: RODRICK RULES (20th Century Fox) is the sequel to last year’s hit middle school comedy and is based on the second book of the juvenile illustrated novel series. MIRAL (Weinstein) opens in limited release and is about a defiant orphan in war-torn Jerusalem in 1948 who goes on to become a teacher in refugee camps who must decide between fighting the same battle that has defined that region for decades, or choose a path of using education to bring a lasting peace. THE LION OF JUDAH (Animated Family Films) is an animated feature with a biblical setting, as a group of stable animals attempt to rescue a lamb that is to be sacrificed at an upcoming festival. They see out the King, who was born in the same stable 30 years prior. Expect a number of Sunday school field trips for this one.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Disney) Budget: $200 Million. Domestic Gross: $334.1M Total: $1.0B Verdict: Blockbuster.

CLASH OF THE TITANS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $163.2M Total: $493.2M Verdict: Hit.

GREEN ZONE (Universal) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $35.0M Total: $94.8M Verdict: Flop.

CHLOE (Sony Classics) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $3.1M Total: $10.4M Verdict: Flop.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (DreamWorks) Budget: $165M. Domestic Gross: $217.6M Total: $493.2 Verdict: Hit.

THE BOUNTY HUNTER (Columbia) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $67.1M Total: $136.3 Verdict: Hit.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (MGM) Budget: $36M. Domestic Gross: $50.3M Total: $64.4M Verdict: Flop.

SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE (PREVIEWED AS HARD 10) (Paramount) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $31.6M Total: $48.4M Verdict: Profitable.

APRIL

As the weather begins to warm, the multiplexes also begin to heat up with movies that are out to pave the way for the big summer blockbusters. While last year turned out to be a disappointing box office month mostly dominated by films released in March, this year looks hopeful with the return of a horror franchise, a pair of animated features that look to keep kids happy, a new Disney nature film, a sci-fi flick from the acclaimed director of Moon and the latest in the Madea and Fast and Furious franchises.

April 2011

THE 400 LB. GORILLA

SCREAM 4

RELEASE DATE: April 15, 2011

STUDIO: Dimension

STARRING: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panattiere, Rory Culkin, Anthony Anderson, Adam Brody, Mary McDonnell, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Nico Tortorella

STORY: The gang from the first three films, including writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven, get together for a grand reunion of sorts, with new meat for the grinder as well as old favorites and a whole new set of rules for survival in a horror film.

PROSPECTS: With a nice mixture of horror and comedy, the first three Scream movies were among the most popular of the genre in the 90s. Many of the actors (whose characters survived) the first three movies are back, and there are rumors that if this is successful it will be the first of a new Scream trilogy.

OBSTACLES: It has been eleven years since Scream 3 and fifteen years since the first one. Younger generations might confuse this with the Scary Movie films which were a spoof of the Scream movies and not nearly as good.

FACTOID: Craven decided to make a cameo in the movie, asking his followers on Twitter to come up with an idea as to how to do it.

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RIO

RELEASE DATE: April 8, 2011

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Leslie Mann, will.i.am, George Lopez, Rodrigo Santoro, Carlos Ponce

STORY: A rare blue macaw leaves Minnesota for Brazil to meet with the last female blue macaw. It turns out that the flight-challenged and somewhat timid American and the high-flying fiercely independent Brazilian aren’t exactly the perfect match, but they embark on an adventure that will force them to depend on one another.

PROSPECTS: A new animated feature from the Blue Sky team that gave us the Ice Age series (and yes, there’s another one of those planned for 2012). Think of this as being a (literally) polar opposite in tone.

OBSTACLES: The competition for the family entertainment dollar is getting fierce and I’m not 100% sold that the trailer has given families a reason to see this more than once…or twice.

FACTOID: There are no species of macaws that are completely blue. The closest is the Hyacinth Macaw which are blue all over except under the wing where they are black.

SOURCE CODE

RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2011

STUDIO: Summit

STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Russell Peters, Michael Arden, Susan Bain

STORY: A young soldier is forced to relive a train catastrophe over and over again in order to find out who’s responsible and prevent a much larger disaster from occurring.

PROSPECTS: A very intriguing time travel premise from director Duncan Jones (Moon) that has elements of 12 Monkeys and Timecop. The science fiction community is looking at this project with great interest.

OBSTACLES: Time travel movies are notoriously difficult to make work, and even more difficult to sell. While Jones has gotten critical plaudits for his work on Moon, he has yet to really make a serious box office splash.

FACTOID: Topher Grace was originally considered for the lead role before it went to Gyllenhaal.

UNDERDOG

MEEK’S CUTOFF

RELEASE DATE: April 8, 2011

STUDIO: Oscilloscope Laboratories

STARRING: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson, Paul Dano, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Rod Rondeaux, Neal Huff

STORY: A story of the ill-fated expedition from Fort Laramie to Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1845 led by Stephen Meek.

PROSPECTS: The film has been getting some plaudits on the festival circuit, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, one of the most prestigious festival awards there is.

OBSTACLES: It’s a Western and about a fairly grim set of circumstances to boot.

FACTOID: Director Kelly Reichardt last directed Wendy and Lucy; this is her first Western.

ALSO IN THEATERS

April 1, 2011

HOP (Universal) stars the voice of Russell Brand as the Easter Bunny who is injured by a slacker who then must not only take the injured icon in but perform his duties as well. MOTHER’S DAY (Gigapix) has a trio of not-too-bright criminal brothers who head home to mama’s only to find strangers living in her house, giving a birthday party. Things take a turn for the worse when mother comes home in this horror romp. INSIDIOUS (Film District) is the first release from a new genre studio concerning a young comatose boy whose body becomes a magnet for malevolent entities while his consciousness resides in a mysterious realm.

April 8, 2011

BORN TO BE WILD (Warner Brothers) is a nature documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman that tells the story of caring humans who take orphaned orangutans and elephants and prepares them for life in the wild, training them in much the same way their parents would have. HANNA (Focus) stars Saoirse Ronan as a young girl who has been trained as an assassin by her CIA operative father (Eric Bana) and whose training makes her a target for shadowy agency figures with an agenda of their own. YOUR HIGHNESS (Universal) stars Danny McBride as the ne’er-do-well younger brother of a heroic prince who embarks together on a quest to rescue the fiancé of the heir apparent from an evil wizard. You say Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman are both in this? I’m there! ARTHUR (Warner Brothers) stars Russell Brand in the perfectly-cast title role in this remake of the 1981 hit comedy. Arthur is a rich kid who excels at drinking and womanizing, but little else. When he falls in love with a poor girl, his world is thrown upside down. THE BEAVER (Summit) stars Mel Gibson as a man suffering from depression who learns to get past his affliction through a raggedy beaver puppet who does his talking for him. This is directed by Jodie Foster who also plays his wife.

April 15, 2011

SOUL SURFER (TriStar) is the true story of a teen surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. Far from letting that stop her, she determines to do what it takes to become a surfing champion.

April 22, 2011

AFRICAN CATS (DisneyNature) is the third film from the new nature documentary arm of Disney, this time focusing on lions and tigers and bears…without the bears. And cheetahs instead of tigers. But definitely lions…for sure. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (20th Century Fox) is based on the bestselling novel and concerns a gentle veterinary student working in a circus from a bygone age who becomes attracted to the wife of a charismatic but cruel lion tamer. Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz star. BORN TO BE A STAR (Columbia) is about a small-town Iowa boy who discovers that his parents were porn stars in the ‘70s. His world turned upside down, he decides to head out to Hollywood to find out if his genetic predisposition towards porn star superstardom will pan out. TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY (Lionsgate) is the eleventh Tyler Perry film for Lionsgate, and this one returns the straight-shooting matriarch. Paired opposite her this time is Isiah Mustafa, the guy in the Old Spice commercials. Wanna bet his shirt comes off during the course of the movie?

April 30, 2010

PROM (Disney) is an ensemble piece about the various dramas that intersect and come to a head at the senior prom. I don’t know if it’s just me but this sounds more like a Disney Channel kind of thing to me. FAST FIVE (Universal) returns Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster to the fast car franchise, this time with the crew being chased by Dwayne Johnson, who intends to lay the smack down on the lot of them. WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER? (20th Century Fox) stars Anna Faris as a woman who goes back through all her sexual partners to find out if the right one is among them. This is based on a book by Karyn Bosnak.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

DATE NIGHT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $55 Million. Domestic Gross: $98.7M Total: $152.3M Verdict: Hit.

WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (PREVIEWED AS WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS) (20th Century Fox) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $52.4M Total: $130.6M Verdict: Lost money.

KICK-ASS (Lionsgate) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $48.1M Total: $96.1M Verdict: Hit.

BABIES (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $7.1M Total: $9.5 Verdict: Might have broken even but probably lost money.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (20th Century Fox) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $64.0M Total: $75.7 Verdict: Blockbuster.

THE LOSERS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $23.6M Total: $29.3 Verdict: Flop.

MAC GRUBER (Universal) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $8.5M Total: $9.3M Verdict: Flop.

REPO MEN (Universal) Budget: $32M. Domestic Gross: $13.8M Total: $18.4M Verdict: Flop.

SUMMER

This is the season that most film fans look forward to with anticipation and a little bit of drool. While last year was a disappointment in terms of overall box office appeal as well as the quality of the films that were released, there were some gems that managed to make their way into the multiplexes. This year looks to be the opposite; director Jon Favreau compared it to the invasion of Normandy with wave after wave of highly anticipated movies hitting theaters on a weekly basis. There is going to be some carnage as weaker films will die by the wayside, but it looks very likely that we’ll see record box office numbers this summer. We’ll be presenting a full preview of the summer movie season in April, but here’s a sneak peak at what’s coming now.

Summer 2011

THE 400 LB. GORILLA

GREEN LANTERN

RELEASE DATE: June 17, 2011

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Temuera Morrison, Jay O. Sanders, Jon Tenney

STORY: A cocky and irresponsible test pilot receives a device of incredible power from a dying alien and determines to use that power for good.

PROSPECTS: One of the most anticipated movies of 2011 is getting some pretty solid buzz at this point. It is quite likely to be one of the box office bonanzas this summer.

OBSTACLES: The Green Lantern’s power ring manifests whatever the wearer is thinking; the comic book used gigantic fists and hammers to do battle, something which may look hokey on the big screen, plus he would be considered one of DC’s second-tier heroes behind Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

FACTOID: Rather than wearing a latex suit, the Green Lantern corpsmen will wear motion capture suits onto which computer generated images will be imposed, making the suit (theoretically) look more realistic.

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TRANSFORMERS: THE DARK OF THE MOON

RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount/DreamWorks

STARRING: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Frances McDormand, Ken Jeong, Alan Tudyk, Patrick Dempsey, John Turturro

STORY: The Space Race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. hid an enormous secret that the presence of new Transformers will threaten. In the meantime, Sam Witwicky takes his first tentative steps into self-reliance while remaining a reluctant human ally of Optimus Prime. 

PROSPECTS: The first two movies have made north of $1.5 billion. The creative team of director Michael Bay, producer Steven Spielberg and star Shia LaBeouf remain intact.

OBSTACLES: The second film was universally panned and another subpar film might alienate the core audience. In addition, Megan Fox is not on board for the third movie which might give some of her fans reason to stay away.

FACTOID: The concept of American astronauts being connected to the initial discovery of the Transformers as is depicted in the trailer was first put out in the prequel novel “Ghosts of Yesterday.”

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2

RELEASE DATE: July 15, 2011

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, David Thewlis, Julie Walters

STORY: The final battle between good and evil is upon us as the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix’s battle has escalated into all-out war. Nobody is safe and in order to preserve the wizarding world, Harry may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice.

PROSPECTS: This is the last of the lucrative series and by all indications it means to go out with a bang. Certainly all those who grew up with the boy wizard will be in line to say their final farewells.

OBSTACLES: The first part was almost an endurance test and was so grim that it may have put off some of the more casual fans from seeing the finale.

FACTOID: A fire set by explosive devices used during a battle scene on a Hogwart’s set did some minor damage to the set. No actors, crew or stunt persons were injured during the mishap.

COWBOYS AND ALIENS

RELEASE DATE: July 29, 2011

STUDIO: DreamWorks

STARRING: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, Noah Ringer, Keith Carradine, Clancy Brown, Abigail Spencer

STORY: A town in the Arizona Territory, an amoral cattle baron, Apache warriors and a mysterious stranger with an unusual shackle on his wrist and no memory of how he got there must unite to battle an implacable foe from the stars.

PROSPECTS: Director Jon Favreau is a fan favorite at the moment. The reaction to the initial trailer for the movie has been extremely positive.

OBSTACLES: First of all, it’s a western science fiction mash-up – and neither westerns nor mash-ups have done particularly well at the box office. The title of the movie made some audience members titter when the trailer screened.

FACTOID: The movie is based on the Platinum Studios comic by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.

THOR

RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgaard, Kate Demmings, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Colm Feore

STORY: The arrogant Norse god Thor, the God of Thunder, is cast out from Asgard for reigniting an ancient war. For his crimes, his father Odin banishes him to Earth, stripped of his powers. However, when the war spills over to Earth, Thor must take up his mantle as a warrior-God once again in order to save both heaven and earth.

PROSPECTS: The first new Marvel hero to get his own movie since Iron Man (not counting Wolverine who had previously appeared in the X-Men movies) and quite frankly, the trailer looks good.

OBSTACLES: While Thor is one of Marvel’s longtime heroes, he has never been one of their major players. While Hemsworth was awesome in Star Trek, he hasn’t shown the ability to carry a major tentpole franchise as of yet.

FACTOID: The movie was teased in an Easter egg post-credit scene at the end of Iron Man 2.

UNDERDOG

SUPER 8

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso

STORY: Not much is known about this project but it supposedly involves “found footage,” a train wreck and an alien.

PROSPECTS: The last time J.J. Abrams did a found footage movie, the plot of which was kept tightly under wraps, the results were Cloverfield which made a ton of money.

OBSTACLES: This has far more competition than Cloverfield did and there are quite a few found footage movies on the horizon.

FACTOID: The teaser trailer for the movie debuted with Iron Man 2 last year, even though it had been greenlit literally a few weeks earlier.

ALSO IN THEATERS

 PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (Disney) returns Captain Jack Sparrow, this time on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth before Blackbeard does, while a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz) complicates matters. Johnny Depp returns as the good captain (May 20). In BRIDESMAID (Universal), two women battle to plan their friend’s wedding party. Kristen Wiig stars (May 13).  PRIEST (Screen Gems) is a comic book adaptation about a warrior priest who goes against the church to track down a gang of vampires that has kidnapped his sister in an alternate world where men and vampires have been at war for centuries (May 13). THE HANGOVER PART II (Warner Brothers) reunites the gang from the first movie, this time on an expedition to Bangkok. Don’t laugh (May 26). KUNG FU PANDA 2 (DreamWorks) is the sequel to the smash animated hit with Jack Black reprising his role as the title character. This time, a new villain surfaces with a weapon that threatens the serenity of China and its noodles. Oh, the horror (May 27)! SOMETHING BORROWED (Warner Brothers) is a comedy about best friends, one of whom sleeps with her best friend’s fiancé after having had too much to drink, leading to a comic romp of misunderstanding, secrets between friends and of course sex (May 6). BEGINNERS (Focus) stars Ewan McGregor as a man who discovers his terminally ill father is actually gay and has a much younger lover (June 3). X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (20th Century Fox) is a prequel to the Marvel mutant superhero series, this time directed by Matthew (Kick-Ass) Vaughn. It depicts the initial friendship and eventual falling out between Magneto and Professor X  (June 3).  BAD TEACHER (Columbia) centers on a foul-mouthed, irreverent and bitter middle school teacher from director Jake (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) Kasdan (June 17). CAESAR: RISE OF THE APES (20th Century Fox) is a prequel to the Tim Burton reboot of the classic sci-fi series and if that doesn’t confuse you, I don’t know what will (June 24). CARS 2 (Disney/Pixar) brings back Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, this time getting caught up in an international spy ring with a suave British agent some may recognize watching their backs…err, fenders (June 24). LARRY CROWNE (Universal) features Tom Hanks as a middle aged man who returns to college after being downsized, and discovers a whole new outlook on life as well as a new love, in the form of Julia Roberts (July 1). MONTE CARLO (20th Century Fox) stars a trio of Disney Channel-esque girls who go on a vacation to Paris where one is mistaken for an heiress and winds up getting the three of them a dream vacation to Monte Carlo. They just don’t make ‘em like Princess Grace anymore (July 1). ONE FOR THE MONEY (Lionsgate) stars Katherine Heigl as a divorced, broke, unemployed and desperate woman who joins her slimy cousin’s bail bondsman company and gets involved in a big case of murder, deceit and romance (July 8). ZOOKEEPER (Columbia) is about a group of caged animals who give Kevin James romantic advice. That’s about who Kevin James would normally get that kind of advice from anyway (July 8). THE SITTER (20th Century Fox) headlines Jonah Hill as a slacker who is coerced into watching the kids next door, turning his otherwise boring night into one to remember. Adventures in Babysitting anyone? I thought so (July 15). WINNIE THE POOH (Disney) brings back the silly ol’ bear and his beloved friends in the 100 Acre Wood back for some all-new adventures (July 15). CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (Paramount) stars Chris Evans as the star-spangled superhero who erupts from World War II into modern times; this movie sets up the much anticipated Avengers movie for next summer (July 22). FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (Screen Gems) boasts Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake as a couple who decide to keep things strictly physical which as we all know in Hollywood never works (July 22). In CRAZY STUPID LOVE (Warner Brothers), Steve Carell’s wife cheats on him and then asks for a divorce, turning his comfortable suburban live into chaos. Simply unprepared for the modern dating scene, he is taken under the wing of a playa friend (Ryan Gosling) who shows him the joys – and pitfalls – of modern love (July 29). THE SMURFS (Columbia) is a live-action and animated mix that brings back the beloved animated characters of the 80s and plops them down in 21st century Manhattan (August 3).  In THE CHANGE-UP (Universal) an irresponsible man-child (Ryan Reynolds) changes bodies with a family man (Jason Bateman) and much hilarity ensues (August 5). THE DARKEST HOUR (Summit) is when five young people find themselves stranded in Moscow after an alien attack. Those who think this is a documentary about the Republican win in the mid-term elections, that’s the second-darkest hour (August 5). 30 MINUTES OR LESS (Columbia) is about a pizza delivery guy and a junior high history teacher who are forced to rob a bank when one of them is strapped to a bomb vest. Incidentally, this is a comedy (August 12). In THE HELP (Disney) Emma Stone turns a small Mississippi town in the 1960s upside down when she decides to interview the servants of prominent white families for a book she’s writing . Incidentally, this is a drama (August 12). MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (20th Century Fox) is based on the Newberry Award-winning children’s book in which the title character becomes obsessed with penguins, until he finally gets his own troupe which cause mayhem and chaos, much like star Jim Carrey does (August 12). CONAN THE BARBARIAN (Lionsgate) resurrects the fantasy franchise, with Jason Momoa taking the title role. This version is said to be more faithful to the Robert E. Howard books than was the Schwarzenegger version (August 19). FRIGHT NIGHT (DreamWorks) is a remake of the 1985 horror flick in which a young boy suspects that the new neighbor across the street is a vampire and, along with a very timid horror movie show host, goes out to save his town – and his mom – from the embrace of the non-sparkling bloodsucker (August 19). SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD (Dimension) is a new installment in the Robert Rodriguez kid spy series, this one with a mostly new cast including Jessica Alba and Jeremy Piven, although Antonio Banderas makes an appearance (August 19). FINAL DESTINATION 5 (New Line) marks the fifth installment in the series of Rube Goldberg-designed deaths. It is what it is, folks (August 26). THE WHISTLEBLOWER (Goldwyn) stars Rachel Weisz in the true story of a Nebraska cop who goes to Bosnia as part of a UN peacekeeping team and ultimately exposes a sex-trafficking ring that has been covered up by the United Nations itself (August TBA).

FALL

This part of the schedule is the most fluid at the moment as Hollywood studio heads jockey for position, putting out movies that are legitimate contenders for Oscars as well as a few more blockbusters for the holidays. 2010 had its share of winners and losers and the jury is still out for the most part. As with the summer, we will be presenting a full Fall/Holiday film preview in August that will be somewhat more detailed and much more accurate in terms of scheduling, but this is what Hollywood has penciled in for now.

Fall 2011

THE 400 LB. GORILLA

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN

RELEASE DATE: December 23, 2011

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Cary Elwes, Tony Curran

STORY: The beloved comic book character by the French author Herge gets a motion capture animated treatment. Tintin, an intrepid reporter, goes on the trail of a mythical beach and comes up against the nefarious Red Rackham as a cornucopia of unusual characters assist or oppose our young hero.

PROSPECTS: Steven Spielberg is directing this, and although he hasn’t had a megahit for awhile, his name will at least guarantee a certain amount of curiosity. Early looks at the movie have been astonishing.

OBSTACLES: The Tintin stories are far more popular overseas than they are in North America, and younger audiences may not be familiar with the character. Plus motion capture in general hasn’t fared well at the box office.

FACTOID: Steven Moffat, who penned the first draft of the script, later went on to become the Executive Producer of the BBC “Doctor Who” series.

BMOC 

SHERLOCK HOLMES 2

RELEASE DATE: December 16, 2011

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Eddie Marsan, Stephen Fry, Gilles Lellouche, Kelly Reilly, Geraldine James

STORY: The world’s most brilliant detective takes on his arch-nemesis, criminal genius Professor Moriarty. Holmes is aided by his trusted right hand man Dr. Watson and his genius of a brother Mycroft.  

PROSPECTS: The first movie made over half a billion dollars worldwide and re-imagined the great detective as an action hero. The funky and somewhat irreverent attitude of the first movie helped earn it box office gold, and with Downey still bringing in big audiences, there’s no reason to believe the second one won’t either.

OBSTACLES: Holmes purists bemoaned the first movie’s liberties, and may not be back to support the second.

FACTOID: Downey and Harris both worked together on Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN PART 1

RELEASE DATE: November 18, 2011

STUDIO: Summit

STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Jackson Rathbone

STORY: The fourth and final book in the Stephenie Meyer series is split into two parts (the second arriving in 2012) as Bella’s romantic triangle moves to a resolution and the world of the vampires, werewolves and Forks, Washington become forever changed.

PROSPECTS: The fanbase for this series is rabid and loyal; they have made the first three movies of the series blockbusters. With the series coming to a close, I don’t imagine they will be any less rabid or loyal.

OBSTACLES: The movies have had considerable backlash from non-fans and critics and generally make nearly all their box office in the first couple of weekends; with fiercer competition, the box office might suffer.

FACTOID: Sofia Coppola was reportedly very interested in directing, but balked at doing two movies consecutively.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2011

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgaard, Robin Wright, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Joely Richardson, Steven Berkoff

STORY: The long-unsolved disappearance of an heiress is investigated by a disgraced journalist and a young computer hacker. Along the way they stir up a hornet’s nest of intrigue, corruption and cover-up. This is the remake of the first book in the Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, which was made into a very successful film in its native Sweden as well.

PROSPECTS: The Swedish films of all three books in the trilogy did spectacular business in Europe and decent numbers here in limited release. Director David Fincher has a long resume full of offbeat, disturbing thrillers as this one is.  

OBSTACLES: Those who loved the first movies may be a little put off at the “Hollywood-izing” of the trilogy. There are already grumblings that original star Noomi Rapace is irreplaceable in the movie. 

FACTOID: Daniel Craig originally declined the role due to scheduling conflicts with the next Bond film. When MGM’s financial difficulties caused filming on it to be delayed, he was able to accept the role. 

UNDERDOG 

IMMORTALS

RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2011

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Mickey Rourke, Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, John Hurt, Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz, Isabel Lucas, Stephen McHattie

STORY: The power-mad King Hyperion seeks an ancient weapon that will unleash the Titans that could threaten both the Gods and mankind. The peasant Theseus is all that stands between the world and total annihilation.

PROSPECTS: Clash of the Titans did astounding box office and may well signal a renewed interest in Greek mythology at the box office. Director Tarsem Singh is a highly visual director well-suited to this kind of thing.

OBSTACLES: Singh has yet to make a hit movie. The fact that Immortals is being released in 3D will raise questions about the process and bring up memories of the notoriously bad 3D that Clash of the Titans employed.

FACTOID: This is the first movie based on a DC Comic book character to be made at a studio other than Warner Brothers.

ALSO IN THEATERS

 

COLUMBIANA (Columbia) is the latest action flick from French producer Luc Besson, this one set in Columbia as the daughter of murdered parents who is raised as an assassin to work for her uncle, while investigating her parents’ murder in her off time (September 2). THE APPARITION (Warner Brothers) is about a couple who discover that they are the targets of supernatural forced feeding on their fears stemming from a parapsychological experiment in college (September 9). JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN (Universal) returns Rowan Atkinson as the suave but bumbling spy (September 16). WARRIOR (Lionsgate) is a mixed martial arts saga about two brothers on a collision to fight in the finals of a brutal tournament (September 9). PIRANHA 3DD (Dimension) is the sequel to the surprise hit remake from last fall (September 16). DRIVE (Film District) stars Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for the criminal underworld (September 16). STRAW DOGS (Screen Gems) is Rod Lurie’s remake of the Sam Peckinpah domestic violence film from 1971 (September 16). ABDUCTION (Lionsgate) is about a teenager who discovers that the parents who raised him aren’t his biological parents – and his real parents didn’t give him up willingly (September 23). MONEYBALL (Columbia) is the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane who assembled a competitive club on a shoestring budget using a computer program to draft players. Brad Pitt stars in a movie that could well be 2011’s The Social Network (September 23). ANONYMOUS (Columbia) opines that the plays of William Shakespeare were actually written by somebody else. This is directed by Roland Emmerich who usually does big budget action/disaster thingies so this is something new (September 30). COURAGEOUS (TriStar) is about four police officers who must deal with a tragedy at home which, judging from the studio synopsis, has to do with their children (September 30). DREAM HOUSE (Universal) stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz as a couple who move into a suburban house that may or may not be haunted (September 30). NOW (20th Century Fox) is a sci-fi thriller starring Justin Timberlake in a world where the aging process stops at 25, but in order to survive you must literally buy time (September 30). DOLPHIN TALE (Warner Brothers) is the remarkable true story about a dolphin named Winter and the people who banded together to save her (September 16). REAL STEEL (DreamWorks) stars Hugh Jackman as the manager of a fighter – in a future world where robots do battle (October 7). WANDERLUST (Universal) is about a spoiled upper middle-class couple who lose everything and take refuge in a commune (October 7). FOOTLOOSE (Paramount) is a remake of the 1984 film that made Kevin Bacon a star, with all-new tunes complimenting some of the songs from the original movie (October 14). THE THING (Universal) is a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter version of the movie, showing us what happened to the Swedish research base that is only alluded to in the original movie (October 14). THE THREE MUSKETEERS 3D (Summit) is a new version of the tale filmed entirely in 3D by director Paul W.S. Anderson; his musketeers are Ray Stevenson, Matthew Madfadyen, Luke Evans and Logan Lerman, although the supporting cast of Christolph Waltz, Milla Jovovich, Orlando Bloom, Mads Mikkelsen and Til Schweiger are far more impressive (October 14). CONTAGION (Warner Brothers) is like Outbreak on steroids – a deadly airborne pathogen that kills within days throws the world into a panic as authorities race to find a cure while struggling to maintain order as society breaks down (October 21). PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (Paramount) is the third installment of the very profitable Halloween series of found footage of suburban hauntings (October 21). DIBBUK BOX (Lionsgate) concerns a wooden box bought on eBay from a holocaust survivor that has hidden within it a terrible curse (October 28). PUSS IN BOOTS (DreamWorks) is a spin-off from the Shrek series and stars the voice of Antonio Banderas as the cavalier kitty (November 4). TOWER HEIST (Universal) stars Ben Stiller as the overworked manager of an exclusive high-rise residence who plots with members of his staff to steal back money they were defrauded from by a Bernie Madoff-type financier who swindled it from them (November 4). JACK AND JILL (Columbia) stars Adam Sandler in a comedy about…well, we’re not quite sure yet (November 11). HAPPY FEET 2 (Warner Brothers) is the sequel to the 2006 animated feature about dancing, singing penguins (November 18). ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (Columbia) is the newest animated feature from Aardman Studios, the British group that made their name with the Wallace and Gromit series. This one concerns the son of Santa Claus; a teaser trailer for this is already out (November 23). THE MUPPETS (Disney) is a star-studded affair as a telethon is put together in a desperate attempt to save the Muppets Studio (November 23). PROJECT X (Warner Brothers) is an ensemble comedy about a group of teenagers documenting a house party that goes terribly wrong (November 23). HUGO CABRET (Columbia) is Martin Scorsese’s first foray into juvenile fantasy as a young boy living in the walls of a Paris train station encounters unique, strange characters and embarks on a mysterious, magical adventure (December 9). NEW YEAR’S EVE (New Line) is from the makers of Valentine’s Day and is much along the same lines; an all-star cast copes with the ramifications of the holiday in Los Angeles (December 9). ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED (20th Century Fox) is the third installment in the live action-computer generated series that has yet to really captivate me (December 16). MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE GHOST PROTOCOL (Paramount) returns Tom Cruise into the IMF team as he undertakes a mission that just well be his last. Pixar director Brad Bird makes his first foray into live action directing (December 16). WE BOUGHT A ZOO (20th Century Fox) is the charming account based on the true story of a family that buys a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside in order to save 200 exotic animals from destruction. Matt Damon is the star (December 23). WAR HORSE (DreamWorks) is an epic adventure by director Steven Spielberg about a horse and its master during the First World War (December 23). 

MOVIES CURRENTLY WITHOUT RELEASE DATES BUT LIKELY TO OPEN

HORRIBLE BOSSES (New Line) is a comedy with an all-star cast about three working stiffs who concoct a clever and convoluted plan to rid themselves of their nemeses – their overbearing bosses – once and for all. GATCHAMAN (Warner Brothers) is an animated feature based on a Japanese anime TV series that is wildly popular worldwide. Although this has already come out in Japan, it is awaiting an American release date. HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (Magnet) is the second movie to be based on a trailer that aired with the 2007 movie Grindhouse. JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (New Line) is the sequel to the 2008 hit 3D movie although it only returns Josh Hutcherson from that cast. This time, Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine are among those who take a voyage to another place that was thought to be an invention of Jules Verne’s fertile imagination. DOROTHY OF OZ (Summertime Entertainment) is the first of several planned Oz-related movies to come out, this one an animated feature with an all-star vocal cast including Martin Short, Oliver Platt, Kristin Chenoweth, Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi. THE TROLL HUNTERS (Magnet) is a Norwegian movie that got tremendous acclaim on the festival circuit, about a group of students who set out to document the existence of trolls and wind up with much more than they bargained for. ONE DAY (Focus) chronicles the relationship between two friends (Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess) by checking in on them every July 15th – the anniversary of the day they met. RESTLESS (Columbia) is the latest from director Gus van Sant and concerns a couple of misfits who meet, fall in love and take on a world that is not particularly forgiving of misfits. RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT (Paramount) stars Jim Carrey as Robert Ripley, a man who travels the world in search of oddities and winds up finding the human being in all of us.

All I can say is wow! This might well be the most promising slate of movies for a single year in a very long time. The moviegoing public is going to have a lot of hard choices to make – or else will be going out and spending a whole lot more money than they ever have before, a scenario that I’m sure the studio heads would be more than happy with. Even so, things are already gearing up for another big year in 2012, when the latest installments in the Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and Men in Black series are scheduled to be released, as well as the much-anticipated Avengers not to mention the finale in the Twilight saga. Also, don’t forget the return of Peter Jackson to Middle Earth in The Hobbit. Hopefully this preview can help you make your plans for 2011; I know I have. See you in the multiplex!

Alice in Wonderland (2010)


Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Let it be said that too much time in Hollywood can give you a big head.

(Disney) Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Anne Hathaway, Matt Lucas, Alan Rickman (voice), Stephen Fry (voice), Timothy Spall (voice), Michael Gough (voice), Michael Sheen (voice), Christopher Lee (voice). Directed by Tim Burton

The world as we know it is a crazy place. Sometimes we do things for reasons even we can’t fathom. There are times that the craziest people of all are truly the sanest.

Alice Kingsleigh (Wasikowska) is the daughter of a visionary. Her father Charles (Marton Csokas) founded a successful import company on the premise of pushing beyond the boundaries of what is considered reasonable. “I often do six impossible things before breakfast” he tells his adoring daughter, soothing her whenever she has one of her frequent nightmares.

But it’s always the same nightmare, falling down an endless hole into an impossible place with strange creatures. That nightmare continues to occur even when she is a young lady, her father prematurely dead and now her mother determined to see her wed to the impossibly haughty Lord Hamish (Leo Bill). This doesn’t sit well with the plucky and intelligent Alice who can’t see being married to an absolute twit, but at the same time the marriage may be necessary to the survival of her family.

She follows a rabbit racing through the underbrush at the Ascot Manor until she finds a convenient hole to fall in. There she reaches a strange place, a kind of underbrush below the world, where potions can shrink her and little tea cakes can make her grow to gigantic dimensions.

This isn’t the Wonderland that Lewis Carroll told us about. The Red Queen (Carter) has taken over, ruling the land by intimidation. Her Knave (Glover) leads a pack of mechanical-looking soldiers throughout Wonderland to intimidate and wipe out any resistance. Her iron will is enforced by the Jabberwocky (Lee) which is far too powerful for anyone in Wonderland to overcome and the only weapon that is capable of slaying it, the Vorpal Sword, is in the hands of the Red Queen.

Alice believes this is all a dream and despite her many attempts to awaken, remains dreaming. She is taken to the caterpillar Absalom (Rickman) who proclaims that she’s “not hardly” the right Alice that the denizens of Wonderland are awaiting to slay the Jabberwocky. When the Knave attacks along with the terrifying Bandersnatch, she finds her way to the Mad Hatter (Depp), once the haberdasher to the White Queen (Hathaway) but now completely insane and harmless, although he harbors much ill will towards the Red Queen. His little group of followers includes the Cheshire Cat (Fry) – an expert in evaporation, the plucky Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), the nearly-as-mad March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) and the loyal bloodhound Bayard (Spall).

Forces are gathering with the fate of Wonderland itself in the balance as the Frabjuous Day approaches, the day that Alice is fated to slay the Jabberwocky. Is she the right Alice? Or is she merely a plucky girl lost in a strange dream?

Tim Burton has always been one of the most imaginative directors in Hollywood from a visual standpoint with only Terry Gilliam to rival him. With movies like Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and Ed Wood to his credit, he has long been a director whose work is so interesting that he has become a brand name unto himself. Quite frankly, his version of a children’s story that he never particularly connected to as a child will end up ranking as one of the very best works of his illustrious career.

This Wonderland is amazing to look at, with creatures that are both strange and terrifying wandering around the landscape. The characters are mostly grotesques, with the bulbous-headed Red Queen leading the pack looking not unlike a forced perspective illusion.

This is a fabulous cast, and Depp is terrific as the Hatter, lending the character depth that it was never accorded either in the Lewis Carroll book or in the many film and animation versions that follow. His madness isn’t just a joke; it is hard-won by devastating events in his life. As good as Depp is, he doesn’t overwhelm the movie and is content to be a cog in the wheel rather than the straw that stirs the drink. Carter is also clearly having a great time as the Red Queen and screams “Off with their heads!!!” with great gusto.

The story isn’t taken straight from the Alice books that Lewis Carroll wrote but is rather inspired by them. Burton chooses to take a route that ages Alice into young womanhood and while he keeps the Victorian era (which in many ways seems as strange to us as Wonderland itself does) he gives the story a logical flow that makes sense within the confines of the universe created by Carroll, and still works for modern audiences. The writing is absolutely audacious and brilliant.

Some critics have groused about the action sequences in the final act but I find that a bit prissy. Certainly Burton could have come up with something a little more talky or prosaic but I found the action curiously satisfying. It helps wrap things up from a Wonderland standpoint, and gives Alice the necessary courage to finally embrace her own strengths.

Not everyone is going to love this movie as much as I did. Certainly purists are going to grumble at the liberties taken with Carroll’s story and those expecting a live action version of Disney’s animated feature of Alice are going to be extremely disappointed. There are those who won’t like Burton’s vision and may find it too esoteric and too fantastic.

Never mind them. I admire imagination in all its forms and even when I don’t get it, I at least try to give props for the attempt. Here I clearly connected with what Burton was trying to do and I wasn’t the only one. This is a marvelous movie that has only a few minor flaws that keep it from my highest rating possible. I can recommend it without reservation to anyone except those who like their fantasies safe and spoon-fed. Those sorts probably shouldn’t be reading my blog anyway.

REASONS TO GO: Completely imaginative, this is a movie that actually improves on a classic. Great acting, a believable story and impressive visuals make this one of the year’s top movies early on.  

REASONS TO STAY: Wasikowska is at times a little bland as Alice. Purists will shudder at the liberties taken with Carroll’s work.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some mildly disturbing images and the wee small tykes may be a bit frightened by some of the fiercer creatures, but otherwise suitable for everyone.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: If you look carefully at images of the Mad Hatter, one of his pupils is dilated and the other is not, which implies a serious brain injury.

HOME OR THEATER: This is best served on a big screen in 3D; even better in IMAX if that’s available near you.

FINAL RATING: 9/10

TOMORROW: Body of Lies