Resident Evil: Retribution


Go ask Alice.

Go ask Alice.

(2012) Horror Action (Screen Gems) Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, Kevin Durand, Shawn Roberts, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing, Aryana Engineer, Robin Kasyanov, Ofilio Portillo, Oded Fehr, Megan Charpentier, Mika Nakashima, Ray Olubowale, Toshio Oki, Takato Yamashito, Ali Larter. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

6 Days of Darkness 2013

Some fights you can’t run away from. Sooner or later you have to take the fight to your enemy because otherwise you’ll be running until you’re caught and/or killed. Sometimes those fights will cost you more than you know.

After the events of Resident Evil: Afterlife Alice (Jovovich) has been taken prisoner by the evil Umbrella Corporation and is being interrogated by former ally turned enemy (thanks to a parasite buried in her chest) Jill Valentine (Guillory). She escapes with the help of Ada Wong (Bingbing) who is one of the chief operatives of Albert Wesker (Roberts), the evil head of the Umbrella Corporation. However, he is no longer in charge; the computer program Red Queen, activated after the fall of The Hive has taken over and is at war with humanity – and she is winning.

Alice and Ada are in an Umbrella cloning facility where several environments were created to work out different scenarios to T-Virus infection protocols. Wesker sends in a strike team to retrieve Alice and Ada and also Becky (Engineer), a cloned little girl who operated as a daughter to a cloned Alice in a Raccoon City scenario. Make sense? Don’t sweat it.

Anyway the strike team along with Alice and Ada are up against hordes of mutants, Jill Valentine as well as clones of Rain Ocampo (Rodriguez) and Carlos Olivera (Fehr). They will have to fight their way through simulations of Moscow, Tokyo and Raccoon City. The now-fully human Alice will have to rely on her wits and her indomitable will to survive in order to get out of the base alive and once they do, a final battle on the surface awaits in which friend becomes foe, foe becomes friend and the world prepares for a last stand in the most unlikely of places.

The thing that has made this series so spectacular is not just the videogame franchise it’s based on but on Milla Jovovich’s interpretation of Alice. Jovovich, because of her appearances in a lot of sci-fi, horror and action movies, is sometimes underrated as an actress (much like Kate Beckinsale is) but she really has a great deal of screen presence and the focus is entirely on her, which gives the filmmakers smart points. Then again, Anderson is married to her so he probably knows her abilities better than any other.

The movie is like a non-stop chase scene, beginning with the spectacular opening sequence in which Alice’s capture is done in reverse sequence going back to the final moments of Afterlife. It’s imaginative, far more so than one would have expected from a franchise that’s supposed to play to a less-discerning crowd. While the sequence following that opening which consists of cloned Alice, cloned Carlos and Becky playing house is a bit confusing, the rest of the movie takes off at warp speed. Non-stop battles between humans with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ammo and increasingly grotesque mutants will more than satisfy the entertainment quotient.

The Resident Evil film series has been the only successful franchise (or standalone film for that matter) to capture the nature of the videogame that inspired it. While it doesn’t compare to playing the game and having that interactive element that is missing in a film, it is as close as film is going to come to that element simply because of the frenetic pacing and touches that less attentive directors might miss. One gets a sense that Anderson plays a lot of videogames.

I’m not sure how much farther they can take this franchise. There are after all only so many ways you can go here until it starts to get repetitive and it is absolute death for a franchise such as this to repeat itself – even the Friday the 13th franchise fell into that trap. They do seem to be leading to a climactic battle and the next movie, scheduled for release on September 12, 2014 may be the climax of the series. If so, they’ll have a fairly high bar set for them in order to make the series go out with a bang, which I sure hope it does rather than the fizzle that it could easily go out with.

WHY RENT THIS: Mindless fun. Jovovich has made the role of Alice iconic in horror films.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Kind of been there, done that.

FAMILY VALUES:  Lots and lots and lots of violence. And I mean lots.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Jovovich is the only actor to appear in every Resident Evil film to date.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: Along with outtakes, there’s a nifty interactive database that allows viewers to explore the world of the franchise through bios, video clips and more. There’s also a look at Nakashima, the lead Japanese zombie and a reunion of cast members from previous installments in the series.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $240.2M on a $65M production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Silent Hill

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

NEXT: Six Days of Darkness 2013 concludes!

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Four-Warned: September 2012


September 2012

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. LOOPER (1.3)
2. DREDD (1.5)
3. TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (1.6)
4. COLD LIGHT OF DAY (1.7)
TIE. RESIDENT EVIL: REDEMPTION (1.7)
TIE. COLD LIGHT OF DAY (1.7)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE (1.4)
2. THE OTHER DREAM TEAM (1.5)
3. BRANDED (1.6)
4. WAR OF THE BUTTONS (1.7)

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

SEPTEMBER 5, 2012

FOR ELLEN (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A wannabe rock star signs away custody to his six-year-old daughter in a divorce but isn’t sure he can walk away from her just yet. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 Could be Paul Dano’s most affecting role yet.
GIRL MODEL (Cinereach) Genre: Documentary. A devastating look at young Russian teen models thrown into the meat grinder of the Japanese modeling scene. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 A surprisingly powerful documentary that was screened at this year’s Florida Film Festival. My review can be read here.

SEPTEMBER 7, 2012

BACHELORETTE (Radius) Genre: Sex Comedy. An after-hours party by three bridesmaids on the eve of their friend’s wedding turns into something extraordinary. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.5 Looks kind of like a low-rent Bridesmaids.
BRANDED (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Science Fiction. In a dystopian future, a global corporate conspiracy uses subliminal advertising to keep the population docile. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks amazing in a sort of William S. Burroughs meets H.P. Lovecraft kind of way.
THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY (Summit) Genre: Action. A young man vacationing with his family in Spain discovers that his father is a spy when his family is captured and held hostage in exchange for a briefcase his dad might have stolen. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver face off; this is what dreams are made of.
DETROPIA (Loki Films) Genre: Documentary. The rise, fall and resurrection of a great American city – Detroit to you and me – is explored. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 While the movie looks at Detroit specifically, this is a microcosm of what all of America is going through.
THE EYE OF THE STORM (Sycamore) Genre: Comedy. The children of an Australian matriarch gather at her bedside as she lays dying, but even in her last days the force of her personality remains undimmed. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.4 Looks rather droll, kind of an Aussie drawing room comedy.
HELLO, I MUST BE GOING (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A newly divorced woman finds refuge in her parent’s home where she takes up a passionate affair with a 19-year-old actor. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.7 Funny and sexy, you’d almost think it was French.
THE IN-BETWEENERS (Wrekin Hill) Genre: Sex Comedy. Four young British men holiday in Greece for the opportunity of sex, drinking and…oh, more sex. Maybe.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 If you think American Pie would have been even better with a British accent, this one’s for you.
KEEP THE LIGHTS ON (Music Box) Genre: Drama. Explores the relationship of two gay men starting in the late ’90s and its evolution through turbulent times in the LBGT community. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks powerful and effecting judging on the trailer.
RAAZ 3 (Fox Star) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A fading Bollywood star resorts to black magic to usurp the position of a young starlet and maintain her standing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks pretty durn scary!
TOYS IN THE ATTIC (Hannover House) Genre: Animated Feature. A group of courageous Cold War-era toys cross international boundaries to rescue one of their own. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Sounds a lot like Toy Story but it’s got an imaginative world all its own.
THE WORDS (CBS) Genre: Drama. A struggling author finally gets the acclaim and fortune for his newest novel; but he didn’t write it and there is one person who knows who did. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 A terrific cast but some of the publicity features makes me think the filmmakers are a little too full of themselves.
[REC] 3: GENESIS (Magnet) Genre: Horror. An outbreak of a disease that turns wedding guests into flesh-eating zombie ruins a wedding. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Somewhere, George A. Romero is smiling.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2012

FRANCINE (Factory 25) Genre: Drama. A female ex-con settling in a small town substitutes animals for human relationships, with tragic results. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.3 No trailer but with Melissa Leo in the title role, that automatically makes it interesting to me.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

10 YEARS (Anchor Bay) Genre: Drama. A ten-year high school reunion sets the stage for a group of classmates to revert to the way they used to be in high school. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 An impressive young cast elevates this above standard The Big Chill wannabe fare.
ARBITRAGE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Thriller. A billionaire hedge fund manager finds his professional and private lives falling apart. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Saw this as part of Sundance USA earlier this year; you can read my review here.
BRAWLER (Self-Released) Genre: Action. Two brothers involved in the underground fight scene in New Orleans are set at each other’s throats when one sleeps with the other’s wife. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 Supposedly based on a true story but the trailer looks really cheesy.
FINDING NEMO 3D (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. Clownfish Marlin goes looking for his son in an awe-inspiring undersea 3D world. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D) RATING: 3.8 Yet another Disney 3D cash grab.
LIBERAL ARTS (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A prodigal son returns to college to give a speech at his favorite professor’s retirement dinner only to fall for a comely co-ed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Terrific cast (Richard Jenkins, Elizabeth Olsen, Josh Radnor, Allison Janney) but kind of a been there done that plot.
THE MASTER (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. The right hand man of a charismatic leader of a faith-based intellectual organization begins to have doubts about his superior’s motives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 From director Paul Thomas Anderson, who has some fascination with the subject.
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (Screen Gems) Genre: Horror. Alice takes the fight to the Umbrella Corporation while the T-Virus becomes a global pandemic. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.7 The last one might have been the best of the series; this one could be better.
STEP UP TO THE PLATE (CinemaGuild) Genre: Documentary. Legendary master chef Michel Bras passes his 3 Michelin star rated restaurant to his son Sebastian, which doesn’t prove to be as easy as you might think. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 I haven’t yet seen a foodie documentary that has really knocked my socks off.
STOLEN (Millennium) Genre: Action. A master thief trying to go straight must come up with $10 million or his kidnapped daughter will die. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 The trailer looked pretty…well, standard.
THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH (Winning Edge) Genre: Drama. A divorced jazz musician finds he has feelings for is ex on the eve of their daughter’s wedding. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 The trailer is quite intriguing; sounds like some real insight to love, loss and adult relationships.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2012

TEARS OF GAZA (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. A Norwegian documentarian, moved by the 2008 Gaza bombings, takes raw footage from amateur cameramen and cell phones and weaves it into a compelling story as it examines the effects of the Israeli military action on the civilians of the area. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 War is easy from an armchair; seeing what becomes of those caught in the crossfire is a whole other story.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

17 GIRLS (Strand) Genre: Drama. A group of 17 girls in a small French fishing village decide to get pregnant at the same time. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Based on an incident that happened here in the States.
ABOUT CHERRY (IFC) Genre: Drama. A young girl with a difficult home life is about to graduate high school but winds up supporting herself through making porn movies instead. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Looks with an unflinching eye at why young women do porn; I wonder if it’s lurid for its own sake or if it has a legitimate story to tell.
BACKWARDS (Required Viewing) Genre: Sports Drama. A driven female rower who quit the sport after not making the Olympic team returns to her high school alma mater to coach the same sport she just left. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Kind of predictable looking judging on the trailer.
DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. This is the life of a woman whose stints as editor at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue helped define fashion through the 20th century all the way until now. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Again, I have no interest whatsoever in fashion; someone with a better understanding of it will like this more.
DREDD 3D (Lionsgate) Genre: Science Fiction. In a future when cops are called Judges because they dispense justice (including execution) on the spot, a Judge takes on a corrupt drug lord who is waging war against Mega City One. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.5 One of the great comic books of all time may be getting the movie version it deserves.
HEAD GAMES (Variance) Genre: Documentary. Examines the epidemic of concussion in American sports from youth sports to the professionals and it’s devastating impact on the lives of those afflicted by them. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 From the director of Hoop Dreams and based on a book from former WWE wrestler and college football star Chris Nowinski comes this chilling look at an injury that destroys lives.
HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (Relativity) Genre: Horror. A mom and her teenage daughter move into a home next door to one where a massacre took place; and of course the daughter falls for the sole survivor of the tragedy. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Stars Jennifer Lawrence which is going to put a lot of butts into seats.
HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Documentary. The story of how a group of activists with little to no scientific training helped virtually eradicate AIDS as a death sentence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 The trailer is moving and awe-inspiring. Proof that change is possible if we are willing to fight for it.
MY UNCLE RAFAEL (Slater Brothers) Genre: Family Comedy. A reality TV producer inserts a faux Armenian uncle into the home of a dysfunctional family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 It just looks…umm, unconvincing.
THE OTHER SON (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. An Israeli and a Palestinian discover they were switched at birth. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 o trailer available as of this writing so can’t really comment on what the film looks like.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Summit) Genre: Teen Drama. A group of shy outcasts band together in high school to form lasting friendships in spite of all the challenges that growing up throws at them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Based on the Stephen Chbosky best-seller.
THREE STARS (First Run) Genre: Documentary. The daily lives of ten chefs, all of whom have been honored with three Michelin stars at their restaurants. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.1 Sounds intriguing but again, no trailer.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Sports Drama. An aging baseball scout losing his eyesight must rely on his daughter to help him evaluate one last prospect. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Clint Eastwood is starring in it? That’s all I need to hear.
UNCONDITIONAL (Harbinger) Genre: Faith Drama. A best-selling children’s author finds her faith sorely tested when her husband is murdered. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 4.0 Inspired by true events, I’m told.
WAR OF THE BUTTONS (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. Two rival gangs from neighboring French villages must band together to save a Jewish girl from the Nazis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Courage comes in all shapes and sizes.
YOU MAY NOT KISS THE BRIDE (Freestyle) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A pet photographer is forced to marry a mob daughter but when she’s kidnapped on their honeymoon finds himself in the line of fire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Could go either way; might be funny, might be forced.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2012

THE WAITING ROOM (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. One day in the life of a struggling inner city Oakland hospital. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Looks powerful and moving. Why isn’t this playing in the Bay Area?

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

THE BARRENS (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror. A man taking his family on a camping trip may be losing his mind – or he may be actually being stalked by the infamous Jersey Devil. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Kind of cliché but “True Blood” fan fave Stephen Moyer stars and it may well be a lot better than it sounds.
BRINGING UP BOBBY (Self-Released) Genre: Drama. A career con artist must choose between giving up her son or giving him up for a chance at a better life for them both. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Written and directed by actress Famke Jansen and starring Milla Jovovich – actually the trailer looked pretty intriguing.
THE HOLE (Big Air) Genre: Horror. Some teens find a bottomless hole in their basement which once uncovered unleashes the most disturbing of nightmares. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Joe Dante previously directed Gremlins and The Howling and this kind of fits right in with that level of horror.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (Columbia) Genre: Animated Feature. Into a hotel for monsters run by Count Dracula and his daughter who chafes at his over-protectiveness comes the most scary creature of all – a human. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 Looks about as fun as any animated feature so far this year.
LOOPER (Tri-Star) Genre: Science Fiction. In the future, the mob will use time travel to send people they want to erase to assassins called Loopers which works really well until one Looper is given his future self to kill. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 A really intriguing premise for a movie.
THE OTHER DREAM TEAM (The Film Arcade) Genre: Sports Documentary. The improbable story of the Lithuanian Olympic basketball team, which went from being part of the Soviet Union to being sentimental favorites and underdog overachievers. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Looks like the kind of movie that will bring a smile to your heart.
SOLOMON KANE (Radius) Genre: Fantasy. A damned 16th century soldier vows to live a life of peace to offset his cruel actions but when a darkness threatens the world he must once more take arms. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks spectacular but has been sitting on the shelf for years which doesn’t inspire confidence.
WON’T BACK DOWN (20th Century Fox) Genre: Drama. A single mom takes it upon herself to improve the educational system in her poverty-stricken area on behalf of her child who is unable to read. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, two of the strongest actresses working today, star.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Words, Resident Evil: Retribution, Dredd 3D, End of Watch, Trouble With the Curve, Hotel Transylvania, Looper, Won’t Back Down.

Fall/Holiday 2012 Preview


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEPTEMBER

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

CHRISTMAS

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

THANKSGIVING

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

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

HALLOWEEN

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

LABOR DAYS

SEPTEMBER 7, 2012

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

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

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

SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

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

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

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

OCTOBER

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

CHRISTMAS

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

THANKSGIVING

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

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

HALLOWEEN

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

LABOR DAYS

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

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

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

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

NOVEMBER

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

CHRISTMAS

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

THANKSGIVING

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

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

HALLOWEEN

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

LABOR DAYS

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

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

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

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

DECEMBER

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

CHRISTMAS

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

THANKSGIVING

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

THIS IS 40

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

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

HALLOWEEN

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

LABOR DAYS

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

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

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

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

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

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

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